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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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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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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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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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