Tag Archive | "Peter Angelos"

Good news: MASN airing six Orioles spring training games. Bad news: They play 33 of them.

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Good news: MASN airing six Orioles spring training games. Bad news: They play 33 of them.

Posted on 04 March 2013 by Drew Forrester

It would be hard to debate that perhaps the greatest invention in sports over the last 50 years has been the “regional sports network”.

Some folks would refer it to more has “highway robbery”.  They’d have a valid point.

The concept is so elementary, a caveman could figure it out:  Start your own TV network, show a “demand” for it, run the network through your local cable operator and then, in the best scam of the last 200 years, have your monthly “fee” be paid by the consumers — even those who don’t ever use your product.

And if you start the network and the government doesn’t agree with your stipulation that demand warrants the inclusion of the fee in monthly cable bill, you just sue the government.  They won’t want to fight you and within 12-18 months, you’ll be milking your very own cash cow.

The list of teams that have pulled this stunt is growing by the year.  The Yankees and Red Sox were the first to perfect it.  The various Los Angeles teams in basketball and hockey have been raking in TV money as far back as a thing called “Prime Ticket” out west, but only now are they starting to see the benefits of owning the network yourself.  The Texas Rangers will be pulling in upwards of $100 million via their RSN in the next couple of years.  So will the Angels.

And, then, of course, we have our beloved Birds.

The Orioles’ owner, Peter Angelos, started the Middle Atlantic Sports Network back in 2006, with the promise of his own RSN establishing enough of a consistent revenue base to do battle with those rat finks in New York and Boston.

This, what I’m writing today, isn’t about the years of money that Peter collected and then didn’t spend on the team.  We’ve all seen that movie and reviewed it a dozen or two times.  We know the club’s roster has been shortchanged over the years as it relates to quality players.  No need to travel there today.

No — what I’m puzzled by is yet another botched marketing and PR opportunity from both MASN and the Orioles.  OK, let’s just admit they’re one and the same and I’ll keep calling them “the Orioles” for purposes of this piece.  Anyway, the Orioles have thirty three “official” spring training games in February and March.  Guess how many the team will air on its own TV network?  Six. That’s it.  Six.  Oh, by the way, three of the six are taped delayed, not live.

Six of thirty-three games will be on TV and they own the network that airs the games.

Unreal.

At least air all of the home games, right?  I can at least almost understand not airing a game from Ft. Myers or Dunedin.  But you have 16 home games in Ed Smith Stadium.  Put all of them on MASN.  And, for sure, you can do some split-feed stuff with the Yankees and Pirates and Phillies when you face them in Tampa or Bradenton or Clearwater througout March.

Last year’s magical season and dramatic 5-game series loss to the Yankees actually left the community as a whole longing for March 2013 and spring training baseball.

For years – about fourteen to be exact – only 149 people in Baltimore even cared about spring training when it rolled around every February.  Grapefruit League games were met with yawns and the fans had little interest in who was doing well, who wasn’t, who was making the team and who needed to go 2-for-3 today to have a chance of sticking around.

Spring training baesball, though, has an allure to it that reaches far past sports.  It’s called spring training for a reason.  It marks the beginning of s-p-r-i-n-g.  People love spring.  It dawns a new year, essentially.  Warm weather is on the way.  Sunshine.  Summer days beckon.  When baseballs are thrown, the days seem brighter and longer.

And after a whopper of a season in 2012, you would think the Orioles would go completely out of their way to capitalize on that energy by airing spring training baseball in March of 2013.

(Please see next page)

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Orioles’ listless offseason leaves sour taste instead of excitement

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Orioles’ listless offseason leaves sour taste instead of excitement

Posted on 12 February 2013 by Luke Jones

This was supposed to be the most exciting start to spring training of the last 15 years as Orioles pitchers and catchers reported to Sarasota on Tuesday.

