Archives

Can The Dodgers Avenge Their 1916 Loss to Bosox? (updated)

October 21, 2018

Tags: Macmillan Baseball Encyclodeia, Babe Ruth, Ernie Shore, Dutch Leonard, Harry Hooper, Duffy Lewis, Larry Gardner, Everett Scott, Harry Frazee, Dick Hoblitzell, Braves Field, Casey Stengel, Jack Coombs, Connie Mack, Chris Taylor, Christian Yelich, Manny Machado, Cody Bellinger, Manny Machado, Craig Kimbrel, Metrodome field advantage 1987 and 1981, Yasiel Puig, Jeremy Jeffress

One of the great things about baseball is more than any sport there is a living vibrant link to the past. Checking my old reliable Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia, I see that in early October 1916 the Red Sox beat the Dodgers in five games.

Babe Ruth was hitless in five at-bats but won game two, 2-1. He allowed only six hits, walked three and struck out four in a 14-inning complete game masterpiece. Ernie Shore won the first and last games and baseball's first Dutch Leonard won the fourth one.

Outfielders Harry Hooper and Duffy Lewis showed why they were a formidable regular season duo each hitting over .300 in the Series and future Hall of Famer Hooper led both teams with 6 runs scored.

Third baseman Larry Gardner only had 3 hits in the Series but two of them were homers, one of them a three-run job that won Game 4. Shortstop Everett Scott, another Bosox player who wound up with the Yankees in owner's Harry Frazee's fire seal deals, saved the first game win with a late game dramatic defensive robbery.

And let's not forget first baseman Dick Hoblitzell who did not contribute much offensively but has one of the great forgotten names in baseball history. The three games in Boston were played in Braves Field that had a larger capacity than Fenway Park. (A Boston-Milwaukee series would have delighted local historians because of the Hub town connection of each team but it was not to be.)

On the Brooklyn side, outfielder Casey Stengel tied for the team lead with 4 hits but produced only 2 runs. Jack Coombs won the only game for Brooklyn and would retire undefeated in Series action with a 5-0 record, the other four coming with Connie Mack's first Philadelphia A's dynasty.

The home run dominates the game in the 21st century and yet I firmly believe that pitching and defense still wins championship. Just look at LA Dodgers Game 7 win over the Brewers last night (Oct. 20).

Chris Taylor's sensational catch on Christian Yelich's two-strike screaming liner into the left center field alley preserved LA's precarious 2-1 lead. And let's not forget Manny Machado's remarkable 3-2 bunt that immediately preceded Cody Bellinger's game-changing two-run homer.

Little things still win baseball games. Appreciation of these nuances for me makes baseball the great game it is. I hope to live to see the day when the cutting comment, "Baseball is what this country used to be, football is what it has become," no longer is accurate.

As for the coming World Series, I like the Dodgers in six or seven. I think their starting pitching looks a little sharper than Boston's. Their bullpen too looks in better shape than Boston's, especially if closer Craig Kimbrel keeps near-imploding.
Winning the final game against Milwaukee on the road indoors has to also provide LA an amazing psychological boost.

The Dodgers accomplished what neither the Cardinals in 1987 or the Braves in 1991 could do in the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Silence screaming fans in a very hostile foreign environment. Whatever happens, let's hope they are good crisp games.

For five innings last night the drama of a game seven was priceless. Every pitch, every breath mattered. But when Yasiel Puig homered in the top of sixth off Jeremy Jeffress it was all over except for the countdown.

That's all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it. And also remember to vote on November 6!









Picking Up The Pieces As The Oriole Rebuild Starts

August 5, 2018

Tags: Kevin Gausman, Jonathan Schoop, Bobby Dickerson, Roch Kubatko, Buck Showalter, Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Manny Machado, JJ Hardy, Zack Wheeler, Aberdeen Iron Birds, Austin Hays, JC Escarra, Willie Rios, Brooklyn Cyclones Irish Night, Walter Rasquin

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.

On The Inevitable Manny Machado Trade (updated) + In Memory of Ken Ravizza

July 18, 2018

Tags: Manny Machado, Roch Kubatko, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Zach Britton, Andrew Miller, Yusniel Diaz, rest of Orioles 2018 season, Sparky Anderson, Ken Ravizza, Howard Slusher, Joe Maddon, Gracie Gold

My take on the now-official trade of Manny Machado to the Dodgers is that I hope he realizes the microscope will now be grinding 24/7. (That's not the best metaphor I know but I never was very good in science classes despite attending Bronx HS of Science.)

Some of his last comments to MASNSports.com reporter Roch Kubatko indicated that the enormity of the change was only now beginning to dawn on him. Players are not robots or simply vessels of stats that can be transferred from one team to another as easily as the click on a computer.

Still, the Dodgers offense will likely get an uptick with him hitting in the middle of the lineup. I am sure Dodgers management will deal with the issue of what happens when incumbent shortstop Corey Seager returns from injury next spring. And what about Justin Turner the incumbent third baseman?

I rarely make predictions since I've always loved the baseball adage - "the farther away from the clubhouse the less you know what you are talking about." (A sanitized version of the adage!)

But I did say that the pre-season injury to Justin Turner would be a big blow to the Dodgers and they indeed got off to an awful start until he returned somewhat to form recently. Turner has been a versatile player in past so they'll find a spot for him.

Whether Machado is shortstop or third baseman of future for LA is an intriguing question. Manny will have many suitors as a free agent come November.

As for my Orioles, it remains to be seen if 21-year-old Cuban-born Double A outfielder Yusniel Diaz, the most heralded of the five minor leaguers received from LA, ultimately becomes a core piece of a rebuilt team. I am also curious to see if homegrown outfielders Cedric Mullins and currently injured Austin Hays can make the grade.

I expect another big trade chip to be sent away shortly when closer Zach Britton finds a new home. I think the Indians want him badly because of health issues and free agency looming for fellow left-handed reliever Andrew Miller. But I also think the Orioles would prefer sending Britton to National League.

I still watch the Orioles out of habit and a love that borders on - who am I kidding? -that actually overflows into addiction. They enter post-All-Star-Game play on a two-game winning streak after a 4-4 home stand that featured splitting four games with the hated Yankees (who trail Boston by 4 1/2 games but only 3 in the A-ILC (All-Important Lost Column).

The lineup without the powerful productive Machado batting third could be even more embarrassing than the one WITH Manny that is 41 games under .500. But call me a cockeyed optimist - I think they will be surpass the Mets 1962 debut of 40-120 and even the Tigers 1999 43-119.

The key always remains in baseball pitching. "Without pitching you got nothin'," Sparky Anderson wisely said. And if they are to become the real Orioles again and not the 2018 version I call sadly Woerioles, the starters must step up and not be Five Jokers and No Aces.

Before I close, I want to say goodbye to someone who left us recently, much too early of a heart attack at age 70. KEN RAVIZZA was a pioneering sports psychologist - born in Connecticut, graduate of the renowned physical education program at Springfield College in Massachusetts. He got his doctorate at USC, studying with among others Howard Slusher, a sports philosophy professor who later became a sports agent.

Ken rose to become both a widely published academic author and an applied sports psychologist in great demand by sports teams like Joe Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs and individual competitors like figure skater Gracie Gold.

Some of Ken's aphorisms that are indelibly etched in my mind include:
"Attitude is a decision."
"Never let the pressure of a situation exceed the pleasure you get from it."
"Learning to be comfortable while being uncomfortable" is a big key to success.

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


Thoughts on "Mariners' Cano Apologizes For Failed Drug Test"

July 8, 2018

Tags: Robinson Cano, furosemide drug, Manny Ramirez, Levinson Brothers, Dee Gordon, Melky Cabrera, surge of Seattle Mariners, Mitchell Report, Sammy Sosa, Jason Buckland and Ben Reiter, Luke Heimlich, S. L. (Scott) Price, Manny Machado, Zach Britton

I confess. Many times I read headlines more than stories in both print and on line. The above "hed' was from an AP story, buried in the Sunday July 8 sports section of the World Cup-soccer-obsessed New York Times.

What a perfect example of the relativism of our age! Cano is sorry he failed the test. He claims he used it for a high blood pressure condition but the diuretic drug Furosemide is also known to be a good masking agent for PED use. Maybe he didn't want to use the female hormones that nabbed Manny Ramirez some years ago.

At least Cano spoke to the press when he visited the Seattle clubhouse this weekend. He didn't send his Brooklyn-born agents the Levinson brothers who also represented Cano's former Yankee teammate Melky Cabrera who was suspended a few seasons ago for PED use. (Cabrera is now in the minors, and the Levinsons' assistant who was fired for supplying clean urine for Melky is now reportedly suing the brothers).

Surprisingly, despite Cano's suspension for 80 games (that will end August 14 but keep him out of post-season games), the Mariners have surged into contention in the AL West, challenging the world champion Houston Astros.

If you like ironies, one of the big factors in Seattle's improved play is Cano's replacement at second, Dee Gordon (son of former star reliever Tom Gordon), who himself was suspended for 80 games last season for PED use.

I'm not generally a hanging judge on drug abusers in baseball. The Mitchell Report, released in December 2007, revealed that relief pitchers even more than hitters experimented with chemical enhancement. But collective bargained rules on testing must be upheld. It is a sadness for many Hispanic followers of baseball that a disproportionate number of drug violators have come from the Dominican Republic.

The failure of slugger Sammy Sosa to show any contrition for his enhanced home run total of over 600 homers has played a large role in his virtual banishment from the sport. There was a searching and poignant cover story by Jason Buckland and Ben Reiter about Sosa in the July 2-9 double issue of Sports Illustrated.

Before the College World Series, SI devoted a cover story by the excellent S. L. (Scott) Price to the travails of star Oregon State southpaw Luke Heimlich. While a teenager Heimlich had pleaded guilty to the sexual molesting of his 6-year-old niece.

The story of his plea had become public just before the CWS in 2017 and Heimlich voluntarily withdrew from the team before the Omaha event. He kept out of the public limelight but he privately denied that he violated his niece and only signed the confession to avoid a family-wrenching trial.

This season he was the star pitcher on the top-rated Beavers but he performed poorly on college baseball's largest stage. Oregon State still won the national crown. But for the second year in a row Heimlich went unselected in Major League Baseball's annual June draft.

There are rumors that the Kansas City Royals are in discussions with him but they remain unverified. I'm someone who believes that minors should not have the book thrown at them. In this specific case there is evidence that Heimlich took all steps to follow rehabilitation procedures and is not labeled a recidivist threat.

Saying this is not to make light of the victim's duress. It does remain a story that continues to draw my interest.

That's all for now as the Orioles's descent into the netherworld continues. By the next time I post, their main assets of Manny Machado and reliever Zach Britton may already have been traded. Whether the front office people who got the Birds into this mess have the ability to start the process to restore a respectable franchise remains a huge question. Since I have no answer and have my doubts, I will close: Let us pray.

Always remember: Take it easy but take it!

Awaiting Baseball's Opening Day March 29 + A Salute to UMBC

March 23, 2018

Tags: Cincinnati 1869 Red Stockings, Alex Cobb joins Bundy-Cashner-Gausman-Tillman rotation, Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray, Juan Bell, Brian Holton, Ken Howell, Phil Bradley, Ron Kittle, Edward Bennett Williams, Mike Flanagan, Manny Machado, Chris Davis, UMBC basketball, Freeman Hrabowski III, Charles "Tot" Woolston, Liz Walton LeBlanc, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Rudolf Nureyev, "Piazzolla Caldera"

Any player or fan who doesn’t feel a special tingle at the prospect of Opening Day should be in another line of business or fandom.

In 2018 that all 30 MLB teams open on the same very early day, Thursday Mar 29. Reportedly the players wanted this adjustment in the latest collective bargaining agreement to allow for more off-days during the season.

I have no problem with this change though I feel for Cincinnati that used to have Opening Day all to itself in honor of the Cincinnati Red Stockings’s great 1869 team.

My Orioles just surprised people by signing former Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Alex Cobb to a lucrative four-year deal for nearly $60 million. Nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery and coming off a solid 2017 season, Cobb will solidify a rotation that was the worst in baseball last year and the worst in the Orioles’ proud history (once they emerged in 1960 out of the carcass of the St. Louis Browns.)

I’m not into season predictions and fortunately don’t have to make them as part of my job. I’ve always been a “playing meaningful games in September” kinda guy. If Cobb
is healthy, he can solidify an all-right handed rotation with youngsters Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman at the top along with another free agent acquisition Andrew Cashner, and former semi-ace Chris Tillman coming off a horrible 2017.

I fell in love with the Orioles in 1970 - Earl Weaver’s only World Series-winning season - 1960 through the 1983 World Series championship season. Then the late owner Edward Bennett Williams started getting impatient and dark times set in.

I’ll never forget sitting next to him by pure chance at old Memorial Stadium in 1986 when he started grousing about Eddie Murray’s lack of production. “I’m paying $3.5 million for that man,” pointing at first base, “and I’m not getting any return,” I recall EBW saying.

About a week later he started going public with his criticism and at the end of the 1988 season he traded Murray to the Dodgers for journeymen pitchers Brian Holton and Ken Howell and infielder Juan Bell whose only claim to fame was that he was Toronto slugger George Bell’s brother. (At least the Orioles did turn Howell into outfielder Phil Bradley who played well in orange and black but then was unnecessarily traded for Ron Kittle).

The Murray trade was one of if not the darkest moment in Orioles history. The other one was the suicide of Mike Flanagan, an Oriole Cy Young award-winner, general manager, broadcaster, and great wit whose genuine humor masked his inner turmoil.

Though Manny Machado’s pending free agency after this season remains a dark cloud hanging over Baltimore, the pitching should be improved. And if Chris Davis’s bat and glove return to optimum form, hope may have returned to Charm City for another competitive season.

One last note on Baltimore - I was thrilled with #16 seed UMBC’s shocking dispatching of number one overall seed Virginia in the NCAA basketball tournament. I taught American Studies at UMBC in the early 1970s and introduced with my dear friend and colleague Tot Woolston one of the first college classes on “Sports and American Culture.”

UMBC, which stands for University of Maryland Baltimore County (and not what some students called You Must Be Crazy), is a fine academic institution. Under the long-term leadership of president Freeman Hrabowski III, it has made its mark as a leading math and science school.

