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Machado Suspension Not Actually A Big Deal

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Machado Suspension Not Actually A Big Deal

Posted on 03 July 2014 by Brandon Sacks

From June 6-8, the Orioles played the Oakland A’s in their first head to head series of the year.  On the sixth, Manny Machado had a bit of a meltdown and threw his helmet after an incident where he felt he was tagged too hard.  Two days later, he “accidentally” threw his bat at A’s pitcher Fernando Abad.  For these two incidents, Manny received a five game suspension from MLB, which was upheld after being appealed.

It seemed like this was going to be the most inopportune time for Machado to be forced out of the lineup, especially with his bat heating up.  The Orioles offense was not explosive as fans know it to be in the games leading up to the suspension.  He also is one of the best defensive players on the Orioles’ roster.  While he has not played to the same quality as when he won the platinum glove award last year, he has still been very dominant at third base this season.  When others were playing at third while Machado was coming back from his knee injury, it was evident that the birds missed number 13.

Not so much anymore.  Three games into the five game suspension, the Orioles are 3-0, outscoring the Rangers by a combined 21-8.  Chris Davis and Ryan Flaherty have both played well above average defense at third.  The offensive output from the position, while minimal, has included the go-ahead home run by Flaherty last night.

Is the Machado suspension really the worst thing that has happened to the Orioles this season?  It seems like this season, more than any, the birds have done really well in the face of adversity, from the Machado injury to the Wieters injury to the suspension and more.  No matter what has happened, they have found a way to continue winning, and they have been able to stay in the race for the AL East.  As long as the Orioles continue to connect on offense like they have over the past three games, they will be on the verge of becoming the AL East powerhouse that has been mysteriously absent throughout this entire season.

Now if only we could work on our starting pitching…

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Cruz Homers In Return To Arlington, Orioles Take Series Opener

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Cruz Homers In Return To Arlington, Orioles Take Series Opener

Posted on 04 June 2014 by Brandon Sacks

The third of June was the day that was probably circled on the calendar of Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz.  This was the day that he finally returned to his former team, the Texas Rangers, to play for his new team.  Many wondered if the Rangers fans would give him a warm welcome back or if they would boo him.

That question was answered in the first inning, as Cruz was batting third in the lineup.  When he walked up to the plate for his first appearance of the night, the fans all applauded.  After the game, Cruz told reporters that it felt good that everyone was happy to see him.

They probably weren’t happy to see that he has not changed at all.  Cruz drove in his league leading 21st home run in the top of the 8th inning to put the Orioles out of reach.  His 3-run homer was part of a six run inning that led to the Orioles’ eventual 8-3 victory in the series opener against the Rangers.  Even though Cruz went 1-4 at the plate, his three run bomb made the game quite the homecoming for Cruz.

Let’s hope that his run production continues.  The birds will need two more high scoring performances if they want to keep beating the Rangers in Texas.

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smith

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Nelson Cruz and Steve Smith: An Oriole and a Raven searching for redemption

Posted on 26 April 2014 by johngallo

One man wants to forget his past; the other is motivated by it.

One man is sorry for the mistake he made; the other is adamant he did nothing wrong to be sent packing.

One makes a living hitting home runs; the other earns his paycheck scoring touchdowns.

One was a strike away from winning a World Series in 2011; the other was denied a championship on a field goal with four seconds left in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Nelson Cruz, the Orioles’ designated hitter and outfielder, and Steve Smith, who Ravens fans want to be the second coming of receiver Anquan Boldin, hope their futures in Baltimore are as bright as their pasts. Cruz made the All-Star Game twice as a Texas Ranger, while Smith was named All-Pro twice as a Carolina Panther.

Two players, two sports, two careers that took unlikely turns, yet both are connected by a single word in Baltimore: redemption.

Turbulent, yet successful pasts

Nelson Cruz is off to a strong start in Baltimore, as he led the Orioles in homers (6), runs batted-in (23), runs scored (16) and on-base percentage (.391) through 22 games. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Cruz’s time in Texas was over following the 2013 season, when he turned down the Rangers’ one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer after serving a 50-game suspension last season for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy in connection with the sport’s investigation of the Biogenesis of America, an anti-aging clinic in Florida.

Smith’s 13-season run in Carolina was marred by punching two teammates – receiver Anthony Bright during a film room meeting in 2002 and defensive back Ken Lucas at a training camp practice in 2008 – and highlighted by leading the squad to the franchise’s lone Super Bowl appearance in 2004. It ended in March when the Panthers felt he was no longer worth a $7 million hit to their salary cap.

