Tag Archive | "guthrie"

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O’s blow early 7-0 lead, lose 10-8 to Red Sox in Boston

Posted on 17 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

These are the losses that bust you up, the ones you never understand. Except that over the years, evenings like tonight have become so commonplace that they’re shrugged off en route to 90 losses. The Orioles blew a 7-0 lead tonight, allowing the Red Sox 10 runs on 12 hits and even sprinkling in a devastating error by Aubrey Huff to lose 10-8 at Fenway Park tonight.

The “BALTIMORE” jerseys were somehow absent tonight (good luck on the explanation for that one). The Red Sox were wearing bright red “warm up”jerseys and blue caps with the cartoon pair of Red Sox with white trim. They were sharp, but looked like a world championship softball team. But I’m sure they’ll sell some hats.

The Red Sox have suffered the first two weeks with an anemic offensive attack and yet while David Ortiz continues to struggle — he struck out three times tonight — Jason Bay and Dustin Pedroia led the way for the Sox tonight battering Jeremy Guthrie out of the game in the 5th inning and hammering the bullpen led by Danys Baez. Matt Albers got into hot water in the 8th but escaped like Houdini.

The Orioles are now 6-4 — not too shabby, all things considered but they are taking on all of the characteristics of a bad team. Orioles pitching has allowed 29 runs in the last 16 innings of baseball.

Not good!

My running blog below…

10:26 p.m. — Markakis flies out. Huff strikes out. Threat ends ugly and empty. Did I mention that they blew a 7-0 lead tonight with their ace on the hill?

10:19 p.m. –The Orioles are threatening in the eighth. Two on, Markakis up. It’s a “defining” moment. Iwajima is in the game. Lefty on lefty…

10:07 p.m. — They’re booing Big Papi…LOUDLY! Fenway Park sounds like a festival of the “Boo-g Powells.” Big Papi has now fanned three times. He looks like Little Papi in 2009 thus far. Alberts got Youkilis to ground into a double play. There’s still hope! They survived a bases-loaded, no out jam! This could be a “defining” moment, a turning point in the season. Or, maybe not…

10:05 p.m. — Matt Albers is in the game. The bases are loaded. Nobody out. And Big Papi is coming to the dish. Trouble?

9:58 p.m. — Someone just left me a comment about how Gawd-awful MASN’s in-house commercials are and how often we are subjected to them. Agreed. Just painful, and we’re only two weeks into the season! And now, after blowing a 7-0 lead, I’m subjected to Amber Theoharis smiling and giving us “minor league” pitching updates from Bowie, which will be a “good news” staple all season.

The biggest story in the Orioles’ universe tonight is their catcher of the future who should already be here tweaking a hammy in suburban Atlanta. I suppose it’s great that so many folks are interested in their farm system and they’re actually “marketing” these kids. I just hope to God a few of them can actually play come 2011. This is the biggest “sell job” the franchise has ever put on us while we watch pitching that has allowed 29 runs in the last 15 innings.

9:48 p.m. –I hear Danys Baez is a great guy. (I’ve never met him.) But he sucks as a pitcher. The Orioles have now officially blown a 7-0 lead with their ace on the hill against a division opponent that was reeling offensively before tonight.

9:35 p.m. — That Kevin Youkilis header was quite scary. Baez looked a little unglued. He clearly felt horrible about it. Always the scariest thing in baseball, next to the pitcher comebackers.

9:14 p.m. — The game is tied after Nick Green launched one over Adam Jones’ head. Guthrie is headed the shower. Even after being staked to eight runs of offensive support, he can only be the loser. He leaves the game with eight runs scored — no thanks to the Huff botching of a Bill Buckner-esque grounder — and two aboard. Enter Danys Baez. They call this “relief” pitching?

9:12 p.m. — Jeremy Guthrie was sailing through the fifth but all hell has broken loose with two outs. A triple, a couple of walks and then the Aubrey Huff snafu has staked the Red Sox to the brink of getting into the Orioles line of arsonists waiting out in the bullpen.

9:02 p.m. — The Matt Wieters “situation” is apparently nothing too serious, but the Orioles have been known to “fib” with their media relations. So, who knows? We’ll know more tomorrow.

8:48 p.m. — Lots of offense. Lots of bad pitching. Looks like another fun evening at Fenway Park is shaping up. At least Guthrie has survived the initial storm. More than we can say for Josh Beckett. Nick Markakis hits a salami. And Brian Roberts and Adam Jones continue to be the best 1-2 punch in MLB over the first two weeks.

Oh…and Big Papi looks sick. They’re on the way to a series lead. But then again, the bullpen will be called upon at some point.

7:12 p.m. — What the heck happened to “BALTIMORE” on the black road jerseys? Explanation anyone?

7:11 p.m. — Wow, those Red jerseys pop off the screen in HD. Just seeing Brian Roberts stroll up to the plate hitting .444 is pretty cool, especially when you consider how many times this organization dangled him out on the trade market. He’s rich. He’s cool. He’s community-oriented and an all-around good guy. And, he’s hitting .444. What’s not to like about BRob? One of the real reasons to go the ballpark if you do go…

I’m not going to blog inning by inning, but if you want to comment on the game at any point, feel free. I’ll approve them over the next hour during dinner. Looks like a beautiful night to be at Fenway for a game.