To be fair, it still is as the Orioles come off their first playoff appearance since 1997, but that wasn’t exactly a daunting standard to top after a string of 14 consecutive losing seasons was snapped last year. However, that positive feeling isn’t nearly as overwhelming as it should be as we hear the predictable reports this week of players being in the best shape of their lives and others eyeing career seasons after making adjustments over the winter.

Even with the memory of the Ravens winning the Super Bowl fresh in our minds, the city should be abuzz over the Orioles after one of the most exciting seasons in the 59-year history of the franchise in which a club expected to finish fifth in the American League East won 93 games and prevailed in the inaugural AL Wild Card game to advance to the AL Division Series. But instead of using the success of 2012 to springboard the Orioles to new heights and capitalizing on their karma with a productive offseason, the Orioles and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette largely stood pat.

The Orioles appeared dormant to put it mildly while harsher critics believe Duquette and the front office rested on the laurels of the unlikeliest of seasons instead of striking while the iron was hot to add talent to a roster that overcame countless flaws last season. No matter how you want to describe or justify it, the Orioles didn’t do enough to make improvements to a club that deserved better after one of the most remarkable seasons in team history. They didn’t spend money or even pull the trigger on a notable trade like they did last year when they sent veteran starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado for pitchers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom, a move that worked beautifully for the Orioles.

This winter, Baltimore parted ways with first baseman Mark Reynolds and pitcher Joe Saunders, re-signed left fielder Nate McLouth, traded second baseman Robert Andino, and acquired infielders Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia, and Travis Ishikawa. That essentially brings you up to speed if you were hibernating all winter and aren’t concerned with a few other waiver-wire additions and minor-league signings, which — in fairness to Duquette — could bring this year’s version of Miguel Gonzalez or McLouth to light at some point.

The idea of parting ways with Reynolds would have been acceptable had the Orioles found an upgrade such as signing veteran first baseman Adam LaRoche or trading for Kansas City’s Billy Butler, but they elected to solve the problem from within by sliding Chris Davis to the position. In turn, that’s created a question mark at designated hitter as a platoon of Wilson Betemit and a right-handed bat to be named later will be counted on to hold down that spot in the order.

Instead of looking to the free-agent market to find an established bat such as veteran Torii Hunter — who signed a two-year, $26 million deal with Detroit — to man left field, the Orioles will pray for the health of Nolan Reimold and hope McLouth can build on two strong months of play last season that resurrected his big-league career from life support.

Few expected the Orioles to be players for the top commodities on the market — outfielder Josh Hamilton and starting pitcher Zack Greinke — but “kicking the tires” was as far as the organization was willing to go on any free agent of even modest note. Avoiding a $150 million contract is understandable and even prudent, but avoiding the open market like the bubonic plague is disappointing.

Duquette vowed that the Orioles would look to acquire a middle-of-the-order bat and another veteran starting pitcher but has done neither to this point. While it’s true the free-agent market was lukewarm in terms of talent, take a look at the number of trades that went down around the big leagues this winter and you’ll find plenty that didn’t involve an organization parting with its top prospect, dispelling the notion that the Orioles would have needed to part with top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy to fetch anything of value.

Their payroll did climb as the Orioles dealt with a number of arbitration-eligible players in line for raises, but that’s simply the price of doing business and not a real reflection of trying to improve your club. The payroll increased from an estimated $84 million in 2012 to closer to the $90 million range at the start of spring training.

All those excuses sound too familiar for an organization that appeared to turn the corner last season. Instead of building on their success, the Orioles didn’t spend money or make a single addition — and, no, re-signing McLouth wasn’t an addition since he was already in Baltimore — that appears primed to help move the meter in the AL East.

It’s disappointing after such an enjoyable year.

In truth, there are still plenty of reasons for optimism as All-Star players Adam Jones and Matt Wieters are in their respective primes, talented 20-year-old third baseman Manny Machado will play his first full season in the majors, and Bundy and 2012 first-round pick Kevin Gausman could make an impact before the season is over.