Cruz, 33, is from Monte Cristi, a poor city in the baseball-rich Dominican Republic, where he worked in his uncle’s shop as a mechanic from age 10 to 16. He played professionally for three seasons in the Dominican Republic after signing as an undrafted free agent by the Mets in 1998. In 2000, he arrived in the U.S. after being traded to Oakland – not bad for a teenager who grew up idolizing Michael Jordan before falling in love with baseball.

Smith, 34, is from inner-city Los Angeles, where he never took the SAT while becoming an all-California Interscholastic Federation receiver at University High School. He took the bus to his $5.75 an hour job running the cash register and sweeping floors at Taco Bell, where worked from his junior in high school until he left nearby Santa Monica College. That’s where he and teammate and future All-Pro receiver Chad Johnson had college recruiters flocking to the junior college. Smith earned a scholarship to the University of Utah, where he dominated the Mountain West conference en route to being drafted in the third round (74th overall) by the Panthers in 2001.

Both have traversed the country en route to Baltimore, which represents where they hope to find redemption, yet could be the last place they ever play.

Think about it: What team will sign Cruz if he flops as an Oriole after putting up amazing numbers that could have been the result of using performance-enhancing drugs? What team will sign Smith if he can no longer get open as he did so effortlessly when he was among the NFL’s best receivers as a Panther?

Cruz’s road to Baltimore included stops in Oakland, Milwaukee and Texas, where he highlighted his eight years in as a Ranger by belting six homers and driving in 13 runs en route to being named the most valuable player of American League Championship Series in 2011. His six homers and 13 RBIs are major league records for a championship series. The Rangers lost the World Series to St. Louis in seven games, after being a strike away from a title-clinching win in Game 6.

“Whatever happened in the past, I look to move forward and have a great year with the Baltimore Orioles,” Cruz said at his press conference, where he was joined by eight Oriole teammates after signing a one-year, $8 million deal with February.

Smith had just one stop as a professional, Carolina, where all he did was set more than 30 career, single-season and single-game team records on offense and special teams, including becoming the franchise’s career leader in total touchdowns (75), receiving touchdowns (67), receptions (836) and receiving yards (12,197).

“Steve Smith has been one of the NFL’s finest receivers for over a decade and has been the face of the franchise for a large part of the team’s history,” Carolina General Manager Dave Gettleman told the team’s website after waiving Smith. “This was not an easy decision. As a team, we made a step forward last year; however, we are also a team in transition, which is a part of the NFL.”

Steve Smith is adjusting to life as a Raven by attending voluntary workouts, where he’s jelling with teammates, learning the playbook and developing a hatred for Baltimore’s biggest rival. (Courtesy of Baltimore Ravens)

When he was released, the five-time Pro Bowler vowed he’d make the Panthers pay, claiming they’ll be “blood and guts everywhere” when he plays them. The teams meet in Week 4 on Sept. 28 at M&T Bank Stadium.

“When you look at the Ravens, they’ve had an amount of great success with integrating older players and younger players and fusing them together and understanding the right combination,” Smith told the Ravens’ website after signing a three-year deal worth a reported $11.5 million. “That part is very intriguing to me and also brings a challenge that I’m up for….They are getting an old guy in age, but a young guy’s spirit and work ethic.”

What’s next?

Where would the Orioles be right now without Cruz? Maybe not 11-11 and in second place in the American League East following a loss to the Royals on April 25. Cruz leads the team in homers (6), runs batted-in (23), runs scored (16) and on-base percentage (.391). His .588 slugging percentage is tied with Steve Clevenger, who has played in seven games compared to Cruz’s 21.

“Nelson is a great hitter,” catcher Matt Wieters told reporters after Cruz blasted two homers during a 10-8 win over Toronto on April 23. “I always had trouble calling pitches against him so I’m glad he’s on our team. He’s a huge addition to the middle of our lineup.”

“We all know what he’s capable of,” Manager Buck Showalter said of Cruz after the game.

Meantime, Smith is adjusting to life as a Raven by attending voluntary workouts, where he’s jelling with teammates, learning the playbook and developing a hatred for Baltimore’s biggest rival.

“My dislike 4 @steelers will grow everyday I’m in the #caste,” Smith tweeted.

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Just Say No to Josh Hamilton

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Just Say No to Josh Hamilton

Posted on 08 November 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

It’s a bad pun, I know, and despite reports to the contrary there’s not an ounce of me that believes that the legendarily tight-fisted Orioles have any real intentions of bringing in Josh Hamilton through free agency, but it’s the first week in November, still months away from pitchers and catchers reporting and the suddenly “frustrating” Ravens are preparing for an anti-climactic match up against the Oakland Raiders. So just for a second let’s pretend that the Orioles rumored interest in Josh Hamilton is real.

