Tag Archive | "George Sherrill"

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Going into the All Star Break I Have Enjoyed the Ride So Far

Posted on 13 July 2009 by Tom Clayton

Here we are at the All Star break and the Orioles are pretty much where I expected them to be at 40-48 and in last place in the AL East. On the upside we are light years ahead of where I imagined we’d be in terms of our youth movement and player progression.

There is no better story in Baltimore right now then rookie starting pitcher Brad Bergesen. His teammates have begun to call him ROY as in Rookie of the Year…and rightfully so. In 16 starts this season Bergesen is 6-3 with a 3.54ERA and a WHIP of 1.20 in 104.1 innings. Perhaps as impressive as Bergesen’s numbers is how deep he is going in games at such an early stage of his career, he is averaging 6.1 innings per outing and hasn’t pitched less then six innings since May 24th when he pitched 5.2 innings against the Nats. It looks like the Orioles have found the first piece to their future starting rotation with Bergesen and at 23 he seems to be improving with each outing.

The youth movement doesn’t stop with Bergesen as Nolan Reimold has shown some serious pop at the dish. Reimold has nine big flies and 23 RBIs in 51 games this season; spread those numbers across a full 162 games and he would be on pace for 29 homers and 73 RBIs. Reimold has cooled off a bit of late but I think he has the plate discipline and strike zone recognition to heat back up after the All Star break.

With Reimold locking down left field the Orioles have created one of the most talented and diverse young outfields in baseball. Adam Jones is going to make his first All Star appearance Tuesday and has shown improvement in every facet of his game in 2009. Jones has raised his OPS by .127 in his second full season and is on pace for around 24 home runs and 94 RBIs. While Jones has been impressive at the plate he has been even more impressive in the field covering more ground than any centerfielder not named Torii Hunter and making home run robbing catches at the wall look almost routine.

Rounding out the Orioles impressive outfield is 25 year old right fielder Nick Markakis. Markakis started the season on an absolute tear with an obscene OPS of 1.020 and driving in 22 runs in April. Nick’s May was just as impressive as his power numbers spiked with five bombs to go with his 18 RBIs which gave him 40 RBIs going into June. Nick’s power numbers have fallen off quite a bit as he hasn’t had a home run since June 16th against the Mets; his homer-less drought is at 25 games going into the break. I think Nick is showing us the kind of hitter he is destined to be throughout his career; I see him as a guy who will hit around 20 homers with 95-105 RBIs and an OPS of around .870.

When Matt Wieters made his major league debut on May 29th against the Tigers, Baltimore baseball became more relevant than it has been in over a decade. Regrettably, Wieters struggled at the plate as he attempted to reach the completely unrealistic expectations placed on him. On the positive side Wieters has begun to show a lot of improvement as he gets his feet under him at the major league level; all of his offensive numbers have improved as he continues to figure out major league pitching. Behind the plate Wieters has looked fairly good making some heady plays but he has also struggled throwing out just one of the 21 players who have attempted to steal on him this season. While none of Wieters numbers are really attention grabbing, I have been impressed with his maturity and work ethic which fill me with confidence that when the light does in fact go on, the Orioles will have one hell of a special player behind the plate.

Luke Scott has been the most productive Oriole offensively, by far. While playing a majority of his games as a DH Scott has18 bombs, 51 RBI, and an eye popping .976OPS; in fact Scott is on a pace for the first 30 home run, 100 RBI season of his career. At 31 and with a very manageable contract, Scott is a viable, intriguing piece to the Orioles puzzle.

Another solid veteran contributor has been closer George Sherrill. After a rocky start to the season Sherrill has come on strong and driven his stock about as high as it can possibly go. In his last 27.2 innings Sherrill has only allowed five earned runs and converted 16 of 18 saves. Sherrill could potentially be a very valuable trading chip around the trading deadline as he has become not only a proven closer but a proven left handed closer.

Some unlikely players have also made great contributions throughout the first half of the season. Robert Andino did a great job filling in for Cesar Izturis. Andino isn’t going to be mistaken for Hanley Ramirez at the dish but he played an outstanding defensive shortstop.

Over the last few games Oscar Salazar has been a revelation at the plate with an OPS of 1.067 and two bombs in his first 31 at bats this season. With Melvin Mora struggling at the dish and in the last year of his deal it may be an interesting idea to deal Mora and grant Salazar an opportunity to play everyday. At 31 Salazar probably isn’t the long term solution at the hot corner but he has shown enough ability at the plate to give him a shot.