Hrabowski, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, has been featured on "60 Minutes" and other media outlets for shepherding the Meyerhoff scholarship program that encourages minorities to excel in science and math. And that they do.
The school has also won plaudits for its nationally-ranked chess team.

UMBC had another great moment of recognition this past weekend. The Paul Taylor Dance Company honored its former dancer Liz Walton and UMBC dance professor at its Saturday shows. It added to its wonderful array of pieces a special memorial performance of "Aureole" in which she starred and performed with legendary Rudolf Nureyev.

The exciting company of Paul Taylor, a former swimmer at Syracuse University, ends its NYC run on Sun March 25 but keep your eyes open for appearances in your community. Their piece "Piazzolla Caldera," danced to the music of the late great Argentinian tango-influenced composer, continues to resound in my marrow.

Let's give it up for the UMBC Retrievers and their many creative achievements!

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

Memories of the Green Bay Ice Bowl and a Salute to 2017 Badgers While Waiting for Spring Training

December 31, 2017

Tags: Packers-Cowboys Ice Bowl game, Frank Gifford, Bart Starr, Jerry Kramer, Alex Hornibrook, Austin Ramesh, Andrew Van Ginkel, Kevin Gausman, Manny Machado

Happy New Year to blog readers wherever you may be! My history-heavy mind is reflecting on 50 years ago this New Year's Eve. I was a grad student in my last year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The NFL championship was being played in Green Bay over 100 miles to the north.
The 49-below conditions at Lambeau Field were astounding as the Packers and Cowboys battled for the NFL title.

It was so cold that a referee's whistle froze in his mouth and it had to be bloodied before he got it out. Announcer Frank Gifford quipped, "I'm gonna take a bite out of my coffee."

My situation wasn't as dramatic but it wasn't ideal. The night before, the front door on my old rented house blew open from high winds. I watched the game on an old black-and-white TV wearing a heavy parka, fur hat, and gloves. (I was watching with roommates but I can't remember who, and if any of them read this and can verify please do.)

The Packers continued their 1960s dominance with a dramatic last-minute win on Bart Starr's short quarterback run behind guard Jerry Kramer's block. What's interesting about NFL parity back then in a much smaller league is that both teams made the final with five losses a piece.

Flash forward to 2017. Both the Packers and Cowboys will miss the playoffs. But the Wisconsin Badgers made the state proud last night with a solid Orange Bowl victory over Miami. After falling behind 14-3, they took control of the game in the second quarter and won going away 34-24.

This pleasant outcome resulted despite the Badgers' playing a road game on the Hurricanes' home field. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook was a deserved MVP for throwing four TD passes and no interceptions, a bugaboo of his in 2017.

Among the highlights in this game were the unexpected hurdling of a tackler on his way to a key first down by not-exactly-fleet fullback Austin Ramesh. The key play was undoubtedly the momentum-changing interception by linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel that started the Badgers on their second-quarter comeback.

Van Ginkel, only a sophomore, is the type of story that makes me proud to be a Badger fan. He was recruited out of a Iowa community college to become a huge contributor. Since the defense loses heavily through graduation, Van Ginkel is likely to play an even larger role in 2018.

A few hours after this posting, the New Year will begin with the dropping of the ball from high above Times Square. A wit has suggested that a Jets and Giants receiver should do the honors because they sure dropped a lot of balls this desultory NYC pro season.

No doubt the rosy prospects for the Yankees will get the NYC sports fan back into the winning spirit. Pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training around Valentine's Day so there should be a feeling of rebirth throughout baseball land.

As an Oriole fan, alas, it will be hard to share that optimistic outlook. There are only two possibly reliable starting pitchers on the horizon and one of them Kevin Gausman has yet to put together a good full season. The trade of Manny Machado seems almost inevitable because they will not be able to sign him as a free agent after the coming season.

But there will be plenty of time to analyze and agonize in the weeks ahead. So let me close with a fervent wish for good health and good competition in the year ahead.

And always remember: Take it easy but take it!

Thoughts on Winter Meetings, Hall of Fame Selections, and Doug Jones' Greatest Save

December 14, 2017

Tags: Giancarlo Stanton, Derek Jeter, Bruce Sherman, Rob Manfred, Buck Showalter, Dan Duquette, Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Adan Jones, Jonathan Schoop, Dan Lozano, Josh Donaldson, Albert Pujols, Arte Moreno, Andrelton Simmons, Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Chase Headley, Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez, Rick Dempsey, Ken Holtzman, Doyle Alexander, Rick Dempsey, Jack Morris, Lance Parrish, Alan Trammell, Cal Ripken Jr., Earl Weaver, Bob Costas, Stan Musial, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero

Though more and more it seems to me that these meetings are like a Made for TV event without much action, the Yankees certainly stole the show with the one-sided trade for the Marlins’ slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

Derek Jeter has certainly gotten off to a rocky start as the face of the Marlins, a team saddled with debt and a new stadium that doesn't draw fans. Why should they come because they've seen stars from their past 1997 and 2003 World Series winners sold off and in Stanton's eight years as a Marlin the team never experienced a .500 season.

Jeter didn't even attend the Orlando meetings. He was spotted in a luxury box at Monday night's Dolphins-Patriots game. It is a shame that commissioner Rob Manfred worked overtime to arrange the sale of the Miami franchise to Jeter and the real money man Bruce Sherman, a hedge fund executive whose last enterprise was buying and then selling or disbanding newspapers.

As an Orioles fan realizing that the glow of the Showalter-Duquette revival years starting in 2012 ended with a thud in 2017, there is foreboding that the trades of third baseman Manny Machado and star closer Zach Britton might be inevitable. Both can walk at the end of 2018 and so can manager Showalter and gm Dan Duquette and team leader and genuine Baltimore community presence center fielder Adam Jones.

It is doubtful that Machado can be signed to a long-term contract that could reach the $300 million level. Even in his off-year of 2017, he hit .259 with 33 HRs and 95 RBI along with his usual string of defensive highlights at third base.

He is represented by Dan Lozano of the Beverly Hills Sports Council who represents Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson also eligible for free agency after 2018.
A few years ago Lozano got Angels owner Arte Moreno to give Albert Pujols that lavish 10-year contract.

Since California needs a third baseman it wouldn’t surprise me if the Angels get into the bidding for Machado or Donaldson. Machado supposedly would like to play shortstop, his original position, but the Angels are set at short with the gifted Curacao native Andrelton Simmons.

The White Sox’s incumbent shortstop Tim Anderson is not an All-Star and the Chicagoans are supposedly seriously interested in Machado. But they won't part with the blue chip pitching prospects Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech the Orioles covet.

With the trade of Chase Headley back to the Padres, the Yankees have a hole at third base. Yankee fans have dreamed of getting Machado (and the Nationals Bryce Harper also eligible for free agency after 2018). But would the Orioles trade within the division?

They did it in 1976 on the dawn of free agency after the historic Messersmith-McNally arbitration decision. (See the opening chapter in my first book, “The Imperfect Diamond.”) The Yankee farm system is deep but whether they would aid the Orioles as they did in 1976 trading future Oriole stalwarts pitchers Scott McGregor and Tippy Martinez and catcher Rick Dempsey for pitchers Doyle Alexander and Ken Holtzman and catcher Elrod Hendricks seems doubtful to me.

Southpaw Zach Britton had a record-breaking almost perfect 2016 regular season but injuries marred his 2017 campaign. How long can he continue to throw his magnificent bowling ball-like 95 mph sinker? That is the big question for evaluators.

It might make sense for the O’s to keep Britton through at least the July 31 trading deadline. Machado may be beyond the Oriole budgetary capacity and could be gone before spring training.

My suggestion is that the O's should re-up Adam Jones as soon as possible. He is a genuine fan favorite and respected member of the Baltimore community. His center field defense may have slipped a little but offensively he has been quite consistent. He’ll strike out a lot but he’ll also produce consistent numbers in the 20-plus HR and 80-plus RBI category.

While they are at it, the O's should extend Jonathan Schoop who had a breakout year at second base. Another Curacao native, Schoop might take the home team discount because he has been with the organization since he was 16.

More baseball news of note recently has been the election by a Hall of Fame veterans committee of two Tigers stalwarts, shortstop Alan Trammell and bulldog starting pitcher Jack Morris. Trammell was the model of consistency in the field and at the plate.

One of the greatest tributes he ever received came from Oriole manager Earl Weaver. When Cal Ripken Jr. moved from third base to shortstop early in his career, Weaver’s simple advice to him was “watch Trammell.”

Jack Morris won 254 games in his career, mainly with the Tigers where he was a key part of their 1984 World Series winners that went wire-to-wire after a 35-5 start to the regular season. I will never forget the enormous bear hug exchanged between Morris and catcher Lance Parrish after Morris's no-hitter that same magical year of 1984.

Maybe Morris is most remembered for his 1-0 10-inning shutout for the Twins over the Braves and John Smoltz in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

The regular election to the Hall of Fame will be announced in late January with the Braves’ switch-hitting third baseman Chipper Jones considered a shoo-in during his first year of eligibility. Slugger Jim Thome with his-600 plus career HRs and no taint of steroid use has a chance on his first try, and Vladimir Guerrero who came close last year might get the call as well.

The Ford Frick media award will go to Bob Costas who has served baseball with dignity and class for over four decades. Originally from the New York City area, Costas received his degree from Syracuse University’s powerhouse communications department and then St. Louis became his adopted home.

I love the story that when Costas first went to Stan Musial’s restaurant he left a tip of $3.31 in honor of Musial’s career batting average. That Musial wound up his career with 3630 hits, 1815 at home and 1815 on the road, has always been to me the gold standard for that elusive thing called consistency.

One political note of promise occurred on Tuesday Dec 12 when Democrat Doug Jones won the Alabama US Senate race against the alleged child predator and unrepentant Neanderthal Roy Moore. I like to think that Jones’s narrow triumph will go down in the history of our currently beleaguered republic as a Save far more valuable than the estimable reliever Doug Jones’s 303 career saves in his major league career from 1986-2000.

While I wait for spring training, basketball does involve me somewhat. Columbia’s men’s basketball record is 1-9 but they are young and are playing reasonably close games. Ditto for Wisconsin’s 5-7 record and 1-1 in Big Ten. As Tug McGraw said, “Ya gotta believe,” right?

So always remember: Take it easy but take it!

Orioles Salute JJ Hardy + My National Anthem Thoughts

September 25, 2017

Tags: John Montgomery Ward, JJHardy, Jose Bautista, Lance Lynn, Tim Beckham, Buck Showalter, Jonathan Schoop, Manny Machado, National Anthem suggestions, Columbia and Wisconsin football, Jonathan Taylor, Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Late 19th century Hall of Famer John Montgomery Ward once sagely noted that baseball without sentiment would be a very empty game.

Oriole players and fans in Baltimore proved that point again on Sunday afternoon Sept. 23 when they showered shortstop J.J. Hardy with multiple ovations at the last home game of the Birds. Blue Jay fans gave the same loving treatment to Jose Bautista likely playing his last home game in Toronto.)

The icing on the cake for Hardy was hitting a two-run homer to give the O’s the lead in a game they won 9-4 over the Tampa Bay Rays. The Bird season went up in smoke weeks ago when the combination of historically horrible starting pitching and a homer-or-bust offense exploded the myth of contention.

A healthy JJ Hardy might have somewhat stopped the slide, but he was out since mid-May after suffering a broken wrist on a pitch from the Cardinals’ Lance Lynn. Last year Hardy missed considerable time after suffering a broken foot on a foul ball.

Hardy is not that ancient in baseball terms, having turned 35 in August. But the injuries and the decline in his above-average-for-shortstop home run power has been evident for some time. The acquisition of 27-year-old shortstop Tim Beckham from Tampa Bay, the 2008 number one draft pick in the entire country, has likely sealed Hardy’s departure.

Though not blessed with great speed, Hardy will always be remembered for his understated defensive brilliance and quiet clubhouse leadership. O’s manager Buck Showalter has called him “the best tagger I have ever seen.”

I saw a vivid example of Hardy's team-first attitude on a recent Oriole telecast. The clip showed Hardy demonstrating in practice his tagging techniques to his likely successor Beckham.

After a record-breaking August offensively, Beckham came down to earth in September. But it seems likely it is his job to lose come spring training.

Second baseman Jonathan Schoop, the deserved Oriole MVP of 2017, has been effusive in his praise of Hardy's helping him grow defensively. So has Manny Machado.

I hope Hardy's career continues somewhere in 2018 because he brings so much to the game. The son of a tennis pro and a golf pro has really made a great contribution.

Before I close today, let me put in my two cents about the protests around the National Anthem. Americans love symbolic gestures and ceremonial solutions that in my humble opinion generate more heat than light.

If I had my way, I wouldn’t play a National Anthem before EVERY game. Doesn’t it mean more when it is played infrequently only on special occasions? Every now and then, a sports team has even had the creativity to substitute the martial song of Francis Scott Key for the far more lyrical “America the Beautiful.”

I know this is unrealistic blathering by yours truly so let me offer this suggestion: Let’s keep the National Anthem rendition to under 90 seconds, OK? And it should be about the song not the singer.

The best rendition I ever heard came at Yankee Stadium about 15 years ago. The brass section of the U. S. Air Force Band performed it in 75 seconds. They called themselves
The Players To Be Named Later.

That’s all for now. Next time more detailed thoughts on the playoffs with an explanation of my sentimental hopes for a Washington-Cleveland World Series.

In the meantime my visceral fan's focus is now on football rooting for my two alma maters. Columbia is off to a 2-0 start for the first time in 9 years. It faces its first Ivy League challenge at Princeton on Sept. 30.

Wisconsin after a bye week will be trying to up their 3-0 record at home against tough Big Ten foe Northwestern on Sept 30.

BTW during the Badgers' 40-8 shellacking of Brigham Young in Utah, one of the announcers said that freshman running back Jonathan Taylor has developed genuine admiration for science expert Neil DeGrasse Tyson. That's the kind of tidbit I like to hear.

