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Winter Has Come: Oriole Hot Stove Speculations + Columbia Women's Basketball + TCM Tips

I call this time of year in the baseball calendar the "silly season".  It's filled with bestowing awards and moaning about awards not bestowed.  It's filled

with speculations on trades and free agent signings more than actual trades and free agent signings.

 

It's also filled with the copycat talk of young executives in this Age of Analytics.  I am particularly amused at the similarity in the chatter of new Mets

president of baseball operations David Stearns and beleaguered longtime Yankees honcho Brian Cashman. 

 

When Stearns were introduced to the press last month by Steve Cohen, MLB's wealthiest owner, he quoted one of Cohen's favorite phrases as the owner looked on approvingly:  We are trying to find "the best in class" as his goal for Mets' future fromt office hirings. 

 

A few weeks later, Cashman responded by defending his staff even if "it doesn't mean we're best in class" (quoted by Bob Nightingale in USA Today, accessed on line November 12, 2023).  Cashman angrily accused the media of overplaying the Yankee reliance on analytics, but there is no doubt they

are still searching for "the next best thing" in advanced logorithms designed to addle the traditional fan who I argue is not dumb but skeptical.      

 

Fortunately, there will be substantial baseball news shortly.  A clue to where organizations are headed will be this coming Tues Nov 14 when 40-man rosters for every one of the 30 MLB organizations will be announced.  

 

As an ardent Oriole fan, it will be interesting to see who is protected and who is "non-tendered" a contract and thus can become a free agent.  I have loved the contributions in recent years of Bird bargain basement infielders Ramon Urias and Jorge Mateo, but it is hard to see both returning next season.  

 

Mateo has spectacular speed, base running talent, and infield savvy but a very erratic bat.  If it comes down to an either/or, Mateo might get the nod

over Urias whose power numbers slipped in 2023 and occasionally had rare defensive lapses. 

 

Ramon was a 2022 Gold Glove third baseman though he played less than 90 games there. He is also a fine defensive second baseman and came up to the Cardinals primarily as a shortstop. His younger brother Luis was traded from Milwaukee to Red Sox late in 2023 and his Boston roster spot might be as precarious as Ramon's.  

 

Ramon and Jorge are endangered because the Orioles are blessed with young talented infielders.  22-year-old Gunnar Henderson, signed as a high schooler in Selma, Alabama, starred at both shortstop and third baseman in 2023.  He will likely be voted the American League Rookie of the Year although Josh Jung has strong credentials from the Texas Rangers world champions.

 

I don't get carried away with that award - along with Manager of the Year awards, which will likely go to Baltimore skipper Brandon Hyde, the award does not guarantee longevity of career. 

 

Waiting in the infield wings are two rookies who excelled in the minors in 2023.  Joey Ortiz played at New Mexico State, the same alma mater as budding Oriole ace Kyle Bradish. I am drawn to players who come from unheralded schools and have something to prove.  Ortiz won't be 26 until July. 

 

Another infield stud is Jackson Holliday who won't turn 20 until Dec 4. Son of 7-time All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday, Jackson was number one MLB pick in 2023 after graduating from high school in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He rocketed through four levels of the minors in 2023.

 

Already on the Oriole roster, and a solid contributor since late June to the 2023 AL East champion, is Jordan Westburg who starred at perennial college power Mississippi State.  He is another shortstop that can play second or third base and he will only turn 25 on February 18, just as Oriole spring training is heating up. 

 

The competition among those infielders will be fierce.  So will it be betwen upcoming outfielders Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, and Kyle Stowers. They will try to unseat at least one of the incumbents, Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins, and Anthony Santander who will be a free agent after 2024 season.  

 

It's quite possible before I file another post before baseball's winter meetings in Nashville in early December that some of the Baltimore core and some prospects are traded for starting pitching, bullpen help, and/or a solid run-producing bat.  I just caution people to read carefully headlines in the blogosphere.  Many posts are about what writers want and not actual news. 

 

As for other news about my favorite non-baseball teams, only Columbia's women's basketball team looks promising.  They lost six solid contributors

from the 2022-2023 team that won their first Ivy League title. Snubbed by the NCAA selection committee, the Lions went on to play a competitive WNIT final against Kansas at the historic Phog Allen field house in Lawrence.

 

Senior Abby Hsu returns and she is developing into a complete player not just a sharpshooter with the enviable quick release. 

The Lions are playing a very tough pre-league schedule with most of the games at home at Levien Gym, Broadway W 120 Street SE corner.

