August 29, 2018
The Orioles just completed a three-game sweep at home against the Toronto Blue Jays. It was nice payback for the two sweeps they endured at the hands of the Jays in Canada earlier this year.
The Orioles won convincingly 7-0, 12-5, and 10-5 with second-year slugger Trey Mancini finally get into a good groove. Southpaw Josh Rogers from New Albany, Indiana and the University of Louisville - one of three pitchers obtained from the Yankees in the Zach Britton trade - won the middle game in his MLB debut.
Rogers was supported by his parents, girl friend, and as many as two dozen fans from his home area. Rogers becomes the first Indiana native to make MLB this season. I am happy to add that at least seven from the New York metropolitan area have made The Show so far in 2018.
It was the first three-game sweep of the year for Baltimore who "improved" to 40-94, tying the 1962 Mets for wins with 26 games left to play. The Birds go to Kansas City on the Labor Day weekend, the only other team that has a chance for the number one amateur draft pick next June.
In September the Orioles have a chance to play spoiler against wild card contenders Oakland and Seattle and wind up the season with games against the Red Sox and Yankees followed by the season-ending visit to Camden Yards of the defending World Series champion Houston Astros.
As fall looms on the horizon, any baseball game becomes a special treat for yours truly. Late baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti put in very well when he wrote that just when you need baseball the most, it leaves us. So treasure all those games while they are still here - in the minor and independent leagues as well as The Show.
Of note for those in the NY area, both New York teams in the Short-Season Low A New York-Penn League, the Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets) and Staten Island Yankees - aka Pizza Rats on weekends - are still alive in the playoff hunt. The Cyclones host the Yankees Sa Sept 1 and M Sept 3 (Labor Day at 4p) and the Yankees host the Cyclones on Su Sep 2.
In closing, I want to give a plug for an interesting show I recently saw. You have just a couple more chances to see Renee Taylor's "My Life On A Diet." At 85 this actress/comedienne is a marvel, doing eight one-woman shows a week, 90 minutes without intermission, at St. Clement's Theatre in the church at 423 West 46th Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues.
Younger audiences will remember Renee as Fran Drescher's mother on the TV series "The Nanny". Movie buffs will remember her far earlier as Jerry Lewis's assistant
in the movie "The Errand Boy". She talks about these experiences as well as her early and sustained friendship with Barbra Streisand.
I remember her for her work as a manners correspondent on the NBC network show
"That Was The Week That Was" that aired in the early 1960s. She also memorably played Eva Braun opposite Dick Shawn's madcap Hitler impersonation in Mel Brooks' trailblazing film "The Producers".
Unfortunately Renee didn't discuss them in "My Life On A Diet" that was co-written by her late husband actor Joseph Bologna. I guess she could only cover so much of an event-filled and sometimes turbulent life.
I think audiences will like her tales about her life and work as a member of the Actors Studio with fellow students Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando.
"My Life On A Diet," which really isn't about dieting but about how Renee Wexler from the Bronx became a standout performer, runs only through Sunday afternoon Sept 2. I recommend it. Just take those stairs carefully!
That's all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it.
August 13, 2018
It now seems a foregone conclusion that the Orioles will wind up with the worst record in their modern history. After being swept at home in four games by the sizzling Red Sox this past weekend of Aug. 10-12, they sit, or more accurately, slump at 35-84.
Their worst record in Baltimore was the 1988 team that lost its first 21 games and finished 54-107. With 43 games left in the regular season, the Orioles have to play nearly .500 baseball to avoid that ignominy. It's not likely but I still watch most of the games on TV.
(By the way, I am fortunate to afford MLB's Extra Innings package of virtually all of the major league games. In Baltimore, though, if you cannot afford cable TV there is now NO free home TV of the Orioles any more. It is another blot on the mismanagement of the franchise.)
Still, I like to think it is more than masochism that keeps me involved. Not always but sometimes the turnaround of a team is prefigured by the last weeks of a bad season.
It is true that individual stats in September (and sometimes April) can be misleading but the formation of a team concept can happen late in a bad year. Mookie Wilson, one of the ignitors of the 1984-1986 Mets, has said that the team turned around when Frank Howard managed them late in 1983 before Davey Johnson took over in 1984.
A possible core player of the Orioles future Cedric Mullins arrived in Baltimore for the Red Sox series. The mid-round draft choice from Campbell University in North Carolina went 3 for 4 with two doubles in his first game and acquitted himself well in all four games both at the plate and in the field.
Incumbent center fielder Adam Jones for the time being is the right fielder and he has said all the right things about Mullins bringing youth and fresher legs to the team. There is no doubting Jones' genuine charitable interest in his adopted home of Baltimore. He even paid for the transportation of the nearby Washington DC African-American Little League team to its regional championship games.
I just hope he plays right field better than in his first game yesterday (Sunday August 12). He committed an error failing to pick up a ball in the corner on his first attempt.
It led to an unearned run in an eventual 4-1 loss.
Later he took a bad route on Oriole nemesis Mookie Betts' drive to right, turning a single into a double and allowing fleet Jackie Bradley Jr. to score from first with a key 9th inning insurance run. (Everyone this year on the Red Sox is a nemesis of the Orioles but at least they are not the Yankees!)
