Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Stick a fork in him...

If you ask me, Brian Burres is just about finished as a Baltimore Oriole.

He was recently removed from the starting rotation in favor of Dennis Sarfate, a career reliever who always pitches from the stretch and hasn't been a starting pitcher since he was in the minor leagues in 2006.

That should speak volumes about how the O's feel about Burres.

After Sarfate pitched 4 IP allowing 3 ER today against the Yankees, Burres came into the game from the bullpen and allowed 4 ER in 1.1 IP, bringing his ERA to 5.64. Batters are hitting .306 off of him and his K:BB ratio is just as bad.

Burres is a light-tossing left-hander who needs to rely on pin-point accuracy to be successful. Think Jamie Moyer, but about 20 years younger. But Burres has proven he doesn't have that kind of control, and when you don't have that kind of control, you're just a glorified batting practice pitcher. And bringing him out of the bullpen isn't going to help matters either.

Burres just doesn't have what it takes to be successful in the majors and he's proven it over the course of the last two seasons.

The thing is, there are no pitchers in the minor leagues ready to take Burres' spot in the rotation. OK, well maybe there are a few in AA hurlers David Hernandez and Brad Bergeson, but MacPhail and Trembley have been adamant in their belief that pitchers should succeed at all levels of the minors before they get called up to the big leagues. So Hernandez and Bergeson aren't likely to see any action in Baltimore in 2008.

So that leaves Hayden Penn as the only other candidate, and he's got an ERA just a hair under 5.00 in AAA Norfolk so far this year.

Even though Burres might not be going anywhere any time soon, if there ever was a dead man walking on the Baltimore Orioles, it's Brian Burres.

Time's a wastin'!

The trade deadline takes place in less than 24 hours and already GM Andy MacPhail has scheduled a press conference for 5 p.m. tomorrow.


In all seriousness, the Orioles are likely to stand pat. Only George Sherrill has been routinely scouted by other teams and MacPhail is asking for a king's ransom (2 MLB ready prospects) in return.

Meanwhile, the O's best players -- Brian Roberts and Aubrey Huff -- aren't being sought after, which makes it very likely they will finish the season, if not their contracts which expire after 2009, as Orioles.

We can sit and argue over whether MacPhail should make trades until we're blue in the face, but the bottom line is that we don't know what is being offered by other teams.

And making trades for the sake of making trades makes no sense. Remember Larry Bigby for Eric Byrnes? Yeah... that's what I said.

The only chance the O's have of being serious movers before 4 p.m. tomorrow is if the GM of another team gets paranoid and caves in to MacPhail's steep demands.

One thing is for sure, regardless of whether we make trades or not, or whether we should or shouldn't, is that the trade deadline is the most annoying, and stressful time for baseball fans. Especially when your team is losing, like the O's have been.

Fans have somehow been convinced that all of the team's needs and prayers can be answered by making a couple of trades on deadline day. But that couldn't be further from the truth.

For now, let's hope a GM with sweaty palms coughs up those 2 MLB ready prospects for Sherrill or the Yankees realize they can't finish out the season with Jose Molina and Chad Moeller at catcher and give MacPhail what he wants for Ramon Hernandez.

So it all comes down to this: It really depends on other teams whether or not the O's are active tomorrow.

Just remember to keep that in mind when MacPhail comes to the podium at 5 p.m. tomorrow empty handed.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Yankees Lose! (in person)

Even though the O's won't even sniff the playoffs this season, and the Yankees are making their usual second-half run, it was still fun to watch the O's beat the crap out of the Yankees and Mike Mussina in person at Yankee Stadium last night, 13-4.

Mr. & Mrs. Bad Oriole were dressed in O's gear, hopped on the B-train and got off at Yankee Stadium ready to enjoy the sites and sounds of love-it-or-hate-it, the most historical baseball stadium in America.

There were a lot of O's fans in attendance and surprisingly, the jabs from Yankee fans were sparse. I guess they were still hungover from taking 2 out of 3 against the Red Sox over the weekend or they don't consider the O's rivals anymore.

I can't blame them. Even the Devil Rays have become more of a threat. This year, the O's have been more like pesky houseflies to the Yankees, managing to post a respectful 6-4 record against the Bronx Bombers so far this year.

