Tag Archive | "Felix Pie"

After opening sweep by first-place Orioles, let me have my fun

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After opening sweep by first-place Orioles, let me have my fun

Posted on 04 April 2011 by Ryan Chell

After Sunday’s 5-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays to complete the Opening series sweep by the Orioles, I began to see the excitement and enthusiasm reach all over the various forms of social media in celebration of a 3-0 start by the hometown O’s.

Baltimore became one of four teams in the majors to remain undefeated on the season, and they were the only team to achieve that mark on the road.

And combined with the Yankees 10-7 loss to the Tigers on Sunday, the Orioles remain in first place in the AL East.

But of course, several of my friends on Facebook-and one of them particular who is a Redskins and Pirates fan( I don’t see the connection either), left this little status on his homepage:

“Guess the Orioles are going to win the World Series.. just like the Ravens were going to win the Super Bowl. Get a grip.”

I took offense to this from the start. Not only was he knocking Ravens fans excitement about a team that has reached the playoffs the last three seasons( and I’m sure he’d be in the same position should the Skins start 3-0-which by the way is “laughable”), but I mainly took offense to the comment due to the fact that frankly-we Oriole fans haven’t had a lot to be excited about lately.

There haven’t been a lot of times over the last 14 years where the Orioles have been in first place.

And if they have been, it’s been around this time. In April.

So, shouldn’t we be allowed to have fun? Don’t we have an excuse to be excited?

The Orioles swept the AL East champs from a year ago with just one home run in the series, terrific defense from the corner outfielders Nick Markakis and Felix Pie, and three phenomenal pitching performances-two of them coming from rookies Chris Tillman (six no-hit innings) and Zach Britton (6IP, ER 6K in his first ever start).

Zach Britton

And albeit coming from a Skins and Pirates fan-the only team in the majors with a losing streak and playoff deficit worse than Baltimore-wouldn’t he understand how painful it is to NOT see your team atop the standings and have that excitement surround the ballclub?

Now I see his point-I think a lot of “bandwagon” Oriole fans have the money ready to buy the playoff tickets, but let’s be reasonable here.

It’s three games.

I’m excited-and I should have reason to be-but let’s wait a little bit before we get to that point.

If the Orioles play, pitch, and field the way they did against the Rays (who by the way look like they have already fell off the train-tracks), it’s going to be exciting for them to watch and I think they’ll be competitive even after April and May has past.

It looks like the winds could be changing with this team,and we’ve seen it before in the past when a team combined with young potential talent and seasoned veterans blends together-how they can sound, fundamental baseball and

And if they do, please don’t give me crap for rooting them on. We haven’t had much to look forward to over the last dozen years.

Let me have my fun.

-Chell

ryan@wnst.net

WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!


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Orioles 2011 Season… in Review… a Preview

Posted on 31 March 2011 by solidgoldmonkey

It’s that time of year again; it’s time to review the 2011 season. It felt like just yesterday I was threatening my neighbor with my lawn-mower because he said Cesar Izturis would hit 15 home runs while I said he would hit over 30. Oh, how wrong we were.

But two years of probation aside, it’s time for me to review the crazy 2011 Orioles season. Whew, where to begin, I know! I’ll begin in

April:

Opening day for the Orioles was one to remember, with a stunning 13-0 decimation of the Rays the Orioles prove that the years of sad-sack esque failure are over… April Fools! Haha, oh what fun. No, of course that’s not what happened. The opener was like every other opening day, extremely forgettable, I think the Orioles won, but don’t hold me to it.

The Oriole’s home opener begins with a bang! Well, to be more realistic it was more of a pop. At least that’s how the fans in the 1st base field boxes described what they heard when Vladimir Guerrero blew out both his knees jogging to 1st base after being walked in the second inning. Many fans were left in total shock as the unimaginable happened; Vladimir Guerrero actually got a walk.

April, which Orioles fans have lovingly nicknamed “ContinuousDissapointment-ril” comes to a peculiar end. Down by 3, with the bases full, Red Sox slugging catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia faces Kevin Gregg. After half heartedly chipping a 0-2 changeup right to Cesar Izturis, a series of strange events involving a squirrel, a Richard Simmons imposter, and the spontaneous combustion of Luke Scott’s glove, allows for an amazing inside the park grand slam, proving once and for all that God does not, in fact, bleed orange.

May:

While reading the Sunday paper in his favorite lazy-boy, coach Buck Showalter receives a call from his daughter announcing she was getting married, Buck celebrates the long awaited occasion by showing no cheerful facial expression whatsoever.

The Orioles finally make headlines! Unfortunately it’s not for reasons you would want. In a startling revelation it is discovered that owner Peter Angelos had been lying for years. Investigation reveals that Angelos was not in fact a billionaire lawyer/part time seal clubber like he claimed. It turns out Angleos was actually three bitter dwarves in a rubbery old man costume. Fans are alarmingly un-alarmed by the revelation.

June:

The Orioles, now with a win-loss record that would make the Washington Generals blush, try to draw in more fans with a special promotion “Ravens Cheerleaders Mopless” where several Raven’s cheerleaders would shave their heads for cancer awareness. An unfortunate misspelling on the many of the billboards that were posted over the city led to the first ever all-male sellout crowd in Orioles history. Upon learning the truth many fans begin to riot, leading Baltimore police to casually blame the drastic increase in violence on “the weather.”

After yet another mispronunciation of his last name by a stadium announcer, Felix Pie finally snaps. As a way of proving to everyone how fed up he is, he decides to exhibit great potential in every way possible, and then play like a AAA journeyman.

