Monday, September 19, 2011

Absence from the BIC -- return from IRL

It seems to be a little quiet around here, and I just thought I would interject my 2 cents surrounding the memorial patch that the Orioles wore for Mike Flanagan. As a life-long Oriole diehard supporter, I was devastated to hear of Flanny's passing. Then I found out that he had committed suicide. It was shortly after that, that I found out the Orioles were going to be wearing a patch and I was shocked. SHOCKED because I could not believe my ears to hear (and read) that the Oriole organization was going to allow a patch to be worn, basically sensationalizing suicide. A month after the fact, I am still shocked that they did this. Am I the only one who feels this way? Or is it more an over-reaction. Its like the early reports from CNN on the tragedy in Reno (race flight crash) was a "MASS CASUALTY" when it was 3 people. NOW, before other people over-react, I am not making light of death. ANY death is tragic, but when you hear MASS CASUALTIES I think of 9/11, or the TWA bombings ... 3 to me, is not MASS CASUALTIES....ok, off my soapbox

With that being said, do we have ANY hope of a better NEXT year? As of the time of this note, we are 17 games below .500 and 15 games behind the next team...every team in our division is above .500 and here we are again sucking the cellar.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Eutaw Street Neighborhood Watch - LUUUUUUUUKE Edition Redux

It's been almost 20 months, but finally Eutaw Street is back on the home run map. Luke Scott hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning off of Josh Beckett. The ball traveled 426 feet.

Scott now has five home runs on Eutaw Street. This ties him with Rafael Palmeiro for the most home runs by any single player. It is the fifty-third home run on the street, the twenty-third by an Oriole. Scott was also the last player to hit Eutaw Street, September 1, 2009, off of A.J. Burnett of the Yankees.

The last three home runs have been hit by Scott, all three off of different American League East opponents. He is the only player to hit three consecutive home runs onto the street.

This home run comes fifteen years to the day after Brady Anderson's first Eutaw Street blast, off of Bobby Witt of the Rangers April 27, 1996.

At 426 feet, this was the tenth-longest home run hit onto the street. A Red Sox pitcher had never given up a Eutaw Street home run before tonight.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On Opening Day And The End Of Speculation...

Shortly before 7:10 p.m. on Friday, Florida's Governor Rick Scott will throw out a ceremonial first pitch. The national anthem will be sung--likely with a smattering of "Oh!" from the Baltimore contingent at the appropriate time. David Price will step onto the mound, throw his warm-up pitches--unneeded because he will never be as warm and ready at any point during the season

Brian Roberts will step up to the plate: to the right-handed batter's box, against the lefty Price. Price will stare in for the sign, possibly shake off John Jaso once to get a new signal from the catcher. Roberts will take a practice swing or two as he sizes up what he should expect as the first pitch from one of the best in the sport.

Price will get the sign he wants. The capacity crowd at Tropicana Field will go quiet. Price will wind-up, then let the pitch go...

...and another season of Orioles baseball will begin.

Six months of waiting will be at an end. Six months of speculation. Of arguments. Of debates. Of outright hostility and subtle wit. Of cheering the brilliant experts and insiders who predict the best possible outcomes for the Birds. Of blasting the "so-called" experts and "know-nothing" insiders who offer only the worst. Of stats. Of scouts. Of strawmen and non sequitur and the ever-popular online ad hominem. Of every possible debate and argument and mistaken fact that is discussed beyond a reasonable lifespan, seemingly even that of the participants themselves.

Only to create new ones, of course: Will Reynolds hit 40 home runs or 200 strikeouts first...Can Luke Scott really play left field...Will replacing the defense of Izturis with the offense from Hardy balance out to help the club...How soon will Reimold/Bell/Mahoney/Machado use their bats to smash through to Baltimore...Can Wieters, who was supposed to be all hit and no catch but has instead been no hit and all catch, do both for a change...Can Luke Scott really be that bad in left field...Can Showalter reopen whatever can or jar or Pulp Fiction-style briefcase he used last season to turn the club around...Will Markakis get more assists on throws to home than actual homers...Could an overweight nobody blogger with a breaking ball that curves less than the Warehouse strike out Adam Jones by throwing everything low and away...Seriously, *bleep* Guerrero and Lee, just PLEASE get Luke Scott out of left field...

...and finally, when, oh when, will that Britton kid, soon to be known as ZacK, actually pitch his way into the rotation, and will he already have his own ZachBrittonFacts.com by then?

I'm ready.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Oh, For Buck's Sake!

See what I did there? That's not starting to get old already, or anything...


Everybody is weighing in. PTI. Around the Horn. The New York Daily News. The blogosphere. And now, me.

Buck Showalter made several comments to a reporter for a story in the upcoming issue of Men's Journal. Among the more incendiary of his remarks were saying that he doesn't like how Derek Jeter attempts to "take a dive" (my words, not his) on every close pitch to draw a free trip to first base, and how he would like to see how well Theo Epstein could do if he didn't have a large payroll to play around with in Boston.

It is always very risky to attack specific people in such interviews. Let us say that he said he hated "certain players" who would try for the fake hit-by-pitch, or "those who run teams with gigantic payrolls" should try it with less. He still gets the same point across, and everyone knows exactly who he means.

But those words simply do not have the same impact with their generalization. By being specific and naming two extremely visible members of rival ballclubs, Showalter is essentially calling out the Red Sox and the Yankees as a group. He is saying publicly in the national media what he has been saying locally in Baltimore since he arrived in August: Baltimore is no longer a pushover, and we will no longer act like pushovers.

From the success the Orioles had in the second half of the season last year, to the "movie"* that he had the club watch in Sarasota at the beginning of the spring, to these comments and beyond, Showalter is trying to create that famous "culture change" that every club is supposed to go through before they can win.

*Something I wonder is how often these things actually happen. We usually hear, when a team begins to win, that there was some catalyst or series of catalysts that caused the change. However, what I want to know is whether it happens all the time and because most of the teams don't win we don't create the association of coincidence in our collective minds.


Just one example: the "Orioles Magic" video from several years back. That was supposed to be a catalyst for the Orioles, but it couldn't make up for the fact that they weren't any good.


I'm betting on it happening more often than we want to believe.


I'm not a true believer in "culture" when it comes to athletics. I'm a believer in talent and how it is used. So the comments don't affect me at all as a purely motivational tool, and I don't see them affecting the team. However, that doesn't mean that the fans shouldn't be very interested in the comments and the response.

One of the biggest complaints you hear again and again about media coverage around Baltimore is that it is somehow biased against the Orioles; that national reporters have something against the club and thus they focus on the Yankees and Red Sox instead. Well they are right, but not for the reason they think.

The national media covers teams other than the Orioles because those are the teams people care about. The ratings are higher whenever the discussion turns to the Yankees or Red Sox or Dodgers or Cubs or Giants because there are simply more people who actively care about those clubs. I say "actively" because I feel that Baltimore can generate that kind of fan interest, but the losing has brought the numbers down too low to register on the national radar.

The other problem is that the Orioles, for the past decade, have been, very simply, boring. When you are a reporter, a team that loses consistently and doesn't make many major player moves--a boring team--is a terrible assignment. That is what the Orioles have been. Other than a short period in the second half of 2004 and first half of 2005, they have been constant losers. Other than the Bedard trade in 2007, they haven't made moves that would create a shockwave around the sport.

These comments are meant to create that shockwave. They cause the media to look in the direction of Baltimore not only to judge what Showalter has to say, but also to see what the Orioles are doing. They took some notice with the way the club finished the 2010 season, but now they can see a team that quietly worked to build on that late-season success with an improved club that can compete on a more-even field with the Yankees and Red Sox, and even Tampa bay and Toronto. They won't win the division, and they may not even make .500 yet, but this is a different team.

No matter what you believe in when it comes to baseball, you cannot be an Orioles fan and not love what Buck Showalter said.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Great Day

As I sit here, in the Towson University library on a fairly gloomy March afternoon, spring is on my mind.

This time of year is a time to see the positive, and there is a lot of positive to see.

The Orioles are performing well in their early spring training games, showing off both the new additions like Vladimir Guerrero and Mark Reynolds as well as the continued improvement of those already O's like Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman and even last season's winner for Least Patient at the Plate, Josh Bell.