Always remember: Take it easy but take it. (

It's Only Early September But American League Wild Card Race Getting Wilder and Wilder + Two Good Causes

September 3, 2017

Tags: Jimmy Yacabonis, Jamie Moyer, Orioles-Blue Jays split four-game series, Richard Urena, Brad Brach, Jonathan Schoop, Manny Machado, Mark Trumbo, Nelson Cruz, Dylan Bundy, Bernie Williams, Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, Baseball Miracles

The innovations of the second wild card and mainly divisional play in September have made for amazingly exciting American League races. Blasé folks will say, “It’s only mediocre teams fighting for the right for an early playoff elimination.”

They may be right, but for an Orioles fan the sudden re-emergence of Baltimore to (more…)

The O's Offer A Glimmer of Hope + Assorted Miscellany at All-Star Break

July 10, 2017

Tags: Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Zach Britton, Darren O'Day, Zach Granite, Reynolds Wrap Wrigley Field sponsor, Milwaukee Brewers revived logo, David Vincent, Juan Encarnacion, Frank Catalanotto

The Orioles wound up the first half of the season - actually their first 88 games - with two wins on the road at Minnesota. It brought their record to 42-46, four under .500.

Hardly cause for hand-stands but it did provide a much needed boost after losing five in a row - three straight at Milwaukee to the improving Brewers and the first two in Minneapolis.

Manny Machado’s bat finally came alive this weekend - his batting average has languished in the low .200s for most of the season. For him to finish above .250 will be a quite achievement in 2017.

Adam Jones contributed two home runs in the Sunday finale, getting him out of a HR-RBI rut that seemed stuck forever at 14-35. I know modern analytics pooh-poohs batting average and RBI but it does reveal something about how a player's season has unfolded.

Oriole starting pitching remains historically bad. It was wishful thinking to expect young Dylan Bundy in his first full season as a starter to emerge as the ace. But as long as he is healthy, he looks like a keeper. Hard to say the same about any of the other starters.

Kevin Gausman, first-round pick and fourth in the country in 2011, continues to be the the biggest mystery. He looked like he had turned the corner in the last half of 2016. Even when he didn’t win - and he does have a sub W-L record for his career - he seemed to get out of jams and keep his team close.

Not in 2017 and the big leads he has blown boggle the imagination. It makes Oriole fans welcome the All-Star break. Anxiety will ramp up when he starts the second half against the Cubs at home on Friday July 14 - Bastille Day I hope for the home team not the visitors.

Let’s turn to the positive news. Zach Britton is back in the bullpen and he looked like himself finishing off Sunday’s game with a 1-2-3 inning - two ground balls and a strikeout. It helped that he had a six-run lead but it is hard to overestimate what his loss for most of this season has meant to the Orioles.

I have always believed that a standout closer as well as a peerless ace can be a league MVP. He not only brings confidence to his team when he is out there. Equally important his specter at the end of a game added pressure on the opposition to score early and often.

The bullpen may be the only area of strength the Orioles can use for trading chips before the July 31 deadline. That and Manny Machado who might not re-sign when he becomes a free agent after the 2018 season.

It occurred to me that Darren O’Day, one of my favorite O’s (who by the way is of Polish descent not Irish - the family name is Odajowski), almost signed with the Washington Nats when he was a free agent. With the bullpen so obviously in need of upgrade down the turnpike, that might be a fit.

It says here, though, that the Orioles shouldn’t make hasty moves this month just to secure a wild card playoff spot. They need a major overhaul of the pitching staff and more speed in the lineup. That will take time and better scouting and player development.

And Now For Something (Almost) Completely Different:
**Have you noticed that the tarp at Wrigley Field now promotes Reynolds Wrap? I hope the fabric is not made of tin foil.

**Kudos to the Milwaukee Brewers for using again their Mb cap logo that is designed to look like a baseball glove. I rank it up there with the late lamented Montreal Expo cap.

The Brewers are doing quite well in the standings, leading the Cubs by four games in the lost column. Their pitching and defense need upgrades but what team doesn’t except maybe Houston and LA Dodgers.

**Three cheers to Zach Granite who made it into the big leagues with the Twins in Saturday’s game against the Orioles. A 2013 14th round draft pick from Seton Hall U in S Orange NJ, the Staten Island native is still looking for his first hit though his at-bats have been impressive. He made a great highlight-reel catch on Manny Machado's drive to deep center during Sunday’s game.

**R.I.P. David Vincent, 67, a renowned SABR member who compiled an exhaustive log of home runs throughout baseball history. He was dubbed The Sultan of Swat Stats.

Among Vincent's delicious details were his discovery that Tigers 2011 teammates in Juan Encarnacion and Frank Catalanotto were the longest-named players ever to hit back-to-back home runs.

I only lament that too bad Jarrod Saltamacchia and Billy Grabarkewitz were not also in the lineup that day. And wouldn't it have been great if William Vanlandingham threw the gopher balls?

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

How To Cope When Your Team Goes Belly-Up

June 12, 2017

Tags: Dylan Bundy, Edwin Jackson, Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Manny Machado, Andrew McCutchen, JJ Hardy, Jonathan Schoop, Darren O'Day, Zach Britton, Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, Fidel Castro, Minnie Minoso, Connie Marrero, The Central Texas BasebALZ Reminiscence Program

For those who follow the Baltimore Orioles, things have gone south in a hurry. On May 10 we were 22-10 and it looked like a year of contention again. Since then the Birds have gone 9-20 and sunk to fourth place with improving Toronto ready to switch places with us in the cellar.

What we hope is the nadir happened this past weekend at Yankee Stadium. I went to the Friday night game with our best pitcher in 2017 on the mound, Dylan Bundy. He pitched creditably and left with the O’s trailing 3-2 after 6 innings.

Once oft-traveled Edwin Jackson came in, I expected the worst and wasn't disappointed. He immediately gave up two runs and I headed for the exits - something I don't like to do, but I did have to get up early to play tennis for the first time in 2017.

Sat. and Sun.games could have used mercy rules a la amateur baseball. Chris Tillman, whose aching shoulder may ultimately need surgery, gave up six in the first and 3 in the second before he was yanked.

The next day Kevin Gausman, the first number one draft pick of the Dan Duquette regime in 2012, was only slightly better, giving up 5 in the first before being knocked out in the 4th. He is presumably healthy physically, but mentally he must be hurting.

The jury is still out as to what Gausman's future competence might be. He must stay in the rotation because he still has great stuff and there are few other starting options. And Oriole brass must fear the specter of another Jake Arrieta being dealt away too hastily.

The absence of Manny Machado for the whole series - due to a freak wrist injury caused by Andrew McCutchen’s awkward slide earlier in the week - didn’t help matters. But Manny’s not having a good year and he needs to pick it up a lot for the Orioles to dream of contending in 2017.

I love JJ Hardy as one of the most underrated Orioles in my lifetime. But his home run power is gone and his assortment of injuries has slowed him in the field.

Though the Birds don’t have a replacement for Machado at third, maybe it is time to move him to his desired position at shortstop. And see how he likes being paired with his pal at second Jonathan Schoop who has really blossomed this year as a rare Oriole clutch hitter.

Some feel that Schoop with his great arm could be a successor to Hardy at short. Seemingly the Orioles have more options in-house at second than third.

The big problem remains starting pitching. And now that Darren O’Day has his own shoulder injury to deal with on the DL and closer Zach Britton is out until probably the All-Star Game, the relief corps is hurting, too.

So how does one cope when his team goes belly-up? If you love the game, there is consolation everywhere - watching high school and college ball and other major league teams without emotional involvement. (Dispassion can only go so far, I hasten to add.)

And reading and talking about the game always brings me pleasure. On Fri June 2, the last day of the 28th annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, I gave a talk at the Hall of Fame based on my trip to Cuba over New Year’s in 2016.

I called it: “If We Had Known He Wanted To Be A Dictator, We Would Have Made Him An Umpire: Reflections on Castro and Cuba’s Ardent Love of Baseball.” The great quotation comes from either Orestes “Minnie” Minoso, the first great post-World War II Cuban star in MLB, or pitcher Conrado “Connie” Marrero who pitched in MLB for five year in the 1950s before living the rest of his 100-plus years in Cuba.

There is no doubt that Fidel Castro genuinely loved the game though it is only a myth that he was really a pro prospect. He probably had more talent as a basketball player though again not of pro quality.

Fidel was a canny enough politician to realize that most Cubans of his generation shared his passion for baseball. After all, the game took off in Cuba as an act of rebellion against the Spanish colonialists during the 10 Years War in the 1870s. It has continued its popularity though the defections of Cuban stars since the early 1990s has gravely weakened Cuba’s impressive amateur baseball organization.

As always at these chock-filled-with-papers conferences, there was no way to hear everything. But many presentations left a lasting impact with me. I'll mention one in closing, the BasebALZ Reminiscence Program of Austin, Texas.

Scotland took the lead in 2009 by creating a program to use sports memories to help
Alzheimer's patients connect with the past and discuss their stories in the present.
There are now over 200 programs in Scotland dealing mainly with memories of soccer and cricket.

There are only three projects started so far in the U.S. but the one in central Texas has had some very rewarding success. Jim Kenton talked about one Alzheimer's patient in a wheelchair who had barely spoken for three months.

When prodded about his baseball memories, he suddenly remembered a game when Jack Kramer on the 1946 Browns, threw a ball out of Fenway Park after a bad call by the first base umpire. He also remembered that it was on an anniversary of D-Day and George Metkovich led off that day. SABR researchers later confirmed the accuracy of the reminiscence.

More on the Symposium next blog - That's all for now - always remember: Take it easy but take it!

A Tumultuous End to April for my Orioles and Columbia Lions

May 1, 2017

Tags: Orioles-Yankees Apr 28-30 series, Kevin Gausman, Mark Trumbo, Aaron Judge, Buck Showalter, Vidal Nuno, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mychal Givens, Jayson Aquino, Chase Headley, Starlin Castro, Matt Holliday, Brad Brach, Ubaldo Jimenez, Manny Machado, Caleb Joseph, Austin Romine, Jacob Ruppert, Joe Girardi, Aroldis Chapman, Bryan Mitchell, Logan Verrett, Kyle Bartelman, Ian Burns

The Orioles' first visit to NYC in 2017 was certainly eventful. The Friday and Sunday games will be ones remembered forever.

The weekend could have been a total washout and a sweep by the insanely hot Yankees who rallied from 9-1 and 11-4 deficits on Friday night to win 14-11 in 10 innings. Facing another devastating late inning loss on Sunday, the O's managed to hold on and win in eleven innings, 7-4.

On Friday night Kevin Gausman pitched four shutout innings in his first sustained good outing of the year and the Birds roared to a 9-1 lead. Mark Trumbo, MLB"S home run leader last year, contributed a grand slam, his first HR since he won on Opening Day with an extra-inning blast.

Two homers by powerhouse Yankee rookie right fielder Aaron Judge brought the Bronx Bombers closer at 9-4. The Orioles quickly responded to make it 11-4 as the game entered the bottom of the 7th.

After a dinky infield single, Bird manager Buck Showalter lifted Gausman for journeyman lefty reliever and former Yankee Vidal Nuno. It says here that Gausman's pitch count wasn't enormous and I wouldn't have lifted him. Of course, then there wouldn't have such drama.

Nuno showed why he has bounced from many teams by giving up a grand slam to Jacoby Ellsbury - the first ever for the former Bosox center fielder and the 100th of his career. Ellsbury may have an untradeable bloated contract but he is off to a good start as a veteran presence on a team that trends young.

It was now 11-8. Reliable Oriole relievers Mychal Givens and Darren O'Day restored order until the bottom of the 9th. The Oriole farm system gets a lot of criticism for its failure to produce many major leaguers but Givens is a great success story and tribute to Oriole player developers.

A former high draft pick/shortstop who never mastered hitting, Givens was converted to a hard-throwing semi-sidearmer. He is extremely effective against righthanded hitters and getting better against lefty batters. He also fields his position with the aplomb of a former shortstop.

On Friday night temporary closer Brad Brach was not up to the occasion. A local boy from Freehold NJ and Monmouth University, Brach committed the cardinal sin of walking the leadoff batter. Before long Yankee second baseman and former Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro belted a long HR to tie the game at 11-11.

Once the Orioles went down 1-2-3 in the 10th against Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman, I knew the game was probably over.

Yet being a baseball addict, I watched on my TV as rookie Jayson Aquino (being groomed as a starter) walked two in a row. After a strikeout of Chase Headley, a new Yankee the veteran Matt Holliday homered deep into right center for the victory.

After the game, Nuno and Aquino were optioned to the minor leagues and might not be back for a while esp. Nuno. Aquino is still a possible fifth starter for an extremely thin Orioles starting staff.

Saturday's day game was the one I attended in person and it fulfilled my worst expectations. Amazingly inconsistent Ubaldo Jimenez gave up two HRs to Yankee leadoff hitter Brett Gardner in the first two innings and it was quickly 5-0.

The game then followed the pattern that imperious Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert loved. Score a bunch of runs in the first inning and pull slowly ahead. Final score was 12-4 and it was never really a contest.

To give you a sense of the bad omens for the Orioles on Saturday, Chase Headley pulled a Manny Machado on Machado. The Orioles hot corner master smoked a ball down the left field line with double written all over it. (A cliche but a nice one IMHO).
Headley dove to his right and speared it as Machado looked on in astonishment.

There was a brief moment of hope when it was only 7-2 in top of the sixth with two men in scoring position and two out. Birds backup catcher Caleb Joseph was facing Yankee reliever Adam Warren. A single could make it 7-4, so I dreamed.

It was a great competitive AB for Joseph who fouled off a couple of pitches while bringing the count to 3-2. Alas, he struck out. His quest for his first RBI since 2015 had to wait.

Once the Yankees immediately answered those runs with a two-run HR by Yankee backup catcher Austin Romine, it was time to beat the crowd and head home.

A tip of the cap to Romine. Like Joseph he is a longtime minor leaguer in the same organization for his whole career. He is performing wonderfully on both sides of the ball during starting catcher's Gary Sanchez stint on the DL.

And though I missed it, I was glad that the final two runs on this desultory day came on Joseph's HR in the 9th No longer must he answer questions about his RBI dearth.

I did not expect Sunday's 7-4 Oriole 11 inning win. Especially after they blew a two-run lead in the bottom of the 9th. It was a game that lasted over four and a half hours and featured an ejection of Showalter on a disputed 9th inning balk call.