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Eaton beaten badly, Bass was a fish — Birds lose 11-3 to Rays

Posted on 12 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

All was not completely lost. The Orioles managed some offense — too little, too late — in the 9th inning as they eliminated the doughnut from behind a bad effort today in an 11-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays to cap their opening homestand at 4-2.

Orioles pitching allowed a whopping 17 hits today and the Rays looked almost vengeful for the two beatings handed out by the Birds behind good pitching on Friday and Saturday. Keep in mind, the Rays beat the Orioles 15 of 18 times last year. A win today would’ve matched last year’s total.

I wrote a live blog as I’ve turned an eye toward The Masters this afternoon, the one day of the year that I attempt to appreciate golf and culture.

Below are my observations from a day of baseball with the O’s.

4:01 p.m. — I’ve been monitoring Phil Mickelson’s miraculous run this afternoon with one eye on the game. But I’ve now managed to switch over fast enough to see back-to-back homers by Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena. Brian Bass is making Dave Trembley and Andy McPhail look bad for sending Matt Albers away last night. It’s 11-0. The O’s have managed just three hits on the day off of James Shields.

The good news: the “Baltimore” grey sweaters will be on the team’s crests tomorrow night in Dallas. We’ll be watching the game from Padonia Station as we talk football and draft with Eric DeCosta and Brian Billick.

3:09 — Well, I thought Adam Eaton stunk today but Brian Bass has been an arsonist of the highest order, allowing four MORE runs in one inning coming out of the bullpen and this one is becoming a snoozer. I’ll continue to monitor while I watch The Masters and follow Drew’s blog there. It’s 8-0 and “relief” is not what Bass has brought to the hill today.

3:04 p.m. — Jim Hunter just said that the Rays “have exploded.” Well, Ben Zobrist just made Brian Bass look like he’s next on the Norfolk Express, with a three-run homer after Bass allowed two of his first three hitters aboard. It’s now 7-0. The Masters is calling me…

2:59 — Mercifully, it’s over. Adam Eaton has left the game with a nauseating line and it was worse to actually witness:

100 pitches, 4 IP, 8H, 4ER, 2W, 6K

His ERA to start the season is 9.00.

2:56 p.m. — I like Adam Jones but I’ll call that what it was: stupid base running. If the flyball from Markakis gets down and goes to the wall, Jones could limp in from second base. And instead, CF Ben Zobrist ran it down and Jones got hung up at second instead of being at third with one out. With Huff coming up and a fly ball meaning a run, it wasn’t good baseball by Jones. The Orioles end the fourth quietly, still down 4-nil.

2:45p.m. — Alright, watching Adam Eaton stinks. Like watching most of the Orioles’ pitching over the last decade, today’s game has been long, frustrating and is making me consider the azaleas of The Masters here any second with Angel Cabrera and Kenny Perry teeing off soon. Adam Eaton has thrown 94 pitches, allowed nine baserunners and isn’t even holding runners on base. Only a miracle “phantom” tag and tripping at the plate from Chad Moeller on Gabe Gross has saved the Orioles and now Moeller was shaken up but stayed in the game. Miraculously, it’s still 4-0. Eaton ends the fourth having thrown 100 pitches.

2:32 p.m. — Nice of the idiots at MASN to feed me a commerical pimping how great the game is in HD complete with Nick Markakis promos. Yeah, I know how great baseball in HD is. Wanna know HOW I know? Because I’m watching the game in this crappy “low def” presentation, morons, and it makes me long for ESPN and Sunday Night Baseball tonight! (It’s like comedy. You can’t make this stuff up…)

2:24 p.m. — It’s taken Adam Eaton almost 80 pitches to get nine outs in less than 51 minutes. At least there’s no mystery: the bullpen knows it’s going to be seeing plenty of action and quite early today. James Shields is perfect and here come Felix Pie, Chad Moeller and Robert Andino to start a rally in the 3rd. I’m not expecting any offensive production from the bottom of the order today.

2:06 — I’ve called him Adam “Eaton-up-innings” but it doesn’t appear to be the case so far given his propensity to throwing a ton of pitches. He’s gone deep into counts with virtually every batter the Rays have brought to the plate. It took him 49 pitches to get through the first nine batters and he had only secured four outs. He loaded the bases with a laborious pace and then allowed Carl Crawford to stroke a lazy three-run triple into the right field corner. Longoria then followed with a 370-foot double to right.

The Orioles are losing 4-0 and Eaton is on pace to get the bullpen moving by the fourth inning. He’s thrown 60 pitches and gotten six outs.

1:51 — The Adam Eaton era has begun in Baltimore. Looks like “lots of baserunners” will be a tag that follows him to his fourth big-league destination. Despite allowing two on with one out, he escaped like Houdini, even after it looked like he had struck out Pat Burrell to end the inning on a 1-2 inside pitch. Burrell eventually skied to Adam Jones and ended the threat. Evan Longoria now has a six-game hitting streak and the O’s will not begin this one in the hole.

With Felix Pie, Chad Moeller and Robert Andino at the bottom of the order, a good start will be necessary to take the sweep today against the Rays.

P.S. When I see No. 24 on an O’s pitcher from the centerfield camera, I think about Dave Schmidt. (Don’t ask me why?) There are many other 24′s — including Rick Dempsey — but Schmidt’s name was like “number association” for me.

