Tag Archive | "The Orioles"

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Going into the All Star Break I Have Enjoyed the Ride So Far

Posted on 13 July 2009 by Tom Clayton

Here we are at the All Star break and the Orioles are pretty much where I expected them to be at 40-48 and in last place in the AL East. On the upside we are light years ahead of where I imagined we’d be in terms of our youth movement and player progression.

There is no better story in Baltimore right now then rookie starting pitcher Brad Bergesen. His teammates have begun to call him ROY as in Rookie of the Year…and rightfully so. In 16 starts this season Bergesen is 6-3 with a 3.54ERA and a WHIP of 1.20 in 104.1 innings. Perhaps as impressive as Bergesen’s numbers is how deep he is going in games at such an early stage of his career, he is averaging 6.1 innings per outing and hasn’t pitched less then six innings since May 24th when he pitched 5.2 innings against the Nats. It looks like the Orioles have found the first piece to their future starting rotation with Bergesen and at 23 he seems to be improving with each outing.

The youth movement doesn’t stop with Bergesen as Nolan Reimold has shown some serious pop at the dish. Reimold has nine big flies and 23 RBIs in 51 games this season; spread those numbers across a full 162 games and he would be on pace for 29 homers and 73 RBIs. Reimold has cooled off a bit of late but I think he has the plate discipline and strike zone recognition to heat back up after the All Star break.

With Reimold locking down left field the Orioles have created one of the most talented and diverse young outfields in baseball. Adam Jones is going to make his first All Star appearance Tuesday and has shown improvement in every facet of his game in 2009. Jones has raised his OPS by .127 in his second full season and is on pace for around 24 home runs and 94 RBIs. While Jones has been impressive at the plate he has been even more impressive in the field covering more ground than any centerfielder not named Torii Hunter and making home run robbing catches at the wall look almost routine.

Rounding out the Orioles impressive outfield is 25 year old right fielder Nick Markakis. Markakis started the season on an absolute tear with an obscene OPS of 1.020 and driving in 22 runs in April. Nick’s May was just as impressive as his power numbers spiked with five bombs to go with his 18 RBIs which gave him 40 RBIs going into June. Nick’s power numbers have fallen off quite a bit as he hasn’t had a home run since June 16th against the Mets; his homer-less drought is at 25 games going into the break. I think Nick is showing us the kind of hitter he is destined to be throughout his career; I see him as a guy who will hit around 20 homers with 95-105 RBIs and an OPS of around .870.

When Matt Wieters made his major league debut on May 29th against the Tigers, Baltimore baseball became more relevant than it has been in over a decade. Regrettably, Wieters struggled at the plate as he attempted to reach the completely unrealistic expectations placed on him. On the positive side Wieters has begun to show a lot of improvement as he gets his feet under him at the major league level; all of his offensive numbers have improved as he continues to figure out major league pitching. Behind the plate Wieters has looked fairly good making some heady plays but he has also struggled throwing out just one of the 21 players who have attempted to steal on him this season. While none of Wieters numbers are really attention grabbing, I have been impressed with his maturity and work ethic which fill me with confidence that when the light does in fact go on, the Orioles will have one hell of a special player behind the plate.

Luke Scott has been the most productive Oriole offensively, by far. While playing a majority of his games as a DH Scott has18 bombs, 51 RBI, and an eye popping .976OPS; in fact Scott is on a pace for the first 30 home run, 100 RBI season of his career. At 31 and with a very manageable contract, Scott is a viable, intriguing piece to the Orioles puzzle.

Another solid veteran contributor has been closer George Sherrill. After a rocky start to the season Sherrill has come on strong and driven his stock about as high as it can possibly go. In his last 27.2 innings Sherrill has only allowed five earned runs and converted 16 of 18 saves. Sherrill could potentially be a very valuable trading chip around the trading deadline as he has become not only a proven closer but a proven left handed closer.

Some unlikely players have also made great contributions throughout the first half of the season. Robert Andino did a great job filling in for Cesar Izturis. Andino isn’t going to be mistaken for Hanley Ramirez at the dish but he played an outstanding defensive shortstop.

Over the last few games Oscar Salazar has been a revelation at the plate with an OPS of 1.067 and two bombs in his first 31 at bats this season. With Melvin Mora struggling at the dish and in the last year of his deal it may be an interesting idea to deal Mora and grant Salazar an opportunity to play everyday. At 31 Salazar probably isn’t the long term solution at the hot corner but he has shown enough ability at the plate to give him a shot.

