|News Archives: July 1999|
Okay, we give up. On several occasions over the past two seasons- most recently last week- we declared that the dismal play of the Orioles would eliminate any illusion the Orioles had of contending and would virtually guarantee that even management would finally, albeit reluctantly, begin the rebuilding process. Each time management came close to conceding the season, however, the Orioles would win a few games in a row, and each time the rebuilding process would be put on the back burner. The latest hot streak, in which the O's have won 12 out of the past 15, has been no different, and a week after we declared rebuilding a done deal, the Brainrust has changed course again, and despite two consecutive seasons of sub-.500 play, it appears as though a 3-game series against the Texas Rangers is going to determine whether the Orioles become buyers or sellers around the July 31st trading deadline. After ace Mike Mussina and the O's lost the first game of the series by the score of 8-6, the Orioles rebounded behind Scott Erickson and Delino DeShields to defeat the Rangers in the second game by that same score. So does this mean that the the course the O's take in the future rests on the outcome of Thursday's game? Or, as that previous link indicates, is Arthur Rhodes going to be the only veteran traded before the deadline?
Of course, should the Orioles once again forgo rebulding, it would be a monumental mistake. It's almost as if the Brainrust can not remember all the way back to June, when the Orioles followed a stretch in which they won 11 out of 12 by losing the next 10 games. But once the July 31st deadline passes, it will be too late, as players will first have to clear waivers before they can be traded. And it's not as though we're talking here about a solid ballclub several games out of the wild card hunt. This is a team that just recently passed Tampa Bay to get out of the AL East cellar, the same team that sits 8 games below .500 and trails not just Boston for the Wild Card, but also Toronto, Oakland, Chicago, and Seattle. With the value of players like B.J. Surhoff, Mike Bordick, Scott Erickson, Juan Guzman, and Arthur Rhodes as high as they are, it's time for the Orioles to restock the farm system so that fans do not have to endure another dismal season with an even older team so that a sub-.500 team can tilt at windmills.
And in other news:
We've been raving all season about the success of Sidney Ponson, so much so that perhaps we've overlooked Mike Mussina, who once again is having an incredible year. Last night, Mussina gave up 1 run, by scattering 4 hits over 8 innings to lead the Orioles to their 7th win in 9 games, a 6-1 victory over the Wild-Card leading Red Sox. Mike Timlin, who is paid $4 million a season but complains when he is called upon to pitch before the 9th inning, pitched a scoreless 9th to bring his ERA below 5, despite giving up two hits in the process. Cal Ripken, in his first game back since being hit by Mike Thurman last week, got two hits and drove in two runs, bringing himself even closer to some elite company. Jeff Conine also had two RBI, and Albert Belle and Will Clark each chipped in two hits as part of an 11-hit attack.
In defeating the Red Sox, Mussina improved his record to 13-4 and lowered his ERA to 3.44, and may finally be on the way to his first 20-win season. Were it not for the amazing season that the currently injured Pedro Martinez is having, in fact, Mussina would be right there in the Cy Young race. Of course, given that Mussina, Ponson, Harold Baines, B.J. Surhoff, and Cal Ripken, among others, are all having excellent seasons, you know why we place so much blame for the underachieving Orioles on Manager Ray Miller. In fact, since the Orioles have scored more runs than they've given up this year (513-505), their record should be around .500. Instead, they are 12 games under, 15.5 games out of first place.
In other news:
Sooner or later, the rebuilding process is going to get underway for the Orioles. While veterans like Arthur Rhodes, Scott Erickson, Will Clark, and Juan Guzman may not be wearing O's uniforms much longer, one player who should remain a fixture in the rotation for years to come is 22-year old Sidney Ponson, who led the Orioles to a 4-1 victory over the New York Mets, once again providing a bright spot in an otherwise dreadful season. In pitching his American League-leading 5th complete game, Ponson gave up 6 hits, walked 3, and struck out 3 in lowering his ERA to 3.74 and upping his record to 9-6.
While Ponson was once again brilliant, he had just enough help on the offensive end. The much-maligned Albert Belle chipped in a 2-run homerun, his 20th of the season, and Will Clark and Mike Bordick each picked up an RBI with a bases loaded walk and a sacrifice fly respectively. Ryan Minor, who was demoted after the game, got his first hit of the season, and youngster Jerry Hairston added a hit and a stolen base of his own.
