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There’s an old saying in baseball, “You’re never as good as you look when you are winning and you are never as bad as you look when you are losing.” There’s a cruel variation on that adage I heard from Curt Motton, the valuable reserve outfielder on great Baltimore Oriole teams in the late 60s and early 70s. “You MAY be as bad as you look when you are losing,” Motton told me some years ago when he was working as an advance scout for the Orioles.

Was thinking of the Motton corollary as I watch from afar Baltimore’s now-annual late season collapse. It started early this year and they still have a lot of games to play with contenders Rays, Red Sox and Yankees. I wish I weren’t Nostradamus when it came to my major rooting interest for the last 40 years but when they blew out the Angels on Friday night in the first game of a four-game home series, I crossed fingers that they had a chance to split the series. Not to be.

And to prove that there is no bottom to a team I have branded the Woerioles, they came from behind this past Sunday to force extra innings only to lose in the top of the 13th as pitchers Brian Bass and Matt Albers (the latter since demoted to the minor leagues) gave up 9 runs so the final score was the unsightly 17-8. They lost last night (Monday August 17), the crowning blow being Vladimir Guerrero’s second home run of the game that came after manager Dave Trembley walked Bobby Abreu intentionally. Everybody contributes to a losing atmosphere.

I turned on the TV just in time to see Guerrero’s second dinger. With my aging eyes I thought the score listed at the top of the screen was 9-3 but it was only 5-3 Angels. In a twinkling though Vlad made it 8-3 so I guess my eyes were prophetic. Several years ago the Orioles thought they had the inside track to sign Guerrero as a free agent but he spurned Baltimore saying that it did not have enough of a Hispanic community. He didn’t have to add that they had been developing a losing tradition that he wanted no part of. Who can blame him?

Desperately not wanting to repeat their late season collapses of recent years, the Orioles have rushed their best pitching prospects to the big leagues Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz. Both have shown maturity beyond their years, 21 and 22 respectively, and they have earned their first major league wins but it remains to be seen if they can be consistent in an atmosphere of losing that has to be depressing. The most polished young pitcher for the Birds this year has been Brad Bergesen so, of course, he had got hit in the leg with a line drive in late July and will probably miss all of this month. Norman Vincent Peale would have had a hard time applying The Power of Positive Thinking to this team and organization!

Yesterday the Orioles unloaded disappointing veteran first baseman/DH Aubrey Huff to the Tigers for a minor league pitcher with a spotty record and last week they sent to the Rays backup catcher Gregg Zaun, who was doing a good job as mentor to rookie catcher Matt Wieters. All they received in exchange was a marginal minor league first baseman. Last year at this time they sent submarining reliever Chad Bradford to the Rays for a nondescript journeyman. Hard not to believe they are dumping veteran salaries at this time of year as Camden Yards becomes more and more empty with each game. Except when the Red Sox and Yankee fans come to root for their teams against the Orioles.

Gregg Zaun made an immediate contribution to the Rays when he hit a grand-slam home run on Sunday, the big blow in Tampa’s series-winner over the Blue Jays. He gets to face his former team for three games starting tonight Tuesday August 18. Zaun is the nephew of former Oriole catcher and fan favorite Rick Dempsey, and his departure is just another sign of how far from their winning roots the Orioles have descended. I was offered tickets to the last appearance of the Birds in New York in the middle of next month but I declined after sitting through their sweep by the Yankees in July. Thank you very much, I said to my friend, but I have had enough of the Orioles playing Washington Generals to the Yankees’ Harlem Globetrotters.

The difference between winning and losing and team triumphs trumping individual exploits was neatly summed up in Friday night’s game. Mike Scioscia, the Angels’ very successful manager, took offense when Orioles’ reserve outfielder Felix Pie celebrated hitting for the cycle in Friday night’s Oriole victory. Scioscia didn’t realize that Pie had hit for the cycle and the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown actually came calling for Pie’s bat the next day. He was only the fourth player in Orioles history to hit for the cycle. Wow! Big deal! I prefer to remember the contending Baltimore teams who knew how to play the game on both the major and minor league levels for nearly the quarter-century from 1960 to 1983. A not surprising footnote – Pie was shut down by the Angels for the rest of the series.

**The Brooklyn Cyclones inducted Tommy Lasorda into the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame before Sunday’s New York-Penn League game against the Oneonta Tigers. Though Lasorda only threw 13 innings in his brief Brooklyn career in 1954 and 1955, he is celebrating 60 years in the Dodgers organization. He was originally signed by his home area Phillies (he hails from Norristown, Pa. and enters their hall of fame this November) but was picked up by Brooklyn in a minor league deal in 1949. Among Lasorda’s unsung accomplishments as a Brooklyn Dodger was pitching batting practice during the 1955 World Series because his curveball had similar movement to Yankee lefties Whitey Ford and Tommy Byrne.

One of baseball’s most engaging ambassadors, Lasorda’s brief speech before Sunday’s game made mention of one of his favorite Italian restaurants on Withers Street in Brooklyn and concluded with urging his fans to say a prayer for him and the Dodgers.

At ceremonies in the Cyclones gallery before the on-field presentation, Lasorda was introduced by Marty Adler, the founder of the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame and the retired principal of Jackie Robinson Junior High School located on the site of the late lamented Ebbets Field. Was great seeing Adler again, who has done outstanding work collecting Brooklyn Dodger memorabilia, much of which is housed in the Cyclones gallery.

**Best wishes to New York high school standout Mariel Checo who pitched Norman Thomas to the city championship in June and, a 41st-round draft pick, has started his pro career with the Gulf Coast Yankees. Alibay Barkley, the George Washington HS slugger who was the last player in the country selected in the 2009 draft, has also started his pro career with the Angels. More thoughts on the amateur draft and how it might be reformed in future posts. Ciao for now!

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