Praying For Rain

OK, I admit I’m whimping out on this one.  The Os have played 18 games without a day off.  Nine of those games were against teams (Angels, Indians, and Yankees) that many predict will win their divisions.  Things don’t get any easier this week, since the Os head for Toronto.  The O’s bullpen is pretty beat up, and the Yankee’s Ace is scheduled to start against the O’s Number 5.  Perlozzo has rediscovered the sacrifice bunt (more on that in a later posting), the Yankees are undefeated in day games, and I would like to take a nap this afternoon instead of watching the game.

Rain, rain, don’t go away,

We’ll play again some other day.

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If You Want To Be The Best…

God I love Yankee games!   It’s always like watching a great baseball movie.  As cliché as it is – “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

A win against the Yankees is like no other win.  They are the best franchise in the history of professional sports.  You know every position player in their line up and they are all great ballplayers.  They have no weakness.  Every batter can beat you, and probably has at some point.  The Yankees are the standard of excellence.  Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you have to respect ‘em.  They are who you want to be.

The Yankees jump out in the lead.  The Os go with three when Wang turns into Cabrera and can’t find the strike zone.  The Yankees go ahead.  The Os do it again.  The Yankees pull within one.

A one run lead, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, 2 outs, the count is 3-2, and 51,000 screaming Yankee fans are on their feet.  Chris Ray, a rookie closer with a 96 mile an hour fastball, is facing Hideki Matsui.  Buck Martinez, who you know is an honest broker because he was the manager of Team USA in the WBC, has been saying throughout the game that you never get the close ball/strike calls in Yankee Stadium, but honestly the strike zone has looked pretty random all night.

Everybody knows what’s coming.  Ray is going to reach back and throw the best fastball of his life.  He will use the adrenaline of the situation and find a way to get a couple more miles per hour.  The only question is where Matsui will hit it.  The runners are off with the pitch, and Ray throws a SLIDER!  My heart sinks into my stomach as the ball breaks towards the outside corner.  Matsui is called out looking!  It could have been called either way, but in this game, that pitch was a strike.

At this stage of the season, this was not a big defeat for the Yankees, but it was a big win for the Orioles.  On this April night, they beat the best.

Week Two

We just got back from the Os/Angels game, and, once again, had a great time.  It was a great day for a ballgame.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t such a good ballgame,

I watch a lot of baseball, and this was one of the strangest games I have seen.  Tejada was on first.  Javy Lopez hits a ball to center field.  The center fielder leaps, and comes back down on the warning track.  The umpires make NO SIGN.  Was it a home run?  Did he catch it?  I guess after waiting for 5 minutes, that Tejada figures he must have caught it, so he goes back to first.  Still NO SIGN.  Lopez actually runs into him on first.  Still NO SIGN.  Lopez passes him on the basepath.  Finally a sign.  It was out of the park, but since Javy passed Tejada, he was called out.  Shouldn’t there be some sort of 24 second clock for umpires?

Back to the season.  So far, so good.

The Os are 7 and 6 and have shown some promising signs.  Last year it seemed like if they were behind after the seventh inning that the game was over.  They have already had 2 ninth inning wins this year.

Except for Cabrera, who has walked more batters than the rest of the AL East combined (OK, a slight exaggeration), the starting pitching has been fair, and, although it doesn’t seem like it, the bullpen is at least as good as it was this time last year.

Yesterday, Melvin Mora said he was going to hit Cabrera in the ribs, so that he wouldn’t try to throw so hard.

No one in the AL East is scary yet.  As expected, the Yankees are scoring a lot of runs, but 30 of them were against the Royals (which is only slightly over their average Runs Allowed), and Rivera has blown more saves (1) than Papelbon, Ray, and B.J Ryan all put together.  Last year, they were changing their starting lineup almost every day trying to get the right mix.  This year, the starting lineup is about as good as they are going to get.  If it doesn’t get the job done, it doesn’t look like they have many other options.