A rotation including Hammel, Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, and Chris Tillman appears promising, but all four are also coming off career seasons that will need to be built upon. The names vying for the fifth spot in the rotation haven’t changed as Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, and Steve Johnson are all in the mix.

One of the best bullpens in baseball from last season remains intact, but relievers are also as unpredictable as the stock market from year to year.

Maybe the Orioles will be poised to finish 29-9 in one-run games and win 16 straight extra-inning games as they did last season, but both figures were historically remarkable and more anomalies than standards you could possibly expect to repeat, even with a shrewd manager such as Showalter.

Instead of a offseason that included a couple impact acquisitions to augment the progress made last year, we’re once again left with too many ifs and maybes, a familiar story for a organization with a group of players that deserved much better after the work they put in last season.

To truly feel confident in the Orioles’ ability to build upon the magic of last season — or even maintain it — Duquette, the front office, and ownership needed to take advantage of that fortune and simply didn’t. Finally poised with an opportunity to sell Baltimore as one of the most desirable destinations in all of baseball and Showalter as a manager players would love to play for, the Orioles instead stood pat with the hope that lightning would strike twice this season.

The Orioles may still compete this season, but a listless offseason did nothing to build confidence that they will do it again.

We’ll still look forward to spring training more than we have in a long time, but it could have been that much more exciting.

And I suppose the Orioles will once again need to prove us all wrong.

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Something’s not adding up in the Mark Reynolds saga

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Something’s not adding up in the Mark Reynolds saga

Posted on 01 December 2012 by Drew Forrester

I always have to say this when the conversation comes around to Mark Reynolds.

I wouldn’t have him on MY team.  Even at first base, where he was acceptable with the glove, the holes in his offensive game were so gaping and costly that he wouldn’t be employed by me.

But I don’t run the Orioles.

And for the last two years, they’ve employed Reynolds.

For the last seven weeks or so, Dan Duquette could have negotiated a new deal with him.  He could have offered him arbitration.  Or he could have picked up an $11.5 million option for 2013 just to see what one more season would yield from Reynolds.

Instead, Duquette and the Orioles simply said, “we’ll pass”.

That makes Reynolds a free agent this morning.

And, despite the fact I wouldn’t have him on MY team, the Orioles are now in the market for a “real” first baseman after deciding to let their guy leave and test the market.

Here’s why it’s all wrong:  The Orioles have let Mark Reynolds go because of a few million dollars.  They could have given him $11.5 million and he’d be on their team, albeit perhaps at $4 million more than the team thinks he’s worth.  They could have signed him to a 2-year deal for roughly $20 million, but they probably only thought he was worth $16 million for two years.

Dan Duquette keeps talking about the Orioles “valuing” Reynolds, but they won’t sign him because they can’t fit him in their budget.

Or they simply don’t want him back and they’re lying about it.

Either way, Dan Duquette has publicly declared that Reynolds doesn’t “fit in our budget” for 2013.  What budget in baseball is so restricted in December that a GM can’t weasel a few more million bucks out of the owner to keep a player who has been a fixture in the team’s lineup for the last two years?

It’s one thing if Duquette says, “We wish Mark all the best but we’re going to go in a different direction at first base.”

Instead, he has constantly said, “We like the player, but not at that price.”

And yesterday, on the eve of letting Reynolds walk, Duquette again referenced the team’s budget and talked about “financial challenges”.

Something’s not adding up here.

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Report: Report on Josh Hamilton coming to Baltimore is silly…

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Report: Report on Josh Hamilton coming to Baltimore is silly…

Posted on 08 November 2012 by Drew Forrester

The Orioles are not interested in Josh Hamilton.

“But Drew, wait, I saw a bunch of stories on the internet that say they are…”

No, you didn’t.

What you saw was ONE story, from ONE person, that a bunch of people then picked up instead of thinking about it on their own for three seconds.

