Tag Archive | "George Sherrill"

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Orange Chatter: 10 Questions for 2010 (Part 2 of 2)

Posted on 03 April 2010 by Luke Jones

In Part 1 of my 10 Questions for 2010, we pondered the health of Brian Roberts, the status of Jeremy Guthrie and Chris Tillman, and the platoon of Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold.

Here are my second five of 10 questions entering the 2010 season:

6. Is the bullpen up to par?

Following the trade of George Sherrill last summer, it was clear the Orioles struggled in the late innings with Jim Johnson better suited in his previous role as a setup man. Andy MacPhail responded by signing free agent closer Mike Gonzalez to a two-year, $12 million contract, the club’s largest signing of the offseason.

Gonzalez has 54 career saves in a seven-year career, including 10 last season in Atlanta. While the lefty seems capable of closing games–keep in mind Sherrill was never a closer before the trade to Baltimore–Gonzalez battled a stiff back and appeared hesitant to cut it loose in Sarasota until recently. He closed out the spring with a perfect outing against the Mets on Saturday, striking out two and lowering his spring ERA to 5.14.

Gonzalez is joined in the bullpen by two mainstays in Johnson and lefty Mark Hendrickson, who thrived in the bullpen (3.44 ERA) after being moved out of the starting rotation (5.40 as a starter) last season.

However, after these three, the bullpen becomes a bit murkier, especially with Koji Uehara on the disabled list (hamstring) to begin the season. Cla Meredith had a tremendous spring (0.84 ERA) and pitched well in Baltimore after being acquired from the Padres last season but is certainly not a household name with a track record. Newcomer Will Ohman figures to provide plenty of laughs, but Trembley would like to see him evolve into an effective left-handed situational arm (a career 4.25 ERA in seven seasons).

And with three pitchers 25 or younger in the starting rotation, the club will go with two long men in Matt Albers and Jason Berken. Albers was very effective in 2008 (3.49 ERA), but a shoulder injury (torn labrum) and questions surrounding his conditioning led to an abysmal 2009 season in which he pitched to a 5.51 ERA and was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk on three different occasions.

Berken shifts to a long-relief role after starting 24 games last season (6.54 ERA). While the 26-year-old lacks the stuff of an effective starting pitcher, Trembley will look for him to eat innings should a starter be knocked out early. Of course, Berken could find himself back in the starting rotation should there be an injury or two over the course of the seaosn.

A player to keep an eye on at Norfolk is Kam Mickolio, a hard-throwing righty (part of the Erik Bedard trade with Seattle) who appeared to have a good chance of making the 25-man roster before a groin injury limited his opportunities in the spring. He projects as a late-inning man with closer potential.

As is the case with any bullpen on any team, the starting pitching will ultimately decide its fate. If starters are unable to reach the sixth or seventh inning on a consistent basis, this bullpen will inevitably wear down as we’ve seen just about every summer over the last 12 years. Improved starting pitching will hide the weaknesses in the bullpen and allow more opportunities to finish games.

7. Will Miguel Tejada and Garrett Atkins prove to be capable stopgaps?

The corner infield positions were two of MacPhail’s biggest priorities to address in the offseason, and he responded by adding two veterans accustomed to playing different positions than they will in 2010.

Tejada’s return to Baltimore was a controversial decision, but his ability to adjust to third base will be critical to the infield defense and pitching. Most seem to think Tejada will become a capable third baseman, but it’s hard to forget the initial struggles of both Cal Ripken and Melvin Mora when they shifted to the hot corner. One would expect Tejada to struggle in the first month or two of the season before settling in to be an average third baseman.

Tejada will also be asked to handle the cleanup spot in the order, at least until Matt Wieters is ready to grab the reins. While no longer capable of hitting 25 home runs per season—he hit just 27 in two combined seasons in Houston—Tejada led the National League with 47 doubles in 2009.

Across the diamond, Atkins shifts to first base after primarily manning the hot corner in his seven seasons in Colorado. Atkins has played 105 career games at first, so the transition should not be as drastic as Tejada’s.

The acquisition of Atkins was a curious one with the 30-year-old coming off the worst season of his career (.226, 9 home runs, 48 RBI) and safer options such as Adam LaRoche available. The club hopes Atkins can regain his pre-2009 form when he averaged 25 home runs and 110 RBI over three seasons.

Neither player figures to be in the fold when the Orioles aim to contend in the next few years—both signed one-year deals—but with prospects Josh Bell and Brandon Snyder likely a year away from the big leagues, Tejada and Atkins will be depended on for offense and steady defense on the corners. At the very least, neither contract will come back to haunt the club should either player prove ineffective.

8. How good will Brian Matusz be?

Though the hype hasn’t rivaled the insane expectations for Wieters, Matusz appears set to contend for the 2010 American League Rookie of the Year after starting eight games down the stretch, going 5-2 with a 4.63 ERA.

His 2009 minor league numbers look like something out of a video game, as he went a combined 11-2 with a 1.91 ERA at Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie. In fact, Matusz was even better after being promoted to Bowie, going a perfect 7-0 record with a 1.55 ERA in eight starts.

Matusz was fantastic in the spring, finishing with a 2.59 ERA while striking out 21 and walking just three in 24.1 innings.

There’s a reason why he’s on every top-10 prospect list you’ll find this spring. Though Matusz would be hard-pressed to match Mike Mussina’s numbers in his first full year in 1992, don’t be shocked if he’s the Orioles’ best pitcher by mid-season. He might be already.

A scout was recently asked about Matusz in Baseball Prospectus: “He might have been the best pitcher I saw all spring, and I’m not just talking about prospects.”

Need we say more?

9. Is Dave Trembley managing his last season in Baltimore?

While many wondered about Trembley’s job security as the Orioles collapsed down the stretch last season, which included a 13-game losing streak that nearly pushed the club past the 100-loss mark, MacPhail retained Trembley while also declaring the 2010 season would be judged more critically on wins and losses.

