News Archives: August 1999

August 31

You might want to make small children leave the room before reading this: the woeful Baltimore Orioles are now in last place. After a disastrous weekend which saw the Orioles drop the final game of the Royals' series, 6-0 and then lose two out of three to the Tigers, the Orioles hoped to salvage a little bit of the month, if not the season, against the woeful Devil Rays. It didn't happen. They got what Ray Miller's obsessed with: a strong pitching performance from their starter. But despite Sidney Ponson's excellent performance, it wasn't enough. The Orioles got virtually no offense -- their real problem this season -- and lost for the fifth time in six games, and seventh time in ten tries against the Devil Rays, 3-0.

The good:

The bad:

The ugly

Roster moves from the last week: after debating a trade of Scott Erickson, the big one completed was the trade of Harold Baines to the Indians for Juan Aracena (assigned to Frederick) and a PTBNL, since announced as Jimmy Hamilton. Lefty reliever B.J. Ryan, acquired in the Juan Guzman trade, replaced Baines on the roster. In addition, Jim Corsi was placed on the disabled list and speedy (but powerless) Eugene Kingsale was added to the major league roster in his place.

With the September 1st roster expansion deadline having been reached, several more transactions are now to be made. Cal Ripken will be coming off the disabled list, as will Mike Fetters (like anybody cares). Then the Orioles have to decide who to bring up. Rumor has it that the Os will promote a handful of people from Rochester. Note that Calvin Maduro, pitching well for the Red Wings, isn't listed, nor is catcher Julio Vinas, who the Orioles risk losing if they don't promote.

Harold Baines has made an immediate splash in Cleveland, and although Juan Guzman was hit hard on Tuesday, he's been a major success story for the Reds since the Orioles sent him to Cincinnati. And those aren't the only Ex-Os who are doing well; Rafael Palmeiro and Roberto Alomar are both MVP candidates. Meanwile some negative ex-O notes: Geronimo Berroa, injured most of the last year, was released by the Blue Jays, and his career is probably over at this point. And Vlad Guerrero had a 31-game hitting streak stopped last week; the streak, longest of the decade, beat Eric Davis's streak from last year.

Rosters for the two fall leagues were announced. The established Arizona Fall League will see Os prospects Ryan Kohlmeier, Jayson Werth, Calvin Pickering, Eugene Kingsale, Jesse Garcia, and Matt Riley playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions, which (as previously noted) will be managed by Os coach (and future manager?) Eddie Murray. And the new California Fall League, which replaces the Maryland Fall League, will see Richard Bauer, Sean Douglass, Franky Figueroa, and Darnell McDonald playing for the Lake Elsinore Land Sharks.

Finally, a few stories you might be interested in:

August 25

Although the Orioles won Monday's game 4-2 and Tuesday's game 5-3 behind strong pitching performances by Scott Erickson and Jason Johnson, respectively, if anything epitomized the Os season and the Os organization, Wednesday's matchup did. The Kansas City Royals sent youngster Jeff Suppan to the mound. Suppan had struggled badly the first four years of his major league career (a 5.90 career ERA over 236 innings), but is pitching well this year at the age of 24. The Baltimore Orioles sent veteran journeyman Doug Linton to the mound. Doug Linton, like Suppan, has struggled badly the first five years of his major league career (a 5.84 ERA over 237 innings). Linton, unlike Suppan, is 34 this year, and hasn't pitched well in his limited time on the Orioles. He's done pretty well at Rochester, but so what? You'd expect a 34-year old to dominate younger players. But predictably, unlike Suppan he's not going to learn how to handle major leaguers. So, not surprisingly, this game turned into a 8-6 victory by the Royals.

The good:

The bad:

The ugly

Although the injury suffered by Mike Mussina when he was hit by a line drive does not appear to be serious, he is expected to miss his next scheduled start, and there's a chance he might miss the one after that. This could once again derail his shot at winning twenty games. And speaking of injuries, Cal Ripken's return from the disabled list is still uncertain, though he has begun working out.

While we've been obsessing about Miller going elsewhere, we would be remiss if we didn't point out that Frank Wren's job is also shaky. While we're not thrilled with the job he did this offseason -- in fact, it was pretty darn terrible -- we're willing to give him another chance. After all, if the Os let Frank Wren go, he could be just one of many Ex-O executives who are thriving elsewhere.

And speaking of Ex-O executives, we wanted to mention that Frank Cashen, architect of the Orioles' teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s, was inducted into the Orioles' Hall of Fame along with Eddie Murray. (For a complete list, check out our Hall of Fame page.

And speaking of Ex-Os, the Red Sox picked up pitcher Kent Mercker for the stretch drive.

The Orioles inked Richard Stahl finally on Monday, their last unsigned first round pick from this June's amateur draft. Under the rules, as soon as a drafted player attends his first college class, the drafting team loses the rights to that player. Classes at Georgia Tech (where Stahl was prepared to attend) began on Monday, so the Orioles really went down to the wire on this one. Whatever Frank Wren's fate, his legacy will be determined by the (hoped-for) success of the many first round picks the Os had this year. And speaking of first round picks, for those optimists among you who actually expect Orioles' minor leaguers to be given a chance to contribute, you might be interested in this profile of 1997 draftee Darnell McDonald.

