Tag Archive | "Jeremy Guthrie"

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The Turning Point and the War on Errorism

Posted on 06 July 2011 by Erich Hawbaker

It’s really a miracle that I’m not bald by now. Being an Orioles fan in the Angelos era could drive the Pope to drink, and so many nights in the last 13 years after watching them snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, I’ve absolutely wanted to tear my hair out. I guess I never thought about it until recently, but a pattern has emerged in the last few seasons. Has anyone else noticed this? Lately, there always seems to be this Achilles Heel, which makes you say: “the Orioles would be a decent team if it weren’t for (fill in the blank).” One year, it’s the starting pitching. Then it’s the crappy offense. Then it’s always losing on Sundays. And in 2011, it’s been the errors. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Orioles would be a .500 team right now but for all the miscues on the field.

With Buck Showalter’s reputation for running a tight ship, I’m really shocked that this has become the latest reason for the Orioles’ ineptitude. As I’m sure you know, a good portion of the extra outs donated to the other team have come courtesy of Mark Reynolds. Are 40 homeruns worth a .200 batting average, about 40 errors, and at least 150 strikeouts? I’m really not sure, and I’d welcome your take on it. What I am sure of is that this entire team needs to play better defense. As Buck says in that MASN propaganda commercial, you can play against anybody if you play smart. He’s right about that, but the words have not translated into action. This must be the primary focus of the second half.

We are now at the halfway point of the season, and right on schedule the Birds are shifting from “still kind of in it” to “let’s start thinking about next year”. Since we know that yet another October will come and go without any baseball in Baltimore, the next big thing to think about is entering this year’s trade market as sellers. So what do the O’s have to offer and what do they need?

The first bargaining chip that comes to my mind is Jeremy Guthrie. My heart absolutely aches for that man. We all know that he’s far better than his 3-10 record, and that he may well be the unluckiest pitcher in all of baseball. Everyone praises him as a guy who works hard, takes lots of extra practice, and really puts forth the effort to be the best he can be. He gives up a few too many homeruns, but on a team that gave him consistent run support (and particularly one that has a pitcher-friendly ballpark) he could be an ace. I’d really hate to see him go but it might be best for all concerned.

Then there’s Koji Uehara. In the reverse situation of Jeremy Guthrie, he was brought in to be a starter and then found his niche in the bullpen. And this year, he has been lights-out as the setup man. I, for one, think he should be the closer instead of Kevin Gregg as he is far less erratic and gets most of his outs via strikeout. While his value might be high, I would be reluctant to part with him because he, Gregg, and Jim Johnson have been the only relievers we can rely on. Koji could very easily be the closer one day, and it would not be wise to gut an already shallow bullpen with a young rotation that is likely to need them for lots of innings. Unless the offer is simply too good to refuse, keep Uehara here.

And finally we come to JJ Hardy. Of all the offseason acquisitions, he has by far been the best. He’s got a good glove, and has really shined in the leadoff spot in the absence of Brian Roberts. There’s no doubt that losing Roberts is the other big reason for this year’s lack of improvement, and at his age, one has to wonder how much longer he can be counted on as the everyday leadoff man. Hardy’s current contract ends at the end of this year, and hot-hitting middle infielders are always in demand at trade time. Presumably, Hardy will only be needed here until Manny Machado assumes the position as our SS (unless they decide to move him to 2B to replace Roberts). Certainly they should shop him, but I’d lean toward hanging onto him and getting him extended before the season ends if no good offers come. Hardy seems to be a very good fit for Baltimore (unlike so many of the imports of late), and he’s young enough to be productive for several more years.

So here we are again, only halfway thru the season and already looking ahead to the next in hopes that it might be better than this one. I’ve been hearing this chatter lately about the Orioles going after Prince Fielder in the offseason. That’s a topic for another day, but I would advise you not to be too optimistic about it. Andy has yet to actually “buy a bat”, at least one that isn’t about 5 years past his prime. Besides cutting down the errors, the other thing the Orioles must do is end this bad habit of signing old guys who have had great careers and are just looking for somewhere to retire. When they brought in Vlad, I had a bad feeling that he’d go the way of Joe Carter, Albert Belle, Will Clark, and Sammy Sosa. Damn it, I hate being right all the time…

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Morning Reaction Orioles Midseason Report Card

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Morning Reaction Orioles Midseason Report Card

Posted on 06 July 2011 by Glenn Clark

The Baltimore Orioles are now two games into the second half of the 2011 season. On Wednesday’s edition of “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, Drew Forrester and I gave our grades for Orioles players during the first half of the season.

