- No matter how much the media bashes the All Star Game, it will still be fun to watch the game every year. I think for me, most the fun lies in hearing an Orioles' name broadcast over national television. Sadly, however, every time Brian Roberts came to bat last night, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were far more concerned about the pitcher.
- Speaking of Roberts, was anyone more relieved when Francisco Rodriguez got Aaron Rowand to fly out to end the game? In case you missed it (and you probably did, since it happened as the sun rose), Roberts mishandled a ground ball with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth, a play that could have ended the game. Alfonso Soriano promptly smacked the ball over the fence, and the NL was within one run. Three walks and a new pitcher later, Roberts breathed a huge sigh of relief that his mishandling (it wasn't ruled an error) did not cost the AL the game.
- Roberts may not have cost the AL the game, but he definitely cost me 15 minutes of sleep.
- Does the game have to be so long? A standard game lasts 3 hours. The All Star Game started at 8, went off at exactly 12, unless you watched Ichiro get his trophy. If you took out the Taco Bell "Hit the Ball Three Feet on National Television" Contest, the Willie Mays Played for the Giants Before They Sucked tribute, and the stopping of the game to put keyboards and a Grammy winning singer I've never heard of on the field for the 7th inning stretch, the game would have been the standard 3 hours.
- Pundits wonder why people don't watch the All Star Game anymore. I point to all the pageantry crap listed above. We came to watch a baseball game, not an awards show interrupted by baseball.
- Good God, is Ichiro fast.
- Good God, is Jose Reyes fast.
- Barry who, now?
- Why does Fox think the managers want to be bothered during the game with a live interview. The whole time they talked to Jim Leyland, he kept trying to see what was actually going on on the field, as if trying to win a game.
- Leyland clearly outmanaged Tony LaRussa, and the proof is in the Pujols. LaRussa decided to let Aaron Rowand end the game with a fly out instead of putting his own guy in there. Let me remind you that Pujols is a former NL MVP and one of he most dangerous hitters in baseball. Needless to say, he wasn't happy about being parked on the bench, and who can blame him? What the hell was LaRussa thinking?
- It wouldn't be fair to call out Ken Griffey for his horrible playing of the ball during Ichiro's homerun, since Vlad Guererro made the same mistake on David Wright's triple.
- Ichiro and Wright hit the ball to identical spots of the field, and had similar carems off the wall. Ichiro had a homerun, Wright had a triple. White man can't run.
- Griffey gunned down A-Rod from right field to keep the NL ahead in the 4th inning. The throw beat A-Rod to the plate by about a month.
- There's never been a more forced look of determination than Johnathan Papelbon's. He tries to have a Randy Johnson-esque stare into the catcher's mitt to evoke fear in the hitter. Instead, he looks like he's taking a crap on the mound.
- The final score was 5-4 AL. Shew! That was a close one. For a second, I thought the Orioles weren't going to have home field advantage in the World Series.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Monday, July 9, 2007
I have a particular penchant for the Home Run Derby. I can remember many times throughout the years sitting in a box (box seat) in front of the television, watching the game's great sluggers do their best to muscle the ball over the fence. I've seen Oriole greats like Cal Ripken, B.J Surhoff, Miguel Tejada, and (removing the "great" label) Rafael Palmeiro hit the ball as hard as they could to win the coveted two golden bats crossed on a stand trophy. The derby is just a fun event, and it's a treat for the fans.
Unfortunately, in the past years, the derby has started to become a bit of a joke around All-Star time. More and more hitters are taking the night off instead of slugging it out, MLB introduces goofy new formats (remember that US vs. the World crap from a few years ago?), and Chris Berman gets less air time to chant "Back-back-back" as the ball soars. And this year, sadly, is no exception.
This year's derby field is comprised of Alex Rios of the Blue Jays, Vlad Guererro of the Angels, Magglio Ordonez of the Tigers, Justin Morneau of the Twins, Albert Pujols of the Cardinals, Ryan Howard of the Phillies, and Prince Fielder of the Brewers. The notable peculiarity of the field is that it's only 7 people as opposed to the traditional 8. That's because the Marlins' Miguel Cabrera withdrew yesterday due to a shoulder injury, and there are apparently no other people in AT&T Park who can hit homeruns (put up or shut up, Barry Lamar).
The second oddity in the derby lineup has to do with who is allowed to participate. Ryan Howard won the Home Run Derby last year in Pittsburgh. He is not part of the All-Star roster this year, but is still begin permitted to participate in the derby. He is being flown to San Francisco for the sole purpose of taking batting practice in front of the world. What a crock. If you aren't good enough to be an All-Star, why should you be allowed to sully the good name of the Home Run derby? How ridiculous would it be for the winner of All-Star week's most prestigious event to not even be an All-Star? Here's hoping Howard continues the fine tradition of not winning consecutive derby's.
The final anomaly in the lineup has to do with who isn't in the lineup. The 7 participants in tonight's derby rank 2, 3, 6, 13, 17, 37, and 57th in the league in homeruns. That's right folks, pay good money to go to AT&T Park and see Magglio Ordonez, the 57th best homerun hitter in all of baseball. Ordonez is behind such powerhouses as Hanley Ramirez, Jhonny Peralta (I didn't spell that wrong, either), Ian Kinsler, and Xavier Nady. Who wants to see that? Are they going to have to construct an artificial fence around the infield dirt just so tonight's competitors can hit homeruns? Are we going to allow ground rule doubles to count as homeruns? How about foul balls that travel far enough?
What's worse than the fact that All-Stars Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey, Torii Hunter, J.J Hardy, and Barry Lamar Bonds are not participating are the reasons they give for not participating. Quoth Bonds, "It's too much waiting. You can't do that." Says Rodriguez, "I've worked hard for my swing and I definitely don't want to let anything get in the way of that." Others cite the damage that can be done to your mechanics, or the fatigue that sets in from participating in the derby.
The most ridiculous excuse, however, deals with one of my all time favorite topics: curses! Some players think that the derby carries a mystique that can derail a player. They usually cite Bobby Abreu as evidence. Abreu won the derby in Detroit two years ago. Since then, he's been junk. Experts say his swing isn't the same because he developed too many bad habits trying to hit the ball out. Unfortunately for said experts, they also posted the first half and second half homerun totals for the top four finalists in each derby since 1998. Being a statistician in my off time, I took notice.
At first glance, it seems as though the derby may cause a little bit of fatigue that lasts into the second half of the season. On average, derby participants hit 6.5 fewer homeruns in the second half of the year than the first. However, 6.5 homeruns is NOT statistically significant. In order to be significant, the player would have to be somewhere around 24 fewer homeruns in the second half (don't ask me how I know, just know that it's right). That means that the drop in production among derby participants can be attributed to other things, like injury, fatigue from the season, or slumps. The lesson that needs to be learned here is that the derby does not do as much harm as the players want you to believe. The real reason they don't want to participate is because they are afraid of embarrassing themselves on the grand stage. There is not such thing as a "Home Run Derby Curse".
So am I going to watch the Home Run Derby tonight? Hell yeah! I'm saying Vladimir Guererro wins it all. But that does not take away from the fact that today's derby is just a watered down shadow of the great spectacle it used to be.
Friday, June 29, 2007
It was a travesty. A sham. A mockery. I'd go as far to say it was a travashamockery. What happened during last night's rain postponed O's/ Yanks game is just further proof that I am not wrong when I say there is definite New York favoritism in all sports.
