News Archives: July 2001

July 25
Os bobble and bumble, lose yet again.

Casey Stengel once asked, of the 1962 Mets, "Can't anybody here play this game?" He might as well have been asking about the 2001 Orioles. Hide your head in shame. Nobody wants to be a fair-weather fan, but at some point, you just have to avoid embarassment. This game was ugly. Sidney Ponson was handed a 5-1 lead, courtesy mostly of Jay Gibbons and Jeff Conine, but he was unable to hold it. Primarily because the fielders behind him were unable to hold onto the ball. Jerry Hairston threw a ball away and Jay Gibbons let a ball go over his head for a double, giving the Rangers three runs they shouldn't have had, and they were able to catch up. But multihit games from Chris Richard, Conine, Gibbons, and Hairston enabled the Orioles to put 7 runs on the board, and it might have been enough. Except that Mike Kinkade dropped a fly ball, leading to two more Ranger runs, and Brady Anderson struck out with the bases loaded to end the game.

Well, they're now 16 1/2 out. They've dropped 15 of their last 18 games. They now have the 6th worst record in baseball. What's the good news? Well, we still have our health. Not for much longer, though, because we're going to have a stroke waiting for GM Syd Thrift to actually do something for this team. Something good, we mean. We should probably count our blessings that he hasn't traded Sidney Ponson and Jay Gibbons for Pedro Astacio or something.

July 24
Slide continues as Angels pound Orioles

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Fortunately (?), when that good thing is "winning," the Orioles will never have to worry about too much of it. A day after finally snapping a six-game losing streak, the Orioles were back to losing. Badly. For the second time in three games, Anaheim thumped Baltimore, 9-4, as a Baltimore starting pitcher was pounded. This time, the culprit/victim was Jose Mercedes, who lasted just 3 innings and gave up 6 runs. The Orioles got no relief from the bullpen, as John Wasdin gave up 3 runs in his 5 innings of relief. Offensively, the Orioles got a bunch of singles -- 11 of them -- but with just 3 extra base hits, none of them homers, they still managed just 4 runs, and two of them came in "garbage time."

The Orioles fell back to 15 1/2 games out, their worst deficit of the season, as they dropped their 14th in their last 17 games. While they still have a comfortable lead over Tampa, they have the 7th worst record in baseball. Is Syd Thrift going to do anything about this team?

July 23
Split of doubleheader ends losing streak

Well, the losing streak is finally over. Jason Johnson was brilliant, pitching 6 2/3 innings of six-hit, one-run ball, striking out a season-high seven batters, and Jay Gibbons hit a go-ahead two-run homer as part of an unanswered five-run "outburst" by the Orioles. Gibbons and Cal Ripken each had two hits, and Chris Richard and Jeff Conine each walked twice, and the Orioles took advantage of two Anaheim errors. Meanwhile, the bullpen, despite a scare in the 8th, pitched scoreless relief to clinch the 5-1 victory for the Orioles. Unfortunately, before Jason Johnson could take the mound, Willis Roberts started the afternoon game of the doubleheader, and he pitched Robertsianly. (No, it's not a word. But you know what we mean.) He was hit hard for six innings -- though he certainly wasn't helped by the team's defense -- and completely fell apart in the seventh, walking the first two batters before Jerry Hairston's error loaded the bases with none out. And he certainly wasn't helped by his bullpen; John Wasdin came in and allowed all the runners on base to score. That turned a 5-4 deficit into a 9-4 blowout. The Orioles did generate some offense, getting 11 hits (including doubles, a triple, and Tony Batista's fourth home run as an Oriole) and 3 walks, but grounding into three double plays cost them.

The team's win in the nightcap snapped a six game losing streak, allowing the Orioles to remain 13 games under .500. Still, they lost yet another half-game in the standings, and are now 14 1/2 games out of first place. Only Tampa, Kansas City, and Texas have worse records in the American League.

July 22
Trainout over, losing continues, despite game-tying rally.

All good things must come to an end... and the Orioles' non-playing streak is over, which means that their losing streak is increasing once again. Despite having new almost-ace Josh Towers on the mound, the Orioles dropped yet another game. Towers gave up two two-run homers to Troy Glaus, and that put the Orioles far enough in the hole that their pathetic offense had no chance of coming back. And yet, they did come back, scoring single runs in the fourth and fifth, and then rallying for a 3-run ninth off Anaheim stud closer Troy Percival, with the key blow being a two-run single by Melvin Mora with two outs. Unfortunately, Mike Hargrove brought Alan Mills to pitch after the Orioles tied the game, and Mills gave up a triple and single to give up a run and, ultimately, lose yet another game for the Orioles, this time 6-5 to the Angels.

