Archive for the ‘ Game Recaps ’ Category

Baltimore Orioles: Commissioner Manfred is miscarrying justice

The Baltimore Orioles and the rest of Major League Baseball is being set up to have big problems this season – set up by Commissioner Rob Manfred. The commissioner has come out in the past few days and said that it would be inappropriate for teams to target Houston Astros players in games due to the cheating scandal. Former Oriole Nick Markakis said it best:

I feel like every single guy over there (on the Astros) needs a beating.

Quote courtesy of AM-680 “The Fan,” Atlanta, GA.

At first I thought that the penalties handed down were appropriate. I’m now re-thinking that. I get why the league had to grant immunity to the players in order to hold the organization accountable. But all in all it does seem like a miscarriage of justice. And what’s more is that players across the league are expressing similar sentiments to what Markakis said above.

This truly is the perfect storm. Because Houston seems to feel that they’re being treated unfairly. If you listen to their players, there seems to be very little contrition. If anything, it’s the league and other players and teams who are having the audacity to target them. Baseball’s always policed itself in many instances. Odds are this will be no different.

The moment one Houston Astros’ player is hit by a pitch, their bench is going to be chirping and saying that the guy should be suspended. And eventually that’ll probably happen – but not before someone incites a bench-clearing brawl presumably. And is Commissioner Manfred okay with giving worse discipline for guys retaliating for a legitimate reason than he did for the group who committed the act to begin with?

It’s not only that. The commissioner also said that he wasn’t taking the trophy away from them because it’s only hardware. So you’ve just disrespected every other World Series champion in the history of the game. In the name of what? Protecting the Houston Astros and their flimsy ego’s?

The commissioner is miscarrying justice. There isn’t anything that can be done about it, but he’s miscarrying justice.

Baltimore Orioles: Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

In a long-standing tradition on this column, there isn’t much to say about the Baltimore Orioles today. That because it’s Super Bowl Sunday! Many O’s fans were hoping that the Baltimore a Ravens would have been playing today, but that’s obviously not the case. Maybe next year.

Obviously the city of Baltimore does have a rich Super a bowl tradition, however. Obviously the Ravens have won it twice, and the Baltimore Colts won once. For the record, I’ll take the 49ers, 34-31. But whomever has the last possession of consequence will win the game. We’ll see how well that ages tomorrow!

Baltimore Orioles: Brian Roberts up for the hall

Former Baltimore Orioles’ second baseman Brian Roberts is on the ballot as a finalist for the 2020 Hall of Fame class. Roberts hit a career .278, stole 285 bases, and played for the Orioles for 13 years. And that doesn’t even touch on the utterly sick defense that he played at second base. Roberts is now an analyst for the Orioles on MASN and on 105.7 “the fan.” It’s his first time on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Results of the vote will be announced in January. I’ll be honest; I’m not sure that Roberts makes the cut. Mind you, this doesn’t mean he wasn’t a GREAT Oriole and a GREAT player throughout his career. He was a bright spot during some incredibly dark years in Birdland. However I’m not 100% sure that he’s a Hall of Famer.

Understand, this isn’t taking anything away from Brian Roberts. Nobody – and I mean NOBODY – honors the past or does nostalgia like the Orioles. NOBODY. Roberts will always be fondly remembered by Orioles fans. But whether he’s immortal and belongs in Cooperstown remains to be seen.

Personally I’m rooting for BRob to get in. And if he doesn’t get in this time around, he’ll be on the ballot for another nine years. I’m just not sure he makes the cut. But again, I’m rooting for him. As I hope all Orioles fans are.

Baltimore Orioles: Should the O’s go after Steven Strasburg?

At some point in this rebuilding process the Baltimore Orioles are going to have to make a splash in free agency. Whether that’s a bat or an arm remains to be seen. However if you look down the pike at the World Series Champion Washington Nationals, it seems that the emphasis should be on pitching.

And it just so happens that the World Series MVP, Steven Strasburg, just opted out of his contract. Admittedly the optics aren’t great; Strasburg opted out only hours before the team’s championship parade. So technically he attended that parade as a free agent. However contractually that couldn’t be helped.

Is it ridiculous to think that the Orioles might consider making a major splash this offseason and go after a stud pitcher like Strasburg? Let’s back up for a moment; would a pitcher of Strasburg’s pedigree even consider signing with the Orioles, no matter what the terms of the deal were? Why would a World Series MVP sign with a franchise that’s nowhere near being ready to compete for a title?

Ask former National Jayson Werth. He signed with Washington for seven years in 2011. I thought the exact same thing at the time; why would someone like that (who had won a World Series and could have his pick on where to go) sign with a team like that? First off Washington overpaid him – in theory. But…did they?

