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There's no point in posting how many games out the Orioles are from the Wild Card. Even the most "loyal" of fans realize the Orioles are out of it, yet for some reason, the BrainRust just doesn't get it. If you read the title of Thomas Boswell's latest column, "Future Beckons for Baltimore," you'd think the Orioles were finally going to go with a youth movement. Not these Orioles.
Rosters expand to 40, so you'd expect to see top-prospect Calvin Pickering, who hit his 30th homerun last night for Bowie, and is within striking distance of the AA triple crown. Not these Orioles.
Or you'd expect a recall of Jerry Hairston, who's likely to replace Roberto Alomar at 2nd next season if he departs via free agency. Not these Orioles.
Or you might expect a recall of Chris Fussell, or Rocky Coppinger, who's battled arm injuries to post a fine season this year. You might even expect Ryan Minor to be recalled, who despite his lousy season at Bowie, is still talked about as a top prospect. Not these Orioles. So who gets recalled? Out of "deference to veterans," the Orioles are promoting only outfielders Eugene Kingsale, Lyle Mouton, and no-hit, no-future, catcher Charlie Greene.
And for a team 30 games out of first place, who gets the start in a meaningless September game? 72-year old Doug Drabek, the last member of the "Fab Four" of the BrainRust's offseason acquisitions still on the team (the other members of course being Ozzie Guillen, Norm Charlton, and Joe Carter). Only these Orioles.
Why is Drabek starting tonight? From Ray Miller himself, "Mike [Flanagan] was real excited about the way he threw in [Bowie] and he had a great sideline the other day... He's fresh, he's been through the wars. He might surprise everybody." Um Ray, the only one he'll surprise is you. This isn't 1990 anymore- it's 1998, and Doug Drabek sucks.
What we can't understand is why there is deference at all to these veterans. It's not like the Orioles are a good team. The injury excuse just isn't going to work anymore. This team of "Veteran-gamers" is exactly 1 game over .500. In deference to these guys we have to watch Doug Drabek take his 7.07 ERA to the mound tonight? Whoops, we forgot. Peter Angelos has to have a name player on the field so it doesn't look like he's giving up on the season. Newsflash: the Orioles season is already over!
What's even worse than the fact that the Orioles aren't planning on playing these youngsters is the fact that they are trying to resign all of their current free agents-to-be. B.J. Surhoff, for instance, is a solid player, and he's had some fine seasons for the Orioles. But he's already 34, and a 3-year multi-million dollar contract is nothing short of a huge mistake. Brady Anderson is 35, and look what's happened to his hitting, not to mention the amount of tim e he's spent with the medical staff. And don't forget that he's going to be here until he's 39, because he was signed to a ridiculously long, expensive contract.
Says Chris Hoiles, "What we do the rest of this season is really important... We really want to keep the core of this team together." Well, no offense, but we don't. Don't get us wrong, we think every player should continue to play hard and try to win as many games as possible. That's why they are being paid as much money as they are. What we do think, however, is that management, back when the team was 15.5 games out at the All-Star break, should have looked at this team and said it's time to rebuild. Instead, they looked at a 17-3 run the Orioles went on, as though the Orioles were going to play .850 baseball the rest of the season. There's no point in harping on the past, however. There's still time to turn things around, but the longer the Orioles wait to rebuild, the more likely it is that the Orioles will go 0-21 before they reach the World Series again. Let's hope the Orioles learn their lesson from 1998, but from what we've seen from this organization, the future doesn't look so bright.
At this point, Orioles games fit the definition of "sport" much the way "clubbing baby seals" does. Add "Brian Barber" to the list of "Pitchers who started a game with an ERA of around 6 and who managed to shut down the Orioles' excuse for an offense." And when we say "shut down," we mean it. Barber pitched 6 2/3 no-hit innings against Baltimore before Cal Ripken broke up his bid with a double, and the Orioles managed just 3 hits and 2 walks all game, as the Royals defeated them, 2-1. Mike Mussina pitched well in his first start as part of Ray Miller's four-man rotation experiment, allowing just 2 runs in his six innings of work, but it wasn't enough, and he recorded his career-high eighth loss of the season. The Orioles as a team picked up their sixth straight loss, and eighth in their last nine games, as they were officiall y eliminated from the AL East race by the Yankees.
The good news? There isn't any. Unlike the Orioles, both the Rangers and Red Sox have the talent to be in a pennant race, and it shows. Both teams won today, leaving the Orioles a distant eleven games behind the Red Sox -- twelve in the loss column -- and three games behind Texas. Boston's magic number for eliminating the Orioles is now 18.
Want some irony? On July 30th, the Toronto Blue Jays traded away Mike Stanley for prospects. The next day, they traded away Juan Guzman, Ed Sprague, and Tony Phillips. They showed they were "giving up on the season." At the time, they were a game and a half behind the Orioles. Meanwhile, the Orioles tried a different strategy. They traded for Juan Guzman, just to "prove to all the fans and players that they were serious about contending." At the time, Baltimore was 9 games behind Boston (10 in the loss column). On August 29th, the Toronto Blue Jays pulled ahead of Baltimore in the standings. Baltimore, as noted, is now 11 games behind Boston (12 in the loss column). In other words, the Orioles have lost ground on both the Red Sox and the Blue Jays over the last month.
Meanwhile, Guzman has had five starts for the Orioles. He has pitched very well in three of those starts, and very badly in the other two. Nerio Rodriguez couldn't have done this? Or Rocky Coppinger? Our point here, and the point DUOP has been trying to make all along is that many fans and the media (and apparentl y the Orioles' brainrust) places far too much emphasis on "doing something" at the trading deadline, whether or not that something fits with team needs and realistic team goals. So, the Orioles "did something." They traded away a promising prospect for a Veteran Pitcher Who Knows How To Win. It didn't get them a playoff berth. It hasn't even gotten them anywhere in the standings.
Line of the day -- BJ Surhoff's August performance:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG/OBP/SLG 25 96 10 20 5 0 2 13 7 14 1 1 208/264/323Do the Orioles really want to hand him a multiyear, multimillion dollar deal right now?
What's Murphy's Law? Anything that can go wrong, will? Because that's pretty much the scenario in Baltimore right now. After getting swept by the lowly White Sox, the Orioles were handed another easy opponent, Kansas City, a team near the bottom of the league in both offense and defense. It should have been the formula for an easy victory. Of course, it wasn't. For the first time in a while, the Orioles didn't give up a lot of runs early and then score a few runs after the game was already decided. Home runs by Palmeiro (his 41st, extending his career best total), and Mike Bordick (his 9th, setting his career best) kept this one was close for six innings, until the Royals scored two in the seventh to break a 3-3 tie. In the ninth inning, now trailing 6-3, the Orioles rallied, but once again it was too little too late, as they scored 2 runs, but ended by grounding into their fifth double play of the game. Ultimately, they lost to the Royals, 6-5. Ponson did not pitch terribly, but for a change was a victim of a slow hook by Ray Miller. He was also the victim of front office stupidity, as Willie Greene, yet another third baseman playing out-of-position in right field for the Os, was unable to come up with Johnny Damon's triple, allowing another Royal run to score.
Boston did drop their second straight game, this time losing to the streaking Angels, so the Orioles are still ten games behind the Red Sox -- eleven in the loss column, but each loss leaves less time for Baltimore to catch up; Boston's magic number for eliminating the Orioles is now 20. Texas split a doubleheader with the White Sox, thus adding a half game to their lead over the Orioles. Texas is now two games in front of Baltimore.
