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Joy in Mudville: The Comeback

“Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” Satchel Paige

“One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once in a while you come into a situation where you want to, and where you have to, reach down and prove something” Nolan Ryan

Baseball is more like life than any sport it is a game that requires stamina and gives players who continue to produce a chance to keep playing longer than most other sports, even players that are not super stars.  But sometimes life like baseball presents every person situations where it takes everything that you have to keep yourself in the game.

The military is something like sports because in order to remain viable in the military you have to remain physically fit and in an age where the military is shrinking there is little grace given to the old veterans.  I am not going to recount most of my post-Iraq experience battling PTSD as well as a number of nagging physical injuries to my shoulders, left elbow, right knee and right ankle.  Neither my brain nor my body was responding the way I thought that they should and for the first time I discovered the connection between the two.  Jeff Passan wrote concerning ball players, particularly in light of the recent plight of Yankees great Jorge Posada and his battle with age and deteriorating performance “It’s a battle with the brain, with knowing and feeling you belong despite your body’s revolt. The two work symbiotically, and once one turns, it’s difficult to keep the other from following.”

That was true for me for the first time in over 25 years in the military.  I have shared my struggle with my weight recently but another hurdle that I faced was trying to get my head back in the game regarding my physical fitness.  I felt my injuries; they were nagging and took forever to heal. Gone were the days of taking a day or two off and then going back into my usual fitness regime.  I was old and I felt like it. Mickey Mantle said “I always loved the game, but when my legs weren’t hurting it was a lot easier to love.” It wasn’t until the spring of 2010 that my mind began to get back into the game and I began to test my body in ways that I hadn’t since Iraq.  I began to get back in physical shape and though my weight kept me from getting off the fat boy program my score of 265 for the physical fitness test portion was rated as “high excellent” not quiet the top level but not bad for someone on the comeback trail. I was just one pushup shy of the outstanding score and I stopped because I thought I had the number that I needed, I had more in me but quit.  As a result the spring of 2010 went down as my second failure.  In the Navy if you fail three times in 4 years you can be processed for administrative separation. For me this would have meant being forced to retire despite having been selected for promotion to Commander.  It would have been humiliating.

When I reported to my new command it became my goal to not only be in weight standards but to continue to improve my physical performance.  I had to. A failure on either portion would have probably meant the end of my career.  I had to dig deep and as the weight came off my physical performance became better and I began to feel like a whole person again. Even so as the time neared for the Physical Fitness Assessment I was concerned I could not take any chances on my weight and likewise could not do badly on the physical readiness test.  Nolan Ryan was right. I had to prove something and I wanted to prove something and I was willing to dig deep to do it.

As I mentioned before I came in 6 pounds below my maximum weight.  This afternoon I took the physical readiness test with about a dozen officers and sailors from the hospital.  As at many commands people wait until the last day to take the test so attendance today was light.  Another 700 or so will take their PRT in the coming days.

The weather this afternoon was wonderful. I have taken the PRT and the Marine PFT at Camp LeJeune in May before. Usually the weather is already uncomfortably warm and humid even in the morning. I had planned on doing the 0630 time because of this but I had been up late counseling a former shipmate so I elected to go in to work at my normal time and take my chances that the weather would cooperate in the afternoon.  When the time came the temperature was about 75 degrees with a nice breeze and bearable humidity.  I felt good and knew that I was going to do very well; the question would be cracking the “outstanding” barrier, something I had not done since shortly after my return from Iraq when despite injuries I pushed myself to make the grade. After than the injuries owned me and I went through several tests where I simply did okay, not failing but nothing to write home about.

