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Cheaters and the Baseball Hall of Fame: The Hypocrisy and Arrogance of the Baseball Writers of the BBWAA

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“Cheating is baseball’s oldest profession. No other game is so rich in skullduggery, so suited to it or so proud of it.” Thomas Boswell

I love baseball. Everything about it. The good, the bad and the ugly. It is a game that to me represents the human condition better than any other game. I am amazed by the feats of ballplayers of today and yesterday. I am also a realist and know that like the rest of us, that baseball players are human. I believe that God speaks to me though baseball and there is no other place in the world that I feel more at peace than watching a ballgame in a ballpark. It is an elixir for my soul.

However baseball, despite its perfection as a game is a game played by, written about and watched by a very imperfect cast. Including me. I know a lot of ball players, men who have played in the Majors and Minors and I admire them. I admire their dedication and the sacrifices that they make to be the best. I admire the fact that many toil in the obscurity of the Minor Leagues for years before even getting a chance to play “in the show.” Not many actually get careers in the Majors, and a decided minority have the lifetime performance to even merit being honored in the Hall of Fame.

The Baseball Writers who decide on the election of baseball players into the Baseball Hall of Fame decided that this year, that no players should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. It was due in part to their interpretation of the rules that allow for the writers to consider issues of character can be considered in the voting process. It was the first time in four decades that no players were elected to the hall.

The vote was seen as the writers judgement on the players of the steroid era, an era that until it became unpopular was heralded by many of the same writers as a time of revival in the sport. The same writers that reveled in the domination of Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling on the pitchers mound, the great home run race between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa, the massive home runs of Barry Bonds or the stellar performances of so many other players of the era. The cheerleaders became the morality police. Not that the use of PEDs was right by any means but the moral indignation of the writers that chose to use their vote or lack of a vote as a means of punishment seems to me to ooze hypocrisy.

I am sure that is the case.

Not that I am in favor of cheating or cheaters. However that being said, the bar that these players are being held to is higher than that of baseball cheaters of previous generations, of which some are honored in the same Hall of Fame that the writers exclude those of the steroid era. It seems to me to me that the writers are being just a bit hypocritical and cynical concerning the history of the game and the Hall of Fame.

That is easy for them to do because we Americans, possibly more than any other people love to tear down our heroes and those that excel at what they do. We are one of the most moralistic peoples on the face of the earth, and nowhere more does that moralistic tenor show up than in baseball. Football and basketball, cheating is not so bad, but cheating in baseball that is somehow a greater sin than almost anything in our society. Tax cheats, adulterers, academic cheats and plagiarists as well murderers and other stellar members of society, including lawyers and politicians find it easy to damn baseball players for cheating.

However, the Hall of Fame membership includes many of the best in baseball as well as some pretty lousy human beings who just happened to be great baseball players. It is a place of history where the disgraced members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox have a place, though not as members. It is a place that has enshrined admitted cheaters of previous eras. It is a place that has enshrined racists, bullies, wife beaters drunks philanderers adulterers and even an accused murderer.

It is also an institution that for decades excluded some of the best ballplayers who ever played the game because they were black and had to play in the segregated Negro Leagues. It’s greatest snub was to the legendary Negro League, player manager and later Major League Coach and scout Buck O’Neil, who it never admitted.

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Buck O’Neil Out, Ty Cobb in

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Ty Cobb was a violent man and as racist as they come. He once assaulted a fan, a fan with no arms for jeering him. He attacked a black groundskeeper for attempting to shake his hand and then attempted to strangle the man’s wife when she came to his aid. Babe Ruth would show up drunk for games and slept around with any attractive woman of the female persuasion. There are a host of unsavory characters in the Hall of Fame besides the admitted cheaters and suspected cheaters of bygone times. Hell, Hank Aaron and admitted to using amphetamines what were then known as “Greenies” and players testified under oath that Willie Stargell, another first ballot Hall of Famer not only took amphetamines but dispensed them to team mates. They used them to perform better and they were not alone. Thus to me the self-righteous indignation of the writers against the players of the Steroid Era and that of some fans is just that.

The cheaters didn’t just include drug users although the fact that players have been juiced for decades was known in early 1970s. The Mitchell Report on the use of performance enhancing drugs made this comment:

“In 1973, a Congressional subcommittee announced that its staff had completed an “in depth study into the use of illegal and dangerous drugs in sports” including professional baseball. The subcommittee concluded that “the degree of improper drug use – primarily amphetamines and anabolic steroids – can only be described as alarming.”

