Tag Archive | "roberts"

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Why the Orioles are Worth Watching

Posted on 12 April 2009 by Nicholas Miskelly

Why the Orioles are Worth Watching

 

As a fan of the Orioles it has been tough watching Orioles play for the last decade.  The Orioles have been bogged down in a decade long losing streak which has been mostly painful to watch.  There is only one thing worse than watching you favorite team lose year after year-watching your favorite team lose year after year with no hopes of improving.  Over the years I have turned on the Orioles game not only expecting them to lose but also expecting that not to change anytime soon.  That has now changed.

 

I am not going to sit here and try and sell you on the idea that the 4-1 Orioles will be this year’s great surprise and push the elite teams for a playoff spot.  I am realistic and while it’s been great to get off to such an exciting start I think it would the greatest shocker of my lifetime if they actually made a strong post season run.  This team is not quite built to win this year.  But thanks to recent moves starting two off seasons ago, Andy McPhail has given us hope.

 

As I continue to watch the Orioles win games I am getting more and more excited.  For the first time in ten years I am excited about are future.  I am excited about the development of Adam Jones, who is appearing like a future all-star to pair with the two we already have in Markakis and Roberts.  I am getting excited about the all but certain arrival of soon to be all-star Matt Wieters.  I also check the paper to see how our young pitchers are doing down on the farm.  With every successful outing, my excitement and expectations for our future increases.

 

I found it to be tough to watch Oriole baseball for the past decade because we were not watching a young team full hope pay their dues as they were beginning to grow into something special.  Instead, I was a fan that was forced to watch my beloved Orioles fall short year after year with a host of over-paid, over-the-hill, washed up veterans.  I have been saying for years that I wish the Orioles would once and for all stop acquiring the league’s retreads but rather try to develop a nucleus of youthful talent that would infuse a dormant organization with much needed excitement.

 

Win or lose, this year will be different.  We are not watching a team of players heading for extinction but rather we are watching a team filled with potential.  Each day I tune in not only to see if we will win, but also to see if Adam Jones is really the five tool player he projects to be or if Felix Pie is really the future for us in left.  I do not just check scores in the paper but I check on the development of what could very well be one of the more talented minor league organizations that houses one of the deepest pools of pitching talents. 

 

Thanks to the injection of youthful talent there is a reason to be excited about the future of the Orioles even on the nights when you watch with one eye closed hoping that it really is not that bad.  The future may not be now, that remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure:

 

Break out the shades-the future is bright!!!

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A gloomy forecast — today and for the ’09 Birds

Posted on 06 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

The sky is gray across the horizon in downtown Baltimore this morning as the Orioles kick off their 2009 campaign amidst a city full of Yankees fans and the inaugural appearance for Baltimore’s homegrown Mark Teixeira as a pinstriper. It was a dark day even before the clouds and scattered showers moved in from the south.

The Orioles, who haven’t played a meaningful game since October 1997, appear to be about to put another 162 insignificant games into the record books as the “dark era” of Birds baseball continues, the longest stretch of inepetitude in the history of the storied franchise. The Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Orioles “win/loss” total at 71 1/2, which means if the Orioles play just “18 games under .500” you win the bet.

I’m not a betting man, but based on what I’ve seen for six weeks in spring training regarding their pitching, I’d be jumping at the “under” on this proposition. That said, I like this team, these position players and the quality of the character it appears Andy McPhail has assembled.

I want to cheer for Brian Roberts. I like Luke Scott and Adam Jones. I’m interested in Felix Pie, although I think he’ll probably be this year’s version of Jeff Stone. I think Aubrey Huff looked inspired for six months last summer and I’m not convinced he won’t rebound with another big year. I’m not sure what to make of Melvin Mora at this point in his career and I think Cesar Izturis will be fun to watch field the ball. And Nick Markakis is just a solid ballplayer, almost a throwback.

On the rare nights that the bullpen will be delivered a 7th inning lead, it’ll be fun to see if they’re as good as advertised.

Some things I’m watching for this season:

When will Matt Wieters arrive for good and how will he perform? It’ll be the biggest franchise mid-season debut since Ben McDonald, which was a very, very big deal.

Let’s be honest: these current starting pitching is a joke and if Jeremy Guthrie, Koji Uehara, Mark Hendrickson, Alfredo Simon and Adam Eaton are the real five starters we’ll use all season, this team is probably 10 games under .500 before Memorial Day and then it becomes a “what to do?” for McPhail.

How will Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman do on the farm this year, especially before the All-Star break. If the current O’s veterans are as bad as we think they’ll be, which of these guys will be heatlthy, effective and ready to promote?

And will the Orioles start the M.L. service time on any of these kids with a summer call up? Or will McPhail allow the current veteran group to get their heads beaten in night after night? Or will Danys Baez or Brian Bass or David Pauley step in and perform? Or not?

That’s why we watch and certainly I’m poised to talk baseball every single day on WNST and AM 1570.

I just hope in these tough economic times, perhaps the people of Baltimore will return to baseball this summer and come to care again about the Orioles, if not in the stands perhaps on their TV’s around town. Of course, it would help if the franchise actually did its fair share and “came back to the people.” During the last six months, the team did exactly two events to promote their team. One of them was two days ago.

They continue to do foolish, selfish and mindless things that almost go unnoticed by the media that is in the business of making excuses for their sins so they can benefit financially.

Today’s starting pitcher — their No. 1 guy and big “hope” for the season — had his paycheck cut by 15% four weeks ago. Happy Opening Day, Jeremy Guthrie!

They continue to ban free speech, even daring their current players to not speak out about unsafe playing conditions in spring training.

We’ll see how much “progress” the organization has over the next six months. Let’s see how the puppies do on the farm. Let’s see how the young emerging stars perform in a mostly empty stadium and with starting pitching that no one can takes seriously as a team that will compete in the AL East in 2009.

But, let’s see how the season goes. My prediction: 65-97. Probably worse if someone doesn’t come in and save the rotation by July.

