March/ April 1998
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If someone can explain why Ray Miller yanked Nerio Rodriguez out of the game while pitching well, we'd love to hear it. As far as we can tell, this is just more of his assinine prejudice against good young players. Let's see if Sidney Ponson is a victim of the same when he pitches tonight. But DUOP's suspicion is that he could be pitching a no-hitter and would be pulled out of the game in the fifth inning by Ray Miller, so he could give Norm Worst Reliever In the League in 1997 Charlton some work.
Finally, while the offense continues to stink, there's one silver lining for the Orioles:
Mussina is coming back soon, and Kamieniecki may be also.
This will help, but until the Os replace Phil Regan -- oops, Ray Miller, but
it's hard to tell them apart -- it will never be enough.
Oriole's owner Peter Angelos doesn't seem to be worried, however, and affirmed that Ray Miller's job is indeed safe. "I'm not discouraged," Angelos said from his Baltimore law office. "We've got time. The record is not that bad considering the number of injuries. Fortunately we got off to a good start. Ray Miller knows what he's doing. I have complete confidence in the guy. He's a first-class individual, and I believe he has the confidence of the players."
Angelos is a lot more confident than ESPNET columnist Rob Neyer, who essentially echoed our sentiments from yesterday- mainly that the Oriole "Brain"trust has no idea what it is doing. Neyer says he often finds himself rooting against the Orioles, "Because the arrogance on display here really, really offends me. What kind of nerve it must take, to (1) fire the best manager of this era, (2) spend tons and tons of money willy-nilly on players older than Bob Hope's act, (3) leave Esteban Yan exposed in the Expansion Draft so you can protect Rafael Palmeiro, and (4) expect to win."
Indeed, it's hard to disagree with him. Today, Ray Miller explained that Doug Drabek is on the team because he lobbied the front office to sign him over Orel Hershiser, and now the Orioles are "forced to rely" on youngsters Ponson and Rodriguez to pick up the slack. We at DUOP are wondering why *either* of these veterans were even considered for the starters spot when there were promising guys in the minors to fill the role. Especially because it's not like Drabek came cheap. The Orioles are paying him more than $1.5 million dollars, even though few other teams in baseball were even willing to give him a shot, with good reason.
Of course, don't expect the front office to take any blame for their
selection of players. The Post reports that some "club officials" are
concerned about a lack of intensity among the players. Someone should
inform these "club officials" that no matter how much rah-rah intensity
Ozzie Guillen comes to plate with, he's still gonna suck. In fact, why is
Guillen and his .071 average pinch-hitting for our leader in home-runs in the
bottom of the ninth of a 3-1 game? With Chris Hoiles still on the bench?
It's time to start putting the blame where the blame belongs- on the
"Brain"trust. (Disagree? Post your thoughts on the message board or email us)
We ran a poll a few weeks back in which about half of you said that you believed the brain trust did a good job in the offseason. After the Orioles got hammered today, 12-4 by the A's, how many of you would still vote the same way? The Orioles lost for the 8th time in 11 games, and while, again, the caveat is that it's still early, the early games against the pathetic Royals and Tigers have masked the fact that the Orioles are clearly headed in the wrong direction. Ray Miller looks like he has absolutely no idea how to run a ball club, and we at DUOP have absolutely no faith in the "Brain"trust to do anything to fix the problems.
In other news, another member of the starting rotation is out, as
Scott Kamieniecki was placed on the DL today.
Nerio Rodriguez was finally called up to take his place.
While injuries to key players are partly to blame for the dismal start, this does *not* exonerate the front office. When 90% of the team is eligible for senior citizen discounts, injuries are to be *expected*, and the front office should have planned accordingly. Instead, Rick Krivda, Estaban Yan, Aaron Ledesma, and Tony Tarasco- all players who could actually *help* the Orioles, are elsewhere.
