Tag Archive | "texas rangers"

For upstart O’s, chance to rebound and make presence in AL East comes against Yanks

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For upstart O’s, chance to rebound and make presence in AL East comes against Yanks

Posted on 11 April 2011 by Ryan Chell

The Orioles recently finished their first home-stand of the early 2011 season, finishing 3-3 overall after dropping the final two games against the American League champion Texas Rangers by a combined score of 16-1.

Adrian Beltre

But, with the rest of the AL East struggling at this point-the Orioles still remain atop first place in the division with a 6-3 record with a pivotal three-game series coming up against the second-place New York Yankees.

The Orioles really showed a lot in the weekend’s series against the Rangers,  and despite the bats cooling down late in the series, the Birds showed that their pitching-when managed correctly-can keep them in a game or two.

Orioles rookie Zach Britton built on his debut in his first ever home start on Saturday, pitching into the eighth inning and keeping a potent Rangers lineup(which showed up in the second game of the double-header) off the scoreboard.

Jeremy Guthrie then piggy-backed on Britton’s performance on Sunday, and after having been on IVs only days earlier, pitched six strong innings while only allowing one long bomb to third baseman Adrian Beltre.

Jeremy Guthrie

Those two showed that even if fellow starters Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, and Brad Bergesen struggle every other start, manager Buck Showalter for now can at least sit down in the dugout without having to pace back and forth every two out of five games.

And let’s not forget. Even with Arrieta struggling Saturday night, the Rangers came into Saturday as the league’s only undefeated team before Britton handcuffed their lineup.

They were the defending AL Champs for a reason, and a team that already had a potent lineup with MVP Josh Hamilton Beltre, and one of the hottest hitters in the league in OF Nelson Cruz.

The O’s were competitive for the relative length of the series-at least until they threw Chris Jakubauskas to the wolves in Saturday’s late game to keep the rest of the bullpen fresh.

The Orioles also learned first-hand that Texas could also maybe have the best left-handed starting rotation in the league, and they didn’t even see C.J. Wilson.

Traveling to Yankee Stadium for the first time this season could be a big opportunity to prove they’re here for the long haul, especially with New York reeling after losing two of three to Boston, giving the Red Sox their first two wins of the year.

It’s another opportunity for the Orioles to break away from the pack in the AL East (with Toronto and the Yankees 1GB at 5-4) and put more quality wins on their resume building on the momentum of their early success.

We’ve seen the MASN commercial where Showalter says the Yankees and the Red Sox don’t get three runs to start off the game.

Let’s see how that goes with Tillman, likely Bergesen, and Arrieta slated to start the three games in the Bronx.

It’s true…the Yankees can’t start off the game with three runs like Showalter said, but with the home team batting in the bottom of the inning combined with the way Tillman, Bergesen, and Arrieta all pitched in their last starts, the Bronx Bombers could very well get three runs by the start of the second inning.

A-Rod

And if the Orioles are to lose the series to the Yankees, let’s do it the way the team has played in eight of the nine games this year where the Orioles didn’t throw in the towel-or as my colleague Drew Forrester says-”don’t lay down on their back like Paris Hilton and just take it”.

Plus, the Orioles need every win they can take before taking on the powerhouse Cleveland Indians (7-2 record, 2nd best in MLB) this weekend.

Can’t look past the Yankees because of the anticipation of taking on those “winners” in Cleveland.

-Chell

ryan@wnst.net

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< 50 words …. Monday, April 11th

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< 50 words …. Monday, April 11th

Posted on 11 April 2011 by Rex Snider

I could’ve easily written about a dozen different topics today. It was an eventful weekend and I will share additional hightlights during this afternoon’s show. Here are a half dozen of my observations:

TOUGHER Than Tough
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Just four days removed from hospitalization for pneumonia, Jeremy Guthrie accepted the baseball and did what’s expected of a #1 pitcher. Heck, he did even more …..

Whenever a starter departs with surrendering just one run in 6 innings, he deserves to win. Andy MacPhail will regret penny-pinching this guy …..
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Congratulations, Rory McIlroy
.

Even I feel badly for this dude – and I don’t know why …. other than seeing him meltdown and drive balls with the accuracy of me, during yesterday’s final round of the Masters. To his credit, McIlroy handled it like a gentleman and a professional.

Hey, bigger choke jobs have occurred …..
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Does Texas Miss This Guy?
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Not a freakin’ chance !!!! With the start of the ’11 season, another prospect acquired in the Mark Teixeira trade has “hatched” for the Rangers. Matt Harrison joins Neftali Feliz and Elvis Andrus as former Braves prospects performing for Texas.

Saturday’s 2-hit effort against the birds was evidence of Harrison’s talent.
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Is There A “BIKER” Look?
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Without hesitation, spring’s arrival guarantees every dusty Harley stored in a dude’s garage will find local roadways on weekends. Yesterday, I noticed plenty of bikes, and the consistent observation, as always, was BIKER GEAR.

If you ride a Harley is it mandatory to dress like a Hells Angel? Just wondering …..
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Sex-retariat?
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I agree with Glenn Clark’s assessment of current movies; selection sucks. So, we celebrated Friday’s Orioles rainout by watching Secretariat on DVD. It was okay …. sappy rather than suspenseful; John Malkovic didn’t kill anyone (damn !!!) and Diane Lane wore far too many clothes on that sexy frame.
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Welcome to Butler Cabin
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Reporter: “Charl Schwartzel, you just won the Masters … where ya going?”