Upcoming are Duke Tu Nov 14 6p.  

Towson Th Nov 16 7p.  

Northeastern Sa Nov 25 4p. 

Providence W Nov 29 11a - the annual game to which hundreds of NYC schoolkids are invited.

Villanova Sun Dec 3 2p.

Memphis Wed Dec 6 6p. 

Wagner Su Dec 10 2p.

Ivy League home season begins with Penn Sa Jan 6 2p. More informatioin at gocolumbialions.com

 

And now before I close, some tips on the upcoming TCM (Turner Classic Movies) schedule. All times EST.

The two sports-related movies in November are F Nov 17 5p "The Set-Up" (1949) maybe the best boxing movie ever.

Robert Ryan who was a boxer at Dartmouth gives one of his riveting performances. 

 

F Nov 17 is All-Noir from 730A "Too Late for Tears" (1949) with Lisabeth Scott as not exactly the girl next door LOL

Through 8p "Between Midnight and Dawn" (1950) Mark Stevens, Edmond O'Brien, Gale Storm

Among other highlights:  1215p "Detour" (1945) about as grisly as "Too Late For Tears"

130p "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) the first Bogart/Lorre/Greenstreet collaboration - we'd love to trust Mary Astor.  However, . . . 

315p "Born To Kill" (1947) - Lawrence Tierney almost typecast and Claire Trevor a year before she plays another Claire in "Babe Ruth Story"

615p "Naked City" (1948) the original, a film that producer/inspirer Mark Hellinger never lived to see completed 

 

Sun Nov 19 345p "Pat and Mike" (1952).  Set in a golf world with legendary Babe Didrikson Zaharias in a cameo appearance, look near the end

for Chuck Connors, former first baseman, at the start of a career that led to TV's "The Rifleman". 

 

Also on Nov 19 at 10p Belafonte's "The World, Flesh, and the Devil" (1959) by no means sport enters here but quite a film about aftermath of

a nuclear war with only Belafonte, Inger Stevens, and Mel Ferrer as survivors.

 

Every Tuesday in November is Gloria Grahame night - one of the queens of Noir who always attracted good directors:

Tu Nov 14 triple-feature starting at 8p "In A Lonely Place" (1950) with Bogart as writer with anger problem to put it mildly.

Directed by Nicholas Ray, then married to Grahame.   

Followed by two Cold War era films: 945p "The Glass Wall" (1953)  directed by Maxwell Shane with Vittorio Gassman

and 1130p "Man on A Tightrope" directed by Elia Kazan with Fredric March

 

Tu Nov 21 8p "Bad and the Beautiful" (1952) Grahame's Oscar that she should have gotten for "Crossfire" (1947)

"TBATB" is one of the best films about Hollywood, dir. Vincent Minnelli with the wonderful David Raksin title song

10:15p "Odds Against Tomorrow" (1959) minor role for Gloria but Robert Wise directs bank robbers Ed Begley Sr., Belafonte and Ryan whose

racial enmity sabotages the plans 

 

Tu Nov 28 8p "The Big Heat" (1953) dir. by Fritz Lang with Glenn Ford and co-starring Jocelyn Brando, Marlon's sister

10p "Human Desire" (1954) another Lang not for faint of heart with Ford and Grahame and Broderick Crawford

1130p "Naked Alibi" (1954) with Sterling Hayden, Gene Barry, Chuck Connors again - have not seen this one about police brutality.

 

That's all for now.  Always remember:  Take it easy but take it.  And even if recovery from ubiquitous covid is slow like mine,

stay positive, test negative.

 

 

 

 

   

 

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A Memorable Sunday in Baltimore But Let's Ax The Manfred Man Ghost Runner & the Sliding Oven Mitt!

The surprising Baltimore Orioles have played many memorable games this season, but their 5-4 11th inning walkoff victory over the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday afternoon (Sun Sep 17) at Camden Yards was truly remarkable.  Even gracious Rays GM Erik Neander admitted afterwards that it was a great game.  

 

The Birds trailed in the bottom of the 8th, 9th and 10th innings. Young budding superstar catcher Adley Rutschman somehow managed to homer on a 101 mph fastball off fearsome Rays closer Pete Fairbanks to cut the lead to 3-2 in the 8th. 

 

Down to their last out in bottom of 9th, journeyman Adam Frazier came through with an opposite field double to send the game into extra innings as  speedy Jorge Mateo, pinch-running for Austin Hays who had singled up the middle, went flying around the bases. The Rays grabbed the lead in top of 10th on two Baltimore chop grounders that scored the ghost runner from second. More on that annoying innovation in a moment.

