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Happy 5th Anniversary to my Free The Birds friends who want change for Baltimore baseball

Posted on 21 September 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

I’ve been watching the Baltimore Orioles since 1973 and I’m not sure any of us could’ve predicted what this franchise was to become back in the late 1980’s when Camden Yards was built, our city was starved without football and the Colts had split town.

It’s amazing now because most of the people in my company and many of you reading this under the age of 35 do not remember the Colts at all. Or a time when there was no purple. Or when there was no shiny stadia downtown that we all take for granted.

I watched William Donald Schaefer fight for all of this. I watched John Steadman politic and report through all of this as a colleague and a kid at The News American. I watched the first shovel go in the ground downtown. I was at that magical game in 1988 when all of this civic planning was announced on the backend of an 0-21 start that invigorated the renaissance of not only the Orioles but this community as a whole. I wrote more than 75,000 words on this topic five years ago. You can read all of it here…

I was there for all of it. I’ve got some perspective on just how incredibly foolish this all looks – the Orioles who drew 3.6 million people now barely getting a legitimate 1 million people through the turnstiles from the interior Baltimore community. Let’s face it: if it weren’t for a few tourists and 18 games a year against the Red Sox and Yankees, the place would be empty every night. Even on nights when they give away bobbleheads and orange T-shirts, they don’t have enough productive players to even get the promotions right. How many years in a row will they hand out an item for a player who isn’t even on the team?

Sheesh. Starting with all of the craziness of Peter G. Angelos in 1993, I could write a f**king book.

Well, actually, I did…and it’s all right here.

The civic devastation and their annual derelict status in the AL East (and in all of sports, really) makes them so insignificant as to not even be criticized by most national media and the locals are never going to say a word while their companies collect advertising checks from Angelos, via MASN or the Orioles.

The black cat is out of the bag – there’s intense financial greed behind that legal façade of Peter G. Angelos and that’s just fine, I suppose, if your audience participates in the Fantasyland charade of the Orioles attempting to compete to win a championship in Major League Baseball.

The Orioles are funded by you — the cable television buyer. You give your money to them – specifically MASN — through a third party. I bet if you got a bill every month for a couple of bucks from MASN – and it were optional – you and 99% of the state of Maryland would opt to NOT have MASN.

The same way I opt to not have Sirius radio, an IPad or a newer car.

I don’t like anything about the fact that $3 a month of my money goes directly to Peter Angelos under some mystical civic umbrella and trust that he’s investing it back into making the Orioles a better baseball team for the citizens of Baltimore.

That’s clearly not happening these days.

And that’s not my lie. That’s from Angelos himself. Here’s the direct link to our friends over at Pressbox, who take a check from Angelos and get “inside access” and get to ask questions once every decade. This is from 2006 when the Greek God of Losses told Stan Charles that MASN would change the team’s fortunes via increasing the payroll.

Instead, Andy MacPhail came out from underneath a rock in New York and came to Baltimore to quell the insurrection and help Mr. Angelos better understand the way to the profitland of Major League Baseball. Just like he did for many years for the Tribune Company and the Cubs, who now are entangled in the ownership of The Baltimore Sun.

It’s amazing how most Baltimore sports fans in town have no idea how the business of baseball and MASN and free agency and the MLB draft all work. Angelos clearly preys on the naïve nature of the local sports fans who are being fed the new “company line” that MacPhail has parroted through all of his worthless years here in Baltimore: “We just don’t have enough money to compete with those evil teams in Boston and New York.”

My other McFail favorite is this one: “We’ll grow the arms and buy the bats.”

Yeah, what bats? Mark Reynolds? Garrett Atkins? Cesar Izturis?

I can’t imagine that we’ve seen the end of the Orioles demise or the bottom of the proverbial barrel in this macabre tale of “How to Wreck a Baseball Franchise for a Local Community.” Given the state of the franchise and the fact that they’ll be looking for another “leader” who’s given “full control of the baseball operations” in two weeks, it’s pretty apparent that Angelos and the Orioles will still be big spenders of Syd Thrift’s “Confederate money” this offseason.

Angelos clearly bunkered down five years after Free The Birds. He was angry. He was humiliated. He took my press pass. He issued an edict to every member of the franchise to treat me like a pariah, even though it’s pretty clear that I love the team more than any of those people because I’m willing to face the hard reality and 14 years worth of facts.

Sure, Baltimore came back on the home jerseys a few years (I told Drew Forrester then that it was an empty gesture that wouldn’t improve the team) and Andy MacPhail was brought in to stabilize the organization (at least in the minds of the fans) and put a set of spectacles on it so it could look semi-legitimate.

Everything has been fine since Sept. 21, 2006 except for the fact that the team never won, stars haven’t emerged and accountability continues to be non-existent. Oh, and the fact that the man running the team at the time killed himself a few weeks ago.

The death of Mike Flanagan would be a tragedy anytime, anywhere. It’s a story that’s among the saddest I’ve ever heard as a Baltimore journalist. But amidst his suicide, there’s a story that must be told of his relationship with Angelos, the Orioles and the Baltimore fanbase.

Someday I might be the one who tells that story. But for now, I continue to grieve his loss with his family and attempt to help them heal.

Flanagan’s death has made my phone ring off the hook with former teammates, loved ones and people in the baseball community who are reaching to me to find out what happened.

I know a lot more about what happened than what I’m telling out of respect to Flanny’s family and loved ones. But I know the truth. And the truth should and will be told at an appropriate time.