It’s clear Trembley has had a near-impossible task trying to win with inferior talent in the AL East, but the skipper cannot expect a free ride either. Baserunning gaffes, poor fundamentals, and questionable bullpen management were major issues in 2009, regardless of who was on the field. It’s no secret the Orioles lack the talent of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays, so playing fundamentally-sound baseball is an absolute necessity if the club wants to improve in 2010.

Trembley’s supporters continue to claim he hasn’t had a chance to compete in his three seasons as manager, but the lack of talent cannot excuse some of the problems witnessed in 2009. Having bad players doesn’t mean you’re a bad manager, but it doesn’t mean you’re a capable manager either.

It’s imperative for the club to make significant improvement in 2010, or Trembley will be shown the door at the end of the season—if not sooner.

10. Will the Orioles make it an unlucky number 13?

Twelve years.

Twelve painful, long years.

The Orioles begin the new decade after closing out the first 10 years of the century without a winning season, their last winning campaign coming in 1997.

But unlike most of the last 12 years, it really looks as though the team will improve from where it was a year ago, though it’s difficult to go any direction but up after a 98-loss season. The problem is even a 15-game improvement–a tremendous accomplishment—would only create a 79-83 mark and a 13th straight losing season.

If the Orioles have any hope of a .500 season, they not only have to thrive against the AL Central and West but must find a way to avoid the utter embarrassment experienced last year against the Yankees and Red Sox.

The Orioles were 5-13 against the Bronx Bombers, and the results were even worse with the Red Sox, as Baltimore was an egregious 2-16 against Boston. Another 7-29 mark—far and away their worst record against the two AL East powers over the last 12 seasons—is unacceptable, if not unfathomable.

Forget about money, competitive imbalance, or recent history. A .194 winning percentage over 36 games against the Yankees and Red Sox should never happen.

When it all adds up, the Orioles can make significant improvement in 2010, but it looks like a 13th consecutive losing season is almost inevitable.

A record in the neighborhood of 77-85 will not rejuvenate the fan base immediately, but it would be a sizable step in the right direction.

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Orioles Bring Back Tejada - Which Means Andy MacPhail Finally Deviates From "The Plan" .....

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Orioles Bring Back Tejada – Which Means Andy MacPhail Finally Deviates From “The Plan” …..

Posted on 23 January 2010 by Rex Snider

When Andy MacPhail departs from his stewardship of the Baltimore Orioles, he’ll be remembered for an array of different decisions impacting a team he inherited as a doormat, in the AL-East.

MacPhail’s tenure has not been marred by irresponsible decision making. Such inferences would be unfair and quite honestly, uninformed. In fact, he’ll be regarded for pulling the trigger on perhaps, one of the most instrumental trades in Orioles history …..
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Along with Chris Tillman, George Sherrill, Tony Butler and Kam Mickolio, Andy MacPhail swindled Adam Jones from the coveted clench of the Seattle Mariners. The bait? Erik Bedard. We rivaled in the O’s snookery – they finally ended up on the good side of a deal.

As we know, Bedard flopped, primarily because he’s not a WINNER and his makeup is fragile, from both a physical and emotional standpoint. He’s not tough – unless he’s chastising reporters and media-types.

The deal was quite lopsided and it certainly stood as a primary pin in whomever held Bill Bavasi’s voo-doo doll. Seattle’s General Manager was fired following the very public revelation that Adam Jones, Sherrill and Tillman for Bedard amounted to a late night stickup at your local 7-11 store.

For those who really KNOW and LOVE baseball, this guy was being hailed as a possible savior, as soon as the ink dried on the deal’s documents …..
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And, remember, just a couple months prior to the Bedard deal, Andy MacPhail pulled off another trade ….. sending Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros for Troy Pattan, Luke Scott and Matt Albers.
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On Wednesday, December 12th, 2007, the Orioles and Astros made the deal official.

Less than 24 HOURS LATER, Miguel Tejada’s career and life changed forever …..
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In interviews regarding the trade, MacPhail adamantly advised that Tejada’s prominence in an unflattering and divulging drug investigation had nothing to do with the deal.

Uhh, okay.

From a perspective of analyzing the fairness of the trade, I don’t think supporters, media or fans on either side of the transaction found it lopsided or ill-advised.

Tejada, while still a presence in the Orioles lineup, was coming off a season with “Un-Tejada-like” offensive production. And, he was beginning to exhibit a lesser SCULPTED look, in comparison to prior seasons …..
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2007

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2003

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Personally, I welcomed the deal. Miguel Tejada was fast becoming a predictably sullen player. He would commonly enter spring training full of enthusiasm and readying for another fresh beginning, in Birdland. And, that enthusiasm would leak from Tejada’s ego in the same way helium escapes a falling balloon.

By August, Tejada would crash. Optimism became indifference, and the eventual bad attitude surfaced for everyone to see.

I’ve never bought Andy MacPhail’s explanation of the deal – more than two years ago. He reasoned, “(it)was a function of trying to add as many talented young players as I could get for a very talented player.”

Really? I guess it’s just coincidental that Tejada was beginning to regress from a power perspective. His 18 homers, in 2007, was the lowest mark of his career, since his first full Major League season – more than a decade ago.

Ahh, but don’t despair …..

Miguel Tejada’s power suffered further outage, at Minute Maid Park, in Houston. That’s right, he hit 13 and 14 homeruns, successively, in his two seasons playing for the Astros – in one of baseball’s featured HOMERUN DERBY HAVENS.
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And, there is also this little problem with LYING to Congress. Yeah, you remember that, right? In 2005, while he was a member of the Baltimore Orioles, Miguel Tejada was untruthful with Congress, regarding performance enhancing drugs.

He was UNTRUTHFUL about his involvement with illegal drugs – when he was playing baseball in this city.

Heck, I’ll be honest about my blunt feelings …..

When the perjury revelation broke, last year, I was singing the praises of Andy MacPhail, yet, again. “No wonder he dumped the guy.” “Good for Andy – Good for the Orioles – Good for Baltimore.” That’s what I was thinking and saying.

In my mind I was processing MacPhails strategies to truly rebuilding the Orioles franchise and name. I sensed he wanted rid of “bad character” guys and the types of people who cheapen and tarnish an organization.

