Baltimore Orioles: American League Cheaters Series?

The Baltimore Orioles can take solace in the fact that they swept both ALCS participants (Houston and Boston) at their respective parks. At different points of the season, that is. That did happen.

That aside, Major League Baseball has a problem. I suspect that after the cheating scandals of 2017 and 2018, the last two teams MLB wanted squaring off in the ALCS are Boston and Houston. Yet, that’s what we have.

Mind you, both franchises received discipline for their transgressions prior to last season. I personally thought that the punishments were fair. What I didn’t expect was that these two teams would be meeting in 2021 for the right to play in the Fall Classic.

There’s no evidence of anyone having cheated this year. But the optics of this are poor for the league no matter how you spin it. This despite both teams being very good.

At the time (and we’re talking immediately prior to the pandemic), many fans thought the teams should receive postseason bans. I personally did not agree with that. This isn’t a college sport where you’re chosen by a committee for postseason play. You earn your way there by having a better record than anyone else.

So I’m not saying these teams shouldn’t be at this stage. Unless evidence of further cheating is brought forward, they earned it. I’m just saying the optics are bad. And given how much gambling has come into sports of late, that makes it even worse. But can it be helped? Not in the least.

Baltimore Orioles: Calls for mercy on a day of infamy

Today is a day most Baltimore Orioles’ fans won’t forget. It’s the anniversary of the famous “Jeffrey Maier home run” against the Birds in the 1996 MLB playoffs. It vaulted the New York Yankees to victory over the O’s, and an eventual victory in the series.

I’ve always said that if not for that botched home run/fan interference call, the Orioles would have won the World Series that year. The ‘96 team was that good, and they had that sort of synergy. Furthermore, I’ve always said that Orioles’ manager Davey Johnson should have played the game under protest. Let the league handle the matter – you just never know what would have happened.

I remember watching the game with my Dad and my sister that day. It was a late afternoon game, and my Dad came home to watch it with us; I was in high school. When Maier reached over the wall and gave Derek Jeter a home run, my Dad jumped off the sofa screaming right along with Orioles’ outfielder Tony Tarasco. I did something similar. It was a terrible call and it should have never been allowed to stand. But it did, and it cost the Orioles a World Series (in my view).

However the next day something happened which softened my view of umpire Al Garcia, who made the call: he apologized. He flat out admitted that he botched it. He said that if he could do it over again, he would have ruled fan interference.

Umpires don’t do that – for the most part. They didn’t do it then, and they don’t do it now. I’m sure that the stakes in the game played a role as to why Garcia came out and said that, but he said it. And that’s to his undying credit.

It doesn’t change what happened. And Garcia knew that. But for a guy to do that in a field of work whereby it’s expected that you don’t have to address your mistakes, I always felt that spoke volumes about Al Garcia as a person. And as an umpire.

Quite frankly, it’s that sort of integrity that Orioles fans should expect out of today’s umpires. I use the word integrity because Garcia proved he was fair by calling himself out like that. And that’s all anyone wants in officiating: FAIRNESS.

Baltimore Orioles: 2021 Season Recap

The Baltimore Orioles were forced to wait an extra day to open the 2021 season at Fenway Park due to early spring weather in Boston. But it was worth the wait; John Means pitched what was at the time his best outing as a pro, and the Orioles defeated Boston. They would go on to sweep the series. Unfortunately, that was probably the pinnacle of the season. In terms of a team effort, that is.

Not much was expected of this 2021 Orioles team. However their valleys were probably far deeper than anyone expected. Yet, their peaks were often pretty high as well. That’s often the trade-off you get when you rebuild. One week after that opening series they’d be swept by that same Boston team in their home-opening series.

This season was always going to be strange. The O’s were only allowed to sell 11K seats per game due to social distancing regulations at first. That changed on June 1st. But the Orioles struggled along to that point. They often looked somewhat respectable against some teams, but within their division, they struggled. They were swept by Boston twice in the first two months. They also struggled against New York and Tampa. They lost 15 straight games to close out May – a harbinger of things to come.

But May provided one unbelievable moment, that will be cherished by Orioles fans for generations. The Birds were in Seattle for a Wednesday afternoon matinee on May 5th, closing out a west coast road trip. John Means was on the mound, and low and behold…we saw the first Orioles’ no-hitter since the 1960’s. Throngs of Orioles fans had seen fanbase after fanbase celebrate their guys throwing no-no’s. Finally it was Birdland’s turn!

There were never too many wins built into this team. Pitching was shaky at best, be it starting or in relief. But the Orioles never gave up in games. And that speaks to their character. And at times, they seemed to learn from their mistakes. After being swept by Washington in late May, the Birds returned the favor in late July. Then they turned around and lost 21 consecutive games, two shy of the franchise record. But end of the day, they may have been bad, but they never quit.

One would think that in finishing the season 52-110, it would be tough to find bright spots (aside from the aforementioned John Means no-hitter). But the year was full of outstanding individual performances. Orioles fans got a good look at the future, starting with Cedric Mullins becoming the first 30-30 guy in Orioles’ history. That’s incredibly meaningful.