Unfortunately not everything has been coming up aces for the Orioles; they are still eight games under .500 for a reason.

Jeremy Guthrie is the only pitcher remaining from the opening day starting rotation. Experiments such as Adam Eaton and Mark Hendrickson were monumental flops, although Hendrickson has become a reliable left hander out of the pen. As for Guthrie, he has not been “right” all season; his fastball has little to no movement and he has shown a below average ability to place his breaking pitches. It seems like a majority of Guthrie’s sliders are up in the zone with little break, essentially making them below average fastballs. Guthrie is also allowing home runs at an alarming rate, in 101.1 innings Guthrie has allowed 20 homers. I am not sure if this is due to Guthrie’s participation in the WBC or the fact that opposing hitters have figured out Guthrie but it is an alarming statistic for sure.

As for the pitchers who have filled the starting rotation, other than Bergesen they have all been less than impressive to put it nicely. Rich Hill is wildly inconsistent and hasn’t shown me anything in terms of intangibles that lead me to believe he is anything more than a below average major league starter. Jason Berken has battled on the mound and showed a lot of grit but his numbers tell a story of a pitcher that may need more grooming down on the farm.

As for Felix Pie I don’t think there is much that I haven’t already said. Pie has played better of late and he is playing on the cheap so we could do worse than Pie as a fourth outfielder.

The most frustrating part of the first half of the season hasn’t been any one player but the mental lapses that the players seem to routinely make. The Orioles have been atrocious on the basepaths and have run themselves out of more innings then I can count. Melvin Mora looks clueless running the bases and is good for two or three boneheaded plays a week. I would implore Dave Trembley to sit Mora down and explain that he is 37 and doesn’t have the wheels to swipe bases anymore.

Overall it has been an exciting season for the Orioles, there have been some amazing comebacks and the team seems to battle for all 27 outs. The days of Kevin Millar and Jay Payton blocking the promotions of our young talent seems to be in the rearview and many of the young players are making the most of their opportunities and producing. On top of the many positives I haven’t even mentioned Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz who were both named top ten prospects in all of baseball. While the second half may be a roller coaster, we are building the tracks for one hell of a fun ride.

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Bedard Back To Baltimore? Thanks but no Thanks!

Posted on 12 July 2009 by Tom Clayton

There has been a lot of talk on the WNST airwaves about the possibility of resigning Erik Bedard at the end of the season; based purely on pitching ability it seems like a great idea. In terms of pure “stuff” there is no question that Bedard is one of the elite pitchers in all of baseball. In terms of makeup and intangibles though, Bedard is a player I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.

Bedard is an acerbic loner who doesn’t really seem as though he wants to play baseball at times. Actually, he is a lot like Wolverine in that he is a loner blessed with an amazing gift who doesn’t play well with others…but unlike Wolverine it is next to impossible to root for Bedard.

During his time in Baltimore, Bedard did not endear himself to his teammates or the media. Could you imagine Adam Jones hitting Bedard in the face with a pie after he got his first win back with the Orioles? Yeah, neither could I. The Orioles seem to be a clubhouse full of young players who have fun and enjoy being around each other; a dynamic that I don’t see Bedard really fitting into.

I would be very hesitant about putting a player of Erik Bedard’s personality in a clubhouse with a very young team. The last person I would want to mentor players like Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz is Bedard.

It would also be nice if you weren’t worried about the arm of the ace of your staff and a guy who will be making $10-14 million dollars a year falling off. Bedard has just eleven wins since being traded to Seattle and has been a consistent member of the disabled list.

I don’t think the Orioles will sign Bedard nor will he want to resign with the Orioles so that would leave a few potential teams who could acquire him in the future,

One potential suitor could be the Phillies. Philadelphia fans are some of the most fickle, blue collar fans in baseball; how do you think they would react to a $12 million-dollar-a-year pitcher who goes on the DL because he slept in bed the wrong way?

Another potential team that could be in the hunt for Bedard would be the Mets. Without a solid second starter behind ace Johan Santana, Bedard would be an amazing one-two punch. The issue with this pairing is that Bedard couldn’t handle six reporters in the clubhouse after an Orioles game. How would he survive New York where he would be surrounded after a game by more people then George Clooney at a singles bar?

For a team looking for a ridiculously talented pitcher who is a massive jerk and shuts it down at the first sign of discomfort, Bedard is the man for them. As for the Orioles, I will stick with the young pitching we are developing and let “Mr. Personality” jump on and off the DL for another team.

