Posted on 13 October 2015 by WNST Staff
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Posted on 13 October 2015 by Nestor Aparicio
“To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.”
– Jim Valvano
WE CALL IT THE HOTEL, but make no mistake it’s very much a hospital.
Cold. Sterile. Corporate. Every day it’s where Obamacare and big business and big pharma and the best and worst of our society meet under the banner of “healthcare.” It is its own education in the ways of the world and life in America in 2015.
Full of sick people. Full of people fighting for their lives and the good people inside the walls in various shades of blue and green scrubs and white jackets who are trying to keep them alive.
Bad food. Bad cable TV. Awful towels. Great nurses. Amazing doctors. A friendly support staff. Parking with little cards that spit out of a machine and act as an ATM. It costs $6 a throw (even after you purchase the little green books…it was $5 last year, so it’s only a 20% bump) and I park twice a day. You do the math.
Even down to the gaudy, shimmery marble lobby, it’s a lot like five-star hotel – Jenn maintains that you do get 24-hour room service, a butler and several maids to wipe down your room twice a day. Anything you want and a button to push to get it. The bed even adjusts.
I call it the factory of extreme hope and sadness.
I see the best and worst things in the world here every day.
My wife will be living here again for the next month and beyond. We’ll be here virtually every day for the next six months even after she comes home.
Rest assured, she’ll be fighting for her life every day.
This leukemia thing is hard. It’s heavy lifting. The cancer diagnosis the first time was brutal. The long journey back to safety and health came to a tab of well over a million dollars the first time and lord only knows where the end of this nightmare lies.
But you can’t even begin to think about the drugs, the hospital stays, the bills, the expense, the insurance issues (and we luckily have excellent insurance because her job at Verizon and the people there have been amazing) or the risk. The sheer volume of people, hours and science involved in saving her life a second time boggles my mind as it did the first.
There are 137 different types of blood cancer in the world. And, as smart of a guy as I think I am sometimes, I’ll never understand much about this because it honestly makes me queasy as hell.
There’s lots of sitting around and waiting and time for thinking. Lots of tubes and bags connected to Jenn. Lots of very sick people with masks everywhere you go. Lots of really freaked out family members in the lobby, often sobbing and in a state of shock the way I was the first few days last year.
And then there are those victims’ extended friends and families on the outside wondering about prognosis and medicines and cancers and answers. All of them Googling buzzwords, worrying, talking on social media and inquiring as respectfully as possible.
The question you want to ask and the only real question is: “Will she be OK?”
We will always believe that she will survive. As Tug McGraw said, “Ya gotta believe…”
And every day – all day, really – caring folks are asking me the same question:
“How is she feeling?”
That answer is pretty simple: “Probably not well as you want her to be feeling.”
She has cancer. They’re dumping various poisons and toxins (aka chemotherapy) into her bloodstream. The nurses wear rubber suits as they administer it into her bloodstream. She’s always an hour away from feeling like garbage even when she’s feeling semi-OK.
Mouth sores, bleeding, breathing issues, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, headaches and extreme fever – there’s seemingly a pill or a bag full of medicine with fancy names for all of ‘em – and we’ll see it all just like the last time.
And those are just the physical pains. The emotional toll and time and the possibilities can all sap you of your desire to live and fight.
We won’t let that happen.
Call us eternal optimists but we kinda refused to believe that this could happen the second time. But, our doctors did tell us last year that because she didn’t experience any graft vs. host disease (GVHD), she was statistically far more susceptible to a relapse.
So, do you want the awful rash and all of the risk and pain that comes with it or not?
Because she didn’t experience GVHD last summer, this relapse occurred and she’s got cancer in her body again. It was simply dormant over the last 15 months.
Last night, I met the couple in the next room. They look to be 40. They have three kids: 10, 8 and 6. They live in Virginia. She relapsed three days ago after five years of being clean. The husband is ashen. He’s an hour from his family, sleeping in a cot next to his wife after battling this thing when all three of their kids were toddlers. Now, they’re here again in an in a similar state of utter disbelief.
Behind every door, there’s a story here at “The Hotel.”
So many folks don’t understand what’s happening with Jenn and given the complexity, we certainly can relate. We’ve been battling this thing since March 20, 2014 and I’m still learning nuances every day.
It took her doctor 45 minutes to explain our current situation earlier this week and I’m going to try to explain as well as I can here:
Her leukemia, an extremely rare form known as acute bilineal leukemia (ABL), is back. It is the same cancer she had 18 months ago. Because the chemotherapy got her to remission (which means “no current signs of cancer”) last April, they’re using the same protocol and believe that it will work to get her clean again.
Our first goal is to get her to remission.