It was a balmy night in Baltimore. Two teams were battling back and forth. The O's managed to take a 6-4 lead, scoring four runs in the seventh inning, when the rain started. Brandon Fahey was at the plate, with an 0-2 count, and 2 outs. At that point, the umpires stopped the game. No big deal. The delay lasted 18 minutes.
After the delay, Fahey grounded out, and the Orioles' biggest inning of the night ended. The eighth came around, and the Yanks were returning the favor. Then the rain started falling harder than before. Chris Ray is taking his time before pitching to Derek Jeter, in hopes that the massive monsoon will delay the game. The umpires decide that play must continue. Big deal. Huge deal. Jeter singles up middle, two Yankees score, and then play in stopped again, this time with the Yankees ahead.
It all seems so innocent. The umpires didn't stop the game, and the Yankees capitalized. It was not innocent. It was calculated. It was premeditated. It was a friggin' conspiracy. And what's worse, the Orioles knew about it.
Quoth Melvin Mora: "He just tried to make Jeter hit so they can score one run and they can get out of here. That's what I think."
Quoth Chris Ray: "I've never pitched in rain like that before. I was just trying not to throw the ball to the backstop. When they called it in the seventh inning and we had something going and it wasn't raining nearly as hard, and then it's pouring down rain and we're just out there in terrible conditions."
Quoth Dave Trembley: "I think everyone here's smart enough to realize a little bit of what happened here tonight."
Naturally, all three of them are going to get fined (or worse), from the Commissioner's Office for exposing the truth. But now that we know the story and the conspiracy that makes this a story, let's look at the ramifications.
The game will be resumed July 27th, the next time the Yankees are in town. The last inning and a half will be played before the regularly scheduled game. The Orioles cannot use anybody removed from the game, but may use people who are not currently on the roster. Therefore, we are without the services of Daniel Cabrera, Paul Shuey, John Parrish, Kevin Millar, Jay Gibbons, Freddie Bynum, and Melvin Mora. Why no Mora? He was ejected for pointing out the obvious to the umps (he told the third base ump that he couldn't see the ball anymore because of the rain, and the ump went off on him and ejected him. You can read the full recounting of he tale on the Sun's website). So without our usual third baseman, the O's will probably shift Chris Gomez to the spot, and end up using Ramon Hernandez as the first baseman, since Aubrey Huff was already in the game as the DH. To say the least, we're going to be short staffed.
Naturally, all of this occurred after the O's lost the lead. Had the Yankees not been able to take the lead one batter before the game was stopped, it would not be a huge deal. But why was Fahey's at bat stopped mid-count, but Jeter's was allowed to continue? And why did it take so long to stop the game in a downpour when the ball could not be seen, but the game was stopped in a hurry when the rain first started and was still manageable? And why was the third base ump so quick to eject Melvin?
The answer is the conspiracy.
This conspiracy dates back to at least 1978. In the same situation in 1978, the Yanks were ahead at the rain delay, but when the game was called, the rules stated that the game be reverted back to the last completed half of an inning, which put the Orioles ahead. That prompted a rule change that took effect in 1980, since surely the Yankees cannot be given that injustice. The rule was changed to just freeze the game, and that was it. Now the rules mandate that the game be finished, even though that's just silly. Personally, I like the last completed half of an inning thing, but if that was still the case, Chris Ray would have had to pitch until the inning was over, because surely the Yankees would be allowed to finish their inning.
Fast forward to 1996, and the Yankee Conspiracy continued with Jeffrey Maier (that rat bastard). So here we are in 2007, the conspiracy lives on, and it seems like the Orioles will be denied to the opportunity to sweep the Yankees at home. Way to rob from the poor, Major League Baseball.
To be truthful, it wouldn't be that big a deal if it wasn't the Yankees. Seeing as the Evil Empire always gets preferential treatment, this story has the chance to explode. If it was Kansas City or Texas, I wouldn't care that much. But it's the Yankees, and those heartless soul-suckers are going to steal from us, yet again, and this time in our own yard.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Enough already. Enough with the hype, the coverage, the blowing way out of proportion. I think I speak for everybody when I say we're all tired of it, and we'll all be very glad when the whole thing is over later tonight.
What I am talking about is the coverage, analysis, and general mania being created over the NBA Draft. This event is being way overhyped. I mean, didn't NBA season just end with my correct prediction of the Spurs? The draft, in most sports besides baseball, signals the official start of the next season, and here we are, champagne still drying on the Spurs' jerseys, and already they have to look to next year.
I don't fault the NBA for the overhyping of their draft. I fault the media (of course). The NBA is simply holding a formal ceremony to preserve the future of the league. It's the media that is making this event bigger than any single NBA game, regular or post season. Take, for example, last night at 11:00, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNews all had NBA draft coverage at the same time! Anybody looking for a little Baseball Tonight to see the highlights of their beloved and beleaguered home team take down the Evil Empire was out of luck (not that I know anybody like that).
So all of this analysis and speculation has led to high drama and suspense, right? Wrong. The Portland Trailblazers signed Greg Oden last night, making him the official first pick, Kevin Durant the official second pick to Seattle, and everybody else some irrelevant pick that will always be remembered for being picked after Oden and Durant.
The reason the NBA draft doesn't need this much coverage is that it is generally unspectacular. There are only two rounds, for starters. Some teams, like the Toronto Raptors, have no picks. And of all the high priced, high profile rookies, few of them actually perform their inaugural season. Take, for instance, last year's draft. High profilers Rudy Gay, Adam Morrison, and Shelden Williams all lost Rookie of the Year to Brandon Roy. Who the hell is Brandon Roy? The logic seems to say that if the top rookie can come from nowhere, then the draft and all it's coverage and analysis must be irrelevant.
I don't mean to pick on the NBA draft and it's overhyped-ness, though. Other sports have drafts that don't make sense, either, and yet still get plenty of coverage. The WNBA draft takes place about a week before play begins. Way to give the rookies a chance there, WNBA. The NHL draft took place maybe a week ago, and for the first time, two Americans went 1 and 2 overall. Quick, name either one, or what them they went to (OK, I know the real reason nobody can name the player or the team is because hockey is irrelevant. An irrelevant league, however, holds an irrelevant draft).
The MLB draft was televised for the first time this year, and quickly, we all found out why it took so long for the draft to reach the airwaves. First, players picked in this draft go through the minor leagues for so long that even die hard fans will forget about them by the time they reach the show. Second, the MLB draft could feasibly go on forever. The MLB will continue having rounds as long as one team wants to keep going. What a way to water down the talent in your league. Can you imagine the end of the draft, when Bud Selig staggers back up to the mic and says, "With the only pick in the 234,345,136,784,856th round of the 2007, now 2008 Major League Baseball draft, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays select Verne Troyer." I know, the prospect of drafting Mini-Me sounds ridiculous, but such is the MLB draft. Players don't declare for the MLB draft, so teams can take and make offers to literally anybody. Many college players and some high school players have been drafted, then returned to school after rejecting the team's offer. I, of course, am still patiently waiting by the phone, yearning for some team to draft a diamond in the rough in the very, very, very late rounds.