Don’t get me wrong, the problems and problem makers extend beyond Miguel Tejada …..
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The Baltimore Orioles have enough attachment to the recent history of Major League Baseball’s drug problems. Some would say the Orioles are prominently represented among the seedier franchises.

What’s the penalty for betraying a town and its fans’ beloved colors of orange and black ??? Miguel Tejada did things the wrong way when he was here. And, evidence exists to suggest he influenced other teammates.

That’s fantastic to hear, huh? On top of the eroding skills at the plate and the substantially diminished fielding range – which I haven’t even addressed – indeed, the potential for a far more substantial risk of bringing Miguel Tejada back to Baltimore is staring squarely at every Orioles loyalist.

He’s gonna be in the same clubhouse with this guy …..
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And, this guy – remember him ???
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Oh yeah, and THESE GUYS …..
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Does anyone see the real risk associated with affiliating Miguel Tejada and this Orioles team as ONE ??? He lied to LAWMAKERS and he’s done very little to offer up any contrition with the people of Baltimore, and the team it represents. Or has he?

Maybe Andy MacPhail and Miguel Tejada have reached some accord or peaceful ground. Of course, they have. But, where does that leave us?

A couple years ago, Andy MacPhail pulled a couple slick heists. And, the Orioles were better for it. THE PLAN looked promising. But, now, we stand here two years down the road and the team’s growth seems kinda thwarted.

No more slick trades – or eventual tangible signings. Oh, they’ve made some lackluster deals …..
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But, the players who came here really had one other option …. NOWHERE.

Get a good look at the ball Mark Hendrickson is holding in the above photo. That’s probably the same view opposing hitters see. Throw in Adam Eaton, Chad Moeller, Rich Hill, Ty Wiggington and a few others and you’ll get a good idea of the quality of players Andy MacPhail signs.

I’m finding it very hard to continue buying THE PLAN, when we keep getting served SCRAPS.

Maybe, I was wrong. Maybe, the Orioles will still be DOORMATS when Andy calls it a day. And, Miguel Tejada just puts him one step closer to making it a reality.

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Growing the Arms, Pie in the Sky, and Goodbye to an Un-American Eyesore

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Growing the Arms, Pie in the Sky, and Goodbye to an Un-American Eyesore

Posted on 30 August 2009 by Sam Angell

OUT NUMBER ONE

The past ten games have shown us something about these 2009 Orioles. This year’s record may not show it, but this is not the same team that has put up losing campaigns the last 12 seasons. This year’s team has fight – and isn’t done putting up some positively exciting results. That may not have been more evident than Sunday afternoon, when rookie Brian Matusz set new career highs with eight strikeouts and seven innings pitched. After five starts in which he showed flashes of brilliance but couldn’t put everything together, Matusz knew he was going to have a better day on Sunday, and told teammates and reports to expect it.

He was right.

Matusz seems to be showing an incredible sense of self-awareness. His ability to identify and correct his mechanical flaws with the help of pitching coach Rick Kranitz will prove invaluable over the course of his career, and could help him avoid prolonged stretches of poor outings. There will undoubtedly be more missteps along the way for Matusz, and the team he dominated on Sunday was not exactly one of the Major League’s most potent offenses. But the Indians – especially Andy Marte, who went 0-3 against Matusz – had shown a knack for delivering some painful knockout blows during the four-game series at Camden Yards this weekend. Even when the Birds could retire the Indians, it seemed like they had to put a little extra work in, as center fielder Adam Jones twice robbed Indians of home runs on Saturday night. Matusz shut the Tribe down. It will take time to know for sure, but he certainly looks like he could turn into the top-of-the-rotation ace that the Orioles hoped he would be when they selected him in the first round last year.

Matusz hasn’t been the only Oriole looking good lately. Chris Tillman has continued to impress over his first few Major League outings, and although David Hernandez has suffered a few setbacks recently, he bounced back with a solid effort on Thursday night in a no-decision. Jeremy Guthrie, the anointed ace of the staff coming into the year, has looked like the Guthrie of old in his last two outings. Even Jason Berken, who wallowed through much of the campaign and seemed like a strong candidate for demotion before the injury to Brad “R.O.Y.” Bergesen, has won his last two starts and three of his last five, giving up no more than three earned runs in each outing.

For the most part, these guys are keeping the team in the game. There have been a few hiccups from the bullpen, but they are also showing signs of an emerging confidence and dependability. George Sherrill put up a tremendous year-and-a-half for the Birds, and could have rightfully added an All-Star appearance this year to go along with what should have been an All-Star Game M.V.P. outing last season. But Kam Mickolio has shown a calm under pressure and an ability to throw strikes – something that sounds simple but may end up making him one of the most valuable pieces the Orioles got for Erik Bedard two offseasons ago. Thursday night’s blown save notwithstanding, Jim Johnson has looked like a more than capable replacement for Sherrill in the closer role, with a sinking fastball that can reach the upper-nineties and keep batters from making solid contact. Even Chris Ray, who appeared to some as a lost cause at least twice this season, may have finally gotten his mechanical issues figured out on his last trip down to Norfolk.

“Grow the arms and buy the bats.” That has been the philosophy of Andy MacPhail all along. Maybe he’s been on to something.

OUT NUMBER TWO

Speaking of the Orioles’ bats, who saw this coming from Felix Pie? The baserunning mistakes are still there, painful even for tee ball-playing little leaguers to watch. But he has been lethal at the plate lately. More and more often, Pie has sent rockets out of the Yard, allowing him the freedom to circle the basepaths at his leisure. Sunday’s opposite field blast to open up a 3-0 lead on the Indians was impressive, but perhaps his most jaw-dropping bomb of the year came last week in Minnesota, when he teed off on a Twinkie pitch and sent it soaring beyond the deep center field wall at the Metrodome. Cal Ripken got his 3,000th hit at the Metrodome, and the Orioles have always played well there. But that might have been the most impressive shot I have ever seen at that place. This guy can hit, folks. He’s clearly got a lot of work to do, but maybe he was worth keeping around after all. Hopefully he comes back in the spring with a little more understanding of the subtleties of the game.

