Tag Archive | "playoffs"

NM swing 6-5-07

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Orioles Riding the Wave

Posted on 24 September 2012 by Tom Federline

Besides an Opening Day, when was the last time you were at Camden Yards and watched a full “wave” circle the bowl without a break in it? Been to the Yard lately? Get in on the wave! These Birds just don’t give up. It’s coming to the end of September -  AND THEY ARE STILL IN IT! I know you all are with me – how many times have you been shaking your head saying, “They did it again.” Defense, timely hitting, pitching and that bullpen – “The Orange Curtain.” The wave has gained momentum in Baltimore and it is picking up speed. It only has been 15 years……….When you look at your kids, 15 years seems like yesterday, when you think of Orioles in the playoffs, it seems as if it were in another millennium. Wait a minute, it was.

I was at the game when CC (I should be starring in a Biggest Loser episode) Sabathia, took out one of the main cogs in the wheel. When Markakis went down, I figured “and so do the Birds.” Well surprise, surprise, surprise – (Come on what TV show is that from?) I had made a remark, if Markakis, Jones or Weiters goes down, the season is more than likely over. Well one of them did and it ain’t over. They have pulled together and refuse to lose. Serious passion displayed in the dugout that night when Nick came back up with hand in temporary cast and met with Buck-Buck. Binos were around neck and ready. My first thought – “not good”, second thought – not that I have been know to curse or anything – CC Sabathia ears had to be on fire. It is tough experiencing this run without the best right fielder in baseball and this swing:

 

Can’t even imagine how tough it is on him.

Hold the phone – This is just seriously down and out cool – Birds just won the first game of the doubleheader at the Yards vs. the Blow Jays, 4-1. JJ mows down the opposition………….again. “Put another one in the WIN column” – thank you Joe Angel. There was an eruption from my television set – I thought maybe it was the announcement that Gary Thorne would not be doing the second game either – but actually the Yard had filled up on a late Monday afternoon and was cheering their surging team to victory. Get to the Yard, do not pass go, do not collect $200, take the get out of jail for free card (for safety reasons) and Get to the Yard.

The 16 in-a-row extra inning win streak, is second to the 1949 Cleveland Indians (17), who holds the record. That is quite a remarkable accomplishment. It is a major part of what defines the team. Adam Jones, the entire bullpen and Taylor Teagarden. Teagarden has 7 hits in 50 at-bats and it seems every one of them has been a game changer and/or knocked in a run. Taylor Teagarden – what a name - stay with me here -  Who now claims the second most colorful name in Orioles History?

Music to my ears. Friday night – Peter Gabriel. Sunday afternoon – an exuberant “O” during the national anthem at ……FedEx Field Skins game (I was a guest). And the topper late Saturday afternoon, 12th inning, O’s 9 Red Sux 6 and the 500+ Oriole faithful drowning out the Red Sux fans with “Let’s Go O’s” at Fenway Park! I put the game on through the stereo and cranked it up. I really don’t know what was better – the chant or the Red Sux fans reaction?

Get on your boogie, surf, wake board or body surf. Just whatever you do, catch this O’s Wave and hang on. The wave may die out, but trust me it is better to catch the wave, than watching a good one go by. Buckle up –  It’s going to be quite a week. “Don’t Give Up” O’s - (Peter Gabriel). You have fans! Yes, they are coming out of the woodwork, but who cares, they are coming. Orange is a Fall color. It’s just been awhile since we have really appreciated it.

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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Lucky Buck and the Madd Scientist

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Lucky Buck and the Madd Scientist

Posted on 12 September 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Despite all of the advances made in the last couple of decades related to baseball statistics and their implementation into game philosophy, despite our ability to explain, predict and define the successes and failures that we see on a night by night basis in Major League Baseball the two most important aspects of baseball success remain impossible to predict or to quantify. Above and beyond all else, success in baseball is and always will be the result of luck and timing.

As Crash Davis taught us all in “Bull Durham” so many years ago, the difference between a .250 and .300 hitter in baseball is just one hit per week; “A Gork, you get a ground ball, you get a ground ball with eyes. You get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week and you’re in Yankee Stadium”. With one hit per week being the difference between good and great, the timing of that hit and the circumstances surrounding it become increasingly important.

 

Of course Seneca, a Roman philosopher who never saw a game of baseball taught is that “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity”. By stacking a lineup full of players with quantifiable and predictable skills you can compel luck and over the course of 162 Major League games you can expect that by stacking the deck in your favor with talent you can also expect that luck to take hold at enough of the right times to be successful.

