Tag Archive | "Vladimir Guerrero"

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Orioles brought back to reality in 7-3 loss to Verlander, Tigers

Posted on 06 April 2011 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After starting the season 4-0, even the most pessimistic of fans had to be feeling good and rightfully so.

Detroit ace Justin Verlander, however, provided a strong dose of reality in a stellar eight-inning, nine-strikeout performance to lead the Tigers to a 7-3 win over the Orioles, sending Baltimore (4-1) to its first loss of the season.

Of course, a little perspective is in order. The Orioles weren’t going undefeated this season, just like there’s no reason to harp on the first defeat of 2011. These nights will happen with any team in any season, especially when you’re facing one of the few bona fide aces in the American League.

“He’s one of the best pitchers in the game,” manager Buck Showalter said. “You know, four-pitch mix and not a whole lot of tendencies in the sequencing [of pitches] and understands what he’s doing out there. Very athletic.”

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Orioles starter Brad Bergesen, on the other hand, was ineffective in his first work since a spring training outing on March 25 when he was hit in the arm with a line drive. The right-hander went 3 1/3 innings, allowing four runs (two earned) and five hits before being lifted in the fourth inning after throwing 89 pitches.

The second inning was especially costly for Bergesen and the Orioles when two errors — one made by the pitcher on a pick-off attempt at second that came after a Brian Roberts error on a pop-up to shallow right — contributed to two unearned runs after Bergesen had recorded the first two outs of the inning.

Six of the Tigers’ first seven runs came across the plate with two outs in the inning. Detroit catcher Alex Avila drove in five runs, including a two-run homer in the fourth inning that contributed to Bergesen’s early exit.

The Orioles starter was up in the strike zone and was unable to put hitters away without using too many pitches. His two earned runs allowed matched the two runs allowed by Baltimore starters in the first four games (26 total innings) of the season.

“I just never seemed to get in any type of groove tonight,” Bergesen said. “There was only a couple under four-pitch outs I had. It seemed like I went full count on almost everyone or deep counts today.”

In contrast, Verlander had a six-pitching inning in the second, a nine-pitch fifth, an 11-pitch seventh, and a nine-pitch eighth on the way to his first win of the season. The 28-year-old is 6-0 in eight career starts against the Orioles.

The Orioles got on the board via a two-run homer by first baseman Derrek Lee, his first with the club, and Vladimir Guerrero plated the Orioles’ third run of the night with an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth. That would be all the lineup could muster against Verlander, who gave way to Joaquin Benoit in the ninth inning.

“[Verlander’s] one of the best pitchers in the league, and we ran into him tonight,” third baseman Mark Reynolds said. “He pitched well, threw all his pitches for strikes. You’re just going to have those nights. I don’t think there’s been any team that’s gone 162-0. We’ll just come back tomorrow and get ready to go and hopefully get out of here with a series win.”

You can look back at any win or loss and wonder what could have been, but Wednesday night’s outcome was pretty simple.

Verlander and the Tigers were far better than Bergesen and the Orioles. Detroit’s ace was going up against Baltimore’s fifth starter, who only learned he was starting in place of the ill Jeremy Guthrie two days ago.

Not an excuse, but a fact.

The incredible run of starting pitching wasn’t going to last forever. It’s one loss that doesn’t mean any more or any less than the first four wins to begin the season.

The baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint.

And the Orioles hit their first bump in the road against one of the best pitchers in the American League.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Buck Showalter, Brad Bergesen, and Mark Reynolds following the 7-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers.

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What a difference a year makes for Roberts, Orioles

Posted on 04 April 2011 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Brian Roberts doesn’t like to think about last year’s home opener.

After leaving the game in the top of the second inning against the Toronto Blue Jays (a 7-6 loss thanks to a Mike Gonzalez meltdown of epic proportions) with the same back injury that had hindered him the entire spring, Roberts wouldn’t return to the Orioles lineup for over three months.

While rehabbing the herniated disc in Sarasota last spring as the Orioles got off to one of their worst starts in franchise history, Roberts occasionally pondered whether his health would ever allow him to regain his status as one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball.

"Not ability wise. There were times where certainly I got frustrated with my body, but ability wise, I knew if I was healthy I could still play. I’m not 80 (laughing)."