July:

July came and went, as many great Orioles fan celebrated the traditional Baltimore heat wave by over-heating and dying as they waited in line at Boog’s BBQ. On a completely unrelated note, since then many surviving fans have found themselves shaking with anticipation to have more of Boog’s newest dish; “Mystery Ribs.”

Angelos-Gate continues as a trial is scheduled for the three dwarfs found to be controlling the former Yellow Pages lawyer as a “Weekend at Bernie’s” style puppet. The defense is severely weakened when police find a notebook labeled “Plans to Destroy the Integrity of Every Major-Metropolitan City on the East Coast” in Angelos’s desk.

Brad Bergesen is chosen as the Orioles lone all-star despite being traded a month earlier. When asked why they made the controversial choice Major League Baseball was quoted as saying; “By being traded, Brad allowed the Orioles the opportunity to call Zach Britton up from the minors. This selfless act was by far the greatest contribution any player on the 25 man roster has made to the Orioles all season.”

August:

On a rare beautiful and sunny Friday afternoon that Buck Showalter had off, Buck was drinking his favorite brand of beer, eating a delicious hot-dog, and playing with an adorable puppy when Buck suddenly realized he had achieved everything he wanted in life and had never been happier. Buck showed his joy by sneering and sighing.

The Orioles kept the courts busy during the 2011 season. A season that already couldn’t have been going worse somehow found a way to do just that; get worse. News broke that General Mills had taken the Oriole’s straight to Baltimore City Circuit Court for defamation over the use of the nickname O’s. Claiming that they “didn’t want their flagship product (Cheerio’s) associated in any way with the depressing sports organization the Baltimore Orioles.”

September:

Nick Markakis wakes up one morning and realizes that no one makes a big deal about him anymore. Emotionally hurt; Markakis holds a press conference outside of the stadium. Unfortunately only an exasperated businessman waiting for the Light Rail attended the press conference where a tear-full Markakis first demanded a trade, after which he then quickly changed his mind and begged for forgiveness instead simply asking for a Markakis bobble-head night instead.

Angelos-Gate draws to a close as the Hon. Lawrence P. Fletcher-Hill dismisses the case against the three bitter dwarfs in the Peter Angelos costume, not for a lack of evidence, but for “a serious phobia of banging gavels to signify the end of a trial.” And so ends one of the sorest blights in Orioles history, but hey, look on the bright side, at least we’re not the Pirates. **Shudder**

October:

HAHAHAHAHAHA? Really?

Note:
The author of the above essay is not in any way clairvoyant and was able to achieve this knowledge through the use of a broken 8-ball and some darts. Any angry letters or e-mails regarding your opposition to witchcraft should be sent to WNST 1550 Hart Road, Towson, MD 21286-1635. Or Glenn@WNST.net. Thank you.

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Tuesday 3-Pointer: Buck Show-Wieters, Prime Time Reimold & Beefing Up Riley’s Angels

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Tuesday 3-Pointer: Buck Show-Wieters, Prime Time Reimold & Beefing Up Riley’s Angels

Posted on 01 March 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Tuesday 3-Pointer

 #1 – Buck’s Biggest Impact: Walks on Water or Wakes Up Wieters?

 

While it’s easy to get caught up in the inherent euphoria of the Buck Showalter experience so far, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago I’m having a hard time envisioning Showalter (or anyone for that matter) possibly living up to the expectations set forth by the team’s stunning turnaround since his arrival, set to the backdrop of historical ineptitude in the midst of 14 straight miserable seasons. At least part of the Orioles success under Buck could be attributed to an expected “market correction” of sorts, another to the infusion of Brian Roberts, Koji Uehara and other key contributors arriving at the end of the season with Showalter. Still, to this point Showalter has seemingly garnered most of the credit (deservedly or not) and will likely take more than his share of the blame too if things go south (again deservedly or not).

 

My reasoning for trying to minimize Showalter’s impact is simple, it seems to me that even if Buck Showalter had the right answers to every question that seemingly vexed these Orioles before his arrival, it still seems inconceivable that he could have imparted all of that wisdom on his new charges quickly enough to have had the impact that we saw by way of the team’s turnaround last year.

 

If there was a place however, that Buck may have been able to implement his own philosophy on the fly, it was through catcher Matt Wieters. Pretty much immediately after Wieters’ arrival with the big club, Dave Trembley made it known to the fans and media that he’d be charged with calling his own game, how true that was is still actually anyone’s guess. If Showalter’s arrival though brought with it simply a better called game through Matt Wieters, either by changing his approach in calling pitches, or by calling the pitches himself from the dugout, that’s the one place where I’d be prone to believe that Showalter could have had an immediate and sizable impact.

 

After beating the Texas Rangers last year on July 11th, the Orioles were 29-59 on the year (32.9%). In games caught by Craig Tatum at that point however, they were 10-13 (43.4%). Maybe the biggest single factor in the O’s struggles last year was the game being called by Wieters. It’s inconceivable that Showalter taught nearly every pitcher on the team how to throw more effectively, but it’s highly conceivable that he taught Wieters how to set them up better for success themselves. If that is indeed the case, I can’t wait to see what he can do for him with the bat in his hands this season.

