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How To Enjoy The Summer When Your Favorite Team Is 20-50

The above headline is not a typo. By winning on Father's Day 10-4 over the Miami Marlins, the Baltimore Orioles "improved" to 20-50 on the season with 92 games left to play.

The last time they had won at home at Camden Yards was Mother's Day. So how do you enjoy the rest of the season with your team hopelessly out of the pennant race?
The short answer is: Believe in the process and not just the outcome.

Baseball is such a magical game that every game provides something you have never seen before. Case in point: On Wednesday night June 13 I saw the Washington Nationals beat the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, 5-4. The key runs were driven up by two home runs by the 19-year-old rookie left fielder Juan Soto who because of injuries has been rushed to the majors.

What I'll most remember about this game is that the Nationals managed to get thrown out on the bases five times in the win. In the second inning, the first two batters got on base but Yankee starter Sonny Gray picked Soto off first base. (Soto did get even by hitting his first homer, a three-run job, off Gray in the fourth.)

Then Wilmer Difo lined to shortstop and Matt Adams was doubled off second base, a virtually unforgivable base running lapse on a play in front of the runner that too often occurs these days. As second man up in the third inning, Adam Eaton tried to stretch a single into a double but was thrown out by Brett Gardner.

So four outs were made on the bases in a span of FIVE batters. I never had seen that. For good measure Eaton was caught stealing in the eight inning. The Nats did win this game but they went up to Toronto and got swept over the weekend by the Blue Jays.

In one of the nicer stories of the MLB season so far, the Atlanta Braves are holding a narrow lead over the Nats in the NL East with the improved Phillies in striking distance. The Mets have hit such a skid that they even lost two games to the Orioles in the first week of June.

Without the oft-injured Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, who evidently is out indefinitely, the Mets' offense has ground to a halt. The team is perilously close to falling over 10 games under .500.

There is a clamoring for them to trade their ace pitcher Jacob DeGrom, even to the Yankees, but I say: You build around him and perhaps another injury-prone talent, fellow right hander Noah Syndergaard.

What do the Mets and Orioles have in common? Aging rosters without speed and ownership by the Wilpon and Angelos families, respectively, whose increasingly involved sons don't have a good grasp of how to improve their teams' fortunes. Understatement of the year!

Yet miracles do happen in baseball! As I was finishing this post, the Mets pulled up a rally at Arizona that was reminiscent of their comeback in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series against the Red Sox.

Down to their last out and trailing 3-1, Jose Reyes kept the game alive by a bunt single. A former Mets star now on the verge of being released (if only the farm system had an adequate replacement). Pinch-hitter Jose Bautista, another veteran on his last legs, then doubled to score Reyes.

And on the next pitch Brandon Nimmo, a rare bright light on this Mets team and a rarity in that he hails from Wyoming where there is no high school baseball, hit a long home run. For good measure Asdrubal Cabrera, the plucky second baseman playing hard despite nagging injuries, also homered to make it 5-3 and the Mets won the game.

To repeat: The game remains beautiful and surprising in so many ways. And here's a shout-out to Monroe HS from the Bronx who won the PSAL (Public Schools Athletic League) championship on Monday night June 11 at Yankee Stadium, dethroning Grand Street Campus from Brooklyn, 3-0.

And though the sound of the composite aluminum bat is jarring to baseball traditionalists, do give a look at the College World Series in Omaha through June 27 on ESPN. North Carolina and Mississippi State have moved into the winner's bracket with Arkansas leading Texas while waiting out a rain delay as I type this. Texas Tech and Florida are the last teams to get into action later tonight on Father's Day.

That's all for now. Back before the end of the month with a report on SABR's national conference in Pittsburgh. I'm chairing a panel on Branch Rickey's Years in Pittsburgh on Sat afternoon June 23 at 1p at the Wyndham Grand Hotel in the Steel City's downtown.

Always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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Baseball Musings On The Eve of the College World Series

I’ve had about 10 days to recover from the unfortunate end to my Columbia Lions’ baseball season. They did throw a scare into the University of Miami Hurricanes in the Miami regional, winning three of five games including a remarkable 3-0 shutout of Miami fueled by the stalwart pitching of freshmen Bryce Barr and Zack Bahm.