When he brought in closer Chapman for the 10th inning, Yankee skipper Joe Girardi moved reliever Bryan Mitchell to first base from the mound. The strategy backfired when Mitchell returned to the mound to give up the 3 decisive 11th inning runs with Trumbo delivering the tie-breaking RBI.

How fitting that Logan Verrett in his first appearance as an Oriole won the game with two shutout innings of relief. The former Met reliever had just been called up from Triple A the night before.

By contrast with the bizarre weekend drama in the Bronx, the Columbia Lions put on almost a clinical display of baseball Saturday in Philadelphia. They needed to sweep the Quakers to force a playoff after splitting two games in New York on Friday.

Sweep they did, coming from behind in each game. There were heroes galore but special mention must be given to slugging senior second baseman Kyle Bartelman and sophomore righthander Ian Burns who earned the second game victory with nearly 5 innings of shutout relief.

The one-game playoff will be this Saturday May 6 at 1p at Robertson Field at Satow Stadium in the Baker Field complex west of Broadway on 218th Street. We'll see if the Lions can repeat their amazing success in elimination games.

Yale awaits the following weekend in New Haven in the best-of-three series that will determine the Ivy League participant in the NCAA baseball tournament beginning on May 30.

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

Proud To Be A Badger! + Thoughts on World Baseball Classic

March 21, 2017

Tags: Wisconsin basketball stars Bronson Koenig, Ethan Happ; World Baseball Classic: Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Nelson Cruz, Andrew Miller

Wisconsin basketball has surprised the pundits and even many loyal fans like yours truly by making the Sweet 16 of the NCAA basketball tournament for the fourth year in a row. To make matters even sweeter, their chance to make a third Final Four in the last four seasons will take place at Madison Square Garden starting Friday March 24.

Funny how things work out in unpredictable sports. With four seniors in the starting lineup plus the gifted redshirt sophomore Ethan Happ (a guard in a forward's body), the Badgers were supposed to contend for both a Big Ten title and a deep run through March Madness.

Then calamity hit late in the regular season as Wisconsin lost five out of their six Big Ten games ceding the league title to Purdue and their player-of-year candidate Caleb Swanigan. The return to health of senior guard Bronson Koenig helped get Wisconsin out of their funk and they won their first two games in the Big Ten tournament.

They did lose the title game to Michigan that joins them in the Sweet 16 along with Purdue. Watch out for Michigan that survived a near-plane crash on the way to the Big Ten tournament to become a force to be reckoned with.

Bravos in order for a supposedly mediocre Big 10 while the ballyhooed Atlantic Coast Conference started the tourney with 9 teams and they are down to one, North Carolina who were lucky to beat Arkansas in the second round.

According to the website uwbadgers.com, there will be an open practice at MSG for the Badgers on Thursday at 1p. I intend to go and will report back after the games.
I say "games" because if Wisconsin beats Florida starting at 10p Fri on TBS, they play in the final against either Baylor or South Carolina on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile the World Baseball Classic winds up at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Wednesday night March 22. Puerto Rico nipped the Kingdom of Netherlands on Monday night taking advantage of the bizarre rule that starts the 11th inning with runners automatically on first and second base and no out.

Puerto Rico will face either USA or defending champion Japan. They are squaring off on Tuesday night March 21. Regardless of the result, Team USA has already experienced a great moment when Adam Jones robbed Manny Machado of a home run that kept the lead for USA and ultimately eliminated the DR team.

It was a special moment for at least two reasons. Jones and Machado are teammates on my Orioles but Manny decided to honor his mother's country of birth by playing for the DR team. Manny tipped his cap to Jones for his great catch as the USA avenged the DR's dramatic victory in Miami a week earlier.

From all I've heard and read, the atmosphere at Marlins Stadium was unlike anything ever experienced. A largely Dominican sold-out crowd were celebrating their heroes and the game of baseball from hours before the first pitch to hours afterward.

The DR team roared back from a 5-0 deficit to win 7-5, thanks in big part to a 3-run home run by Seattle Mariner Nelson Cruz over his former Oriole teammate Andrew Miller (now with Cleveland).

There are a lot of problems with the timing and the mechanisms of the WBC. But the great moments have made it worthwhile, especially when you consider the boredom and increasingly superficiality of most spring training games.

Well, that's all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it!

Now That The TV Show Known As The Winter Meetings Is Over

December 11, 2016

Tags: Continuing baseball labor peace, Oakland-Tampa Bay struggling franchises, Bud Selig, Chris Sale, Adam LaRoche, Zach Britton, Manny Machado, Columbia women's basketball: Megan Griffith, Camille Zimmerman, Wisconsin's men's basketball: Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes, Ethan Happ

Did anyone really expect that there would be another labor shutdown in baseball? Hey, man, this is the 21st century - the age of labor peace in baseball is upon us after the bitter battles of the last century ultimately cancelled the World Series of 1994.

Remember the old line? The warring sides of owners Reinsdorf, Selig & Company versus Fehr, Orza, and The Living Specter of Marvin Miller did something that neither World Wars I or II could do - cancel a World Series.

That was then, and this is happily now where the new Basic Agreement signed on the eve of the Winter Meetings assures more peace through the 2020 season.

This is not to say that the baseball business has no problems. Poor attendance and poor stadiums in Oakland and Tampa Bay remain very serious issues.

The rumor is that MLB would love to return to Montreal and maybe even enter Mexico City. There are reportedly billions of dollars in Portland, Oregon - including some from the Nike treasury - salivating over the prospect of obtaining the Athletics.
Yet no decision is imminent.

For his role in labor peace and pushing for expanding playoffs and its resultant TV
bonanza, retired commissioner Bud Selig was elected to Cooperstown's Hall of Fame during the Winter Meetings.

I think Bud's plusses obviously and justifiably outweighed the minuses of his role in the collusion against free agents in the 1980s and his looking the other way during the rampant invasion of PEDs in the 1990s.

As for the actual player transactions at the meetings, held for the first time at the new National Harbor casino resort outside Washington D.C. the consensus is that the
Red Sox bolstered their starting pitching staff by trading for Chris Sale, the outstanding left-hander of the White Sox.

I wonder though if his temperament off the mound could be an issue when he makes his home in the pressure-filled confines of Fenway Park.

Remember that Sale is the fellow who was in the middle of a revolt of the White Sox last spring training when team management banned first baseman-DH Adam Laroche from bringing his teenaged son into the clubhouse.

Laroche, who clearly was on the downside of his career, suddenly retired rather than face that indignity. Last I heard he and his son were doing plenty of hunting and fishing.

Sale was also the fellow who was so distressed at wearing a retro uniform last season that he cut up not only his own uni but some of his teammates’ jerseys, too. Sale reportedly said that he only wants to win and this new-old uniform was just a sign that the team was more interested in marketing than winning.

For this act of childish insubordination, Sale got slapped on the wrist and suspended for only one game. We’ll see how this volatile temperament plays out in Boston. He undoubtedly has great talent, is young, and has a team-favorable contract.

But I always shy away from predictions in December. Let the countless number of "analytic" rags/websites proclaim that because the Orioles did nothing except add a couple of minor league outfielders, they will finish 10 games under .500 in 2017.

We haven’t even turned the calendar year and doomsday is already predicted for the Birds. Just like last year when the Birds finished 16 games over .500

Now if I were running the team, I’d have extended brilliant closer Zach Britton before 2016 and started to buy out some of Manny Machado’s arbitration years. In case you haven’t noticed, fans have no control over these things. So we wait and hope.

Meanwhile I am keeping my rooting chops in shape by following both basketball teams of my two alma maters, the Wisconsin Badgers and the Columbia Lions. Trending up right now are the men of Madison and the women of Morningside Heights.

The Columbia women, under rookie coach Megan Griffith (a former Lion player and Princeton assistant), are 7-2 with a do-it-all star forward in junior Camille Zimmerman.

The expected-to-do-well male Badgers are 9-2 with a heavily senior squad. They have many great stories as well as great players.

Senior guard Bronson Koenig has become very visible as a role model for the Ho-Chunk tribe of native Americans. His lineage comes from his mother's side.
Senior forward Nigel Hayes has supported many of the causes associated with "Black Lives Matter" activists.

In a fascinating pure basketball story, sophomore center Ethan Happ, a first cousin of Toronto Blue Jay southpaw J. Happ, is a potent inside force on both sides of the court. But it remains to be seen if he EVER attempts a basket from outside the paint!

Ivy League and Big Ten seasons don’t begin until after Christmas but watch this space for more news. I maintain hopes that Columbia men and Wisconsin women with new coaches and young teams show progress, too.

And always remember: Take it easy but take it!





When Your Team Starts Losing or Not Winning Series

September 21, 2016

Tags: Red Sox Killer Bees, Killer P's, Gary Sanchez, Manny Machado, John Hagemann, John Smoltz, Doyle Alexander, Israel in World Baseball Classic: Jason Marquis, Ike Davis, Craig Breslow, Josh Satin

I’ve been saying on this blog since August that if the Orioles won every series until the end of the regular season on Sunday October 2 they’d win the American League East for the second time in three years.

That desired outcome took a hit this past weekend when the Orioles could only split at home a four-game series with the last place Tampa Bay Rays while the Red Sox swept four from the arch-rival Yankees at Fenway.

The Bosox have now won the first two games of their series in Baltimore by identical 5-2 scores. The losses to Boston were not really as close as the final score indicated. The Bosox took the lead in the third inning of both games and never were headed.

They lead the O’s by 5 games with 11 games to play. Realistically AL East titledom and avoidance of the wild card game are no longer realistic goals for the Birds. Yet as Buck Showalter constantly advises, players don't live in the long run. They live through daily play and a pitch or a bad bounce can change fortunes in a twinkling.

It must be said though that there are some impressive Killer B’s in the Boston lineup – Mookie Betts an excellent right fielder and leader for MVP consideration, Zander Bogaerts from Aruba a slick shortstop, Jackie Bradley Jr who covers a lot of ground in center, and now rookie left fielder Andrew Benintendi has been added to the B brigade.

As a great believer in scouting and player development, I cannot complain when Boston has signed and nurtured all of these Killer B's. Ditto to the Yankees for waiting for years for catcher Gary Sanchez to become a possible rookie of the year based on some outstanding play on both sides of the ball since early August.

Sanchez has provided a lift to the Yankees comparable to what Manny Machado brought to the Orioles late in the 2012 season. Loving baseball is a lot about loving youth and the fresh legs and lively spirit that prospects bring to the game.

Back to the formidable Bosox for a moment, I haven’t even mentioned old Boston standbys Dustin Pedroia, who has been hitting over .400 since being moved to leadoff hitter, and DH David Ortiz in what is presumably his last year. He’s setting all-time records for productivity over the age of 40.

As always that winning feeling has been fueled by the improved Boston pitching led by 21-game winner Rick Porcello the Seton Hall Prep New Jersey product. He dispatched the O’s with complete game ease on Monday night.

The $217 million southpaw David Price has also rounded into form and the bullpen has also improved. With Price and Porcello and Pedroia the Red Sox have Potent P's to go with the Killer B's.

I’m not saying that other AL division winners Cleveland and Texas won’t have something to say come October. Don’t rule out the possible wild card contestants Toronto and Detroit or Houston and maybe even the Orioles if somehow they score more than two runs a game. Seattle and the Yankees are fading now but they’ve had impressive winning streaks lately so can’t be totally counted out.

Right now though Boston has put it all together at the right time of the year, late September. Meanwhile in the NL there is a three-way fight for the wild card among three flawed but occasional potent teams, the Cardinals, Giants, and Mets. The big bad Cubs are lurking in post-season along with the Nationals and Dodgers.

Notable Recent Highlights:
**Baseball scout John Hagemann’s plaque now occupies a honored place in the Scouts Wall of Fame at the Hudson Valley Renegades Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill, NY.

One of the highlights of Hagemann’s distinguished career as a scout for the Expos, Orioles, Braves, and now the Phillies, was his recommendation in 1987 that the Braves obtain Class A minor league pitcher John Smoltz in the trade with the Tigers for veteran hurler Doyle Alexander.

Alexander helped the Tigers to the playoffs but Smoltz became a Hall of Famer.

Hagemann also signed out of their native Staten Island pitcher Jason Marquis.
His major league career now probably over, Marquis will pitch for Israel in the World Baseball Classic elimination tournament Sept. 21-24 at the Brooklyn Cyclones MCU home field on Coney Island. So likely will former Red Sox southpaw Craig Breslow and former Met infielders Ike Davis and Josh Satin.

More on that fascinating tourney matching Israel, Brazil, Great Britain, and Pakistan in the next installment of this blog.

For now as always: Take it easy but take it!

Can Orioles Turn It Around In September? & Other Late-Season Thoughts

September 2, 2016

Tags: AL wild card race, Orioles slide - injuries to Chris Tillman and Darren O'Day, Kevin Gausman, Gary Sanchez, Steve Pearce, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Mark Trumbo, Stephen Cardullo, Bryce Harper, Katie Ledecky, John Hagemann

As play begins on Labor Day weekend, the Orioles find themselves tied for the second AL wild card with the resurgent Detroit Tigers. The Houston Astros are nipping on their heels and the born-again Yankees with a lot of new blood are only two lost games behind Baltimore and Detroit.

The Yankees are regularly winning series these days, including recently cooling off defending World Series champion Kansas City. The Orioles are in reverse, losing series that they won earlier in the season.

They are now a long shot to win the AL East trailing the Blue Jays by four games and the Red Sox by two. Right now Boston leads the battle to host the wild card game but of course a lot can happen in September.

There are a lot of explanations for why the Orioles, a team that peaked at 18 above .500 in early August, have slipped. Most prominent is the failure of any consistent starting pitching. A troubling shoulder injury to 15-game winner Chris Tillman has obviously hurt as well as the multiple injuries to key reliever Darren O'Day.

No one has stepped up to fill the starter void although Kevin Gausman did momentarily stop the bleeding in a great seven inning-shutout performance at Yankee Stadium on the last Sunday in August. I was fortunate to attend that game.