There is one league that does the draft right, and of course, it's the NFL (sometimes it's just unfair how much the NFL dominates other leagues). The draft, like all things NFL, is governed by a set of rules that are unflinchingly rigid. As such, the NFL draft is a spectacle in and of itself that trumps the other leagues in TV ratings during two days in April. The NFL requires players to declare for the draft, so teams know exactly who is available. The draft is held long enough after the Super Bowl that the champs have had time to celebrate, and the fans want some football. Players picked go right to work helping to improve their team, and the Rookie of the Year (a la Vince Young) is someone the fans have actually heard of. And even the late rounds are important, as superstars like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Shannon Sharpe, Tom Brady, and Adalius Thomas have all come from the late rounds. Every pick is important, entire franchises rest on single picks, the drama is excruciating, and it's so much fun to watch. Other leagues, take notice.
Hopefully, TV ratings for the NHL, MLB, and NBA drafts will be so low that networks will be reluctant to pick them up next year, and we can be relieved from draft mania that seemingly never ends. As for the NFL? This years draft was so popular, yet so long, that there are talks about moving the almighty first round to prime time television on Friday night. Long live the NFL.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Well, after what seemed like a possible resurgence, the Orioles suck again (oh no!). I can't seem to bring myself to blame Dave Trembley, because he has the team playing hard, and the overall demeanor is definitely different. I can't blame Rockin' Leo, because the starters still pitch pretty well. I can only blame Petey the Greek so many times before he actually dies. That must mean it's old reliable, Terry Crowley.
Anyone who has ever heard my annual Terry Crowley Must Go rants know how this blog will end. This years rants started sometime around April 2nd, when the O's came up absolutely lame against Minnesota in the first game. You see, Crowley is the link, the constant, the mainstay for every year starting in October of 1998. The Orioles haven't had a winning season since 1997, the year before Crowley was brought on board. It's not just a coincidence.
If you may have seen a team under the tutelage of Terry Crowley, but aren't quite sure, ask yourself these questions: Did every player on the team swing at almost every first pitch? Did 90% of contact result in a fly ball out? Did anybody on the team make contact with an inside pitch? Did at least one player strike out swinging at a pitch that was eye level? Did any batter display any sort of patience or pre-meditated approach?
If your answers to the questions were Yes, Yes, No, Yes, and Good God No, then you may have witnessed a Crowley coached team. Seek help by watching other teams, just to see what hitting is really supposed to be like.
Some people have refuted my claims that Crowley is the reason the Oriole offense is consistently inconsistent, saying that it's the players. I again say that Crowley is the only coach with the team since 1998, and every year every hitter is wildly inconsistent. Players for the O's are among the most streaky hitters in baseball. We rarely have more than 3 players hit above .300, and we never know what kind of performance we are going to get on a nightly basis.
Even more, this is Crowley's second stint with the Orioles. When was his first? 1985-1988. Right around the time the team started spiralling into this Depression. Why did he get fired in '88? The team lost the first 21 games and finished with 107 losses. And yet, for some reason unbeknownst to anybody with half a brain, he was rehired ten years later. As my Portuguese readers would say, "porque, meu deus?".
Some credit Crowley with keeping old school traditions alive in the New Era, but it seems to me he is a dinosaur lost in the modern age. For example, Crowley keeps notes on every pitcher on a yellow legal pad. I'm sure if you looked at his files, you could find all you needed to know about Cy Young, Bob Fellar, and Sandy Koufax, but will have a hard time conjuring up any information about Daisuke Matsuzaka and the infamous "gyroball". The simple fact that Crowley can't transfer his records to a computer show that he is afraid to embrace technology and adapt with the times.
Crowley's methods are old and retired, and I wish the same could be said about Crowley. Hopefully, after this year's managerial housecleaning, all the trash will be removed, and Crowley can enjoy retirement. Good night, Portugal.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Sammy Sosa hit his 600th career homerun last night, joining Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and some other guy in the 600 homerun club. Please join me in letting out a collective "So what?"
Let's face it, 600 homeruns ain't what it used to be. I'm not saying that because Aaron's historic 755 is soon to be unjustly relegated to second best ever. I'm saying that because in the age of the steroid, any player who hits 600 homeruns can't be trusted.
The last two people to hit 600 homeruns are Sosa and that other guy. Sosa went on trial before Congress to defend himself against steroid accusations, and the other guy refused to. Sosa has been in the league 18 years, the other guy 21. Sosa, over his career, has averaged 33 homeruns a season, the other guy averages 35. Remarkably, both have done the bulk of their homerun hitting in their twilight years, and neither is deserving of the Hall of Fame.
I wish I could be excited for Sosa. He's a former Oriole, a generally likable guy, and was part of one of baseball's most fun seasons in 1998. Unfortunately, all of that is tainted. His season with the O's was disastrous, and we all know that Baltimore is a hotbed for steroid activity. His likability is limited when you have the thoughts of him taking illegal substances in the back of your mind. And we all know by now that the 1998 season (regarded as a season to save baseball) was a sham. McGwire was juicing, Sosa was juicing, and the whole homerun chase was about as legit as batting practice. Six-hundred homeruns isn't that big a deal when you're physically built to hit the ball 600 feet.
"But Sammy's never been caught using steroids. Why are we putting him on trial more than Bonds?" Well, anonymous question asker, I'm taking Sosa to trial for a plethora of reasons. First, he's in the headlines today. Second, he came back to the majors this year with the sole purpose of hitting his 600th homerun. That, to me, is playing for the wrong reason. It's a totally self centered motivation. He couldn't care how well the Rangers do (which is good, since the Rangers are one of the few teams worse than the O's), and now that his milestone is reached, we get to see him go into shutdown mode before ultimately retiring.
The biggest reason I'm taking Sosa to task today is because he is a known offender. Sure, he has never been caught with the 'roids, but he has been caught cheating. It wasn't too long ago that the headlines were ablaze with news that Sosa was caught with a corked bat. Sosa backpedaled so fast you would have thought he was playing cornerback in the NFL. First, he blamed the batboy. Then, he said it was a batting practice bat. I think in the end he just blamed George W. Bush, and we actually liked that one, so we stuck with it. That, however, does not excuse his use of an illegal bat. Since Sosa has been known to cheat before, how can we be sure that he has not been cheating the whole time.
Baseball is a very high pressure game. Players are called up and asked to perform to a certain standard, and more often than not, only get one shot at the bigs. As a result, players do whatever they can to make sure that the shot lasts as long as possible. For Sosa, it's been a long and rewarding ride. Unfortunately, he is going to end up in a separate annal of baseball lore, alongside "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, Pete Rose, Mark McGwire, and ultimately, that other guy. He'll be remembered as one of those players that had the ability to make the Hall of Fame, but made the wrong decisions along the way. It's because of guys like McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds that we all say "So what?" when someone hits their 600th homerun.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Now what? That's the question that the Orioles are faced with a day after axing Sammy Perlozzo. So we made a drastic change that has garnered unprecedented media coverage of the Orioles, and now we have to continue on. But what's the right course of action? What do we do now? Do we add, or subtract, or add by subtracting, or subtract by adding, in order to stop the division amongst the team and the fans? The situation is dire, and the organization is officially (and now very, very, very publicly) in shambles.
Last night on SportsCenter, the topic of Perlozzo's firing was sent to John Kruk for analysis. Said the Krukster, "The Baltimore Orioles are a mess!" To shine some light on that, Kruk is a former player who was notoriously overweight, smoked even as a professional athlete, and retired in the middle of a game. And he called us a mess. Oy. To paraphrase the rest of Kruk's comments, he said that if the Orioles called him and asked him to manage (which, he added, has never happened), there would be no amount of money that would entice him to do it. He said there needs to be full scale changes throughout the organization before any manager even has a chance to win with the team. And you know what? He's absolutely right.