Shilling and Beckett are looking very good, and even though they are giving up a lot of hits, Randy Johnson and Mussina seem to be on track.  The Blue Jay’s one-two of Halladay and Burnett doesn’t look great right now, but it’s too early to judge.  It would be nice if Burnett could stay healthy for the rest of the year, so we can see how good he really is.  For the Devil Rays, Kazmir hasn’t looked good, and it’s a shame Hendrickson is on the DL.

The Devil Rays have the same record as the Yankees against the Royals (3-0), and if they ever get all of their injured players back, I think they will win a lot of ballgames.  Even when they lose, they are an exciting team to watch.  I’m glad the Os had them for 6 games early this year, and maybe they will be back to something resembling fill strength when they play the rest of the AL East teams.

It’s hard to comment objectively about the Red Sox.  After all, they did sweep the O’s in week one, so anything I say will sound like “sour grapes.  They just don’t look like they are about to run away with it yet, but I think Manny will hit better than .205 and average more than 2 RBIs in 11 games.

I haven’t seen much of the Blue Jays, and I’m not a big believer in trying to judge much from box scores.

It’s been fun so far, and it looks like it will only get better.  Cabrera starts tomorrow, and it can only be entertaining.  Luckily, the Yankees get a much needed day off.

As If They Need The Help

Even though it’s a long time from April until October, the wins in April count just as much as wins in September, and it’s always good to get off to a hot start.

It seems to me that teams with losing records should start their seasons against weak teams, and get a lot of time off in April when the weather is cold, and you need to protect your pitching staff. If nothing else, it would give you a chance to rest your bullpen.

It would be nice to have your home opening series against a team that not only has finished last in their division for years, but is predicted to do so again this year.  It would be especially nice if they had only won, let’s say for example, 56 games last year.

I’m sure MLB takes all of this into consideration when they make the schedule. After all, they want a competitive season and a more or less level playing field.

So let’s see – which team gets to not only have their home opening series against the team with the worse record in baseball for the last 2 years, but also gets 5 days off in April to rest up from the battle?

Is it the lowly Orioles?  How about the Tigers or the Mariners or the Devil Rays, or even the Rangers or the Blue Jays? Nope – it is the poor Yankees.  Guess they need all the help they can get.

Brian Roberts, Jerry Hairston, and the Orioles  Outfield

There are several things going on here in MLBlogdom that cry out for comment, but after taking a deep breath, I have decided to write about what I really care about – the game.

Having a day to reflect, the Orioles outfield looks like it is in the same situation that second base was a couple of years ago.  Back then, both Brian Roberts and Jerry Hairston were O’s second basemen. Hairston always looked like he was the leading candidate, but a couple of fluke injuries kept Roberts around. Neither one was great – both were adequate.  When both were healthy, it was like they were both always looking over their shoulders, wondering what would happen if they went 0 for 4 that day.  They were great friends, and even live near each other and train together in the off season. That obviously didn’t make it any easier.

Last year, the Os traded Hairston to the Cubs as part of a deal for Sammy Sosa.  Roberts was now the second baseman.  I don’t know what would have happened if they had traded Roberts instead, but staying here as “The Man” certainly seemed to work for him.  When it didn’t matter if he went 0 for 4, he didn’t.  He knew that no matter what happened on any given day, he would be back in the starting lineup tomorrow.  He had an All Star season.

The O’s outfield looks the same way.  In my role as amateur manager, I would pick 3 guys, tell them that they are my starting outfield, and go with them. Let them hit against both right hand and left hand starting pitching. Give them each a day off every week or so just to rest them, but let them know they will be back in their position the next day.

I’m glad I don’t have to make the decision, if for no other reason than the fact I’m not qualified to do so, but someone should. Gibbons owns right field.  Pick 2 others and give them the jobs. Don’t tell them that it is their job to lose. Tell them that it is their job.  It’s a long season. The others will get a chance to play.

Baseball is not an 0 for 4 sport.  In the heat of the moment, I forgot that yesterday. Last year Mora started 0 for twentysomething.  In his rookie year, Cal Ripken was 1 for a month.  The last time the Yankees started 1 and 4, they went on to win 114 games.  I reserve the right to revisit my decision in May.