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Drinking the orange Kool Aid at Fan Fest

Posted on 04 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

There are two types of Orioles fans left in the Baltimore area and they are distinct groups:

Those who drink the Kool Aid…

And those, like me, who have examined the big picture of what’s happened to this franchise over the past 13 years and are pretty angry about its impact on our fun, our lives and the community.

With Opening Day looming, everyone who has EVER loved baseball perks up and pay attention. Even if it’s only to notice: “Hey, its’ Opening Day!” Most people in Baltimore realize this team won’t contend but if you love baseball you’ll at least open one eye on Monday afternoon to catch the score. I’d venture to say that 75% of the city will wake up Tuesday morning at the office and know whether the Orioles won. (That number used to be more like 98% in 1998!)

Those who unconditionally still drink the orange Kool Air or “want” to drink the Kool Aid probably went down to Fan Fast today at Camden Yards. I opted to not give Mr. Angelos any more money that he won’t spend to get the team a quality spring training facility.

Instead, I’m sitting here watching the Fan Fest festivities on MASN HD television and getting some of my WNST “CEO work” done and thinking about baseball season and how it’s going to go for the Orioles and Matt Wieters and these young players and what inevitable drama will unfold.

The only real “punishment” I’m getting for not having a press pass is being “banned” from knowing the Orioles players, which is almost ludicrous because as you saw last week, Jeremy Guthrie and Brian Roberts were happy to chat with me at the World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium. Charley Eckman would’ve called them “right guys” and they are decent, solid dudes. (As an aside, I also exchanged pleasantries with Davey Johnson, which is always fun.)

As a media member – well, at least I was for about 23 years until I was banned – I got to know so many of the players and what kinda guys they are. So I guess that’s my “price to pay” — I don’t get to report to you what good people the Orioles have on their team this year. Or not…

While it looked a tad bit chilly and windy at Camden Yards, the event was a “made for TV” informercial/season preview with interviews between co-workers Jim Hunter, Jim Palmer and the like of Andy McPhail, Aubrey Huff, Adam Jones, Dennis Sarfate and Ryan Freel.

They did a nice job with “get to know you” chats with these players and  I especially like that I can see Jim Palmer in high def. For a well-compensated network to finally “discover” HD in 2009 tells you all you need to know about the vision people at MASN.

But I digress…

Here are a few observations, because my seat is the same as yours at this point, which is its own unique point of view watching Jim Hunter and Amber Theoharis and others interview their co-workers in black hats that say “O’s”.

I honestly didn’t know what Ty Wigginton or Koji Uehara looked like until today. Ditto Freel, who really seemed to be a pleasant “aw, shucks” kinda guy. He reminded me of Bob Backlund back in the late 1970’s when he was a baby face.

Freel freely thanked the fans several times and seemed genuine. (As an aside, why doesn’t the owner of the team ever do that? Just come on the TV and say “thanks” on his own network that he’s making over $100 million this year on?)

Andy McPhail did a stand up with Jim Hunter and said all of the right things. He made it clear he expected a big improvement in Adam Jones. He also talked a lot about character and what kind of players — “gamers, blue collars guys, character guys” — he wants on the team. Fair enough.

I like hearing that the Orioles want good people in their organization. From what I know of the 2009 Orioles, they’re pretty good guys and they clearly dislike Angelos’ management and ownership style as much as the rest of us. (Again, this is one of the reasons the Orioles banning legitimate media isn’t a good thing for the fans. The fans never get to know the truth unless, like yesterday in The Sun, they speak out.)

I’ve known Gregg Zaun for 17 years. I’ve cheered – VERY hard – for Zaun for 17 years through his days in Kansas City, Florida, Toronto and Houston. He’s a great person and loves Baltimore and the Orioles. That’s an upgrade there no matter how you look at it and he’ll keep the seat plenty warm for Matt Wieters, whenever the Orioles decide to promote him to the bigs.

Even today on TV, a couple of the young players talked about what a cool guy Zaun is for them to be around and how he tells great stories (which he does!)

I must say that I didn’t envy Buck Martinez’s press pass today, interviewing his co-worker, Japanese pitcher Koji Uehara, whose only word in English was “Thank you!”

Uehara had an interpreter and the answer to the first question regarding Camden Yards was this: “Right field is pretty shallow.” That was the first of several laughs.

Honestly, it was like I needed an interpreter for his interpreter. It was borderline hilarious. It reminded me of my four days in Tokyo where communication was definitely at a premium.

I don’t care how much Uehara speaks. The Orioles need him to be a rock star if they’re going to win 75 games. But he seemed pleasant enough and thrilled to be at Camden Yards in a big-league uniform. Good enough for me.

If the only “communication” I’m going to have with the players is to see their co-workers ask them questions I might as well think they’re nice guys. Even if they’re complete turds, at least this won’t spoil it for me.

I’m ready for Opening Day. I’m ready to get to Hooters and have a Bud Light. I’m ready for baseball.

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Orange fireworks: Players and Trembley flip Peter Angelos “The Bird” today in The Sun

Posted on 03 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I’ve been saying for years that Fort Lauderdale Stadium and the Orioles’ sub-par Florida spring training situation is by far the biggest sin of all of their many sins and finally the folks over on Calvert Street are doing some “investigative journalism” with the orange birds. The club’s No. 1 promise to the public is that it’s doing everything possible to commit all of its resources to fielding a winning team.

That’s the goal in baseball: winning a championship. You always want to give your team the best chance to compete.

The Angelos family hasn’t done that for the entire tenure of their ownership in regard to the significance of spring training as anything more than a line item expense. The mere fact that they’re the only organization in the sport to have “two camps” in Florida that sit three hours apart is telling enough. It’s bad business. It’s bad baseball. It’s just inexcusable, unacceptable and dumb.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium is a dump. It’s a disgrace. It’s been a disgrace for the entire balance of the 15 years they’ve played there. I’ve worked many, many a morning and pulled many 12-hour days at Fort Lauderdale Stadium doing radio and covering baseball back when I was a “real” media member. I’ve spent 100 days of my life at that facility over the years before the team banned me from having a press credential.