Unfortunately not everything has been coming up aces for the Orioles; they are still eight games under .500 for a reason.

Jeremy Guthrie is the only pitcher remaining from the opening day starting rotation. Experiments such as Adam Eaton and Mark Hendrickson were monumental flops, although Hendrickson has become a reliable left hander out of the pen. As for Guthrie, he has not been “right” all season; his fastball has little to no movement and he has shown a below average ability to place his breaking pitches. It seems like a majority of Guthrie’s sliders are up in the zone with little break, essentially making them below average fastballs. Guthrie is also allowing home runs at an alarming rate, in 101.1 innings Guthrie has allowed 20 homers. I am not sure if this is due to Guthrie’s participation in the WBC or the fact that opposing hitters have figured out Guthrie but it is an alarming statistic for sure.

As for the pitchers who have filled the starting rotation, other than Bergesen they have all been less than impressive to put it nicely. Rich Hill is wildly inconsistent and hasn’t shown me anything in terms of intangibles that lead me to believe he is anything more than a below average major league starter. Jason Berken has battled on the mound and showed a lot of grit but his numbers tell a story of a pitcher that may need more grooming down on the farm.

As for Felix Pie I don’t think there is much that I haven’t already said. Pie has played better of late and he is playing on the cheap so we could do worse than Pie as a fourth outfielder.

The most frustrating part of the first half of the season hasn’t been any one player but the mental lapses that the players seem to routinely make. The Orioles have been atrocious on the basepaths and have run themselves out of more innings then I can count. Melvin Mora looks clueless running the bases and is good for two or three boneheaded plays a week. I would implore Dave Trembley to sit Mora down and explain that he is 37 and doesn’t have the wheels to swipe bases anymore.

Overall it has been an exciting season for the Orioles, there have been some amazing comebacks and the team seems to battle for all 27 outs. The days of Kevin Millar and Jay Payton blocking the promotions of our young talent seems to be in the rearview and many of the young players are making the most of their opportunities and producing. On top of the many positives I haven’t even mentioned Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz who were both named top ten prospects in all of baseball. While the second half may be a roller coaster, we are building the tracks for one hell of a fun ride.

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5 W’s and 1 H

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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: My Orioles 1st half MVP

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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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Pulling Bergesen: Right Move, Wrong Result

Posted on 02 July 2009 by Thyrl Nelson

There are plenty of things that I’m willing to criticize Dave Trembley over, in regard to his tenure here as the Orioles’ manager, but yesterday’s decision not to trot Brad Bergesen back out to finish the game in the 9th inning against Boston  isn’t one of them.

 

Trembley has certainly frustrated, even infuriated myself and a number of other devout Orioles’ fans throughout this season in particular , with his liberal rest policy, his unwillingness to play lefty/righty match ups late in games, and his general crassness. The mental errors that seem to plague this club, both in the field and on the bases, could be laid at the feet of Trembley as well.

 

Surely in this season, where every player on the roster is being evaluated through the filter of whether or not they project to be a contributor to competitive club in the future, Trembley himself is likely no different. And with each passing game, with every missed opportunity, it would seem that Trembley is inching ever closer to that proverbial door. And for the record, I too have been guilty of looking forward toward the day that this club moves on without the exasperating skipper.

 

With all of that said though, there’s absolutely no way that I would have trotted Bergesen out for the 9th inning yesterday either. I may have bypassed Johnson and gone right to Sherrill, without regard for whether or not it was a save situation, Sherrill would have likely created the save situation for himself anyway, but there’s absolutely no way that I would have brought Bergesen back out for the 9th.

 

There’s no question, that despite not being in the opening day rotation, and despite not being one of the many young players that O’s fans have been anxiously waiting on, Bergesen has easily been the O’s best pitcher this season. And although the talk of him being an ace is probably way overblown, Bergesen has quickly proven his value, and also provided us with a glimpse of what a player like him could do for the rotation of a contender.

 

He’s proving that he could become that Livan Hernandez type of innings eater. A guy that you can pencil in as a built in off day for the bulk of the bullpen, and a guy that, if necessary, could even be left out to throw 7 or more innings on a night where he might not have his best stuff. I’d say that there’s scarcely a contender in this league that is well off enough to say that Bergesen wouldn’t be an asset in their rotations immediately.