And, rest assured, the truth isn’t going to make the Orioles look very good or make you feel any better about Peter Angelos’ ownership here in Baltimore.

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be Tippy Martinez or Jim Palmer or Rick Dempsey or Boog Powell — when you walk around your hometown every minute of every day getting recognized by people over 45 who don’t know whether to console you, hug you or engage you in any sort of baseball chatter because let’s be honest – the only reason we’d know who any of the former Orioles are is because of baseball. It’s the one thing that bonds us.

And, really, none one of us wants to discuss the Orioles or Angelos or the situation with Mike Flanagan when they’re in last place the entire topic of baseball, suicides and World Series take a backseat to the purple football machine in the fall.

But, therein lies the problem.

No one EVER says ANYTHING.

I hate to say it, but YOU ARE THE PROBLEM!

So, embrace that statement, stew about it, send me “F**K YOU!” letters, sharpen your pens and your wit.

And then send them to Peter Angelos and see if the 82-year old can find your thoughts on his Facebook page.

The local media here is such a civic disgrace that they should be ashamed of themselves for burying the topic of the Orioles’ ineptitude and profit line and intentions. And you should be ashamed of yourselves if you tune into any of the Orioles “media partners” (it should say “protectors”) and believe a word any of these hosts and personalities say. They’re all told what they can and can’t say and when they can say it.

CBS & WJZ = guilty

WBAL = guilty

The Sun = perhaps the most guilty because their unique selling point and marketing tool is “credibility” and “knowledge of the community” and “journalism”

Pull Scott Garceau or Peter Schmuck or Gerry Sandusky or Mark Viviano up on the side and ask them what THEY REALLY THINK. Ask any of these “local leaders” and “trusted experts” off the record how they’ve been treated. Ask them how they’ve seen people treated around the organization. Ask them what Mike Flanagan told them about the team when he was running it and beyond.

I saw 15 Baltimore reporters crowded around a young Ravens cornerback named Cary Williams in a locker in Nashville three days and yet no one can make their way to downtown Baltimore to interview a guy who has chased 2.5 million people out of downtown on summer nights and destroyed local business in such a profound way as to be the most powerful man in the state?

Disgraceful…

Ask ANY bar and restaurant owner or anyone involved in the beer industry about whether their businesses would be stronger if the Orioles actually existed in their establishments on summer nights.

I’ve asked them ALL. And there’s not one who doesn’t want to see a stronger baseball franchise in Baltimore.

I go into bars all summer long and see that many don’t even put the Orioles games on their televisions these days. And that’s just in the suburbs.

I live in downtown Baltimore. The city comes to life when events prosper and the community swells with pride. The U2 concert was amazing. The IRL brought tons of new faces into the city that hadn’t been this happy near the Convention Center since the All Star Fanfest in July 1993. The Caps-Predators game last night was an incredible event – bringing 11,000 into the First Mariner Arena and stimulating commerce throughout downtown for a night.

The Orioles success and their verve and mojo doesn’t seem so far away to me. I remember it all. I wrote 19 chapters about it and you can click here and begin that journey if you’re really interested in my thoughts and my rationale and my legitimacy.

I’m not some hack journalist from out of town coming into Baltimore to tell you what to think. I’m not an out-of-town media leader.

I’m a citizen. I’m a taxpayer. I paid to get Camden Yards built back in the 1980’s. My city tax dollars fronted that IRL mish-mash three weeks ago. I own a business in Baltimore County. I employ people and put them to work and I trade off of ONE THING: your trust!

The team routinely doesn’t spend money. They’ve made far more money losing than they’d ever make trying to win. That’s just a fact.

And, right now and for the past decade, that’s been exploited and profiteered from by Peter G. Angelos and his ownership group. We’ve got a dead Cy Young Award winner who worked for the company for most of 38 years and his life became so entangled that he put a gun to his head and ended his life less than a month ago.

Who’s going to ask the tough questions?

And when is Angelos or anyone at Major League Baseball going to answer them?

Winning is not as profitable as losing. And when the citizens of the state are paying the freight and there’s only tens of millions of guaranteed profit every year, apparently popularity or civic pride or winning ownership and respect for tradition doesn’t factor into the equation for Peter Angelos.

If the richest guy in the state isn’t interested in winning a World Series then the Baltimore Orioles might as well just leave town and return when they’re ready to win.

It’s such a fragile trust to begin with in Baltimore, where Angelos was a resident and apparently unmoved by the Mayflower vans or any of the chicanery of Bob Irsay back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when he did a beauty tour that was a disgrace to everyone but him.

The story of Angelos and his wrecking machine for the baseball traditions of our community is a legendary, well-told tale that as Ronnie Milsap once sang: “It’s too sad to write.”

Free The Birds is five years old today.

What will the Orioles look like five years from today?

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Could Baltimore Evict the Orioles?

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Could Baltimore Evict the Orioles?

Posted on 31 August 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

As the inevitability of a 14th straight losing season hangs over the Orioles like so many other dark clouds, the realization occurs that Baltimore has now dealt with a less than mediocre baseball team for longer than the NFL’s exodus from the city lasted. And from where I sit today, the former has been far more painful than the latter.

While Bob Irsay has always been the default answer to the most detestable man in Baltimore sports history, Peter Angelos has now entered the argument in a very big way and threatens to quickly run away with the title (although likely not with the team).