1:35 p.m. — So much for HD promises of the Angelos family and MASN. For the third day in a row, I’m watching the Orioles on the “poor little cousin” of MASN HD, which is Channel 17 on my Comcast featuring the 1985-style production of Major League Baseball. The double whammy? We’ve also got the B-team of Jim Hunter and Buck Martinez snoozing us through the action. The good news? The freaking team is beating the best the AL East has to offer to start the season. Adam Eaton and James Shields. This one figures to run long…

Between this and the Masters, it’s gonna be a great afternoon on the couch. Especially, when it looks sorta chilly at the ballpark. Feel free to comment. I’ll post them all!

**********

The brooms will be in tow at Oriole Park at Camden Yards this afternoon but will they be put to use? For the second time in as many series, the Birds have a chance to take three in a row from an AL East favorite to close the homestand before donning the “Baltimore” script for the first time in 37 years in Texas tomorrow night. I’ll be live blogging during the game today so join me for a chat if you’re watching the game with your laptop nearby on this chilly Easter Sunday.

Here are the lineups for today:

Rays

Akinori Iwamura 2B
Carl Crawford LF
Evan Longoria 3B
Carlos Pena 1B
Pat Burrell DH
Dioner Navarro C
Ben Zobrist CF
Gabe Gross RF
Jason Bartlett SS

James Shields RHP

Birds

Brian Roberts 2B
Adam Jones CF
Nick Markakis RF
Aubrey Huff 1B
Melvin Mora 3B
Luke Scott DH
Felix Pie LF
Chad Moeller C
Robert Andino SS

Adam Eaton RHP

Last night’s masterful effort by Jeremy Guthrie (6IP, 5H, 0 runs) has continued a “magical” run for the Orioles to beging the season. Melvin Mora’s grand slam in the first set the tone and the Tampa Rays went quickly and quietly on a Saturday night. Even Chris Ray, who struggled against the Yankees, got into the act with a trio of strikeouts in his one inning of work.

Today the Birds will send Adam Eaton to the hill against James Shields. Eaton, who was not on the active roster and will activated later today, will replace Matt Albers who got some work last night before his expected option to Norfolk after last night’s win. Brian Bass was an other candidate for the AAA demotion, but he’s out of options and will remain with the club.

I’ll be sharing thoughts — kind of like I do on live radio — in my live blog at 1:35 p.m. today. Drew will be watching the Masters all afternoon as well. It’s a great holiday, Sunday and weekend of sports as the Stanley Cup playoffs beckon. Some would say it’s the most wonderful time of the year, especially with the better weather en route.

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Guthrie Continues the Orioles Winning Ways

Posted on 11 April 2009 by Nicholas Miskelly

Guthrie Continues the Orioles Winning Ways

 

Guthrie got off to a hot start tonight as he aggressively attacked the strike zone early in the count.  He quickly got ahead of the first three hitters of the game as he retired the side in order.  He was able to get all of his pitches working early as he effectively kept the Tampa Bay batters off balance by moving the ball from side to side while mixing in his fastball, slider, and change up.  His control was pinpoint accurate for most of today.

 

Unlike much of last year, Guthrie was able to enjoy early run support today.  The Orioles were able to capitalize on Nemann’s early wildness as they capped a five run first inning with Melvin Mora’s first home run of the season, a grand slam to left center field.

 

Taking advantage of the early run support, Guthrie was able to continue to attack the strike zone in the second as he got another 1,2,3 inning.  There is nothing worse than when a pitcher is handed a big early lead, then comes out and tries to nibble around the plate resulting in multiple walks which allows the opposition to get right back in the game.  Guthrie did not allow this to happen as he continued to look sharp with his mastery of the strike zone as he pitched 6 complete innings.  The key to his success today was the location and movement of his pitches as he successfully kept hitters unbalanced as he navigated through tough jams in both the 3rd and the 4th innings. 

 

In the end the Orioles bullpen finally pitched to their expectations as they worked 3 scoreless innings.  Walker came in and looked good in his 1 1/3 scoreless innings.  Chris Ray pitched the 9th using a sharp moving slider to strike out the side. 

 

I can’t wait to catch the game tomorrow to see if the magic continues as the Orioles send Adam Eaton to the mound and they look to sweep the defending American League champions right out of the yard.  

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Feel the Magic: The O’s are beating the AL East’s best

Posted on 11 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

So far, there’s not much to complain about. If the Orioles can just get a dozen more starts like Mark Hendrickson’s gem last night, this might turn into an interesting spring. There once was a time when beating Tampa Bay in April was meaningless. No mas…

As I watch the rain fall today — and I can’t believe that they’ll actually play this evening but the forecast is for a late afternoon clearing and an “ontime” start –  the pitching advantage certainly benefits the Birds tonight with Jeremy Guthrie taking the ball against Jeff Niemann. The Orioles are now 3-1 and have managed to hold on late in all three games, contests that in previous years might’ve gone the wrong way. And the bullpen has really kinda stunk all week, which usually means “death knell.”

Here’s all you need to know about the offense: Brian Roberts is hitting .438 and Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are stroking it at a .429 clip. The table is being set. I don’t love Jones in the No. 2 hole — he strikes out too much — but if he can continue to make contact and maybe even use his speed to bunt and hit behind runners (and Roberts will be on base plenty) there will be RBI opportunities for Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora or whomever is in the middle of the order. And, of course, there’s always the mystery of where Matt Wieters will bat once he’s summoned from the Tidewater Basin.

