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Your Monday Reality Check-O What A Weekend

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Your Monday Reality Check-O What A Weekend

Posted on 09 April 2012 by Glenn Clark

I receive plenty of ridiculous messages via Facebook, Twitter, email, text, phone and here at WNST.net every week. I have a soft spot in my heart for those many messages and those who send them.

On Sunday, one of the more ridiculous messages I’ve seen was brought to my attention on Twitter.

bet ur pissed Os are 3-0 and ur boycott isnt working

I won’t say who sent me the note because I have no idea if they’re an actual listener/reader or just a troll who was sent my way during my brief spat with Baltimore Orioles OF Adam Jones last week. There’s no particular reason to allow this person any attention anyway.

The statement here is so ridiculous that I will need a minute to address it. I’ll start with the notion that I’d be “pissed” about the O’s starting the season with a sweep of the Minnesota Twins. The note implies one of two things-either I’m not a fan of the Birds at all or I’m a fan who for some reason doesn’t want to see them win.

I’ll start with the notion that I’m somehow “not an Orioles fan”. Here’s a picture from Chase Field in 2007 when the Orioles visited the Arizona Diamondbacks and I was working at The Fan 1060 (KDUS) in Phoenix…

I looked almost exactly like that all weekend. I could probably post about 1,000 more pictures here-but you can check my personal Facebook page for your own proof. As Nestor Aparicio knows all too well, somehow asking for a team to get better translates into “not a fan” in the minds of folks who likely also believe their favorite band WANTS to be known as a sellout. I’m a Baltimore Orioles fan, plain and simple.

The next thought would be that I for some reason don’t want the team to win. This is an all-too-often misconception related to WNST’s “Free The Birds” campaign that I have openly supported since its’ inception in 2006. I’d like to come back to this in a second.

The final part of the statement “your boycott isn’t working” reflects an absolute lack of knowledge about “Free The Birds” in general. To some, it is incomprehensible that I can both believe a current regime is incapable of creating a quality product but yet appreciate the product when it shows to be of quality.

Before heading in to see the Birds open the season against the Twinkies Friday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, I wandered across Pratt Street to chat with fellow fans at Luna Del Sea. I had a great time hanging out, talking baseball and promoting FTB. Two listeners in particular approached me to say “thank you” for defending those who believe in our cry (and also the cries of groups like “Occupy Eutaw Street”) on my show last Thursday. I engaged in a great back and forth in which I reiterated a statement that I feel must be repeated.

“Free The Birds to me has only ever been about one thing-making the team better. It’s not anything personal about players, managers, general managers or even (wait for it) owners. If the Orioles can get better and baseball can become relevant in Charm City again with Peter Angelos as owner I will owe a debt of gratitude to the man. I just don’t really believe it will happen.”

Free The Birds isn’t a “boycott”. Free The Birds is ABSOLUTELY not a statement that we don’t support the Baltimore Orioles when they take the field. Those misconceptions will exist in the minds of some forever, but it won’t make them true. Free The Birds (for me) is simply a belief and statement that losing is NOT okay.

That concept alone is apparently not even enough for all to agree. That’s fine. Not every fan has to demand quality from the entity they support. The fact that Bon Jovi has managed to sell plenty of concert tickets over the course of the last decade is living proof of that.

The fact is, I want quality from the Baltimore Orioles and I don’t believe it will happen with Peter Angelos as owner. But my belief/expectation will never be cause for me to “hope” or “root” against such an occurrence. As many of you are aware, I don’t pick the Baltimore Ravens to win every football game they play. There hasn’t been one time in my life however that I wasn’t rooting for them to show me just how little I know.

I root against my own belief that the Orioles will fail to succeed under the control of Peter Angelos. I OPENLY root against it.

Like many years during what I’ve called “The Rock Bottom Era” here in Baltimore, the Birds got off to a hot start this weekend. Pitchers Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter and Jason Hammel combined to allow ONE run over 22 innings pitched. That number seems so impossible I’ve actually quadruple-checked it.

After an Opening Day sellout, another crowd of 30,000 plus took in Saturday night’s game (there was even a buzz about it at Power Plant Live as I was leaving the Alabama Shakes show at Rams Head Live). Sunday’s crowd looked all too “Baltimorean”, but the Easter holiday clearly had something to do with it.

(Oh and I didn’t even mention the awesomeness of the orange uniforms Saturday night. The last time I’ve wanted an article of clothing so badly was the first time Stone Cold Steve Austin donned a knee brace.)

It was an awesome weekend that left the city buzzing. It makes Monday a happier day to be in the state of Maryland than it would have been otherwise.

It doesn’t mean things have changed with the Orioles organization. It doesn’t mean the Birds will be 6-0 when the New York Yankees leave town. It absolutely doesn’t mean the AL East should be on notice. It means we’ve had way more fun as fans for three days than we would have otherwise.

Of course, maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe this weekend marked an official turnaround for the Orioles. Maybe the excitement of eliminating the Boston Red Sox last September truly carried over and this type of baseball will be a reality for the Birds all season.

Maybe the Orioles truly are better despite an offseason that made us believe they might be worse.