CATCHERS:

wieters

Matt Wieters-Glenn Clark B+, Drew Forrester B
Jake Fox-Glenn D, Drew D
Craig Tatum-Glenn C-, Drew B

INFIELDERS:

hardy

Derrek Lee-Glenn D+, Drew D
Brian Roberts-Glenn D, Drew D
JJ Hardy-Glenn A-, Drew A
Mark Reynolds-Glenn B-, Drew C-
Robert Andino-Glenn C+, Drew C
Blake Davis-Glenn C, Drew B-
Cesar Izturis-Glenn D, Drew D
Ryan Adams-Glenn C, Drew D
Brandon Snyder-Glenn C-, Drew C-

OUTFIELDERS/DESIGNATED HITTERS:

vlad

Luke Scott-Glenn D, Drew D
Adam Jones-Glenn B-, Drew B+
Nick Markakis-Glenn B-, Drew C-
Nolan Reimold-Glenn C+, Drew C-
Felix Pie-Glenn F, Drew D-
Vladimir Guerrero-Glenn D+, Drew D+

STARTING PITCHERS:

britton

Jeremy Guthrie-Glenn C+, Drew C+
Jake Arrieta-Glenn B-, Drew C
Zach Britton-Glenn B, Drew B
Brian Matusz-Glenn D, Drew F
Chris Tillman-Glenn D, Drew D
Brad Bergesen-Glenn D+, Drew C-
Chris Jakubauskas-Glenn C-, Drew D

RELIEF PITCHERS:

kgregg

Koji Uehara-Glenn B, Drew B+
Jim Johnson-Glenn B+, Drew B-
Pedro Viola-Glenn C, Drew C
Kevin Gregg-Glenn C-, Drew C+
Alfredo Simon-Glenn C-, Drew C-
Jeremy Accardo-Glenn D, Drew D
Mike Gonzalez-Glenn D, Drew D
Josh Rupe-Glenn D, Drew D
Jason Berken-Glenn C, Drew C-
Clay Rapada-Glenn D-, Drew B-
Troy Patton-Glenn D, Drew F

MANAGER:

showalter

Buck Showalter-Glenn C-, Drew B+

If you missed the breakdown of our midseason grades on Wednesday’s edition of “The Morning Reaction”, hit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net!

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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Guthrie gets overdue help from offense in Orioles’ 7-5 win over Reds

Posted on 26 June 2011 by Luke Jones

It was far from Jeremy Guthrie’s best performance in a 7-5 win to give the Orioles their first series win since June 6-8.

But the bats owed him one.

Guthrie pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing four earned runs and six hits while uncharacteristically walking four batters in an afternoon in which deep counts caught up with him, forcing an early exit against the Cincinnati Reds. However, five runs in the first four innings and two late insurance runs proved to be enough despite eight walks by Baltimore pitching.

Receiving the ninth-worst run support in the American League entering Sunday, Guthrie was grateful for the extra hand in securing his third win of the season despite a very respectable 3.93 earned run average in 16 starts. It marked the first time since May 26 that Guthrie had received five or more runs and just the fifth time all season.

“Winning three games in three months, it’s frustrating,” said Guthrie, who improved his record to 3-9. “I want to be better; I want to have better results. At times, momentum seems to swing against the Orioles, so it’s nice to have held on and won this game. It’s important for the team.”

Though not his sharpest outing, Guthrie’s stuff removed any shred of doubt that might have lingered after straining his back two starts ago in Toronto. His fastball sat in the mid-90s and struck out five Cincinnati hitters despite giving up his 13th home run of the year to Brandon Phillips in the fifth inning.

Racking brains over Reynolds

No Oriole in recent memory has sparked more debate — or created more frustration — than third baseman Mark Reynolds.

Despite raising his batting average from .190 to .227, clubbing seven home runs, and walking 20 times in the month of June, Reynolds’ defense continues to suffer after committing two more errors on Sunday, giving him 18 for the year. Manager Buck Showalter is preaching patience with Reynold’s glove and arm, but the miscues haven’t yet affected his performance at the plate.

“I can’t think that way,” Reynolds said. “I have struggled over there at third base, it’s no secret. Just have to stay focused and not carry my at-bats into the field with me. Just keep going out there and making all the routine plays.”

Casual observers cringe at the low average and the high strikeout numbers (78 in 242 at-bats), but Reynolds’ .819 OPS is better than any regular in the lineup not named J.J. Hardy (.907) or Adam Jones (.823). His .356 on-base percentage makes him a strong candidate to be moved higher in the batting order if Showalter wants to maximize his return.

Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee were brought to Baltimore to be run producers for the middle of the order, but Reynolds has done a far better job than either veteran if you can look past the unconventional numbers.

Unfortunately, the glove has overshadowed what he’s been doing at the plate.

“I am working every day with [third base coach Willie Randolph] at it, trying to get better,” Reynolds said. “It’s just one of those things I can’t really explain. Hopefully, I can be more consistent in the future and keep getting better.”

Markakis on the rise

Following a three-hit afternoon in which he drove in two runs, Nick Markakis is riding a 16-game hitting streak that includes eight multi-hit games. He’s elevated his average from .236 to .277 over the 16 games in what many are hoping is a sign of better things to come for the struggling right fielder.

“He’s letting the ball travel, getting deep,” Showalter said. “He’s making them get him out. He’s not getting himself out as much, and he’s taking what they give him. Nick’s not going to sneak up on anybody. Everybody in baseball knows what kind of hitter he is, and they’re pitching him tough. Also, some of the guys around him swinging the bat better with J.J. and Jonesy and D-Lee coming on have made the focus less on him.”