OUT NUMBER THREE

Since we’re on the subject of the Metrodome, the Orioles’ win on Wednesday night marked the end of their time in that abomination of a ballpark. Although the Birds generally fared well there and it was, as I mentioned, the site of Cal Ripken’s 3,000th hit, it was a lousy place for a ballgame. Oriole Park has the Warehouse. Wrigley has the Ivy. Fenway has the Green Monster. The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome had sandwich bags that had been left in Kirby Puckett’s locker hanging from the rafters in right field. The roof wreaked havoc on fly balls, and ground balls hit on the ultra-fast, ultra-hard artificial surface weren’t much more fun. The Mall of America stands where the Twins’ former home, Metropolitan Stadium, once existed. With its sterile, fluorescent environment and deteriorating amenities (on a recent visit, my parents were shocked to find that the place didn’t even bother to sell Twins hats!), there aren’t many more Un-American ballparks in the Major Leagues. Even Toronto’s SkyDome, with its Hard Rock Cafe, McDonalds, and swanky hotel, is more American than that place. And that’s without even bringing up the swastika that perpetually hovers over the cool, clear Minneapolis sky.

 

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That’s all for me today. Happy belated Birthday, Michael.

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Another Orioles Season Is Six Days Away From Biting The Dust ….

Posted on 22 July 2009 by Rex Snider

Well, another Baltimore baseball season is coming to an end – the Orioles wrap-up 2009, next Tuesday evening, against the Kansas City Royals, at Camden Yards …..

Of course, I’m being a smart alec, or am I ???

Alas, this is a BASEBALL blog – which means Glenn Clark doesn’t care and nobody else will, either, in six more days …..

That’s right, if I wanna cover a point regarding America’s pastime, it’s best to do it this week. After next Tuesday, all eyes, ears, minds and hearts will be in Westminster and fixated on anything and everything regarding the Baltimore Ravens.

But, it’s still July and the Major League Baseball season is far from over. Or, is it ….

While the Orioles still have 70 games remaining on this season’s schedule, it’s becoming obvious that interest is waning and only the unconditional optimists or diehard fans of the game are really pining to see where Aubrey Huff or George Sherrill land, next week, right?

We’re accustomed to this upcoming s-t-r-e-t-c-h of the season, where people really don’t care, and the ballpark is sparsely occupied by the following …..

1) Tourists with Camden Yards on their baseball “bucket list”

2) Red Sox fans (* ballpark is packed)

3) A local family on someone else’s dime

4) Yankees fans (* ballpark is packed)

5) The most frugal of suckers who purchased mini-season plans

I guess you can count me among those who really do care about the upcoming trade deadline, as well as the postseason drive. While I’ll be in Westminster, and absorbing everything purple, I still love baseball.

So, with “All Star Week” officially in the rear view mirror, it’s time to take a look toward the finish line and the accomplishments, as well as disappointments of the 2009 season. And, no, I’m not thinking with my heart.

Here ya go …..

AL Divisional Winners/Wildcard – East/Red Sox, Central/White Sox, West/Rangers, Wildcard/Rays


The Yankees and Rays will battle for the final spot and I’ve just got a feeling the Rays’ youth is better served late in the season.

NL Divisional Winners/Wildcard – East/Phillies, Central/Cubs, West/Dodgers, Wildcard/Cardinals


World Series – Red Sox vs. Dodgers (Dodgers 4-3)


AL MVP – Jason Bay, Red Sox


AL CY – CC Sabathia, Yankees (and future Jenny Craig Spokesman)


AL ROY – Brett Anderson, A’s


NL MVP – Albert Pujols, Cardinals


NL CY – Tim Lincecum, Giants


NL ROY – Tommy Hanson, Braves


AL Goat – David Ortiz, Red Sox


NL Goat – Jimmy Rollins, Phillies


AL Comeback Player – Victor Martinez, Indians


NL Comeback Player – Todd Helton, Rockies


Roy Halladay’s Team on October 1st – Blue Jays

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Orioles Biggest Off-Season Addition – Joe Girardi

Uh-oh ….. FRANCHISE is pissed-off now !!!!

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King Shame

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5 W’s and 1 H

Posted on 12 July 2009 by Luke Jones

The first half is in the books, and the Orioles are right where most of us thought they would be—last place and out of contention.

While it’s certainly been frustrating watching the Orioles’ inconsistent play, the club has also provided some excitement with the greatest comeback in club history—against the Red Sox, no less—and the unveiling of rookies Brad Bergesen, David Hernandez, Nolan Reimold, and the much-hyped Matt Wieters.

The 40-48 record and last-place standing does not reflect the positive strides made in the first half of the season.  Yes, there’s still a long way to go before we’re talking about the Orioles contending with the three heavyweights in the AL East, but as more youngsters join the fold, it’s easy to see this organization is in much better shape than it’s been at any point since 1997.

Will it be enough to put the Orioles back in the playoffs in the next few years?

Only time—and the willingness to acquire missing pieces via trades and free agency—will answer that question.

It will be interesting to see how active general manager Andy MacPhail will be as the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline approaches.  Aubrey Huff, Luke Scott, Danys Baez, Jeremy Guthrie, and George Sherrill would all figure to have value for contending clubs.  However, MacPhail’s patient approach is not conducive to making deadline trades.

Of course, the club does not HAVE to trade any of these players—though they would be foolish to keep Baez around—but the rest of July figures to be a busy time for MacPhail and his cell phone.

Here are the 5 W’s and 1 H for the week:

1.  Who is your biggest surprise and biggest disappointment for the Orioles in the first half?

If I posed this question in mid-May, the easy choice for biggest surprise would have been center fielder Adam Jones.  The Orioles’ lone All-Star representative is having a good year (.303, 12 home runs, 47 runs batted in) but has really cooled off after a blistering start.