And in other news:
Last season, the Orioles came out of the All-Star break on fire, winning 17 of their next 20 games leading up to the July 31st trading deadline, and in the process, quelling any thoughts of beginning the rebuilding process. In mid-June of this year, the Orioles won 11 of 12 games, and thoughts of the Wild Card once again popped into the heads of optimists. But despite a recent 5-game winning streak that included a sweep of the Expos, and what Ray Miller may "think," the Orioles have no shot at the Wild Card, and the sooner that becomes clear to everyone the better, so that the long-awaited rebuilding process can finally begin. And while we hate to see the Orioles lose, it's probably better that the Mets have taken the first two games in the series, including last night's 4-1 victory over the O's. The later it gets into July, the harder it will be for a winning streak to delude management into thinking that this last-place team can contend, and once again postpone the rebuilding process.
Youngster Jason Johnson, labeled an untouchable should the Orioles in fact decide to rebuild, was erratic last night in his first appearance in 12 days, giving up 5 walks in 4 2/3 innings of work. Mets youngster Octavio Dotel, making just his 4th start, scattered 3 hits over 7 innings, giving up only a solo homer to Will Clark in the 5th, to lead the Mets to the win. Despite his wildness, Johnson gave up only 2 runs, but the Orioles bullpen once again failed to shut down the opponent, as Arthur Rhodes gave up 2 home-runs in his 2 2/3 innings of work, before Scott Kamieniecki pitched 2 scoreless innings. Wouldn't it be nice to still have Armando Benitez, who lowered his ERA to 1.82 in picking up his 8th save, and who ended the game by striking out Charles Johnson on a 100-mph fastball?
In any case, in other news:
Is it just our imagination, or do the Orioles never play well on national television? [update: yes, it's our imagination: the O's are now 2-1 in nationally televised games, including the 22-1 win over Atlanta. Thanks Alan.] Well, they sure didn't on Sunday night, as their little mini-winning streak ended at five in an 8-6 loss to the Mets which wasn't as close as the final score. As is too often the case this year, the Orioles fell behind early due to a poor starting outing, this time by Juan Guzman. Then the bullpen failed to shut the door, giving the opposing Mets needed insurance runs. Finally, when it was too late, the offense got going, scoring some runs and padding their stats, but not changing the ultimate outcome. They did get the tying run to the plate in the person of Harold Baines, but as has happened infrequently this year, he failed.
Despite Sunday night's loss to the Mets, the rumor is that the Orioles are petitioning to sign on to Bud Selig's massive realignment plan, to be permanently moved to the NL East. The loss snapped a five game winning streak the Orioles had within the division -- the last 2 games against Philadelphia before the All-Star break, and a three-game sweep of the (admittedly woeful) Montreal Expos earlier this week. The loss also snapped a string of six straight strong performances by the Os starting pitcher.
Deja vu: Ray Miller insists the Orioles aren't really out of the race, and all they have to do is make up a game a week on Boston. Frankly, that's one of the stupidest statements we've ever heard. (And after 1.5 years of suffering with Miller, we've heard a lot.) For one thing, it's false. They also need to make up games on Toronto, Tampa, Chicago, Oakland, Anaheim, and Seattle. For another, "making up one game a week" is ridiculously difficult. Boston, right now, is a .556 team. If they play just .500 the rest of the year -- and why would they? -- they'd finish with 86 wins. The Orioles would need to play .662 ball (a 107-win pace) just to catch them.
Since the Orioles have no real shot, they desperately need to rebuild. So what have we seen from them so far? Trades of veterans for prospects? Ha! Don't make us laugh. We saw Rocky Coppinger run out of town, just like Armando Benitez before him. It's not like they traded him for anything real; he was dumped on the Brewers for a player to be named later. Meanwhile, Gabe Molina was demoted, so that (as we noted above) the Orioles could call Ricky Bones off the disabled list. It's true that veteran Lenny Webster was designated for assignment, but it wasn't because they were calling up a youngster. Instead, it was in favor of almost-29-year old Mike Figga. (Not that we're complaining, never having been big fans of Lenny Webster. We're not surprised that they haven't been able to get anything for Webster, a career backup catcher who's a poor hitter and baserunner.)
