Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sherill Traded to Dodgers

The Flat Breezy era has officially come to a close, folks. The Orioles traded George Sherrill to the Dodgers for 3B prospect Josh Bell and pitching prospect, Steve Johnson, son of former-Oriole and current talk show host Dave Johnson.

Sherrill will become the Dodgers set-up man for closer Jonathan Broxton, and unless the Dodgers undergo a monumental collapse during the next 2 months, George will earn his first trip to the playoffs.

I wish Sherrill the best. Despite his sometimes nerve-wracking 9th inning saves, Sherrill converted 80% of his save opportunities and was a class-act in Baltimore. When asked his opinion about his name being involved in trades, Sherrill said he wanted to remain an Oriole.

Good luck in L.A., George. You'll be missed.

Jim Johnson looks to inherit the closer's role, and I am sure he will succeed there, but with perhaps a few more bumps than Sherrill, since Johnson can look filthy on one night and then lukewarm the next. He does have a killer mentality, something necessary to close games in the MLB.

Now onto the players that the Orioles received in this trade.

Josh Bell is having himself an impressive offensive season in AA, with 11 home runs and 30 doubles to go along with an .888 OPS. His defense has been criticized, but is said to be improved. Assuming he does well in AAA, I'd expect him to be in Baltimore sometime in 2010 to take over at 3B full time.

Steve Johnson is a 21 year old pitcher in AA ball. He's only pitched 10 innings there (to a 1.69 ERA with 15 K's no less!), but in 96.2 IP in high-A ball, he struck out 102 batters. Pretty impressive. He is hittable, however, so hopefully he will miss more bats as he progresses through the minors. Look for him to finish the season with Bowie with a chance to jump to AAA ball next year. The rotation looks to be pretty crowded in 2010, so it could be tough for Johnson to crack it, but Johnson provides the Orioles with more pitching depth which is always a good thing.

So there you have it. This trade is not as impressive as some of Andy MacPhail's previous trades, but it still fills out the minor leagues with quality players who actually have a chance to make an impact in the majors some day.

Tillman's Debut

Chris Tillman's debut wasn't as impressive as Brad Bergesen's, but Tillman gave O's fans enough reason for hope during his 4.2 IP debut. He allowed 7 hits, 3 of them were homeruns, struck out 2 and walked 1.

He didn't get the win, as he left the game trailing 3-2, but he got his debut out of the way and didn't embarrass himself. His delivery is fluid and easily repeatable, his fastball sits in the mid 90's and it has good movement.

Chris got the ball up in the strike zone more than he should have, and it resulted in a moonshot from Mike Jacobs, but nerves are to be expected. And it's important to remember that Tillman is still a work in progress. Plus he's only 21.

And for 4.2 innings, it was nice to see another piece of the future in Baltimore today. And the Orioles eventually came back to win the game 7-3.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Future is Offensive

Excuse me if I am not sharing in the excitement of Chris Tillman's major league debut tonight. Because as eager as I am to see how the first call-up of the Big 3 performs, I am starting to worry about the rest of the Orioles' rebuilding process.

Andy MacPhail has preached that 2009 would be all about development. We assumed that said development would be evident over the course of the season, and in some cases it has, as MacPhail replaced rotation stop-gaps Adam Eaton and Mark Hendrickson with pitching prospects in Brad Bergesen and David Hernandez. And both Bergesen and Hernandez are among 2009's few bright spots. Meanwhile, Chris Tillman will replace Rich Hill and his 7.80 ERA, so there is sure to be more development to come.

But the Orioles are 2-9 since the All Star Break and are 19-31 since Matt Wieters joined the team along with the prospects who had been called up before him. That was when the Orioles were supposed to start playing their best baseball. Instead, they've played their worst.

It's not the pitching that I am so worried about in Baltimore. Because after Tillman, there is Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and a few other less-heralded pitching prospects who could always become the next Bergesen or Hernandez. There is, for once, depth in pitching, and I do have faith that it will work itself out.

What concerns me is the offense.

The Orioles are 10th in the AL in runs scored. In 2008 they finished the season 8th. They are regressing. Yes, it's true that veterans like Melvin Mora, Aubrey Huff and Ty Wigginton haven't pulled their weight. But only Wigginton will be back, and it'll only be for 2010.

But who will take the place of Mora and Huff? It looks like Wigginton and his .687 OPS will be the starting 3B in 2010, unless MacPhail pulls off a trade to net the Orioles a better 3B.