Most of the fans here in Baltimore never make it there and it’s not like the team does anything to market having fans come south with their off season efforts. So it kinda goes unnoticed and when I bitch about it – and again, I think it’s probably the most obvious and lousy “white elephant” of all of their many sins – the fans don’t really care or “get it” but it’s so bizarre and so blatantly “bush league” in the eyes of anyone who knows anything about baseball from management to players to coaches to the locker room attendants that it defies description.

Just the mere fact that the visiting teams come in and see the situation and don’t lay down negative comments day after day is astonishing. Apparently, according to The Sun, the situation over at the minor-league camp is even worse. I haven’t personally been to Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota since 1995. It was “amateur” then, but not in disrepair. It was “minor league” but it wasn’t “unsafe” as several of the opposing teams indicated in contacting MLB and refusing to schedule games against the Orioles farmhands.

But the quotes in The Sun aren’t from Nestor. Or Drew Forrester. Or the glowing crap you’ll hear on MASN from Jim Hunter, Fred Manfra and the “boys club” who all take their paychecks from Peter Angelos.

They’re from the players themselves, who also take their paychecks from Peter Angelos. And it’s precisely these types of stories that makes Angelos ban a guy like me from having access. Because the players would be talking my ear off to get their message heard in the public eye.

Today’s whoppers and haymakers from their best people and players are “instant classics” and are sure to have the Angelos family in “flip out” mode on this Friday before Opening Day. It’s almost like all of the players just got together and decided to give the team’s ownership a rectal examination of unprecedented proportions.

This morning, it’s like Brian Roberts, Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora, Dave Trembley and Jake Arrieta are on the front page of the local newspaper wearing FREE THE BIRDS shirts!

Here come the quotes:

Dave Trembley: “I think we’ve finally reached the point where it’s fish or cut bait. We’re in the business of developing players. What would enhance that development is a facility that is more conducive to us all being all together and being on an even playing field with the other clubs.”

Brian Roberts: “I think most of us would be lying if we said this is what any of us would expect from a major league organization.”

Aubrey Huff: “When you have a big-league team that has a weight tent with rented weight equipment located in the parking lot, that’s pretty sad.”

Melvin Mora: “That’s the worst field I’ve ever played on in my life and I’m from Venezeula.”

Chris Ray: “I don’t know what to say about the facility other than that it just needs to be leveled and rebuilt. It’s a shame. You draft someone, hype them up and then they go to that facility and they’re like, ‘Wow.’ I think that’s a little bit embarrassing.”

Jake Arrieta: “We’re all very blessed to be in the situations that we’re in, but it also comes with the territory that you expect to have nice facilities to work out in. Not that we’re tired of Twin Lakes, but I all think we deserve something better.”

And here is my favorite, from a minor-league farmhand named Mike Costanzo, who was given the “Nestor treatment” by the franchise: “We were told to not say anything about the field, but if nobody says anything, it’s never going to get fixed. It’s tough to get quality work in here.”

I guess Nick Markakis must’ve been in the shower or “unavailable for comment” on this one.

Costanzo’s quote is almost poignant to me because that’s EXACTLY what FREE THE BIRDS was all about.

“If nobody says anything it’s never going to get fixed.”

It almost brings a tear to my eyes. I’m a BIG Mike Costanzo fan all of a sudden. I’ll be monitoring that young man, who showed some big-league bravery for that quote but will undoubtedly be in the corporate “doghouse” for life after that one.

Aside from being quality journalism by Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly, it’s the kind of story in this economy that will piss off Angelos so much that you might even see the fireworks ads get pulled from the May editions. Mr. Angelos reads The Sun every day and will be ripe and randy today, no doubt about it.

I can hear him now…

“The insubordination. These ungrateful millionaires. How dare they speak this way about our franchise to the media!”

There’s one thing Peter Angelos hates the most and that’s hearing the unfiltered truth about how bad this franchise is in so many ways in print or in the media. Seeing his highest-paid employees flipping him the bird in the morning fishwrap – well, that’s gonna make for an interesting weekend.

Of course, Angelos and his son John declined to speak about the “Fort Lauderdale situation” in the media.

The worst part are the paper-thin and almost silly quotes from Orioles spokeperson and huge WNST fan, Greg Bader, who knows less about P.R. than any P.R. person I’ve seen in 25 years of doing journalism for a living.

Now, apparently, a baseball expert and groundskeeper, Bader officially deemed the field in Sarasota “perfectly safe and adequate” after a handful of visiting MLB teams refused to show up and play games there.

I’ve only met Greg Bader twice, but my guess is that he never played an inning of baseball in his life. Or pitched on unmeasured mounds? Or caught a two-hopper after it hits a rock in the dirt? Or had to work out to get into shape for a 162-game Major League grind that baseball demands.

(As an aside, the first thing I learned when I began doing sports radio in 1992 and hanging around baseball players was how HARD the job was. As a kid it sounds like a fun gig, but being a Major League Baseball player is HARD, HARD work. These guys make millions of dollars and if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Baseball players live pretty difficult, complex lives from April 1st through October 1st. I have great respect for the work they do, which can only come when you see it first hand.)

Bader also said the club has “always had the urgency” to find a new home. That is just a stupid, silly thing to say. Urgency? They’ve had 15 years and roughly 80 percent of the MLB teams in South Florida have relocated or found better situations since the Orioles landed in Fort Lauderdale by sheer accident in 1996, after going several years in weird and bad situations in Miami and St. Petersburg.

They’ve been offered at least five sites that I can think of over the years – from Sarasota to Orlando to Vero Beach to Jupiter to Winter Haven — and have never done anything to rectify the combination of the major and minor league camps, which should have been done in 1997 or 1998 at the latest. No other team would DREAM of having a split camp and say they’re serious about a winning organization. It’s just unconscionable.

The 2009 season has already gotten off to a rocky, rocky start.