Markakis has recently been choking up about an inch on the bat, with the knob noticeably taped. His 14 extra-base hits are still far below his yearly average of over 60 over the first five seasons of his career, but a homer on Saturday and three hits Sunday are encouraging to see as the All-Star Break approaches.

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In miserable day for Orioles, concerns over Matusz growing

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In miserable day for Orioles, concerns over Matusz growing

Posted on 12 June 2011 by Luke Jones

There’s little point in belaboring an awful day of baseball for the Orioles in a 9-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday to conclude a 5-4 homestand.

Fielding miscues, baserunning mistakes, and missed opportunities at the plate were disheartening enough but pale in comparison to the growing concern over starting pitcher Brian Matusz.

The hideous final line included 1 1/3 innings pitched, four earned runs, five hits, four walks, no strikeouts, and a home run allowed in the shortest outing of his career not including a one-inning stint cut short after being hit by a line drive against Toronto last Sept. 13.

However, the numbers only begin to explain why manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles are concerned with Matusz, who was making his third start of the season after missing the first two months of the season with an intercostal strain. As was the case in his first two starts, Matusz only threw his fastball in the 86-88 miles per hour range. Unlike the first two starts, however, the lefty was all over the place with his command, looking uncomfortable from the start.

“From the get-go, I didn’t get a good feel warming up in the bullpen,” Matusz said. “It’s just one of those days where you’ve got to be able to battle without your good stuff. They were able to find some holes and get some things going early, and I was just unable to get on track today.”

Statistically speaking, Matusz was effective enough in his first two starts since being activated from the disabled list on June 1. He entered Sunday’s game with a career-high seven-game winning streak dating back to last August after picking up his first victory of the season against Oakland on Monday.

The story was much different against the Rays as Matusz was visibly frustrated throughout his brief outing in which he left the game trailing 3-0 with the bases loaded and one out in the second inning. His body language suggested a pitcher searching for answers and feeling uncomfortable on the mound.

In fairness, Matusz’ start to the 2011 season has been anything but smooth. A wart on his finger and a line drive to the forearm interrupted his spring training routine before he was ultimately placed on the disabled list on Opening Night. However, with a few extended spring training outings, three minor league rehab starts, and three starts with the Orioles, it’s reasonable to think there should be improvement with his stuff by now, right?

“There should.” Showalter said. “Yeah. He’s telling us he feels fine. Just not a whole lot coming out right now.”

Matusz claimed he was “100 percent healthy” when asked after the game, but only the 24-year-old really knows the truth at this point. Whatever the case, it’s clear the Orioles manager was unhappy with the pitcher’s performance on the mound, including his inability to hold runners.

The Rays stole four bases in the first inning alone with Matusz’s slow delivery to the plate barely giving backup catcher Craig Tatum a chance to throw out runners. Improving his ability to hold runners is a topic the club has discussed with Matusz, but Showalter questioned whether the message is getting through.

“He keeps telling us he can read them,” Showalter said. “It’s been a challenge for him. Maybe we’ll be able to get his attention a little bit more.”

Matusz’s struggles Sunday are certain to grab everyone’s attention, especially with the news that Zach Britton’s next start will be pushed back to Friday in an effort to limit his innings, so he’s available to pitch in September.

The Orioles need Matusz to be healthy and effective if they want to continue to hover around the .500 mark as the summer advances. As terrific as Britton has been, he’s likely to experience growing pains as teams see him more than once, and he’ll likely be shut down at the 175- to 180-inning mark after pitching 153 1/3 innings in the minor leagues last season.

Jake Arrieta leads the club with eight wins, but his command issues makes him an uncertainty to pitch deep into games with any consistency.

And Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen continue to work through their respective issues at Triple-A Norfolk.

Entering the season, Matusz and Jeremy Guthrie were assumed to be the two “sure things” in the Baltimore starting rotation.

Showalter wouldn’t commit to saying with certainty that Matusz would make his next scheduled start. He had yet to talk with the young pitcher when the manager spoke to the media following the game.

Judging from his comments, you can bet Showalter will be asking — with conviction — whether Matusz is truly alright.

“I’m fine confidence-wise,” Matusz said. “I know I have the stuff and what it takes to get outs and be successful. It’s just a matter of getting locked in and getting on a roll.”

For now, the Orioles can only take the pitcher at his word, but the eyeball test was troubling in a frustrating day in all regards at Camden Yards.

It’s a testament to Matusz that a small sample size of diminished velocity and one horrid start raises such concern, but it also speaks to just how important the left-hander is to the present — and future — state of the Orioles. He needs to get himself on track as quickly as possible for the club to have its best chance to remain competitive over the season’s final 100 games.

“He didn’t have his stuff working for him,” Luke Scott said. “He had an off-day. Usually Brian is crisp with his pitches and his location. He just didn’t have a good feel. That happens, that happens in this game.”

Not a good feel at all.