Let me repeat that. Maybe this weekend was a sign that the Orioles really are better. I don’t believe it, but I’d love to be wrong.

If they are, Free The Birds is a success. This is all we’ve ever wanted.

-G

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Winning formula simple for Orioles when strong starting pitching involved

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Winning formula simple for Orioles when strong starting pitching involved

Posted on 07 April 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Though it doesn’t always come across that way on TV, Orioles manager Buck Showalter has a quirky sense of humor that the media typically enjoys when the cameras and recorders off.

But after Tommy Hunter pitched seven strong innings and the Baltimore lineup plated eight runs in a comfortable 8-2 win over the Minnesota Twins, it’s easier for the skipper to smile and laugh after a ballgame.

A reporter asked Showalter after Ronny Paulino — serving as the designated hitter on Saturday — collected four hits in his Orioles debut whether it was easier to get his backup catcher in the lineup or in the country, alluding to Paulino’s work visa problems during spring training. The manager smiled and laughed, which is easy to do after games when you get good starting pitching.

“You heard me talk about it in simplistic form,” Showalter said. “You see us getting deeper in the game with our starting pitching, we’ll have some fun this year. It’s two out of 162, but it’s a good way to start. We had good starts to start the season last year, so we’ll see if it continues.”

Following the Opening Day lead of Jake Arrieta, Hunter cruised through seven innings before loading the bases with no outs in the eighth, leading to his departure and two unearned runs to cross the plate. Hunter allowed six hits and a walk while striking out three to improve to 2-1 in three career starts against Minnesota.

The Baltimore starting pitching has yet to allow an earned run in 14 innings to begin the 2012 season.

But the 25-year-old Hunter didn’t view it as a great feat, but rather what he’s expected to accomplish when he takes the hill every fifth day for the Orioles.

“It’s fun,” Hunter said. “It’s what a starting pitcher is supposed to do. You’re supposed to go deep into a game and give your team a chance to win.”

As Showalter reiterated, it’s only two games. The last time the Orioles opened the season with consecutive starts of seven or more innings was 2001 when Pat Hentgen, Sidney Ponson, and Jason Johnson did it against the Red Sox to start the year.

The Orioles lost 98 games that season.

But the formula for improving upon a 93-loss campaign a year ago is the ability of the starting rotation to log more innings and give a respectable Orioles lineup a chance to compete every night out.

“Two games, we’ve gotten deep in the game, and it really creates a good atmosphere for the hitters,” Showalter said.

And that’s exactly what Hunter provided as the Orioles tagged Minnesota lefty Francisco Liriano for six runs in his four innings of work. Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Matt Wieters all hit solo home runs while Robert Andino drove in two runs to lead the Orioles to a 2-0 start for the second straight year.

With Jason Hammel making his Orioles debut on Sunday and trying to pitch the club to its first sweep over the Twins in Baltimore since 2002, the bar has been set pretty high by Arrieta and Hunter in the season’s first two games.

And that’s a good thing.

Hunter’s thoughts following the game rang like a sound piece of advice for Hammel, Brian Matusz, and Wei-Yin Chen, who will each make their first starts of the season over the next three days.

“Just throw strikes and let the defense play,” Hunter said. “They made some plays all night behind me.”

It sounds simple enough, but the Orioles have a long way to show that it can be done night in and night out and keep their manager smiling in 2012.

NOTES: Paulino’s four hits made him the first hitter since Sam Horn on April 9, 1990 to record four hits in his Orioles debut. … With his fourth-inning single, Andino recorded his first two RBI of the season. He didn’t collect his second RBI until May 21 last season. … Markakis went 3-for-4 and is now 5-for-7 to start the season, marking the second time in his career that he started the season with consecutive multi-hit games. The right fielder also homered in consecutive games for the eighth time in his career. … Showalter needs 13 more wins to be the 58th manager in major league history to reach 1,000 wins. … Saturday’s paid attendance was 31,532.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Buck Showalter, Tommy Hunter, Robert Andino, and Ronny Paulino following Saturday’s 8-2 win right here.

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Hunter shuts down Twins to lead Orioles to 8-2 win

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Hunter shuts down Twins to lead Orioles to 8-2 win

Posted on 07 April 2012 by WNST Staff

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Hunter Battles Liriano Saturday As Birds Look to Win First Series of Season

Posted on 07 April 2012 by WNST Staff

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Orioles 4, Twins 2 Final Box Score

Posted on 07 April 2012 by WNST Staff

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Arrieta’s deep performance exactly what Orioles need more of to improve in 2012

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Arrieta’s deep performance exactly what Orioles need more of to improve in 2012

Posted on 06 April 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Regardless of how impressive Opening Day starter Jake Arrieta’s performance was in the Orioles 4-2 win over Minnesota, the 26-year-old is a long way from becoming the ace of the Baltimore staff, at least in the truest sense of the role.

But his ability to pitch deep into the game — without allowing a run in seven innings — is exactly what manager Buck Showalter is looking for after a 2011 season in which starting pitchers struggled to simply get through five or six innings on many long nights. Arrieta’s superb showing not only gave him his first win since July 26, 2011, but it put his team in the win column in the season opener for the second straight year.