Anyway, our seats were a row from the top of the stadium, just a few feet below the Empire State Building. OK, maybe not but it sure as hell felt that way. Actually, the seats weren't that bad. Yeah they were high, but it did give me a bird's eye view of the stadium.

I wasn't able to get into Monument Park, as the ticket-taker told me it was closed (maybe it's because I was an O's fan) and I read something about making an appointment to tour it somewhere too. Oh well. Did I really need to be reminded how great the Yankees are?

I don't think so.

The game started off with disappointment, as Brian Roberts walked in the top of the first inning and was eventually thrown out at the plate on a horrible call by Juan Samuel, the third-base coach, who gave him the green light as the throw was caught by the cut off man. But in the second inning, the bats exploded for four runs as Kevin Millar hit a 3-run homerun, followed by a solo shot from Ramon Hernandez.

The O's got two more in the fifth inning, knocking former Oriole Mike Mussina out of the game. Then in the sixth, with the bases juiced, Adam Jones crushed a grand-slam off of David Robertson to put the game away at 11-0.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Guthrie was coasting. He allowed only 1 hit through six innings until he gave up a solo homerun to Xavier Nady in the seventh. Dave Trembley made a questionable call, taking out Guthrie after the homerun. Guthrie had only just reached the 100 pitch mark and the score was 11-1.

Trembley brought in mop-up guy Lance Cormier who promptly gave up three runs without recording an out. He was yanked in favor of Randor Bierd, who squashed any Yanks fans' hopes of an epic comeback.

The O's got two more runs in the top of the eight on a two-run homerun by Aubrey Huff before Jamie Walker finished off the Yanks in the bottom of the ninth.

My impressions of Yankee Stadium are surprisingly pleasant. The fans were respectful and the stadium, while old, was still very capable of handling a baseball game. The Yankee history is dripping from every rafter and still exists under every seat in the stadium and taking the subway to the Bronx has somewhat of a ritual feel to it.

I'm glad I got to see it for myself before it was replaced by the new Yankee Stadium which is in the process of being built across the street, but I do have to say that we as Orioles fans should appreciate Camden Yards even more, as it still is, in my opinion, the best stadium in America.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Off to Yankee Stadium

Well, in a few hours I'll be headed to New York for a weekend stay on the Lower West Side before taking the D Train to Yankee Stadium to see the bad guys in pinstripes kick the living crap out of the Orioles on Monday night.

I've never been to Yankee Stadium before, and since this is the last season before the Yanks move into their new stadium next-door, it'll also be my last. My seats are in Tier10, Row W, seats 3 and 4.

I'll remember to bring some tissues for the nosebleeds.

Even though it's where the hated Yankees play, even an Orioles fan like myself can't deny the history of the building. The Yanks have won all of their "26 Rings!" calling Yankee Stadium home and the list of all-time greats who played there is too long to mention. I'll tour Monument Park and take in the sights and the sounds of the game, most of which will probably be Yankee fans taunting a lowly Oriole fan like myself.

So far I've only been to Fenway Park, Veterans Stadium, Citizens Bank Stadium and Nationals Park, so I am looking forward to adding another historical park to my list. I'm told not to expect much, as Yankee Stadium is mostly a dump, but a dump with a lot of history.

As for the game itself, I am not hopeful. On Saturday morning, the Orioles have lost four straight and thirteen of their last seventeen games. I think Jeremy Guthrie is pitching for the O's that day, so I am guessing the Orioles will lose 3-2 or 4-3, although with the bullpen maxed out, you never know how many runs the Yanks will tack on in the later innings.

But for me, this trip is more about the history of Yankee Stadium than the Orioles. Sometimes it's hard to remember that I'm a baseball fan first and foremost, and an O's fan second. And when the O's have been down in the dumps for eleven years, that can be hard.

But I'll cheer for the birds, take my share of heckling, and try to survive my trip to the Bronx. I have to say I'm looking forward to it.

Son of a Pitch

The Orioles pitching problems continued last night in a big way, with Brian Burres unable to get out of the second inning after allowing 7 hits, including 2 HR and 5 ER. More importantly, he only threw 51 pitches.

The Orioles went on to lose 6-5, their fourth loss in a row.

