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How 13-22 Might Be More Hopeful Than 22-10 & Columbia Returns to Ivy League Baseball Playoffs (slightly revised)

On the first Saturday night of May on Star Wars Night at Camden Yards, struggling Dylan Bundy threw the best game of his career.  He pitched into the 8th inning to lead the Orioles to a 3-0 victory over the first place Tampa Bay Rays.

 
Last night (Mon May 6) rookie southpaw John Means contributed a similarly deep outing in a 4-1 victory over the Red Sox. Though my Birds seem consigned to permanent basement residence in  the AL East, they are now 13-22 and on a two-game winning streak.  Whoopee! and I am not being sarcastic.  

 
Two years ago harboring dreams of contention, the Orioles started 22-10 before reality set in.  They wound up 2017 under .500 setting the stage for the disastrous 47-115 of 2018.     

 
Allow me to note some cautiously hopeful signs for 2019.

 

**The overall defense is improved.

**Some decent offense has been provided (and good defense) by Blue Jays castoff outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. and young veteran Trey Mancini (gamely playing right field these days though better suited for first base). 

**Chris Davis is no longer an automatic out but certainly not yet a consistent threat.

**Rookie manager Brandon Hyde has the team playing hard if not always well or smart. 


Any solid hope will depend on the pitching staff.  Much has been expected of Dylan Bundy once a top pick in the draft.  His latest efforts have been encouraging.

 

Nothing was expected of John Means.  "I was never a prospect," he says, but he developed four pitches during his five-year minor league apprenticeship. So far he is rising to the occasion at the major league level.

 

A third starter veteran Andrew Cashner looks like he can provide five or six innings most of the time. Don't ask about where other starters will come from or what the bullpen will look like. Converted shortstop Mychal Givens has closer potential but hasn't shown consistency.

 

Repeat after me class - "If consistency were a place, it would be lightly populated." Don't know who coined the phrase but you can quote me.

 
One thing I've learned in nearly 70 years of intense baseball watching is that won-lost records don't mean much until at least Memorial Day weekend. In the 24/7/365 frenzied mass media world we live in today, it is a good point to remember. 

 
Good examples:  The once high-flying Seattle Mariners now limp towards .500 or worse.

The early promise of the Mets has sunk along with a record now below .500.


Turning to the much shorter season of college baseball, Columbia on Saturday May 4th earned its ticket into the Ivy League Championship Series with a 4-0 shutout in Philadelphia over perennial power Penn. 

 
Needing just one victory to make the playoffs, the Lions had lost four in a row. Gone was the hope of hosting the championship series that will now open at Harvard on Sa May 18.

 
The Lions faced elimination in Saturday's second game after a tough 5-2 loss in the first game when Penn got four runs in the bottom of the 8th. The Quakers had won a similar Winner Take All game two years ago. 

 
Short memories are so essential for baseball success. So senior righthander Ethan Abrams pitched shutout ball into the seventh inning and junior southpaw Leo Pollack earned the save in a 4-0 win. Junior catcher Liam McGill delivered two RBI, a single in the first and a huge insurance HR in the eighth.  

 

It's been quite a run for the Lions under coach Brett Boretti now in his 14th season.  A win over Harvard in two weeks will mean the fifth Ivy League title in the last seven seasons for the native of the North Shore of Boston. Though he still roots for all New England pro teams, there is no doubt that proud alums and all fans of the Columbia Light Blue and White feel that he is the answer to the question posed in the great school fight song, "Who owns New York?" 

 
Harvard will provide stiff competition for Columbia as they seek to repeat their thrilling series win two weeks ago. They have a deep pitching staff and a formidable one-two punch  in senior first baseman Patrick McColl, in the running for the Golden Spikes award as college player of year, and junior right fielder Jake Suddleson.

 
In case of a split on Saturday May 18, there will be a winner take all game on May 19. Games can be seen on the paying service ESPN+ but this is a matchup I must see in person.

You'll read about it and other college baseball matchups in this area in future posts. 

 

There are at least two college tourneys in the NYC area before Memorial Day: Fordham's Rose Hill campus in the Bronx will host the Atlantic 10 tournament May 22-25. On the same days the MAAC will have their tourney at the Yankees' Staten Island ballpark.

 

Coming up in early June will be the PSAL high school championship game. More info on these matchups in the next post.

 

The NYC PSAL has been using wooden bats for several years now. Colleges still use composite bats. I don't like their ping sound any more than baseball purists do, but if you want to see baseball with plenty of hustle and stress on fundamentals, check out the college game.  


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

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Teny Ymota Says: Roar Lion Roar & Other Early May Baseball Musings

Before an enthusiastic home crowd at Robertson Field at Satow Stadium, Columbia on Saturday May 2nd won its third elimination game in seven days, beating Penn, 4-2 to earn the Gehrig Division title in the Ivy League. Seven solid innings from George Thanopoulos, two spotless relief innings from Kevin Roy, and solo home runs by Jordan Serena, Logan Bowyer, and Dave Vandercook provided the margin of victory.