The most pleasant surprise—if not an absolute lifesaver—has to be rookie starting pitcher Brad Bergesen.  The 23-year-old righty has shown great poise in leading the rotation with six wins (tied with Jeremy Guthrie) and a 3.54 ERA.

Bergesen doesn’t dazzle you with a blazing fastball or a devastating breaking pitch, but his heavy sinker induces ground balls—crucial for pitching at Camden Yards—and his command is comparable to a grizzled veteran.  It will be interesting to see if he can maintain the same level of effectiveness as teams become more familiar with the rookie in the second half.

The biggest disappointment has to be Guthrie.  The Orioles’ Opening Day starter hasn’t been right since spring training when he pitched in the World Baseball Classic.  Whether he’s been completely healthy is debatable, but there’s no question that Guthrie simply hasn’t made quality pitches to finish off hitters.

Guthrie is 6-8 with a 5.35 ERA and has surrendered 20 home runs in 18 starts.  If he can right himself after the All-Star Break, he would be an attractive option for a contending club.  At the very least, Guthrie rebounding would help stabilize a starting rotation that has struggled mightily outside of Bergesen.

2.  What are your thoughts on UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar?

I’ll admit to not being much of an MMA fan, but I’ve followed Lesnar going back to his days as a professional wrestler in the WWE.

Lesnar dominated Frank Mir—the only man to beat Lesnar—to retain his title at UFC 100 on Saturday night.  Perhaps more interesting than the encounter itself was Lesnar’s behavior following the match, which included a refusal to shake Mir’s hand and some lewd comments.

Though Lesnar apologized for his conduct, Vince McMahon had to be smirking when he learned of his former star’s behavior.  Lesnar has cemented his status as the most hated man in the sport, but it’s a good thing for UFC.  Fans love to hate a champion more than they love to cheer a champion.  To steal a page from pro wrestling, people will tune in just to watch the heel lose.

3.  Where would you most like to watch the Ravens play a road game?

After watching the Ravens lose to the Steelers in Pittsburgh last January—and being pelted with an ice ball by a Pittsburgh moron fan as I left Heinz Field—I’ll pass on a return to western Pennsylvania for at least a couple years.

I’m excited to go on the WNST Fenway and Football Trip the first weekend in October to watch the Ravens take on the Patriots in Foxboro.  It should be a great time watching Ray Lewis and the defense matching up against Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and the New England offense.

The trip to Green Bay in December is very tempting, but a Monday night in DECEMBER at Lambeau Field feels frigid just thinking about it.

4.  When will we see another Orioles pitcher throw a no-hitter?

San Francisco Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez hurled the first no-hitter of the MLB season on Friday night, and it caused me to think about the long drought the Orioles have endured in that department.

Other than a combined no-hitter by Bob Milacki, Mark Williamson, Mike Flanagan, and Gregg Olson in 1991, the last Orioles’ no-hitter was pitched by Hall of Famer Jim Palmer in 1969.  In the last 15 years, Mike Mussina and Daniel Cabrera flirted with no-hitters a few times, but neither was able to complete it.

Pitching a no-hitter involves a great deal of luck, and it is by no means an indicator of a team’s—or pitcher’s—overall success.  Sanchez was struggling and had even been removed from the starting rotation before Giants pitcher Randy Johnson went on the disabled list.  You just never know.  If you need proof, take a look at Don Larsen.  The only man to pitch a perfect game in the World Series had a career 81-91 record.

The New York Mets have won two World Series titles in their 47-year history but have never enjoyed a no-hitter.

5.  Why can’t LeBron James and Nike have a sense of humor?

Seriously.  It’s great that James and Nike hold a camp for young players to rub elbows with the NBA star, but when it was reported that Nike confiscated all recordings of Xavier’s Jordan Crawford dunking over James in a pickup game, I couldn’t help but shake my head.

Would it have really been THAT damaging to James’ reputation to allow the video to pop up on YouTube?  I’m sure the clever minds at Nike could have concocted a clever ad around it.

For now, we’ll have to settle for this:
King Shame

6.  How much longer do the Orioles go with Jason Berken and Rich Hill with Chris Tillman and others waiting in the wings at Norfolk?

Though both pitched well over the weekend, it’s hard to imagine the club continuing to go with either pitcher in the starting rotation if they stay at their current pace.  Even with the solid work in their last starts, Hill still has a 6.92 ERA and Berken isn’t much better at 5.87.

Tillman started for the USA in today’s Futures Game and appears close to being ready for the big leagues.  Despite giving up two runs in his only inning of work in St. Louis, the 21-year-old righty has a 7-5 record, a 2.50 ERA, and 88 strikeouts at Triple-A Norfolk this season.

Unless the club decides to give Hill another chance in the rotation, Tillman could easily be in Baltimore by the end of July.  After Tillman, David Pauley (7-6, 3.67 ERA) would probably be the next arm in line, though he isn’t considered to be a long-term answer in the rotation.

*****

Shameless Plug Alert:  I’ll be joining Glenn Clark on the Comcast Morning Show on Monday morning from 6 to 10 a.m.

To be totally honest, I can’t remember the last time I was up that early, but it should be fun.

Have a good Monday.

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Brad Bergesen #35 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium May 19, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Brad Bergesen

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Brad Bergesen: My Orioles 1st half MVP

Posted on 09 July 2009 by Marco Romanell

The term “most valuable player” is one that has differing meaning to everyone. Is the most valuable player the player who has the most impressive stats? Is it the player that is the most recognizable? Or is it actually the player that is the most “valuable” to his team’s success?

To me, the definition for most valuable player is clear and concise. In fact, it is right there in the title. Most Valuable Player to me means the person, who has the most value to their team,which constitutes more then just wins and losses. So my Orioles first half MVP is none other then the new ” ace” of the starting staff, Brad Bergesen.

Many people will be quick to call me out for not choosing Adam Jones because of his numbers and his All-Star status, but they need to look deeper into what value Bergesen and Jones provide the Orioles.

Jones is currently hitting .308 with 12 home runs and 47 runs batted in. These numbers were impressive enough to make him the Orioles lone representative in the All- Star game but they do not make him my 1st half MVP. There is no doubt in my mind that when his career is over Adam Jones will be a perennial All-Star and one of the greatest Orioles to ever put on a uniform, right now I give the MVP nod to Bergesen for many reasons.