 

Still though, we are playing toward the future, and there’s a lot about this club and it’s young players that we’re still learning. My guess regarding Bergesen is that he’s more like Koji than Erik Bedard, when it comes to mental makeup, but again that’s just a guess, or maybe a wish. I’m simply saying that with players like Bedard, there’s never any guess work in trying to determine when to take him out of games, he’ll absolutely tell you when it’s time. Looking at Koji’s situation on the other hand, also a guess, but I’d say that it’s a safe one too, that Koji probably felt elbow discomfort prior to his last start, but the pressure of being a competitor, as well as his desire to stay in the rotation, probably led him to take the hill too soon, and now he’s out for 2 months.

 

In my heart, until I have reason to believe otherwise, I’d like to believe that Bergesen would have declared himself okay to pitch the 9th inning yesterday, whether he actually was able to or not. Therefore, the responsibility is on Trembley to make that determination for him.

 

At 103 pitches going into the 9th inning yesterday, I have little doubt that Bergesen could have at least started the 9th, and maybe even finished it. But there are bigger issues at hand here too.

 

I know that many despise pitch counts, and I’ll concede that to say that universally 100 pitches is the magic number throughout baseball is ridiculous. On the other hand, to look at each individual, and not look at how the number of pitches thrown effects their own numbers is equally ridiculous. For example, Pedro Martinez (wispy by power pitcher standards) had a reputation for struggling almost every time he pitched after going 9 innings. In other words, Pedro could get through 9, no problem, but the effect would carry over into his next start.

 

Looking at Bergesen’s game log, it seems that each time they increased his pitch load, he seems to have carried a bit of that over into his next start. Lately though, he’s been settled in around 105 pitches per start, and he’s been rolling. For all intents and purposes, Trembley rode Bergesen to the edge of his comfort zone yesterday.

 

Next, consider that it wasn’t just the other team’s 2,3,4 and 5 hitters coming up, it was one of the most renowned hearts’ of the order in baseball. The likelihood of Bergesen getting through the 9th on 20 pitches or less, while seeing each of those guys for the 4th time on the day didn’t seem very high.

 

Since Pedroia, scheduled to lead off the 9th for Boston, was already 2-for-3 against Bergesen on the day, you can’t really send Bergesen back out to the mound using Pedroia as the barometer for whether or not he pitches to Youklis. If you send Bergesen to start the 9th, you almost have to concede that you’re allowing him to pitch 2 batters. You almost have to concede that the reigning AL MVP, and seemingly the only guy on the club seeing Bergesen well would get on base somehow. If so, then Bergesen is just as likely to give up the long shot to Youklis, who had been hitting the ball hard all series, and probably would have turned the game over to Sherrill under the same circumstances that he got it anyway.

 

And lastly as it relates to Bergesen’s performance yesterday, and the possible indication that it was time to pull him, consider that as well as Bergesen has pitched, he has seemed to fall apart in a hurry, on the few occasions that he’s fallen apart at all. Five of the last 6 outs that Bergesen recorded on Wednesday were on flies or pop ups, the only exception being a strikeout of Jason Bay, who couldn’t lay a bat on the ball all series. For a ground ball pitcher, the indications were there.

 

As it relates to the long term, Bergesen is at 91 innings and change on the season for the O’s, with another 11 innings thrown at Norfolk. His career high was last season, at 165 innings and change, he pitched 150 and change the season before that. Right now, at roughly 100 innings on the season, he’s almost 2/3 of the way to his career high, and he’s compelling Trembley to leave him out there for 7 innings per start. When it’s all said and done, Bergesen’s innings total should go so far beyond what he’s ever done before, that it could be scary. Saving an inning here and there may seem like overkill, but saving an inning after 103 pitches have already been thrown, seems prudent here, it’s only one game.

 

Johnson and Sherrill should have been able to get through the 9th, but sometimes good hitters just prevail. The O’s themselves have recent wins over K-Rod and Papelbon to provide evidence of that. It happens to Roy Halladay, it happens to Johann Santana, and yesterday it happened to Brad Bergesen.

 

From Trembley’s perspective, it’s damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. If he had gone to Bergesen and lost, the blogs and talk shows would be flooded with folks talking about how Sherrill is pitching the best baseball of his career, and how Trembley is trying to make Bergesen’s arm fall off. He’s become an easy scapegoat at this point, but to a large degree, that’s a corner that he painted himself into. I doubt he’ll have to sweat it for very long, ultimately.