 

 

In top of 11th, young southpaw D.L. Hall had perhaps his finest moment as an Oriole holding the Rays scoreless. And then Oriole baseball 2023 style won the game in the bottom half. 

 

Ryan O'Hearn, who didn't even make the Orioles out of spring training after 5 pedestrian years with Kansas City, laid down the first sacrifice bunt of his MLB career. O'Hearn has been a godsend to the lineup. making up for the injuries to regular first baseman Ryan Mountcastle.  Also a corner outfielder,

O'Hearn has a chance to finish as the team's only .300 hitter. 

 

How fitting it was that Cedric Mullins, who came up at end of 2018 and has endured more losses than any current Oriole, hit a deep sacrifice fly to score ghost runner Rutschman with the winning run.

 

Now about that ghost runner or Manfred Man, as one wit wth pop music cred calls it.  I was happy to learn that the joint player-management rules committee UNANIMOUSLY voted to not to use it in playoffs.  I ask: Why keep it in regular season?  The whole point of baseball should be earning bases not being given bases. 

 

And while I'm ranting a bit, how about doing away with the oven mitt for base runners? It's an unfair advantage to the runner to augment the hand with five fingers that God gave you.  I might call it is a performance enhancement and we don't like that, do we?  

 

Several minutes of our lives were wasted yesterday during a replay of whether Rays outfielder Josh Lowe was safe or out on a close play at the plate that would have given Tampa a big insurance run in the 9th inning.  Fortunately the Orioles won the challenge, but if Lowe had not been wearing the oven mitt, there would have been no doubt in real time that Adley Rutschman tagged him.

 

With 13 games left, the Orioles are assured a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2016.  They hold in effect a 3-game lead on Tampa Bay because Birds won season series from Tampa 8-5. The Rays must play 6 with Toronto including the final 3 of regular season in Canada.  The Blue Jays could be a very dangerous team in playoffs and they will have much to play for since they are now leading for the second wild card over Texas with Seattle right behind Texas.  

 

The Orioles face a big hurdle starting tonight (Mon Sep 18) in Houston against the enigmatic defending champion Astros who have been only a .500

team at home this year.  In last week's post, I predicted wrongly that Houston had an advantage playing tailend KC and Oakland. Somehow the Astros managed to lose both series.  Yet the defending world champions are narrowly holding on to first place ahead of Texas and Seattle. 

 

Time will tell how the Orioles end the season and with what kind of momentum they enter the playoffs. I still love the cliche, "Momentum in baseball is the next day's starting pitcher."  Certainly after this past weekend, a split never seemed more sweet because the Rays had won the first 2 games, 4-3 and

7-0.

 

A rare Orioles 4-game losing streak was snapped on Sat night behind 8 shutout innings from highly-touted rookie Grayson Rodriguez, the longest outing of his young career. They took charge early led by rookie Gunnar Henderson's booming bat and won 8-0.  Then came the 5-4 Sunday classic. 

 

Tampa's rout on Fri night behind RHP Zack Eflin happened despite a capacity crowd that came out to honor center fielder Adam Jones who signed a one-day contract so he could retire as an Oriole.  I've never met Adam but he is a refreshing person, a Southern Californian originally signed by Seattle who spent much of his career in Baltimore. 

 

What Adam Jones does and says is worthy of our attention.  One of his great gestures came when Cedric Mullins arrived in Baltimore to take his place in center field. As Adam prepared to run out to right field, he let Cedric lead the team out onto the field.

 

A one-time number draft pick of the Mariners, Jones often cites the advice from the scout that signed him:  "You're only a number one draft pick for one day."   About the rise of the today's Orioles, Jones said this weekend, "There's nothing better than when you go through the mud and then you get out." 

 

That's all for now. By next post, I hope the NL wild card race has at least one team with a record 10 games above .500. The Phillies are pretty much set as number one WC but there is a fierce competition among Diamondbacks, Cubs, Marlins, and Reds with Giants now looking like long shots. 

 

The level of play hasn't been particularly distinguished, but it is exciting fans in the involved cities. NL.   Division winners LA Dodgers and Atlanta Braves have long ago clinched their titles.  The Dodgers swept Seattle on the road to make a statement while somehow the Braves were swept in Miami.

Milwaukee will soon clinch the NL Central ,but they will have to play the last wild card winner - no byes for the Brew Srew. 

 

Happy Autumn to all and always remember:  Take it easy but take it, and stay positive, test negative! 

 

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