What was wrong with those players? They're too young of course, and they have potential. But with the Orioles, playing ability doesn't matter. All you have to do is be old and a "gamer," whatever the hell that is. Why else would Doug Drabek, who hasn't been effective in years, be given a job over Rick Krivda, who absolutely dominated the minor leagues last year? Why else would Doug Johns, who was cast aside from one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball (Oakland) last year, be called up to start while Nerio Rodriguez sits in the minors. And why else would Norm Charlton, who was the head of baseball's worst bullpen with an ERA in the 7's last year, be handed a job after spring training?
And we're sure the worst is yet to come. Don't be surprised if Nerio Rodriquez and Jeffrey Hammonds are packaged together in a trade to bring the Orioles another "gamer-veteran" like Tim Belcher. Pat Gillick has showed us that whatever smarts he had in Toronto are completely gone now- either that or he's on the Yankee payroll. Why else would he sign, and then refuse to release Ozzie Guillen, who battles with Mike Bordick each year for the title as worst regular in the game?
That of course brings us to Ray Miller, who reminds us more and more of Phil Regan every day. Hey Ray- there's a reason the Blue Jays moved Joe Carter to first base last year- he can't play the outfield! Geronimo Berroa was shipped out (and signed with Cleveland for less money), but Carter's outfield defense is just as bad, and he cost us a game in Anaheim last week by misplaying a routine out into a triple. And those in the media who keep talking about the O's deep bench must be smoking on the same thing Miller is when he makes the decision to pinch-hit with Ozzie "I suck" Guillen. Miller, apparently, makes decisions based in some fantasy dream world, where Doug Drabek is the ace pitcher of a team of gamers. After one solid start against a lousy team, he was moved up in the rotation, and since has been torched, totaling just 15 2/3 innings in his last 4 starts. But of course, that won't be enough to get him released, or even knocked out of the rotation.
Watching the Orioles disasterous play lately has been disheartening, except
maybe to Davey Johnson, the best manager in the game.
(Disagree with us? Post your opinion on the message board)...
The pitching staff has struggled in a big way lately, with short outings by every member of the starting rotation, including Ray Miller's handpicked players, Drabek and Johns. And the bullpen, with Norm Charlton putting tons of runners on base every time he takes the mound and Terry Mathews allowing tons of runners to score every time HE takes the mound, hasn't been able to take up all the slack, despite the addition of a seventh man to the bullpen.
In other news, Saturday, when the Orioles play Oakland, is a Big Day, as Cal Ripken plays in his 2500th consecutive
game! To reach that total, you would have to add up the next *22* longest
active consecutive games streaks.
In response to the pitching struggles and Mussina's injury, despite rumors that Ozzie Guillen would be released, the Orioles
have placed Brady Anderson on the 15-day disabled list (finally) and recalled
Doug "Rick Krivda" Johns from Rochester.
Ace Mike Mussina has already been scratched from his next start with a wart on his pitching hand, and it appears more and more likely that he's heading to the disabled list. Though Mussina is one of the younger players on this team, as we've stressed since the offseason, injuries are going to be a problem for the Orioles this year. Brady Anderson's injuries are just part of the problem with the anemic offense, and though it appears obvious to everyone else that he should take time off to rest his injuries, Manager Ray Miller seems to believe that it's just a case of Brady needing to get some more at-bats.
Palmeiro, who had a significant offensive drop-off last season, is among several who haven't
begun to hit this season. And Doug Drabek, who was moved up in the rotation
after one solid start, has now had two successive awful ones. Meanwhile, Miller
announced that he's going to
get more at-bats for Joe Carter and Eric Davis, and that Lenny Webster is
now the personal catcher for BOTH Erickson and Drabek.
Let's get the disclaimer out of the way, first. It's early. Three weeks don't mean much of anything.
That said, what has happened so far has only confirmed what was blatantly obvious before the season began. This team has no offense. In *half* the O's games (6/13, actually), the Orioles have scored 2 or fewer runs. Half.
Miraculously, the Orioles have actually won three of those games. So as long as the Orioles get Cy Young performances from all their pitchers, they should continue to contend. In a more realistic universe, this team is going to plunge in the standings.
Especially since the Os keep starting Shawn Boski-- er, Doug Drabek -- every five days because Ray Miller has his head up his ass and thinks the word "veteran" means "good." And now Mussina is hurting, and already going to miss a few starts. At least.