 

#2 – Prime Time Reimold

 

Nolan Reimold started his 2011 campaign off much better than he left off 2010 with a solo shot off of Pittsburgh’s Paul Malolm in his first plate appearance of the spring. The acquisition of Vlad Guerrero immediately led me to believe that the O’s would be shipping Luke Scott (and his big mouth) to anyone willing to make an offer, so far that hasn’t been the case. As long as Scott remains an Oriole, and the rest of the outfield and Guerrero remain healthy, Reimold looks to be the odd man out. That may not be the worst thing in the world though.

 

One big spring game does not a comeback season make, and Reimold has work to do to bounce back from last year’s disappointment. As the only player in that mix with an option remaining on his contract, Reimold is likely to be shuttled back and forth between the minors and the big club as needs arise throughout the upcoming season. Getting everyday at bats in triple A is probably more beneficial for Reimold and his development anyway than filling the 4th or 5th outfielder role and playing once a week in the majors.

 

What Monday’s line from Reimold reminded me of though, and the impression that I hope he leaves with Showalter no matter where he winds up beginning the year, is all about his mature approach at the plate. After the big shot to start his season, no one could have blamed Reimold for getting aggressive and expanding his strike zone looking for another bomb, especially in the first game of the spring. Instead Reimold compelled 3 walks to compliment the dinger on his line, and scored another run to boot in the O’s 6-4 victory over the Pirates.

 

The day I grew to appreciate Reimold as a hitter is one I’ll never forget. It was the afternoon of May 27th, 2009 against Toronto. The O’s were down 8-3 to the Jays and Roy Halladay after 7 innings. Reimold entered the game for Felix Pie in the 8th and struck out swinging with the bases loaded against reliever John Carlson, still the O’s rallied in the 8th to tie the game at 8. In the 9th Reimold came to the plate with runners at first and second in an 8-8 game and was called out looking on a Jason Frasor pitch that seemed to be a terrible call by home plate umpire Rob Drake. After surrendering a 10-8 lead to the Jays in the top of the 11th, Reimold came to the plate with 2 men on and delivered a game winning 3-run shot for the O’s, delivering the win. Despite feeling gypped at the plate all night by Drake, Reimold never adjusted what he knew to be his strike zone, as a result he came through in the clutch, Reimold seemed at that moment, clearly disciplined beyond his years in terms of approach.

 

I’m sure Buck will grow to love and appreciate the patience of Reimold, if he hasn’t already. Hopefully that patience will translate to patience regarding his relative place in the hierarchy of O’s outfielders. After last seasons disappointment, no one could blame him for being antsy about getting past it, just like no one could have blamed him on that day in 2009 in the bottom of the 11th, having already struck out twice. Let’s hope his approach is the same.

 

#3 – Riley’s Angels Beefing Up

 

With the passing of the NBA’s trade deadline, and the wave of bought out contracts, the last official migration of NBA talent for the season is set to take place, as bought out players can now align their services with the team of their own choosing for the stretch run, provided of course that the team’s interest is mutual.

 

The Heat look to be the early winners here, as the attraction of playing with Riley’s Angels, and their apparent need for someone to steer the ship and someone to take care of the dirty work make them a compelling destination for players not only looking to pick up some hardware as hired guns, but also seeking an opportunity to be the difference maker, the player who puts them over the top. It looks like Troy Murphy and Mike Bibby will be answering that call for the Heat in the next couple of days. It wouldn’t be surprising if San Antonio got a lot more interested in Bibby with the news that Tony Parker may be out for a few weeks, but for now the Heat looks to be his likely destination.

 

In Murphy the Heat may find the front court difference maker that they’ve been looking for since Udonis Haslem went down for the season, in fairness he’d project to be a lot better for the Heat than Haslem ever was, and surely better than Erik Dampier has been. Murphy would finally free up Chris Bosh to be the pick and pop power forward that he was made to be. Bibby, sadly doesn’t seem to be the player that he once was anymore, and probably won’t make much difference in how far the Heat can go this season. He surely doesn’t bring with him as much potential as Murphy in Miami’s system.

 

Ultimately if the Heat hope to be successful they’ll have to find a way to beat good teams and to win close games, they’re 2-6 in games decided by 3 points or less, and 14-15 against teams that are above .500. Maybe Sunday’s showdown with the Knicks shows the biggest reason why. Given a last shot at a tying 3-pointer against New York, LeBron James put a move on a defender and launched an off balance 3 from the top of the key, instead of looking to DeWayne Wade who looked to be wide open and looking for the ball on the wing for 3.

 

When this triumvirate of excessiveness came together the biggest early question was who will get the big shots, now the Heat have to find themselves wondering who can make a big shot in a critical moment for them. If their struggles in close games continue, I fully expect the “who gets the shots?” questions to appear again with renewed fervor, maybe from within the Heat’s own locker room too.

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Guerrero’s 7-year itch gets scratched in Baltimore

Posted on 05 February 2011 by Drew Forrester

Andy MacPhail finally gave in.

Perhaps it’s four years of losing and the spector of having his Baltimore tenure tied to last place and disappointing results after arriving with such hope and promise.

But MacPhail is apparently going to try and deliver a winner to Charm City before most likely moving on at the end of this season.

I don’t know if we should all say “Thank you, Andy” or “What took you so friggin’ long?” but the diehards like me who have waited so long for a competitive Orioles team just might get their wish in 2011.

It all came full-circle yesterday when word trickled out that Vlad Guerrero was heading to Baltimore, seven years after snubbing the O’s in favor of the Angels.

Better late than never, I suppose.

Vlad Guerrero the-second-time-around is still better than no Guerrero at all.  (BTW, here’s Rex Snider’s blog on the subject if you want to see how he feels about it.)