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Orioles on cusp of .500 (again), other random thoughts

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Orioles on cusp of .500 (again), other random thoughts

Posted on 11 June 2011 by Luke Jones

1. Déjà vu all over again.

After Friday’s 7-0 win over Tampa Bay, the Orioles once again find themselves on the brink of the .500 mark with a 30-31 mark entering Saturday night’s test against Tampa ace David Price. A win would put Baltimore at the .500 mark for the first time since May 26.

The problem was the Orioles responding to the achievement with a disastrous 1-5 West Coast trip from which they have yet to fully recover in the win-loss column. They are 2-4 this season when entering the day with a record of one game below .500.

“We understand the math of common denominators of teams that have a good season,” said manager Buck Showalter before the Rays series. “At some point, we’ve got to get to and pass that threshold as an organization.”

Of course, Showalter knows .500 is not the top of the mountain — notice how he said to “pass that threshold” — but it’s still a significant step for a franchise lacking a winning season since 1997. The Orioles have not been above the .500 mark since April 14 when they fell to 6-5 after suffering a two-game sweep to the Yankees in the Bronx.

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2. Hardy the offseason prize

The signings of veterans Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero grabbed the headlines. Third baseman Mark Reynolds was acquired via trade three days earlier in December.

But is there any doubt that shortstop J.J. Hardy — even after missing a month with a strained left oblique — has been the offseason prize for the Orioles?

Entering Saturday, Hardy has more home runs (six) than Guerrero (five) in only half the at-bats (118 to 236). He has more runs batted in than Lee (19 to 15) in 57 fewer at-bats, many coming far lower in the lineup.

His defense has been superb after replacing the slick-fielding, light-hitting Cesar Izturis of the past two seasons.

With Brian Roberts continuing to miss time with concussion-related symptoms, Hardy has recently taken over leadoff responsibilities and responded with two leadoff home runs this week. His .370 on-base percentage entering Saturday’s game is a welcome change at the top of the order from the impatient Felix Pie and allows Robert Andino to hit more comfortably in the ninth spot.

Though there are more than three months remaining in the season, the Orioles should already be contemplating a new contract for Hardy, who is scheduled to become a free agent. Manny Machado may be the future at short, but Hardy has been a pleasant surprise in the present.

3. Arrieta racking up wins while Guthrie and Britton bite the bullet

After pitching seven shutout innings Friday night, Jake Arrieta recorded his eighth win of the season, becoming the first Baltimore pitcher to record eight wins by June 10 since Sidney Ponson in 2003. A season ago, no Orioles pitcher recorded his eighth victory until August 29 (Jeremy Guthrie).

Arrieta’s eight wins equal the total number by Guthrie (two) and Zach Britton (six) despite both holding lower earned run averages. Entering Friday night’s game against the Rays, Arrieta benefited from the fourth-best run support (7.14 runs per game) in the American League. Wins are a poor indicator for how well — or how poorly — a pitcher is performing, but Arrieta has done what’s necessary to win in most instances.

The 25-year-old still walks too many hitters and needs to be more economical with his pitches, but no one can deny his array of four pitches and overall makeup. His strikeout rate per nine innings has increased from 4.7 his rookie season to 7.5 this year, but his walks per nine innings have increased from 4.3 to 4.5.

Britton and Guthrie have been better overall in 2011, but Arrieta has solidified his position in the starting rotation. His command issues may always keep him a notch or two below the seemingly more-polished Britton and Brian Matusz, but you have to be pleased with Arrieta’s progression through 14 starts in 2011.

4. Interleague Vlad

With interleague play set to pick up again next weekend, the Orioles will travel to D.C. to take on the Nationals followed by a three-game trip to Pittsburgh the following week. That, of course, means the Orioles will be without the designated hitter spot.

What do you do with your cleanup hitter?

Showalter will not reveal his plans just yet, but admitted Guerrero hasn’t made a strong request to play the outfield in National League ballparks. Anyone who watched Guerrero hobble around right field as a member of the Texas Rangers in the World Series last October should hardly be surprised.

Though hitting .288 entering Saturday, Guerrero hasn’t exactly provided the power (.394 slugging percentage and five home runs) that suggests the Orioles absolutely need his bat in the lineup. The defense lost in right field or first base — the only two positions you could conceivably imagine Guerrero playing — creates a simple decision.

The Orioles will likely have “one heck of a pinch-hitter,” as Showalter quipped on Friday, but it’s hard to justify putting Guerrero in the field for any reason.

5. Adams’ splinters continue

If you asked most fans, they probably couldn’t even tell you if Ryan Adams was even on the 25-man roster. The rookie second baseman has 16 plate appearances since being recalled on May 20.

Sixteen.

Instead of an anticipated platoon, Andino has solidified his job at second base, and the 2006 second-round pick continues to waste away on the bench while veteran infielders Brendan Harris and Nick Green hold spots for the Triple-A Norfolk Tides.

Showalter has conceded that Adams needs consistent at-bats somewhere, but the manager has also said the young infielder is gaining exposure to life in the big leagues by being in the clubhouse and dugout during games.

Maybe a hint of truth, but I’m not buying it.

Whether it’s Baltimore or Norfolk, Adams needs to be getting regular at-bats. It’s not helping the future of the club — especially with Roberts’ status becoming cloudier every season — to have Adams sitting on the bench on a nightly basis when he could be playing everyday for the Tides.