A team with this offense needs great pitching, and a rotation with Drabek and no Mussina, and a bullpen with Charlton and Mathews, ain't it.
Mussina's injury (a wart on his pitching hand) doesn't appear too serious, and the other pitching flaws are easily correctable, if Miller's IQ rises above single digits. But the cure for the offensive struggles is far more elusive.
Eric Davis lasted a week before getting hurt, as everyone knew he would. Anderson has been hurt since before the season began, but can't sit because Yankee Pat [Gillick] gave away Tony Tarasco, leaving the team without outfield depth. Palmeiro has continued his 1997 struggles. And Bordick and Guillen have been even more disastrously bad than anyone could possibly have imagined, with three hits (all singles) in 40 ABs combined.
What can the team do? The upper minors are completely bare, thanks to
Yankee Pat's mismanagement of the expansion draft. Danny Clyburn is the
only potential help for 1998, and he's hurt right now too. The Orioles are
pathologically afraid of "rushing" prospects, and so every one is far
behind where he should be, developmentally.
The team has been carried by the pitching thus far, as the Orioles have
yet to see much production from some of their key hitters, though injuries are to blame to some extent. Eric Davis's ankle
has kept him out the past few games, and Roberto
Alomar says it will be another month before he'll be hitting 100% from the right
side. Brady Anderson, however, is anther story. He's playing with a strained
muscle and a sprained joint in the shoulder, and has a bruised calf and a
chipped bone in his left hand. He has a .063 average to show for it, though he
still refuses to go on the DL. Maybe Cal's influence is a bad one in this case.
Lost in all these wins against the weak
Tigers and Royals is the fact that the Orioles have only scored 5 runs
in the last 3 games, on a total of 17 hits. The Orioles conclude their
series with the Tigers on Sunday, and then head home for a three-game
series against the White Sox following an offday Monday. For your
convenience, we've linked to the boxscore in the gamebox.
On a positive note (not too much of that around here), Cal Ripken's home run was his 2,722 career hit,
which moves him into 45th place on the all-time hit list, one ahead of none-other-than Lou Gehrig.
We delivered on yet another promise (though we still don't have those
predictions done yet), as here are the results from
last week's poll where fans were pretty much split on the performance of the
Oriole's brain-trust over the off-season. Look for this week's poll shortly.
Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing, but this win was pretty ugly.
Mussina only allowed 2 runs in 7 innings and didn't walk anybody, but he was not especially effective in the Oriole's 6-3 victory over the Tigers. If Detroit's lineup had real hitters, Mussina might have been in trouble; he allowed 8 hits and was behind lots of hitters.
This was the no-offense lineup, without Anderson or Alomar or Baines, meaning we had *three* complete zeros out there today (Bordick, Reboulet, and Carter), and a guy leading off with a career .314 OBP. We scored six runs, two of them because Joe Randa threw away an easy DP ball hit by Davis.
No thanks to our joke of a #5 hitter, who made four outs in four trips to the plate today, with two Ks and two grounders to short. None of these were good ABs or anything like that. I was rooting for another clutch HBP. He left a runner on 3b in the first, and two others on 1st in the fifth and eighth innings.
He also combined with Norm Worst Reliever in the League in 1997 Charlton to get the Tigers back into the game. Miller brought NWRitLi1C into the game in semi-mopup, to start the eighth with a 6-2 lead. Norm throws seven pitches to three batters -- the three lefties he was brought into the game to face. All reach base safely, on a walk and two singles. The second single was overrun by Carter in RF, turning a 1st-and-2nd situation into a 2nd-and-3rd, nobody out.
Then came the hero play of the game by Jeff Reboulet. A foul popup deep down the right field line. Reboulet runs all the way from second to catch it, and then whirls and throws a perfect strike to the plate to nail the runner coming home. It snuffs out a rally.
Miller and Bell were holding a contest to see who could manage themselves out of the game in the last two innings, playing around with lefty-righty matchups and such all over the lineup, to no real effect.