We lined up and the first exercise was sit ups or crunches.  I have always done well in this event but over the past few years have really gotten my technique down.  In 2 minutes I did 101, well above the 85 that I needed for the highest score of 100 points.  I could have done more as I stopped about 15 seconds before the end of the time but you don’t get extra credit.  The next even was the pushup.  When I was young I struggled with pushups.  It really was a mental thing. Back then when I was 23 the Army required 65 pushups for the maximum score. Now at the age of 51 I still need 64 for the maximum score. I did 65 and again it came down to technique. I have worked to perfect my pushups to keep the best form using the most compact movements and breathing on every rep to get the most I can in 2 minutes.  Bad form ensures fewer pushups can be performed and if you don’t breathe you tend to wear out sooner and often not be able to go much more than a minute.  Despite exceeding the maximum score I don’t think that I am really in my best shape and I will continue to work.  Knowing that I had blown out the first two events all that was left was the 1.5 mile run.  For me the 1.5 mile run is too short. I tend not even to get into a good stride and have my breathing right until the 1 mile point, so I have always liked the Army 2 mile and Marine 3 mile runs better than the Navy variant and before Iraq would run 5-8 miles every time I went out.  If I really want to blow the Navy run out I have to turn on the afterburners. If I do this when I am in stellar shape I can nail the run in 9.45 to 10.45 minutes.  With the injuries I had not did the run since the spring of 2009 instead doing the elliptical machine or stationary bike.  That was not so much because I couldn’t do the run but it was a mental thing, I no longer believed that I could.   I finally realized that I could and today I ran the run in 12.31.  I decided that I didn’t need to push too hard. I knew the number of points and run time that I needed to get them. I was well under that time but well below what I know that I can do. Next time I will do better.

This was a victory for me but I cannot rest. I avoided the failure that would have ended my career but I cannot fail again.  There is nothing like living on the brink to provide a little extra motivation.  But as Satchel Paige said “Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Yankees Strike Back: Defeat Rangers 7-2 as Bats Come Alive

C. C. Sabathia shouts after striking out Mitch Moreland in the top of the 6th inning (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The New York Yankees rose like the Phoenix from Arizona to extend the ALCS and their season in a do or die game at Yankee Stadium.  The Bronx Bombers who had had empty bomb bays for all but one inning of the ALCS found their payload and unloaded it on Rangers’ starter C. J. Wilson who had mastered the Yankees in game one and the Rays in the ALDS. 

Mitch Moreland goes down on a called third strike in the top of the 6th (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The Yankees struck early with a 3 run first inning that began with a walk to Alex Rodriguez and a one out walk to Lance Berkman. Jorge Posada then singled to drive in Rodriguez Curtis Granderson then singled to score Berkman and Posada scored on a throwing error by Rangers’ right fielder Jeff Francouer’s throwing error to give the Yankees an early 3-0 lead.  The Yankees continued their mugging of Wilson with back to back home runs in the bottom of the third inning by Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano. 

The Rangers attempted a rally in the bottom of the 5th inning when catcher Matt Traenor homered to left and was followed by Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus singled but the inning ended when Josh Hamilton hit into a double play. The Yankees added another run in the bottom frame as Lance Berkman sacrificed to score Nick Swisher to give the Yankees a 6-1 lead.

The Rangers mounted another rally attempt in the top of the 6th inning as David Murphy, Ian Kinsler and Jeff Fancouer had back to back to back singles to load the bases with one out. Matt Traenor was out on a ground ball that scored Murphy but that would be all the Rangers would muster for their efforts. The Yankees added another run in the bottom of the 8th as Curtis Granderson  homered to make the score 7-2.  Mariano Rivera entered in relief in the top of the 9th and shut down the Rangers in a non-save situation.

Alex Rodriguez, Lance Berkman and Jorge Posada celebrate after game five

C. C. Sabathia got the win despite allowing 11 hits.  The Yankees now force the series back to Rangers Stadium on Friday where Phil Hughes will face Colby Lewis.  If the Yankees get by Lewis they will face their nemesis Cliff Lee in game 7 and that sports fans will be an interesting matchup. The question is do the Yankees have the gas to come back? I predicted the Yankees to win the series but I will not underestimate the Rangers especially with Cliff Lee in waiting.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Rangers Hammer Yankees 10-3: Take 3-1 ALCS Lead

Josh Hamilton belts his 2nd home run of ALCS Game 4 (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

It looked like A. J. Burnett and the New York Yankees had turned the corner against the pesky Texas Rangers.  Well that was until they saw what they thought might be victory disappear in a barrage of Rangers runs leaving Yankee Stadium nearly devoid of Yankees faithful for the second night running. The feeling among Yankees fans is symbolized by the reaction of their fans, they know that they are done and baring an improbable comeback the Yankees will not repeat as either American League or World Series champs.