We hate to say "We told you so." (No, wait a minute. We don't hate that -- we love it.) If the Orioles had only been trained out again, they'd be "only" 13 1/2 games out. Instead, they played, so they remain 14 games out. They've now lost 5 straight games and have fallen 13 games under .500. The Orioles definitely need to make some trading deadline decisions, and they know it. The Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles may be willing to make a bid for Jason Giambi, J.D. Drew, or Jermaine Dye. They're also interested in trading Jeff Conine, Buddy Groom, Jose Mercedes, Sidney Ponson, Mike Trombley, or Melvin Mora.

July 20
Trainout saves Orioles from sweep; Douglass career brief


You've heard it said that good teams find a way to win? Well, the Orioles aren't quite there, but they finally found a way not to lose. All they needed to do was derail a train and cause a hazardous materials spill, and a fire that can't be put out, right near Camden Yards. So far, the "trainout" has cost the team three scheduled dates and two games, and there's no information yet on when, or even whether, the Orioles will be able to make up the games against the Rangers. Texas is not scheduled to make any more trips to Baltimore, and there are few off days left in the schedule, and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has said that the games must be made up before the end of the season, if at all.

Unfortunately, the Orioles got in one game against the Texas Rangers before the spill, and the Orioles' roster could have been classified as a hazardous materials spill. Rookie Sean Douglass, just called up and making his first major league start, showed he was not quite ready-for-prime-time, giving up 12 baserunners and 6 runs in just 3.2 innings. Calvin Maduro was brilliant in long relief, completely shutting down the Rangers after that, but of course, with a 5 run deficit, it was far too late. The Os actually tallied 4 runs, matching their total from the entire Marlin series, thanks in large part to home runs from Jeff Conine and Tony Batista, but of course it wasn't nearly enough, and the Orioles lost again. (On the bright side, had the game been long or gone into extra innings, then the stadium might have been full when the train derailment occurred.)

The Orioles' loss on Wednesday afternoon dropped them to 15 1/2 games behind the Yankees, but their subsequent trainouts actually managed to gain them back a game in the standings, so they now stand 14 1/2 games out. There's only a week and a half left until the first trading deadline, though, so the distraction can only hurt them as they (hopefully) try to work out deals. Unfortunately, there has been little news on that front so far. There are occasional rumors of trading Sidney Ponson, still, this time for either Jermaine Dye or Magglio Ordonez.

July 18
Marlins sweep despite Cal's heroic homer

At least it can't get any worse. We think. There's little place to go but up from here, we hope, Certainly that's the case offensively, where the Orioles are very consistent We always know which lineup is going to show up: none of them. Stop us if you've heard this before: the Orioles generated nothing at the plate whatsoever. Tuesday's starting pitching (namely, Sidney Ponson) was shakier than Monday's, but it really wouldn't have mattered, since the Orioles didn't even manage a hit until the fifth inning. But just to forestall any chance of comeback, John Wasdin came into the game and turned a 4-1 deficit into a 7-1 deficit. A nice, well-rounded defeat.

The resulting 8-3 thrashing, and thus the Marlins' three-game sweep over the Orioles, left Baltimore at 6-12 in interleague play. We hated the entire idea of interleague play before this, and now we hate it even more. Their 10th loss in their last 12 games left the Orioles so far off the pace now (11 games under .500, 14 1/2 games behind) that they can't even see the wild card. Only the Devil Rays, Royals, and Rangers are worse in the American League. The pathetic Montreal Expos, the symbol of baseball ineptitude in recent years, are just 1 1/2 games behind the Orioles.

July 17
Marlins 2-hit Orioles despite Mercedes solid outing

Well, we take it back. There is momentum. The team's just moving in the wrong direction. Every day, the offense gets further and further away from the ballpark. In a scenario that's becoming routine, the Orioles got a good pitching performance from their starting pitcher -- in this case, Jose Mercedes, who had his ninth quality start in his last twelve outings -- but it was wasted. Wasted by an offense that was completely invisible, once again. We could recite a litany of statistics which show how bad the offense was, but what would be the point? Suffice it to say that the Orioles were shut out for the sixth time this season, and recorded just two hits.

With the 4-0 loss, the team's 9th loss in its last 11 games, the Orioles dropped to a season-worst 10 games under .500 and 13 1/2 games out of first place. The team is now closer to the awful Devil Rays than they are to the playoffs, and there's no longer even a hint of a glimmer of a chance that the Orioles think they can contend this year.

July 16
Ripken, Orioles, MIA

So much for momentum. One game winning streaks just won't do it, and Cal Ripken can't homer twice in every game. In fact, the Orioles as a team have trouble homering twice in a game; they've only done it two other times all month, and four times in the last 26 days. Today they didn't even hit one. Or even a double. Heck, they're lucky they got any singles. They scored one run, on a groundout. It probably wouldn't have mattered if they had done better, since the bullpen was pathetic, as B.J. Ryan and Chad Paronto came into a 3-1 game, pitched a combined 2/3 of an inning, and left with the Orioles trailing 7-1.

