Tag Archive | "Opening Day"

Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 27 December 2011 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Women’s College Basketball-Terrapin Classic Lafayette @ Maryland (Wednesday 12pm Comcast Center), Delaware/ECU @ Maryland (Thursday 7pm Comcast Center); Boxing: Jermain Taylor vs. Jessie Nicklow (Friday 11pm from Cabazon, CA live on Showtime); High School Basketball: Gilman Bristow Tournament feat. Gilman, Mt. Carmel, Coppin Academy (Tuesday & Wednesday Gilman School)

10. Dark Star Orchestra (Wednesday 7pm Rams Head Live), Halestorm (Thursday 6:30pm Rams Head Live), Child’s Play (Friday 7pm Rams Head Live); Rusted Root (Friday 8pm Recher Theatre); SOJA (Saturday 8pm Baltimore Soundstage); Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers (Tuesday 8pm Rams Head on Stage); Matisyahu (Wednesday 7pm 9:30 Club), Drive-By Truckers (Thursday-Saturday 9:30 Club); Charlie Wilson/Melanie Fiona (Thursday 8pm Modell Performing Arts Center-Lyric Opera House); The Roots (Thursday & Friday 8pm Fillmore Silver Spring), Little Feat (Saturday 8pm Fillmore Silver Spring), Wale (Sunday 8pm Fillmore Silver Spring); The Wailers (Thursday 7pm State Theatre); Downtown Countdown feat. Carbon Leaf (Saturday 9pm Hyatt Regency); Downtown Countdown DC feat. Third Eye Blind/Dirty Heads (Saturday 9pm Washington Hilton)

I saw SOJA open for O.A.R. at Merriweather Post Pavilion this summer. Not only did I sense I would enjoy their music, I also sensed there was no possible way these guys ever used any marijuana…

You might have missed it at the end of the year, but The Roots’ “Undun” was one of the best records of the last 12 months…

This is the part of T10BD where we listen to Little Feat play “Fat Man in the Bathtub”…

Look, if I WASN’T an obsessed 3eb fan, I’d tell you that.

9. Baltimore’s New Year’s Eve Spectacular (Saturday 9pm Inner Harbor); Jeff Dunham (Wednesday 7:30pm 1st Mariner Arena); Archer Season 2 available on DVD (Tuesday); Tournament of Roses Parade (Monday 11am from Pasadena, CA live on ABC)

Just for the record, my services are available for NYE at the moment. I have no current commitments.

What services can I offer on NYE? I guess you could say I’m a bit like the moose from Family Guy…

(Continued on Page 2)

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Celebrating Alomar and Gillick with Top 10 96-97 O’s Moments

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Celebrating Alomar and Gillick with Top 10 96-97 O’s Moments

Posted on 22 July 2011 by Glenn Clark

On Friday’s edition of “The Mobtown Sports Beat” on AM1570 WNST, Thyrl Nelson and I celebrated Sunday’s Cooperstown Hall of Fame inductions of Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick with a four hour tribute to the 1996 & 1997 Baltimore Orioles.

During the show, I named my Top 10 moments during that special run in O’s history. As I explained last week, these Birds represented “The Only Magic I’ve Ever Known.”

(I didn’t include Jeffrey Maier or the season ending games in either season on this list. These were the memories we WANT to remember.)

10. Ripken passes Kinugasa (June 15, 1996)

ripkenkinugasu

When Cal Ripken played in his 2,216th consecutive game in Kansas City, he already owned the record for consecutive games played.

If he had stopped at 2,210 consecutive games, there would have been no argument that he didn’t hold the record.

With no offense to Sachio Kinugasa, but nothing that happens in Japan can be fairly compared to anything in Major League Baseball. When Ripken surpassed Lou Gehrig in 1995, the record was his.

That being said, the fact that Kinugasa was able to attend the game at Kauffman Stadium made the warm June night pretty special. The evident connection between the two men made the night even more fun for baseball fans.

If you ever get the chance to chat with CSNBaltimore.com writer (and longtime Baltimore Sun columnist) John Eisenberg about this night, please do. The stories are a LOT of fun. I’d tell you myself, but they aren’t my stories.

9. Mussina NEARLY perfect (May 30, 1997)

moose

I have never been more captivated by watching a baseball game than I was that Friday night.

At the time, Home Team Sports (HTS) was still a premium channel on Comcast in Baltimore County. Friday night games however were regularly available over the air (most on WNUV 54), allowing 8th graders like myself to sit at home and watch the games instead of hanging out with our friends.

I’ll never forgive Sandy Alomar for the hit that he managed off Mike Mussina in the 9th inning that night. His brother is my baseball idol, but his name is evil in my mind.

There’s been only one Orioles no-hitter in my lifetime (a combined effort from Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson in 1991), never a solo no-hitter. I’ve seen the Orioles no-hit themselves a couple of times, but I’ve never seen an Orioles pitcher throw a no-no.

I really thought I was going to that night.

8. Wire to wire (September 25, 1997)

aleast

With their 9-3 defeat of the Blue Jays at the building formerly known as SkyDome, the O’s clinched their first AL East title since 1983.

More significantly, they became only the sixth team in MLB history to win the division title going “wire to wire”, in first place from Opening Day to Game 162.

It was a remarkable run for the Birds, although 14 year old Glenn Clark may not have fully realized how significant it was because he was too worried about playoff matchups and hoping to avoid the Yankees in the ALCS.