If there’s any part of this “news” that Orioles fans can view as a positive, it’s that maybe the Orioles are (or will be at some point) genuinely interested in spending some money to bring in some veteran talent. The down side is that there’s little to be excited about at the top end of this year’s free agent class, and that those leading the talent parade, Josh Hamilton and Zach Greinke, both have enough question marks to make “Buyer Beware” the understatement of the off-season.

 

On the surface, this seems like little more than an Orioles effort to do what they’ve become really good at in recent off-seasons. It seems like another Orioles attempt to insult their fans’ intelligence by feigning just enough interest in a free agent superstar to grab a headline or two, but not enough interest (or money) to actually catch said superstar’s attention. There’s no better time than now to do that, as the market hasn’t begun to be set on Hamilton yet, so whatever the Orioles are wiling to offer today is better that any of the numbers we’ve heard so far. That’s because so far we haven’t heard any real numbers, from the Orioles or anyone.

 

This is the same Dan Duquette who claimed last off-season to be waiting for the sharks to finish feeding before venturing out to feed off of what was left. Why on Earth would we now believe that the Orioles have after one moderately successful season changed courses completely?

 

If they have, the timing couldn’t be worse. In this (what we hope is) the post steroid era of Major League Baseball, we’re quickly learning that players can no longer be expected to live up to the lofty contracts that take them well into their mid and late thirties. If the Orioles were compelled to pass on a 27-year old Prince Fielder with a bit of a weight problem last season, there’s no logical reason to consider a long-term alignment with a 31-year old Josh Hamilton with an array of baggage in tow.

 

The improbability of last year’s success was amusing to the fans that watched writers and analysts struggle to explain it, but as the team itself prepares for next year and beyond, the source of their amusement has left them in an awkward position. At every position other than second base (and a starting pitcher or two) there’s a guy from last year’s team who either projects well for next season or who at least merits another look in 2013. There have been plenty of years in which free agent bonanzas would have been both welcome and necessary, and in all of them the Orioles failed to pony up. Now, with legitimate and justifiable reasons to stand pat, the Orioles would like us to believe they’re ready to spend? And on Josh Hamilton no less?

 

I’m certainly not averse to the Orioles opening the purse strings if they feel inclined to do so, but there are plenty of reasons to be apprehensive if that spending begins with Josh Hamilton. Not only is Hamilton on the wrong side of 30 in the post steroid era and not only is he an all or nothing type of proposition; Hamilton is also a guy who’s sat out too many games for health related reasons when he was on the right side of 30; and how his indiscretions have lent themselves to the aging process is the subject of much speculation and debate.

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red sox o’s

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Forget the Home Field Advantage: An AL Team Will Win the World Series

Posted on 11 July 2012 by Big Chee

Wretched. Sucky. Lopsided. These are just some of the adjectives I stumbled upon on Twitter this morning that described last night’s All Star Game, an 8-0 blowout victory for the National League. Right out of the gate, Justin Verlander, arguably the best pitcher in the American League, surrendered 5 runs to give the National League a comfortable lead. From there, the American League had no answer for Cain, Gonzalez, Strasburg, Kershaw, Dickey, Hamels (you get the picture), and Melky Cabrera’s two run homer turned the game from a solid lead to a drubbing.

Speaking of Twitter, baseball fans on social media seem to be crying foul over the home field advantage the NL will earn once again in the World Series. I was not one of them, and I still believe that there is nothing wrong with adding a little competitive spirit to the Mid-Summer classic, I explained in my last blog on WNST.net.

However, in this 2012 season, let’s not spend too much time on this argument, because, quite frankly, it does not matter. This year, the American League’s individual teams are far superior to the National League, and it’s not even close. That can be evidenced by the fact that the American League went 142-110 (.563 win %) over the National League in interleague play this year, and the AL team with the best record (NY Yankees) swept the team in the NL with the best record (Washington Nationals.) Don’t get it twisted, I am well aware that the Texas Rangers have been victims of the American League losing two years in a row in the ASG, and if the Rangers had been home Game 7 last year, the results very well could have been different. However, one exhibition game in July cannot change the fact that there are five teams in the American League that are better than all in the National League,  even if it was a beat down. Here are the five teams that would beat the National League pennant winner in 2012, even if the game is held in the Nation’s Capital.

