May 31, 2016
The Orioles started the 2016 season with a club record 7 victories in a row. It was a tonic that we loyal fans really needed because spring training results didn't give much hope.
At two points in the early going the Orioles were actually 11 games over .500 and held a slight lead on the resurgent Red Sox.
Not true anymore. As June begins, the Red Sox with a powerful AND speedy lineup from top to bottom (with the exception of ageless DH David Ortiz who still remains a great run-producer) have opened up a three-game lead on the Orioles who have slipped to 28-22 after 50 games.
With over 100 games still to play, there is plenty of time to turn things around. But there is also cause for concern. We all knew that Oriole pitching would be the proverbial "work in progress" because three rookies or at least very young hurlers were being counted upon.
The two least experienced on the major level, Tyler Wilson and Michael Wright, have been promising. They have many minor league innings under their belt which is not true of Kevin Gausman who was the Orioles' number one draft pick in 2012.
He got tattooed by the Red Sox on the last day of May giving up three home runs in the first two innings. Red Sox leadoff hitter Mookie Betts hit 3 HR, two off Gausman.
Nothing dispirits a team and a fan base than being out of a game so early.
That the Birds lost 6-2 to one of their former top draft picks LHP Eduardo Rodriguez made the loss border on humiliating.
We also lost our sturdy backup catcher Caleb Joseph to a painful testicular injury incurred by a foul tip during Memorial Day's 7-2 loss to Boston. Joseph, another Oriole with a long apprenticeship in the minors, did not have a RBI yet this season but he got some walks and hits, and was always in the game mentally on both sides of the ball.
Things could be worse, of course. There are many teams hopelessly under .500 throughout baseball, and the surprisingly punchless Yankees remain three under .500 as June begins.
But you don't want the Red Sox to get too far ahead and right now their combination of youth and speed and enough arms looks very promising for the Fenway faithful.
It may be time to resort to the old canard - "You are never as good as you look when you are winning or as bad as you look when you are losing." But the heavy-headed realist in me does often amend the last part to read, "You could be as bad as you look when you are losing."
Let me close on a happier note. A salute to surprise teams in northeastern college baseball that made the NCAA Baseball Tournament: Navy, Fairfield University of Fairfield CT, and Princeton.
And a big hurrah to two surprise victors in the PSAL high school baseball tournament.
Fort Hamilton of Brooklyn that knocked off defending champion George Washington, 5-2, and Midwood of Brooklyn that upset perennial contender James Monroe of the Bronx, 10-7.
Tottenville of Staten Island remains a big favorite and Grand Street Campus of Brooklyn, alma mater of Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, is still alive too.
The final will be Monday night at 7p June 13 at Yankee Stadium.
That's all for now - always remember: Take it easy but take it!
May 15, 2016
On Sunday afternoon May 15th the Orioles were four outs away from their first 8-game winning streak since 2005. But a missed checked swing call on Detroit's J.D. Martinez led to a game-tying HR to center field off usually reliable O's setup reliever Darren O'Day.
One pitch later Miguel Cabrera untied it with a homer of his own, the first time O'Day had given up back-to-back homers in five years. The usually classy O'Day groused afterwards about the missed strike three call by plate umpire Mark Wegner.
O'Day should have kept his yap shut. It's not a good example for young players when veterans snipe at umpires in front of the press. I saw a nicer thing watching on TV yesterday: Chris Tillman in the dugout probably explaining to Kevin Gausman some of the subtle aspects of the starting pitcher's craft.
Tillman has re-emerged as the ace of the Orioles' oft-maligned all-righthanded starting staff. He has won five games and has pitched deep into most games. Gausman can learn a lot from listening to Tillman.
Gausman remains winless in 2016 but was in line for the victory yesterday until the Tigers' home run barrage. Yet he only worked five innings and was lucky to give up just four runs because he didn't command his fast ball all game - his breaking pitches were also erratic. At least he didn't give up any crooked numbers, and he knows in five days he will pitch again.
The Orioles really stifled last year the development of the number 4 pick in the 2012 draft. Gausman kept shuttling back and forth between the Oriole bullpen and Triple A Norfolk. No way for any young player to develop that way. The greater minor league experience of rookie starters Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright have really aided them in the early going of 2016.
Ah the rigors and twists and turns of the long long baseball season. The Cubs even lost a doubleheader to the perpetually struggling Padres last week but they also put a good whipping on the rival Pirates before finally losing 2-1 to Gerrit Cole on Sunday.
My final note this entry is to congratulate the Princeton Tigers for beating Yale two out of three and earning the first bid to this year's NCAA tournament. Too bad a wild pitch by the Elis produced the winning run but it was a classic playoff series.
That's all for now - Teny Ymota - The Earl of New York Your Man On The Aisle - as always urges you to remember: Take it easy but take it!
