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Do you want the bad news first, or the bad news? Let's start with the bad news. Coming off a sweep of the Tigers, the Orioles came into Kansas City looking to build on their 17-3 post-All Star record. Instead, Scott Erickson was terrible, giving up 8 hits, including three home runs, and 5 runs (4 earned), in just three innings of work. And Doug Draboskie, the Last Horseman of the Apocolypse, did what he does best -- pitch badly. Coming in in a mopup role, he allowed four more runs in five innings of work, giving up seven hits and walking two while not striking out a batter. (Keep in mind, this was against the Kansas City Royals, not exactly an offensive powerhouse.) The Orioles scored 5 runs in the ninth to make the score look close, but in reality, they were blown out by the Royals, 9-6. The only bright spots for the Os were Chris Hoiles continuing his hot hitting with a 2-run homer in the ninth, and Eric Davis extending his hitting streak to 18 games with a home run in the sixth inning, his tenth home run since the All-Star Break.
Now we come to the bad news. The Orioles, under the delusion that they're in contention, despite losing ground to the Red Sox once again, traded away the player Baseball America ranked as the #1 prospect in the Orioles organization this year, Nerio Rodriguez. They also threw in Appalachian League outfielder Shannon Carter (second cousin to Joe, who was traded the other day), and in exchange, picked up 31-year old right hander Juan Guzman. Guzman, who won the ERA title two years ago, has been seriously injury-plagued the past three seasons. And that's the good news. The bad news is that when he isn't healthy, he pitches badly. So far this year, he has ranged from bad (an ERA over 5 in the first part of the season) to good (an ERA of 2.01 in his last eight starts). Guzman is expected to take Jimmy Key's spot in the rotation, at least this time around, and pitch Wednesday versus Detroit. While Carter can hardly be considered a loss, considering he was struggling at Rookie level, Nerio Rodriguez was ready for the majors now, and could have stepped in and helped the Orioles. But now his career has just one Orioles' highlight to it, five perfect innings against the Blue Jays on July 13th.
Note that if the Orioles can be considered to be in contention, then so can the Blue Jays, who are only a game and a half behind the Orioles in the standings. And yet the Blue Jays traded away Guzman, Ed Sprague, Tony Phillips and Mike Stanley in the last 48 hours. Why is it obvious to them that they're out of contention, and yet not obvious to Pat Gillick and Peter Angelos? And as DUOP predicted, the Orioles' opponents aren't standing still. After trading for Mike Stanley yesterday, the Red Sox also added Greg Swindell and Orlando Merced today. The Rangers, who the Orioles also must catch, added former Oriole Todd Zeile, Todd Stottlemyre, and Royce Clayton (after adding Esteban Loaiza last week). And the Angels picked up Charlie O'Brien and called up hot prospect Troy Glaus. (Note that the Angels called up a good young player, figuring that quality is more important than age.)
About the only silver lining we can think of is that the Orioles didn't trade
away more young players. With Pat Gillick's usual m.o., we expected to see
Willis Otanez and Rocky Coppinger playing somewhere else, too. There is some
good news for the team, at least on the health front; Rhodes, Baines, and Alomar all appear to be recovering from
their injuries. Alomar is expected back for the first game for which he is
eligible, Tuesday versus the Tigers.
Too bad the Orioles can't play Detroit all year; they might never lose a game. In the final of this three-game series, Eric Davis hit two home runs and drove in three runs, as the Orioles scored four runs early and held on to beat the Tigers, 6-4 to sweep this series and improve their 1998 record against the Tigers to 8-1. Jimmy Key, starting his first game in two months, was not sharp, lasting just three innings (he was on a strict pitch count) and giving up three runs and nine baserunners, having to escape from two bases-loaded situations. But the bullpen was, as usual (now that Norm Charlton and Terry Mathews are gone), excellent, as Pete Smith pitched 3 innings of 2 hit, one run relief, and Alan Mills, Jesse Orosco, and Armando Benitez each contributed a scoreless inning. Key's condition is not particularly promising at this point, as he still experiences shoulder pain.
The Os managed to gain a game on the Red Sox today, now trailing Boston by "only" eight games in the standings, but nine in the loss column. Nevertheless, as Ken Rosenthal of the Sun points out, catching the Red Sox is unlikely and trading prospects is a bad idea. One of the things optimists who think the Orioles just need to make a move to catch the Red Sox forget is that the Red Sox also can make moves; they started today by reacquiring Mike Stanley from the Blue Jays.
Trading prospects for a veteran isn't the only questionable move the Orioles are considering. They're also thinking of signing left fielder B.J. Surhoff to a multiyear deal. Now, Surhoff is very popular, but the idea that has sprung up in the press that he is underrated is, frankly, strange to us. Is he a solid, consistent player? Of course. Isn't that how most people think of him? So how can he possibly be underrated? As to the idea that the Os should hand him a multiyear deal, signing a player that old is almost never a good idea.
Tomorrow is the trading deadline, and there are sure to be many blockbuster
deals (with the biggest potentially involving Randy Johnson), so be sure to check
out DUOP tomorrow for all the Os-relevant coverage.
Well, whereever the Orioles' offense went in June, it's back, and the Orioles just keep rolling along. Today the Orioles scored early and often, thanks to a home run by Brady Anderson and *two* home runs from the suddenly hot-hitting Chris Hoiles, who drove in six runs. Meanwhile, Jeff Reboulet, Rafael Palmeiro, Eric Davis, and Hoiles all had three hits, and Cal Ripken had two (including his first triple since Woodrow Wilson was president), as the Orioles used 18 hits -- eight of them for extra bases -- and 7 walks, en route to a 14-2 rout of the hapless Detroit Tigers. Mike Mussina wasn't especially sharp, striking out just one batter in six innings, but he allowed just six hits and one run, and Doug Johns finished up the last three innings of the blowout for his second career save. Whether it's an accomplishment to beat up on Frank "8.10 ERA" Castillo is debatable, but, hey, all wins count the same.
Meanwhile, Hoiles isn't the only Baltimore catcher who's hot; over the team's last twenty games, both he and backup Lenny Webster have been tearing the cover off the ball.
NAME G AB HIT 2B 3B HR SLG RUN RBI BB SO OBP SB-CS HBP E AVG webster,lenny 14 49 20 4 0 4 .735 7 16 0 7 .408 0-0 0 2 .408 hoiles,chris 11 35 12 3 0 4 .771 5 14 4 9 .425 0-1 1 1 .343 Total Catchers -- 84 32 7 0 8 .750 12 30 4 16 .416 0-1 1 3 .381
Unfortunately, the Orioles once again failed
to pick up ground on the Red Sox, showing why their chances of making the
playoffs are so slim, and thus why it would be insane to take out a
second mortgage on the future in an attempt to win. And, yet, management is now
considering trading for Randy Johnson! The Randy Johnson sweepstakes
are hot, given that the trading deadline is Friday, but there's no way the
Orioles could or should outbid the Yankees and Indians, two teams rumored to be
interested in Randy. Indeed, despite the Orioles' frantic pursuit of another
starting pitcher, it appears that they will not be able to get one. We at DUOP
aren't clear what the Orioles would do with another starter, now that Key and
Kamieniecki are off the disabled list, but the point seems moot, since the Os
don't have the minor league talent, and aren't willing to part with any
significant major leaguers, needed to complete a trade.
Are the Orioles back on the right track? More importantly, is Ray Miller finally on the right track? Today rookie Sidney Ponson was shaky early, giving up five runs in the first inning, including a bases loaded HBP to former Oriole DH Geronimo Berroa and a grand slam, but Miller actually allowed someone under the age of 35 to work his way out of trouble, and Ponson shut down the Tigers for five more innings. Meanwhile, the bullpen provided three shutout innings from Mills, Orosco, and Benitez, and home runs from Lenny Webster and Eric Davis provided offense, and the Orioles beat Detroit, 6-5.
Meanwhile, wild cheering was heard throughout the city of Baltimore as the transaction wire appeared. Jimmy Key was finally activated off the disabled list after two months away from the team with what was thought to be a potentially career-ending injury. And more importantly, in order to make room for him, rather than demoting Nerio Rodriguez to AAA, Norm Worst Reliever In the Majors In 1997 And Working On Repeating Charlton was sent packing. After four months of completely worthless pitching (a 6.94 ERA and two baserunners allowed per inning), following a full year of terrible pitching (an era over 7) for the Mariners, Charlton was released by the Orioles today. While we are extremely happy about this development, we should point out that this simply shows how poor a job the front office has done; Charlton makes the third of the four major off-season acquisitions which looked horrible at the time and which the Orioles have finally admitted were really stupid -- Charlton, Guillen, and Carter -- by releasing or trading the player for very little. The fourth, Doug Drabek, still infests the roster, but at least he has finally been removed from the rotation by Ray "I'll figure it out eventually; it just takes me longer than everybody else" Miller.
In any case, the Orioles designated Joel Bennett just a few days ago in order to make room for P.J. Forbes so that the Os could keep the injured and unavailable Roberto Alomar on the roster for an extra four days. Had they released Charlton just one week earlier, they could have kept Bennett on the roster instead of giving him just two innings of work and then letting him go. Bennett, who was close to setting records at Rochester before being called up to Baltimore, has chosen to sign with Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Philadelphia's AAA team, rather than rejoin the Red Wings. The Orioles' organizational philosophy has costs. Not only do they have a hard time developing players when they put all their efforts into signing ancient veterans, but they have a hard time retaining talented minor leaguers in the organization. Why would any minor leaguer want to stay with the Os when they know they'll never get a fair shot? Willis Otanez, their most talented AAA prospect, can leave when this season ends if he isn't placed on the 40-man roster, and it seems likely he'll do just that, knowing that he's stuck behind the unproductive Cal Ripken until Miller gets a clue.