The University of Maryland is going into the ACC tournament still having a chance to make the NCAA tournament with a good run. Jordan Williams was named first-team All-ACC and third-team All-American, while Terrell Stoglin made the ACC All-Freshman team. And Cliff Tucker didn't get hit by a bus, so he's got that going for him.

Towson University basketball coach Pat Kennedy resigned after a winless conference season for his team. Looking at the success local rivals Loyola and Morgan State have had by taking bigger risks with their coaching hires over the same period, with any luck at all Towson will follow their lead and have a young, hungry coach mining the Baltimore area for talent. Maybe even having a winning team ready to go by the time the new on-campus arena opens in a couple years.

Even the NFL is in a better place than it appeared in the dark winter days of February. An extension agreed to by the league and the players union through the end of this week, and the hope for additional extensions if needed, make it appear that the two sides aren't as far apart as originally feared.

***

Ok, I know that not all of this means something.

Spring training numbers and wins don't often translate to the regular season, and even Buck Showalter isn't going to repeat the last two months of 2010.

Maryland is going to go to the NIT. All I really want to see is the two young stars Williams and Stoglin prevent them from completely rolling-over dead in the first round, and get a win or two.

It is unlikely that anyone could help Towson at this point, short of an absolute miracle.

The NFL is still not likely to be playing games the week after Labor Day, and the two sides could end up not just killing the golden goose, but pan-frying it in some flour and butter, making a couple nice side dishes, and taking a dump on the whole meal before force-feeding it to the fans.

Still, it's March. It is spring, and spring is a time to dream.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Watch out Baltimore, here comes trouble!

I had high hopes for this blog when it started. I was really honored when I was invited to contribute to it by someone I barely knew from a message board and thought the concept was great and so true to my experience as a lifelong Baltimore sports fan. Unfortunately, as so often happens in the blogging world, after a few months people's real lives got in the way of their virtual ambitions and the blogging ground to a halt.

A few days ago, I hadn't thought of this blog in probably a year. When I did think of it, I checked and noticed the last post was in July. I also noticed the blog owner had unfriended me on Facebook. This place was dead as a doornail. But...

I'm moving back to Baltimore! I'm going to be able to see Camden Yards from my apartment and M&T Bank Stadium from my office. The Ravens won a close game today on the back of my Rutgers buddy Ray Rice and the Steelers lost an equally tight one, leaving them tied for the division lead with two games left. My beloved Retrievers are 0-11 after going 4-26 last year. I'm feeling the BIC and I want to blog again! Will anybody else join me?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

....and they wonder how it all begins

Tonight as I sat in front of the TV, I am again sitting here listening to ESPN (for the 2nd day in a row) broadcast that "...Nobody knows if or when Brett will return to play football again!" REALLY??!?! You're joking, right??

Having lived in the aura of Brett Favre and everything Brett Favre, I get sick and tired of every year this long drawn out process of ESPN devoting daily updates on Brett Favre. Its sickens me, because all it does is give him a reason to make his head bigger than it already is.

YES, he is a great quarterback
YES, he did great in Green Bay
YES, he will get into the Hall of Fame at some point
NO, I DONT need to know his every move or whether or not he might or might not show up for pre-season. If he does, GREAT! If he doesn't, ESPN just gained 3-4 minutes of air time they can devote to more important issues, like Jennie Finch, Cat Ostrenga, and the US Softball team, or Jamie McMurray winning the Brickyard, making Chip Ganassi the first owner to ever win the Daytona 500, Indy 500, and Brickyard all in the same year, or any of another 23781 sports stories out there....

Enough of the meladrama!

J-Dawg out!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The NFL Draft, in Six Words or Less

1.1 St. Louis: Sam Bradford, quarterback, Oklahoma

Can't go wrong with a quarterback.

1.2 Detroit: Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle, Nebraska

Granite block cornerstone of defense.

1.3 Tampa Bay: Gerald McCoy, defensive tackle, Oklahoma

Too easy: Next Sapp.

1.4 Washington: Trent Williams, offensive tackle, Oklahoma

Potential over safe pick. Course parred.

1.5 Kansas City: Eric Berry, safety, Tennessee

Too bad. Chiefs can't pick defense.

1.6 Seattle: Russell Okung, offensive tackle, Oklahoma State

Blind side protected, whoever it is.

1.7 Cleveland: Joe Haden, cornerback, Florida

Thousand-mile journey starts with step.
1.8 Oakland: Rolando McClain, inside linebacker, Alabama

Great pick. Raiders still blew it.

1.9 Buffalo: C.J. Spiller, running back, Clemson

Marshawn gone. Spiller a thriller.

1.10 Jacksonville: Tyson Alualu, defensive tackle, California

Who the hell is Tyson Alualu?

1.11 San Francisco: Anthony Davis, offensive tackle, Rutgers

Cornerstone number-one from Jersey quarry.

1.12 San Diego: Ryan Matthews, running back, Fresno State

Tomlinson's replacement. Got linebacker in trade.

1.13 Philadelphia: Brandon Graham, defensive end, Michigan

LaMarr Woodley's twin, another Pennsylvania team.

1.14 Seattle: Earl Thomas, safety, Texas

Will play centerfield like Franklin Gutierrez.

1.15 New York Giants: Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive end, South Florida

Boom/bust in defensive lineman's paradise.

1.16 Tennessee: Derrick Morgan, defensive end, Georgia Tech

Freak, Junior.

1.17 San Francisco: Mike Iupati, offensive guard, Idaho

Cornerstone number two rock-hard Samoan.

1.18 Pittsburgh: Maurkice Pouncey, center, Florida

Steelers go line. Stunning (sarcasm).

1.19 Atlanta: Sean Weatherspoon, linebacker, Missouri

Don't call him "Witherspoon".

1.20 Houston: Kareem Jackson, cornerback, Alabama

Could actually send Houston to playoffs.

1.21 Cincinnati: Jermaine Gresham, tight end, Oklahoma

From no weapons to one.

1.22 Denver: Demaryius Thomas, wide receiver, Georgia Tech

Lose receiver problems, gain receiver talent.

1.23 Green Bay: Brian Bulaga, offensive tackle, Iowa

Yet another farm-boy Iowan tackle.

1.24 Dallas: Dez Bryant, wide receiver, Oklahoma State

Second Roy Williams to be replaced.

1.25 Denver: Tim Tebow, athlete, Florida

Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

1.26 Arizona: Dan Williams, defensive tackle, Tennessee

Big weakness filled by big player.

1.27 New England: Devin McCourty, cornerback, Rutgers

New Yorker stolen under Jets' nose.

1.28 Miami: Jared Odrick, defensive tackle, Penn State

Parcells kind-of pick.

1.29 New York Jets: Kyle Wilson, cornerback, Boise State

First team to start four cornerbacks?

1.30 Detroit: Jahvid Best, running back, California

Takes hits, but not well.

1.31 Indianapolis: Jerry Hughes, defensive end/linebacker, Texas Christian

Freeney and Mathis cloned themselves.

1.32 New Orleans: Patrick Robinson, cornerback, Florida State

Won Super Bowl thanks to secondary.

Monday, April 19, 2010

O's 4/18/10

OH MY GAWD!!! WE WON!!!!
Julio "E6" Lugo wasnt in the lineup
We had RUN support! WHAT A CONCEPT!
It was a good day :)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Raves for Ravens' Receivers

Over the course of Ozzie Newsome's tenure as Ravens VP of Player Personnel/General Manager/Man in Charge of the Team, there has been very little to complain about. The organization has been one of the best at both drafting players and finding undrafted talent. There hasn't been a major mistake made in free agency. Even the one time the team really had a purge, 2002, the Ravens were in position for a potential playoff berth with two games left while having the youngest team in league history.

However, two main issues come up time and time again throughout the fifteen-year run* of the Ravens in Baltimore.

1. The inability of the organization to find or develop a quality, long-term quarterback.
2. The inability of the organization to find or develop a quality, deep-threat receiver.

*I say the whole run, though that really isn't true. The Ravens came to Baltimore, of course, with Vinny Testaverde at quarterback and two quality receivers in Derrick Alexander and The Other Michael Jackson. The receivers didn't stick for very long, however, and it's always a good argument how much of a "quality" quarterback ol' Interceptiverde was.