Brad Bergesen #35 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium May 19, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Brad Bergesen

Bergesen is currently 5-3 with a 3.59 ERA and only 50 strikeouts in 97 2/3 innings pitched. To find the true value of Bergesen to the Orioles, you need to look deeper then his stats.

After  pitching 5 2/3 innings in his major league debut on April 21st, Bergesen has lasted less then six innings only three times in his next 14 starts. In his last 8 starts Bergesen has pitched an average of 7.2 innings and has lowered his ERA from 4.94 to 3.59.

Sitting here and regurgitating stats is not going to show Bergesen’s true value but will give you a little basis for my argument. To me, Bergesen’s real value to the team is his ability to save the bullpen and give the Orioles a chance to win every fifth day. He works quickly, and his teammates know that when he pitches they usually only need three or four runs to win. I believe that Bergesen has the respect and confidence of his teammates and that is a value that can’t be measured with statistics.

Another important characteristic that Bergy has is his “bulldog” like mentality and willingness to pitch until he can’t pitch anymore. For Orioles fans that remember seeing Erik Bedard pull himself out after 75 pitches, It is refreshing to see a 24 year old that is willing to throw as many pitches as possible to get the job done.

Bergesen only failed to eclipse the 85 pitch mark just once- a game against the Philies where he tired himself out running the bases the inning before- and has thrown over 100 pitches seven times. The mantra of the Orioles over their 11 straight losing seasons has been that come June, the bullpen is on fumes and they lose a lot of leads. Brad Bergesen has done his best to buck this trend and the less Chris Ray is in the game, the better off the Orioles are.

Ask George Sherrill, Jim Johnson, Danys Baez and the rest of the bullpen who the Orioles 1st half MVP is and they will give you the same answer I gave: Brad Bergesen.

At 23, Bergesen represents hope and rejuvenation to the fans every time he pitches.

That might just be what makes him the most valuable.

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Red Sox-Orioles Facebook News Feed

Posted on 01 July 2009 by Luke Jones

If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon that is Facebook, this won’t be the blog for you.

Anyone keeping an eye on the popular social networking site while watching the Orioles’ miraculous comeback victory over the Red Sox on Tuesday night inevitably saw a variety of angry wall messages and statuses (10-1) that gradually transformed into reserved hope (10-6) and, finally, jubilation (Orioles win, 11-10!).

While viewing all of these messages, I imagined what the Facebook news feed would look like describing this wild game and the various people involved.  It might go a little something like this:

* 24,000 Boston fans are attending the event “Red Sox vs. Orioles at Fenway Park South.”

* 7,969 Baltimore fans are attending the event “Getting Drowned Out by Obnoxious ‘Sahx’ Fans in My Home Ballpark.”

* Adam Jones created the group “Outfield Walls Hurt.”

* Orioles fans ended their relationship with Rich Hill.

* Dave Trembley left the group “Give Your Pitcher the Quick Hook.”

* Luke Jones says it’s time to watch old episodes of The Office while keeping an eye on the game.

* John Smoltz’s status:  “I really hate rain delays.”

* Rich Hill’s status:  “I’m doing a rain dance and hoping the game and my stats are washed away!”

* Orioles fans and Felix Pie are now friends.

* Rich Hill updated his status:  “Well, so much for that.  I’m screwed.”

* Tony Randazzo’s status:  “I just don’t feel like calling a good game behind the plate tonight.”
– Jim Palmer: “Well, you better start. Richie Garcia is watching.”

* Orioles fans wrote on Oscar Salazar’s wall:  “Way to go…umm…what’s your name again?”

* Luke Jones is now giving his undivided attention to the Orioles game. 10-6.

* Terry Francona wrote on the Red Sox Bullpen’s Wall:  “Guys, anytime you feel like showing up would be great.”

* Hideki Okajima started the group “Why do the Orioles—that’s right, the ORIOLES!—absolutely own me?”
– Jon Lester: “I’ll give you some pointers.”

* Jim Palmer and 10 other pitchers joined the group “I’m against consistently inconsistent umpiring.”

* Jonathan Papelbon wrote on Nick Markakis’ wall:  “Dude, that’s not how the script is supposed to go!”

* Jonathan Papelbon and Nick Markakis are no longer friends.

* Jonathan Papelbon removed “chest thumping” from his favorite activities.

* Jim Hunter’s status:  “I think I just wet myself!”

* George Sherrill’s status:  “It’s Flat Breezy time.”

* Orioles fans created the group “There’s the Nick Markakis We Know and Love!”

* Terry Francona added “throwing things in my office” to his favorite activities.

* Rich Hill updated his status:  “I wonder if people will have a short memory…”

* 937 Orioles fans attended the event “Greatest Comeback in Orioles History!”

* 11,437 Boston fans attended the event “What the H*ll Just Happened??!!!”

* Dave Trembley posted the note:  “My players just saved my behind again!”

* It’s “complicated” between Orioles fans and the Baltimore Orioles.

* Luke Jones posted the video Orioles Magic.

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Jack Cust

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5 W’s and 1 H

Posted on 29 June 2009 by Luke Jones

31-62.

No, it is not the Washington Nationals’ current record (22-51), but it’s the Orioles’ record against the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards since 1998.

And despite what many would have you believe, the fans donning pink and green Boston hats and representing The Bandwagon Red Sox Nation haven’t hurled a single pitch or hit a single home run in those 62 losses.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as frustrated as anyone to see Camden Yards invaded by Red Sox or Yankees fans 18 times every season, but pleas to Orioles fans to buy those tickets are a waste of words.  Nothing will change until this becomes a winning organization again.

Because of their strong national following, the Yankees and Red Sox have a strong representation wherever they go, whether it’s in Baltimore, Kansas City, or Los Angeles.  The only way to contain—not eliminate—the number of Red Sox or Yankees fans is to field a winning team that fans want to pay to watch.

