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And So it Ends: O’s Swept by Royals

Buck Showalter

It’s hard to win a pennant, but it’s harder losing one. ~Chuck Tanner

The amazing season of the Baltimore Orioles ended this evening in Kansas City as the equally amazing Kansas City Royals ended 29 years of post season frustration, sweeping the O’s with a 2-1 victory.

The Royals have won eight straight games since starting the post-season in the one game Wild Card playoff against the Oakland Athletics. Then they swept the mighty Los Angeles Angels who had the best record in the big leagues before sweeping the Orioles who had not been swept in a series this season since July.

All of the games were competitive going down to at least the 9th inning and the biggest margin of victory was just two runs. The Royals won with outstanding defense, timely hitting and good enough pitching. They certainly deserved to win and deserve to be congratulated for their achievement. No one picked them to go this far but they did and Ned Yost their manager deserves a lot of the credit.

The Orioles had a great season but in this series missed the injured All Stars Matt Weiters and Manny Machado and the suspended Chris Davis.

While the Orioles are out this year they have solid management under Buck Showalter and General manager Dan Duquette. I have no doubt that the Orioles will continue to build on their success this year.

As a fan I believed in the Orioles even when major league scouts told me that they didn’t think they would hold on to win the AL East.

I feel bad for my friends on the Orioles who I have known as they worked their way up through the minors. No one likes to lose but these young men are a classy and determined crew who are part of a first rate organization. I expect them to continue to do well in the future. I know that is no comfort now, but they will be back.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Joy in Birdland: Orioles Win AL East

WireAP_70adf89e6e10437382ee8d7df9629961_16x9_992

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 Omen: Jeter’s Injury Foretells the Future as Yankees Fall to 0-2 to Tigers in ALCS

Before the times of change, still is it so: 
By a divine instinct men’s minds mistrust 
Ensuing dangers; as by proof, we see 
The waters swell before a boisterous storm

William Shakespeare Richard III

Baseball people are tremendously superstitious. Sometimes events, miscues, injuries bad calls and bad luck are of more significance than they would be if they didn’t happen when they did. Cubs fans can attest to this as can the generations of Red Sox, White Sox and Giants fans who endured one shocking disappointment after another as they languished between World Series Championships.

Derek Jeter is the face of the Yankees. He has been a staple of the team and been their as they won championship after championship and his steady play and leadership have been a part of the great success enjoyed by the Yankees. He has played through injuries and never missed a post season game until tonight.

The Yankees may have become the latest team to see things slip away and legends pass. In the space of less than a day the New York Yankees went from looking like they would pull off another late game miracle thanks to the clutch hitting of Raul Ibanez to being down two games to none in the ALCS.

On Saturday the Detroit Tigers appeared to be sailing to an easy win when the Yankees got to closer Jose Valverde in the bottom of the 9th. Up 4-0 the Yankees scored 4 runs including a game tying 2 run home run by veteran Raul Ibanez who seems to have made hitting dramatic late game home runs a new habit.

But in the top of the 12th inning, as the Tigers rallied for what would be a winning lead, Derek Jeter, “The Captain” who had played in spite of injury for much of the past month broke his ankle on a freak play attempting to field a ground ball.

It was a devastating loss for the Yankees, not so much the game but Jeter’s injury. Jeter was one of the few Yankee regulars beside Ichiro Suzuki who have had any offensive punch during the post season. Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, Curtiss Granderson and Robinson Cano have had nightmarish post-seasons.

The Tigers won game one 6-4 and shut out the Yankees 3-0 today to take the 2 game lead in the series. The Tigers were leading 1-0 in the 8th when they benefited from a blown call at second base when Nick Swisher threw behind Omar Infante who gone too far off the base. Cano applied the tag but Infante was called safe. Yankees Manager Joe Girardi argued the call twice and was thrown out of the game.

Girardi can shift blame to the umpires all that he wants but the fact is his team has not hit the ball during the post season with the exception of the 9th inning of game one against the Orioles. The Orioles had a bad call that negated a home run in game 5 of the Division Series against the Yankees that easily could have changed the course of the game, and may have help the Orioles win the series. To see Girardi complaining tonight in the post game interview was unbecoming, especially compared to Buck Showlater’s response to similar questions after game 5 of the ALDS against the Yankees.

Now the series moves on to Detroit and the Yankees will have to face Justin Verlander. Unless the high priced Yankees offense can get going and start getting hits and producing runs they will not play another game at home this year.  The Yankees were lucky to get through against the Orioles and unless something changes fast they will exit the post-season.

I think that this may actually point to greater problems next year for the Yankees. They are getting old and despite their seemingly unlimited ability to buy what they need on the free agent market are not the team that they used to be. They still have a lot of talent but something is not right in the team chemistry and Joe Girardi will have to figure that out in the next few games and after the season ends.