He got his way. Unfortunately it didn’t end up making much of a difference.

7. Brady gets 50 (September 29, 1996)

bradya

The legacy of Brady Anderson’s 50 home run season in 1996 can certainly be labeled as “clouded” at best.

That being said, whether the 50 home run campaign (which concluded with a dinger on the season’s final day in Toronto) was aided by substance or simply a result of a former leadoff hitter “reaching his athletic opus”, it still stands as the only time in Orioles history a player has reached the mark.

(Frank Robinson previously held the team record with 49.)

Despite the rumors, following Brady’s home run exploits in 1996 was fun for Orioles fans-especially the stretch were he lead off four straight games by going yard.

And no matter how we felt about it, there’s little chance the Orioles make a run to the ALCS in 1996 without those 50 home runs.

6. A walk off slam (May 17, 1996)

hoiles

Anderson’s “moment” was a season in the making. The Ripken “moment” was nearly 14 years in the making.

Hoiles’ “moment”? Roughly one swing in the making.

The Orioles trailed the Seattle Mariners 13-10 in the 9th inning. What happened next was something I had practiced in my back yard roughly 160,000,000,000 times.

With two outs, the bases loaded and a 3-2 count (of COURSE it was a 3-2 count), Chris Hoiles hit what can only be described as the MOST ultimate of “ultimate grand slams.”

Thank God I hadn’t stopped watching that night.

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Lack of Reverence For Preakness in Baltimore Appalling

Posted on 20 May 2011 by Glenn Clark

The Preakness Stakes will never mean to Baltimore what the Kentucky Derby means to Louisville.

I will start my thoughts by offering an acceptance of that fact.

I couldn’t honestly say I understood the difference between the two Triple Crown races until attending my first “Run For The Roses” in 2010. It’s a different world. It truly cannot be replicated in Charm City.

Perhaps veteran horse racing columnist Jerry Izenberg of the Newark Star-Ledger said it best in 2010…

“Here in Crab Cake City, there is one thing that all of them — infielder, grandstander and the jacket-and-tie set, that actually know the words to “Maryland, My Maryland” — have in common. They all know how to treat a horse race like, well, a horse race.

Greater Baltimore is too big and too honest, and its people work too hard and wear out too many blue collars for it to be otherwise. It understands exactly what this race is. It is a break in the calendar when the Orioles will not be the lead story. It is an event that the town respects but does not worship.”

It’s hard to argue his point.

In fact, year after year the romanticism and celebration of the “Run for the Black-Eyed Susans” appears to be lessened throughout the city.

It’s not just because patrons were barred from bringing their own alcohol into the infield, either.

The fact is that it is safe to question at this point whether or not Baltimore truly even “respects” the Preakness, more or less reveres the city’s most significant event.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrN1NyHEiis[/youtube]

According to the Baltimore Sun, the 2010 Preakness spending generated roughly $1.3 million in 2010 in state and local taxes. The event was as significant if not more to area businesses including hotels, restaurants, bars, taxi and limo services, entertainment venues and grocery/convenience stores.

What can’t be measured beyond that is the value brought to the area by the exposure that comes with Preakness. NBC and VERSUS will combine to dedicate nearly eight hours of coverage this weekend from Old Hilltop, while HRTV and ESPN have also reported and broadcast from the track this week as well.

The Maryland Jockey Club said over 1,000 media members were credentialed for this year’s event, generating coverage in newspapers and on websites throughout the country and the world.

There is simply no arguing the significance of Baltimore’s biggest annual event.

While an argument could be made that a Baltimore Ravens playoff game could provide nearly as much exposure for the city, it would be difficult to picture a NFL game reaching the vast demographic group that the Preakness is able to touch.

Baltimore’s most significant annual moment happens just off Northern Parkway on the third Saturday of May.

As Bob Ehrlich told Drew Forrester this week in an interview on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, “For me, (the Preakness) was a wonderful day. It’s the best day of the year to be governor.”

Or as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told Rex Snider in an interview on “The Afternoon Drive” also on AM1570 WNST, “It really gives us a chance to showcase the city in a big way.”

It is hard to imagine a resident of our fair city not understanding how significant Preakness Saturday is annually.

Imagine my frustration when I was asked this question by a friend (and lifelong Baltimore resident) recently:

Everyone is getting together at Riverwatch for dinner Saturday because Tuesday is my birthday. You’ll be there, right?

After allowing the bewildered look to finally disappear from my face, I had my own question for my friend:

You’re aware they didn’t cancel the Preakness this year, right?

Even more troubling at the same time was my realization that the Baltimore Orioles were not only playing at home, but they were playing at 4:05pm.

Given that the average Major League Baseball game lasts two hours and fifty-one minutes (according to MLB.com in 2010) and the post time for the 136th running of the Preakness Stakes is 6:19pm-a conflict exists.

A source from the Maryland Jockey Club (who asked not to be identified) told me that the MJC reached out to the O’s after learning of the scheduling conflict, but the club deferred to Major League Baseball. Emails sent to the Orioles and MLB requesting further comment were not returned.

To be fair, the Orioles have to play on the third Saturday of May. But in the last 10 years, the Orioles have not played a game that directly conflicted with the Preakness despite playing seven times at home on Preakness Saturday.