Steve Pearce got his first RBIs in his return to the O's - a solo HR and a huge two-out bases-loaded single. He also threw out the Yankees wunderkind catcher Gary Sanchez trying to go first to third on a single with nobody out in the fourth.

Manny Machado was way off third base in a defensive shift but managed to get back to the bag to receive Pearce's throw. Turned out to be a huge play. Pearce left the game after top of 7th but his balky elbow is evidently all right.

Mark Trumbo hit a long HR for the insurance runs in the eighth. Most important the defense sparkled for the first time in a while, Machado and Jonathan Schoop making unbelievable plays. Probably was no accident that good starting pitching with a fast working Gausman kept the defense on their toes.

Alas, losing the following series to Toronto at home stopped any possible momentum.
The first "meaningful games in September" begin tonight Fri Sep 2 against the Yankees at Camden Yards. Since negative thoughts can cause considerable damage, I will refrain from any such exercise. Am hoping for the best by winning every series for the next month - that's the message.

RANDOM THOUGHTS:
**How about Stephen Cardullo of the Colorado Rockies? He made his major league debut
last week in a makeup home doubleheader against the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. He not only got his first MLB hit and first HR in game one, but he belted a grand-slam in the second game.

Not bad for a veteran of four seasons in independent leagues who made The Show at the advanced age of 29. That the Dodgers scored 8 runs in the last two innings to come-from-behind to win the second game put a damper on Cardullo's achievement, but to coin a phrase, they can't take that [debut performance] away for him.

**On the negative side, the Washington Nationals reigning MVP Bryce Harper still doesn't know the word "remorse." He was recently ejected from an extra-inning game for throwing his helmet at home plate after being called out on strikes. His team was already shorthanded in a game they eventually lost.

Afterwards Harper was still fuming at the plate umpire's call (which on replay didn't seem to me outrageously wrong). I guess when you are a megasports celebrity who hobnobbed with first pitch thrower/Olympic swimming champion Katie Ledecky before the game, you feel you can do anything without paying a price.

That's all for now - more on the dramatic pennant races coming up later this month.
Plus my report on the induction of revered baseball scout John Hagemann into the Hudson Valley Renegades Scouting Wall of Fame Friday night September 2.

Always remember - take it easy but take it!
(more…)

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)

Introducing Teny Ymota and His Take on the Orioles + Salute to Columbia Baseball

May 2, 2016

Tags: Earl Weaver, JJHardy, Zach Britton, Manny Machado, Ryan Flaherty, Pedro Alvarez, Mark Trumbo, Columbia baseball senior class of 2016 seniors, Chet Baker, "Born To Be Blue, " Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo

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.

Only One Week Left of Misery for 2015 Orioles

September 28, 2015

Tags: Baltimore Orioles disappointing 2015, Dan Duquette, Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz, Andrew Miller, Jake Arrieta, Steve Clevenger, Tyler Kepner, Eduardo Rodriguez, Zach Davies, Gerardo Parra, Manny Machado, Zach Britton, playoff predictions, Greg Holland, Jays v Cardinals

They have been the epitome of inconsistency. Most recently they swept the Nationals in Washington but then went on to Boston and not only were swept but were shut out three times – the first time they endured such embarrassment in 58 years.

I never thought they would really contend in 2015 because they did not replace Nick Markakis’s consistency and Nelson Cruz’s power and presence in the lineup. I didn’t think their starting pitching was as good as team management thought.

I was sadly proven right in both cases. I would have loved to be wrong.

The specter of more free agent defections looms after the regular season ends mercifully on Sunday Oct. 4. And the farm system, though not as bad as some of the pundits claim, doesn’t look like it will provide quality replacements for the most likely Orioles to leave, slugger Chris Davis and southpaw starter Wei-Yin Chen.

Trades are possible and so are some less expensive free agent signings. However, the glitter has faded from Orioles gm Dan Duquette, last year’s MLB Executive of the Year.

In the last two years Duquette has traded three starting pitchers who are helping other teams considerably. The Orioles’ return was negligible though I have hopes that backup catcher/solid hitter/Baltimore native Steve Clevenger might stick for all of 2016.

Jake Arrieta is the most notable loss, starring for the Cubs who have made the playoffs in the first year under the helm of former Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon.
I am not going to cry too much about this trade because Arrieta simply could not
put it together in Baltimore after being Opening Day starter in two seasons.

He’s not yet 30 and pitchers can bloom late. According to the New York Times excellent national baseball reporter Tyler Kepner, Oriole coaches discouraged Arrieta from throwing across the body for fear of inconsistency and injury.

The Cubs have allowed Arrieta to be himself and he has rewarded them with an astonishing year. Not only baseball’s first 20-game winner of 2015 but becoming nearly unhittable and rarely scored upon.

As the future of Oriole starting pitching is murky at best, the Red Sox can look forward to years with southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez who Duquette traded late in 2014 to rent reliever Andrew Miller. Miller helped the Orioles to the playoffs but then signed as a free agent with the Yankees where he has been a shutdown closer.

Late this season, believing that Birds were only one bat from real contention, Duquette traded young righthander Zach Davies to the Brewers for the rental of Gerardo Parra. Parra has not been the answer at the plate while Davies has shown promise in Milwaukee with a victory over the Cubs already under his belt.

I realize that ardent fans can let emotions eclipse reason so maybe I’m going too far when I say that Davies has potential Greg Maddux-type abilities. But signed after high school he did improve every year working up the minor league ladder.

Duquette and manager Buck Showalter are signed on for at least the next three years in Baltimore. Though Duquette flirted with taking the presidency of the Toronto Blue Jays last off-season (a position recently filled by longtime Indians executive Mark Shapiro), I presume he will stay on the job.

I just hope that the future of my favorite team doesn’t seem as bleak as it does at the current time. One thing that I would highly recommend though is the rewarding with longer than one-year contracts Manny Machado and closer Zach Britton.
Along with a healthy second baseman Jonathan Schoop their performance has
made the Orioles usually worthy of watching this disappointing year.

AN ATTEMPT AT PUNDITRY: Looks like the playoffs will be very exciting again and maybe even a Wild Card play-in between Astros and Angels before they start. Defending American League champion Kansas City has lost a lot of games in September as well as its closer Greg Holland to likely Tommy John surgery.

It is true that the Royals have not had meaningful games to play for weeks. They must be thinking that they can turn it on when it matters. That remains to be seen.

Toronto has passed them for best record in the American League and thus home field throughout the playoffs. They could make the World Series for the first time since 1993.
David Price has become the ace they had lacked and despite the injury to another late-season pickup/shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, they are showing that they know how to win.

I don’t watch the National League as closely as the AL but the Cardinals are on pace to win 100 or more regular season games. Despite many major injuries they are like the Timex watch – “they just keep on ticking.”

So a week before the playoffs I am leaning towards a first-ever Toronto-St. Louis World Series. But I think the Pirates, Cubs, Mets, Dodgers in the NL and the Yankees,
Rangers, Astros or Angels or less likely Twins, will disagree firmly.

For now always remember: Take it easy but take it!

No Baseball Excitement In Baltimore This September

August 31, 2015

Tags: Baltimore Orioles, Buck Showalter, Dan Duquette, Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz, Andrew Miller, Chris Davis, Wei-Yin Chen, Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Joe Torre, Hudson Valley Renegades, Goldklang group, John Kosciak

It is hard for an Orioles fan to face the disaster the 2015 season has become. Since 2012, “Playing meaningful games in September” had returned as a happy Birdland mantra.

It won’t be chanted this September. A four-game sweep at home by the resurgent Minnesota Twins followed by a 1-6 road trip at defending AL champion Kansas City and surprising Texas has put Baltimore four games under .500 and in danger of falling into the AL East basement.

The two biggest culprits have been the lack of consistent starting pitching and a homer-happy strikeout-happy offense that produces little else. The defense has remained solid and at times spectacular, but you have to score some runs. When you don’t, the pressure on mediocre pitching to be perfect builds to impossible levels.

There is still a full slate of September games to be played, mainly in the AL East where the O’s so far have a 26-24 record. Playing spoiler is not what Oriole diehards expected in March though I did pick them for 4th.

I thought the starting pitching was overrated and the loss of free agent outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis would create a void in the offense. Having top reliever Andrew Miller bolt to the Yankees didn’t bode too well either.

The MLB's 2014 executive of the year Dan Duquette thought he could piece together an outfield from bargain-basement free agent pickups but the strategy failed miserably.
Losing Markakis to the Braves really hurt because he played hard and played hurt and he played every day.

I can understand why Duquette probably convinced owner Peter Angelos not to give a fourth year to both Markakis and Cruz, but in Nick’s case he had been a loyal Oriole for 10 years and deserved the reward.

Though his new team the Braves are rebuilding in a very difficult way for Braves fans, Markakis's numbers are excellent. And again he was always more than the numbers.

The state of the Oriole farm system has improved and the worst thing a franchise can do is to throw money wildly into the free agent market. Unfortunately, the Orioles stand to lose its biggest run-producer Chris Davis (wildly streaky that he is) and useful southpaw-though-no-ace Wei-Yin Chen to free agency after the season.

So it is not an easy time to be an Orioles fan. There have been no rabbits in manager Buck Showalter's hat this season. However, there is some core young talent that should be given reasonable multi-year contracts, esp. third baseman Manny Machado, an emerging though still immature star, and All-Star closer Zach Britton.

Alas, I will watch the last weeks of the regular season and the post-season with interest but devoid of the passion of the true fan.

I’ve always liked Joe Torre’s explanation for why he returned to managing after years in the broadcast booth. “I missed the winning, . . . and the losing,” he said.
When games matter and there is always hope for tomorrow and the day after, that is what baseball rooting is all about.

I will also keep an eye on the waning days of the minor league season in the New York City area, esp. the short season New York-Penn League that ends its regular campaign on Labor Day, followed by two short best-of-3 playoffs.

There is quite a race going down to the wire in the McNamara division of the NY-PL.
Only a half game separates the Staten Island Yankees, the Hudson Valley Renegades (the Tampa Bay farm club), and the Aberdeen Ironbirds (the Orioles affiliate).

In late August I saw the SI Yankees and the Ironbirds split a doubleheader in front of an intimate crowd at the lovely ballpark on New York Harbor, only a short walk from the Staten Island ferry. BTW the ferry is a free ride in each direction and remains one of the great attractions of NYC.

A tip of the cap to the HV Renegades, one of the Goldklang group of minor league franchises. On Sat Sep 5 at 5:30p, before the regularly scheduled 7:05p game against Aberdeen, veteran scout John Kosciak will be the 14th talent hunter honored with a plaque on the Dutchess Stadium Wall of Fame.

Kosciak, now a pro scout with the Pirates, has worked in baseball for more than three decades. As a Houston Astros scout, he was instrumental in signing of budding star outfielder George Springer from the University of Connecticut.

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

“Champions Are Made When No One Is Watching” and Other Observations From The Mid-July Baseball Scene

July 20, 2015

Tags: Paul Hoover, Mario Mendoza, Ervin Santana, Glen Perkins, AL West, Oriole free agents, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Zach Britton

I saw a T-shirt with the above saying while watching workouts prior to a Hudson Valley Renegades game earlier this month. The wearer of the shirt, Tampa Bay Rays minor league catching instructor Paul Hoover, didn’t know the origin of the saying but it is a beauty - A testament to the hard work and long hours needed to make a champion in any sport.

Meanwhile on the MLB front, parity is the rule though I would argue parity=mediocrity. The number of regular players batting under .200 is astonishing.
Mario Mendoza, who actually was a career .215 hitter, is beginning to look like Roberto Clemente.

Dumbest play I saw on TV – Ervin Santana of the Twins, back from his PED suspension for the surprising Minnesotans, kept throwing to first base to keep a runner close with two out in the 8th inning of a game in which he led 5-0.

You have a solid lead and you have one of the greatest closers for the 9th inning Glen Perkins in the bullpen. And you are worried about a man on first stealing second on you?

Baseball fortunes can change in a twinkling. Perkins blew his first save of the year at Oakland on Saturday night July 18 and Sunday the A’s routed former Oakland lefty Tom Milone in a 14-1 romp.

Supposed pre-season contenders Oakland and Seattle are mired in the lower regions
of the AL West. The so-far-elusive winning streak could bring each near .500 and a shot perhaps at a second wild-card berth.

The build-up has begun for the trade deadline on July 31st. The MLB TV network will have a week of programming leading up to that date. I fear the pressure to improve teams will mount exponentially with the air coverage.

My Orioles finally won a series after losing four in a row and going 3-11. It destroyed the edge their 18-5 run in June had given them. Their mid-week series at Yankee Stadium starting Tuesday night July 21 will give them a better idea of where they will stand once the dog days of August begin.

The Yankees will not be easy to catch but a four-game lead is not an overwhelming obstacle. If the Oriole starters pitch well and the hitters rediscover how to hit with runners in scoring position. If not, then failure to hit with RISP will mean RIP 2015 season.

The Birds still have 8 pending free agents on the roster. They include big ones like Chris Davis, who has proven very agile and effective in right field, catcher Matt Wieters (slowly recovering from Tommy John surgery), starters Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris (recently demoted to the bullpen), All-Star setup man Darren O’Day, and at times useful relievers Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz.

Of course, fans cannot control any of these decisions. For now I’m trying to enjoy the possibility of "playing meaningful games in September." The youthful powerful brilliant play on both sides of the ball of youngsters Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop has been a joy to watch. Also the so-far-almost-flawless effectiveness of closer Zach Britton.

That’s all for now – this is Teny Ymota (The Earl of NY Your Man On The Aisle) reminding you always – “Take it easy but take it.”

