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With NBA Season Over, Let's Enjoy Baseball's Brief Life on Center Stage

June 20, 2016

Tags: Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, Chris Tillman, Tyler Wilson, Troy Tulowitzki, Devon Travis, Marco Estrada, Mychal Givens, Manny Machado, JJ Hardy, Yordano Ventura

I wasn’t rooting for Lebron James and his remarkable young sidekick Kyrie Irving. But I am glad that Cleveland’s long drought without a major sports championship since 1964 is at last over. And who knows? The Indians are definitely a contender in a mediocre AL Central.

Of course, as a confirmed Orioles addict, the AL East has been the race I’m following the most closely. The Birds’ lead is only one game as summer begins but Baltimore just finished a week in which they won three-game series at Boston and at home against Toronto, their two biggest rivals so far in 2016.

The Orioles are winning without any semblance of a consistent starting rotation.
There have been remarkable performances like Chris Tillman’s and rookie Tyler Wilson’s victories in Boston, but there is no assurance that either one will continue
to provide consistent deep-inning performances.

Tillman did improve his record to an impressive 10-1 in winning the rubber match against Toronto, but he only worked five innings, giving up four runs in second inning. All came on on two-run homers to the Blue Jays potent double play combination of Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis, both back from stints on the disabled list.

The Blue Jays starting pitching is not exactly overwhelming, but the Birds were fortunate that Toronto’s best starter this season, Marco Estrada, did not work in the recently concluded series.

One thing I’ll say about the 2016 Orioles – they are resilient, the offense can be explosive, and the defense is often extraordinary. The latest example: Reliever Mychal Givens, a converted shortstop, made a remarkable sliding grab and accurate throw on an infield dribbler to preserve the lead in Saturday's 4-2 victory over Toronto.

The loss of Manny Machado to a four-game suspension will hurt, but the return from injury of JJ Hardy to shortstop will definitely help.

The decisions from MLB justice are certainly strange. Machado was bound to be suspended for charging Yordano Ventura after being plunked by a 99 mph fastball. But Ventura in effect was suspended for only one start - he was the instigator and not for the first time.

One thing about baseball - there is always something new and something controversial. Looks like an exciting summer ahead and as always my hope remains that the Orioles will be “playing meaningful games in September” and beyond.

That’s all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it!

YIBF (Yours In Baseball Forever), Teny Ymota (The Earl of NY, Your Man On The Aisle)

Orioles Showing Great Come-From-Behindability

June 10, 2016

Tags: My Oriole glory years article in "Nine" Magazine, Dan Nathan's "Baltimore Sports, " my Chautauqua August class, Tyler, Kevin Gausman, Michael Wright, Zach Britton, Buck Showalter, Byun-Lee Kim, injured JJ Hardy and Darren O'Day, Manny Machado-Yordano Ventura suspensions, Bergino Baseball Clubhouse, Jim Palmer's "Nine Innings To Success, " George Bamberger, Cal Ripken Sr. Earl Weaver, NYC PSAL championships, Daniel and Edgardo Alfonzo, Boston College baseball

As the weekend of June 10 begins, the O’s are a season-high 13 games
over .500. Despite the pundits’ dismissal of their chances, they are acting like they could contend for a long part of the season.

My goal for every season is not necessarily for the Orioles to win it all, but for the team to be "Playing meaningful games in September" - the title of my first piece on the Orioles glory years 1960-1983 in Nine Magazine's vol. 22, #2.

My second more autobiographical essay will be out late this summer, "How A New Yorker Fell In Love with Earl Weaver's Orioles" in the Dan Nathan-edited volume, BALTIMORE SPORTS (U. of Arkansas Press).

While I'm plugging my activities, I'll be co-teaching a Baseball and American Culture at the Chautauqua Institution in western NY State in the first week of August. More information at ciweb.org

Admittedly the O's all-righthanded starting rotation doesn’t overwhelm anybody. But raw rookie Tyler Wilson and greatly inexperienced Kevin Gausman and Michael Wright have kept the Birds in games for the most part. The potent offense, however strikeout prone, leads the league in come-from-behind wins and Zach Britton has been a lockdown closer.

Kudos to manager Buck Showalter for not overworking a deep bullpen so far. And to Korean import-left fielder Byun-Soo Kim for patiently waiting for his chance after a slow adjustment to American MLB. He is now stroking the ball all over the field while hitting close to .400. His fielding is coming around, too.

Ah the wonders of a baseball season that because of the nature of the game nobody can predict (despite what the seemingly endless number of brainiacs tell you).
If anyone told you that the Orioles would be in first place in mid-June despite losing underrated shortstop JJ Hardy since early May with a foot injury and key setup man Darren O’Day with a hamstring strain for at least 15 days, they’d be lying.

Still a long long way to go in a 162-game regular season, but the Birds are showing that they are a confident bunch right now despite the questionable starting pitching.

They will also soon be without Manny Machado for up to four games. On Tuesday June 7 in Baltimore, he raced to the mound and punched Royals hot-tempered pitcher Yordano Ventura after being hit in the back by a high-90s fast ball.

Ventura received a 9-game suspension which means at most he loses only two starts. Machado stands to lose twice as many games.

Each had been suspended in prior years. Because of the DH in the American League, Ventura never has to face in the batter's box the wrath of the other team's pitchers.
Both players need to grow up and it says here that the penalties for further incidents should be much greater.

Back to the nicer side of baseball, I heard Jim Palmer speak earlier this month at the wonderful space known as the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse between the West and East Greenwich Villages just a little southwest of Union Square. His new book NINE INNINGS TO SUCCESS (Triumph) is a useful combination of incisive memoir and self-help advice.

As anyone who listens to his commentary on Oriole TV broadcasts, Palmer is a straight-shooter who doesn't sugarcoat his opinions. He has proudly been an Oriole his whole career and he gives homage to the great teachers in the organization.

From Cal Ripken Sr., he learned, "There are no shortcuts to success." From his revered major league pitching coach George Bamberger (later a Brewers and Mets manager),
he learned the importance of mastering the low-and-outside overhand fastball.

Readers will be fascinated by Palmer's measured and largely positive portrait of manager Earl Weaver. They were often antagonists - at times compared to Civil War Generals slovenly Ulysses Grant and perfectionist Robert E. Lee. But in this volume Palmer mainly remembers the late Weaver fondly for his obvious commitment to winning and getting the best out of every player on the roster.

One last tip for the lovers of baseball on the grassroots level.
On Monday June 13, Yankee Stadium will host the PSAL high school baseball championships.
The 4p Double A title game will feature Bayside HS, with leading hitter Daniel Alfonzo
(son of former Met star Edgardo), vs Eleanor Roosevelt HS.
The 7p game of the Triple AAA division matches Tottenville vs. Midwood.

Later in June a PSAL all-star will fly to Chicago to engage in a series of games against the Windy City scholastic all-stars. This competition has only recently been revived. It has a long history that dates way back to the early 20th century when Commerce High's Lou Gehrig slugged a mammoth home run in the Second City.

As a supporter of all northeastern area baseball, I'm also pulling this weekend of June 10 for Boston College tackling the University of Miami-Florida in a best-of-three series.
The winner goes to Omaha to join seven other teams for the College World Series from June 18-29.

That's all for now - always remember: Take it easy but take it!

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