 

Still, every once in a while a team like the 2012 Orioles comes along and just throws a wrench into everything that we thought we “knew” about baseball. To call the Orioles lucky might be an understatement. Sure, there’s a heart and an intensity to the team that seems to make them successful, but whether that’s the precursor to their success or a byproduct of it is at the least debatable.

 

The Pythagorean crowd has already written off this team’s success as lucky and therefore impossible to continue. Maybe they’re right. Actually they’re probably right, but you could pick any other team in baseball that you want and deem them unlikely to win the World Series (or even to get there) and you’d probably be right.

 

Even the fans that have grown tired of hearing about the luck of the 2012 Orioles are at a true loss to explain their success. While suggesting that the Orioles success this year has simply been lucky is a disservice to those who have performed so well in making it so, explaining it as the byproduct of a manager “hitting all the right switches” is equally insulting. So why have Orioles fans grown so disdainful of anyone looking to explain away their success as lucky, yet so accepting of the notion that it’s Buck Showalter’s uncanny ability to manage the game as the driving force behind the Orioles success?

 

Of all of the major sports in America, baseball may be the one in which the impact of the manager is most minimal. And the brand of baseball typically played in the AL East only serves to further diminish the impact of the manager. Writing the lineup cards and choosing the pitchers is substantially more impactful than simply shuffling a deck of cards or rolling dice, but once those cards are stacked or those dice cast the manager’s impact is over and it’s up to the turns and bounces of the principals to determine the outcomes.

 

As the Orioles battle the Rays in an AL East showdown pitting a once improbable and now perennial contender against an unlikely contender of historical proportions it is and will be sold as a chess match of baseball’s grand masters. Buck Showalter and Joe Maddon seem to get the lion’s shares of the credit for their teams’ successes because otherwise we simply struggle to explain those successes. But do they deserve the credit they get? And at what point does that credit to the manager begin to wear on those actually doing the winning?

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Reshuffling The Orioles Deck

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Reshuffling The Orioles Deck

Posted on 11 September 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

When the Orioles and Yankees got together for their 4-game set over the weekend the biggest winner of all might have been the Tampa Bay Rays. After biding their time without Evan Longoria and suffering through their typical case of mid-season offensive anemia the Rays still find themselves in the thick of the AL East race, close to full strength if David Price is ready to return this week as speculated, and ready now to pounce on the Yankees and Orioles who both suffered significant (injury) losses over the weekend while splitting a 4-game series. Meanwhile the Rays took 2 of 3 from the Rangers and prepare to descend on Camden Yards for a 3-game set beginning on Tuesday.

Whatever hopes the Orioles had for the playoffs took a big step backward with the loss of their most credible and consistent hitter and improbable table setter in Nick Markakis. How the Orioles respond now is anyone’s guess, but maybe the loss of Markakis isn’t quite as devastating as it would appear on the surface. While the O’s are much (much, much) better with Markakis than without, the improbable season of Chris Davis continues (and now in a much bigger way it would seem) in Markakis’ stead. Also the Orioles have been unable, since promoting Manny Machado to the big league club, to find an adequate way to take advantage of Wilson Betemit’s abilities against right handed pitching due to his lack of ability in the field and the compelling desire to keep Chris Davis in the lineup.

 

The stacking of the lineup has been the subject of a lot of debate amongst Orioles fans all season, and as clearly the team needs a new answer in the lead-off spot; here’s how I’d stack things going forward:

 

VS. Left Handers

1. SS – JJ Hardy (R) 285/351/453

2. LF – Nate McLouth (L) 210/355/379

3. CF – Adam Jones (R) 296/329/481

4. C  – Matt Wieters (R) 313/388/487

5. 1B – Mark Reynolds (R) 237/368/412

6. DH – Chris Davis (L) 256/287/433

7. 3B – Manny Machado (R) 250/280/542

8. 2B – Robert Andino (R) 210/291/305

9. RF – Lew Ford (R) 365/324/588

 

 

VS. Right Handers

1. LF – Nate McLouth (L) 259/337/444

2. 1B – Mark Reynolds (R) 232/346/487

3. DH – Wilson Betemit (L) 304/360/506

4. CF – Adam Jones (R) 285/336/525

5. RF – Chris Davis (L) 257/316/466

6. 3B – Manny Machado (R) 291/296/494

7. C  – Matt Wieters (L) 213/294/391

8. SS – JJ Hardy (R) 217/256/370

9. 2B – Robert Andino (R) 221/285/320

 

 

 

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Buck Buck

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Oriole Surprise

Posted on 03 September 2012 by Tom Federline

The Orioles just keep winning. How? Come on all you true Oriole fans, how many times have you asked yourself that question this year? And your answers? Does this sound familiar – “let’s see, last night  – it was the starting pitching, it was the relief pitching, just who was pitching………the offense must have stepped up, the defense finally came around, so-and-so was hot, etc. etc.” Then you say – who cares, put another one in the WIN column!  As of September 2nd, they are not going away. Yes, O’s fans it is September and the Baltimore Orioles are in a pennant/wild card race.