It seems stunning that the Birds (and Major League Baseball) would allow a game to go off at the same time as the city’s signature event instead of altering the time of the game. The Boston Red Sox play an 11am game annually at Fenway Park as part of the city’s “Patriots Day” celebration. The Orioles could start at a similar time on Preakness Saturday to make way for Preakness, or could start later in the evening (around 8pm) to allow fans to attend both events.

In fact, they could even label the game as “the official post-Preakness party” and offer ticket discounts to attendees of the Preakness should they work in concert with the Jockey Club.

It would be the type of arrangement that could perhaps encourage out of town enthusiasts to “make a day of it” in Baltimore, seeing the sights of one of America’s classic sporting events and also viewing breathtaking Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

It’s a shame the city hasn’t worked with both parties to encourage such a partnership.

But the lack of reverence towards the Preakness in Baltimore is more appalling than even a baseball game.

Many Baltimoreans have simply told me in recent weeks that they feel no connection with the event despite understanding the overall significance of the event.

The reality is that some Baltimoreans are simply more interested in other events.

The problem with that attitude is that Baltimore doesn’t have anything else this significant. There is no PGA Tour stop. There is no LPGA, ATP, WTA Tour stop either.

The NBA & NHL Playoffs are irrelevant in Baltimore unless a fan chooses to root for a team from out of town. The NCAA Tournament might include a team from Baltimore, but the days of Tim Duncan and company playing March Madness games on the floor of what is now known as the 1st Mariner Arena have long passed.

The UFC has never staged a major Mixed Martial Arts event in Baltimore. There hasn’t been a significant prize fight in Baltimore in my lifetime. NASCAR has never come to town, and while the IndyCar series will hold the inaugural “Baltimore Grand Prix” in Baltimore this Labor Day weekend, the event has exactly enough significance that it was not picked up by the series’ network partner (ABC).

The Baltimore Ravens have never played more than nine meaningful home games in a season. The Baltimore Orioles haven’t played a significant home game after Opening Day since 1997.

In Baltimore, we have the Preakness and not much else.

But there’s no reason for that to be so depressing.

It would certainly bode well for the event if the sport of horse racing could make a “comeback” in Charm City. Pimlico has been outdated about as long as the Arena has, and it doesn’t serve well to generate excitement. The fact that racing only happens at the track for about a month out of the year hurts too.

No one has to be a horse racing fan to support Preakness, however.

The majority of the 100,000 or so fans that pack the track Saturday will likely not know the names of more than a few horses running in the actual race and even fewer could quickly answer “Lookin At Lucky” if asked who won last year’s event.

That being said, the folks who attend the event are at least expecting a good time-whether they’re watching Train on the infield or screaming at ponies from the grandstand.

There’s nothing wrong with being a Baltimorean and not attending the Preakness. The dirty secret in Louisville is that more locals actually attend Kentucky Oaks day on Friday than the actual Derby. (Which is aided by the closure of schools, government and many offices in general). The simple idea is that the city should somehow partake in the event in general-or at least feel more positive than negative energy in association with the event.

At the very least, everyone in Baltimore should ABSOLUTELY know that the third Saturday of May is Preakness Saturday.

It’s a shame that isn’t currently true.

-G

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Drink the Orange Kool-Aid

Posted on 05 April 2011 by Tom Federline

It tastes good. Get it while I’m pouring. Get it while the Orioles are pouring, as they have been since last August. If there was a time to buy stock in Orange Kool-Aid, now is the time. You may be a little late, but it’s better than not buying it at all. A three-game sweep at the AL East division champions home in Tampa Bay, a home Opening Day win here and a visit from the Earl of Baltimore. IF, you are an O’s fan, that is pretty darn exciting. Forget the TP and milk, get to the stores fast to stock up on Orange Kool-Aid, there’s a storm coming. It isn’t snow, it isn’t high winds, it isn’t radiation poisoning from Japan. It’s Buck and the Birds. “The Boys are Back in Town” – (Thin Lizzy).

As usual, I was at the annual Baltimore Holiday tradition yesterday. That would be 28 out of 30, counting celebrating Opening Day Anyway in 1995. I was with my daughter, parental units and about 25,000 other O’s fans all in orange. Throw in the summer-like weather, a revived Oriole fan base, another Orioles win and Ain’t the Orange Kool-Aid Cold? Great atmosphere at the Yards, for the most part. It was Opening Day, so you had the cell phoners, the yacking BS’ers and a jerk who ran out onto to the field. But so what? Hopefully that jerk got a beat down, is still in jail, plus a hefty fine. It didn’t snow or rain. And the 10,000 or so fake fans are far away from the Yards not to return until playoff time. O’s baseball is back. Seize the Moment. Drink the Kool-Aid while it’s flowing.

How about this past weekend? At first I was like, they are opening away, at night, in a dome……….that is not an Orioles Opening Day or start of a season. Then the game began adn the Baltimore Orioles clearly had recognized it was time to turn it on. They said it was a sell-out at Tropicana Field. The tickets may have been sold, but that stadium was 1/2 to 3/4 full. Nice turn out for a team that won the AL East last year, huh? Guthrie was on fire, O’s sporting a new infield except for Roberts, Markakis (Future HOF) fittingly knocks in first run of the year, Hardy makes presence known, great defense and timely hitting. After Guthrie pitched an ace for 8 innings, ole Jim Johnson almost resorted back to depressing Oriole ways withhis first pitch in the ninth. A home run to Zobrist. A little worry then bang, bang, bang down they went. O’s win.