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Orioles All Star Center Fielder Adam Jones…I Like the Sound of That

Posted on 05 July 2009 by Tom Clayton

Adam Jones was named a reserve outfielder on the 2009 All Star team this afternoon.  At 23 years old and in just his second full season in the majors this is quite an accomplishment.  Jones is the youngest Orioles All Star since Mike Mussina who was about two months younger then Jones when he made the team in 1992.  On the season Jones is hitting .307 with twelve homers and forty-six runs driven in.  The league has also begun to take notice of the outstanding work Jones is doing in centerfield; he is quickly becoming one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball.

 

Jones is the second All Star the Orioles acquired from Seattle for Erik Bedard, after George Sherrill made the 2008 All Star team.  While the Orioles got two players who have developed into All Stars in a season and a half since the trade, Erik Bedard has made only 26 starts for the Mariners and has had multiple stints on the DL.  In fact Bedard is currently on the DL with shoulder inflammation…something that is becoming old hat for “Mr. Personality”.  And on top acquiring Jones and Sherrill who have already made All Star teams the Orioles also got Chris Tillman in the deal, who is looking more and more like a legitimate top of the rotation starter.

 

The fans, managers, and players did a good job choosing this year’s team except for one glaring mistake.  How in the world did Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler not make the team? Kinsler is only hitting .256 but he has nineteen home runs and fifty-one RBI with sixteen stolen bases at SECOND BASE.  Aaron Hill was a no doubt selection but the fans decision to vote Dustin Pedroia as a starter over Kinsler is a joke.  Pedroia is hitting twenty points higher but Kinsler has seventeen more home runs, sixteen more RBI, two more stolen bases and his slugging percentage is .133 higher than Boston’s second baseman.  Kinsler is one of the five players eligible to make the team with the fans final vote and with no Oriole on the list I implore Baltimoreans to give their vote to Kinsler.

 

Well Congratulations to Adam Jones; may this be the first of many All Star games in your future.

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Time For Koji To Relocate…To the Bullpen

Posted on 30 June 2009 by Tom Clayton

The Orioles are full of young pitching talent at every level of the organization.  Chris Tillman has been dominant at Triple-A Norfolk this season with an ERA under three and 75 strike outs in72.2 innings.  Brian Matusz is 2-0 with a 0.79 ERA in two starts since being called up to Double-A Bowie.  With all of this great young talent developing throughout the organization I am more troubled with the handling of Koji Uehara then I would have been just two years ago.

 

Coming to the United States from Japan this off-season the Orioles were the only team to guarantee Koji a spot in their starting rotation and I think the reason is clear now.  Koji is a pitcher who maxes out between 70-80 pitches, a number that simply isn’t going to cut the mustard as a big league starter.  The first time through the lineup Koji is borderline dominant but the second and third time though the lineup he is unable to make adjustments to get hitters out.  Koji has pitched seven innings just once this season and that was all the way back on April 19th in a 2-1 loss at Fenway.

 

In addition to Koji’s lack of stamina is his inability to remain healthy.  In less then half a season with the Orioles Koji has injured his hamstring twice; an injury that is most commonly caused by poor muscle strength and overexertion.

 

 I have serious questions about not only Koji’s durability but his physical preparation.  Koji has looked exhausted in his outings this season when the temperature rises above 85 and I wonder how he will possibly pitch in mid-August when the temperature and humidity are much higher.  In a late May game against the Nationals Koji looked as if he was going to drop dead of heat exhaustion on the mound; he was gasping for air after each pitch.  In fact he couldn’t muster enough energy to cover first base on an infield single before being pulled from the game after just three innings due to a hamstring injury. 

 

Now Koji is making his second DL appearance with lingering fatigue in his pitching elbow.  I am hesitant to make rash accusations about players but I am seriously beginning to question not only Koji’s ability to be a starting pitcher but his heart.  He doesn’t seem to have the competitive fire that you like to see that will lift a player to fight through minor injuries.

 

With all of these factors thrown into the equation it doesn’t take a baseball genius to see Koji is best suited to be a middle reliever at the big league level.  He could be a very serviceable pitcher coming out of the bullpen to bridge the gap between the starters and Jim Johnson as well as contribute in long relief and spot starts.

 

I think the reason the organization has used “kid gloves” on Koji is threefold and none of them are directly attributed to Koji’s talent on the mound.