Back on July 18th, I wrote – The Orioles are Back to Normal……… and at that time they were. This isn’t normal. This is FUN! Buck-Buck is tough, he goes with his gut, he sticks with his players, he is running the team – Showalter style. Dan Duquette is making some fortuitous acquisitions. The organization is feeding off the Andy McPhail farm teams. And the Angelos family appears to have bought into the current approach. Players are going down, players are picking it up, guys you have never heard of before are contributing. They went 18 – 9 in August. The most wins in a single month since September 2004.

This was the best August in 15 years,  that didn’t involve the acquisition of a new manager, i.e. Buck-Buck 2 years ago. There was even a time during the middle of the month, where it looked like the umpires were attempting a little “fix” of their own. The O’s held it together and I believe it was at that point, they became a “team”. It was the Boston series and umpire Laz Diaz. Then the series immediately following in Detroit with umpire Tim Timmons. Both of those umpires should be suspended and/or fined – “Hold them accountable.” Buck-Buck usually remains pretty even keel. Actually, to even keel for my taste (I’m old school – Earl Weaver). But finally, enough was enough and Buck lost it in Detroit.

In Boston – Laz Diaz. A blown “out” call at first involving Adam Jones. It was potentially a turning point in the game and cost the O’s a run.. He clearly missed the call. The next night Jones gets intentionally hit in the back by Clay “Classless” Bucholz in retaliation for Jones plowing the catcher the night before. No warning from Diaz (he’s behind the plate now). Jim Palmer comments  - “Come on Laz………..you blew calls last night……….now this.” In Detroit – Tim Timmons (home plate). Another blown “out” call on Markakis in the first inning when he was safe at home. Then Timmons again, over turned a call later in the game at first base, with Reynolds making another nice saving grab. The first base ump called Detroit player out, Detroit complained, numbnut Timmons comes out and reversed it, ultimately making the wrong call. Buck Showalter wins Orioles Emmy for “Best Earl Weaver Impression – 2012.” Tough week. Orioles prevailed.

The nucleus of the team has remained intact: Markakis (did lose him in June), Jones, Weiters, Hardy, Chen, Johnson and believe it or not Reynolds. Thank you Mark Reynolds for beating the Spankmees this wet Labor Day weekend. The pitching, left field, 3B, 2B has been a revolving door and you have to credit Buck-Buck, Duquette and the numerous replacements that have stepped up. How about that Machado call up? With that surprising addition, they may have secured the corners for the run. It’s hard to keep up with the turnover rate. It’s kind of like Buck is saying – “With or Without You” – (U2), we are on a mission. Buck quote – “This is as good a club I’ve ever had about staying in the moment.” Well O’s – how about, Seize the Moment?

The Orioles are winning. They are a team. I like the “Outfielder Bump” after a win. I like Palmers nickname for the bullpen – “The Orange Curtain”. I like the self-imposed starting rotation competition. I like, that they do not give up. How about that bullpen? The Strop/Johnson combo is holding up. How about the best defense in the majors since the All-star break?  ”Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs. You kidding me? Playoffs?” Yeah, the Birds are perched ready for a run. Fifteen years………..it’s about time. It’s also going to be a long September. And I’m glad! Where did the summer go? Go O’s! O-R-I-O-L-E-S magic.

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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It’s been 41 years…

Posted on 01 September 2012 by Rick Moore

What were you doing on September 1, 1971, 41 years ago, if you were even on this Earth? I was starting 4th grade. Richard Nixon was president, there was no Apple or Microsoft, no cell phones. There was no cable TV, no internet, the Inner Harbor was a dump.

 Not since 1971, when Johnny Unitas led the Colts to victory in Super Bowl V and Brooks, Frank, Boog, Jim, Elrod and the gang lost to Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and the Pirates in the World Series has Charm City had its two major league teams to make the postseason.