With the bullpen being abused like a red-headed step child, Manager Dave Trembley should have walked out to the mound when he took Burres out with 2 outs in the second inning and said, "Sorry Blade, this is your bed. You made it. You've gotta lie in it some more."

At some point, the starting pitchers have to at least do their job and get through 6 innings regardless of whether they are up by 5 or down by 10. At the current rate they're on, the bullpen pitchers will have to learn to throw with their non-throwing arms in order to complete the season.

Keep Burres (and Olson or Liz) in the game until he throws around 110 pitches, which has been his season high. Take one for the team.

In a related note, the Dodgers released former Oriole Matt Riley after he used an escape clause in his contract that said he had to be in the majors at a certain date.

Riley had an ugly career in Baltimore, complete with attitude problems, injuries and control problems, but had a wicked curve ball and a fastball that topped out in the high-90's. Oh and he's a LHP, too. In the Dodger's AAA system Riley had a 2.88 ERA as a reliever, throwing 40.2 innings and compiling 55 strikeouts to 24 walks.

With the bullpen wearing down fast, bringing Riley back might not be a bad idea. He couldn't be any worse than Brian Burres, Alberto Castillo or Jamie Walker who was recently shelled in a rehab stint in AA-Bowie.

The bottom line is that the Orioles have to find a way to finish the season. And adding someone with some potential like Matt Riley could get them a little closer to September 30th.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Dark Knight

Never been a big Batman guy.

I don't know if there is something missing from my DNA that makes me indifferent toward the caped crusader or what. I've always been more of a Punisher kind of guy when it comes to dark and troubled vigilantes.

But I'm clearly in the minority there.

What's great about the new Christopher Nolan Batman films is that they disregard the previous 4 films, most of which were campy fun, and treat Batman as a character that exists in the real world.

The original Batman Begins was a step in the right direction, but I still felt that it lacked that extra something that would have launched it into the upper echelon of superhero movies.

Whatever Batman Begins lacked, The Dark Knight makes up for it in spades. Quite simply, TDK is the best superhero movie of all time, and features one of the most haunting portrayals of a villain in Heath Ledger's Joker. Not only is it a superhero movie, it's a crime drama along the same vein of The Departed and dare I say, Heat. Don't get me wrong... TDK is not quite on that level of film, despite what the fools over at IMDb think. They've currently got it rated #1 on the IMDb's top 250 movies of all time, ahead of The Godfather and Citizen Kane.

The Dark Knight is good, guys. But not that good. We'll see how long that lasts.

Really though, TDK is excellent. The realism, the labyrinthine-like plot, and the performances... boy are the performances good... make TDK an all-around success story.

First, there is always going to be an elephant in the room when discussing TDK, and that is Heath Ledger, who died a few months before the film was released. His role as the Joker was his last finished role on film, and he sure went out with a bang.

Ledger transforms, more like mutates into the Joker and with slathered-on make-up, almost becomes a horror movie villain. His Joker dominates the film with tension, and puts the viewer on edge, making them think the Joker can show up at any moment in the film. It's unclear whether the Academy will allow themselves to be forced to nominate Ledger for this role, since that's what the general public is screaming for, but if he is in deed nominated, it will be well deserved. Ledger's turn as the Joker pretty much makes this film.

Next up is Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, Gotham's doomed District Attorney. Eckhart creates a sympathetic character who we expect to turn bad at some point before he becomes Two-Face, but never does. He's a guy who wants to do the right thing, and does, but ultimately falls victim to the Joker's mind games. Dent represents what the Joker can do -- take good people and make them turn bad. By the time Eckhart becomes Two-Face, he loses some of the spark he had earlier in the film, but does manage to be a solid second fiddle to Ledger's Joker.

As Bruce Wayne, Bale is great as the showboating millionaire, but as Batman, he's almost laughable. His deep, gruffled voice really took me out of the film and made me wonder why he was talking like that. However, Bale was the straight man here, just a foil for Ledger and Eckhart to overshadow. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are solid as always as Wayne's go-to guys. And Maggie Gyllenhaal fills in nicely for Katie Holmes, creating a less-whiny love-interest for both Wayne and Dent.