 

First and perhaps most important is the fact that Koji is the first Japanese player the Orioles have signed and they do not want him to be the last.  The Orioles can simply not afford for Koji to go back to Japan and bad mouth the organization; this could create a ripple effect that prevents the Orioles from acquiring future players from the very fertile landscape of Japanese baseball.

 

The second issue is purely speculation, but it may be possible that when the Orioles signed Koji there were stipulations that he must remain in the starting rotation.  At the time when the Orioles signed Koji they only had one pitcher, Jeremy Guthrie, who was solidly entrenched in the starting rotation. With that in mind I don’t think it is completely out of the realm of possibility that the Orioles would allow for this type of stipulation in his contract.

 

The third factor is solely monetary; at five million dollars a season over the next two years Koji would be one of the highest paid middle relievers in baseball. Heath Bell of the Padres is currently tied for the major league lead with 21 saves and is only making $1.255 million this season.  Rockies closer and former Rookie of the Year Huston Street is only making $4.5 million this season.  So to pay a member of your bullpen who is neither your closer nor setup man is quite frankly fiscally irresponsible.

 

The thing that scares me the most isn’t Koji on the field but the possibility of stunting the growth of our young pitchers and wasting options on them as Koji jumps on an off the DL.  The Orioles have already used one option on David Hernandez and once Koji comes back they will likely have to use a second one.  I am all for showing goodwill towards Koji to entice more talented Japanese players to come to Baltimore but not at the detriment of the long term development of the organization and its young pitchers.

 

The time has come for Dave Trembley and Andy MacPhail to start making some tough decision to further cultivate what is quickly shaping up to be a very exciting young team.  The first of these moves may be to move Koji to the bullpen and open up a spot in the rotation for a rookie under the age of thirty-four.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Best Power Hitter You Know Nothing About

Posted on 12 June 2009 by Tom Clayton

 

 

If I asked the average baseball fan “what player leads all of baseball in home runs”, most would rattle off names such as Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Mark Texieria, or Prince Fielder.  But the answer is none of those big time power hitting first basemen, it is San Diego slugger Adrian Gonzalez with 22 big flies.  Gonzalez has quietly become the second best first baseman in the National League behind the great Albert Pujols and at 27 Gonzalez is one of the best power hitters in all of baseball.

 

Gonzalez has been putting up huge numbers for the past three years in relative obscurity while playing for the Padres. 

 

Gonzalez was a much hyped player coming out of Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, California.  In fact the Marlins selected Gonzalez with the first overall pick in the 2000 MLB First-Year Players Draft. 

 

After suffering a wrist injury during his development in the Marlins minor league system the organization became fearful that Gonzalez’s swing would be permanently hindered and traded him to the Texas Rangers for Ugueth Urbina.  Yes the same Ugueth Urbina who is currently serving a fourteen year prison sentence in his home country of Venezuela for attacking five farm workers on his property with a machete and attempted to pour gasoline on them.

 

Gonzalez played sparingly during two seasons with the Rangers.  In fact Gonzalez played just 59 games for the Rangers because they already had their power hitting first baseman of the future in Mark Texieria.  So Gonzalez was traded during the 2006 off-season along with staring pitcher Chris Young and outfielder Terrmel Sledge to the Padres for Adam Eaton(yes that Adam Eaton) and Akinori Otsuka. 

 

Once Gonzalez found a home with the Padres the former first overall pick showed the potential everyone had expected. 

In 2007 while playing 161 games Gonzalez hit .282 with 30 homers, 100 RBI, and slugged .502.

 

Last season Gonzalez really came into his own as a top tier power hitter at the major league level.  While playing in all 162 of San Diego’s games Gonzalez hit .279 with 36 home runs, 119RBI, and slugged .510.  The league began to take notice of the incredible numbers Gonzalez was putting up in 2008 as he was named to his first of All Star game.

 

What makes all of his huge power numbers even more impressive is that Gonzalez has put up these numbers while playing 81games a year in the cavernous Petco Park. Petco is the hardest stadium in all of baseball to hit the ball over the fence; the stadium has been 30th out of 30 major league ballparks since its opening in 2004 allowing well under one home run a game.  Even while playing in a stadium built to be the ultimate pitchers park in 30 games in 2009 he has 7 home runs is slugging .485

 

This season the 27 year old Gonzalez not only leads all of baseball with his 22 home runs but he is also hitting .275 with 43RBI, and is slugging a mind boggling .623.

 

Gonzalez isn’t only outstanding at the dish but he is also an excellent fielding first baseman.  Gonzalez won his first Gold Glove in 2008 and both his range factor and fielding percentage have risen precipitately every season.