As expected, the Orioles called up Danny Clyburn to replace the injured Willis
Otanez. Clyburn, a big slow right handed slugger, has never shown much plate
discipline in the minors, but had something of a breakthrough year last year. He
had a slow start this year while recovering from a broken ankle, but recovered
to post solid, if unspectacular, numbers at Rochester this year:
AVG/OBP/SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Clyburn 286/354/488 322 58 92 21 1 14 54 34 72 11
Otanez isn't the only Oriole hurt right now. Chris Hoiles is in constant pain
because of his back, Eric Davis is (once again) hurting, and Brady Anderson has
knee problems ever since running into the wall. The Orioles chalk these things
up to bad luck; DUOP chalks them up to having an old team. And one old player
who allegedly is healthy is going to hurt the team -- Doug Drabek, who for
some inexplicable reason is getting another start this year for the Orioles, on
Tuesday. If baseball were any sort of meritocracy, Doug Drabek would be
advertising Advil with Nolan Ryan right now, and Rocky Coppinger would get the
Okay; yesterday we stuck a fork in the Orioles. What's left for today? To roll their corpse in a carpet and dump the body in the river? Or maybe just to break their arms and legs. Tonight the Orioles got a head start on that process: top prospect Willis Otanez is out for the rest of the season after fracturing his wrist diving for a ball. One could chalk that up to bad luck. One could also chalk it up to team idiocy. Regular readers will know which choice DUOP favors. Sure, it's an unfortunate happenstance, but maybe if people weren't being played out of position in order to accomodate less productive veterans, these would be less likely to happen. Otanez has only played a handful of games in the outfield in his life, but because Baltimore made a sudden decision to trade away Jeffrey Hammonds, and because Cal Ripken has become a sacred cow, Otanez has been stuck in right field. The Orioles are expected to call Danny Clyburn up to take Otanez's place.
Oh, yeah; today's game. It's almost a footnote to the Otanez news; the Orioles finished off their series with the White Sox tonight. We've given up on Baltimore, and it appears that the Orioles have done so, too. Today we saw another listless performance by the offense and poor game by the starting pitcher. Sure, the team managed 4 runs on 11 hits today, but only two against a White Sox starter who had an ERA over 5 coming into the game, and once again their runs were scored after the game was already out of reach. Meanwhile, Scott Erickson was roughed up for 7 runs, and Chicago finished their three game sweep of the Orioles, 7-4.
Boston matched the Orioles' loss tonight, so the Orioles are still ten games behind the Red Sox -- eleven in the loss column -- but they're now a game and a half behind the idle Texas Rangers in the Wild Card "race." Boston's magic number has fallen to 21 for mathematically eliminating the Orioles. (Okay, I know I said that it was silly to keep repeating this stuff, but this is the Pennant Race. Until they're actually eliminated, it stays on DUOP.)
Since the team news is so bad, all that's really left for the Orioles are personal achievements. With that in mind, DUOP extends a "Congrats!" to Rafael Palmeiro, who hit his career high 40th home run tonight, joining Brady Anderson (1996), Frank Robinson (1966), and Jim Gentile (1961) as the only Orioles to reach 40 HRs in a single season. With 29 games remaining, Palmeiro is on pace to hit around 49 home runs this year, and could challenge Brady's franchise record of 50.
Aside from Willis Otanez, assuming he recovers, who is waiting in the wings for the Orioles? The other big name is one you've seen mentioned in this space many times before: Cal Pickering. John Sickels, of STATS and ESPNet, noted that, while there are weight concerns, "his bat will carry him a long way." Pickering has hit well at every level at which he has played, and has set several offensive franchise records this year with the Baysox. Of course, if the Orioles hand Rafael Palmeiro a big, multiyear deal, then the future of Pickering is completely up-in-the-air.
While we often think little of USA Today's analysis, it's a good source for
finding out who the team thinks are good prospects. Therefore, we'd be remiss if
we didn't point out their recent article, noting the success of Cal
Pickering, Ryan Minor, Jerry Hairston Jr., Matt Riley, Darnell McDonald, Jayson
Werth, and Rick Elder. The problem with that analysis is that Ryan Minor had
a miserable year in Bowie. Despite being a few years older than his
competition, he has hit just 256/310/411 (BA/OBP/SLG) and has struck out in
almost 30% of his at bats, while having a horrible 140-27 K-BB ratio.
Stick a fork in them. They're done. Dead. Kaput. Oh, there's more than a month left in the season, but the Orioles aren't going to catch the Red Sox. Once again, the Orioles combined poor pitching with an anemic offense, and even the usually reliable bullpen fell apart today, as the Orioles lost to the White Sox for the second straight day, this time 12-5. Starter Juan Guzman was lousy, giving up seven runs on nine hits (including two doubles and a homer) and three walks in just five innings to Chicago. In all fairness to Guzman, the fielders didn't help him out, as for the second straight day they botched a rundown. On the other hand, they didn't give up a massive homer to Frank Thomas; Guzman did. When he was finally pulled, Pete Smith, Doug Johns, Armando Benitez, and Jesse Orosco, all of whom have been very reliable out of the bullpen, combined to allow 6 hits, 5 runs, 3 walks in just 3 innings of work. Meanwhile, lest you be fooled by the five runs the Orioles put up, they really had very little offense, as they only had six hits total, and four of their runs were tallied after the score was already 9-1 in favor of the White Sox. All that you need to know can be summed up in the fact that Chicago starter James Baldwin had a ERA near 6 when he started the game, and yet he shut down the Orioles for seven innings. Rafael Palmeiro did match his career high with his 39th home run of the season.
With the loss, coupled with another Boston victory, the Orioles are now TEN games behind the Red Sox -- eleven in the loss column, and have even fallen a game behind Texas in the Wild Card "race." It becomes almost silly at this point to keep repeating this every day. Boston's magic number is now just 22 for mathematically eliminating the Orioles, though in practical terms they're already out.
Brady Anderson, who the team was considering putting on the disabled list, played tonight for the first time in a week because he "talked his way into the lineup," mostly because Ray Miller has all the managerial qualities of roadkill. He continually makes decisions based on the feelings of (veteran) players rather than the logic of the situation. There's nothing wrong with taking the players' feelings into account, but not when it interferes with team goals. Case in point: Doug Drabek, who hasn't pitched well in four years, and who by all rights should be released right now, is going to be called up and get another start for the Orioles after the September 1 roster expansion. The "logic" behind this move? He pitched 5 good innings against a AA team. What's the harm in this, since the Os are already out of the race? Well, that's exactly the point. Every other team in the league uses September to look at young talent, like, say, Rocky Coppinger. Not the Orioles under Miller; they use it to make Doug Drabek feel better. That's despite the fact that Rocky Coppinger was promised in spring training that he'd be called up as soon as he was healthy.
On the transaction front, the already ancient Orioles seem relatively close to resigning BJ Surhoff. Surhoff has
been a good player for the Orioles, but as assistant GM Kevin Malone noted
earlier this year, you have to pay people for what they're going to do,
not what they've already done. This year should have already shown what happens
when you collect old players merely because you like them. Surhoff's certainly
better right now than the Carters and Guillens of the world, but as
Brady's season shows, old players can go bad very quickly. Meanwhile, the club hasn't even begun speaking with Alan Mills, who can
also be a free agent soon, and who wants to remain with the team.
Baltimore was 8 games over .500; Chicago was 17 games under .500, and was coming off a six-game losing streak. Baltimore was starting one of the best pitchers of the decade. Chicago was starting Tom Fordham. Who? (He's a 24 year old rookie with an undistinguished minor league career behind him.) Easy victory, right? Wrong. Instead, Mike Mussina was ineffective -- allowing ten hits and five runs in just 6 2/3 innings -- and Alan Mills came in and immediately surrendered a home run to Albert Belle. And, as so often happens when the Orioles lose, the offense was utterly ineffective; they managed just four hits and four walks in eight innings off Fordham and a handful of no-name rookie relievers (Chad Bradford and Bob Howry?) Rich Becker made the score look more respectable with a 3-run home run in the ninth off Keith Foulke, but it was far too late, and the Orioles lost to the White Sox, 6-4. Roberto Alomar had two hits, and Willis Otanez got his first major league hit, but that's about it for the offensive highlights.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox defeated the As, 3-2, giving them an almost insurmountable nine game lead -- ten in the loss column -- over the Orioles. The only good news is that the Rangers were defeated, leaving the Orioles tied with them. The loss drops Boston's magic number to 24 games.
Unfortunately, the Orioles don't appear to realize how unlikely their Wild Card quest is at this point. Pat Gillick claims that "We're basically buyers as opposed to sellers at this point," which is consistent if illogical. Reading between the lines, his plan appears to be to wait until after it's too late to trade any veterans -- the second trading deadline, by which players must be traded to be eligible for the postseason, is Monday (August 31st) -- and then to complain that he couldn't make trades because nobody was making a good offer.
