Tag Archives: AL east

Joy in Birdland: Orioles Win AL East

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It has been seventeen years since the Baltimore Orioles won the American League East, a period in which they and their fans endured 14 strait losing seasons between 1997 and 2012.

I have always liked the Orioles. When I was a kid they were on television a lot as under Earl Weaver and a Hall of Fame roster they always seemed to be in the playoffs or the World Series. I remember when they had the California League Stockton Ports as a farm team and going to games at Stockton’s Billy Herbert Field when my dad was deployed in Vietnam.

Now my dad couldn’t stand the American League. But he did know baseball and despite his dislike for the the American League, and since they were an American League team, the Orioles, he admired baseball players who were exemplary, as such he loved Frank and Brooks Robinson as well as some of the Orioles pitching greats. I wear my Orioles hats, t-shirts and clothing almost everywhere, I have an Orioles doormat at the entrance of my office and lots of signed memorabilia around my house and office. People ask me all the time if I am from Baltimore or Maryland, I always surprise them and tell them that I was a West Coast Navy brat who fell in love with the Orioles in the 1960s and early 1970s. I guess some folks don’t get that you can be as devoted as fan as me without being from Baltimore, a city that I really enjoy which has one of the nicest and friendliest ballparks in the majors, Camden Yards.

My real passion for the Orioles was reignited in 2004 when we took a trip to Camden Yards to see the Orioles play the Yankees, and when I met the late former Orioles great Paul Blair when he visited different bases that I served. But that passion for the Orioles really took off when the Orioles became the major league affiliate of our local Triple-A minor league club the Norfolk Tides in 2006. Now mind you, al lot of those have been very lean years, but I have gotten to know a decent number of Orioles players, some who are with the team that clinched the AL East tonight including Chris Tillman, Zack Britton and Manny Machado, some who have left baseball and some who are doing well with other organizations including the Cubs Jake Arrieta and the Diamondbacks David Hernandez. Likewise I have gotten to know scouts and front office personnel who have spent time in Norfolk evaluating the Tides over the years.

In 2011 things began to turn around for the Orioles, after a miserable two thirds of a season the O’s hired Buck Showalter as manager, and then Dan Duquette, who had laid the foundations of the Boston Red Sox World Series title as their general manager. In 2012 they made the playoffs as a Wild Card team. In 2013 they didn’t get in the playoffs but had a winning season. This year very few people picked them to go far in a division that had the 201 World Series champion Red Sox, the free spending New York Yankees, the amazingly talented and gritty Tampa Bay Rays and the well stocked Toronto Blue Jays.

However, I believed from the beginning of the season that this team would go far. I think that the organization is smart, Buck Showalter is an amazing manager who gets the best out of his players and develops an amazing work ethic, selfless team spirit combined with a climate that the players are relaxed but determined. Led by Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy the team has a gritty and under rated pitching staff led by Chris Tillman and a host of players that all do their job on a daily basis, often without the fanfare of the big market teams that have tons of money to spend. The team has made smart trades and between August 6th and September 16th went had a record of 27 wins and 11 losses.

Now that they have won the division the Orioles will try to best the Los Angeles Angels for the best record in the American League and for that matter, baseball. The currently own the second best record in the majors at 91-60. My belief is that the Orioles will at the minimum advance to the American League Championship series, and quite possibly on to the World Series. I am really happy about this because I will be in Munich next week and won’t have to be continually checking my iPhone or iPad to see if the won the division.

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So anyway, I am happy. Now if my other Orange and Black team, the San Francisco Giants can get a spot in the playoffs or somehow overcome the Dodgers to take the National League West I will be truly happy. But until then I will still be truly happy because there is joy in Birdland.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Bobby Valentine’s Day Massacre: Red Sox lose 14-2 to Yanks Finish Last in AL East Inglorious Season to End With Bobby V’s Firing

My summation of the Red Sox season. A disaster, wrapped in a enema surrounded by an enigma… 

Last year the Boston Red Sox were knocked out of the playoffs on the last day of the season by the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles finished the 2011 season with a record of 69 wins and 93 losses. The stunned Orioles who led the division at the beginning of September failed in an epic collapse losing 5 of 7 games to the Orioles in the last 10 games of the season. The failure cost Tony Francona his job and let to a bloodletting of veteran players, many who had helped lead the BoSox to two World Series titles.

There was much blame cast around the Red Sox organization. GM Theo Epstein left to join the Cubs and it was revealed that players were drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games during the collapse. The organization did not recover.