They have absolutely zero starting pitching. Jeremy Guthrie has been dreadful. Koji Uehera certainly bears watching but the rest of the retreads from Adam Eaton to Mark Hendrickson to Rich Hill to Danys Baez to the soon-to-be-celebrated Alfredo Simon are just arsonists of varying degrees at this point.

Brian Roberts isn’t healthy.

They’re still banning free speech in the media and being miserable and unprofessional to deal with at every level.

And now, every level of their organization from manager to players to minor leaguers are popping off in the morning newspaper about how “bush league” their ownership is in regard to spring training and a commitment to winning. It’s like a scene out of “Major League” but the Orioles have become the Indians.

Next Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay still doesn’t have a starting time and the Ravens are expecting 20,000 people at M&T Bank Stadium that morning and afternoon for an Inside Lacrosse doubleheader and no one in the city knows what the parking situation might be. The game is eight days away. You’d think they’d announce to the Tampa Rays, their season ticket holders and their employees when the game will be played. (Again, this kind of management is just unheard of in professional sports in 2009.)

Oh, and the Yankees are bringing 30,000 obnoxious fans into town on Opening Day to cheer for Baltimore’s greatest homegrown player in a generation as he takes the field at Camden Yards wearing pinstripes.

Oh, and advance ticket sales have been abysmal and they’re having a “Fan Fest” tomorrow that feels like a rumor around town.

Other than that, things are just fine in Birdland.

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Is Brian Roberts the next American Idol?

Posted on 02 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

As you know we’re putting together a major competition in an “American Idol-style” search for Baltimore next sports media star. I’ve never been a viewer of American Idol until this season and they’re not getting down to the nitty gritty on the show and it’s absolutely uncanny how much one of the contestants looks like Brian Roberts.

Again, I don’t have a press pass and I actually forgot to ask Roberts if he knew about this when I saw him briefly in Los Angeles 10 days ago, but check this out:

Brian Roberts

Kris Allen
They even have the same build, haircut, demeanor. When Ryan Seacrest is talking to him, you’d almost swear he’s talking to Roberts. It’s very strange.

And Kris Allen has a legitimate chance to win this competition.

Our “King (or Queen) of Baltimore Sportstalk Competition” brought to you by Coors Light is coming next week. Stay tuned for all of the details. We have 50 contestants ready to rock Baltimore’s world with media talent!

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Live from Southern California…

Posted on 23 March 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been a chilly trip all the way around. It’s cold in California this week. It was freezing at Dodger Stadium last night and Laguna Beach is no better.

I’m spending the next three days here in Dana Point at the NFL Owners Meetings, chatting with coaches, executives and owners from around the league. Most of the media has commented that it’s “quiet” here this week, with no major rules changes or negotiations to be held. The only potential “landmark” concept is the notion of making the regular season a 17 or 18-game affair, with the elimination of those dreadful preseason games. It appears that changes to overtime possession aren’t coming right now. There’s too much support to keep the current (yet flawed) system.

But it’s truly the calm before the potential financial storm as the NFL Players Association has named its new leader in DeMaurice Smith last week.

Commisioner Roger Goodell is addressing the entire contingent this morning with a “State of The NFL” speech, which no doubt will be addressing the sagging economy and the paramount issue of a new collective bargaining agreement with the players, which could be a dog fight over the next 18 months as both sides are preparing for a tremendous battle that could go either way.

Lockouts, strikes, posturing – it’s all on the table as both sides look to divvy up the riches and spoils of a league that has basically had 25 years of labor peace and prosperity. Right now, the players get 59.5% of the total revenue pool. The owners want to make it less; the players, of course, want more. We’ll be following this story for the next two years but this is the beginning of a long race that will decide the fate of the league for the next decade.

I spent the evening last night up in Los Angeles (about an hour north of here) at Dodger Stadium at the World Baseball Classic semifinal between Team USA and Japan. Obviously, it wasn’t the greatest night for Brian Roberts in field but he did begin the game with a grand home run off of Dice K. I caught up with Brian Roberts, Davey Johnson and Jeremy Guthrie prior to the game and saw more celebrities than I can name. The videos are just to the right of here in the wnsTV video vault.

Because of the “Angelos ban” I never had the chance to meet of chat with Guthrie. He was a super good guy and was truly excited about wearing a USA jersey. My five minutes with him made it very easy to pull for him when he takes the ball at Camden Yards in two weeks.

(And for the record, I had no idea Kelsey Grammar was such a nice guy. I did, however, fully confirm that Alyssa Milano is smoking hot!)

Dodger Stadium is still a religious experience for any baseball fan and it’s nights like last night that really make me love my job and my career in sports. As I’ve been posting my baseball book about my Pop and his love of the game, it’s nights like last night that remind me about why I chose to do this for a living 25 years ago.

I also ran into some very old and dear friends from the “early days” with the Orioles. Dr. Charles Steinberg and Evelyn Ehlers – both “lifer” Orioles fans and Baltimoreans are working in the Dodgers’ front office. Former Ravens V.P. Dennis Mannion is now the president of the Dodgers. And Baltimorean Jamie McCourt (nee Luskin, as in Jack Luskin, the “cheapest guy in the town”) is the C.E.O. of the team, owner by her and husband Frank McCourt.

It’s almost like the Dodgers are Baltimore’s West Coast connection.

I’ll be shooting videos here on WNST.net, blogging and potentially grabbing some guests for Drew Forrester, Bob Haynie and Ray Bachman, who will be filling in for me all week from 2 til 6 p.m.

I’ve already chatted with virtually every NFL coach that has a Baltimore connection and John Harbaugh told me that his brother – former Ravens QB and current Stanford head coach Jim – and his dad will be here this afternoon. We’ll be doing a little wnsTV of that in the next 24 hours.

It’s also the first NFL Owners Meetings for longtime WNST supporters, Rex Ryan and Jim Schwartz, who will both make some time for Baltimore.

Stay tuned…I’ll be working hard here in California.

Did I mention the weather kinda sucks?

