July 27, 2014
The Orioles just concluded a ten-game post-All Star Game swing through three tough American League West cities, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Seattle. They finished the trip 6-4 which is more than most fans – even those dubbed Negatively Passionate like yours truly – could have hoped for.
I stayed up for the action until the wee (more…)
July 14, 2014
Major league baseball has been so unpredictable this season. I don’t know if it is parity or mediocrity or more likely both, but only 10 of 30 MLB teams can say definitively that they will not enjoy any October playoff baseball this year.
The most secure way to the playoffs is to win one of the six divisions. Thanks to a good rules change a couple of years ago, two wild-card teams will meet in one Winner Take All game to make it into the first best-of-five round against the division winner with the best record.
To cap this madcap season so far, the last game prior to the All-Star Game Break was delayed by rain in the bottom of the 5th inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles were leading their arch-rival Yankees, 3-1, so it was an official game.
I fully expected resumption of play in the wee hours of Monday morning but the Yankees caught no such break. The game was called a few minutes after midnight and the Orioles go into the ASG break with a four game lead over Toronto and five over the Yankees.
My Birds are 10 over .500 qualifying them for contender status according to Lowenfish’s Second Law of Baseball Dynamics. But they face a tough second-half schedule beginning with three series at Oakland, Los Angeles and Seattle, three teams who have emerged in the top tier of the American League. They then play LA and Seattle at home.
“To be the best you have to beat the best,” Branch Rickey often said and so let the games begin on Friday after the needed break of a few days.
One of the charms of baseball is its visceral link of present and past. The shortened game last night brought to mind another Yankee-Oriole matchup in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon August 13, 1978.
I was spending the month on the ocean in Rhode Island but thanks to good radio reception I was able to pick up a New York broadcast of the tussle.
The Birds entered the 7th with a 3-0 lead but the Yankees rallied and took a 5-3 lead. Disconsolate, I snapped off the radio and went into the ocean to drown my sorrows in waves and foam. Imagine my surprise barely a half-hour later when I returned to my beach blanket to discover that the Orioles had won 3-0.
You see, there had been a rain delay. And the game was called while the Yankees were still batting and the Orioles were ruled winners by a 3-0 score because the 7th inning had not been complete. The old rule was reversion of score to last complete inning.
Not long after, an official change was introduced that would make games with lead shifts in uncompleted innings suspended. To be picked up at a later date.
What caused baseball to act was that manager Earl Weaver’s groundskeeper Pat Santarone had been instructed to delay putting on the tarp to allow the grounds to become unplayable. There had been an earlier rain delay in the same game.
I chuckle at how Billy Martin or Weaver - if he had been on the wrong side of the score last night – would have handled the top of the fifth inning. Winds were swirling all over Camden Yards and the grounds crew was ready to put on the tarp in any moment.
It was not yet an official game and you can bet Billy Martin or Weaver or any other old school manager would have had batters delay getting into the batters’ box. The umps would have urged them to hurry up but, “Hey, ump, I got something in my eye.
Gotta see the ball right?”
How baseball has changed! There was a quick first out made by former Oriole Brian Roberts and a circus catch by Nick Markakis made by right field on a fly ball hit by Ichiro Sizuki that must have changed directions three times.
Then unbelievably rookie Yangervis Solarte swung at the first pitch and while it went foul, he soon grounded out to Manny Machado at third to end the inning and made the game official.
Steve Pearce, one of the great perseverance stories of the season – released in April and now a regular contributor to the Orioles – walked to lead off the bottom of the fifth and then the rains came. Victory for the Birds, perhaps tainted but a win's a win.
Well, that’s all for now. Lots of baseball ahead to enjoy and agonize over.
And always remember: Take it easy but take it!
July 4, 2014
I’ve written in this blog in prior years about growing up a baseball fan from the late 1940s onward and how the magical number of (2) appeared in the baseball listings for the big holidays of Memorial Day (originally called Decoration Day to honor the dead of World War I), the Fourth of July, and Labor Day (which incidentally for those of you planning late summer activities is the earliest possible in 2014, Sept. 1.)
Since the 1970s modern baseball has given up the holiday doubleheader and virtually all scheduled two-for-the-price-of-one doubleheaders. And most players and managers are very glad for that because most twin bills are split and nobody working in baseball really likes spending all day at the ballpark to win and to lose.
Yet on my 72nd birthday on June 27 I couldn’t resist the day-night doubleheader between the Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays at Camden Yards. O’s skipper Buck Showalter and Rays manager Joe Maddon dripped with sarcasm at the scheduling of these games to keep their players at the park from nearly dawn to midnight but it proved to be a personal delight for me – even if my Orioles only split and then lost the Sat and Sun games.
Baseball doesn’t require victory every day to enjoy it immensely. (You hear that, Yankee winnites?) And if you’ve never been to Camden Yards, the first and the best of the newer urban ballparks, put it on your bucket list. It was nice to see people gathering before the games at Toby Mendez's sculptures behind the center field fence. Erected during the 2012 revival season of the Birds, they honor the six Oriole Hall of Famers from Brooks Robinson to Cal Ripken Jr.
Once in the stands at Camden Yards the views of the field from almost section are good and sometimes spectacular. My perch for the Friday and Saturday games was from the first-base-right-field side. Reminded me of storied Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street where the amenities may have been minimal but so many seats were angled directly at the pitcher’s mound and infield. And the impressive 19th century warehouse that now houses Oriole offices hovers protectively over the field.
In Sunday’s game I sat in the upper deck third base side, affording me a stirring view of the Baltimore skyline with the restored Camden Station a major part of the thrill. Its two cupolas with clocks atop are quite arresting.
A strikingly thin skyscraper also caught my eye, a building that once housed Donald Schaefer’s office – the former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Governor who was a driving force in getting approval for Camden Yards after the football Colts fled to Indianapolis in the middle of the night early in 1984.
I do have some quibbles about the Camden Yards scoreboard operation. Rarely did the names of the players at bat and the defenders in the field display in unison. So if you wanted to know who was in the field when the opponent was at bat, you were disappointed.
Also in Sunday’s game, a couple of innings after Tampa Bay had broken it open with their biggest outburst of the year, a 7-run 6th, the Orioles substituted freely but the public address announcer did not say in what place in the order the new players were batting.
These are little things but baseball is made of a series of little things that lead to the big thing known as victory. Nonetheless it was a memorable visit to Oriole Park at Camden Yards and made the first days of my 73rd year on earth most pleasurable.
That’s all for now. The Orioles were rained out on Fourth of July and now face another day-night doubleheader in Boston on Saturday the 5th. They are actually percentage points ahead of Toronto in first place and for the first time in 2014 seven games over .500.
But remember Lowenfish’s Second Law of Baseball Dynamics is:
NO TEAM IS A TRUE CONTENDER UNTIL IT MOVES TO 10 GAMES OVER .500 AND STAYS THERE.
Lowenfish’s First Law of Baseball Dynamics, noted here in past seasons, remains:
NO FOUR-RUN LEAD IS SAFE UNTIL THE GAME IS OVER.
Always remember, most of all: Take it easy but take it!