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How Sweep it Is: Orioles Advance to ALCS

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Well, this is cool. The Baltimore Orioles have swept the favored Detroit Tigers to advance to the American League Championship Series.

The Orioles will play either the Kansas City Royals or the Los Angeles a Angels, though right now it looks like the Royals, who are leading 5-1 in game three after winning the first two games in Anaheim could be on their way to sweeping the highly favored Angels in their division series.

Personally I would rather see the Angels come back and win it simply because the Orioles have pretty much owned the a Angels this year and have had some pretty tough series against the Royals. Regardless of the outcome of the Angels and Royals series, the Orioles are just four wins away from advancing to the World Series since 1983. Regardless of who they have to play I think that they have a great chance.

Congratulations to the Orioles and the young players that I have gotten to know in their minor league careers in Norfolk, Chris Tillman, Zack Britton and Kevin Gausman.

This is really pretty cool. I have believed in this team ever since Buck Showalter was hired as the manager and Dan Douquette as the General Manager. One only has to go through my website and look back at what I wrote back in 2011 and early 2012 about the Orioles to verify this.

My hope is that tomorrow the Giants will finish off the Nationals and that both the Orioles and Giants will advance to the World Series regardless of who they have to play in their respective League Championship Series later in the week.

Have a great night and may your Monday be better than most Mondays.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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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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A Midsummer Night Dream: The MLB All Star Game, Faith and Life

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“Baseball is an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex, and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem.”  Saul Steinberg

Those that have followed my writing on this site for any length of time know that perhaps more than any other thing on earth that the game of Baseball is an important part of my life and spirituality.

Baseball, unlike most sports is very much a game with a calendar that is almost liturgical in its make up. It is also a game where those who “have gone before” are as much a part of the present as a part of history. It is a game that people like me ascribe an almost mystical or religious significance.

I have grown up with baseball. My dad ingrained it in me, my mom came to my little league games when my dad was in Vietnam and even my paternal grandmother had a baseball game on whenever one was on.

I like to say that God speaks to me through Baseball, and I do think that I am right about this, much more so than Scripture which I never know if I am interpreting correctly, especially because so many learned people tell me that I’m a heretic. So I guess I have to let God speak to me in other ways, like Baseball.

The All Star Game is part of my “Church Calendar.” it is a moment in the summer where the game and I pause. I pause to reflect on life and remember so many things about the specific All Star Games, my dad and life.

All Star games in any sport are problematic. Most have no meaning. The NFL Pro-Bowl is such bad football that it has almost no relationship to the game as it is played every Sunday. The NBA and NHL games are better, but again because of the nature of those games little resemble their regular season or playoff games. Added to this as that none of those games have any bearing on what happens in the sport where the Baseball All Star Game matters, it determines home field advantage in the World Series.

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I fell in love with the All Star Game in 1970, the game that Pete Rose ended in extra innings when he ran over Cleveland Indians catcher Ray Fosse to win the game for the National League. Likewise I remember the 1999 All Star Game at Fenway Park when Ted Williams was honored and the All Century Team was named. I found it interesting that Pete Rose, arguably the best hitter in the history of the game who was banned from baseball for life by A Bartlett Giamatti for betting on the game was included on that team. I agreed with the selection then and in light of the fact that so many other men of sometimes questionable morals and character are in the Hall of Fame think that the ban on Rose should be lifted and that he be voted into the Hall of Fame.

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That being said I find something wonderful about the All Star Game despite the fact that we now have year round inter-league play. Back when I was a kid the All Star Game and the World Series were the only times besides Spring Training that one could see players from both leagues play. I like inter-league play and unlike some do not think that it takes away anything from the mid-summer classic.

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The All Star Game is a celebration of the game, its history and players, not just the ones playing in the current year. I am interested in this game, maybe more than others in recent memory because I know or have met a number of the players including Chris Tillman and Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles and seen quite a few at some level of their minor league careers in the South Atlantic, Carolina, Southern, Eastern, International or Pacific Coast Leagues. For me it is really cool to see men that I watched when they were in the minors now playing in the All Star Game. For those that don’t follow the minor leagues it provides a certain amount of perspective because most players in the minors never make the majors and even many of those who do don’t stay there. It is a hard life and for most the money is not that great, thus I do not begrudge the salaries that they make when they get to the majors. It takes a tremendous amount of talent, hard work, determination and sometimes luck to make it in the majors, to stay there and to become an All Star. Those that do it consistently year after year are amazing.

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Me (top left) with my brother Jeff and California Angels Coach Rocky Bridges in 1970

I appreciate their work, because in my calling and career as a Priest, Chaplain and military officer I am a journeyman. I’ve been around a long time, in a sense been up and down in the majors and minors in a number of different positions. I have had some good seasons so to speak, but I have also had plenty of bad ones and spent a lot of time in the military and church versions of the minor leagues. I think it gives me a manner of perspective when appreciating the hard work and excellence needed to be an All Star. If I was ever to be honored in such a way I would have to say something like John Kruk said back in 1993 when he was elected to the All Star Team “It’s amazing that fans want to see me play. What is our society coming to?”