Nails in the coffin, Nelson Cruz hits 2 run homer in top of 9th inning to give the Rangers a 10-3 lead (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The Yankees got out to an early 1-0 lead on a home run by Robinson Cano that on review should have been ruled as fan interference but was allowed without video review by the umpiring crew. Lance Berkman came up next and hammered a shot down the right field line that was initially ruled as a home run but was reviewed and disallowed passing narrowly to the right of the right field foul pole. The Rangers wasted no time getting those runs back as in the top of the 3rd inning Burnett seemed to lose his edge. David Murphy walked and took second on a wild pitch. Burnett then nailed Benji Molina in the back as Molina was attempting t bunt. Mitch Moreland then hit a sacrifice fly ball to send Murphy to third base and Molina to second. Elvis Andrus grounded out to score Murphy and was followed by Michael Young who singled to plate Molina to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.

Rangers’ starter Tim Hunter struggled giving up another run in the bottom of the third inning when Derek Jeter tripled and scored on Curtis Granderson’s single.  Burnett held the Rangers in the top of the 4th inning and the Yankees made things very interesting in the bottom half of the inning.  Hunter hit Alex Rodriguez with a pitch to lead off the inning and Robinson Cano singled and advanced him to 2nd base. Hunter the struck out Nick Swisher for the first out and Lance Berkman singled to load the bases.  The Rangers’ brought in Derek Holland to attempt to stop the bleeding. Holland got Brett Gardner on fielder’s choice which scored Rodriguez to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead.  Holland then took command striking out Francisco Cervelli to end the inning.

The Rangers loaded the bases in the top of the 5th inning but did not score and Holland despite giving up a leadoff double to Jeter shut down the Yankees in the bottom half of the inning. In the 6th the wheels came off of the Yankee Express. Vladimir Guerrero singled to lead off the inning and Burnett got the following two batters out before intentionally walking David Murphy with Guerrero on second. The brought Benji Molina to the plate and the Rangers’ catcher seized the moment pounding a 3 run home run into the left field seats.  Burnett got Mitch Moreland to foul out but the damage was done, the energy that had been gathering in Yankee Stadium was gone. 

Derek Jeter in the Yankees dugout in the 8th (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

In the 7th inning the Yankees’ relievers were handed the task of trying to shut down the Texas assault on Gotham. David Robertson after a horrific night on Monday got the first two batters out and was relieved by Boone Logan who promptly surrendered a solo home run to Josh Hamilton to bring Joba Chamberlian into the game. Joba fared no better giving up a double to Vladimir Guerrero and walking Nelson Cruz before giving up a RBI single to Ian Kinsler before striking out David Murphy to end the inning with the Rangers ahead of the lifeless Yankees by a score of 7-3.

Holland set down the Yankees in order in the bottom of the 7th inning.  In the 8th Chamberlain allowed a single to Benji Molina but got out of the inning without giving up another run.  In the bottom of the the Yankees threatened again loading the bases on a series of walks by Holland, Darren O’Day and Clay Rapada before bringing in 40 year old veteran Darren Oliver who closed out the inning without giving up a run.   

Benji Molina celebrates after the game (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Yankees woes continued in the top of the 9th as the Rangers put the noose around the Yankees in game four. Sergio Mitre relieved Chamberlain and gave up a leadoff home run to none other than Josh Hamilton, his 4th homer against the Yankees in 4 games.  Guerrero singled and was lifted for pinch runner Julio Borbon but Borbon’s speed would not be needed as Nelson Cruz took Mitre yard for another Rangers home run. The Yankees got a leadoff single from Brett Gardner in the top of the 9th but Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson went down in order leaving the Bronx in a state of shock for the 2nd straight night.