Why does DUOP keep insisting that the Orioles' chances are so slim, despite
their hot streak? Because no team in history has done what the Orioles need to do. But
to follow the O's quest for the playoffs, check out Josh's "You
Just Gotta Believe" Wild Card Race Chart.
Well, the Orioles won a game easily today, dominating the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-1 in the annual Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown. Unfortunately, this game doesn't count. As is the case every year with this midseason exhibition game, many of the veterans -- including Cal Ripken and Rafael Palmeiro -- were rested by the team. Rich Becker and minor league catcher Jim Foster homered for the Orioles, and Radhames Dykhoff was credited with the win.
Unfortunately, just as DUOP predicted, the O's hot start in the second half
has convinced management that the Orioles are contenders. The downside of that
is not just that the team won't rebuild. Even worse, the team is likely
to do the opposite: give away prospects for veterans. The Orioles are looking
to add a veteran pitcher, though the reason why they would do that remains
unclear. Among the names the Brainrust is reportedly interested in are Carlos
Perez, Todd Stottlemyre, Jon Lieber, Mark Leiter, Mark Portugal, and Willie
Blair. Management insists they will not trade away anybody on the major league
roster -- including Benitez and Mills -- but apparently are willing to give away
potential future star pitchers like Nerio Rodriguez and Chris Fussell. They also
claim that they don't want to acquire a player unless he can help them this
season and beyond, but as you can see from the list of pitchers they're looking
at, this consideration appears to have falled by the wayside. Only Carlos Perez
fits that bill, and he just got injured. Indeed, some of the players listed
don't look like they would be useful in any time period. Willie Blair?
The only way he could help the Orioles would be to get traded to the Yankees.
Josh sent us this pretty neat "You Just Gotta Believe" Wild Card Race Chart that his dad made, and we have to admit the Orioles' recent surge into contention was pretty exciting. But just as quickly as the Orioles got back into the race, the two-game losing streak puts them a solid 9 games back. As Ray Miller says: "It's going to be uphill. Obviously we need to win ballgames, and we need Boston to lose. And Toronto to lose. And Anaheim to lose. You just turn the page and move on."
So, were these two weeks of wins a playoff push and a sign this team can reach the post-season? Or was it merely a correction that put this team back at the .500 level, which is where we predicted they'd be at the beginning of the season? Only time will tell, as the Orioles get set to play 16 of their next 18 games on the road. And since now it's virtually certain that the Orioles won't initiate the rebuilding process (especially since Roberto Alomar can't even be traded since he's on the DL through the trading deadline), we just have to hope that the Orioles don't go the opposite direction and trade the few remaining prospects in the minors for over-priced veterans.
Why do we say over-priced? Well, remember Willie Blair, the guy the BrainRust
wanted to sign to a big contract after his 16-8 record last season? Well, that
was only Blair's second winning season in his entire 9 year major league career,
and he has never posted an ERA under 4. This season, he's 4-14 with a 5.35
ERA, and is the losingest pitcher in the majors! Thank goodness the Orioles only
wasted money on one-year deals to guys like Joe Carter ($3.3 million, including
deferrals- $500,000 of which the Orioles had to eat after his trade to the
Giants) and Ozzie Guillen, who earned half a million dollars for proving what
everyone else already knew- that he couldn't field or hit anymore. In any case,
one more of the Orioles bad free agent signings- Doug Drabek- has
finally been removed from the rotation. In injury news, Jimmy Key
may start on Thursday at Detroit, and Harold Baines will likely be
activated from the DL on Tuesday. With Joe Carter out of the picture, the Orioles
are counting on Jeffrey Hammonds to produce, although it looks
more and more like injuries are going to prevent him from ever demonstrating the
tremendous talent he possesses.
Manager Ray Miller is doing his best to have Jesse Orosco, who appeared in his 1000th games last night, join Arthur Rhodes on the DL as he continues to use him in every game. Although Orosco has shown amazing durability over the seasons, he is 42-years old. Speaking of injuries, Roberto Alomar landed on the DL afterall, and won't be eligible to return until August 3rd. Oh, and Joel Bennett, who was 10-0 at Rochester, and was the starting pitcher at the AAA All-Star game, was claimed by the Phillies. He was designated for assignment when P.J. Forbes was recalled from Rochester, and while he wasn't exactly a top prospect, he's just another name to add to the list of youngsters just thrown away by the BrainRust.
Today, we see another article in the paper that talks about re-signing Rafael Palmeiro, and like most of them, it fails to even mention prospect Calvin Pickering, who should be ready to reach the majors by the year 2000. Speaking of Palmeiro, you guys have asked us a bunch of questions regarding re-signing him, sitting down Cal Ripken, the Joe Carter trade, and re-tooling in general. So, check out our thoughts on these topics.
In any case, the Orioles have picked up an amazing 8.5 games on the Red Sox in the Wild Card race since the All-Star break, and now trail them by only 7 games. And for the first time since way back on May 14th, the Orioles are a game over .500. For those of you who criticize us for not being optimistic enough, well, even we have fallen into the group who think the Wild Card is in reach, though there is still a loooong way to go. The Orioles are playing extrememly well, averaging nearly 7 runs a game during the winning streak. Tonight, Rafael Palmeiro delivered 2 home-runs, and 26-year old Rich Becker went 3-4 with a double, homer, and 4 RBI's. It's nice to see a youngster given a chance to contribute.
As we mentioned earlier, you've asked us a bunch of questions regarding the re-signing of Rafael Palmeiro, sitting down Cal Ripken, the Joe Carter trade, and re-tooling in general. So, we've written up our thoughts on these topics. As we mentioned the past few days, you guys have sent us a ton of mail, and we really like getting to know who are readers are. So keep sending it to us, and feel free to post reactions to our thoughts on the message board, as we'd really like that to be a more active forum for discussion.
In a move that by no means signifies that the Orioles are giving up this season, Joe Carter was traded to the San Fransisco Giants for minor-league pitcher Darin Blood. With Jeffrey Hammonds ready to play again, and with Harold Baines expected to be activated from the DL Monday, there simply weren't going to be many at-bats for Carter. Carter's lack of hitting notwithstanding, Eric Davis' ailing elbow limits him to DH duties, and Carter's "defense" made him a liability in the field. Lyle Mouton was called up from Rochester to take his place on the roster.
There is a ton of commentary we'd like to get out to you, but we simply didn't have time yesterday. We'll post our thoughts on sitting Cal Ripken, resigning Rafael Palmeiro, the Carter trade, and re-tooling in general tomorrow morning, so be sure to check back for it.
Oriole Magic? The Orioles won last night in dramatic fashion as first-baseman Rafael Palmeiro hit a game-ending home-run in the bottom of the ninth inning to lead the Orioles to a 5-4 win over the Oakland A's. Chris Hoiles and Jeff Reboulet also provided home-runs for the Orioles, and the one-two punch of Jesse Orosco and Armando Benitez once again pitched scoreless relief as Benitez picked up the win. The Orioles win, coupled with the Red Sox loss to the Indians, means the Orioles are only 8 games back in the Wild Card race. The Orioles, however, still have a long-way to go, and keep in mind that they not only trail Boston, but also Anahaim and Toronto in the Wild Card hunt.
Tonight, the Orioles look for another series sweep, as Doug Drabek (6-9, 6.93 ERA) faces off against 25 year-old ex-Oriole Jimmy Haynes, who comes in sporting a nifty 7-3 record and 3.91 ERA. Says Haynes: "I came over to a young team that gave me an opportunity to go out every day and pitch." Will Nerio Rodriguez get that chance with the Orioles, or will we see him traded so that we can continue to watch 87-year old Doug Drabek get shelled every fifth day? With the imminent returns of both Jimmy Key and Scott Kamieniecki, we'll soon find out. Anyway, a reader suggested we use the headline "O's play the fool and decide not to retool," so we'll use that tomorrow when we share our thoughts on the merits of re-signing Rafael Palmeiro, and on the touchy subject of Cal Ripken, which we didn't have time to get to today.
On that note, the Oriole decision-makers met yesterday and decided that they will indeed make a run at the post-season. So that means none of the veterans will be shipped off for younger talent. Why? Well, here's what Ray Miller had to say on the matter. "The general opinion is we're not going to give up star players for kids who possibly are a couple of years away." Maybe that's the case, but are the 1999 Orioles really going to be competitive anyway? There are 11 free agents on the roster, and while Angelos has shown a willingness to spend money, can he really patch that many holes by next season? The answer is no- young talent needs to be infused into this team. Stars of today- like Jeff Bagwell, Rob Nen, Moises Alou, John Smoltz, and, sadly, Pete Harnisch, Curt Schilling, and Steve Finley- were all acquired by rebuilding teams while the players were unheard of "kids". But this will never happen with the Orioles, who insist on signing the Joe Carters and Doug Drabeks of the world. This sort of reminds us of looking through the help wanted ads- in which all of the jobs require several years of experience. How do you get experience if you need experience to get a job in the first place? That's the same reason why we see Dave Dellucci making highlight-film catches... for the Diamondbacks. And the same reason why we'll see Jimmy Haynes pitch on Thursday... for the Athletics. The Orioles are afraid to work with young talent- but as soon as these guys turn 30, the Orioles will try to reacquire them.
