Tag Archive | "The Orioles"

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So an Oriole walks into a bar…yes the Orioles have become a joke

Posted on 21 August 2011 by Tom Clayton

 Well the Orioles are finally on track…..on track to lose 100 games.  They have reached this once impossible feat after a terrible loss last night in which the Orioles “closer” blew a two-run lead in the bottom of the 12th; granted he wasn’t helped by the terrible defense behind him.  After the loss I jumped on to Facebook to see the outrage of Oriole fans after what can only be described as an appalling  loss and low and behold…not one post.  None, I mean a few months ago fans were ranting and raving that the team was awful, and Kevin Gregg was the antichrist but now the critics are silent and the fans have given up.  I have always found it fun to follow the reactions of Oriole fans on social media because I see such varied and passionate opinions but this “team” has sucked all of the fight and passion from everyone.

Let’s be honest the Orioles are a joke, and I mean that literally.  I remember watching SportsCenter and hearing the anchor say, “And we go to the highlights of the Blue Jays and Orioles….the Orioles are still in the majors?”  And then no less than twenty minutes later on ESPN News as they showed Mark Reynolds crush a homer into a completely empty second deck the anchor proclaimed, “plenty of good seats remain in Baltimore” and after a little girl came running into frame to grab the ball he continued, “Oh the Orioles still have a fan left”.  This is how the national media views the Orioles, we are a joke that doesn’t receive nor deserves any respect.

As I sit here and watch the Orioles boot the ball all around Anaheim and see Felix Pie rolling around in the outfield like one of the Keystone Cops I wonder, why do I put myself through this anymore?  Why would someone allow themselves to be punched in the stomach on a daily basis for a team that couldn’t give a damn about them?  And the sad answer is I don’t know anymore.

I look at Andy McPhail’s philosophy of “grow the arms and buy the bats” and I think, at least sticking to his flawed plan.  Maybe the plan would work in a functional organization but when you have a HORRIBLE scouting department that routinely misses on top draft picks and never finds a diamond in the rough in later rounds how can you possible grow the arms?  The arms that Andy and company have grown are quite simply not working out….take a look at the young cavalry of arms and their statistics heading into today’s game.

Brian Matusz – 1-5 8.63 ERA with a WHIP of 1.92 and an opponent batting average of .350.  Matusz’ WHIP of 1.92 means that ON AVERAGE he is allowing nearly two base runners per inning.

Jake Arrieta – 10-8 with a 5.22 ERA; sadly Arrieta is the only Orioles starter with a winning record even with and ERA well over 5.

Chris Tillman – 3-5 with a 5.52 ERA; Tillman was considered one of the top prospects in baseball two years ago now after working with Orioles instructors he is considered another in a long line of busts.

Zach Britton – 6-9 with a 4.66 ERA; honestly Zach pitched really well in the opening month of the season and looked like a potential Rookie of the Year candidate then the league caught up with him and he did nothing to make adjustments.

The Orioles pitchers seem to not only continue to fail they are shipped back and forth to the minors on a daily basis; in fact every one of these young arms has been sent back down to the minors except for Arrieta who is out for the season.  I honestly cannot remember the last time I turned on the Orioles pregame show and didn’t hear about a pending move or a player being sent back down to the minors.  The Orioles need to be honest with themselves and understand this team is going nowhere and nobody cares about anything they do anymore so why not let these pitchers stay in the rotation and let them try and make the adjustments needed heading into next season?

The Orioles are a team that is in a major need of a complete overhaul starting from the top on down; this rebuilding process didn’t work as the foundation has crumbled around it.  I think the organization needs to take a long hard look in the mirror and at the 40,000 empty seats in the stadium and make a tough decision.  Either blow this thing up COMPLETELY or continue to be a joke among major league baseball. 

 

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The One Sign That Buck Does Not Have The Control That You or I Thought He Had

Posted on 07 July 2011 by Tom Clayton

When Buck Showalter became the Orioles manager last season he sparked an amazing rebirth and Orioles fans had found their savior.  Now after just under a full season at the helm of the sinking ship that is the Baltimore Orioles it looks like Buck is not the savior of Baltimore baseball; it looks like Buck is another in a string of managers that have been beaten down by lesser talent, an overbearing front office, and an organization that lacks the passion to win.  I think one thing has exemplified the fact that something is a little “off” in the organization and that maybe Buck doesn’t have the control everyone thought he had when he accepted the job last season.

The sign that Buck has either become apathetic to the team or that a higher power is controlling Buck more than the average fan would like to believe is the fact that Vladimir Guerrero is still hitting in the cleanup spot after more than half the season.  Vlad has been wholly ineffective this season and his power numbers are not just on the decline but they are in a drop to its death free-fall that has killed the Orioles offense many times this season.  Vlad has had two home runs and seven RBI since June 1st , hitting primarily in the cleanup spot.  What other team would allow a hitter to remain in the most important spot in the lineup after accumulating four extra base hits in his last 87 at bats?  The only answer I can think of is a crappy team that is trying to showcase a once great hitter so that they can get something in return for him around the trade deadline; does anyone honestly believe Buck Showalter is leaving a completely ineffective hitter in the cleanup spot as his team plummets to the depths of the standings in the American League? 