I do want to close with another ray of hope in this dark season in Baltimore - the re-emergence of left fielder-first baseman Trey Mancini as a feared hitter. After a horrible first half of season, he is beginning to hit the ball and drive in runs.
He cares so much that I know he was disappointed that he only produced one run in his two bases-loaded at-bats yesterday. But he worked the count in both ABs and there are signs that his prolonged slump may be over.
Here's another nice story to end with. David Bote (pronounced like Jerry Grote) is a journeyman Cubs infielder who hit the pinch-hit walk-off grand slam to give the Cubs a 4-3 victory over the Nats on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball this past Sunday Aug. 12.
Six years ago, Bote was on a religious mission in Africa when he heard he had been drafted in the 18th round. He didn't rise immediately in the Cubs' farm system but slowly he did get better. He has become a useful fill-in when stars like Javier Baez and now Kris Bryant are injured. He was ready when his name was called on Sunday night.
That's all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it.
August 5, 2018
Don’t ever say there is no crying in baseball. When shortly before the trade deadline of July 31 the Orioles traded both pitcher Kevin Gausman (to Atlanta along with veteran reliever Darren O'Day) and second baseman Jonathan Schoop (to Milwaukee), many tears were shed by both young players.
The first time you are traded is always an emotional experience because you are literally being kicked out of the only baseball family you have known.
Baltimore infield instructor Bobby Dickerson, a baseball lifer, shed the normally stoic demeanor of a Buck Showalter staff member. As he tearfully explained to Roch Kubatko on the masnsports.com website, he had known Curacao native Schoop from the age of 16 - he had watched close hand the growing pains and emergence of the former Little League champion into a major league second baseman with a great arm and formidable power.
It wasn’t that Gausman and Schoop could walk as free agents after this season. (Which was why All-Stars Manny Machado, Zach Britton, and Brad Brach were all traded.) Their possibly big free agent bonanza won’t come until after 2019 for Schoop and after 2020 for Gausman.
Yet Gausman had never lived up to his billing as the number 4 player picked in the first round of the 2012 amateur draft. His stuff can be electric - a fastball clocked in mid-to-upper 90s and a considerably lower velocity for his split-finger sinking pitch.
But he never could develop a curve or slider to complement his two plus pitches. His pitch count invariably rose early in games and when he needed to make a big pitch, he often did not execute it.
Gausman has remained healthy and durable so he might become an innings eater for the Braves. He did lose his first start to Zack Wheeler and the Mets, 3-0 on Saturday night August 3, not getting out of the sixth inning. (As someone who roots for the Mets to be competitive in the NY market, I'm glad they held on to Wheeler at the trade deadline. He seems to be emerging as a very effective starting pitcher.)
Schoop has gotten off to a slow start with the Brewers, going 0 for 13 before he got his first hit on Saturday night. He will help them I am sure once he gets settled. He even has started one game at shortstop, his original position as little and minor leaguer.
I for one will miss one of the most genuine smiles that I have ever seen in an athlete.
It was a dream of Orioles fans that Schoop and his BFF Manny Machado might comprise a Baltimore double play combination for years and years. Now both are gone and no replacements are on the horizon.
(Interestingly, Machado, who only wanted to play short for the Orioles once JJ Hardy departed after last season, is now playing both third base and shortstop as LAD tries to win a 6th consecutive NL West title.)
So what does an Orioles fan do when his parent team is in disarray and there is no clear evidence yet that any of the minor leaguers received for our stars will really emerge? Try to find hope in the farm clubs, right?
I love the atmosphere and affordability of minor league baseball so I checked in on the Aberdeen Iron Birds' visit to the Brooklyn Cyclones this past Thursday August 2. It started off as a dream day with late breakfast on the boardwalk followed by nearly an hour floating around in the refreshingly mild and surprisingly clean Atlantic at Coney Island.
Alas, the New York-Penn League Short Season A game at MCU (formerly Keyspan) Park quickly spoiled a beautiful day. After taking a quick 1-0 lead on a single by center fielder Austin Hays (last year's Orioles Minor League Player of the Year) and a triple by first baseman JC Escarra, the Iron Birds quickly fell apart.
Southpaw Willie Rios never looked comfortable on the mound, kicking at the ground trying to find a good landing spot I guess. There has been a lot of rain around here lately and the pitching area must have been a little muddy. But nobody on the Iron Bird coaching staff talked to Rios about the problem.
After getting the first out, he walked two and then the defense fell apart. At-'em balls at infielders were misplayed and thanks to a bases clearing double by Cyclones DH Walter Rasquin it was soon 6-1. Then 9-1 after 2, and 12-1 after 3.
Four errors of commission in the first three innings and many more of omission, eg. not covering bases or throwing to wrong bases. Final score of 13-6 was deceptive - it was not a competitive game.
But it was fun to see Austin Hays collect a couple of hits and display his Pete Rose-style enthusiasm for the game. He was halfway to second on a foul ball he hit that the first baseman corralled near the stands.
It was Irish Night and thank God I wasn't raised a Brooklyn Dodger fan because the
entertainment of the evening was provided by a group of dancers called the O'Malleys!
I know that perfidy of moving the Brooklyn Dodgers to LA by Walter O'Malley happened 61 years ago but it remains a wound deep in the heart of old Brooklyn and those in the diaspora.
Well, that's all for now. Plenty of baseball left to muse and moan about. So in the meantime always remember: Take it easy but take it.