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Ovechkin’s Three Apples Puts the Caps Back in First Place

Posted on 30 December 2017 by Ed Frankovic

It had been 11 games since the Washington Capitals came out and jumped on a team to tally the first two goals in the first period (December 6th vs. Chicago). On Saturday night the Caps did just that to take advantage of a Devils team that played on Friday night en route to a 5-2 win at Capital One Arena.

Alex Ovechkin (three apples), Nicklas Backstrom (goal, two assists), and John Carlson (goal, two assists) all had three points each as Washington received a very strong performance from their top line and top blue liner to improve their record to 24-13-3 (51 points) and put them back in first place in the Metropolitan Division by a point. New Jersey (22-1-6) has two games in hand.

Braden Holtby was super solid in net making 25 of 27 saves and the Capitals will close out December with a perfect eight wins in eight tries at Capital One Arena. There is no place like home for Coach Barry Trotz’ club and they have now won 15 of their last 17 in front of their very boisterous fan base.

Here are my thoughts and analysis of this win that came at the end of some brutal scheduling:

Schedule Craziness This was the third game in four nights for both teams and Washington also played back to back before the Christmas break. So that’s effectively five games in six possible nights for the Caps and despite a three game losing skid in there, they came out of it 2-1-2 (six points). So even with a bit of a rough patch with no practice time, Trotz and company managed to survive and reclaim 1st place heading into Tuesday’s tilt in Carolina.

Tom Wilson’s War This is a trick title to this bullet because based on it you’d think that number 43 was dropping the gloves to announce his presence with authority again. Nope, Willy is doing it with his stick. Just 2:26 into this affair, now third line Tom went to the net and finished off a beautiful pass from Christian Djoos with Brett Connolly parked at the top of the paint. Wilson slid in behind #10 and after the sweet feed from the rookie blue liner, he snapped it by Cory Schneider (30 saves). Wilson, who earlier in December seemed to help Ovi and Backy get out of their funks with his stint on the top line, was bumped down in Thursday’s rally over Boston to jump start Lars Eller and Connolly to get them motoring again. #43 did just that and he’s on pace to shatter his total for points in a season. Tom now has six goals and 12 assists in 36 games and he’s a staggering +11 this year. Wilson helped Lars Eller lead the team in shot attempt percentage on the night (15 for and six against, 71.43%).

Top Line Production After a rough first shift, the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Devante Smith-Pelly line really got it going. Djoos was the recipient of a great passing play to make it 2-0 at 11:09 of period one when he dropped the puck to Ovi coming across the blue line and then kept going to the net. The Gr8 then fed Backstrom with a sweet diagonal feed and Nicky went cross ice to #29, who snuck the puck behind Schneider into the yawning cage for a layup. That one was prettier than Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and it was the type of start the Caps needed against a tired opponent. The top line would also set up Matt Niskanen for another layup in the third frame, to make it 4-1 just 4:25 into that stanza. Nisky carried the puck across the offensive blue line and once again it was a drop pass to Ovechkin that was the key to the sequence. Ovi fed DSP with another gem and #25 went cross ice to #2 for the second tic-tac-toe tally of the night for a defensemen. The three forwards on the Caps top line had 23 of the 47 shot attempts from Caps centers or wingers. Ovi logged 20 minutes and had nine shot attempts (six on net), Backstrom played 19:48 and had four shot attempts, and DSP had 10 in 16:25 (but only four hit the net).

Blueline Hat Trick I mentioned the key Djoos and Niskanen tallies, but Carlson also scored for Washington to make it a trio of goals for Caps defensemen. This one came on a second period power play that generated several quality chances. Schneider made some big saves to keep it a 2-1 game, but Washington would not allow the Devils to clear and Backstrom fed a pinching in from the point #74 nicely and Johnny rocketed it by #35 to restore a Capitals two goal lead. That power play marker at 7:01 really took some life from the Devils and set the stage for a third period where Washington kept the hammer down. The Caps have now gotten a goal from their previously struggling power play in each of the last two tilts and it is looking better as there’s been crisper passing and more movement.

Two In, Two Out Coach Trotz made two interesting lineup changes on Saturday. He scratched Andre Burakovsky, who has been pretty much terrible since his great game in Dallas on December 19th, and he put Chandler Stephenson back in. #18 is fast and his speed is a good match for New Jersey. I don’t expect #65 to be out for more than a game as the organization really needs him if they want to go deep into the post season. The other change was to get an up and down Madison Bowey a view from the press box so he can course correct some of his recent turnover struggles. Inserted into his spot was Taylor Choreny, who had a relatively unimpressive 13:25 of action. #4 had no shot attempts, but he also had no official giveaways. He was on the ice for the Devils first tally and that was a result of one of his failed clears. I’d expect Bowey to be back in against the Canes on Tuesday.

Overall, this was a very tidy win for the Caps, who are really making home ice pay off for them. Coach Trotz gets the last change and the crowd definitely helps the energy level. For the first in time in over three weeks, they had more significantly more energy than their opponent in the early going and that fast start took a lot of hope from the Devils. Washington’s passing was much cleaner in this affair and that helped negate a New Jersey forecheck, as well as their speed. Djoos had a quality game, except for a turnover and poor coverage on Travis Zajac’s goal that made it 4-2 with 11 minutes left. Christian is definitely improving and that is another key to the Capitals potential post season success. #29 has the ability to step up with his speed and stop opposing rushes while creating offense the other way.