Rested Rolfe Division-winner Dartmouth comes into Robertson/Satow on Saturday afternoon May 9 for a best-of-three championship series to determine the Ivy League winner and the automatic NCAA tournament bid. Columbia is trying for its third consecutive title and third straight playoff victory over Dartmouth. If the Saturday doubleheader is split, a single winner-take-all game will be played on Sunday.

The Ivy League college season in the Northeast is regrettably short so to witness bonus baseball in May is a real treat. There used to be an old saying that Ivy League players are “half-baked potatoes – not good enough to eat but too good to throw away.”

The level of play has definitely improved in recent years, and recent graduates of both division-winning programs are working their way through the minor leagues - notably Columbia outfielder Dario Pizzano with the Mariners affiliate at Double A Jackson, MS, and Dartmouth's second-third baseman Joe Sclafani with the Astros organization also in Double A.

Of course, for most Ivy League athletes the championship games will be the high point of their careers which makes for intense competition. I dislike the ping of the aluminum bat as much as anybody, but don't let that irritation keep you away from the action.

I highly recommend a visit this weekend to picturesque Satow Stadium on the banks of the Hudson River, a little bit up the hill northwest of the corner of 218th Street and Broadway in northern Manhattan.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball has entered its crucial second month. The biggest surprise so far has to be the Houston Astros, riding a 10-game winning streak with an 18-7 record. The long-dormant Astros are the only team above .500 in what was once considered a strong AL West division.

Houston’s early emergence is not totally shocking. They have a budding mound ace in Dallas Keuchel and the defending AL batting champion in pepperpot second baseman Jose Altuve who is playing like a future MVP. They also have a star-in-the-making in right fielder George Springer from the University of Connecticut.

How I love it when players from the Northeast make their mark in their majors!
Cold weather prevents talent in this area from playing as many games as their counterparts in Florida and Texas and California. But since baseball is a game of character and adversity, tough conditions harden the players. It could well be that agile and powerful George Springer is on his way to join another great product of this region, southern Jersey’s Mike Trout of the Angels.

What the Astros have to watch out for is a bad streak once their long winning streak eventually ends. The Mets won 11 in a row and have since lost 7 out of 10 but still hold on to first place in the NL East.

With so many games to play, position in the standings is less important than consistent play and winning as many series as you can. Which is why two game and four game series are annoying to many in baseball. It is very hard to win a four game series against one team but inter-league play every day has necessitated this crazy-quilt unsatisfying scheduling.

A record must have been set on Saturday May 2 when TWO games ended with base runners being hit by batted balls. The victimized teams were the Angels who lost a 5-4 game to the Giants when pinch runner Taylor Featherston was hit by the ball, and the Diamondbacks who lost 6-4 to the Dodgers when Jordan Pacheco was similarly struck heading to second base.

It was a tough weekend for Pacheco. In the top of the 13th inning in a scoreless Sunday game against the Dodgers, Pacheco was tagged out at home plate trying to score on a wild pitch. After a throw from catcher Yasmani Grandal, reliever J.P. Howell made a remarkable behind-the-back tag to nip Pacheco by an eyelash. Moments later, Grandal homered to give the Dodgers a dramatic walkoff win.

Nothing matches, though, what the Orioles went through this past week. Rioting in Baltimore after the death in police custody of 25-year-old African-American Freddie Gray forced the Orioles to postpone two of three home games with White Sox and to transfer its entire weekend series to Tampa Bay.

On Wednesday afternoon one game was played with the White Sox before an entirely empty stadium at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It was a first in the long history of MLB – a game without fans. Kudos to Oriole catcher Caleb Joseph who mimicked signing autographs for invisible fans before the game.

Back in the Orioles glory years of the 1970s and early 1980s, another Oriole catcher Rick Dempsey entertained fans during rain delays by pantomiming Babe Ruth running the bases. It looks like the Birds have another appealing receiver on their roster.

And perhaps the Orioles as a team are beginning to catch fire. They won three out of the four games played in these unusual circumstances. They are heading to New York for a week – two inter-league games with the Mets followed by a four-game series with the red-hot Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Center fielder Adam Jones continues to sizzle with a batting average over .400 and sparkling play in center field.

T. S. Eliot famously said April is the cruelest month – I guess he didn’t like the coming of flowers and new blooms – but in baseball May is usually the most revealing month. We’ll see how the pennant races look by the end of the month. More than 60 per cent of the time, division leaders as June begins are in the playoffs come October.

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

YIBF (Yours In Baseball Forever), Teny Ymota (The Earl of New York, Your Man On The Aisle)  Read More 
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