 

When you look at all of the amazing things Gonzalez does on the field he may be the best value in all of baseball.  Gonzalez is making just $3.125 million this season; and is signed for next year at $4.75 with a club bonus for 2011 at $5.5million.

 

For a team that is in major financial trouble the possibility of Gonzalez moving to a contending ball club at the trade deadline is a very real possibility.  Rumors are already floating around baseball that the both the Red Sox and Mets may make a serious run to acquire Gonzalez. Getting a 27 year old, left handed, middle of the order bat that comes on the cheap is an exciting proposition for any team….sadly the Orioles will likely not be in the running as they continue rebuilding.  Gonzalez would also put up huge numbers playing 81 games in any ballpark other than Petco.  With a change of scenery to a big market Gonzalez may breakout among mainstream baseball fans and receive the appreciation he deserves, until then lets just keep this between you and me.

 

 

 

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A Look at the Orioles Options in the First Round

Posted on 08 June 2009 by Tom Clayton

 

The Orioles have really learned how to work the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft over the past few years.  Since hiring Joe Jordan as director of scouting in November 2004 the Orioles have drafted players like Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, and Brian Matusz.  With the presence of Jordan and Andy MacPhail the Orioles farm system has gone from one of the worst in baseball at the beginning of the decade to being ranked #10 by ESPN baseball insider Keith Law.

 

The Orioles have loaded up on pitching talent over the last few years.  They have a ton of depth on the mound but still have three glaring holes in the infield at first and third base as well as shortstop.  Andy MacPhail is a big proponent of taking pitching with your first round pick and with a draft where only one position player may go in the top ten it looks like we will have another young arm coming out of this draft.

 

Tomorrow the Orioles will have a tough decision to make with the fifth pick; do they add more pitching talent to an already stacked farm system or do they reach for a much needed position player?  I don’t think there is any chance that Dustin Ackley, the best hitter in the draft will fall to us so I am going on the presumption he is already off the board.

 

I have seen many different sites that have the Orioles selecting right handed starter Tanner Scheppers who pitched for the St. Paul Saints of the independent league last off-season.  The Orioles actually drafted him in 29th round of the 2005 draft when he was a shortstop prospect coming out of high school.  Last year Scheppers was drafted by Pittsburgh in the second round but chose not to sign and reenter the draft this year.  Scheppers is coming off of a stress fracture in his shoulder, although all reports have stated he is healthy.  Scheppers has a very live arm with a fastball that touches 98 and usually sits around 95.  I am nervous about drafting a pitcher who has already had shoulder surgery but I have heard great things about Scheppers and have heard from more than one scout he has the potential to be a dominant front end of the rotation starter.

 

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/draft/y2009/reports.jsp?content=scheppers

 

 

MLB.com has the Orioles taking Zack Wheeler, a high school pitcher out of Georgia with the fifth pick.  While Scheppers is much closer to being major league ready at twenty-two years old with a developed 6-4 200 pound frame, Wheeler is considered to be the most “projectable” player in the entire draft. At just 19 years of age and a long, lanky body at 6-4 170 pounds scouts love his height and the possibility of Wheeler filling out his frame.  Wheeler has a fastball that sits between 90-93 with a lot of life and good sink.  Scouts are a little worried about inconsistencies in both Wheeler’s command and delivery.  There is a ton of upside with this kid but taking a high school pitcher so high in the draft scares me…..Adam Loewen anyone?

 

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/draft/y2009/reports.jsp?content=wheeler

 

 

The player that intrigues me more than any other player who may be available when the Orioles are ready to make their selection is Tyler Matzek.  The 6-3 185 pound left hander out of Capistrano Valley High School in California is widely considered the best high school pitching prospect in the draft. Matzek is a rarity in that he is a high school pitcher that already has four solid pitches in his repertoire.  Another intriguing nugget is that even though Matzek is a high school pitcher some scouting reports say he may have the best command of any pitcher in the draft.  He can reportedly place the ball anywhere and do so effortlessly.  As I said earlier with Wheeler I am not a huge fan of taking high school pitchers high in the draft but Matzek may be the exception.  It would be interesting to pair Matzek with last years first round pick Brian Matusz; another left hander with a eerily similar last name.  I think as of right now from what I have read and saw Matzek would be my pick on Tuesday; but his name isn’t coming up as much as I figured it would in connection to the Orioles and the fifth pick.