With the drafting and development of Joe Flacco into at-worst a league-average quarterback in two years, I think it's obvious the first complaint has been erased, hopefully for the next decade. That still leaves the receiver issue, and that may have been erased by Friday's trade for Anquan Boldin.

Of the Ravens' nine 1,000-yard receiving seasons, seven of them belong to three players: Alexander, Jackson and Derrick Mason. Mason has been arguably the best individual free-agent signing in team history, with a shade under 5,000 yards for his career with the Ravens, and about 80 more than second-place Todd Heap. He has been the primary receiving weapon on the team over his five years as Heap struggled over the two years previous to 2009. But besides him, there hasn't been much to speak of.

Just the fact that Mark Clayton is third on the team's receiving list, almost 1,800 yards behind Heap, should tell us what we need to know about the receiving situation.

It isn't for lack of effort. The Ravens have drafted 15 receivers in the 14 drafts of their existence. Only linebackers (17) and defensive backs (19) have received more focus, and the team has been far more successful with those positions.

The Ravens have even drafted their receivers earlier than other positions: on average, in the late-third and early-fourth rounds of the draft. By comparison, they average their offensive tackles in the late-second; guards and ends in the mid-to-late-third; defensive backs and tackles in the late-third, early-fourth; linebackers and running backs in the early-fourth; fullbacks mid-to-late-fourth; quarterbacks, punters and centers in the late-fourth and early-fifth; and tight ends in the early-fifth.

However, as of 2009 the only receivers drafted by the Ravens still in the league (having a reception listed on Pro-Football-Reference.com) are Clayton and Demetrius Williams of the Ravens, Brandon Stokley of the Broncos and Yamon Figurs with Tampa and Detroit

Anquan Boldin, on the other hand, is the third-leading receiver in Arizona Cardinals history. In his rookie year, before Larry Fitzgerald joined the team and as the only weapon for the worst offensive team in the league, he was third in the league in receiving yards and had 2.5-times as many yards as the team's next-leading receiver. He was the first piece in the rebirth of the Cardinals into a consistent contender.

The price was not bad, either. The Ravens have had good luck in the third- and fourth-rounds historically, but they really have had good luck in every round of the draft historically. Getting the fifth-round pick back helps, and the three-year extension to give Boldin essentially $7 million a season is well worth it for a player of his caliber.

He's not without his flaws, though. He's also going to be 30 years old and has averaged 2.5 games missed per season for his career*. Despite his great rookie season, ever since he's been in the shadow of Larry Fitzgerald which has likely helped pad his stats at least a little.

*There has already been a lot made of the whole "He's only played a full 16-game schedule twice". However, there are two problems with that.

1) It is rare the football player that plays every game of every season. Just dropping the number to 14 gives him two more seasons, and 12 two more. The real argument is that he's played three-fourths of his games in all but one season.

2) Even while hurt he still gets his yards. In 2008, for example, he put up a 1,000-yard receiving season in only 12 games.


Having Boldin for 3/4 of a season is as good as most receivers for a full year. And even if he does get hurt, Donte Stallworth is pretty good insurance.


In addition, despite the addition of Stallworth (who comes with his own set of talents and issues), the Ravens right now don't have a number #2 receiver. Derrick Mason is a free agent, and may or may not be returning to Baltimore. So another receiver is a must.

Boldin is a critical step, though. The Ravens simply have never had a receiver with his combination of size, speed, and actual production. This is not the last move that needs to be made to help the Ravens get over the hump from a playoff team to a Super Bowl team, but it is about as good a first move as could be made.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Shallow Thoughts

- If I make it to Punxsutawney, PA, before the present groundhog becomes the late groundhog, I plan on speeding up that process due to the "six more weeks" of the 2010 winter. Just gives me more reason to move to San Diego.

- At least it's spring in Sarasota, the new and hopefully permanent home of the Orioles for both their spring training and minor-league operations. There even seems to be more upbeat news coming out of the camp so far this spring, although that may just be that famed eternal spring of hope clouding my vision.

- I think that we need to get Nielson "people-meters" attached to as many TVs as possible. I find it very, very hard to believe that so many more people want to watch ice dancing than ice hockey that NBC feels the need to show the former on the main network and the latter on a cable channel at the same time.

- Speaking of the Olympics, I am very glad for the inclusion of Stephan Colbert into the coverage, both on NBC and for his own show. It isn't just for his own comedic brilliance. In the time he spent with Bob Costas in both settings, he managed to bring out the Bob Costas that I love to watch and listen to*, and that NBC has managed to beat into submission.

*That he managed to do so without hitting "You're excited! Feel these nipples!"-level ridiculousness** is testament to his abilities.

**Though the moose-riding thing was close.

- Say what you will about Ralph Freidgen*, his coaching and his ability to recruit, but there's one thing that can't be denied: he knows how to develop athletes for the NFL. Since Bruce Campbell is being projected as a likely late-first-round pick, if he goes as expected the Terps will have had a player picked in the first two rounds in every draft under Freidgen since 2003, except 2008.

2009 - Darrius Heyward-Bey (First round, seventh overall)
2007 - Josh Wilson (Second round, 55th overall)
2006 - Vernon Davis (First round, sixth overall); D'Qwell Jackson (Second round, 34th overall)
2005 - Shawne Merriman (First round, 12th overall)
2004 - Madieu Williams (Second round, 56th overall)
2003 - E.J. Henderson (Second round, 40th overall)

*I will have the decency to not repeat much of what has been said about him.

- Has the University of Maryland ever had a basketball player like Greivis Vasquez? Usually he's the kind of guy who ends up playing for Duke and getting things thrown at him after games at the Comcast Center. I like having one of "those guys" playing for my team for once, and I honestly think the fact that I've rooted against those guys for so long makes me appreciate him more.

- As a side thought, there's no doubt in my mind that Vasquez deserves his name and number in the Comcast Center rafters. I don't want to get into one of those "Well, if *insert questionable name* is in, so should *other questionable name*" debates, whether in retired numbers or Halls of Fame or elsewhere. So, I'll just say that I'd gladly take down Steve Francis' number if they need the space.

- The Orioles are going to win 84 games this season. The Ravens will draft  Demaryius Thomas with the 25th pick in the draft, Rob Gronkowski in the second and Nate Allen in the third rounds. And the Terps will make the ACC Championship game and the Elite Eight.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Newest Oriole -- Miguel Tejada (Take Two...)

2009 Stats
674 plate appearances.
.313 batting average, .340 on-base percentage, .455 slugging percentage.
14 home runs, 86 runs batted in, 83 runs scored, 46 doubles.

2010 Projected Stats available at FanGraphs.com.

The "take two" is a very appropriate thing to say when it comes to Miguel Tejada resigning with the Orioles after a two-season stop-over in Houston.

In the movies, a director can have a scene all planned out. All of the props and extras can be in place, all of the cameras and equipment ready to go, and all of the actors on set with their lines. However, once "Action!" is spoken, bad things can happen. Not right away, but as the scene progresses. A prop falls down. An extra looks at the camera. An actor flubs a critical line. Even if a minor flaw or two can be tolerated, eventually something happens that makes the director yell "Cut!"

When that happens, all there is left to do is figure out what went wrong. Shuffle and replace those props and extras. Send the actor to their trailer for a while. If things are going particularly poorly, fire the director and start again. But sometimes, everything will come back to trying the scene over again, and the director saying, "Take two."

This is Miguel Tejada's Take Two. His part may not be as big as it was the first time around, and will change significantly, but it is still critical both to the present and future of the Orioles.

He will switch positions. The Orioles have Cesar Izturis at shortstop for the 2010 season, and even if his offense brings back memories of Mark Belanger, his defense...well, brings back memories of Mark Belanger. So, Tejada will play third base. It won't be the first time he has played there; according to The Baseball Cube, he played one game at third for High-Single-A Modesto back in 1996. But the experiences of former Orioles like Cal Ripken and Melvin Mora, and others who made the SS-3B switch like Alex Rodriguez, suggest that it will take at least half of the season for Tejada to acclimate to the position 50 feet to his right.