Charl: “Umm … Disney World?”

Reporter: “Nope, you’re headed to Butler Cabin.”

NFL, NBA & MLB champions get parades. NASCAR’S champ gets the Big Apple. The Masters victor gets a fireside chat in a CABIN, with other dudes.

Now, that’s tradition …..

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Orioles Series Preview: Home vs. Texas Rangers April 8th- April 10th

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Orioles Series Preview: Home vs. Texas Rangers April 8th- April 10th

Posted on 08 April 2011 by John Collingsworth

The Baltimore Orioles (5-1) face off against the Texas Rangers (6-0) in a weekend match-up starting Friday night at Camden Yards.

Both teams are starting the season red hot, and the Rangers are being fueled by their high power offense led by Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler.

The Orioles are still riding the ‘Buck-mobile’ and the bats of key off-season acquisitions, Vladimir Guerrero & Derrek Lee, who both hit their first HRs for the Black and Orange in their series vs. the Tigers, are starting to come around.

This weekend will be a test for the young Orioles pitching staff who boasts the top ERA in the Majors (2.33 ERA) against one of the top offenses in the league in the Rangers (42 runs scored, 4th in the Majors)

(5-1)                                                                                (6-0)

Friday, April 8th 7:05 EST

Orioles vs. Rangers

Zach Britton (1-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Colby Lewis (1-0, 4.50 ERA)

Saturday, April 9th 7:05 EST

Orioles vs. Rangers

Jake Arrieta (1-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Matt Harrison (1-0, 1.29 ERA)

Sunday, April 10th 1:35 EST

Orioles vs. Rangers

Jeremy Guthrie (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Derek Holland (1-0, 4.50 ERA)

Projected Lineup: Baltimore Orioles and 2011 STATS

1. Brian Roberts- 2B

(.280 AVG, 1 2B, 2 HRs, 8 RBIs)

2. Nick Markakis- RF

(.300 AVG, 1 2B, 0 HRs, 2 RBIs)

3. Derrek Lee- 1B

(.182 AVG, 0 2B, 1 HRs, 2 RBIs)

4. Vladimir Guerrero- DH

(.240 AVG, 0 2B, 1 HRs, 3 RBIs)

5. Luke Scott- LF

(.100 AVG, 1 2B, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs)

6. Adam Jones- CF

(.182 AVG, 0 2B, 1 HRs, 3 RBIs)

7. Mark Reynolds- 3B

(.238 AVG, 3 2B, 0 HRs, 5 RBIs)

8. Matt Wieters- C

(.250 AVG, 1 2B, 0 HRs, 2 RBIs)

9. JJ Hardy- SS

(.214 AVG, 3 2B, 0 HRs, 2 RBIs)

Project Lineup: Texas Rangers and 2011 STATS

1. Ian Kinsler- 2B

(.250 AVG, 1 2B, 3 HRs, 4 RBIs)

2. Elvis Andrus- SS

(.250 AVG, 2 2B, 1 HRs, 5 RBIs)

3. Josh Hamilton- CF

(.273 AVG, 3 2B, 0 HRs, 4 RBIs)

4. Adrian Beltre- 3B

(.125 AVG, 0 2B, 1 HRS, 4 RBIs)

5. Michael Young- DH

(.280 AVG, 3 2B, 0 HRS, 2 RBIs)

6. Nelson Cruz- RF

(.350 AVG, 1 2B, 4 HRs, 6 RBIs)

7. David Murphy- LF

(.556 AVG, 1 2B, 1 HRs, 3 RBIs)

8. Yorvit Torrealba- C

(.263 AVG, 1 2B, 1HRs, 2 RBIs)

9. Mitch Moreland- 1B

(.308 AVG, 2 2B, 0 HRs, 2 RBIs)

 

 

If you are stuck at work, and want the latest information during the O’s game from the experts, then head online and enter the Orange Crush Live Chat with Luke Jones this Friday at 7PM!!!!!!

 

 

 

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Orioles rookie pitcher Zach Britton on surprise call-up and debut: “I’m happy to be here”

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Orioles rookie pitcher Zach Britton on surprise call-up and debut: “I’m happy to be here”

Posted on 07 April 2011 by Ryan Chell

For all the debate going into spring training as to whether prized pitching prospect Zach Britton would join the big league club at the start of the season and fit right into the starting rotation, that argument came to an end last weekend when one of the Orioles’ highly touted rookie made his major league debut against the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday in a 5-1 victory.

Zach Britton

Britton, a third round pick by the Orioles in the 2006 MLB Draft out of high school, quickly made the rise throughout Baltimore’s minor league system.

He quickly earned national prominence as the Orioles’ top-rated prospect, and was the 10th best in the nation according to an early Baseball America poll.

And he put the numbers up in spring training to back those opinions.

And after going 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in Sarasota in five games, Oriole fans-and now we know the coaching staff had similar desires-wanted Britton to join the 25-man roster and the Orioles’ five-man pitching rotation.

And at the expense of fellow teammate Brian Matusz going on the DL with a back injury, he was able to do so Sunday versus the Rays and make the most of it.