 

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/draft/y2009/reports.jsp?content=matzek

 

Grant Green was a player that both fellow WNST blogger Chris Stoner and I had pegged as the best possible pick for the Orioles as recently as a few weeks ago.  Since then it seems like the shortstop out of USC’s stock has dropped quickly and he is being projected as a middle of the first round pick now.  There is no denying that Green would fill one of the glaring holes in the Orioles system as they are really void of any shortstop prospects at any level of the organization.  Green had a good junior season for the Trojans in 2009 hitting .374 with 19 doubles, five triples, four homers, and 32 RBI.  Green also led USC with sixteen stolen bases, a .435 on-base percentage, and twenty-six multi hit games.  The twenty-one year old right hander has the ability to be a five tool player and has drawn comparisons to Stephen Drew of the Arizona Diamondbacks(a player the Orioles reported passed on when Peter Angelos gripped they already had a shortstop in Miguel Tejada).  I am still fairly high on Green but I am admittedly scared away by the fact his stock has fallen so precipitately in the past month.

 

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/draft/y2009/reports.jsp?content=green

 

The final player that has been linked to the Orioles is right hander Aaron Crow.  Crow was taken by the Nationals with the ninth pick in last year’s draft but didn’t sign after the two sides couldn’t overcome a $700K difference in contract talks.  Crow pitched for the Fort Worth Cats of the independent league and has reportedly improved his stock going into this year’s draft.  Crow possesses a fastball that sits in the 91-92 mph range and has outstanding sink when he is throwing well.  Crow’s out pitch is his tremendous slider that projects at as a plus pitch in the big leagues.  He has struggled with his command at times and has a tendency to try and nibble the plate.  I am not super high on Crow but many mock drafts have him going as high as third in the draft so he may not even be an option for the Orioles at five.

 

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/draft/y2009/reports.jsp?content=crow

 

After looking at a lot of mock drafts and reading a ton of scouting reports I feel that Tyler Matzek would be the best player for the Orioles to take tomorrow.  Dustin Ackley falling to the fifth pick would be a dream scenario for the Orioles and a great stroke of luck for a team that had Matt Wieters fall to them with the fifth pick two years ago.  Overall this is a pitching heavy draft and more than likely that is the route MacPhail and Jordan will go.  Much like Ozzie with the Ravens I have begun to trust the Orioles front office and I look forward to seeing what decision they make Tuesday.

 

 

 

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West Coast Not the Best Coast for the O’s

Posted on 07 June 2009 by Tom Clayton

Things looked great in birdland as the month of May ended.  The Orioles were 7-3 in the last ten games of May and the Achilles Heel of the team, the starting pitching, looked to be figuring itself out.  Starting pitchers were going deep into ballgames and rookies Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken were really throwing well.

 

Camden Yards was packed for the final series of the month when Matt Wieters made is major league debut.  The yard was drawing 40,000 strong for a non Yankees or Red Sox game for the first time in a decade.

 

Then came June and a six game West Coast road trip, and everything seemed to fall apart.  The Orioles have lost five of their last six games including five in a row against a pair of sub-.500 teams.

 

The stating pitching which had been so good of late seemed to implode before our eyes. 

 

While things looked bad in Seattle, the starting pitching became a horror show once they got to Oakland.  During the three game series two of the three Oriole starters didn’t make it out of the first inning and none of them made it past the fourth inning.

 

On Friday night staff “ace” Jeremy Guthrie was simply disgusting to watch.  He allowed six earned runs on seven hits while only recording two outs before he was mercifully pulled.

 

After allowing only three earned runs in his first two starts Jason Berken was shelled on Saturday.  While he was the “Ironman” of the starters this weekend going three and a third he allowed nine earned runs on seven hits while walking three and not striking out a single Oakland hitter.

 

Sunday was the strawberry icing on the crap cake that was the Orioles starting pitching this weekend.  Rich Hill lasted only two-thirds of an inning and allowed three earned runs on one hit but walked four Oakland hitters.  Hill looked clueless when it came to the strikezone; of the thirty-nine pitches he threw twenty-four of them were balls.  Hill looks like a pitcher that is going to be frustrating to watch, he has the ability to throw seven scoreless like he did Monday against Seattle but he will also have games like Sunday where he has no command of the strikezone and will be completely ineffective. 

 

The pitching has been terrible and unfortunately it has coincided with the disappearance of the Orioles bats.