There’s also a lot of hope instilled in the likes of Ryan Mountcastle, who set a franchise record with 33 home runs as a rookie. When you look back at the players this franchise has had and you think that Mullins is the only 30-30 guy among them, and Mountcastle set a franchise record for a rookie, it would appear that there are some special guys in this current mix of Orioles. And let’s not forget Trey Mancini, who’s all but a shoo-in to be Comeback Player of the Year after returning from cancer last year.

However now the 2021 season fades to black. It’s all but a mere memory, as we watch the 2021 Postseason unfold before us. This while the Birds build towards Sarasota and spring training next February. And remember, hope ALWAYS springs eternal every season!

Baltimore Orioles: So what now?

Today is the first day of the 2021-22 off season for the Baltimore Orioles. It’s kind of amazing if you think about it; seems like yesterday we were excited about five thousand fans at Fenway Park on Opening Day with John Means pitching. Last year was by far the strangest season ever, but this season had it’s peculiarities also. Teams having to limit attendance was odd for sure.

So what comes next for the Orioles? The answer is, “nothing much.” Teams not involved in the postseason generally lay very low during October. And speaking for myself, I’m almost thankful for that. The MLB postseason is so compelling, and so fun to watch. Especially the Wild Card games, which this year feature New York and Boston on the American League side. You can just add this to the litany of moments between those two in the playoffs.

Speaking for myself, I stand firmly behind Dodger Blue in this postseason. They’ll of course take on the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Wild Card game on Wednesday night. Should be fun.

But back to the Orioles; certainly they’ll do some internal things, such as evaluate their coaching staff here and there. Perhaps even some player evaluations. Speaking of players, they’ll be taking their “exit physicals” this week as they all disperse for the off season. But don’t expect anything big to be announced regarding anything until after the World Series. That’s just how things work!

Baltimore Orioles: End of the line for 2021

Bruce Zimmerman got the start in Toronto this afternoon, but the Baltimore Orioles seemed intent on using everyone today. And given that it was the last day of the season, maybe that’s okay. Zimmerman’s line: .2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 1 K.

In a fashion that seemed typical against Toronto this year, the O’s fell 12-4. If it wasn’t Springer getting Toronto on the board, it was Springer with a grand slam. Not that it mattered. For this year, anyways.

Tyler Nevin did hit his first major league home run for the O’s today, a solo shot in the third inning. The O’s rallied late to make it 12-4, however this series was all Toronto. And today was no exception.

And with that, we enter the off season. The O’s finished with a record of 52-110, which earned them the number one pick in next year’s draft. Not exactly an “honor” you want, however it should help the organization at the end of the day.

And that’s the end – for now. So what comes next? Later this week I’ll publish a season recap. And we’ll enter the off season in earnest. It should be an active one, pending the league’s labor situation. This season was tough on everyone, but we made it through. And remember folks, hope always springs anew next year.

Here’s a parody of sorts for you! The Orioles’ next game is set for February 26, 2022 against the New York Yankees at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fl. Both teams are yet to announce a starting pitcher. Game time is TBD.

Baltimore Orioles: John Means hampered by common cold in final start

John Means made his final start of the year for the Baltimore Orioles this afternoon in Toronto. We didn’t find out until after the game, but Means was hampered by a cold in today’s game. Many would say that’s an excuse for his performance today. However I would submit that there’s a difference between an excuse and the truth. Means’ line: 3.0 IP, 7 H, 7 R (6 earned), 0 BB, 2 K.

I’ve heard a lot of current and former athletes talk on this topic. Many say common illnesses never bothered them. Former Washington quarterback Sonny Jurgensen once said that he always played better when he was a little bit sick. Because he had to concentrate harder, and that would make a difference.

Others can’t pull that off. It would appear that Means is in that category. And for the record, if I were an athlete I would be in the same boat. I’m the most miserable patient known to man when I’m sick! Brandon Hyde addressed Means’ outing after the game:

He gave us everything he had today, really gave us everything he had this year. And this is a small blip on Meansie’s season. Happy with his year. He’s still early on in his career. Looking forward to the adjustments he’s going to make going into next spring training. Even though he didn’t have a good one today, he had a really nice year.

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

Toronto got on Means and the Orioles from the beginning. Guerrero smacked a two-run homer in the first inning. Hernandez added a solo shot later in the inning. Ryan McKenna would cut the lead to 3-1 in the second with an RBI-groundout.

But that was as close as the O’s would get. Springer’s three-run homer in the second broke the game wide open at 6-1. Toronto would also get homers from Bichette and Jansen. When the smoke cleared, they had defeated the O’s, 10-1.

The series and the season conclude tomorrow at Rogers Centre. Bruce Zimmerman gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Hyun Jin Ryu. Game time is set for just after 3 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: These colors don’t run

A lot has been said about the 2021 Baltimore Orioles. But nobody’s ever said that they were quitters. Behind an outstanding effort from Alexander Wells this evening in their final home game of the series, the O’s proudly reminded the field that they were leaving their stamp on the playoff race. Wells’ line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 K.