That was 1973. But cheating hasn’t been limited to performance enhancing drugs. The were men who threw illegal pitches or altered baseballs. Managers and organizations that specialized in stealing the signs of opposing teams, corking bats and many other tricks and sleights of hand designed to help them win games.

When Sammy Sosa was exposed for his use of a corked bat then Chicago Cubs General Manager Andy McPhail said: “There is a culture of deception in this game. It’s been in this game for 100 years. I do not look at this in terms of ethics. It’s the culture of the game.”

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Rogers Hornsby, the amazing Second Baseman of the St Louis Cardinals who batted over .400 three times in his career said “I’ve been in pro baseball since 1914 and I’ve cheated, or watched someone on my team cheat, in practically every game. You’ve got to cheat.”

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Pitcher Gaylord Perry wrote in his autobiography before he was elected to the Hall of Fame “I’d always have it (grease) in at least two places, in case the umpires would ask me to wipe one off. I never wanted to be caught out there with anything though, it wouldn’t be professional.” Mind you that the “spitball or grease ball” had been illegal for decades when he made his admission.

Yankees great Whitey Ford admitted his cheating. “I didn’t begin cheating until late in my career, when I needed something to help me survive. I didn’t cheat when I won the twenty-five games in 1961. I don’t want anybody to get any ideas and take my Cy Young Award away. And I didn’t cheat in 1963 when I won twenty-four games. Well, maybe a little.”

Hank Greenberg, one of the premier power hitters of his day discussed how the stealing of signs helped him. “I loved that. I was the greatest hitter in the world when I knew what kind of pitch was coming up.”

Hall of Fame managers like Leo Durocher and Earl Weaver, have been quoted, even if they meant it in jest, advocating cheating. Durocher said “Win any way you can as long as you can get away with it.” and Weaver reported told a pitcher “If you know how to cheat, start now.”

To me election to the Hall of Fame should be a place of history where the greatest performers in the game should be enshrined. It should not be a place where writers, many of whom no longer actively cover the game sit as modern Pharisees pointing out the grain of sand in the eye of the accused players while ignoring the logs in their own eyes.

The use of the drugs probably has harmed the health of those that used them. The records set in the era will be debated. But there are so many other things that affect records. The 154 game versus the 162 game season, the Dead Ball Era, the segregated era, the war years where greats like Ted Williams missed their best years because they were serving in the military all affected the game and influenced who was inducted and who was not inducted into the Hall of Fame.

In baseball records are also kind of fuzzy because of changes in the game. Additionally characteristics as innocuous as the differences in baseball stadiums, their dimensions, geography, turf and weather conditions on hitting and pitching play a huge part in any players career.

Baseball fans and players will make their own judgements about the character of individual players as well as the historical significance of the Steroid Era. The era was not good for baseball despite the records set because it brought to light a culture that existed for at least a century. A culture that is not just a baseball culture but part of the American culture, a culture that honors liars and cheaters in politics, law, banking and a host of other professions including religion.

Well that is enough for tonight. Let him who is without sin throw out the first ball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Baseball News: Awards, CBA, Player and Manager Moves…Why the Off Season Matters

“You win pennants in the off season when you build your teams with trades and free agents.” Earl Weaver

The World Series is in the past but the baseball world is abuzz with awards, trades, free agent offers and the possibility of a reorganization of the Major Leagues and even a new five year Collective Bargaining Agreement deal between the players union and the league.  Baseball it seems has become the model of stability and sensibility in the American sporting world.  Even as I write the Owners and GMs are meeting in Milwaukee and the Winter meetings are just over the horizon.  This is where teams are built and where the seeds of future pennants are planted.

One has to admit that the 2012 baseball season was something to behold. The record comebacks of the Rays and Cardinals and epic collapses of the Braves and Red Sox in the final month of the season that led to one of the most if not the most memorable regular season endings in baseball history.  The storybook season of the Arizona Diamondbacks going from worst to first in the NL West was another amazing story.

Awards for outstanding achievement are being given out; Tigers Pitcher Justin Verlander won the American League Cy Young Award on a unanimous ballot.  Diamondbacks Manager Kirk Gibson won the National League Manager of the Year award for leading his team to a Division Championship and Rays Manager Joe Maddon who brought his team back from the abyss to reach the playoffs on the last day of the regular season won the American League Manager of the Year.  The National League Rookie of the Year award went to the Atlanta Braves reliever Craig Kimbrel and Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson took the American League award.  The National League Cy Young still remains as well as the Most Valuable Player awards.