In the spirit of John Kruk's expert analysis of the Orioles, I have compiled a list of people that need to go in order for the team to have a chance. Knowing that lead is a poisonous, lethal metal that serves no purpose other than as a weight, I present the 2007 Baltimore Orioles All-Lead Team:
- Dave Trembley: Obviously, Trembley isn't long for the managerial position, and he will soon be jettisoned. I know that I'm not even giving him a chance, but let's face it, Trembley is not going to be the answer, so let's just nip this one in the bud.
- Mike Flanagan/ Jim Duquette: The two-headed monster somehow only has half the baseball knowledge of an average fan. When deciding to spend $42 miiiiiiiiillion to overhaul the bullpen, these two clowns go out and sign Danys Baez. Baez was a castoff of the Devil Rays. Folks, when you're a pitcher, and the D-Rays don't want you, consider another career.
- Danys Baez: The aforementioned Baez is the cause of probably half of teams 40 losses. With a delivery that resembles a T-rex trying to throw and the field presence of Hellen Keller, Baez has been nothing but a cancer on the mound, and that's a pretty telling sign on this team.
- Jay Gibbons: After what seems like eternity with the team, I think it's about high time good ol' Clown Feet took his act to another circus. Unfortunately, the contract he signed two years ago has him being paid by the O's for another two years at least (I think), so we need to figure out if the cost he carries by being on the team outweighs the cost of not having him on the team.
- The Bullpen: There's only one person in the 'pen worth keeping, but it's easier to get rid of all of them than to keep Jamie Walker by himself.
- Daniel Cabrera: One of those high and mighty "Prospects". The problem is, you never know if you're gonna get Good Daniel or Bad Daniel, and that is very dangerous. Cabrera can throw in the high nineties, but can't see the strike zone, which is actually very dangerous, since his fastball could probably kill somebody. Plus, for all the potential he has, Dr. Jekyll could probably fetch some good talent in a trade.
- Terry Crowley: The hitters can't hit. He's the hitting coach. He's actually one of the only constants on the team since 1998, which is the year that all this crap started. Nuff said.
- Miguel Tejada: Once the savior, now he's just an old act who has fallen way out of favor with all the fans. Tejada can't field that well, barely runs out any groundball, and is not accepting the leadership role that he should be filling. Tejada can fetch some bones from a contender looking for a doubles hitter for the playoffs, so we can get some more young talent for him at the trade deadline, if it takes that long. It's sad to see Miggy go, because he played well for us for 4 years, but his time is up as an Oriole.
- Peter Angelos: What, did you think the All-Lead team would not have it's anchor? Angelos is the root of all the problems, so the obvious solution is to get rid of Angelos. The problem is that he is the only person in the franchise that we can't just "get rid off". His time with the team will be decided by himself. Unless, of course, we can get a little Divine Intervention. Angelos is 77 years old, which anybody will tell you is no spring chicken. So when you hit your knees tonight, send one up for the Big Man to help us out a little bit and rid us of the problem.
So there you have it, the All-Lead team. That's a lot of holes to fill. I actually have a solution for two of the holes, as well (at no extra charge). To fill Dave Trembley's spot, I said yesterday that Joe Girardi would be a nice fit. To fill the hopefully soon gone-but-not-missed Angelos, I propose two people: Cal Ripken (obviously), or Steve Bisciotti. Think about it: Steve owns the O's and the Ravens. Both become benchmarks for their respective leagues, and Baltimore is the hub of the sports world yet again. Then we can Believe in Steve all year round, instead of just in the fall.
Unfortunately, unless God can answer all of Baltimore's collective prayers, the O's will continue in their downward spiral. Hopefully they can drop Petey the Greek in Hell on the way down, since we're going through it already. I know it seems hopeless, Baltimore, but just remember: it's T minus 40 days until training camp!
Monday, June 18, 2007
So it's all done but the rejoicing in the streets. The oil painting is finally gone, and things suddenly have a brighter outlook for 2008. Nothing against Sammy as a person, because I used to like him when he was a base coach and a bench coach and whatever else he has been, but he just didn't have the juice to get the job done as a manager. Now that he has been given his walking papers, let me do two things: first, use every euphemism for getting fired that I can think of, and apply it to Sammy, just to make me feel good; second, analyze the immediate and long term effects of this move.
1) Sammy got the gate
2) Sammy got the boot
3) Sammy got whacked
4) Sammy was given the pink slip
5) Sammy got sacked
6) Sammy got canned
7) Sammy got the axe
8) Sammy, don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya
9) Sammy, you ain't got to go home, but you got to get the heck up out of here
10) Sammy, You're FIRED (Donald Trump style)
11) So long Sammy, see ya in Miami.
Coincidentally, Miami is the former place of employment for the man who I firmly back as the O's next coach. Joe Girardi, formerly of the Florida Marlins, would be a near-perfect fit for the Orioles. Girardi is the reigning National League Manger of the Year, but got the Davey Johnson treatment and was let go after the season. Girardi earned Manager of the Year by taking a club of mostly rookies with the Marlins, and almost making the playoffs. He could come to Baltimore, and take a club of underachievers and hopefully make the playoffs, no? Girardi has the credentials, and at this point, the O's are interested.
So that's one possible plan for the long term. But what about right now? We can't go without a manager halfway through the season (though some would argue that we've been manager-less all season anyway). The Orioles, in their infinite wisdom, promoted bullpen coach Dave Trembley to the interim manager spot whilst the team seeks out Girardi. The bullpen coach. The guy who coaches the players who routinely lose the game for us. Oy.
Trembley has had some coaching experience in the minors, but none in the majors. Basically, he is serving to keep the seat warm for a week (hopefully) while the team hammers something out with Girardi or even Davey Johnson. The worst case would be to leave Trembley there for the remainder of the season, and lose what little dignity we still have left. Remember, during the current 8 game losing streak, the bullpen is 0-5 with an ERA over 5. That's atrocious. And we took the guy in charge of that unit, and promoted him to interim coach. That, friends, would be like the Oakland Raiders promoting their offensive coordinator, or Dick Cheney to President. It wouldn't make any sense whatsoever, and yet the O's have done it.
Obviously, the front office, the fans, and probably most of the players have considered this season a total wash, which is pretty sad, since it's only June 17th. However, with some new blood definitely on the horizon, maybe a little spark can be put into the team. Right now, fourth place in the AL East would seem like a major steal, so hopefully Trembley is removed fast enough to bring in either Girardi or Johnson, and the team can at least have a fighting chance for the rest of the season. Worst case scenario: we've already lived it, and we fired the culprit today. Best case scenario: we pull an Amazin' Mets and rebound to go all the way to the World Series. Most likely, it will be somewhere between those two extremes, which is fine by me, because it's almost football season anyway.
Friday, June 15, 2007
It's the worst of times, soon it will be the best of times. They're the worst of teams, soon to be replaced by the best of teams. We're the least feared city, soon to be the most feared city. In one short month, Baltimore will go from being a laughingstock of the sports world to a capitol of the sports world. How?