The Orioles, contrary to any report, aren’t going to try and sign Josh Hamilton.

How do I know this?

Because I’ve been following the team for the last 15 years.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see them sign Hamilton.  They are always in need of better players and, with all due respect to Nate McLouth and Nolan Reimold (you remember him, he’s the guy who never plays because he’s hurt), Hamilton would be a mega-upgrade in left over those two.

I’m not writing this to campaign for or against Hamilton, although, admittedly, I’d take him on this team in a heartbeat.

I’m writing this to urge you to not get your hopes up.  They’re not signing Josh Hamilton.  He will cost someone roughly $120 to $150 million.  And remember, that’s guaranteed money.  You can’t be fired.  You get your money no matter if you hit .321 or .221.  Peter Angelos is not going to authorize an expenditure of that kind of money while he is still greatly unsure of how the MASN TV ruling is going to conclude.  Accordingly, with most experts following the story saying Angelos is going to lose the fight with the Nationals, the Orioles are unfortunately going to be the child-caught-in-the-middle-of-the-family-fight.  Angelos won’t make any kind of deal that means he has to guarantee a substantial sum of money (which, $150 million is) without knowing the conclusion or direction of the battle between the Nationals and MASN.

And if the Nationals win the fight and get their rights fee upped from $35 million to somewhere closer to $80 or $100 million a year, Angelos and MASN will, initially, have to fork over that money all by themselves.  That means there’s less money to go around elsewhere.  Of course, if the Nationals do get a substantial rights fee, you and I and anyone else with cable TV will ultimately bear the brunt of the increase because our cable bill will be kicked up by 50 cents a month to offset the new payment to Washington’s baseball team.  But in the meantime, with the whole MASN/Nats/Orioles fiasco so fuster-clucked, there’s just no way Peter Angelos can divert himself from that potential courtroom brawl to authorize $150 million for Josh Hamilton.

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Report: Orioles intend to extend Showalter beyond 2013

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Report: Orioles intend to extend Showalter beyond 2013

Posted on 07 November 2012 by Luke Jones

In what doesn’t exactly qualify as news by any stretch, the Orioles intend to negotiate a contract extension with manager Buck Showalter this offseason.

A report from CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman Tuesday night said owner Peter Angelos has informed individuals of his plans to extend Showalter, but no timetable appears to be in place for finalizing a new contract. The Baltimore manager recently underwent knee surgery and is recovering at his home in Texas. Showalter’s contract expires after the 2013 season, but it was elementary that the Orioles would want to keep the 56-year-old in Baltimore after he guided the club to a 93-69 record and its first postseason appearance in 15 years.

Whenever asked about the possibility of receiving an extension, Showalter has repeatedly downplayed any urgency by reminding media he was already under contract for the 2013 season. Arriving in Baltimore with a reputation of being a control freak who wore out his welcome quickly in previous stops, Showalter has drawn affection from players and has enjoyed his time with the Orioles.

Showalter has developed a good working relationship with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette despite the latter being hired more than a year after the manager took the gig in Baltimore. The two worked in tandem to construct a roster that won the inaugural American League Wild Card Game before taking the New York Yankees the full five games in the AL Division Series.

“If [he's] interested in staying, nobody’s more interested in keeping him than I am,” Angelos said in the Orioles clubhouse following the Game 5 ALDS loss at Yankee Stadium. “And, certainly, I speak for everyone in the organization. They had Buck as the manager, Dan Duquette as the GM and you certainly couldn’t ask for a better, better combination.”

Any outcome other than a new contract for Showalter will be met with negative reaction, so the Orioles would be better served to get something done sooner rather than later in the offseason. After completing their first winning season in 15 years, the Orioles can finally sell Baltimore as a viable destination for free agents and Showalter would be a prime selling point in that process.

It won’t prompt free agents to offer their services at a discounted price, but a long-term assurance of Showalter being in Baltimore could go a long way in the Orioles being able to sign premium talent at fair-market prices as opposed to the long-held perception of needing to vastly overpay notable free agents.