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The Orioles missed the 33-year-old’s bat as they stumbled to a 30-65 record last season before the veteran second baseman returned to the lineup on July 23. Manager Buck Showalter has been credited with the club’s remarkable 34-23 finish in the final two months, but the corresponding return of Roberts played a big part in making Showalter look even smarter in his new role.

That’s why panic sirens sounded again this spring when neck pain and back spasms limited Roberts for two and a half weeks in spring training. His presence in the lineup over the last decade has done so much for an Orioles team lacking the punch to score runs consistently.

If the first four games of the season are any indication, Roberts is making a strong claim to put a difficult season behind him. The second baseman’s three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth was the difference in the Orioles’ 5-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers, giving the club its first 4-0 start since 1997. Roberts’ eight runs batted in leads the major leagues and puts the 5-foot-9 infielder on pace for 324 RBI this season.

Despite early stats that resemble something seen in a video game, Roberts is far more excited about the club’s red-hot start in the win column after being a member of 10 straight losing teams as the longest-tenured player on the Orioles.

"It’s been awesome," he said. "Certainly, I’ve been through a lot. We all know that, and I think with [the team’s] expectations coming into this year, to still go out there and do that — it’s been great for us."

Despite the offseason acquisitions of Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero to add beef to the heart of the order, Roberts has been the one to pace the offense, providing game-changing hits on Friday and Saturday in Tampa and breaking the 1-1 tie on Monday afternoon. His three-run drive over the right-center fence in front of a sold-out crowd of 46,593 at Camden Yards came on a 1-2 pitch from Detroit starter Rick Porcello.

"For a long time in the Baltimore Orioles organization, he seems to be able, on the field, to dial up what was needed, whether it was a stolen base, a walk," Showalter said. "He’s got just a feel for being able to challenge the moment. He’s already had some big hits for us early in the year."

He’s a major reason why the Orioles are off to their best start in 14 years. Respected by his teammates as a disciplined player willing to set the table for the heart of the order, his absence at the top of the lineup last year led to a trickle-down effect in which the Orioles were 11th in on-base percentage and 13th in runs scored in the American League.

With the likes of low on-base percentage hitters such as Adam Jones, Corey Patterson, and Cesar Izturis hitting at the top of the order, the Orioles never recovered in the 103 games Roberts was out of the lineup.

"When he’s healthy, he’s what gets the offense started," said starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, who pitched six innings and gave up one earned run to earn the victory. "As we’ve all seen in these first four games, when he gets on base, that allows Nick [Markakis] to do what he does. He’s just a hitting machine. He’s come up huge for us."

The other aspect of the game coming up big for the Orioles has been the starting pitching, which was dealt another blow Monday when it was announced Jeremy Guthrie had been hospitalized with a case of pneumonia and will miss Wednesday’s start against the Tigers. Brad Bergesen will start in his place. Despite the absence of Brian Matusz and Justin Duchscherer — both on the 15-day disabled list — Baltimore’s starting pitching has combined to give up only two earned runs in 26 innings this season.

Arrieta was just the latest young starter to provide a quality start, allowing six hits, striking out three, and walking two despite struggling with his command at several points. The 25-year-old took notice of the work of Chris Tillman and Zach Britton over the weekend as he prepared to make the start in the home opener.

"It’s just one of those things where you want to kind of follow their lead," Arrieta said. "They set the tone the first three games, obviously started by Guthrie with his quality start. We just want to take the ball and run with it."

As concern mounts over the state of the starting rotation with three projected starters currently dealing with ailments, that pace will become more difficult to maintain, but it’s made for the most enjoyable start in Baltimore in quite some time.

And for a player like Roberts who’s been around to endure the losing nearly as long as Orioles fans, it’s a welcome change from the status quote, even if it’s short-lived.

"Coming off those two months last year, I felt like this city was excited, our team was excited, and it was an incredible atmosphere out there today," Roberts said.

To simply be able to finish the game was quite a contrast to the disappointment-filled home opener for Roberts last April and the disastrous first four months that followed for the Orioles.

What a difference a year makes.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear Brian Roberts, Buck Showalter, Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, and Derrek Lee talk about the Orioles’ 5-1 victory over Detroit in the 20th home opener at Camden Yards.

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Orioles 2011 Season… in Review… a Preview

Posted on 31 March 2011 by solidgoldmonkey

It’s that time of year again; it’s time to review the 2011 season. It felt like just yesterday I was threatening my neighbor with my lawn-mower because he said Cesar Izturis would hit 15 home runs while I said he would hit over 30. Oh, how wrong we were.