Vlad is a better hitter than Nolan Reimold and Felix Pie will ever be, period.  Heck, I can’t imagine there’s one player on the Orioles 40-man roster right now who will ever have a career-at-the-plate like Guerrero.  In case you haven’t paid attention for the last 15 years or so, here are THE NUMBERS that have made Guerrero one of baseball’s five best offensive players since 1996.  Hall of Famer?  If not, they should just stop putting people in.

So that’s the summary of Guerrero.  He’s better than either of the team’s two “younger” left fielders – even now at age 36 – and his bat is as productive as anyone the Orioles have had in…well…how about forever?

But there will be criticisms about the move.  People who fancy themselves armchair GM’s will point to the fact that the Orioles had to cough up $8 million to get a guy that no one else in the league wanted.  Some will compare the paltry $2 million that Tampa Bay forked over for Manny Ramirez and wonder how on earth the Birds got bilked out of $8 million for Guerrero.  Sharp-eyes for the game of baseball will say Guerrero is showing obvious signs of wearing down, but his abilities even at the 16-year mark of his career are far greater than Miguel Tejada or Garrett Atkins, the two “prize” signings of last winter (neither of whom made it to August 1 with the club).

Unlike the off-season of 2010 when the Birds tried to convince people they were trying by signing guys on the cheap with little or no hope of making a major impact, this off-season has been quite different.  Yes, guys like Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy are coming to town on the heels of “off” years.  Derrek Lee, like Guerrero, is older and more vulnerable than he was when the O’s tried to get him in the past.  Justin Duchscherer was the club’s marquee pitching acquisition and he threw in 5 more major league games than your’s truly over the last 2 seasons.

But guys like Lee and Guerrero and Hardy — they’re competent, HIGHLY capable players who have a history of excellence. Do they all have (continued…)

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MacPhail hits a HOMERUN on Vlad Guerrero deal …..

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MacPhail hits a HOMERUN on Vlad Guerrero deal …..

Posted on 05 February 2011 by Rex Snider

Is there any chance that you will look back, ten years from now, and recall exactly where you were, or what you were doing when the marriage of Vladimir Guerrero and the Baltimore Orioles spread throughout the sports world?

Probably, not.

While the addition of this sure-fire Hall Of Famer stands to benefit the Orioles in so many distinct ways, the blunt reality is Guerrero is a short-term fix and benefit for the ballclub …. and I’m okay with that.

For the past couple months, I’ve been publicly lobbying for this acquisition.  And, as the weeks toward Spring Training have dwindled, my plea has been getting louder.  It’s an ideal fit for both sides – Guerrero is a lifetime .333 hitter at Camden Yards, and the Orioles sorely needed his lethal stick.

Yeah, I’ve heard the rumblings about the slugger being “over the hill” and an “injury risk”, as well as his perceived lack of appeal to other clubs – especially as camps are set to open in just a couple weeks.

To those who bemoan this signing, I’ll simply question your knowledge of Vlad Guerrero, as well as the intimacies of baseball ….

Oh, and let’s not forget the folks who decry Guerrero’s signing as a figurative BLOCK of Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold.  Are you serious?  Welcome to the big leagues, bunk.  The truth is Pie and Reimold have BLOCKED THEMSELVES.

Both players have garnered opportunities, and while they haven’t necessarily squandered such chances, they haven’t seized them, either.  It can be a cruel business – produce or else.

So, let’s take a quick look at the supposed liabilities involved in bringing one of the greatest hitters of the past decade, to Baltimore …..

OVER THE HILL

Guerrero is coming off a season that yielded a .300 batting average, with 29 homers, 115 runs batted in and 83 runs scored.  And, these statistics were not an aberration – he has batted under .300 just once, since 1997.

But, perhaps, the most telling fact from last season was Guerrero’s .320 batting clip with runners in scoring position.  Ironically, this is also his career average with RISP, as well.

If he’s “over the hill”, just give me a few more geezers …..

INJURY RISK

This is undoubtedly the biggest misconception and overblown worry about Vlad Guerrero.  Yeah, he missed 60 games, in 2009.  Players get injured, but Guerrero has played in 140+ games, per season, in 7 of 8 years.  And, he has played in 140+ games in 11 of his 13 full Major League seasons.

But, since we’re talking about injury risks, let’s bring Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold back into the discussion …..

In his half dozen pro seasons, Reimold has spent time on the disabled list in 5 of them.  Got that?  He’s been on the DL in 5 of 6 seasons.  In fact, Reimold has played in 130+ games in just 3 of his 6 pro years.

As for Pie, he has been injured in 3 of his last 6 pro seasons, and he has played in 130+ games, just twice in those 6 years.  Of course, some of his missed time was simply attributed to poor performance.

That said, if we’re talking about “injury risks”, it’s a pretty safe argument to suggest Vlad Guerrero has been a much healthier option than the two players he’s likely to deprive of playing time.  And, he doesn’t ride the bench for less than stellar production.

LACK OF APPEAL AMONG OTHER CLUBS

This was absolutely the most humorous of the assertions against bring Guerrero to Camden Yards.  Indeed, I’ve heard those who’ve proclaimed “nobody else wants him …. that should say something.”  You’re right, it does.

Guerrero is pretty much limited to designated hitter duties.  Thus, every National League club is eliminated from the discussion.  To compound his narrowed opportunities, only a handful of American League teams entered this past off-season needing to fill the DH slot.

The Twins and Rays went with cheaper options, in Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez.  And, the Rangers wanted to upgrade their defense at 3rd base, which relegated Michael Young to DH, with the acquisition of Adrian Beltre.