The Cubs and Red Sox are still shopping for managers while the Cardinals chose former catcher Mike Matheny to fill the shoes left by Tony LaRussa who retired after the miraculous finish that led to a Word Series Championship.  Pitching Coach Dave Duncan, LaRussa’s long time right hand man remains as does Hitting Coach Mark McGwire.  Former Red Sox Manager Terry Francona announced today that he will not manage in 2012 something that most baseball experts agree is a good choice.   I agree considering how exhausted Francona appeared after the end of the season and his firing.  The Orioles have a new General Manager, Dan Duquette who replaced Andy McPhail and Red So GM Theo Epstein went to the Cubs in the hopes of reversing the curse.  There are reports tonight that the Cubs will sign Dale Sveum as their new Manager.

It looks as if the sale of the Houston Astros will go through and with it the team’s move to the American League. This will balance the leagues at 15 teams each and allow for year round inter-league play and is part of the new CBA which reportedly could be signed as early as Friday.  The CBA is actually remarkable considering the great consternation caused by the NFL lockout and the probable loss of an entire NBA season due to failures to resolve collective bargaining agreements.  The baseball negotiation process has been fireworks free and negotiators from the owners and player’s union seem to remember the damage caused by the 1994 strike and what happened in the NFL and NBA seems to have learned the lessons of history.

Some of the big free agents look like they could be on the move and one, Red Sox Closer Jonathan Papelbon signed a contract with the Phillies while the Miami Marlins are making serious bids for St Louis First Baseman Albert Pujols and Met’s Shortstop Jose Reyes.  Brewers First Baseman Cecil Fielder is on the market and the Yankees appear to be looking for pitching support to complement their ace C C Sabathia who the re-signed. Plenty of other big name free agents remain to be signed and it will be interesting to see where they all land.

Even though there are no games being played in the Major Leagues baseball is making news and in the process showing how important the off season is to the regular season.  This is going to be an exciting off season for baseball and bodes well for the upcoming regular season.  What a great game.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Finishing Well: The Orioles’ Revival a Portent of things to Come

Luke Scott and the Orioles finally have something to be excited about

The Baltimore Orioles under new manager Buck Showalter have become a force in the American League and the American League East.  On August the 2nd the O’s had the worst record in baseball, even lower than the perpetual dwellers in the Marinas Trench of baseball the Pittsburgh Pirates. In four months of play the O’s had but 32 wins and had gone through two managers.  They were on pace to lose well at least 110 games and maybe more games than any team in Major League Baseball History in a 162 game season.

Outfielders like Felix Pie (above) as well as Nick Markakis, Adam Jones will have Corey Patterson looking for a starting position and Nolan Reimold hoping for redemption

At the end of last season I said that manager Dave Trembley had to go. At the time I suggested Bobby Valentine as a replacement. After Trembley was fired Valentine as well as a number of other candidates was interviewed, shortly after Valentine removed himself from consideration as a possible successor to Trembley. On August the 2nd the Orioles hired Showalter to take the place of Interim Manager Juan Samuel. When Showalter took over the Orioles no-one gave him much of a chance of making any real progress this season, most considered the Orioles a lost cause.  I did not think so. At the beginning of the year I predicted that the Orioles would be a .500 team and that this would be a good year for them.  That prediction did not materialize but it was not a question of talent but of leadership and the ability of the Orioles Coaching staff to get the best out of the team, especially the young talent.  The team is playing to the level that I thought that they could at the beginning of the season.

Jeremy Guthrie as well as stable mates Jake Arietta, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Brad Bergeson will have competition from others including Zach Britton who is still at Norfolk

It is my belief that finishing a season well is an indicator of the real potential of a team.  If one was to simply look at the Orioles aggregate win and loss totals one might say that the season was a disaster. That is not true. The first 4 months of the season were an unmitigated disaster as the team lost 16 of its first 18 games and never recovered under the management of Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel. The team was obviously demoralized and looked to an outsider that they believed that they would lose when they took the field. Young players, especially the young pitchers either got knocked around or were given no run support.  Veterans acquired in the off-season to provide experience and on field leadership to the youngsters were a bust and the team had numerous injuries to key players. You could not have a worse first two thirds of a season if you tried.

But all of that changed on August 2nd with a simple change in leadership. The Orioles started to win and win frequently. Not only did they win frequently they began to win a lot more series than they lost.If the season began on August 2nd the AL east would look like this:

Orioles            34-23     .596

Blue Jays         30-26   .535

Yankees          30-27    .526

Red Sox          28-27    .509

Rays                28-28     .500

There were turnarounds in hitting as well as starting pitching. Orioles starters went 26-15 with a 3.13 ERA after Showalter.  With that their starters were the 3rd best rotation in majors since August 2nd.  They have the third best record in the Majors since August 2nd with only the Phillies and Twins winning more.