1.)       The New York Yankees

The Yankees are defying the post steroid era notion that achieving greatness is all about pitching. The 7yr/$161 Million Dollar Ace CC Sabathia has been solid, but his 3.45 ERA is far from spectacular. Ivan Nova might lead the staff with 10 wins, but his 3.92 ERA is even higher than Sabathia’s. Phil Hughes has been up and down all season, Andy Pettite is on the 60 Day DL and Hiroki Kuroda is simply an innings eater. Not to mention Michael Pineda’s season ending injury before the season even started, as well as the legend Mariano Rivera’s freak accident while shagging fly balls that put the rest of his career in jeopardy. This season could have been lost for the Yankees. However, they have the best winning percentage in baseball at the break, leading the Orioles by 7 games in the AL East.

In post steroid era ball where players in their 30s are supposed to be tailing off and fading into the sunset, the Yankee veterans only continue to shine. They lead the majors with 134 home runs as a team.  Derek Jeter at 38 years old is tied for 1st in hits in the American League with Miguel Cabrera. Nick Swisher is on pace for over 100 RBIs. Eric Chavez has shown flashes of the player he was in his prime in Oakland, his versatility and personality has been great for the clubhouse. Andruw Jones has been punishing left handed pitchers as of late. And let’s not forget that Robinson Cano and Mark Texiera’s important defensive ability. All Star Curtis Granderson continues to be worth the investment when they snatched him from Detroit before last season, he has 24 HRs at the break. This lineup is loaded 1-9 and even superb National League starters like Clayton Kershaw and Steven Strasburg cannot find relief in this lineup.

2.)       Texas Rangers

You may be wondering: How can the Texas Rangers be on this list when they have lost the World Series the past two years in a row without the home field advantage? Or you may be curious how the Rangers will fare after two integral pieces of their 2011 postseason out of the conversation this year. I’m talking their #1 last year, CJ Wilson, who left for Los Angeles and their preseason #2 starter Derek Holland who has been less than mediocre in 2012, spotting a 5.05 ERA at the break.

Production at the plate has been key for another successful season thus far in Arlington for the Texas Rangers, who sport the 2nd best record in baseball at 52-34, leading the Angels by 4 games in the West. You can make an argument that despite his recent cool-off from his historic April, Josh Hamilton had a MVP 1st half, batting .308, leading baseball in both HRs (27) and RBIs (75). Ian Kinsler leads the majors with 63 runs scored. Fellow All-Stars Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli are key contributors to the Rangers leading the majors in team average (.280), runs (443), hits (844) and RBIs (430).

The pitching staff inevitably will have to play a big part in this team’s success just like 2011, and there are new names that will do so. Despite a somewhat slow start by Yu Darvish, the $100 million man from Japan made the All-Star Team and continues to improve and adjust to the American game. Fellow All-Star Matt Harrison has been even better with an 11-4 record and 3.10 ERA. Roy Oswalt adds a veteran presence, even if he has been up and down. If the lineup just continues business as usual in dominating opposing pitching staffs, this should lessen the pressure of this staff to carry them to a World Series victory.

3.)       Los Angeles Angels

The Angels seem to get lost in the conversation for World Series favorites at the All-Star break, due to the fact that if the season ended today, they would face the Baltimore Orioles in a one game playoff for the wildcard draw in the postseason. They are 48-38, four games back of Texas in the AL West, probably short of the lofty expectations this team faced to start the 2012 season. The Angels made the biggest splash at MLB’s Winter Meetings, signing preseason favorite AL MVP Albert Pujols to a 10 year/$254 million dollar deal. In addition, they snatched up former Texas Ranger and Cy Young contender CJ Wilson to form a 1-2 punch with Jered Weaver that could be the best in the game.  While the Angels are getting slowly but surely getting back on track, their start to 2012 was not exactly a smooth ride. Pujols went 92 at-bats in the month of April without hitting a home run. Weaver & Wilson have been rock solid, middle of the rotation guys Dan Haren and Ervin Santana have been extremely disappointing with 4.86 and 5.75 ERAs, respectively.

I have not even mentioned Mike Trout, the best position player in the American League not named Josh Hamilton. The All-Star Game last night gave Trout national exposure. The baby faced 20 year old not only leads the American League in batting average at .341, but he gets himself in position to score more than anyone in the AL as well with 26 steals at the break. Mark Trumbo will continue his power surge and build off his 22 home runs. Torii Hunter is continuing to prove how valuable of a veteran he is on this roster in the #2 spot in the lineup as well as his defensive ability in the outfield. Manager Mike Scoscia has the experience and savvy to keep this team rolling in the 2nd half and in the playoffs. It would be shocking if the AL West does not produce two of the four teams in the Final 4 of the American League playoffs.