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O’s former 1st round pick Brandon Snyder: “Any day you can get a chance to spend in the big leagues is a good day”

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O’s former 1st round pick Brandon Snyder: “Any day you can get a chance to spend in the big leagues is a good day”

Posted on 07 June 2011 by Ryan Chell

On a night where all the buzz has been the selection of high school pitcher Dylan Bundy by the Orioles with their first pick in the 2011 MLB draft, another former first-round pick by Baltimore is still looking for his chance to prove he belongs in the big leagues.

Brandon Snyder

That of course is Norfolk Tides first baseman Brandon Snyder, who joined Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” Monday morning to talk about his ever-continuing journey toward panning out as an Oriole and becoming one on a permanent basis.

Snyder-the O’s first round pick in the 2005 Draft out of Westfield High-did get a the call-up several weeks ago when the team was in need of position players with several of their starters hurting.

After hitting .276 with five home runs and 16 RBIs for the Tides in 35 games in 2011, Snyder was recalled to the Orioles on May 18th when shortstop Cesar Izturis was placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury.

And combined with an injury to first baseman Derrek Lee when he joined the club, he thought that he might be able to make an impact on manager Buck Showalter and the O’s front office with a lot of playing time.

It was a situation he was really looking forward to and he felt like he was never more ready than he was to show what he could do and that his time was now.

“I feel real comfortable in that atmosphere,” Snyder told Forrester. “I don’t feel like I’m over-matched at all…any day you can get a chance to spend in the big leagues is a good day.”

However, he only saw action in five games only getting twelve plate appearances. He went 2-for-9 at the plate, with the two hits coming in Baltimore’s 8-3 victory over the Nationals on Saturday, May 21st.

The victory and his performance at the plate did take some of the focus off his critical error that allowed two Nationals to score.

It was a play that Snyder felt ashamed of considering how much he considers defense a facet of his game.

“I take a lot of pride in my defense,” Snyder told Forrester. “Obviously on that stage if you make one mistake, people are going to look at that and say, ‘he’s not very good defensively’. But I really feel like I’m a very good defensive first baseman.”

“And I trust that…and I don’t think that is going to be an issue at all.”

But clearly the team felt like there still was things he needed to iron out, and when the team felt like they needed catcher Craig Tatum as the full-time backup to Matt Wieters, Snyder was told he had to wait for his opportunity yet again-getting sent back down to the Tides on May 27th-more than a week after his call-up.

While the move frustrated him, he took the demotion respectably and said he understands that it’s tough to evaluate a ballplayer based on only a handful of looks.

“It’s kind of hard to get a feel for anything when you’re not getting as much action as you might like,” Snyder said. “Hopefully the next time it is a little bit longer.”

And while most players would take a five-game look as a sign of disrespect and let that down, Snyder is confident that he’ll be back up with the Orioles yet again.

But he told Forrester he’s not worried about it…his focus will remain in whatever town he is located in-whether it’s Baltimore or Norfolk.

“You and I have talked before about it before…whereas you start taking your mind elsewhere and start trying to worry about things not under your control…that’s where you get yourself in trouble. So, I’m just trying to finish up here, have a good season and whatever happens, happens.”

And given his pace since returning to Norfolk, including three home runs and nine RBIs in as many games back with the Tides, he could definitely be getting another call-up up I-95 real soon.

And Snyder hopes that Buck Showalter and the O’s front office continue to have the patience and trust in the former first round pick who many have said the team made a mistake in drafting.

“It’s obviously good to be able to come through an organization that has invested money into you and for fans that have invested time,” Snyder said, “and I guess you could say time and patience for me. I obviously have a lot of critics and it’s not something that I have ever really worried about, but I have also been able to have a lot of great fans.”

Snyder continued, saying that’s who he’s doing this for. He’s trying for the Baltimore Orioles community as a whole, not for his own personal gains.

“To be able to get there for them and to help a ball club that needs something…and to try and be a piece of that puzzle is a lot of  fun.”

WNST thanks Brandon Snyder for joining “The Morning Reaction” Be sure to follow him on Twitter @SnydRoast29 and check the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault for the conversation! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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O’s vs. Yanks: No Heart, No Hope, No Surprise

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O’s vs. Yanks: No Heart, No Hope, No Surprise

Posted on 20 May 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

One of the funny things about being a sports fan is the opportunity to check your perspective at the door. At the beginnings and endings of every season it seems that we are able to see things mostly logically, and are able to understand that you simply can’t win them all and that the teams who find success may not always be the most talented but in the end prove themselves to be up to the task when it counts most. None of that historical perspective though is likely to keep fans from jubilation over every good win and outright panic when things go badly. It’s an exercise in madness.

In baseball for example, there’s a long standing and tried and true theory that with few historical exceptions every team can be expected to win and lose at least 50 games, and what teams do in the other 62 games will ultimately decide their fates. Given the ease with which that philosophy has been universally accepted; maybe it’s time, for the sake of our mental health as fans, to expand on those expectations.