The difference between the Orioles winning 65 or 75 games this year will depend on the pitching. Heck, Hendrickson just MAKING it into the sixth inning is a victory if he can do that every five days. Resting the bullpen, which no doubt will be taxed, is essential. Especially with Adam Eaton-up-innings looming on Easter Sunday.

They’re 3-1. It’s raining. Guthrie wants the ball. They’ll be wearing BALTIMORE grey sweaters on Monday night (please join us at Padonia Station for a combo “Billick-DeCosta” draft show and BALTIMORE viewing party at 7 p.m. as the Birds travel to Arlington to take on the Rangers). A split over the next 48 hours and they will have taken two series against  “elite” teams in the AL East to start the season. And the reasoning goes: if they can beat these teams, they can beat anyone.

One more thought for the weekend: WOW, Evan Longoria is solid. If Wieters is HALF this good it’ll be fun watching when he gets called up, no matter their record.

Rain, rain…go away! We gotta play the Rays today…

Hope to see you at the Blast game tonight! (I’m DVRing the Birds in “low def” on MASN).

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A gloomy forecast — today and for the ’09 Birds

Posted on 06 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

The sky is gray across the horizon in downtown Baltimore this morning as the Orioles kick off their 2009 campaign amidst a city full of Yankees fans and the inaugural appearance for Baltimore’s homegrown Mark Teixeira as a pinstriper. It was a dark day even before the clouds and scattered showers moved in from the south.

The Orioles, who haven’t played a meaningful game since October 1997, appear to be about to put another 162 insignificant games into the record books as the “dark era” of Birds baseball continues, the longest stretch of inepetitude in the history of the storied franchise. The Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Orioles “win/loss” total at 71 1/2, which means if the Orioles play just “18 games under .500″ you win the bet.

I’m not a betting man, but based on what I’ve seen for six weeks in spring training regarding their pitching, I’d be jumping at the “under” on this proposition. That said, I like this team, these position players and the quality of the character it appears Andy McPhail has assembled.

I want to cheer for Brian Roberts. I like Luke Scott and Adam Jones. I’m interested in Felix Pie, although I think he’ll probably be this year’s version of Jeff Stone. I think Aubrey Huff looked inspired for six months last summer and I’m not convinced he won’t rebound with another big year. I’m not sure what to make of Melvin Mora at this point in his career and I think Cesar Izturis will be fun to watch field the ball. And Nick Markakis is just a solid ballplayer, almost a throwback.

On the rare nights that the bullpen will be delivered a 7th inning lead, it’ll be fun to see if they’re as good as advertised.

Some things I’m watching for this season:

When will Matt Wieters arrive for good and how will he perform? It’ll be the biggest franchise mid-season debut since Ben McDonald, which was a very, very big deal.

Let’s be honest: these current starting pitching is a joke and if Jeremy Guthrie, Koji Uehara, Mark Hendrickson, Alfredo Simon and Adam Eaton are the real five starters we’ll use all season, this team is probably 10 games under .500 before Memorial Day and then it becomes a “what to do?” for McPhail.

How will Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman do on the farm this year, especially before the All-Star break. If the current O’s veterans are as bad as we think they’ll be, which of these guys will be heatlthy, effective and ready to promote?

And will the Orioles start the M.L. service time on any of these kids with a summer call up? Or will McPhail allow the current veteran group to get their heads beaten in night after night? Or will Danys Baez or Brian Bass or David Pauley step in and perform? Or not?

That’s why we watch and certainly I’m poised to talk baseball every single day on WNST and AM 1570.

I just hope in these tough economic times, perhaps the people of Baltimore will return to baseball this summer and come to care again about the Orioles, if not in the stands perhaps on their TV’s around town. Of course, it would help if the franchise actually did its fair share and “came back to the people.” During the last six months, the team did exactly two events to promote their team. One of them was two days ago.

They continue to do foolish, selfish and mindless things that almost go unnoticed by the media that is in the business of making excuses for their sins so they can benefit financially.

Today’s starting pitcher — their No. 1 guy and big “hope” for the season — had his paycheck cut by 15% four weeks ago. Happy Opening Day, Jeremy Guthrie!

They continue to ban free speech, even daring their current players to not speak out about unsafe playing conditions in spring training.

We’ll see how much “progress” the organization has over the next six months. Let’s see how the puppies do on the farm. Let’s see how the young emerging stars perform in a mostly empty stadium and with starting pitching that no one can takes seriously as a team that will compete in the AL East in 2009.

But, let’s see how the season goes. My prediction: 65-97. Probably worse if someone doesn’t come in and save the rotation by July.

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Drinking the orange Kool Aid at Fan Fest

Posted on 04 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

There are two types of Orioles fans left in the Baltimore area and they are distinct groups:

Those who drink the Kool Aid…

And those, like me, who have examined the big picture of what’s happened to this franchise over the past 13 years and are pretty angry about its impact on our fun, our lives and the community.

With Opening Day looming, everyone who has EVER loved baseball perks up and pay attention. Even if it’s only to notice: “Hey, its’ Opening Day!” Most people in Baltimore realize this team won’t contend but if you love baseball you’ll at least open one eye on Monday afternoon to catch the score. I’d venture to say that 75% of the city will wake up Tuesday morning at the office and know whether the Orioles won. (That number used to be more like 98% in 1998!)

