Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Game to Remember!

This is going to be a week to remember for sure.

The Orioles have won 5 of their last 6 and just completed their first sweep and 3-game winning streak of the season.

And boy did it come in dramatic fashion.

Facing Toronto’s ace, Roy Halladay, yesterday, the Orioles ran out their “B-team” which consists of Felix Pie, Chad Moeller and Robert Andino. It was as if they were forfeiting the game.

And after being handed a small 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning, Rich Hill promptly gave it back with a miserable performance. He lasted only 3.1 innings, allowed 6 hits, 3 walks and 6 ER.

Trailing 8-3 in the bottom of the 8th, the O’s exploded for 5 runs against Toronto’s bullpen, tying the game on 4 consecutive base hits. Not to mention, Adam Jones was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

In the top of the 11th, Aaron Hill hit a 2-run bomb to put the Jays back up 10-8, and it looked like the O’s would lose despite their great comeback. And fans were thinking, “oh well, we won the series, David Hernandez is making his MLB debut tomorrow and Matt Wieters the day after that. Can’t complain.”

But wait.

Nick Markakis singled to right to start the 11th. Then Aubrey Huff popped out. Melvin Mora singled to right. Then Luke Scott singled to right, scoring Markakis making it 10-9.

So there were two men on with Nolan Reimold coming up to the plate.

Rewind. Reimold had pinch hit for Pie in the bottom of the 8th and struck out twice since coming into the game. But Reimold won this battle, and the game, but parking a line-drive home run just over the left field fence to win the game 12-10.

As Reimold arrived at home plate, the entire team swarmed him. It looked like Aubrey Huff delivered some celebratory body shots to his mid-section. I hope Huff took something off those rib-blasters or else Reimold is going to need another day off.

In the end, the come-from-behind win just capped an already amazing week that saw Jason Berken earn his first MLB win in his MLB debut, as well as prospects David Hernandez and Matt Wieters making their debuts as well (tonight and tomorrow respectively).

Not to mention, it was the first 3 game sweep of the Blue Jays since 1995.

Mark this week on your calendars, folks. It could be one you want to look back to in a year or two and remember it as the time it all finally started to change.


Back-up SS Robert Andino collected 4 hits and made a stellar defensive play at short. He also had an RBI… Luke Scott’s HR off Halladay in the 2nd inning was his 3rd off Halladay in only 6 AB’s... Remember when Brian Bass’ ERA was about as high as the cost of a Blu-Ray DVD? It’s down to 4.22 and he’s only allowed 3 ER in his last 24.2 IP.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A week to remember

Well, it’s finally happened.

The Orioles announced yesterday that super-prospect Matt Wieters will be called up to start Friday, meaning the 2009 Orioles season has officially begun.

I said all along that we really couldn’t measure the 2009 Orioles until Wieters had arrived, and in addition to Wieters, the Orioles have called up 3 rookie pitchers (Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken and David Hernandez) to make their MLB debuts since opening day. They've also replaced a slumping Felix Pie with a red-hot Nolan Reimold.

It’s a much different team now. A much better team.

I’d say it’s safe to start measuring.

Bergesen and Berken both collected wins in their MLB debuts. Reimold has 3 HR already. 29-year-old Rich Hill was activated from the DL and has pitched well in his first 2 starts. So it’s no surprise that the Orioles have won 4 out of their last 5 after being swept by the Yankees in New York.

But the biggest factor going forward is Wieters. He’s the one we’ve all been waiting for. All of the sudden the Orioles line-up is stacked from top to bottom. And by replacing Greg Zaun as the starting catcher, the Orioles finally have a chance to throw out opposing base-stealers (Zaun was only 8 for 25 in that department).

So it’s been a big week with Berken, Hernandez and now Wieters all having been called up and the Orioles having won 2 series in a row.

The future is now. It’s finally arrived.

But it gets even better. The Big 3 (Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz) are still waiting in the wings and all pitching well. Troy Patton, back from Tommy John surgery, has been dominating AA Bowie and is probably the next in line for a call-up. So the best is yet to come, at least in the pitching department.

And at 20-26, the Orioles don’t appear to be as bad as they looked a week ago. No more Adam Eaton. Mark Hendrickson is buried in the bullpen where he belongs and either (the slumping) Chris Ray will be optioned to Norfolk or (the finished) Jamie Walker will be released to make room for Hernandez tomorrow.

So the team continues to get better and better.

And the 2009 season continues to get more and more interesting.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Battle of the Beltway

Well it’s that time of year again.