Britton in six innings of work allowed only three hits, one run, while striking out six for his first ever major league win.

His performance completed the three-game sweep of the defending AL East Champion Rays, and on top of piggy-backing fellow “rookie” Chris Tillman’s six no-hit innings on Saturday, his performance set the team up for success in the hope-opener against Detroit Monday this week-another 5-1 win by Baltimore.

Britton joined “The Mobtown Sports Beat” with Thyrl Nelson Tuesday on the Orioles off-day as both he and his team’s emotions have been riding high given the team’s surprising start.

“I’m just excited to be here,” Britton told Nelson. “You know, it’s been pretty exciting the last couple days, especially with Opening Day. We’re riding a pretty good streak right now. Hopefully, we’ll continue it.”

Britton told Nelson that he had some jitters going into Sunday’s game playing in a professional stadium like Tropicana Field, and if there was any criticism of Britton’s performance on Sunday-it could have been problems with control and his pitch count at times.

Britton backed up that argument, and said that his adrenaline may have got the best of him in some key situations.

“It’s all about sharpening my command,” Britton said. “I wasn’t happy with the three walks.”

But, Britton said he’s never been a negative person, and his manager in Buck Showalter told him that looking at the things that went wrong in a special event for him would just be the wrong thing to do.

“Once I get a couple starts under my belt, then I’ll start looking at the negatives,” the Orioles rookie said. “The first couple starts I’m just going to look at the things I did well and things I can improve on like throwing strikes…making sure I’m being aggressive and making them beat me, not beating myself.”

It was also a testament to Britton’s character regarding the fact that he rebounded from being sent down the week before to having to quickly adjust being mentally prepared to face a big-league ball-club.

“I’m happy to be here,” he said. “With the situation that happened in camp, I understood the decision was just business, and they told me I wasn’t going to be down in Norfolk very long, and I wasn’t down there at all.”

Britton’s next start will come Friday versus another AL Champion-in this case the pennant-winning Texas Rangers.

And ever since taking in both his first ever win and start on Sunday to enjoying the environment of Opening Day the following afternoon, his focus has solely been on that Texas lineup of Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Adrian Beltre.

But yet, he’s not going to get himself worked up by the next step in his progression as an Orioles starting pitcher.

“When it’s my turn to get out there, it’s business as usual. I’m not trying to psych myself up or over-hype the hitters. I’m just going to try to go out there and pitch my game,” Britton replied.

And when fellow southpaw Brian Matusz finally does become healthy yet again, he hopes that the team will be far enough along that welcoming him back will be the best thing that could happen.

“Unfortunately Brian got hurt but I’m just hoping to fill in and when he does get back, we’ll have a pretty good rotation,” Britton said. “We’re looking forward to getting him back hopefully so he can continue what we started.”

WNST thanks Zach Britton for joining us to talk about the start of the season and hope to continue following his progress in an Oriole uniform! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Rougher waters loom for the Orioles young, depleted pitching staff

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Rougher waters loom for the Orioles young, depleted pitching staff

Posted on 06 April 2011 by Rex Snider

We are four games into the 2011 season and the optimism of a “brand new start” is resonating throughout this city. I suppose four consecutive wins, featuring solid pitching and good fundamentals will attract the wandering eye, huh?

In this span of just five days, the Orioles have garnered a splash or two on the national stage, as well. Such exposure also rallies the attention of many casual, local baseball fans who’ve lost interest over the past several seasons.

This renewed excitement is certainly noteworthy and even if it’s short-lived, the feeling is rekindling for many of us. I applaud the reborn enthusiasm, but I will also take this moment to serve as the cautious voice of reason …..

I’m not casting a conspicuous warning that 158 games remain on the balance of the schedule. Everybody can count, and we’re all aware of the slight fraction of a season that has expired. Plenty of good (and bad) baseball remains.

I have been pleased with a product that appears to be building on last season’s late success. However, I’m also very cautious about the immediate schedule of opponents looming directly ahead.

I’m not looking beyond the Detroit Tigers, as two games remain in this first series on the home slate. At some point, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Magglio Ordonez are likely to awaken to find the deliveries of Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman appetizing.

But, starting this Friday, the action and potential threats to this young pitching staff will arrive front and center. In defense of their American League Championship, the Texas Rangers will become the kinda guests we won’t welcome for a weekend series to wrap-up the first homestand.

The Rangers are not the Rays.

Their lineup doesn’t expose an easy out, with combinations of power, speed and plate discipline clogging nearly every spot from top to bottom. They’re obviously the real deal and quite capable of knocking the Orioles young pitching staff down a couple notches.

If Zach Britton turns in a duplicate performance of last Sunday’s debut, one of the game’s lesser known legitimate rockstars will likely plant a “WELCOME TO THE SHOW” souvenir on the flag court:
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And if it’s not Nelson Cruz, it will be Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre’ or just about any other guy in that lineup. In truth, Britton was hit pretty hard, and he benefited from a bit of luck when it came to scorching liners finding gloves.

I get it …. Sunday’s game marked his first time on a big league mound and the “butterfly effect” was most certainly a factor. But, excuses won’t save the young phenom if he surrenders early counts in his favor, as he did numerous times against Tampa.

