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An Unfamiliar Role For the Orioles: “Spoiler” ….

Posted on 30 August 2010 by Rex Snider

As we reconvene for the start of another week, you can assume a few distinct guarantees on this beautiful summer morning …..

1) this is the final Monday of August ….

2) football season is just one day closer, and ….

3) for the first time in a LONG time, the Boston Red Sox flew into BWI during the wee hours of the morning, while wishing they could’ve been landing in the city of an easier punching bag, like Cleveland, Kansas City, Seattle or Los Angeles.

Indeed, they’re not encountering one of the typical Baltimore Orioles lineups of the last decade. This scrappy bunch of players is the same core group that dropped 73 of its first 105 games. However, they’re now playing a better brand of baseball under the demand of Buck Showalter.

They’re still a marginal cast of characters. But, they now BELIEVE …..

And, that’s a dangerous pedigree for any opponent to accept.

A few months back, I listened to Curt Schilling’s view of the Orioles from a Red Sox perspective. He said “we looked at them as a break in the schedule.” “It was an opportunity to sweep a series and pad a divisional lead or cut a deficit.”

I don’t doubt Curt’s blunt and painful examination of what a series against the O’s meant to him and virtually any other member of the Red Sox or Yankees over the span of these last 13 years.

But, I do question whether Terry Francona’s current bunch feels that sense of confidence, as they’re holed up in the Inner Harbor Renaissance.

Probably, not.

For one, the Red Sox are beyond the simple description of a “walking wounded.” Count ’em …. Ellsbury, Cameron, Youkilis, Dice-K, Pedroia and Varitek. They’re all injured and out of the lineup.

But, of equal importance, this Orioles team will not furnish the typical accomodations accustomed to a visting Red Sox team – or any other visitor for that matter. The days of laying down and simply pulling up the skirt are done.

Dave Trembley tolerated such an effort. So did Lee Mazzilli, Sam Perlozzo, Mike Hargrove and other field generals.

As we’ve learned over the last month, Buck Showalter will not accept anything close to resembling a half-hearted fight. One month does not make a season. But, such a relevant timespan can offer a vivid view of what’s expected from the team’s leader.

And, that’s the difference.

The Red Sox will have a spirited spat on their hands when the series commences tomorrow evening. Terry Francona knows that, and he’ll surely remind his patched together contender before they ever hit the field.

While this Boston team is assembled of a couple 4A players, like Darnell McDonald and Bill Hall, they’re still anchored by the likes of Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jon Lester, John Lackey and Josh Beckett. They’re a more talented team than the Orioles, no question about it.

And, in some distinct ways, the Red Sox have played the same brand of overachieving baseball during the month of August. Some of their best young stars are done for the season. Yet, they’ve found a way to stay in contention with Tampa and New York.

That said, the fight might be nearly over.

After dropping two straight games at the ‘Trop, the Red Sox cannot afford to waltz into Camden Yards and get stung by the same surprising effort that shocked the White Sox, Angels and Rangers over these last 30 days.

Anything less than a sweep will further damage any chance of a miraculous return of postseason baseball at Fenway.

But, the Orioles will not resemble that same easy target described by Schilling. Not a chance …..

And, therein lies the opportunity for this 2010 Baltimore Orioles team, as October approaches and the Ravens assume nearly every single headline. The Orioles have a chance to play meaningful games in the realm of Major League Baseball’s immediate future.

They’ll get plenty of shots at the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees. They can have a VOICE in what happens in the A.L. East and ultimately, the playoffs and World Series.

I’ll concede it doesn’t equate into Camden Yards serving as the backdrop for baseball on chilly, October nights. But, it’s a start ….

The Orioles have a true opportunity to affect the finish in baseball’s most revered division. Yeah, the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees have experienced dogfights in the past, and they’ve all played the Orioles during the final weeks of the season.

But, this is different.

It’s a totally different Orioles team. For the first time in a LONG time, they’re led by a guy who won’t back down from bullies or settle for the “sure thing in the backseat of your car” effort. It ain’t happening …..

I’m actually looking forward to the final month of the season, and it begins tomorrow night.

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Earl Weaver Siting

Posted on 25 August 2010 by Tom Federline

It was Friday night, August 20th, during the ninth inning of the Orioles game vs. the Texas Rangers. I saw a slightly taller and rounder, semi-clone of the Earl of Baltimore. There was a fiery passion displayed on the field, the likes of which Camden Yards has not seen. There he was, Buck Showalter, silver haired, red-faced, veins popping out from the side of his neck, arguing vehemently with the home plate umpire over the one-sided calls and over extended strike zone. If Showalter would have turned his cap around and kicked dirt, I would have thought I was dreaming of 1970. An Orioles “manager” – a. defending his players. b. defending the game of baseball. c. allowing passion to be shown publically. Whether it is his demeanor, mannerisms, or some physical resemblence, the City of Baltimore has a new spark plug in the same mold as a legend gone by.

Forget the record, (12-9) since his takeover. The (8-2) start, only to be followed by a (4-7 ) record – of which we have become way to accustomed. Buck Showalter has made a difference on that ball club and in this town. The Orioles have a “skipper”, not a man in a uniform “managing” to get through an evening. Isn’t it refreshing to watch a manager – “manage”/coach/inspire/actually seem to care?” I actually like watching the after game interviews, of which I am not a fan of, at all. It has been, 3-4 questions, bing, bang, boom, this is the way it was, this is the way it is, any more questions……. good night. A far cry from the drawn out, bogus media questions, make up an answer to prove I’m bleeding orange and black, waste of time of recent years.

The “coming out” party finally happened last Friday night. “The Fix” was on, behind the plate. At the time of the Markakis tossing, 7 out of 11 strikeouts against the Orioles were “called” third strikes. Markakis, with one of the best eyes and recognition of the strike zone in baseball, gets called out 3 times in one game? I was driving home from vacation and turned to my daughter and said, “There’s money flying on this game.” And what solidified the deal was, the calls were not going both ways. Hence, the ejection of Showalter in the ninth. We had just made it home for that one. O what a show. And O, what a blatant show of  incompetency or vendetta, Jeff (I made some cash tonight) Nelson, displayed on the field that night.