But after 41 years, we are once again on the brink here in Baltimore of both the Orioles and its Baltimore NFL team making the playoffs in the same year for the first time since 1971. Think about that…

Already, we are virtually assured of the first winning seasons in the same year for Baltimore’s baseball and football teams since…are you ready?1977.  That year, the O’s finished 2nd with 97 wins, but missed the playoffs as the wild card system had not begun. Bert Jones, Lydell Mitchell and the Colts had that heartbreaking sudden death loss at Memorial Stadium to Kenny Stabler, Dave Casper and the Raiders in the first round of the AFC playofffs.

As of today, the surprising and resilient Orioles sit 3 games behind the Yankees and would have one of the wild card slots if the season ended today. It seems that every move Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette have made has come up roses. Their starting pitching has come on strong. The bullpen is the best in baseball. They moved Mark Reynolds from 3rd, where he was a disaster, to 1st base, where he has played at a Gold Glove caliber. They even insert a 20 year old kid named Manny at 3rd base, and he plays like a seasoned veteran.

The Ravens won one playoff game in early 2012, and missed by a quarter second of reaching the Super Bowl.  Under John Harbaugh’s reign, the Ravens are the only NFL team to win a playoff game the past 4 seasons.

It’s been 41 LONG years since we have had it so good. Enjoy it, savor it, because you never know when we might be in this position again. Who would have thought after the Orioles were eliminated in the World Series in October 1971 that it would be at least 41 years until we had two playoff teams in the same year? Growing up I thought it was just par for the course for both the Orioles and the Colts to be in the playoff hunt each year (not to mention the Bullets!)   Who could have imagined then the demise and relocation of the Colts, to be followed 15 years later by 14 straight losing seasons by the Orioles?

This year’s Orioles has a lot of grit, heart, emerging superstars and talented roll players, lots of power, excellent defense up the middle, and has not lost a game yet it has led after 7 innings. I’m betting they grab one of the two wild card spots and reach the postseason for the first time in 15 years.

41 years…the time has come.

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Excitement Absent Expectations Equals Euph-Orioles

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Excitement Absent Expectations Equals Euph-Orioles

Posted on 13 August 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Stop for a second and think about the most enjoyable Orioles seasons in your lifetime. For most it won’t take very long. For me, born in 1973 there have been 7; and no matter what happens from here until the home stretch, this may rank as the best. It’s unlikely to be the most successful from an achievement standpoint, although you never know, but when the dust finally settles on this one, it’s likely to be my favorite.

Last week as the Ravens and Orioles were competing for eyeballs on Thursday night I got a taste of just how sweet this baseball season has been, and some perspective too.

 

When the Orioles announced that budding legend Manny Machado, the next great hope for Baltimore baseball, was set to make his debut, some of the more cynical souls among us immediately began wondering whether it was a coup. Some were of the mind that it was a concerted marketing effort by the city’s now second favorite team, playing an actual and meaningful game, to usurp or upstage the city’s newer, favorite team as they staged what was for all intents and purposes a glorified practice. (Practice?!?!?! Practice?!?!?!?!? We’re talking about practice?!?!?!?)

 

Indeed we were taking about practice, or the necessary evil that is pre-season football as a chance to whet our football appetites and as a harbinger to the excitement that is the NFL regular season.

 

That experience however was short lived at best as Ravens fans found themselves quickly up in arms over the team’s failure to shine in the brief tease that was the starters portion of the first quarter. Meanwhile the baseball team playing to a crowd of 21,000 or so fans found themselves buried early against the team with the worst record in the American League behind their best pitcher putting in his worst performance of the season…and the town was melting down over the football team.

 

It’s easy to mistake what the Orioles are compelling from the fans as indifference but it isn’t. Most fans are invested and excited and waiting to see what happens next; but they’re also surprised and cautious in their optimism as no one can no for sure what’s coming next.

 

For as tired as folks are of hearing “if I had told you in April that the Orioles would be in this position…” they’re aware of it too. They’re aware that the Orioles weren’t supposed to be this good, and might not be this good. They’re aware that the bottom can drop out of this thing at any moment and have prepared themselves in kind. And if that bottom does indeed fall out, it’ll be okay. Not at first, but eventually it will be okay. That is what we prepared ourselves for in the first place. And if the bottom never does drop out it’ll be euphoric. If this season ends with a playoff appearance or even a deep run of success therein we’ll take it, but we won’t or can’t expect it. It’s all house money.

 

If the team though, does manage to perform in October, and/or does make a splash in the off-season that gets fans to buy in, that wide-eyed optimism will be gone. It’ll be replaced by expectations and bona fide hopes. The “house money” aspect of Orioles baseball will be gone and the “all or nothing” mentality that has defined the last few football seasons will take full hold.