 

If We Need to Sack Trembley (WNST, get it?), I’m on board 100%, and pulling for Don Baylor as the replacement, but not in response to yesterday. As Jay-Z might say, I got 99 problems with Trembley, but pulling Bergesen yesterday ain’t one.

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

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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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Mr7mQuGmp0[/youtube]

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5 W’s and 1 H

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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!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXiAqh_dVHw[/youtube]

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

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFJlT2ic1uw[/youtube]

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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Who’s Left In O’s Bullpen?

Posted on 23 June 2009 by Thyrl Nelson

Are the O’s really selling us Chris Ray as our lefty specialist?

 

In his blog on MASN, Roch Kubatko reported that manager Dave Trembley is no longer concerned with carrying a left handed specialist in the bullpen. Did I miss the point in the season where he was concerned?

 

You could say, particularly early in the season, the Orioles suffered a great deal from Trembley’s unwillingness to play lefty/righty match ups late in games, instead seeming to paint his relievers into roles based on what inning it was.

 

Roch’s blog points to the fact that Ray is holding lefties to a .133 batting average in the minors. Allow me to point out, that it was matching up with left handed hitters that pretty much sent Ray packing in the first place.

 

On the season, Ray has faced, at the major league level, more lefties than righties. In 33 at bats, right handers are hitting .152 against Ray, with just 2 doubles, no other extra base hits, 5 RBI, 5 BB and 13 K. In 34 at bats against lefties, Ray has been hit to the tune of .559, with 4 doubles, 2 homers, 11 RBI, 6 BB and just 4 K. They should be keeping Ray as far away from the lefties as possible.

 

With only Hendrickson and Sherrill as lefties in the bullpen, the need for a specialist is glaring, especially since the only real candidate for the job is currently best serving in the closer’s role for now. But given the way Castillo was pitching in the role, and Walker before him, it won’t make much difference in the short term anyway. Now it will just be more obvious why we can’t get tough lefties out, late in games.

 

Maybe they’ll give Hendrickson a shot in that role, even though lefties are hitting nearly .300 against him this season. If so, it’d probably create the need for a long reliever to take his current role over. Maybe it’s an indication that Koji could be pitching for his spot in the rotation over his next few turns. In that case, someone else from the bullpen would have to be moved too. Maybe Baez, and well as he’s pitched, he’d probably still be worth more to the O’s, on someone else’s roster. 

 

It’s a glaring need for a team that’s playing well, and winning close games. But for what’s it’s worth, they’ve basically played all year already without a good lefty specialist. Now it’s just official. Anything that gives Dave Trembley less to strategize about is probably a good thing for now too.

 

This move, to me, has MacPhail written all over it. We’ll see how it plays out.

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

 

 

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Another MacPhail Fire Sale?

Posted on 22 June 2009 by Thyrl Nelson

Is there a tougher job in sports than Andy MacPhail’s?

 

We all know what a legendarily difficult boss Peter Angelos is reputed to be. By now, we’re all well aware that the AL East may be the most difficult division in all of sports, in which to be competitive. And free agents, also seemingly aware of both of those glaring inadequacies have avoided Baltimore like the plague. There was little reason to believe, when he took the reigns just a few short years ago, that MacPhail could have even a modicum of success.

 

On the positive side, by the time he stepped into the picture, the difficulties that he was up against were already more than apparent to the fans. Further, the franchise itself was in as bad of shape as it’s ever been, seemingly leaving nowhere to go but up. And moreover, doing a worse job than the 4 regimes that preceded him seemed nearly impossible.

 

Still, the job that MacPhail has done, in such a short time is nothing short of remarkable. He’s turned nearly the entire roster over in short order, and given the fans reasonable hope for the future. When it’s all said and done, the Bedard trade may go down as the best in Orioles’ history (which would be saying a lot), and we’re just starting to see the real benefits of the Tejada deal, which was pretty good too, relatively speaking of course.

 

If MacPhail is ultimately able to see this process through, and so far there’s no reason to believe that he can’t, he may be due more credit than even Ozzie Newsome for front office savvy, again relatively speaking of course.

