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Ain't Baseball Great? Appreciating The Game Despite Orioles' Deep Funk

This phrase is used often in ads on Orioles broadcasts on its cable network MASNSports. I still find the sentiment true despite the current 7-game losing streak of the Birds.

What was a 22-10 record two weeks ago of my Birds has now plummeted to 25-23. Last place in the AL East is now closer than the soaring Yankees atop the division.

I try to console myself that the 1983 Orioles, their last World Series-winning team, lost 7 in a row TWICE that season. And this is just end of May, lots of baseball left to play.

But with a pitching rotation without a stopper (young Dylan Bundy is the closest to that needed position), Zach Britton star closer out indefinitely, and sluggers Manny Machado and Chris Davis in deep slumps, it is gloom time in Charm City.

Yet, ss I type away, I have the Dodgers-Cubs game on the MLB Extra Innings Package.
An expected pitchers’ duel between LA’s Clayton Kershaw and Chicago’s Jon Lester has turned into home run slugfest.

Both pitchers were knocked out early and six home runs have flown out of Chavez Ravine. Ain’t Baseball great indeed. Youneverknow, do you?

I leave Wednesday morning for the annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture. I will be talking at the Friday June 2 1p session on “Baseball Potpourri’.

My paper is “‘If We Had Known He Wanted To Be A Dictator, We Would Have Made Him An Umpire’: An Exploration into Cuba’s and Fidel Castro’s Love of Baseball.”

As I sign off this posting, Yasiel Puig, the mercurial very talented Cuban defector and right fielder for LA, has just made a brilliant running catch. Unmistakably rare and brilliant talent has defected from Cuba in recent years, but it is widely feared that the cream has been taken out of the country.

I hope to live to see a day when Cubans can play in the greatest leagues in this country without having to leave their homeland.

That’s all for now - always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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Pre-Memorial Day Musings

We are past the quarter pole of the baseball season. Unlike the NBA where it has seemed pre-ordained for months that the Durant-Curry-led Golden State juggernaut and LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers will meet in the finals, I am happy to report that there are no clear favorites for the 2017 World Series.

The old cliche remains true - you cannot win a pennant in the spring but you sure can lose one. The odds look very long for post-season play for supposed contenders Kansas City and Toronto in the AL and the Mets and San Francisco in the NL - all are mired well below .500.

Yet for fans of those teams, please remember there are more than a hundred games yet to play with summery weather ahead. AND YOU SEE SOMETHING NEW IN EVERY BASEBALL GAME. Trust me.

Houston was rolling along in the AL West until a sweep at home this weekend by defending AL champs Cleveland. The Astros still have the best record in baseball before games on May 22, but they must hope that the DL stints of ace southpaw Dallas Keuchel and veteran catcher Brian McCann are brief ones.

A pleasant NL surprise is the Colorado Rockies under new manager Bud Black. They have developed some starting pitching to go with the potent offense they've had for a while. Before games of May 22, they were leading NL West 11 games over .500.

I'm not surprised that Bud Black is having early and I think lasting success. In 2002 he was the pitching coach for the California Angels world champions that had three future managers on the staff to go with Mike Scioscia who remains the senior skipper in terms of active longevity in MLB. (Joe Maddon and Ron Roenicke were the others.)

Here in my home town of New York, the Yankees look poised to reclaim the mantle of Gotham’s best pro team. The huge young right fielder Aaron Judge leads MLB in HRs with 15. His circus catch against Tampa Bay on Sunday saved the game and more than made up for his 4 K’s at bat.

Meanwhile, the vaunted Mets pitching staff has been plagued with serious injuries. I don’t like saying, “I told you so,” but when I read that Noah “Thor" Syndergaard during the off-season had been building up muscles to throw even harder, I knew he would break down.

“Thor” is now out well into the summer (at least), Matt Harvey has been lit up regularly, Jacob DeGrom is continually plagued by throwing hand blisters, and Steven Matz and Seth Lugo have yet to throw regular season pitches.

It says here that the Mets don’t have a consistent enough offense or defense to make up for these injuries. The Washington Nats look poised to remain on top for the rest of the year in the AL East. Again, though, many many games left to play.

As for my Orioles, they returned from a disappointing 1-6 road trip to win 2 out of 3 at home from Toronto. Their starting pitching bounced back from a disastrous trip away from home, but it is hard to possess great expectations with ace closer Zach Britton out until early summer (at best).

The O's less-than-imposing starting staff is headed by Chris Tillman, free agent-to-be just returned from nagging shoulder discomfort; Dylan Bundy (the most consistent so far but prone to the gopher ball lately); the one lefty Wade Miley (who does work with blessedly fast tempo a la the retired Mark Buehrle); Ubaldo Jimenez (another free agent-to-be who cannot repeat his delivery), and Kevin Gausman who was counted on as a possible ace but has gotten off to a very shaky start..

The Orioles do play spectacular defense most of the time, but it is needed most every day. When normally steady Jonathan Schoop booted an easy grounder in the loss to Toronto yesterday, it led to the three unearned runs in a 3-1 defeat.

Before I sign off, here is an update on baseball at the grass roots.

Weather permitting, the PSAL high school championships start on Wednesday May 26 at 3:30p at various locales around NYC. I have my eye on #3 seed Beacon in midtown Manhattan that seemingly has a deeper pitching staff than usual in 2017.

They tangle with my alma mater Bronx Science at the #3 North Diamond in Central Park, northeast of the 97th Street entrance to Central Park. Updates on the entire
tournament can be found at the psal.org website.

Perennial powers George Washington and James Monroe are seeded #1 and #2 but defending champion Midwood of Brooklyn is a contender as is Staten Island powerhouse Tottenville, runners-up for the title in the last three seasons.

Finally, on Thursday May 25 from 9p-2p, there will be a Scout Day at City Park Stadium in New Rochelle, N.Y - You enter on City Park Road off 20 5th Avenue.

Highly regarded college and junior college players from the New York area and INNER CITY PLAYERS WHO HAVE BEEN RARELY SCOUTED are invited to display their baseball wares to scouts from many major league organizations.

The event is sponsored by the Cesar Presbott Foundation run by the longtime Yankees area scout who signed Dellin Betances among many others. The Presbott Foundation does wonderful charitable work. For years, it has distributed more than 1000 Thanksgiving turkeys to needy areas in the Bronx.

That’s all this time - always remember: Take It Easy But Take It!
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