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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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Now It Comes Down to the Red Sox and the Cardinals

Last post, dear blog readers, I commented that I didn’t see how the Red Sox, Cardinals, or Dodgers could lose based on the way they were playing recently – in the case of the Red Sox the way they were playing all year.

Well, someone had to lose in the St. Louis-Los Angeles NLCS and the Dodgers were spanked in the deciding 6th game, 9-0. LA did have two bona fide aces in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke but somehow the Cardinals have been able to beat Kershaw throughout his budding first-rate career. He lost Game 2 in this year’s NLCS and was the victim of the 9-0 rout.

The Cardinals continue to amaze with their ability to find answers within their farm system for departed and injured players. First, when Albert Pujols bolted to the Angels in free agency after the 2011 season, they found homegrown Allen Craig to replace him. When Craig suffered a foot injury late this season, burly Matt Adams, a low round draft pick from Slippery Rock University in western Pennsylvania, stepped in as a very capable replacement. Craig may be ready for the World Series to give a boost to the Cardinals’ sometimes spotty offense.

And their young pitchers have deservedly the talk of baseball. Michael Wacha was pitching for Texas A & M as late as spring 2012 but he was the NLCS MVP for his two victories against the Dodgers. To make matters even sweeter for the Cardinals is that Wacha was drafted with the pick the Redbirds received for losing Albert Pujols as a so-called “premium” free agent.

It was fitting that the Red Sox did in the Tigers with two crushing grand slams at Fenway because they have been winning dramatic games coming from behind all season. Fitting also that closer Koji Uehara was the ALCS MVP because he has been amazingly consistent since he took over the closer’s role early in the summer.

I find it amusingly ironic that Uehara used to boast bushy muttonchops but now has virtually displays a baby-faced look while beards grow all around him. Uehara is 38 but the new cleaner-shaved look has him seem half his age.

I am sure the Orioles and the Rangers rue that they let Uehara go but Baltimore can take a little solace in knowing that they received Chris Davis, the new HR champion of baseball, and reliable reliever Tommy Hunter in the trade for him. I am also amused that Uehara to some seems like an Irish name while, of course, he is a veteran of many successful years in the Japanese major leagues. And Darren O’Day, a valuable Orioles reliever, is not Irish but a Polish-American from Chicago.

The Red Sox have the home field advantage in the World Series and I thought it would be a factor against Detroit and it could be again in the upcoming battle with St. Louis.
But if Allen Craig can contribute and the young Cardinals keep up their smooth playing, I like them in five or six.

On the other hand, for those of you all enough to remember the 1946 World Series, maybe it will go seven games and unlike Johnny Pesky, Dustin Pedroia will not hold onto the ball too long and throw out a key run at the plate in behalf of the Red Sox cause.

Back to you when the hot stove league really picks up. For now: always remember to take it easy but take it.
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