Those who unconditionally still drink the orange Kool Air or “want” to drink the Kool Aid probably went down to Fan Fast today at Camden Yards. I opted to not give Mr. Angelos any more money that he won’t spend to get the team a quality spring training facility.

Instead, I’m sitting here watching the Fan Fest festivities on MASN HD television and getting some of my WNST “CEO work” done and thinking about baseball season and how it’s going to go for the Orioles and Matt Wieters and these young players and what inevitable drama will unfold.

The only real “punishment” I’m getting for not having a press pass is being “banned” from knowing the Orioles players, which is almost ludicrous because as you saw last week, Jeremy Guthrie and Brian Roberts were happy to chat with me at the World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium. Charley Eckman would’ve called them “right guys” and they are decent, solid dudes. (As an aside, I also exchanged pleasantries with Davey Johnson, which is always fun.)

As a media member – well, at least I was for about 23 years until I was banned – I got to know so many of the players and what kinda guys they are. So I guess that’s my “price to pay” — I don’t get to report to you what good people the Orioles have on their team this year. Or not…

While it looked a tad bit chilly and windy at Camden Yards, the event was a “made for TV” informercial/season preview with interviews between co-workers Jim Hunter, Jim Palmer and the like of Andy McPhail, Aubrey Huff, Adam Jones, Dennis Sarfate and Ryan Freel.

They did a nice job with “get to know you” chats with these players and  I especially like that I can see Jim Palmer in high def. For a well-compensated network to finally “discover” HD in 2009 tells you all you need to know about the vision people at MASN.

But I digress…

Here are a few observations, because my seat is the same as yours at this point, which is its own unique point of view watching Jim Hunter and Amber Theoharis and others interview their co-workers in black hats that say “O’s”.

I honestly didn’t know what Ty Wigginton or Koji Uehara looked like until today. Ditto Freel, who really seemed to be a pleasant “aw, shucks” kinda guy. He reminded me of Bob Backlund back in the late 1970’s when he was a baby face.

Freel freely thanked the fans several times and seemed genuine. (As an aside, why doesn’t the owner of the team ever do that? Just come on the TV and say “thanks” on his own network that he’s making over $100 million this year on?)

Andy McPhail did a stand up with Jim Hunter and said all of the right things. He made it clear he expected a big improvement in Adam Jones. He also talked a lot about character and what kind of players — “gamers, blue collars guys, character guys” — he wants on the team. Fair enough.

I like hearing that the Orioles want good people in their organization. From what I know of the 2009 Orioles, they’re pretty good guys and they clearly dislike Angelos’ management and ownership style as much as the rest of us. (Again, this is one of the reasons the Orioles banning legitimate media isn’t a good thing for the fans. The fans never get to know the truth unless, like yesterday in The Sun, they speak out.)

I’ve known Gregg Zaun for 17 years. I’ve cheered – VERY hard – for Zaun for 17 years through his days in Kansas City, Florida, Toronto and Houston. He’s a great person and loves Baltimore and the Orioles. That’s an upgrade there no matter how you look at it and he’ll keep the seat plenty warm for Matt Wieters, whenever the Orioles decide to promote him to the bigs.

Even today on TV, a couple of the young players talked about what a cool guy Zaun is for them to be around and how he tells great stories (which he does!)

I must say that I didn’t envy Buck Martinez’s press pass today, interviewing his co-worker, Japanese pitcher Koji Uehara, whose only word in English was “Thank you!”

Uehara had an interpreter and the answer to the first question regarding Camden Yards was this: “Right field is pretty shallow.” That was the first of several laughs.

Honestly, it was like I needed an interpreter for his interpreter. It was borderline hilarious. It reminded me of my four days in Tokyo where communication was definitely at a premium.

I don’t care how much Uehara speaks. The Orioles need him to be a rock star if they’re going to win 75 games. But he seemed pleasant enough and thrilled to be at Camden Yards in a big-league uniform. Good enough for me.

If the only “communication” I’m going to have with the players is to see their co-workers ask them questions I might as well think they’re nice guys. Even if they’re complete turds, at least this won’t spoil it for me.

I’m ready for Opening Day. I’m ready to get to Hooters and have a Bud Light. I’m ready for baseball.

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Orange fireworks: Players and Trembley flip Peter Angelos “The Bird” today in The Sun

Posted on 03 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I’ve been saying for years that Fort Lauderdale Stadium and the Orioles’ sub-par Florida spring training situation is by far the biggest sin of all of their many sins and finally the folks over on Calvert Street are doing some “investigative journalism” with the orange birds. The club’s No. 1 promise to the public is that it’s doing everything possible to commit all of its resources to fielding a winning team.

That’s the goal in baseball: winning a championship. You always want to give your team the best chance to compete.

The Angelos family hasn’t done that for the entire tenure of their ownership in regard to the significance of spring training as anything more than a line item expense. The mere fact that they’re the only organization in the sport to have “two camps” in Florida that sit three hours apart is telling enough. It’s bad business. It’s bad baseball. It’s just inexcusable, unacceptable and dumb.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium is a dump. It’s a disgrace. It’s been a disgrace for the entire balance of the 15 years they’ve played there. I’ve worked many, many a morning and pulled many 12-hour days at Fort Lauderdale Stadium doing radio and covering baseball back when I was a “real” media member. I’ve spent 100 days of my life at that facility over the years before the team banned me from having a press credential.