Searching for a remedy the Red Sox opted to hire Bobby Valentine who had last managed the Mets’ before going to Japan where he became a legend in the Japanese Major Leagues. Valentine was known as a strict disciplinarian and with a two year deal in hand he wasted no time in laying down the rules to the rambunctious Red Sox clubhouse. In doing so he alienated himself from key players. The Red Sox lost players in the off season and suffered injuries. By mid-season it became apparent that the Red Sox were a lost cause.

Tonight after having lost 9 of their last 10 and the previous six games the Sox were swept by the Yankees losing by a score of 14-2. The Sox finished the season in last place in the AL East with a record of 69-92. Only the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins had worse records in the American League. It was the first time since 1965 that the Sox lost over 90 games in a season.

It was a humiliating sequel to the worst collapse in league history. The word is that Valentine is done in Boston and if he is fired nobody will be surprised. Valentine had been openly feuding with clubhouse leaders like Justin Pedrioa and had sent fan favorite Kevin Youkilis packing after accusing Youkilis of not giving his all. Valentine told Boston radio station WEEI Wednesday that “some of his coaches were not loyal to him and had undermined him.

To me it seemed that the Red Sox management hired the wrong man for the club.It was a bad fit from the beginning made worse by Valentine’s refusal to listen to people that were familiar with the Red Sox clubhouse. In firing the popular Francona who had a bad two week stretch in September 2011 the Red Sox opened a Pandora’s Box of . It was an overreaction that ended up in disaster and the organization has payed for it. It is in complete disarray and I expect that it will take a lot for the Red Sox to get back to anything close to what they were during the Francona years.

Valentine may be gone as early as today according to CBS Sports. Rumors swirl about ownership wanted to sell at least part of the team. Players are disgruntled and unless something remarkable happens they could lose even more of their leaders to free agency.

There are a few months before the winter meetings and Spring Training but no matter who the Sox hire as manager the job to rebuild this team will be monumental. It can be done but my guess is that the Sox have another year or tow of humiliation in them before all the bloodletting is done.

Tonight’s entry since it is already today will be  Padre Steve’s Playoff Predictions for 2012. I’ve done pretty well the past couple of years so we’ll see what happens this year.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Improbable, Unexpected but not Impossible: Four Games remaining and Orioles now Tied with Yankees in AL East

Manny Machado singles in a run on Saturday night as the Orioles Defeat the Red Sox to gain a share of First Place in the AL East (Patrick Semansky / AP)

“No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games.  No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games.  It’s the other third that makes the difference.” Tommy Lasorda

Four games are left in the regular season and the Baltimore Orioles are tied with the perennial AL East favorite New York Yankees for the division. Last year at this time the Orioles were in last place but ruining the chances of the Red Sox but now they are tied for first with the Yankees.

What a night to do it as the Orioles honored Hall of Fame 3rd Baseman and Orioles legend Brooks Robinson before the game.

No expert would have predicted this but this but the plucky and determined Baltimore Orioles are threatening the Yankees in a very real way after 158 games. Today the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Yankees and the Orioles defeated the Red Sox. With identical records of 91-67 the Birds and the Bombers are tied atop the American League East in a manner that no-one expected.

The Orioles are now within a game of clinching a spot in the Wild Card Playoff and are even money to take the East against the Yankees. If the Orioles win tomorrow regardless of what happens with the Yankees they will clinch a spot as a Wild Card team.

Who would have expected it? Name the players that have really came on to get the Orioles where they are? Most people can’t. Manny Machado? Last year I was watching him lead the Frederick Keys to the Advanced Single A Carolina League title in Kinston against the Indians. Chris Tillman? Last year not called up in September despite being on the 40 man roster. Nate McLouth, in Pittsburgh. Jim Thome? In Cleveland in order to get his 600th home run where so much of his career was made. Chris Davis? In AAA Norfolk. The list goes on and on. They are a real life version of the movie Major League Cleveland Indians.

There is a great line in that movie uttered by the Indians Manager Lou Brown played by James Gammon: “Every newspaper in the country has picked us to finish last. The local press seems to think we’d save everyone a lot of time and trouble if we just went out and shot ourselves. Me, I’m for wasting sports writers’ time. So, I’d like to hang around and see if we can give ’em all a nice big shitburger to eat.” 

Personally I would love to see everyone that predicted the Orioles to finish last again eat a shitburger and for the Orioles to win it all.

The Orioles are 72-0 when leading after 7 innings. They are 28-9 in one run games and have won 16 straight extra inning games. That is something that makes the Orioles something special, a tam that will defy the odds to win. Yes anything can happen but I think that this season is one that people will remember for a long time to come. The Orioles have not have a playoff appearance or winning season since 1997 and were predicted by most experts to finish last or next to last in  the AL East this year. I have never bought that line. I thought back in April and May that this was a special team. It is a team on a mission, a team fixed on the next 9 innings.