In some minor league (Otherwise known as "the place players play before the
Orioles trade them away for washed up former stars") news, the Os have announced
that Calvin Pickering (1b), Ryan Minor (3b), and Chip Alley (c), will all be
playing in the Arizona Fall League. In the past, playing in the AFL has
generally been a sign that teams are extremely high on the particular players.
Meanwhile, Jayson Werth (c), Augie Ojeda (ss), Carlos Casimiro (2b), Derek Brown
(rp), and John Parrish (p) will all be playing for Bowie in the new Maryland Fall
League. It's unclear what this signifies, since the league is new, but it's
strange that Augie Ojeda, who's been playing at AA Bowie, would be sent to play in a
league with a bunch of A-level players.
The Os had a day off on Monday, right after the offense took Sunday off. Boston was off as well, leaving the Os eight games behind the Red Sox (and nine in the loss column.) However, Texas won last night, allowing them to catch back up to the Os in the Wild Card Race. With just 32 games remaining for the Orioles (and 34 for the Red Sox), and such a big deficit to make up, every game becomes Must Win at this point. Each team opens a series against a weak opponent today -- the Orioles against the White Sox and Boston against Oakland.
Unfortunately, if the Os are going to beat the White Sox today, they're going to have to do it without Brady Anderson, whose knee has still not recovered from his crash into the wall last week. Apparently, he can hit and run the bases, but is not ready to play the outfield again. It looks as if he may have to go on the disabled list, which would be a shame but which would obviously be preferable to the choice the Orioles usually make, which is to keep the injured player on the active roster even though he can't play, thus leaving the team shorthanded. Other players -- including Rafael Palmeiro, Eric Davis, and BJ Surhoff -- are also banged up (though none as seriously as Brady), which may explain why the offense has struggled recently, and which also shows why DUOP is so opposed to having an old team. Of course, as seems typical on the Orioles, filled with so-called Veteran Gamers, the egos of the players, and Ray Miller's ineffective management, are keeping Palmeiro and Surhoff from taking a day off.
We should also note that Cal Ripken's Streak has finally come to an end. No, not
*that* streak. His streak of getting on base in consecutive games. Ripken had
reached base safely in 46 straight games before being shut down by Dwight Gooden
and the Indians on Sunday. The record is 74 straight games, also accomplished by
Dimaggio, encompassing his 56 game hitting streak. (Although he did not get a
hit in game #57, he did walk, and then he had another 16 game hitting streak.)
The Orioles were the hottest team in baseball in July, but they've been treading water lately -- still playing well, but not well enough to gain ground in the wild card race. Today, Sidney Ponson pitched reasonably well, but the Orioles managed just five hits -- none for extra bases -- and three walks in a 4-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Ponson's nine start non-losing streak was snapped, as the Indians managed eight hits and four runs off him in five and a third innings. The bullpen was again solid, with Jimmy Key, Armando Benitez, and Arthur Rhodes pitching 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Sunday's loss left the Orioles just 4-4 in their last eight games, and cost the Os the season series with the Indians. It also dropped Baltimore back to eight games behind the Red Sox in the Wild Card Race, but more importantly, nine games behind in the loss column. Boston's magic number (yes, it's the time of year to start thinking about these) for eliminating the Orioles is 28. Unfortunately, the Orioles' post-ASB surge seems to be the classic "too little, too late". When the hole dug is that big, it's very hard to climb out, and as Chris Hoiles noted, "It's almost like [Boston's] going to have to go on a total collapse to catch them, and they haven't." Moreover, Boston has an easier schedule the rest of the way, with more home games and more games against bad teams:
|vs Good (> .555)||9||5|
|vs Bad (< .444)||9||10|
Finally, DUOP would like to extend a special Happy
Birthday wish to Calvin Edwin Ripken, Jr., who turns 38 years old today.
Finally, as we indicated yesterday, 25-year old 3bman Willis Otanez was called up from Rochester, and Scott Kamieniecki, who was 2-6 with a 6.59 ERA, went back on the DL for the third time this season, this time suffering from a recurrence of the bulging disk in his upper back. Otanez has cooled off some from his torrid first half, though some of that can probably be attributed to the fact that Cal Ripken wasn't hitting at all earlier in the season and the Orioles still refused to give Otanez a chance. In any case, Otanez leads the Rochester Red Wings with 27 homers and 100 RBI. His season stats, to date:
AVG G AB R H Tb 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS SLG% OBP% .285 124 481 87 137 246 24 2 27 100 41 104 8 6 .511 .343Otanez certainly has earned a shot (and hopefully he gets more of a shot than did Nerio Rodriguez), and he should see some action since the Orioles will face a lot of left-handed pitchers in the coming days. Otanez played third base for most of this season in Rochester, but with Cal Ripken entrenched at third on the O's, he's most likely going to play right field, especially since Eric Davis is the only other right-handed hitting outfielder, and Brady Anderson is hurting.
Scott Kamieniecki labored through 2 2/3 innings, throwing 87 pitches and giving up 4 runs, and reliever Jesse Orosco sealed the defeat in the 8th when he balked home a run. The Orioles offense managed only 5 hits and 3 runs off Jaret Wright, though centerfielder Kenny Lofton made a spectacular catch in the 6th when he robbed Roberto Alomar of a homerun. The only bright spot for the Orioles was Cal Ripken Jr., who collected his 2849th hit, a single in the 7th inning, that put him on the top of the Orioles all-time hit list, passing Brooks Robinson. Congratulations Cal! Willie Greene, the newest Oriole, followed Cal's single with his first Oriole home run. For the record, Cal also is the Orioles' all-time leader in runs, doubles, home runs, total bases, RBI, extra base hits, walks, and, obviously, consecutive games played!
Finally, an MRI revealed that Brady Anderson does indeed
have a tear in his patella tendon, an injury he
suffered in Thursday night's game. Eric Davis took his place in center field
last night, but Davis' career year this season is attributed much to the fact
that he has avoided the disabled list by playing mostly DH. In addition, Davis
is the lone Oriole right-handed outfielder, so the Orioles are finally
considering bringing up right-handed 3bman Willis Otanez from Rochester, though
the O's are trying to avoid putting Brady on the DL.
To add injury to insult, center fielder Brady Anderson strained his patella tendon in his right knee when he slammed into the centerfield wall in the second inning, and is listed as day-to-day. He'll most likely miss the Cleveland series but won't have to go on the DL. Just about the only good news from last night's games was Cal Ripken Jr., who tied Brooks Robinson for most career hits as an Oriole with his 2848th hit -- a homer in the 7th inning.
Finally, the Orioles extended the contracts yesterday of utility infielder Jeff Reboulet and pitcher Jesse Orosco. Reboulet signed a 2-year extension through the 2000 season worth $1.1 million, and Orosco signed a one-year extension for 2000 that could be worth as much as $1.4 million with incentives. The Orioles also put an option year in the contract for 2001, that, if exercised, would make Orosco, at 44, the oldest player to even wear an Oriole uniform. The Orosco signing was certainly a good one, as he has been a dominant reliever, has never been on the DL, and has shown no signs of slowing down. Also, his salary isn't very high, and if the Orioles fall out of contention, Orosco has a ton of trade value. Reboulet, on the other hand, is another story. While it most likely won't hurt the Orioles, we have to wonder why the Orioles would sign a 34-year old utility infielder for two years. Besides the fact that he's a Ray Miller pet, and a "veteran-gamer who comes to the ballpark ready to play everyday," the Orioles should bring up a cheap, young, minor leaguer, and save the $1 million for a more important position. That $1 million on Reboulet is one less million that can be used to go after Mike Piazza or Bernie Williams or whomever. In any case, the Orioles now have 8 pending free agents after this season- Roberto Alomar, Alan Mills, Rafael Palmeiro, Harold Baines, Jimmy Key, Doug Drabek, Rafael Palmeiro, and B.J. Surhoff.
Mike Bordick matched a career high with his 8th homer- a 3-run blast in the second that gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead. Newcomer Willie Greene did his part to protect the lead, throwing out Paul Sorrento at the plate from right field in the 6th inning with the score 3-2. While we're on the subject of Greene, check out the results of DUOP's latest poll, where we asked you what you thought of the Jeffrey Hammonds for Willie Greene trade.