That really left the Orioles and Mariners as likely obscure options.  Both teams had the designated hitter role filled, but they could’ve improved with some position jockeying, by adding a player of Guerrero’s caliber.

Finally, I really want to address the naysayers who’ve reasoned “DOES VLAD GUERRERO MAKE THE ORIOLES A PLAYOFF CONTENER?”  Well, that really is a great unknown, huh?  Conventional wisdom suggests that he probably doesn’t raise the team to such lofty expectations – but the games are played on the field, not the blogs.

Regardless of even a modern day version of “Murderers Row”, any team will realize success based on their pitching.  However, Guerrero’s presence in the lineup makes the team better, in both tangible and intangible ways.

He makes the Orioles lineup much more formidable – his .320 batting average, with runners in scoring position, dwarfs the .246 mark achieved by batters in the cleanup spot for the Orioles, last season.  He’s a bonafide run producing hitter.

Along with Derrek Lee, Guerrero will provide Nick Markakis with protection he’s never enjoyed.  Plus, given Brian Roberts’ and Markakis’ knack for working walks and stellar baserunning, Guerrero will most definitely have his RBI opportunities.

In mentioning, Roberts and Markakis, do you realize they’ve never played for a winning team at the big league level?  Together, these guys have played 1,980 games in an Orioles uniform and they’ve never been part of a winning season.

Vladimir Guerrero can change that …..

He might not be the piece that leads the Orioles back to the postseason, but he makes the lineup and team substantially better.  If Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis taste winning for the first time, it might translate their game to another level.

The same can be said for the younger players, such as Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta.  Having them exposed to WINNING at an early stage of their careers could prove invaluable for years to come.

So, for those who decry the Guerrero acquisition as a blocking of Reimold, Pie or anyone else, I say HOGWASH.  I don’t want to hear the foundational excuse about “being ready to win”.

If you’re not ready to win, than you’re ready to lose.

I applaud the Orioles for getting this deal wrapped up.  Perhaps, they overpaid to get their man.  We knew such a reality faced this organization, on the heels of 13 consecutive losing seasons, right?

Welcome to Baltimore, Vlad.  Most of us are happy you’re here …..

 

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Is Vlad simply Sammy Sosa version 2.0 for Orioles?

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Is Vlad simply Sammy Sosa version 2.0 for Orioles?

Posted on 04 February 2011 by Luke Jones

It may have come seven years too late, but the Orioles finally persuaded Vlad the Impaler to bring his free-swinging talents to Baltimore.

And before you shout charges of negativity and raining on a feel-good parade — fans in this town deserve a celebration as much as any city in baseball after 13 years of hell — I’ll admit to sharing enthusiastic visions of Vladimir Guerrero raking baseballs into the left field seats at Camden Yards.

Guerrero brings an imposing presence to the heart of the lineup and should — along with veteran first baseman Derrek Lee — offer the legitimate protection that Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, and Adam Jones painfully lacked a season ago. He should make the team better in 2011, though how much is up for debate.

My hesitation isn’t even about the $8 million price tag that so many statheads will whine about with accusations of the Orioles bidding against themselves and blocking Nolan Reimold and Felix Pie for the possible luxury of another two wins (in terms of WAR or “wins above replacement” for the sabermetrically-challenged). The reality is sabermetrics and responsible spending habits don’t exist in a vacuum when you’re playing the free-agent market and no player worth his salt wants to play for you without significant, extra dollars coming his way.

Sure, the Orioles overpaid for a veteran slugger who can no longer play the outfield, forcing Luke Scott to move from designated hitter to left field and weakening the club’s defense. But I’ll credit Andy MacPhail for upping the ante and getting his man, even if it looks like he may have been bidding against himself — we may never know for sure.

Even if the Orioles did spend to sign a hitter for four times the amount Tampa Bay gave Manny Ramirez last week, it’s not the type of decision that will hamper an organization that supposedly had the money to make multi-year offers to Mark Teixeira and Victor Martinez in recent offseasons. It’s not like that money has been shrewdly invested in other outlets, such as upgrading international scouting or spending more on amateur draft picks (two other areas the Orioles continue to neglect if they want to compete long-term in the American League East).

It’s a fair question to ask why the club wouldn’t overpay a younger and more productive option at the DH spot — 31-year-old Adam Dunn, for example — who actually would have helped the club now and when it’s hopefully ready to compete over the next few years. Instead, the Orioles made a token offer of four years, $40 million to Dunn and ultimately went the cheaper route by paying Guerrero.

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With only days remaining until the start of spring training, this is a solid decision by the Orioles that will spark some interest and hopefully bring more fans to the ballpark for Guerrero T-shirt night and maybe even a bobblehead giveaway later in the season if Guerrero puts together a similar first half to what he did in Texas last season.

Who isn’t ready to see Vlad crush a ball at his ankles off the foul pole for a three-run shot against the Yankees?

So then, why do I keep envisioning Sammy Sosa sprinting to right field in an Orioles uniform in 2005?

Perhaps I’m jaded after seeing this charade of false hope too many times, but is this just the latest veteran signing that will create some buzz but lack the reward to really make the team that much better?

It was six years ago Friday when the Orioles introduced Sosa to the Baltimore media after sending Jerry Hairston, Mike Fontenot, and Dave Crouthers to the Cubs in a trade. The Orioles were capitalizing on a barren market for a 36-year-old slugger coming off a poor second half (hitting just .233) despite hitting 35 home runs in 2004.