How else can you explain why Joel Bennett (who at 28 is only young by Oriole standards) was promoted after going 10-0 at Rochester, and then was designated for assignment today after pitching only 2 innings for the O's? Because Norm Charlton and Doug Drabek have pitched so well this year? But we've already been down that road before, and you don't feel like reading it, and we don't feel like writing it anymore. To take the place of Bennett on the roster, the Orioles recalled utility-infielder P.J. Forbes from Rochester, presumably to give the Orioles added insurance while Roberto Alomar rests his injured hand. And before you say, "Look, the Orioles are giving a youngster a shot," think again. Forbes is already 30 years old, and isn't a prospect. While pitchers Jimmy Key and Scott Kamieniecki may return soon, the Brainrust didn't discount the possibility of the Orioles trading for another veteran. It won't be Pete Harnisch, however, as today he resigned with the Reds, and has a clause that prevents him from being traded until after the season.
Anyway, we've gotten a ton of e-mail from you lately, and we're having trouble keeping up. But we really enjoy hearing from you, so keep it coming, and we'll respond to you as soon as we can. Tonight's news has already gotten long, so we'll save the touchy subject of the future of Cal Ripken until tomorrow.
Since the All-Star break, the Orioles have gone 10-1, prompting Manager Ray Miller to say: "I still stand by my guns -- that what you've seen the last 11 days is a real good ballclub that was besieged by injuries [earlier in the season]." Um, we've already pointed out that blaming the Orioles sub-.500 record on injuries just doesn't hold much water (the Red Sox and Angels have been hit with similar injuries and have much better records than the Orioles), but did we miss something? Aren't Jimmy Key and Scott Kamieniecki still on the Disabled List? Actually, the team that just went 10-1 is the same team that went 28-48 after the 10-2 start, except for the fact that youngsters like Nerio Rodriguez and Sidney Ponson were actually given chances to play.
Anyway, Sun columnist Ken Rosenthal recently called Miller a "yes-man" who made excuses for the team's poor play this season, and the defensive Miller shot back, "He couldn't manage a 7-Eleven without help" (Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!). Well, we at DUOP have the luxury of Ray Miller not even knowing we exist, although "David's Unofficial Orioles Page" just got 15 minutes (okay, around 10) of fame in a Baltimore Sun write-up. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's a shameless plug. So sue us).
Now we'd like to introduce a new feature at DUOP. We always enjoy getting mail from our readers, and here's one we received today that bears sharing with everyone (If you write us, let us know if you mind us using your name if we decide to post it on the site).
From Dave (not Dave of DUOP):
"DUOP, Although I share your thoughts about youth and
rebuilding for the future, and I thoroughly enjoy and eagerly
await each update of the website, I wonder how you will respond
if history somehow repeats itself and the O's make it this year
as a wild card to the playoffs, and maybe, just maybe, even
First of all, thanks, Dave, for your compliments. Of course we'd love it if the Orioles were to somehow make an historic comeback, and we would enjoy every moment of a playoff ride. However, the likelihood of that happening is still remote; if the Red Sox play .500 baseball the rest of the season, they would finish with a 89-73 record. For the Orioles to match that, they'd have to go 41-22, which is pretty much as well as the Braves have played all season long. Nonetheless, the "BrainRust" has all but decided that they're going to make a a push for the playoffs, and hold off rebuilding even longer. Our problem with this is that after the Orioles won the World Series in 1983, it took them 13 seasons to even make the playoffs again. Part of the reason was that in the late 1980's, the Orioles kept adding old free agents well past their primes as the "final pieces to the puzzle," and that resulted in the disastrous 1988 season. Only then, with the Orioles 0-21 start, was it apparent that it was time for them to rebuild.
The reason you hear pessimism (realism?) from DUOP is because we don't want it to take 15 years between playoff appearances. The Braves are yearly contenders. Why? A combination of a strong farm system and solid management. When Fred McGriff, Ron Gant, among others move into their less productive years, they're replaced by younger, more talented players. The Orioles, on the other hand, are the complete opposite. They treat young players like the plague. Ray Miller has all but decided that Nerio Rodriguez will be demoted to the minors as soon as Key is ready to be activated from the DL. We're wondering what Doug Drabek has to do to lose his job- become an ax-murderer on offdays? He has pitched lousy all season and through much of the '90's. And Norm Charlton has to be close to a record for lousiest pitcher for two-consecutive years- but the Orioles don't even consider dumping him when Key returns. Nerio at least has an upside- but unfortunately, he'll realize that upside in Rochester or with some other team. The only reason he or Sidney Ponson have even stepped foot onto the grass at Oriole Park is because there have been 73 injuries to the staff.
So, to answer Dave's question, we'd be delighted if the Orioles were able to reach the playoffs and win the World Series this year. But we'd like to see them do it by getting a young Brian Giles, allowing Nerio and Ponson to develop in the rotation, and while stocking the farm system with talent. We don't want to see a new collection of has-beens like Joe Carter, Charlton, and Drabek rotated through an Oriole uniform year after year. We want to see young (and good) Orioles come through the system and be given a chance to contribute- not shipped off for a "Veteran-gamer" at the first chance. So yes, we'll enjoy the ride if the Orioles were magically able to catch the Red Sox, but we have the feeling it would make Angelos think his strategy of old free agents every year is the answer, and that will catch up with the Orioles soon. So all Oriole fans better enjoy the chase for the Wild Card this season, because if the Orioles don't rebuild with young talent soon, it's going to be a long time before they're playoff contenders again (unless they just spend and spend and spend which we don't want to see either). We're hoping it doesn't take another 0-21 start for this team to realize it's time to rebuild, and we don't want to have to wait 15 years to see the O's reach the playoffs again. But while the O's are on the ride to the playoffs, we'll root for them like we always do.
If DUOP were a newspaper, you'd probably see a hackneyed opening sentence here like: "Os win in a walk," or "Os walk away with victory," or something similar. Since we're not a newspaper, you won't see any one-liners like that here. Instead, we'll just tell you about the conclusion to a successful road trip. Tied at four in the ninth, despite some sloppy play early, the Orioles pulled ahead when Angel closer Troy Percival was completely unable to find home plate, walking four batters, three of them after two were out. This led to a run, and Cal Ripken singled in two more of the walked runners, giving the Os a 7-4 victory. The offensive star of the game was Eric Davis, who hit two home runs and drove in three runs, but it shouldn't be overlooked that Reboulet, Anderson, Davis, and Palmeiro were all patient enough to draw those key walks in the ninth inning. Mike Mussina wasn't dominant today, but if it weren't for an error by Jeff Reboulet and a rare catcher's interference call against Chris Hoiles, his line would have looked better; as it was he allowed 4 runs on seven hits and no walks in 6 2/3 innings. The Orosco-Benitez tandem was once again successful, pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings to get the Os the win.
The victory pulled the Orioles back to within three games of .500, at 48-51. Astute readers will recall that the 1996 Orioles were at an almost identical 50-51 when Pat Gillick gave up on the season and tried to trade away Bobby Bonilla and David Wells. Peter Angelos vetoed that idea, and the team ultimately won the wild card berth. Unfortunately, the lesson Angelos and Gillick appear to have taken away from that situation was never rebuild. Now, they think they're in the wild card race again, so expect to see a trade for another veteran, rather than an attempt to make the team younger and better. The differences between the 1996 and 1998 teams are significant; for one thing, 50-51 was the low point for that team, whereas for this team, it will be the high point, at least since the first two weeks of the season.
In a recent Baltimore Sun article, the sportswriter noted that the Os best minor league prospect, third baseman Willis Otanez, might end up as a throw-in in some sort of trade. If there is a trade, it might involve bullpen help, since the immediate prognosis for Arthur Rhodes isn't particularly promising. For some insane reason, however, Ray Miller, rather than admitting he's been overusing Rhodes, keeps criticizing him, and has now come up with the strange idea of moving him into the starting rotation, despite his success as a setup man and the fact that he has started just 2 games in the last 2 1/2 years and none in the last 1 1/2 years. But, then, Ray Miller seems increasingly erratic and unable to handle the managerial job, despite the Os recent winning ways.
In some ex-Oriole notes, 2B Billy "I'd have retired long ago if my
last name weren't" Ripken was waived by the Tigers, and RHP
Shawn "Hey, I'm as good as Doug Drabek" Boskie was demoted to
AAA. And RHP Pete Harnisch is the subject of more rumors than
Bill Clinton's sex life; the Reds have been rumored to be trading him to San
Diego, perhaps in a three-way deal with the Tigers that could involve former Os
OF prospect Kimera Bartee.