The Orioles have a lot to look forward to. Buck Showalter will not rest in the off season as he gets the O’s ready for next year. There will be changes. I would think that pitchers Kevin Millwood and Mark Hendrickson will be gone; others will have to fight for their jobs. In the off season Showalter will take the raw talent that has been present on the Orioles at the Major League and Minor League levels make prudent trades as well as assignments within the organization to get them ready to challenge the rest of the AL East in 2011.

While the Orioles are definitely on the way up one has to take a look at how others are doing not just in the East but in the Majors. In the AL East the Rays Owner says that payroll will be significantly reduced and with numerous key players in contract negotiations and declaring free agency they will not be the same team that they have been the past three years. The Yankees and Red Sox are both showing signs of age with the Sox being in worse shape in the long run because they have little to speak of in their minor league system are saddled with a good number of older players and have key players entering the free agent market.  The Yankees can always spend money but as the core of the team, Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera get older they will lose something. Since the organization will be unlikely to trade such favorites at some point they will spend more time on the DL and not perform as well as in previous years. It is simple; the older guys get the more that they wear out.  This may prove problematic for the Yankees in the coming years.  The Blue Jays finished strong but one does not know what will happen with them with the exit of long time manager Cito Gaston.

Outside of the AL East only the Twins performed really well.  Almost every team in the AL was just above .500 or below during the last two months of the season. This includes teams that have a history of doing well and some that are playoff bound.  Finishing well matters and with the exception of the Orioles and Twins in the AL no teams finished strong, many stumbled and the proof is in their records.

All of this bodes well for the Orioles especially if Showalter is able to continue what he started this year.  I expect the Orioles to be competitive in the AL East. I do not think that they will necessarily win the division but they will not be the door-mat that they have been for so many years.  There is work to do in Birdland but for the first time in years there is real hope based on their performance the last two months of the season.  The team believes that it can win every time it takes the field. When there is leadership and talent there is no limit to where the O’s can go.

Over the off-season I will continue my reporting and commentary on the Orioles and their organization, particularly the Triple-A affiliate the Norfolk Tides. Over the next month I will be commenting of the MLB playoffs and begin to publish articles on the young talent in the Orioles organization and what I think might happen as Buck Showalter and Andy McPhail makes the changes to the organization to make the team a force in the American League for years to come.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Swept: Tides Lose Finale to Bulls 8-4 and Tides Notes

Jeff Salazar homers for the Tides

The Monday afternoon businessman’s special “getaway” game between the Durham Bulls and the Norfolk Tides was anything but special as the Tides went down to their 5th consecutive loss falling the Durham Bulls by a score of 8-4.  In the previous 4 games at Harbor Park the Tides were competitive and though they did not win were in each game until the end.  On Monday the wear of the long season, the disappointment in not coming away with wins that very easily could have been theirs and the ambiguity that most of the team faces in regards to their future with the organization showed as the Tides seemed flat and lifeless despite scoring 4 runs on 12 hits.

Chris George struggled in his first start since coming off the DL

Tides starter Chris George coming back from an elbow injury incurred when a line drive struck him against Indianapolis was not effective throwing 66 pitches in just 2.2 innings giving up 4 runs on 6 hits striking out 4 and walking 2.  With the exception of Dennis Sarfate all of the Tides relievers struggled as the Tides gave up 8 runs on 14 hits and walking 4 while the defense committed two errors.   The 5 pitchers threw a total of 176 pitches an average of almost 20 pitches an inning.  The bullpen will need a strong start by Troy Patton tonight in Durham, or for someone like Andy Mitchell, Mike Hinckley or Jim Miller to provide some effective long relief in order to rest these arms as the rest of the bullpen has thrown a lot of pitches over the past few games.

Leslie Anderson goes low and rips a single to drive in 2 runs

Tides hitters did lay down the hits and Jeff Salazar had a home run and a double, while Robert Andino had a double that drove in his 74th RBI of the year.  However the Tides never score more than one run in any given inning as Durham pitching and defense was solid cutting up rallies before they could mature and score more runs.  Of note were two plays at first base where Bulls First Baseman Leslie Anderson made spectacular stops of sharply hit balls down the line to prevent Michael Aubrey and Scott more from both having extra base hits that would have drove in runs very possibly altering the tempo, character and outcome of the game.