And I am sick of the argument of “if not Vlad than who will hit in the cleanup spot”?  The answer is simple, Mark Reynolds.  Reynolds has exceeded Vlad in every single offensive category this season hitting 13 more home runs and driving in 19 more runs while hitting 3-4 spots lower in the lineup.  And the argument that Reynolds strikes out too much is debatable; he has an OBP that is .33 higher than Vlad and he had shown a far better eye at the plate this season with 50 walks to Vlad’s 11.  On top of the statistically facts, Reynolds at 27, is nine years younger than Vlad and he could be a major piece to the Orioles rebuilding process while Guerrero is a one year player that will not be here next season.  So while on the surface it may look like Buck is sticking with his veterans and waiting for them to hit their way out of an early season slump….it is now past the mid-way point of the season which to me constitutes something more than an early season slump. 

I think the Vladimir Guerrero situation is a very public statement that Buck doesn’t have the type of control that Oriole fans believed he would have when he took over this job; in fact I believe this may be a statement that Buck doesn’t have the control HE thought he would have when he took over this job.  With a team that is already out of contention before the All Star break isn’t it time to stop filling these important spots in the Orioles lineup with stop-gap, over the hill players and begin to build for the future?  I think it is imperative to remember that when the Orioles began their search for a manager last season Bobby Valentine turned this job down and made it very public that he decision was due to the controlling nature of the Orioles front office.  While Buck was the better choice for this job than Valentine I think he is beginning to see why his old TV costar decided to turn this job down. 

If the Orioles hope to ever get back to respectability it is time to shake up the status quo of the last 14 years and begin to make moves that build for the future.  The future is not a 36 year old designated hitter on a one year deal…..the Orioles are going to need to begin to show fans that they understand their past mistakes or unfortunately it is their fans that are doomed to repeat them. 

 

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My Rebuttal to Drew and Glenn’s Mid-Season Orioles Report Card

Posted on 06 July 2011 by Tom Clayton

This morning Drew and Glenn posted their report cards for the Orioles through the 2011 season; after reading these I felt as if I had a few strong opinions and a different insight into the craptastic “band of brothers” representing the Orioles on a nightly basis…..since I don’t have the power of the radio to express my reasons for the grades I will simply give you the grade followed by a quick validating statement about the grade.  To make this a little more reader friendly I will give you my grades on the position players today with the pitchers on Friday.  So without further ado here are my mid-term……..er……mid-season grades for YOUR 2011 Baltimore Orioles!

 

Catchers:

Matt Wieters:  A-

I give Matt Wieters a lot of credit; he has become the best defensive catcher in the American League and is a rare difference maker at the most difficult and physically demanding position on the field (Interesting stat, going into tonight’s game Wieters has not had a past ball ALL SEASON!).  Wieters is just beginning to scrape the top of his offensive potential and his ability to hit with runners in scoring position is going to be a great asset moving forward in his career.  He is one of a very select few in the Orioles organization with a realistic shot at being an A+ player.

Craig Tatum: B

Tatum is going to see very little playing time behind Wieters but in his limited action he has actually produced well with a .393 On Base Percentage.  Tatum isn’t going to give you a ton of pop but he is serviceable enough to be a backup catcher on a team with an outstanding starter.

Jake Fox: D

I admit I was a Jake Fox supporter coming out of Spring Training and I was very wrong to jump on his bandwagon.  Behind the plate Fox was a defensive liability for a team with a lot of young pitchers and at the plate he couldn’t bring any of his lofty numbers north. 

Infielders:

Derrick Lee: C

Derrick Lee is still one of the best defensive First Baseman in all of baseball; unfortunately he is also one of the least productive offensive First Baseman in all of baseball as well.  Lee looks to have lost almost all of the “pop” from his once feared bat and has trouble staying out of inning ending double plays. 

Brian Roberts: D

Roberts wasn’t having a great year when he was healthy with an OBP of just .273 before suffering a concussion sliding head-first into first base on May 16th.  I am sorry to say that I believe Roberts’ career is in jeopardy at this point and I think the chances of ever seeing the “Old B-Rob” ever again are pretty slim.

JJ Hardy: A

JJ Hardy would have an A+ if he hadn’t missed almost a month of the season with a left oblique strain.  When on the field Hardy is without question the most productive player in an Orioles uniform and he has proven he is a better lead-off hitter than the aforementioned B-Rob with an outstanding .351 On Base Percentage and a mind boggling .881 OPS as a middle infielder.  Hardy has also been above average in the field with a .996 fielding percentage with just one error (and that was on a foul ball).

Mark Reynolds:  B+

This is where I think Drew and I are really going to disagree; Reynolds has been everything the Orioles have been missing offensively for the last decade with 20 home runs before the All Star Break and while he is still striking out at a high clip he has shown a very good eye at the plate with a .352 OBP.  Reynolds is actually having a way better season than Adam Dunn, the man everyone in Baltimore seemed be clamoring for in the off-season, Reynolds has a higher OBP, SLG, and OPS with 12 more homers, 18 more RBI, and actually has 32 less strikeouts than the overvalued Adam Dunn.  Unfortunately Reynolds defense has been the worst in baseball with 20 errors at third base; I agree his defense is really hurting us but his bat is really paying dividends in a very bad lineup.  Reynolds has given them more than they could have expected at the plate and an eventual move to DH could make Reynolds a very valuable part of this long rebuilding process. 