Well, all good things must come to an end, or some such cliche. Actually, we at DUOP aren't entirely convinced that the winning streak has been such a good thing. In any case, the point is, the Os winning streak is over at nine games. The Orioles squandered numerous scoring chances early, starter Nerio Rodriguez wasn't particularly sharp, and Ray Miller overmanaged the team, all combining for an 8-3 defeat at the hands of the Angels. The Orioles put five runners on base -- including two doubles -- in the first inning, and yet only scored two runs. Despite Ray Miller's roster shuffling, other than Lenny Webster's solo home run, the team had no offense the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, a day after Ray Miller explained that the improved starting pitching allowed him to use his bullpen more intelligently, he proved that you can lead a manager to a clue, but you can't make him think. After claiming that he could finally fit relievers into their proper roles, Miller promptly violated all the usage rules he established. After an overly quick hook of Nerio Rodriguez, Miller used Doug Johns, a long reliever, in short relief. He used Alan Mills, currently a setup man, in a long relief situation. He brought in Norm Charlton -- a batting practice pitcher -- with the bases loaded and nobody out, just to give him a chance to wild pitch in a run and walk another batter. (For those of you scoring at home, that's Norm's fifth wild pitch in just 34 innings this year.) He used Armando Benitez, his putative closer, in middle relief. And then he used Joel Bennett, another long reliever, in short relief. If you can make sense of any of that, please let us know. We're confused. (Keep in mind that if you can explain Norm Charlton's continued presence on a major league roster, you may be entitled to a Nobel Prize of some sort. What IS the record for the most years with an ERA over seven, anyway?)
Furthermore, we at DUOP have the sinking feeling that Nerio has just lost his job after 3 2/3 innings, assuming Key or Kamieniecki can come back from the disabled list. Since Miller's pet Drabek didn't lose his job by pitching horribly in April, since he didn't lose his job by pitching horribly in June and the first half of July, we all know he'll never lose his job now that he had one adequate start against the Angels. That leaves promising rookie Nerio Rodriguez as the odd man out, despite not being given any serious chance by Miller, who apparently honestly believes that birth certificates are more important than talent.
If the Orioles finally realize that they're not
contenders, they'll have no trouble trading Roberto Alomar for prospects. It's
a lot harder to find a market for some of their other players, but they may
have found a team willing to take Rafael Palmeiro off their hands. And
they're not contenders, no matter what Peter Angelos, Pat Gillick, or Ray
Miller think. Despite their streak, despite their sweeps of Boston, Toronto,
and Texas, they're 10 1/2 games behind the Red Sox and 6 1/2 behind the
Rangers. Nobody seriously considers the Cincinnati Reds to be contenders,
despite having a record similar to that of the Orioles after a 10 game winning
streak similar to that of the Orioles, and despite being as close to the NL
Central lead as the Orioles are to the wild card. But it should also be noted
that the Reds are winning after trading veterans for prospects. Peter
Angelos appears to believe that trading veterans for prospects means "giving
up," but it doesn't. Not if the right prospects are acquired. The 1988
Orioles traded away every veteran they could find, including a seemingly
in-his-prime 32-year old Eddie Murray. The next year, they improved by 33 games.
Naive fans believe that Peter Angelos is in France right now. Those of us who are more well-informed know that Angelos has been missing lately because he's been busy selling his soul to the devil. That's the only plausible explanation for what's happening right now. Today against Anaheim, even Doug Drabek pitched reasonably well; although he once again failed to go six innings, he allowed just four baserunners and one run in his five-plus innings of work. Meanwhile, Rafael Palmeiro homered (the 300th of his career) and drove in four runs with his three hits, as the Os cruised to their ninth straight victory, 4-1. This victory was something of a team effort, as Charlton, Smith, Orosco, and Benitez all pitched successfully out of the bullpen.
As we at DUOP have feared, the Orioles have gotten the wrong message from this streak. Now Pat Gillick thinks the Orioles can win the wild card. As nice as this winning streak is, trust us, it making the playoffs isn't going to happen. We have repeatedly compared this Orioles team to the mid-late 1980s teams, filled with veterans but unable to contend until they went through a complete housecleaning. Well, there's historical precedent for this winning streak, too. In 1987, the Orioles came off the All-Star Break with ten consecutive victories, bringing the team almost back to .500. Guess what? They didn't win; they finished in 6th place, thirty games behind. (The parallels are eerie: The 1987 team was managed by an overmatched organization man, rather than a real manager. In that case, it was Cal Ripken Sr.; this year, it's Ray Miller, except when he's too busy abdicating his managerial responsibilities to Cal Ripken Jr. on the issue of the Streak.)
Meanwhile, despite the talk about rebuilding or retooling, trading or
standing pat, injuries continue to leave the Orioles at less than full
strength. Jeffrey Hammonds still isn't healthy, and missed yet another game with his bad
shoulder. Arthur Rhodes isn't ready yet, and the Orioles still have to take a
wait-and-see approach with both Jimmy Key and Scott Kamieniecki. Moreover, if they are
healthy, it's not clear what their roles would be. (It's clear to anybody
smarter than Ray Miller what their roles should be, but that's another
kettle of fish entirely.)
Three in a row. That's three series in a row. Not three winning series in a row; three series sweeps in a row. (Okay, two of them were two game mini-series, so the streak is "only" eight wins long, but don't spoil the fun.) So, right now, we at DUOP have a choice between being stubborn and being fickle, and we pick "stubborn;" thus we'll continue to insist that this team isn't this good. Nevertheless, one day after getting 19 hits, the Os recorded 18 more in routing the Rangers, 9-3. Roberto Alomar had four hits, and Brady Anderson and Mike Bordick each had three, as Scott Erickson, not quite as strong as he has been in recent weeks, still shut down a potent Rangers offense.
On the injury front, the news is mixed. Scott Kamieniecki, who the Os hoped to have back by next week, is still feeling stiffness. On the other hand, Jimmy Key is now throwing batting practice -- of course, so is Doug Drabek -- and the Os hope to have him back by the end of July. But Key admits that this schedule is "pushing it," and hints that he might not come back if the Orioles decide to rebuild rather than shoot for the wild card. He seems to understand a lot better than management that he's in the way of younger talent and that this isn't a good thing.
Basically, the next two weeks are the key to the whole season for the Orioles.
Good play will probably mean that everyone -- most importantly, Palmeiro and
Alomar -- stay. Bad performances by the Os will probably mean several of the
dozen or so free agents will be traded. We won't say that DUOP is rooting for the
Orioles to play badly; we'll just say this: we're rooting for the future.
Maybe there's something in the water. For two and a half months, the Orioles could do nothing right. All of the sudden, they can do no wrong. Suddenly, the team is hitting, and thanks to another solid outing by Sidney Ponson, the Orioles won their seventh straight game, another blowout, this time 14-3 over the Texas Rangers in Arlington. The Orioles recorded 19 hits and 8 walks, including 5 doubles and Rafael Palmeiro's 28th home run, in rolling to victory. For the third straight day, an Orioles catcher provided offensive firepower, as Lenny Webster had a three-hit game, driving in two runs in an early outburst to put the Os ahead of the Rangers.
Not to sound like a broken record, but we should point out that today's victory -- though obviously due to the offensive explosion -- was also fueled by the pitching of rookies Ponson and Joel Bennett, and provides more evidence that the team needs to makeover the roster, rather than keep playing expensive old guys merely because they're Veterans. Don't be fooled into thinking that this winning streak means the team is a great team right now; even bad teams can have short stretches where they get hot. More importantly, however, Orioles management doesn't seem to understand the difference between a "fire sale" and "rebuilding." They act as if the only available strategy options are to be like the Marlins or the current Orioles -- that you either get rid of veterans and don't try to contend, or you spend a trillion dollars on veterans for every position. What they Just Don't Get is that moves like replacing Doug Drabek with Sidney Ponson and Joe Carter with Danny Clyburn are not a "fire sale," but an attempt to _contend._ A rumored trade such as Alomar to Cleveland for Giles and Sexson isn't "giving up." It's retooling. These sorts of moves make the team better right now, as well as in the future.
In a brief Ex-O note, utility infielder Rex Hudler has
decided to retire. Hudler played for the Os briefly in 1986, after
coming from the Yankees in a trade for Gary Roenicke.
Will wonders never cease? All of the sudden the Orioles are playing like a winning team. They're pitching well, and now they're hitting well, too. Today, the Os used home runs by Rafael Palmeiro, Joe Carter, and BJ Surhoff, and a grand slam by Chris Hoiles, to club the Blue Jays, 11-5, and sweep the two-game miniseries. Mike Mussina wasn't particularly sharp in pitching the complete game, but he didn't have to be, as the Os had scored six runs in the first inning and he was under no pressure all game.
It's natural at this point to look at the last six games and say, "If only the Orioles had been playing this way all along." The problem, as we noted earlier, is that "all along," Sidney Ponson and Nerio Rodriguez weren't in the rotation. In any case, victories are nice, and we at DUOP can appreciate them, as long as they don't prevent the Orioles from doing what's needed. Just as a 10-2 run to open the season didn't mean the Os were a great team, this little 6-0 streak to open the second half does not mean the Os are going to win the wild card. Even if the Os have somehow revived themselves as a team, the math simply doesn't work; it would take historic collapses by the Rangers and Red Sox, as well as a fade by the Blue Jays, for the Os to make the playoffs.
On a depressing note, we have to ask whether Jeffrey Hammonds is made of
glass. Despite spending a month on the disabled list, he still isn't really healthy. He's the O's only young position
player, so we at DUOP are reluctant to say it, but he's basically a waste at this
point. We're not saying that the Orioles should release him, but by now it seems
clear that he'll never be anything more than a fourth outfielder. When healthy,
he has the talent to start, but that happens so infrequently that the team simply
cannot count on him. It's a real shame that the unproductive Os drafts of the
Roland Hemond era produced two very talented players -- Ben McDonald and Jeffrey
Hammonds -- whose promise has never been realized because of injuries.