1B is where the concern lies, since Brandon Snyder, the only hitting prospect anywhere close to the majors, and he's currently struggling in AAA with an OPS of .654. If the Orioles don't bring Huff back for 2010, which they shouldn't, they aren't going to do any better than Huff based on what's available on the free agent market during the offseason. (I'm going on record today and saying that Eric Hinske is your Orioles 1B in 2010.)

That also doesn't include Brian Roberts, who will most certainly decline over the life of his contract. Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters will almost certainly continue to improve, however, but it's unlikely that they will be able to transform this offense into a fearful one all by themselves.

To ease fans fears of a stagnant offense, MacPhail has preached that he'll "buy the bats" when the pitching comes around, but if MacPhail has never spent big money on marquee free-agents, then what bats is he talking about buying? So far his offensive free-agent signings in Baltimore have been a bench player in Wigginton and a defensive specialist in Caesar Izturis.

If the Orioles are going to rely on the Big 3 (Tillman, Matusz and Arrieta) as well as the Medium 2 (Bergesen and Hernandez), then they should give those pitchers some run support as they make their way through the early stages of their careers. Do the Orioles really want their best pitching prospects agonizing over every pitch in tight ballgames?

Looking over the AL offenses, only Seattle (last) and Detroit (11th) have bottom-5 offenses with winning records. The flip side is that their team ERA's are under 4.11. Asking the Big 3 and Medium 2 to do that in 2010 is expecting too much, too soon.

I hope MacPhail realizes how crucial it is to have something resembling an offense when you're relying on young pitchers to win. Jason Berken pitched a good game last night (6 IP, 2 ER) and left the game in line to get the win until the bullpen gave up the lead and the offense failed to score more than 3 runs despite leaving 10 runners on base.

That is why the future is not rosy in Baltimore. We might get the pitching very soon. But we're going to be on the wrong side of most 3-2 pitching duels unless something is done to fix this struggling offense.

Monday, July 27, 2009

It just got worse...

I am guessing you are as shocked as I am by Drew Bennett's sudden decision to retire, just days after signing a 1-year deal with the Ravens.

After his workout with the Ravens, Bennett's knee started to swell from a previous injury and Bennett decided to call it quits. Who can blame him, he's been battling injuries for the better part of the last 3 seasons. But that still leaves the Ravens essentially empty-handed at the WR position as they head into training camp tomorrow.

The Ravens will probably call DJ Hackett, who they've worked out twice already. And I have to wonder if Hackett would even consider signing with the Ravens after they insulted his ego by going with Kelley Washington and Bennett instead of him the first two times. But, if Hackett wants a job, he'll have to swallow his pride.

I am starting to wonder why the Ravens haven't contacted former-Jaguars WR Matt Jones. Jones was caught with cocaine a few seasons back, and served a suspension, but of all the troubled WR's available, Jones' crime was at least against himself. And it appears those drug problems are behind him.

Jones is still young (26) and has already turned in some solid seasons for the Jaguars, who let's face it, have never been a great passing offense since Mark Brunell left town. Jones is tall (6 foot 6) and was a QB in college. He would bring another dynamic aspect to the Ravens offense along with Troy Smith. If the Ravens are forced to sign a troubled WR, Jones is the lesser of all the evils.

Meanwhile, the Ravens should float the idea of considering signing Plaxico Burress to the media to see what the public's reaction would be. It might also nudge NFL commissioner Roger Godell to make a decision as to whether Burress will be suspended for his actions last November, when he shot himself in the leg with a concealed handgun at a New York night club. If there is a huge outcry over signing Burress, move on. The Ravens have nothing to lose.

Losing Bennett is tough, mostly because it seems like nothing has been going the Ravens' way this offseason, especially at the WR position. Bennett was unlikely to be a major weapon in this offseason, but his experience would have helped second-year QB Joe Flacco, who grew comfortable with Derrick Mason catching his passes.

Who knows, maybe Mason will come back to cap off a crazy offseason. Maybe not. Maybe Flacco got comfortable to throwing to Mark Clayton last season and they will continue their success in 2009. But I really can't see the Ravens going into game #1 with the current WR corps they have now.

I don't believe the small, but fast Clayton fits the bill of a #1 WR. And since he's had success as a #2, I would have to believe the Ravens want to keep him there. Demtrius Williams, at 6 foot 1, is more of the #1 WR mold. But Williams can't stay healthy and hasn't been more than a #3 WR in the past. Can he stay healthy, and make the jump to a go-to WR?