Notes: It was another post concussion quiet night from T.J. Oshie (+1), who logged only 12:10. The Osh Babe had one shot attempt (blocked) and it came after he passed up a great chance in the high slot…the Caps out shot attempted the Devils, 67-60…Carlson led the Caps in time on ice with 25:58. Dmitry Orlov continues to excel on the back end and he played 21:27, was +1, and had three hits…the Caps won the faceoff battle, 31-25. Jay Beagle was dominant, going 13-3. Backstrom (7-10) also had a couple of huge wins on draws in the last minute when the Devils pulled Schneider and it led to his empty net tally…the Caps gave former #90, Marcus Johansson, a warm reception in his first game back in DC and a nice video tribute to boot…with the win, Coach Trotz now sits fifth all time in NHL coaching victories with 737 (passed Lindy Ruff).

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How can Baltimore simply allow the Orioles to rot like this under Angelos’ greed & profiteering?

Posted on 01 April 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

There’s no sense in shirking the responsibility here in Baltimore — the facts that show this community has been complicit in the damage done during this baseball free fall on the field and profiteering being done off the field by Peter Angelos via MASN. The truth is this: we get the government we deserve.

And the truth is that we get the Major League Baseball team that we tolerate as a community.

The Orioles are about to enter their 15th consecutive year of irrelevance and losing. Fans in Baltimore have turned away from the stadium by the millions instead of demanding a better product and an owner with the integrity to run the team in the best interests of the community.

The judges allowed this to happen by allowing television moguls to pass along unavoidable, mandatory charges you never know about and you vote for these judges.

Comcast (or your local cable TV provder) has passed along the “Angelos Tax” to you and you simply keep paying the bill.

The politicians allowed this to happen to the heart of Baltimore on summer nights and you elect the politicians. You elect the politicians who allow Major League Baseball an almost inarguable anti-trust exemption and public financing for stadia while they pad their pockets and Angelos shirks his “sacred responsibility” here in Baltimore to attempt to field a competitive team that stimulates interest and economic impact to the local economy.

Many local businesses and business owners – intimidated for one reason or another – all talk dirty out of the corner of their mouths to me at cocktail parties all over Baltimore yet no one except me and this radio station and web entity that I own have spoken up over the years and reported the dirty facts.

I am very proud of Free The Birds. I’m proud of being the only one to speak the truth and report the facts. I sleep well at night knowing that I’m TRYING to make a difference and get this corrected for the community.

WNST is the only free media company in the marketplace that is banned from covering the team while CBS Radio, The Sun, WBAL, Pressbox, etc. all have continued to exchange corporate media backrubs and “partnerships” while not demanding accountability from Peter Angelos.

 

Many others — from intimidated former Orioles players who need the autograph money to local fans, former season ticket holders and businesses who previously wrote a direct check to the Baltimore Orioles to sponsor the franchise — all now cough and “look the other way” while the city has been emptied of more than 2 million people every summer. The Ravens’ and their everlasting prosperity seems to only make it easier to turn away from the Orioles.

How can it be possible that local businesses downtown and at the Inner Harbor simply await the arrival of visiting fans from Boston, New York and Philadelphia in order to turn a profit off the fortunes of the Baltimore Orioles?

It’s unspeakable, shameful and YOU should be ashamed of our community for allowing it happen.

When all of this cowardice and the collective “turning of the heads” stops, perhaps the fate of the Baltimore Orioles will change?

Here’s what WNST.net is doing about this Thursday and Friday night as we hold a candlelight vigil and an Opening Day protest of the ownership and the way the team has been run into the ground for Baltimore and its baseball fans…

 

You can follow our Facebook page here and follow us on Twitter @FreeTheBirds12

 

Staying away from the ballpark and not contributing by buying tickets and $8 beers has simply not worked to correct the issues with Peter Angelos and improve the baseball team. We’ve been writing about it here at WNST.net and opining at AM 1570 for the better part of a decade.

Sometimes I think that everyone knows the dirty little secret about Angelos and

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The Orioles will be better next year — and more new lies after The MacFailure

Posted on 28 September 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

Our cool, growing (and still free!) sports media company had another great B2B-Business To Business event last week in Towson with @CoachBillick and an old friend and reader of WNST.net approached me and asked the eternal Orioles question:

“So, Nasty, I’ve read all of the issues regarding the Orioles and Mike Flanagan and Andy MacPhail and Free The Birds, but what are we as fans going to do? You need to offer solutions…”

Well, virtually every human being I’ve spoken to over the last three years – and I still have a ton of friends in upper management at Major League Baseball and all over the league — has concurred: this just isn’t going to change on the field as long as Peter Angelos is involved in Baltimore baseball ownership.

But, of course, I came to that conclusion five years ago when I did the original Free The Birds rally and campaign because in my mind – and time has proven me correct – this was long past the point of no return with the local community and most people of integrity within the baseball community in 2006.

And what I’ve come to realize is that this REALLY bugs the hell out of my internet critics – the fact that I’ve been right and honest and accurate all along.