The Orioles are now 2-8 in their last ten games, courtesy of this 7-1 thrashing. They're not falling any further behind in the division or wild card races, but at this point, does it really matter? All that's left is the farewell tour for Cal Ripken, which on Sunday entered City #3, Miami.

July 15
Ripken homers twice? Whachu talkin' about, Willis?

Now that's more like it; that's what we were talking about when we talked about needing a sense of drama. Now if only this game had happened two days ago, before the debacles of Thursday-Friday. Today the Orioles got the starting pitching -- backed up by defense. But that wasn't the story of the game; not even close. After Tony Batista homered to tie the game at one, Cal Ripken took over in the sixth. With a man on first, Ripken homered to deep left on the first pitch he saw. Not one of his gosh-I'm-40-and-can-barely-clear-the-wall homers, but a no-doubt-about-it smash. Although the homer gave the Orioles a 3-1 lead, the Atlanta crowd erupted with applause and forced Cal to come up for a curtain call. But Cal wasn't finished; in the eighth inning, he did it again, homering to left to give the Orioles an insurance run and give the Atlanta fans even more to cheer about. And the bullpen held on, as B.J. Ryan, Mike Trombley, and Buddy Groom pitched 2.1 scoreless innings to save the victory for Willis Roberts and even his record at 7.

The 4-1 win was just the Orioles' second in their last nine games, but obviously couldn't keep the Orioles from losing their first series in Atlanta since interleague play began. Of course, we're only talking about three series. Supposedly, interleague play is going to rotate divisions next year, so the Orioles probably won't be back in Atlanta for six years or so.

July 14
Os can't field, hit, or win; plunge out of contention continues.

It's better to win ugly than lose pretty... but it's worse to lose ugly. And that was a loss. And it was ugly. What more can be said about Friday night's 7-1 pounding at the hands of the Atlanta Braves? Trust us, you don't want to hear more. Everything that could go wrong, did. Starter Josh Towers was his usual effective self, scattering several singles but never getting hit hard, but unfortunately, his defense completely let him down, as Brian Roberts made numerous mistakes in the field. Officially, only one run was unearned, but had the Orioles played competently in the field, Atlanta would have scored only 3 or 4 runs at most. But it really wouldn't have mattered, since they had no offense to speak of, once again. The Orioles have been a weak-hitting team all year, but they have reverted from their merely bad form of June to their pathetic showing of earlier in the season.

The loss was the Orioles' seventh in their last eight games, and they're now 9 games under .500 for the first time this season. In addition to being 12 1/2 games out of first, they're also 12 games out of the wild card spot. Finally, talk seems to be turning, appropriately, towards trading away veterans, instead of getting them. We want to emphasize that we're not happy that the Orioles are losing -- but we think that another year of rebuilding is necessary, and a decision to abandon youngsters in favor of veterans would crush the Orioles' chances for another 4 or 5 years. So we're happy that the Orioles recognize (hopefully) the need to continue the rebuilding process. In this case, talk is of trading away the 30-year old Jose Mercedes to the Twins for prospects, rather than the 24-year old Sidney Ponson for a veteran third baseman or outfielder.

July 13
Orioles run out of chances against Maddux, Braves.

Anticlimax, thy name is the Orioles. Don't the Orioles have any sense of history, of drama? After an All-Star Break that was basically a 3-day Calfest, All Ripken, All The Time, it would be a perfect start to Act II of the season if the Orioles started off on a long winning streak, preferably with Cal Ripken playing the role of hero. Alas, reality often intrudes, and facts take precedence over narrative. Thus, we're stuck with what the Orioles actually did. And that was to drop a 6-5 decision to the Atlanta Braves, a game in which the Orioles led 2-0 after just 3 batters against superstar ace Greg Maddux, but couldn't hold the lead. Actually, Sidney Ponson gave it right back, sandwiching a run-scoring double in the second around solo homers in the first and third. And then later, giving Atlanta the lead by allowing back-to-back solo shots in the sixth. Jay Gibbons almost rescued the Orioles with a game-tying home run, but he couldn't quite overcome the bullpen. And bad baserunning killed any chance the Orioles had to come back. Cal Ripken came to bat with two outs in the ninth inning with a chance to tie the game with another dramatic home run, but he managed only a single. He was replaced with pinch-runner Jerry Hairston, already in the doghouse for being late for practice. And Hairston was promptly picked off, ending the Orioles' threat and the game.

With the loss, the Orioles' sixth in their last seven games, the Orioles fell to a season high (or low) 8 games under .500. As we noted the other day in our Bricks from the Warehouse entry, the Orioles are at a crossroads right now; a few more days like this, and even the front office will be forced to admit that this team just isn't there yet at a competitive level.

July 11
Cal does it again! HOFer is MVP, again!