Robert Andino: C-

Andino” is what he is”, a light hitting middle infielder that is probably more suited to be a utility player than an everyday starter.   Andino could contribute more if he played a little more to his strengths; he has decent speed so why not lay down a bunt every once in a while to pull third baseman in and he has only attempted three steals all season!  In the field Andino is average at best; he has made some very nice plays but he also made some costly errors in the field, if he were putting up big offensive numbers I could excuse some of these mistakes (see Mark Reynolds) but with his lack of offense and average defense I don’t see how you could move forward with Andino as anything but a utility player. 

Blake Davis: B-

Blake Davis is an interesting player that I think should see more playing time due to his solid bat; Davis provides a lot more pop than Andino at second base and seems to really hustle when given a chance.  With the team going into the dumper why not give Davis a shot at playing second every day and if it doesn’t work out, what have you really lost?

Ryan Adams: Incomplete

Adams only had 23 at bats this season and I don’t really have much to go on when grading his 2011.  To me he seems like a journeyman minor league middle infielder that isn’t going to be a very productive player at the major league level.

Brandon Snyder: Incomplete

Brandon Snyder also gets an incomplete but I still see some upside and a potentially productive player at the Major League level.  Snyder showed decent patience at the plate with three walks in just thirteen plate appearances and an OBP over .400.  I would like to see what Snyder can do for an extended stint with the Orioles but Derrick Lee and Vladimir Guerrero are both blocking his promotion.

Cesar Izturis: D

Izturis only had 26 at bats before going on the DL on May 18th with an elbow injury.  Unlike Snyder and Adams,  I have a good idea of what Izturis is and that is Robert Andino but four years older but with a better glove and more ability to use his speed on the base paths and by laying down a bunt.

Outfields/Designated Hitter

Nick Markakis: B-

I think the over the past season and a half we have seen what type of player Nick Markakis is going to be; a .300 hitter that will give you 15-18 home runs and play a Gold Glove caliber Right Field.  I would have no problem with Nick and his game if not for two things 1. He is the face of the franchise and is due to make eight figures for the remainder of his contract and 2. His doubles have fallen DRAMATICALLY; Nick is on pace to hit just around 20 doubles this season after never having less than 43 the previous four seasons.  I think Nick is a great contact hitter and a solid bat to stick in the 2-spot in a good offense unfortunately I don’t think he is going to be the cornerstone player the Orioles were hoping for when they gave him a six-year, $66 million contract two off-seasons ago.

Adam Jones: A-

Adam Jones looks as if his on the field production is catching up with his amazing potential.  At the plate Adam has fixed a lot of the holes in his swing and he has become an excellent run producer and shown a little more pop than I expected.  I would like to see Adam’s pitch recognition continue to increase and his pitch selection to improve but if he can be counted on to hit 25-30 homers and knock in 100 RBI while playing Centerfield I can live with certain aspects of his games.  Defensively Adam has made some of the most spectacular plays I have ever seen from an outfielder and he has one of the strongest outfield arms in all of baseball.  I would like to see him pick up the ball of the bat better as he sometimes is forced to make the highlight reel catch because he took the wrong route to the ball. 

Luke Scott: D+

Luke Scott gets a D+ because not only has he been horrendous at the plate this season hitting just .223 with 22 RBI but also because he finally went on the DL with a torn shoulder labrum on Tuesday.   My major issue is that Scott injured his shoulder in Spring Training and continued to play ineffectively for almost half a season trying to tough it out; I have respect for a player trying to “earn his keep” and play through an injury but not when it is clearly to the detriment of your team.  Scott is a below average outfielder and was a major liability in Left Field.

Nolan Reimold: B-

It is time for the Orioles and Buck Showalter to see what they have in Nolan Reimold.  Reimold has played well in the few opportunities he has been given this season with an .854 OPS in VERY limited action in 2011.  I think if Reimold is allowed to finish out the season as the everyday starter in left field the Orioles will have an outfield that they can compete with for the next few years.

Felix Pie: D-

Felix Pie looks as if he has no clue what he is doing on a baseball field; he routinely makes base running mistakes that would be unacceptable in Little League.  Pie avoided being my only position player to get an F because of his all-out hustle on the field.

Vladimir Guerrero: C-

The days of Vlad being a legitimate power bat are in the rearview and it is time for the Orioles to remove him from the cleanup spot.  Vlad only has 17 extra base hits and 28 RBI in 78 games this season.  The combination of diminished bat speed and constantly chasing pitches that are 6 inches out of the strike zone have left Vlad ineffective and a liability hitting in the middle of the Orioles lineup.

See you Friday with my Mid-Season grades for the Orioles pitchers!