However, in the rubber match on the last night of May, Columbia ran out of rested pitchers and fell behind 4-0 before they came to bat. It was 14-0 by the 4th and the final score was the football-like 21-3.

Still, nothing can take away from the great run that the Lions made in the 10th season of coach Brett Boretti’s reign. Columbia set program-high records with three Ivy
League championships in a row and 34 victories in a 51-game season.

Boretti was recently named the manager for USA Baseball’s tryout camp in late June for its under-18 team this summer, and his star has never been brighter.
“To overachieve you must overbelieve” is just one of Boretti’s memorable aphorisms.


Major kudos are due to the five seniors who provided incredible leadership and solid play in the 2015 season: Right fielder Gus Craig, designated hitter Joey Falcone, center fielder Jordan Serena, third baseman David Vandercook, and southpaw Mike Weisman.

The Co-Ivy League Player of the Year, Craig was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 30th round of the MLB amateur draft, the 905th player picked in the nation. He joins his former teammate fellow outfielder Dario Pizzano CC ‘12 in the Seattle organization.

Before games of June 10, Pizzano put up these impressive numbers at the Double A Jackson Generals franchise in Mississippi’s capital:
.316 BA, 3 HR, 28 RBI, .834 OPS (On Base + Slugging) – once again he is
showing a good eye with 18 walks and only 18 strikeouts in 210 AB.

Southpaw David Speer CC ’14 is pitching to a 2-3 record with 2.48 ERA for Cleveland’s Lake County franchise in the Midwest League. In 33 1/3 innings,
he has given up 35 hits with 8 BB, 2 intentional BB, and 32 strikeouts, almost
one per inning.

Two more Lions were picked before the draft ended on June 10th.
Junior righthanded starter George Thanopoulos in 35th round by the Mets.
Jordan Serena 35th round by the Angels.

Best wishes to all of them as they have a chance to follow their dream!

If you can tolerate the sound of metal bats, and I know it is hard for those of us raised on wood to accept it, the College World Series should be an absorbing one beginning in Omaha on June 13. Last year’s finalists, victorious Vanderbilt and runner-up Virginia, are returning and could meet in the final best-of-three series from June 22-24.

Miami, conquerors of Columbia, cruised past surprise Super Regional entrant Virginia Commonwealth to make the Elite Eight. As did top remaining seed LSU and
formidable Florida.

Texas Christian (TCU) dramatically eliminated NC State in the regional and survived a 16-inning rubber match with Texas A & M in the super-regional to make Omaha.
Unseeded teams that made the double-elimination tourney are Arkansas and Cal-Fullerton.


MLB MUSINGS
After losing 10 out of 11 games, the Yankees ran off 7 victories in a row until they lost a Wed June 10 day game to the Nationals. It was the first game without ace closer Andrew Miller who went on the DL with a strained flexor muscle in his forearm. The Yanks still have command of the AL East race but Toronto, always a streaky team, has now won eight in a row and Tampa Bay is hanging tough.

My Orioles are trying to scratch their way to the .500 mark and beyond. Their trademark defense has finally settled in, not coincidentally with the return to the lineup of shortstop JJ Hardy. Not since Cal Ripken Jr have the Birds had a shortstop doing all the little things to help his team win. Crossing fingers on his health.

The return to the lineup of catcher Matt Wieters after Tommy John surgery is another welcome sight for the Birds. Wieters is a free agent at the end of the year and he may only be auditioning for his next employer.

Nonetheless, I refuse to wallow in resigned negativity. Wieters provides great defense and an occasional big blast from his switch-hitting bat - his return is truly welcomed.

Now if only we can get Jonathan Schoop back at second base with his superior defense and occasional big bops, too. Ryan Flaherty is an excellent defensive sub for Schoop - his footwork and quick throws are wonderful to watch. Flaherty’s competence at every position in the infield is another big plus, but his left-handed bat is an iffy proposition.

Interesting Quirk I have noticed in the early going of 2015:
Rangers’ reliever Ross Olmendorf has taken to an exaggerated full windup not seen since Paul Byrd a few years ago. Don’t know how long this journeyman can keep it up – he may be the most intelligent player in the big leagues, a Princeton grad who has worked in high level government positions with the Department of Agriculture.
But his full windup is sure a pleasant antidote to the no-windup cookie cutter kind of pitchers I see too often.

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