 

Within those 50 anticipated wins and losses surely it’d be wise to expect a few to come in the very late stages of games; ones that were all but won only to unravel or all but lost only to see an improbable victory somehow come to pass dramatically. We should expect (even hope) for the closer to blow a few saves along the way, if for no other reason simply to get them out of the way. After all who wants to go into the postseason with a closer who has YET to blow a save? Sooner or later these things are bound to happen, and in some cases maybe it’s best to get them out of the way early.

 

In every season though, we as fans should learn to expect a couple of specific types of disappointments without resorting to outright panic. Maybe 5 games given away over the season by your closer should be seen as an acceptable number. While your at it, throw in 5-7 more games where the offense never gets going and maybe 10 or more where the pitcher throws well and gets no support, or where the offense explodes but the pitching allows the opposition to do the same. Maybe, again for the sake of maintaining our sanity, we should establish acceptable benchmarks for these types of anomalies so that we don’t spin into full-fledged panic with each and every instance.

 

Additionally we should expect to rain on a couple of other teams bullpens along the way, or spoil great efforts from their pitchers without expecting that these instances in any way signal a reversal of fortune or provide an indication of the talent at hand. Maybe we have to learn to simply accept a shutout performance from a guy like Brad Bergeson without proclaiming his spot in the rotation saved or expecting him to come back with a similar level of effectiveness the next time out.

 

That said, the Orioles’ efforts in both Monday and Wednesday nights’ games were frustrating but my no means an indication that the sky is falling around this team. Thursday’s effort (or lack thereof) however might be another story altogether. If adversity is an expectation at some point during a 26-week season, than dealing with that adversity would seemingly become essential to teams maintaining their own sanity and trying to stay on course for a successful season.

 

For all of the reasons over which to be concerned with this Orioles team, their apparent inability to bounce back from adversity may be the most glaring, and also the most difficult to overcome.

 

There were plenty of reasons to be encouraged over Monday’s loss to the Red Sox, end result notwithstanding. The 5-run meltdown that set the stage for the Red Sox’ comeback was glaring, but if not for Chris Tillman’s ability to pitch himself out of  trouble, and some flashy early leather in support of his efforts, the O’s would have likely seen that one out of hand early, leaving them safe at least from the dramatic 9th inning heartbreak they ultimately were subjected to.

 

On Wednesday the O’s limited one of the best offensive teams in baseball to a single (unearned) run over 14 innings. Zach Britton appeared no worse for the wear despite the disappointing wasted effort that came before it; he’ll need a similar resolve going forward it appears safe to concede at this point. The O’s offense was summarily stifled by Bartolo Colon who may have been considered washed up prior to this season, but based on his stat lines so far, the O’s are clearly not the only team that has been befuddled by the renewed version of Colon. If not for an improbable run against the game’s best ever closer, it simply would have been a disappointing 1-0 loss against a hot pitcher in a game without their 1st and 3rd hitters. Instead it was a stinging heartbreak that O’s fans won’t likely be able to let go of anytime soon.

 

For all of the frustration that the O’s have managed to heap on themselves and their fans this week, the most disappointing outcome so far was their 13-2 trouncing by the Yankees on Thursday. After calling out the Yankees to begin the season Buck and his O’s stand at 0-6 against the team from the Bronx so far, with a pair of blowouts and a pair of late inning heartbreaks to show for their efforts. By virtue of their 2 cancellations against New York so far, Mother Nature seems to be the only “player” offering any encouragement to the O’s against the Yanks.

 

On Thursday, amidst a myriad of interesting and arguably “cute” roster machinations the O’s needed something from Brad Bergeson. They didn’t need him to back up his best performance in recent memory, although they surely would have taken it. What they did need though were innings. They needed Bergeson to go out and gut through 6 innings or more no matter what kind of “stuff” he took to the mound. They needed badly to rest a bullpen that had been called on 13 times (14 if you count Guthrie) in the previous 2 games. They got none of that.

 

What the Orioles got on Thursday was a gutless and apparently (outside of possibly Adam Jones) disinterested effort against team that they thought they had no reasonable chance at beating anyway. What the Orioles got was an effort similar to the way that they meandered through their early 8-game losing streak, and an outcome similar to every other Yankees outcome this season.

 

The Orioles and success will somehow (improbable as it may seem now) cross paths again this season. History not only suggests it, history outright declares it. Unfortunately history also mandates more hardships on the horizon for the O’s and every other team in baseball, maybe more for the O’s than most…but nevertheless, struggles lie ahead for everyone at some point. If these O’s really hope to turn any sort of proverbial page this season, they’d better start dealing with such adversity better than early indicators seem to suggest that they have and will. If indeed the O’s expect us to take an interest in their efforts, it surely won’t happen until they show some interest in their own efforts.

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Gonzalez, Bean Balls, and Ballots

Posted on 19 May 2011 by Erich Hawbaker

Once again, the Orioles just find a way to lose to the Yankees. Twice in extra innings they manage to load the bases, and twice they can’t push one stupid run across to win. This game really did have everything: Two fantastic starts by Colon and Britton, a 1-3 double play, a blown save by Rivera, a pitcher used as a pinch runner, a base runner put out by being hit with the ball, and of course, Mike Gonzalez giving up the lead and then hitting a guy in the head a couple pitches later.