Most of the fans here in Baltimore never make it there and it’s not like the team does anything to market having fans come south with their off season efforts. So it kinda goes unnoticed and when I bitch about it – and again, I think it’s probably the most obvious and lousy “white elephant” of all of their many sins – the fans don’t really care or “get it” but it’s so bizarre and so blatantly “bush league” in the eyes of anyone who knows anything about baseball from management to players to coaches to the locker room attendants that it defies description.

Just the mere fact that the visiting teams come in and see the situation and don’t lay down negative comments day after day is astonishing. Apparently, according to The Sun, the situation over at the minor-league camp is even worse. I haven’t personally been to Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota since 1995. It was “amateur” then, but not in disrepair. It was “minor league” but it wasn’t “unsafe” as several of the opposing teams indicated in contacting MLB and refusing to schedule games against the Orioles farmhands.

But the quotes in The Sun aren’t from Nestor. Or Drew Forrester. Or the glowing crap you’ll hear on MASN from Jim Hunter, Fred Manfra and the “boys club” who all take their paychecks from Peter Angelos.

They’re from the players themselves, who also take their paychecks from Peter Angelos. And it’s precisely these types of stories that makes Angelos ban a guy like me from having access. Because the players would be talking my ear off to get their message heard in the public eye.

Today’s whoppers and haymakers from their best people and players are “instant classics” and are sure to have the Angelos family in “flip out” mode on this Friday before Opening Day. It’s almost like all of the players just got together and decided to give the team’s ownership a rectal examination of unprecedented proportions.

This morning, it’s like Brian Roberts, Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora, Dave Trembley and Jake Arrieta are on the front page of the local newspaper wearing FREE THE BIRDS shirts!

Here come the quotes:

Dave Trembley: “I think we’ve finally reached the point where it’s fish or cut bait. We’re in the business of developing players. What would enhance that development is a facility that is more conducive to us all being all together and being on an even playing field with the other clubs.”

Brian Roberts: “I think most of us would be lying if we said this is what any of us would expect from a major league organization.”

Aubrey Huff: “When you have a big-league team that has a weight tent with rented weight equipment located in the parking lot, that’s pretty sad.”

Melvin Mora: “That’s the worst field I’ve ever played on in my life and I’m from Venezeula.”

Chris Ray: “I don’t know what to say about the facility other than that it just needs to be leveled and rebuilt. It’s a shame. You draft someone, hype them up and then they go to that facility and they’re like, ‘Wow.’ I think that’s a little bit embarrassing.”

Jake Arrieta: “We’re all very blessed to be in the situations that we’re in, but it also comes with the territory that you expect to have nice facilities to work out in. Not that we’re tired of Twin Lakes, but I all think we deserve something better.”

And here is my favorite, from a minor-league farmhand named Mike Costanzo, who was given the “Nestor treatment” by the franchise: “We were told to not say anything about the field, but if nobody says anything, it’s never going to get fixed. It’s tough to get quality work in here.”

I guess Nick Markakis must’ve been in the shower or “unavailable for comment” on this one.

Costanzo’s quote is almost poignant to me because that’s EXACTLY what FREE THE BIRDS was all about.

“If nobody says anything it’s never going to get fixed.”

It almost brings a tear to my eyes. I’m a BIG Mike Costanzo fan all of a sudden. I’ll be monitoring that young man, who showed some big-league bravery for that quote but will undoubtedly be in the corporate “doghouse” for life after that one.

Aside from being quality journalism by Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly, it’s the kind of story in this economy that will piss off Angelos so much that you might even see the fireworks ads get pulled from the May editions. Mr. Angelos reads The Sun every day and will be ripe and randy today, no doubt about it.

I can hear him now…

“The insubordination. These ungrateful millionaires. How dare they speak this way about our franchise to the media!”

There’s one thing Peter Angelos hates the most and that’s hearing the unfiltered truth about how bad this franchise is in so many ways in print or in the media. Seeing his highest-paid employees flipping him the bird in the morning fishwrap – well, that’s gonna make for an interesting weekend.

Of course, Angelos and his son John declined to speak about the “Fort Lauderdale situation” in the media.

The worst part are the paper-thin and almost silly quotes from Orioles spokeperson and huge WNST fan, Greg Bader, who knows less about P.R. than any P.R. person I’ve seen in 25 years of doing journalism for a living.

Now, apparently, a baseball expert and groundskeeper, Bader officially deemed the field in Sarasota “perfectly safe and adequate” after a handful of visiting MLB teams refused to show up and play games there.

I’ve only met Greg Bader twice, but my guess is that he never played an inning of baseball in his life. Or pitched on unmeasured mounds? Or caught a two-hopper after it hits a rock in the dirt? Or had to work out to get into shape for a 162-game Major League grind that baseball demands.

(As an aside, the first thing I learned when I began doing sports radio in 1992 and hanging around baseball players was how HARD the job was. As a kid it sounds like a fun gig, but being a Major League Baseball player is HARD, HARD work. These guys make millions of dollars and if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Baseball players live pretty difficult, complex lives from April 1st through October 1st. I have great respect for the work they do, which can only come when you see it first hand.)