But two years of probation aside, it’s time for me to review the crazy 2011 Orioles season. Whew, where to begin, I know! I’ll begin in

April:

Opening day for the Orioles was one to remember, with a stunning 13-0 decimation of the Rays the Orioles prove that the years of sad-sack esque failure are over… April Fools! Haha, oh what fun. No, of course that’s not what happened. The opener was like every other opening day, extremely forgettable, I think the Orioles won, but don’t hold me to it.

The Oriole’s home opener begins with a bang! Well, to be more realistic it was more of a pop. At least that’s how the fans in the 1st base field boxes described what they heard when Vladimir Guerrero blew out both his knees jogging to 1st base after being walked in the second inning. Many fans were left in total shock as the unimaginable happened; Vladimir Guerrero actually got a walk.

April, which Orioles fans have lovingly nicknamed “ContinuousDissapointment-ril” comes to a peculiar end. Down by 3, with the bases full, Red Sox slugging catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia faces Kevin Gregg. After half heartedly chipping a 0-2 changeup right to Cesar Izturis, a series of strange events involving a squirrel, a Richard Simmons imposter, and the spontaneous combustion of Luke Scott’s glove, allows for an amazing inside the park grand slam, proving once and for all that God does not, in fact, bleed orange.

May:

While reading the Sunday paper in his favorite lazy-boy, coach Buck Showalter receives a call from his daughter announcing she was getting married, Buck celebrates the long awaited occasion by showing no cheerful facial expression whatsoever.

The Orioles finally make headlines! Unfortunately it’s not for reasons you would want. In a startling revelation it is discovered that owner Peter Angelos had been lying for years. Investigation reveals that Angelos was not in fact a billionaire lawyer/part time seal clubber like he claimed. It turns out Angleos was actually three bitter dwarves in a rubbery old man costume. Fans are alarmingly un-alarmed by the revelation.

June:

The Orioles, now with a win-loss record that would make the Washington Generals blush, try to draw in more fans with a special promotion “Ravens Cheerleaders Mopless” where several Raven’s cheerleaders would shave their heads for cancer awareness. An unfortunate misspelling on the many of the billboards that were posted over the city led to the first ever all-male sellout crowd in Orioles history. Upon learning the truth many fans begin to riot, leading Baltimore police to casually blame the drastic increase in violence on “the weather.”

After yet another mispronunciation of his last name by a stadium announcer, Felix Pie finally snaps. As a way of proving to everyone how fed up he is, he decides to exhibit great potential in every way possible, and then play like a AAA journeyman.

July:

July came and went, as many great Orioles fan celebrated the traditional Baltimore heat wave by over-heating and dying as they waited in line at Boog’s BBQ. On a completely unrelated note, since then many surviving fans have found themselves shaking with anticipation to have more of Boog’s newest dish; “Mystery Ribs.”

Angelos-Gate continues as a trial is scheduled for the three dwarfs found to be controlling the former Yellow Pages lawyer as a “Weekend at Bernie’s” style puppet. The defense is severely weakened when police find a notebook labeled “Plans to Destroy the Integrity of Every Major-Metropolitan City on the East Coast” in Angelos’s desk.

Brad Bergesen is chosen as the Orioles lone all-star despite being traded a month earlier. When asked why they made the controversial choice Major League Baseball was quoted as saying; “By being traded, Brad allowed the Orioles the opportunity to call Zach Britton up from the minors. This selfless act was by far the greatest contribution any player on the 25 man roster has made to the Orioles all season.”

August:

On a rare beautiful and sunny Friday afternoon that Buck Showalter had off, Buck was drinking his favorite brand of beer, eating a delicious hot-dog, and playing with an adorable puppy when Buck suddenly realized he had achieved everything he wanted in life and had never been happier. Buck showed his joy by sneering and sighing.

The Orioles kept the courts busy during the 2011 season. A season that already couldn’t have been going worse somehow found a way to do just that; get worse. News broke that General Mills had taken the Oriole’s straight to Baltimore City Circuit Court for defamation over the use of the nickname O’s. Claiming that they “didn’t want their flagship product (Cheerio’s) associated in any way with the depressing sports organization the Baltimore Orioles.”

September:

Nick Markakis wakes up one morning and realizes that no one makes a big deal about him anymore. Emotionally hurt; Markakis holds a press conference outside of the stadium. Unfortunately only an exasperated businessman waiting for the Light Rail attended the press conference where a tear-full Markakis first demanded a trade, after which he then quickly changed his mind and begged for forgiveness instead simply asking for a Markakis bobble-head night instead.