The same cautionary suggestions apply to Jake Arrieta if he deals the very hand witnessed in Monday’s home opener. He fell behind, while customarily wrestling with command and benefited from a less than patient approach by the Detroit lineup.

When the curtain comes down on the Texas series, the birds head to the Bronx for the first of three visits. The Yankees will pose a similar threat to the Rangers; they’re going to force these young pitchers to work and they’ll KILL mistakes.

Robinson Cano has emerged as the team’s best hitter and he feasts on poor pitching performances …..
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Mark Teixeira has started the season on a hot streak and the Jeter/A’Rod combination is not going to hit a substandard .270 again. Tillman will avoid the Texas bats, but he’ll be forced to protect Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right field against a compliment of 6 hitters from the left side of the plate.

It is what is, I suppose …..

The Orioles are manning an unblemished 4-0 record, and all of us understand its a bit of an aberration. Losses on the scoreboard await this team in the very near future and everybody who loves baseball comprehends the realities of a 162 game schedule.

Many of us have claimed that we want to see improvement, beyond anything else. And, while the win/loss record usually dictates success, I think the overall performances we witness from this impressionable pitching staff is just as vital.

In an ironic way, a pitcher’s statistical performance can be as misleading as a perfect 4-0 record. I’m not buying high, nor selling low, I’m just taking a wait and see approach with the likes of Tillman, Britton, Arrieta and company.

Some notable bumps in the road await each young arm in this rotation, and quite honestly, I’m betting a few of those bumps are just a few days ahead of us.

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Several ‘O’-bservations from Monday’s 5-1 victory over Tigers

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Several ‘O’-bservations from Monday’s 5-1 victory over Tigers

Posted on 04 April 2011 by Ryan Chell

Well, the weather could have not nicer on an Opening Day in Baltimore. 80+ degrees and the Orioles fans were out in support of their first place team.

A day like Monday certainly proves that God is a baseball fan.

And the first-place Orioles did their part in their home-opener defeating the Tigers 5-1, as starter Jake Arrieta continued the trend of quality starts by Orioles pitchers, as the fourth-starter in the rotation scattered six hits in six innings of work while only allowing one run to pass home plate.

Jake Arrieta

He struck out three and only walked two Tigers.

The Orioles offense also did its part in the bottom of the fifth against Tigers starter Rick Porcello, whose only mistake was giving up a three-run bomb to Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts after shortstop JJ Hardy doubled and left fielder Felix Pie walked.

Roberts has both of Baltimore’s home runs this year.

Jason Berken came in to relieve  Arrieta, and continued his fantastic start to the season as he struck out another three batters in his two innings of work.

In his two games to start the season, Jason Berken has six strikeouts in three innings pitched.

The Orioles are now 4-0 and still sit atop first-place in the AL East.

The last time the Orioles finished with that unblemished record was 1997, when Davey Johnson’s team reached the ALCS to lose to the Cleveland Indians in six games.

If the Orioles were to take two of three from the Tigers on Wednesday with Brad Bergesen taking the hill for a sick Jeremy Guthrie, the Orioles’ 5-0 start would be the best since 1970, when the team won the World Series.

And like I’ve said, it may be early-especially with the defending AL Champs-the Texas Rangers-coming in over the weekend, but it’s better than being 0-4 that’s for sure.

Some ‘O’-bservations from the team so far four games into the season:

1. Starting Pitching

Jake Arrieta kept up with the pace that Jeremy Guthrie, and rookie pitchers Chris Tillman and Zach Britton set over the weekend in Tampa, as he earned yet another quality start for the Orioles starting rotation.

In 26 innings so far in this early season, the Orioles’ four starters have an ERA of 0.69.

As a whole, the pitching staff has an ERA of 1.00 allowing four runs in as many victories. They have struck out 30 opposing batters, which is tied for third in the majors.

We’ve seen before in recent years young pitching staffs who had to go through some growing pains before taking the next step, and the Orioles young staff ( Guthrie-31, Tillman-22, Britton-23, Arrieta-25, along with Matusz-24, Bergesen-25) could be in a position to take the next step.

And don’t forget. Both starters Justin Duchscherer (hip) and Brian Matusz (back) are on the DL and should pose intriguing questions to manager Buck Showalter when they return.

A problem I would like him to have by the way.

2. Bullpen

There could be concerns toward the back end of the bullpen after closer Kevin Gregg faced five hitters in the top of the ninth Saturday in the Orioles 3-1 victory.

In the same game, lefty Michael Gonzalez-who struggled last year as the Orioles closer-had similar issues with his control as he only lasted a third of an inning and walked two.

A big concern considering as of now “Gonzo” is the only lefty in the bullpen-one making 6 million dollars.

But, on the bright side, Jason Berken appears to have made the right decision to rehab his labrum injury in the off-season as opposed to have surgery.

He and late-inning specialist Koji Uehara-also re-signed in the off-season-have combined for 4 2/3 innings of work, seven strikeouts, while only allowing one hit.

Koji Uehara

If Gregg and Gonzalez continue to struggle, could these two be the guys to lock down the eighth and ninth innings? Uehara closed games for Showalter last year, and Berken has always thrived in his one-inning-of-work appearances.

3. The Outfield

I saw this “proposal” in the baseball preview of Sports Illustrated, and at first I disagreed with Ben Reiter, who wrote the AL East preview for SI.