The season will change. Baseball will turn into football, and Baltimore will be defending a division championship rather than fighting to stay out of the cellar. Sure it will be with different teams, but the city will be viewed differently. Teams will fear coming to Baltimore, and fear when Baltimore comes to them. Inconsistent, erratic play will give way to lock-down, beat them up bruisings. The Sun sports section will have positive things to report on, all because one team dominates their sport, and the other is dominated by their sport. So how can Baltimore boast one of the best football teams, while also having to endure arguably the worst baseball team? Let us count the ways the Orioles and the Ravens differ.
First, the Orioles. The older child. Perennial losers. Situated in one of the most beautiful athletic venues in the history of the world, the Orioles are result of 14 years of shoddy ownership. With a penny pinching lawyer at the helm, the O's have fallen from grace and seemingly find a new rock bottom to land on every year. The Orioles lack fan support, and justifiably so. The owner is a jerk, the manager doesn't care, and the players don't try. Some would argue that the ticket prices are reasonable, but they have to be in order to retain the meager 20,000 fans that go to games (I'll be one of them tonight). Even at $6 student night prices, fans feel like they have over spent to see good talent play poorly as a unit.
Not only do O's fans not get enough bang for their buck, but they also cannot access the players they pay to see. O's players are generally cut off from the paying public, with maybe one or two players signing autographs before games. Other than that, Photo Day (always on a weekend, so as to not be giving fans access for bargain/ discount prices) is the only opportunity to really get a chance to meet and greet the players that break your heart on a nightly basis. So the Orioles are a collection of losers, owned by Satan himself, who lack fan support because they cut themselves off to the world, and are easily the laughingstock of the league. It's no wonder they are always out of it by July.
Then there's the Ravens. The prodigal son. Perennial powerhouses. Aptly situated in one of the most daunting venues in sports (there's friggin' gargoyles on the side!), the Ravens continue to thrive year in and year out because of their consistency throughout the organization. It starts at the top. The Ravens are owned by a savvy and smart businessman who built a billion dollar corporation out of his basement. The Ravens are owned by a go-getter who understands the fundamental business concept that you have to spend money to make money. As such, he signs and retains quality players, and does what he has to to keep them happy. As a result, the Ravens enjoy one of the most loyal and dedicated followings in all of football. Maybe because we are a city once burned by a beloved franchise, and we are afraid to lose another, but the Ravens are one of the few teams in the league that get to run their entire training camp in front of thousands of fans.
As a reward for the undying support of the fans, the Ravens keep the players accessible. Not only do the Ravens admit any and all to training camp (for free), they also outfit every player who comes off the field after a hot 3 hour practice with a sharpie, so that the fans may get a chance to be up close to their favorite Raven. To recap, the Ravens are a collection of winners, owned by a godsend, who enjoy the treatment of royalty in the city because they treat the city like a kingdom. The Ravens are a benchmark franchise for the entire NFL both on and off the field, and it's no wonder why come July, Baltimore's weary sports fans come crawling to the Ravens for help.
So now that we understand what each franchise is, we can try to figure out why the franchise is the way it is.
The Orioles are a gang of hapless losers because nobody on the team, from the owner to the bat boy, takes accountability for their own actions. Case in point: after last night's embarrassing loss that resulted in a sweep at the hands of the looooooowly Nationals, O's reliever Chad Bradford was asked to explain what happened that led to him giving up the game losing RBI. Bradford's response? "I don't know what to say. [Things] are just kind of going that way." No, they really aren't, Chad. You are making them go that way. If you want things to go your way, make them go your way. Pitch like your life depends on it. Don't let batters have a chance. Don't let teams have a chance. Take it upon yourself to go out and get a win, instead of sitting back and waiting for the win to come to you. That rings true for the rest of the team as well. The Orioles' website went so far as to say the "bats had an off night". To me, it looked like an on night. An off night is a 16 hit, 10 run night, not that miserable crap we always see. So, instead of saying "woe is us", go out and earn a win. For the prior 20 (!) games before last night's, the Orioles had led in every one, and were an embarrassing 10-10 in those games. For a team to lead every night, and only win half the time, is just sickening. And it's because nobody on the team takes responsibility for what is happening. If everybody were more accountable, and said after a loss "I didn't get the job done, I need to fix myself first", I might not be writing about how sad the O's are every week. Things are kind of just going that way? Only if you let it.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Ravens are coming off a 13-3 campaign and a division championship because they all hold themselves and each other accountable for everything. Case in point: the defense. The Ravens' high risk/ high reward defense is founded on the principle that if all 11 men do their job, then the winning will take care of itself. The Ravens enjoy success because they do what they need to do to secure a win, instead of doing the bare minimum to put themselves in position for a win and letting fate decide the rest. The Ravens believe that everything that comes their way is earned, through practice, hard work, studying, and taking care of yourself. The Ravens held mini-camps the last few weeks where Pro Bowlers (Bart Scott in particular) were participating, even when league norms dictate otherwise. The Ravens are not naive enough to think that practice makes perfect. They know that perfect practice makes perfect (ironic source of the phrase), and as such, are willing to put in the time necessary to make every aspect perfect. And when one person lets down the rest, he's going to know it, and he's going to work that much harder to make sure it doesn't happen again. Earning wins is slowly becoming the "Raven's Way".
It's possible that the natures of the two games account for a vast majority of the differences in the teams. Obviously, the Orioles have to hold spring training in a warm weather climate, so practice isn't open to casual fans. But that doesn't mean the team needs to be so closed door and hush hush the rest of the year. And sure, losing one game of baseball is not as devastating as losing one game of football, but when the losses start piling up the way they do for the Orioles, it becomes a rather slippery slope. Consider this: baseball season is 162 games, football season is 16. That means roughly 10 baseball games equal one football game. At this point, the O's would be approximately 3-4, but fading as fast as they can. Using that logic, the O's have finished 6-10 or 7-9 every year for the last ten years. Just know that if the Ravens did that, they would probably be getting the same treatment from the fans. The catch is, the Ravens as an organization would never have let it get that bad. Here endeth the lesson.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
You may be asking how I know who will win the World Series. You've obviously forgotten whose blog you're reading. Kurt Nose Best. Hello. It's in the title. I nose best, and I nose that this year's World Series Champion will come from the National League. The National League Central, more specifically, for the second year in a row. Furthermore, I know why this team will win the World Series, and I have evidence to prove that my prediction will come true.
Without further ado, I give you this years World Series Champions.... The Milwaukee Brewers. I know, you're all thinking I've fallen off my rocker. How could a team that has only 11 winning seasons in 38 seasons be on pace to win it all? How could a team that has a lifetime .471 winning percentage win the big one? What evidence could I possibly have to support this outrageous claim? My evidence is two-fold. One is the city factor, the other a glaring x-factor.
First, the city. Milwaukee. Home of the Brewers, the NBA's Bucks, and not much else. They brew beer (hence the name), eat brats, and enjoy losing. Or so we thought. Prior to the Brew Crew, the city was home to the Milwaukee Braves (now Atlanta), and one Henry "Hank" Aaron. They were proud, they were winners, and at one time, they even went all the way. The year was 1957 (wow, that is a looooooooong time ago), and the Milwaukee Braves were less than ten years away from relocating to Atlanta. It just so happened that they won the World Series in 1957. That was 50 years ago.
Fast forward to 1982. The Braves have been in Atlanta for 16 years, and are long forgotten in Milwaukee. The city has the Brewers, and it looks as though 25 years after winning the World Series, the city will once again be the pinnacle of the baseball world. The Brewers actually made it to the World Series in 1982, but alas, the tradition of the Braves was not enough, and the Brewers fell. That was 25 years ago.