4.)       Detroit Tigers

Fittingly, the Tigers are mentioned right after the Angels, another team that failed to live up to expectations after they partook in an active offseason. Prince Fielder signed with Detroit for 9 years, $214 million making him the second biggest FA signing behind Pujols.  Ace Justin Verlander was the starter in the American League All Star Game. Yet this team is only 44-42 at the break and in 3rd place in the worst division in the American League, the Central.

Again, there is too much talent on this team for this to continue. Let’s start with the pitching staff. Don’t overthink Verlander’s meltdown last night in the first inning. He’s in contention for another Cy Young, as he leads the league with strikeouts at 128 and is 4th in the majors with a 2.58 ERA. Max Scherzer, 8-5, has been much improved and rookie Drew Smyly has hit the All Star break in stride, winning his last two starts and holding a 4-3 record into the break.

At the plate, Miguel Cabrera is certainly in the running along with Hamilton and Trout for AL MVP. He is hitting .324 and is tied in first with Jeter for hits with 111 , is 2nd in the AL behind Hamilton with 71 RBIs Right below the young phenom in batting average is Austin Jackson of Detroit, hitting .332. Prince Fielder has not been atop the league as far as statistics go, but his presence at the plate will be a huge factor in determining where the Tigers go in the 2nd half.

Finally, let’s not also forget their manager Jim Leyland. This guy has been in the game long enough and had plenty of success throughout his entire career to not let this slow start get his guys unraveled. His cool demeanor will allow for his players to bring it all together making a run to the World Series in 2012.

5.)       Chicago White Sox

However, the AL Central leading Chicago White Sox are my choice for the 5th team that would win the World Series against an NL team because they are better than any of the NL teams that will be in the World Series. Now hear me out on this one:

A good portion of this article has been in regards to the strength of the lineups of each of these teams. When you take a look at the White Sox, their lineup is certainly potent enough to compete at the next level. And just like the Yankees, the veterans are getting it done on the South Side. Let’s start with the resurgent Adam Dunn. Whatever it was that Dunn did in the offseason to get this mojo back after his disastrous 2011 campaign, it has turned him into a comeback player of the year candidate. He leads the American League in walks and is 2nd in HR with 25. How about Alex Rios? He is third in the AL in hits for the first place White Sox. Still think Team Captain Paul Konerko is not a Hall of Famer? He just made is 6th All Star Game and is 3rd in the AL in average at .329. Finally, if you’ve never heard of Alejando De Aza, it’s ok. But get to know him now: he’s 5th in the AL in runs scored and chipped in 15 SBs.

Speaking of guys one might not ever heard of, let’s move onto the pitching staff and ace Chris Sale. Sale has been so spectacular this season that he could have easily been selected to start last night’s All Star Game and who knows? Maybe it would have been worth watching All this 23 year old has done is spot a 2.19 ERA, .95 WHIP (both 2nd in the AL) along with 10 wins. Let’s not forget another member of the White Sox who could be mentioned as Comeback Player of the Year in Jake Peavy. He leads the team with 108 K’s, and just made his 3rd All Star appearance. Also, keep an eye on Jose Quintana in the 2nd half. In 8 starts he is 4-1 with a 2.04 ERA.

Even if you are just a casual baseball fan, you probably could have guessed the first four teams on this list.  As far as the fifth position, there are plenty of teams that can receive consideration. The Tampa Bay Rays starting rotation features All Star David Price which led the MLB last year in ERA. The Boston Red Sox started 2012 slow, but are slowly creeping into the Wild Card conversation and getting healthy. Let’s not forget about the great things that the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians have done this year! If those two teams acquire some big name pitching at the deadline, they could certainly be considered for a shot at the World Series.

So there you have it. There are the five teams that will beat the Dodgers, Nationals, Giants, Braves, Pirates or whoever the National League crowns champions and earns home field advantage in the World Series. Let the debate begin…

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Playoffs?!

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Playoffs?!

Posted on 05 July 2012 by ryanhiken

The Orioles are currently 44-37 at the halfway mark of the season.  They are on pace for their best season in 15 years.  However, this isn’t the best start to a season they have had in the last 15 years.  In 2005, the Orioles were 47-40 at the all-star break.  The Orioles have one more series before the all star break.  They begin a four game series with the Los Angeles Angels tonight in Los Angeles.  The Orioles are currently a half game back of the Angels for the first wild card spot in the American League.  This year, Major League Baseball will be adding a 5th playoff team.  The first wildcard team will be hosting a one game playoff with the 5th place team.  This series would be a preview of the one game playoff if the season were to end today.