"No hit Nerio." Well, almost -- maybe that will be his nickname someday, though. In any case, Nerio Rodriguez shut down the Toronto Blue Jays with five perfect innings before giving up one hit in the sixth. The Blue Jays aren't the most imposing offensive team, but Nerio's first outing back from the DL -- including five strikeouts and just one walk -- was impressive no matter how you slice it. Add in three scoreless innings of two-hit relief by Pete Smith, Benitez, and Orosco, and four RBI by Lenny Webster, and you have the recipe for a 5-0 whitewash of the Blue Jays and the Orioles' fifth consecutive victory.
While some will see the Os current streak as evidence that DUOP's pessimism has been misplaced, we instead choose to view it as vindication. The streak has involved good outings by Mike Mussina and Scott Erickson, but also excellent performances by youngsters Sidney Ponson and Nerio Rodriguez, people we've been arguing have belonged in the rotation all along. Meanwhile, the one recent start by one of Ray Miller's pet "Veteran Gamers" was a horrific outing by Doug Drabek in blowing a four run lead. (And we haven't even touched on Veteran Gamer Norm Charlton's disastrous relief effort in that same game.) Only some uncharacteristic offense by the Os saved Doug and Norm.
And for those who think (this means you, Ray Miller) that this little winning streak means that the Orioles are back in the wild card race, our guest contributor Andrew Torrez explains why that idea is just silly. The Orioles need to keep doing what they've finally started doing -- letting some young guys play -- and stop worrying about the standings. We're Os fans, first and foremost, and watching Nerio and Sidney Ponson show their stuff in the majors is exciting. They're the future, and they're making it look bright.
As for our readers who are still wondering why Norm Worst Reliever In the
Majors In 1997 And Working On Repeating Charlton was brought into a close game on
Sunday, it's because Arthur Rhodes was hurting and couldn't play. (Of course,
that doesn't explain why neither Alan Mills nor Doug Johns was brought into the
game at that point. And if you were hoping for an explanation for why Norm
Charlton is still in the majors, you'll have to look elsewhere.) The unhappy
Rhodes has now been put on the disabled list with a strained elbow, and
Rochester ace Joel Bennett has been called up. While we at DUOP are happy to see
a player given a chance based on merit (Bennett was 10-0 at Rochester) rather
than reputation, our natural cynicism still leads us to wonder whether there's
any other team for which calling up a 28-year old minor league journeyman actually constitutes a
Over the weekend, the last-place Florida Marlins defeated Greg Maddux, Denny Neagle, and Tom Glavine, in taking 3 of 4 games from the Atlanta Braves- the best team in the National League. Surely, noone talks about the Marlins reaching the post-season this year.
Likewise, despite an 11-7 win over the Red Sox- which capped the O's first 4-game sweep at home against the Red Sox since 1961- the Orioles need to keep their long-term interests in perspective. Even though the Orioles picked up 4 games on the Red Sox in the Wild Card chase, they still trail the Red Sox by 11.5 games, and they also sit behind Texas, Toronto, Minnesota, and Oakland. So while we enjoyed the bats finally waking up- as Eric Davis hit a Grand Slam and drove in 5 runs, and Surhoff had 3 hits and 3 RBI- meaningless 1998 games aren't worth sacrificing the future- 1999, 2000, and beyond- and thus the team must still go through the rebuilding process.
The latest we've heard is that Peter Angelos will receive a recommendation to "put your dollars in pitching and get younger in position players." While we certainly won't argue that the team shouldn't get younger, whatever happened to the Oriole Way? It's good to know that the Orioles do indeed have plans to put Calvin Pickering, Ryan Minor (though he is struggling at Bowie), and Danny Clyburn on the roster by 2000, but it's a little disheartening to know the Orioles are going to put all their money on "marquee pitchers," instead of relying on Nerio Rodriguez, Sidney Ponson, and Rocky Coppinger.
The so-called "Ripken rule," whereby no position player is paid more than Cal, is virtually guaranteed to ensure that the Orioles have a mediocre offense. What's the point of a huge payroll spread out among a lot of players? Who wouldn't rather spend, say, $8 million on Bernie Williams than $8.1 million on Joe Carter, Mike Bordick, and Doug Drabek, who get paid $3.5 million , $3 million , and $1.6 million respectively? Besides, the Orioles idea of a "marquee" pitcher is a pitcher they've actually heard of- not the most talented one. Check out the following stats on some of the players acquired or sought after by the Brainrust, versus little-known Jimmy Haynes, who was traded away for 3 months of Geronimo Berroa:
PITCHERS W- L ERA BA G GS CG GF SH SV IP H R ER H BB SO Mussina 6- 5 3.55 .231 14 14 2 0 1 0 96.1 84 38 38 12 20 87 Haynes 7- 3 3.90 .265 19 19 1 0 1 0 117.2 118 59 51 12 51 78 Erickson 9- 7 4.06 .279 21 21 6 0 1 0 148.2 167 72 67 14 40 116 Yan 4- 2 4.43 .226 35 0 0 8 0 0 44.2 38 22 22 6 23 41 Kile 6-11 4.95 .272 21 20 2 1 1 0 134.2 140 77 74 15 73 78 Blair 3-13 5.00 .293 20 20 0 0 0 0 129.2 146 76 72 23 45 65 Charlton 2- 1 7.09 .315 32 0 0 10 0 0 33.0 45 26 26 4 22 38 Drabek 5- 9 7.12 .318 16 16 1 0 0 0 78.1 103 63 62 15 18 42 Pete Smith 0- 3 9.50 .346 4 4 0 0 0 0 18.0 27 19 19 5 9 12Yes, you read that correctly- Jimmy Haynes belongs right up at the top of the list with MIke Mussina, and all of the Brainrust acquisitions belong at the very bottom. And with Peter Angelos likely to be the one calling the shots from now on (or was he always?), it's going to be more of the "Name" pitchers sought after without any attention paid to performance.
Finally, it's time for the DUOP injury report. Roberto Alomar, who sat out
Saturday's game with a stiff back, was back in the line-up on Sunday.
And as we mentioned yesterday, Jeffrey Hammonds was recalled from his rehab
assignment, while Harold Baines was placed on the DL. Now, it
appears that there's a chance Arthur Rhodes may be placed on the DL later
this week. Pitcher Scott Kamieniecki is getting ready to pitch again with
Bowie, but like Jimmy Key, who may begin a rehab assignment in the
next few weeks, there is no timetable for his return.
Despite the improved pitching in the series, the glaring fact remains that the Orioles have no offense. Tonight, for instance, they stranded an amazing 22 runners! And over the last 15 games, in which the Orioles have gone 4-11, they've averaged less than 3 runs per game! When the Orioles look to improve the team over the off-season, hopefully they don't focus on the injuries to the pitching staff and realize that it's the offense that needs the most fixing. The pitching can be much improved by simply taking Doug Drabek and his 7.12 ERA out of the rotation, and placing one (or both) of either Rocky Coppinger or Nerio Rodriguez in the rotation. Of course, we doubt the Oriole-Powers-That-Be would allow more than one "Unproven" pitcher in the rotation at once, and Ponson's pitching this season has already assured him a spot next season.
Speaking of "Proven" players, we're wondering why it is that the Orioles Brainrust seems so disappointed in the way Joe Carter has produced this season. If they even bothered to look at the stats before signing him to a $3.3 million contract as a free agent, they'd realize this is the same guy who hit all of .234 last season. Recently, in fact, Carter has been booed at Camden Yards for his lack of production, and became so distraught that Manager Ray Miller had to console him. While Carter says he has "no excuses" for his play, and we're sure he's a nice guy, we have a better solution for Miller. Don't play him. Of course, with the fragile outfield of Eric Davis and Jeffery Hammonds, that hasn't really been much of an option lately, though Danny Clyburn is waiting around in Rochester for a call-up. Speaking of injuries, Jeffery Hammonds has been activated from his rehab assignment in Bowie, and Harold Baines takes his first trip to the DL with a strained hamstring.
Finally, with the trading deadline approaching, there's going to be a lot of speculation flying around regarding possible trades. Of course, most of them are probably just rumors, and have little chance of actually being pulled off, so take what you hear with a grain a salt. Along these same lines, Jim Bowden, General Manager of the Reds, says that there is no truth to the rumor that he is going to succeed Pat Gillick as GM of the Orioles next season. And Syd Thrift, the Orioles minor league director, indicates that he has no interest in succeeding Gillick, who himself is rumored to be heading to Arizona or Seattle.
Manager Ray Miller and Cal Ripken are doing their best to lobby the Front Office to keep the team together. Says Miller, "Nobody here is not listening and nobody is not trying. This is a very good ballclub that's been besieged by pitching injuries." While it's obvious that the team would be doing better had there not been injuries to the pitching staff- to place all the blame for the season on th e injuries- as both Peter Angelos and Miller have done- is both inaccurate and foolish. Despite two stints on the DL, Mike Mussina only missed 6 starts. Scott Erickson- who has yet to miss a start this season- has gone from a 3.69 ERA in 1997 to a 4.24 ERA in 1998. Doug Drabek has only missed a few starts to injury (and given his 7.12 ERA, that probably helped the team). Ditto Charlton.