Angelos-Gate draws to a close as the Hon. Lawrence P. Fletcher-Hill dismisses the case against the three bitter dwarfs in the Peter Angelos costume, not for a lack of evidence, but for “a serious phobia of banging gavels to signify the end of a trial.” And so ends one of the sorest blights in Orioles history, but hey, look on the bright side, at least we’re not the Pirates. **Shudder**

October:

HAHAHAHAHAHA? Really?

Note:
The author of the above essay is not in any way clairvoyant and was able to achieve this knowledge through the use of a broken 8-ball and some darts. Any angry letters or e-mails regarding your opposition to witchcraft should be sent to WNST 1550 Hart Road, Towson, MD 21286-1635. Or Glenn@WNST.net. Thank you.

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MacPhail hits a HOMERUN on Vlad Guerrero deal .....

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MacPhail hits a HOMERUN on Vlad Guerrero deal …..

Posted on 05 February 2011 by Rex Snider

Is there any chance that you will look back, ten years from now, and recall exactly where you were, or what you were doing when the marriage of Vladimir Guerrero and the Baltimore Orioles spread throughout the sports world?

Probably, not.

While the addition of this sure-fire Hall Of Famer stands to benefit the Orioles in so many distinct ways, the blunt reality is Guerrero is a short-term fix and benefit for the ballclub …. and I’m okay with that.

For the past couple months, I’ve been publicly lobbying for this acquisition.  And, as the weeks toward Spring Training have dwindled, my plea has been getting louder.  It’s an ideal fit for both sides – Guerrero is a lifetime .333 hitter at Camden Yards, and the Orioles sorely needed his lethal stick.

Yeah, I’ve heard the rumblings about the slugger being “over the hill” and an “injury risk”, as well as his perceived lack of appeal to other clubs – especially as camps are set to open in just a couple weeks.

To those who bemoan this signing, I’ll simply question your knowledge of Vlad Guerrero, as well as the intimacies of baseball ….

Oh, and let’s not forget the folks who decry Guerrero’s signing as a figurative BLOCK of Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold.  Are you serious?  Welcome to the big leagues, bunk.  The truth is Pie and Reimold have BLOCKED THEMSELVES.

Both players have garnered opportunities, and while they haven’t necessarily squandered such chances, they haven’t seized them, either.  It can be a cruel business – produce or else.

So, let’s take a quick look at the supposed liabilities involved in bringing one of the greatest hitters of the past decade, to Baltimore …..

OVER THE HILL

Guerrero is coming off a season that yielded a .300 batting average, with 29 homers, 115 runs batted in and 83 runs scored.  And, these statistics were not an aberration – he has batted under .300 just once, since 1997.

But, perhaps, the most telling fact from last season was Guerrero’s .320 batting clip with runners in scoring position.  Ironically, this is also his career average with RISP, as well.

If he’s “over the hill”, just give me a few more geezers …..

INJURY RISK

This is undoubtedly the biggest misconception and overblown worry about Vlad Guerrero.  Yeah, he missed 60 games, in 2009.  Players get injured, but Guerrero has played in 140+ games, per season, in 7 of 8 years.  And, he has played in 140+ games in 11 of his 13 full Major League seasons.

But, since we’re talking about injury risks, let’s bring Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold back into the discussion …..

In his half dozen pro seasons, Reimold has spent time on the disabled list in 5 of them.  Got that?  He’s been on the DL in 5 of 6 seasons.  In fact, Reimold has played in 130+ games in just 3 of his 6 pro years.

As for Pie, he has been injured in 3 of his last 6 pro seasons, and he has played in 130+ games, just twice in those 6 years.  Of course, some of his missed time was simply attributed to poor performance.

That said, if we’re talking about “injury risks”, it’s a pretty safe argument to suggest Vlad Guerrero has been a much healthier option than the two players he’s likely to deprive of playing time.  And, he doesn’t ride the bench for less than stellar production.

LACK OF APPEAL AMONG OTHER CLUBS

This was absolutely the most humorous of the assertions against bring Guerrero to Camden Yards.  Indeed, I’ve heard those who’ve proclaimed “nobody else wants him …. that should say something.”  You’re right, it does.