Usually reliable reliever Jesse Orosco came in to pitch the 8th, but he failed to retire a batter, giving up two runs on three hits before Armando Benitez was summoned from the bullpen. Armando pitched two perfect innings, striking out three to pick up his 19th save of the season and lower his ERA to 3.51. Too bad Armando doesn't get the credit he deserves. In any case, Orosco's 55th appearance of the season activated a clause in his contract that makes him an Oriole in 1999. Said 42-year old Orosco: "I'm really happy about it... I definately want to finish my career here."
Finally, please vote in our new poll on who should be playing first base for the Orioles next season- Rafael Palmeiro or Calvin Pickering. We've mentioned Pickering a lot lately, and deservedly so, as he's been tearing up the Eastern League. If this will help sway your vote any, last night he hit his league leading 28th homer. But wait, there's more. Pickering also leads the league in OBP, SLG, and RBI's, and is in the top 5 for AVG, runs, and extra-base hits.
The story of the game, once again, was 36-year old outfielder Eric Davis. After having his 30-game hitting streak snapped on Sunday, Davis went 3-4 with 2 homeruns- his 4th multi-homer game of the season. And 21-year old rookie Ponson won his 6th straight decision, giving up 7 hits and 1 run over 6 innings of work in the victory, lowering his ERA to 5.45, and improving his record to 7-6 in the process. The bullpen was solid once again, pitching three scoreless innings of relief, including 1 inning by Arthur Rhodes in his first appearance since returning from the DL.
Doug Drabek, as we've noted for several days now, is ready to return from the DL, but the Orioles are stalling so that they don't have to recall him until rosters expand September 1st. Drabek says he is pain free, and the O's are debating whether to send him on a minor league rehab assignment, or have him pitch batting practice, which unfortunately is what he's been doing all season. After pitching an inning in relief on Monday, Jimmy Key's arm is in pain again. But what's more disturbing is that he's voicing a similar complaint that Rhodes did before landing on the DL- that Miller repeatedly asks him to warm up in the bullpen and then doesn't bring him into the game. "I threw last night and today my arm doesn't feel very good... It's the [getting] up and down [in the bullpen] that kills me. I warmed up three times last night. Once [the shoulder] is loose, it's fine. But once it cools off, it's tough to get loose again."
The Orioles front office has indicated that it is trying to acquire a right-handed hitter for the stretch drive, and you already know DUOP's opinion of trading away prospects, so we won't comment on that. Instead, we'll give you our latest installment of the Calvin Pickering Watch. Pickering went 5-5 for Bowie in a double-header yesterday, bringing his season totals to:
AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO OBP SLG .306 416 76 127 22 1 27 96 80 101 .427 .558Pickering, if you didn't already know, is a first baseman, and is the single biggest reason why, despite his 37 homers, 34-year old Rafael Palmeiro is not worth $50 million over 5 years. The Orioles are planning to promote Pickering to AAA Rochester next season, and have left open the possibility of a mid-season call-up.
Finally, we mentioned yesterday that we were sick of hearing Ray Miller and company bash the maturity level of Armando Benitez, and Alan, a frequent writer, sent this to us, and it's amusing so we thought we'd pass it along:
If Armando's maturity is being questioned because he shows emotion when things don't go his way on the mound, is Ray Miller really the person who should be commenting about it, or lecturing Armando about it? After all, Armando has only been ejected from one game this season - Miller's been ejected from seven (and I don't think he was ever ejected for calmly reacting to events going his way.)
As an aside, doesn't Ray Miller look awfully silly arguing with his hat backwards in an attempt to imitate Earl Weaver?
Harold Baines, who can still hit at 39, provided a key 2-run single in the win. Baines, 36-year old Eric Davis, and 42-year old Jesse Orosco are three veterans who are playing key roles on this team. In the column linked to above, Ken Rosenthal writes that "You can't guess right every time, but the front office did an admirable job of purging the deadwood." Well perhaps, but as Rosenthal also notes, was it really necessary for the Orioles to have opened the season with only 4 players under 30, including the oft-injured Jeffrey Hammonds? Even though Ray Miller likes to point to injuries as the reason this team didn't do well in the first half, that's what happens when you have a roster as old as the Orioles did. And couldn't the more than $6 million spent on Joe Carter, Norm Charlton, Ozzie Guillen, and Doug Drabek, all guys washed up before this season started have been spent to bolster the team, instead of the Orioles taking half of 1998 trying to get rid of them?
And speaking of getting rid of players, as we noted a couple of days ago, it really irritates us each time we hear the Orioles publicly bad-mouth 25-year old Armando Benitez. The Orioles act as though they are winning despite, rather than because of Benitez, who recorded his 18th save last night. Rafael Palmeiro believes that "Overall, he's going to be reliable," but for some reason, Miller seems to take every available opportunity to publicly question the maturity level of Benitez. First of all, for a guy who supposedly stands by his players, Miller has an awful funny way of showing it. Secondly, closing tight games is tough enough as it is, and Benitez surely doesn't need Miller doubting him every time he goes out on the mound. As we noted earlier, he's not being paid to "be unemotional"- he's being paid to get guys out- and he's done a tremendous job of it. He held 44 of 45 leads last season, and has converted 26 of 28 save opportunities the past two years. But if you listened to Miller, you'd think he had a 7 ERA like the "professional" Norm Charlton and Doug Drabek, two pets of Miller. "You have to be very cold-hearted to do that job. You have to almost be unemotional about it... I don't think Armando's figured that part of it out yet. When things go against him, he's ready to fight everybody and show everybody he's a tough guy. I still think there's some immaturity there." Whatever.
In any case, the return of Arthur Rhodes from the DL should help bolster an already strong bullpen. Bobby Munoz was designated for assignment to make room on the roster. Doug Drabek apparently is also ready to return from the DL, but the Orioles have finally realized he can't pitch, and are waiting for the rosters to expand September 1st before recalling him. And in other injury news, here's how trainer Richie Bancells describes the condition of starter Scott Kamieniecki: "I wouldn't say it's any worse or any better... Sometimes it's uncomfortable and sometimes it's OK. The recommendation is to continue doing what he can do and see how it goes." So, it looks like the Orioles are going to hold their breath each time Kammy or Jimmy Key go out and pitch, as they could be back on the DL at almost any time.
Even worse, Eric Davis had his 30-game hitting streak snapped in the loss. Nonetheless, Davis batted .400 (52-130) during the streak, with 10 doubles, 10 homer, and 35 RBI, and set the record for the longest hitting streak in Orioles history. Said Davis, "You can't ask for anything but the opportunity. I was kind of selfish. I was hoping he [Rafael Palmeiro] would walk or get hit with a pitch or something. At least I could have gotten another chance."
In a column linked to above, John Eisenberg writes of the Orioles 27-8 record since the All-Star break: "Who can explain it? The roster is healthier than before, but that's not all of it, not nearly. The collective batting average is 37 points higher since the break. The bullpen's ERA since the break is almost two points lower. Go figure." Well, might the fact that the Orioles got rid of Norm Charlton and his 7 ERA, Joe Carter and his sub-.300 OBA, and minimized the harm Doug Drabek could do by putting him on the DL have anything to do with it? Anyway, reliever Arthur Rhodes, who was overworked by Miller in the first half since Miller, with good reason, avoided using Charlton and Terry Mathews, may be activated before tonight's game. And the status of Scott Kamieniecki, who is still in pain, is unknown, as the Orioles have no idea whether or not he'll be able to make his next start.
Finally, as we've mentioned before, don't forget to change your bookmark to
reflect DUOP's new home:
And if you have any suggestions to make DUOP better, or if you come across a broken link, please let us know.
This win puts the Orioles eight games over .500 for the first time since April 14th, when they were 10-2. Today, they finally gained a game on the wild-card leading Red Sox, who dropped a one-run game to the Minnesota Twins. Baltimore still trails Boston by seven games (eight in the loss column), in addition to trailing the Rangers by half a game, but the gap is looking less and less imposing.