He also may or may not bat in the cleanup spot in the Orioles' lineup. He started 331 out of a possible 642 games in the cleanup spot from 2004 through 2007, more than half. That was with guys like Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa in the lineup, and Ramon Hernandez and Jay Gibbons also batting there significantly.With Matt Wieters expected to start putting up power numbers and Nolan Reimold already doing so last season in limited time, though, he might not end the season there.

There is also the looming shadow of Josh Bell that will reach from Norfolk to Baltimore this spring and summer. He is the heir apparent, the Prince of Wales, the Vice President, and the reason Tejada received a one-year deal. Even Garrett Atkins has an option for 2011.

Bell is almost assured of a full (or at least to September) season at Triple-A. If he is putting up Wietersian numbers* while Tejada declines with the bat and struggles with the glove, through, there could be a swell of support to see him promoted sooner rather than later.

*Of course, Wieters himself put up those "Wietersian" numbers at High-Single-A and Double-A. He was hitting well at Triple-A when he was called up last season after a slow start.

On a personal note, I am very happy to see Tejada in an Orioles uniform again. I always liked him as a player, I was happy when he came back in town with the Astros in 2008 (though I was happier that the Orioles swept the series). And I am happy once again.

And no, I haven't forgotten all of the performance-enhancing drug issues. Or the Mitchell Report.

Action*.

*Yes, I know it is a cliche. I really don't care, unless you have a better ending. I didn't think so.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Prove it, Andy.

This offseason, Andy MacPhail was interviewed by Steve Melewski from MASNsports.com and he was asked if he'd ever offer a big contract to a FA under the "right" circumstances :

His answer:

"We've already done it. Did it last year."

It is referring to the Tex saga where the Orioles offered around 140 million which was the lowest offer out of all the initial offers given.

So fast forward to this offseason.

The O's are looking for a RH bat to hit in the cleanup spot, and would prefer that bat would be at 1B. Unfortunately there was no difference making bat that would meet all of that criteria.

Two bats that fit the majority of that description were Jason Bay and Matt Holliday.

The Orioles weren't interested in Bay, but Holliday on the other hand they "checked into" and supposedly "checked out" once they found out he wouldn't sign for 75 million.

Well there's a shocker. Holliday was going to get more than 75 million? Who would have thought that a guy who was worth 5.7 WAR last season, had multple All Star appearances and won the Silver Slugger three times, and is a Boras client to boot wouldn't sign for 75 million or less?

Apparently Andy MacPhail...

Now granted Boras was asking for 8/180 at the time, but you still don't go looking to sign somebody for less than half their original asking price...

But here's the kicker, Holliday's market is pretty much the St Louis Cardinals after most teams refused to pursue Holliday due to lack of payroll room, so now he's lowered his demands from 8/180 to something a little more reasonable after Bay is off the market and he's getting antsy.

But have the Orioles checked back in?

MacPhail vehemently denied a Fox Sports report of a 8/130 offer indicating he did just that.

Now I doubt that offer is realistic, but the Orioles should still be involved, because normally, Holliday would be getting a 7/140 offer, the same offer that the Orioles offered to Teixeira last season, but he's not, and therefore he's actually somewhat of a reasonable signing.

Now seeing as MacPhail loves bargains, a reasonable signing for slightly less than normal market value would seem like something he would be all over.

He could slot Holliday in the cleanup spot for the next couple of years at least until somebody like Wieters, Jones or Reimold would prove they were ready to take that slot, or if they were to acquire more of a power hitter and then Holliday could be moved up or down.

But regardless Holliday would fit most of the critera you would think MacPhail would be looking for to add to this team and lineup. He's RH, has a career .928 OPS in the cleanup spot and can be signed for below normal market value.

So isn't this the "right" circumstance to try add a bat? And didn't MacPhail say they would?

It's time to prove it.

Sign Matt Holliday Andy, and back up your words with an action, because if Holliday isn't the "right" circumstance, then I don't think any future FA bat will be under your tenure.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Look At Your 2010 Baltimore Orioles...As Of December 2009

The 2009-10 off-season is about 60% over. Spring training is only a month-and-a-half away, and most of the major moves teams are expected to make have come and gone.

Though there are still plenty of things to come, it's time to figure out where the Orioles stand going into this upcoming season. Position by position.

Catcher:

The Incumbent: Matt Wieters

The Competition: None

The Backup: Chad Moeller

The Competition: Craig Tatum, Michael Hernandez, Adam Donachie

The Prospect: Caleb Joseph

There's no real competition for the catcher position for the first time since Charles Johnson. Wieters is the superstar-in-waiting and will likely man this position for the next couple years barring injury, no matter what kind of production he actually puts up.

Moeller impressed the team in the second half of last season after the Zaun trade, enough to bring him back on a minor-league deal. Unless another catcher comes available via trade or release, the backup spot is already filled.

In the future, though, the Orioles may have an interesting decision to make regarding Caleb Joseph. A seventh-round pick out of Lipscomb University in 2008, Joseph had a .744 OPS in Aberdeen in his first season, followed by a breakout .787 season in Frederick in 2009. He has jumped into the team's Top-Ten prospect lists from most media outlets, and could eventually either end up the backup in Baltimore or, if the team decides to try and keep Wieters from wearing down and moves him to another position, the starter.

First Base:

The Incumbent: Ty Wigginton

The Competition: Michael Aubrey, Luke Scott, Brandon Snyder

The Backup: Aubrey

The Competition: Rhyne Hughes

The Prospect: Snyder

First base is one of the biggest holes that the Orioles still have to fill. Wigginton will go into the season as the starter-by-default, if no other moves are made. Despite his abilities, hitting 20 home runs for three straight seasons before signing in Baltimore, his ability to play multiple positions with at least passable defense makes him much more valuable to the team as a utility player.

Aubrey was picked up after his release midseason from the Cleveland organization, and performed well in a short call-up with the major-league club at the end of 2009. However the minor-league resume for the former eleventh-overall pick in 2003, particularly his career .753 OPS in over 1500 PAs between Double- and Triple-A, doesn't offer encouragement for a repeat over a full major-league season.

Luke Scott started eight games at first base in 2009, playing the position for the first time since Single-A in 2002, but the team has showed no desire to place him there full-time. Rhyne Hughes was the player acquired for Greg Zaun, and who is apparently so irrelevant that Baseball-Reference.com doesn't even have a page for him.

The general expectation is that Brandon Snyder is the future first baseman for the Orioles. The 13th-overall pick in 2005, Snyder had some injury problems early in his career before moving back to the front of the prospect pack in 2008 and having a Wietersian first-half of 2009 in Bowie. After batting .343 with a 1.000+ OPS in AA, he fell off to a .671 OPS after his promotion to Norfolk, but he could be ready to take over in Baltimore as soon as this June.

Second Base:

The Incumbent: Brian Roberts

The Prospect: Justin Turner

Position #2 that is set going into 2010: Brian Roberts has a four-year extension starting this season through 2013, and unlike a lot of players on a lit of teams, that's not a bad thing. He will be 32 the entire 2010 season, and has averaged 157 games played over the past three seasons. So, there really isn't much of a backup in place on the team: Cesar Izturis can slide over if needed for a short period.

For a longer period the team would likely turn to Justin Turner, who is also a candidate to win the utility infielder job in spring training. Acquired from Cincinnati before the 2009 season as part of the Ramon Hernandez deal, Turner hit .300 (even) in Norfolk with a .749 OPS before a 22-plate appearance stint in Baltimore in September. He played mostly third while in the majors, but also played some at shortstop in AAA.

Shortstop:

The Incumbent: Cesar Izturis

The Backup: Robert Andino

The Competition: Justin Turner, Blake Davis

The Prospect: Mychal Givens

Izturis was signed to be a defensive shortstop to help the young pitching staff. In that role, he was successful in 2009: using the Ultimate Zone Rating stat from FanGraphs, he was the second-best defensive shortstop in baseball, saving almost eleven runs above the average shortstop. However, offense was not part of his deal, nor was it an unexpected surprise as he put up a .622 OPS; second-lowest among shortstops with at least 400 plate appearances last season.

Robert Andino was acquired for former hyped prospect Hayden Penn at the end of spring training in 2009 to be the primary backup infielder. After a couple years of decent numbers in the minors, Andino struggled adjusting to the majors with a .562 OPS in 215 plate appearances.