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Dear Mr. Angelos:

Posted on 26 October 2012 by Max Buchdahl

Dear Mr. Angelos:
First of all, this is not hate mail. I am simply writing to you as a concerned Orioles fan. It is not my intention to debase you or your actions in any way by writing this letter. I wish only to bring to your attention something that has affected my life greatly.

My father’s name is Ezra Buchdahl. He was born on November 10, 1965, and is currently 46 years old. He has attended thousands of Orioles games throughout the years. He sat rows behind Wild Bill Hagy in the heyday of “Orioles Magic.” He watched as Tippy Martinez picked off three runners in the same inning.  He was at Memorial Stadium for Game 1 of the 1983 World Series just months later. He cried from the upper deck while watching the final innings played in that same stadium. He was at Oriole Park at Camden Yards to watch Cal Ripken, Jr., tie and the next day break, Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak. In his lifetime, my dad has seen the Orioles win 8 American League East titles, 6 American League pennants, and 3 World Series championships. He has witnessed 3 different Orioles win the AL MVP Award. He has seen 4 Orioles win the AL Cy Young Award and 4 different Rookie of the Year Award winners. He has also seen 10 different Gold Glove winners, many of whom did so multiple times. Undoubtedly, my dad has seen some of the greatest moments in the history of this ball club.

My name is Max Buchdahl. I was born on March 20, 1996, and I am currently 16 years old. My family raised me to be the die-hard Orioles fan that I currently am. Over these past 16 years, I have attended hundreds of Orioles games, both at home and on the road. My dad took me to my first game when I was just three months old. At age five, I could name every player on the team and their number. I could name the numbers of past players, as well as their positions. I cried in my living room as my early childhood hero, Cal Ripken Jr., retired from the game he loved. I watched as young players like Luis Matos, Larry Bigbie, David Newhan, and Sidney Ponson failed to stay healthy and consistent.

I threw my hands in the air when I heard we had signed veterans such as Sammy Sosa and Javy Lopez, only to see them throw away the final years of their careers in the Charm City. My dad let me stay up past my bed-time to watch my other hero, Rafael Palmeiro, record his 3,000th hit. Just weeks later, I listened to the radio as he failed a drug test. I scratched my head as Miguel Tejada refused to run to first on a ground ball. My dad told me to never even think about doing that. I cried while watching my favorite group of 25 men lose to the Texas Rangers, 30-3. I have cheered while watching my team draw within two games of the AL East division lead at the All-Star break, only to fall apart during the second half of the season. I have been forced to endure endless chants of “Let’s Go Red Sox” in OUR ballpark because people don’t want to watch a losing team. The last time the Orioles had a winning season, I was only a year and a half old. As far as I am concerned, I have given way too much for this team considering what I’ve received in return; heartbreak, sorrow, and shame.

My concern, however, is far more universal. I often wear Orioles gear to school. Words cannot describe what I feel when my friends say, “Oh, the Orioles suck. They’re a waste of space. Go Yankees!” I would much rather be an Orioles fan than stoop to the level of the millions of bandwagon Yankees fans. But with a ballpark as beautiful as Camden Yards, and in a city where we’ve seen “Orioles Magic” sweep through like wildfire, this team should be a source of pride, not shame. Baltimore natives should feel proud of their hometown team, not forced to follow another.
After all that I have said, you may be wondering what I am really getting at. Before we get a competitive team back on the field, the city of Baltimore deserves an answer for the past 14 years. An explanation for why we have had to go through these years of heartbreak. Don’t worry, I am not saying that you have all of these sacred answers. But, as the owner of the team, I am interested to hear your insight into the situation. Why, for the past 14 years, have we not experienced October baseball? And more importantly, what can we do to turn things around? What is happening within the organization right now that will provide us with a winning baseball team?
Thank you for your time, patience, and understanding while reading this letter. I would like to stress again that I mean no harm or insult by writing this, all I want is an answer. All I want is a winning baseball team.
Thank you again,
Max Buchdahl

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The time has come for Peter Angelos to re-sign Buck Showalter (like, sometime today…)

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The time has come for Peter Angelos to re-sign Buck Showalter (like, sometime today…)

Posted on 06 October 2012 by Drew Forrester

The most special part of Friday night’s thumping of the Rangers wasn’t Joe Saunders or J.J. Hardy or even those insurance RBI’s from McLouth and Machado.