They hoped for a renaissance, or at least one more productive season, from one of the generation’s finest hitters.

As pessimistic as it may be, you have to admit it sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?

Guerrero won’t bring the same baggage as the diva-like Sosa and has no desire for the limelight considering he doesn’t even speak English after all these years in big league baseball. He is simply a baseball player, and that’s all he’s ever wanted to be. However, it’s hard to overlook a 2010 second half in which his batting average dropped 41 points (from a .319 first half to .278) and his home run total declined from 20 in the first half to just nine over the season’s final 81 games. His 2010 postseason is even more concerning as Guerrero batted just .220 and failed to hit a single home run for the Rangers in 59 at-bats.

Anyone’s entitled to a bad few months, but when you’re 35 and already coming off a poor season in 2009, the whispers of being washed up become a little louder with every misstep. Let’s face it, if talent evaluators thought Guerrero was anywhere close to the player he used to be, he wouldn’t be unemployed and accepting an offer from the Orioles in early February.

Again, the Orioles should be applauded for spending a little more to close the deal and bring a high-profile player to the Baltimore lineup. Maybe Guerrero will find his fountain of youth and provide the protection for the team’s key young players to take a step toward stardom while the Orioles move toward respectability in 2011.

It’s the same bet the organization was making six years ago when they introduced Slammin’ Sammy as Orioles fans pictured the Sosa Hop over and over in their minds.

I’m all for it.

Let’s just hope it works out a little better this time.

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The Good, the Vlad and the Orioles

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The Good, the Vlad and the Orioles

Posted on 02 February 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

As with most things related to Orioles baseball, when it comes to their reported pursuit of free agent designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero it seems that the fan base is split. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising considering not only that there’s little that Orioles fans can come together and agree on these days, but also because from an organizational standpoint, the goals of this year’s team are still anybody’s guess.

There’s little doubt that the Orioles will go forward into 2011 as a much better version of themselves. There’s the undeniable Showalter factor, the expected development of a number of young players who continue to build their Major League acumen, the acquisitions of guys like Mark Reynolds, JJ Hardy, Justin Duscherer, and Kevin Gregg; across the board the O’s look like a better team than they did going into last season. Even the stopgap acquisition of Derrek Lee is something that O’s fans could possibly see as positive, as with the Red Sox, Yankees, White Sox, Tigers, Angels and a number of other notable big spenders pretty well set at first base going forward, the O’s could see significant opportunities in free agency in coming seasons.

 

Still, the question remains, not what should we expect from this team this season, but what are they expecting from themselves? Wildcard significance into the last month of the season? I doubt it. A run at .500? Won’t be holding my breath for that one either. How about a ticket out of the AL East basement? Maybe. A 10-game improvement from last year’s 66 win total? Now we’re probably talking.

 

So what’s the use in bringing in Vladimir Guerrero anyway?

 

Are they looking to part ways with Luke Scott?

 

Unlikely, Scott is younger and although he doesn’t provide Guerrero-like prowess at the plate, his career is arcing upward while Vlad’s seems to be trending the other direction. Maybe though, with all of his political rhetoric this off-season and a date at the arbitration table looming the O’s are looking to cut bait with Scott. Still, if the market is this cold for a one-dimensional Vlad, then it can’t be much bigger if at all for a one and a half-dimensional player like Scott.

 

Does he add protection for the young players the O’s are hoping to develop around him?

 

Again unlikely. With Vlad in tow, the O’s lineup would likely feature Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Derrick Lee, Mark Reynolds, Scott and Guerrero in some order in the top six spots. That leaves Hardy along with the only 2 young developing everyday players in Matt Wieters and Adam Jones relegated to spots 7-9 in the order.

 

Nolan Reimold might stand to benefit more long-term in that scenario as he’d likely be optioned back and forth between the O’s and the minors all season on his one remaining option. As for Felix Pie, as the likely 4th outfielder in that scenario any upside you envision for him, or even the real opportunity to assess his place on this team could be stalled for another season.

 

What it would accomplish, in concert with the Duscherer acquisition is providing the team with an opportunity to stick Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, Reimold and Josh Bell back in the minors to begin the season, at least creating the perception of organizational depth.

 

It’d be remiss not to consider the possibility, strike that, to not expect injuries. In the case laid out above, most roads point to Pie. He would be the guy called upon to fill any outfield positions, and if needs arose at first base or DH, those would likely be filled by Scott, pressing Pie back into duty in left field. An injury at second, third or short would likely fall on Izturis and of course catchers are catchers.

 

Maybe the last and most important question is where is the pride that we’re supposed to feel as Orioles fans?

 

Are Vlad and his management team really running the O’s through the motions again?

 

We’re not, after all, that far removed from the Guerrero courtship of 2004, where he reportedly accepted less money than the O’s were offering to sign with a much more competitive Angels team, citing concerns about Baltimore’s Dominican community or lack thereof. I’m no census taker, but the Dominican population in Baltimore hasn’t spiked recently to my knowledge.

 

So here we are again, bidding against ourselves in an otherwise cold market for an aging, one-dimensional player who’s still reluctant to sign…and we’re still trying to play ball.

 

It’s time to salvage some pride Orioles. Let Guerrero walk, before he does it to you anyway. State your goals for the season and put your money where your mouth is. If you can’t deliver a winner or even a modicum of hope at this stage in the game, then at least give us the perception that you still have some pride. Otherwise our reasons to have pride in you are dwindling or have dwindled)…along with our hopes.