I don’t think it took any “orange Nostradamus” or 19 chapters and 75,000 words worth of my book to predict that this civic nightmare would continue given Angelos’ tactics, mindset, age and propensity through his 82 years on the planet to want to fight with people. He sues people for a living.

I knew a long time ago that it was getting worse and not better. I knew it was going to become an easy $50 million annual profit center given the deal that Angelos negotiated with Major League Baseball once the Washington Nationals were hatched. I wanted to believe he was telling the truth in 2006 but he clearly wasn’t honest and indeed got the “last laugh.”

But I must say my worst fears of where this sick tale was going in 2006 never really factored in the possibility that Mike Flanagan would be committing suicide five years later in the middle of a fifth consecutive last-place season.

But I’m not at all surprised that the team has finished in last place every year since Free The Birds.

And I’ve now spent four full years without a press pass for this last-place debacle and sick civic disgrace while the team’s head of baseball operations runs away from me at public functions when I ask a few questions.

I’ve been asking myself for a month how the Orioles are going to handle this offseason of obvious unparalleled despair. Despite the kid gloves Captain Profit Andy MacPhail has been treated with here by his local media co-workers who are disguised as journalists — his tenure here is now complete and was a large, profitable “MacFailure” .

He’s slithering out of town in the dead of the night after changing exactly NOTHING about the Baltimore Orioles in real terms, other than the profit line. Oh, and there’s the spring training home in Sarasota that was 15 years overdue – and now another publicly-aided profit center — I don’t see anything about the farm system, the future or the current state of the roster that’s appreciably better than before.

I know this much: four years, four last-place finishes. That’s the record. It is what it is.

The whole franchise stinks.

What happens to Buck Showalter is anyone’s guess but word is he’ll be the new poobah in charge of “baseball operations” at 10:07 p.m. after Red Sox playoff magic leaves the Charm City – and all that really means is that he’s the next victim who will make a few million and go back to where he came from (in this case Dallas) a few years later with a tainted resume and some more losses and evenings of angst.

Of course, if he really thinks Angelos is committed to winning a World Series, angst is only the beginning.

Just 13 months ago Showalter said he knew what he was getting into with Angelos

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Sure, Angelos is at heart of Orioles misery but 25 others are accountable, too

Posted on 23 July 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

This inglorious 14 years of misery, lies and ineptitude for fans of the Baltimore Orioles all over the world has been hard to watch at every level. I’m exasperated with the media corruption, lack of integrity and pure filth of heart of Peter Angelos and his profiteering and lack of civic pride for something that this community held near and dear to its heart — bringing tens of thousands to literal tears in 1991 when the memories of 33rd Street moved downtown.

But circa 2011, on a night-to-night basis, the only ones who can change the course of the franchise “in the moment” are the players Peter Angelos is paying millions of dollars, Andy MacPhail has hired and the ones Buck Showalter has morbidly signed up to manage this summer.

Sure, Angelos is to blame for this entire mess — that much is self-evident at this point — but that does not exonerate alleged Major League Baseball players from being able to produce in the glare of the bright lights in the eighth inning of a one-run game.

Take Friday night’s multiple fiasco-fest with the game on the line vs. the Angels. Nick Markakis came to bat with two outs and two on and the Orioles a single away from a tie game and a gapper away from potentially winning the game. Markakis — the team’s “franchise” player — clipped the ball about 45 feet down the first base line to end a rally.

I’m a Nick Markakis fan. He’s quiet, he’s professional, he’s Greek, he lives in Baltimore, he’s not a Twitter jackass and last-place loudmouth like his outfield mate. But, he’s also making $12 million per year to win baseball games and put up a better fight in that baseball circumstance. It’s fair to say, his career has been a disappointment vs. the salary and the expectations that he would be the “face” of the Orioles. Like when they put him six stories high on the Warehouse wall a few years ago.

Of course, seeing the Orioles kick the ball around and bring in the likes of overpaid Kevin Gregg in the 9th inning to give up a grand slam to Vernon Wells in an eventual 6-1 loss makes it all seem trivial.

They’re the Orioles. They can’t win, anyway. So what difference does a few outs with RISP mean or a few more blown saves and missed chances by a bunch of arsonists who no one else wanted but the Orioles were forced to over pay.

I opine often about the sins of Angelos and they are more than warranted. But in the few rare instances when he’s done the “right” thing by the franchise, it then becomes incumbent upon the players to produce or face tough questions.

There’s no doubt that fans always want a “fall guy” — a horse to beat when the team loses. Every Monday morning in every fall the players and coaches in the Ravens organization take the weight or the world onto their backs like a civic grand piano.

In some ways, playing for the worst franchise in the history of modern sports in the toughest division in sports and given the lack of financial balance in MLB it somehow seems to exonerate the actual Orioles players.

I’m not willing to make that concession.

Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Luke Scott, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and the rest of the well-paid professional baseball players need a mirror for their last-place woes as well.

But I have a feeling, in the end, this will get blamed on MacPhail and Showalter.

But then again, the fans seem to put the blame everywhere but where it belongs.

If you want to find the Orioles’ REAL magic — the meaningful games, the community activism, the late-summer wins, the memories and a potential World Series parade — you really need look no further than Angelos’ pockets.