In addition, it's not as though the Orioles are the only team that's had to deal with injuries. Anaheim sits in first place despite having 3/5 of the rotation on the DL. Boston leads in the Wild-Card race despite having lost 2/5 of its season-opening pitching staff to injuries- and they've also endured injuries to starting third baseman Tim Naehring, first baseman Mo Vaughn, shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, second baseman Jeff Frye, second baseman Mark Lemke, and third baseman John Valentin. Yet they had the depth to overcome those injuries; the Orioles are old, injury-prone, and don't.
To place all the blame on the pitching, and to ignore the fact that the offense has been fairly inept this season is missing the whole picture. In the Orioles most recent 3-11 skid, for example, they've scored a grand total of 42 runs- or 3 per game. And they scored 4 runs or more only 4 times over that 14-game span. No matter who's pitching for you, you aren't going to win many games scoring as few runs as that. Tonight's game, they had an excuse in that the opposing pitcher was Pedro Martinez- but over that stretch, the Orioles have also failed to score against the pitching staffs of the Marlins and Expos.
Cal Ripken, in arguing that the Os should hold off rebuilding (what else woul d he say?), says, "I would never let those guys [Rafael Palmeiro and Roberto Alomar] get away. Who better can you get at second base? Who better can you get at first base?'" Cal has a point. Part of the problem with the Orioles is that it's the most productive veterans that will become free agents after this season, and it's the least productive veterans that are signed. The offense, that could very well be without Palmeiro and Alomar next season- will also feature older versions of Chris Hoiles, Lenny Webster, Mike Bordick, Cal Ripken, and Brady Anderson- a less than imposing line-up. That's why the Orioles won't be instant contenders next season even if they "keep what we have and add the right ingredients" as Miller suggests. However, the latest trade rumor mentioned sends Alomar to the Indians for 24-year old 1Bman Richie Sexson and 28-year old OF Brian Giles. This is exactly the kind of deal the Orioles need to make. Giles can step in immediately, and would likely be the most productive Oriole outfielder, and Sexson could do quite well at 1st. He's hitting .309 in AAA this season, with a .383 OBP, and a .564 SLG.
And while Palmeiro is the most productive hitter this season, the Orioles top prospect comes in the form of big first baseman Calvin Pickering. While he won't be ready for the majors in 1999, he should be by 2000, and re-signing Palmeiro will only block his road to the majors. At 21, Pickering is hitting .271 with 12 home-runs and 53 RBI. Despite the pre-season hype, Ryan Minor isn't anywhere near ready for the majors. At 24, he isn't young for AA, and though he has 12 homeruns, he's hitting only .247, and he strikes out once every three times he comes up to the plate. In fact, the Orioles' top third-base prospect is the little recognized Willis Otanez, who won the AAA home-run hitting contest at the AAA All-Star Game. He's hitting .292 for AAA Rochester, with 17 home-runs and 65 RBI. But with Ripken refusing to sit down, and Miller refusing to do his job and sit him down, it's not likely Otanez is going to get a fair shot this season.
In other news, this week the Orioles signed their #1 pick in the 1998 draft- outfielder Rick Elder- and their #7 pick in the draft- 3Bman Tim Nelson. Terry Mathews was officially released today, and Jimmy Key has begun throwing again, with "encouraging" results. There's still no timetable for his return. Scott Kamieniecki and Jeffrey Hammonds are currently on rehab assignments with AA Bowie. Harold Baines, who had been bothered by a sore hamstring, returned to the line-up tonight, only to leave early after aggravating it. He was replaced by Eric Davis, who continues to be bothered by a sore elbow, though he did manage to hit what ended-up being the game-winning home-run tonight.
While we always want the Orioles to win, if beating the Red Sox means the Orioles will think they can contend this season and cause them to postpone the rebuilding process, then we'd just as soon have them lose. The next few weeks before the July 31st trading deadline, as we've noted before, is critical in determining what direction the Orioles will take for the rest of this season and beyond. We said yesterday that we'd post our plan for just exactly how the Orioles should go about rebuilding, but we're not quite done so we'll hold off for another day. But for now, we'll just say that the Orioles should unload their veterans for prospects, and play younger guys for the rest of the season. It's time to give, among others, Willis Otanez, Danny Clyburn, Rocky Coppinger, and Nerio Rodriguez a chance to play in a situation where they are allowed to fail and learn, and gain experience on the job. As some Orioles already have noted, much of the rest of the season is merely a matter of pride, and so there's really no point in throwing Doug Drabek out there every fifth day.
Finally, on a completely unrelated note, aside from the usual blame placed on the pitching staff this season, many people say that the stolen bases allowed by the Orioles (though most of the blame usually falls on Chris Hoiles) have hurt them. Doron Shalvi has given us permission to share his study of the actual effect of these stolen bases over the first half of the season (originally posted on the alt.sports.baseball.balt-orioles newsgroup) .
Unfortunately, however, those are probably going to be the highlights for the Orioles this season. The rest of the season, the Orioles will likely (hopefully) begin the rebuilding process. Alomar's All-Star Game MVP performance will likely increase his value to interested teams, and again, there's the rumor that the San Fransisco Giants are interested in Joe Carter, though again we should note that we've heard that it's the Orioles trying to push Carter on the Giants.
In any case, it's good news (to us anyway) to finally hear the Orioles put some thought into the long-term future of the team. The Mark Maske article linked above helps put the rebuilding process into perspective (we'll do our own attempt in an article we'll have ready for tomorrow). Though he is the O's most productive player this season, signing Rafael Palmeiro to an expensive, long-term contract might be a mistake. While Bowie 1B Calvin Pickering, who is far ahead of Ryan Minor in development won't be ready by next season, he should be ready in a couple of seasons- and signing Palmeiro for 5 seasons as he wants would only block Pickering's road to the majors when Palmeiro's in his late 30's and towards the end of his career . As Maske points out, the Orioles have as good a chance to be worse next season as they do to be better. While not signing any of the 11 potential free agents frees up $27 million to sign other free agents- and owner Peter Angelos seems intent on a run at pitchers Kevin Brown and Al Leiter- the Orioles offense isn't going to be very intimidating. There's a strong possibility neither Alomar nor Palmeiro will be back- and just imagine the production of Mike Bordick, Chris Hoiles, Cal Ripken, and Brady Anderson- all who are signed through at least next season- and all who will be another year older. ESPN Sportszone's Rob Neyer notes that Cal Ripken already ranks 12th out of 14 AL third baseman, despite his starting role in the All-Star game.
Keep in mind that it's virtually impossible to reconstruct an entire roster through free agency, and 11 Oriole free agents-to-be likely wo n't be back next season. Finally, keep in mind that while Ray Miller will likely be back next season, GM Pat Gillick won't, and Assistant GM Kevin Malone may not be back either. That means Peter Angelos could very well be making the decisions. That doesn't bode well for youngsters Nerio Rodriguez, Sidney Ponson, and Rocky Coppinger, nor for the long-term future of the club. The Maske article notes that either Jeffrey Hammonds or Armando Benitez could be included in a deal to ship out a veteran. While at one time we probably would argue that the Orioles should under no circumstances give up Hammonds since he's the only position player on the team younger than 30, he's been on the DL his entire career, and he really can't help the team from there. However, if Benitez is included in a really lopsided trade, look forward to DUOP complaining about it for some time. In any case, the next couple of weeks leading up to the July 31st trading deadline could determine the make-up of the team for years to come, so lets just hope that the team that trails the Yankees by 30 games in the loss column, and the Red Sox by 17 games in the loss column, makes some wise trades to make this team not only younger, but better as well. Hopefully, the Brainrust (hey- could we go through an entire article without 1 insult?) realizes that rebuilding can't be accomplished overnight, and shows patience so that the team can once again have a farm system and be competitive again. Instead of saying we doubt the Brainrust will make the right decisions, in a second-half resolution to be more positive, we'll just wait and see. And hope.
Nonetheless, the Orioles will start Cal Ripken and Roberto Alomar in the All-Star Game Tuesday night in Colorado, and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro will join the American league team as a reserve. We should also note that ex-Oriole pitcher David Wells is slated to start for the American League. Palmeiro, meanwhile, is enjoying every moment of the All-Star festivities, and he participated in the home-run hitting contest Monday night. Palmeiro advanced into the second round with 7 home-runs, but failed to reach the finals by hitting only 3 home-runs in the second round.
In any case, with the July 31st trading deadline approaching, the future of the Orioles will become more clear. We at DUOP believe that with the current state of the farm system, the Orioles should go ahead and begin the rebuilding process. Peter Angelos, who had his hand in assembling this year's disasterous team, still believes that the Orioles can be fixed quickly, without a rebuilding process. Says Angelos, "We are always aware that in the course of reconstruction there are millions of dollars available for recruitment of other players. That's where we are. That part of the plan will be absolutely implemented. It doesn't take much imagination to realize what we would be doing." Of course, he's exactly right- it doesn't take much imagination to spend millions of dollars on free agents. Hell, the Orioles did it this season. What does take imagination is developing players and knowing beforehand which players are worth signing as free agents, something the Brainrust has shown incapable of doing.