This year was the last All Star Game for the amazing Mariano Rivera, the all time leader in saves by a relief pitcher who has brought so much to this game. He is cool, collected and humble as well as a machine when it comes to closing games. With 638 career saves to date and probably at least another 20 before the end of the season. Rivera pitched the bottom of the 8th inning and was honored by fans and players alike and was chosen as the game MVP. A fitting honor for an amazing pitcher and human being.

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Tonight the American League won the game 3-0 and secured home field advantage for the American League Champion when it comes time for the World Series. Of course I hope that the Baltimore Orioles will be that team.

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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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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Real Life Major League? We Have a Pennant Race in the American League East and the Orioles are in It

Who would have thought that with 157 games played that the the New York Yankees would not be battling the Boston Red Sox or Tampa Bay Rays for the AL East championship. Instead they are battling Buck Showalter’s Baltimore Orioles.

I think that this season began on the final day of the 2011 season when the Orioles knocked off the Red Sox on a walk-off at Camden Yards to end the Red Sox season. That was their 69th win of the season, but it was like a World Series win, a celebration that Baltimore had not seen at the end of a season in years.The plucky Orioles are a game behind the Yankees with 5 games left in the regular season and have a magic number of three to at the least be one of the two American League Wild Card teams. The O’s are 8-2 in their last ten games and are now 90-67 for the season. Since they failed to win 70 games last year and most experts predicted that they would have yet another losing season in 2012, this is pretty big news.

 

Tonight Chris Tillman again showed his metal pitching a one hit game through 8 innings allowing only one unearned run. Tillman is now 9-2 after being called back up from from AAA Norfolk in July.

The Orioles bats came alive early as they took a 6-1 lead in the first inning after Ryan Flaherty hit a 2 out Grand Slam home run in the bottom of the first inning. The Orioles are not a typical playoff contender, they have few big name stars, their starting pitching staff has been makeshift for most of the year and they have used 50 players so far this year.

That being said the Orioles know how to win. They win consistently in extra innings and one run games, especially when they are leading after the 7th inning. Their bullpen has been stellar and they get the game winning hits when they need them.

There is something special about this team. It is possible that they could very well be the real life Cleveland Indians of the movie Major League.

This could be really fun. Let’s go O’s!

Peace

Padre Steve+

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September Surprises: O’s and A’s Shake up the American League

“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.” Padre Steve May 2nd 2012

The pennant races in the American League are getting really interesting. They are not what anyone expected at the beginning of the season. In the West the Rangers and Angels were supposed to be duking it out matching power and pitching against power and pitching. In the Central the Tigers were supposed to be on top with little threat expected from anyone else in the division while in the East the Yankees were the prohibitive favorites to take the division, with the Rays their strongest competitors.

No one expected the “rebuilding A’s” or the “inexperienced O’s” to be more than speed bumps in their respective divisions. That was at the beginning of the season and every month that the two teams have remained in the hunt experts have been talking them down. However, the Orioles and the Athletics have each become real factors in the American League. Made up of young players, journeymen veterans and rising stars the two teams under excellent management of GM’s Billy Beane and Dan Duquette have surprised everyone and are now finally being taken seriously as contenders.

It is now September 2nd and A’s trail the Rangers by just three games. The Orioles trail the Yankees by just two games and the White Sox are one up on the Tigers. The O’s and A’s lead the Wild Card race and with only about 30 games left in the regular season the American League is anybody’s guess as to what teams will make the playoffs.

The O’s took two of three from the Yankees in Yankee Stadium this weekend, and probably should have swept the series, losing a game Saturday that was theirs to win. The A’s are about to sweep the now hapless and floundering Boston Red Sox while the White Sox have lost three in a row giving the Tigers a change to make up some ground.

The Orioles are a team that knows how to win. They do not have the depth or “star power” of the Yankees, Rays, Rangers or Angels but under Buck Showalter they are a team that knows how to win. They dominate in one run (24-7) and extra innings (12-2) games and in Yankee Stadium which has been their very own Valley of Armageddon for years, the O’s won 6 of 9 games outscoring the Yankees 42-14 in their home park. Manager Showalter has been a steady presence in guiding this young team into contention. Chris Tillman and Zach Britton have been splendid late season starters and closer Jim Johnson is among the best in the majors.

A big key to the Orioles season has been the solid pitching out of their bullpen and a defense that found itself in the second half of the season.

The A’s under Bob Melvin have come on strong and have won 8 in a row, and will make that 9 in a row if they complete the sweep of the Red Sox in Oakland this afternoon. They set the stage on Friday by pummeling the Sox 20-2 and Saturday 7-1.

It should be a September to remember and I expect that the Orioles, Athletics and White Sox are going to really make things interesting. In my dreams I want to see the Orioles and Athletics to win their divisions and leave the Rangers and Yankees battling for the Wild Card spots. That would be sweet.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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