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Roberts 3-run HR beats Tigers 5-1 and ignites Orioles Magic on Opening Day

Posted on 04 April 2011 by WNST Staff

BALTIMORE (AP) Brian Roberts hit a three-run homer, Jake Arrieta allowed one run in six innings and the unbeaten Baltimore Orioles thrilled a sellout crowd in their home opener by defeating the Detroit Tigers 5-1 Monday.
On a gorgeous afternoon at Camden Yards, the Orioles extended a surprising winning streak that began with a three-game sweep at Tampa Bay. Off to its best start since 1997, Baltimore (4-0) has not yet trailed, hasn’t given up more than one run in a game and has outscored the competition 17-4.
With the score tied at 1 in the fifth, Felix Pie walked and went to third on a double by J.J. Hardy before Roberts hit a 1-2 pitch from Rick Porcello (0-1) over the wall in right-center. Roberts has Baltimore’s only two home runs this season.
Nick Markakis followed with his third hit, a double, and Matt Wieters delivered a two-out RBI single for a 5-1 lead.
Arrieta (1-0) gave up six hits, walked two and struck out three. Orioles starters have allowed two runs in 26 innings, a 0.69 ERA.
Jason Berken followed with two innings of one-hit relief and Koji Uehara pitched the ninth.
Will Rhymes drove in the lone run for the Tigers, who arrived after dropping two of three at Yankee Stadium. Detroit doesn’t begin the home portion of its schedule until Friday.
Porcello yielded five runs, nine hits and a walk in five innings.
With a crowd of 46,593 looking on, the Orioles continued their solid play under manager Buck Showalter. Baltimore went 34-23 after Showalter took over last year, and the offseason acquisitions of Derrek Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, Hardy and Mark Reynolds have Orioles fans hopeful that the team’s run of 13 straight losing seasons will end in 2011.
Baltimore went up 1-0 in the second inning when Wieters hit a leadoff double and scored on Porcello’s two-out wild pitch.
Detroit pulled even in the third. After Brandon Inge doubled and scored on a single by Rhymes, Miguel Cabrera flied out with two outs and runners at second and third.
The Tigers got only two runners in scoring position the rest of the way.
NOTES: Former Orioles manager Earl Weaver threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Showalter. … RF Magglio Ordonez started for Detroit after missing Sunday’s game with a sore right ankle. He snapped an 0-for-9 start with a fifth-inning single. … Baltimore is 38-20 in home openers, including 5-0 against Detroit. … Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie was hospitalized Monday with a high fever, putting his scheduled start Wednesday in jeopardy.

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Orioles Magic: Tillman, Roberts, Markakis leading men in 3-1 win in Tampa