The Braves and Indians have been among the most sucessful teams in baseball in the 90's, and they haven't done it by merely signing as many Names as they can each offseason. Granted, the Orioles' 11 potential free agents at the end of this season will free up a lot of money that can be spent on other free agents, but such a strategy has its limitations. Signing top free agents, for instance, means that the team forfeits draft choices, something the Orioles can ill afford to do, given the state of the farm system. Besides, who wants to see a different crop of players rotate through Oriole uniforms every season? What we believe most Oriole fans want, and indeed what would make the Orioles most sucessful, is to develop players of their own that can be mainstays on the team for years. But with free-spending Angelos, that's not likely to happen. On a positive note, however, even though Angelos insists that the Orioles will be contenders in 1999 with the mere acquisition of two starting pitchers, Ray Miller did note that young Sidney Ponson is penciled into the rotation next season. Given the team's tendency to hand jobs to washed-up players, it's good to know that Ponson won't lose his job to next year's version of Doug Drabek- though the Brainrust does have a whole offseason to change its mind.
Even though Ray Miller still maintains that "We'll be fine if we get healthy," it appears as though the local media has been reading DUOP lately, and finally has come to the conclusion that, as John Eisenberg states, "Good teams overcome injuries. Bad teams don't. The Orioles are a bad team. Not because of injuries. They're just a bad team, period." Now obviously, we at DUOP aren't happy about being right, but if you check back through our news archives, we've been saying since the offseason that the Oriole moves- starting with the firing of Davey Johnson in favor of Spineless Ray Miller (who always seems to have an excuse for everything)- would land them right where they are now. Losing Esteban Yan, David Dellucci, and Aaron Ledesma in the expansion draft, and waiving Rick Krivda and Tony Tarasco during spring training in favor of the likes of Joe Carter, Ozzie Guillen (who "earned" close to a million dollars for his month of not hitting), Norm Charlton, and Doug Drabek, injuries notwithstanding, all have contributed to the state the Orioles find themselves in. It may not have been the popular opinion at the time, but we at DUOP criticized the Brainrust (though we didn't have such a clever name for them at the time) for each and every one of them. We're not here to simply pass on the BS the Brainrust spouts off about how their new acquisitions that lack talent are "Veteran-Gamers" that tell jokes in the clubhouse; rather, we're here to tell it like it is. Oh, and not to rub salt in the wound, but Jimmy Haynes has a better ERA than every single pitcher in the Orioles rotation except for Mike Mussina. But, hey, the Orioles did get a little more than months of Geronimo Berroa's career for him.
In other news, Scott Kamieniecki isn't too far away from being activated from the DL. He's begun a minor-league rehabilitation assignment, and will be placed on a 45-pitch limit for AA Bowie for the time being. (Anybody want to bet on whether Nerio Rodriguez or Doug Drabek will be replaced when Kamieniecki comes back?) While Jeffrey Hammonds is also ready to begin a rehab assignment in the minors, and could return shortly after the all-star break, Jimmy Key still remains out indefinately. It was reported in the Sun that the AAA pick-up of Lyle Mouton may clear the way for either Eric Davis or Joe Carter to be traded, and the team that seems most interested in them is the San Fransisco Giants. We've also heard, however, that while the Giants have expressed an interest in Davis, it's the Orioles that are trying to push them to take Carter. Finally, we haven't done as good a job as we'd like to covering the minor leagues, but here's a link to some goings-on down on the farm. It notes that Joel Bennett, who's 10-0 in Rochester, is one win away from tying a record for the best start by a Red Wings pitcher. Of course, the Orioles haven't even considered bringing him up, even with all the injuries they've suffered to the pitching staff. Maybe when you reach the age of 30, Joel.
Finally, and we mean it this time, the Marlins traded former Oriole t op draft pick Jay Powell to the Houston Astros. While it must be frustrating to be a Marlin fan and watch the dismantling of the defending World Champions, at least they're going full- speed ahead with their rebuilding efforts. The Orioles still dilly-dally, deluding themselves into thinking they're just one player short of contention again, when in reality, the roster is full of holes with no help in s ight.
We have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that the Orioles won't lose another game in the first half of the season. The bad news is that the Yankees ended Baltimore's first half with a 1-0 victory and a sweep of the Os. Scott Erickson pitched masterfully, struggling just once in a complete game effort as he hit Chad Curtis with a pitch in the third inning to force in a run. The problem, once again, was the offense, which tallied just seven hits (only one for extra bases) and no walks. Brady Anderson, the key to any offensive revival, had two hits and a single-game team record four stolen bases; nobody else had more than one hit.
One thing we want to do is debunk the notion that the Orioles' problems stem from injuries to their starting pitchers. It's just not true; for the eighth time in their last twelve games, the Orioles scored 3 or fewer runs. And yet, to listen to Ray, Peter, and Pat, the Orioles would be in first place if only Mussina and Key and Kamieniecki weren't hurt. Well, we've got news for them; Mussina isn't hurt, and the Orioles aren't winning. The Orioles have a below-.500 record in Mussina's starts. They have a below-.500 record in Erickson's starts. They have a below-.500 record in Drabek's starts. They have a below-.500 record in Kamieniecki's starts. They have a .500 record in Erickson's starts. They have a below-.500 record in Drabek's starts. They have a below-.500 record in Kamieniecki's starts. They have a .500 record in Key's starts. In other words, the Orioles are losing no matter who's on the mound -- whether it's Erickson or Smith, Drabek or Munoz, Mussina or Nerio Rodriguez. In fact, the only pitcher whose starts have led to a winning record for the Orioles this year (not counting Richie Lewis's 1-0 record) is Doug Johns, the guy Ray Miller won't trust to start.
Team record in games started by each pitcher Mussina 6 7 Ponson 2 5 Erickson 9 11 Johns 5 3 Drabek 7 9 Smith 1 3 Key 5 5 Rodriguez 0 2 Kamieniecki 2 4 Munoz 0 1 Lewis 1 0
For some reason, the Os and people around them seem mystified by how the first half of the season has gone. To be honest, we at DUOP are mystified at their confusion. What did people expect from an old team filled with Names rather than talent? For the last decade or two, it has been clear that buying a pennant by collecting stars doesn't work. Examples of expensive old flops are legion, but rather than listing them all, we'll just mention the one closest to home: the 1980s Orioles. After a magical World Series championship in 1983, the Orioles were an old team with few prospects. Rather than building up the farm system, the lawyer who owned the Orioles went for the quick fix. He spent big bucks to bring in Lee Lacy and Fred Lynn and Don Aase, and then when that wasn't enough, he spent even more and brought in Rick Burleson and Alan Wiggins and Ray Knight and Juan Beniquez. I'm sure all these players were decent people, and some were very good in their primes. Unfortunately, their primes were long gone when they got to Baltimore. It took five years of futility, until the Os went 0-21 to open the 1988 season, for the Os to receive that wakeup call and start rebuilding, drafting or trading for Ben McDonald and Mike Mussina and Gregg Olson and Chris Hoiles and Brady Anderson and some others. The 1998 Orioles have received a wakeup call almost as loud, but we at DUOP are afraid they've been hitting the snooze button. They're blaming things on the Yankees' hot start, and injuries to key players, just as the 1984 Orioles blamed things on the Tigers' hot start, and injuries to key players.
Geez, what else could go wrong for the Orioles? On a day when they played the Yankees close, the decisive play of the game didn't happen on the field at all, but rather in the imagination of the umpire. After the Orioles had men on first and second with nobody out in the ninth inning, the Os bunted. Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera picked up the bunt and threw it to third. Third base umpire Marty Foster, who apparently saw Elvis in a 7-11 in Wisconsin last week, saw Scott Brosius catch the throw. The only problem? The ball never actually made it into Brosius's glove, bouncing off the heel and falling right to the ground. Result? Another loss, this time 4-3, to the New York Yankees. What made the situation worse was the arrogance of Ken Kaiser and Marty Foster in refusing to even ask the home plate umpire for help on the call. And Ken Kaiser's frank admission that the ump's job isn't to get calls right.
On the other hand, it shouldn't be overlooked that bunting with Chris Hoiles ranks somewhere between "Ross Perot for President" and "New Coke" on the moronic idea scale. Had Scott Brosius not muffed an easy play, this would have resulted in a double play. Ray Miller should not be excused from blame for this stupid decision merely because the umpire also made a stupid decision. And the way the Orioles are playing, even if the umpire made the right call, they probably would have found a way to blow the game. It's not as if the right call would have resulted in an automatic win for the Os; it would just have given the Orioles the chance to tie the game.
And once again, the Orioles exhibited very little offense; eight scattered hits, no home runs, only two walks, and three double plays. This makes the seventh time in eleven games in which the offense has scored three or fewer runs. And don't let us forget to mention that Doug Draboskie pitched a relatively good game, for him, and yet that consisted of eleven baserunners in five innings. Why is this guy in the majors? He doesn't give the team innings, doesn't keep the team in games. What does Drabek do, besides remind Ray Miller of the time, many years ago, when he actually did a good job?
Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Miller's success rate isn't quite that high, but he did finally get one right, announcing that, after the all-star break, Nerio Rodriguez will replace Pete Smith in the rotation. Given that Smith has never proven to be an effective starter at any point in his major league career, and that with the Os he has tended to fall apart after about 3 innings, and that Nerio is one of the young players the Orioles should be giving experience to at this point, this one seemed like a no-brainer, but it still took Os management quite a while to figure it out.