 

From here, 14 seasons removed from credibility and expectation, that sounds like fun, as it does with the beginning of each new football season currently. As we find ourselves in the midst of it however, it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Our emotional investment becomes so tied to what happens at the end of the season that it spoils our enjoyment of the season as a whole. For now Orioles fans have no such problems.

 

That will change slightly as the season winds down and as the team’s fate is decided one way or another, but not enough to sap what this season has been and what it has meant to so many. It has, no matter what happens from here, been a season to remember. But as soon as it ends, no matter how it ends, everything will change. Fans will demand that the team do what’s necessary over the off-season to take the next step forward; they’ll begin next season with expectations that the team can somehow duplicate or improve on this year’s performance. They’re lofty and worthy goals but goals that will change our perspective.

 

Enjoy this baseball season for what it’s worth, wherever it ultimately takes us because it’ll be a long time before you’ll allow a team to surprise and excite you like this one. It may not be all downhill from here, we can certainly hope not, but this feeling, the one we’re getting courtesy of this team, this year, has a quick shelf life and one that’ll be over once the season has ended (if not before).

 

It’s been 23 years of ups and down since 1989 and the last time Orioles fans were asking “why not?” and a lot of great fans have come and gone since then. Who knows if any of us will be here to see the next one? So enjoy this one while you have it Baltimore. These are the seasons where die-hards are born.

 

 

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Whats Next for the Os?

Posted on 19 July 2012 by scottzolotorow

After the Orioles take two of four games from the Twins they look ahead to another 4 game series on the road against the Cleveland Indians. The Indians and the Orioles have very similar records and teams in general. Both clubs are in the bottom 5 in the American League in ERA and the bottom half in runs scored and batting average. These four games will see a big test again from the very uncertain starting rotation that the Orioles are working with now. Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, and Zach Britton are the scheduled starters for the next three games. And i would expect Tommy Hunter would be the 4th but you never know who Buck wants out there. The first three guys have combined for only 5 starts so far this season, with the team only winning 2 of those 5 starts. The Orioles were outscored 32-17 by Cleveland in a four game series at the end of June. The only win was the second game of the series where the O’s won a 9-8 nail-biter.

The Orioles need to have a good series in Cleveland because after this series the Orioles will play 9 of the following 12 games against the Yankees and Tampa Bay. The following month of August doesn’t get any prettier. There are 3 games at Texas and 4 games against the White Sox to come in August, as well the Yankees, Detroit, and Boston all making appearances. With the two team wildcards taking place this season, it is now or never for the Orioles to prove that this is a team that has playoff potential. I am saying that this 4 game series against an Indians team that can be more pesky than most teams would expect, is a crucial series. Win 3 of 4 and the team can bring the momentum home to face Tampa Bay, but lose 3 or 4 and that could be the end of a very promising series.

With the unproven starting pitching and untimely injuries to Hammel and Andino, you can expect Buck Showalter to be bringing up and sending down players rapidly. Best example so far was Brad Bergeson, who was called up for less then 24 hours and sent down for Tommy Hunter who pitched a gem in the third game of the series. Wei-Yin Chen who pitched a hard fought game today is the only pitcher in the rotation who can be assured he will be in the rotation over the next few weeks. With that being said, the time is right now for the Orioles to make a move for a Zach Greinke type pitcher. The Brewers this week said that they would offer Greinke a large Drew Brees like contract, so the Orioles can’t let the Brewers sit and make that offer. This week in sports we have seen several players in different sports have big contract issues. The most ridiculous being the Jeremy Lin contract that the Rockets have given him. If the organization wants to prove that is serious about being a contender PROVE IT NOW! For me I will be heading up to Cleveland to see the weekend games and the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame!!

 

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Ravens: FIVE Keys to Making the Playoffs

Posted on 15 July 2012 by scottzolotorow

If the Ravens are going to make it further than they did last season, they will really need to work hard and stay healthy. The Ravens have an incredibly tough schedule, we actually play every AFC playoff team from last season and the defending super bowl champs as well. As if that wasn’t enough, you can throw the games against Philadelphia, Dallas, and at San Diego in the mix and you have one brutal schedule. Here are my five keys to the Ravens making the playoffs.

Number Five: STAY HEALTHY-With Terrell Suggs, the reigning AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, already out for the first few months of the season, the Ravens can ill-afford to see another starter fall to injury. The most vulnerable time can be training camp so it is very important that the team stays conditioned. Suggs alone last year had 14 sacks, 7 Forced Fumbles, and 2 interceptions to go along with his 70 tackles. With him out, rookie Courtney Upshaw, who was the defensive MVP in Alabama’s National Championship win over LSU, will need to step up. He led the champs with 9.5 sacks in 13 games.