The Battle of the Beltway. Too bad the beltway is at a standstill because everyone is rubbernecking to get a look at the train wreck that are the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals (or Natinals, if you go by their uniform).

The O’s are 16-25 and have the third most losses in the MLB. The Nationals are 12-28 and have the most losses in the MLB.

It’s safe to say the Baltimore/DC area did something to piss off the baseball gods because no metropolitan area deserves baseball this bad.

Way back in 1997, when interleague baseball started out, I was opposed to it. I was a baseball traditionalist, and liked that the leagues were separated save for the All Star Game and the World Series.

But I can see the “cool” factor of interleague play... O’s in funky NL Stadiums... watching the pitchers bat. Well at least until Daniel Cabrera left (BTW, since Cabrera joined the Nationals, he’s 0-11 and 0-25 for his career).

The O’s and Nats are vertically identical. Both teams have pretty good offenses (O’s 8th in the AL, Nat’s 3rd in NL) and both teams are last in their respective leagues in pitching.

So even though the Nats come into the series with the worst record in the majors, the Orioles shouldn’t be licking their chops yet. They’ve got to try and get these guys out.

And so far they haven’t been able to get anyone out.

Terminator Salvation

The Terminator series is near and dear to me since I grew up watching these films throughout my childhood. Terminator 2: Judgment Day was one of the first R-rated films my parents allowed me to watch. And the original film scared the crap out of me. Arnold’s T-101 killer just... wouldn’t... die.

In 2003 I welcomed Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines despite James Cameron being replaced by Breakdown and U-571 director Jonathan Mostow. And while T3 surely wasn’t up to par with the first two films, it was a worthy continuation of the series.

I watched all 3 films over the course of a few nights earlier this week in anticipation of Terminator Salvation being released this weekend, and what struck me was how well each film advanced the Terminator mythology.

The plot of T1 and T2 are well known. Terminators are sent back in time to wipe out either Sarah (Linda Hamilton) or John Connor (Edward Furlong). Connor, after all, will eventually become the leader of the resistance in the war against the machines. After T2, we assumed that Sarah and John were successful in defeating SkyNet and avoiding Judgment Day.

But then T3 came along and changed all the rules.

In T3, the major theme is that the future is set. There is fate, regardless of what we make, which is why the events in T2 only delayed Judgment Day from happening. In addition to T3 changing the rules, we also learn that John Connor (Nick Stahl) will be killed by a T-101 sometime in the future and that he will marry Kate Brewster (Claire Danes), a simple gal who is about to marry her fiancé.

So if the first two movies were about preventing the future, T3 and to a lesser extent, Salvation are about accepting fate.

Cameron’s first 2 films are classics. There is nothing to say that hasn’t already been said. They are some of the best sci-fi/action movies in the history of cinema. But if Salvation is to become a new trilogy, then T3 was the perfect bridge between the two sets of films. Most importantly, it’s fun. Sure it has its flaws, but what third entry in a franchise doesn’t?

Terminator Salvation picks up the action in 2018, 15 years after the events in T3. The resistance is up and running and John Connor (Christian Bale) has risen to the top of the pecking order with his knowledge of what’s to come.

However, the leader of the resistance, General Ashdowne (Michael Ironside) doesn’t believe in Connor. Instead, he believes the resistance has found a way to defeat SkyNet. Connor is on board with the plan until he meets up with Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a former death-row inmate who upon his execution in 2003, signs his body over to science. He wakes up in 2018 with no knowledge of Judgment Day or the resistance. But there is something different about Marcus. And he hasn’t aged a day since 2003.

Meanwhile, John’s father, Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who is now just a teenager, is captured by SkyNet. And if Connor is to exist, he has to free Kyle so he can eventually be sent back in time to protect Sarah Connor, as well as impregnate her so John can be born. And as Sarah Connor says on one of John’s old cassette tapes, “you can go crazy thinking about this”. Such is the case with all time-travel scenarios.

So can Connor and Marcus work together to rescue Kyle and defeat SkyNet? I’m pretty sure you know the answer, but the fun is getting there anyway.

McG (Charlie’s Angels, We Are Marshall) takes over for Mostow behind the camera, and while he makes the action gritty and somewhat realistic, he can’t milk emotional performances from his actors, save Worthington and Yelchin.