His “proposal” was along the lines of leaving the outfield of Pie in left, Jones in center, and Markakis in right the way it is to make sure the defensive range in the outfield remains at a peak variable.

Felix Pie

Clearly, Felix Pie doesn’t offer the pop at the plate Luke Scott or Vladimir Guerrero would should they be in the lineup, but his range so far has been an asset to this Oriole pitching staff. Reiter’s proposal dealt with leaving Pie out in left on a regular basis and having a “streaky” Luke Scott-who clearly doesn’t have the speed and range Pie possesses-and an aging Vladimir Guerrero split time at DH.

Pie had a huge outfield assist in Saturday’s game pitched by Tillman, gunning down B.J. Upton at the plate to keep the game tied at 0-0.

And Markakis saved the game later with his up-against-the wall catch to end the game.

At short glance, the defensive outfield could be an asset to this team and young pitchers. It could be in their best interest to take a hit at the plate (pun intended) while making sure opposing hits don’t drop in front of Luke Scott.

4. Home-grown hitters on fire

The Orioles three first-round picks in their lineup (2B Brian Roberts, RF Nick Markakis, and C Matt Wieters) right now are hitting .294, .429, and .385 respectively.

Roberts has both of the team’s home runs, and Markakis appears to be very comfortable in the two-hole in front of Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero, where all he needs to worry about is getting on base.

Both he and Wieters recorded their first doubles Monday against the Tigers, and if you’ll notice with Wieters, there is a small change in his batting stance from a year ago.

Last year, Wieters stood straight up the batters box, and now it appears as if he has a small bend in his knees, which not only will help a tall 6’5” catcher shrink the strike zone, but hopefully will get his lower legs more involved in his swing-hopefully bringing that power Baltimore fans have waited for.

5. Free-agent thumpers-are not

Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee meanwhile have not been able to provide that huge spark in the three-hole and cleanup spots in the lineup. Neither of them have an extra base hit, an RBI to their credit, and the two’s batting average is .214 for Lee and .125 for Guerrero.

But, I wouldn’t expect their hitting struggles to continue though. It may only take a week for them to return to their true form.There are still 158 games to play gentleman.

Lee even got a stole base Monday. At least that’s something.

-Chell

ryan@wnst.net

(photos courtesy Rob Carr-Getty Images)

WNST-We Never Stop Talking!

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Tuesday 3-Pointer: Buck Show-Wieters, Prime Time Reimold & Beefing Up Riley’s Angels

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Tuesday 3-Pointer: Buck Show-Wieters, Prime Time Reimold & Beefing Up Riley’s Angels

Posted on 01 March 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Tuesday 3-Pointer

 #1 – Buck’s Biggest Impact: Walks on Water or Wakes Up Wieters?

 

While it’s easy to get caught up in the inherent euphoria of the Buck Showalter experience so far, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago I’m having a hard time envisioning Showalter (or anyone for that matter) possibly living up to the expectations set forth by the team’s stunning turnaround since his arrival, set to the backdrop of historical ineptitude in the midst of 14 straight miserable seasons. At least part of the Orioles success under Buck could be attributed to an expected “market correction” of sorts, another to the infusion of Brian Roberts, Koji Uehara and other key contributors arriving at the end of the season with Showalter. Still, to this point Showalter has seemingly garnered most of the credit (deservedly or not) and will likely take more than his share of the blame too if things go south (again deservedly or not).

 

My reasoning for trying to minimize Showalter’s impact is simple, it seems to me that even if Buck Showalter had the right answers to every question that seemingly vexed these Orioles before his arrival, it still seems inconceivable that he could have imparted all of that wisdom on his new charges quickly enough to have had the impact that we saw by way of the team’s turnaround last year.

 

If there was a place however, that Buck may have been able to implement his own philosophy on the fly, it was through catcher Matt Wieters. Pretty much immediately after Wieters’ arrival with the big club, Dave Trembley made it known to the fans and media that he’d be charged with calling his own game, how true that was is still actually anyone’s guess. If Showalter’s arrival though brought with it simply a better called game through Matt Wieters, either by changing his approach in calling pitches, or by calling the pitches himself from the dugout, that’s the one place where I’d be prone to believe that Showalter could have had an immediate and sizable impact.

 

After beating the Texas Rangers last year on July 11th, the Orioles were 29-59 on the year (32.9%). In games caught by Craig Tatum at that point however, they were 10-13 (43.4%). Maybe the biggest single factor in the O’s struggles last year was the game being called by Wieters. It’s inconceivable that Showalter taught nearly every pitcher on the team how to throw more effectively, but it’s highly conceivable that he taught Wieters how to set them up better for success themselves. If that is indeed the case, I can’t wait to see what he can do for him with the bat in his hands this season.

 

#2 – Prime Time Reimold

 

Nolan Reimold started his 2011 campaign off much better than he left off 2010 with a solo shot off of Pittsburgh’s Paul Malolm in his first plate appearance of the spring. The acquisition of Vlad Guerrero immediately led me to believe that the O’s would be shipping Luke Scott (and his big mouth) to anyone willing to make an offer, so far that hasn’t been the case. As long as Scott remains an Oriole, and the rest of the outfield and Guerrero remain healthy, Reimold looks to be the odd man out. That may not be the worst thing in the world though.