There’s a good reason why I haven’t written in awhile. I was a candidate for magistrate judge up here in my town, and for the last three months I’ve been working hard on the campaign trail. I knocked on over 1800 doors, stood at the polls in the rain all day on Tuesday (Primary Election Day here in Pennsylvania), and in the end I lost by just 90 votes. This was a three-way race, and both of my opponents were roughly twice my age (I’m 28) and both spent more on their campaigns than I did on mine. I lost, but I’m still pretty proud of myself. I ran a good race, I never went negative (both of them did), and I made a good impression on a lot of people. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll never be a candidate again in the future, and at least now I have something to build on.

So why do I bring that up in a sports column? Well, it’s because I learned something very important from that whole experience- perception is reality. I know, it’s not fair and a lot of people may not agree, but I absolutely believe it. And now, for the second time in this young season, we’ve seen Orioles pitchers throw a bean ball after blowing a game against the Yankees. And this time, the culprit was a guy I haven’t liked ever since he came to Baltimore- Mike Gonzalez.

I don’t know if he hit Chris Dickerson in the temple on purpose or not; the only ones who know that for certain are him and God. What I do know is that Gonzalez has been mostly awful this year (again), and that it’s now officially on the radar that Buck Showalter’s Orioles are not above venting their frustration on the batter who comes up after somebody just got a big hit. Showalter kind of sidestepped the question tonight in the postgame press conference, and it was the first time that I’ve been really upset with him. What he should have done was make it perfectly clear: “I DO NOT condone hitting anybody on purpose and I DID NOT instruct any of my guys to do it tonight. Such conduct is a disgrace to the game and it won’t be tolerated on my watch.” You have to do better than, “Oh well, we know he can be a little wild sometimes…”

And then there’s the issue of Gonzalez himself. The guy is a dud. Period. I took a lot of heat from a certain WNST personality for saying so last year. Clearly, the front office made a very bad investment in him. It happens to every team in baseball sometimes, and I don’t fault them for it. What I do have problem with is this notion of “We’re stuck with him now, so let’s use him even tho we know he probably won’t get the job done so we at least get something for our $6 million a year.” That way of thinking is completely antithetical to winning, and I actually think Buck Showalter gets that, unlike his predecessor. Did you notice that he didn’t go to Gonzalez last night until he literally had no other choice? It’s a very pleasant surprise, but a mere 5 games separate the first and last place teams in the AL East right now (would be just 4 had the O’s not snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last night). If your objective is to win, you don’t arrange your pitchers and hitters according to their salaries; you do it by who gives you the best chance to beat your opponent.

I’m curious to see whether or not Jeremy Guthrie will start tonight after coming in in relief last night. Perhaps the lineup decided to save it for him because they sure didn’t have it last night and they always seem to forget how to hit whenever he’s on the mound. If his lack of run support continues I might suggest that Buck opt not to use the DH for a game and let the poor guy try to help his own cause at the plate. He’s done everything to win except picking up a bat. Any thoughts on that? :)

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When athletes tweet …. starring Rashard Mendenhall

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When athletes tweet …. starring Rashard Mendenhall

Posted on 04 May 2011 by Rex Snider

I will begin this creation of words by acknowledging that I subscribe to Twitter and I follow a handful of athletes on the social media website. My inspiration is not in trying to somehow live my life through the daily habits of sports stars and I don’t look to them for critical analysis.

My primary tie to Twitter is found in tracking breaking news, especially of the sports variety. It has become a vital tool and means of communication for anyone who works in media.

I’m generally not a fan of “tweets” that convey personal opinions or comprehensions of anything – sports and beyond. But, there are always exceptions …..

I tend to take interest in the musings of real insiders or experts, and I also find a value in gaining personal insight from athletes. This is especially true as it regards members of the Orioles and Ravens.

Among the athletes I follow, you can count Ray Rice, Adam Jones, Jeremy Guthrie, Willis McGahee, Zach Britton, Michael Oher and Chad Ochocinco.

Unique combination, huh? Each of them is very active and they tend to be opinionated. Thus, I’m interested in their random postings. I find each of these guys to be lighthearted and gregarious in their habitual daily updates.

And, most of them (especially Chad) can be pretty humorous …..

That said, I have never really found any of these athletes to be vial, indecent or offensive in their Twitter rants. I assume they recognize the fragility of their public image and a credibility that follows.

Obviously, Rashard Mendenhall does not care about his stake in the public eye, and I think it’s fair to suggest that he is anything but protective of the Pittsburgh Steelers overall image.
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His recent tweets have certainly led me to such a conclusion …..

As the world now knows, a couple days ago, Mendenhall used the Twitter forum to display his ignorance and lack of knowledge regarding the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the fallout that consumed this nation and much of the world.

The following is among a series of his tweets:

“What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side.”

“We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition-style.”

I absolutely respect the personal impressions and opinions of others. And, I even understand a resistance to celebrate the killing of another human, to include a villain of Osama Bin Laden’s character.