Number Four: OFFENSIVE LINE-The Offensive line will need to keep it together this year as they did last year. The biggest difference this year is the huge loss of Ben Grubbs to New Orleans. Last season the Ravens O-line allowed the 12th fewest sacks at 33, seven fewer then the previous season. If Joe Flacco has the time he needs there isn’t anyone who can deny he is a great quarterback. Bobbie Wilson, the 14 year veteran, will be called upon to keep Joe on his feet. Matt Birk, who is more then likely playing in his last season, will be playing his fourth season with Flacco, so there is no need to worry about the Center position.

Number Three: WIN AT HOME-Since Flacco has been the quarterback of the Ravens, they have only lost 3 home games. This year will be one of the toughest home schedules the Ravens have ever had. In five of the eight home games, the Ravens will welcome 2011 playoff teams: Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New England, New York Giants, and Denver. The remaining three home games are; Dallas, who will bring one of the best defenses in the league into M&T Bank Stadium, Oakland, who has young talent that just missed the playoffs last season, and Cleveland, who always can beat a big opponent. If the Ravens are going to make the playoffs in the AFC, 12-4 is the record to shoot for. Bottom line, going to have to take care of business at home or they won’t be playing into January.

Number Two: BEAT THE BAD TEAMS-Last season all four of the Ravens losses came to teams that didn’t make the playoffs. Granted all four were on the road, this season the Ravens CANNOT play down to their opponent. Winning as many games to get home field advantage is the most crucial step for the Ravens to make it to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. They have proven that it is damn near impossible for a visiting team to come into Charm City and leave victorious, but still they have to beat the bad teams on the road.

Number One: SIGN RAY RICE AND GET ED REED BACK-Make this man happy please. I already wrote a full blog for WNST on this but I will say it again. This is a top three running back in the NFL and a genuinely good person to have in your organization. He is as big of a passing threat as he is a rushing threat and is the most important player on the offense besides Joe Flacco. Having a happy Ray Rice is better then having one who feels his organization doesn’t have his back! As for Ed Reed, the Ravens will play against six of Ron Jaworski’s top 10 quarterbacks who all love to try to burn the defense deep. Ed Reed may have lost half of a step over the years but he still puts fear in any quarterbacks judgement to test him deep. And same goes for Reed as it does Rice, he is a great person to have around the organization to keep everyone smiling and happy. GIVE HIM A STEAK DINNER AND GET HIM BACK!

If all goes right, I predict the Ravens finish 13-3 and another first round bye. Hopefully this year as the number one seed.

 

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Hardy

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Orioles Outlook – Cloudy with a Chance of Brilliance

Posted on 14 July 2012 by hopebirchfield

Everyone held high hopes that that the Orioles would emerge from the All-Star Break with a rejuvenated fire and show the city of Baltimore some Orioles Magic. On Friday night’s game against the Tigers, Orioles’ fans watched as the pitching struggled and the offense woes continued. It became painstakingly evident that the All-Star Break was not the cure all to the pervasive problems that have recently been plaguing the team. In front of over 35,000 people who made the trek to Camden Yards, the Orioles fell 7-2 against the Detroit Tigers. Markakis was back in the lineup however, much to the relief of fans, and provided a ground rule double that brought the crowd to their feet.  Overall, the Orioles’ offense was held to six hits on two runs. Per their usual troubles, the Orioles were 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position. The true tragedy though was not the lack of offense or the fact that people cannot even remember what it looks like when J.J. Hardy actually hits the ball but rather Jason Hammel. The starting ace pitcher was forced to leave the game in the 4th after hurting his right knee. The long-term ramifications of this could be catastrophic if he is out for the season or even an extended period of time.

With Hammel’s probable DL injury, the Orioles’ starting rotation only has one pitcher from the opening day rotation, Chen. The others (Matusz, Hunter and Arrieta) are in Norfolk and though they are all performing well down there, they have also proven that they lack the consistency required of a major league pitcher.

So what are the Orioles going to do? Are they going to stand the course and clinch a Wild Card berth possibly?

The answer is “I don’t know.” Looking ahead, the Orioles have a lot of trials and tribulations to become a playoff contending team again. In the weeks leading up to the All-Star Break, nothing was going right for the Orioles. Pitching was sub par with the starters giving up run after run, then only going into the 3rd or 4th inning. The team made errors, costly ones that in some cases may have cost the game. The offense was not capitalizing on RISP when they did actually hit the ball. Those problems still remain.