I don't know who else is out there that will make the Ravens a better team. Bennett's retiring may force the Ravens' hand to trade for Brandon Marshall. But he's got legal and character issues of his own. Plus, on top of the picks you'd have to give up to get him, you'd have to sign him to a huge new contract. And after the Ravens locked up Terrell Suggs for 6 years last week, the Ravens aren't in the position to be doling out another big contract.

So look for the Ravens to sign a WR to a Drew Bennett-like contract of a 1-year deal. I expect it will be Hackett after all. Just don't be surprised when the Ravens get what they paid for. Hopefully it won't come at the expense of the fans, who after the Ravens made the AFC Championship game last season, expect a trip to the Super Bowl this year.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bennett signs 1-year deal

The Ravens WR picture got a little clearer today, as they signed former-Titans and Rams WR, Drew Bennett, to a 1-year deal.

Bennett caught only 1 pass in 2008 before breaking a bone in his foot which forced him to sit out the remainder of the season. But Bennett has had success in the NFL before, totaling 1,247 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2004.

It's unlikely Bennett will come close to those kinds of numbers again, but at 30 years old, Bennett could still have some fight left in him as long as he remains healthy. And with a still-developing Joe Flacco at QB, Bennett could become the security blanket for Flacco that Derrick Mason was last year.

If anything, Bennett makes the WR position a tad deeper in talent, as well as question marks. And if Mason ever does decide to come back, dare I say it, the Ravens WR corps will be in good shape.

NOTE: The Ravens didn't sign former-Seahawks and Panthers WR, DJ Hackett, after inviting him to workout for the Ravens a second time, the first being in May when the Ravens eventually went on to sign Kelley Washington.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

WR options shaping up...

In the past week, the Ravens worked out WR's Drew Bennett and DJ Hackett. You might remember Hackett trying out for the Ravens before the team signed Kelley Washington back in May.

Bennett is an intriguing option. He had some solid seasons in Tennessee, before moving on to St. Louis, where he only played in 15 games over the course of 2 seasons. Apparently, Bennett is healthy now, and only 31. He would make a great addition to the Ravens whether Derrick Mason stays retired or not.

Speaking of Mason, coach John Harbaugh seems to think that Derrick will eventually come back. Let's hope he's right. Many older players despise training camp, and with Brian Billick's so-called "Camp Creampuff" no more, many veterans are not looking forward to three weeks of grueling practice in the humid Maryland August. So on top of wanting a contract extension, Mason may also want to "sit out" some of training camp.

Meanwhile, former-Saints and Falcons WR Joe Horn wants to play for the Ravens. Horn is 37 and hasn't had a decent season since 2004. Still, Horn could fill Mason's shoes as a solid route-runner with good hands. Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams are still the Ravens' deep threats.

So there are options out there. It just remains to be seen which direction the Ravens will take to address the WR position following Mason's "retirement".

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Calendar Girls

Assuming the Orioles lose to the Yankees today (and I don't think you'll be asking me what "assume" stands for anytime soon as the Tirds are losing 5-1 to the Yankees in the top of the 7th), the last time the Orioles won in New York City was July 29, 2008.

Maybe you remember the Bad Oriole's visit to Yankee Stadium that year. It was July 28th, the day before the O's last won in NYC. The Orioles crushed Mike Mussina and the Yankees 13-4. All was right with the world back it has changed since.

Oh, and while I'm busting out these awesome factoids, do you remember the last time the zerO's won in Boston? July 11, 2008.

That's right folks, it's been a full calendar year since the Orioles have won in either rival AL East city.

Look up "pathetic" in the dictionary and the 2008 and 2009 Orioles team photo will be staring back at you.

Let's see your moves

The Orioles are 1-5 after the All Star Break, 11 games below .500 and in need of some immediate roster moves.

Rich Hill, in a word, is done.

Remember Adam Eaton? Hill is worse. Well, almost.

7.64 ERA in 12 starts? Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Rich.

Chris Tillman meanwhile is cruising in AAA Norfolk to the tune of a 2.42 ERA and 95 K in 93 IP. The wrap on Tillman at one point was that he needed to go deeper in games. Well, in his last 7 starts, Tillman has gone at least 6 IP in all of them.

So expect to see Tillman in Baltimore soon. Really soon. As in, When-Hill-is-supposed-to-start-next soon.

As for trades, they don't look very promising. The O's most valuable players, Luke Scott and George Sherrill don't look like they're going anywhere since they are cheap and under control for two more seasons.

Meanwhile, soon-to-expire players such as Danys Baez and Aubrey Huff don't have any trade value. Melvin Mora has little value and a no-trade clause as durable as the Great Wall of China.