So here we are in 2007. The team and the city have been miserable for the better part of 25 years. But the city is cyclical. They won the championship in 1957, lost it 25 years later, and therefore are primed to win another world championship in 2007. It's been 25 years since Milwaukee's last appearance in the show, and 50 since a win. Ipso facto, the signs point toward Milwaukee making another quarter-century showing in the World Series, and a half-century win is on the docket this year. The evidence is all right there. The city goes dancing every 25 years, and it's up to this year's Brew Crew to make sure the city has a party every 50 years.
As if the cyclical nature of the city's baseball history is not enough to convince someone that the Brewers are going to hoist the hardware this year, the team went ahead and added the ultimate insurance. They signed a player so dynamic, so versatile, and so clutch that he already boasts two World Series rings of his own. He stands at a tall 6' 0". He weighs in at a lean 175 pounds. Give it up for utility man extraordinaire, Craig Counsell.
That's right, Craig Counsell, journeyman utility infielder, is here to help Bernie Brewer slide down his slide with a ring on his finger. Again, let's look at the evidence. Counsell already has two world championships, delivering for Florida in 1997 and Arizona in 2001. Both of those teams celebrated their first World Series wins thanks largely in part to Craig Counsell. Milwaukee as a city already has one World Series, but the Brewers as a franchise are in search of their first title. Enter Counsell, who already has experience in that field.
Furthermore, let's compare the Marlins and the Diamondbacks the year that Counsell led them to the promised land. Both teams finished with a 92-70 record, good for a .567 winning percentage and a wild card berth. Both teams were huge underdogs in the playoffs, and had the deck stacked against them in the Fall Classic (Florida played a heavily favored Indians team, the D-backs KO'd the Yankees). Both teams needed Counsell's heroics during the series, then jettisoned him soon after.
Compare those two teams with the Brew Crew. Right now, they sit 34-30 (.531), meaning they need 58 more wins for the rest of the season to reach Counsell's magical 92-70 plateau. That is certainly doable, and practically done. 58-30 over the final four and a half months of the season is not that hard, especially when fate is on your side. The key may be the wild card berth. Right now, the Brewers lead their division, which is testing fate since the others were wild cards. If the Crew happen to fall and finish as the wild card, that would all but seal it. Finally, who wouldn't list the Brewers as a heavy underdog in any playoff series?
The evidence is all there. I have made my prediction, and backed that prediction with history. Many will challenge my logic, but I'll be the one laughing when the season is over. You heard it here first... the Brewers are going to win the World Series.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I read an article today on ESPN.com compiling the opinions of several writers as to who they thought were the best owners in the NFL. Naturally, ESPN only surveyed 4 writers, because they did not want a sample that reflected the true feelings of the population. As such, the vote was split between two owners: New England's Bob Kraft, and $h!++$burgh's Dan Rooney. The latter, of course, did not sit well with me.
The problem I have with this simple survey is that the writers read "Who is the best owner" and voted for who they thought was the best team of the last ten years. I fail to see where either of these two owners strive above and beyond the rest. Kraft has won three Super Bowls recently, but how much of an impact has he really made? All he does is sign the players his coaches and scouts tell him to, and wait for Tom Brady to make another daring and dramatic fourth quarter comeback. Kraft gets the glory and gets to put the Lombardi Trophy on his mantle, but his role in the whole ordeal is truly minor.
Rooney somehow made the list, and he does significantly less than Kraft. Rooney doesn't even make the effort to retain the players they do have. Rooney has let players like Kevin Greene, Kendrell Bell, Jason Gildon, Kordell Stewart, Plaxico Burress, Joey Porter, and Keydrick Vincent depart via free agency because he's too cheap to resign them. Rooney abuses a player until it's time to reward the player for the job they have done, then tosses them out into the street like it didn't even matter. If anything, Rooney has done more to hinder his team than to help them.
Naturally, when 30 out of 32 owners are left out of the discussion, the fans will speak up on their behalf. The message boards were alive with fans demanding to know why Pat Bowlen (Broncos), Jerry Jones (Cowboys), and even Dan Snyder (some delusional nut thought the 'Skins owner was worthy) weren't even included in the discussion. And of course, jokesters were out in full force in mock support of the Ford Family (Lions), Al Davis (Raiders), and the Bidwell Family (Cardinals). One obviously knowledgeable poster even mentioned a Mr. Steve Bisciotti as an up-and-comer to watch.
I know what you're all expecting. You're all expecting me to rant about how Steve deserved to be on the list, and how he's the best owner, and that it's wrong that he's not on there. To be sure, Steve does deserve it, but he's still so young and so fresh as an owner that he should pay his dues before being mentioned as the best owner in the league. That day will come, but it's not here yet.
Instead, I would like to make a case for the owner that should've been #1 with a bullet. Drumroll please.... the best owner in football is.... the owners of the Green Bay Packers. Don't know who it is? Go to Green Bay and ask anybody there, and they will probably tell you that they own the team. And they wouldn't be lying. Green Bay is the only professional sports franchise in the country that is actually owned by the fans. And it's a glorious idea.
Think about it. The city owns the team, so the team can't relocate. The citizens of the city have a genuine vested interest in the team, because they own it. Proceeds from merchandise and tickets and vendor sales all go back to the owners, which is the city. The citizens get to help make the decisions, because they own part of the team. I could go on and on, because this is clearly the best way to own and operate a franchise.
I wish other cities had the gull to run a team like Green Bay does. Truth be told, it's probably the only way the Packers can be run, because they reside in the smallest market of any team. One person can't front enough money to run the franchise on his/her own and keep the team in Green Bay, so why not just draw from the wells of the taxpayers. If Baltimore owned the Ravens, I wouldn't mind paying taxes so much, because I could see the tax dollars being put to a legitimate, good use (OK, I know I barely pay taxes, and I don't technically live in the city, but you get my point).
I know it's just idealistic thinking, and it would never fully happen, but it would be a pretty cool day if all cities owned and operated their sports franchises. People would be so passionate about their teams and players, and care so much more about how things are run and who is playing and coaching. It would be like every pro franchise had the same type of following that a college team does. There are no fans more passionate than college fans, because the team they root for represents them directly. Now everybody take a second and think how great it would be if just one particular, Mid-Atlantic based baseball team were actually owned and operated by the city in which it resides. What a great day that would be.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
The quote that serves as the title for this post is a quote by Ray Lewis to describe himself after tweaking his offseason workout regimen. In order to lose what little body fat he still had left, Ray added kickboxing, wrestling, and swimming to his routine (I'd hate to have been the guy who had to wrestle Ray Lewis). As a result, Lewis is as lean and as fit as he has ever been in his 11 year playing career. To reiterate, a man who twice won defensive MVP, a Super Bowl MVP, and an 8 time Pro Bowler is in the best shape of his life. That, my friends, might be the definition of scary.
Unfortunately, the world we live in is corrupt, and people can no longer accept accomplishments as just the result of hard work and a passion for your job. I blame this corruption on the over-exposure of obvious cheaters like Barry Bonds. The issue is that ESPN.com posted the story about Ray losing weight and getting fit on it's website. The problem with ESPN.com is that it treats every article like a blog, and allows fans/ haters to post comments to the article, regardless of who wrote it (it was an Associated Press article, for the record). After reading that Ray is now more fit than ever, many of those haters started accusing him of using steroids.