This is about the time of year when most Oriole fans begin to write them off.  This is the mentality that the average Orioles fan has.  This is unfortunate, because this years team is different from the others.  This team has legitimate star players in Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis.  The pitching staff isn’t perfect, but they have a legitimate starter in Jason Hammel and an all-star closing pitcher in Jim Johnson.  This is a formula for success, along with the leadership of Buck Showalter, the Oriole’s veteran manager.

This upcoming series will tell us a lot about this current Oriole team.  A couple of games ago the Orioles were struggling, but they went into Seattle and won 2 out of 3 games.  They probably should have swept the series, but unfortunate errors cost them the game Monday night.  The Angels began the season slow with a 7-14 record.  Since then, the Angels are 38-22 and have been one of the best teams in baseball.  The Orioles have been excellent this year, but have a combined record of 5-12 against the American League elite of NY Yankees, Texas Rangers and LA Angels.

I believe the Orioles are good, but I don’t believe they are elite.  Many people have been asking me if I think they will make the playoffs.  I think they will, because I think they haven’t played their best baseball yet.  They have been very successful against their competition outside of the elite teams.  I don’t believe they are going to surpass the Yankees and take the division, but I believe they will make the playoffs.  Therefore, I expect the Orioles to play in the inaugural one game wildcard playoff.  I think this would be incredible, especially if the Orioles could host the game.  The Orioles haven’t played a meaningful game in  Baltimore since 1997, I think its about time.  Fans need to get on the bandwagon now, before its too late.  Believe in this team, don’t write them off and go out to the games and support the team.

Come September, when the Orioles are hosting the first ever one game wildcard playoff, its going to be the hardest ticket in town to get in the last 15 years.  The Orioles need to win at least two games in this series to guarantee their best winning percentage before the all-star break since the 1997 season, when they lost in the ALCS to the Cleveland Indians.  If the Orioles can manage to do this, I think it says a lot about them as a team.  If they get swept I think that will also say a lot about them.  That is why I believe this series is so important.

It is important to head into the all-star break with momentum, now is a great time to do so, and make a statement to the rest of the league.  The Orioles are a good team, they will remain competitive for the rest of the season and they are not to be messed with.  The Orioles have the 2nd best winning percentage in the MLB in one run games with a record of 15-6.  The Orioles are also one of two teams to have a winning record and a negative run differential.  This just goes to show, the Orioles are a tough, gritty and nasty baseball team.  I wish the Orioles the best of luck this weekend in Los Angeles, watch the games, root for your home team and let the chips fall where they may.  I know there is a lot of baseball left to be played, but I think we will know where the Orioles stand come Monday.

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MobTown Sport Beat Pop Quiz

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MobTown Sport Beat Pop Quiz

Posted on 21 May 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Today was Pop Quiz day on the MobTown Sports Beat. Some of it we got to, others not so much. Thanks to all who sent their feedback by email and on Twitter. For the record, here are today’s Pop Quiz questions and my answers. You can add yours below.

Question 1: True or False – The Orioles are a legitimate contender.

 

True – It may be inexplicable, but for now at least, the Orioles are legitimate. Twenty five percent of the season is in the books and at 12 games above .500 the Orioles have to be accounted for in the impending pennant races. Elsewhere in the division it seems that no one is poised to run away, and with the impending returns of guys like Zach Britton, Nolan Reimold and (dare I say) Brian Roberts these O’s might still have their best baseball ahead of them.

 

The fact that they’re 12 games above .500 can be tough to explain, but with 120 games remaining on the season there’s certainly no reason to think that they can’t play .500 baseball from here out and finish the season with 87 wins. With another wildcard in the picture this season, 87 wins looks pretty close to that 5th AL playoff berth,

 

 

Question 2: True of False – Josh Hamilton will win the AL Triple Crown in 2012.

 

False – Hamilton has 18 HR (Adam Jones and Adam Dunn are next with 14), 47 RBI (Miguel Cabrera and Edwin Encarnacion are next with 34) and is batting .389 (with Paul Konerko chasing in second at .367) and he is in a contract year, which makes things interesting. As Hamilton was on his tremendous hot streak last week a couple of things stood out. The first was the question of why pitchers continue to pitch to him, as Hamilton’s aggressiveness early in the count is well documented it’d stand to reason that pitchers would stay off of the plate, especially early in his at bats. Like it or not, Hamilton is going to have to accept some walks as the season continues or his other stats will come back to Earth in a hurry. Some might argue that over the last week or so they already have.