 

 

 

 

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5 Simple Steps to Make the Orioles Competitive

Posted on 16 April 2010 by Tom Clayton

It looks like this season is going to be more of the same for the Orioles with a potential 100 loss season on the horizon. Things have gotten better in terms of our farm system and the young players we have on the roster but BIG changes need to be made for this team to compete; and I believe with just five smart moves this team could play meaningful games in September for the first time in well over a decade.

First of all I will say that I would make Brian Matusz, Matt Wieters, Zach Britton, Nick Markakis, and Josh Bell “untouchable”. I think they are all going to be major contributors in the future and players that we can resign and build a winning ballclub around.

I also believe Andy McPhail has done a better job then any G.M. this team has had in a long time and I do not think firing him would be a wise move.

So here are my five things that could make the Orioles winners quickly:

1. Move Nick Markakis into the 2-spot in the lineup and Matt Wieters to the three-hole.

Nick Markakis is a prototypical #2 hitter; he has an OBP over well over .400 and he takes a ton of walks. What he doesn’t have is a ton of power or a “go for broke” RBI mentality which makes him all wrong for the 3-hole and a perfect fit in the 2 spot.

Behind him I would plop Matt Wieters into the 3-spot in the lineup and allow him to grow into a major contributor in this lineup. Wieters has everything you could want in a #3 hitter, the big time power, the high OBP, and a calm demeanor that could make him the second best offensive catcher in baseball sooner then later.

2. Put players into a particular spot in the lineup and KEEP THEM THERE!

Each spot in a major league lineup requires different skills and players need to learn these skills for an offense to really take off. Moving these young players around every night is not going to help them learn the ins and outs of their role in a lineup that they need to learn as they develop.

In a five game span Adam Jones hit 1st, 2nd, and 5th in the lineup; Wieters hit 4th, 5th, and 6th; and Reimold hit 5th and 6th and only started 2 games. This constant shuffling of the lineup is really going along way in stunting the growth of this team and holding them back from become a cohesive, consistent offensive ballclub.

3. Put together a package to get Prince Fielder from Milwaukee.

I would call up Brewers G.M. Doug Melvin and offer him a package of Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, and Caleb Joseph for Prince Fielder and see what he has to say.

Prince Fielder turns 26 in May and is one of the few elite power hitters in baseball. He has averaged 43.3 home runs, 120.6 RBI, and .968 OPS over the past three seasons….all of these numbers would have lead the Orioles by a mile. Prince would give the Orioles their first 40 home run threat since Albert Belle and he would make every player in the lineup better.

Fielder is also far more durable than people realize, he has only missed 7 games over the past three seasons. Prince also plays with a passion that I haven’t seen from any Oriole on the current roster, I would go as far to say he plays with a pissed off attitude that is the direct opposite to the mentality of every player on this current roster.

I understand that fans would be angry at first because Adam Jones is a fan favorite and dealing him would be a tough sell but I honestly think he is a strong candidate to begin giving it 80% on a regular basis because the losing is wearing on him. Jones has seemed to regress a little bit and while he may be a potential 20 home run, 80 RBI guy he will never be the middle of the order masher that Prince Fielder would. I think Felix Pie could fill in just fine for Jones in centerfield and would be more than a competent replacement to the Orioles current centerfielder.

*Another option would be to sign Carl Crawford this offseason to fill the left field spot if the Orioles aren’t 100% solid on Nolan Reimold but I think we have enough depth to let Jones go for a legitimate masher.

Losing Tillman would be even tougher for me than Jones because I think he has the makeup of a top of the rotation starter but he would be the necessary piece to put this trade over the top and get the deal done. Tillman may become a star in Milwaukee but we would be getting a known commodity for a futures prospect.

4. Sign Brandon Webb and/or Cliff Lee next offseason.

Let me begin by saying that I know this flies in the face of McPhail’s “Grow the pitching, buy the bats” philosophy but I feel like you make whatever moves you need to make to win…even if that means going against your philosophy as long as it makes sense.

The loss of Chris Tillman out of the 2011 rotation would be very damaging but I would take a flyer on either Brandon Webb or Cliff Lee, both players are coming off injuries and we will be able to get them much cheaper than if this was 2009.

Brandon Webb was an absolutely dominant sinkerballer before injuring his shoulder just four innings into the 2009 season. I believe Webb would be a perfect fit for Camden Yards because when healthy he throws arguably the best sinker in baseball and has one of the highest ground ball ratios in the league, a must in a stadium like Camden Yards.

I understand there will be a lot of hesitation on giving Webb a big contract considering he is coming off a major injury to his throwing shoulder but it is the type of risk the Orioles are going to need to take to become legitimate contender in the American League. I think the Orioles would be looking at a 4 year-$48 million dollar deal but considering what he would have cost before his shoulder injury that could be a major bargain.

If we could combine signing Brandon Webb with Cliff Lee we really could become contenders sooner than anybody thinks.

Cliff Lee is a quality left hander that was sent to Seattle in the three-way trade that sent Roy Halladay to the Phillies. Lee has an abdominal strain at the moment and is on the DL so he would be another injury risk.