Posted on 03 April 2011 by WNST Staff

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Strong starting pitching, timely hitting and solid defense.
Two games into the season, the Baltimore Orioles are clicking on all cylinders.
Chris Tillman held Tampa Bay hitless for six innings, Brian Roberts hit a three-run homer and Nick Markakis made a leaping catch at the wall in the ninth to preserve a 3-1 victory over the defending AL East champion Rays on Saturday night.
“As we all know, you win with pitching and defense, and that’s what we’ve gotten the first two days,” said Roberts, whose eighth-inning homer snapped a scoreless tie.
Tillman, making the 24th starter of his career, lost his bid for a no-hitter when manager Buck Showalter lifted him after 101 pitches. B.J. Upton lined a two-out single off Jeremy Accardo (1-0) for Tampa Bay’s first hit with two outs in the seventh.
The 22-year-old right-hander wasn’t surprised by removed from the game.
“No, I was real inefficient the first couple innings,” Tillman said. “Maybe a month down the road from now, I might still be in the game.”
Roberts drove in two runs with a triple on Friday night when Jeremy Guthrie pitched eight shutout innings in Baltimore’s 4-1 season-opening victory. His eighth-inning homer off Jake McGee came after Mark Reynolds singled and J.J. Hardy drew a one-out walk from Rays starter James Shields (0-1).
With two runners on base, Ben Zobrist hit a drive to right and Markakis, taking a running leap into the padded wall, made the game-ending catch.
“I’ve said over and over again, it’s a crime he hasn’t won a Gold Glove by this point,” Roberts said of Markakis. “To me, he’s the best right fielder in the game. If you didn’t believe before now, I hope you do now.”
Tillman walked three and struck out five in a start that was moved up a day after lefty Brian Matusz was scratched due to soreness on the left side of his mid-back. Matusz underwent an MRI exam Friday that found a strain in a muscle between the ribs and the back and is expected to be sidelined three to four weeks.
Accardo allowed two hits and escaped without allowing a run in the seventh when Felix Pie, who had entered the game as a pinch runner in the top half of the inning, made a perfect throw to the plate from left field to stop Upton from scoring on Kelly Shoppach’s sharp single to left field.
Tampa Bay’s Manny Ramirez singled off Koji Uehara to drive in a run charged to Michael Gonzalez in the eighth inning.
Kevin Gregg pitched the ninth for Baltimore and benefited from Markakis’ catch to earn his first save as an Oriole.
“I really thought Zo’s ball was over the wall when he hit it,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
The Rays finished with four hits after being limited to the same number the previous night. Maddon conceded that two runs in two games is not getting the job done, however he found no fault with his team’s effort.
“They’ve just outpitched us,” Maddon said. “It’s gone their way both nights, but at some point it’s going to go our way.”
Shields is coming off a season in which he lost a career-high 15 games, allowed an AL-leading 34 homers and led the majors by yielding 127 runs and 246 hits. He was winless over his final six outings of the season, going 0-4 after Aug. 29 and also lost his only start in the Rays’ loss to Texas in the opening round of the playoffs.
On Saturday, he showed why he made three consecutive opening day starts for Tampa Bay before David Price, a 19-game winner a year ago, drew this year’s assignment.
“Sometimes you can look good and you don’t come out with the win,” said Shields, who allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1-3 innings. He walked two and struck out seven. “I hung in there as long as I could … but Tillman was on his game.”
The Rays starter settled after giving up a single to Roberts on the first pitch of the game and walking the next batter, Markakis. He retired nine in a row before Derrek Lee singled for Baltimore’s second hit in the fourth. Vladimir Guerrero singled with one out in the seventh and Reynolds singled leading off the eighth for the other hits off Shields.
Over three stints with the Orioles in 2010, Tillman went 2-5 with a 5.87 ERA in 11 starts. He was 0-2 with a 6.53 ERA in four career starts against Tampa Bay before Saturday, but the Rays had no answers for his this time.
The closest Tillman came to giving up a hit was Zobrist’s liner to right that Markakis made a nice running catch on in the third inning. He walked Evan Longoria with two outs in the first, Matt Joyce with two outs in the second and Zobrist with one out in the sixth.
The Rays didn’t get a runner past first until Upton singled and stole second in the seventh.
“I was so nervous and at the same time I felt comfortable,” Tillman said. “I settled down there the second and third and from then on out.”
NOTES: Rays RHP Wade Davis will start Sunday’s series finale. He’s set to have his head shaved by a young pediatric cancer patient following the game as part of the pitcher’s participation in “Cut for a Cure,” benefiting the Pediatric Cancer Foundation and the Vincent Lecavalier Foundation. … With Matusz scratched from Sunday’s scheduled start, the Orioles are expected to recall left-hander Zach Britton from Triple-A Norfolk to make his major league debut. … Longoria left in the sixth inning due to muscle soreness on the left side on his upper body. The Rays said the three-time All-Star 3B will have his oblique muscle reevaluated on Sunday.

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Baseball’s “Leading” Men are MIA

Posted on 04 May 2010 by WNST Interns

Those of us in Baltimore have watched the Orioles scuffle this season while their $10 million leadoff hitter looks on from the dugout with a herniated disk.  Roberts’ absence isn’t the sole cause of the O’s struggles, but it sure hasn’t helped matters.  Ty Wigginton has filled in admirably at 2nd base, putting up great offensive numbers and limiting his defenses lapses.  But the club is still searching for a competent leadoff hitter.  Dave Trembley has settled on Adam Jones in the leadoff spot for now, but he can’t be happy with Jones’ production.  Adam and his .312 career On Base % are miscast in the top spot of the lineup.  Coming into 2010 Jones appeared to be a budding power hitter but his OBP and Slugging % are both down this year and he’s clearly frustrated.

The Orioles aren’t the only team missing a premier leadoff hitter.  The recently swept Red Sox are playing, and struggling, without Jacoby Ellsbury.  The perennial AL East power is off to a 12-14 start and is just 2-4 against the Orioles this season.  The Boston offense has struggled to consistently produce runs with Ellsbury’s career .350 OBP and base stealing abilities on the bench nursing a rib injury.  Terry Francona is using journeyman shortstop Marco Scutaro to lead off and converted infielder Bill Hall in left.  I wouldn’t expect the Red Sox to make a turnaround until Ellsbury returns, which may not be anytime soon.

Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies extraordinary leadoff man is out with a calf injury and may not return before the end of the month.  The Phillies are off to a 14-12 start, but are just 4-6 in their last 10 games.  Philadelphia had an excellent in-house leadoff candidate in Shane Victorino and they’re getting by with journeyman Juan Castro at short.

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Orioles circa 2010: We know they’ll lie, but will they lie down again?

Posted on 06 April 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

I know, I’m like a freaking broken record. Every year I write about how I’ve wrongfully had my media pass revoked and every year the Orioles make up some more lies to justify all of their mean-spiritedness and lack of professionalism. It’s Opening Day, I’ve again been deemed “not a media member” but that’s just the “off the field” stuff.

On the field, the word “improvement” has been thrown around all offseason in regard to the Orioles. As I’ve said many times, when you lose 98 games it’s hard NOT to improve the following season. It can’t get much worse, really.

As sickening as it is that I’ve taken a myriad of phone calls, emails and correspondence wondering “if the Orioles can win 78 games” – as though this disgracefully low bar somehow passes for “improvement” – I am officially one of the optimistic orange Kool Aid drinkers circa April 5th regarding the 2010 season.

It is my belief that this is the best team the Orioles have fielded this century. In 2004, the Orioles “best” performance was indeed 78 wins. Las Vegas has the 2010 Orioles over/under at 74 ½. If I were a betting man, I’d honestly take the “over” for the 2010 Orioles.