Finally, the Orioles called up Ryan Minor -- but not as the start of a youth
movement. (And in that same article, Ray Miller once again demonstrates his
tactful way of insulting his former players in the media, this time Rocky
Coppinger is the target. Again, we hear Miller talk about accountability, and we
keep wondering when he's going to be held accountable for running every
team he's ever managed into the ground). Instead, in a freak incident, Cal
Ripken, hit by a pitch, may have to go on the DL again, after not having gone
on the DL for seventeen years. Since the Orioles don't know, they need Minor
around. Unfortunately, Minor isn't likely to be part of any successful youth
movement, despite what the Orioles hype machine keeps putting out, as he's
struggling again in the minors (as opposed to Cal Pickering, who's tearing up
Rochester after a slow start).
The Orioles wrapped up one of the worst first halves in team history by taking the final two of three games from the Philadelphia Phillies. Too bad they're not in the NL East; that's the only division they play well against. (They've actually won more games in the NL East than they have in their own division, where they've played three times as many games.) On Sunday, they sent Scott Erickson to the mound against Chad Ogea, and came out victorious. They got a solid outing from Erickson, a solid outing from Mike Timlin (!), and a solid offensive effort. If they could only combine those elements more often, they might have had something this year. At least they won today, 6-2. The win brought them to fifteen games under .500, still in last place.
Other good news came early on Sunday, as it was announced that Jose Canseco was having (potentially season-ending) back surgery. Why is this good? Well, in addition to giving the Os a shot to catch the Devil Rays for fourth place in the division, it meant that Canseco had to pull out of the All-Star game. This gave Harold Baines a shot, as he joins Mike Mussina, Cal Ripken, and BJ Surhoff in representing the Orioles at the game. We should note that Surhoff will participate in the home-run hitting contest on Monday night. (What does it say about a manager when his team has four all-stars and is still in last place?)
The Orioles have some big decisions to make in the second half: who stays and who
goes? Does Hairston get a shot, or do the Orioles pull their typical crap and
demote him in favor of Delino DeShields? Do the Orioles trade veterans like Baines, or do play out the season? Does Miller stay or
And it just keeps getting worse. Adding insult to injury, not only are the Orioles utterly incapable of beating the Toronto Blue Jays, not only do the Blue Jays always find a way to beat the Orioles, but they do it with players the idiots running the team thought weren't good enough. Willie Green cost them a couple of games already, and today it was Willis Otanez hitting two homers in a rout of the Orioles. And Tony Batista, who the Orioles could have had easily if they were willing to rebuild earlier this year, hit two homers of his own, sending the Orioles to a humiliating 11-6 loss. With the debacle, the Orioles' 13th loss in their last 15 games, the Orioles fall to a season-worst 16 games under .500 and a season-worst 17.5 games out of first place.
We're back, after a hiatus. Sorry about that folks, but as we've said, we've been extremely busy lately. We're going to try to get back to regular updating, but real-world responsibilities have taken most of our time lately, and we do do this just for fun. We're certainly open to your contributions, though. Got some thoughts on the All-Star selections? Have you figured out what's wrong with the Orioles? Want to let the world know your Master Plan to rebuild the team? Send us your essays. (Semi-literate Yankee fans need not apply.)
Well, the Orioles may suck, but they're consistent. If they take a lead, their bullpen gives up runs to blow it. If they fall behind, their bullpen gives up runs to ensure they can't catch up. Did we mention their bullpen giving up runs? Last night was no different, and it was all the more painful because it was former Oriole Willie Greene who did the damage. Greene propelled the Blue Jays to a come-from-behind victory by hitting a two-run homer off Gabe Molina in the ninth inning, sending the Orioles to a 7-6 loss.
The All-Star selections have been announced, and the lowly Orioles will have three representatives. No big surprises though. Cal, of course, was voted in. Manager Joe Torre selected Mike Mussina and BJ Surhoff, giving the Orioles at least three all-stars for the fourth year in a row. Other Orioles who could have been chosen, but weren't, were Sidney Ponson and Charles Johnson. Speaking of the All-Star Game, we're sort of befuddled to hear people whining about Cal Ripken getting elected. He's been undeservedly elected (if by "deserving," one goes by midseason stats only) several times in recent years. This year, he's back among the elite players at his position, and now people complain? (In related news, the Orioles rewarded Cal's production by exercising the option on his contract for the 2000 season).
Keep checking out our draft chart for updates on the progress of the Orioles at
signing their draft picks. They added another one: supplemental pick Josh
Cenate, the other day.