Lee will turn 33 next August but he is the type of pitcher that could pitch late into his thirties and he could REALLY teach Brian Matusz a lot because he is a very similar left handed pitcher.

I believe a rotation of Brandon Webb, Brian Matusz, Cliff Lee, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Britton/David Hernandez/Brad Bergesen could actually compete in the AL East.

5. Bring in Don Mattingly as the manager.

Yes, Don Mattingly is an all-time Yankees great, and yes he has never had any major league managerial experience but he WILL be a very good big league skipper at some point in the next few years.

One thing is for sure, with Donnie Baseball managing this team the days of on the field mistakes and players going rogue on the basepaths will become a thing of the past. Don Mattingly is a man that will immediately have the respect of every player in the clubhouse and the type of no nonsense leader this team needs.

Mattingly has been groomed by Joe Torre for the last seven season and I am more than confident that he has taken a lot of the qualities that have made Joe Torre a great manager and will incorporate them into his own managerial style.

So there you have it, 5 simple steps to making this team competitive in the very near future. I understand that these steps will force Andy McPhail out of his comfort zone and the team to bump up the payroll by about $40 million a year but it would be more than worth it.

With the stadium empty, the loss column filling up at a rapid pace, and the fan-base dwindling it is time to make some moves and go “all in”.

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When does anger turn to indifference? I don’t know but I think I am going to find out soon.

Posted on 14 April 2010 by Tom Clayton

I feel like I am reaching my breaking point with this team on the field and in the dugout; I know every time I turn on MASN 2 I am in for some atrocity I would rather not be a part of. Unfortunately the Orioles are the reason I began to love sports and like Elin with Tiger, I can not give up on them no matter how many times they hurt me. After eight full games in the words of Frank Costanza “I have a lot of problems with you people! And now you’re going to hear about it”

Let me begin by saying I have been yelling for as long as I can remember him being the manager that Dave Trembley has no business in a major league dugout. He has no idea how to manage a pitching staff and he is routinely out smarted by good managers i.e. Joe Maddon.

Last night was a glaring example of Dave Trembley directly contributing to a loss. When Brian Matusz came out for the eighth inning he was pitching a GEM, but it was obvious he was pretty much done. Matusz’ velocity was down 6-miles per hour on his fastball and he had lost the ability to locate any of his off-speed offerings. Rather than pulling Matusz after the first single he allowed him to give up four in a row and load the bases. Had Luke Scott not hit a 2-run shot in the bottom of the inning Matusz would have probably taken the loss after pitching a gem, that would have been great for Matusz’ confidence going forward.

This comes off Trembley leaving an exhausted Kevin Millwood in an inning too late on Sunday leading to a heartbreaking loss and a 3-game sweep to the Blue Jays.

Emphasizing my point is the fact that without Brian Matusz’ win last Thursday night in Tampa the Orioles wouldn’t have a win not only by a starter but by any pitcher on the roster.

And we can not forget about my main man Mike Gonzalez as he has personally lost two games and has become a waving flag for everything that seems to be wrong with this team. I will say this about Gonzalez, he has an 18.00 ERA and a WHIP of 4.50 in just two innings, that means he is allowing 4 ½ base-runners and two runs every time he enters the game; enough said.

My issues don’t end on the mound as we are seeing the same mistakes on the base-paths as last season. Just last night we saw Adam Jones and Ty Wigginton get picked off and Felix Pie get thrown out going into second. With Dave Trembley and his coaching staff “emphasizing” base running in spring training the question that must be asked is:

A. Do the players have an inherent inability to run the bases?
B. Is the coaching that poor that these players can not perform something I learned in Little League?
C. Have the players simply blocked out what Dave Trembley and his coaching staff are teaching?
D. All of the Above.

Not everything is Dave Trembely’s fault, he isn’t on the mound throwing strikes and he isn’t in the batters box swinging the lumber. Speaking of swinging the lumber, Nick Markakis has 10 walks in 8 games which is great because he has an OBP of .417 but he is our #3 hitter. A #3 hitter needs to be a run producer and someone that drives in the table setters in front of him. If Nick wants to leave the bat on his shoulder for 4 at bats a game that’s fine but he must be moved to the 2-spot where he can get on bases and have more aggressive hitters drive him home.

The top six spots in our lineup should look like this:
1. Felix Pie (until B-Rob can get back on the field)
2. Nick Markakis
3. Miguel Tejada
4. Matt Wieters
5. Luke Scott
6. Adam Jones

Mark my words unless Nick begins taking the bat off his shoulder or he is moved down a spot in the lineup the Orioles will continue to struggle scoring runs.

And the icing on this crapcake is the sea of green in the stands. The sight of Camden Yards over the last four games makes me want to puke. The Orioles are drawing fewer fans on a Sunday afternoon than the Ironbirds do on a typical Wednesday night. Playing in front of less than 10,000 fans must be a thrill and really get these guys jacked up. But after playing in front of an the smallest crowd in Camden Yards history Monday night the players must be pissed off and completely deflated coming to the ballpark everyday. Let’s hear the passion from Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis, “I could care less if there was nobody in the stands. We just have to go out there and play and not worry about that kind of stuff.” Whoops…..well just keep up the good work out there Nick and you guys may just be playing in front of nobody come September.