The Orioles lost the game Friday night. But they have won the month of August. The team won with the hiring of a “leader”. The organization won with the hiring of a “skipper”. The City of Baltimore and true Oriole fans have won with the hiring of “hope”. The best part of Friday night wasn’t the tossing of Markakis and his display of passion, nor Showalters boiling point and brief display of an era gone by. It was the reaction of the fans. It was LOUD and it was relentless. Every ball thrown by Wilson after the ejections, you would hear “STRIKE”, yelled out by the crowd. Nice. Even nicer was the reception Jeff (cheater) Nelson received the following day during umpire introductions. BOOOOOOOOO – you hear from the stands-  carryover from the night before. That…..I told my daughter, is Oriole baseball. Those…….are Oriole fans. That ……is the way it used to be.

Is Showalter the O’s “Magic Man” – (Heart)? Only time will tell and if “For Petes Sake – Free the Birds” Angelos will open up his wallet. Just simply – Seize the Moment – O’s fans. It has been the best August in 13 years! O and how about Wiggintons reaction on that play the night before blocking third base? Markakis to Roberts to Wiggington to “You’re out – Go sit on the bench”. Nice display of baseball passion. All 3 of those guys I just mentioned have it and now we have a “skipper” who has it. A “skipper”, who at times, has the look and attitude of a Baltimore Legend.



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Before You Push The Purple Panic Button ....

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Before You Push The Purple Panic Button ….

Posted on 23 August 2010 by Rex Snider

My highly anticipated “Sports Saturday” started off on a positive note, thanks to the Orioles 8-6 victory over Cliff Lee and the Texas Rangers. The game was full of pleasant surprises …..

Who would’ve ever predicted that Josh Bell would connect more often than Joe Flacco on a simultaneous gameday? Ahh …. the magic of the unexpected in sports, huh?

By the time I hit the Lazy-Boy for the Ravens vs. Redskins preseason showdown, I was convinced it was going to be a GREAT night. I can’t say it turned out badly, but I did go to bed knowing John Harbaugh’s bunch still has A LOT of work on its hands before reuniting with Rex Ryan and his Jets.

While I can readily admit Saturday night’s game left me agonizing over a few areas of concern with this team, I’ve chosen to take a more sensible look at the overall picture of the 2010 Baltimore Ravens …..

For the past few weeks, we’ve heard the gloomy forecasts from those who invested a significant portion of their collective hope in Domonique Foxworth’s presence at cornerback. From callers to on-air hosts and even occasional guests, some sobering words have been spoken.

However, in all fairness, there has also been a fairly respectable amount of us who believe the team will be just fine, while downplaying any real handicap to the secondary. And, we’ve had answers for our continued positive outlook, right?

The common rationale in defending the stubborn optimism has been along the lines of “THE RAVENS ARE GONNA HAVE TO BLITZ MORE OFTEN AND GET AFTER THE QUARTERBACK.”

This certainly seems like a logical solution, right? Heck, it’s Football-101 …..

But, we’ve also heard the fairly warned potential ramifications to this solution, too.

As many realists have concluded, if you’re blitzing, you MUST get to the quarterback. If not, guys like Donovan McNabb are gonna make plays. And, the Ravens will be facing a host of ‘slingers better than the former Philadelphia Eagle, in 2010.

At times during Saturday’s game, McNabb looked like he was doomed, only to fool all of us by stepping up or rolling out of the pocket to buy an extra tick. He succeeded in some crucial situations, including a couple opportunities from the Redskins endzone.

By the way, does anyone know if Travis Fisher made the trip to DC?

The good news is we still have three solid weeks remaining before action on the field really counts. That’s 21 days for Lardarius Webb to get healthier. That’s 21 days to shop for better options on the rosters of other teams. And, that’s 21 days for Greg Mattison to assert some Rex Ryan and Marvin Lewis “PURPLE MAGIC” into his defense.

I’m certain a proportionate amount of this week’s WNST phone calls will be directed at finding a way to help the crippled cornerback unit. That’s the way it always is with the fan base. Among our consistent reactions, nothing is stronger than the tendency to PANIC.

Well, I’m telling you to relax.

Absorb the preseason for what it is – PRESEASON.

John Harbaugh and Greg Mattison weren’t really worried about stopping Chris Cooley, Santana Moss or Anthony Armstrong. Indeed, I’ll guarantee you they were more interested in seeing how their patched up secondary would fare against them – for better or worse.

For some players, like Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis and Derrick Mason, this game was simply about finding their rhythm and getting back into the flow of established gameplans.

For some others, like Anquan Boldin, Donte Stallworth, Cory Redding and Ken Hamlin, this game served as a prime opportunity to become intimate with their surroundings and a whole new playbook, at fullspeed.

And, yet, for some guys, like Travis Fisher (really …. did he play?), Prince Miller, Jason Phillips and Cary Williams, this was a vitally significant opportunity to prove they can play at this level and for this team.

You can bet a few sets of discerning eyes were cast on Flacco and his cohorts, as well as Boldin and his gang. But, I’ll bet the house nearly every eye that matters was watching that final group, as they danced upon the bubble …..

So, while you’re worried about the Ravens cornerbacks being able to cover the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals, I’m urging you ….. LET IT GO.

Unless he suddenly finds some of Ronnie Lott’s natural ability deep within his soul, Travis Fisher will not find a spot on this Ravens team. Greg Mattison surely suspected it going into Saturday night’s game. Fisher, himself, only confirmed it.

Perhaps, that’s why Mattison emphasized on a blitz-happy defensive attack. I can see that strategy. Think about it …. they might as well test the unproven or unlikely guys in an ideal situation, right?

Thus, they blitz and leave “Fisher Island” all by itself.

The preseason is partly about bringing the obvious back into focus, while also helping the truly qualified to learn a new system. But, it’s equally apportioned to testing the untested, to see if they can be part of a championship-caliber organization.

This trip to FedEx Field was nothing more than the second step in John Harbaugh’s FOUR-STEP preseason process. This team is in a self analyzation stage. They must find out who can contribute, even in the most mitigating ways, to this team’s immediate future.

While we love and savor those summer days in Westminster, it won’t be revealed there. Harbaugh and company cannot determine their 53rd man at McDaniel College. The survival process does not surround the practice field.

Two meaningless games are in the books and two more still remain. I don’t mean to undervalue the meaning of playing the New York Giants and St. Louis Rams over the next couple weeks. But, these games really don’t matter.

Let me rephrase that ….

The next couple games don’t matter UNLESS you’re standing in the shoes of Fisher, Miller, Williams and a few others. For them, these games are every bit as important as Super Bowl XLV.

These are the biggest games of their lives.

As I suggested, relax. This team will be just fine. Ozzie Newsome didn’t spend more than six months agonizing over a kick ass opportunity, just to be totally derailed by losing a cornerback in the early stages of training camp.