Looking ahead, the Orioles have 76 games left in the regular reason with 3 series each against the Red Sox (maybe Chris Davis can pitch this one?), the Yankees and four against the Rays. There is a stretch where the Orioles get to face teams that have losing records (Twins, Mariners, Royals) but as Orioles’ fans know, losing records do not matter if a team cannot even score a run. If the current trend continues, the Orioles will not make the playoffs and will finish below .500 again.

What needs to be done?

The Orioles need to hit the ball and score runs. This is a fundamental of baseball that the Orioles are having trouble grasping. Some of our reliable stars like Hardy, Wieters and Thome, to name a few, are struggling offensively. No Oriole currently in the lineup has a batting average at .300 or better. If Hardy does not do something soon, he runs the risk of approaching the Mendoza line (where Reynolds and Thome are sitting). Slumps are difficult because there is really nothing anyone can do to expedite their duration. It is a waiting game to an extent but if players cannot perform and cannot remedy it, drastic matters need to be taken. Most people scoff when I say that maybe Hardy needs to be sent to Norfolk but my reasoning is solid. He has lost his confidence and that is apparent with every chop swing he takes. His batting average is .221 and falling. Really, how much longer can we hold out?

With a pitching rotating that has been shaky at best in the recent months, stabilization and consistency are necessary. If Hammel is out, the rest of the pitching staff needs to step up to fill those big shoes. Chen is a solid starter as he has proven throughout this year. Chris Tillman will probably make his way into the rotation. With his dominance against the Seattle Mariners, Orioles’ fans and management surely reevaluated their historical disappointment in Chris Tillman. His mechanics have improved greatly and his fastball shocked everybody when it registered 97 mph in late innings. If he can remain consistent, stay in command and continue to be unfazed by base runners, Tillman is back in the majors for some time. Zach Britton will also get the call up as he has been wheeling and dealing in Norfolk. His numbers have dramatically improved although he still has command issues despite his recent success at the Tides. Gonzales is also an option for the rotation as he provided an exceptional win and performance against the Angels. If nothing else, Gonzales has proven that he can start a game and go deep into the game (7 innings on 1 ER). The Orioles still need one more person to fill the rotation and with the trade deadline looming, it becomes less and less likely that the Orioles are making a move for someone like Greinke. The bottom line is that the pitching ideals are present in our farm systems and they simply need to be cultivated.

If we had a magic 8 ball to ask the fate of the Orioles on September 1st, what would it reveal?  

By September 1st, the Orioles will have a good idea as to whether they are going to the playoffs or going home to cry over ice cream and beer. The hopeful enthusiast in me likes to believe that this year football and baseball will both be relevant in September but the realist in me has substantial doubts. There is a lot of work to be done throughout the club to remain in contention.

September 1st is also an exciting time for minor league players to get their first taste of professional play. For those of you that do not understand, on September 1st players on the 40-man roster are eligible to play at the professional level. That means that perhaps Bundy, Oliver Drake and Steve Johnson will get their chance to shine. September is really a good time to see how development has occurred and how minor leaguers can conform to the rigorous nature of the major leagues.

Regardless of whether the Orioles make it to the playoffs or whether fans get their first glimpse at Bundy on the mound at Camden Yards, it will be an interesting September.

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jim johnson

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Five Question for the Orioles: Start of The Second Half Edition

Posted on 13 July 2012 by Big Chee

1.)    Who will carry this pitching staff through the dog days of summer?

Jason Hammel has undoubtedly been the best pitcher in the Orioles rotation in 2012. He leads the Orioles in wins at 8, ERA at 3.47, and strikeouts with 101. However, he has struggled in his last three starts, losing all three. And while a 3.47 ERA is not too shabby, not even a month ago on June 22nd, Hammel was sporting a 2.61 ERA. Wei-Yin Chen has been the team’s second best starter, with a 7-5 record and 3.93 ERA. However, just like Hammel, Chen has cooled off as we enter the second half of the season.  He has not won a decision since June 17th and he gave up a career high 3 HRs in his last start against lowly Seattle.

Hammel and Chen are both in their 20s and would benefit greatly from a veteran presence like a Ryan Dempster from Chicago. Even a James Shields of Tampa Bay, who is 30, has big game experience from pitching in the World Series and multiple playoff games. Baltimore would greatly benefit from having guys who have been in postseason contention battles leading their staff. Dempster is coming off the DL and James Shields has a sub-4 ERA throughout his career. Both names will be mentioned heavily come the trade deadline, and Baltimore should definitely be hitting the phones to see what they want.

2.)    Can Mark Reynolds be an effective hitter in this Orioles lineup?