“I just want to be a guy who some of other guys can look at and say he will get us to the seventh and eighth inning and put us in a position to win the game,” Arrieta said. “I think I have a ways to go to really establish myself as that guy, but I’m willing to do that.”

Allowing only two hits while striking out four and walking two in his seven innings, Arrieta showed good command in the first outing of his third major league season after being plagued by elevated walk totals and high pitch counts in his first two campaigns. Only one Twins batter even reached second base against him as he shut down the Minnesota lineup in front of a sellout crowd of 46,773 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

While many believed the pressure of pitching on Opening Day might prove too much for Arrieta — especially coming off elbow surgery that cost him the final two months of the 2011 season — Showalter reminded everyone that the right-hander had been in a similar position before.

Arrieta started the home opener a year ago against the Detroit Tigers and turned in a similar outing, allowing one earned run in six innings of work in a 5-1 victory.

“He pitched maybe a little better than he did last year in the same venue,” Showalter said. “I thought he kept his emotions under control, which is always a challenge with everybody. Trusted his fastball — it’s still his best pitch. … He commanded all his pitches.”

It’s no secret that the starting pitching will determine if the Orioles can improve from their 93-loss season a year ago. Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair will rest easier if the starting rotation can turn in more performances like Arrieta’s on Friday than the shortened, labored outings seen last year that washed out the bullpen by mid-summer.

Too much uncertainty remains to know whether that starting pitching will improve, especially with two of the next four starters in the rotation – Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen — having not even been with the club last season. And that’s not even considering left-hander Brian Matusz coming off a historically-poor season in 2011.

But Arrieta did set the bar high for his fellow starters to try to follow suit. He accomplished exactly what he wanted in taking a step to prove why Showalter selected him to take the ball for the Orioles on the first day of the season.

“My mindset today was really to set the tone for our team in front of a great crowd — lots of excited fans for a new season,” Arrieta said. “It was important to come out and set the tone the way we did.”

It was a fun way to begin the season, a theme echoed by several players following the win.

One down and 161 to go, and the Orioles will view each game as an opportunity to start breaking down the assumptions that they can’t grow up substantially this season. Arrieta emphatically run the first round.

“As a team we take it personal that most people write us off from the get-go,” Arrieta said. “I think we made a statement today that we’ve got a lot to play for this year.”

 

 

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Live from Camden Yards: Orioles welcome Minnesota to town on Opening Day

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Live from Camden Yards: Orioles welcome Minnesota to town on Opening Day

Posted on 06 April 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Happy Opening Day as the Orioles begin the 2012 season by welcoming the Minnesota Twins to town.

With plenty planned for the 20th anniversary of the first Opening Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, there is sure to be a buzz in the air in what continues to be an event in Baltimore despite tempered expectations for the season. The battery that started the 1992 opener, pitcher Rick Sutcliffe and catcher Chris Hoiles, will handle the ceremonial first pitch.

After undergoing abdominal surgery in early January, right fielder Nick Markakis says he is healthy and ready to go for the start of the season. The 28-year-old was limited to just 24 spring at-bats but stated earlier in the spring he needed fewer than that to be ready for the regular season.

“Physically, I think I’m about as good as I can be right now,” Markakis said. It’s just a matter of getting out and playing. All the rehab and hard work in spring training is behind me and now I can focus on the season.”

While Markakis said he never doubted whether he would be ready for Opening Day, manager Buck Showalter felt uneasy after seeing how limited his No. 3 hitter was in the first week to 10 days of spring training.

Showalter also confirmed right-hander Jim Johnson will be his closer with Kevin Gregg settling into a less-defined late-inning role.

As anticipated, left fielder Nolan Reimold will begin the season as the Orioles’ leadoff hitter despite hardly looking like a conventional option. Entering his fourth season, Reimold is eager for the opportunity and wants to capitalize on what looks like a more defined role in the regular lineup than last year.

In 847 career plate appearances, Reimold owns a .328 on-base percentage — a number the Orioles would like to see increase if he’s going to remain atop the order.

“The goal’s always to get on base; the goal’s always to get hits” Reimold said about his new spot in the order. “In that aspect, nothing really changes.”

Here are today’s lineups:

Minnesota
CF Denard Span
SS Jamey Carroll
C Joe Mauer
DH Justin Morneau
LF Josh Willingham
RF Ryan Doumit
3B Danny Valencia
1B Chris Parmelee
2B Alexi Casilla

RHP Carl Pavano

Baltimore
LF Nolan Reimold
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
DH Wilson Betemit
3B Mark Reynolds
1B Chris Davis
2B Robert Andino

RHP Jake Arrieta

Follow @WNST on Twitter for the latest for Camden Yards and be sure to visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Buck Showalter, Nolan Reimold, and Nick Markakis prior to this afternoon’s game right here.

 

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Wada Struggles, Orioles Muster Just One Hit in Loss to Twins

Posted on 27 March 2012 by WNST Staff

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Chen Solid, Bats Alive in Orioles Win

Posted on 22 March 2012 by WNST Staff

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Tillman Shaky But Orioles Top Twins

Posted on 16 March 2012 by WNST Staff

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