He’s obviously not panicking, why should we?

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Orioles today: The “bad fan debate” ignites when you’ve won 8 of 9

Posted on 12 August 2010 by Drew Forrester

Over the last few days, as the Orioles surge continues and folks start sniffing what it’s really like to have a decent team play baseball in August, you’re starting to hear THIS theme a lot more:  “Oh yeah, now that the team is winning again, people are suddenly back on board.”

First of all, don’t confuse winning 8 of 9 with “winning again”.  The Reds are “winning again”.  The Padres are “winning again”.  The Rangers are “winning again”.

What the Orioles are doing right now is making good use of a rabbit’s foot.  They’re not “winning again”.  They’re “finally on a hot streak”.

When the Birds play a meaningful game in September – one that impacts their position in the American League East standings – that’s when you’ll be able to say “the Orioles are winning again”.  When’s that going to happen?  Hell, I don’t know.  Probably around the same time I qualify for The Masters.  Or Pete Yorn puts out a bad album.  Or Towson football has a winning season.

I know this:  I’d love to see it – the Orioles playing a meaningful game – happen soon.  Next year would be great.  That’s not soon enough for me, but if it happens in 2011, I’ll be satisfied.

So, after four months of having their jaws wired shut, the Apologists are now back in full force.  You remember those folks, right?  They were the collective group of Fantasyland inhabitants who spouted off three years ago about how Andy was going to fix the franchise (evidently with magic, not money) and have watched in horror this season as the club has spiraled down the American League ladder.

Earlier in the year, Steve Melewski, an Employee-in-Law of the Orioles via his work at MASN, authored a piece in which he divided the (diminishing) Orioles fan base by basically saying, “you’re either with the team – and a fan – or you’re not with the team and you’re not a fan.”

Recently, a local blogger – Neal Shaffer – whom I respect as a writer and a diehard baseball enthusiast, tried taking a similar tact by writing his own piece in which he said, “those of you who have abandoned the team need to get back on right now…in the infancy of this re-birth…don’t wait around until the team gets REALLY good again or you’ll be considered a front-runner.”

Pardon my French, but what a bunch of bullsh*t that is.

Anyone in Baltimore who has abandoned the Orioles has done so with good reason.

They’ve done so not only because the O’s have lost for 13 straight years, but because the team has aggravated, alienated and almost intentionally disconnected with the fanbase that supported the team since the 1950’s.  They’ve done so because, while the on-field product has gone DOWN since 1998, prices and the expense of “supporting the team” has gone UP.  They’ve done so because the fans want the team to win more than the team itself wants to win.

The folks who really follow the club and have a keen eye for things like whether or not the organization is trying to win – and Neal Shaffer falls in that category – have figured out the game.  And they don’t want to play along anymore.

I don’t think it makes you a bad fan if you look at the landscape of baseball in Baltimore and say, “You know, I don’t think it’s worth giving them $24 to watch the game tonight at Camden Yards.”

The subject of “what makes you a bad fan?” is as controversial as asking folks who voted for Barrack Obama if they feel like they’ve contributed to the downfall of the country.  Lots of folks have a definition for “what makes a bad fan”.  Lots of people think they know what’s ruined the country. Everyone has their own idea(s).

Bad. Fan.

If you don’t sign off on 13 years of losing…and years and years of failing to spend money on quality free agents…and doing stupid stuff like charging people (who already AREN’T going) more money for tickets on the day of the game…that somehow makes you a BAD FAN.

No, it doesn’t.

In fact, I’d argue the exact opposite.

If you’re one of the last 3,300 in town who still fork over your money for tickets and applaud the team’s decision to NOT try and sign Mark Teixeira or Matt Holliday or A.J. Burnett — then I’d have to consider calling YOU a bad fan, for it’s people like you who have continued to keep the flame lit for the Orioles during this period of time where they’ve crawled into the fetal position and allowed the American League to force them into submission.

Maybe those who HAVEN’T stopped going to the games are the real people to blame.  Maybe those of you who give the team a free pass every off-season when they write themselves a big check instead of writing one to 3 or 4 good players are the ones to blame.  Maybe those of you who don’t have the balls to say, “this is crazy…you guys have to start running the team better or I’m not coming anymore” are to blame.

In fact, that argument is as silly as the one being made by the Apologists who say “you better get on board now or you’re a BAD FAN.”

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Buck Showalter

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Former Showalter Players Say about Buck and O’s: “He’s The Perfect Guy For The Job”

Posted on 04 August 2010 by Ryan Chell

Buck Showalter
Now that the Buck Showalter era is off and about here in Baltimore, we might be able to finally put our faith in a manager who knows every facet of the game to every detail, and a micro-manager who may finally bring an end to thirteen years of losing and mediocrity for the Orioles.

Showalter, a two time Manager of the Year in his 11 year managerial career,  has had a huge influence on his players over the years, ranging from his time with the New York Yankees in the early 90’s to the Texas Rangers back in 2006.

Showalter has never won a World Series in his coaching career, but the first two teams he managed-the Yankees and the Diamondbacks-won World Series titles a year after he relieved of his duties.

And Showalter had a huge hand in the personnel-decisions of those teams, and  laid the groundwork for the teams to finally earn that elusive prize.

For the most part he laid the foundation there,” said Luis Gonzalez, who played in the outfield for Showalter in 1999 and 2000.  “And he brought the demeanor the guys had and the attitude to go out and win.”

Luis Gonzalez

“That’s just a fluke that he wasn’t there to win. For the most part, he deserves a lot of that credit because he was the guy who laid the groundwork for it.”

Showalter should deserve even more credit for his work with the Diamondbacks, given the fact that he took the manager’s job a year before the expansion team started even playing baseball, and he was the cook that got the ingredients together to make things right.

In fact, another one of his former players in Arizona, third baseman Matt Williams, said that an opportunity like that-to build a franchise from the ground up-was something that Showalter always wanted to try his hand at.

Matt Williams

And Williams feels like that makes his already stellar track record that much better.

“I think history proves it,” Williams said. “He managed the most storied franchises in all baseball before coming to the Diamondbacks in managing in the Yankees. And what a great situation that is.”

“But to come to the Diamondbacks as they were an expansion team, he loved that challenge clearly.”

And Williams saw first-hand how much work Showalter put into getting his team playing great, fundamental baseball.

“He is just all about the game,” Williams noted.  “The early years here, he had a bed installed in the office. The routine was he would prepare for the game that night, after the game he would watch the game in its entirety again, and often times fall asleep at the ballpark.”