The Rangers scored 10 runs on 13 hits making their total 31 runs for the series on 43 hits agains an anemic 11 runs on 26 hits for the Yankees.  To make matters worse for the Yankees the team lost Mark Teixeira to a season ending hamstring pull while trying to leg out a ground ball. Derek Holland got the win and the 82 million dollar bust, A. J. Burnett took the loss.  The Rangers now lead the Yankees 3 games to 1 and have to have C. C. Sabathia make the performance of his life to stay alive this afternoon.  That will be a tall task as the big right-hander has not done well this post-season.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Dominance at its Best: Cliff Lee Owns the Yankees Rangers Roll 8-0

The Owner of the Yankees Cliff Lee rubs up a new ball (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Cliff Lee simply owns the New York Yankees and if the Sons of the Stein are smart they will find a way to entice their nemesis to play for them in 2011. However, that will not help them this year as Lee dominated the Yankees in a more dominant fashion than he did last year with the Phillies where he beat the Bronx Bombers twice.  On Monday night at Yankee Stadium Lee added to his playoff luster by pitching a 2 hit 8 inning shutout of the Yankees on a night when he struck out 13 Yankee batters walking only one.  He retired 11 Yankees in a row before Jorge Posada blooped a single into right for the first his with two outs in the bottom of the 5th inning and a leadoff single to Brett Gardner in the bottom of the 6th inning.  Every Yankee hitter with the exception of Robinson Cano struck out at least once in the loss.

An unusual October sight at Yankee Statium a loney fan waits for the Yankees to go down in the bottom of the 9th   (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

In fact had the score remained 2-0 going into the bottom of the 9th   and Lee would have likely gotten his way to go out and finish the game.  Instead the Rangers clubbed Yankees relievers for 6 runs in the top of the 9th allowing the Rangers to bring in closer Neftali Felix in a non save situation.  Felix sent the Yankees down in order himself striking out Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira in the inning to make a total of 15 strikeouts.   

Yankees starter Andy Pettitte made only one mistake which occurred in the top of the 1st inning. With one out Michael Young singled and then Josh Hamilton yanked a curve ball from Pettitte over the right field wall to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead. The Rangers added 6 runs on 6 hits in the top of the 9th against Yankees’ relievers Boone Logan and David Robertson. By the end of the night the Rangers had mustered 8 runs on 11 hits.

Pettitte got the loss and Cliff Lee the win to give the Rangers a 2-1 series lead going into game four tonight at Yankee Stadium.  The Rangers will send Tommy Hunter to the hill to face the struggling A. J. Burnett who was 1-7 with a 6.61 ERA in his final 12 starts.  Hunter started against the Yankees on September 11th giving up 2 runs and striking out 8 in five innings work in a 7-6 Rangers win. The Rangers have now scored 20 runs against Yankees pitching and unless Burnett comes up big the Rangers could go into game five with a 3-1 series lead.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Rangers Even Series Defeat Yankees 7-2 for First Home Playoff Win

Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus celebrate the Rangers’ win in game two (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Texas Rangers did what they should have done on Friday night and defeated the New York Yankees 7-2 at Rangers Field in Arlington Texas.  The win was their first win in a playoff series at home in franchise history.  The win was an impressive win for the Rangers who were coming off a very disheartening loss on Friday night where the bullpen melted down in the 8th inning to had the Yankees a 6-5 win.

Ian Kinsler hits an RBI triple (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Saturday was different the Rangers got out to an early lead and held on holding the Yankees to just 2 runs while ringing up Phil Hughes for 7 runs on 7 hits in four innings work. Hughes didn’t look at all like he looked when he shut down the Rays in game three of the ALDS.  Elvis Andrus singled to lead off the first inning, advanced to second on a wild pitch, stole third and then stole home for the first run. The aggressive base running seemed to set the Yankees back on their heels just as it did the Rays in the ALDS. In the second inning the Rangers stuck again when David Murphy homered and was followed by Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus who both singled. Moreland scored when Michael Young doubled to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead.

The Rangers scored two more runs in the 3rd inning when Nelson Cruz doubled and scored when Murphy doubled. Murphy then scored on a Benji Molina double to make the score 5-0 after three innings. The Yankees got one run back in the top of the 4th inning.  Robinson Cano doubled to lead off the inning and took third on a wild pitch. He then scored on a two out single by Lance Berkman who then was caught going too far off of first and was tagged out to end the inning.