Finally, we should quickly point out that Arthur Rhodes is looking ready to come back from the disabled list, which will strengthen the already excellent bullpen as he displaces Bobby Munoz from the roster. The only bad news is that Doug Drabek may also be ready to return. It seems that even the Orioles may have caught on to the fact that he can't pitch, and won't bring him back until the rosters expand on September 1st.
Suffice it to say that whatever the Orioles started eating over the All-Star Break (Froot Loops?), they should continue. The Orioles have played some tight games lately, including Thursday's 12-inning game versus the Indians. Today's game was not one of them. Mike Mussina had a good game, rebounding from a poor outing against Minnesota to allow just two runs on 7 hits and no walks, while striking out five. And the offense accumulated sixteen hits and seven walks, including four hits by Roberto Alomar and two by Brady Anderson and Cal Ripken.
But the story of today's game was Chris Hoiles, who tied a major league record by hitting TWO grand slams as the Orioles routed Charles Nagy and the Indians, 15-3. Hoiles homered off Nagy in the third inning and reliever Ron Villone in the eighth inning. The feat has been accomplished only eight other times in baseball history; remarkably, three of the nine times it has been done, it has been done by Orioles. The eight RBI by Hoiles is one shy of the club record, held by Jim Gentile and Eddie Murray. The grand slams were Hoiles' second and third of the season, and raise his career total to eight, which leaves him second in Orioles history behind only noted bases loaded-clutch hitter Eddie Murray. The best part of the day was that Hoiles, an Ohio native, was able to do this in front of his family and friends. A special DUOP salute goes out to Chris Hoiles.
|Chris Hoiles||Baltimore||August 14, 1998|
|Robin Ventura||Chicago (AL)||September 4, 1995|
|Frank Robinson||Baltimore||June 26, 1970|
|Jim Northrup||Detroit||June 24, 1968|
|Tony Cloninger||Atlanta||July 3, 1966|
|Jim Gentile||Baltimore||May 9, 1961|
|Rudy York||Boston (AL)||July 27, 1946|
|Jim Tabor||Boston (AL)||July 4, 1939|
|Tony Lazzeri||New York (AL)||May 24, 1936|
Two weeks ago, we noted how hot Lenny Webster and Chris Hoiles were. This seems as good a time as any to follow up on that report. As anticipated, Lenny Webster has reverted to the more typical levels of production expected from a backup catcher. Hoiles, however, has continued to be on fire; indeed, he is the best hitter on the Orioles, even surpassing Eric Davis, in this timespan:
NAME G AB HIT 2B 3B HR SLG RUN RBI BB SO OBP SB-CS HBP E AVG Hoiles 12 31 11 1 0 6 .968 9 19 8 4 .500 0 0 1 0 .355 Webster 16 54 12 1 0 2 .352 5 10 3 9 .263 0 0 0 1 .222
And what would ordinarily be big news has been relegated to a footnote by Hoiles' day: Eric Davis had a third inning single to extend his team record, 1998 MLB best hitting streak to 29 games. The streak is beginning to draw historical comparisons, if not to Dimaggio, then at least to some of the lesser-known streaks on the all-time list.
This win puts the Orioles seven games over .500 for the first time since April 15th, when they were 10-3. Once again, however, the Orioles failed to gain any ground on the wild-card leading Red Sox, who once again picked up a one-run victory over the Minnesota Twins, 13-12. Baltimore still trails Boston by eight games (nine in the loss column), in addition to trailing the Rangers by half a game.
We should also note that Arthur Rhodes continues his rehabilitation with a start against Richmond for
After taking two of three games from the lowly Devil Rays, the Orioles travelled to Cleveland to take on the division-leading Indians in the last series of the Orioles' ten-game road trip. The Indians took an early lead, scoring 4 runs in 3 2/3 innings off of Sidney Ponson, who had been 5-0 in his last seven starts. But after falling behind 4-0, the Os' bullpen shut down the potent Indians offense for eight and a third innings, allowing just two hits and three walks in that time. Doug Johns pitched three and a third scoreless innings, and Jesse Orosco, Alan Mills, Jimmy Key, Pete Smith, and Armando Benitez each contributed a scoreless inning. That left things up to the offense, which answered the call. Yesterday's game report focused on Rafael Palmeiro's home run and Eric Davis's streak. Well, it's deja vu, because those are today's stories, too. Brady Anderson, who had three hits, including a home run, and Harold Baines, who had two hits, deserve recognition too, but the big news was Palmeiro's 37th homer, a 3-run shot in the 12th inning, to give the Orioles a 7-4 lead and, ultimately, the win. And Davis had two hits, including a double, to extend his team record hitting streak to 28 games. Davis is now tied with Garret Anderson for the longest streak of the season.
This win puts the Os 6 games over .500 for the first time since April 18th, when they were 11-5. Unfortunately, the Orioles failed to gain any ground on the wild-card leading Red Sox, who defeated the Minnesota Twins 8-7. Baltimore still trails Boston by eight games (nine in the loss column). The Orioles seem to be pinning all their hopes on staying within about eight games of the Red Sox for the next month, and then playing them six times in September, including a season-ending four game series in Boston.
Apparently the Orioles aren't quite done tinkering with their roster. It finally dawned on the team that, as DUOP pointed out at the beginning of the week, the Greene-Hammonds swap made the team too left-handed. But that's not the bad news. For some inexplicable reason, the brainrust is interested in Buddy Groom. If you're a casual fan, you're probably asking "Who?" If you're a more devoted baseball fan, you're probably asking "Why?" Groom, who pitches for Oakland, is a 32-year old left-handed reliever with a career 5.31 ERA, with a poor career strikeout rate, a poor career strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a poor WHIP, who's having a bad year this year (4.47 ERA, 62 baserunners in 46 innings, and just 27 strikeouts) is beyond me. Other than raising the age of a team that had grown dangerously young by replacing the 35-year old Drabek with the 30-year old Bobby Munoz, we don't see the point. [Note: that was sarcasm.]
The Other Cal Watch, AKA Why Rafael Palmeiro Shouldn't Get a Big Multiyear Contract: Cal Pickering homered again today, his twenty-seventh home run of the season. For the year, he is now hitting
AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG .296 402 69 119 20 1 27 96 71 99 4 .402 .552
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TBB SO SB CS ERR 10 5 4 0 0 3 5 5 1 0 0 0
After two low-scoring close games, the Orioles took the rubber game of the three game series easily on Wednesday afternoon. After three poor starts in a row, Scott Erickson was back in form, throwing a complete game five hit shutout for a 7-0 win over the offensively-hopeless Devil Rays. The Orioles recorded 10 hits and five walks, including a hit from every starter except Rich Becker (who walked twice), and three hits from Rafael Palmeiro, including his 36th home run, tying him with Alex Rodriguez for second in the American League behind Ken Griffey Jr. In addition to Palmeiro's hitting, Eric Davis went 1-4 tonight with a double, extending his team record hitting streak to 27 games. The streak is starting toreach the length where it draws serious notice, as it's one away from the longest streak of 1998, by Garret Anderson. Davis, incidentally, has a long way to go to reach the franchise record hitting streak of 41 games by George Sisler in 1922.
Meanwhile, in Boston, the Red Sox lost to the Royals, so the Orioles are back to within eight games behind them (nine in the loss column) in the Wild Card Race.
Amusing Line Score Of The Night, as well as Ex-O Report:
ATLANTA ip h r er bb so hr era Charlton 1 2 1 1 2 0 0 9.00(In the same game, by the way, Ozzie Guillen went 0-3, made an error, and was caught stealing.)
On Monday, the Os squeaked out a 2-1 victory over Tampa Bay. On Tuesday, they weren't so lucky. Just as Juan Guzman had on Monday, Scott Kamieniecki shut down the Devil Rays, allowing just one run in six innings of work, though he allowed six hits and two walks while striking out none. Unfortunately, Armando Benitez struggled in the ninth inning, and the Orioles' offense sans Eric Davis was completely inept, as the Orioles managed just three hits all game, and lost to the Devil Rays, 2-1. To be fair, Harold Baines, who recorded two of the team's three hits, was robbed of a 2-run home run by umpire blindness, as he hit a ball over the left field wall which bounced back onto the field. The umpire, Jim McKean, couldn't tell that the ball had gone over the wall, and Baines only got an RBI double. Meanwhile, the Red Sox defeated the Royals in extra innings tonight, so the Orioles fell nine games behind them (ten in the loss column) in the Wild Card Race.