“But the next day, there was never a hesitation as to who he was going to play, as to who he was going to pitch-hit against a certain guy, who he was calling on for a match-up with somebody off the opposing team’s bench…no hesitation. He is one of the most prepared managers I’ve ever played for.”

Ultimately, the Diamondbacks of 2001 that won the World Series under Bob Brenly-which beat his former club in the Yankees-were a product of the knowledge and hard work put in by one man: Buck Showalter.

“My experience with Buck was in this type of situation. He built an organization from scratch,” Williams said. “He was involved with every aspect of it, from managing the game on the field to choosing the players and the type of players that he wanted to build the organization to what it ultimately became.”

And Williams said that kind of dedication is desire is exactly what a franchise like the Orioles-stuck in a 13-year losing streak needs.

“He’s prepared, and that’s what you need in a situation like you guys have in Baltimore; to build the organization back where it should be. He’s the perfect guy for the job.”

Matt Nokes

And Showalter has been that way his whole managerial career.  Former Yankees and Orioles catcher Matt Nokes saw that out of a young Buck Showalter the minute he got started as a rookie manager at the big league level in 1992.

Buck and the Boss

Even having not played at the major league level thanks to a guy named Don Mattingly, he still had paid attention to the game around him and knew how he felt like it should be played.

And he seemed very knowledgeable right off the bat to guys like Nokes.

“He paid attention to the little things. He knows everything, and has a great baseball mind. He created an environment to have a good year, and he wanted us to play to the wall for him.”

Nokes also mentioned that Showalter said that he wasn’t going to baby his players. He wanted them to be responsible for themselves and them alone.

“He gave us the impression that we’re supposed to police ourselves and handle ourselves well,” Nokes said.

Known for his micro-managing and attention to detail, Showalter wanted his players to copy that formula, Nokes said.

Showalter would tell them numerous times that if they did the little things first and focused on that, the rewards would be great down the line due to their work.

“In a sense of being unfair, [it was him]demanding the most out of your ability. His rule was to take care of the small steps, and the big steps would take care of itself,” said Nokes.

Nokes said he saw him as a player’s manager despite some grumblings out there that he was a strict disciplinarian.

“Buck seems to me the kind of guy that I remember that I respect and he always treated me with respect. He had a way of calling you into his office…so that he could bring you back into your focus.”

That way of dealing with issues that he has with his players carried through his entire managerial career, from the Yankees to his last stint with the Texas Rangers.

One of those players that had saw an influence from Showalter in Texas was former top Orioles pitching prospect Matt Riley, who felt like he got a whole new look at the game based upon his brief time with Showalter.

Matt Riley

“With Buck, my time was short with him, but he really showed that he cared about his players. All he asked of you was that you go out and play hard every single day and play the game right. That’s all he asked of you.”

He kept a good relationship with his players while still allowing you to go out and play your game.”

Riley feels like he will have a tremendous impact on the young Orioles because he has the resume to back up his teaching, being around the game for this long.

“I think he’ll be great for the young guys because immediately he’ll gain the respect of all his players, because everyone knows Buck Showalter and his accolades in this game,” Riley added.

But the veterans on the Orioles should also take notice to Buck, because if they tune him out and don’t buy into his way of playing the game right, they’ll be needing a change of address form.

“If you didn’t play the game hard, and you didn’t play it the right way, he was going to say something to you, whether you were a veteran or a rookie guy. That’s one of the biggest things that stood out about Buck,” Riley continued.

Gonzalez had the same thing to say.

“And knowing Buck from playing for him in the past, he’s going to get on these guys. There’s no cake-walk with him. You’re going to know when you step out on the field that he wants you to play hard. If not, you’re going to find yourself sitting on the bench.”

Matt Williams said he wouldn’t expect anything else from a quality manager in this league, and he said Showalter was the best at doing that out of all the managers he had in his 16-year major league career.

“That’s ultimately what a manager is. A manager is somebody that gets their guys in the an opportunity to bring the best of their talents out, and if everybody can do that, you can create a winning ball-club,” Williams said, who came close to winning a couple more World Series’ with former Orioles manager Mike Hargrove as a member of the Cleveland Indians.

And for those out there that think Showalter is a stiff disciplinarian, former Rangers outfielder Doug Glanville shot down that rumor quickly.

Doug Glanville

“I loved playing for Buck,” Glanville said, who in reality only played half a season for Showalter before being traded to the Cubs. “I really enjoyed my year with Buck. He has a lot of smiles on his face. He is kind of like a straight face comedian.”

“As long as you’re professional, you’ll have a great time with him. He’s really easy to deal with. As long as you’re on time and play hard, he wont say a word.”

But when it comes to the game of baseball and getting the basics down first, that is where Showalter gets serious.

“But where he is no-nonsense is attention to detail. He doesn’t miss anything,” Glanville said.

Every player WNST talked to over the last two months said the Orioles found the perfect guy for the situation the franchise is in mired in right now, and they all thought Showalter was the perfect guy to get them out of the muck.

Because he’s done it before.

Every job he has taken, in his first year, the team has finished below .500. But the next year, the team sees immediate results, and is back to a competitive mindset-both mentally and in the standings.

  • 1992(NY): 76-86, 4th place; 1993: 88-74, 2nd place.
  • 1998(AZ)  65-97, 5th place; 1999 100-62, 1st place.
  • 2003(TX) 71-91, 4th place; 2004: 89-73, 3rd place.

Gonzalez says it may take longer for Baltimore than these teams, but ultimately Showalter should be able to put his mark on this team as he did with the Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Rangers.

“He will teach those guys, and the coaching staff he’ll bring in, and show them how to do it the right way, and I think that’s going to help out tremendously to that organization- an organization that has been around forever and has a great legacy of players who have gone and come through there.”

Buck Teaching the Players

Keep tuned into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to track the progress of Buck Showalter as the 17th Oriole Manager. WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Orioles Steal Thunder from Ravens, or At Least Try To

Posted on 29 July 2010 by Ryan Chell

Two weeks ago, my executive producer, Glenn Clark, in the midst of the Orioles in discussions with Buck Showalter to become the next Orioles manager, said that the Orioles were going to wait till the start of Ravens training camp to announce the decision.

He said the Orioles have done this before. In 2006, they announced the resigning of 3B Melvin Mora, who had actually signed his deal weeks before the news broke.

Angelos wants this team as the top dog in the city even if fans aren’t going to Oriole Park at Camden Yards anymore. He knows baseball season has ended in the last week of July for at least the last ten years.