Werth was a veteran and he made the guys around him better. Odds are Washington doesn’t win the title without Werth (now retired) having been there. So in that sense, did they really overpay?

I suspect that Strasburg opted out of his contract, and will sign a bigger one with Washington. However the Orioles would have to overpay well above what Washington overpaid for Werth. Both in terms of years and dollars.

I’d put the odds of the Orioles going after Strasburg at about 5%. The odds of him signing here even lower. But at some point the Orioles will need to go after a big ticket item on the free agent market. And personally I think pitching is a great place to start.

Baltimore Orioles: President Trump to attend Fall Classic

When the Baltimore Orioles were in the World Series in 1979, President Jimmy Carter came to Memorial Stadium and threw out the first pitch in game one. Numerous other Presidents have thrown out first pitches at the Fall Classic, including Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. President Donald Trump will not be throwing out the first pitch at tonight’s World Series game in Washington – to my knowledge. But he will be attending the game.

The President announced that if the series required a game five he would attend – and here we are! While I’m not going to get into political debates here, whether you support his policies or not we’re all aware of the controversy surrounding President Trump. I recognize that he’s not just some run-of-the-mill President. Whether I support him or not is irrelevant. But I support him attending the game.

No sport has a relationship with the White House like baseball. Mainly that’s due to Presidential First Pitches. However Presidents have always taken an active role in America’s pastime. And I think the fact that the World Series is in our nation’s capital tonight almost mandates the presence of the sitting President. Again folks, this isn’t about politics. This is an act by the President very much rooted in tradition. As Americans, we should be all about that.

President Trump will become only the second President to watch a World Series game in our nation’s Capitol. President Calvin Coolidge attended World Series’ games in three different years at Griffith Stadium, original home of the Washington Senators. This happened most recently in 1925. My late grandfather, Dr. Anthony Launi (who later played semi-pro and had a tryout with the Senators), was three years old! So it’s been a long time since a sitting President has seen a World Series game in the seat of the nation’s power. My hope is that the Nationals and Astros put on a good show this evening for the Commander-In-Chief.

Baltimore Orioles: Bucking the trend in Philly?

Former Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter interviewed with the Philadelphia Phillies for their managerial opening on Monday. Philadelphia also reportedly interviewed Dusty Baker. The meetings took place in New York.

Both men are qualified. And the Philadelphia Phillies would be lucky to have either one manning their dugout. However in reviewing my twitter feed over the past few days, I’ve noticed something – about Orioles’ fans. A lot of them seem to be taking a jilted at the altar view towards the idea of Buck returning to the dugout. Mainly because at one point while in Baltimore he said that the Orioles would be his final managing job.

First off, people change. When he said that he may well have meant it. To his credit, Buck’s never been the type of guy to give lip service. He wouldn’t have said that just to endear himself to fans. But that isn’t to suggest that his view on the matter couldn’t have changed between then and now. I suspect that if he had his way he would still be managing the Orioles, perhaps also acting as the GM. But that’s not something that’s on the table for him.

So he has two choices: either stay out of baseball, or try to get back in. It appears that he’s taking the latter route. Whether it’s in Philadelphia or elsewhere, I personally believe that Buck Showalter will be managing in 2020. And to be honest, Philadelphia should have a certain appeal to him…

…their GM is Andy MacPhail He of course was the GM who hired Buck in Baltimore. Numerous other former members of the Orioles’ front office and scouting department have also migrated north to Philadelphia. So Showalter would find a group with which he was familiar if he were offered the job, and if he took it.

He would also find a city with many quirks – much like Baltimore. Buck always said I get Baltimore during his time here. Philadelphia is similar in that the city has it’s ebbs and flows, and the people are passionate about their city and their region.

One challenge would be that Showalter famously does things his own way. At almost every turn of the way, teams eventually soured on that way of doing things. So…were the Orioles any different? I would say yes. Showalter wasn’t fired; his contract expired. And if a franchise is ever in a spot to go in a different direction, it would have been the Orioles at that point of time. So I’m not sure that the Orioles actually soured on Buck as much as they opted to go in another direction. Either way he ceased to be here.

However again, Orioles fans shouldn’t feel jilted if he goes to another team. My hope would be that they’d be happy for him. Anyone who observed the dynamic Showalter had with the city, the fans, and the players while he was in Baltimore is going to know that Baltimore will always be special to Buck. And needless to say, he’ll always be special to the fans of Baltimore.