 

Like Irsay, it seems that Angelos has simply decided that it’s a better proposition to bank the inevitable riches inherent with owning a professional sports team while spending as little as possible in fielding that team. The Orioles could spend with the big market clubs if they chose to do so, but history has seemingly taught Angelos that spending big still doesn’t guarantee success on the field, spending small however and owning your own network guarantees profits no matter how pathetic your on field product may be.

 

The trump card that Irsay had (and ultimately wielded) that Angelos never will was the willingness of another city to provide better facilities and the promise to sell them out. While the NFL had (and still has) markets clamoring for and capable of supporting their product, baseball has no such luxury. If baseball did, there never would have been a need to move the Expos to Washington or create MASN in the first place.

 

If there were a better deal out there, you could bet that Angelos and the O’s would explore it…provided of course that it didn’t compromise their stake in MASN.

 

It’s too bad the fans don’t have recourse.

 

It’s too bad we can’t simply evict the O’s.

 

Before you decry me for sacrilege hear me out. (And realize I know it won’t happen)

 

The O’s have a lease with the city of Baltimore that runs through 2024. So maybe the city’s hands would be tied until then. Or maybe they could find a way out early, a way to evict the O’s for operating in bad faith, for defaming a local and national institution and for completely misusing the grandest of attractions in baseball…Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

 

If the city simply had enough of Angelos and closed the doors to OPACY, where would the Orioles go? What city is ready to provide anywhere near the facilities and support for the Orioles and Angelos than Baltimore has? Who would welcome this cheapskate joker with a bad team in a stacked division with anywhere near the reception that Baltimore has given him and them before and are dying to truly care about again?

 

Precedents now seem to exist that would allow Baltimore to retain the name and legacy of the Orioles leaving Angelos to rename his team in addition to relocating it. Even if that weren’t possible, the Ravens have proven that it’s possible to splice together a city’s sports legacy with class and pride and dignity.

 

One could only guess what that would do to MASN and Angelos cushy arrangement with MLB designed (we thought) to ensure the O’s ability to stay competitive with the AL East’s big spenders.

 

What wouldn’t be tough to guess is that Camden Yards wouldn’t sit empty for long. Baltimore might be left to sway in the breeze for some time, maybe as long as a decade as teams use the prospect of OPACY to hold their own cities hostages, but sooner or later baseball would return to Baltimore, maybe in the NL or the AL Central, with a renewed chance to compete.

 

While it’s surely an unrealistic measure and one we’re unlikely to ever explore, as it relates to seeing a realistic effort at baseball in Baltimore being competitive consistently the current O’s don’t look to be getting their act together anytime soon. A ten-year exile from Major League Baseball followed by a genuine effort to compete is starting to sound a little more tempting then waiting for Angelos to start trying again or to sell the team. Even 2024 doesn’t seem too far off when viewed through the prism of the Angelos regime.

 

The only point really being that Angelos owes and needs Baltimore far more than Baltimore owes or needs him, yet somehow we standby heartbroken and powerless as he gets rich running our beloved institution into the ground.

 

And maybe too, that desperate times call for desperate measures. These are clearly desperate times.

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Since I Already Know You, I Guess I Don’t Need to “Get To Know You”

Posted on 18 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

I’ve taken a number of jobs in my short radio career.

Having gone from station to station, format to format, time slot to time slot and market to market, I’ve had more than one occasion in my life where I’ve had to say something along the lines of “hi, I’m the new guy.”

In this case, I’m grateful because I don’t feel as though that will be necessary this time.

As you may have heard Thursday morning on “The Morning Reaction” with Drew Forrester and Luke Jones or read in Nestor Aparicio’s column today at WNST.net, there’s a change in my life.

After more than three years of getting up early and hanging out with Drew, I’ve been rewarded with an opportunity to sleep in a bit.

I have taken over as the afternoon show host (2-6pm) on Sports Talk 1570 WNST.

I’m incredibly excited.

As I’ve shared multiple times, I was a WNST listener when I was younger. Before I realized “Nasty” Nestor Aparicio was the father of one of my classmates (and friends) at Perry Hall High School, I had been handed a “Get Nasty” sign and was familiar with Charm City’s most well known sports talk host.

My familiarity as a WNST listener made my decision to leave KDUS in Phoenix much easier a few years back.

This is the next step for me, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m grateful for the time I’ve been able to spend with Drew every morning for the last few years, and for everyone else in the WNST family (and the numerous others I’ve worked with during my time) for everything they’ve taught me.

As my headline would indicate, the fact that I’ve been able to get to know you guys means I don’t think you need to know much more about me.

I listen to a lot of O.A.R. & Robert Randolph. I’m much too defensive about Roberto Alomar & Gary Williams. I’ve never met a fruit-flavored craft beer I didn’t at least try if not immediately add to the collection. I’m probably going to get banned from Chick-Fil-A Nottingham Square at some point soon because I spend more time there than I do my own home.

You probably knew all of that.

I have plenty of other thoughts that I’ll be looking forward to share moving forward.

I have a few simple thoughts about local sports radio.