But this might be the year they finally prove they were right all along over these past 13 years of “rebuilding” and buying the bats and growing the arms.

Apparently, 78 wins will get a number of people here in Baltimore excited. At least that’s what people think until they realize that even that lofty “goal” would still be 25 games out of first place in AL East and the season would once again be effectively over right around June 20.

People have asked me every day for a month: “What do you think of the Orioles?”

My answer: “It begins with Kevin Millwood.”

Millwood is an unwitting victim of the wrong end of a big contract and the overlooking of putting Baltimore on his “not to visit” list when he inked his last contract in Texas. But, alas, he’s here now and needs to selfishly pitch well, even in MLB’s version of Siberia. He can set the tone with a big effort tonight in Tampa Bay.

It was different when guys like Scott Erickson and Sidney Ponson were poisoning the next generation of Erik Bedard’s with their antics of bush-league, lack of professionalism. Millwood needs to be the “anti-aging” Orioles starting pitcher. He needs to be more like Rick Sutcliffe and less like the aforementioned bunch of vermin who spread their foul temperament and antics through the franchise like baseball’s version of a clubhouse cancer.

I’m not sure what kind of guy Millwood is – and again, therein lies the Orioles ability to unlawfully deny me a chance to do my job after all of these years – but I hope he acclimates, pitches well and leads by example for kids like Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman, who seem like the real thing.

Matusz might win 15 games this year if he stays healthy. And while that certainly IS progress, it’s not really much different than what Rodrigo Lopez and Eric Bedard both did twice in orange en route to meaningless, forgettable seasons for the Orioles.

But, as stated before, I’m bullish on the Orioles in 2010 in regard to “progress.” I think they might be OK and quite competitive against teams not named New York and Boston — if pieces fall into place and if good health can be found.

If the starting pitching can get them to the 6th or 7th inning five nights a week, that will allow for a more rested bullpen and a real chance for .500.

I’m sold on Miguel Tejada as a relevant third baseman in the AL East. I think he’ll hit .300 and be an RBI machine like he’s always been. He might be 50 years old for all we know, but I think he’ll be the least of the Orioles concerns at this point in his career. He’s coming as a complimentary player not the leader and “franchise” guy he was counted on to be six years ago. His lies, transgressions and B-12 shots will not even be a factor this summer in Baltimore.

Of course, this would be a good year for SOMEONE to step up and be the REAL franchise player.

Is it Nick Markakis, who is quietly putting together a nice Orioles career?

Or could it be Adam Jones, whose Tweets are fun to follow when he’s not up all night in San Diego?

Or will it be Matt Wieters, whose hype seemed justified over the final two months of 2009 when it appeared he was ready to become a star?

At least there are several All Star Game candidates in orange this summer. It’s not another summer of David Segui, B.J. Surhoff and Gregg Zaun playing out their late 30’s at Camden Yards.

I’m not a Dave Trembley fan – the team tanked and quit down the stretch last year and each of those 98 losses were well-earned late last summer. Again, when the owner is the cheapest in the game and when Trembley will manage for 1/10th of what the best managers in MLB yield for a salary, I get what the team is doing.

They’re making money. They’re hoping these kids pan out and selling it to what’s left of a tortured fan base and using their media moles to “plant the seed” of hope. At least they can say they “were patient” while Andy MacPhail built what this cake turns out to be circa 2013, when it allegedly will mature. (They’re always two years away from competing with the Yankees and Red Sox, aren’t they?)

So, are the baby Birds ready to fly? Can the team be relevant enough to compete through the All Star break without falling 15 games behind Boston and/or New York?

We’ll see. But for the first time in a long time, they can legitimately threaten to be a .500 team if they stay healthy and have some key young prospects step up the way the insider pundits around the sport believe they will.

If Matusz is real?

If Wieters is real?

If Adam Jones can improve?

If Nick Markakis can remain consistent?

If Brian Roberts’ back can stay healthy?

If all of the young starters can get to the 7th inning with consistency?

If Tejada still has it?

And this is before we start projecting the likes of Jeremy Guthrie, Garrett Atkins, Luke Scott, Felix Pie and Nolan Reimond, who are all a literal box of chocolates. Does anyone really know what any of these guys will wind up doing come mid-summer? And what does anyone know about the bullpen, led by Mike Gonzalez?

Again – it’s the worst run franchise in professional sports. It’s not even close. That much has been borne out in living color over the past 13 summers. That will never change, even if Brooks Robinson is throwing out the first pitch on Friday. They are the worst group of people I’ve met in my 42 years on the planet — pure evil in their deeds, intents and actions.

But, perhaps this is the summer that all of their bloody deeds since 1997 are justified and they get people in Baltimore truly excited and energized about baseball.

If Tampa Bay could do it two years ago there’s no reason to believe the likes of Matusz, Wieters, Reimold, Bergesen, Tillman and company can’t step up to become very productive, young major leaguers and all hit their stride this summer.

It’s certainly a lot more possible than during the era of Omar Daal, Marty Cordova and Kevin Millar or any of the past sins of Peter Angelos’ ugly stewardship as the suddenly disappearing owner.