Guerrero is pretty much limited to designated hitter duties.  Thus, every National League club is eliminated from the discussion.  To compound his narrowed opportunities, only a handful of American League teams entered this past off-season needing to fill the DH slot.

The Twins and Rays went with cheaper options, in Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez.  And, the Rangers wanted to upgrade their defense at 3rd base, which relegated Michael Young to DH, with the acquisition of Adrian Beltre.

That really left the Orioles and Mariners as likely obscure options.  Both teams had the designated hitter role filled, but they could’ve improved with some position jockeying, by adding a player of Guerrero’s caliber.

Finally, I really want to address the naysayers who’ve reasoned “DOES VLAD GUERRERO MAKE THE ORIOLES A PLAYOFF CONTENER?”  Well, that really is a great unknown, huh?  Conventional wisdom suggests that he probably doesn’t raise the team to such lofty expectations – but the games are played on the field, not the blogs.

Regardless of even a modern day version of “Murderers Row”, any team will realize success based on their pitching.  However, Guerrero’s presence in the lineup makes the team better, in both tangible and intangible ways.

He makes the Orioles lineup much more formidable – his .320 batting average, with runners in scoring position, dwarfs the .246 mark achieved by batters in the cleanup spot for the Orioles, last season.  He’s a bonafide run producing hitter.

Along with Derrek Lee, Guerrero will provide Nick Markakis with protection he’s never enjoyed.  Plus, given Brian Roberts’ and Markakis’ knack for working walks and stellar baserunning, Guerrero will most definitely have his RBI opportunities.

In mentioning, Roberts and Markakis, do you realize they’ve never played for a winning team at the big league level?  Together, these guys have played 1,980 games in an Orioles uniform and they’ve never been part of a winning season.

Vladimir Guerrero can change that …..

He might not be the piece that leads the Orioles back to the postseason, but he makes the lineup and team substantially better.  If Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis taste winning for the first time, it might translate their game to another level.

The same can be said for the younger players, such as Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta.  Having them exposed to WINNING at an early stage of their careers could prove invaluable for years to come.

So, for those who decry the Guerrero acquisition as a blocking of Reimold, Pie or anyone else, I say HOGWASH.  I don’t want to hear the foundational excuse about “being ready to win”.

If you’re not ready to win, than you’re ready to lose.

I applaud the Orioles for getting this deal wrapped up.  Perhaps, they overpaid to get their man.  We knew such a reality faced this organization, on the heels of 13 consecutive losing seasons, right?

Welcome to Baltimore, Vlad.  Most of us are happy you’re here …..

 

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Is Vlad simply Sammy Sosa version 2.0 for Orioles?

Posted on 04 February 2011 by Luke Jones

It may have come seven years too late, but the Orioles finally persuaded Vlad the Impaler to bring his free-swinging talents to Baltimore.

And before you shout charges of negativity and raining on a feel-good parade — fans in this town deserve a celebration as much as any city in baseball after 13 years of hell — I’ll admit to sharing enthusiastic visions of Vladimir Guerrero raking baseballs into the left field seats at Camden Yards.

Guerrero brings an imposing presence to the heart of the lineup and should — along with veteran first baseman Derrek Lee — offer the legitimate protection that Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, and Adam Jones painfully lacked a season ago. He should make the team better in 2011, though how much is up for debate.

My hesitation isn’t even about the $8 million price tag that so many statheads will whine about with accusations of the Orioles bidding against themselves and blocking Nolan Reimold and Felix Pie for the possible luxury of another two wins (in terms of WAR or “wins above replacement” for the sabermetrically-challenged). The reality is sabermetrics and responsible spending habits don’t exist in a vacuum when you’re playing the free-agent market and no player worth his salt wants to play for you without significant, extra dollars coming his way.

Sure, the Orioles overpaid for a veteran slugger who can no longer play the outfield, forcing Luke Scott to move from designated hitter to left field and weakening the club’s defense. But I’ll credit Andy MacPhail for upping the ante and getting his man, even if it looks like he may have been bidding against himself — we may never know for sure.

Even if the Orioles did spend to sign a hitter for four times the amount Tampa Bay gave Manny Ramirez last week, it’s not the type of decision that will hamper an organization that supposedly had the money to make multi-year offers to Mark Teixeira and Victor Martinez in recent offseasons. It’s not like that money has been shrewdly invested in other outlets, such as upgrading international scouting or spending more on amateur draft picks (two other areas the Orioles continue to neglect if they want to compete long-term in the American League East).