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Brian Roberts feels at “home” in Team USA Jersey

Posted on 15 March 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I’m following up on all of the residue of the NCAA March Madness draw and filling out my own brackets and doodling this evening and my TV is tuned to the USA-Netherlands elimination game in Miami. In the same awkward ballpark that I watched the Ravens beat the Dolphins in the wild card round about 10 weeks ago, there are about 5,000 people — and I might be accused of kindness with that estimate — watching as the Orioles’ own Brian Roberts has been an 11th hour “call up” due to the Dustin Pedroia injury.

It’s, of course, a preview of the kinds of crowds he’ll see at Camden Yards next month here in Baltimore. Lots of empty seats must help his game as he got a helluva good look at the ball in Miami. BRob — always the pro — singled to right field in his first at bat and went on to go 3-for-3 with a pair of walks in five trips to the plate in Team USA’s 9-3 win over the Dutch. Roberts also looks spiffy in his USA duds.

The World Baseball Classic interests me more than it did last time because I’m actually planning on attending next Sunday night’s semifinal at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. I’m heading west for the NFL Owners Meetings in Dana Point, Calif. and will be covering it for wnsTV and WNST.net. I have no idea what to expect or what teams will be playing.

The second-place team in the USA Bracket will play that night. After Puerto Rico’s demolition of the USA this weekend, the red, white and blue needed a win tonight to stay in the race. It could be Puerto Rico, USA or Venezuela (my “people”.)

Meanwhile, the Venezuela story with president Hugo Chavez and Magglio Ordonez has become a firestorm outside the ballpark down in Miami as well, with thousands of fans booing Ordonez for supporting Chavez.

Politics and baseball intersecting. I don’t think that’s what Bug Selig had in mind.

I’m monitoring…

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Midweek Musings

Posted on 04 February 2009 by Mark Suchy

Random thoughts from the local sports scene that are bouncing around the cranium this week…

*  I don’t know about you, but this current Maryland men’s basketball team is probably the most forgettable group ever assembled during Gary Williams’ tenure in College Park.  No inside presence, very little depth, a repeated inability to play cohesive team defense and a lack of a true “go-to” player all add up to the debacles like last night’s in Chapel Hill and the embarrassment in Durham two weekends ago.  For a guard-dominated team, there sure aren’t many good ones on this roster.  In my opinion, Adrian Bowie has to play 30 minutes a game at point guard and settle that position once and for all.  That would allow more freedom off the ball for Greivis Vasquez to come off of screens and play a little closer to the rim (because, Lord knows, he’s just not very good from way outside).  More Sean Mosely can’t hurt either.  But unless and until Braxton Dupree and Dino Gregory contribute much more significantly, this Terps team is doomed to finish with a maximum of 6 ACC wins.  Just look at the remaining schedule and tell me how they can finish the second half of conference play at 6-2 (which is what it will taje to go 9-7 and be a legitmate “bubble” team come NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday).  Wake, Duke, UNC, Clemson and Virginia Tech are all significantly better than Maryland and will assure the Terps another NIT trip.

As for the status of Gary Williams, it appears he will at least get another year to straighten out the current problems in the program.  At least as it regards recruiting, this is a positive development.  Any appearance of internal conflict could easily chase away potential Terps, no matter how highly or lowly regarded they may be.  And right now, this program needs all the talent it can possibly unearth.

*  So Ty Wigginton is a Baltimore Oriole?  I guess I’ll upgrade from that 13 game plan to a 29 game plan now.  I mean really.  How much more of this type of mediocrity are all lifelong Oriole fans supposed to swallow?  I understand that every major league team needs depth and versatility for the rigors of a six month season, but exactly how does having Wigginton fit in?  Is this a preliminary move that clears the way later this year to trade Melvin Mora (assuming he waives his no-trade clause, which I would imagine he’d be happy to do by mid-July when they’re 22 games out) or even, perhaps, Brian Roberts?  There simply appears to be an overabundance of utility players on this current roster.  Wigginton, Chris Gomez, Ryan Freel.  Awfully inspiring.

*  Speaking of the Orioles, I brought this up on-air the other day while filling in for Nestor.  Why wouldn’t the team have any interest in Manny Ramirez?  I know the answer already ($$$$), but why wouldn’t you at least explore something along the lines of two years?  He could be the everyday DH, hit a ton in Camden Yards, stick it to Boston and New York 38 times a year, and show some of the younger players how to be a complete major league hitter.  And don’t give me the argument about Manny taking away at-bats from Felix Pie or Luke Scott.  Really, who cares?  If you’re telling me that people wouldn’t be much more inclined to go see the Orioles on a Tuesday night in June against Seattle because Manny’s in the lineup, I’d tell you you’re lying.  The guy is the best right-handed hitter available, a certain Hall of Famer and a draw.  Oh, right, I forgot, who cares about selling tickets when MASN is lining the hallways of the Warehouse with cash.  Silly me.

*  Money, money, money.  We’ll be hearing plenty of talk about it over the next month as the Ravens map out their future with the pending free agents.  My guess is that Ray Lewis has played his final game as a Raven; he will simply take the highest offer, and the Ravens will choose not to match.  The two most critical pieces to retain are Terrell Suggs and Jason Brown.  After that, it will be “right player, right price” as the team rebuilds for ’09.  And every one of us that cares about the team should not go insane about any of the moves this front office makes until the season is played.  As I recall, there was an awful lot of yammering and Ozzie bashing last April, May, etc. about his draft manueverings and picks, free agents, trades, etc.  Be patient, everyone, and give this entire front office a little credit as the off-season plays out.  More often than not, the moves work.  Which is the most critical reason behind the franchise’s success over the past decade.

*  Early Final Four hunch: Duke, Marquette, UConn, Michigan State

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Orioles in the Drivers Seat with Roberts

Posted on 30 January 2009 by Jason Jubb

I know it seems kind of crazy and far fetched that the O’s could ever be in control of a situation when it comes to a player staying or coming to Baltimore.  But, the stars have finally aligned, and not a minute too soon.