Finally, the person who really needs to be credited for TDK is the man behind the curtain -- or camera -- Christopher Nolan. His Batman-as-real approach has worked wonders for this franchise whereas other superhero movies appear more like cartoons than anything resembling reality. Nolan, along with Peter Jackson and Guillermo Del Toro, has established himself as one of the next-gen directors who will revolutionize filmmaking the way Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas did in the 1970's

Without Nolan at the helm, I really wonder if the new Batman franchise has the legs to keep going after TDK.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see if he answers the Bat-signal.

FILM SCORE: ***1/2 (out of ****)
BEST SCENE: Any scene with the Joker.
FILM STATUS: Best superhero movie ever.

Trade Men

Here are the Bad Oriole's Most Tradeable Orioles (MTO's) on July 23, 2008. Rate of Return (RoR) is based on the probability of package received in trade paying off. Just don't ask how I came up with it.

1. Brian Roberts - 30 - still a premier lead-off hitter and above-average fielder. Will be signed through 2009. Not likely to be in his prime by the time the O's become a contender. RoR: %90

2. Aubrey Huff - 31 - is at peak value right now and still under contract for another year. Could be traded without having to take on any salary. That may not be the case next year. RoR: 85%

3. Luke Scott - 30 - the guy I want to trade the least on this list. However, he is under control for a long time and has adjusted well to becoming an everyday player. The recent solid play of Nolan Riemold in AA-Bowie makes Scott a little more expendable. RoR: 80%

4. George Sherrill
- 31 - not as dominant a closer as his 29 saves let on, but could be useful to another team as a LOOGY, like he was for Seattle last year. Is under control for number of years. Chris Ray and James Hoey coming back from DL within the next few months make Sherrill expendable. RoR: 75%

5. Chad Bradford
- 33 - currently the Orioles second best pitcher in the bullpen. Signed through 2009. Another "Sell High" guy. RoR: 65%

6. Ramon Hernandez
- 32 - Ramon is a liability behind the plate and is no longer an above average hitter at the plate. The O's would be best to give Quiroz the starting job and call up Matt Wieters, but they don't appear ready to do that anytime soon. His laziness and brain farts cost the Orioles runs and wins on most nights. Trade him for whatever you can get. A change of scenery and chance to play for playoffs could motivate Ramon, and he still has a "name". RoR: 35%

7. Jay Payton
- 35 - Payton can still hit LHP and that is useful to contending teams. RoR: 30%

8. Kevin Millar - 36 - Millar is the spirit of the clubhouse and I can't see him being traded, but his veteranosity and ability to perform in clutch situations might be worth the risk for a contender. RoR: 25%

9. Melvin Mora
- 36 - Mora is clearly in decline both offensively and defensively, has a No Trade clause in his contract, is making a lot and is the longest tenured Oriole on the team. He won't be traded, but could be a useful bat of the bench for a contender. RoR: 20%

10. Jamie Walker
- 36 - Walker is signed through 2009, has struggled in 2008 and is coming off the DL. Unless teams think he can revert back to his 2007 self now that he is healthy, he is almost untradeable. RoR: 5%

A new Loewen

Adam Loewen, you know the #4 pick overall in the 2002 draft? The left-handed pitcher who had the hopes and dreams of the Orioles strapped to his back? The guy who received a major league contract when he was signed? The guy who beat the star-studded U.S. team in the 2005 World Baseball Classic? The guy we all thought would take over for Erik Bedard as the O's ace when he was traded? The guy who...

You get my drift.

Well, that guy is done as a pitcher.

Yep, after failing to stay healthy in his three years as an Oriole, Adam Loewen opted to give up pitching for the O's in favor of rebooting his career as a positional player. Apparently Loewen has been watching the Rick Ankiel Story on ESPN the Ocho.

As improbable a journey this may be for Loewen, there is some validity to his decision. Loewen, for one, was a highly-touted hitter in college, and probably would have been drafted around the same spot had he decided to enter the draft as a hitter.

However, it has been six years since Loewen has swung a bat other than the occasional batting practice in inter-league games. So there is a good chance that the one inning he threw against the Rangers on July 6th could be Loewen's last time wearing an Orioles uniform. People can bring up Rick Ankiel all they want, but let's face it, he's a one-in-a-million story. The deck is stacked against Loewen.