Second game, ‘The Catch”. An Oriole highlight for the year. “The Catch” may have never been, if the umpires hadn’t blown a “safe” call on that double play “out” in the ninth.  The O’s new goggled eye closer Kevin Gregg still has some proving to do. How about that Pie to Weiters play from left field to the blocking of home plate? Tillman pitching a no-hitter through 6? Roberts 3-run dinger in the 8th. All very cool. O’s win. Game 3 – ML debut for another O’s young gun, Zach Britton. Great defense again, Reynolds at third, Lee at first – he’s a vacuum. The kid settles in, pitch count did get up there. Clutch hitting. Bullpen cleans up with Berken, Johnson, Ruuuuuupe. The O’s simply out played the Rays over the weekend. Even with the blown interference and double play calls. O’s sweep! 

The orange kool-aid is good. I have 7 months worth stored away. Actually, as you all know, I’m serving the orange stuff even during the worst of times. Maybe it’s time for the break out? The pieces are there for the O’s to shock the baseball world. What could stop the sale of Orange Kool-Aid?  The pitching staff and the disabled/sick list are becoming a little to familiar way to early. And if the O’s lose Weiters or Markakis (Future HOF), things could turn bad, quickly. Just get to the Yard, watch ‘em on the tube, listen to them on the radio. It’s Spring. The O’s look good and oh yeah, there was this passing of the “ball/torch” thing yesterday to some guy named Buck Showalter. They have a leader! Go O’s!

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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Several ‘O’-bservations from Monday’s 5-1 victory over Tigers

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Several ‘O’-bservations from Monday’s 5-1 victory over Tigers

Posted on 04 April 2011 by Ryan Chell

Well, the weather could have not nicer on an Opening Day in Baltimore. 80+ degrees and the Orioles fans were out in support of their first place team.

A day like Monday certainly proves that God is a baseball fan.

And the first-place Orioles did their part in their home-opener defeating the Tigers 5-1, as starter Jake Arrieta continued the trend of quality starts by Orioles pitchers, as the fourth-starter in the rotation scattered six hits in six innings of work while only allowing one run to pass home plate.

Jake Arrieta

He struck out three and only walked two Tigers.

The Orioles offense also did its part in the bottom of the fifth against Tigers starter Rick Porcello, whose only mistake was giving up a three-run bomb to Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts after shortstop JJ Hardy doubled and left fielder Felix Pie walked.

Roberts has both of Baltimore’s home runs this year.

Jason Berken came in to relieve  Arrieta, and continued his fantastic start to the season as he struck out another three batters in his two innings of work.

In his two games to start the season, Jason Berken has six strikeouts in three innings pitched.

The Orioles are now 4-0 and still sit atop first-place in the AL East.

The last time the Orioles finished with that unblemished record was 1997, when Davey Johnson’s team reached the ALCS to lose to the Cleveland Indians in six games.

If the Orioles were to take two of three from the Tigers on Wednesday with Brad Bergesen taking the hill for a sick Jeremy Guthrie, the Orioles’ 5-0 start would be the best since 1970, when the team won the World Series.

And like I’ve said, it may be early-especially with the defending AL Champs-the Texas Rangers-coming in over the weekend, but it’s better than being 0-4 that’s for sure.

Some ‘O’-bservations from the team so far four games into the season:

1. Starting Pitching

Jake Arrieta kept up with the pace that Jeremy Guthrie, and rookie pitchers Chris Tillman and Zach Britton set over the weekend in Tampa, as he earned yet another quality start for the Orioles starting rotation.

In 26 innings so far in this early season, the Orioles’ four starters have an ERA of 0.69.

As a whole, the pitching staff has an ERA of 1.00 allowing four runs in as many victories. They have struck out 30 opposing batters, which is tied for third in the majors.

We’ve seen before in recent years young pitching staffs who had to go through some growing pains before taking the next step, and the Orioles young staff ( Guthrie-31, Tillman-22, Britton-23, Arrieta-25, along with Matusz-24, Bergesen-25) could be in a position to take the next step.

And don’t forget. Both starters Justin Duchscherer (hip) and Brian Matusz (back) are on the DL and should pose intriguing questions to manager Buck Showalter when they return.

A problem I would like him to have by the way.

2. Bullpen

There could be concerns toward the back end of the bullpen after closer Kevin Gregg faced five hitters in the top of the ninth Saturday in the Orioles 3-1 victory.

In the same game, lefty Michael Gonzalez-who struggled last year as the Orioles closer-had similar issues with his control as he only lasted a third of an inning and walked two.

A big concern considering as of now “Gonzo” is the only lefty in the bullpen-one making 6 million dollars.

But, on the bright side, Jason Berken appears to have made the right decision to rehab his labrum injury in the off-season as opposed to have surgery.

He and late-inning specialist Koji Uehara-also re-signed in the off-season-have combined for 4 2/3 innings of work, seven strikeouts, while only allowing one hit.

Koji Uehara

If Gregg and Gonzalez continue to struggle, could these two be the guys to lock down the eighth and ninth innings? Uehara closed games for Showalter last year, and Berken has always thrived in his one-inning-of-work appearances.