Those were acts in the play.  They were important parts of the story, but they weren’t the most “special” thing I saw.

The best part – “special” in its full definition – of Friday night in Arlington?  The look on Buck Showalter’s face as he stepped out to the field while the celebration started near the pitcher’s mound.  One word came to mind as I watched him:  Pride.  He looked like a dad who just watched his 16-year old son return an interception for a touchdown in the last minute of the homecoming game to seal the win.

So…maybe it’s too soon for someone in the media to start talking and writing about this, but I’ll do it.

It’s time for Peter Angelos to pay Buck Showalter.

Buck’s original deal ends after the 2013 season, but I don’t think any of us need to be convinced he’s worth keeping around.

True, it’s not my checkbook, but even stingy old Pete has to know a good thing when he’s stumbled upon it.

Pay Buck Showalter.

Whatever he wants.

Sometimes…what you think you want, you’re not prepared to deal with when you actually get it.

The Orioles franchise supposedly wants to win.  People in the trenches at The Warehouse have tried to quietly convince anyone who would listen that “Peter really wants to win”.  Angelos himself, when he lets Channel 13 interview him once every five years, always talks about his desire for the team to be successful.

Well, well, well…look what happened.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

And now it’s time to sit down with the manager and fork over a big plate of money.

I remember what happened the last time the Orioles went to the playoffs with a manager who knew what he was doing.  The manager was canned in the off-season and we endured 14 years without a post-season baseball game in Baltimore.

That better not happen this time around.

Back up the Brinks truck in Buck’s driveway and pay the man the money he’s worth.

 

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Filling Oriole Park Has Nothing To Do With Fans

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Filling Oriole Park Has Nothing To Do With Fans

Posted on 29 August 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

This is a great time to be an Orioles fan. I wrote a couple of weeks ago that the absence of expectations coupled with the success of this team has created a perfect storm of circumstance that’ll make this (regardless of the way that it ends) likely the most exciting season of Orioles baseball since 1989 at least. And given that it took 14 years of futility to sap this fan base of its enthusiasm and optimism we can only hope that another season like this will never happen again.

That said, the excitement that is Orioles baseball 2012 hasn’t seemed to get the turnstiles at the stadium moving, at least not to the degree that many would have expected so far. That’s led to a spirited debate about what can and should be done to get back the fans as well as a number of divergent theories about what’s keeping them away now despite the successes of the team to date.

 

So, for what it’s worth…here’s mine:

 

The first and easiest reason why fans aren’t flocking to the ballpark right now is because they can.

 

On any given night, it’s easy to head to the ballpark without planning or preparation, pick up tickets for any seat in the house and enjoy the show. Therefore, there’s simply no urgency about having to do it today. For as long as that remains the case, fans will take to the ballpark whenever they’re good and ready and so far they just haven’t been ready.

 

While many expected that winning would bring back the fans, expecting it to happen overnight was just wrong. It’s my best guess that if the excitement of this season is going to get more folks out to the park, the real impact won’t be felt until next year with the purchase of new season tickets. My other best guess, and the tougher pill for fans to swallow is that this won’t happen by the team appeasing or satisfying the “regular fans”. As ticket selling priorities go, “regular fans” are and will remain at the bottom of the pecking order. If the Orioles are able to take care of the top end of that pecking order, the regular fans will simply fall back into line because they’ll have little choice.