Now, that isn't to say that this is a bad idea. The Orioles were faced with either losing Loewen for good, or taking a chance that he can become a decent positional prospect again. And from Loewen's stand-point, this is a gutsy move. He could of just undergone surgery again, sat at home, rehabbed, made another stab at pitching and collected his fat check. But he opted out of his contract and re-signed a minor league deal with the team to become a useful piece of the organization again. So kudos to Adam for not being selfish and lazy.

But the truth of the matter is Loewen is 24 and essentially starting over from scratch. Here's to hoping that he becomes the next Rick Ankiel, but the more likely scenario is that Loewen becomes the next Matthew Tucker, who is 25 and still in single-A Delmarva.

Good luck Adam.

As for the Orioles, this proves why the Brian Matusz draft pick was such a good one. Losing Loewen hurts because he was slotted to become the team's next ace. And solid LHP prospects are still hard to come by.

It also proves just how hard developing pitching can be. If Andy MacPhail is going to continue to go this route, he's got to be prepared for this stuff to happen, as we've already see with Troy Patton and Matt Albers. Let's hope he's got a back-up plan.

And that back-up plan should be to add a mid-tier free agent pitcher or two to take the stress of the younger pitchers in the rotation. We're seeing right now why handing the ball to youngsters and patting them on the rear isn't always the best idea. Both Garrett Olson and Radhames Liz look like they haven't ever heard of that invisible box called "the strike zone."

That way, when someone in the rotation goes down, you don't have to force two or three pitchers into the rotation at once. Just let the best guy have his chance.

That's all you can really do.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Walkmen

The Walkmen are hard to pin down.

They debuted with a low-key album called Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone, which was a critical success, but failed to launch the band into the spotlight the way that debut albums from bands like Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes and Vampire Weekend have. Other than "We've Been Had" being featured in a Saturn car commercial, I'm not sure anyone knew the album existed. Regardless, EWPTLMIG was drenched in wintry jingle bells and whip-fast distorted guitars with Hamilton Leithauser's Dylanesque vocals connecting the sparse dots of the album together. On EWPTLMIG, one thing was clear, The Walkmen had a big and unique sound that was going to make or break them.

The Walkmen did eventually get on the map with their sophomore album, Bows + Arrows, and even landed a gig on the Fox show, The O.C. More of a single-oriented album, Bows + Arrows featured tracks like "The Rat", "Little House of Savages", "The North Pole" and "Thinking of a Dream" that set themselves apart from the rest of the album. And while the Rolling Stone initially dissed it, pretty much ever other musical critic with a brain praised it as one of the best albums of 2004 and the high-water mark for the band thus far, and rightfully so. With B+A, the Walkmen had arrived and everyone took notice.

After B+A, the Walkmen knew they needed to make a change to their sound to avoid becoming redundant the way that The Strokes keep seeming to make the same record with each album. So on 2006's A Hundred Miles Off, band members shuffled instruments and added some horns to their sonic portfolio. The result was a mixed bag of hits and misses. The first single, "Louisiana", could be their best single yet, and other tracks like "All Hands and the Cook" and "Good's for You is Good for Me" rose above a somewhat middling third album featuring loud and unorganized punk melodies and somewhat uninspired lyrics. Still a decent album by today's indie-standards, but The Walkmen have the highest of standards. So A Hundred Miles Off was like a straight-A student handing in a C+ paper. You just knew they could have done better.

Later that year, The Walkmen released a track-by-track cover of the John Lennon/Harry Nilsson Pussycats album, which raised even more questions about the band. While their signature sound allowed them to feel right at home covering songs like The Drifters' "Save the Last Dance", the rest of the album meandered much like the original Pussycats album, and left fans collectively scratching their heads. Were the Walkmen losing their creative drive and becoming a glorified cover band? Or were they trying to kick-start a process that had worn a little thin by going back to simple melodies and lyrics?

The band continued touring in between albums, although their live shows had become tedious and noisy. I've seen them three different times, and each time the band seemed to get lazier with short and messy sets becoming a common occurrence. The last Walkmen show I attended sounded like an orchestra warming up more than anything else. The opening act was White Rabbits, and they blew them off the stage with more energy and a clearer goal of what they wanted to do. And as I left that show I wondered, will the Walkmen be able to come back from this? I had my doubts.