3. The Outfield

I saw this “proposal” in the baseball preview of Sports Illustrated, and at first I disagreed with Ben Reiter, who wrote the AL East preview for SI.

His “proposal” was along the lines of leaving the outfield of Pie in left, Jones in center, and Markakis in right the way it is to make sure the defensive range in the outfield remains at a peak variable.

Felix Pie

Clearly, Felix Pie doesn’t offer the pop at the plate Luke Scott or Vladimir Guerrero would should they be in the lineup, but his range so far has been an asset to this Oriole pitching staff. Reiter’s proposal dealt with leaving Pie out in left on a regular basis and having a “streaky” Luke Scott-who clearly doesn’t have the speed and range Pie possesses-and an aging Vladimir Guerrero split time at DH.

Pie had a huge outfield assist in Saturday’s game pitched by Tillman, gunning down B.J. Upton at the plate to keep the game tied at 0-0.

And Markakis saved the game later with his up-against-the wall catch to end the game.

At short glance, the defensive outfield could be an asset to this team and young pitchers. It could be in their best interest to take a hit at the plate (pun intended) while making sure opposing hits don’t drop in front of Luke Scott.

4. Home-grown hitters on fire

The Orioles three first-round picks in their lineup (2B Brian Roberts, RF Nick Markakis, and C Matt Wieters) right now are hitting .294, .429, and .385 respectively.

Roberts has both of the team’s home runs, and Markakis appears to be very comfortable in the two-hole in front of Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero, where all he needs to worry about is getting on base.

Both he and Wieters recorded their first doubles Monday against the Tigers, and if you’ll notice with Wieters, there is a small change in his batting stance from a year ago.

Last year, Wieters stood straight up the batters box, and now it appears as if he has a small bend in his knees, which not only will help a tall 6’5” catcher shrink the strike zone, but hopefully will get his lower legs more involved in his swing-hopefully bringing that power Baltimore fans have waited for.

5. Free-agent thumpers-are not

Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee meanwhile have not been able to provide that huge spark in the three-hole and cleanup spots in the lineup. Neither of them have an extra base hit, an RBI to their credit, and the two’s batting average is .214 for Lee and .125 for Guerrero.

But, I wouldn’t expect their hitting struggles to continue though. It may only take a week for them to return to their true form.There are still 158 games to play gentleman.

Lee even got a stole base Monday. At least that’s something.

-Chell

ryan@wnst.net

(photos courtesy Rob Carr-Getty Images)

WNST-We Never Stop Talking!

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The Sweep Smell of Victory

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The Sweep Smell of Victory

Posted on 04 April 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

The Orioles did their best to minimize the impact of the first stage of what still looks to be a daunting April schedule by completing a 3-game sweep of the Rays on Sunday, sending the team home, undefeated record intact and alone atop the AL East…for the time being anyway. Bolstered by their pitching despite the untimely loss of Brian Matusz due to injury, the O’s rolled through Tampa, and for 3 games at least, looked more like the team that should be the objects of expectations than their overmatched hosts.

Perspective being called for, pennants can’t be won in April but they can be lost there. Given the difficult appearance of the O’s April schedule, the cache of wins that they picked up over the weekend in Tampa should at least help in their efforts to stay above .500 for the season’s opening month.

 

It occurred to me during the opener that the O’s perspective on the start of the season must have been at least a bit skewed going into the weekend series at the Trop. The early start to the season, along with not leaving the state of Florida must’ve made this feel to some degree like spring training continued. Whether that wound up being a benefit that served the team during their sweep, or just one more obstacle that they had to overcome in getting there is debatable, the end result though is not.

 

I wrote a blog a few months ago with a section titled “Baseball Math” that basically sought to reiterate a couple of proven baseball “formulas”. The first being that a single hit per week amounts to about 40 or 50 points in batting average (Crash Davis logic) was meant to illustrate that for all of the machinations and strategizing inherent to a baseball season, at the end of the day, luck and timing can play a much bigger part in baseball than it does in other sports. The second (taught to me by my father, but time honored too) is that every baseball team no matter how good or bad (with few historical exceptions) can expect to win 50 games and lose 50 games in every baseball season. What teams do in the remaining 62 games determines where they finish their seasons. So for their efforts, the O’s have made 3 games worth of headway into their 50 win destiny and at the same time laid 3 big early losses on one of the division’s favorites.

 

What’s really important in that scenario (if any importance at all can be drawn from an April series) is the divisional aspect. Between the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox (the 3 favorites to fight it out for the division) the Orioles will play 54 games this season. If they hope to stake their own claim to a share of the division, they’ll have to expect to go at least .500 in those 54 games. Picking up 3 of those 27 needed wins early accounts for 11% of that total, and they got them on the road. With 9 more such games in April, if the O’s can win just 4 of them they’ll finish the month with 7 wins against the divisions big 3 and just 5 losses. If they do any better than that in those games, they’ll be well on their way to the 27 wins they’ll need to have a realistic shot at being a divisional factor. And all of that before they’ve even unpacked their suitcases from spring training.

 

That after all is the most important thing to remember. Perhaps as I was marveling at the O’s ability to stay focused in the face of what must’ve felt like being held after school for spring training, we should wait and see if coming home on Sunday night, presumably for the first time in months and turning around for a Monday home opener proves to be even more of a challenge. Something tells me the impact of their travel will only be felt to the extent that Jake Arrieta is able to keep a tough Tigers lineup in check, and I’m guessing that Arrieta got an early pass home, ahead of his teammates to curb any such effect on his performance at least. The atmosphere at the yards will be electric for sure given the way they played this weekend. I wonder if anyone went out to greet them at the airport.