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Angelos / Alomar and the Business of Baseball

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Angelos / Alomar and the Business of Baseball

Posted on 25 July 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Friday was a great day on the Mobtown Sports Beat, if I am allowed to say so myself. And before I go any further, big thanks to Glenn Clark, Ryan Chell, Ryan Baumohl and the rest of the WNST production team for putting together one heck of a trip down memory lane. It’s been an eventful first year on the Mobtown Sports Beat, and while I marvel at the efforts of the production staff each and every day, they should be especially proud of their quick reactions to Gary Williams’ retirement and to John Mackey’s passing, and of their tribute to Roberto Alomar, Pat Gillick and the 1996-1997 Orioles on Friday. (Highlights are in the audio vault, and I’d encourage all to check them out.)

While celebrating the Orioles most recent stint as a legitimate contender, it was difficult not to contrast the feelings that surrounded that team with those of the present state of Oriole fandom. That however was the intention on Friday, and for the most part I think we did okay with it.

 

Although I was always appreciative of Alomar’s skills, I was amazed on Friday to hear the number of players, coaches and front office personnel that gave deference to Alomar not only as the best 2nd baseman they had ever seen, but as the best baseball player they had ever seen…period.

 

Strolling down memory lane however brings with it the inevitable realization that those days are long past, and that the likelihood of their return seems further away than ever. And as we’ve attempted at length to quantify how fast and how far the state of Orioles baseball has devolved, and surmise the reasons why, there’s an Alomar angle at least worth investigating.

 

There’s no denying that for at least one glimmer in time, in the reign of Peter Angelos, the Orioles were a team that was built and rebuilt to win, and appeared on the fast track to recapturing the “Oriole Way”. There’s also no denying that somewhere along the way all of that changed completely.

 

What’s debatable are when, why and how exactly things fell apart. There are truly a myriad of contributing factors to the downward spiral that has been the last 13 years of Orioles baseball, and an equal number of theories as to which are the real reasons. My conspiracy-minded viewpoints are fairly well documented by now, but in a nutshell here’s what I think.

 

In the early years of Angelos, he was a fan and ran the team as such. He spent money, showed face and chirped with pride at restoring the proud Baltimore tradition. Angelos and the Orioles may have ushered in an era of ballpark economics using the windfall that was Camden Yards to spend the team into contention. While OPACY was a nice gift to the O’s from the city, Angelos’ purchase price already had the new park factored in. The O’s has a sweetheart deal, and operated as such, until the Ravens came to town and showed the O’s what a sweetheart deal really was.

 

Baltimore essentially had to bend over backward to accommodate the cash strapped Browns and lure them to Baltimore. While most saw this as a necessary evil, and worth the price to return football to Baltimore, surely Angelos and the O’s saw it as inequity.

 

Here’s where the theory gets a little hairy, as the next part of the devolution of Orioles baseball (in my conspiracy laden opinion) was the eminent relocation of the Expos. As the saga of the Expos unwound in Montreal, it became clear that relocation was in order. What also became clear was that unlike the NFL, for which cities have routinely clamored and cut one another’s throats, MLB didn’t seem to have a lot of markets interested and economically stable enough to support a baseball team. Although MLB drug their feet for 3 long years before deciding on DC, it seemed apparent pretty early on that DC was going to be the only good choice.

 

A good choice that is, for everyone except Angelos and the Orioles. Already over their heads financially in the toughest division in sports, surely the O’s couldn’t sustain the halving of their market. Surely the fans wouldn’t stand for it.

 

While the fans didn’t exactly stand for it, they didn’t much stand against it either. The state of Maryland started thinking about ways to build the DC stadium in MD and bring in some additional revenue for themselves. The network partners at CSN saw dollar signs too and the chance at having another team to add to their lineup.

 

Angelos, left to fight the battle himself seemed to quickly surmise that logic dictated a team in DC would be disastrous for the O’s, but also seemed to concede that making that case to MLB would be tough while drawing 48,000 fans per night. This, in my opinion, brought about the summary destruction of the O’s.

 

While the conspiracy seems a bit over the top, and while there are surely loose ends to be tied up therein, the effort at anti-marketing by the team from 1999 on seems impossible to ignore. Season ticket holders, used to getting near weekly correspondence from the club saw it dissipate and eventually all but go away. The ballpark experience, across the board seemed less than in previous years with overbearing ushers and a catering to out of town fans. I may have the what’s and why’s wrong entirely, but here’s no denying the O’s tried to chase the fans away… and they succeeded at it too.

 

As this theory took shape in my head, it became therapeutic to some degree, as there was always the underlying memory that Angelos was a fan of the team and used to operate them as such. I expected that after the Expos’ business was settled, for better or for worse, the O’s would get back to trying to compete. Yet here we are, now years removed from the Expos’ relocation and the settlement with CSN, and as it relates to the deal the O’s negotiated with MLB, surely things worked out for the O’s about as well as could have been expected (outside of not having a team in DC at all) financially, and yet the O’s have made little or no effort at winning back the fans, or winning at all for that matter.

 

Somewhere along the way it would seem that whatever his original intentions may have been, Peter Angelos learned that baseball is simply a business and one that has become quite profitable for a team that has found its niche being routinely sacrificed to teams with real designs on winning ballgames. The O’s are cleaning up while playing the role of the Washington Generals of the AL East.

 

So back to the Alomar tie in: Fans will be fans, their whimsies change as the team’s fortunes change, and that’s to be expected. Likewise businessmen are businessmen, and that politicians and network executives saw ways to make money if not at the Orioles’ expense, at least despite them again should not be surprising. Ballplayers though are another matter altogether, and while Angelos was clearly a fan of the Orioles and ran the team in that way, he was also it seemed a fan of ballplayers. Maybe it was the ballplayers reminding Angelos that baseball was a business more than anything else that drove the point home for him once and for all.