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Orioles: The Jekyll and Hyde of Baltimore

Posted on 22 January 2010 by Tom Clayton

This is going to seem like two different blogs from two different people but honestly that is the way the Orioles seem to make me feel lately. They can do something mind bogglingly stupid and amazingly compassionate over the course of one week.

In the lexicon of all time horrible PR moves, the Orioles raising walkup ticket prices may be at the top of the charts. I honestly wonder how this meeting went when the Orioles made this moronic decision.

Oriole Exec #1: “We haven’t had a winning season in well over a decade and our games have been routinely outdrawn by high school basketball games, what should we do?”

Orioles Exec #2: “How about raising the ticket prices for fans that decide to walkup and buy tickets on game day?’

Orioles Exec #1: “Perfect! Send out a press release the day before the Ravens biggest game of the season.”

I figured that a team struggling to remain relevant in its own market would at least attempt to ingratiate itself to the community not alienate 98% of it.

Another interesting part of the story is that the team has rationalized this move by claiming this is a “reward for the fans that show their commitment to the team”. I have two major issues with this idiotic statement; first of which is the use of the word “reward”. A reward by definition is something beneficial or desirable given for an action taken. How are the Orioles rewarding someone by allowing them to pay full price for their ticket? A reward also shouldn’t be a punishment to everyone that isn’t being rewarded.

The second issue I have with that statement is the inclusion of the term commitment. Orioles baseball is a past time to be enjoyed at my leisure. You make a commitment when you get married or if you choose to join the mob, I shouldn’t be forced to make a commitment to a BASEBALL TEAM!

But just six days after this awful decision the Orioles decided to show a great act of generosity that hasn’t been promoted enough.

Tomorrow at FanFest the team will be donating a portion of all admissions as well as holding silent auctions and a memorabilia sale in an effort to raise money for the Haitian community. Along with those acts the team will have numerous collection buckets around the Convention Center and will also be accepting donations mailed to Baltimore Orioles Haiti Relief, 333 West Camden Street, Baltimore, MD 21201 that are made payable to the Baltimore Orioles Charitable Foundation, with “Haiti Relief” in the memo line. And on top of that the organization will match every donation received dollar for dollar.

FanFest really is a great event especially for children; there are a ton of cool things for them to experience and this one event can go a long way in fertilizing their love of baseball. And with the knowledge that proceeds are going to an amazing cause I implore all fans young and old to get out to the Convention Center tomorrow.

And there you have our team in a nutshell….they are the Jekyll and Hyde of Baltimore good one day a monster the next.

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How I would Handle the Corner Infield for the Orioles in 2010

Posted on 23 November 2009 by Tom Clayton

 

I figured with everyone harping on the same few topics after a tough Ravens loss I would change things up a bit and talk some hardball today.  I have been analyzing what I think the O’s should do with the corner infield positions for about a week now and I figured out what I think is the teams best options for the present and the future.

 

1.      Let Michael Aubrey play first base for a full season.

 

Aubrey will be 28 at the start of the 2010 season; an age that is still fairly young by baseball standards.  If he pans out the Orioles could get 4-5 very solid years out of Aubrey rather than signing an over the hill veteran to come in and take over first base for a year or two.

 

Last season Aubrey was adequate at the plate with a .826 OPS that included 4 homers, 14 RBI, and a .500 slugging percentage in just 90 plate appearances. If you stretch that out over a full season with 500 at bats Aubrey would have a very respectable 22 home runs and 78 RBI.  In all honesty Aubrey will never be Albert Pujols at the dish but I could see him being a productive seven or eight hitter in a decent lineup. 

 

For Aubrey his real value comes from his work with the leather.  He is an above average defensive first baseman with plus range and picking ability.  An outstanding defensive first baseman can save a team between two to three extra base runners a game; something that could be very helpful when trying to combat the offenses in the AL East.

 

I’m not saying Aubrey is the guaranteed long term solution at first but with the other options being Carlos Delgado, Nomar Garciaparra, or Jason Giambi, why wouldn’t you give the kid a shot in 2010.

 

If the Orioles are inclined to sign a first baseman during the off-season I would push for Russell Branyan.  I could also deal with Hank Blalock or Adam LaRoche but I say wait a year and see if there are better options with either Brandon Snyder or via free agency.

 

Speaking of Brandon Snyder if Aubrey can at least be sufficient at the plate you could bring up Snyder at any point this year to be the full time DH; filling two holes and vastly improving our defense going forward.

 

   2. The Orioles SHOULD sign a third baseman.

 

By all reports Josh Bell projects as a big time power hitting corner infielder but these reports also show he is a year or two away from the big leagues.

 

With that said the Orioles are going to need to sign a veteran third baseman to fill the void at third until the twenty-two year old Bell is ready. 

 

One option that intrigues me is Mark DeRosa; DeRosa will be 35 at the start of the 2010 season but he is coming off a highly productive season in St. Louis.  In 139 games DeRosa had a .752 OPS with 23 jacks and 78 runs scored and driven in.  Unfortunately it is being reported that at least twelve teams are vying for DeRosa which would make it hard for a 99 loss organization to make this deal.  The other issue is that DeRosa may be looking for a three or four year deal which would be out of the question with Bell waiting in the wings.