Newcomer 3B/RF/LF/SS/DH/1B Willie Greene made his first start for the Orioles, in right field. Although nobody seems to want to talk about it, it's not really clear what his role is on this team. The organization seems confused, both as to Greene's role on the team and as to that of Willis Otanez, who moved to first base for a few days but is back playing third at Rochester. Greene was unhappy in Cincinnati because he wasn't getting the playing time he thought he deserved, so he's not likely to be too thrilled with the Orioles once he realizes that between Cal Ripken, Rafael Palmeiro, Baines, Rich Becker, and Davis, he's not going to get much playing time in Baltimore, either.
On the health front, Earl Weaver's is looking better, as he was released from the hospital following his heart attack, while Jimmy Key's is looking worse, as he still experiences shoulder pain and it isn't clear whether he can pitch. Ever. He reiterated that if he requires surgery, he will retire instead.
Finally, several readers have questioned DUOP's description of Willis Otanez
as "the Orioles' best prospect." Ranking prospects is hardly an exact science,
of course, and it depends what question you're trying to answer. "Which minor
leaguer can most help the team right now?" will yield very different results than
"Which minor leaguer will have the best major league career?" Without being too
longwinded about it, DUOP agrees that Cal Pickering is also a top prospect for
the Orioles. We certainly haven't forgotten about the Other Cal; indeed, we've
brought him up many times, whenever the issue of signing Rafael Palmeiro to a
long term deal is raised. Otanez and Pickering rank 1-2 on the Os prospect
lists; if you'd prefer to rank them as Pickering-Otanez, we won't argue. Either
way, our point still stands -- Ripken is blocking one of the Orioles' best
prospects, and Greene simply adds another body at the same position.
So far, so good. Juan Guzman has started twice for the Orioles, and has given the Orioles two excellent starts. Today, against the hapless Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the worst offensive team in the league, he was strong, allowing just one run in five and two-third innings on just three hits and two walks. Alan Mills, Jesse Orosco, and Armando Benitez provided three and a third hitless, scoreless innings of relief, as the Orioles defeated the Devil Rays, 2-1. The Orioles provided little offense of their own, with just six singles and a double against Tony Saunders, but it was enough. And Eric Davis extended his own team record hitting streak to 26 games with two hits in four at bats. Meanwhile, the Red Sox were off tonight, so the Orioles gained half a game on them in the Wild Card Race.
In more somber news, it was announced that former Orioles manager Earl Weaver had suffered a heart attack last week, but is recovering. We at DUOP, as well as Orioles fans everywhere, wish him the best and hope for a speedy recovery. (And we wouldn't object to seeing him replacing Ray Miller in the dugout, either.) And there's some other Ex-O news, this time of the more pleasant variety: RHP Dennis Martinez finally got the 244th career win he'd been searching for all year, passing Juan Marichal for the most wins among Latin American pitchers. Also, DH Pete Incaviglia was called up by the Houston Astros, and OF Jack Voigt was reacquired by the Rangers from Oakland for a PTBNL.
The Orioles made a big (?) splash off the field on Monday. As was rumored yesterday, the Orioles traded Jeffrey Hammonds to the Cincinnati Reds for Willie Greene, after Reds GM Jim Bowden dropped his demand that the Orioles pay a significant portion of Hammonds' ill-advised contract. We don't really understand this trade; as Ken Rosenthal of the Sun pointed out, it raises far more questions than it answers. The trade was essentially a swap of disappointing players; from a strictly talent perspective, the Orioles came out ahead. Greene is probably a better hitter but worse fielder, but he's a year younger, and more importantly, he plays. So what's the problem? Willie Greene doesn't fit on this team. He's a lefty on a team filled with lefties; indeed, on days when Davis starts -- which seems to be every day, now -- the Orioles now have no right-handed bats on the bench at all. Moreover, unless he can play shortstop -- the position at which he came up through the minors -- he simply blocks the Orioles' best prospect, Willis Otanez, at third base (assuming, that is, that either one of them can ever manage to budge Cal Ripken). Although reports indicate that Greene's supposed to be insurance in case Rafael Palmeiro leaves, we at DUOP don't understand that at all. When are people going to learn that having a player who can't handle the offensive demands of a position is just as damaging as having a player who can't handle the defensive demands? And, yes, we're trying to say that Willie Greene can't handle the offensive demands of first base. And neither can Cal.
Career numbers: HAMMONDS (93-98) and GREENE (92-98) G AB R H 2b 3b HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG AVG JH: 409 1345 217 355 76 8 51 183 109 249 38 8 .322 .446 .264 WG: 444 1335 189 333 52 10 63 224 191 342 12 6 .343 .445 .249 Best single season: HAMMONDS (1997) and GREENE (1997) G AB R H 2b 3b HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG AVG JH: 118 397 71 105 19 3 21 55 32 73 15 1 .323 .486 .264 WG: 151 495 62 125 22 1 26 91 78 111 6 0 .354 .459 .253
Finally, with all the discussion about signing Rafael Palmeiro to a multiyear
contract, or replacing him with Willie Greene, we thought you might like to know
that Calvin Pickering, after being named Eastern League player of the week,
celebrated by hitting his 25th home run for Bowie tonight.
Anyway, in today's game, even though Mike Mussina recorded a season high of 11 strikeouts, he wasn't particularly sharp, giving up 12 hits over 7 innings in the loss. Despite the fact that the pitching staff has been beat up all season long, Manager Ray Miller left Mussina in to pitch 136 pitches, on a night when Mussina obviously didn't have his best stuff. On a positive note, Roberto Alomar hit his 11th homer and B.J. Surhoff added his 16th, as the Orioles established a team record by hitting a home-run in 20 consecutive games. And DUOP would be negligent if we didn't mention that Eric Davis went 1-5 to extend his hitting streak to 25 games, a new Oriole record. Davis, a free agent after this season, wants to remain with the Orioles- and the Orioles apparently want him as well, as the two sides are close to agreeing to a one year contract for next season at $3.5 million, with an option for 2000. As Davis is already 36 years of age, and given his injury history, we'd have to caution resigning him, though as long as only one season is guaranteed it shouldn't be a problem.
On the other hand, reports are that Rafael Palmeiro just rejected a 3-year, $21 million offer, as he apparently wants 5 years like Brady Anderson and Scott Erickson. Palmeiro also considers his market value the same as Boston's Mo Vaughn, who recently rejected a $37 million, 4-year offer. There's a couple major differences between Vaughn and Palmeiro however- one is that Vaughn is 3 years younger than Palmeiro, and the other is named Calvin Pickering. Remember that name. Pickering is on an absolute tear at Bowie, and today went 2-3, including his 24th homer (2nd in the league), to raise his average to .285. And as Palmeiro would be 39 at the end of a 5-year contract, hopefully the club learned from Brady's struggles this season that it's very risky to sign a 34-year old for that many years and for that much money.
And could there be a new ex-Oriole report coming? Reports have surfaced that the Orioles offered outfielder Jefferey Hammonds to the Reds for third baseman/outfielder Willie Greene. In terms of talent, this is pretty much an even trade, though Greene is a year younger, and Hammonds' talent doesn't do you much good from the DL. Nonetheless, it strikes us as an odd trade, unless the club has finally grown tired of all of Hammonds' injuries. Since Hammonds is a better defensive outfielder, it would seem as though the Orioles are looking to possibly replace Cal at third base. Since third baseman Willis Otanez has been sitting at AAA Rochester destroying pitchers all season long, it's an even odder trade, since they could simply call him up without having to give anyone up.