I think that is a sure fire way to win this thing. God this is fun.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Orioles Tie Yankees for First in the AL East: There is a Political Convention Going On?

Zach Britton pitches against the Blue Jays  (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Aaron Vincent Elkaim)

“With those who don’t give a damn about baseball, I can only sympathize.  I do not resent them.  I am even willing to concede that many of them are physically clean, good to their mothers and in favor of world peace.  But while the game is on, I can’t think of anything to say to them.” Art Hill

Thank God for baseball, especially the Baltimore Orioles because I have pretty had my fill of the 2012 Presidential campaign.  But then since the campaign started the day after Barak Obama defeated John McCain in 2008 I guess I have good reason to feel this way. You see I like politics and I follow politics, sometimes if for no other reason than I find it interesting. Because of this I have been paying attention to the antics of both the Republicans and the Democrats and I think I am finally worn out by it.

So tonight with the Democratic National Convention going on in Charlotte I am tuned in to the Major League Baseball channel. I did the same last week with the Republican Convention and even though I agree more with the Democrats on many issues now than I do the Republicans I just cannot stomach night after night of partisan politics even if I agree more with some of these partisans the the partisans of the other side.

The really big important thing that happened tonight was the not the DNC. The big story was that Baltimore Orioles are are now tied for first place with the New York Yankees in the American League East. The Orioles have been coming on strong and are making believers out of baseball experts. Tonight they crushed the Toronto Blue Jays 12-0 with Zach Britton, who I know from his time at Norfolk won his fourth straight start, pitching 7 innings allowing no runs on 4 hits. Mark Reynolds went 3-4 with four RBI. The Orioles, who have one of the worst run differentials in the league pounded out 18 hits, a season high. Meanwhile in Tampa the Yankees lost again to Tampa after the Orioles took two of three in the Bronx. I find this much more  interesting and probably more important than anything that any political candidate or surrogate can say this week because it symbolizes the America that I believe in. That is the America were the scrappy journeymen can give the big guys a run for their money. I believe in the America of Field of Dreams, where deep inside, the good in baseball inspires people to better things.

“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.”

I guess that is why tonight on the opening night of the DNC I am watching baseball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Orioles Win Wild One in 17 at Fenway: Sweep Sox

Orioles First Baseman Chris Davis being congratulated by Catcher Matt Wieters after getting the win in relief against the Red Sox. (AP Photo) 

Buck Showalter’s tenacious Baltimore Orioles moved into first place in the American League East today when Orioles completed a sweep of Bobby Valentine’s reeling Boston Red Sox. The Orioles won 9-6 today in a 17 inning marathon that lasted 6 hours 17 minutes. The teams combined to use 18 pitchers who threw a combined 568 pitches.  It was the second extra inning game of the series as the Orioles defeated the Sox 6-4 in a 13 inning game on Friday night and pummeled the Sox 8-2 on Saturday afternoon.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy hit two home runs while Robert Andino also went yard for the second time in the series. Hardy was 5-8 with two homers and a double. Adam Jones hit the game winning home run in the 17th against Darnell McDonald, the Sox Left Fielder who had been called into the game in relief. Red Sox 3rd Baseman Will Middlebrooks hit a Grand Slam home run in the bottom of the 5th inning.

The most remarkable thing about this game was Orioles Designated Hitter Chris Davis who was 0-8 at bat getting the win in relief. Davis who had last pitched in a community college game after having pitched in high schoolserved up two scoreless innings of relief to get the win. He had two strike outs a walk and gave up two hits but got the win.

Darnell McDonald, the Outfielder called to pitch for the Sox in the 17th did not fare as well giving up 3 runs on 2 hits while walking two batters. Boston starter Clay Buchholz gave up 5 runs on 7 hits with 4 walks in just 3.2 innings of work.

It was the fist time since 1968 that a position player won a game in relief in the American League although Phillies Infielder Wilson Valdez got a win in a 19 inning game on May 25th 2011 against the Cincinnati Reds. The game was also the first game where both teams used position players to close the game in relief since 1925. Then it was Hall of Famers Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers and George Sisler of the St Louis Browns did it in the second game of a double header on October 4th 1925.

The Orioles are now 19-9 and 10 games over 500 since June 25th 2005. They are 11-5 on road and 10-5 vs AL East. There are still a lot of games left in the season and many including many O’s faithful don’t believe in the team. I think that they are a far better team, a deeper than than a lot of people give them credit to be. I think that they will break .500 this year if not do even better. With the Red Sox in disarray and the O’s playing the rest of the AL East tough I think that the Orioles will have a very respectable season.  Their pitching staff, especially the bullpen is doing well and young players blooded by the brutal AL East are beginning to shine.  Yes it is a long season and they play in what is arguably baseball’s toughest division but I expect them to surprise people this year.