 

If DeRosa is not in the equation I think Pedro Feliz would be the perfect player to bridge the gap until Bell is ready to rock.  Feliz like DeRosa would be 35 at the start of next season; but unlike DeRosa teams aren’t knocking down Feliz’ door to sign him.  In 158 games last year in Philadelphia, Feliz had a .694 OPS with 12 homers and 82 RBI for the NL Champions.  In addition to his on the field production Feliz could bring a winning attitude to a team that sorely needs it.  While the Orioles have been fighting to avoid losing 100 games, Feliz has been the starting third baseman on a team that has been in the World Series in consecutive years.

 

The third thing that makes Feliz such an enticing option for Baltimore is the fact that he would more than likely sign a one or two year deal in the range of $5 million a year…not only a manageable contract but one that could be seen as a major value.

 

I have heard people clamoring for Adrian Beltre or Troy Glaus but not only are the Orioles going to have to give both players fairly large multi-year deals but neither player has proven he can stay on the field for any consistent period of time. 

 

As for signing Chone Figgins, Oriole fans need to get real there is absolutely no shot that Figgins would come to Baltimore no matter how much money the organization throws his way.  Teams with a much better chance of winning in the present and deeper pockets will be making it rain all around Figgins.

 

I have said it for the better part of a year now and I am sticking to my guns no matter how much I get beat up…The Orioles need to stick the plan and make smart decisions with this team.  Going out and over paying for players whose contracts will be an albatross around our necks in two years when we could be serious players in the free agent market is not the right way to attack this situation.  To compete with teams that have twice as much revenue to spend and therefore a much higher margin for error when it comes to missing on free agents, the Orioles need to build from within and then strike in free agency when the time is right. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I can bite my tongue no longer!

Posted on 30 September 2009 by Tom Clayton

As I sit in my house watching the Orioles on track to lose their thirteenth game in a row I feel like I have to end my silence. It has been one month and twenty-two days since I have written about a baseball team that I have loved for as long as I can remember. A team that once ruled my life has become so inconsequential that I realized I have not watched a full inning of Oriole baseball in well over a month.

As this team is about to hit a new low point with 100 losses this season I have come to the realization that baseball in Baltimore is completely off the reservation. Nobody in Baltimore cares what this team does anymore and I have about as much interest in baseball in Baltimore as watching the Lifetime channel…I am serious I was watching a Golden Girls marathon a few weeks ago and after seeing the Orioles were playing I watched three more hours of Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche’s geriatric hijinks over an Orioles game.

While it is tough for me to face the cold hard facts about the Orioles, how terrible must it be to try and play for a team that absolutely nobody cares about? I was watching the Ravens game last Sunday and during a timeout switched over to MASN to see the Orioles losing to the Indians. After thinking about it I wondered aloud to some people I was watching the game with, “How many people in Baltimore are actually watching the Orioles instead of the Ravens?” It has to be completely deflating to play out a season in a city that doesn’t even know the season is still going.

Now tonight as I attempted to sit through my first full Orioles game in well over a month I am treated to some of the most contradictory announcing I have ever heard. Gary Thorne made reference to what a small crowd had shown up in Tampa Bay to watch the game. After a few jokes about the irrelevancy of the Rays in Tampa he continues, “I am sure the attendance will be announced at 10,000 but that is being generous”. Really Gary? The Orioles have been pulling in crowds under 10,000 for well over a month now and continue to fudge the numbers to make their attendance look “respectable”. The Orioles can’t even draw 10,000 when they are giving away one dollar tickets (a sham in and of its self that could fill up an entire blog).

A coworker told me that I had to watch Matt Wieters game winning home run against Tampa Bay two weeks ago but not because it was a historic, exciting sign of things to come but because it was hilarious. I had no idea what he was talking about until I got home and saw Matt Wieters hit a shot to left to lead the Orioles to a rare win…the most amazing part…there was literally one kid sitting in then front row of the left field stands. Sadly it is no exaggeration there was literally one solitary kid in an Orioles jersey with thousands of empty green seats that should have been filled with Oriole fans celebrating.

Things are as bad in birdland as they have ever been…I am going to the game Saturday after receiving two free tickets and I will be looking for my defining Orioles moment of 2009…being one of 7,000 people to see the teams 100th loss.

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Confessions of A Beaten Baseball Fan

Posted on 09 August 2009 by Tom Clayton

I love baseball; it is the sport I grew up watching and playing. There is something about baseball that reminds me of a carefree time when I was a 22-3 ace in my neighborhood tennis ball league. I remember cutting the bushes on the side of my friend’s house so that it was a perfect replica of the outfield wall at Wrigley Field (or at least it looked like it to us). And I remember how excited I was when I finally got the 1986 Fleer card that completed my collection of every single Darryl Strawberry card there was. And how great Sunday mornings were when my parents would take me to the North Point flea market to pickup cards of my favorite players.