In addition to Turner, Blake Davis will be waiting in AAA if he is needed. His prospect status took a hit in 2009 due to injuries and offensive issues, but he is known for his defense and any improvement in the upcoming season could get him to Baltimore as a backup.

Mychal Givens has yet to see a professional pitch, but Baseball America named him one of the Orioles' top ten prospects for 2010. He won't be in Baltimore for a while, but as a second-round pick known for his defense he's someone to watch for.

Third Base:

The Incumbent: None

The Competition: Garrett Atkins, Ty Wigginton

The Backup: Wigginton

The Prospect: Josh Bell

Third base is the one position with no true incumbent starter with Melvin Mora moving on. Although Wigginton saw significant playing time at the position his defense was not received well via either eyeball or statistic.

Garrett Atkins was signed to a one-year deal worth a minimum of $4.5 million, with a 2011 option, to try and find his hitting stroke. After putting up an .846 OPS in four years as the Rockies' third baseman, his numbers collapsed to a .650 OPS as he lost his job. The other main question with him is how much of his offense was due to playing in Denver, with his career .735 OPS on the road. He also doesn't grade out as a good third baseman in the statistics, averaging a minus-five UZR per 150 games.

No matter who is at third, though, the expectation is that by midseason they will be supplanted by Josh Bell. The main piece the Orioles received in the George Sherrill deal, Bell put up a .892 OPS and 20 home runs in his split-AA season last year, including .917 in 127 Bowie plate appearances. Much like Matt Wieters in 2009, he will most likely start the year in Norfolk, but will be up in Baltimore playing everyday as soon as his play allows.

Left Field:

The Incumbent: Nolan Reimold

The Competition: Felix Pie, Luke Scott

The Backup: Pie

The most intriguing battle of the 2010 season in Baltimore could be who will take over the left field job for good. Entering 2009, Luke Scott was the incumbent, but was already penciled in as the DH due to the arrival of Felix Pie from the Cubs. By the end of May, Nolan Reimold was up from Norfolk and playing everyday while Pie languished on the bench. By the end of the season, Pie turned his year around with an .842 second-half OPS to finish at .763 on the year, while Reimold had put up an .831 OPS and 15 home runs while receiving some Rookie of the Year consideration before getting hurt in September.

Reimold is likely to start the season as the starter, with Pie as the backup for all three outfield positions.

Center Field:

The Incumbent: Adam Jones

The Backup: Felix Pie

The Prospect: Matt Angle

All-Star. Gold Glove. OPS increased by 81 points. Home run total more than doubled.

It's pretty safe to say that the Orioles have their center fielder for the next half-decade or more. In addition, Jones has appeared more and more in advertising for the Orioles, as one of the faces of the franchise. Pie arguably is even better defensively in center field, so if he turns into a starter on his own that would become a very interesting debate for the years ahead.

Matt Angle was a seventh-round pick out of Ohio State in 2007. In three years, he's advanced as far as Double-A on the strength of defense and plate discipline, both named best in the entire system by Baseball America recently, and 113 stolen bases. He has almost no power, but a great defensive outfielder that can get on-base and steal others will always have value.

Right Field:

The Incumbent: Nick Markakis

The Backup: Felix Pie

Nick Markakis struggled last season, at least by his standards. His power and on-base numbers fell, and most statistical measures of his defense declined as well. However, he signed a six-year extension before last season, so he's going to get every chance to get back on-track. It does help that he was arguably the best right fielder in the league in 2008.

Designated Hitter:

The Incumbent: Luke Scott

The Backup: Nolan Reimold

Luke Scott has hit 48 home runs over two years with the Orioles. Four of them have landed on Eutaw Street. For a player who is still in his arbitration years and will only make $4-5 million in 2010, those are really attractive numbers. In fact, many of the fan discussions about improving the team have started with trading Scott because of his value. At 31, but only five years in the majors, there are plenty of debatable points around whether he is worth more as production on the team, or as a trade piece for something the team needs.

Starting Rotation:

The Starters: Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman

The Competition: David Hernandez, Jason Berken, Jake Arrieta

The Prospects: Arrieta, Zach Britton

Acquired from the Rangers for Chris Ray, Kevin Millwood is expected to act as the veteran leader on the staff. His role is to take pressure off both the bullpen as well as the other starters. Jeremy Guthrie hopes to rebound from a 2009 season where his ERA jumped almost a run-and-a-half and he led the league in home runs allowed.

Brad Bergesen was the true surprise of the 2009 season, riding his ability to induce ground balls to a 3.43 ERA, the lowest among any Oriole who started a game. He was a Rookie of the Year candidate before, like Reimold, he got hurt. Brian Matusz is still officially a prospect, the team's top prospect and one of the top in baseball in fact, and is likely going to be one of the top Rookie of the Year candidates going into 2010. Especially when he went 3-0 with 21 innings pitched, 15 strikeouts and a 2.57 ERA in his final three starts. Chris Tillman struggled more than Matusz did but he also showed plenty of flashes of his talent after blowing away the International League through most of the season.

David Hernandez and Jason Berken spent long stretches of 2009 in the rotation, though with less success than the other rookies. Both put up great numbers in the high minors, with Hernandez a strikeout machine and Berken showing good control, so both could end up in the bullpen to start the season with injuries giving them their shot.

Jake Arrieta split 2009 between Double- and Triple-A. He had a combined 3.40 ERA in 150 2/3 innings between the two levels, striking out more than a better per inning in Bowie. Zach Britton was this season's breakout pitching star. A third-round pick out of Weatherford (TX) High School in 2006, he pitched 140 innings for Frederick to the tune of a 2.70 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP with a 2.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Bullpen:

The Closer: Mike Gonzalez

The Setup: Jim Johnson

The Guarantees: Koji Uehara, Cla Meredith

The Competition: David Hernandez, Jason Berken, Kameron Mickolio, Dennis Sarfate, Matt Albers, Jim Miller, Luis Lebron, among many.

The Orioles started the 2008 and 2009 seasons with a lefty closer in his 30s, so they went back to what had been working for them. Mike Gonzalez last closed full-time in 2006 with Pittsburgh. However, he pitched to a 2.81 ERA over three seasons with Atlanta, allowed 1.22 baserunners per inning, and 2.67 strikeouts for every walk. At the very least, a good performance could lead to a George Sherrill-like trade over the next two years.

Jim Johnson was up-and-down taking over the closing role for Sherrill, but he excelled in the setup role the previous season-and-a-half. Koji Uehara would be a rotation candidate if he could show more endurance, so he'll get the opportunity to show off in the bullpen. Cla Meredith came over in July from San Diego and pitched to a 3.77 ERA.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Baltimore Ravens All-Decade Team - 2000-2009

The Ravens have had a considerably more-successful ten years than the previous team I made a list for. So, it would make sense that naming their All-Decade team would be a somewhat easier undertaking despite having twice as many spots to fill.

The Offense:

Quarterbacks: Joe Flacco (Starter); Trent Dilfer, Kyle Boller.

This might be the most interesting position to judge. A hallmark of the Ravens' success over the past decade, as well as the cause of many of the ills, has been the lack of a top, or often even a truly competent, quarterback.

This list will be out before the official end of the 2009 season on January 3. Because of that, it is not yet known whether the Ravens defeated Oakland to make the playoffs, or choked and gave the spot away. For the purposes of the list, however, I will assume victory for the simple reason that it will make Flacco the only Ravens quarterback to lead the team to consecutive playoff appearances. That accomplishment alone gives him the top spot.

Dilfer and Steve McNair battle for the number-two spot. Despite only playing in fifteen total games, Dilfer was the quarterback who led the Ravens to their Super Bowl victory in 2000. He gets to play the role he was expected to when he was signed, as well as what he did generally after leaving the team: quality backup and mentor to a young quarterback.

McNair, however, gets bumped from the team in an executive decision. No telling of the story of the Ravens this past decade would be complete without the sidebar Saga of Kyle Boller. He was expected to be what Joe Flacco is becoming, a franchise quarterback that can do more than simply manage a set of weapons. His six years as a Raven gives him the edge over two up-and-down years from McNair, and there really isn't another competitor for the spot.