Christian Bale’s Connor is somewhat flat, but Bale is quickly becoming a flat actor. Bryce Dallas Howard’s Kate Connor, not looking a day older than Claire Danes in T3 despite it being 15 years later, is basically a cameo performance. She holds her pregnant belly and opens her eyes wide a lot. The rest of the supporting cast (Common, Moon Bloodgood, Jadagrace) sometimes aggravate with their one-note performances, and are other times mediocre-at-best.

I don't know what to make of the script, originally written by T3 duo John Brancato and Michael Ferris. Early on, reports were that Marcus had a bigger part than Connor, which may explain why the script's original ending had Connor dying and Marcus remade in Connor's likeness to lead the resistance in the next 2 movies. Since then, the likes of Paul Haggis, Shawn Ryan and Jonathan Nolan polished the script even though Brancato and Ferris were credited in the film. The end result of the script is mostly just a few words here and there to advance the plot and fill in the audience with some back story.

But the biggest drawback of the film is the editing. Some scenes end abruptly. Characters appear in places without the audience knowing how they got there. And crucial plot points are glossed over quickly to get to the action sequences. It feels like there is a good chunk of footage missing, and all reports indicate that there will be 30-40 minutes of extra footage on the DVD release. So the jury’s still out on whether Salvation is just a moderately good Terminator movie, or a great Terminator movie.

Yes, it is good, despite the mid-30’s rating that it’s currently getting over on Rotten Tomatoes. It should please the hard-core Terminator fans that haven’t been scared away by the PG-13 rating or McG with several references to the older films. My favorites were the fuel cells from T3 and a fun placement of Guns N Roses’ “You Will Be Mine” late in the film.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Salvation is supposed to be the first film in a new trilogy. Because of that, the film should have felt more epic, as it set up the characters and situations to come over the next 2 films. Perhaps the extended version of the film on DVD will do that.

But it all depends on how Salvation will perform at the box office. It’s unlikely that the film will make back its whopping $200 Million budget in the theater alone, meaning that success on DVD is crucial. And if there is in deed an extra 30-40 minutes to be put back into the film, I think Salvation will do just fine on DVD.

I liken Terminator Salvation to Superman Returns. It’s a worthy addition to the franchise, but has its flaws. And because of these flaws, the future of Salvation is up in the air at this point. Bale has said he won’t make another Terminator film, meaning that the role will have to be recast yet again. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing either.

I personally hope there are 2 more movies. I hope that we get to see the future war evolve into the war we saw in Cameron’s films (laser guns and lots of human skulls!) and we see the series come full circle, with Kyle Reese sent back in time to protect Connor’s mother. And most importantly, I’d like to finally see the human resistance defeat SkyNet.

Only then will I feel like the Terminator series is finished. So until then I’ll keeping hoping that these movies “will be back”.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

It's May 21st, and I'm bored!

At least Terminator Salvation comes out today. I'll be seeing it tonight at 7 p.m. And no, it's not a coincidence that the Orioles finish their soon-to-be sweep at the hands of the Yankees at that same time.

As the Orioles sink lower in the standings (they now sit at 16-24, good for 9.5 games out of first), I am left to wonder: When can we start to evaluate this team... as a team?

For years, team progress has been ditched in favor of player accomplishment (Nick Markakis hit .291 as a rookie! Aubrey Huff hit 36 home runs last year!). And this year is no different as the likes of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold improve with each at bat.

But as the players get better, it seems like the team’s record gets worse.

Sure it doesn’t help that Adam Eaton and Mark Hendrickson have made a combined 14 starts 40 games into the season, and shouldn't play a part in this team's future past June, but you’d think that as the Orioles organization finally produces some decent MLB quality players, that their record would finally improve.

Hasn’t happened yet.

So I ask, when can we stop fawning over each Jones home run and start getting excited about wins? When Matt Wieters is called up? When Troy Patton or Chris Tillman replaces Eaton in the rotation?

I guess.

One thing is for sure, when that next wave of young talent reaches the majors, the Orioles will be interesting to watch again, win or lose, at least for a week or two. Hell, I even tuned in last Saturday to see 29-year-old Rich Hill make his first start as an Oriole in place of Hendrickson.

But when will the Orioles be interesting because they’re winning?

By the end of the year, Andy MacPhail will have all his pieces in place for a run at a winning season (Wieters, Patton, Tillman and Jason Berken) should all be ready by opening day 2010 if not sooner). Come 2010, there will be no more excuses, regardless of which player has a great year. It’s time to parlay all that player development into actual winning seasons.

So by then, we’d better be paying more attention to the standings.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ravens sign Washington, Anderson to Retire?

The Ravens agreed to terms with former Patriots and Bengals WR Kelley Washington today.