Career numbers: HAMMONDS (93-98) and GREENE (92-98) G AB R H 2b 3b HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG AVG 409 1345 217 355 76 8 51 183 109 249 38 8 .322 .446 .264 444 1335 189 333 52 10 63 224 191 342 12 6 .343 .445 .249 Best single season: HAMMONDS (1997) and GREENE (1997) G AB R H 2b 3b HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG AVG 118 397 71 105 19 3 21 55 32 73 15 1 .323 .486 .264 151 495 62 125 22 1 26 91 78 111 6 0 .354 .459 .253
The Orioles moved into a tie for second with Anaheim in the Wild Card race, as 21-year old rookie Sydney Ponson won his fifth straight decision to lead the Orioles to a 6-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins. The win put them 5 games over .500 for the first time since April 21st, when they were 12-7. Brady Anderson hit his 3rd homer in two games, Rafael Palmeiro went 3-5 with 2 doubles, a homerun, and 3 RBI, and Eric Davis had 2 hits to extend his hitting streak to 24 games, tying him with Palmeiro for the longest streak in Orioles history.
Doug Drabek, who had recently been demoted to the bullpen, was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to August 1st with a pulled left hamstring. To take his place on the roster, Bobby Munoz was recalled from AAA Rochester, where he has gone 2-0 with 12 saves, a 0.52 earned run average and 29 strikeouts in his past 28 games. To make room on the 40-man roster, pitcher Billy Percibal was designated for assignment. There are also reports that Jimmy Key, who is in pain every time he pitches, may go back on the DL, while Scott Kamieniecki, who has also spent time on the DL this season, is set to start on Tuesday.
With Drabek going on the DL, once again we're hearing how the Orioles have been decimated by injuries this season, and that the reason the Orioles are winning again is that they have finally become healthy. But we already noted earlier this season that blaming the injuries on the Orioles disappointing season is just making excuses, and that it doesn't even hold much water. Mike Mussina only missed 6 starts during his 2 stints on the DL. Drabek going on the DL is addition by subtraction. And finally, we have to ask, how much have Jimmy Key and Scott Kamieniecki contributed to the Orioles 22-5 run since the All-Star break? The answer is not much. In fact, the reason why the Orioles have done so much better since the break has more to do with the hitting than the pitching. In the 27 games since the break, in which the O's have gone 22-5, they've scored 6.81 runs per game, and given up 4.03 runs per game. In the 28 games before the break, when the O's went 9-19, they scored only 4.53 runs per game while giving up 5.29 runs per game. So it's apparent that the offense has improved more than the pitching, and much of the pitching improvements can be attributed not to the returns of the opening day rotation, but to the releases of Norm Charlton and Terry Mathews, and the reduced role of Doug Drabek.
Finally, as the July 31st trading deadline approached, we were glad to hear that the Orioles were unwilling to part with prospects Ponson, Ryan Minor, Calvin Pickering, Chris Fussell, Jayson Werth, Darnell McDonald, and Matt Riley (although why Nerio Rodriguez, their #1 prospect according to Baseball America, was expendable is beyond us). It's a good sign that the organization is trying to develop and keep its' top prospects, but if the Orioles are unwilling to play any of them, what's the point? While certainly none of these players are ready to make an impact yet (although Rocky Coppinger and Danny Clyburn are), if all of the Oriole veteran free-agents-to-be are signed to long-term contracts, we're wondering where exactly these prospects are going to play. Just food for thought as Peter Angelos has intensified discussions to extend the contracts of Rafael Palmeiro, B.J. Surhoff, Eric Davis, Roberto Alomar, and Alan Mills- all players who are already over 30 years old.
The Orioles moved to within 7.5 games of the Boston Red Sox in the Wild Card Race with a 16-9 pounding of the Minnesota Twins. Scott Erickson gave up 5 runs in the first inning, and only lasted 4 innings, but the bullpen and offense carried the team to their 21st victory out of 26 games since the All-Star break, and moved the team to 4 games over .500.
Erickson's poor outing is causing a bit of concern. Here's how he's performed his last three starts:
Game IP H R ER BB K 7-26 5 8 7 2 3 2 7-31 3 8 5 4 0 1 8-7 4 8 7 6 4 4
It could just be typical Erickson, who despite his label of "consistent starter," has dominant streaks and terrible streaks, or it could be a sign that Ray Miller has overused him, like he did to Arthur Rhodes- who's now on the Disabled List. On June 20th, Erickson had a tremendously high pitch count of 149 in an 11-3 Oriole win, and he has been among the league leaders in innings pitched all season long. Obviously, 3 starts is too little to draw any real conclusions from, but it does show the foolishness of signing a 30-year old pitcher to a 5-year contract. And just for comparison purposes, with Erickson's performance last night, his ERA jumped up to 4.18. The 25-year old Jimmy Haynes last night improved his record to 8-4, with a nearly identical 4.35 ERA.
Speaking of signing players to long-term contracts, we came across this sentence in the Baltimore Sun, as the Orioles are working on extending the contracts of B.J. Surhoff (34), Rafael Palmeiro (34), Eric Davis (36), Roberto Alomar (30, and Alan Mills (32): "Like Davis, Palmeiro has enhanced his leverage with a recent offensive surge." While these players are hot, and have certainly been key players for the Orioles the past few seasons, we have to wonder what Rafael Palmeiro's recent offensive surge has anything to so with how he'll perform over the next five years- as he's seeking a 5-year deal worth close to $50 million dollars. Since Kevin Malone recently said, "Are we supposed to pay everyone for what they do in the past or for what they do in the future -- and for how many years in the future?", we have to assume it's Peter Angelos who's initiating these long-term discussions that will only make this team older.
We'll have more shortly on what we think of re-signing these players, but with the exception of Alomar, who is a legitimate superstar and is only 30, it would be a mistake to re-sign all of these players. Although Brady Anderson went 5-6 yesterday, with 2 homers, 2 doubles, and 5 RBI to raise his average all the way up to .230, does anyone think he's going to be worth $5 million dollars in 4 years, when he turns 39? And in the case of Palmeiro, signing him for five years would be a big mistake, as he will be 39 by the time that contract ends, and it would block prospect Calvin Pickering, who will be ready to step in by the year 2000 at the latest. Pickering is on fire at Bowie, and courtesy of RSAK, a reader, here is how he stands among Eastern League (AA) hitters:
.289 AVG (12th) 22 homers (2nd) 85 RBI (1st) 111 hits (12th) .398 on-base (2nd) .518 slugging (4th) 62 runs (10th) 45 extra-base hits (tied 4th) 66 walks (2nd)
The Orioles basically can't afford to lose any games the rest of the way, and tonight they open up a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome, as part of a 10-game road trip. The Orioles will start Scott Erickson, Sydney Ponson, and Mike Mussina against LaTroy Hawkins, Brad Radke, and Eric Milton. While DUOP has criticized the BrainRust for their treatment of young players, 21-year old Sydney Ponson is drawing rave reviews from the entire organization. Manager Ray Miller says of Ponson, "That's the way our prospects are supposed to look... Compact delivery and he throws 97-mph fastballs and sinkers, and he has the startings of a good curve and a great changeup." Of course, Ponson would never have gotten a chance with the club, had there not been injuries to Jimmy Key, Scott Kamieniecki, Mike Mussina, and Doug Drabek. And their patience with Ponson, while refreshing, is rare. Usually, if a prospect struggles at all, the organization jerks him around between the majors and minors, and then trades him away, like Jimmy Haynes and Nerio Rodriguez, and possibly Rocky Coppinger. It would be nice if the organization gave a guy like Ponson a chance in the first place, instead of wasting close to $6.4 million in the hopes that Drabek, Norm Charlton, Ozzie Guillen, and Joe Carter would become 5 years younger.
Finally, a brief ex-Oriole report. Randy Myers, the closer for the Blue Jays, was traded to the San Diego Padres, where he will likely be a set-up man for closer Trevor Hoffman.
In any case, Roberto Alomar helped out Guzman- his former teammate in Toronto- with a leadoff homerun and RBI single, while Rafael Palmeiro broke the game open in the 8th with his 5th career Grand Slam. Eric Davis doubled in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to 22 games, the second longest streak in Orioles history. Speaking of streaks, Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros sat out yesterday's game, ending his consecutive games streak at 494 games- which was the second longest active streak behind only Cal Ripken.
Finally, in ex-Oriole news, Norm Charlton, recently released by the Orioles,
signed a minor league contract
with the Braves. Should he be called up, he'd join former Oriole Ozzie Guillen,
who was released by the O's and signed by Atlanta earlier this season.