About a year later, the band announced the release of their fifth album (fourth original). With a title like You & Me, it sounded more intimate and more focused than anything else they've done, as previous album titles have been vague at best. Their press releases also told of a desire to return to classic melodies and vocals. They mentioned Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. So it was clear they were setting the bar high for themselves.

After getting my hands on an advance copy of You & Me, I can tell you, The Walkmen have rediscovered what works for them and Y&M is their most focused, if not best album, yet. The album, as the title suggests, covers your standard-issue relationship blues, and is sure to be the soundtrack to many a break-up this summer and fall. A sample of some of the lyrics featured on the album are "You are the morning/I am the night", "I kissed her by the window/she covered her face", and "I miss you/I miss you there's no one else/I do... I do."

There are great singles, such as the gradually roaring "In the New Year" and and the waltzy and somber "Red Moon" where Leithauser moans "You shine/Like the steel/On my knife." Deeper tracks like Canadian Girl show off Leithauser's 60's era R&B chops. And while there is clearly a nostalgic feel to You & Me, the signature Walkmen "sound" is still dominant... fuzzy/jangly guitars and drums take up a lot of the soundscape, but the jingle bells seem to have been replaced by horns. No complaints here.

So the lofty press release was spot on. The Walkmen met and surpassed the high goals they set for themselves. Many songs hearken back to 60's rock with simple melodies, vocals, paint brush drums, echoes of calypso music and booming bass lines. I think the band has spent as much time watching Walk the Line as I have, and are determined to bring back the Rock-A-Billy sound with a vengeance. It's because of this old-is-new approach, You & Me returns The Walkmen to the forefront of today's indie scene.

Once again, the Walkmen know who they are and what they want to do, and people will be forced to take notice.

ALBUM SCORE: **** (out of ****)
BEST TRACK(S): Red Moon, Canadian Girl, In the New Year
SEE THEM LIVE?: They seem to have found some easy-to-play melodies, so their concerts shouldn't be disorganized anymore. Hell to the yes!

Monday, July 14, 2008

First Half Review

With the All Star Break upon us, now is the perfect time to reflect back on the somewhat exciting and somewhat disappointing first half of the 2008 season.


1. Adam Jones - this is why trades are GOOD. Jones was aquired in the Erik Bedard trade and while a slow start bogged him down, Jones has bounced back within the last month to bring his numbers up to a respectable .281 AVG, .408 SLG and a .732 OPS. Jones' defense in CF is stellar, and he's just getting started. It's nice to know that the Orioles have found their answer for CF for what should be the next 10 or more years.

2. Nick Markakis - continues to shred in his third year, what is looking to be his best season yet. Despite only having 14 HR and 50 RBI, Markakis has a .401 OBP and is slugging .492. His average, like always, is right around .300. Like Jones, Nick is sure to be a staple in the OF for years to come. Sign the man to an extension now.

3. Aubrey Huff - despite having a poor 2007 campaign, Huff has bounced back in a big way, with 18 HR, 59 RBI, and a .895 OPS. Not only is he helping the O's offense be better than expected, he has raised his non-existent trade value to something that should fetch the O's a nice return if they decide to trade him at the deadline.

4. Jim Johnson - at the beginning of the season, Johnson was a fringe prospect who was slated to be a forgotten face in the Norfolk starting rotation. But after getting called up early on in the season, Johnson has been mostly dominant as the O's set-up man with a 2.03 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. Johnson has showed signs of slowing down a bit lately, and his K/BB ratio is not impressive, but watch Johnson pitch. His pitches have excellent movement and his demeanor is perfect for close-and-late situations. There has been talk of moving Johnson to the rotation, but I think it is a bad idea. Keep him where he is for now.

5. Luke Scott - to some, Scott was a throw-in player in the Miguel Tejada trade, but people who followed him in Houston knew that Scott would turn into a decent surprise in Baltimore. And he has. Even though he's already 30, this is only Scott's fourth year in the majors (second full season) and has solid numbers (14 HR, .808 OPS) despite being platooned somewhat with Jay Payton in LF. Whether he is kept or traded, Scott will help the Orioles in many ways. Plus he is a great guy to boot.