I think that Jeter’s injury and the Yankees struggles portend the changing of the guard in the AL East.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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O’s Fall Short in the Bronx to End Amazing Season

“They’re a special group…you’ll see them again…” Buck Showalter

The amazing season of the resurgent Baltimore Orioles came to an end tonight in the Bronx as the Birds fell to the Yankees by a score of 3-1. Yankees starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia had control of the game and though the O’s scored a run in the bottom of the 8th and had the bases loaded with one out was able to put the Orioles away in a complete game.

The Yankees got just enough offense in the final game of a series dominated by pitching  to defeat the Orioles.  In 23 games between the teams in 2012 the Yankees won 12, the Orioles 11 and the Yankees scored just four runs more in the entire regular and post season.

A Special Team…

I have come to love the Orioles over the past number of years watching their young players in Norfolk and Frederick and to see young men like Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, Robert Andino, Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz and Troy Patton who I have followed in through their minor league time make the big time and play their hearts out.

To watch them and others, some cast offs from other organizations blend in together to make this such a great season was awesome. They battled through injuries and by the end of the year had a completely different starting rotation than they began the year. Their bullpen was superb, anytime an O’s starter kept the game close into the 7th inning the Orioles were more than likely to pull off a victory. Showalter managed this team and its bullpen in a spectacular manner.

This is a special team. You could sense it at the beginning of the season when no one believed in them but Buck Showalter. Over the course of the season they showed the most amazing determination winning 75 straight games when the led after the 7th inning, winning 16 straight extra inning games and winning over 70% of games decided by one run. That is not luck, it is character and belief.

They did not have current superstars, though some of their young players are potential super-stars. They did not have the big names and had one of the lowest payrolls in the majors, but they were a team. Everyone contributed and they brought pride back to the Oriole Nation after years of suffering.

They play in a tough division with teams that have nearly unlimited resources, but the one thing that this group, most of who will return next year have is determination and character that comes from having to fight hard against the odds. The season in some ways began in the last two weeks of 2011 when they surged in the final two weeks of the season to put a dagger in the heart of the Boston Red Sox in the final game of the season.

Buck Showalter said it so well, they are a special group and we will see them again. They certainly have brought a lot of joy to Birdland and I look forward to seeing them take it all next year.

Thanks for a great season, it has been fun.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Giant’s, A’s and Orioles and the 2012 MLB Playoffs: Taking Me Back to the Church of Baseball

“I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones….It’s a long season and you gotta trust it. I’ve tried ’em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.” Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) in Bull Durham

As any reader of this site knows Padre Steve loves baseball. In fact it is a passionate love that goes back to my childhood thanks to my dad. I talk with good reason about belonging to the Church of Baseball.  I love the game and I find a lot of life lessons and draw much inspiration from it.  It is something that is good for my soul, baseball parks are among the few places that I feel absolutely safe and even baseball on television or radio can calm my often troubled PTSD afflicted mind. I love the game, I love the players, I love the people. I can’t say that about a lot in this world.

I have gotten to know a lot of players both major league and minor league, front office staff and among my favorites former players of the Negro Leagues.

This year is kind of weird. If lucky I might have one of my three favorite teams, the Giants, A’s and Orioles make the playoffs. The last time I had a favorite win the World Series was 2010 when the Giants did it. The Orioles and the A’s have had fairly long droughts in getting to the playoffs or the World Series.

As a kid growing up on the West Coast, born in Oakland and being a Navy brat I have a natural tendency to support West Coast teams in the post season, unless they are the Evil Dodgers, who I hate to say I have cheered for in the World Series when they played the Yankees, may God have mercy on me, but it was against the Yankees so I’m sure there is some measure of grace.

My dad was a big National League fan and he became a die hard Giants fan a bit before I was born as the Giants moved to San Francisco about the same time he was transferred to Naval Air Station Alameda. I remember seeing the Giants in Candlestick as a kid, seeing Mays, McCovey and Bobby Bonds play and watching Ed Halicki throw his no-hitter there in 1975. We also went to a decent number of A’s games including the 1972 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers back in the days of Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, Mutcat Grant, Vida Blue, Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, Campy Campaneris and Reggie Jackson. My dad couldn’t stand A’s owner Charlie Finley but who could not like the mixture of uniforms and the ball girls in hot pants down the foul lines?

So in a sense because of geography I was a default fan of the Giants and Athletics. However my love of the Orioles defied my dad as well as geography. I started liking the Orioles as a kid because I would always see them in the playoffs. Though my dad didn’t like the Orioles he had tremendous respect for their players, especially outfielder Frank Robinson and Third Baseman Brooks Robinson. I could name the Orioles starting rotation and liked the way that Manager Earl Weaver argued with the umpires. In retrospect my dad kind of reminded me of the scrappy Weaver. My dad always emphasized fundamentals, pitching and working hard.