But now I am a broken sports fan. Now baseball doesn’t feel carefree. Baseball feels dirty and grownup. The outing of steroid abusers feels a bit like the curtain has been pulled back and we can see what the wizard looks like, and he isn’t the majestic projection we once believed he was. With a different star being revealed as a steroid user, the dark side of baseball is put on full display on an almost monthly basis. How can a ten year old kid go out in his backyard and pretend to be “Big Papi” hitting homers over a make shift “Big Monster” without the thought of steroids somewhere in his consciousness? What player can today’s children look up to without knowledge that they have cheated? Brian Roberts was caught using steroids for goodness sake.

The boom of the internet and 24 hour reporting hasn’t helped to keep the image of the modern baseball player unspoiled either. There were certainly players using performance enhancing drugs and doing unsavory things in the past, but today’s need-to-print-the-most-salacious story possible has led to the airing of every player’s dirty laundry on the most public of clotheslines. The fact that sports reporters have become a form of private investigators does not give players a free pass for the mistakes they make. In the end the player, not the reporter, has broken the law and muddled the sanctity of America’s Pastime.

At the stadium things are just as grim. I remember walking down to the railing in front of the field and getting autographs and talking baseball with my heroes like Randy Milligan (I was a huge Moose Milligan fan as a kid) and Elrod Hendricks. And then future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken would stay for well over an hour after games to make sure every kid in the stadium not only left the game with an autograph but maybe even more importantly, a memory.

Last season I watched Alberto Castillo walk past a group of kids screaming his name without even acknowledging them much less taking the two minutes to give them autographs after a game. And for the 94% of you who don’t know, Alberto Castillo is a thirty-four year old relief pitcher who has a record of 1-0 in 32 career games for the Orioles.

I must admit Camden Yards has a lot of cool stuff for kids to do while they are at the stadium such as a playground and fireworks after the game. But wouldn’t it be more advantageous to engross kids with the actual game and player interaction than a bunch of things ancillary to the game? You don’t teach a kid how to love reading by having them play dodge ball and tag in a bookstore.

I love baseball, it is a sport that has taught me so many life lessons and helped me form lifelong friendships. I just fear that the indifference the players show kids is going to prevent so many potential young fans from having the same love affair with baseball I have had for twenty some years.

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One Day We Will Look Back on The Orioles Season in a Different Light

Posted on 04 August 2009 by Tom Clayton

With the Orioles getting swept this past weekend, the icing on the crap cake being an 18-10 loss in front of 30,000 Red Sox fans, things look grim in birdland. But while this season hasn’t been great for Oriole fans, it has laid some important building blocks for the future. In my estimation the experience all of the young Orioles are getting this season has accelerated the rebuilding process by a season or two.

With pitchers such as Chris Tillman, Brad Bergesen, David Hernandez, Jason Berken, and Brain Matusz all making their major league debuts this season, the Orioles should have a decent idea of who can be effective and who will be a turd.

If we hadn’t accelerated the youth movement in Baltimore we could have wasted ten to twelve starts in 2010 to find out Jason Berken probably isn’t a major league starter. But on the flipside we can go into next season comfortable with some lesser prospects like Hernandez and Bergesen being part of the stating rotation on Opening Day. In fact, as funny as it sounds right now, the Orioles could have a serious battle between six pitchers for the five spots in the rotation going into spring training. Tillman, Matusz, Bergesen, Hernandez, Arrieta, and Guthrie should all be in a battle to make the Orioles rotation; a battle that projects a lot of excitement on the mound in 2010.

In the bullpen, the trade of George Sherrill to the Dodgers is going to give Jim Johnson 58 games to prove he can be the Orioles closer in the foreseeable future. Johnson turned twenty-six in June but he only has two full major league seasons under his belt and should continue to be an interesting storyline throughout the summer.

In the field the Orioles solidified their outfield with the promotion of Nolan Reimold in May. Going into the season Adam Jones and Nick Markakis were absolutes and Reimold has proven he is a major cog in the best young outfield in baseball.

Behind the plate the experience Matt Wieters has gotten is going to pay huge dividends in 2010. It will only help the cohesiveness of the Orioles battery next year with Wieters getting to catch all of the young pitchers 8-12 times this season.

At the dish the early slump Wieters went through when he was called up at the end of May should be a distant memory on opening day 2010. Wieters should get over 300 at bats this season and has already begun to show some of the potential that will eventually make him an OPS monster in future years.

Right now the Orioles are solid in every outfield position, second base, shortstop, and behind the plate; and next season we may get to see Brandon Snyder and Josh Bell on the corners which would fill every position on the diamond with talent. In fact, the Orioles would not only have a legitimate player at every position on the field in 2010, they would only have two everyday starters over twenty-six (Roberts and Izturis).

This type of young talent hasn’t been on the major league roster in well over two decades and allowing them to get their feet under them in a season when the Orioles aren’t going anywhere will only accelerate the process of getting the Orioles back to respectability. Things may look ugly right now on the field but in two years when the Orioles are beginning to contend, fans can look back at 2009 and know that this horrible season was the beginning of making baseball relevant in Baltimore again.

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