August 22

The roller coaster continues: after getting swept by the Indians and then sweeping the Twins, the Orioles had dropped a doubleheader against Chicago to open their three game series. Fortunately, the Os were able to salvage the final game of the six game homestead -- fortunately, only because a loss would have dropped Baltimore behind the Devil Rays into last place. Their 9-4 victory was tempered, however, by an injury sustained by Mike Mussina when yet another line drive struck him.

The good:

The bad:

The ugly

As everyone knows by now, Jesse Orosco set the all-time games pitched record earlier this week. But (to state the obvious) it has been a really long road. What has been overlooked is that Jesse Orosco has also moved into the top 10 all time in games pitched as an Oriole, surpassing Dennis Martinez and tying Gregg Olson for ninth place.

(Thru Games of August 22nd)
Rank PitcherGames PitchedGames w/ Os
1Jesse Orosco1,074+320+
2 Dennis Eckersley1,071 
3 Hoyt Wilhem1,070185
4 Kent Tekulve1,050 
5 Lee Smith1,02241
tie Rich Gossage1,022 
7 Lindy McDaniel987 
8 Rollie Fingers944 
9 Gene Garber931 
10 Cy Young906 

The event came just after the Sun pointed out that the only thing the Orioles really have to play for are milestones. If that means that Orosco gets his celebration, that's fine. After a slow start, Orosco's been performing really well, allowing runs in just 3 of his last 31 appearances this year. If it means that Cal Ripken gets to reach the 3000 and 400 hit barriers -- assuming he ever gets off the disabled list -- that's fine. But if it means that no prospects are allowed to play because Miller feels that the veterans somehow "deserve" the chance to pad their stats -- as Miller announced last year -- then no thanks. The only reasons we say Cal should be allowed to play are because (a) he's The Franchise, and (b) because Ryan Minor, who's struggling, is unlikely ever to amount to a quality major leaguer, given his lack of command of the strike zone. Hopefully it might even be possible to unload some of the other veterans, though that seems unlikely.

The Sun is (as usual) wrong. There's something else for the Orioles to play for: the future. Some roster decisions have been made already, and GM Frank Wren needs to make some more. So far, Ricky Bones has been released, and in addition, Will Clark has been placed on the disabled list for the rest of the year. To replace these two, Doug Linton was called back up and Derrick May was added to the roster. Linton was called up because he did very well in a minor league start observed by Wren; we can't fathom why May was called up. (Mike Fetters is also close to being ready. Whoopee.)

So what else needs to be done? Well, the team needs to decide on September callups. Julio Vinas, who has hit very well this year for Rochester, is apparently on the bubble, but with all the upheaval in Rochester, we don't know who else will be called up. Some of the options apparently include Jerry Hairston and Jesse Garcia, Calvin Pickering, Eugene Kingsale, Calvin Maduro, Tommy Davis, and Matt Riley. And of course the big decision: Ray Miller's replacement. Ken Rosenthal of the Sun thinks the Os should go after the recently-fired Phil Garner, while John Eisenberg, also of the Sun, isn't so sure the Os should lock their focus on Garner.

Quirky Os-related story of the week: Peter Angelos sued for malpractice. We'll let you know how it turns out.

Finally, in a few Ex-O reports, Terry Mathews was released by the Royals (Gosh, we're shocked) and Chris Fussell was recalled from the minors to take his place, and Lenny Webster was designated for assignment by the Red Sox. Juan Guzman pitched well once again for the Reds. Finally, Frank Robinson had prostate surgery recently, and will hopefully make a full recovery.

August 11

A jinx is finally broken... the Os finally manage to do something against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, against whom they were previously 1-6. And when they play the way they did the last two days, it makes you wonder how they're such a bad team. A great formula for success: Sidney Ponson pitches well, Mike Mussina pitches well and the team wins. (Then you realize that they only play this way when Mussina and Ponson pitch.) But the last two days illustrate perfectly why they're not as good a team as people think they are. People look at their offense and think they're a powerful team which scores a lot, but what they are is an erratic team which sometimes wins 17-1 and sometimes can only score 4 runs. On Tuesday, everybody got into the act, beating up on a hapless combination of Devil Ray pitchers before being shut down by new knuckleballer Wade Boggs. Wednesday's game was more normal, a 4-2 victory over the Devil Rays which featured strong starting pitching, solid relief work, and just enough offense to win. The two victories kept the Orioles solidly ahead of Tampa for fourth place in the AL East.