The definition of effective for Mark Reynolds in comparison to other Major League hitters is much different. One can never expect that Reynolds will be a guy who gets on base, he has never hit above .280 in his entire career. Nor can one expect Mark to chill with the strikeouts either. Reynolds led the American League last year with 196 K’s, and that was only his 4th highest total of his career! And don’t even get started on Mark Reynolds and his horrific attempt at fielding. He led the majors in 2011 with 31 errors last year.

Mark Reynolds is an effective hitter when he is hitting home runs. In 2011, he was fourth in the majors with 37 HRs. Despite all of his faults, when he was on, he was not a guy you wanted to face if you were an opposing pitcher. If you follow Earl Weaver’s Three Keys to Winning Baseball: Pitching, Defense, and Three Run Homers, you know for sure Reynolds did not fall into the first two categories. But with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, Mark Reynolds is that power hitter that you want at the plate. That is, of course, when he is not mired in a 3 for 25 slump like he was during interleague play.

3.)    Will Brian Roberts have any effect on the Orioles chances of making a postseason run?

Love the Orioles or not, you have to feel for Brian Roberts. I get that he was mentioned in the Mitchell Report back in 2007, and admitted to taking a shot of steroids in 2003. The key is that he admitted he this occasion, unlike a certain pitcher from the Yankees who claims he never did while he was throwing 100 mph at 45 years old. Anyway , Roberts has played in just 115 games since the beginning of the 2010 season, and has missed almost 13 months while recovering from multiple concussions. He returned to the Orioles on June 12th, but was back on the DL not even a month later with a torn right hip muscle.

Now, the longtime leadoff 2B for the Orioles is weighing whether or not he should have surgery on the hip or rehab it on its. On one hand it would be great to see Roberts try and get back with the Orioles sooner than two months, if only to help them out defensively as they lead the MLB with 75 errors. On the other hand, if the Orioles are buyers at the deadline and find themselves in contention come September, how great would it be to have his leadership back in the clubhouse as the O’s make a playoff push?

4.)    Speaking of all this poor fielding, who can the O’s acquire now to help?

Did I mention Baltimore was dead last in fielding in Major League Baseball? If one could point a finger at the glaring hole in the infield for this problem, look no further than 3B. Not one of these guys has above average ability to play the hot corner: Robert Andino, Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis, Wilson Betemit or Ryan Flaherty. The Orioles are in a tie with Anaheim for the Wildcard, and pitching should not be the only area where the Orioles upgrade to make a legitimate run.

Two names come to mind that can immediately help Baltimore at 3B, without having to include Bundy, Machado or much else from the farm system. The first is Placido Polanco from the Philadelphia Phillies. A 36 year old playing for the last place, 13 games below .500 Phillies should come at a bargain for Baltimore. Polanco has won three gold gloves in the past five years, and has yet to make an error in 30 games at 3B with Philadelphia. His lifetime fielding percentages at 1B and 3B are the best in major league history. No, that is not a typo.

If Philadelphia decides they do not want to shop Polanco, the second team the Orioles  should call is San Diego to inquire about Chase Headley’s services. Headley is 28, eight years younger than Polanco, and possesses more ability to hit for power at this point of his career. Headley is an average defensive 3B, and unfortunately suffers from Mark Reynolds strikeout syndrome (He has twice in his career made more than 600 plate appearances, and in each of those seasons, he has struck out over 130 times). However, with San Diego not being competitive in 2012 and Headley heading into arbitration, his services would come at a bargain and he would at least push the guys who are already here in Baltimore.

5.)    Can the Bullpen perform as well as it did in the first half of the season?

This may be one of the biggest questions the Orioles face heading into the back half of 2012, if only because it has been the most reliable department of their team throughout the first half. The Orioles lead the American League with a 2.75 ERA as well as hold the best record out of the pen with a 17-6 mark. All Star Jim Johnson has been one of the most reliable closers in baseball, converting 26 of 27 save opportunities with a 1.21 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP. Luis Ayala, Pedro Strop, and Darren O’Day all have sub-3 ERAs and have been very efficient in setting up Johnson before the 9th inning.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown and the Orioles own a daunting task to match their outstanding performance post-All Star break. If history is any indicator for Jim Johnson, than the chances of this bullpen holding up are not very strong. His ERA is 3.98 post All Star break, compared to 2.56 before the break in his career. In addition, it has been 22 years since an AL bullpen statistically threw as well as the Orioles have over a full season. Oakland had a combined 2.35 mark in 1990. Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter will be closely monitoring the bullpen to keep those guys fresh and productive down the stretch. Let’s see how they hold up.

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