 

Nobody has struggled as much as Brian Roberts, in the six games he played on the West Coast road trip he only had two hits in twenty two at bats.  In fact over the last ten games B-Rob’s average has dropped .27 points to .279.  On the basepaths Roberts has done absolutely nothing of late; he hasn’t had a stolen base in seventeen games.  In fact the Orioles leadoff hitter hasn’t swiped a base since May 19th against the Yankees.  I’m not sure what is going on the B-Rob but he looks disinterested right now.  This is the first time I can remember questioning Roberts effort and it isn’t like being on a losing ball club is something he unfamiliar with .

 

After Matt Wieters first eight games in the big league some Oriole fans seem ready to jump off the Bay Bridge.  He is hitting only .143 with no homers or RBI and he looks like he is struggling to figure out major league pitching.  I agree Wieters has struggled but I have full faith in his ability to figure out what he is doing at the plate and become the type of offensive player we are all expecting. While he has struggled to figure out big league pitching Wieters has had no problems behind the plate.  I have made mention before that I am extremely impressed with the level of athleticism and intelligence Wieters bring with him behind the plate.  I honestly see the making of a potential gold glove catcher, if you combine that with the offensive numbers that are eventually going to come and we may have something that’s going to be quite fun to watch for the next decade.

 

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom for the Orioles; Luke Scott is on a tear unlike any I have ever seen.  Since coming off the disabled list on May 27th Scott has hit eight big flies and driven in eighteen runs in just ten games.  The most impressive thing I have seen from Scott this year has been the fact over his career he has been a .278 hitter but he has upped his average to .324 this season.

 

The other thing that has been nice to see is Nolan Reimold take the left field position and solidify a young, very talented outfield.  In just twenty two major league games Reimold is hitting .280 with six jacks and fourteen RBI.  At just twenty-five years old Reimold looks like a guy who has big time major league power potential.  Reimold also already has a walk off homer in extra innings, signaling the fact he could also be a potential clutch hitter that the Orioles still need to find.

 

We knew it wasn’t going to be pretty this season but this past week has been about as ugly as it could get.  I’m still excited about where I think this team is going but after this week I feel like we are a little farther from our destination then I realized. 

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The Orioles Begin to Reenergize Baltimore, Horseracing…..Not So Much

Posted on 03 June 2009 by Tom Clayton

 

 

Being a fan of both the Ravens and the Orioles is a bit like being the father of Bill and Roger Clinton; one is consistently successful and makes you proud while the other has made you ashamed of being associated with them for over a decade now.  Over the last decade the Ravens have treated both the fans and media with respect while the Orioles treat people as if they have a product we can not refuse….well unfortunately for the Orioles we have shown them we can in fact refuse their product as evident by the empty stadium and general lack of interest in the team. 

 

For the last few years I have felt like Orioles ushers treat Orioles fans like they are the scummiest scum-bums to walk the face of the earth.  Personally I have been thrown out of more Oriole games for defending myself against Yankee and Red Sox fans then I would care to disclose.  Nothing infuriates me more than the preferential treatment New York and Boston fans get at Camden Yards, but I guess it makes sense to keep you best customers happy.  I refuse to set foot in Camden Yards when the Yankees or Red Sox are in town because much like a Lohan family reunion I know it will end in an alcohol fueled brawl that is going to need police intervention.

 

But with the hiring of Andy MacPhail and a new emphasis on the farm system the Orioles have begun to rebuild their fractured relationship with the people of Baltimore.  Players like Adam Jones and Brian Roberts have begun to replace the memories of Hall of Fame jerks like Albert Belle and Glen Davis.

 

I have seen more excitement for baseball in Baltimore over the last week then I remember in well over a decade.  Fans are flocking to the stadium and the phone lines at WNST are filled with callers who actually want to talk about……..the Orioles.  And they aren’t calling to bash ownership or complain about the product on the field; instead they have a hint of hope in their voice. 

 

The other sport that has really taken a hard hit locally over the last few years is horseracing.  Horseracing has become a sport much like boxing in that does a really good job of pulling in the highly coveted demographic of males eighty to dead.  Walking through Pimlico during a weekday afternoon is like navigating your way through a George Romero zombie movie.

 

The other major issue that is killing the horseracing industry in Maryland is Pimlico itself.  When you compare Pimlico to other sporting venues like Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium it is like putting a crack head in the middle of a George Clooney movie premiere, it doesn’t fit in and compared to who it is around it just looks sad and rundown. 