Matt Angle hustles to get Anderson’s hit back into the infield

The Bulls were opportunistic as is their nature. This is a much disciplined team the best in Triple-A baseball and their hitters seem always to do an excellent job of hitting the ball where the opposition is not. Their “small ball” feeds their power. They get men aboard with bloop hits, Seeing Eye grounders, well placed bunts and balls hit behind runners.  As they chip away at the opposition with this kind of game the Bulls power hitters take advantage of nearly every mistake made by an opposing pitcher and even well pitched balls to drive in runs.  They are seldom out of a game.  It is no wonder that they lead their nearest division rival the Gwinnett Braves by 19 games with a 82 win and 47 loss record.

Jose Lobaton singles

Anuery Rodriguez (6-5 3.72 ERA) got the win and Chris George (5-7 4.45 ERA) took the loss. I do think that from watching Chris that he was still sore from his injury and not comfortable on the mound. The Bulls had 8 runs on 14 hits with no errors stranding 11 runners and the Tides 4 runs on 12 hits with 2 errors leaving 12 men aboard. Tonight Troy Patton (7-10 4.85 ERA) will take the hill in Durham for the Tides facing Richard De Los Santos (13-5 3.59 ERA) will start for the Bulls. De Los Santos is tied for the league lead in wins.

Nolan Reimold has come back strong and seems to be back to who he was in 2009

A few Tides notes, Robert Andino leaders the league in hits (137) as well as errors (28) and 4th in RBIs with 74.  Michael Aubrey leads the time with 18 home runs in only 91 games and his slugging percentage is now .489 the 11th in the league.  Nolan Reimold who after being injured last year in Baltimore, being sent down to the Tides and having fought through the physical aspects of his injury as well and the mental side of the game has come in strong since the All-Star break and now has a .366 on base percentage and in his last 10 games is hitting .344 with a .548 on base percentage and .406 slugging percentage. He has also become an effective base stealer with 9 steals to his credit only being caught twice in 11 attempts, not bad for a big man who has overcome a serious and nagging injury to his Achilles tendon.

Robert Andino currently leads the IL in hits with 137

An interesting note on the team average, in 2009 the Tides were hit .272 as a team, second best in the league with several players above .300 or in the .280 and above bracket. They only hit 78 home runs during 2009 but had 259 doubles and 30 triples with 603 runs scored.  In 2010 they are hitting as of today .253 (-.19) but have hit 110 home runs (+32).  However they have just 218 doubles (-41) and 23 triples (-7) scoring 566 runs. In 2009 the Tides had 1283 hits as opposed to 1114 (-169) this year and both the slugging and on base percentages are slightly down this year.  Another key statistic is strike outs, last year the Tides had just 814 in the season and 888 already in 2010. They had 132 stolen bases in 176 attempts as opposed to 115 steals in 160 attempts this year. Now this seasons statistics are not final, there is a chance that the Tides will surpass the number of runs scored in 2009 but will fall short in other areas.

I will be talking more about trends in statistics and players comparing this year with 2009 and making my “if I were Andy McPhail” recommendations for the September call up and Tides to hold onto for 2011 over the next couple of weeks.  I will also provide my analysis of how the team did include reason that I think the team did not do as well as I thought that they would this year. I do think that the Tides are better than their record indicates and that many of the Tides have legitimate shots at being regulars in the Major Leagues, be it with the Orioles or other organizations and I will talk about that subject as well in the coming weeks. These will be part of the regular posts and show up on the Norfolk Tides Scouting Report as well.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Tides and Orioles Report: A Look at Where we Stand

As the Tides get ready for game three of their four-game set with the Syracuse Chiefs there have been some significant personnel moves which involve both the Tides and their parent organization the Baltimore Orioles.  These moves are probably just the start of moves that might take place prior to the trading deadline at the end of the month.  This is the report that I promised back at the All-Star break

To begin in Baltimore the O’s reinstated closer Mike Gonzalez after the completion of his minor league rehab for a strained left shoulder.  They made room on the 40 man roster by moving relief pitcher Jim Johnson from the 15 day disabled list to the 60 day disabled list effectively ending his season.  Johnson has been on the DL since May 28th with right elbow inflammation.  Third Baseman Josh Bell was optioned back to the Tides after going 6 for 19 (.263) in six games for the O’s.  Bell’s return to the Tides will add another strong bat to the order as well as a switch hitter.  On Tuesday the Orioles had optioned Chris Tillman back to the Tides as was reliever Frank Mata on the 19th. While disappointing for these pitchers they are both still on the 40 man roster and their return to the Tides solidifies both the starting rotation as well as the bullpen.

Some Tides are making a difference at Baltimore, especially outfielder Corey Patterson and relief pitcher Alfredo Simon.