My real prediction: 78 wins.

I don’t think they can be above .500 with 54 games coming in the division against New York, Boston and Tampa Bay. But I think they will certainly be far better and more interesting on the field than we’ve seen here in Baltimore over the last 13 years.

But given the history, let’s all sip the orange Kool Aid one ounce at a time…

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O’s: I’m Having my Doubts About Dave Trembley

Posted on 01 April 2010 by WNST Interns

It reminds me of a line from Hoosiers where Cletus says to Gene Hackman’s character (Norman Dale), “Norm, I’m trying hard to believe you know what you’re doing here.” 

 

Even as an eternal Orioles optimist- especially on April 1st– even I’m having to try hard to believe Dave Trembley knows what the hell he’s doing. 

 

If I’m not mistaken, the Orioles play exhibition games today, tomorrow and Saturday in Florida.  I would imagine they fly to Baltimore on Saturday night, get a day at home on Easter Sunday, stretch it out at OPACY on Monday morning, and then head to Tampa to open the season on Tuesday night.

 

Keeping that schedule in mind, why in God’s name did Dave Trembley send Jason Berken out there to start yesterday’s game?  Better yet, why is he sending Jake Arrieta out there to start today?  At this point shouldn’t the starting five be in their regular rotation?  

 

Brad Bergesen made his last outing of the spring on Tuesday.  If he is indeed the number 4 starter, he would next pitch a week from Friday in the home opener against Toronto.  On Tuesday he got roughed up for 6 ER in 5 IP.  He gave up three homeruns. 

 

So instead of keeping his guys in rotation, Trembley is going to let Bergesen sit on THAT outing for a week and a half?

 

I understand they got rained out on Sunday and everything got pushed back, but having Jake Arrieta pitch against Tampa Bay today is just a waste of innings. 

 

Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.  I’m sure there is some grand plan here to make sure everyone is well rested for Opening Day and the stretch of 16 consecutive games that the Orioles open the season with, but I’m just not getting it.

 

According to the MASN website, Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, and Cesar Izturis have stayed behind in Sarasota today rather than make the trip to Port Charlotte to get some AB’s against the Rays. 

 

Today’s lineup includes lineup against the Rays includes Scott Moore and Brandon Waring.  Ty Wigginton is batting second and playing second base.  Craig Tatum is catching.  Felix Pie is leading off.  Nolan Reimold is hurt and hitting fifth.

 

In years past, it seemed that guys were champing at the bit to get the hell out of Florida and on with the regular season.  This year it seems like they could use another three or four weeks down there. 

 

It really is starting to feel like they’re crossing their fingers and just hoping that the pieces of the puzzle all magically come together by Tuesday.  Or maybe there’s some magical switch that they flip when the calendar turns to April.

 

Don’t count on it.

 

I mentioned that 16 game stretch to open the season.  It’s really a pretty brutal stretch.  After nine divisional games with Tampa and Toronto, the Orioles wing out west without an off day, for a seven games in seven days stretch with Seattle and Oakland.  Rest for the weary?  Nah, after that they get twelve, yes twelve, straight against the Yankees and Red Sox. 

 

The point is that trying to make adjustments on the fly is going to be hard in April.  They can’t simply figure it out as they go.  Unless, of course, they don’t really care about winning this year. 

 

They don’t have the luxury of being able to string 8 or 9 wins in a row together like the Yankees do.  The Orioles simply don’t have the pitching for those kinds of streaks. 

 

The pitching matchups in Tampa are not favorable.  The Rays send Shields, Garza, and Niemann.  The Orioles counter with Millwood, Guthrie, and Matusz. 

 

Starting slow out of the gate could be devastating to this team.  If the Orioles come out of that 16 game stretch something like 6-10, things could get really ugly in a hurry. 

 

In my estimation, March was a fiasco for the Orioles.  Maybe it’ll come together in April.  Just pray it’s before 7:05 Tuesday.

 

 

 

 

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Orioles continue to sink even lower than we thought possible

Posted on 20 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

As the biggest critic of Orioles ownership over the last decade, I’ve purposely refrained from being particularly hard on the team in 2009. Unfortunately for you, the WNST fans and true Baltimore sports lovers, they have me right where they want me. I’m back on the radio without a press pass to their games and no one is going to tune into my show if all I do is tell the truth, and bury them for their ineptitude, mean-spiritedness and general incompetence over the past dozen years for four hours every day.

And at this point, what do I have to lose? Short of them killing me, what do they have left to take away from me?

The team is awful (again), there is not an iota of pride remaining in being an Orioles fan and I’ve watched about 90% of the action this season and I’m here to tell you that it has NOT been a fun or memorable summer for baseball here in the land of pleasant living.

And really, telling the truth — see the paragraph above — is NOT what Baltimore wants to hear from me about the Orioles. It’s like a broken, freaking record — me bitching about the Orioles.

And, here in the summer of 2009, the truth hurts and this blog hurts!

At their current pace, the Orioles “defining moment” of 2009 might be their 100th loss sometime around October 1st and that would certainly speak volumes for where the organization stands in the MLB cosmos.