The Orioles begin a home stand at Camden Yards Monday hosting the very tough Texas Rangers followed by the always tough Tampa Bay Rays. The road trip was amazing but the Orioles need to be totally focused after the exhausting series against the Red Sox to win against these two very tough teams.

In other interesting baseball news this week, Jared Weaver of the Angels pitched a no-hitter, Albert Pujols got his first home run of the year and Mariano Rivera of the Yankees was lost for the season due to a freak pre-game injury to his ACL and meniscus.  Bryce Harper, the 19 year old wunderkind of the Nationals broke into the majors in a big way this week showing a prowess very unusual for a player his age. He has shown exceptional ability at bat, on the bases and in the outfield.

Until tomorrow when I take on the topic of the sweeping changes brought about by the European elections and their possible effect on us over here on this side of the pond.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Orioles Down Yankees in the Bronx Go to 16-9

The Baltimore Orioles are one of the pleasant surprises of the first month of the 2012 baseball season. The team is winning they now are 16-9 and took two of three from the New York Yankees in the Bronx. In those three games Orioles pitchers held the Yankees to just 3 runs while the scored 13 runs in the series. Earlier in the season the Yankees took three from the Orioles in Baltimore but two of those were in extra innings where in both cases the Orioles failed to score with runners in scoring position in the 9th and 10th innings.

The Orioles pitchers are holding up well with the 4th best ERA in the Majors at 2.92 with their starters and relievers doing very well. Pitching has been a major problem for the Orioles the past few years and if the young pitchers, particularly Jake Arrieta who pitched an 8 inning shutout tonight continue to pitch well they O’s will make the American League East a much more interesting division this year.  Now led by Jason Hamel (3-1 1.97 ERA) the Orioles starters are making some quality starts. With Jim Johnson as their closer and other relievers pitching well the team is much deeper than in years past.

The Orioles also have hitting and are hitting with power, 3rd in the majors in home runs (33) and 6th in the majors for in slugging percentage (.446).  The Orioles have a number of potential All Stars including former All Stars Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Nick Markakis. Second Baseman Robert Andino is having a stellar start to his season as is Left Fielder Nolan Reimold. Shortstop J.J. Hardy and First Baseman Mark  Reynolds are providing additional power in the lineup.

At with a 7-5 record against their AL East rivals so far they are doing much better in the division. The are 6-1 against the AL Central and 3-3 against the West.

The Orioles head to Boston to begin a 3 game series with the Red Sox at Fenway beginning on Friday. They will then travel to play the red hot Texas Rangers in Arlington before returning home to face the AL East leading Tampa Bay Rays who I think are the best team in the division. Taking 2 of 3 from the Yankees, which included Manager Buck Showalter’s 1000th managerial win in New York was important. If the Orioles can continue what they are doing it will be an exciting year for all of us Orioles fans.

The season is still young but this year I think is the year the Orioles become a real force in the AL East and the League.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Spring is Here: Spring Training Games Begin Friday

No one’s gonna give a damn in July if you lost a game in March.” Earl Weaver 

Yes it is really spring. Spring Training games begin Friday March 2nd and I am excited. I will be following the San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics closely. At the present time the only legitimate potential playoff contender among those three teams are the Giants.

However despite the fact that the Orioles and A’s are in divisions which are now dominated by money and talent rich teams I still maintain some measure of hope that both teams will surprise us.  I have been looking at the Orioles 40 man roster and it is not bad, especially if the pitchers that have potential rise to the occasion this year. The problem for the Orioles is that they reside in the American League East where the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays all are solid organizations. The one team of those three that I wonder about are the Red Sox because I am not convinced that they have solid pitching and that their position players are starting to age. The Yankees have a similar issue but I think are deeper. Likewise I am not sure if Bobby Valentine is the answer to the Red Sox leadership woes.

The Yankees are aging as well but have both money and a deep farm system while the Rays under Joe Madden have been amazing in squeezing every last bit of performance from their young and talented team which is for the most part home grown.  The Orioles biggest problem is owner Peter Angelos who has over his tenure in Baltimore killed the franchise while maximizing his profits.

As an Orioles fan I hope that the team is able to do well enough to screw up the rest of the American League East and keep things interesting.  I was thrilled last year when they O’s killed off the Red Sox in the final week and a half of the season.  Likewise since I know a number of players on the team and in the minor leagues I really do want them to do well.

The games begin tomorrow and while they count for nothing they do remind us that it will not be long before the games do mean something.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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