Even Vince McMahon's WWF couldn't have scripted a more perfect evening. If you were going to do it, you'd have the beloved aging star, who had previously announced his retirement, allowed to start one last All-Star Game. You'd have him start at his natural position. You'd have him star in the game. You'd have him recognized and rewarded for his performance. Guess what? It all happened, on an amazing night in Seattle.

Cal Ripken was elected to start the All-Star Game, the 19th All-Star Game of his incredible career. Cal Ripken, in a surprise, got to start the game at shortstop as current superstar shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who grew up idolizing Cal, pushed him across the diamond to switch places. A visibly self-conscious Cal didn't want to go, but manager Joe Torre gave his approval, and Cal went. That alone was enough to make the Oriole fan misty-eyed, seeing Cal back at his real home, shortstop. But (as the infomercial host would say) wait, there's more! Ripken's selection had been the target of some criticism, as it symbolized fans voting for sentiment over current performance. But Cal silenced any hint that he "didn't deserve" to be at the game; on the very first pitch he saw from Chan Ho Park, he jumped on it like he was still 25 years old, slamming it deep over the left field wall for his second career All-Star Home Run. The crowd went wild. His fellow American League All-Stars went wild. Even his opposing National League All-Stars went wild. In the end, the American League won, 4-1, but that was a footnote to the Cal Celebration, important only because the AL's victory was required for Cal to get his Most Valuable Player trophy.

So now, the only question left: can Cal, who has risen to the occasion so many times before, homering when he tied and broke Lou Gehrig's record, and homering in two All-Star Games, do it again? Can Cal homer in his last game, in his last at-bat? Tune in later to find out, but we sure wouldn't be surprised.

Roster note: OF Eugene Kingsale, who was designated for assignment last week to make roster room for John Wasdin, failed to clear waivers. The Seattle Mariners claimed him off waivers on Tuesday, ending his career in the Oriole organization. For our analysis, see Transactions Breakdown.... Other notes:

And please note our Bricks from the Warehouse comments on the crossroads the Orioles find themselves in as they enter the second half of the season.

July 10
Midseason crossroads

On the one hand, the Orioles are playing much better than we thought they would. (Of course, that has something to do with Josh Towers, rather than Chuck McElroy, being in the rotation, which we couldn't have predicted. But it also has to do with Jason Johnson finally having a good year, which we didn't foresee.) They're solidly ahead of Tampa at 40-47, which projects to 74 wins, and we would have pegged them for 64.

On the other hand, they're 40-47, which projects to 74 wins. We're not talking about a major accomplishment, here. They're also 12 1/2 games out, in 4th place, their lowest point of the season. And they're 11 games out of the Wild Card slot, in 7th place for the wild card.

Now, you and we know that their chances of winning the wild card are the same as Albert Belle winning Ms. Congeniality, but do the Orioles realize it? Before this past week, they were only 3 games under, at 39-42, 8 1/2 games out, and they were talking contention. IMO, no team under .500 has any business thinking about contending, no matter how close in the standings. Hopefully, the sweep by the Yankees and the rather pathetic showing against the Phillies will disabuse them of the notion that all they need to do is get Pat Hentgen and Mike Bordick back and pick up one other Conine-like player, and they'll be instant contenders. (Hopefully, a look at the Red Sox this year will clue the brainrust in to the difference beetween a good and bad team. Bad teams have injuries and pretend that the injuries are the difference between contending and losing. Good teams have injuries and win anyway.)

July is the ultimate crossroads for them. Before the trading deadline, they play against Atlanta (3 road games), Florida (3 road games), Texas (5 games - 2H/3A), Anaheim (7 games - 4H/3A), and Tampa (one home game). That's one strong team (3 games), two average teams (10 games), and 2 bad teams (6 games). In other words, they should be able to tread water in July, in terms of their record (though they'll probably fall 3-4 games further in the GB column). Do they look at that and say "Hey, we're not that bad. One more big bat and another reliever, and we're in this"? Or do they say, "Hey, veterans are playing over their heads, Towers, Johnson, and Ponson have been great, and we're still *not* in this. We need to cash in Conine while we can, before he performs Coninely. We've seen how helpful young players can be; we need to get a few more."?

Unfortunately, we fear it may be closer to the former. The Washington Post reports that the Orioles may want to trade Mercedes and Mora for a closer -- and when they say "closer," we'll bet that they don't mean "A hard throwing young guy who may one day be a closer." We'll bet that they mean A Proven Veteran 33 Year Old Closer. (As usual, when a management team doesn't know what it's doing, it focuses on the bullpen -- an easy target, since a bullpen *always* blows saves, and a team can always sit around imagining What Might Have Been if only they hadn't ever done that.)

But we shall see.

© 2001 The Orioles Warehouse
For entertainment purposes only.
Last Updated: July 20, 2001