Running Back: Jamal Lewis (Starter); Ray Rice, Chester Taylor

For six years, starting with the Super Bowl year in 2000 and only skipping 2001 when he was hurt on the first day of training camp, the Ravens offense went through Jamal Lewis first*. His 2066-yard 2003 season was the best of five 1000-plus-yard seasons with the Ravens. However, his 2004 mid-season suspension, and subsequent off-season incarceration, for a drug conviction left a bad taste in many fans' mouths, especially when he came back less athletic and more hesitant the next season.

*The offense then proceeded through Jamal Lewis second, Todd Heap third, Jamal Lewis fourth, and Chester Taylor or *insert backup here* fifth.

My backups were almost reversed. Chester Taylor was the primary backup from 2002 through 2005 when he left for a big money contract in Minnesota (and where he quickly became the primary backup to another dominant back in Adrian Peterson). However, he never was the official starter for the team (eight starts in five seasons, including the four Lewis missed in 2004), and Ray Rice has already passed him on the franchise rushing list.

Rice has, in two years, gone from Rutgers star to generally ignored second-round-pick to primary change-of-pace back on a championship contender to starter to legitimate NFL star. And the way things look right now there's a good chance he leads the same list in 2019.

Fullback: Le'Ron McClain (Starter); Ovie Mughelli

Fullback is a difficult position to judge. The primary job is to act as a blocker, both for the quarterback and the running back. However, they also need to be weapons as runners and as receivers, and those are the areas where stats are available.

Both on the list started as almost-exclusively blockers and special-teams players but evolved into weapons. McClain was the most dramatic with his 900-plus-yard season in 2008 as the primary rushing option. Mughelli in 2006 became a dump-off option out of the backfield and finished with 121 yards and two touchdowns catching the ball.

Wide Receiver: Derrick Mason and Travis Taylor (Starters); Mark Clayton, Qadry Ismail, Brandon Stokley

The interesting thing is, if you asked Ravens fans for their nightmare scenario involving receivers, it wouldn't be that different*. Derrick Mason is the no-brainer, best receiver in franchise history, whether it is by receptions, yards, or touchdowns. Mark Clayton is actually ahead of Travis Taylor in receptions and yards, but Taylor bumps him down to the slot position due to more touchdowns and a higher yards-per-reception.

*There likely would be Patrick Johnsons and Clarance Moores involved, but some of the same suspects would be there.

Qadry Ismail and Brandon Stokley were the two real receiving weapons on the 2000 Super Bowl team, though Patrick Johnson and Taylor both started over Stokley. Ismail was the leading receiver (at receiver), and Stokley had the biggest single play of the Super Bowl itself.

Tight End: Todd Heap (Starter); Shannon Sharpe, Daniel Wilcox

Another of those no-brainer categories. Todd Heap has been the one constant* on the Ravens' offense since 2001. He is the franchise leader in receptions and receiving touchdowns, and second to Mason in receiving yards.

*Despite his struggles with injuries, and his occasional disappearance from the offense in recent years, "constant" does seem a little overblown. Maybe. Though my sister and several hundred thousand Maryland women would kill me if they heard such blasphemy.

Despite only two years on the team, Shannon Sharpe was the top receiving weapon for the only Ravens teams to make back-to-back playoff appearances. He still ranks ninth on the franchise receiving yards' list, and eighth in receptions. Daniel Wilcox wins a tight battle over Terry Jones due to his five years on the team.

Tackles: Jonathon Ogden (Left) and Orlando Brown (Right); Jared Gaither and Tony Pashos.

Was there any doubt? Jonathon Ogden is arguably the greatest left tackle in the history of the league, and as the principle of protecting the quarterback's blind side has become better understood his skills (along with his size and athletic ability, of course) have become more appreciated. He went into the Ravens' Ring of Honor almost immediately after he retired.

Orlando Brown spent two three-year stints with the Ravens, and his time in the 2000s saw both dominant play as well as stupid on-field decisions. With the revolving door opposite Ogden, though, he is at worst the best of mediocrity and at best a great player with great flaws.

Because of both Ogden's consistent brilliance and the opposite at right tackle, there isn't much available for backups. Pashos developed into a quality right tackle right before he left in free agency. Gaither is the present left tackle and has done a very good job stepping into Ogden's shoes, but in another year would likely be passed by the skilled play of Michael Oher.

Guards: Edwin Mulitalo (left) and Bennie Anderson (right); Ben Grubbs

Edwin Mulitalo was literally Ogden's right-hand man. For six years in the decade, they were the left side wall that gave Jamal Lewis the opportunity to work his own magic. He also became a fan-favorite for his gimmicks (radio appearances and much of the idea behind "Festivus" in 2000) and his charity work.

As solid as the left side of the line was as a whole, the right side saw quite a few issues over the decade. Bennie Anderson started at right guard for four years, and did a competent job (despite my personal dislike to the point of hearing "Holding, 66 on the offense, ten-yard penalty" in my nightmares).

In his three seasons with the Ravens, Ben Grubbs has become a Pro-Bowl lineman and played well at both guard positions.

Center: Mike Flynn (Starter); Jason Brown

Both started at guard before moving inside. Mike Flynn spent seven seasons as the primary center for the Ravens after playing right guard on the 2000 team. When he left, Jason Brown moved over from left guard and spent a stellar 2008 at center before getting a big-money deal with St. Louis.

The Defense:

Defensive Ends: Michael McCrary and Terrell Suggs (Starters); Anthony Weaver, Trever Pryce

Michael McCrary was the first Ravens player, aside from Earnest Byner, inducted into the Ravens' Ring of Honor. His career ended early in the decade, but he was a defensive catalyst on the 2000 team and had 16 sacks in the 2000s.

Terrell Suggs has spent the majority of his career as a linebacker due to the 3-4 defense, but I'm making him a 4-3 end to help fit some additional players in. He is currently second in sacks (first in the decade) and sixth in tackles in franchise history.

Anthony Weaver was a four-year starter at end before moving on to Houston. Trever Pryce came over from Denver in 2006 and has 26 sacks in those four seasons.

Defensive Tackles: Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg (Starters); Tony Siragusa, Sam Adams

The pair of tackles that started the decade, and the pair that finished. Haloti Ngata is regarded as one of the dominant players in the NFL at his position four years into his career. Kelly Gregg came to the Ravens as a free agent in 2001 and has become a seven-year starter and fan favorite.

Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams were the anchors that allowed the rest of the front seven to have one of the best defensive seasons ever.

Linebackers: Adalius Thomas (Left), Ray Lewis (Middle), Peter Boulware (Right); Jamie Sharper, Ed Hartwell, Bart Scott

Adalius Thomas started out as a standout special-teams player before famously acting as a jack-of-all-trades in the 46 defense Rex Ryan installed. His 32 sacks in four years as a starting linebacker got him big money from New England.

Ray Lewis doesn't really need an explanation*.

*Seriously, he doesn't.

Peter Boulware is the franchise leader in sacks, and is second to Suggs in the 2000s. He was the second Raven inducted into the Ring of Honor.

Jamie Sharper was the "other" linebacker on the 2000 and 2001 Ravens before being picked in the expansion draft, but is still seventh in tackles. Ed Hartwell and Bart Scott both made their names replacing Lewis while he was hurt, than both played the other inside linebacker with him for several years before moving on in free agency.

Cornerbacks: Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle (Starters); Duane Starks, Gary Baxter

Chris McAlister leads Ravens cornerbacks in basically every category, up to and including insanity. In the 2000s, he was one of the top cornerbacks in the entire NFL, let alone in Baltimore. Samari Rolle came in after a series of cornerbacks through the middle of the decade, and had an up-and-down time both on and off the field.

Duane Starks was arguably a better corner than Rolle, and helped win a Super Bowl. However, Rolle was here twice as long, with just as many trips to the playoffs. Gary Baxter split time between safety and cornerback, but was a quality player at both spots*.

*And whenever I think of him I remember his ads for his radio show: "You can NEVER get enough of Gary Baxter. That gives him credit over anyone else.

Safeties: Ed Reed (Strong) and Rod Woodson (Free); Dawan Landry, Chad Williams

Right now, the Ravens have three former players* in their Ring of Honor. In addition to those, I can count at least eight other players that likely deserve enshrinement. A couple of them are likely Hall of Famers, including Reed. The franchise leader in interceptions and defensive touchdowns, and could finish the season by passing McAlister for second on the overall tackles list.