 

While the Orioles have done a great job of reenergizing its fan base, horseracing has done the exact opposite.  Their plan for a more family friendly midfield this year at Preakness was an economic disaster.   There is no doubt the Orioles have begun to right their sinking ship but it looks like horseracing in Maryland is sinking quicker than the Titanic.  I have no answers or solutions on how to save horseracing but it looks like it’s lifespan in Maryland is coming down the homestretch. 

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Orioles Get a Win on the Field and In the P.R. Department

Posted on 26 May 2009 by Tom Clayton

 

 

Tonight started out with excitement for me as an Orioles fan because I was going to get to see the major league debut of Jason Berken, it ended being even more exciting for a different reason.

 

Jason Berken didn’t pitch terribly but he also wasn’t dominant by any stretch of the imagination.  The twenty-five year old right hander earned a win in his major league debut as he battled in and out of trouble in five innings.  Berken’s fastball sat in the 92-93 mile per hour range for most of the night with the exception of when he cranked it up to 96 once in the third inning.  His fastball had good movement, at times almost breaking off the table like a low nineties splitter.  The only problems I had with his fastball was that he seemed to have some trouble commanding it in the zone as the game progressed and I feel he threw an inordinate amount of heaters without attempting to keep hitters off balance.

 

Berken’s changeup looked a lot better than advertised in many scouting reports and seemed to fool hitters the few times he threw it.  As for his slider it remains a work in progress although he did throw one particularly nasty slider to strikeout Vernon Wells in the first inning that tailed away from the right hander.

 

Overall Berken seemed to be battling on the mound and showed some flashes of talent throughout the night.  In his five innings Berken allowed two eared runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out three Toronto hitters.  Berken did do a good job of throwing first pitch strikes, something young Oriole pitchers have failed to do in the past.  Of the twenty-four hitters he faced he threw sixteen first pitch strikes.  While he did a good job getting ahead of hitters Berken seemed to have trouble putting away hitters once he got them to two strikes, which I think was partly due to his inability to spot his fastball and the lack of a dominant second pitch.

 

As for the hitters, Adam Jones continued to show why he is quickly becoming a superstar.  In the fifth inning he hit an absolute bomb to left center that gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead that they never relinquished.  Jones now has eleven big flies on the year and looks poised for a potential thirty home run season and a ticket to the midsummer classic in St. Louis at the age of twenty-three.

 

The Oriole bats really came to life tonight scoring seven runs on fourteen hits and blasting three balls out of the yard.  Nolan Reimold looks to have the goods in left field; his two run shot in the sixth inning was to dead center and showed the kind of power potential the twenty-five year old possesses.  Reimold has been more than holding his own in the big leagues with three home runs and six RBI in just twelve games this season, and has made Dave Trembley’s decision a lot easier when he fills out his lineup card.

 

While an Orioles victory and Berken’s major league debut were both great, Andy MacPhail trumped both with his announcement during an interview with the Orioles broadcast teams. After asking about the young pitchers in the minor league system, Buck Martinez seemingly innocently asked, “Where do you stand with Matt Wieters and what is the situation with your top prospect?”  Right on cue MacPhail made the statement that Oriole fans have been awaiting all season, “He’s ready and it is time.”  And with that all the speculation ended and it was announced Matt Wieters will be making his major league debut Friday night against the Tigers.

 

I am not one to shower the Orioles P.R. department with praise but I think this was handled perfectly.  First of all they have given Oriole fans three days to get pumped up and flood Camden Yards to see the “Savior of Baltimore Baseball”.  The announcement was clearly premeditated as they had clips of Wieters with the graphics “Wieters Making His Major League Debut Friday” immediately ready as quickly as the words left MacPhail’s mouth.

 

I got so excited I completely forgot there was a game going on but luckily I was recording it so I could go back and give you my wonderful recap.  I stated during spring training I would not venture down to Eutaw Street until Wieters was brought up, so I will be rounding up as many friends as I can to give Wieters the welcome he deserves Friday night.

 

The Orioles had planned for Friday night to be their first fireworks night of the season and now it looks like will get two fireworks displays for the price of admission.

 

 

 

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MacPhail Announces Matt Wieters MLB Debut Friday!

Posted on 26 May 2009 by Tom Clayton

During the second inning of the Orioles game tonight Andy MacPhail broke the news we have all been waiting for……Matt Wieters is going to make his major league debut on Friday night.  I just broke the news on Thyrl’s show and I could not be more excited!  Friday night will be the first Orioles game I will be attending this season, as I decided during spring training I wouldn’t attend a game until Wieters was brought up.  I am hoping to see a lot of Orioles fans and WNST listeners at the yard Friday!

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