 

The other interesting thing about Hamilton’s tear, especially the Baltimore chapter was that each of the 6 homers that Hamilton hit in that 4-game set with the Orioles was a 2-run shot with Elvis Andrus on base. Surely if that trend continues the RBI opportunities will be plentiful and with big and fearsome hitters surrounding him in the lineup pitchers will still have to go after Hamilton more than they’d like this season.

 

Hamilton’s batting average lead is especially interesting as this would seem the toughest to maintain all season, but the fact that his nearest pursuers in the AL are Konerko, Derek Jeter, David Ortiz and Austin Jackson, there’s actually a reason to believe he could hang onto that leg of the triple crown. Hamilton’s propensity for injury more than anything would seem to be the biggest reason to doubt that he could pull it off this year.

 

 

Question 3: True or False – Orioles vs. Nationals is becoming a great rivalry.

 False – But don’t let that detract from the fun and excitement of the last 3 days. We’ll see if one or both of these contenders has what it takes to remain in the hunt. Safe money says that at least one should, thereby providing MASN subscribers with some brand of interesting and meaningful baseball as the summers wears on. For now, there’s room for both. It’s also probably worth mentioning that interleague play has been over with long before the real thick of the pennant race comes around for anyone, and MLB has done a great job at making sure the end of the season is heavy with divisional match-ups. Next year though, with 15 teams per league and interleague play happening throughout the season, maybe we could look forward to an important O’s/Nats September series. Until then though…false, false, false.

 

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On historic four-home run night, Josh Hamilton compared Tuesday game to batting practice

Posted on 08 May 2012 by WNST Audio

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50 words or less …. celebrating Cinco De Mayo with Peter King

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50 words or less …. celebrating Cinco De Mayo with Peter King

Posted on 05 May 2011 by Rex Snider

Well, it’s Thursday …. but not just another Thursday. Today is Cinco De Mayo !!!! And for those of us who look for a quick, convenient excuse to celebrate a sunset with some cocktails, it’s a GRAND EVENT.

The birds will be looking to win the series, in Kansas City, before heading home to entertain the Tampa Bay Rays for the weekend. Can they win 3 straight series? I like the chances …..
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Stealth Starter
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While he’s taking a back seat to the hype and dominance of Zach Britton, Orioles starter Jake Arrieta has been building a pretty formidable early season resume’, as well. With exception to his April 9th start against Texas, Arrieta has not surrendered more than 3 earned runs in any contest.

The loss against the Rangers is starting to resemble a real aberration, as Arrieta has been quite consistent over the first six weeks of the season. And, the reduced overall ERA in each successive appearance is a GREAT sign.
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38 Years Ago …..
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Rewind your clock to May 5, 1973 …. it will be remembered as the day a horse named SECRETARIAT took Churchill Downs by storm. In capturing the 99th running of the Kentucky Derby, Secretariat set a new record of 1:59, which still stands today.

The amazing feat? He ran faster in each successive quarter-mile of the race. The greatest ever? No doubt about it …..
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A Great Guest
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On today’s edition of the AFTERNOON DRIVE, we will be chatting with Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Peter is always at the forefront of NFL scoop and breaking information.

I follow him on Twitter (SI_PeterKing) for multiple updates, daily, on football. Peter will join us at 2:30pm – if you have a question for him, just email me (rex@wnst.net)

Also on today’s show, we will chat with experts covering the Steelers, Bengals and Browns, to see how the competition fared in last week’s draft.
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End Of The Line ???
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Many of us recall the Detroit Tigers amazing turnaround and World Series appearance during the 2006 season, right? One of the key figures to that team was the 21 year old fireballing reliever, Joel Zumaya.

To say he was “LIGHTS OUT” was an understatement, as Zumaya compiled a 1.94 ERA and 97 strikeouts in just 83 innings pitched. However, he has fought injuries in each season following that rookie debut.

And, he has been shut down again – for the remainder of 2011. At 26, Zumaya is at a crossroads and may very well be done. This certainly serves as a sad testament to the fragile nature of a pitcher’s career.
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The Fallout (BONUS 100+ words)
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When I wrote yesterday’s critical blog regarding Rashard Mendenhall’s tweets on the death of Osama bin Laden, I had a hunch his ramblings might cause some residual news. And, indeed it has …..