Instead of being prepped for a second bone marrow transplant, her doctors are using a different method to cure her this time. We are going back to her original donor in Germany – the same guy who wrote THIS LETTER in the hours after her saved her life last June. We will not ask him for bone marrow this time but instead for blood, a much simpler request and procedure.
The real need is for lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that she needs to enact this graft vs. host disease (GVHD) that would cure her.
Essentially, they need to get her very sick in order to get her better.
We are playing with fire here. You need GVHD in order to fully overcome the leukemia and have your body adjust to a new immune system. But GVHD can also be life threatening.
When it comes, she will experience a total body rash that will apparently burn like the gates of hell.
“It will be a complete rash from head to toe,” her doctor told us. “It’s not subtle.”
We felt blessed that she didn’t experience this awfulness the first time but it inevitably means that she’s back here with leukemia again and the goal of the doctors is to get her
Posted on 13 October 2015 by WNST Staff
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Posted on 06 October 2015 by WNST Staff
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Posted on 05 October 2015 by Luke Jones
Chris Davis hit two home runs, Matt Wieters drove in two runs, and Darren O’Day pitched a scoreless eighth inning in the Orioles’ 9-4 win over the New York Yankees on the final day of the 2015 season.
A day earlier, Wei-Yin Chen pitched six solid innings to earn the win.
For their four biggest free agents, the weekend served as a final reminder of just how important they’ve been to the club’s turnaround as the Orioles finished their fourth consecutive non-losing season on Sunday, something they hadn’t done in three decades. Of course, 81 wins in 2015 were disappointing after 96 victories and an American League East title a year ago, but even a .500 standard felt unreachable just five years ago when Buck Showalter first arrived.
Now, it’s considered a failure.
“Every time there’s the first hint of fall in the air, I want people to think about playoff baseball and the World Series,” said Showalter, who managed Sunday’s game after his mother passed away on Saturday. “That’s why we get up in the morning, that’s why you go to spring training, that’s why you do the things we’re going to do between now and next February. We’re not giving in.
“It’s not good enough though. It’s not good enough. [A record of] 81-81 ain’t good enough. We’re trying to win. We want to be the last team standing, the last city standing. Our city deserves that.”
By now, no one should doubt Showalter leading the way in the dugout, but even the most optimistic fans are questioning the future after the Orioles posted the best record in the AL over the last four seasons with a .543 winning percentage. With so many pending free agents and the Orioles’ offseason track record, many doubt whether 81 wins will even be a reasonable goal for the 2016 club without ownership making significant financial commitments.
The general consensus is that the Orioles will survive without Wieters, who still hasn’t proven he can be an everyday catcher again after last year’s Tommy John surgery. For a fraction of the price, Caleb Joseph can provide respectable offense and better defense than Wieters at this stage of his career.
But replacing the other big-ticket free agents is a different story.
Davis just led the majors in home runs for the second time in three years and has clubbed 159 over his four full seasons in Baltimore. It’s the kind of power rarely seen in this pitching-rich era of baseball, but are the Orioles willing to offer a nine-figure contract to even sit down at the negotiating table with agent Scott Boras?
We know what history says until executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and owner Peter Angelos prove us wrong. If not, the Orioles will be allowing a major league home run champion to depart for a second consecutive winter.
Though far from an ace, Chen was the Orioles’ best starting pitcher in 2015 with a career-best 3.34 ERA. The 30-year-old lefty has never pitched 200 innings in a season and will likely command more money than he’s worth as a middle-of-the-rotation starter on the open market, but Baltimore lacks the pitching depth to replace him from within like the best organizations will often do. For a club that finished 14th in the AL in starter ERA and gave up 100 more runs than it did a year ago, replacing Chen will be much more difficult than letting him leave.
And then there’s O’Day, who was claimed off waivers after the 2011 season and has been the backbone of the Orioles’ biggest strength over the last four years. The right-hander just made 68 or more appearances for the fourth consecutive season and lowered his ERA each year. Rarely is it wise to spend significant money on relievers, but the 32-year-old has arguably been the best non-closer relief pitcher in the majors over the last four years. Baltimore has other young relievers such as Brad Brach and Mychal Givens who pitched well in 2015, but weakening the club’s biggest strength would be a dangerous proposition.
The Orioles will also need to make decisions on the likes of Gerardo Parra, Steve Pearce, and Nolan Reimold as they try to fix the corner outfield spots that were a disaster in 2015. Parra disappointed after being acquired from Milwaukee at the trade deadline while Pearce and Reimold should only be viewed as reserves at most.
Reinforcements in the minors appear few and far between at this point as outfielder Dariel Alvarez and first baseman Christian Walker barely garnered a look in September promotions. Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson may eventually settle into bullpen roles, but neither are viable options to pencil into the 2016 starting rotation if the Orioles have visions of contending. Oft-injured pitching prospect Dylan Bundy is out of minor-league options next year, but to expect anything more than a bullpen role for him to begin 2016 would be foolish.