 

While Angelos was a fan of his ballplayers and seemed to take care of them accordingly, it’s arguable that he never felt that fandom reciprocated or that respect appreciated. There were those who surmised that after Angelos’ infamous decision not to field a strike team to begin the 1995 season would make him a hero of sorts with players across baseball and that they’d think fondly of the O’s when contemplating free agent decisions. That never seemed to materialize, or to last.

 

When David Wells left the O’s to become a member of the rival Yankees it had to sting a bit, but Wells, a baseball historian and notable Babe Ruth fan came by his decision easily and honestly. With Alomar however, things seemed different.

 

There was no doubt that Angelos was fond of Alomar, even protective of him, possibly to the detriment of the team. While many felt the lingering aftermath of spit-gate cost the Orioles calls and games for years to come, it could be argued that Angelos proclamation in backing up Alomar and offering to pay him through his MLB mandated suspension may have made the bigger and more lasting ripples for the team moving forward. Angelos went to bat again for Alomar at the end of the 1997 season firing manager Davey Johnson over a disagreement over an Alomar fine. Yet long before Alomar reached free agency at the end of 1998, in fact long before the Johnson firing in 1997, it seemed all but a foregone conclusion that Alomar would be off to join his brother in Cleveland at his first chance to do so. For all of the goodwill that Angelos had shown Alomar during his 3-year tenure in Baltimore, Alomar it seemed always had one eye on the door, and defected to the rival Indians on top of it.

 

Raphael Palmeiro may have proven an example of this too. The O’s sort of fell into Palmeiro’s services for the 1994 season when the Rangers elected to sign Will Clark without negotiating with Palmeiro, the incumbent at first base. Upon signing with the O’s Palmeiro had a few choice words for his former employers in Texas, citing no love lost. Still, after one of the most successful free agent campaigns in history, Palmeiro returned to Texas and the Rangers who spurned him 5 seasons earlier without reservation.

 

Palmeiro it seems, never quite understood how Baltimore could pack in 48,000 fans per night yet never come up with enough votes to get him starts in the All-Star games, and quite simply went for the cash grab and return to familiar surroundings.

 

So by the end of 1998, for his efforts at being a player’s owner and a fan’s owner, Angelos had an overpaid and overmatched team in a top heavy division to which the fans couldn’t relate, a new neighbor at the Camden Yards complex with a much better financial deal than his own, an eminent baseball neighbor poised to split his market in half, and all of the salvageable talent still on the team defecting for greener pastures, bigger paydays and changes of scenery. And we wonder where the fan that used to own the team has gone?

 

As baseball opens its hallowed halls and celebrates Roberto Alomar while eschewing an otherwise deserving Palmeiro based on steroid allegations, so closes the last chapter of competitive baseball in Baltimore to date. And while both left their indelible marks on that last glorious chapter in innumerable positive ways, each may also have contributed in their own ways to its demise as well. And baseball in Baltimore is business…as usual.

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Live from Camden Yards: Scott giving injured shoulder one last run as Angels come to town

Posted on 22 July 2011 by Luke Jones

**Join us in the Orange Crush live chat at 7:00 as the Orioles welcome the surging Los Angeles Angels to town for a three-game set**

BALTIMORE — With Vladimir Guerrero still sidelined with a broken hand and fresh off a two-homer performance in Double-A Bowie, Luke Scott will take a final chance to see how his injured right shoulder responds after a stint on the disabled list.

The Orioles have reinstated Scott — who will occupy the designated hitter spot and hit sixth — and optioned outfielder Matt Angle to Triple-A Norfolk prior to the start of a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels. The plan is for Scott to play the next three to five days to gauge whether he can be productive with the torn labrum in his right shoulder that’s hindered him most of the season.

If Scott feels he is not being productive enough to help the team, he will elect to have season-ending surgery or go the rehabilitation route that reliever Jason Berken chose when he had his own slap tear in his pitching shoulder. The Opening Day left fielder says the shoulder doesn’t affect his throwing as much as when he’s at the plate. Unlike Tommy John surgery, which has a very high success rate, labrum surgery is a bit trickier depending on the location and severity of the tear.

“There’s hit and miss. Some guys take to surgery well, and some guys don’t,” said Scott, who mentioned shortstop J.J. Hardy’s slow response to shoulder surgery in 2004. “If I choose this path, if I choose to do surgery, what are the pluses and minuses? OK, I’ll be ready to go in six months, but will I be back to myself?”

Scott will get his first opportunity to gauge what he can do against Angels starter Ervin Santana, who has not won a road start since April 29 against Tampa Bay. However, the right-hander has now allowed more than three runs in any of his last six starts.

In other injury-related news, infielder Cesar Izturis played five innings in Sarasota Friday and will play for Double-A Bowie on Saturday and Sunday. He could be activated as early as Tuesday when the Orioles travel to Toronto.

Brian Roberts experienced a migraine Friday and did not participate in any baseball-related activity.

Manager Buck Showalter was asked about Brian Matusz’s disappointing start for Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday, and the skipper labeled it with the ever popular “It kind of is what it is.” Showalter did indicate that Tides pitching coach Mike Griffin was a little more positive than the statistics indicated.