 

Another interesting (albeit less useful) baseball stat, or factoid, that my Pop laid on me was when the 1984 Tigers were out to their 35-5 start. At that point he surmised that at 30 games above .500 already, simply playing .500 baseball from there out all but assured the Tigers of a trip to the post season; this in the 4-division, no wildcard era. To that end if the O’s could simply play .500 ball from here on out, they’ll be guaranteed a winning season. That’s a start.

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For all of the disgruntled fans and 14 years of waiting, this Orioles moment of joy is for you

Posted on 03 April 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

It has been a most unlikely weekend, this strong orange wind of Orioles Magic blowing into downtown Baltimore on Monday with a gaudy 3-0 start after a trio of master pitching performances from Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Tillman and the Major League debut of Zach Britton in Tampa on Sunday.

But, you can pinch yourselves, Orioles fans. When you come downtown or turn your attention to your television sets on this 75-degree, balmy spring afternoon for Opening Day in Baltimore, it might finally be a chance to take all of that purple passion and turn it into some long-awaited, lost-long and very much deserved orange pride. It might be time to dust off your cartoon bird gear and climb about the orange chariot for a spring rite of passage that we all hope won’t be another faux orange smokescreen.

Yes, the Orioles have announced their arrival with a weekend of strong pitching, good defense and timely hitting. Like the song says, “Every day it’s a different star, that’s the magic of Orioles baseball…”

Jake Arrieta will take the hill at 3:05 on Monday at Camden Yards to face the Detroit Tigers with heightened expectations from an all-too-rare full house of Orioles fans.

Our WNST Opening Day party is slated to begin at noon but I’m coming an hour early just to start having a few morning Budweisers so I can keep up with my new centaur friend, Kegasus. We’ll be at Luna del Sea on Pratt Street, just a long fly ball from Camden Yards. We’ll have giveaways, great baseball conversation and baseball cheer for all the lost souls who have suffered since 1997.

The Orioles with a chance to win are finally back – at least for one Opening Day and we’re all excited to see how the 2011 Birds fare up north.

I’ll be the one wearing sandals with heightened expectations…

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Trip to Arizona Reminds Me 2011 Orioles Just Need to Win

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Trip to Arizona Reminds Me 2011 Orioles Just Need to Win

Posted on 30 March 2011 by Glenn Clark

When Nestor Aparicio told me Wednesday would be the day I would scribe my Baltimore Orioles preview piece, I chuckled a bit. I’m sure he had no idea of the symbolism involved.

If you listen to “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST (and you certainly should), you probably know that Wednesday marks the first time I’ve taken a vacation since returning to the Charm City airwaves in 2008.

I’m headed to Phoenix, which is where I lived and worked for two years after leaving CBS Radio here in Baltimore.

Just before departing CBS for the Valley of the Sun, I heard that Nasty was organizing an event called “Free The Birds”. I will admit now that upon hearing of the event, my thoughts (in my head and on-air) were along the lines of “what a blowhard.”

It wasn’t until I got to Arizona that I truly understood what Nestor was doing.

My only full season of MLB coverage in Arizona came in 2007. I was there for the end of the 2006 season and half of the 2008 season-but ’07 was my only full year of covering baseball-specifically the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It you’ll remember, 2007 was the year the D-Backs went on an improbable run to the NL West crown and a trip to the NLCS (where they would ultimately be dismissed by the Colorado Rockies).

The 2007 Diamondbacks were a special group. They were a young team (CF Chris Young, RF Justin Upton, SS Stephen Drew, 1B Conor Jackson and 3B Mark Reynolds were all at the beginning of their careers) with a few “journeymen” type veterans (1B Tony Clark, 2B Orlando Hudson and LF Eric Byrnes) sprinkled in.

Their pitching staff (led by stars Brandon Webb and Randy Johnson) was clearly what carried them to October, but even that group included some journeymen, as Doug Davis and Livan Hernandez held down rotation spots.

They were a fun team that found success from Opening Day until the postseason, and it made the entire summer in Phoenix sort of magical.

Every game in every series at Chase Field (and away from Chase Field) mattered. Every game had a story line. Every game had underlying drama.

Every game was discussed by sports fans the next day on radio, around water coolers and on social media accounts (MySpace was the most popular at the time) throughout the state.

chasefield

As someone who wasn’t from Phoenix (and who actually went to Chase Field for three games in June looking like the above and below pictures), I had no emotional ties to the D-Backs. Yet as the season continued, I found myself more and more emotionally invested as the city where I resided came down with a case of Diamondbacks fever.

os

I even found myself in a public fight with Diamondbacks President/CEO Derrick Hall before NLDS Game 1 against the Chicago Cubs-arguing with him that the team shouldn’t play “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the 7th Inning Stretch because it would give too much encouragement to the Cubs fans in attendance.

I REALLY didn’t care in my heart whether or not the Diamondbacks won the series. My team (the O’s) had just polished off their 10th consecutive losing season. Yet for some reason, the magic of the Diamondbacks’ accomplishment had touched even a dyed-in-the-wool Birds fan like myself.