Wells surrendered a solo homer in the first to Hernandez. And that was the lone run that Boston scored off of the Birds’ starter. The Birds’ starter, who’s all but earned his way onto this team next season. At least earned his way to spring training.

The O’s took the lead in the last of the third when Ryan Mountcastle smacked a three-run homer. Mountcastle continues to make his case for Rookie of the Year, as that was his 33rd homer of the season. It could be said in fact, that Ryan Mountcastle’s had the best rookie season in Orioles’ history.

Tyler Nevin’s two-run single in the sixth extended the lead to 5-1. Later in the inning Pay Valaika would add a sac fly-RBI, and the O’s led 6-1. The final ended up 6-2, as Boston put a second run across on a wild pitch.

The Orioles took two-of-three from a Boston team who was looking for them to roll over. But it was important to these Birds to show the world that they had heart. They played hard in all three games of this series. And THAT’S what the orange & black stands for, across all era’s.

The O’s will head to Toronto tomorrow to open their final series of the season at Rogers Centre. The O’s are yet to name a starter, but whomever he is he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Steven Matz. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles blanked by Boston in penultimate home game

The Baltimore Orioles sent Zac Lowther to the mound in their penultimate game at Camden Yards this season. Lowther was tagged with the loss, but he showed more promise. And he’s been showing promise here during the past few weeks. Oriole pitching as a whole has done so. Lowther’s line: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 2 R (1 earned), 0 BB, 4 K.

Many Oriole pitcher’s, including Lowther, are in effect auditioning for a spot on the roster in Spring Training next year. And I think it’s good that these competitions are already occurring. Because it gives the coaches a chance to see who’s willing to compete for a job. And the better the completion before the regular season, the better the pitching will be in the regular season.

Lowther gave up a solo homer to Martinez in the second inning. Martinez would double home two additional runs in the sixth. Only one of those was earned, as a runner was allowed to get into scoring position by way of an error. Boston would add insurance runs in the eighth and ninth innings, closing out their 6-0 victory.

But end of the day, that’s all Boston needed. Their pitching shut the Orioles down at the plate, and those three runs stood up and gave them the victory. End of the day however, the O’s are in evaluate mode. And evaluate they’re doing.

The series (and the Orioles’ home schedule for 2021) concludes tomorrow night at Camden Yards. Alexander Wells gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Nick Pivetta. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles having their day in the Wild Card race

The Baltimore Orioles recalled starting pitcher Bruce Zimmermann before tonight’s series opener against Boston at Camden Yards. And Zimmerman set the trend for the game, which the Orioles won. Zimmermann’s line: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 K.

The lone run Zimmermann surrendered was a solo homer by Schwarber in the second inning. After Zimmermann had departed Renfroe smacked a solo shot in the sixth inning. From Boston’s standpoint, they were off to the races.

But the Orioles had other ideas. Ryan Mountcastle continued his all out assault on the Orioles’ record books by tying the game in the last of the sixth with a two-run homer. It’s going to be tough for Mountcastle to win AL Rookie of the Year given that he plays for a losing team. But make no mistake that he’s made a strong case, and absolutely should be in the running.

Later in that sixth inning Pedro Severino gave the Orioles the lead at 3-2 with an RBI-single. And Ryan McKenna supplied an RBI-single in the last of the eighth, giving the Orioles an insurance run. And eventually a 4-2 victory.

Boston entered the night in possession of the second wild card spot, one game behind New York for the top spot. They were also a game ahead of Toronto, who’s currently out of the playoff picture. So the Orioles are going to leave their mark on the AL playoff race one way or the other.

They have two more this week against Boston of course, and then they close the season this weekend in Toronto. So the Birds will be heard. They’ll have their say on the final standings.

The series continues tomorrow night at a Camden Yards. Zac Lowther gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: When’s the next series at Camden Yards?

The Baltimore Orioles are scheduled to open up their final home series of the season tonight against the Boston Red Sox. Ironically, the Birds not only began their home schedule against Boston, but a week prior opened the season against them at Fenway. That seems like a lifetime ago. Yet here we are at the end of the year.

The schedule says that the Orioles will open 2022 at home, back at Camden Yards against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 31st. This of course after a month’s worth of games in the Florida Grapefruit League. But the question is whether or not that’ll be the circumstance or whether it’ll be another circumstance in which the Birds will next play at Camden Yards.

This is sort of a preview of something that I’m afraid may be a big issue this off season. There’s labor unrest on the horizon, in the very near future. The collective bargaining agreement expires this year, which in theory puts next season in question. That’s not set in stone – the sides could reach a deal. But the reaching of a deal isn’t set in stone either.

I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of it now while there are still games going on. But once the post-season has ended this is something that’s going to start popping up in the news. And I will say this; a labor stoppage in baseball would be CRIPPLING to the league and it’s product. There’s already mistrust amongst the players and owners given the 60-game season that was forced on teams by the league last year due to the pandemic. And I suspect that the MLBPA won’t soon be forgetting that fact when the negotiations kick into high gear.

Nevertheless, the Boston series is set to open up tonight at Camden Yards. Bruce Zimmermann gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Chris Sale. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.