 

In Newsome, we as fans have been given a great blessing, there’s no need to chronicle that here. And in MacPhail, we may have lucked into another. Again, given the difficulty of his circumstances, what MacPhail has accomplished already may rival the genius of Ozzie. If he sees this thing through, he’ll certainly be due at least as much credit as the Wizard, probably more. It’s a debate that I’d love to be having sometime soon, that’s for sure.

 

So now with the NBA and NHL in the rearview mirror, and the start of the Ravens’ season still months away, MacPhail and the O’s have center stage. And despite all of the great work that he’s done already, he still has work to do. And the choices won’t be easy ones.

 

The O’s have not only done a great job at rebuilding so far, they’ve also done a remarkable job at selling the process to the fans. After 12 years of losing, it’s not just a matter of getting fans to be patient through the process. With many disenfranchised fans already, the O’s are attempting to win back fans with the process, despite the fact that they can’t credibly hope to win now. It’s a tough sell, but it’s working.

 

Astute trades and scouting have led to an exciting product on the field, if not a competitive one. Yet every time they looked poised to pack it in, and we as fans get braced for the swoon, they manage to put together a string of games like their current one.

 

It’s a nice problem to have, but it won’t make MacPhail’s job any easier, as the pennant race takes shape. Although the O’s won’t likely find themselves in the race for a post season berth this year, the pursuit of .500 could be realistic, and for some fans could be exciting enough. Again, it’s important to think relatively here, and the chance to finish above .500, or even outside of the AL East basement, may be enough to keep some fans interested.

 

Others, like myself, sold already on the future are looking at a number of ‘tweeners on this team. Players who we could reasonably hope would be contributors, if and when the O’s are ready to compete, or who could be moved for value now, in an effort to continue to load up the farm system.

 

If the O’s are a traveling sale, they’ve done a great job of showcasing their merchandise over the past couple of weeks. If they’re not, then they’ll need to take proactive measures to insure not to lose these guys for nothing down the line.

 

There’s nary a contender in baseball that couldn’t find room for Aubrey Huff in their everyday lineup. He’s a professional hitter, known for strong finishes, and can play multiple positions. If the O’s have one guy that could probably get them value from a contender, Huff might be the one. As a free agent this off season, not dealing him is a roll of the dice too, unless you take measures to re-sign him before free agency comes up. Maybe the promotion of Brandon Snyder to AAA gives some indication that the O’s could be looking to him as a replacement, but Huff would be tough to replace in the middle of the order. If you trade him you could also possibly make another run at him as a free agent this off season.

 

Danys Baez is finally pitching well, and it would be tough to envision him in an O’s uniform beyond this season. He’s still overpaid, even for the way that he’s pitching, but with the O’s already low payroll, there’s no reason not to pay a good portion of his salary, and get back some prospects from a contender. Surely there’ll be a market for Baez at the deadline.

 

George Sherrill is another tough choice, because he could be seen as a valuable commodity down the line. Still, it’s tough to envision a real contender, especially another 2 or so years down the road, using Sherrill as anything more than a setup man, or lefty specialist. By using him as the closer, the O’s have certainly increased his future earnings potential, making him likely an overpriced option in either of those roles. Sherrill bounced back from early difficulties to redeem himself and boost his value. The O’s should probably sell high on this one.

 

Jeremy Guthrie is rounding into form once again, and could be a nice part of the rotation going forward, but the abundance of arms at the minor league level, and the desire to continue to restock that pool could lead to Guthrie being dealt to a contender. As a rule 5 pick up in the first place, Guthrie almost represents found money, and could be a long shot to be here for the long term.

 

Luke Scott is probably young enough to be enticing, but will probably never have better value than he does now. It’s tough to envision Scott improving on, or even maintaining his current pace. He may be the best sell high option on the team.

 

Anything that you could get for Pie or Andino, or even Wigginton, should probably be explored, although it’s tough to envision any of them fetching much in return. And as for Melvin Mora, he’d have to be encouraged to waive his no trade clause, which is unlikely. Even more unlikely given the fact that the O’s continue to pamper Mora, and leave him in the 5th spot despite his lack of production.

 

Which if any of these players to deal, and what to get in return can and probably will be the subject of much discussion and debate leading up to the trade deadline. At the end of the day though, I’ll trust that MacPhail has a plan in mind, and will continue to do the right thing. He’s earned that much at least. And much like his counterpart Ozzie Newsome, MacPhail is quickly proving that questioning his methods could be risky business.

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

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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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