The good:

The bad:

The ugly

With Ricky Bones presumably out of the rotation after his aborted trial, the Orioles need to decide what to do to fill the fifth slot, when they need one. One possibility is someone from earlier this year, Doug Linton, who has pitched well in Rochester. Another is the once-and-future Oriole, Ponson's fellow Aruban Calvin Maduro, who (despite a recent loss) has also pitched very well at Rochester. Maduro, traded to the Phillies in the Todd Zeile/Pete Incaviglia deal a few years ago, was reacquired by the Orioles earlier this season, and unlike Linton, is young enough to be a real prospect.

In other news, Phil Garner was just fired in Milwaukee, and Tony LaRussa has announced that he might stay in St. Louis (where he was reported to be unhappy). These are two of the names that have been floated around as potential replacements for Ray Miller. We're not particularly interested in either; Garner's made a career of losing, while LaRussa has made a career of being bigger than the team. While LaRussa is one of the few managers who have the stature to stand up to Peter Angelos, his hiring would send the signal that the Orioles plan to win right away, regardless of the costs. You don't hire Tony LaRussa to oversee rebuilding. Ken Rosenthal of the Sun praises LaRussa, but doesn't think he's an option, either.

Ex-O Juan Guzman, after pitching well but getting the loss in his Reds debut, picked up his first National League victory with another strong performance. Meanwhile, in an odd Ex-O report, Curtis Goodwin, recently picked up on waivers by the contending Blue Jays, suddenly walked away and announced he was retiring. Goodwin, you may recall, was the speedy no-hit centerfielder that the Roland Hemond regime tried to tout as a prospect; when Pat Gillick came to Baltimore, he traded him for David Wells. We should note that Ex-O Garrett Stephenson also pitched well the other night.

A few stories from earlier that we wanted to keep pointing out to you:

Finally, check out our most recent Bricks from the Warehouse columns, as we explain how the team is directionless and then defend our earlier criticism of Jeff Conine.

August 9

Well, we said we'd try to update more frequently. And try we have. But it's been a hectic, hectic summer, so enjoy us when we are here :-) We don't plan to disappear anymore, so get used to our ranting. Anyhow, a lot has happened since we last updated, so let's get right to it.

The Orioles made all the right moves to get back into contention this offseason. Ha! Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. In case you weren't, the last two days have epitomized the Orioles' season. Some days they lose because they can't get any offense. Some days they lose because they can't get any pitching. All days they lose because they have a horrible manager. On Sunday, they managed just 2 runs in 11 innings in dropping a 5-2 decision to the Detroit Tigers. Inexplicably, starter Ricky Bones, who had given up just 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk through 3.2 innings, was pulled from the game, and we got to see a parade of relievers, brought into the game and taken out willy-nilly, with no regard for how they actually performed in the game.

So then on Monday, the bullpen was worn down, and Miller decided his starter, Jason Johnson, was going to pitch five innings no matter what. Johnson got pounded, giving up 6 runs on 10 hits through 4 innings. Miller sent him out for a fifth inning. He gives up a single to start the fifth. Miller leaves him in. He gives up a two-run homer to the next batter. Miller leaves him in. (For those of you counting at home, that's eight runs on 12 hits through 4+ innings.) He goes to 3-0 on the next batter, and then hits him. Only THEN does Miller remove him. Finally the offense got things started, but pecking out a single run here-and-there against the dregs of the opposing bullpen while trailing by 7 runs isn't a formula for success. So once again the Os lost, this time 10-9, to another AL East foe.

The good:

The bad:

The ugly

The Orioles are directionless, as our latest installment (finally) of Bricks from the Warehouse points out. With the initial trade deadline having passed with minimal action, they're busy tinkering with the edges of the roster right now, worrying about when Mike Fetters will be back from the disabled list. The official story is that his injury is what caused his struggles this year, and that now he's healthy and ready to make a positive contribution, but of course he struggled last year, too, and the official story the Os put out when signing him was that an injury was the cause, that he was healthy when signed and ready to make a positive contribution.

And speaking of roster tinkering, Todd Dunn was released after doing nothing at Rochester, hitting just 173/248/286 for the Red Wings. Why are we bringing up an insignificant AAA roster move? Find out in yet another new installment of Bricks from the Warehouse. (Like we said, we finally had some free time.)

As for the Red Wings, and the rest of the Os' organization, they are finally starting to improve. But don't believe the p.r. campaign by the Sun; for some reason, Joe Strauss (yes, the same Joe Strauss whose bad journalism was singled out by Albert Belle) keeps "misreporting" Cal Pickering's great performances, while talking up long-shot prospects like Luis Matos.

It was also announced that bench coach Eddie Murray will be managing in this year's Arizona Fall League. With Ray Miller's career in jeopardy, some have taken this as a sign that Murray may be being groomed to replace him. (Miller apparently suspected the same thing, so he felt the need to explain to reporters what Murray's flaws were.)

Finally, we wanted to point out that many of the things said about Eddie Murray's attitude are now being said about Albert Belle's. The Baltimore media has their own axes to grind, so reading about Belle from an outside perspective might be of interest to some of you.

© 1999 The Orioles Warehouse
Prerecorded for this time zone.
Last Updated: September 1, 1999
[an error occurred while processing this directive]