It’s a fair question to ask why the club wouldn’t overpay a younger and more productive option at the DH spot — 31-year-old Adam Dunn, for example — who actually would have helped the club now and when it’s hopefully ready to compete over the next few years. Instead, the Orioles made a token offer of four years, $40 million to Dunn and ultimately went the cheaper route by paying Guerrero.

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With only days remaining until the start of spring training, this is a solid decision by the Orioles that will spark some interest and hopefully bring more fans to the ballpark for Guerrero T-shirt night and maybe even a bobblehead giveaway later in the season if Guerrero puts together a similar first half to what he did in Texas last season.

Who isn’t ready to see Vlad crush a ball at his ankles off the foul pole for a three-run shot against the Yankees?

So then, why do I keep envisioning Sammy Sosa sprinting to right field in an Orioles uniform in 2005?

Perhaps I’m jaded after seeing this charade of false hope too many times, but is this just the latest veteran signing that will create some buzz but lack the reward to really make the team that much better?

It was six years ago Friday when the Orioles introduced Sosa to the Baltimore media after sending Jerry Hairston, Mike Fontenot, and Dave Crouthers to the Cubs in a trade. The Orioles were capitalizing on a barren market for a 36-year-old slugger coming off a poor second half (hitting just .233) despite hitting 35 home runs in 2004.

They hoped for a renaissance, or at least one more productive season, from one of the generation’s finest hitters.

As pessimistic as it may be, you have to admit it sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?

Guerrero won’t bring the same baggage as the diva-like Sosa and has no desire for the limelight considering he doesn’t even speak English after all these years in big league baseball. He is simply a baseball player, and that’s all he’s ever wanted to be. However, it’s hard to overlook a 2010 second half in which his batting average dropped 41 points (from a .319 first half to .278) and his home run total declined from 20 in the first half to just nine over the season’s final 81 games. His 2010 postseason is even more concerning as Guerrero batted just .220 and failed to hit a single home run for the Rangers in 59 at-bats.

Anyone’s entitled to a bad few months, but when you’re 35 and already coming off a poor season in 2009, the whispers of being washed up become a little louder with every misstep. Let’s face it, if talent evaluators thought Guerrero was anywhere close to the player he used to be, he wouldn’t be unemployed and accepting an offer from the Orioles in early February.

Again, the Orioles should be applauded for spending a little more to close the deal and bring a high-profile player to the Baltimore lineup. Maybe Guerrero will find his fountain of youth and provide the protection for the team’s key young players to take a step toward stardom while the Orioles move toward respectability in 2011.

It’s the same bet the organization was making six years ago when they introduced Slammin’ Sammy as Orioles fans pictured the Sosa Hop over and over in their minds.

I’m all for it.

Let’s just hope it works out a little better this time.

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Vlad Guerrero an Oriole

Posted on 04 February 2011 by Jay Trucker

According to multiple sources, including ESPN Deportes’ Enrique Rojas, Vladimir Guerrero has agreed to terms with the Baltimore Orioles.

Guerrero will serve as DH for the Orioles, with Luke Scott moving to left field, barring further moves. Guerrero hit .300 with 29 home runs in 2010.

Guerrero is known for his excellent plate coverage, which will help counter the strikeout totals of fellow new Oriole Mark Reynolds.

The latest offseason move gives the club a completely reworked middle of the order with Reynolds, Guerrero, and Lee serving as power threats. The infield, too, has been reworked, with only Brian Roberts returning to 2nd base from the 2010 lineup.

The Orioles original offer to Guerrero was much lower than $8 million dollars, but the 35 year old slugger did not seem willing to sing with the club for $4-5 million. This despite the Orioles being Guerrero’s only potential suitor at the moment.

Congratulations to Orioles management for blinking and overpaying for a superstar whose pride would not allow him to play for a perennial cellar-dweller. The addition of Guerrero does not guarantee the Orioles a winning team, but it can’t hurt. If healthy, Guerrero will force pitchers to rethink their strategy.

The deal is said to be for one year and $8 million dollars.

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Orioles FanFest brings optimism, but questions remain for 2011

Posted on 29 January 2011 by Luke Jones

Thousands of Orioles fans flocked to the Baltimore Convention Center on Saturday to mentally thaw out from the recent snow and shift their attention to spring and another baseball season.

As is the case every year at this time, the optimistic superlatives were flying from every direction.