The Orioles also had the a minor league affiliation with the Stockton Ports back in the 1960s and early 1970s. When my dad was transferred to Alameda for his final assignment on the Aircraft Carrier USS Hancock he moved us to Stockton because we had a great aunt there.  So with the Ports playing at Billy Herbert Field about a mile from our house and a few blocks from where I played Little League ball I was at the stadium a lot including a hat giveaway where the team gave out black Orioles caps with the classic Cartoon Bird. In 1972 the Orioles left and the Angels took the team but from that time I remained an Orioles fan.

That love for the Orioles has increased over the past decade as I have gotten to know the team, organization and players through their minor league affiliates the AAA Norfolk Tides and High Single A Frederick Keys.

I want all of my teams to advance. As I write this the Giants lost their first game against the Reds last night while the A’s have went down 2-0 against the Tigers thanks to great Tigers pitching and critical errors. The Orioles open tonight against the Yankees.

No matter who wins it has been a great season for my teams. The Giants fought a lot of adversity to win the NL West, the A’s pulled off one of the most amazing runs seen in baseball to overtake the highly favored Texas Rangers in the final game of the season and Buck Showalter’s never say die Orioles have surprised the experts, but not me for the entire year.

My picks to win the Division series are the Tigers, the Giants, the Cardinals and the Orioles. Yesterday I would have picked the A’s but as much as I like them the chances of taking three in a row against the Tigers pitching are a lot lower than sweeping the Rangers. However, if there is a team that can come back from a 0-2 deficit it is the A’s. I think that the Giants take the Reds despite last night’s loss, and I think that the experience of the Cardinals will give them the edge over the Nationals, but think that the Nats could win the series. Finally I think that the Orioles are going to take the Yankees. They have played them even all year and despite all the power of the Yankees I think there is something about this Orioles team that is going to take them deep into the playoffs.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Buckle Up: Buck Showalter’s Traveling Road Show O’s Put an End to Rangers’ Misery 5-1 in Arlington

Wild Ones: O’s Win in Arlington (AP Photo-Tony Gutierrez)

“The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.” Earl Weaver

I had no doubts about tonight. The Rangers were not looking good and the plucky Orioles had nothing to lose. Buck Showalter’s stingy Orioles pitching and clutch hitting ending the defending two time American League Champion Texas Rangers season in the first American League Wild Card game.

The Rangers stumbled into the playoffs being swept by the amazing A’s and the Orioles played hard against the Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays and Red Sox in the final weeks of the season. The Orioles exuded a confidence that came from winning one run and extra inning games and not losing a game when leading after the 7th inning. Their bullpen was lights out and their starters, a collection that most people could not name and were not around at the beginning of the season were good enough to get them to the playoffs. They are 75-0 when leading after the 7th inning.

Joe Saunders (Reuters- Tim Sharp)

Buck Showalter started Joe Saunders who the O’s picked up in late August from the Diamondbacks. Saunders had a 0-6 record against the Rangers in Arlington before tonight but since coming to the Orioles has been reliable in important games. Saunders was not phased by history. He went in and aided by excellent defense shut down the potent Rangers offense.

Buck (Getty Images- j. Meric) 

The Orioles gave up just one run in the first inning and after that played great defense shutting down several potential Texas rallies with three double plays. The Rangers also had good pitching by starter Yu Darvish but the Orioles were able to make their hits count with Robert Andino, Manny Machado and Nate McClouth applying the coup de grace in the top of the 9th.

Former Ranger Darren O’Day pitched two innings of scoreless relief while former starter and now late season reliever Brian Matusz struck out Josh Hamilton on three pitches.

The Rangers loaded the bases against Orioles closer Jim Johnson in the 9th but Johnson and the O’s as always held giving up nothing.

Now the O’s will go back to Camden Yards to play the Yankees in the ALDS. They finished a close second to the Yankees in the AL East and were 9-9 against the Bronx Bombers during the regular season. They won 4 of the last 6 games they played against the Yankees in September.

I have known for a long time that this Orioles team is a special team. I felt it at the end of 2011 when they helped end the Red Sox season in  walk off fashion. I have also seen many of these players in the minors for the past few years playing on either the AAA Norfolk Tides or High Single A Frederick Keys. I have seen them develop and have watched the culture of the organization change after the hiring of Buck Showalter at the end of 2010 and GM Dan Duquette in the off season.

These guys are winners. I think that they have a good chance of taking the Yankees in a 5 game series. It certainly should be fun.

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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