Baltimore Orioles: Tips happen

Over the course of the 2019 season I often questioned whether Baltimore Orioles’ pitchers were tipping their pitches. In fact, at times during various seasons I’ve thought that. Obviously it wouldn’t have been happening purposely or consciously, but it could have happened over the course of time. Perhaps various pitchers in various games.

After defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday and evening the ALDS at 1-1, Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon at the very least insinuated that LAD starter Clayton Kerrhaw was tipping his pitches. There’s some discrepancy as to whether or not it was actually Kershaw tipping pitches or another pitcher. But that’s irrelevant to the purpose of this discussion in a sense.

The point is that teams do very much have to be careful. Because opponents are always watching. If in fact you do something which indicates what you’re going to throw, opposing teams are going to find it.

Many might suggest that it’s immoral in relation to the rules of baseball to look and see if someone’s tipping their pitches. I would disagree – and nobody cares about the unwritten codes of the game like I do. Stealing signs – THAT’S against the unwritten rules. But there’s nothing wrong with studying your opponents to see if they’re doing something to tip their pitches.

This just means that players need to study themselves. And coaches need to study their players. Because if things are going on which indicate what’s coming, someone’s going to find it.

Baltimore Orioles: Played until the end of the line

Chandler Shepherd started the season finale at Fenway Park for the Baltimore Orioles this afternoon. The Birds were going with a bullpen game, however Shepherd went five innings. Shpeherd’s line: 5.0 IP, 3 R (2 earned) 1 BB, 6 K.

The Orioles took the lead in the third with RBI-singles by Hanser Alberto and Austin Hays, and a fielder’s choice-RBI by Trey Mancini. Even on the last day, they were still fighting. And they led 3-0.

However while I’m sure they were ready for the season to end as well, Boston wasn’t going quietly into the night. They put two across in the last of the third, and tied the game at three on Vasquez’s RBI-single in the sixth. One inning later Bogaerts’ RBI-single gave Boston a 4-3 lead.

But again, the Orioles fight until the end. Jonathan Villar, who played in all 162 games this year, smacked an RBI-single which tied the game at four in the eighth inning. But in the bottom of that inning it appeared that Boston was going to take the lead back. Bradley Jr. sent a towering fly ball to right field towards the corner of the Orioles’ visitors bullpen at Fenway Park…

…it was a home run. It was flat out a home run. Until it wasn’t. Until Stevie Wilkerson leapt at the wall, brought the ball back into the field of play, and spun around the wall and back onto his feet. He flat out robbed Bradley of a two-run homer.

However it would be and RBI-single by Devers in the last of the ninth that would walk Boston off as winners, ending the season for both teams. The Orioles finished the year at 54-108. As I’ve said however, that shows progress. Maybe seven games better than last year in the win column isn’t a heck of a lot of progress to some people. But it’s progress. And that’s what this season was supposed to be all about.

Going back to that Wilkerson catch for a moment, I can’t stress enough how amazing of a play it was. But it goes deeper than that. It symbolizes that this team never quit. It would have been easy enough to have let that ball go over the wall. The game probably would have been over earlier, and nobody would have thought Wilkerson or the O’s any worse for doing it.

But the fact that Wilkerson spent so much effort in making that play, in effect a play that was meaningless in the grand scheme of things, speaks to his character. And it speaks to the character of this organization, which obviously teaches it’s players to always play hard. And they typified that attitude until the last out on the last day, and until the end of the line. Up until the end.

Just for laughs…the Orioles’ next game will be Florida Grapefruit League Opening Day on Saturday, February 23, 2020 against Atlanta at CoolToday Park. Starters for both teams are still to be determined. (As soon as I’m able to get information about potential starters I’ll pass that along!) Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

And THAT, folks, is the end of the line!

Baltimore Orioles: Final game of this decade

Today the Baltimore Orioles close not only the 2019 season, but also a decade that will forever be special in Birdland. The next time the Birds take the field it will be 2020, and thus a new decade. (The Roaring 20’s?!) So today ends the 2010’s.

And what a memorable decade this was. First off, the Orioles and the rest of the league all play at 3 PM EST this afternoon. The league took note of the closing act of 2011, in which the Orioles savagely beat Boston in walk off fashion, and five minutes later Tampa did the same to NY – the combination of the two acts sending Tampa to the post season and sending Boston home. So at some point the league decided to have the last day feature games at the same time so as to potentially have something along those lines occur again.

Obviously the success of this past decade can be traced back and attributed to Buck Showalter. His leadership propelled the likes of Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy and others to greatness. Some of you reading this will point out that the O’s never won a World Series in this timeframe, and that’a undebatable. However after 14 consecutive losing seasons and multiple embarrassments in that span, are you really going to let the lack of a World Series define that era?

