Monday, June 16, 2008

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

OK, what's going on here?

I can't really complain about anything this year, since the Orioles are at .500 after being expected to lose 100 games, and they've had more comebacks so far this year than they've had in the last 10 years (it seems), but what the hell is going on with this team on Sundays?

They're 1-10 on Sundays so far this season and have lost 10 games in a row on the sabbath.

The good news about the latest Sunday loss is that the Orioles mounted awe-inspiring comebacks on Friday and Saturday night before coming back again on Sunday, only to eventually lose to the Pirates in extra-innings.

Maybe the Orioles are looking forward to that usual Monday off.

Who knows.

But Jay Payton had this to say about the O's woes on the Lord's Day...

"We should just quit playing on Sundays and we'll be in first place," Jay Payton said. "It's just one of those stats. Maybe we need to cut the head off a monkey or something to switch it up. I think it's usually a chicken, but I'm thinking maybe a monkey would work. But that's animal cruelty. I wouldn't do that."

I haven't been crazy about Payton being on this team, but quotes like that are making me like him more and more.

Anyway, let's hope the O's start performing a little better on Sundays.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Welcome Matusz

The Orioles selected LHP college pitcher Brian Matusz with their 4th overall pick in the 2008 Amateur Draft today.

It's a move that some view as risky, since the top 10 players in this draft were mostly comprised of power hitting prospects, and most of them first basemen, which the Orioles have been in desperate need of since Rafael Palmeiro left after 1998.

Justin Smoak was the coveted player by fans, especially when he was still available when the Orioles were on the board, but the O's played it safe by selecting Matusz, who can be added to the already trench-deep stock of young arms in the minor leagues.

What the Matusz drafting could possibly signify is that the Orioles do intend on making a serious run after free agent 1B Mark Teixeira. Teixeira is a Baltimore native and on several occasions has publicly said that playing for the Orioles would be a dream come true. Just so long as he's paid handsomely for it.

But while O's Draft Guru Joe Jordan said that potential free agent signings should never play a part in draft strategy, it's hard to ignore the writing on the wall here, especially when the O's have had a black hole at 1B for the last 10 years and had a great chance to fill it today by drafting Smoak.

Matusz, while a highly-touted college pitcher, doesn't have a great fastball and it's been said that he "pitches backwards", meaning he relies on breaking balls and offspeed pitches early in the count and uses his fastball as an out pitch.

But as with all drafts, fans only tend to focus on the few people saying a player will be a bust, ignoring the scores of others who say the player will be fine.

The Orioles still have several rounds of draft left to fill in the numerous positional holes they have throughout the minors, but it was definitely a risky move selecting Matusz with the 4th overall pick.

Remember, Adam Loewen was a LHP who the O's selected in with the 4th overall pick in 2002 and has only pitched 161 career innings. Prince Fielder was taken 4 spots later.

Hopefully Brian Matusz will work out better. Because Smoak was there's for the taking.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The end of an era...

Luis Hernandez was designated for assignment yesterday to make room for starting pitcher Radhames Liz, bringing with it the end of an era for the Baltimore Orioles.

Luis Hernandez played in 66 games with the Orioles from 2007-2008. His career OPS as an Oriole was .601.

Hernandez came from the tomato and onion fields of Quibor, Venezuela with a baseball glove and a dream of one day playing in the major leagues.

His career stats are astounding...

39 Career Hits
1 Home Run
3 Doubles
10 RBI

His hard-nosed play in the field was thing of beauty to watch.

Insert the sound of a needle scratching across a record.

OK, so I'm being sarcastic.

Luis Hernandez will go down in O's history along with Carlos Mendez and Luis Lopez as meaningless players who will live in infamy.

But never has such a weak player (Luis Hernandez was a mid-500 OPS hitter in AA ball) been given a starting position by a major league team to start a season.

Luis was the cause for much debate over at the Orioles Hangout, where several posters instantly fell in love with Hernandez's solid defense when Miguel Tejada went down with an injury. They also tried to draw the conclusion that Hernandez was the reason for the O's winning when Tejada was on the DL.

Others looked at Hernandez's stats, which were quite simply pathetic, and wondered aloud and often how such a terrible player could be given such a huge benefit of the doubt by others.

And when the 2007-2008 offseason ended without GM Andy MacPhail finding a better option at SS, Luis Hernandez was given the starting job to enter the 2008 season.

Turns out, Hernandez's defense wasn't as great as initially thought, as his range was diminished and his erratic mechanics caused him to throw balls to first base into the dirt. Rumors of Luis showing up to spring training 25 pounds over weight also surfaced.