Rod Woodson was the leader of the 2000 defense. Despite only two years in the decade, he still managed seven picks and 123 tackles in that time. Even his legacy as a Steeler can't bump him down.

Dawan Landry has been a four-year starter at safety, discounting his mostly-injured year in 2008, and is already sixth on the interception list. Chad Williams even surprised me, but in his four years backing up Reed he had eight picks, 138 tackles and 4.5 sacks, and even recovered four fumbles.

Special Teams:

Kicker: Matt Stover

Did I say eight in the Ring of Honor? Make that nine.

Punter: Sam Koch

Both Sam Koch and Dave Zastudil punted four years in the 2000s*, but Koch leads in total yardage and yards per punt.

*Interestingly enough, Kyle Richardson also punted four years for the Ravens. Only two were in the decade, though.

Returns: B.J. Sams

I really, REALLY wanted to just give this spot to Jermaine Lewis. However, not only did Sams act as the primary returner for three years in the decade, he handled both kicks and punts in that time. At least it didn't have to be Lamont Brightful.

***

So that's the Ravens. Even left three spots for special-teamers.

The Baltimore Orioles All-Decade Team - 2000-2009

As the end of the decade approaches (unless you are one of those "the decade starts with 2011!" folks, in which case you are wrong) there have been a veritable bevy of "All-Decade" lists. Since this is Baltimore, I decided to do some of my own, starting with the All-Decade team for the O's.

You can either take this as an overly depressing reminder of how bad the '00s were for the O's*. Or, you can see it as proof that the moves the franchise is making are bringing about a much brighter decade in the Twenty-Teens.

*When I posted this on OriolesHangout.com, I also did a very quick and dirty estimation using the WAR (wins above-replacement) numbers at FanGraphs.com. I came up with a total of 43 WAR for the team below, and with a replacement-level (meaning a player with abilities that can easily be found for the minimum salary on the free-agent market or in higher-level minor leagues) team being expected to win around 40 games, that means the team below would finish with somewhere around 83 wins. In other words, the best Orioles of the past ten years would likely still be a fourth-place team in our own division.

Starting Nine:


Catcher: Ramon Hernandez

Started three years, 383 total games. Averaged .264 with 47 home runs and a 97 OPS+.

Only four catchers caught more than 100 games for the Orioles in the 2000s - Hernandez, Javy Lopez, Brook Fordyce, and Geronimo Gil. Ramon caught 54 more games, or 1/3 of a season, more than Lopez, and with a better defensive reputation. That, along with his bat, fell throughout his time in Baltimore, however.

Matt Wieters is fifth on the list with 97 games caught, for the record.

First Base: Jeff Conine

Started three-plus years, 612 total games. Averaged .288 with 57 home runs and a 110 OPS+*.

It basically came down to Conine and Kevin Millar. Conine played almost 200 more games with the Orioles in the decade, 84 more at first base, and had better offensive numbers across the board.

Second Base: Brian Roberts

Started seven years, 1135 games. Averaged .284 with 77 home runs and a 105 OPS+.

There is no other contender. A candidate for Most Valuable Oriole for the 2000s.

Third Base: Melvin Mora

Started six years, 1256 games. Averaged .280 with 158 home runs and a 109 OPS+.

The only other Orioles to play 150 games at third base in the decade were Tony Batista and Cal Ripken. And I think I would even pick the Iron Man over Ol' Foot In The Bucket.

Shortstop: Miguel Tejada

Started four years, 619 games. Averaged .311 with 102 home runs and a 124 OPS+.

Just like the previous two, there is essentially no competition. Even if you take away points for Tejada's last year-plus in Baltimore and REALLY love Mike Bordick.

Left Field: Larry Bigbie

Starter one-plus years, 352 games. Averaged .271 with 31 home runs and a 96 OPS+.

Now we go in a complete opposite direction: winner by default. He played 258 games in left field for the Orioles. B.J. Surhoff played 236 games in left for the Orioles, but with very similar offensive numbers and, in his late 30s, nowhere near the defensive player.

Center Field: Luis Matos

Starter three-plus years, 494 games. Averaged .256 with 30 home runs and an 82 OPS+.

Had Adam Jones joined the Orioles even a single year earlier, this would be his place. As it is, Matos played far and away the most games (397).

Interestingly enough, going by UZR, Matos had the worst defense of any candidate: -4 UZR/150. Jones, Corey Patterson and even Melvin Mora were all significantly better.

Right Field: Nick Markakis

Starter four years, 626 games. Averaged .298 with 77 home runs and a 119 OPS+.

Markakis player almost 200 more games in right field than Jay Gibbons, with better defense, and overall better offensive numbers despite 150 fewer overall games. However, since we can't ignore his offensive numbers (and because this is my list and I've always liked the guy)...

Designated hitter: Jay Gibbons

Played 779 games. Averaged .260 with 121 home runs and a 101 OPS+.

Aubrey Huff played more games at DH, and had better offensive numbers. But Gibbons spent seven years with the team, and like I said, it's my list.

Bench:

Mike Bordick (Utility Infield)

Played 258 games. Averaged .261 with 31 home runs and a 96 OPS+.

Adam Jones (Utility Outfield)

Played 251 games. Averaged .274 with 28 home runs and a 96 OPS+.

Javy Lopez (Backup Catcher)

Played 321 games. Averaged .293 with 46 home runs and a 112 OPS+.

Aubrey Huff (Pinch Hitter)

Played 415 games. Averaged .282 with 60 home runs and a 112 OPS+.

Two easy picks for the bench. Jones, as I said, was almost the center field choice and is already arguably the face of the franchise going into the next decade. Lopez had an argument for catcher, and he is far and away a better option than Fordyce or Gil. Charles Johnson had a hell of a 2000 season, but I can't give anyone a spot with only 82 games in the entire decade.

I really wanted to put Jerry Hairston in for utility infielder. I really, really did. However, despite playing many fewer games Bordick's offense was so much better, and he played such good defense, that I couldn't do it. In Huff's case, it came down to him versus Millar. They both played almost the same number of games, but Huff was significantly better offensively, and is the guy I would rather have if I needed a run late in the game. He also has the advantage of being able to play more positions than Millar.

Projected Lineup:

2B Roberts
3B Mora
RF Markakis
SS Tejada
1B Conine
DH Gibbons
CA Hernandez
LF Bigbie
CF Matos

Starting Rotation:

Eric Bedard

Seven seasons, 111 starts. 3.83 ERA, 2.52 K/BB and a .541 W%.

Jeremy Guthrie

Three seasons, 89 starts. 4.15 ERA, 2.01 K/BB and a .443 W%.

Rodrigo Lopez

Five seasons, 141 starts. 4.72 ERA, 2.19 K/BB and a .508 W%

Sidney Ponson

Six seasons, 160 starts. 4.84 ERA, 1.80 K/BB and a .453 W%

Daniel Cabrera

Five seasons, 146 starts. 5.05 ERA, 1.36 K/BB and a .449 W%

Seven starting pitchers this decade had at least 35 decisions. The five above, Jason Johnson and Jose Mercedes. I left out those two because Mercedes had far fewer starts than most of the others, and although Johnson had more than Guthrie, his ERA in the decade was almost .6 runs higher.

This also, in my mind, is a better overall fit for the entire decade. It has the best starter early in the decade (Lopez), in the middle (Bedard) and at the end (Guthrie), along with the two guys who had the highest expectations and received the most chances, but ultimately failed.

Bullpen:

Jorge Julio (Closer)

281 games, 4.20 ERA. 83 saves, 1.40 WHIP, 1.36 K/BB.

B.J. Ryan (Setup)

404 games, 3.57 ERA. 42 saves, 1.31 WHIP, 2.39 K/BB.

Chris Ray (Setup)

191 games, 4.11 ERA. 49 saves, 1.37 WHIP, 2.06 K/BB.

Buddy Groom (LOOGY)

330 games, 3.91 ERA. 1.29 WHIP, 2.94 K/BB.

Jim Johnson

120 games, 3.70 ERA. 1.37 WHIP, 2.13 K/BB

Todd Williams

177 games, 4.02 ERA. 1.40 WHIP, 1.45 K/BB.

John Parrish

153 games, 4.52 ERA. 1.70 WHIP, 1.18 K/BB.