Just look at the Ravens’ annual war with the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.  In the years in which the Ravens are competitive and in the playoff hunt, the number of Steelers fans is considerably lower than the years in which the Ravens struggle.

It’s plain and simple; yes, Orioles fans could buy those tickets snatched up by Boston fans, but with a .333 winning percentage against the Red Sox since 1998, why exactly would they want to?

Trust me, I’ve been to plenty of these Orioles-Red Sox encounters over the last decade.  It’s typically a pretty miserable experience.

If Orioles fans are going to take back the Yard, the baseball team needs to make it something worth taking back.

Here are the 5 W’s and 1 H for the week:

1.  Who will be the Orioles’ representative(s) at the All-Star Game in St. Louis?

Remember early in the season when we thought Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis were all sure things for the All-Star Game?  Seems like a long time ago.

That’s not to say the three aren’t having good seasons, but their numbers have certainly leveled off since early May.

With no Oriole threatening in the fan voting, we’ll have to see whom Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon chooses to represent the Orioles.  Markakis or Jones would still figure to have a decent chance of being selected as a reserve, but the most deserving candidate might be closer George Sherrill.

After a rocky start, Sherrill has been outstanding, earning 16 saves while posting a 2.05 ERA.  In fact, since his blown save against Toronto on May 2, Sherrill has pitched to a 0.45 ERA and is 12-for-12 in save opportunities.

He’s my pick for the Orioles’ representative in St. Louis.

2.  What NBA trade will have the biggest impact next season?

While Shaquille O’Neal being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers stole the headlines, the trade bringing Vince Carter to the Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic might make a bigger difference next season.

The Magic sent Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston, and Tony Battie to the New Jersey Nets for superstar Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson.  It’s hard to remember a team so close to an NBA championship making such drastic changes to the makeup of its roster.

In addition to trading these three to New Jersey, the acquisition of Carter also means the end of Hedo Turkoglu’s stay in Orlando.  The 6-10 forward has already notified the team of his plan to opt out of his contract this summer.

The Magic hopes Carter can provide the veteran scoring presence the team sorely lacked against the Los Angeles Lakers in The Finals, but will he be willing to play the strong defense expected in Orlando?

This deal smells like a high-risk, high-reward situation.  It could either bring a championship to Disneyworld, or it could kill the mojo of the Magic’s run last season.

Shaq playing with LeBron James in Cleveland will grab the headlines, but I’m not sure the big man clogging the middle will be conducive to James’ slashing style of play.  Though he had a good season in Phoenix, he wasn’t exactly a difference-maker there.

3.  Where should the Orioles turn to help their abysmal base running?

The name that immediately came to mind was baseball’s all-time stolen base king Rickey Henderson.  Rumors are circulating that Henderson would accept a framed $2 million check as compensation for his services.  Rickey won’t even cash it!

If Rickey isn’t your cup of tea, how about Ruben Rivera?

Players will just need to keep an eye on their gloves and bats—just ask Derek Jeter.  Of course, if you don’t trust Rivera, the Orioles could always contact Billy Beane in Oakland to inquire about this guy:

Jack Cust

4.  When will Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs sign a long-term contract?

With Suggs’ revelation that he is close to signing a new deal with the Ravens and hopes to report to training camp on time, fans were undoubtedly excited to hear the news.

“We are close to an agreement. We just have a few little things to work out,” Suggs told The Baltimore Sun last week. “I don’t want to go into great detail, but it’s things like the years of the agreement and incentives, but the basic framework has been done.”

Call me a pessimist, but the years of an agreement and incentives are not “little” details, especially when considering how a signing bonus will be applied to the salary cap over the length of a deal.  While I do believe the Ravens will reach a new deal with Suggs before the July 15th deadline, he might be using the media to turn up the heat on the Ravens just a little bit.

5.  Why should we care about Brett Favre?

I typically roll my eyes at any Favre speculation in the offseason, but the report of Favre being spotted seeing a doctor in Minnesota last week really grabbed my attention.

After doing some more research, I’ve discovered reports of Favre wearing Fran Tarkenton pajamas to bed, watching a Twins game on TV, and having dreams of being a Viking—just like The Simpsons’ Ralph Wiggum.

Ralph Wiggum

6.  How impressive is the career of Mariano Rivera?

The 39-year-old closer joined Trevor Hoffman as the second member of the 500-save club on Sunday, just adding one more accolade to a brilliant career.

It’s amazing that Rivera has had such dramatic success in New York—the toughest place to play in the world—and by really only relying on one pitch, the devastating cut fastball.

The closer might be an overrated role in baseball, but a dominating closer like Rivera does not fit this description.  Having been the team’s closer since 1997, his run as the top fireman in baseball cannot be praised enough—even if he IS a Yankee.

In contrast, the Orioles have had at least eight regular closers during that time period—with many of them struggling.  Rivera is the epitome of consistent domination.

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Fan Grabs & Loses Wieters’ Homerun Ball …. And, Nestor Will Interview Him

Posted on 18 June 2009 by Rex Snider

Well, did you watch Matt Wieters’ first big league homerun fall into the first row of the left field bleachers? It barely got over the fence. But, when it did ….. Sam Mayfield was awaiting its arrival. And, he was the lucky guy to scurry around and finally come up with the prized pill.

As Wieters rounded the bases to the blasting thunder of Hells Bells, two people had their sights set on the guy holding the ball. I was one of them – but, I was coming from the lower box seats, behind homeplate. The other guy was a dreaded usher and he had a short walk down the stairs of Mayfield’s section.

By the time I reached the bleachers, Sam Mayfield was gone – he was whisked away to a super-secret location, according to his friends. I didn’t want the ball. But, I did want the story. And, that’s exactly what I got …..

About an hour later, I met and spoke with a very excited Sam Mayfield. He boasted about being a true baseball fan, while advising that he’d decided to trade the ball to the Orioles and Wieters, for a sum that was still being negotiated; a sum other than money.

I was happy for the Perry Hall resident.