“It wasn’t what Brian is capable of [doing],” Showalter said. “It looked like the arrow was pointing up a little bit each outing, and that one was a little bit of a setback for him. Nothing he can’t get back on his feet with real quickly.”

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from Luke Scott and Buck Showalter prior to the start of Friday’s game against the Angels.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Los Angeles
2B Maicer Izturis
RF Torii Hunter
DH Bobby Abreu
LF Vernon Wells
3B Alberto Callaspo
SS Erick Aybar
1B Mark Trumbo
CF Mike Trout
C Jeff Mathis

SP Ervin Santana (4-8, 3.84 ERA)

Baltimore
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
1B Derrek Lee
DH Luke Scott
3B Mark Reynolds
LF Felix Pie
2B Blake Davis

SP Alfredo Simon (2-2, 4.36 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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With late chance to win, Orioles not nearly good enough against Red Sox

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With late chance to win, Orioles not nearly good enough against Red Sox

Posted on 19 July 2011 by Luke Jones

I’m not exactly breaking news by telling you the Red Sox are better than the Orioles.

A lot better.

On most nights, you could argue they don’t even belong in the same ballpark.

And yet, they were tied 7-7 entering the eighth inning at Camden Yards on Monday night. The sleep-deprived Red Sox were coming off a 16-inning marathon against Tampa Bay that caused them not to arrive in Baltimore until early that morning.

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Instead of slamming the door on a tired Boston lineup and turning it over to an Orioles lineup that had earlier scored five runs in the fifth inning to erase a 6-2 deficit, manager Buck Showalter turned to Michael Gonzalez, Mark Worrell, and Chris Jakubauskas to get him through the eighth inning.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Eight runs later, the Orioles trailed 15-7 and ultimately dropped their seventh straight game against the Red Sox, 15-10.

In fairness, Showalter wasn’t exactly playing with a full deck for a bullpen that’s not exactly known for shortening games when it’s at full strength, anyway. Closer Kevin Gregg — along with Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz — began serving a three-game suspension Monday stemming from the events at Fenway Park two weekends ago. Koji Uehara had pitched in three straight games and was unavailable to the Orioles skipper. And after the game, Showalter revealed his preference to save Jim Johnson for a potential save situation in the ninth inning or to stay away from the right-hander altogether if possible.

Showalter got his wish in saving Johnson after electing to remove Gonzalez in favor of the recently-promoted Mark Worrell — who hadn’t pitched in the major leagues since June 13, 2008 — with the bases loaded and Dustin Pedroia at the plate in a 7-7 game. As Pedroia always seems to do against the Orioles in crucial situations, the second baseman laced a double down the right field line to score two runs and give Boston the lead.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to predict what would happen after that as Worrell failed to retire a batter and Jakubauskas came on while six more runs came to the plate before the final out of the eighth was recorded.

Saving Johnson for a potential save situation in the ninth made little sense when it wasn’t going to get more difficult than a bases-loaded, one-out jam in a tie game in the eighth, but you almost had to feel sorry for Showalter’s lack of bullets late in the game. Of the six pitchers seeing action against the Red Sox on Monday, five had spent time at Triple-A Norfolk this season, with the only hurler avoiding the minors being the combustible Gonzalez.

“It is what it is,” said Showalter about the depleted bullpen. “I’m sure they would have loved to have Ortiz there tonight. It’s part of the situation and you deal with it the best you can.”

As is typically the case against Boston, the best the Orioles could offer wasn’t good enough.

Short of the Red Sox being leveled by an MTA bus, Monday couldn’t have been set up much better for the Orioles to beat the Red Sox, and it looked plausible until the embarrassing eighth inning.

Ten runs came across the plate for the Orioles, and they still lost in embarrassing fashion.

In their last five games against Boston, the Orioles have allowed an astonishing 47 runs.

Not even close to good enough.

Hear more from Buck Showalter as well as Brad Bergesen, Nolan Reimold, J.J. Hardy, Kevin Gregg, and Michael Gonzalez in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault right here.

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Live from Camden Yards: Gregg, Ortiz begin suspensions as Orioles welcome Boston to town

Posted on 18 July 2011 by Luke Jones

**Join us in the Orange Crush live chat at 7:00 as the Orioles welcome the Boston Red Sox to town for a three-game set**

BALTIMORE — For those anticipating Kevin Gregg-David Ortiz II with the Boston Red Sox rolling into town for a three-game series, they’ll have to wait.

Their suspensions were reduced to three games this afternoon, and both will begin their sentences tonight as the Orioles (38-54) hope to make it three wins in a row and extract some revenge after the Red Sox embarrassed them in a four-game sweep at Fenway Park prior to the All-Star break.

Gregg agreed to drop his appeal of a four-game suspension after Major League Baseball offered a three-game penalty starting Monday in Baltimore. The respective fines of Gregg and Ortiz were also reduced.

“It’s principle, I want to fight for principle,” Gregg said. “But at this point, in regards to the team, I’m trying to take the best interest of the team right now, using what MLB has presented.”

With Gregg serving his suspension against the Red Sox, manager Buck Showalter said the Orioles could go with a few different candidates to potentially to close, presumably Jim Johnson, Koji Uehara, or the volatile Michael Gonzalez. Uehara, however, pitched in each of the final three games of the Cleveland series, making him unlikely to pitch in the opener against the Red Sox.

Gonzalez has not heard an update regarding his three-game suspension, but the lefty hopes to receive a reduction in the line of Gregg’s being reduced from four to three. He doesn’t expected there to be any further repercussions or bad blood over the three-game series against the Red Sox.