Benitez was shaky in the ninth inning, with 2 Ks but also 2 BBs, at which point Miller suddenly gave up on him and brought in Orosco, who promptly walked a batter and then Ked the last one. If Miller is going to panic every time Benitez puts some runners on base, this could be a long year.
And, finally, the story of this game, according to talk radio, was all the
SBs allowed by Hoiles. Apparently none of the callers bothered to
note that the pitchers weren't holding these runners, and that none of
these runners scored. What difference does it make if the Os allow stolen
bases, if they don't lead to runs?
There's an old saying in baseball: you're never as good as you look when you win or as bad as you look when you lose. The Orioles are trying to prove that maxim in just two days. After playing horribly on opening day, they played like last year's wire-to-wire team in Wednesday's game, crushing the Royals 10-1.
Erickson was as dominant as he ever has been, pitching a complete game four-hitter. (The caveat there is that Kansas City's offense is slightly less imposing than that of the Bad News Bears, so it didn't provide much of a challenge for Erickson.)
And, in a change from opening day, the offense showed up, as the Orioles scored 10 runs on 11 hits, including four home runs. A big five run first inning was nice to see, as the Os abandoned little ball, at least for a day.
Cal Ripken hit a grand slam. Lenny Webster hit two (!) home runs on his way to a 3 hit day. Jeffrey Hammonds homered. Roberto Alomar and Eric Davis also had multihit games.
Not much, really. Brady was 0-5 and Bordick was 0-4, but that's quibbling when the team wins by 9 runs. Only 2 BBs by the Orioles, which is a little worrisome when combined with the fact that they had no walks on opening day. This is something to keep an eye on.
Things to note:
Joe Carter grounded into a DP. He's going to use up enough outs as it is; two outs at once is a really bad sign. When Ray Miller brought in his defensive replacements in a mopup role, Reboulet was moved from third to second to avoid the tragicomedy of Ozzie NotSmith at second base.
Well, it's just one game, and we shouldn't make too much of it, but it's opening day, so what else is there to talk about? In case you weren't paying attention, the Orioles lost the season opener 4-1 to the Kansas City Royals.
Warning: the following is bitter. If you're a bright sunny cheerful person who doesn't want me ruining your day, don't read it. The executive summary: Mussina good, everyone else bad. The real pitching was good, the offense was putrid, and Miller had the Os playing little ball at utterly inappropriate times. A sign of things to come?
Mussina had one bad inning, but that was enough, because the offense went nowhere. *Nobody* walked; barely anybody worked the count to three balls. And there weren't more than two or three ABs all game where the Os were making solid contact.
Expect to see lots of lazy fly balls to left field by Joe Rally-Killer Carter. He was quoted the other day as talking about how great it was that the left field fence was so short (only 364 feet), and, judging from a small sample of two games, he seems to be swinging for it on every pitch. One double, several outs.
Eric Davis got on base in the 7th inning, down 3-0, and ends the inning by getting caught stealing. Yeah, that speed really helps us.
Ozzie Not Smith also managed to show off his Saboesqe range at shortstop, right after Ray Doofus Knight (as distinguished from Ray Doofus Miller) got done praising him. So then Knight had to backtrack and admit that maybe he lost a step or two (or five or ten), being 35 years old and having broken his leg years ago.
And Norm Worst Reliever In Baseball in 1997 But He's Fixed Now Because
We're So Much Smarter Than The Mariners That We Can Fix Him Tipping His
Pitches Charlton lived up to his middle name, facing four batters and
giving up two hits, including a ground-rule double to a lefty, which is
*supposed* to be Norm's role.
Outfielder Mike Devereaux made the Dodgers' roster. Didn't he retire four or five years ago? How does he keep getting jobs? He's had one decent offensive year in the last five. He was horrid last year in his brief playing time.
Jeff Manto (Yay!), third baseman and cult hero among Os fans, was called up by the Indians.
And backup outfielder Jack Voigt (sniff) was sent down to
AAA Edmonton by the Athletics. Kevin Mitchell got his slot on Oakland's roster.