Let me start out by saying that anybody accusing Ray Lewis of substance abuse is stupid and should really be deported. Accusing Ray Lewis of using steroids is like accusing me of working too hard at work (I'm sitting in my cubicle writing a blog post). Ray Lewis is the definition of hard work. He gets to work early, he stays late, and he barely stops during the day. He breaks down tape, practices plays, studies his playbook, breaks down more tape, practices some more, and adds fuel to his considerable fire that he will ultimately unleash on some unsuspecting punk on Sunday. Ray Lewis is a self- made man, who grew up without a father, and helped to raise his siblings just to help his mother out. Everything Ray Lewis has today is a result of the hard work and dedication he has shown throughout his life. He even went back to school during his playing career to finish his degree.
To accuse Ray Lewis of substance abuse just because he got leaner also shows a misunderstanding of what steroids actually do. The last time I checked, steroids build unhealthy amounts of muscle mass. Barry Bonds looked just a little bit bigger than me 10 years ago. Today, at the ripe old age of 42, he looks like the Hulk, and his head is bigger than most watermelons. Ray Lewis, conversely, got leaner, which means smaller. To those accusing him of using, let me restate that: He got smaller. His muscle mass did not grow, and his body fat went down. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's very possible that the kickboxing, wrestling, and swimming could have contributed to the slimming of his body.
The haters of Ray Lewis need to unite against him for one simple reason: If they unite, there's a slim, slim, slim chance they may be able to stop him. A leaner Ray Lewis will be able to run faster, but it's still Ray Lewis, so when he hits you, there's a 30% you will die. From what I could tell, most of the haters came from two distinct and unsurprising groups: AFC North rivals (which I respect, since you have to hate your rivals), and AFC contenders. To the North rivals, I say good luck, because the Ravens are even hungrier than they were last year, and Ray is just the tip of the iceberg.
To the AFC Contenders (Colts, Pats, Chargers), I say you're all cowards. If you are all as good as you think you are, why does it matter if Ray Lewis has reached all new levels of scary? If the Colts offense "can't be stopped" (0 TDs last year against the Ravens), or the Chargers are the "most balanced team in football" (lost to the Ravens), or the Pats made the "best off season moves" (enjoy your headcase WR), then why are the Ravens even on the radar? The answer is the others are scared. They've always been scared of us, because they know defense wins championships. Now the face of that defense is in such good shape, even he thinks it's scary.
The NFL is in for a big shock this year. Ray Lewis is back, and when he gets loose and starts running roughshod all over the opposing offense, it's not going to be a pretty sight, especially for all you haters out there.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
The Orioles managed to string together a six game win streak, and everything was going swimmingly. The hitters were hitting, the offense was balanced, pitchers were getting wins and throwing strikes, the manager let them pitch, and the team clawed it's way back to .500. Then the hitters stopped hitting, the offense was way unbalanced, the pitchers are getting No Decisions and allowing a lot of hits, the manager is pulling them too early, and we've gone back to our comfort zone of five games below .500. It all sounds too familiar. It has happened before, at least once this season, and probably many more times in the coming years. What I don't understand, however, is why?
Why do we (the fans) have to constantly suffer through the inconsistency of this team? Why can't they just win 2 games, lose 1, win 2, lose 1, and finish with a .667 winning percentage (unrealistic even for a good team, I know)? Why is it that every time we finally look legitimate because we're doing things differently, we revert back to the way we were doing them when we sucked and start losing again?
I know what you're thinking: Kurt, you've said all this before, can't you find something new to write about? The answer is no, I can't find something new, because the team is the same old sorry excuse for a baseball team that it has been for 10 years. Every time we look like we might finally be coming out of it (most recently 2005), spiralling back down we go. We've tried everything, literally everything, to try to stop it, short of actually winning games. We tried loading the roster with veterans, and we lost. We released all the veterans, went with all young blood, and we lost. We tried buying a winning team (highest payroll in baseball in 1998) and we lost. We tried using bargain players (Marty Cordova, David Segui), and we lost. We tried hiring a manager from a winning organization (Lee Mazzilli) and we lost. We promoted a manager from within our crappy organization, and we lost. We've replaced GM's, rosters, staffs, waterboys, and hot dog vendors, and sadly nothing has made us win. And why?
Because the Orioles don't listen. To anybody. Period. The Orioles are a rather delusional bunch, and for some reason do not realize the severity of their awful situation. Case in point, Rick Dempsey. The Demper, when he's not "domestically violating" Jay Gibbons, serves as an analyst for O's Xtra. No matter how bad the loss was, or how heartbreaking, or how demoralizing, Dempsey will undoubtedly sugar coat the loss by spouting off the usual Oriole corporate lines: "It's still early"; "They played hard"; "They were undermanned"; "They were overmatched"; "The coaches made the right calls". News flash Rick: It's not that early (All-Star Game, dead ahead), they don't play hard, they have as much talent as you can ask for, the other teams aren't that much better, and the coaches suck (see previous posts for proof of all of the above).
Dempsey is just the tip of the iceberg, however, because he's not even within the organization. The real meat of the organization, like Mike Flanagan, Jim Duquette, and Peter Angelos, are the ones paying Dempsey to sugar coat everything in an attempt to deceive the fans. News Flash for you three clowns: We're not stupid. We've seen the chaos that has become the Orioles. Furthermore, we've tried to prove to you that we aren't stupid, and that we want the team to be a winner, and that you can't sugar coat things from us forever, but you don't listen. Newspaper columnists, radio hosts, TV sportscasters, even casual bloggers have all seemingly come up with more answers than the team. The team is trying to stay the course, ride it out, let it heal itself, but this isn't something that can heal itself. The Orioles need to start paying attention.
It's not just the local fans that get ignored, either. The Orioles also seem to ignore the trends that go on in Major League Baseball. While other teams are cultivating young talent across the board, or tapping foreign markets for players (Milwaukee, Seattle, Anaheim, Boston), the Orioles sign the recycled cast offs from contending teams (Aubrey Huff, Danys Baez). There is clearly a reason why baseball players become unemployed, and it is that they aren't any good. Baseball has no salary cap, so if a player is worth keeping, you can keep him. Instead, the Orioles trade away the young talent they've invested their time and money in, like John Maine or Gary Matthews, resign free agents that have little talent to begin with, like Jay Gibbons, and make no major plays for the foreign superstars that have become en vogue lately in MLB.
One final trend that the Orioles tend to ignore is the trend that correlates winning and revenue. Peter Angelos is famous for two things: suing Bethlehem Steel for workers getting asbestos, and bitching that the Orioles don't make any money for him. What he doesn't realize is that it is infinitely more expensive to lose than it is to win. Sure, to lose all you need is a low payroll and a washed up coach, while winning requires hiring good scouts, tracking trends, an investing time in players. But the payoff is enormous for winning. Winning puts fans in the stands at an average of $25 a ticket. Twenty-five dollars a ticket times the 48,000 seats the stadium holds comes out to $1.2 milllllllllion dollars in just tickets sales. Think about the hot dogs, popcorn, soda, beer, and Boog's Bar-b-que those 48,000 people will consume, plus the hats, jerseys, pennants, foam fingers, and programs they'll buy, and you can almost pay the entire team with that money for an entire season. But in order to reap those benefits, Peter, you have to put in the time to make the team a winner. Everybody knows the Orioles' favorite series are the ones against New York and Boston, because those series fill the seats, albeit with the wrong people. Peter, imagine getting that every night, with those people wearing orange and black. If you win, we will come.