In fact, I think it’s quite humane to take no happiness in being forced to kill anyone. This ARTICLE pretty much covers such a belief; if you have an opportunity, please consider reading it.

But, I absolutely find Rashard Mendenhall’s comments regarding only hearing “one side” to be both ignorant and shallow. Both sides have been heard and those responsible for the 9/11 attacks have claimed their victory and distinction.

Most of us have observed footage of the planes striking the twin towers HUNDREDS of times over the last decade. The angles are varied and the sequence of destruction is obvious to the naked eye. What can Mendenhall be missing in his analysis?

In blunt truth, this really isn’t about 9/11 conspiracies or any specific struggle to achieve peace. Rashard Mendenhall is free to think as he desires and to express any opinions – even if such ramblings are asinine.

But, such freedoms are coupled with responsibility and accountability …..

Regardless of his reckless exercising of free speech, an expectation of decorum will follow Mendenhall during the course of his NFL career. I am in no way prioritizing commitment to an employer over one’s rights.

However, when one exercises their rights so negligently, ramifications will eventually follow. How long did it take the Pittsburgh Steelers to distance the organization from the player?

Does Rashard Mendenhall represent the Steelers in a professional capacity when he spews stupid statements on the internet? No …. but that doesn’t mean his callous and dimwitted comments don’t have an impact on the franchise.

And, therein lies the fine line …..

I’m not suggesting Dan Rooney will part ways with his talented running back. Anyone who knows and understands the NFL game can certainly foresee the Steelers running Mendenhall directly into the ground – until he becomes too expensive or unproductive.

That’s the business.

Rashard Mendenhall has a large social following and financial success with thanks to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Today, such a reality has never been more clear.

He describes himself as a “conversationalist”. Yet, he’s exhibiting successive signs that he hasn’t gained an education in America’s history, especially as it regards slavery and the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

In other words, he puts his mouth and fingertips into gear before becoming familiar with the sensitive subjects he addresses. I don’t think I have ever been so harsh toward an athlete, but this young man is an idiot.

His comments transcend reality …..

After all, it’s not as if he’s choosing to ramble about a bad meal at a restaurant or his perceptions of the economy. In the span of about a month’s time, he has foolishly spewed inaccurate and irresponsible rhetoric about subjects that are sacredly sensitive to this nation.

Rashard Mendenhall is blessed with the good fortune of being a very talented athlete, but his abilities and decisions off the field are highly questionable.

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Live from Camden Yards: Orange Crush chat at 7 as Orioles go for two straight over Red Sox

Posted on 27 April 2011 by Luke Jones

**Join us in the Orange Crush live chat at 7:00 as the Orioles play the second of a three-game set against the Boston Red Sox**

BALTIMORE — Looking for their second straight win against the consensus favorite in the American League East, most would love their chances sending their veteran ace to the hill.

However, taking a look at Jeremy Guthrie’s career numbers against the Red Sox and the Orioles’ attrition in his starts might cause you to rethink that philosophy. In 14 career starts against Boston, Guthrie is just 1-7 with a 4.95 earned run average. The 32-year-old has lost his last seven decisions and the Orioles have lost the last nine games Guthrie has started against the Red Sox.

Of course, consider the lineups the Orioles have trotted out there against Boston during Guthrie’s tenure in Baltimore before you write him off tonight.

Boston will give the ball to Josh Beckett, who will try to continue his success against the Orioles at Camden Yards. Beckett is 6-3 with a 3.53 ERA in 14 career starts against Baltimore, but his 5-2 mark with a 2.94 ERA in 10 starts in Baltimore is even more impressive.

It will be a tall order for the Orioles against the red-hot Beckett, but seeing Jon Lester and his 13-0 career record against the club looming on Thursday makes tonight’s challenge seem far more reasonable.

Brian Matusz will throw his first full bullpen session on Thursday before reporting to Sarasota this weekend. He is expected to pitch in at least one extended spring training game before departing on a minor league rehab assignment.

Injured reliever Chris Jakubauskas will also complete a bullpen session on Thursday.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy has experienced some soreness since resuming baseball activity, but it is not considering a major concern or anything abnormal. Hardy is eligible to come off the disabled list at any time, but his return is not imminent.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Boston
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
2B Dustin Pedroia
1B Adrian Gonzalez
3B Kevin Youkilis
DH David Ortiz
RF J.D. Drew
SS Jed Lowrie
LF Carl Crawford
C Jason Varitek

SP Josh Beckett (2-1, 1.93 ERA)

Baltimore
2B Brian Roberts
RF Nick Markakis
1B Derrek Lee
DH Vladimir Guerrero
LF Luke Scott
CF Adam Jones
3B Mark Reynolds
C Matt Wieters
SS Robert Andino

SP Jeremy Guthrie (1-3, 3.12 ERA)

As we do for every weeknight home game, join us in the Orange Crush live chat beginning at 7:00. Talk about the game with us as an array of WNST.net personalities visit the cyber sports bar throughout the evening! Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the latest updates and analysis regarding the happenings from Oriole Park at Camden Yards!

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