Well lightning struck twice Thursday, as Tim Kurkjian of ESPN has reported that the Orioles have hired Showalter as manger of the team.

Buck Showalter

Showalter reportedly will take over the team from interim manager Juan Samuel on August 3rd when the Orioles take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to start a six-game home stand.

The Ravens open full-team practices on Friday morning at 8:45 at McDaniel College, with all veterans reporting and suiting up for hitting, tackling, and running routes.

We’ll have to wait and see what the water-cooler talk is tomorrow, and who is the Baltimore manager we should be paying the most attention to. Showalter or John Harbaugh?

John Harbaugh

Showalter and his 882-833 career record managing in the big leagues will fit right into the driver’s seat of the Orioles, and will try and stop the bleeding when it comes to this year’s Orioles team (31-70), which is off to its worst start in franchise history and is veering itself dangerously close to the worst teams ever to suit up and hit the field.

Showalter will be the third man in the manager’s seat this year for the Orioles, as he replaces Samuel (16-31) and Dave Trembley(15-39).

Showalter had been named AL Manager of the Year twice in his managerial career, once with the Yankees in 1995 and then with the Rangers a few years ago.

He has proven to turn teams around fast, as every one of the organizations he has managed-the Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Rangers, all were terrible before Showalter took charge. He also has a hand in the front office aspect of the job, as he helped in the player personnel department with the Yankees, Diamondbacks, and most recently had a small role with the Cleveland Indians before taking the broadcasting job at ESPN.

The Diamondbacks and Yankees both won World Series titles because of Showalter’s work; the only problem is that they hoisted the trophies one year after giving Showalter his walking papers.

He spent four years as Yankees manager (313-268), three seasons in Arizona (250-236), and (319-329) with Texas.

But with that, he eventually wears out his welcome. He has also had issues with the front office, as he is known as quite the control freak. That has been the main cause of his quick exits over the last dozen of years, and we’ll have to see if those problems arise again with the most meddling of owners in Peter Angelos and a attention-to-detail man like Andy MacPhail.

I would assume that Showalter would at least get three or four years on his contract to fix this team, because this team is not anywhere close to being competitive for at least two more seasons.

What Showalter does bring to the table is a man who has been around the league, and has garnered a lot of respect from players, coaches, and front office personnel.

He is the first high-profile, experienced managerial candidate the Orioles have introduced since the hiring of Mike Hargrove back in 2000.

With 13 straight losing seasons, talk around the league is that the Orioles are too deep into the cellar to attract any high profile free agents.

Having a big name like Buck Showalter in charge could put some of those doubts-not all-to rest.

It could maybe attract a player, like first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of the San Diego Padres, who played under Showalter from 2004-2005.

The players in Texas really like Showalter, and we should see soon how Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Brian Matusz, and Matt Wieters all warm up to Buck.

But as said above, now we as Baltimore sports fans have a dilemma on our hands.

As the Orioles have put themselves on center stage (or at least tried to) yet again, we must ask ourselves. If we have a chance tomorrow to spend some time watching the Buck Showalter Introductory Press Conference, or the Ravens practicing, and we only have one choice…what’s it going to be?

The Orioles continue to show their selfishness by wanting you to choose baseball. Showalter could be the answer, but for now, let’s keep saying that John Harbaugh is still the top coach in town.

Tune into WNST and wnst.net as we continue to follow this new hire and hopefully a turning new page in Baltimore Orioles history!

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Wigginton A Fitting Orioles All Star

Posted on 13 July 2010 by Jay Trucker

A week ago the All Star break couldn’t arrive soon enough for the Orioles or Oriole fans. After a four game road sweep of the Texas Rangers, however, the break serves only to slow down the momentum that the team had finally built after its otherwise dismal first half.

When the Midsummer Classic airs Tuesday night, Ty Wigginton will stand in wearing an Orioles uniform. Visually, he will remind the nation where the worst team in baseball plays. Of course, there’s no guarantee he’ll be seen after the national anthem.

Last year, Adam Jones earned the title All Star. Don’t believe me? Just flip on MASN and wait for a commercial break.

Jones hit a sac fly in the late innings of last year’s game to help the AL once again trump the NL. A twenty-three year old the Orioles picked up via trade, Jones’ presence highlighted the Orioles as a team that was young, raw, talented, and potentially ready to take a big step forward. Not a product of the Orioles farm system, Jones nevertheless demonstrated that the club had young talent acquired by a savvy GM moving the team in the right direction.

2010 All Star Ty Wigginton is far from Andy MacPhail’s worst offseason pickup. After
a tough start to ’09, he finished the year hitting .273 with 11 home runs. He entered 2010 unsure of his position with the club and did not make an appearance in the opening series at Tampa. However, injuries and former 1B Garrett Atkins’ pathetic performance opened the door for Wigginton, who surprised critics by hitting 13 home runs before the end of May. Unfortunately, he has hit only one since.

At 32, Wigginton is neither young nor old in baseball age. He is heading towards the end of a modest two year deal with the Orioles, his fifth major league team. A utility player who has played six positions in the majors, Wigginton does a little bit of everything but nothing particularly memorably. He is a six or seven hitter batting cleanup. A guy who averages 400 at bats per year who already has 300 this season.
A decent player for the Mets, who promptly traded him when megastar David Wright was ready for the bigs. An afterthought, a fill in guy, a token gesture, a throwaway pick.

Wigginton is thus an appropriate player to represent the Orioles in the All Star game. Like Wigginton, at their best the Orioles are decent, inoffensive, adequate. They can surprise you here or there. Unlike Jones last year, Wigginton doesn’t represent a potentially bright future for the long-suffering O’s. He is just there. Maybe he plays. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he manages to hit a double in the gap, a single up the line, or heck, even work a timely walk. Maybe he sits at the end of the bench holding Miguel Cabrera’s helmet. Maybe he makes a late inning appearance and hits a weak grounder off a first pitch ball outside.

Nick Markakis may be more deserving of an All Star, but Ty Wigginton is an Orioles All Star. He may not have been the best guy, but he is the right guy to represent this particular team in this particular game. Like Jones last year, Wigginton could surprise on the big stage. And the Orioles may surprise a few people in the second half, as they did when they swept the Rangers.

That’s the thing about low expectation. As long as you have it, modest success is a pleasant surprise.