May 2, 2016
I've decided to let the larger world of cyberspace meet one of my alter egos, Teny Ymota.
It is an acronym for The Earl of NY Your Man On The Aisle. The Earl of course is homage to the late great Hall of Fame Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver. Your Man On The Aisle comes from my need for aisle seats at games and concerts and plays because of my osteo-arthritic knees. Forgive me if this is TMI.
The 2016 Orioles surprised us all with a seven-game winning streak to start the season. They have now cooled off and fallen a half-game behind the Red Sox as the first week of May begins.
Only overly emotional baseball-mad people agonize over early season standings - did someone call me? No, seriously folks, standings don't really mean anything until late summer. With the introduction of two wild cards in each league, they may mean even less. But you do see trends by May & as always solid starting pitching rotations is a big key.
The Orioles have gotten surprisingly good work from their young staff although none of them have yet pitched late into games. I like the idea of young right-handers Kevin Gausman, Tyler Wilson, and Mike Wright all getting chances to succeed in the rotation.
The shoulder issue of another right-hander free agent acquisition Yovanni Gallardo has given the youngsters their chance to step up. Veterans Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez round out the rest of the all right-handed staff.
Closer Zach Britton sprained his ankle Sat. night trying to make a great play on a drag bunt. It doesn't look serious enough to send him to the DL. Zach has vastly improved his defense on the mound and his loss for any length of time would be very serious.
The Birds were not so lucky with shortstop JJ Hardy who will be out for over a month.
He suffered a hairline foot fracture when he fouled a ball off of it. Hardy is a very underrated defensive shortstop whose bat has come alive again this year.
The Orioles do have in-house replacements. Manny Machado, the shortstop of the future who almost miraculously four years ago became a great third baseman with no experience at the position, can slide over to short. Supersub Ryan Flaherty can fill in at third which will probably be the first realignment that manager Buck Showalter tries.
I can also foresee former Reds shortstop Paul Janish coming up soon from Norfolk. He's a better shortstop than Flaherty and we know how well Manny can play third. I think Machado is a mature enough of a pro now to handle either position until Hardy's return.
There is also the possibility that another free agent pickup Pedro Alvarez could go to the hot corner. He's no defensive whiz - Pirate fans learned that - but he's kinda young to be a dh and he is beginning to hit a little. Alvarez could also switch positions for a while with first baseman Chris Davis who is a far better athlete and baserunner than people realize.
I have always loved Ryan Flaherty and what he has meant to the team but his long-term future as an Oriole seems very cloudy now. The Orioles must see what they have in Hyun Soo Kim, the new outfielder from Korea. Also playing time is needed for Nolan Reimold and Rule 5 rookie Joey Rickard in the outfield which means another newcomer Mark Trumbo goes to DH where Alvarez has been for most of the year.
Never a dull moment in Orioleland but the J. J. Hardy injury will mean more defensive uncertainty than anyone wanted.
ON THE COLLEGE FRONT - The Columbia Lions finished in a tie for second with Penn in the Gehrig Division of the Ivy League. They got bragging rights for second because they beat the Quakers three out of four this past weekend. But Princeton clinched the crown by winning four at Cornell. Dartmouth still could catch Yale for the Rolfe division crown. Winner of the Rolfe plays Gehrig winner Princeton with the NCAA bid on the line.
The 11 members of the Columbia Class of 2016 finished with the second most wins in school history, topped only by the Class of 2015 that won three Ivy League titles in a row and in 2015 won three games in the Miami regional.
The class of 2016 can still hang their heads high. Left fielder Robb Paller slugged many home runs and hit for a high average in the course of his final season. Starter Adam Cline pitched solidly as did Kevin Roy before he succumbed to elbow woes that curtailed his last college season.
If ever a save was gotten in the sixth inning of a game, it was provided by senior pitcher George Thanopoulos who struck out two Quakers with the bases loaded in the Lions 9-8 win in Saturday's second game. Senior Thomas Crispi got the win and seniors Logan Bowyer, John Kinne, and Nick McGuire went a combined 9-13 with 5 RBI and 7 runs scored in their final appearance as Lions.
Quite a legacy, fellows, and thanks for the memories.
NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT . . .
Here's a Teny Ymota tip from the arts - Check out "Born To Be Blue," a 97-minute film inspired by the tumultuous artistic life of jazz trumpeter-singer Chet Baker. It stars the very talented music-loving Ethan Hawke in the Baker role.
A marvelous actress from London of Nigerian-Scottish descent Carmen Ejogo shines in the role of a composite of the women in Baker's life. The film is directed by Robert Budreau. Its images and sounds have stayed with me despite seeing it a few weeks ago.
That's all for now - always remember: Take it but take it.