Pre-Birthday Oriole Musings + Hail to the Virginia Cavaliers, Winners of Their First College Baseball Title

June 25, 2015

Tags: Denny McLain, Jim Palmer, Storm Davis, Mike Flanagan, Kevin Appier, Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson, Jason Giambi, Buck Showalter, Andy Pettitte, Ubaldo Jimenez, Nine Magazine, Richard Galliano, Dizzy's Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, JJ Hardy, Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, Brian O'Connor, Karl Ravech, Kyle Peterson, Aaron Boone, Gus Craig, Jordan Serena, George Thanopoulos, Austin Bossart, Ronnie Glenn, Tanner Anderson, Mike Martin, Joe Purritano, Tyler Servais

I turn 73 on June 27. For a good chunk of my birthdays since I became an Orioles fan nearly a half-century ago, I’ve spent them watching my team in person. Ah the steamy humidity in 1969 – Bethlehem Steel Night at old Memorial Stadium – when the Birds pounded Denny McLain, a year removed from his 30-win (more…)

Columbia-Penn Baseball Rivalry Resumes + More Thoughts on MLB So Far

April 20, 2015

Tags: Columbia-Penn upcoming showdown, Joe Falcone, Ryan McGuire, Will Savage, Mike Reitcheck, Matt McKinnon, Ronnie Glenn, Matt Harvey, Jerry Blevins, Travis D'Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki, CitiField shortcomings, Juan Lagares, Jonathan Schoop, Manny Machado

“History never repeats itself exactly,” noted American historian Charles A. Beard once opined. Don’t tell that to fans of Ivy League baseball.

As the final weekend of the regular season nears, the Penn Quakers and the Columbia Lions are tied with stellar records of 14-2 atop the Gehrig Division. Just like last year. And this Saturday and Sunday, they will meet four times to determine who will qualify to meet Dartmouth, the perennial Rolfe Division winner, in a best-of-three championship series the following weekend. The survivor gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament beginning at the end of May.

And just like last year, it may take an extra winner-take-all game to decide the Penn-Columbia winner. Both teams feature plenty of hitting and solid pitching.

Penn features six regulars hitting over .300 with Matt McKinnon an all-Philadelphia area selection. Starter Mike Reitcheck also made the all-Philly team and the Quakers also possess lefty Ronnie Glenn who was effective last year against the Lions.

Columbia has some thunderous left-handed sluggers in seniors Gus Craig, Joe Falcone - the Iraqi-Afghan war veteran, the oldest player in Division I who blasted three home runs last weekend in the four game sweep of Cornell - and Dave Vandercook. Another lefty powerful slick-fielding first baseman, junior Nick McGuire, bats eighth in this lineup.
Last year's Ivy League batting champion Will Savage may bat seventh ahead of McGuire.

After a slow start in tough non-league games, Columbia pitching has come around led by junior righthanders George Thanopoulos and Kevin Roy. Ivy League rules mandate that the first game of each doubleheader is seven innings followed by a regular nine-inning nightcap. So it is imperative that a strong pitcher starts the first game and goes as deep as he can.

There is no attendance charge for Ivy League regular season games though there is usually a nominal charge for the championship series. Though the sound of the aluminum bat does make many a baseball purist cringe, I have become a big fan of the college game. Without interminable TV commercials between half-innings, the games move swiftly and the curious fan will be surprised at the crispness and near-professionalism of the players.

Adding spice to the Columbia-Penn rivalry is the alternation of home fields: The Saturday doubleheader will be played at Columbia’s Satow Stadium – located behind the football field up the hill off 218th Street west of Broadway - and the Sunday twinbill moves to Meiklejohn Stadium on the edge of the Penn campus near the Schuylkill River.
Batter up on both days will be 1pm.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE MLB SEASON
I journeyed to Citi Field on Sunday April 19 for the Matt Harvey show. Unbeknownst to the ticket buyers, the Mets star young right-hander reported in sick early in the day, but after missing more than a year for Tommy John surgery he was not going to miss a precious start.

He pitched six very efficient innings and the Mets batters helped out with a seven-run fourth inning. But trying to save the overworked bullpen, Mets manager Terry Collins let Harvey start the seventh inning. He quickly gave up three hits and a run and then disaster struck (though the Mets held on to win the game, 7-6).

First, lefty reliever Jerry Blevins got struck by a line drive on his pitching arm. He will be in a splint for six weeks and no one can accurately predict how soon he will come back. Even worse, in the bottom of the seventh inning, rapidly improving Mets catcher Travis D’Arnaud got hit on the wrist by Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos. He suffered a fracture and will be out indefinitely.

The Mets have still won eight in a row and have come from behind in many of those wins, always a good sign for a potentially contending team. They have another promising young catcher Kevin Plawecki ready to replace D’Arnaud for the near future, and with solid starters like Harvey, Jacob DeGrom and perhaps Jon Niese too, there might be regular nights and days of fun and hope in Queens this year after a long dry spell.

However, there is always something to criticize about these Mets.
(1) The elevators from the upper decks run very sporadically after the games (unlike at Yankee Stadium). And believe it or not, the one escalator I found was running up and not down at the end of the game.

(2) Their half-inning contests for fans on the big video screen need work. The most embarrassing was a hula hoop twisting "competition" between Mets center fielder Juan Lagares, recorded on video, and a not particularly athletic woman who had trouble even getting the hoop on her body let alone spinning it. Where do these ideas come from?!

Meanwhile, injuries have struck my Orioles, too. Their fine second baseman from Curacao Jonathan Schoop (pronounced “Scope”) suffered partially torn knee ligaments in a collision with Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli on Friday night at Fenway.

The early diagnosis is that Schoop might not need surgery and he is already starting rehabilitation at the Orioles fine all-year facility in Sarasota. We fans can only hope that he won’t be out for most of the season. When Schoop’s teammate Manny Machado hurt his knee last year, they also said he might not need surgery. But he did for the second time in two years. And Manny's off to a slow start with the bat and there are troubling signs that he may be taking his offensive problems out to the field which is an absolute no-no.

Schoop’s stumbling over the base leads me to pose a serious question: Is there any reason to still require the bases being attached firmly to the ground? Wouldn’t softer pads serve the same purpose? They are used in many amateur games.

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)

YIBF (Yours In Baseball Forever) JOURNAL, Salute to Orioles Present and Past Edition

August 12, 2014

Tags: Chris Davis, Manny Machado, J.J. Hardy, David Simon in "Sports Illustrated, ", Steve Pearce, Buck Showalter, Chris Tillman, Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Caleb Joseph, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson

I am writing this entry overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee on Cow Island just a short boat ride from the small central New Hampshire town of Moultonborough in the Lakes Region of the “Live Free Or Die” state.

I am here to share a few days at a special friend’s bucolic cabin. But in our amazingly interconnected world, I haven’t been too far from my smartphone.

I was thrilled last night to follow a little bit of the Orioles’ come-from-behind victory over the Yankees. Always a double treat, my team winning and the Yankees losing in one swift stroke.

Despite the final 11-3 score, it wasn’t an easy win because the Birds trailed 3-2 going into the bottom of the 5th. But Chris Davis, trying unsuccessfully not to be overburdened by pressure to repeat his sensational 2013 season, hit a long home run to give Baltimore the lead and they won going away.

Davis was only in the game because he was substituting for Manny Machado whose right knee buckled during a third inning at-bat. Maybe fortunately, it was Machado’s right knee not the left one that was operated on during the off-season. The Birds were already missing shortstop JJ Hardy with a recent finger injury.

Any lengthy loss of Machado and Hardy, the cornerstones of the Orioles’ interior defense, would be a big blow to the Orioles’ pennant hopes. Yet the 2014 team has shown impressive resiliency.

Several examples:
**Early in the season All-Star catcher Matt Wieters was lost to Tommy John elbow surgery. But unheralded career minor leaguer Caleb Joseph has stepped up to become a solid defensive player and timely hitter with home run power.

**Another career reserve Steve Pearce filled in admirably at first base when Chris Davis was injured and played solidly as a left fielder. “Give Pearce A Chance” was a clever slogan coined by David Simon, creator of the HBO series about Baltimore “The Wire,” in a memorable piece in a recent “Sports Illustrated” with LeBron James' return to Cleveland on the cover.

When Pearce’s production fell off, David Lough, a rare Oriole blessed with speed, shook off his season-long slump to contribute. Manager Buck Showalter has also deftly given left field playing time to designated hitters Delmon Young and Nelson Cruz, the latter whose bat carried the Birds early in the season and now may be heating up again. Cruz may be the ultimate streaky hitter - incredibly productive for a while and incredibly impotent at other times. And with a streak hitter you must ride it out good and bad.

On the mound, how about these unexpected examples of productivity?
**Brad Brach, obtained in minor league deal with Padres, fulfilling an important long relief role in the bullpen.

**Zach Britton, out of options after failing a few times as a starter, becoming very effective as a closer.

Britton has made manager Showalter a prophet because before the season started Buck suggested that Zach could emerge as a valuable piece of the puzzle. He compared him to starter Chris Tillman who last year was also out of minor league options and emerged as an ace. In recent outings Tillman is giving signs that he is ready to reprise that role in 2014.

PRESENT MEETS PAST!
The Orioles’ surge to the top of the AL East has coincided with the 60th anniversary of the modern franchise. On Friday August 8, I attended a celebration of the team’s rich history - a remarkable story of how the woebegone shell of the St Louis Browns arrived in Baltimore in 1954 and in 12 years became World Series winners. And from 1969 through 1983 were probably the most admired franchise in baseball.

The anniversary events began with a luncheon sponsored by the Orioles Advocates, a community group that has supported the team since the early 1960s. The Advocates are currently sponsoring a project to bring baseball equipment and coaching to the youngsters in Nicaragua who love what used to be called our national pastime.

Representatives from many decades of Orioles history relived their glory days at the luncheon. They later attended the series opener with the Cardinals in which Tillman pitched six and two-thirds strong innings and six Oriole homers punctuated a 12-2 rout.
After the game, a rare laugher for this year's Orioles, a laser light show of historical highlights entertained a near-capacity crowd.

At the Advocates luncheon held in the impressive Warehouse that adjoins Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Frank Robinson was particularly eloquent in saying that the six years he played in Baltimore from 1966-1972 were the highlight of his career. “You can’t get lost in this city,” Robinson fondly remembered about the adulation in most of the neighborhoods of what is called Charm City by local boosters and is indeed a "huggy city," as a friend of mine once expressed it.

Robinson had nothing but praise for how the current regime of general manager Dan Duquette and manager Showalter have welcomed the stars from the glory years of Oriole teams and urged them to mix with the current squad.

The theme of the rich legacy of the Orioles was picked up on by other luncheon speakers including:
**1960s reliever Eddie Watt who never expected to make the 1966 Orioles and had to give up his apartment already rented in Rochester the top minor league city then of the Birds

**current Oriole conditioning guru and former outfielder Brady Anderson who has been instrumental in improving the physical condition of key Bird relievers Brian Matusz and Zach Britton

**Frank Robinson’s fellow Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson – looking well after serious bouts with illness and injury.

**The unrelated but fellow pitchers on the 1979 and 1983 American League champions, Dennis Martinez and Tippy Martinez.

**Catcher Chris Hoiles and closer Gregg Olson representing teams that didn't make the playoffs but contributed on the field and made many fans off the field.

It is much too early to anoint the Orioles of 2014 as a division winner and a true playoff contender but their position is an enviable one. 7 games in the lost column over both the Yankees and Blue Jays as of this writing. “It is theirs to win,” Brooks Robinson said.

That’a all for now – always remember: Take it easy but take it!












An Oriole Fan’s Early Lament by The Hot Stove League Fires

December 7, 2013

Tags: Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Scott Feldman, Nate McLouth, Nolan Reimold, Jim Johnson, Jemile Weeks, Manny Machado, Dan Duquette, Jamie Moyer, Harvey Doorman

Baseball has never seen a week like the first one in December. Especially when you consider that the annual “winter” meetings are not taking place, appropriately in Disney World in Orlando, until the second week in December. That was when the big action was supposed to occur. But with every team loaded with at least $25 million of new television cash, the owners couldn’t wait to dish it out.

Free agent signings galore – the biggest being Robinson Cano bolting from the Yankees to the Seattle Mariners for a 10-year contract worth reportedly $240 million. Never mind that the long-term contract never works out – see under Angels, Los Angeles of Anaheim, Pujols, Albert and Hamilton, Josh. Seattle has been a loser for so long that it just felt it had to reward the fan base with a big splash.

The Yankees have not been inactive. Shortly before Cano left, they signed free agent catcher Brian McCann away from the Braves on a five-year deal. For seven years Jacoby Ellsbury took his center field/base stealing talents from the Red Sox to the Yanks. And now word comes that Carlos Beltran, the former Met who starred in the last two post-seasons for the Cardinals, will fulfill a dream to play for the Yankees while Curtis Granderson moves crosstown from the Bronx to the Mets.

Meanwhile down in Baltimore, a disturbing quiet settles in. My Orioles are doing nothing except losing less prominent but useful free agents like pitcher Scott Feldman who went to the Astros (who after successive 100-loss seasons have nowhere to go but up). And outfielder Nate McLouth is going down the Beltway to the Washington Nationals.
The Birds instead offered a far cheaper contract to the always-injured left fielder Nolan Reimold.

Even worse, the Orioles traded its erratic but often effective closer Jim Johnson to the Oakland A’s for yet another minor league second baseman Jemile Weeks. This move cut into the emotional core of Oriole fandom. A home-grown Oriole like Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis, Johnson had lived through the worst of the Oriole bad years and his 51 saves in 54 chances in 2012 were a big part of their great comeback season.

He even moved his permanent home from upstate Endicott NY to Sarasota where the Orioles have at long last established a great spring training and all-season base. Johnson took the high road when learning the news. He expressed deserved great pride in being a part of the Orioles turnaround.

“Baseball is a business,” we hear that endlessly but the loss of Johnson for so little in return was a blow to me almost as severe as seeing Manny Machado on that gurney after injuring his knee in Tampa Bay late last season.

Machado is reportedly recovering well from his surgery and could be ready for Opening Day. But it will be a far different Oriole team from the 2013 squad that finished out of the playoffs yet still eight games over .500. I am nervous when general manager Dan Duquette says publicly that he is happy with his starting rotation that still lacks an ace and durable pitchers and now has a huge hole at the back end of the bullpen.

Branch Rickey liked to talk about addition by subtraction, i.e. getting rid of a player who
would not be missed and allowed opportunities for others to step up. Oriole manager Buck Showalter is talking that brave game publicly. But it is hard not to feel uneasy about what the future holds for a young fan base (and a youthful curmudgeon like yours truly) that brimmed with hope in the last two seasons after nearly three decades in the darkness.