 

With this nation’s current economic situation finally impacting the free agent market, the available pool is separating into two distinct groups: “Top Tier Superstars,” desired by big market clubs and “Everyone Else.” Unfortunately, for Brian Roberts he falls into the latter.

 

Don’t get me wrong, Roberts is a very good player, but in today’s market the demand for a “.290-12-60” second baseman is dwindling. Unless you’re a hitter who has MVP potential or a pitcher with dominant stuff, there is little hope of getting a contract similar to those signed in past years.

 

For example, last winter Carlos Silva – a control pitcher capable of posting the league’s average ERA in his 180-200 innings signed a 4 year/$48 million contract before the 2008 season. Now, Jon Garland who is very similar, if not slightly better, has to settle for 1 year/$7.25 million guaranteed ($1 million of this is related to his 2010 option).

 

With Roberts, you have a fair comparison to Orlando Hudson, who by the way is learning a hard lesson in economics this off-season. Hudson is a top notch defender who is also 31 years old, and with stats very similar to Roberts – minus the swipes. If you want to argue Roberts is slightly better, fine. But, it’s close enough to compare to a player who is drawing minimal interest this winter.

 

Now, this is where it gets trickier for Roberts ….. has anyone wondered why Juan Cruz hasn’t signed a contract, yet? If not, check his numbers, http://www.baseball-reference.com/c/cruzju02.shtml he would be a nice addition to any bullpen and could possibly close out games with his quality stuff….. the catch is Cruz is a Type-A Free Agent. If a team signs a Type-A Free Agent, they lose a 1st Round pick to the team that the free agent leaves unless they pick in the Top-15, at which point they’d lose their 2nd Round pick, instead.

 

With many teams no longer able to match the bankrolls of a few select franchises, draft picks are coveted and considered more valuable than ever.  Roberts will likely be classified as a Type-A Free Agent, which is determined by the Elias Sports Bureau to be in the Top 20% of all players based on the previous two seasons. And, this is just one more factor working against him.

 

As of now, the Baltimore Sun is reporting that Roberts has been offered a 3 year/$30 million deal, but he is apparently thinking he can do better.  Should Brian Roberts realize he has been offered an extremely fair deal, when all factors are considered?  And, is he really in a situation where he no longer maintains the upper hand?

 

Sure, Roberts can threaten to try free agency following the 2009 season, but at the current time, the Orioles will probably be very comfortable with compensatory draft picks.  In fact, the picks (they would also get a sandwich pick between rounds 1-2 in addition to the pick from the team that signs him) would probably be more valuable than anything you could deal him for this spring or at the trade deadline.

 

Are Roberts and his representatives wagering the economic situation will be better next winter? I would think most teams will take a beating in attendance this coming summer – and it will be an even more conservative free agent market next winter. Also, the last time I checked, the Yankees and Red Sox do not need a second baseman.

 

Roberts strikes me as a bright guy, and he also seems quite reasonable. Therefore, I would expect him to close this deal with the Orioles very soon. His leverage is diminishing by the day and will take an even greater hit as soon as he sees the deal Hudson lands over the next couple weeks.

 

It’s hard to believe …. but, when it comes to Brian Roberts and the current “Oriole Way” of taking forever to sign players, the Birds actually find themselves in the driver’s seat.

 

 

 

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The Teixeira conundrum and Angelos conspiracy theory

Posted on 16 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Because this saga regarding Mark Teixeira and the Orioles and the Red Sox and the Nationals and the Angels has dragged on far too long it’s given me way too much time to think about it. And it’s really quite the mystery and little game from the media’s standpoint. And his uberagent Scott Boras just eats this up – when the media pits “offers” against each other with lots of zeroes. It’s gone so far that there were media people in the press box at the Ravens game with binoculars stalking down whether Tex was in the stadium and what sky box he might be in.

Yes, it’s gotten a little nutty and I have been entertained if not totally perplexed by the whole thing. There are still people in Baltimore (and many in the media who are being handsomely paid by Angelos via CBS Radio, MASN, The Sun, Orioles Hangout, Pressbox and others to be, ahem, “optimistic”) who honestly believe in their soul that the Orioles might actually be involved in a pennant race again sometime this century. For the record, as long as Angelos is alive and owns this team and continues to run it like he has for 15 years, I really don’t believe they’ll win. I believe it’s karma at this point. I would LOVE to be wrong, actually because this city is a morgue in the spring and summer compared to what the Ravens and hope bring us each Labor Day.

But as a fan and a Baltimorean what do you really want here?

There’s certainly a part of me that begs to have real baseball back in the Baltimore – the kind we see in October in the cities where it perpetually matters like New York, Boston, Chicago or in places like Philadephia or Detroit or even Denver where we’ve seen the game resurrected by a winning team. Or at least the mere chance to win.

Because I’m a little more removed and less emotionally involved in it on a daily basis (most of my energy to truly care has waned again), I honestly haven’t given a lot of thought to the Teixeira drama until the past week when all of a sudden it somehow miraculously seems like they have a shot to sign him. As recently as a month ago, general manager Andy McPhail was telling most people that it was extremely doubtful that the O’s would be involved in the Tex Sweepstakes at all. And that’s when most thought he’d get “about” $100 million.

Now, at the 13th hour and a week before Christmas it appears as though Angelos has gotten personally involved in the bidding war – same as he did in New York that day when he spent $173 million on the franchise that he has summarily destroyed on the field and in the community (but not in his pocketbook, thanks to Bud Selig getting a rectal examination and the threat of a whopper lawsuit on the Washington territorial rights issue).

It’s all become very clear to me. This mating call with Scott Boras has all of the fingerprints of Peter Angelos and his intense will to get Teixeira in a orange uniform on Opening Day. And it’s not much different than when Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti “strongly recommended” to Ozzie Newsome that Joe Flacco needed to be a Raven eight months ago. Turns out, Bisciotti has made several good calls in 2008.