In the moves Tides left handed pitcher Troy Patton was recalled to Baltimore after going 6 and 9 with a 4.91 ERA which was 3.44 in the last 18 games. A lot of Troy’s losses came on games where he got no run support or the opposing team was given extra chances through the errors of Tides players.  It the first time that Troy has been at the Major League level since 2007 with Houston.  The move of Patton to Baltimore means that Armando Gabino will be called upon again to make a spot start.

The Tides have 29 players on the roster 3 of which are on the DL so a player will have to be moved to keep the active roster at the 25 man limit.  My recommendation would be Tim Bascom for the time being in order to let his injury heal and to get his confidence back after several outings where he was shelled by the opposition. Pat Egan is another possibility for movement and even potentially Brandon Erbe however I would not want to see that move just yet.  There is the case of Cla Meredith who was sent to Norfolk from the Orioles and cut from the O’s 40 man roster and he has not been effective at all since coming down to Norfolk and my sources tell me that he is extremely frustrated with his situation vice the Orioles.  He could be used to sweeten any deals that the O’s make approaching the trading deadline as I believe that he can be effective at the Major League level despite his struggles here and that a fresh start may be what he needs.  Alberto Castillo has performed adequately with the exception of a couple of bad outings but it is obvious that the 35 year old lefty’s better days are behind him.  Chris George has been solid for the Tides and is good to have in the organization as a left hander and Armando Gabino is the undiscovered gem of the Tides. Gabino has pitched well in starting situations where he is 5-0 and has helped hold the bullpen together in middle to late relief.  Two men that have been up and down between the Tides and Aberdeen which is for all purposes functioning as a taxi squad are relievers Jim Miller and Andy Mitchell.  Both had rough starts to their seasons but have been solid “go to” guys when a starter gets in trouble early in the game and Miller has served well in his natural position of being a closer.  Brandon Erbe has been on the DL and while struggling early has been bereft of run support and as is the case with most of the Tides pitchers victimized by poor defense at critical junctures.  Mike Hinckley appears to have major league stuff but still needs some work as he is inconsistent.  Zack Clark also seems to be solid and except for one bad outing has done well but had almost no run support.  Zack Britton seems to be on the fast track for the majors and I am really impressed by his speed, ball movement and control as well his sense for where he needs to be on the diamond when the ball is in play.  Kam Mickolio has been on the DL much of the year and when he was healthy seemed to struggle. He has major league stuff but something needs to be fine tuned. He has been on the 7 day DL for some time now and since he is on the 40 man roster I wonder if it would not be wise at this point to move him to the 60 day DL if he is not ready in order to free up some room and give him time to heal and get his mechanics right.  He has too much potential just to let go but I wonder about leaving him in the 7 day DL limbo.  Denis Sarfate is another that is overlooked. He has been functioning for the most part as the closer and done well with the exception of one appearance.  He has great stuff with speed, control and good movement throwing in the mid to high 90s with the ability to throw hitters off with an occasional off speed pitch.  Jim Hoey looks to have promise but has not been up long enough to see how he will do in the long run.

Of position players there are a number that have been struggling or injured that might be moved to Aberdeen as a holding measure including Joey Gathright who has not been the same as he was last year when he hit .325 for the Tides.  Joey still hustles and plays hard but there is something in his mechanics that is limiting his effectiveness at the plate.  Nolan Reimold who the Orioles have invested a great deal of hope in is still only hitting .210 after leading the American League rookies in 2009 in home runs. He too had an injury that he does not seem to have bounced back from and suffered from some personal issues that have taken his focus off the game.  He does not seem to have the winning look in his eyes right now and seems to have his head down a lot.  Orioles and Tides fans really want him to succeed so I don’t know what will be the case.  Michael Aubrey has come on strong hitting 5 home runs in the last 6 games while Jeff Salazar, Matt Angle and Rhyne Hughes stay very productive.  Paco Figueroa  and Blake Davis are coming along and Jonathan Tucker shows promise.  Robert Andino has to improve defensively but he has been a clutch hitter with men in scoring position leading the Tides in RBI production.

I think that there are a good number of Tides with major league potential. Of course their disposition depends on what the Orioles do in Baltimore. The trade deadline is approaching and there are a number of players that could be moved whose moves could affect players in Norfolk and Bowie.  In the system the O’s have players that could be used to sweeten deals and would not have to be their big time prospects. We saw this in the move of Ross Wolf to get Jake Fox from Oakland.

The time has come for Andy McPhail and the Orioles to get a new manager, hopefully Buck Showalter and start shedding unproductive or underperforming players at Baltimore and in their minor league system. The teaching of fundamentals at all levels must be reemphasized especially fielding and various reaction drills.  Bobby Dickerson has really done well in changing how the Tides play, there is a lot more heads up play and players that are not on the field seem now to be in the game.  The team is responding to his leadership where maybe they had gotten used to Gary Allenson and did not respond to him as they should have done.