In the meantime, here’s a plug for a very interesting read: Jamie Moyer and Larry Platt,
JUST TELL ME I CAN’T: HOW JAMIE MOYER DEFIED THE RADAR GUN AND DEFEATED TIME (Grand Central Publishing). The book is dedicated to the late Harvey Dorfman, the sport psychologist who rescued Moyer’s career (and many others like Roy Halladay).

Dorfman is a prominent figure in the book. His penetrating epigrams begin every chapter. "Hoping you will do something means you don't believe you can" and "When we fail to learn, we've learned to fail" are two examples of his tough-love method.

Moyer also provides revealing profiles of other unknown helpmates. He livens up the read with good anecdotes about pitching for the 116-win 2001 Seattle Mariners and his home town 2008 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. He also adds in stories about his life as the son-in-law of basketball's Digger Phelps.

In short, JUST TELL ME I CAN'T is a detailed often inspirational saga that both baseball fans and general readers should enjoy. (more…)

All Hail Baseball's New Manny, Machado + 4th of July Thoughts on Pro and College Baseball

July 4, 2013

Tags: Manny Machado, Scott Feldman, College Baseball Hall of Fame Inductions of Don Schaly, Kris Bryant Howser Trophy Awardwinner

I turned 71 on June 27 and for my birthday my nephew and his wife sent me a gift certificate for goodies from MLB.com’s website. For the first time in my life I bought a replica jersey - the home white Orioles uniform of #13 Manny Machado.

Since Manny came up in early August last year the Orioles defense has been transformed from poor to excellent. Around the same time Nate McLouth revived his career as the Orioles’ new left fielder. They were two huge reasons for Baltimore’s defensive rebirth that happily has continued this season.

Machado turns 21 on July 6 and is on pace to break Detroit Tiger Earl Webb’s major league record of 67 doubles set in 1931. I’m not a big booster of records. I’m more impressed by the everyday process of going about winning. Machado’s poise in the field and awareness at the plate are remarkable in a player so young performing at a position that he hardly ever played before.

The Orioles 2010 number one draft pick was a heralded shortstop from Miami, Florida wearing #13 as homage to his hero and Miami homeboy Alex Rodriguez. With J. J. Hardy playing “championship” shortstop, the apt adjective used by Orioles manager Buck Showalter, Machado upon his callup from the minors last August slid over to third base with barely any game experience. He plays like he has been there all his life. Game after game he makes both the remarkable play and the basic one. His game on both sides of the ball is truly worth the price of admission.

So I am proud to wear Machado’s jersey. I have even toyed with the idea of wearing it to an upcoming Oriole game at Yankee Stadium but maybe discretion will be the better part of valor. If you don’t get this blog again soon, I wasn’t discreet.

I am not as proud that I voted the allowed 25 times on the mlb.com ballot for the All-Star Team. I don’t why the magic number of 25 was created. In fact, it can be 35 if you sign up for some kind of promotion.

With defending AL MVP Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera on the ballot, there is no way that Machado will start in the July 16 game that this year will be played at the Mets’ CitiField in Queens. Machado may not even make it as a reserve because of the demands on AL All-Star manager Jim Leyland of filling out a roster with at least one player from every team.

But make no mistake: by performance Manny Machado is already an All-Star. He has fully vindicated manager Showalter’s brilliant stroke of putting him into the second hole of the batting order. As his power develops, Manny might ultimately bat a little lower but wherever he hits he should be an Oriole fixture for years to come.

Handicapping the AL East Race On Fourth of July:
The Red Sox continue to rule the roost in the AL East with the Orioles currently second.
Team management knows and we fans know that Bird pitching must improve. The July 2 trade to the Cubs of underachieving starter Jake Arrieta and erratic reliever Pedro Strop for righthander Scott Feldman may be a step in the right direction.

Certainly the banishment of Arrieta and Strop fall into the category of what Branch Rickey called “addition by subtraction”. Showalter managed Feldman in Texas and he liked what he saw then in the 6’ 6” righthander from Hawaii who was raised in northern California. According to Wikipedia, Feldman’s dad was raised in Pennsylvania mining country and became a FBI agent. I like those paternal roots in hard tough work.

Scott’s control and his pitch assortment have improved with experience. At 30 years old he could provide the equivalent of what lefty Joe Saunders did last year in a late August trade: stabilizing the rotation. His first start on July 3 against the offensively challenged White Sox was effective: 6 innings, 2 runs 6 hits no walks 6 strikeouts.

Another Memorable “Night of Champions” in Lubbock, Texas
On the last weekend of June the College Baseball Foundation presented its annual “Night of Champions”. This year the events took place on the campus of Texas Tech University in Lubbock. It was a warm gathering of past college heroes like Arizona State’s Sal Bando and USC’s Roy Smalley Jr and stars of the just-concluded 2013 season like slugger Kris Bryant, third baseman from the University of San Diego, and University of Oklahoma righthander Jonathan Gray.

Bryant and Gray were picked second and third in the nation in last month’s amateur free agent draft by the Cubs and the Colorado Rockies, respectively. At a time when the deadened bat of college baseball has severely curtailed offense, Bryant slugged 31 HRs for his University of San Diego Matadors. His output was 14 more dingers than any other player and more than many teams!

Bryant was a worthy winner of the 27th annual Dick Howser Trophy given annually to the college player whose performance on the field and character off of it best exemplifies the standards of the late Florida State and major league shortstop and World Series-winning Kansas City manager. One of Dick's twin daughters Jana Howser is the development director of the College Baseball Hall of Fame and she presented the trophy to Bryant on the Night of Champions.

Bryant's backstory is an interesting one. His father briefly played in the minor leagues for the Red Sox his home town team. Settling in Las Vegas, Nevada, Papa Bryant built a batting cage for young Kris in his backyard. Since the age of 5 Kris has been in love with baseball and the art of hitting. He played some amateur ball with fellow Las Vegas native Bryce Harper, the Washington Nationals prize outfielder.

Improving on defense, Kris Bryant could be slugging the ball at the “friendly confines” of Wrigley Field soon. He has until just before the All-Star Game on July 16 to sign with the Cubs or go back into the draft and return for his senior year at San Diego. As a Scott Boras client, Bryant is not a slam dunk to sign but I predict that he will start his pro career in a few days.

Another Lubbock highlight for me was sitting in on an interview with John Schaly, son of the late Marietta (Ohio) Division III baseball coach Don Schaly. Schaly won nearly 82 per cent of the games for his alma mater, three national championships, and seven second-place finishes. He developed three notable major leaguers - Pittsburgh relief ace Kent Tekulve, southpaw Terry Mulholland who starred with the Giants and Phillies, and future major league manager Jim Tracy.

John Schaly remembered how Tekulve lived for a time at his parents’ house as he developed the skills that led him to the major leagues. Those who remember the skinny stork-like Tekulve will not be surprised to learn that he wasn’t a highly coveted prospect. He even had to talk himself into an afternoon tryout camp when told in the morning he didn’t run fast enough to be a major leaguer. “I don’t run the ball to home plate,” he argued. Talking his way into another tryout Tekulve became the only player signed by the Pirates that day and was on his way to a distinguished career: 94-90 W-L, 184 saves,
2.85 ERA, and a World Series ring with the 1979 Pirates.

Modest John Schaly himself has established a fine record as baseball coach at Ashland College, a Division II school in Ohio. He has led his team several times into post-season play. “I want to win it all once,” he said. “I can never match my father’s record.”

Another coach, John Winkin, who skippered the Maine Black Bears to six College World Series appearances, was unable to attend as was his son whose plane from Maine to Lubbock was cancelled. But Winkin, who developed future major league pitcher Bill Swift and shortstop Mike Bordick, now stands enshrined in Lubbock along with Don Schaly, Sal Bando, Tino Martinez (U. of Tampa), Ralph Garr (Grambling of Louisiana), Roy Smalley Jr (USC), and Tom Borland (Ohio State) who led the Buckeyes to a national championship in 1955.

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

All Hail Baseball's New Manny, Machado + 4th of July Thoughts on Pro and College Baseball

July 4, 2013

Tags: Manny Machado, Scott Feldman, College Baseball Hall of Fame Inductions of Don Schaly, Kris Bryant Howser Trophy Awardwinner

I turned 71 on June 27 and for my birthday my nephew and his wife sent me a gift certificate for goodies from MLB.com’s website. For the first time in my life I bought a replica jersey - the home white Orioles uniform of #13 Manny Machado.

Since Manny came up in early August last year the Orioles defense has been transformed from poor to excellent. Around the same time Nate McLouth revived his career as the Orioles’ new left fielder. They were two huge reasons for Baltimore’s defensive rebirth that happily has continued this season.

Machado turns 21 on July 6 and is on pace to break Detroit Tiger Earl Webb’s major league record of 67 doubles set in 1931. I’m not a big booster of records. I’m more impressed by the everyday process of going about winning. Machado’s poise in the field and awareness at the plate are remarkable in a player so young performing at a position that he hardly ever played before.

The Orioles 2011 number one draft pick was a heralded shortstop from Miami, Florida wearing #13 as homage to his hero and Miami homeboy Alex Rodriguez. With J. J. Hardy playing “championship” shortstop, the apt adjective used by Orioles manager Buck Showalter, Machado upon his callup from the minors last August slid over to third base with barely any game experience. He plays like he has been there all his life. Game after game he makes both the remarkable play and the basic one. His game on both sides of the ball is truly worth the price of admission.

So I am proud to wear Machado’s jersey. I have even toyed with the idea of wearing it to an upcoming Oriole game at Yankee Stadium but maybe discretion will be the better part of valor. If you don’t get this blog again soon, I wasn’t discreet.

I am not as proud that I voted the allowed 25 times on the mlb.com ballot for the All-Star Team. I don’t why the magic number of 25 was created. In fact, it can be 35 if you sign up for some kind of promotion.

With defending AL MVP Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera on the ballot, there is no way that Machado will start in the July 16 game that this year will be played at the Mets’ CitiField in Queens. Machado may not even make it as a reserve because of the demands on AL All-Star manager Jim Leyland of filling out a roster with at least one player from every team.

But make no mistake: by performance Manny Machado is already an All-Star. He has fully vindicated manager Showalter’s brilliant stroke of putting him into the second hole of the batting order. As his power develops, Manny might ultimately bat a little lower but wherever he hits he should be an Oriole fixture for years to come.

Handicapping the AL East Race On Fourth of July:
The Red Sox continue to rule the roost in the AL East with the Orioles currently second.
Team management knows and we fans know that Bird pitching must improve. The July 2 trade to the Cubs of underachieving starter Jake Arrieta and erratic reliever Pedro Strop for righthander Scott Feldman may be a step in the right direction.

Certainly the banishment of Arrieta and Strop fall into the category of what Branch Rickey called “addition by subtraction”. Showalter managed Feldman in Texas and he liked what he saw then in the 6’ 6” righthander from Hawaii who was raised in northern California. According to Wikipedia, Feldman’s dad was raised in Pennsylvania mining country and became a FBI agent. I like those paternal roots in hard tough work.

Scott’s control and his pitch assortment have improved with experience. At 30 years old he could provide the equivalent of what lefty Joe Saunders did last year in a late August trade: stabilizing the rotation. His first start on July 3 against the offensively challenged White Sox was effective: 6 innings, 2 runs 6 hits no walks 6 strikeouts.

Another Memorable “Night of Champions” in Lubbock, Texas
On the last weekend of June the College Baseball Foundation presented its annual “Night of Champions”. This year the events took place on the campus of Texas Tech University in Lubbock. It was a warm gathering of past college heroes like Arizona State’s Sal Bando and USC’s Roy Smalley Jr and stars of the just-concluded 2013 season like slugger Kris Bryant, third baseman from the University of San Diego, and University of Oklahoma righthander Jonathan Gray.

Bryant and Gray were picked second and third in the nation in last month’s amateur free agent draft by the Cubs and the Colorado Rockies, respectively. At a time when the deadened bat of college baseball has severely curtailed offense, Bryant slugged 31 HRs for his University of San Diego Matadors. His output was 14 more dingers than any other player and more than many teams!

Bryant was a worthy winner of the 27th annual Dick Howser Trophy given annually to the college player whose performance on the field and character off of it best exemplifies the standards of the late Florida State and major league shortstop and World Series-winning Kansas City manager. One of Dick's twin daughters Jana Howser is the development director of the College Baseball Hall of Fame and she presented the trophy to Bryant on the Night of Champions.

Bryant's backstory is an interesting one. His father briefly played in the minor leagues for the Red Sox his home town team. Settling in Las Vegas, Nevada, Papa Bryant built a batting cage for young Kris in his backyard. Since the age of 5 Kris has been in love with baseball and the art of hitting. He played some amateur ball with fellow Las Vegas native Bryce Harper, the Washington Nationals prize outfielder.

Improving on defense, Kris Bryant could be slugging the ball at the “friendly confines” of Wrigley Field soon. He has until just before the All-Star Game on July 16 to sign with the Cubs or go back into the draft and return for his senior year at San Diego. As a Scott Boras client, Bryant is not a slam dunk to sign but I predict that he will start his pro career in a few days.

Another Lubbock highlight for me was sitting in on an interview with John Schaly, son of the late Marietta (Ohio) Division III baseball coach Don Schaly. Schaly won nearly 82 per cent of the games for his alma mater, three national championships, and seven second-place finishes. He developed three notable major leaguers - Pittsburgh relief ace Kent Tekulve, southpaw Terry Mulholland who starred with the Giants and Phillies, and future major league manager Jim Tracy.

John Schaly remembered how Tekulve lived for a time at his parents’ house as he developed the skills that led him to the major leagues. Those who remember the skinny stork-like Tekulve will not be surprised to learn that he wasn’t a highly coveted prospect. He even had to talk himself into an afternoon tryout camp when told in the morning he didn’t run fast enough to be a major leaguer. “I don’t run the ball to home plate,” he argued. Talking his way into another tryout Tekulve became the only player signed by the Pirates that day and was on his way to a distinguished career: 94-90 W-L, 184 saves,
2.85 ERA, and a World Series ring with the 1979 Pirates.

Modest John Schaly himself has established a fine record as baseball coach at Ashland College, a Division II school in Ohio. He has led his team several times into post-season play. “I want to win it all once,” he said. “I can never match my father’s record.”