The 2012 Orioles shocked the world. And it was literally a season-long process – shocking the world, that is. They took the momentum garnered after bouncing Boston from the playoffs in 2011 and paid it forward. There were people who didn’t truly believe in the Orioles having a shot at the post season until they had actually clinched. But they made it, and won the inaugural AL Wild Card Game in Texas.

We all know the rest. Two years later the O’s were AL East Champions, and two years after that they returned to the post season as a wild card team. However all good things must come to an end. And the 2010’s-era Orioles has their fall from grace as well. They were competitive in 2017 until the final month, when they just fell off. Then 2018 obviously was a disaster, causing wholesale changes across the board.

But when fans think back on this decade of Orioles baseball, my hope is that they remember the good times. Because the fact is that they far outweigh the bad. By a long shot. Think back to moments such as this oneDelmon Young‘s bases clearing double in the 2014 ALDS against Detroit.

Incidentally, as a writer I try my best to call things down the middle. Sure I cover the Orioles and thus write from the Orioles’ perspective, but I try not to cheerlead. But watching that clip still sends shivers down my spine (in a manner that only baseball can induce). You can hear the crowd, and hear the announcer straining just to have his voice heard over the fans. And that’s very consistent with my own memories of that moment.

That was not only the loudest I had ever heard Camden Yards, but the loudest I had ever heard any stadium. It was one of those moments that you just won’t ever forget. Nary one person in the park that day didn’t feel that Baltimore was collecting penance in that moment for all of the losing and embarrassments over the years.

It was unforgettable. And personally I think it’s the moment which personifies and symbolizes this decade of Orioles baseball. Again, it’s easy to look at that and say wow look how far they’ve fallen. But the fact is that this was one of the most successful decades in some time for the Orioles. Never forget that.

And yes folks, it closes today. But I think most fans believe that the organization is headed in the right direction. Those days could be returning in the future. Oh and there’s one other thing people should keep in mind when thinking of the 2010’s and Orioles baseball. The price of admission? ONE BUCK.

Baltimore Orioles: John Means closes his season in fashion

John Means was one of the biggest surprises of the 2019 season for the Baltimore Orioles. Not that it matters, but he probably goes into spring training next year as the staff ace. That aside, he closed his 2019 season this afternoon with a decent outing against Boston at Fenway Park. Means’ line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K.

The Birds took an almost immediate lead in this one. Jonathan Villar got aboard almost right away with a base hit, and he scored a moment later in a two-run homer by DJ Stewart. And the O’s appeared off to the races…

…save for the fact that Means surrendered a two1run homer to Bogaerts in the last of the first. Immediately following that homer Martinez would give them the lead at 3-2 with a solo shot of his own. But this day belonged to Means and the Orioles, and that brief blip on the radar wasn’t about to stop them.

Sure enough, Richie Martin‘s solo homer in the second tied the game back up at three. One inning later Renato Nunez‘s solo homer gave them the lead back. Incidentally, Richie Martin is another success story of this season. Of course the Orioles got him in last year’s Rule 5 draft. He had to be on the roster all season, and now moving forward he’s a member of the Orioles in full, meaning they can move him up and down the organization. Whether he’s a major leaguer next year or not remains to be seen. But I think he has a bright future at this level.

The O’s blew the lead open in the sixth. Austin Wynns‘ RBI-single extended the lead to 5-3. Martin would smack an RBI-double, making it 6-3. Jonathan Villar and Trey Mancini would each add RBI-singles as well, giving the Birds an 8-3 lead.

Boston would put up an additional run, and they threatened in the eighth. They had the bases loaded and one out, but the O’s turned a double-play to end the inning. Trey Mancini would also hit his 35th homer of the season to cap off the Birds’ 9-4 victory.

And that brings us to tomorrow – the end of the line. It’s kind of hard to believe that we’ve been doing this since spring games began – back on February 23rd. But the Orioles have now played 161 regular season games. And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for following along to this point…

…and beyond. And yes folks, there is a beyond – Birdland Crush covers the Birds 365 days a year! The world certainly doesn’t end tomorrow. Just the season. The Orioles are already closing 2019 in a positive manner by taking a series from Boston at Fenway Park. Tomorrow they’ll try to make it a sweep.

So for the last time this season…the O’s will close the year tomorrow at Fenway Park. It’ll be a bullpen game for the Orioles and they’re yet to announce a starter, however whomever he is will be opposed by Boston’s Eduardo Rodriguez. Game time is set for just after 3 PM.

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