 

One big spring game does not a comeback season make, and Reimold has work to do to bounce back from last year’s disappointment. As the only player in that mix with an option remaining on his contract, Reimold is likely to be shuttled back and forth between the minors and the big club as needs arise throughout the upcoming season. Getting everyday at bats in triple A is probably more beneficial for Reimold and his development anyway than filling the 4th or 5th outfielder role and playing once a week in the majors.

 

What Monday’s line from Reimold reminded me of though, and the impression that I hope he leaves with Showalter no matter where he winds up beginning the year, is all about his mature approach at the plate. After the big shot to start his season, no one could have blamed Reimold for getting aggressive and expanding his strike zone looking for another bomb, especially in the first game of the spring. Instead Reimold compelled 3 walks to compliment the dinger on his line, and scored another run to boot in the O’s 6-4 victory over the Pirates.

 

The day I grew to appreciate Reimold as a hitter is one I’ll never forget. It was the afternoon of May 27th, 2009 against Toronto. The O’s were down 8-3 to the Jays and Roy Halladay after 7 innings. Reimold entered the game for Felix Pie in the 8th and struck out swinging with the bases loaded against reliever John Carlson, still the O’s rallied in the 8th to tie the game at 8. In the 9th Reimold came to the plate with runners at first and second in an 8-8 game and was called out looking on a Jason Frasor pitch that seemed to be a terrible call by home plate umpire Rob Drake. After surrendering a 10-8 lead to the Jays in the top of the 11th, Reimold came to the plate with 2 men on and delivered a game winning 3-run shot for the O’s, delivering the win. Despite feeling gypped at the plate all night by Drake, Reimold never adjusted what he knew to be his strike zone, as a result he came through in the clutch, Reimold seemed at that moment, clearly disciplined beyond his years in terms of approach.

 

I’m sure Buck will grow to love and appreciate the patience of Reimold, if he hasn’t already. Hopefully that patience will translate to patience regarding his relative place in the hierarchy of O’s outfielders. After last seasons disappointment, no one could blame him for being antsy about getting past it, just like no one could have blamed him on that day in 2009 in the bottom of the 11th, having already struck out twice. Let’s hope his approach is the same.

 

#3 – Riley’s Angels Beefing Up

 

With the passing of the NBA’s trade deadline, and the wave of bought out contracts, the last official migration of NBA talent for the season is set to take place, as bought out players can now align their services with the team of their own choosing for the stretch run, provided of course that the team’s interest is mutual.

 

The Heat look to be the early winners here, as the attraction of playing with Riley’s Angels, and their apparent need for someone to steer the ship and someone to take care of the dirty work make them a compelling destination for players not only looking to pick up some hardware as hired guns, but also seeking an opportunity to be the difference maker, the player who puts them over the top. It looks like Troy Murphy and Mike Bibby will be answering that call for the Heat in the next couple of days. It wouldn’t be surprising if San Antonio got a lot more interested in Bibby with the news that Tony Parker may be out for a few weeks, but for now the Heat looks to be his likely destination.

 

In Murphy the Heat may find the front court difference maker that they’ve been looking for since Udonis Haslem went down for the season, in fairness he’d project to be a lot better for the Heat than Haslem ever was, and surely better than Erik Dampier has been. Murphy would finally free up Chris Bosh to be the pick and pop power forward that he was made to be. Bibby, sadly doesn’t seem to be the player that he once was anymore, and probably won’t make much difference in how far the Heat can go this season. He surely doesn’t bring with him as much potential as Murphy in Miami’s system.

 

Ultimately if the Heat hope to be successful they’ll have to find a way to beat good teams and to win close games, they’re 2-6 in games decided by 3 points or less, and 14-15 against teams that are above .500. Maybe Sunday’s showdown with the Knicks shows the biggest reason why. Given a last shot at a tying 3-pointer against New York, LeBron James put a move on a defender and launched an off balance 3 from the top of the key, instead of looking to DeWayne Wade who looked to be wide open and looking for the ball on the wing for 3.

 

When this triumvirate of excessiveness came together the biggest early question was who will get the big shots, now the Heat have to find themselves wondering who can make a big shot in a critical moment for them. If their struggles in close games continue, I fully expect the “who gets the shots?” questions to appear again with renewed fervor, maybe from within the Heat’s own locker room too.

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At a crossroads ….

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At a crossroads ….

Posted on 08 February 2011 by Rex Snider

Take a few moments and slide into the “wayback machine” to February 8, 2001.  Our sports world was a distinctly different place ten years ago, huh?  From nearly every aspect imaginable, looking back just a mere decade paints a different picture for most of us.

From a local perspective:

Baltimore was still basking in the glow of a Super Bowl championship.

Brian Billick and Trent Dilfer were two of the most popular guys in town.

The Orioles were headed to Spring Training, with hopes of ending a 3-year losing skid.

Cal Ripken was entering his final season in uniform.

From a national perspective:

The Oakland A’s, St. Louis Rams, Cleveland Indians, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Mariners were near or atop their divisions.

Cellar dwellers included the likes of the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Falcons, Texas Rangers, New England Patriots and Minnesota Twins.

Highlight footage was dominated by players such as Sammy Sosa, Allen Iverson, Jason Giambi, Marshall Faulk and Daunte Culpepper.