It’s not like Ozzie to want to deal up in the draft and give up picks on draft day. And it’s not like Andy McPhail to want to pay a first baseman $150 million or more over seven years. It’s almost against everything in his baseball DNA. McPhail, who was told 18 months ago to slash the payroll and save (and or make) the team more money by promising the populace “young talent” and “working through the draft” and “obtaining lots of young arms” and “building through the farm” (all his words, not mine), clearly understands the team’s ongoing public relations nightmare and lack of passion within the fan base. There’s nothing about signing Mark Teixeira – short of the price tag — that is a bad play for the Orioles in a short term “win back the people of Baltimore” ploy. It’s a good ploy, mind you. It’s the best thing the franchise can possibly do to say: “We’re trying and we care as much as you do!” (Even though I think answering questions from real journalists would be a distant second place.)

They have millions of excess dollars that they’ve pocketed over the past few years via their obscene MASN deal. They finally have some useful, young talent on the field (Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Luke Scott, Jeremy Guthrie and potentially Matt Wieters) to build around. And let’s be honest – when will the team EVER get a chance to sign a superstar player who grew up in Baltimore and actually remembers the greatness of the Orioles that we all are wondering if we will ever experience as a community again?

Angelos NEEDS to get Teixeira in an orange jersey before Christmas. At least HE feels he needs to and at no point does McPhail even appear to factor into the equation. And, honestly, Angelos is probably right.  He needs something to “make a splash” and it’s not signing more minor league free agents in March. Bringing in Teixeira shows that they’re serious about trying to win. And it’s been a little while since we could say that.

But that’s the just the Orioles side of the story. Hometown boy comes home, gets huge payday and…

Well, there’s a few ways this could go:

1. He’ll come here and the pitching will suck and the team will suck and the Yankees and Red Sox fans will continue to own Camden Yards 20 times per year. (This is the most likely short-term scenario with or without Teixeira.)

2. He’ll be part of a return to mediocrity and the team might squeak out an 81-win season in the first few years and maybe play a game in August that matters in the wild card race.

3. He’ll be the cornerstone of a baseball renaissance in Baltimore that will return the Orioles to perennial 90-win seasons, greatness and Camden Yards and downtown and the city of Baltimore will become electric in the summer of 2010 and the city will love the team like they love the Ravens.

* This is all assuming that he comes here and hits .300, mashes 35 homers per year and drives in 120 RBIs each season in any scenario. If they pay him $20 million a year this is a baseline expectation.

But that’s just a few possibilities from the Orioles’ perspective of what result they’re ultimately getting as an organization for buying a player who they’re paying TWICE as much as they’ve ever paid in the history of the organization for anyone. What’s Mark Teixeira really going to mean to the only two bottom lines that matter: winning and selling tickets? (Of course even THAT doesn’t matter too much when their Mickey Mouse television network is earning $100 million per year by just turning the lights on via the tax base civicly funding MASN.)

But what if you’re Mark Teixeira? What’s in it for him, besides getting richer?

As I wrote four days ago he’s getting wealthier (he’s already made $35 million playing baseball and he’s only 29) no matter where he goes and I believe it’s ultimately about happiness, the ability to win and perhaps somewhere the ego of “getting paid as much as you can” or being the “highest paid” this or that.

The four suitors – if there really are four suitors, with Boras who the hell knows what the truth is? – all have situations that I’m sure Teixeira and his bride and family could find palatable after he cashes his paycheck each week for $400,000 until he’s 37 years old.

The Red Sox, to me, are the first place he should start if winning and playing in a “real” baseball environment matter to him. He got his first taste of the postseason this year (and hit .467 no less) and that should be all he needs to know about the difference between playing out the string in the boiling heat of Arlington and being involved in something akin to fun and what he remembers about being an Orioles fan when he was 16. If you are a man of integrity involved in any competitive industry or athletic pursuit, there’s NOTHING ON EARTH better than winning. If you’re not serious about WINNING, then why the hell are you playing? (Oh, that’s right. The money…)

It sounds like his experience in Anaheim didn’t completely win his heart despite the fact that he was a “rented hat” for two months there. (And he “inherited” a pennant race in Southern California. He didn’t “earn” it, by and large.) If a full stadium, a winning tradition, a great manager, a great owner, Rally Monkeys, pretty girls in the stands and unlimited sunshine (think of those dreadful April and September games when it’s 45 degrees on the east coast) didn’t win him over this year then I don’t know what the heck he’d want in a Major League Baseball career. This is an outstanding place to make $150 million for any human being. You could make a case that it’s a BETTER option than Boston, if you’re wired a certain way.

The Nationals is a weird, twisted concept to me. If he wants to be “home” then that’s Baltimore. If Tex wants to win, there’s not much tradition or reason to believe that the Nats will become the UCLA of the N.L. East. Yeah, you get to live in Annapolis and play in a pretty ballpark with low expectations, but that’s a lot different than going to a winning franchise like the Angels or the Red Sox. And it still ain’t home.

And finally, the Orioles. Maybe Peter Angelos just will up the ante (like he used to in the “old” days of Chris Sabo and Albert Belle and Brady Anderson and well, you know the rest if you’re reading this…) and offer “the most money” if that’s his thing. And maybe Teixeira really can be convinced – and I don’t mean by money, I mean REALLY convinced in his soul — that the Orioles can be saved and he can be part of saving them by coming here and fulfilling his childhood destiny to be the “Cal Ripken” of this generation. (Even I can get emotional writing that because ANY of us could put ourselves in Teixeira’s shoes and squirm a little with this decision if we’re being truly honest.)

One thing is for sure – if he signs here it’s not because it was truly his best option. If Mark Teixeira really does sign up to play with this sham of a franchise (and it’s Siberia for any real free agent this side of Miguel Tejada over the last decade and anyone from Mike Mussina through Brian Roberts would have nothing good to say to recommend it as a “career” choice) then he is to be roundly applauded and supported because he’s CLEARLY doing it because of his heart WAAAAY more than his head or his wallet. If Teixeira is at The Warehouse wearing a “Baltimore” road gray sweater later this week at a press conference (one that I’ll no doubt be banned from asking any legitimate questions) it’s because he really DOES want to save this moribund franchise and pitch in to make Orioles baseball and the city of Baltimore fun again on summer nights.