Buck Showalter received a standing ovation when introduced to the crowd, proving he’s still the toast of the town — at least in the baseball sense — after leading the Orioles to an uplifting 34-23 record in the final two months of 2010, avoiding the 100-loss mark for a team that appeared destined at the end of July to finish as the worst team in franchise history.

Second baseman Brian Roberts declared himself as healthy as he’s been in two years after missing over 100 games with an injured back and dealing with concussion symptoms that lasted until Christmas.

And numerous players and coaches spoke about the marked improvements in the lineup — and defensively — with the additions of veteran first baseman Derrek Lee, third baseman Mark Reynolds, and shortstop J.J. Hardy.

Some even reminded everyone the Orioles had the best record in the American League East over the season’s final two months and pointed to the lack of expectations, both locally and nationally, as an advantage for the upcoming season.

“That’s the best, to fly under the radar,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “Nobody knows what’s going on, but you’re steadily climbing and whipping people’s ass. That’s what I like.”

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The feel-good sentiments are easy to express this time of year, and while the team appears better on paper, doubts remain whether it’s enough improvement to make any tangible difference in the AL East standings where the Orioles, even after the strong finish under Showalter, finished 30 games behind division-winning Tampa Bay.

The signing of an aging Lee and the acquisitions of Hardy and the powerful yet strikeout-prone slugger Reynolds should be significant offensive upgrades over Ty Wigginton, Cesar Izturis (who remains as a utility player), and Josh Bell respectively, but critics point to the club’s failure to sign Victor Martinez and the halfhearted pursuit of Adam Dunn as ammunition that president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail (entering the final year of his current contract) is not doing nearly enough to narrow the gap in the rigid AL East.

In fact, much of the discussion at FanFest surrounded a player not even under contract — free-agent outfielder Vladimir Guerrero. MacPhail confirmed the club has made an offer to the soon-to-be 36-year-old slugger, but did not sound overly optimistic about reaching an agreement.

“I don’t really get the sense that he is close to [making a decision],” said MacPhail, who claims he’s already exceeded the projected payroll he and majority owner Peter Angelos envisioned at the end of last season. “I don’t know. We never really know exactly the extent of other clubs’ interest in other players, but I don’t get the sense they’re ready to do anything in the very near future.”

Regardless of whether Guerrero signs with the Orioles or spurns them again as he did seven years ago, the biggest factor in determining how much the club can build upon last season’s strong finish is the continued development of the starting rotation, which is projected to feature four of five starters under the age of 26 on Opening Day.

MacPhail maintained his interest in adding a veteran to the rotation, but the team’s success will be measured largely with the steps taken by Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta, and Chris Tillman, Though Matusz’s red-hot finish to last season (7-1, 2.18 ERA in his final 11 starts) clearly headlines the group’s accomplishments, all have taken their lumps to varying degrees over the last two seasons.

Those growing pains must subside if the Orioles are to avoid a 14th consecutive losing season, regardless of how much the offense might improve.

“For us, the biggest key is still going to be our young pitchers, our young starters,” Roberts said. “Even with the [positional] acquisitions, those young guys are going to have to pitch well for us.”

The rotation, anchored by 31-year-old Jeremy Guthrie, will also need to adjust to a new pitching coach as Mark Connor replaces the popular Rick Kranitz. The 61-year-old spent 14 previous seasons under Showalter with the Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Rangers, serving as pitching coach for 11 of those years.

Connor has wasted no time in getting to know his new pitching staff, watching hours of video from last season while picking out the nuances and makeup of each individual. He also spent time Friday evening getting better acquainted with his pitchers, with Matusz making the strongest impression by approaching the coach first and sitting down with him for nearly 30 minutes to discuss the craft.

“Young players are exciting,” Connor said. “I love working with young players. I’ve had staffs where I’ve had either five guys who were older than me or five guys who were 20. And it’s two different dynamics. It’s fun to watch the kids grow. It’s fun to be around kids that want to learn and don’t think they know it all, because none of us do. The key is going to be keeping these guys healthy really.”

Yes, the excitement was palpable on Saturday as coaches and players discussed what lies ahead and the hopes of continuing the late-season momentum created a year ago.

However, playing winning baseball when you’re already 30 games out is much different than starting fresh against the heavyweights of the division in April when nothing has been decided for anyone.

The Orioles are an improved team, but the measuring stick remains as high as ever.