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Chris Tillman

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Friday on “The Morning Reaction”

Posted on 09 July 2010 by Ryan Chell

Hey guys, Ryan Chell here filling in the big shoes, wearing the big pants for Glenn Clark today. I’m substitute teaching. I’m coming in from the bullpen. Off the bench. Just think of me as Chris Tillman, who most likely will be starting for the Orioles on Saturday in Kevin Millwood‘s spot in the rotation as he went on the DL earlier this week.

Chris Tillman

The phones are buzzing this morning, so I guess if I didn’t know how to answer phones here at WNST, I certainly know now. I wonder why they’re buzzing this morning…is it because the Orioles came back in the eighth last night to win against the Rangers, guaranteeing they have at least one pitcher with at least four wins before the All-Star break…?

Last night’s game had me worried at first. When Tommy Hunter had a number of strikeouts through three innings, it had the makings of an ugly game at the start. Good to finally see another team’s bullpen choke for once.

Tommy Hunter

And for David Hernandez to finally get four wins and have us escape history, it is a breath of fresh air to see that the Orioles will escape the bad side of the record books.

David Hernandez

But did you think that at this point in the season, David Hernandez would be leading the team in wins?

Ubaldo Jimenez won his 15th game of the season last night against Chris Carpenter and the Cards last night. A horrible series for the Cardinals to say the least, but man Jimenez has been outstanding this year.

Ubaldo Jimenez

He went 8 innings last night against the Cards in his 18th start of the year. He likely will get 14 more starts so he probably wont get to 30 wins, but he is likely to end the season with around 25, which would equate to half of the wins the O’s may have as a team at the end of the year-on his own. (Insert joke here O’s fans)

Baltimore Orioles struggling

And what’s even worse is that the rich get richer, as multiple media outlets are buzzing about the trade that might be happening between the Yankees and the Mariners involving Cliff Lee.

Cliff Lee

Lee pitches tonight against the Yanks, and given his track record lately, he is going to through a complete game. He’s already done it against the Yanks in the last couple of weeks. The proposed deal would be Lee going to the Yanks for top prospect Jesus Montero, who is slated to replace Jorge Posada behind the plate, and probably some other prospects.

That also may mean the end of the road for Javier Vazquez in New York (twice).

Javier Vazquez

Seriously though, with LeBron James making the decision last night to follow Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to Miami, another triumvirate has been built in the Eastern Conference. Miami’s Big Three is going to rival Boston’s Big Three in Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett, and could immediately put Miami back on top, at least on paper right now.

The only issue is now, with these three max free agents coming in, the Heat are going to have to move some more payroll to fit under the cap. And it’s already begun, as the Heat are shipping local product Michael Beasley to the Timberwolves for a 2011 second round pick.

Michael Beasley

At this rate, Bosh, Wade and LeBron may be playing with this guy as opposed to top-5 draft talent like Beasley.

Bad Basketball

The buzz around the country, or at least in Cleveland, is just like it was 15 years ago, when the Browns left Cleveland to come here to be the Ravens in Baltimore. Art Modell is a curse word up there in Ohio now, and it’s a shame because that decision will probably keep Modell out of the Hall of Fame. Check out Nestor’s blog regarding the weight that may have just been lifted off Art’s shoulders…

Art Modell

I don’t think LeBron’s decision to go to Miami will keep him out of the basketball Hall of Fame though. And in reality, they are not the same. Modell moved the team out of Cleveland because he wasn’t getting support for the team; LeBron had all the support and backing from the fans.

Art did it for a money issue; LeBron left close to 30 million on the table by not signing with the Cavs.

But now we’re hearing it could be a money thing too, because Florida is one of seven states in the country with no state income tax.

And I’ll tell you what…talking about owners…Cleveland Owner Dan Gilbert’s letter to the fans regarding “King James” is some strong stuff, and it actually just popped up for me just trying to go to Clevelandcavaliers.com

Strong stuff. He’s got balls. The only issue is now, he doesn’t have any players.. We’ll see how good Moe Williams, Antawn Jamison, etc. are without James. It’s real simple. Without LeBron, the Cavs are just the Wizards up a little on the map latitude-wise.

Pete Caringi, soccer coach at UMBC, called into the show to talk about the World Cup Finale. He had Spain from the start, and to be honest, I think that’s the safe bet here.

David Villa

The game is on Sunday at 2:30. Tune into WNST and WNST.net for expanded coverage of the World Cup as this thing is almost done for another four years. Aww….

Walt Harris came on to talk with Drew about being around the league, and bringing his experience to the Ravens until Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington come back from their knee injuries. We are getting him at his best, as he is coming off a Pro Bowl year in 2006, when he had his first year with the Niners.

Walt Harris

Harris has actually been in the league for the same amount of time as Ray Lewis, and was actually drafted 12 picks in front of Ray in the 1996 Draft by the Chicago Bears.

Check the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault for his interview with Drew…it was a good chat…

We couldn’t get in contact with Len Elmore, but big props to Craig Calcaterra from NBC Sports-HardballTalk for moving around and being flexible with us. Good timing for him to come on, because he was able to give some light on this “maybe” trade of Cliff Lee to the Yankees that I eluded to earlier. Check the Audio Vault…

If this does happen, just hand the Yankees the trophy. I would say what a joke, but they are beating the system. If there was one team that I wanted to see get Lee, it was either the Rangers or the White Sox.

The Rangers have some good pitching this year( as evidenced by Tommy Hunter last night against the O’s) but a legitimate ace on the staff like Lee would probably give them an MVP candidate in Josh Hamilton, along with the Cy Young winner in Lee.

Josh Hamilton

And for the White Sox to be winning 23 out of their last 27 games or something like that, and now they’re losing Jake Peavy for the rest of the season, they needed someone like Lee to keep the ship afloat. Unless there is a big prospect to fill Peavy’s spot, the White Sox’s almost perfect pitching rotation took a big hit-at least until the trade deadline. Keep an eye out for what GM Kenny Williams is going to do-and what Ozzie Guillen will say about it afterward.

To wrap up the show, Sean Deveney from The Sporting News came on to talk with Drew and Thyrl about this shift in power in the Eastern Conference. He gave us a lot of insight regarding the Heat’s moves from this point on, including reaching out to Mike Miller as a shooter.

But he did believe this was premeditated by LeBron, Wade, and Bosh as far back as the All-Star break, and this was the only serious option for “The King”.

Glenn will be back here on Monday, and all will be status quo. I’ll be sent back down to the minor leagues of sports radio on Monday, probably just like Tillman over the weekend when they don’t need that fifth starter.

Have a good weekend sports fans!

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LeBron's Antics .... Should We Be Surprised ???

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LeBron’s Antics …. Should We Be Surprised ???