Julio gets the nod over Ryan as the closer for two reasons. First, and least important, he was the official "closer" longer than Ryan was. Second, I would rather have Ryan in the seventh- and eighth-inning jam and let Julio get the three outs with the three-run lead. Honestly, though, this would end up more like a closer-by-committee situation, with Ray as the other setup guy.

Buddy Groom was, other than Ryan, the best one-out lefty the Orioles had in the 2000s. Williams and Parrish were the next two leaders in games-pitched. Johnson had fewer games-pitched than some others, however there were several bunched around him and he has pitched so well since coming back up as a reliever he adds balance later in the decade to the 'pen.

***

So that's my team. If I left someone obvious off, or if you disagree with any specific choice, please feel free to discuss it below.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Newest Oriole -- Kevin Millwood

Earlier this afternoon, the Orioles made their first major move of the off-season. The team acquired Kevin Millwood from the Rangers, along with $3 million to cover part of his 2010 salary, for Chris Ray and that oft-traded legend, Player to Be Named Later.

Ray was already a potential roster cut after a 7.27 ERA performance over 43 1/3 innings coming off of Tommy John surgery in 2008. He managed to walk a full batter more per nine innings than his previous career average, and since he had already struggled in 2007 before ending his season early, and will be 28 on Opening Day, he was not a real good bet for a resurrected career. Despite that, this random Internet blogger was always a supporter and hopes to see Ray have a perfect season next year for the Rangers, only losing in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the ALCS to a resurgent Orioles team.

The PTBNL was...well, we don't know yet. And any Oriole fan will tell you that Andy MacPhail has a strange history with those kinds of guys.

The Birds were looking for a veteran starter to stabilize a rotation that saw ten pitchers make at least eight starts in 2009 and was set to have at least three pitchers ages 24-or-younger on Opening Day. Millwood is coming off of a 3.67 ERA year in Texas, which is a feat in itself. However, there is plenty to be worried about with his performance.

In the two seasons previous to last year, Millwood had a 5.12 ERA and averaged 1.6 baserunners allowed per inning. His strikeout rate fell by more than a full K while his walk rate rose. His FIP ERA (Fielding-Independent Pitching, or basically what the pitcher can control himself) last season was 4.80, suggesting that he received a good bit of help from his defense.

Despite the way those numbers look, the Orioles appear to have made a solid move. Any equivalent pitcher on the free agent market would have cost just as much in cash, over multiple years, and likely would have needed even more as a premium to come help build a rotation in Baltimore. Getting Millwood essentially for $9 million over one year is a comparative steal.

The Orioles wanted a starter to hold the fort down as younger pitchers come up and to help get the team into a better position in the short-term to make better moves in the future. They got the guy they wanted. All that's left is to hope the right move was made.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Packers / Ravens Game 12/07/09

Hello from the frozen tundra of Green Bay! Last night, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the Packers/Ravens game. It was 24 degrees at game time. I was about the 20 yard line on the Ravens side of the field.

The first half, the Ravens looked FLAT! I mean, FLAT! I think Flacco's passer rating in the first half was 26.4! They just had nothing in the tank. The Packers werent that great either, but they were connecting from time to time on 15-20 yard scampers. Aaron Rodgers was missing alot of his passes high.

There were a TON of penalties in this game...there were at least 3 Pass Interference Penalties on EACH TEAM of greater than 30 yards. I swear I thought I was watching the rookie team practice or something. On the penalty side, neither team looked good.

HALFTIME Packers 17 - Ravens 0

Third quarter, the Ravens came out QUICK and scored...they looked like they finally showed up for the game! Flacco was on to Mason, and the running game looked like it was going to do something.

THEN the 4th quarter hit.....

FLAT as the day is long...They simply ran out of gas. The Packers took every advantage they were given, and won the game 27-17. It was interesting down the stretch though. We scored with just under 2 mins to play to put the game away, but only AFTER we made it interesting. Lucky for us, on 2 consecutive pass plays, we intercepted the ball, once in the end zone.

All in all, it was a great game.

J-Dawg

Sunday, November 29, 2009

End of November Report

Hello out there paranoid Baltimore sports fans. I see that the BIC has gone into hibernation a bit as the winter has set in. I suspect it is for a couple reasons, one - nothing really new on the Orioles front to talk about and two - the Ravens are having a tough year.

Still thought, the Ravens keep losing "must-win" games and are still fairly in the playoff hunt as of tonight's game with the Steelers at home. Make that the Steelers at home minus one Ben
Roethlisberger who will be on the sidelines trying to stop the ringing in his head. The Steelers will be sending out THIRD-string quarterback Dennis Dixon. College football fans will remember Dennis Dixon as the fast as lightning quarterback of the Oregon Ducks. Dixon was set to have a pretty strong career until a horrendous knee injury sidelined him for most of his senior year and sent his draft number plunging.

I always liked Dennis Dixon he has talent so the Ravens should not be going into this game feeling cocky or comfortable. They have shown an inability to find the endzone recently and it has cost them. They have been unable to perform in key spots all year and it has cost them. They have had absolutely horrendous play from their cornerbacks and it has cost them.

Still, with all of that included, this team could easily have eight maybe nine wins. They have only really looked poor in one game and have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in virtually every other loss.

Who do these guys think they are, the Orioles?

Speaking of our beloved orange-birds there isn't a whole to talk about right now. Spring Training is still months away and the Winter Meetings will be happening soon, but that is about it. The Orioles needs have been re-hashed dozens of times: First base, Third base, starting pitcher, closer. So the endless debate now is whether or not to fill from within the organization or head to the FA market with money and a list pinned to our shirt so we don't lose it.

The Orioles internal options are intriguing. They have a man in the organization that could step-in and fill any one of these positions. At third you have Josh Bell and first Brandon Snyder; both looked very good in the minors last year and had strong showings in the AFL. Jake Arrieta is sitting in the minors waiting for his turn to get called up and as far as closers go you have internal options ranging from Koji Uehara ad Jim Johnson to Kam Mickolio and David Hernandez.

The Orioles have players to plug in this means that for the first time in years the Orioles can go into the free agent and trade markets as choosers rather than beggars.

General Manager Andy MacPhail has said repeatedly that he will not trade any of the "core" players away so I wouldn't look for the Orioles to make any blockbuster multi-player deals this winter and given the economic climate of most teams I don't really see too many of those types of deals happening. And as for free agency after Lackey gets his deal the next step is quite a doosey.

Andy has stated that they want an experienced solid starter to stabilize the rotation that will be largely comprised of first or second year players. Recently MacPhail also stated that the team was in a position to "assume some risk" when it comes to the bruised fruit of the FA market.

Ben Sheets, Rich Harden and Erik Bedard are all available. Personally I would go for Harden. Harden is the youngest of the bunch and coming off a down year with a down Cubs team. He can be had and will not be a tremendous block to any of the young arms that might still be brewing in the minors. Harden has the potential to be a top of the rotation pitcher and would fit in nicely with the Baltimore crew of young arms. He could be had cheaper than Sheets and will be ready for the start of the season unlike Bedard.

The Winter Meetings are right around the corner and I think the Orioles will be more active than in years past. The Orioles have a glut of players in the outfield and DH, unfortunately that means that Luke Scott might be on the trade block. I don't want to see Luke Scott go anywhere I think his bat, streaky as it is, in the middle of the lineup is something that can not be ignored. He has the ability to carry a team if need be but if the right deal is out there then it needs to be done.

Scott's future with the team is also largely contingent on what role the Orioles view Felix Pie having. If Pie is going to remain a part-time player on the bench, then Reimold is in LF, Scott DH'es. If Pie is viewed as an everyday left-fielder then Reimold and Scott are left splitting a DH role and that makes no one happy. Both of their bats are far too good to be part-time players and that means Scott needs to be dealt.

That situation will be resolved by watching performances this season, so I don't see any major trades happening this winter.

Sitting here writing this just makes me sad. I love the Ravens and all - but - can it be February yet? Can pitchers and catchers report now? When is fanfest? Can I get my tickets yet this year? IS IT APRIL YET?!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

To all of those who contribute
To all of those who read this regularly
To all of those who are travelling this holiday
To everyone

Happy Thanksgiving!

J-Dawg