At the plate, Hernandez was a tad more patient than he had been in 2007, but overall, it seemed like he was swinging a toothpick.

And when MacPhail realized that Hernandez was who fans knew he was all along, he signed Alex Cintron and removed Luis Hernandez from the starting line-up when Freddie Bynum came off the DL.

One thing is for sure, neither Cintron or Bynum is the answer at SS, but Hernandez wasn't either, and Cintron and Bynum are both slightly better all-around players than Hernandez, who was a "defensive specialist" with average defense.

Now that he has been DFA'd, Hernandez will probably clear waivers and report to Norfolk to continue his minor league career. And to his credit, Hernandez was never a good player, but he did play the game hard. But if he did show up to spring training over weight, one has to wonder what he was thinking, since he was basically being handed a position he didn't deserve, and should have taken advantage of it.

In the end, Luis Hernandez means nothing in the grand scheme of things. But he was the subject for much debate, and now that he's gone, I think I'll kind of miss him.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Time for some rebuildingesque moves

It's June.

And you know what that means.

It means the Orioles' best baseball is behind them and the summer will get hot and long at the Yard as the Orioles continue to show their true colors.

If losing the first 3 games of a 4-game series with Boston is indicative of anything, it's that the O's have a long way to go before they can hang with the big dogs.

So now that the usual two-month run of decent baseball to start the season is over, it's time the Orioles started acting like a team that is in rebuilding mode.

And that means getting rid of some dead weight.

First and foremost, Steve Trachsel.

Trachsel was skipped in the rotation when off days allowed the O's to do it and in his last start Trachsel gave up 9 ER in 1.2 IP against the Rays.

It's clear the Orioles don't have faith in Trachsel getting them quality innings and no one can blame them. Steve Trachsel has a huge fork sticking out of his back.

When Loewen becomes healthy, Trachsel is as good as gone, but why not reward reliever Jim Johnson with a start or two before Loewen is back to get rid of Trachsel a little earlier?

Trachsel may be a good leader for the younger pitchers, but he'd have to be Albert Einstein with them in order to justify keeping him in the rotation at this point.

So it's time for Trax to make some tracks. Away from Baltimore.

Next up is Jay Payton.

Plain and simple, Payton doesn't fit on this team anymore. As a matter of fact, he never did. He was the prototypical dollars-for-mediocrity Flanagan-era signing and his contract is now an albatross hanging across the neck of this team.

It's time to get the most value out of Jay Payton and that is paying him to not be on the team.

He's old, his contract expires at the end of the year, and he's a terrible defender. Plus, he's being mis-used. He still hits LHP at a .805 OPS clip, but he's got more AB's against RHP so far and his .557 OPS against RHP is horrid.

Leave it to the O's to platoon two players the wrong way.

Why Luke Scott and his .887 OPS against RHP is ever sitting against a non-southpaw is baffling to me. Used in the right role on a contending team, Payton can still be a useful player at 35. But at his salary, and with Luis Terrero (.895 OPS in Norfolk) and AA prospect Nolan Reimold on the verge, Jay Payton has never been more expendable.

Andy MacPhail made the right move in releasing Jay Gibbons before the season began, and he should do the same thing with Payton in order to get a good look at Terrero and Reimold.

Next. Why all of Cintron, Bynum and Luis Hernandez are still on the team is ming-boggling. It's time to release Hernandez and give Scott Moore a shot. Yes, he's been slumping in Norfolk, but his career MiL numbers are solid and he plays as many positions as Hernandez. Even in a slump Moore could outhit Hernandez.

And as much as I love Kevin Millar for being a great clubhouse guy and getting the occasional clutch hit, I just don't know why he is still a starter. And while there is no one else on the roster or on the farm to take his place, as soon as a promising career MiL player is put on waivers, the Orioles should snatch them up and hand them a starting gig. Someone like Jason Botts or Josh Phelps would fit the bill. And ironically, the Orioles had their chance to have both of those guys and missed their chance.

Millar is another guy who isn't going to be in Baltimore next year and it's time to start running through the usual suspects who could be. Yes, that may include watching a guy like Botts flail away at everything thrown to him at the plate, but it'd be no worse than Millar at this point.

That's not to take away from Millar. Like I said, he is huge to the chemistry of this team (if there is such a thing -- I bet we'll hear less and less about chemistry the more the O's lose) and his defense is still solid at 1B. But it's time to find the next Kevin Millar. The next 26 year old Kevin Millar that is.

That, along with making solid trades and drafting well is rebuilding, after all.