Bader also said the club has “always had the urgency” to find a new home. That is just a stupid, silly thing to say. Urgency? They’ve had 15 years and roughly 80 percent of the MLB teams in South Florida have relocated or found better situations since the Orioles landed in Fort Lauderdale by sheer accident in 1996, after going several years in weird and bad situations in Miami and St. Petersburg.

They’ve been offered at least five sites that I can think of over the years – from Sarasota to Orlando to Vero Beach to Jupiter to Winter Haven — and have never done anything to rectify the combination of the major and minor league camps, which should have been done in 1997 or 1998 at the latest. No other team would DREAM of having a split camp and say they’re serious about a winning organization. It’s just unconscionable.

The 2009 season has already gotten off to a rocky, rocky start.

They have absolutely zero starting pitching. Jeremy Guthrie has been dreadful. Koji Uehera certainly bears watching but the rest of the retreads from Adam Eaton to Mark Hendrickson to Rich Hill to Danys Baez to the soon-to-be-celebrated Alfredo Simon are just arsonists of varying degrees at this point.

Brian Roberts isn’t healthy.

They’re still banning free speech in the media and being miserable and unprofessional to deal with at every level.

And now, every level of their organization from manager to players to minor leaguers are popping off in the morning newspaper about how “bush league” their ownership is in regard to spring training and a commitment to winning. It’s like a scene out of “Major League” but the Orioles have become the Indians.

Next Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay still doesn’t have a starting time and the Ravens are expecting 20,000 people at M&T Bank Stadium that morning and afternoon for an Inside Lacrosse doubleheader and no one in the city knows what the parking situation might be. The game is eight days away. You’d think they’d announce to the Tampa Rays, their season ticket holders and their employees when the game will be played. (Again, this kind of management is just unheard of in professional sports in 2009.)

Oh, and the Yankees are bringing 30,000 obnoxious fans into town on Opening Day to cheer for Baltimore’s greatest homegrown player in a generation as he takes the field at Camden Yards wearing pinstripes.

Oh, and advance ticket sales have been abysmal and they’re having a “Fan Fest” tomorrow that feels like a rumor around town.

Other than that, things are just fine in Birdland.

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Live from Southern California…

Posted on 23 March 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been a chilly trip all the way around. It’s cold in California this week. It was freezing at Dodger Stadium last night and Laguna Beach is no better.

I’m spending the next three days here in Dana Point at the NFL Owners Meetings, chatting with coaches, executives and owners from around the league. Most of the media has commented that it’s “quiet” here this week, with no major rules changes or negotiations to be held. The only potential “landmark” concept is the notion of making the regular season a 17 or 18-game affair, with the elimination of those dreadful preseason games. It appears that changes to overtime possession aren’t coming right now. There’s too much support to keep the current (yet flawed) system.

But it’s truly the calm before the potential financial storm as the NFL Players Association has named its new leader in DeMaurice Smith last week.

Commisioner Roger Goodell is addressing the entire contingent this morning with a “State of The NFL” speech, which no doubt will be addressing the sagging economy and the paramount issue of a new collective bargaining agreement with the players, which could be a dog fight over the next 18 months as both sides are preparing for a tremendous battle that could go either way.

Lockouts, strikes, posturing – it’s all on the table as both sides look to divvy up the riches and spoils of a league that has basically had 25 years of labor peace and prosperity. Right now, the players get 59.5% of the total revenue pool. The owners want to make it less; the players, of course, want more. We’ll be following this story for the next two years but this is the beginning of a long race that will decide the fate of the league for the next decade.

I spent the evening last night up in Los Angeles (about an hour north of here) at Dodger Stadium at the World Baseball Classic semifinal between Team USA and Japan. Obviously, it wasn’t the greatest night for Brian Roberts in field but he did begin the game with a grand home run off of Dice K. I caught up with Brian Roberts, Davey Johnson and Jeremy Guthrie prior to the game and saw more celebrities than I can name. The videos are just to the right of here in the wnsTV video vault.

Because of the “Angelos ban” I never had the chance to meet of chat with Guthrie. He was a super good guy and was truly excited about wearing a USA jersey. My five minutes with him made it very easy to pull for him when he takes the ball at Camden Yards in two weeks.

(And for the record, I had no idea Kelsey Grammar was such a nice guy. I did, however, fully confirm that Alyssa Milano is smoking hot!)

Dodger Stadium is still a religious experience for any baseball fan and it’s nights like last night that really make me love my job and my career in sports. As I’ve been posting my baseball book about my Pop and his love of the game, it’s nights like last night that remind me about why I chose to do this for a living 25 years ago.

I also ran into some very old and dear friends from the “early days” with the Orioles. Dr. Charles Steinberg and Evelyn Ehlers – both “lifer” Orioles fans and Baltimoreans are working in the Dodgers’ front office. Former Ravens V.P. Dennis Mannion is now the president of the Dodgers. And Baltimorean Jamie McCourt (nee Luskin, as in Jack Luskin, the “cheapest guy in the town”) is the C.E.O. of the team, owner by her and husband Frank McCourt.

It’s almost like the Dodgers are Baltimore’s West Coast connection.

I’ll be shooting videos here on WNST.net, blogging and potentially grabbing some guests for Drew Forrester, Bob Haynie and Ray Bachman, who will be filling in for me all week from 2 til 6 p.m.