Setting the stage: Elvis Andrus steals home in the first inning (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

The Rangers continued their assault on Hughes in the bottom of the 5th inning when Nelson Cruz doubled and scored when Ian Kinsler tripled. Kinsler scored when Mitch Moreland singled to give the Rangers a 7-1 lead.  In the top of the 6th Lewis got in some trouble with Robinson Cano hitting a solo home run and then gave up a single to Jorge Posada and a walk to Berkman before he left with two outs being relieved by Clay Rapada who struck out pinch hitter Marcus Thames.  That would be all of the scoring although the Yankees threatened in the 7th 8th and 9th innings as the Rangers’ relievers shut down the potent Yankee lineup with Neftali Felix coming in to close out the Yankees.  Tonight the Rangers relievers did not blow the game and the series now goes into New York knotted at one with Cliff Lee scheduled to start game three in Yankee Stadium and Andy Pettitte.

It should be an interesting go from here on out.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Blown Away or Thrown Away: Yankees Come Back defeat Rangers 6-5

Ron Washington has some ‘splaining to do about his management of the Rangers’ pitching staff (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Texas Rangers looked like they were about to win their first playoff game at home in their history last night, well until the top of the 8th inning that is then it all went away like a tumbleweed going across the prairie.  The Rangers jumped out to a 5-0 lead over the Yankees and looked to have the game in hand as C. J. Wilson was pitching a gem which Rangers hitters took off where Minnesota left off against Yankee’s workhorse C.C. Sabathia chasing the 20 game-winner off the mount at the end of the 4th inning.  Sabathia gave up 5 runs on 6 hits with four walks and a balk in 4 innings in which he made 95 pitches.  He struggled to get the ball over the plate as only 51 of those pitches were strikes. In Minnesota he got the win and in Texas a no decision but his playoff ERA is now 7.20 which should give the Yankees concern. Sabathia avoided disaster when with the bases load with 2 outs in the bottom of the first inning he threw a wild pitch which luckily for him bounced back directly to Jorge Posada who tagged Nelson Cruz on the arm as he slid into home. Had Cruz scored it might well have opened up the opportunity for a really big inning against Sabathia.

Wilson was solid through 7 innings giving up a solo home run to Robinson Cano in the top of the 7th but then collapsing in the 8th along with 4 relievers sent in by Ron Washington to try to stop the Yankees, only one of which, Derek Holland got anyone out.  Why Washington did not put his closer Neftali Feliz in with the game on the line even though it was not initially a save situation puzzled me as much as it did most experts. Also why Washington seemed to panic with Wilson still throwing hard after a walk and a double that went by a less than stellar third baseman is beyond me. Wilson was to face the heart of the Yankees order but he had dominated Jeter, Teixeira and Rodriguez  who were 0-8 against him with 3 strikeouts and two pop-ups in those 8 at bats. Washington had to remember or had he forgotten that this was the same bullpen that melted down in game three against the Rays.

Brett Gardiner slides into 1st to ignite the Yankees’ 8th inning rally (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

In the 8th the Yankees rally started with Brett Gardiner beating out a ground ball for an infield hit diving into first base to beat Wilson to the bag. He scored on a double to left by Derek Jeter.  This brought set up man Darren Oliver into the game and Oliver walked Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira. Oliver was then lifted for Darren O’Day who gave up a single to Alex Rodriguez that scored Jeter and Swisher. Washington then trotted out Clay Rapada who gave up a single to Robinson Cano to score Teixeira.  This brought Holland into the game and Holland gave up a single to Marcus Thames to score Rodriguez to give the Yankees the lead a lead that they did not relinquish.

Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher congratulate each other after scoring in the 8th inning comeback (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

By contrast the Yankees bullpen was solid with Dustin Mosley picking up the win and Mariano Rivera the save. Darren O’Day got the loss for the Rangers. The Rangers gave this one away; Ron Washington seemed to be out of his league last night and made some really questionable decisions.  Now the Rangers have to win today or go to Yankee Stadium with a two game deficit.  The Rangers will send Colby Lewis to the hill to face Phil Hughes. Lewis had a no-decision in game 3 against the Rays giving up just 2 hits in 5 innings work before Washington pulled him and gave the game to the bullpen which just as they did last night melted down. Hughes dominated the Twins in game 3 of their series pitching 7 innings giving up no runs on 4 hits.

If the Rangers do not win tonight, it will take more than heroic efforts by Cliff Lee to get them past the Yankees. It will take a miracle.

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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