6. Jeremy Guthrie - many thought Guthrie would be a flash in the pan the way that Jose Mercedes and Rodrigo Lopez were, after being taken off the scrap heap and inserted into the O's rotation. He had a great 2007 season despite not receiving much run support and constantly watching the bullpen blow his leads, and became the team's #1 after Bedard was traded during the offseason. Guthrie has proven that 2007 was no fluke and the Mercedes and Lopez comparisons should end immediately. Guthrie, despite not receiving any run support and constantly watching as the bullpen blows his leads -- again -- has kept his cool and compiled 3.49 ERA with 83 K, 37 BB and a 1.19 WHIP.


1. Shortstop - Luis Hernandez was supposed to be a light-hitting defensive specialist, and it turned out he hit better than he fielded. Freddie Bynum couldn't hit and made costly errors, Alex Cintron was solid before getting injured, and Brandon Fahey is... well... Brandon Fahey. Whether Andy MacPhail signs or trades for a SS in the near-future, something has to be done about the massive black hole at the SS position.

2. Melvin Mora - currently has a .688 OPS and his once-stellar defense at 3B is starting to slip. Add to that his usual Mora-mistakes are only increasing. Mora has proven that he's no-longer starter material, but his loyalty to the O's makes it hard to relegate Mora to the bench where he belongs. Luckily, Aubrey Huff is playing more and more at 3B, so it looks like Mora could be headed there anyway. To add insult to injury, Mora tied the record for men left on base yesterday with 11. And to think Mora used to be a great hitter with men on.

3. Ramon Hernandez - many hoped that Ramon's disappointing 2007 season was a fluke. Turns out it's not. Meanwhile, prospect Matt Wieter's is tearing up the minor leagues and making it hard to keep him there. Ramon should be traded or released shortly to make room for Wieters.

4. George Sherrill - while he racked up saves early in the season, Sherrill was treading thin ice the entire time, and over the last month, that ice has cracked. Sherrill has blown 5 saves on the year and during the last 3 weeks has seen his fair share of implosions, including allowing two-back-to back game-losing home runs, each with 2 strikes and 2 outs. Sherrill is the O's lone All-Star, and it's bad timing for him to start blowing saves.

5. Radhames Liz and Garrett Olson - Liz and Olson were the 2 pitchers in line to join the rotation when spots opened up, and when Adam Loewen went down with an injury and Steve Trachsel was DFA'ed, they both got there chance after having success in AAA Norfolk. After a few solid starts after being called up, both pitchers have struggled to the tune of a respective 7.57 and 5.65 ERA. Since there is no one else on the farm ready to step in, Liz and Olson are going nowhere, so the struggles should only continue.


Jay Payton - Trembley is giving him AB's at the expense of Luke Scott, who is ready to be an everyday starter. Payton still mashes LHP, but his lazy and sloppy play in LF has cost the team on several occasions. He should be traded as soon as possible. Meanwhile, prospect Nolan Riemold, currently heating up in Bowie, is ready for the big time.

Kevin Millar - sure, Millar is a great clubhouse leader and oversaw the new "Orioles Magic" video, but his numbers are mediocre. If there were anyone even slightly deserving of playing 1B in the O's system, Millar would be traded or benched. And since there is no one in the system deserving of the 1B duties, Millar is going nowhere.

Daniel Cabrera - after a solid string of starts, many thought Cabrera had finally turned a corner. But then Cabrera regressed back to what he always was - a flame thrower with bad mechanics who usually doesn't know where the ball is going. So far he's improving on his horrid 2007 season, but he's still not the dominant pitcher that everyone hoped and expected he'd become, especially after his great start.


At 45-48, the Orioles are light years ahead of where everyone expected them to be at the beginning of the season. Sometimes that is hard to remember. But despite their surprisingly mediocre play, one can't help but feel a little disappointed. The Orioles set the tone for the 2008 season by mounting comeback win after comeback win, only to watch as their luck reversed itself. Now they are blowing games they should win. If they were getting out matched, that's one thing... but the Orioles are still competitive in most games, but instead of finding new ways to win, they are now finding new ways to lose.

What was lost in all the winning and excitement was that 2008 was supposed to be about rebuilding, and because of the early season success, fans are now reluctant to make the kinds of trades that got them here in the first place. Let's hope Andy MacPhail is not. Aubrey Huff and Brian Roberts should both fetch the O's a nice return in trades and should be shopped aggressively. Add to that, get Riemold and Wieters up here and prepare them for their roles on the 2009 team now.