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Are Orioles fans seeing that “MIRAGE” again …..

Posted on 05 January 2011 by Rex Snider

With the holidays firmly planted among recent memories, we’re embarking on new beginnings for an array of differing causes. Our vacation calendars and taxable earnings totals are among slates that are wiped clean.

It’s January, which means the Baltimore Ravens are preparing for the most intense stretch of the season …. ACC basketball is becoming meaningful …. and Major League Baseball is disclosing the list of their latest immortals.

Hearing Roberto Alomar’s name mentioned as a Hall Of Famer will be a gratifying moment for many of Baltimore’s baseball fans. But, to be honest, those who love the O’s have much bigger things in mind.

Ushering in a new year means we’re just weeks away from Spring Training …. and a brand new world of renewed optimism. I understand the positive outlook and in some ways, I think the Orioles have improved the ballclub.

That said, after a few dozen phone calls in the past week, I fear Orioles fans are on the brink of falling into a conspicuous trap of recent past campaigns …..

That’s right, call it drinking kool-aid, believing in miracles or perennial hope. But, optimism always runs rampant before baseball season begins.

The truth is the Orioles are comprised of many IFS …..

If this …..

If that …..

If …. If …. If …..

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Why is Felix Pie So Angry?

Posted on 27 November 2010 by Jay Trucker

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2YrgkQ82ls[/youtube]What is your LF/CF doing this winter? Dan Connolly at The Sun has uncovered some excellent footage of Orioles outfielder Felix Pie going loco in a Dominican winter league game a few weeks back. The broadcast is in Spanish, but roughly translated the announcers are saying, “Oh my god, Felix Pie is attacking the first base umpire!”

That’s eight years of grade school Spanish classes, thank you very much.

Anyway, Pie is known as a fiery competitor, and if you watch the film, you’ll see that his momentary lapse of calm judgment is not a big deal.

 

Just for fun, let’s try to figure out why Pie got so angry.

A. He heard that the O’s are already striking out on this year’s free agent class

B. He found out that Aubrey Huff won a World Series and signed a two year $22 million deal once he was freed from The Birds

C. He found out that the first baseman is a Nolan Reimold fan

D. Someone inquired about the long-term effects of his Spring Training accident with the Cubs a few years back

E. The reality of another Spring Training began setting in

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My 3-part “Orioles in review” series begins with…the report card

Posted on 05 October 2010 by Drew Forrester

With baseball season over in Baltimore – once again, five weeks too early – it’s time to spend a few days reviewing what happened and what lies ahead.

I’ll start my 3-part “Orioles review” with the 2010 Report Card.

When your team only wins 66 games, it’s easy to hand out a bunch of C’s and D’s, but I was a little more kind than that given the club’s outstanding play in August and September.  They took what MIGHT have been a 50-win-campaign and turned it into just another bad season.  And I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.  20 years from now, folks will look back at 2010 and say to themselves “well, they were bad that year…”.  Had they gone 50-112, folks would remember that FOREVER as one of those historically bad seasons for ANY club in baseball history, not just Orioles history.

Winning 66 games was a miracle based on where the team was when Buck took over in early August.

Here are the grades:

Pitchers

Brian Matusz (C+) — Didn’t get off to a great start, but came on strong in Aug/Sept and showed he’s here to stay.  Could wind up being next year’s version of this year’s David Price (Tampa Bay).  At some point, it’s all going to come together for this kid.  He has a bright future, for sure. Let’s hope it’s in Baltimore.

Jeremy Guthrie (B) — Was the team’s best pitcher and, honestly, their best PLAYER all season.  Take away the 2009 season when the club cut his salary in pre-season and he’s put together three VERY good campaigns in Baltimore since arriving in 2007.

Brad Bergesen (C) — Another pitcher who responded well to the arrival of Showalter.  He still has a propensity to get involved in a big inning on occasion, but his stuff is as good as anyone’s on the staff and he’ll be in the rotation to start 2011.

Chris Tillman (D) — Sprinkled in the occasional good start, but for the most part he remains overmatched with his lack of control and little movement on his fastball.  Hopefully not a “AAAA pitcher” but that’s what it’s looking like more and more — hitters can’t touch him at the AAA level but he can’t get hitters out consistently enough at the big league level.

Kevin Millwood (D) — Wasn’t nearly as bad as his final numbers showed, but the bottom line is that he appeared disinterested from the start and that lack of enthusiasm translated into the worst season of his career.

Jake Arrieta (C-) — Control problems continue to plague him (52k/48bb) at the major league level, as they did in the minors, but he occasionally showed flashes of good stuff and should contend for a starting rotation spot in 2011 spring training.  WHIP (1.53) and BAA (.271) were way too high, but as a first year contributor, he had some decent moments.

David Hernandez (B-) — Accepted his bullpen role well and turned out to be impressive in his non-starter-work.  Could eventually compete for a starter’s spot again, but his lack of durability was an issue in his previous efforts to start.

Jason Berken (B-) — Was arguably the team’s most consistent pitcher – out of the bullpen – before getting hurt.  Like Hernandez, might not have been good enough to a consistently good starter, but he seems to have settled into his bullpen role with enthusiasm.

Koji Uehara (B-) — When healthy, he’s good to very good.  When not healthy, he’s not helping.  The question isn’t whether or not he can pitch and be effective.  He can be.  The question is “can he stay healthy?”.  Had some success as the closer, but also gave up several big home runs in that role.