There is work to be done in the Orioles organization and it has to start from the top, a new manager and possibly new hitting and pitching coaches at the major league level. I think that Showalter need to be hired now and not later and that Bobby Dickerson be announced as the manager and not the interim manager of the Tides.

My prediction is that I think that the Tides will finish the season above .500 and I do not see the meltdown of last year happening with this year’s team. I think that they will finish in either second or third place in the division while Durham wins it.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Tides Pummeled and Silenced 11-0 in Tuesday Thumping by Clippers; Arietta Get’s 2nd ML Win Against Giants

Tim Bascom took his second loss since coming up to the Tides

The Norfolk Tides went into Tuesday hoping for a split with the International League West Division leading Columbus Clippers at Huntington Field on Tuesday afternoon “getaway” game.  Instead they got a taste of the powerful Columbus offensive firepower and pitching.  The Tides sent Tim Bascom to the hill making his second AAA appearance for the Tides against Jeanmar Gomez.  Bascom (0-2 5.40 ERA) went 4.2 innings giving up 4 runs on 8 hits before surrendering the ball to Jim Miller who pitched 1.1 innings giving up a hit but no runs.

Michael Aubrey doubled in a otherwise lackluster night for Tides hitters

Going into the 7th inning the game was still in reach for the Tides when the game got out of hand at the hands of pitchers optioned back to the Tides from the Orioles, neither of which seems to have the mojo to play at AAA much less in the Majors.  Cla Meredith who has spent the better part of the last four years in the majors gave up 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk to bring his ERA up to 17.18 in three innings work for the Tides.  Meredith lasted an inning and was replaced by fellow veteran Alberto Castillo who began the year with high hopes for the Tides and the Orioles but has not produced. On this night Castillo gave up 5 runs on 5 hits including a home run only retiring one batter before being pulled in favor of Mike Hinckley who held the surging Clippers scoreless to complete the 8th inning.  The 35 year old Cuban defector has had a long career as a journeyman but has not found much success at the Major League level despite playing for a number of teams.  One has to admire his desire to play the game but it is very likely that whatever good days he had are behind him this year having a 10.13 ERA in Baltimore and 8.64 ERA in Norfolk.

Jake Arietta won his second Major League start against the Giants

The Tides offense which had enjoyed a fine night on Monday was overwhelmed by the pitching of Gomez and Carlton Smith who combined on a 4 hit shutout.  Only Michael Aubrey had an extra base hit a double while the other Tides hitters managed just three singles.

The Tides had no runs on four hits and one error and left three runners stranded. The Clippers had 11 runs on 18 hits with no errors and left seven runners aboard.  Tim Bascom got the loss while Clippers starter Jeanmar Gomez got the win.  The Tides had Wednesday off and begin a series in Toledo against the powerful Toledo Mud Hens who are in second place in the IL West.  The Tides now stand at 29 wins and 38 losses tied for last in the IL South with the Charlotte nights 11 games behind the division leading Durham Bulls.

The Tides have been penalized this year by injuries and the lack of success by their parent club the Baltimore Orioles.  As was the case last year the Orioles have been forced to call up large numbers of young Tides, in my view before many were ready for the Majors to fill in the gaps left by injuries and suffered by the Orioles.  This was supposed to be the breakout year where the Orioles started achieving to their potential, but relying potential, especially unfulfilled and unrealized potential in lieu of solid proven players is a recipe for disaster for not only does a team lose and get used to losing but the young players, the impressionable players become more demoralized than veterans.  The Orioles not only need a star quality manager but they need to shake up the 40 man roster and soon.

However there was something to cheer about for Orioles fans as last night former Norfolk Tides starting pitcher Jake Arietta pitched a 3 hitter through 7 innings against the Giants in San Francisco to notch his second Major League win in as many appearances.  Having gotten to know Jake a bit in Norfolk I wish him all the best as he continues with the Orioles.

Anyway more Tides and Orioles news tomorrow, and later in the week the Deity Herself permitting I will spend some time analyzing the plight of the Orioles and what I would do if I was Andy McPhail.

Until then peace and don’t forget to read Meeting Jesus and the Team at 7-11 if you have an interest in a rather different view of faith and baseball.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Tides Top Braves 4-3 on Solid Pitching and Key Home Runs

Chris George provide 6 innings of solid pitching for the Tides

The Norfolk Tides finished their home stand in convincing fashion defeating the Gwinnett Braves by a score of 4-3 on a beautiful night for baseball at the Church of Baseball Harbor Park Parish.  Chris George of the Tides faced off against Jo-Jo Reyes and tonight would belong to the Tides Left hander backed up by solid relief work by Kam Mickolio, Ross Wolf and closer Denis Sarfate.