“It’s water under the bridge already,” Gonzalez said. “What was done was done. We’re over it, we’re starting a clean slate today, and we’ll go from there.”

The Orioles officially made an array of roster moves earlier in the day, placing Alfredo Simon on the restricted list as he deals with his legal matters in the Dominican. The club has recalled third baseman Josh Bell and selected the contract of reliever Mark Worrell from Triple-A Norfolk. Worrell will likely exit when Simon returns as early as Tuesday.

Bell is no stranger to Baltimore after playing 53 games for the Orioles last season. He was hitting .254 with 16 home runs and 47 runs batted in for the Tides prior to being recalled. However, the big third baseman also had 100 strikeouts in 343 at-bats.

Luke Scott will make his second start for Double-A Bowie on Monday night as they Baysox travel to Harrisburg. Scott homered in last night’s game and could be activated as soon as Tuesday when he is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list. Bell or recently-promoted outfield Matt Angle would be the likely candidates to return to the minors in that scenario.

The Orioles will send Brad Bergesen to the hill against veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. It’s Bergesen’s first start in the big leagues since May 28 in what amounts to a golden opportunity for the 25-year-old sinkerballer to reclaim his spot in the starting rotation.

In seven career starts against the Red Sox, Bergesen is 2-3 with a 3.27 earned run average in 44 innings. He has the only complete-game shutout for the Orioles this season when he shut down the Tampa Bay Rays in a 6-0 win on May 14.

The Orioles hope to put aside the nightmarish four-game series in Boston and keep the focus to what’s happening on the field — only this time with a better outcome.

“How you stand up to them is you play (better), you win,” Showalter said. “They’re good, they’re real good. … It’s not something they handicap beforehand. Nobody really cares.”

To hear more from Showalter, Gregg, and Gonzalez, visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault right here.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Boston
DH Jacoby Ellsbury
2B Dustin Pedroia
1B Adrian Gonzalez
3B Kevin Youkilis
CF Josh Reddick
LF Carl Crawford
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
RF J.D. Drew
SS Marco Scutaro

SP Tim Wakefield (5-3, 4.74 ERA)

Baltimore
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
1B Derrek Lee
3B Mark Reynolds
DH Nolan Reimold
LF Felix Pie
2B Robert Andino

SP Brad Bergesen (1-6, 5.65 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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Despite late scare, Orioles remind us what winning formula looks like

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Despite late scare, Orioles remind us what winning formula looks like

Posted on 16 July 2011 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — You knew the Orioles would eventually win another game.

I was pretty sure, anyway.

I just didn’t think Alfredo Simon — scheduled to return to the Dominican Republic on Sunday for a hearing regarding his manslaughter case — would be the one to provide the best start by an Orioles pitcher all month, pitching seven strong innings and allowing two earned runs to snap the club’s nine-game losing streak in a 6-5 win over the Cleveland Indians.

And I really didn’t think maligned reliever Michael Gonzalez would be the one to slam the door on the Cleveland rally when closer Kevin Gregg walked the bases loaded and gave up a three-run double to Orlando Cabrera to turn the Orioles’ comfortable 6-2 ninth-inning lead into a one-run heart attack special. However, Gonzalez recorded his first save since April 8, 2010 after signing a two-year, $12 million contract two winters ago to be the Baltimore closer.

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But these are the Orioles, of course. Nothing comes easy and things rarely go according to plan, especially over the last five weeks.

Aside from Gregg’s inability to throw the ball over the plate in the ninth, the Orioles played a relatively crisp game in which they received good starting pitching, three much-needed insurance runs in the eighth inning, and contributions from unlikely sources.

Nick Markakis hit a home run and had three extra-base hits for the third time in his career, Adam Jones drove in two runs, and the struggling Felix Pie’s two-run double in the eighth proved to be the difference in the one-run victory.

Simon was the difference in the game, becoming the first Baltimore starter to complete seven innings since Jeremy Guthrie on July 1 and only the second starter to do it in 29 games. His outing was also the first quality starter by an Orioles pitcher since Mitch Atkins on July 5. It was Simon’s longest appearance since pitching five innings against the Yankees on April 9, 2009.

“It’s just a reminder this is a formula for good baseball, something we were doing some, and we need to get back to it,” Showalter said. “We’ll see if [Mitch] Atkins can do it tomorrow. He’ll have his work cut out for him against a good team. Sometimes, you’ve got to see it, what it means on the field. We made it a little interesting there at the end, but we made it stand up.”

To turn to Gonzalez in the ninth after Gregg’s implosion was even more unlikely, given his disastrous year and a half in Baltimore. However, the lefty reliever has been more effective of late, entering Saturday’s game with a 2.31 earned run average in 11 2/3 innings since June 14.

Despite the drama of the ninth inning, everyone could finally breathe a sigh of relief when Gonzalez enticed Grady Sizemore to ground out to Derrek Lee to end the game, giving the Orioles just their second win in 16 tries and seventh victory in their last 30 games.

“There’s an adrenaline rush that you love (with closing),” Gonzalez said. “Today, we weren’t going to lose. We had gone too far and done well in the game and I had that same mindset. This is a great feeling. Now we just have to go out and have fun tomorrow.”

Easier said than done, but the Orioles will take a win any way they can get it at this point.