Names like Lebron James, Tom Brady, Albert Pujols, Jimmie Johnson and LaDainian Tomlinson didn’t resonate with most of us.

You get the point, right?

I think it’s pretty amazing to see how much any culture, including the AMERICAN SPORTS CULTURE changes in such a relatively brief span of time.  After all, we’re only talking about ten years ….

Another striking phenomenon of our sports world, in 2001, was the popularity of NASCAR.  I think it’s pretty safe to say this highest form of stock car racing was cresting atop its wave of popularity ten years ago.

The sport was dominated by a young Californian named Jeff Gordon.  Major brand sponsors were fighting to get their logos plastered on a hood or quarter-panel.  And, the kickoff to another season was just ten days away.

What could go wrong?

Unlike any other American sport, auto racing poses the threat of death for its competitors.  It’s a reality those same competitors accept. It’s also a reality that proved very true just ten years ago.

NASCAR’s biggest star was killed in the 2001 Daytona 500 ….

The fallout from Dale Earnhardt’s death was immediate and it spurred debate among nearly everyone with an opinion on sports entertainment.  As always, some such opinions were informed and others were both ignorant and ridiculous.

Those who really understood auto racing embraced a need for increased safety technology, while still realizing auto racing is not SAFE and it never will be SAFE.  Conversely, dissenting opinions ranged from outlawing the sport or slowing it down.

However, something that was lost amid all the sensationalism of Dale Earnhardt’s death was the profound effect his absence would have on the popularity of NASCAR.  In each successive year, since 2001, the sport has lost small slices of ratings and overall exposure.

Today, NASCAR is a drastically different environment and entity than it was 10 years ago ….

A playoff system or “Chase” now exists

Cars are fabricated by ideal template of design

The points system or standings has been restructured a couple times

Yet, NASCAR still appears to be losing ground.  Do those who control it realize such losses?  Sure – and they’ve even tried to “replace” the lost character of a Dale Earnhardt.

His son has been “whored” out in every possible marketing campaign.

The participating networks orchestrate supposed feuds among young guns, like Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Brad Keslowski.

Rock stars have replaced country stars.

Trust me, there has been a long list of endeavors aimed at finding NASCAR’s next “American Idol” and propelling the sport back toward popularity.  To date, it hasn’t happened …..

In a couple weeks, NASCAR will host its latest edition of the Daytona 500 – the 10th such edition, since the death of Dale Earnhardt.  This year, Daytona International Speedway features a brand new racing surface and a great event is expected.

But, the core problem still exists.  NASCAR is losing popularity.  The defending champion has won the crown five consecutive times – and he has the personality of a cardboard box.  The most talented driver hasn’t found a checkered flag in two years.  The most popular driver is shaping up to be quite average, at best.

And, they all belong to the same racing organization – Hendrick Motorsports.

Right now, NASCAR is at a crossroads.  Aside from competition and exciting finishes, they must find a CHARACTER.  They must find the next Dale Earnhardt … without replacing Dale Earnhardt.

According to TV ratings and racetrack attendance, time is running out.

If NASCAR doesn’t find an answer soon, it might be relegated to obscurity ten years from now.

Just count me as a guy who hopes that doesn’t happen.

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Tuesday 3-Pointer

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Tuesday 3-Pointer

Posted on 08 February 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Here are my three points for topical debate on this fine Tuesday morning. I hope to hear from some of you with your thoughts on the following today on the MobTown Sports Beat from 11am – 2pm, or right here as well in the comments section.

Point #1 – Could the Vlad Add Still Go Bad?

 

For all of the good feelings and uplifted expectations that came with the O’s signing of Vlad Guerrero, can you blame fans for still feeling skeptical about and until his arrival? Given the way that he seemingly spurned the O’s years ago in free agency, and worse used their offers to leverage other teams, might we be witnessing an encore performance?

 

Vlad after all, still hasn’t taken a physical. In fact, the O’s haven’t necessarily/officially signed him yet at all. Instead what they have is an agreement in principle, pending a physical and I’m sure a few other details that are beyond my comprehension. The word from the team seems to be that with relocation pending to spring training, Guerrero might meet with team doctors down and hence make everything official then. However, as news begins to build about the supposed trade demands of Michael Young who was cast to be the Rangers DH this season, it certainly doesn’t seem beyond reason or possibility that the Rangers could still re-enter the picture for Vlad with renewed interest. Despite the announcement regarding his agreement to terms with the team, it still seems that Vlad would almost rather be anywhere but it Baltimore. Might he still be able to get his wish?

 

Point #2 – Stacking the Lineup

 

Assuming that the O’s can count on the services of Vlad Guerrero once the season begins, it’s certainly becoming encouraging to envision just what the lineup(s) might look like once that time comes. Here are a few of the ideas that I have, accompanied by the batters 3-year splits for batting average only overall, and vs. lefties and vs. righties respectively. All of the following assume a defensive alignment with Derrek Lee at 1st, Brian Roberts at 2nd, Mark Reynolds at 3rd, JJ Hardy at shortstop, Matt Wieters catching and in the outfield from left to right, Luke Scott, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis.