The harsh truth is that the aforementioned decisions all involve players who were already part of a .500 club. The goal is to be better than 81-81, right?
For example, even if the Orioles were to re-sign Davis, O’Day, and Parra, what do they do to improve their starting rotation and the other outfield spot flanking Adam Jones in center?
Improving from .500 in 2016 will also depend on at least a few incumbents bouncing back from underwhelming seasons. Starting pitchers Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez were clear disappointments while the 24-year-old Kevin Gausman didn’t take the step forward you would have liked to see. Given the track records of the previous three seasons for Tillman and Gonzalez and the potential of Gausman, it’s probably reasonable to expect at least two of those three to be better in 2016 than they were this season.
But that still leaves an open rotation spot and doesn’t even consider the enigma that is Ubaldo Jimenez, who has two years remaining on his $50 million contract. To be serious about contending in 2016, the Orioles need to find another starter to at least slot into the top half of the rotation and should probably add another arm to compete for the No. 5 spot at the very least.
Easier said than done.
More improvement from within is always possible as the Orioles hope that shortstop J.J. Hardy can be better at the plate after playing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder all season. Even a return to his 2014 production would be welcomed after Hardy was a liability at the plate with a career-worst .564 on-base plus slugging percentage this year.
Can Jonathan Schoop be even better have improving his OPS from .598 as a rookie to .788 this season?
Is there yet another level for the 23-year-old Manny Machado to climb after he already became one of the best players in baseball this year? It’d be unfair to expect that, but he’s certainly a special talent.
Many questions and few answers for the Orioles as they potentially say goodbye to a number of key contributors from the last four years while exploring ways to not only fill those voids but improve from an 81-81 record in 2015. And that’s not even taking into account the concerns surrounding the working relationship of Duquette and Showalter.
No, the Orioles reaching the .500 mark in Sunday’s finale wasn’t the end goal they had in mind.
But you wonder whether they can even reach that plateau next year with such an uncertain offseason ahead.
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Posted on 02 October 2015 by Luke Jones
Chris Davis had an exceptional 2015 campaign for the Orioles.
Leading the majors with 45 home runs and ranking fourth with 112 RBIs entering the weekend, the first baseman would have been the obvious choice as Most Valuable Oriole in most seasons. Despite being named just that by the local media on Friday, Davis wasn’t the club’s most valuable commodity this season.
That distinction belonged to All-Star third baseman Manny Machado.
While Davis may have edged Machado as the club’s best offensive player, the 23-year-old infielder did it all for the Orioles at the plate, in the field, and even on the bases as the biggest positive in an otherwise disappointing season for the 2014 American League East champions.
Machado entered the weekend ranked second on the club with 33 homers and tied for second with 82 RBIs. His .287 batting average and .360 on-base percentage lead the club while Davis has hit .258 with a .355 OBP. In other words, you can make a sound argument that Machado wasn’t terribly far behind the first baseman as Baltimore’s best offensive player.
And considering the Orioles lacked a true leadoff hitter all season, Machado did an admirable job in the top spot in the order, hitting .300 with an .877 on-base plus slugging percentage in 111 games there this season. He’s also the only player in all of baseball to play in each of his team’s games in 2015, an impressive feat after undergoing two serious knee surgeries in the last two years.
But the third baseman’s value goes far beyond his bat when you consider his superb defense — 1.8 defensive wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference — and 20 stolen bases to lead the club. In contrast, Baseball Reference says Davis was worth minus-0.8 wins defensively while the slugger stole only two bases.
There’s no arguing that Davis displayed superior home run power this season, but the difference in RBIs is something that needs to be examined further. Considering he hit leadoff for much of the season and suffered from the woes experienced at the bottom of the lineup, one could argue that Machado’s 82 RBIs are as impressive as Davis’ 112 as the latter remained in the heart of the order all season. Through the first 159 games of the season, Machado received 55 fewer plate appearances with men on base and 32 fewer plate appearances with runners in scoring position than Davis.
According to Baseball Reference, Machado was worth 6.9 wins above replacement while Davis owned a 4.6 WAR.
The voting by local media likely reflects the difference in opinion in the value of RBIs, which remain the Cadillac of old-school baseball statistics but are viewed by modern stat-heads as a reflection of a batter’s opportunities more than his true run-producing ability. If you’re all about home runs and RBIs, Davis was your guy in 2015 and he certainly performed at a high level in what could be his last season with the Orioles.
But if you dig deeper and recognize the value Machado brought to all phases of the game, he was the rightful choice as Most Valuable Oriole this season.
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Posted on 30 September 2015 by WNST Staff
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