 

Think for a second about why or how Oriole Park ever sold out regularly in the first place. Think about why or how any Major League ballpark sells out regularly. It starts with a firm base of season tickets sold. Since this season began with no expectation of success or of ticket scarcity, it stands to reason that there wasn’t a whole lot of urgency for anyone to buy or renew their season tickets. No reason, that is, except to avoid the game day surcharge.

 

Without getting off on too much of a tangent here, this is also why the surcharge is viewed by the team, as a necessary evil. We’ve already established that on any given night a fan can show up on a whim and buy pretty much any seat in the house. Therefore why would fans ever buy any tickets in advance, much less commit to 13, 26, 81 or some other fixed number of games in a season ticket package when they can simply show up and buy tickets whenever they want?

 

Thursday September 13th against the Rays looks to me like a nice day to take in a ballgame. But if I buy those tickets today, and my wife winds up sick, or it rains on September 13th, I’m stuck with them. If Wei-Yin Chen is pitching against David Price on the 12th, I might rather go to that game instead. If I can wait until the day of the game to decide, there’s no reason to buy in advance except to avoid the surcharge, there are however plenty of good reasons not to buy in advance.

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Will Angelos, Buck and DD man-up as trade deadline approaches? (They damn well better…)

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Will Angelos, Buck and DD man-up as trade deadline approaches? (They damn well better…)

Posted on 08 July 2012 by Drew Forrester

News flash:  The Yankees are winning the AL East.  That’s a done deal.  But the rest of the division?  Not as easy to figure out.  The Red Sox can’t string together three wins in a row, let alone get themselves back in the AL East race.  Toronto’s pitching staff is auditioning for a role in an upcoming M*A*S*H* movie.  Tampa Bay seems to be in one of those ruts where they just don’t have what it takes.

In other words —  it’s July 8th and the Orioles are firmly alive and well in the American League East.  They’re so alive, in fact, that it’s not out of the question that our beloved Birds might be legitimate wild card contenders come Labor Day.

I know, that’s as rare as summer temps in the 100′s in Baltimore.  Oh, wait…

Anyway, it’s not a joking matter when the All Star Game approaches and the Orioles aren’t already cooked for the summer.

The next few weeks are going to be very interesting for the Orioles, for they’re about to enter unchartered territory.  Since 1997, this team has never headed to the trading deadline with a legitimate chance to be a player in the post-season race.  Sure, they got off to a great start in 2005 and were just 2.5 games back at the All-Star Game, but that edition of the Orioles was taking on water by mid-June and lumbered into the All-Star break with a collapse all but guaranteed.

This Orioles team, while also blemished with plenty of pot holes, looks much different to me than the Lee Mazzilli-managed squad of ’05.  This team, for what it’s worth, looks like they actually want to win.  The ’05 team was winning by accident.  This team, even with no real left-fielder, no regular 3rd baseman, a bunch of guys at first base who are there only because they can’t play anywhere else, and a starting rotation in tatters…well…that sure sounds like a last place team — not a team on the verge of competing for a wild card spot in the American League.  But that’s your 2012 Orioles.  Full of question marks?  Absolutely.  In the race?  You bet.

So…now what?

That’s the question.

Now what?

Fourteen straight years of losing in Baltimore.

Fourteen.

Bill Clinton was the President the last time we saw September baseball that mattered.

Remember him?

Yep, it’s been (such) a long time, as the band “Boston” once said.

The next three weeks will be a great litmus test for the Orioles and their commitment – if it exists – to winning.  Will they try and pry Zack Greinke from Milwaukee and bolster a pitching staff that sorely needs a high quality arm?  What about Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster in Chicago?  Would the Orioles give up whatever is necessary to get one of those two?  How about another bat, preferably one that works when runners are on the bases?