It was then…in October of 2007…that I finally understood what Nestor (and company) were trying to say.

I hadn’t experienced that type of feeling as an Orioles fan in a decade.

I haven’t experienced it since then of course either.

The last time a meaningful game was played in Baltimore was in October of 1997, when Tony Fernandez crushed both Armando Benitez and the dreams of every 14 year old kid at Perry Hall High School like myself.

I at least got to see a meaningful game as a high school freshman. We’re now approaching a time where area kids will enter high school having not been alive for a single meaningful baseball game.

It’s real.

After seeing the Diamondbacks’ magical run and the way even a transient city like Phoenix was carried away by a season of baseball-I knew that “Free The Birds” was about the desire to finally see the city of Baltimore again experience the same thing.

And we all know just how much the city of Baltimore really needs to experience something like that.

That brings us to the 2011 Baltimore Orioles.

What’s happened with this franchise since 1997 isn’t the fault of President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail, Manager Buck Showalter, DH Vladimir Guerrero or any other player, coach or front office member…with one glaring exception-but we’ll leave Peter Angelos alone this time.

Just because the past 13 seasons aren’t the fault of the overwhelming majority of the principles involved in 2011 season doesn’t mean that the issues surrounding the past 13 seasons can suddenly be ignored.

Whether they like it or not, the 2011 Baltimore Orioles carry the burden of the failures of recent teams.

Just as the 2010 Baltimore Orioles did…and the 2009 Baltimore Orioles did…and the 2012 Baltimore Orioles will if this team doesn’t succeed.

The team (and most notably CF Adam Jones, who recently made some colorful comments to the Baltimore Sun) will be reminded of that when they report to Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Friday, April 22nd to open a six game homestand against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

It will be a somewhat painful reminder that what happened between 1998-2010 is still very much an issue to fans in Baltimore today.

The 2011 Baltimore Orioles will have to accept the desperation of a fanbase deprived of a winner for 13 cities every time they step on a baseball diamond.

We’ll find out over the next six months whether or not they can handle the responsibility.

The early returns have been questionable. Jones has popped off about the fanbase, Showalter took time in an interview to worry about the money Red Sox GM Theo Epstein is spending and how Yankees SS Derek Jeter stands at the plate.

The Orioles (and Orioles fans) cannot afford to waste their time this season worrying about anything other than winning baseball games.

They’re fighting a battle that won’t be easy. While most pundits agree this team is better than they have been in recent years-few believe they will be better than the Yankees, Red Sox or even the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. Few believe that meaningful games will return to OPACY after the All-Star Game this season.

The Orioles will look to do their best to prove those pundits wrong, and it won’t be easy.

In the meantime, they’ll have to try to win back an entire city. There will always be a group of hardcore fans that will support a team emotionally and economically no matter what the results are-but this team will look to re-establish a broader level of support beyond that group.

To do so-the only thing they can concern themselves with is winning.

In fact, the Orioles would be wise to channel Al Davis and consider a “Just Win, Baby” mentality for 2011.

If they do so-Jones won’t have to worry about who is in the stands when the Yanks come back to town this August. Showalter won’t have to worry about how much money any other team in Major League Baseball spends.

The 2011 Baltimore Orioles just need to worry about winning.

Nothing else.

If they can win even enough to have their name on the Wild Card race list when the Yanks visit this August-the feeling at those games will be even more special than what I experienced at playoff games in Phoenix in 2007.

-G

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Putting the ‘O’ Back in Expectations

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Putting the ‘O’ Back in Expectations

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

As spring slowly begins to unfold in all of its glory and the NCAA basketball tournament heads inevitably toward its conclusion, the harbingers of baseball season are now all present and accounted for. And while the excitement and enthusiasm that are inherent to this time of year begin once again invading our sports consciousness, it’s fair to say that from an O’s fan’s perspective at least, this particular brand of enthusiasm is different than in recent seasons past. It’s different because in addition to the simple excitement that we typically draw from the beginning of another potentially historic Major League Baseball season, O’s fans, for the first time in a long time can actually look forward with encouragement and anticipation that their team will be playing a brand of baseball worth watching and talking about throughout this campaign.

It’s hard to say whether 13 straight losing seasons have left fans more or less realistic about the team’s chances to be competitive this year. Cynics will say that we’ve heard this all before and to no real avail, and will doubt the potential of a number of key players to remain healthy throughout the season, holding back their enthusiasm. Others, perhaps buoyed by a sheer desire to believe that things have to get better at some point, will point to the marked improvement the team made in their brief stint under Buck Showalter last season, and the seemingly significant talent boost from last year’s team to this as easy reasons for encouragement.

So which category do I fall into? Put me firmly (and conveniently) in the middle.

As the off-season unfolded and the O’s seemingly made improvement after improvement, I like the cynics I spoke of above felt a reluctance to buy in. However, when I sat down a month or so ago, and looked position by position at the AL East, I found it tough to argue the O’s potential. Here is that comparison.

In addition to the merits of their own off-season work, the O’s fortunes are certain to be molded by the collective work of their divisional contemporaries too. It seems pretty clear that the Red Sox are markedly improved from last season to this, add to that the brand of competitive baseball they managed to maintain throughout most of last season despite a slew of injuries and disappointments, and it’s hard not to look at them as likely winners of the AL East, or the AL overall for that matter. The Yankees and Rays are both left licking their proverbial wounds to some degree after this off-season, but much like the improvement of the Red Sox, I think the anticipated impact of the respective demises of the Yankees and Rays may also have been greatly overstated going into this season.