Posted on 09 July 2010 by Rex Snider

I was wrong …. DEAD WRONG. As the clock stroked 9:15pm, I was absolutely convinced LeBron James was headed back to Cleveland’s Cavaliers. After all, he dropped subtle hints, like referring to the Cavs as “our team,” and declaring that his mother was happy with the decision.

I should’ve really looked between the lines (and LIES) to see the obvious. Would ‘Bron’s Moms be happier spending her January’s and February’s on the icy shores of Lake Erie or the warm sands South Beach?

Hmmm ….. you tell me.

Okay, so maybe Mrs. Delonte West isn’t really worried about the fringe benefits of a winter solstace, in South Florida. However, I’ll bet LeBron has thought it over ….. and he likes what he envisions.

Good for him.

By the way, doesn’t LeBron have a family? Indeed, he does. LeBron Jr. is going to be six years old, in October. And, Bryce Maximus just turned four, last month. What’s best for the family?

Silly me, “King James” made it very clear ….. he talked to his mother and they concluded he needed to do “what’s best for ME.” And, according to him, the “Man Upstairs” is okay with it.

Shew ….. I certainly feel better. I was convinced the “Man Upstairs” is swamped with situations like OIL in the Gulf of Mexico …. unrest in the Middle East …. homeless earthquake victims in Haiti ….. and many more desperate souls.

Then again, wasn’t the “Man Upstairs” hovering over the Orioles dugout, in Arlington, late last night? How else can you explain such divine intervention?

You can lump me in with a few other notable ‘NST personalities; I’m not a devout NBA fan. Yeah, I’ll sporadically watch NBA games on a cold winter night, and my interest is piqued when the finals roll around, in June. But, that’s about it.

I grew up in a blue-collar city, without a pro basketball team. It is what it is …..

But, I think I’m old enough and wise enough to know the “American Story” when I see it – especially when it unfolds on the field of play …..


I’ve witnessed humility and loyalty among many famous and wealthy souls. In life’s big picture, they haven’t allowed greed to numb their consience. Indeed, being rich and possessing the resulting power it wields is never a justifiable excuse for being selfish. But, that’s LeBron James …..

Last night, he showed me, you and the WORLD what’s really important to HIM. He may very well be the guy who loves himself more than Terrell Owens and Alex Rodriguez, combined.

Nice distinction, huh?

Over this past week, I’ve really experienced a heavy dose of LeBron’s self-promoting schemes. From his endorsement of pep rallies and organized pleas in other cities, to his acceptance of gifts and underhanded bribes, he has displayed a smug love of it all.

However, none of his past promotions could surpass last night’s “State Of The Selfish Star” address. Does he really have any idea what he’s done to a collective group of hardworking people who’ve loved and supported him?

That’s what happens when a professional athlete establishes roots within a community and wears the city’s name across his chest. A “marriage” of sorts, is consummated.

Now, don’t misunderstand the spirit of my message ….. I recognize that marriages and relationships end eventually. And, I’m a CAPITALIST. I have no issue with the money he makes and his innovative means for creating more of it – as silly and egotistical as those ideas have been.

However, there is no prudent justification for hurting and embarrassing people – especially when they’ve adored you and been so instrumental in creating your wealth.

You wanna leave? Go ahead. But, there’s a way to do it. And, more importantly, there’s a way NOT to do it.

Of course, LeBron chose the latter.

Perhaps, he didn’t hold his WORLDWIDE PRESS CONFERENCE to intentionally humiliate Northern Ohio. Indeed, I think it’s safe to suggest he held the primetime special, because he wanted to do it. He wanted even more attention than he’s already received. And, he didn’t care about the residual effect on anyone.

Last night’s orchestrated media moment amounted to nothing more than a real-life scenario of a husband ditching his wife in public. It’s beyond insensitive. It’s wrong …..

It’s said that NFL, NBA and MLB owners are tight knit groups; each an exclusive club. Better yet, Baltimore Ravens owner, Steve Bisciotti has publicly described other owners as his “partners.” I get that, I really do.

Thus, part of me believes the owners of the New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls could’ve stopped last night’s conceited convention of one’s EGO. The King could’ve been dethroned ….. or at least publicly scolded.

Collectively, those four teams could’ve united and basically said “you’re not going to publicly snub three of us.” They could’ve threatened to rescind their offers, if the ESPN Circus wasn’t canceled by 8pm. Instead, their desperation for his services and mystique overruled the strength of PARTNERS.

The individual soldiers should never be bigger than the army.

These teams allowed this entire process to be on LeBron James’ terms. Each owner pacified the situation with a reckless hope that he would choose THEM. And, just like a desperate spouse, who’ll do anything to save a marriage, the owners really served as LeBron’s enablers.

They allowed the legitimacy of their league to be reduced to an evening of WWE drama and storyline.

As Nestor has advertised in the upcoming BRUNO SAMMARTINO DINNER, “we all have a little bit of old school rasslin’ fan in us.” But, we also know it’s choreographed and as phony as an episode of Reno 911. But, last night, was not a fictional event.

And, a community suffers today.

They’ll get over it. The sun will continue to rise each morning. The mortgage will still be due. And, life’s more important realities will take over, once again.

But, being a sports fan is a passionate endeavor. The heart gets involved. In an indirect way, your passion has led you to following the Ravens and Orioles, to visiting WNST.net and clicking on this blog.

Most of us don’t take sports too seriously, and that’s a real relief.

But, cities, towns and communities invest in athletes as symbols and ambassadors of the local culture. Do the athletes have an obligation? You bet …. if they take a dime in exchange for any such services. Or, if they’re really part of the neighborhood.

That’s what really astounds me in this whole LeBron James mess. He didn’t just breakup with Cleveland and Northern Ohio. He discarded his HOMETOWN in grand pompous galore. While it’s not even remotely similar, LeBron created a hybrid “Mayflower Van” moment for the people of Cleveland.

Does he care? Does he regret last night? Of course, not. The guy is way too self-absorbed with a bestowed sense of entitlement to ever consider the realities of how his actions impact anyone else. He’s beyond selfish.

While he had every justifiable reason to seek employment elsewhere (HE WAS A FREE AGENT), he absolutely went about the entire set of circumstances in the most improper way. He just laid a blueprint to serve as the ideal steps NOT to take when leaving a team.

He’s a bad guy.

He obviously cares about himself above anything and anyone else. He disregards humanity and good character in the name of doing as he desires. But, he’s not alone in the culpability.