In injury news, the Orioles recalled All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar and designated-hitter Harold Baines from the DL before the game tonight. To make room on the roster, Lyle Mouton and P.J. Forbes were optioned to Rochester. Arthur Rhodes may be able to return from the DL next week, and that could finally spell the end of Doug Drabek's Orioles tenure. Should that occur, that would mean a perfect 0-4 for the BrainRust's acquisitions this offseason- Joe Carter has already been traded, and Ozzie Guillen and Norm Charlton were released earlier this season.
Speaking of the BrainRust, Kevin Malone chatted on washingtonpost.com on Monday, and he had
some interesting things to say. Among other things, he criticizes Brady
Anderson and Cal Ripken for their production this season (then why hasn't
AAA All-Star Willis Otanez been called up?), says that Rafael Palmeiro
isn't worth $10 million since his future production isn't likely going to
be worth it (we agree, especially since top-prospect Calvin Pickering is on
a tear at Bowie), and lends some credibility to the argument that Peter
Angelos is the one making all of the decisions for the Orioles. A very
interesting read. Oh, and finally, Malone had this to say about the
possibility of Davey Johnson returning to manage the Orioles: "No possible
way. Davey's relationship with Mr. Angelos is somehwat strained, to say the
least. You're more apt to see Mr. Angelos in uniform managing the club than
Davey." We sure hope not.
On the possibility of the Orioles catching the Red Sox for the Wild Card, shortstop Mike Bordick says: "Right now, I think we just have to take care of ourselves... We've got to win every night and try to start paying attention in September. Hopefully we'll look up in September and see we have a legitimate shot. We just have to win and hope the other teams lose." Though the Orioles will get help tonight, as Harold Baines and Roberto Alomar are set to be activated from the DL, here's the tough task the O's are facing. With only 51 games remaining, if the Orioles play .700 baseball the rest of the way (and keep in mind that only the Yankees have played that well all season), all the Red Sox would have to do is play close to .500 (.519 to be exact) to tie the Orioles. And while the Red Sox do have a history of choking, and the Orioles play the Sox 6 times before the season is over, remember that the Orioles also trail Texas and Anaheim in the hunt.
That having been said, was the Nerio Rodriguez trade worth it? Here's what ESPNET Sportszone columnist Rob Neyer had to say about it: "As you might guess, I hold this trade up as yet another example of King Peter's tomfoolery. Rodriguez has taken some lumps against American League hitters, but in my mind he still projects as a quality major league pitcher, and you don't find those guys just hanging around on street corners. Maybe it's a good deal for the O's if they reach the postseason, but that's not a likelihood." So you know what Ray Miller plans to do to reach the post-season? He's thinking about going to a 4-man rotation.
That's all well and good, except for a few minor details. Mike Mussina has
a sore hamstring, and informed Davey Johnson when he thought of implementing a
4-man rotation in 1996 that he didn't feel comfotable working on 3 days rest.
Scott Erickson leads the league in innings pitched, and Miller believes he's
starting to wear down to the extent that he's has been told to rest between
starts instead of taking his usual throwing sessions. Juan Guzman has been on
the DL numerous times in his career, and what the Orioles don't need next
season is a starter on the DL, like Jimmy Key and Scott Kamieniecki have
been this season. Finally, the last thing the Orioles need to do is overuse
rookie pitcher Sydney Ponson. But hey, who needs a future? You can always
pick up a few more free agents right?
After getting crushed twice by the lowly Royals, including an embarrasing loss where the Royals stole eight bases off Baltimore, the Os had to do something on Sunday. Fortunately, Sidney Ponson (take note, Ray Miller: a young pitcher) was starting. Ponson shut down the Royals for seven innings -- the longest outing of his brief career -- allowing just one extra base hit and two runs, as the Orioles somewhat returned the favor of the previous two days, pounding the Royals, 9-2. The offense was a team effort, as the Os hit seven doubles and a home run among their sixteen hits. Every starter had at least one hit (meaning that Eric Davis' hitting streak has now reached 20 games) including three hits apiece by Cal Ripken and Jeffrey Hammonds.
Hammonds' three hits included two doubles and a home run, as he played like a healthy player for the first time in weeks. That's not to say that he is healthy; he's been playing in pain. But the performance probably salvaged his roster spot; with Harold Baines and Roberto Alomar set to return from the disabled list, the Orioles need to make moves before Tuesday's game. Had Hammonds been unable to perform, he probably would have been put back on the disabled list. Now, it seems likely that Lyle Mouton will be demoted to Rochester instead. P.J. Forbes will also almost certainly be sent down.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox finished off their sweep of the Anaheim Angels
last night, and so the Os failed to gain in the wild card race, remaining ten
games behind Boston -- and eleven games behind in the loss column, making it
almost impossible for the Orioles to catch them.
Yesterday, the Kansas City Royals hit four home runs as they scored nine runs in pounding the Orioles. Today, the Royals hit just two home runs, but the Orioles allowed a team-record tying eight stolen bases, and the Royals still managed to score nine runs, as they routed the Orioles, 9-5. This game was closer than yesterday's; it was 6-5 until the Royals pulled away with three insurance runs in the seventh and eighth innings, despite the Orioles' numerous mental lapses, baserunning mistakes, and errors in the field. But it counts as a loss all the same, and it drops the Orioles ten games behind the Red Sox in the wild card race -- and eleven games behind in the loss column. Once again, Chris Hoiles was one of the few bright spots, offensively, as he hit yet another home run. Eric Davis also managed to extend his hitting streak to 19 games.
Since coming back from the disabled list, Scott Kamieniecki has started twice, pitching 9.1 innings, allowing 14 hits, 9 runs, 4 walks, and six strikeouts. Given Jimmy Key's equally inauspicious return from injury, it's easy to see why the Orioles felt they needed to acquire Juan Guzman. Of course, that doesn't explain why they couldn't use Nerio Rodriguez and Rocky Coppinger.
What bothers us most is Ray Miller's attitude. Those who have listened to Miller over the six months of his managerial tenure will note that, despite Thomas Boswell's claim that Miller stands by his players, Miller never hesitates to criticize younger players like Nerio Rodriguez or Armando Benitez. And yet he makes up all sorts of excuses for older players like Doug Drabek. What's worse is that his assessments of pitchers seem to be based on everything except how they have actually pitched. His reason for signing Juan Guzman? "I've been pushing for him for one particular reason - he is very hard to get the ball off the ground against." Well, given that Guzman has given up 19 home runs in 145 innings this year, the statement is just wrong. But aside from that, what kind of logic is that? Shouldn't he look at how well Guzman has pitched, rather than worrying about how he pitches? There are no style points in baseball, after all. And yet, in our memory, we cannot recall even one time when Ray Miller actually mentioned a pitcher's ERA.
DUOP has taken some criticism from people who feel that we are too negative
towards the Orioles' chances, so we would just like to reiterate our position.
Could the Orioles win? Sure, miracles can happen, but if the Orioles make the
playoffs this season, that would be the greatest comeback in the history of baseball!! If
the Orioles play .700 baseball for the rest of the season -- better than the
Braves have played all season long -- they'd end up with a 91-71 record. For the
Red Sox to beat out the Orioles, all they'd have to do is play .500 ball the rest
of the season! And we should note that the Red Sox have played .589 ball so far
this year. So yes, mathmatically it is possible for the O's to come back (they
now trail Boston by 10 games, so all they've picked up since the All-Star break
is 5.5 games), but in all likelihood, it's not going to happen.
We understand what it's like to be a fan -- we are fans, after all -- so we know
how hard it is to admit that the team isn't going to win. But we can't
understand why some Orioles fans (and Orioles' management) seem to be so much
less realistic than fans of other teams. It's not like the Orioles have one of
the better teams in the league, and only trail the Red Sox by two or three games.
The Orioles are a .500 team, who trail second place by ten full games.
Oakland and Seattle were only 10 games out of first place in the AL West, and
nobody thinks they're in contention. Toronto's only 11.5 games behind the Red
Sox -- only half a game behind the Orioles -- and nobody thinks they're in
contention. St. Louis is only 10 games behind the wild card in the NL, and
nobody thinks they're in contention.