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Orioles’ 5-week-long wreck painful to watch

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Orioles’ 5-week-long wreck painful to watch

Posted on 16 July 2011 by Luke Jones

Five weeks ago, I sat in Buck Showalter’s pregame press conference as the Orioles welcomed the Tampa Bay Rays to town to conclude a nine-game homestand.

Fresh off a sweep of Oakland, the Orioles were again creeping toward the .500 mark with a 29-31 record and were trying to build momentum before embarking on a nine-game road trip. I casually asked Showalter the importance of seizing the opportunity to reach the .500 mark — after doing it two weeks earlier and then dropping five in a row immediately thereafter — for a young club trying to learn how to win.

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

The Orioles won that night to move within one game of .500 as Jake Arrieta recorded his eighth win of the season. But instead of reaching and moving beyond the threshold as Showalter suggested, the club sprinted in the opposite direction to begin a five-week nightmare that’s shattered what once looked like a promising season on which to build.

Baltimore’s five-game winning streak came to an end the next evening, and the club has managed to win two consecutive games just once since then. Twenty-three losses in their last 29 games have the Orioles on pace to lose 97 games — one more than they did a season ago.

Brian Matusz and Zach Britton have since been sent to the minors.

Starting pitchers have completed seven innings just once since June 11.

The Orioles have batted .197 with runners in scoring position over the stretch.

Fast-forward to Friday night and watching Arrieta — the lone member of the so-called “cavalry” remaining in the rotation — once again struggle with his command as he allowed five earned runs in five innings in a 6-5 loss to the Indians almost felt surreal. His earned run average has risen to 5.10 after the nine-game winner was considered to be making modest progress in the first half of the season.

“Each time I go out, I’m trying to win a game for the team, and not being able to do that in my last (three) starts, it’s not a good feeling,” Arrieta said. “Pile that on top of the way that things have been going… as a team, it doesn’t feel great. But we try not to really let that bother us. Just continue to work and try to get back in the win column.

“It’s going to come sooner or later, we know that. We’ve got too much talent in this clubhouse to let things continue to go the way they are going.”

Everyone shares the sentiment: the manager, players, media, and fans alike. They can’t continue to play this poorly.

Nine straight losses, 14 defeats in 15 tries, and a 2-15 record since Andy MacPhail casually quipped to season-ticket holders on June 25 that the Orioles could lose their next 33 games and still be ahead of last year’s team at the same time. Even with an awful 36-54 record after Friday’s loss, this year’s club is still seven games ahead of the 2010 Orioles, an astonishing indictment of just how poor that group was through the first 90 games.

But like watching a slow-motion version of a multi-car pileup on the freeway, it keeps getting worse and there’s nothing to be done to stop it other than to wait for the smoke to clear.

Impossible to turn away, but very difficult to watch.

And, as Arrieta said, it’s not a good feeling at all.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Jake Arrieta, Buck Showalter, and Adam Jones following the Orioles’ 6-5 loss on Friday night.

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Live from Camden Yards: Guerrero has “small crack” in hand, out again

Posted on 15 July 2011 by Luke Jones

**Join us in the Orange Crush live chat at 7:00 as the Orioles face the Cleveland Indians in the second of a four-game set at Camden Yards**

BALTIMORE — As if an eight-game losing streak and losing 22 of their last 28 games weren’t enough, the Orioles received bad news in regards to Vladimir Guerrero’s injured right hand prior to tonight’s game against the Cleveland Indians.

A second x-ray revealed a “small crack” on the hand below the pinkie and the 36-year-old designated hitter is again out of the lineup as the Orioles hope to snap out of a month-long stretch of abysmal baseball. Guerrero attempted to take batting practice on Friday afternoon, but the session did not go well, according to manager Buck Showalter.

“There comes a decision now how long we can or will wait,” Showalter said. “Depending on the severity of it and the pain, guys have played with [it]. It’s not the possibility of hurting it anymore or what have you; just a matter of when the discomfort goes away — if it does.”

While Guerrero’s lack of power (seven home runs and a .385 slugging percentage) has been disappointing, this latest development may dim the chances of moving Guerrero before the Aug. 31 waiver deadline. The future Hall of Fame slugger was an unlikely candidate to be dealt by July 31 even before the injury occurred in Boston on Sunday.

Should Guerrero need to go on the disabled list, Showalter said Luke Scott would likely assume the designated hitter spot when he returns from the disabled list. He is eligible to return on Tuesday, but the Orioles would like to get him some at-bats in a brief rehab assignment before activating the left-handed hitter.

Matt Wieters will hit in the cleanup spot for the second consecutive night and Nolan Reimold will assume Guerrero’s designated hitter position in the lineup, batting seventh. Showalter would like to see someone bring more production to the No. 4 spot in the order, and it appears the Orioles’ All-Star catcher is getting the first crack at it.

“You’d love to see somebody take it and run with it,” Showalter said.

To hear more from Showalter, visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault right here.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Cleveland
LF Michael Bradley
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
DH Travis Hafner
C Carlos Santana
CF Grady Sizemore
2B Orlando Cabrera
RF Travis Buck
1B Matt LaPorta
3B Lonnie Chisenhall

SP Josh Tomlin (10-4, 3.81 ERA)

Baltimore
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
1B Derrek Lee
3B Mark Reynolds
DH Nolan Reimold
LF Felix Pie
2B Robert Andino

SP Jake Arrieta (9-6, 4.90 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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