One day, maybe the team will listen. It's not like the fans haven't tried. Last season, "Nasty" Nestor Aparicio of WNST organized a fan walkout during a game. The players noticed, but knew there was nothing they could do about it. The target of the walkout was Mr. Angelos, who simply scoffed and patronized the fans who participated. He said, "They don't know how hard it is to run a team. They don't know anything". We may not, but it seems like you're in the same boat, Pete. The least you can do is give the fans a bone and maybe start to listen to some of our ideas. Listen to the people who pay to sit in the seats amongst all the Yankee and Red Sox fans, and quietly cheer for a team we wish would return to prominence. My readers, I apologize for sounding like a broken record.
Cool Note: In order to reach a wider audience, the Long Beach Armada minor league baseball team took the Anaheim Angels' approach to naming the team. The new official name of the team is the Long Beach Armada of Los Angeles of California of the United States of North America Including Barrow, Alaska. Read all about it here.
Monday, June 4, 2007
Chris Ray, I know you are reading this, so listen to me carefully: If you keep blowing saves, I will no longer champion your cause. End of story. If you are being paid the big bucks to pitch, you better pitch like you mean it.
For anyone who turned off yesterday's O's- Angels game before the ninth inning, thinking, "They got it", you should've stuck around. Then you could be sharing the same disbelief and pain that every other O's fan has. It seemed like something I've seen before. Jeremy Guthrie pitched like a master, throws an eight inning, 3 hitter, and leaves with a lead. Ray comes in, and two batters later, the Angels are jumping around and dancing on the plate. To quote Yogi, it was De ja vu all over again, because it wasn't over until it was over.
First, some good things about yesterday: Guthrie, of course. The man can flat out pitch. He's currently 4th in the AL in ERA. That's not too shabby for a rookie (he's technically a rookie because he did not appear in enough games during his Indians stint to qualify as a veteran). Every time he pitches, the Orioles know they're going to get 8 strong innings, and then Guthrie will receive a No Decision when the bullpen blows the game. Another positive from yesterday was a Mr. Melvin Mora. The Original Big Papi (come on, he has 6 kids) blasted a homerun that would have served as the game winner if it wasn't for Ray. He continues to be one of the most consistent players on the team, delivering day in and day out. He also showed some spark yesterday by giving the water cooler a good kick when he left the field after the ninth inning debacle. Thank god another Oriole has reached the breaking point. Now Mora and Jay Payton can start inspiring the rest of the team. Other positives included Brian Roberts continuing his latest hot streak (he's the early leader for Orioles' MVP) and Nick Markakis again delivering a big hit (a close second for OMVP).
Then the wheels fell off the wagon yet again. It would seem like it would be too much of a stretch to ask Major League Baseball to shorten the length of a game to eight innings, wouldn't it? That being the case, we have to do something to find a way to win games in the last inning. One solution would have been to LEAVE GUTHRIE IN! How many times have we said that this year? The poor guy pitches a masterpiece, a one hitter through 7, a three hitter through 8, and we yank him, even though he only had 88 pitches under his belt. Three weeks ago, during the Beatdown in Boston, Guthrie was yanked after 102 pitches to "save his arm". From what? A win? And what was today's excuse, Sammy? He only had 88 pitches. He already went 8 innings. That's 11 pitches per inning. He would have finished with 99 (in theory), which is even one pitch short of that mystical 100 pitch plateau that Perlozzo and Mazzone keep to like it's religious doctrine. He should be leading the league in complete games right now, and have at minimum two more wins. Instead, he can only be found when you look at the American League ERA stats. What's more is that everybody except the management knows that Guthrie could have finished it. Even casual baseball fans like the Mix 106.5 Morning Show knew he should've been left in. Said the DJ's, "If you're going to try and save his arm, pull him in the sixth, not the eighth. His arm is gone anyway by the eighth, at least let him try to finish it, and possibly win the game, or lose it on his terms." If I were Guthrie, I'd be ready to kick a little @$$.
The latest managing gaff wasn't even the worst part, however. Many would argue that going to the closer in the bottom of the ninth whilst clinging to a one run lead is the right thing to do. That is the right thing to in the textbook, but the Orioles are far from a textbook case. Perlozzo should know his team well enough by now to know that treating the Orioles like a textbook scenario can only lead to heartbreak. And it did. Bringing in Ray looked great on paper, and may have stemmed some of the heat from Perlozzo. By bringing in Ray, Perlozzo can again take no responsibility for the loss, which he promptly did. Quoth the oil painting, "We just needed three outs. We played our hearts out until that point. Our closer is supposed to come in and get you three outs. And it didn't happen... If your closer and your eighth-inning guy can't get anybody out, where do you go?" I'll tell you, Sammy: go to someone else. Redefine the roles. Don't worry about one guy racking up saves and another having the lowest ERA. Let the pitcher who is hot (Jamie Walker, Chad Bradford, John Parrish) have a crack at it.
So now we're left with Ray. What do we do with Chris Ray. Last year, he looked like he would be an Oriole forever through the first 4 months of the season. He was a Superman, a man who only knew one thing, and it was how to get those three hard outs. He was invincible. No batter could touch him. As a rookie, in late April, in Yankee Stadium, clinging to a 1 run lead with two outs, he struck out Hideki Matsui with runners on to preserve an Oriole win. He was a Yankee killer, a world beater, and nobody was going to stop him. He was destined for Copperstown. I even let Kim pose with him for a picture during Oriole Photo Day (OK, I was awestruck and let her pose with anybody, including Jon Halama). But then something changed.
I was actually present at Camden Yards during the fateful night that might have been the beginning of the end for Chris Ray. It was a typical warm evening. It was floppy hat night. Everybody was happy. The Orioles went into the ninth with a three run lead. It was Ray time. Marilyn Manson's "Sweet Dreams" blared over the speakers, and in came The Man. I was ready to stand up and take my floppy hat on home. Then a batter got on base. No biggy. Then another. We're OK. Then a third. He's fine, it's Chris Ray. Suddenly, there was a crack of the bat, and the left fielder just didn't have enough space. The ball sailed over the wall. It was what would prove to be a game winning Grand Slam, and the Yard was silent. I wanted to vomit.
I figured that was an isolated incident, and still championed Chris Ray's cause. Then A-Roid did the same damn thing. And it has happened to him four times this year, just not necessarily with a homerun. He has only had 16 save opportunities, and he has blown four of them. That's unacceptable. Think about it: 4/16 is 25%. If he has 32 opportunities (he had 35 last year), that's 8 blown saves. Eight additional losses, which would account for roughly 5% of the O's total games this year. So in theory, at the outset of the year, we would have to say we would like to finish with a .505 win percentage in order to compensate for Chris Ray. This is a team that struggles to make it to .500, and can't stay there when it does. Asking for .505 to account for the closer is just not feasible.
So with that, I bid adieu to my blind faith in Chris Ray. O's fans everywhere have been burned entirely too many times to be naive enough to keep going back to him. The problem then becomes who to use as the closer. On paper, the role would go to Danys Baez, the "set-up man" (I hate that term). The problem is, Baez is worse than Ray. I am now firmly of the camp that we should have a closer by committee, and just let whoever has the hot hand do the closing. Unfortunately, what makes sense and what Sam Perlozzo does are usually two different things.