Fast forward a couple hours and after watching George Sherrill retire the Mets to end the game, I headed home for a good night’s rest. Alas, before I reached the Anne Arundel County line, my cell-phone rang. It was Sam Mayfield and he wasn’t nearly as happy as he was the last time we talked.

According to Mayfield, he conferred with his wife, by phone, earlier in the evening and while meeting with Orioles officials. Together, they agreed to fork over the ball, in exchange for bringing his kids to the park for a personal meeting with Wieters and some autographed bats and balls.

Yet, when he left Camden Yards, he wasn’t feeling like the deal was honored. And, in reading Peter Schmuck’s post-game blog on The Baltimore Sun’s website, I’d say it sounds like Mayfield got a lot less than he bargained for …..

Let’s face it, I could regurgitate the entire story in the body of this blog, account by account, as Sam Mayfield related it. And, we’re just scratching the surface. But, why not hear it from the man, himself?

That’s right, it’s a one on one interview with the guy who nabbed and lost Wieters’ first homerun ball. It’s Sam Mayfield and Nestor Aparicio, at 4:15, this afternoon, on Limited Access. I can’t wait …..

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The Sammy Sosa Era ??? I Want Answers From Andy MacPhail ….

Posted on 17 June 2009 by Rex Snider

Have you ever awakened in the morning and a crystal clear thought hits you like a freaking bus?

If so, consider this morning one of those sobering situations …..

For all the good he’s done as President of the Baltimore Orioles, Andy MacPhail owes us some answers – from the final years of his stead in the same role with the Chicago Cubs. Uh-huh, those CHICAGO CUBS.

You can forget the rebuilding of the Orioles’ minor league system – albeit, an amazing two year turnaround …..

You can also forget swindling the Houston Astros out of Luke Scott and Troy Patton, for the eroding skills of Miguel Tejada …..

And, lastly, you can forget the GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY of this young 21st century, when Adam Jones, George Sherrill and Chris Tillman were landed for the grand price of Erik Bedard …..

While Andy MacPhail has arguably done a superb job with the hand he was dealt on June 20, 2007, he now has some questions to answer regarding our beloved Orioles – but from a time before he joined the team.

The reason ???

Sammy Sosa

That’s right, the Sammy Sosa who arrived in Baltimore, for a February, 2005, press conference, while doing his best impersonation of a slimmed-down Jared Fogle, from Subway. Look at Sosa, in 2003, and then look at him during those early days, in Baltimore, just a couple years later.

Yep, and it’s the same Sammy Sosa who essentially began a steady regression in production, starting in 2002. In the span of 3 seasons, Sosa went from hitting .328 with 64 bombs, to .258 with 35 homers. And, in the second half of 2004, Sosa actually hit .233, before walking out on his team in late September.

As we all know, Slammin’ Sammy followed up his lackluster 2004 season by bottoming out with a .221 clip and just 14 homeruns. But, the real insult? He did it in a Baltimore Orioles uniform.

We remember that stint, huh?

And, take a wild guess of who delivered Sammy Sosa to the Orioles’ doorstep? BINGO ….. it was Andy MacPhail. As President of the Chicago Cubs, MacPhail oversaw the trade of Sosa to the Orioles for the equivalent of a couple Papa Johns pizzas and a 2-liter bottle of Coke.

Yeah, Sosa might’ve worn out his welcome in the confines of Wrigley, but who trades away a guy coming off a 35 homer campaign – with 238 total dingers, in the 5 years prior to the trade, for virtually NOTHING ???

On the day Sammy Sosa was traded to the Orioles, he was averaging 48 homeruns, per season, in those 5 years before the deal. Yet, he comes here and has his worst season in 13 years. And, it was so strikingly poor, when compared to the dozen prior seasons.

What necessitated the sudden deal to the Orioles? Why were Andy MacPhail and Jim Hendry so bent on dealing Sosa? Regardless of his relationship with Dusty Baker and other members of management, Sosa was a producer. Why trade him for players who don’t come close to equating his contributions?

Perhaps, we got a peek into the real reason, yesterday …..

As everyone knows, it’s been confirmed that Sammy Sosa failed a drug test, in 2003. Imagine that. Are you really surprised?

Now, let’s just cut to the significance of the blog …..

While we now know that Sammy Sosa was a steroid user when he sat in the warehouse and LIED to everyone about his aspirations and dedication, I’m wondering if anyone else, with connections to the deal, was less than forthright.

Yeah, you know where I’m going with this …..

Andy MacPhail owes us some answers.

What did he know when he traded a steroid user – and a guy who failed a drug test – to the Baltimore Orioles? Indeed, those tests were confidential, but everyone has sources, right?

Andy MacPhail needs to be grilled on this. Who’s gonna do it, Rick Dempsey? Jim Hunter? Buck Martinez? Please …..

We all know how such a conversation will go ……

Jim Hunter – “Andy did you know Sammy Sosa failed a drug test, in 2003?”

Andy MacPhail – “Nope.”

Rick Dempsey – “Andy did you suspect Sammy Sosa was using steroids?”

Andy MacPhail – “Nope.”

Jim Hunter & Rick Dempsey – “Well that concludes our interview with Andy MacPhail, back to the guys in the booth.”

We all know Andy MacPhail won’t consent to interviews with anyone other than the MASN-Talking Heads. Or, he might get daring and do a couple minutes with the orange kool-aid drinkers, at CBS Radio.

But, you can bet on THIS ….. Andy MacPhail will never sit before Bryant Gumbel, Bob Costas, Dan Patrick, Rick Reilly, Keith Olbermann, Nestor Aparicio, Steve Davis, Drew Forrester, David Steele, Bob Haynie, Rick Maese or countless others who wouldn’t simply settle for “NOPE” as an answer.

The sad truth is this is probably as close as we’re gonna get to the real set of facts. Like it or not, we’re gonna be stuck with “NOPE” or something even more vague. Sure, Andy MacPhail and those in his circle will duck behind the “curtain of exclusivity” that’s shielded them whenever an outsider wants a few words.

But, know this ….. Andy MacPhail’s reputation is a little less stellar, this morning. At least as far as I’m concerned …..

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