I expect the Red Sox to win the AL East, somewhat easily as long as they can remain relatively healthy. I’d also expect that despite the fact that they have an encouraging young array of talent themselves, the Blue Jays will run away with last place in the division. As for the remaining three, nothing would surprise me. It could be a real dogfight for 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the division this year.

If the O’s can remain relatively healthy (110+ games from Roberts & Lee) and develop some of their budding young talent in the process (Wieters & Matusz especially) I’m stuck on the notion of 85 wins (or between 84-86). With the way that the Yanks and Rays are looking now, I think that could be second place in the division this year. If second in the East creeps as high as 90 or more wins, I think the Yanks or Rays have a far better chance at getting there than Baltimore. My best guess is that it won’t though, and that the wildcard will likely come from the AL Central this season.

Of course any team is capable of making another move or two to get some talent before the trade deadline, if that team is the O’s it’ll be a summer to remember (one way or another). For now I’ll expect to be still talking interestedly about the O’s if and when NFL camps begin near the summer’s end. I’ll call that progress, and for now I’ll call .500 a success, but that success is relative to this season only and where they go from there is still anyone’s guess.

Do the 1-year answers in Lee and Guerrero position the O’s to make legitimate runs at Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder or any other potential free agent at season’s end? Would a good showing through June compel them to look into prospective free agents before we get to the off-season?  Or are those 1-year contracts a sneaky way of creating “artificial depth” in the minors this season?

Andy MacPhail’s stated goals from day one included stocking the farm system and developing the talent therein. While their have been encouraging byproducts of that effort evidenced on the Major League roster, the team found themselves taken to task this winter by various media outlets over the now bare cabinet that their farm system had quickly become. Surely the relegation of Nolan Reimold to AAA (by way of the Guerrero acquisition) makes that picture a little more robust. Although the Duscherer signing didn’t quite work out that well, if it had allowed the team to begin the season with either Tillman, Arrieta or both in the minors along with Britton and Josh Bell who were expected to be there…well suddenly the cabinet doesn’t look quite as bare as had been stated previously.

For my money, before they play a single game, the O’s have earned my enthusiasm once again. Let’s face it, as a 38-year old O’s fan, successful seasons in my lifetime have been few and far between. No matter how this plays out, I get the sense that the front office (as best they could) is trying to appease the fans with a competent Major League product, even if it’s contrary to what they’re doing in building toward the future. To that end I am already satisfied. The real questions for me, will be answered on draft day, and through the trading deadline if the O’s begin this year either much better or worse than expected, and perhaps most importantly in free agency.

The April schedule is brutal, if the O’s simply survive it near .500 I’ll be even more encouraged than I am right now…for now. Becoming a sustainable contender going forward is still tough to picture from here though, especially in this division.

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As purple Festivus season is upon us, alas the real Grinch continues to be Peter G. Angelos

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As purple Festivus season is upon us, alas the real Grinch continues to be Peter G. Angelos

Posted on 24 December 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been 51 months now since the initial “Free The Birds” campaign that we launched at WNST.net in “Year Nine of The Black Cat” and motivated more than 2,000 other brave souls who said “enough is enough” to Peter Angelos and the losing and nasty ways of the Baltimore Orioles.

The holiday results are in yet again for another sad orange offseason and I’m feeling pretty confident — as is Las Vegas — that the Baltimore Orioles will not be a playoff team in 2011.

And the real reason the team won’t win this year is the same as last year and the year before that: they won’t (or can’t) spend all of the millions of dollars they have managed to extract from this community via their incredibly wealthy and lean “regional sports network” called MASN.

Angelos

We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in direct profit that was allegedly to be spent on improving the baseball team for the community to enjoy. But instead of the $150 million payrolls that were promised to “compete with the likes of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox,” that previously earmarked U.S. money donated by Middle Atlantic cable subscribers is in the pockets of Peter G. Angelos. Along with about $20 million more each year since Andy MacPhail took over in 2007 and slashed the payroll, bought off the local media and preached “young” to the fans while winking “cheap” at the owner that he just made a cool, clean profit for and shared in the financial windfall.

And like any other billionaire businessman without a soul for the pride of his own company and what it represents in the community, all of a sudden it’s very hard for any of them to part with “guaranteed money in the bank.” Especially when there’s no financial upside to giving the likes of Carl Crawford or Adrian Beltre or Cliff Lee tens of millions of guaranteed money when winning is so far from being a reality in the AL East that even the once-prideful Angelos has clearly quit on trying to win for the fans of the Baltimore Orioles.

Adam LaRoche or Derrek Lee? This is what it’s come down to for the Orioles as Santa brings goodies and toys and playoff-caliber baseball elsewhere to even the likes of Milwaukee.

If you’re trying to be a .500 team signing the “leftovers” and “growing the arms” might be a strategy. But, really, is the bar a World Series title for Baltimore or is the bar set at being in third place and making $50 million in profit?

The Orioles are so grossly pathetic at this point that no credentialed Major League Baseball player with any other option this side of Pittsburgh will elect to come and play here. And the remaining few lost souls in the fan base are so desperate for any morsel of progress that they’ve even given Buck Showalter a hall pass for lying

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