And what could possibly be bad about that? And this is the ONLY way Peter Angelos can be given the “hero” treatment by the fans who’ve unwittingly lined his pockets via MASN through all of this mess while the city has rotted and decayed on summer nights downtown. And we all know Peter “The King” longs to be loved and short of winning a World Series, this is the best he’s gonna do in this lifetime. He CAN’T buy a World Series. But he CAN buy Mark Teixeira! I can just hear him crowing on MASN sitting on a couch with Roch Kubatko and Steve Melewski and in that goofy voice saying: “We… did what we needed to do… to restore the pride… to the Orioles!”

There’s only one hometown superstar of this generation. And Angelos has his sights on him. And he doesn’t like losing. (Witness his senseless feud with me and with WNST, people who truly LOVE the Orioles! It’s all about him “winning” — whatever that means? What good is it doing them to continue to be complete jerks in dealing with any legitimate media member who has questions about what is a publicly-funded, civic trust for profit that has gone awry? NO ONE wants the Orioles to be great more than WNST. Anyone who knows me knows that I believe that.)

So where does Angelos’ personal kryptonite, Scott Boras, fit into this equation? That’s really hard to say given his propensity to pit egotistical and wealthy baseball owners against each other in bidding wars that are silly farces when most are reviewed years later. Where is Tom Hicks now? (He gave up on ARod and Texeira, which is the Boras Daily Double!) Does Boras really have a say here with Tex or a dog in the hunt, other than his commission on the transaction? Only time will tell…

Here are a few random observations on Teixeira:

1.    I’ve never met Teixeira but I’ve never heard anything glowing about his marketability or personality. As a matter of fact, he routinely eschewed any “hometown” press coverage on his first visits back to Camden Yards as a big leaguer. It’s not like he’s got a foundation here or a civic cause here or has ever even “appeared” here doing any worthwhile community endeavor that I know about. (Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here…but no one has ever called or written me with a story, picture, essay or ANYTHING involving Teixeira publicly or charitably in Baltimore.) If he walked through White Marsh Mall today for lunch I honestly don’t think anyone would recognize him. My point isn’t that he’s a “bad” guy. I don’t know a thing about him beyond what I’ve written about. But I do know he’s NOT Cal Ripken. No matter how much you pay him!

2.    He’s been traded TWICE so it’s not like any other franchise has found him  “irreplaceable.” Actually, it’s more like the opposite. I’m always skeptical when a team takes a player who has had Teixeira’s statistical prowess and decides, “Yeah, he’s OK but we’d rather have these OTHER player(s) instead in a trade.” That’s always a major red flag. The dude has raked at the plate. He’s a legitimate force offensively in the big leagues. And if he signs here, he’s on Team No. 4 and is only 29 years old and six years into his career. That really doesn’t sound like a “guy you build your franchise around” or break the bank for to me.

3.    Are the Orioles doing this to win or to sell tickets and get some mileage out of the marketability of a “Baltimore kid” in a “Baltimore uniform?” I’m really unsure of what Angelos’ intent is here. Sure, he’s a nice player and a good hitter but $20 million a year is a little obscene given the position he plays and the fact that I’m not sure there’s going to be a rush on season tickets because he’s an Oriole. That might be the case, but I’m skeptical that he’ll move the needle on ticket sales in any more than in a negligible way. Maybe the “we’re trying!” part of it will sell more goodwill than the actual numbers or W-L record Teixeira produces in the short term. As a matter of fact, I’m 100% sure Opening Day would be a “big deal” again this year (re: sellout) if they sign Teixeira on Thursday for $156 million. But is THAT worth $156 million?

4.    Bottom line: Couldn’t the Orioles spend that $20 million per year on pitching and truly have a better chance to win over the next 36 months? (I ask this rhetorically…I have no answer for this.)

Either way, Baltimore has a MUCH better chance to win if Teixeira comes than by having another Kevin Millar or Randy Milligan or David Segui or B.J. Surhoff playing first base. It’s certainly a major upgrade in that department. And it’s not my money. (Or maybe it IS our money with what these crooks are stealing via our Comcast bill every month and not utilizing on behalf of making the baseball team and the city better?)

It’s getting more and more interesting every day that this drags out. And it’ll be interesting to see the civic reaction and the Orioles’ reaction if he eschews his hometown team and leaves King Peter at the alter by signing with the Red Sox or the Nationals. Would that be unlike Scott Boras, pulling down the Emperor’s trousers with the ONE guy he HAD to get? And, no less, delivering him to Larry Lucchino up in Boston? Wouldn’t that be Boras’ “tea pah-tay.” (For a brief laugh, just click...)

We’re hearing that Angelos and the Orioles really think they’re going to get Teixeira. And that will make it all the more painful if they don’t get him. There’s a lot to digest here and a lot of risk. The Orioles just don’t offer $150 million to ANYONE. EVER! So, if this is legit, it’s a major foundational, tectonic shift.

The coolest part is that this is a major “Y” in the road for the franchise. One way or the other, Mark Teixeira is going to greatly affect Baltimore and its baseball future for years to come over the next week.

The Orioles always have the “fall back” position of painting Teixeira as a modern day Benedict Arnold if he “elects” to not sign in Baltimore after the Orioles made a “fair and reasonable market offer.” I can hear and see the somber McPhail at the podium now saying, “We did our best…We made him a generous offer and he elected to go to (City X).” Blah, blah, blah…

Keep the popcorn warm. This is getting good!

The Orioles have lit a spark just by “being involved.” (Hey, we’re TALKING and WRITING and THINKING about them during a week when the purple guys with helmets are playing for their playoff lives…)

But who’s zooming who and who is serious? And where will Teixeira sign? And for how much? And what wild stories are going to unearth afterward when the “truth” is told. One bride. Three bridesmaids.

I think King Peter wants the white dress.

But who the heck knows?

Pass the butter…

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