Why wait? 2008 is more than half way over. And while we may be a little further along than we thought, there is still a long way to go.

How do you feel about the 2008 team so far?

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Well it's happened.

The Orioles are a game back under .500 for the first time since June 12th and look night-and-day different than the O's team that stayed competitive for much of the first half.

They're blowing leads and they're unable to come back from deficits they came back from earlier in the season.

Where "O" Where has Oriole Magic gone?

It's disappeared with the Matt Albers, Adam Loewen and Alex Cintron injuries, relegating the likes of Ryan Bukvich, Alberto Castillo and Brandon Fahey to major league fill-ins.

It's disappeared with Brian Burres, Garrett Olson, and Radhames Liz's early season success evaporating like a summer morning fog.

We've seen what a 162-game season can do to pitchers. They break down, they get injured, they struggle and they get overworked.

And then maybe they're not as good as we thought.

Any doubters of the Brian Matusz draft pick should be silenced by now, after seeing what has happened to that "pitching depth."

True, there are still some good arms down on the farm. David Hernandez and Brad Bergeson could see some time in Baltimore this year, but both of them are only at AA-level Bowie, and GM Andy MacPhail has said he's not going to rush players through the minors. 20-year-old pitching phenom Chris Tillman has succeeded at Bowie as well, but struggles to go more than 5 IP, and could be dealing with arm soreness.

So get used to the AAA-fodder we're seeing get called up to Baltimore. There's likely to be more of it.

As for the rest of this season, the only thing that can salvage it from a fan's interest standpoint is trades.

Players like Aubrey Huff and Brian Roberts would fetch a nice return, as they are both playing great ball right now and are both still under contract through 2009. And as we've seen, pitching depth can get shallow fast. Trades involving Huff and Roberts could add to the pitching depth while filling in some of the positional depth that this organization sorely lacks beyond Matt Wieters.

Players like Payton, Hernandez, Walker and Bradford don't fit into this team's long-term plans. They barely fit into this team's present plans. All of them should be traded as well.

As the dog-days of summer kick in, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see the O's stay under .500 for the rest of the season. After all there is still one more game to play in Toronto before traveling to Boston for three games with the Red Sox.

The question remains. Will Andy MacPhail stay the course he started down when he traded Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada? Or will his rigidness in trades hurt this franchise?

That's about the only thing 2008 has left going for it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Georgie Boy

Talk about Deja-Vu.

George Sherrill posted back-to-back blown saves Sunday and Monday by giving up game losing or tying home runs with only one more strike needed to win both games.

After the top of the 9th last night, Sherrill threw his glove into the stands and then tossed a tray of bubble gum onto the field.

At least he cares.

I was in D.C. for Sunday's debacle, which prolonged the O's troubles on Sundays, losing their 12th consecutive game on that day. I also watched the entire game last night, so it's safe to say I'm in need of a break from the Orioles.

After those two heart-breaking losses, the O's are now 41-40 at the halfway mark. Not bad, considering the Orioles were projected to be one of baseball's worst teams in 2008, but it's still disappointing to lose two games like that in a row.

Regardless of what their record is, one thing is for sure and that is Andy MacPhail needs to keep his phone lines open. There are several trades this team should be making, involving Brian Roberts, Aubrey Huff, Ramon Hernandez, Jay Payton, Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford.

It was a fun first half, but let's be serious. The last two games have proven that this season is an optical illusion. We may appear close to contending with the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays, but we're still a good mile or two from them in this race.

We need to continue the rebuilding process.

Many of our current players (Roberts, R. Hernandez, Huff, Walker, Bradford, etc) will be gone by 2010 with not enough prospects to fill their positions. Currently, only Matt Wieters is on the fast track to Baltimore. Guys like Nolan Reimold, Chris Tillman, David Hernandez, Jake Arrieta, Brandon Snyder, and Billy Rowell are still either too far away from the majors or not sure-fire MLB players to be counted on within the next year and a half.

So the only way to deepen the minor leagues even further is by trading your best current players for tomorrow's stars.

It'll hurt to break apart the 2008 Orioles because it's been fun so far... but let's be serious. This team wasn't ever destined for anything other than mediocrity at best.

Let's try to win a World Series for once.