LeBron James is surrounded by people who’ve obviously injected a perceived wisdom for making shrewd decisions. They’ve built him up, while convincing him of a false indestructible immortality. They’ve enabled his arrogance to grow to utterly flamboyant reaches …..


They’re wrong. He’s not indestructible. He’s not above any of us …..

Think about it ….. in the span of less than 24 hours, LeBron James has transformed from a babyface to a heel. While the people of Miami may worship him, EVERYBODY else is looking at him for the selfish and indignant dude he’s proving to be.

True character eventually surfaces. And, in the life of LeBron James, the public disclosure just took 25 short years.

Aside from the mansions, luxury cars and huge piles of money, LeBron may never acquire some of life’s most invaluable treasures. He may never really learn and appreciate the lessons savored by a common man …..




LeBron James may never really understand these human traits and values. He is so insulated from reality that his perceptions obviously contradict with anything attached to selflessness. But, are we really surprised?

After all, he is what he is …..

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American League's Award Winners - 1st Half

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American League’s Award Winners – 1st Half

Posted on 07 July 2010 by Rex Snider

As the Orioles took the field for a Monday matinee against the Tigers, it officially marked the second half of the season. That’s right, forget about the All Star break – Monday’s game was the 82nd of the year. Thus, we’re mathematically HALFWAY thru this debacle.

This 2010 season has been nothing less than a grand disappointment for anyone who loves Baltimore baseball. To borrow a quote and “twist” from Dumb & Dumber ….. “just when I thought they couldn’t be any worse – they go out and totally redeem themselves.”

Indeed, as I said during yesterday’s show, it’s just gonna be one of the typical July’s we’ve endured over the last decade ….. SWELTERING TEMPERATURES, DYING GRASS and BAD BASEBALL.

I suppose the good news, beyond being one day closer to the start of Ravens Training Camp, is Major League Baseball’s season is shaping up to be very competitive ….. outside the typical ghettos of Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Cleveland and BALTIMORE.

And, lets not forget Arizona – they’re just an Orioles hot streak away from being baseball’s worst franchise. Don’t worry, it won’t happen.

There’s even a buzz on the shores of the Potomac River, as they await a dozen more starts by Stephen Strasburg and the ultimate signing of his offensive contemporary, Bryce Harper.

In fact, the current baseball season has been pretty exciting …..

The A.L. East is shaping up to be a dog fight …..

The A.L Central, N.L. East and N.L. West will probably be settled late in the season, as well …..

The San Diego Padres have been an enthusiastic surprise …..

The Texas Rangers are killing the ball and pitching decently, even if they’re BROKE …..

This leads me to the spirit of the blog; certain players are having outstanding seasons, as well. Some of these feats were predicted and some have certainly been pleasant surprises. Below, find my choices for the A.L. individual awards – albeit, halfway through the season …..

Rookie Of The Year

Many of us honestly believed Brian Matusz was a contender for this award, as we pined with enthusiasm, in March. We should’ve really dissected the circumstances …..

He is pitching for a ballclub that hasn’t enjoyed a winning season, since 1997. He’ll face the A.L. East for a substantial amount of starts. He’s a ROOKIE and he’ll make mistakes – most likely against teams that will make him pay. That said, I think he’s held his own.

At this point, I would select Detroit Tigers outfielder, Austin Jackson, as the first half’s best rookie. Acquired in the Curtis Granderson deal, Jackson has anchored the leadoff spot for the Tigers lineup and he’s certainly been a spark plug for their surprising offensive attack.

His stats so far – .305 avg., 91 hits, 13 sb, .353 OBP, .295 avg. leading off game, .995 field% (1 error)

Not bad for a rookie centerfielder, huh? Admittedly, Detroit’s other rookie outfielder, Brennan Boesch, would be a fitting choice, as well. He’s tearing the cover off the ball, hitting .344, with a dozen dingers. However, he’s played roughly 75% of the first half and he’s made his share of errors. I simply think Austin Jackson has been a more distinct influence over the Tigers lineup.

As for the season’s second half, keep an eye on Boston’s Daniel Bard, as well as Cleveland’s Carlos Santana. Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch will have some company for the real “Rookie Of The Year” award.

Cy Young

This is not an easy one to call, and it really boils down to two pitchers. In making my choice, I’m going with the guy who’s lent his performances to keeping the team in contention. He’s also been healthy the entire first half and his numbers are damn impressive. Yet, he’s NOT AN ALL STAR. Can someone please explain how three Yankees starters, Sabathia, Pettitte and Hughes make the team and Jered Weaver sits home? Ahh …. Joe Girardi. Gotcha. Weaver is the first half’s best pitcher …..

I certainly considered Cliff Lee. But, it’s hard to justify selecting a pitcher who started the season on the DL, as the premier hurler of the first half. He has been dominant in May and June, but Weaver pretty much excelled throughout the entire first half. However, if Lee remains with the Mariners throughout the remainder of the season, I can envision him surpassing Weaver’s overall performance.

In the season’s second half, I’ll be watching for the likes of Sabathia, Jon Lester and David Price to join the conversation. I’ll also be expecting a step back for Trevor Cahill and Hughes.

Most Valuable Player

This an interesting call. I suppose a generous handful of possible candidates can be considered viable. But, I’m really narrowing it down to two players. Ironically, they share some similarities; they’ve fought back from substance abuse problems, they’re contending for possible TRIPLE CROWN credentials and their teams are in first place. However, I’ll give the edge to Miguel Cabrera …..

He plays in a pitcher’s ballpark. Yet, he’s amassed phenomenal first half numbers – .339 avg., 100 hits, 20 hr, 26 doubles, 71 rbi !!!! That said, Texas outfielder, Josh Hamilton makes it an argument. He’s enjoying a great first half, too – .340 avg, 108 hits, 20 hr, 23 doubles, 68 rbi and a handful steals. However, Hamilton plays in the launching pad known as The Ballpark In Arlington, and I think it makes a difference.

I’m a self-confessed Josh Hamilton fan. He’s probably my favorite ballplayer in today’s game – next to Nick Markakis, of course. I’ve witnessed the hell of heroin addiction and I think Hamilton is living proof of a true comeback. But, I think Cabrera has been a tad bit better in the first few months of the season.

As for the second half, I believe Ichiro (.326, 110 hits, 22 sb), Alex Rios (.300, 13 hr, 22 sb) and Justin Morneau (.344, 100 hits, 17 hr) can make it an interesting race. Nevertheless, there are GREAT performances in store.

Hmmm ….. NO ORIOLES. Imagine that …..

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