I’ve already chatted with virtually every NFL coach that has a Baltimore connection and John Harbaugh told me that his brother – former Ravens QB and current Stanford head coach Jim – and his dad will be here this afternoon. We’ll be doing a little wnsTV of that in the next 24 hours.

It’s also the first NFL Owners Meetings for longtime WNST supporters, Rex Ryan and Jim Schwartz, who will both make some time for Baltimore.

Stay tuned…I’ll be working hard here in California.

Did I mention the weather kinda sucks?

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O’s Today: Pauley struggles

Posted on 11 March 2009 by Drew Forrester

With only Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehara guaranteed rotation-life as starters for the Orioles, each spring training game gives another pitcher an opportunity to impress manager Dave Trembley.

Today, among others, it was David Pauley’s chance to shine.

It wasn’t pretty.

Pauley – out of options and therefore, a must-keep for the O’s on their opening day roster – gave up eight hits and a walk in three innings of work today as the Birds lost to Minnesota, 4-3.  He’s now allowed 20 hits and 22 baserunners in 9.1 innings of Grapefruit League work – and his e.r.a. is a not-so-swift 7.71.

If Pauley’s spring ERA was 2.35, the O’s would be excited.  Instead, it’s his WHIP (walks/hits allowed per inning) that’s 2.35.  

They’re not excited about a guy with a 2.35 WHIP.

With Rich Hill sore-arming it through spring training and still looking for his first real action – and Brad Hennessey shelved with an arm injury as well…the pickins’ are pretty slim for the O’s as they try to complete their starting rotation before the April 6 opener. 

Apparently, if nearly 10 innings of spring training work can serve as a fair barometer — David Pauley is probably not the answer.

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Off-season O’s summary: “We saved a bunch of money”

Posted on 02 February 2009 by Drew Forrester

One thing for sure, the economy didn’t affect the Orioles and their off-season efforts.

They kept almost all of their money.  It’s hard to feel the pinch when you don’t spend any of it.

The Birds acquired Rich Hill today and he’s likely to battle Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehra for the right to lose to the Yankees on either day one, two or three of the regular season in April.

At least Hill has more career wins (18) than Guthrie (17) and Uehara (0).

Granted, the Cubs got one good year out of Hill, who made 32 starts in 2007 and was 3rd in the national league with 183 strikeouts.  Last year, they got five starts out of him before he was shut down in early May.

Sounds like he’ll fit right in with all the other question-marks the O’s signed this winter.

Did I mention he made $445,000 last year?   

Like I said, he’s a perfect fit.

Here’s a list of the pitchers the Orioles COULD have had this winter:

Jon Garland, Derek Lowe, A.J. Burnett, Ben Sheets, John Smoltz and C.C. Sabathia

Those pitchers each have TWO things in common:  1) They’re expensive and, 2) They have a history of success.

Here’s the pitchers Baltimore wound up acquiring this winter:

Brad Hennessey, David Pauley, Mark Hendrickson, Koji Uehara and Rich Hill.

All of those pitchers have TWO things in common:  1) They’re all relatively inexpensive, except Uehara, who will make $1.25 million LESS than Jon Garland despite the fact Garland is younger and has 106 more major league wins than Uehara…and 2) no one else in the league wanted them…

I said at the beginning of the off-season that I would wait until February rolled around to determine the success level of the O’s winter efforts.

February is here.  I’m unimpressed.

Naturally, the O’s apologists will prattle on about how much “upside” all of these n’er do wells like Hennessey, Pauley and Hill have…”upside” is code word for: “at one point people thought they were going to be good and then they turned out to be not-so-good but maybe there’s still hope…”  

Bottom line:  The O’s could have spent money on pitchers. 

Bottom line:  They didn’t.

The only reasonable off-season move the team made was re-signing Nick Markakis and even that $66 million contract is backloaded to pay him nearly $16 million six years from now.  In 2009, Nick The Stick will perform his services for $3 million as part of his staggered payment schedule.  They also added slick-fielding shortstop Cesar Izturis, but I would have used that money to bring Garland in and would have given the no-hit, good-field shortstop position to Juan Castro.  What do I know? 

I can’t figure out for the life of me why the Orioles are afraid to spend money on quality players.  They have the money at their disposal.  They just don’t want to spend it.  Why not?  If only I could ask Andy MacPhail that question without having him scurry off to the soda table.

It’s obvious the team’s star-studded minor league pitching roster isn’t yet ready for prime time.  Had the likes of Arietta and Tillman been thought of as “opening day ready” the Birds wouldn’t have gone out in search of a journeyman like Hendrickson and a throw-away like Hill.  

With Arietta and Tillman NOT ready, why wouldn’t the O’s have invested some money on Garland, Lowe, Sheets, et al?

Is losing just so acceptable these days that we’ll take the lesser-of-two-evils (inexpensive) and be satisfied with that no matter what the results might be?

I don’t get it.

It’s clearly been an off-season of save and purge for the O’s…

There’s only one way we’ll all be able to determine if the fans buy into the team’s off-season efforts.

Butts in seats.

The green seats at Camden Yards will have the loudest voice in 2009.

If it’s anything like last year, or worse, the silence will be deafening as the customers give a dismissive wave and say, “no thanks”.

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