Mendenhall’s teammate, Ryan Clark, did an interview and attempted to defend his friend. Clark panned “social media is destroying the world”, as a means of trying to minimize the forthcoming damage. Yes …. Clark also tweeted these very feelings.

Did it help? Uh …. NO.

For his part, Rashard Mendenhall also made an effort to clarify his stance. But, the damage might already be done. Champion Athletics, Mendenhall’s only corporate sponsor is already distancing itself, as they issued the following statement:

“Our focus today is making sure that we communicate that Rashard Mendenhall’s personal opinions were not made on our behalf and do not reflect our view.,”

While Champion’s spokesman, Matt Hall, said it’s “premature” to discuss the future with Mendenhall, this incident will likely serve as an example of how mere words can be costly. Stay tuned …..
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Cerveza, Cerveza, Cerveza
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Today is May 5th, which means we’re celebrating Cinco De Mayo. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking …. it’s Mexico’s Independence Day !!!!

Wrong …..

Here’s the definition of the Cinco De Mayo celebration, according to Wikipedia:

Cinco De Mayo is observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride …. the date is perhaps best recognized in the United States as a date to celebrate the culture and experiences of Americans of Mexican ancestry, much as St. Patrick’s Day, Oktoberfest.

Well, that’s good enough for me …. I’ll have an ice cold Corona !!!!

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For Struggling O’s Things SHOULD Be Worse

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For Struggling O’s Things SHOULD Be Worse

Posted on 25 April 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

As evidence continues to mount that the 2011 Orioles may not be quite who we hoped that they would be, as fans we can at least take solace in the fact that we’ve been down this road before, all too often in fact these days. And for as bad as things in Birdland seem to be these days, we don’t have to look back too far to realize that things could be much worse for this team. In fact it’s arguable that as things stand today, 20 games into the 2011 campaign, not only could things be worse for these Orioles, but they should be worse…arguably much worse.

Consider first that no matter how anxious any or all of us may have been to buy in to the perception that this team would be much improved, you still had to squint a bit to see these O’s as legitimate contenders. The expectation was more likely a run at .500 (which typically means wildcard contention through July) and respectability while playing some entertaining baseball in the process…for a change.

 

Even for the most pie-eyed of optimists the April schedule must’ve looked daunting. The first month of the season charged this team with facing the big 3 in their own division (2 series with NY, 1 with BOS and 1 with TB) along with the defending AL champion Rangers, and the 3 teams (CWS, MIN & DET) that look to be fighting it out for the central (and perhaps the wildcard) when the dust settles on this season. The Indians looked to be the O’s only April reprieve, and we all saw how that turned out too.

 

At 8-12 the Orioles should be counting themselves as fortunate. Couple the daunting April schedule with the statistics that the team has managed to produce, the injuries and illnesses that they’ve been forced to deal with and suddenly 8-12 (3-4 in the division) looks nothing short of miraculous.

 

-         Brian Roberts currently leads the team in HRs (3) and RBI (15)

-         Adam Jones is batting .229 and is still one of the team’s most productive bats

-         Luke Scott (who will carry the team at stretches) is hitting .214 with 4 RBI

-         Derrek Lee is hitting a Garrett Atkins-like .211 with 2 RBI

-         Nick Markakis is not seeing many pitches and is batting .209

-         Mark Reynolds is hitting .179 and striking out nearly 1 in every 3 at bats

-         Robert Andino leads the team in batting average

 

If all of the above persist, it’s fair to say the Orioles will be playing much closer to their record from last year than the 8-12 they’ve played to so far.

 

-         Jeremy Guthrie has already had to be skipped a turn in the rotation due to illness

-         JJ Hardy has been out and seemingly took all of the team’s momentum with him

-         Brian Matusz has yet to make a start

-         They can’t find at bats for Jake Fox

-         No one is trying to win the job in left field.

-         Their most credible closer is dealing with a murder wrap and is currently in extended spring training

-         The back end of the bullpen is a mess

-         Koji’s durability still can’t be counted on in an important role

-         The only suspect April opponent (CLE) swept the O’s

 

All things considered it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a team producing those stats to be closer to 4-16 like the O’s were last year after 20 games than the 8-12 that they are currently.

 

Most of the issues laid out above have a way of correcting themselves over the course of 162 games; others may require more creativity in solving. It stands to reason though that as the level of competition goes down and the numbers go up, these Orioles could still be a scary proposition at some point. If they’ve managed to stay near afloat through this tough first 3 weeks of the season, they’re bound to be scary as the hits begin to fall.

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