Brandon Hicks gets himself thrown out of the game in the 2nd inning

The Braves got off to a 1-0 lead in the first inning without a single hit as Chris George initially struggled with control walking Matt Young and Wes Timmons before getting Freddie Freeman to hit into a double play.  Young advanced to third on the play and scored when a balk was called on George.  In the second inning the Braves threatened and were shut down by the Tides and in the process having their Manager Dave Brundage and Brandon Hicks thrown out of the game.  Mitch Jones doubled and advanced to third on a single by Brandon Hicks.  Jordan Schafer reached first when on a fielder’s choice ground ball Tides First Baseman Brandon Snyder alertly saw Jones attempting to score and gunned him down at the plate. Brandon Hicks then with Luis Bolivar batting attempted to steal third and was thrown out by Tides Catcher Michel Hernandez.  This was a close call and Braves Manager Dave Brundage fiercely argued the call with Hicks.  Both were thrown out of the game after a delay of about 5 minutes.  Bolivar then grounded out to end the inning.

J C Boscan attempts to pick off a Tides runner at 2nd base as Matt Angle attempts to get out of the way

In the bottom half of the 2nd inning the Tides struck back with the suddenness of a thunder storm.  Rhyne Hughes reached on a fielding error by Braves First Baseman Freddie Freeman. The next batter, Brandon Snyder then crushed a pitch over the left field wall deep into the left field picnic area.  Michael Aubrey grounded out to Jo-Jo Reyes and it appeared with the bottom part of the Tides lineup coming to bat that he might escape with no more damage.  However that was not the case as Tides Catcher Michel Hernandez lifted a ball to the opposite field send the pitch into the Straub’s Beer right field party deck to make the score 3-1.  In the bottom of the 3rd inning Robert Andino cracked his 17th double of the year with one out and scored on a single by Jeff Salazar. The Braves plated another run in the top of the 4th inning when Mitch Jones scored from 2nd base on a Luis Bolivar single.

Michel Hernandez got his first home run in Norfolk

Kam Mickolio came into the game in the 7th in relief of George and after allowing a single to Luis Bolivar to lead off the inning got J C Boscan to ground into a 5-4-3 double play and then struck out Matt Young on a 96 mile and hour fast ball.  Ross Wolf came into the game in the 8th and working quickly got Wes Timmons and Freddie Freeman to ground out and Barbaro Canizares to pop out to end the inning.  Denis Sarfate came in to close the game and got Mitch Jones to fly out and then on a low and inside off speed pitch saw Joe Thurston who had replaced Hicks when the latter was tossed in the 2nd inning lift the ball just over the right field wall near the foul pole for a solo home run.  Sarfate wasted nothing else and using high hard heat with every pitch in the mid-90’s blew away Alex Romero and Luis Bolivar to end the game.

The Braves had 3 runs on 8 hits and 1 costly error and left 5 men on base.  The Tides had 4 runs on 8 hits and no errors leaving 6 on base.  Chris George (2-1 3.63) got the win and Jo-Jo Reyes (0-4 5.40) took the loss for the Braves.  Denis Sarfate got his 7th save.  Tonight after a long bus ride west the Tides take on the Columbus Clippers, the AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians who lead the International League West.  Troy Patton (4-7 5.13) will take the hill for the Tides facing Josh Tomlin (5-2 2.89).  In personnel news the Orioles outrighted relief pitcher Alberto Castillo to Norfolk in what seems an endless roller coaster for the left hander.  It was announced as well that Bobby Valentine, Padre Steve’s choice for the permanent managerial post for the Orioles since last season interviewed with Peter Angelos and Andy McPhail yesterday.  If you are an Orioles fan you have to hope that Bobby V will join the Orioles after all one can only hope and after all of the suffering with no name managers through most of the decade it is time that we have a marquis manager with a winning attitude and skill working with young talent, and Bobby V fits the bill.

The Tides finished the home stand with a 4 and 4 record which is remarkable if one remembers that the first three games of the series were lost in slugfests to the Buffalo Bisons.  The remarkable thing about the Tides right now is the change that I have seen on the field in the past week. Hitters are more aggressive, the base running is more aggressive, infielders are communicating better, pitchers are challenging hitters and the team is playing as a team with every member in the game even if they are not on the field.  It has been a remarkable sea change and it looks like the Tides are rolling in and might turn into a Tsunami to wreak havoc on the southern division of the International League.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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