Jim Johnson (C) — Injury-riddled 2010 didn’t give him a chance to do much.  Will be interesting to see what role Showalter gives him.  Was at his best as the 8th inning set-up man.

Mark Hendrickson (C-) — The journeyman left hander figures to NOT return in 2011.

Matt Albers (C) — Trade bait, perhaps?  He’s been OK in Baltimore, but with Hernandez and Berken (and maybe Koji?) coming back, where does he fit in?

Alfredo Simon (C-) — Too inconsistent to be counted on.  Experiment as the closer didn’t work.  He can’t start.  So what do you do with him?  Teach him to pitch left-handed?

Michael Gonzalez (C) — Didn’t really get enough work to justify any grade, but on the whole, he was just OK, at best.

Field Players

Ty Wigginton (B) — Should have been the team’s MVP, truth be known.  Carried the team in April and May when they were horrible.  Had an off-month in June, but rebounded nicely under Showalter and looks to be Buck’s kind of player.  Get used to seeing him, he’ll be back next year.

Luke Scott (B) – Blossomed into the team’s best – and, maybe, only – real power hitter.  If not for that 3-week injury where he hurt himself jogging around the bases, he would have enjoyed, perhaps, a VERY good season.  The only knock on him?  Where do you play him in the field?  He was OK at first base…better than I thought he’d be, but he can’t play left field every day, that’s for sure.

Adam Jones (C+) – He is, without question, the club’s most mysterious player.  One week he’s red hot and has that big-player swagger and the next week he’s swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, grounding into double play-after-double play, and watching fly balls sail over his head.  Personally, I think he’s the player with the most potential on the roster.  But his 2010 was just “eh”…some good, some bad…mostly “eh”.

Nick Markakis (C) — Hard to give Nick much better than a “C” when a lot of his numbers were down across the board.  That said, I really believe the power drop-off can be attributed more to where he hit in the lineup than anything else.  Still remains one of the game’s best defensive outfielders and with solid additions to the lineup, he could once again be a .300, 24 HR, 100 RBI guy without question.

Felix Pie (C) –  An incredibly gifted athlete who certainly improved over his injury-riddled 2009, but he’s still not nearly the 5-tool player that everyone imagined he’d be when he came up through the Cubs system.  His blemishes are obvious — not patient enough at the plate, not enough power  and prone to the mental mistake more than you’d like.  But there’s plenty of good with him as well.  Improved defensively, for sure, and looks to be more comfortable against left handers.  It wouldn’t hurt the club to make him part of trade talks in the off-season, but if nothing else, he’s a valuable role player going forward.

Corey Patterson (B) – For what he was – a minor leaguer out of a job in the spring – Patterson turned out to be a more-than-adequate 4th outfielder in 2010.  He probably won’t be back in 2011, but it wouldn’t be a bad decision to bring him back if he’s willing to settle for the part-time role again.  He is what he is — a decent professional player.  Nothing more, nothing less.  But he had a good year in 2010.

Cesar Izturis (C-) – Outstanding defensive year was tempered by the expected offensive fizzle.  He’s better at the plate than given credit for — but the numbers don’t lie.  The Orioles need to do better at the shortstop position, that’s for certain.  Will they?  I’m not so sure.  I have a weird feeling Buck likes him…and that he might be back on a 1-year deal while the team figures out what they’re going to do at the position long-term.

Brian Roberts (C) — Tough to assess him based on the fact he missed 100 games.  As expected, the team benefitted greatly when he returned, but it wasn’t “the old” B-Rob for the most part.  15 RBI in 59 games?  Wow.  4 HR in 59 games?  Ugh.  14 doubles in 59 games?  Eye opening.  But let’s assume his early season injury contributed to his lack of production.  At this point, though, you would figure the Orioles are starting to think about “life after B-Rob”.  It’s coming sometime soon.

Josh Bell (D) — Wasn’t ready.  Period.  Overmatched.  Period.  53 strikeouts in 53 games.  2 walks.  A .214 batting average.  Was OK in the field, and that’s being kind.  Just not big-league caliber yet.  But it also means the Orioles will be in the market for a 3B this off-season.

Matt Wieters (C-) — Seemed to pick it up when Showalter arrived, but it wasn’t a good sophomore season from “Mauer with Power”.  His defense was questionable at times and his long, loopy swing was victimized throughout the early part of the season by fastball pitchers.  A .249 batting average clearly isn’t good enough, but the more eye opening stat was 11 HR in 130 games.  Not time to panic yet, because he’s a year and a half into his career — but we all probably expected more at this point.  Patience, young grasshopper, patience .

Julio Lugo (D) – Not much there.  Nothing memorable stands out, which is why he won’t be back next year.

Craig Tatum (C) — He’s the back-up catcher, but an adequate enough one.  Was actually decent defensively.  Not dangerous at the plate, but back-up catchers rarely are.

Staff

Andy MacPhail (C-) — Rescued from a “D” or even “E” grade with Showalter’s August-September impact.  All four of his off-season acquisitions were basically either non-contributors (Atkins, Gonzalez), not motivated to succeed (Millwood) or not good enough (Lugo).

Buck Showalter (A) — Nothing else to say.  Easiest grade to give.  Gives everyone hope for 2011.

Dave Trembley (D) — Game after game, there were always “next-morning-questions” about his strategies and in-game decisions.  Was never given a decent roster to work with, but he turned out to be overmatched as the head honcho.

Juan Samuel (B-) — I thought he was better than Trembley, for sure, and the questions about strategies and what not weren’t as prevalent as those involving Trembley.

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