A Correction

Evidently, the joint Red Sox – Orioles chant concerning the Yankees was not a miracle, but just a reaction to a guy in Yankee gear catching a foul ball.  On the other hand, maybe it was divine intervention that sent the ball his way.

I don’t remember if I posted this sometime in the past, and even I won’t read all of my old stuff just to find out, but……

At one of the Orioles/Nationals games in Spring Training last year, when Sammy Sosa was introducec, the young man in the seat next to me jumped to his feet, stood on the seat and yelled "Sosa – you S***!  You don’t deserve to wear the uniform!"

Sosa fouled off the first pitch.  It went on top of the pressbox, and came back down directly into the young man’s hands.  Coincidence?  I think not.  I think the baseball gods have a sense of humor.  BTW – he looked at me, and I looked at him.  After a while I said "You really can’t keep that ball."  I thought he would give it to my daughter, but he choose to throw it back on the field.

After The First Week

It has been a busy week for the part of my family that lives in Baltimore.  As a group, we have been to 11 baseball games (3 of us at 1 game counts as 3), a lacrosse game, a track meet, and a High School Band event. The part of the family that lives in California is in Honduras walking through the jungle, so I doubt if he has seen much except snakes and other nasty creatures.

We just got back from the Os-Red Sox game.  In spite of the results, and the fact that it was REALLY cold, we had a good time.

Normally, I try to have coherent thoughts on my postings, but today they may just be a collection of random thoughts.

Just for the fun of it, I tried an experiment. I took along a laptop to try to Blog in real time. Unfortunately, all I could see on the screen was my reflection, so that didn’t work. Maybe I’ll try it again on a rainy day.

The Club Level at Camden Yards only has footlong hotdogs, but they had no footlong hotdog buns.  They were using crusty sub rolls.  Yuck.

Boog’s Barbeque on the Club Level had no beef. All they sell is beef, ham, and turkey. Seems like bad planning not to have beef.  Almost as bad as not having hotdog buns.

BTW – in some parts of the country they are hotdog rolls. In some parts of the country, subs are heros, or hoagies or Poor Boys or grinders. Please insert the proper term….

The Orioles have played 6 games.  In 3 of them, they scored a total of 2 runs (0 runs-1 run-1 run). Does it seem like a good idea to anyone out there, when you have 6 guys competing for outfield positions, that you start 2 guys who are hitting .188 and .100? And then, in the 6th inning, with a man on first and third and no outs, you let them both bat?  And to add insult to injury, they displayed the wrong stats for one of them every time he came to bat.

I don’t know what it sounded like on TV, but a miraculous thing happened. As I’m sure everyone knows, Camden Yards is really Fenway Park South whenever the Red Sox are in town. On a good day, the split is 50/50.  Today, early in the game, came the expected chant of “Let’s Go Red Sox.” For a change, the O’s fans booed it down.  It happened again, then again, then again. Finally, a mighty noise came from the crowd. From where I was sitting, at first it was unclear, but it became louder and louder and more distinct. Thousands of people, wearing Orioles gear and Red Sox gear, joined as one to raise their voices to the sky and from their lips to God’s ear came the sound of “YANKEES S***, YANKEES S***.” It was almost a religious experience.  My newfound Red Sox friends and I formed a bond that can only come from having a common enemy.

My wife noticed a couple holding a camera, and asked if they would like her to take a picture of them together.  He was wearing Orioles gear.  She was wearing Red Sox gear. The camera didn’t break.

One of my new Red Sox buddies confided in me that, in spite of the fact that he was wearing a Red Sox jersey and baseball cap, he was really a Yankee fan. He just thinks it’s wrong to wear Yankee stuff to a Red Sox/Os game.

My Bowie Baysox are 3-1.  I know they are “my” Bowie Baysox because the announcer tells me so before every game.

The Orioles have now started a “Joke of the Day.”  Today’s joke, delivered by Bruce Chen, was “What do you call a bear with no teeth?”……”A Gummy Bear.”

In spite of the fact that I really, really wanted to, I still couldn’t yell the “O” in the National Anthem.

Oh well, even random thoughts take time, and I had a dream last night that I was a muffler.  I woke up exhausted.  (OK – another Bruce Chen joke.)