But, even while making that good move for youth, those clever people in the
front office decided to bolster the Os future, by acquiring the 29 year old Lyle Mouton to play for the Red
Wings. To make room for him, the 34 year old Dwight Smith was released. And
people wonder why the Orioles are in such good shape; their AAA team has to
choose between 29 and 34 year olds. To be fair, Mouton might be able to help
the Orioles; he's certainly far better than Joe Carter.
Sidney Ponson's excellent pitching performance on Thursday inspired the Baltimore Orioles, and it provided them momentum to dominate the New York Yankees on Friday evening. Oh, wait, sorry, this is Independence Day, not April Fools. Rather, despite Mike Mussina's usual solid outing, Rafael Palmeiro failed to homer, the rest of the offense was basically nonexistent (yes, again), and the Orioles lost to the Yankees, 3-2. Mike Bordick's key error -- and, yes, it was an obvious error, no matter what the official scorer said -- in the ninth inning was a killer, putting a Yankee runner on second base with no outs. And Jeff Reboulet didn't exactly help matters by getting picked off in the ninth inning after being sent in as a pinch runner for Cal Ripken. Now, there is a caveat here: these are the Yankees, and much as it pains us at DUOP to admit this, they're a good team. (Of course, since the Orioles dropped five of six games to the Marlins and Expos, the quality of their opponent isn't much of an excuse.)
And why do Ray Miller and the brainrust keep acting as if pitching is this team's only problem? Sure, the injuries to Moose, Key, and Kammy have been extremely visible, but that doesn't mean they're the sum total of the team's woes. Rather, as today's game demonstrates, offense is a problem, too. In fact, Mike Mussina has given up 5 runs in his last two starts combined -- and the Orioles have lost both of them. A look at this season's results will show that, in six of the last ten games, the Os have scored 3 runs or fewer. Given league offensive levels, that's horrible.
Speaking of offense, the Orioles have begun talking to Rafael Palmeiro about a contract; if he doesn't get one, he becomes a free agent after the year. There are two problems with that. First, if they can't resign him, they want to trade him. That gives them just 4 weeks until the July 31st trading deadline to get him signed. The second problem is Cal. Not Cal Ripken, but Cal Pickering. He's the Orioles best prospect right now, and he plays Rafael Palmeiro's position. He won't be ready in 1999, so a one year deal for Raffy would be fine. The problem? He wants a five year deal. And the Orioles seem to be willing to give him a four year deal. Great. Pickering can waste 2 or 3 years of his career in AAA, while the Os pay $8 or $9 million to an aging former star. (Some people think we at DUOP are too obsessed with the age of players. Well, for exhibit A of Why It's a Bad Idea To Sign a 30+ Year Old To a Big MultiYear Deal, we give you Brady Anderson. Exhibit B: Cal Ripken. Exhibit C: Jimmy Key. Exhibit D: Scott Kamieniecki. Need we say more?)
And speaking of pitching, the doofuses (doofi?) in the front office now have come up with the brilliant idea of trading for more veteran talent to bolster the rotation. Apparently the concept of "rebuilding" is unclear to them. I'll give them a hint: rebuilding means getting young players, not old ones. When we claimed we wanted to see pitchers from the farm system put in the rotation, the 31-year old Pete Harnisch was not who we had in mind. We were thinking more of people like AAA All-Star Game starter Joel Bennett, who shows some promise. Like almost the entire Rochester roster, Bennett is not young -- he's 28 already -- but he would be the fourth youngest pitcher on the Os, after Benitez, Ponson, and Nerio. And he'd be cheap -- both in dollars, and in the cost of acquiring him (namely, nothing.) Now, we don't care how much money Peter Angelos spends, but since he presumably does have some limit to his budget, every dollar saved in one place is a dollar that can be spent elsewhere.
So, to sum up, the Orioles have three players on the all-star team. Well, ESPN compiled "bizarro all-star teams," composed of the worst players in each league. Guess what? The Orioles placed three players on that team, too. So, congrats are in order to Palmeiro, Alomar, and Ripken, while guillotines are in order for Doug Drabek, Norm Charlton, and, yes, Cal Ripken.
Finally, we should note that Mike Stanton's five game suspension for hitting
Eric Davis with a pitch was upheld, so he won't be appearing in this series.
Moose and Ponson and pray for monsoon? Okay, it doesn't rhyme, but I never claimed poetry was my forte. Once again, Sidney Ponson showed why the brainrust doesn't get it, as the Orioles' lowest salaried starter, just 21 years of age, shut down the Marlins for six innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits without walking a batter, as Baltimore snapped an 8 game losing streak, 5-3. The other two pitchers in this game? The 25-year old Armando Benitez, and the 28-year old Arthur Rhodes. Do you think there might be a lesson in there for Pat Gillick and his cronies? Meanwhile, Rafael Palmeiro continued on his mission to try to singlehandedly make up for the rest of the lineup, hitting a home run for the fourth consecutive game.
Why do we say that Os management just doesn't get it? Perhaps it's because, as the Washington Post reports, "The Orioles desperately are searching for pitching help, but Miller said that club officials still are not considering promoting Rocky Coppinger from Class AAA Rochester. The right-hander is working his way back from shoulder and elbow surgeries, and Miller said that Coppinger's weight remains a problem." Um, Doug Drabek's (lack of) talent remains an even bigger problem, Ray. Besides, why are the Orioles "desperately" searching for anything? They're not going anywhere this year -- not even the most optimistic fan or sycophantic hometown reporter thinks the Os can catch the Red Sox -- so there's no rush. Of course, maybe the front office doesn't realize this; apparently Peter Angelos still wants to take a wait-and-see attitude.
In other news, as DUOP suggested yesterday, Mo Vaughn's injury means that Rafael Palmeiro makes the All-Star team after all. Oddly
enough, this gives the Orioles more All-Stars than the Red Sox, who are ahead
of the Os by double digits in the standings. So maybe we can finally stop
reading about Palmeiro's "disappointments" about not making the team
It would seem like a joke, if it were funny. The Marlins aren't trying to win this year, while the Orioles spent more money than anybody in history. Sounds like a walkover. In fact, it was. Unfortunately, it was the young, talented Florida Marlins doing the walking over, sending the old, washed-up Orioles to their eighth straight loss, 5-3, as the Os fell 10 games under .500 and 23 1/2 games out of first place. Once again, despite the cliches provided by Mike Flanagan about getting him to pitch more aggressively, Pete "Another Doug Drabek" Smith failed to get through five innings, and the offense, aside from Rafael Palmeiro's 25th home run, was minimal. (Does this sound familiar?) The only bright spot was Doug Johns' relief effort, as he pitched 5 innings of 3-hit ball, allowing just one run. But the brainrust Just Doesn't Get It.
We're not trying to say that Doug Johns is a great pitcher. He's certainly not a prospect, at the age of 30. (Of course, on this team, that does qualify one for youth status.) But the point is, this is a guy giving adequate performance. It doesn't matter that he's not a big name, or that he's not getting paid a lot. Throwing big bucks at Charlton and Drabek doesn't make them better. Their distinguished careers don't make them better. And, yet, Ray Miller acts befuddled as this essential fact is proven every time Pete Smith takes the mound.
Meanwhile, Davey Johnson sits at home, not having received any job offers this year. He claims he's not enjoying watching the Orioles lose, but if that's true, he's a better man than he's been given credit for. Of course, with this season already a waste, the losing would be acceptable if it taught the brainrust a lesson, but we at DUOP have the sneaking suspicion that the brainrust still doesn't understand the fundamental truth of this season. Every time we hear an Os official lament injuries, or lack of heart or leadership, it scares us. We get the idea that the only thing they've figured out is that this collection of old players can't win, rather than the more basic concept that no collection of players this old is going to win. If we hadn't signed Drabek, we'd have signed Willie Blair (3-11, 4.89 NL ERA, just 57 Ks in 116 innings); if we hadn't signed Carter, we'd have signed Paul Molitor (.279 with few walks and no power, now on the disabled list.) And, yet, we get the feeling, for instance, that, despite the very encouraging outing by Rocky Coppinger, the Orioles are still more likely to trade for Blair than give Rocky a spot in the rotation.
Peter Angelos insists that he'll spend whatever it takes to win next year, and that the team won't go through a long rebuilding process. Unfortunately, with the state of the farm system, a complete rebuilding process is exactly what this team needs. With the way Angelos is talking, it's far more likely that the Marlins- who, despite their fire sale, have assembled a fine collection of young talent- will be competitive again before the Orioles. The Orioles of the late 1980's- culminating in the disasterous 1988 campaign- is where the Orioles could be headed if young talent- not more old free agents- is not infused into this team. (And weren't the 1989 "Why Not" Orioles a lot more fun to watch?)
Finally, Mike Hargrove and Jim Leyland named the reserves for next Tuesday's All-Star Game
today. As expected, no Baltimore players will join Ripken and Alomar, although
former Os Kevin Brown, David Wells, and Curt Schilling were among the
additions to the team. Rafael Palmeiro did receive some minor consolation for
not being chosen, as he was named Player of the Month by the American League after
hitting 357/413/739 with 12 HR and 29 RBI in just 28 games. However, Mo
Vaughn, who was chosen by Mike Hargrove, may not be healthy enough to play in
the game. If that's the case, Raffy may make it after all. Finally, we'd
like to point out the real snub -- ex-O David Dellucci, the best player on the
Diamondbacks, far ahead of the Arizona player chosen, the washed-up Devon White.