Another coach, John Winkin, who skippered the Maine Black Bears to six College World Series appearances, was unable to attend as was his son whose plane from Maine to Lubbock was cancelled. But Winkin, who developed future major league pitcher Bill Swift and shortstop Mike Bordick, now stands enshrined in Lubbock along with Don Schaly, Sal Bando, Tino Martinez (U. of Tampa), Ralph Garr (Grambling of Louisiana), Roy Smalley Jr (USC), and Tom Borland (Ohio State) who led the Buckeyes to a national championship in 1955.

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

End-of-April Thoughts on AL East + Noteworthy Events in Early May

April 29, 2013

Tags: Struggling Toronto, Melky Cabrera, Gary Matthews Jr., Soaring Red Sox and Yankees, Mike Napoli, Hanging-On Orioles and Rays, Manny Machado, Nate McLouth, Joe Maddon, Cooperstown Scouts exhibit, Ivy League preview

Thoughts on Baseball’s Adventurous AL East April + Notes on Noteworthy May Events

April proved a deliciously unpredictable month for Major League Baseball. The old saying remains very valid: “You cannot win a pennant in April but you sure can lose one.” Branch Rickey used to say that a win in April means two less you have to win in August and September.

The trendy AL East pick Toronto Blue Jays have already dug themselves a big hole. After being swept in four straight at Yankee Stadium to close out April, they languish eight games under .500. They have a lot of work to do to catch up with the high-flying Boston Red Sox and the surprisingly strong Yankees who swept the Jays though wracked by injuries. Good pitching and new life for veterans TRAVIS HAFNER, LYLE OVERBAY and VERNON WELLS will do that. Not to mention the return of MARIANO RIVERA.

Those expensive Toronto acquisitions from the downsizing Miami Marlins don’t look so good now. An awkward slide into second base by shortstop JOSE REYES led to a severely sprained ankle that will sideline him until July. Southpaw MARK BUEHRLE is showing his age and oft-injured righthander JOSH JOHNSON has already missed a start. Knuckleballing Cy Young award-winner R.A.DICKEY has been OK but not great and now he is complaining of assorted injuries.

Expensive free-agent acquisition MELKY CABRERA has been mediocre at best.
It may be too early to bestow the dubious Gary Matthews Jr Impetuous Bad Contract (hereafter cited as the GMJIBC) Award upon Melky but he better turn up his production soon.

What is the GMJIBC? Late in 2007 before the ink was dry on the [former U.S. Senator George] Mitchell Report that explained in detail PED abuse in baseball, Matthews Jr. was signed to a 4-year $50 million contract by the California Angels. He produced very little with that largesse.

This past off-season, the moment Melky became a free agent after the end of his 50-game suspension for PED abuse, the Blue Jays rushed to bestow upon him a 2-year $16 million contract. Let the buyer beware and yet another sign that all it takes is one owner to go bonkers in the free agent auctions.

On the plus side of the AL East, early returns from Boston indicate that new manager JOHN FARRELL, Bosox pitching coach in their recent glory years, has evidently worked wonders in reviving southpaw JON LESTER and righty CLAY BUCHHOLZ. Another nice story in Boston is the power of first baseman MIKE NAPOLI who always hit well at Fenway as a visiting player and is keeping it up in the home whites.

As someone who wishes more players were on one-year contracts so their determination to produce every day could not be questioned, I am pleased with Napoli’s year so far. He was set to sign a multi-year free agent contract when physical examinations revealed a chronic hip condition. After much negotiation, he and his agents settled on a one-year deal and so far so good for both sides.

My Orioles remain right in the mix as the two players who made all the difference late last season, 20-year-old third baseman MANNY MACHADO and 32-year-old left fielder NATE MCLOUTH, are picking up right where they left off.

The poise of Machado has astonished everyone in baseball except probably himself. He has responded to manager Buck Showalter’s installation of him as the number 2 batter in the lineup with consistently good at-bats and he continues to sparkle in the field.
Often hitting leadoff, McLouth is reminding people of the player who made the 2008 All-Star Game as a Pittsburgh Pirate.

The Orioles’ starting pitching remains a cause for concern. They have no ace but JASON HAMMEL and the Taiwanese southpaw WEI-YIN CHEN are generally reliable. The unsung MIGUEL GONZALEZ has been inconsistent this year though CHRIS TILLMAN is showing signs that he might emerge as a reliable starter. But when he loses his release point, it is not a bad idea to reach for the channel clicker.

JAKE ARRIETA, the Hamlet on the rubber, has pitched himself back to Triple-A yet again. Maybe he needs a change of scenery into another organization. Onetime major league stars, aging FREDDY GARCIA and the younger JAIR JURRJENS, are waiting in the wings at Norfolk. Gritty STEVE JOHNSON, a righthander with average stuff who gets the most out of his ability, could be up before any of them. Once-heralded southpaw ZACH BRITTON gets a chance tonight in Seattle to show he belongs in the bigs.

In spite of all these question marks which are already putting a strain on the Orioles’ vaunted bullpen, the O’s are watchable again after years and years in the wilderness far from contention. God Bless Showalter and general manager DAN DUQUETTE who is proving that his success in Montreal and Boston were no flukes.

No assessment of the AL East would be complete without a shout-out to the Tampa Bay Rays. Though they are still a couple of games under .500, they are fun to watch. And manager JOE MADDON knows how to loosen them up when he senses they are trying too hard.

Before successive games at home after a tough early season road trip, Maddon brought into the clubhouse a cockatoo, a DJ spinning hip contemporary records, and two penguins. It is a long season and no one knows better than Maddon how to keep an intense team from being too tense.

Though the Rays traded mound stalwarts JAMES SHIELDS and WADE DAVIS to KC (the young heralded outfielder WIL MYERS they received in return is still polishing his skills at Triple A), any team that can throw out a rotation of reigning AL Cy Young award-winner DAVID PRICE, JEREMY HELLICKSON, ALEX COBB and the youngest sensation MATT MOORE should ultimately contend.

NOTEWORTHY UPCOMING EVENTS OF MAY:
**On FSa May 3-4, Cooperstown’s Hall of Fame opens its “Diamond Mines” exhibit devoted to the life and work of baseball’s most underappreciated people, the scouts.
Among the notables attending will be Hall of Famer PAT GILLICK, the general manager who brought World Series championships to Toronto and Philadelphia and contending teams to Baltimore and Seattle, and Buck O’Neil Award winner ROLAND HEMOND, who has championed scouts throughout a career that now stretches over six decades.
Watch this space for a report about this celebration later this month.

**On SaSu May 4-5, Dartmouth invades Columbia for a best two-out-of-three series to determine the Ivy League entry into the NCAA baseball tournament starting later in May.
Both the Big Green and the Lions feature dominant pitching and timely hitting. They are beginning to send into pro baseball some of their stars - for example, shortstop JOE SCLAFANI from Dartmouth and outfielder DARIO PIZZANO formerly with the Lions.

I’m keeping an eye on the development of Columbia’s dh/cleanup hitter JOEY FALCONE. Nearly 27, Falcone is the oldest player in Division I. After high school in Louisiana, Falcone joined the Navy as a corpsman. He served with the Marines in two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He is the son of former major league southpaw PETE FALCONE.
His stats in 2013 - .303 AB, .525 SA, 5 HR 24 RBIs in only 101 at-bats - only scratch the surface of what might be ahead for this left-handed hitting slugger.

**Here’s notice of another fascinating exploration into international baseball.
In November 2013, a group of six American coaches and scouts are heading to Kenya to provide free clinics in baseball and softball for the boys and girls of that area who are interested in the sports but have limited access and resources.

The team is headed by White Sox scout JOHN TUMMINIA who has previously led
groups to Monte Plata, Dominican Republic, and the Pine Ridge, South Dakota Native American reservation. Among those joining him in the Kenyan trip will be the former major league pitcher ROB BELL, now working in the front office of the Hudson Valley Renegades of the New York-Penn League, and JEFF TAYLOR, special assistant to the Cincinnati Reds’ general manager.

The trips are guided by the Christian relief organizations, Bethlehem Tessema and the Bread and Water Foundation. Contributions are welcome to defray some of the travel expenses to Kenya. Please contact John Tumminia at jtumminia@chisox.com or call 845/742-8772

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

Reverie While Waiting Out Rain Delay before Start of Orioles-Yankees AL Division Series

October 7, 2012

Tags: 2012 Orioles, Manny Machado, Nate McLouth, Buck Showalter, sculptor Toby Mendez, Eddie Murray, Edward Bennett Williams, Brooks Robinson

I’ve been an Oriole fan for over 40 years and have suffered quietly if painfully during the last 15 years of the Birds’ under-.500 futility. The 2012 season has been a reawakening of hope in Baltimore and among the diaspora of intense fans like yours truly.

Universally picked for either last or the next-to-last rung of the tough AL East, these Birds managed by BUCK SHOWALTER have been over .500 all season, quite an accomplishment given their recent past. And they caught fire in early August and became a worthy contender when two unusual moves worked like a charm on the Orioles lineup and defense.

NATE MCLOUTH, a former All-Star outfielder with the Pirates whose career had nose-dived since 2009, was installed as the left fielder. And 20 year-old shortstop of the future MANNY MACHADO came up from Double A Bowie to become a rock-steady and often spectacular third baseman though he had only played two games at that position in the minor leagues. What had been a truly horrible Oriole defense became one of the best if not the best in the league.

Both McLouth and Machado contributed heavily with the bat, too. I was at Machado’s second home game at Camden Yards on August 9 and all he did was belt his first two home runs. Where once the chants of “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie” for retired Hall of Fame slugger EDDIE MURRAY rang throughout Baltimore, now I could hear the beginning of a new chant for “Manny, Manny, Manny.” I even heard a fan in the bathroom singing the words “Manny, Manny” to the 1950s pop hit, “Volare.”

Speaking of Murray, the onetime reclusive first baseman was one of six retired Orioles, all Hall of Famers, to be honored with sculptures by local artist TOBY MENDEZ that will be permanently displayed beyond the center field fence at Camden Yards.

There is no doubt in my mind that the beginning of the long years of gloom in Birdland began when owner EDWARD BENNETT WILLIAMS insisted on the trade of Murray after the 1988 season. After the Orioles’ last World Series triumph in 1983, the “Oriole Way” of patient development through the minor leagues and discreet free agent acquistion was replaced by the Indiscriminate Free Agent Fix that never works but owners almost always succumb to.

Murray was not to blame for the decline in pitching and defense and intelligent hitting that afflicted Baltimore after the 1983 World Series year but the impatient Williams was battling a terminal cancer that would soon claim him. Though the Orioles surprisingly contended in 1989, the year after the Murray trade to the Dodgers for three less than memorable players, it was not a team made for durable consistency and it quickly fell back into mediocrity.

Murray did return near the end of his career to hit his 500th home run in Oriole garb but a great chance to have a team built around the solid play on both sides of the ball of Murray and CAL RIPKEN JR had been lost.

Happily, 2012 has been a year of both resurrection on the field and remembrance of past glory. Like Murray Cal Jr was honored with his statue this season as were FRANK ROBINSON (whose trade from Cincinnati after the 1965 season led directly to the Orioles first World Series championship in 1966), pitcher JIM PALMER, still an insightful broadcaster, manager EARL WEAVER, and last but least late in September BROOKS ROBINSON.

Brooks has not been in good health and his ceremony was delayed until the next-to-last day before the end of the home season in late September. I attended this event along with a capacity crowd that later watched the Orioles win the second game of their three-game sweep of the cellar-dwelling Red Sox.

Brooks looked very dapper and filled was with enthusiasm for the current Orioles. “How about dem Birds?” he chortled more than once. He was joined at the ceremony by all the other statue awardees as well as former teammates AL BUMBRY and MILT PAPPAS and former Baltimore Colt running back LENNY MOORE.

Brooks told many stories about his glory days, always with his trademark self-effacement. As the Associated Press sportswriter GORDON BEARD said when Brooks retired in 1977, “They might name candy bars after Reggie Jackson in New York but they name babies after Brooks in Baltimore.”

I write this post as the rain delay seems to be coming to an end in Baltimore. What would be an Oriole-Yankee series in Charm City WITHOUT a rain delay? As always in this most surprising season the Orioles are underdogs to the powerful Yankees with their nearly $200 million payroll.

But I think the men in Black and Orange have a fighting chance to move one step closer to their first league pennant since 1983. And to have hope in October is the greatest emotion for a baseball fan.

On Friday night October 5 Manager Showalter won his first playoff game since 1995 (when he was the skipper of the Yankees) as the Orioles dethroned the Texas Rangers 5-1 in the Winner Take All Wild Card Game. Unheralded southpaw JOE SAUNDERS
outpitched Texas' highly paid Japanese import YU DARVISH.

Right-hander JASON HAMMEL, another unheralded hurler discarded by both Tampa Bay and Colorado, was poised to go head-to-head with the Yankees' big time southpaw CC SABATHIA with other obscure pitchers following him in the rotation, the Taiwanese import southpaw WEI-YIN CHEN and Mexican League veteran MIGUEL GONZALEZ. With JIM JOHNSON anchoring an effective bullpen the Orioles have a chance to win every game though of course no guarantee it will happen.

To repeat, though, to have hope after years in the darkness is a wonderful feeling.
Stay tuned for further commentary on how this amazing year ultimately turns out.

In the meantime, always remember: Take it easy but take it!

Meaningful Games in September Have At Last Returned to Baltimore

September 5, 2012

Tags: Orioles pennant fever, Buck Showalter, Nick Markakis, Manny Machado, Miguel Gonzalez, Dan Duquette, Fred Ferreira

It has been 15 years since the Orioles could look forward to playoff baseball.
15 depressing miserable years during which the big bullies of the A. L. East the Yankees and the Red Sox used to come to Camden Yards and watch their fans turn Baltimore’s beautiful retro Oriole Park at Camden Yards into home games for the opposition. (more…)

Featured Work

History
Story of baseball's reserve system and the men who fought to change it
Biography/Sports
“Lowenfish’s take is detailed and nuanced.... he doesn’t look for simple answers; despite his own abiding admiration, he never sugarcoats or presents Rickey in anything other than a three-dimensional light.”
–David Ulin, Los Angeles Times