As every sports fan in Baltimore has uttered at some point since the turn of the century: “Thank God for the Ravens!” And anytime we even think about talking Orioles baseball at WNST, someone will send a nasty note over stating this: “Just forget about the Orioles and talk about the Ravens.”

Well, as I said three years ago during the Free The Birds campaign, I will not be letting Peter Angelos or any of his servants off the hook for this decade-and-a-half civic tragedy — the worst stretch of bizarre local ownership and strategy since Bob Irsay pilfered the Colts off in the middle of the night back in March 1984.

No, we’re not done with the Orioles. As Drew Forrester has said many times: “We’ll either kill them or fix them. It’s their choice.”

But this current dismal summer of dreadful baseball — in a season when “miracle-man” Andy MacPhail has talked about promise for young players — still has six weeks left on the schedule and there are no creampuffs left on the docket and there is no end to the bleeding in sight.

You can piss on me in the comments below all you want, but this current team they’re fielding might be the worst of them all on some nights because we all want to buy into some hope and promise for a better team in the future.

Here is your stat of the day: the Orioles were 40-48 at the All Star break, which is hardly acceptable or decent, although MASN’s lame coverage and “state run” media would tell you this was a team “on the rise.”

Now, the Orioles are 48-72, which means they’ve managed to go 8-24 since Adam Jones doffed the cap in St. Louis.

Folks, that’s .250 baseball and 32 games is about 20% of the season by my math. Of course, when you’ve already put up a legendary 4-32 a few years ago — and for now, we’ll just let the 1988 team off the hook because that had nothing to do with Peter Angelos or 2009 — somehow 8-24 doesn’t sound like it sucks so bad.

But it sucks. And this team sucks. And this ownership still sucks. And the broadcasts still suck. And MASN still sucks. And — once again — it’s another set of broken promises, lies and “come ons” about progress, youth, getting better and competing in the AL East.

And this was supposed to be the time of the season when the team starts to exhibit some signs of hope for the future and some momentum going into 2010?

What stat do you want me to throw at you? They’re 4-14 this month. They haven’t won in a week. They can’t score runs with the bases loaded and nobody out.

They’ve dealt away three veterans and gave Aubrey Huff away for nothing. Every night the team is behind it seems.

And I’m not really sure that any of these young players know how to win or are surrounded by any positive role models who’ve won. Gregg Zaun was the only guy with a ring and they gave him away, too.

Here’s where the orange Kool-Aid drinkers will say: What about Adam Jones? And Nolan Reimold? And the promise of Matt Wieters? Blah, blah, blah…I hope they all step up in 2010 or beyond and make me eat my words. But for now, we report the truth.

And here’s the truth:

The ownership group of this franchise has lied to the city for years about just about everything.

“We’re close” or “we’ll win next year” or “we have some exciting young players” all sounds like incoherent babble at this point. MacPhail has bragged about all of the pitching in the system with the likes of Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Jake Arrieta coming to “The Show” and making the Orioles competitive in the elite AL East division.

I’ve now seen them all. They all have some nice strengths but some glaring weaknesses. None of them have the hype of a Ben McDonald and if they’re all as good as he was the Orioles might sniff .500 at their zenith of this era. Pitching is never a sure thing in the majors. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that.

Ok, so now what happens? This offseason won’t be much different from any in the past. How can this team possibly get better or find talent outside the organization during the winter to compete in the AL East?

When does this team finally turn the corner and even feign some competitiveness that will lead them somewhere near a .500 record in the future?

When will the team be able to attract any top free agents to come to Baltimore and help the team compete with the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox?

Where’s that “veteran, straw who will stir the drink” that the Orioles will bring in to show some leadership?

Once they fire Dave Trembley, who will be the “next victim up” to try to get the Orioles out of the cellar?

When will the team stop banning free speech and allow the legitimate media back into the stadium to ask questions?

When will they stop running these stupid, mind-numbingly phony commercials on MASN that make the games all but unwatchable on top of a team that has been wretched over the past month?

When will residents of Boston and New York stop filling our city and our ballpark with out-of-town fans who boo and jeer young Orioles players from the moment they arrive?

It’s just a dreadful, dreadful product right now — the entire package of Orioles baseball. Going into September, I can’t remember a season worse than this because the promise of these young players from lips of MacPhail and the baseball “establishment” back in the spring was palpable.

We were supposed to feel better about the team at the end of the summer, not worse…

From going to the games to watching the games on TV to following the progress of the team even through the box scores and the standings every day — this really isn’t any fun.

It’s not fun to watch. It’s not fun to talk about. It’s not fun to listen to me on the radio talking about it.

Honestly, to any thinking person this is about the worst summer yet in a dozen horror shows since 1997.

But you don’t really want to hear that from me, do you?

They promised hope. They promised progress. They promised excitement.

They’re dangerously en route to playing the last two weeks of the season and not trying to hit triple digits in the loss column.

They made promises not only to you and me but also to Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis, who were the latest to sign multi-year contracts here under the guise that the team would show progress and get competitive.

Of course, Jim Hunter will tell you every night that 8-24 is progress.

Obviously, from where we sit today, it just looks like the latest batch of lies from Angelos and his henchmen.

Orioles Baseball 2009 — Feel The Tragic!

Ooops. That’s right. I’m not supposed to criticize the home team, am I?

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