 

1st Glance Lineup

Vs. Lefties

Vs. Righties

1. (S) Roberts .288 1. (R) Roberts .301 1. (L) Roberts .282
2. (L) Markakis .297 2. (L) Markakis .361 2. (R) Jones .293
3. (R) Lee .286 3. (R) Lee .290 3. (L) Markakis .269
4. (R) Guerrero .300 4. (R) Guerrero .297 4. (R) Guerrero .301
5. (R) Reynolds .234 5. (R) Reynolds .245 5. (L) Scott .297
6. (L) Scott .284 6. (R) Jones .259 6. (R) Lee .284
7. (R) Jones .284 7. (L) Scott .240 7. (R) Reynolds .230
8. (S) Wieters .266 8. (R) Wieters .230 8. (L) Wieters .283
9. (R) Hardy .262 9. (R) Hardy .241 9. (R) Hardy .270

 

If Reimold winds up with the big club, he might be worth a look over Scott against lefthanders with a .270 three-year split. Jones and Lee might also be interchangeable in the vs. right-handers lineup. I’m looking forward to seeing how you think it should stack up.

 

Point #3 – Call it envy, respect or whatever you want, but there’s no denying that Baltimore has a thing for Mike Tomlin.

 

Of all of the Super Bowl reaction that we filtered through on Monday’s show, the most surprising realization for me was the overwhelming outpouring of respect levied on the Baltimore airwaves for Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

 

I guess I was remiss in quickly turning away from the pomp and circumstance of the Packers victory celebration, and therefore also missing the post game commentary by Tomlin. Whatever he said, he impressed a number of Monday’s callers to the point that they felt compelled to applaud him for it. Perhaps, from a Ravens fans perspective, anything other than the predictable corporate coach-speak that we’ve come to expect week after week from our own coach is simply viewed as refreshing and genuine. It’s also worth mentioning that the qualities that ingratiated him to fans across the country in the aftermath of Sunday’s game did little to help his team in said game, and that the lineage of coaches that have enjoyed hoisting the Lombardi isn’t exactly a who’s who of fan or media friendly types. Still I found it interesting.

 

With all of the accolades that Tomlin has seemingly achieved in his brief reign as Steelers coach, it’s fair to say that there are still only a handful of impact players on either side of the football whose time with the club doesn’t predate his own. Only time will tell if Tomlin and the Steelers will be able to turn over the roster and remain consistently competitive as his predecessors have done and as a result whether history will regard him in higher esteem than the likes of George Seifert or Barry Switzer, as like them thus far he still bears the “curse” of inheriting a ready to go team and has been smart enough seemingly to simply get out of their way. I’m betting that when the book is closed on Tomlin, he will have achieved distinction above and beyond those others, but still quietly hoping against it. It seems, that in that way at least, Tomlin has gotten to me too.

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Guerrero’s 7-year itch gets scratched in Baltimore

Posted on 05 February 2011 by Drew Forrester

Andy MacPhail finally gave in.

Perhaps it’s four years of losing and the spector of having his Baltimore tenure tied to last place and disappointing results after arriving with such hope and promise.

But MacPhail is apparently going to try and deliver a winner to Charm City before most likely moving on at the end of this season.

I don’t know if we should all say “Thank you, Andy” or “What took you so friggin’ long?” but the diehards like me who have waited so long for a competitive Orioles team just might get their wish in 2011.

It all came full-circle yesterday when word trickled out that Vlad Guerrero was heading to Baltimore, seven years after snubbing the O’s in favor of the Angels.

Better late than never, I suppose.

Vlad Guerrero the-second-time-around is still better than no Guerrero at all.  (BTW, here’s Rex Snider’s blog on the subject if you want to see how he feels about it.)

Vlad is a better hitter than Nolan Reimold and Felix Pie will ever be, period.  Heck, I can’t imagine there’s one player on the Orioles 40-man roster right now who will ever have a career-at-the-plate like Guerrero.  In case you haven’t paid attention for the last 15 years or so, here are THE NUMBERS that have made Guerrero one of baseball’s five best offensive players since 1996.  Hall of Famer?  If not, they should just stop putting people in.

So that’s the summary of Guerrero.  He’s better than either of the team’s two “younger” left fielders – even now at age 36 – and his bat is as productive as anyone the Orioles have had in…well…how about forever?

But there will be criticisms about the move.  People who fancy themselves armchair GM’s will point to the fact that the Orioles had to cough up $8 million to get a guy that no one else in the league wanted.  Some will compare the paltry $2 million that Tampa Bay forked over for Manny Ramirez and wonder how on earth the Birds got bilked out of $8 million for Guerrero.  Sharp-eyes for the game of baseball will say Guerrero is showing obvious signs of wearing down, but his abilities even at the 16-year mark of his career are far greater than Miguel Tejada or Garrett Atkins, the two “prize” signings of last winter (neither of whom made it to August 1 with the club).

Unlike the off-season of 2010 when the Birds tried to convince people they were trying by signing guys on the cheap with little or no hope of making a major impact, this off-season has been quite different.  Yes, guys like Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy are coming to town on the heels of “off” years.  Derrek Lee, like Guerrero, is older and more vulnerable than he was when the O’s tried to get him in the past.  Justin Duchscherer was the club’s marquee pitching acquisition and he threw in 5 more major league games than your’s truly over the last 2 seasons.

But guys like Lee and Guerrero and Hardy — they’re competent, HIGHLY capable players who have a history of excellence. Do they all have (continued…)

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