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Orioles Salute JJ Hardy + My National Anthem Thoughts

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. ( Read More 
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Introducing Teny Ymota and His Take on the Orioles + Salute to Columbia Baseball

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.
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