“I don’t care about the other teams,” Showalter said. “I really don’t. I’m tired of the Red Sox, the Yankees, who cares? They’ll do whatever they do. What every other team did, that’s a given. I don’t care what their payroll is and who they acquired. We’ve got to take care of our business.”

Fighting words for sure, a major reason why fans have taken to the Orioles manager so quickly, but will they be enough when the snow melts, spring arrives, and those teams venture into town for real?

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What Might Have Been…

Posted on 10 October 2009 by mike3505

In checking out the daily results of the baseball postseason and getting, admittedly, a bit of a contact high from all of the coast to coast hoopla, I can’t help but wax pitiful on what could have been once again with our own downtrodden baseball team.

Watching guys like Mark Texeira, AJ Burnett, Vladimir Guerrero, and so many others who spurned the Orioles take their bows on the grand fall stage only rubs extra salt in our collective wounds.

It makes me think, as I compare the team in mid-season who were almost nightly clapping shaving cream pies into each others ‘ faces to the team that looked utterly beaten and totally uninterested in being in uniform only a few scant months later. It makes you think how these two teams can be in any way related to each other. Not to sound too melodramatic, but how can it keep going so wrong seemingly so quickly every year around or just after the All-Star break?

The easy answer seems to be lack of pitching depth, and the old standby of injury problems, but so many teams have these exact same issues every year, and they don’t implode like we do year to year. Is it management and coaching? I know that we just went down this road with the should-we-or-shouldn’t-we-fire Dave Trembley talk, but to be fair to him, he wasn’t exactly dealt an even-handed deck to begin with, and we think that everybody already knew that going in.

If I had any sort of real answer, the radio station might be named after me instead. All I can say for the moment is that I’ve never seen a team tease its fan base like this year to year. They start off well, and hang around a reasonable level for a brief period it seems, only to have everything cave in upon them at a certain point, like it was pre-ordained or something. We, as the small coderie of fans left in this city, have a harder and harder time not becoming jaded during this whole run, and to generate any real enthusiasm for the time in the coming seasons.

Yet, like so many of us, I still want to believe that with a few prime names that next year will be different. Next year they’ll at least be a team worth watching until late in the season..that we won’t be embarrased by them by the time Ravens’ training camp starts.

Pie-in-the-sky, perhaps..but sometimes dreams are all you have to hang onto. For now, we have our beloved Ravens to give us someone to root for and go to war with, and that will do nicely while we think back to happier baseball teams in our fair city.

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Dye, Vlad could offer RH pop

Posted on 22 September 2009 by dansoderberg

That headline would be a helluva lot more exciting if this were 2003. Last week Orioles Manager Dave Trembley mentioned his desire for the club to acquire a right handed power to hit behind Nick Markakis in the lineup and allow Adam Jones, Matt Weiters and Nolan Reimold to develop without the stress of hitting cleanup.

The White Sox are unlikely to exercise a hefty club option for RF Jermaine Dye. When Alex Rios was claimed off waivers from Toronto Dye became expendable. After a fairly productive early season, the 35 year old Dye has fallen on hard times. He is currently .248 with a .778 OPS and 25 home runs. Depending upon his asking price, in both dollars and years, Dye could be a solid right handed DH and part time outfielder. As a bonus Dye has played in 44 career postseason games. Sadly, that number is unlikely to change after a season or two in Baltimore.

Vladimir Guerrero is also a free agent after the season. The Orioles pursued Guerrero in the Winter of 2003. Vlad will turn 35 in February and he has been hampered by chronic knee problems over the past few years. He has been sapped of virtually all of his speed and is now a liability in the OF. Quite a pretty picture huh? The reason I mention Vlad’s shortcomings is that he is now essentially limited to DH, and with about half of the AL teams set at DH, he has a limited free agent market. Guerrero has hit when healthy this season, posting an .817 OPS, though his Slugging percentage his dipped nearly 50 points. As a DH on a short contract Guerrero could provide some pop in the middle of the Orioles 2010 lineup.

Don’t get too excited about 1b Michael Aubrey. In limited duty Aubrey has hit fairly well and played a solid first base, but he shouldn’t be considered a long term option at the position. In 96 career ML at bats Aubrey has 2 home runs and a career .352 slugging percentage. In 407 AAA at bats this season Aubrey posted a .759 OPS and 8 home runs. Those numbers would be passable for a middle infielder, but the Orioles need much more production from the corners than Aubrey can offer.

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