Washington, 30, is not going to instantly improve the Ravens passing attack. He’ll likely compete with Demtrius Williams for the #3 WR spot and pitch in on special teams. But, he will make the current WR corps taller, at 6 foot 3 inches. Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason both stand in at 5 foot 10 inches, and Williams is an inch shorter than Washington.

And apparently, the Ravens were really impressed with Washington, and picked him out of a group of receivers that included Jerry Porter, DJ Hackett and Tab Perry, so maybe Washington can be more than a warm body.

I do remember him doing some crazy touchdown dances in Cincinnati so maybe he’ll be good for the entertainment.

Washington has a career 854 receiving yards good for 16.6 yards per catch and 9 TD in 54 games over 5 years in the NFL.


The Ravens placed OL Willie Anderson on the retired/reserved list today, signaling Anderson’s likely retirement. The Bengals thought he was going to retire when they released him before the 2008 season, but the 34-year-old Anderson signed with the Ravens instead.

Last month, the Ravens took Michael Oher in the first round of the NFL Draft. While it might be a stretch for Oher to start immediately, it did signal the end of Anderson in Baltimore.

Nolan Reimold called up!!!

The disappointing 8-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays last night came with some upside. Bob McCrory, the pitcher who allowed 4 runs in the top of the 9th inning, which ultimately lost the O’s the game, pitched his way off the team. He walked 4 batters in that doomed inning and threw a wild pitch that allowed a run. That made room for the Orioles to call up hot prospect Nolan Reimold from Norfolk.

Reimold has been much-discussed over the last few weeks, as his hot start to the season kept going, and going, and going. In just over 100 AB’s, Reimold has amassed 11 2B, 9 HR, 27 RBI for a 1.228 OPS. And with the Felix Pie experiment on the down slope, calling up Reimold made sense for the Orioles.

It also made even more sense when Adam Jones was removed from the game last night with a sore hamstring. This is the second time this season that Jones has battled a sore hamstring, so time on the DL is probably imminent. If that is the case, Pie will get a longer look, at least for 2 weeks, until Jones comes back. And that is probably a good thing, since Pie never really got his extended look in Baltimore. He started the season miserably both in the field and at the plate, and filling in for Jones in CF, Pie’s natural position, could bring him back into his comfort zone. Going 2-2 last night with a HR might be early proof of that.

Meanwhile, Nolan Reimold instantly becomes the starting LF and should remain there for the near future, assuming his blistering success in Norfolk translates to Baltimore. He’ll improve the bottom of the line-up drastically. And when Jones comes off the DL, Lou Montanez can be sent back down to Norfolk to avoid losing Pie, who is out of options.


It also appears likely that LHP SP Rich Hill will join the team this weekend against the Royals in Kansas City. Hill’s rehabilitation went well, throwing 30-60-90 pitch increments in 3 starts. He still had some leftover control problems during those starts, but, Hill replaces either Mark Hendrickson or Adam Eaton, each of whom has battled control problems so far in 2009. Hill’s stuff is nastier than either of those pitchers and it has been said that his curveball is among the best in the MLB, but of course, that is when Hill has it working.

If the choice were up to me, Hendrickson would be the one jettisoned to the curb like last night’s empty pizza box. Lurch has been horrible during his short stint in Baltimore. Even when he was “successful”, he’s walked a tightrope and his inability to go deep in games has worn out the bullpen. And while Adam Eaton still has a slim chance to go deep in games, Hendrickson had none.

Lurch was signed as a relief pitcher and was forced into the rotation when no other pitcher won the starting job in spring training, but Hendrickson has looked so ineffective on the mound this season that I wouldn’t even put him in the bullpen, where he has had some moderate success in the past.

The sooner Lurch is no longer an Oriole, the better.


A slumping Ty Wigginton broke out of his funk last night, going 3-5 with a HR... The desperation for Matt Wieters increases, as Chad Moeller and Greg Zaun went a combined 0-4 last night and now both have averages of .212... Brad Bergesen, who collected the loss last night, the first of his career, has made 3 very solid starts and 2 poor ones. His position as the 2010 team’s #5 starter is all but sewn up… The Orioles have dominated the Royals in the recent past, but this year might be different, as the Royals are tied for first in the AL Central with an 18-16 record. Zach Grienke, the MLB’s best starter thus far is 6-1 with a 0.56 ERA, 59 K, 8 BB and 4 complete games. He pitches against Adam Eaton and the Orioles on Friday night. Ouch.