Are the Orioles prepared to live life like the Yankees and Red Sox have lived it for the last decade or so?  Are they ready to trade away a high-level prospect or two and gamble that such a move helps push them over the top and give their fans playoff baseball for the first time in 15 years?  The Yankees and Red Sox are always nibbling at the deadline…mainly because they’re always in the hunt every July.  But those two franchises rarely let a chance to improve get away without trying to get better.  Lance Berkman didn’t exactly light it up for the Yanks a few years back, but it was a good thought at the time.  Sometimes those moves work, sometimes they don’t.

The Orioles are not a gambling franchise.  The owner certainly feels much more comfortable holding on to what he has rather than raising the ante and making the game more interesting.  And we all know, in Baltimore at least, money is always the final question when any type of move is considered.

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Big Trade Looming?

Posted on 07 July 2012 by Erich Hawbaker

The All-Star break is upon us. And, if the season ended today, the Orioles would be headed to the playoffs. Thursday’s disaster with the Angels notwithstanding, the Orioles have reached halftime without completely faceplanting as most of us expected they would. The bullpen has been the most pleasant surprise, with an ERA still close to the best in baseball. The offense (long balls in particular) has also been a big reason for the success, with Adam Jones on pace for 40 homeruns and several others flirting with 30.

However, just like last year, the most glaring weakness has been the defense. Unfortunately, the O’s also lead the league in errors, which has cost them at least three or four winnable games already this season. The other coin flip has been the starting pitching, which lately seems to always be either stellar or awful on any given night. Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen are aces more often than not, but the other three rotation spots have been consistently shaky with occasional flashes of brilliance.

The Orioles have already made a splash in the trade market this year by acquiring DH Jim Thome from the struggling Phillies for a pair of minor leaguers. For awhile now, I’d been wondering if they were really serious about being buyers this year like Dan Duquette said, and if, to that end, they would be looking to pick up another legitimate starting pitcher. Today when I checked my fantasy team (the Mercersburg Rebels, currently in 1st place), the news feed told me that the Orioles are trying to make a trade with the Brewers for RHP Zack Greinke. It also mentioned that the O’s have two highly-touted prospects in Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado that might be part of such a deal.

For the last few years, I’ve always made it a point to have Greinke on my fantasy team. He routinely goes deep into games, puts up lots of strikeouts, and has a very good ERA and WHIP. He won the 2009 AL Cy Young with the Royals, no easy feat when one considers that they’ve been about as bad as the Orioles over the last decade. This year, his record is 9-2, while his team is currently under .500 by five games.

So, all indications are that he would be an excellent pickup if the Orioles can pull this off. However, I would not part with Bundy or Machado to make it happen. Since Milwaukee lost Prince Fielder, they’re in need of a firstbaseman. Perhaps Mark Reynolds could be part of this trade? True, he’s not crushing the ball like he was last year, but Miller Park is definitely hitter-friendly. And now that the Orioles have Chris Davis, there isn’t a tremendous need for Reynolds here anymore. It would also make a big dent in that error rate.

Another thing to consider here is that the era of Brian Roberts is, regrettably, over. He’s given us some tremendous years, but unfortunately the Orioles simply cannot depend on him as an everyday player anymore. Therefore, letting go of Manny Machado would be unwise, because he will be coming of age right about the time when Roberts is officially finished. I don’t think I even need to elaborate on why trading Dylan Bundy would be a bad move, unless of course the Brewers are offering significantly more than just Greinke.

I have to admit, it’s a VERY nice thought that the Orioles’ rotation could eventually consist of Hammel, Chen, Greinke, Britton, and whoever gets their act together. That, coupled with Jones, Wieters, Davis, Markakis, Hardy, and our current bullpen would almost have to be a serious contender.

However, I must reiterate that even if this becomes reality, we are not yet free of Peter The Terrible, and I still remain unconvinced that the Orioles have truly turned the corner as long as he remains in the warehouse.

What do you think? Should the Orioles trade for Greinke? Is there someone else out there you’d like to see them pursue? Comments are always welcome.

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