Yes, Baez looked great at the beginning of the season, and was a trade waiting to happen, but since his hot start he had a 5.40 ERA in June and a 7.11 ERA thus far in July. Huff, meanwhile, is a notorious slow starter and I guess he never got the memo that it's now summertime, when he usually heats up. His .742 OPS is near the bottom of 1B's in the majors.

4th OF Felix Pie could be traded, only because he's not able to find any playing time in Baltimore, and could fetch a promising player much like himself, but it's unlikely MacPhail will part with Pie either. The Cubs connection runs deep with MacPhail.

So there you have it. The Orioles are a boring team right now, and seem prepared to take another second half nosedive. The call-up of Tillman could get a few fans excited for a minute, but it won't last. This still isn't a very good team and they continue to run themselves out of games, just like Monday night's debacle in New York when Caesar Izturis and Brian Roberts were both thrown out at the plate in the 8th inning of a 1-1 tie game that the Orioles eventually lost.

The bottom line is that this team has to get better, fast. The Orioles can only tease us with the excitement of rookie call-ups for so long.

Pretty soon we've got to see it all come together.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

All Star Break Review

Well, that West Coast trip wasn't so bad after all.

After losing 3/4 to the Angels, the O's rebounded and took 2/3 from the Mariners to come back home with a 3-4 record on the West Coast trip.

Then they took another 2/3 from the Blue Jays.

So as the Orioles head into the All Star Break, I can't help but feel a little excited about the second half of the 2009 season.

Yeah, I said it knowing that August and September is usually when the Orioles crash dive.

I also couldn't care less that the Orioles are still 7 games under .500 or that Nick Markakis hasn't hit a HR since June 16th.

The O's are playing well, and that means I am excited. If they come out of the break and lose 6 out of 8 games, I will be depressed.

That's just how it goes here at the Bad Oriole.

But seriously, there is reason for hope. Chris Tillman (2.50 ERA, 88 K in Norfolk) is just a couple of weeks from being called up. David Hernandez has an ERA below 4 in 5 starts. And Brad Bergesen is the team's ace, with a 3.54 ERA in 16 starts.

Sure, Matt Wieters is off to a slow start (.724 OPS) and is not ready for the Chuck Norris-esque, but give him time. He's the catcher of the future, plain and simple.

Meanwhile, Nolan Reimold is the LF of the future. I'd also be fine with Luke Scott as the DH of the future. As a matter of fact, I'd be fine penciling his name into the DH spot until he can't stand up, much like Harold Baines did. Let's just keep Scott instead of trading him and re-signing him a dozen times like the Orioles did in the 90's.

Yeah, OK...we do need some new corner-infielders. But 1B prospect Brandon Snyder just cruised through Bowie, with Wieters-like 1.081 OPS. Ty Wigginton could take over at 3B for Melvin Mora in 2009, but we could also trade Aubrey Huff, George Sherrill, Danys Baez or Jeremy Guthrie for our future 3B.

So there is some reason for hope. Hell, Rich Hill just turned in a quality start in which he walked just 1 batter in 6 IP.

Let's just hope the O's give us a reason to watch them play until the end of September.

Mason Announces Retirement

Derrick Mason announced his abrupt retirement yesterday, telling ESPN News, "This is a decision that I've made. If I do change my mind, it won't be because of the Ravens. It'll be because of some other things - my family and talking with other people. I still got to talk with some coaches over there. As far as financially, I don't think they can do anything to sway me."

Earlier this offseason, Mason wanted a contract extension. Could this be a negotiating ploy? Maybe, but it's doubtful according to what Mason told the media. And with Steve McNair's recent murder, Mason may have taken another look at his life and decided that there was more to it than just football.

It's hard to get upset with Mason if that is the case, but it still leaves the Ravens in a massive hole. Training camp starts in 2 weeks and the Ravens didn't address the WR position this offseason other than signing Kelley Washington. And losing Mason is a huge step backwards.

Over the course of 4 seasons with the Ravens, Mason averaged 986 receiving yards and almost 4 TD's. Not huge numbers, but Mason was the Ravens go-to WR over that time. He ran perfect routes and had great hands. And there is no one on the Ravens currently able to fill his shoes.

Mark Clayton is poised to have a big year, continuing to develop with QB Joe Flacco, but Clayton is far from a #1 WR. He made some acrobatic catches last year, but is still inconsistent, disappearing for games at a time. That said, unless the Ravens do something drastic, he will be the Ravens #1 WR by default and will have to step up.

Demetrius Williams has the speed and height to break-out in 2009, but his injury issues have kept him out of 16 games over the last 2 years. Kelley Washington impressed the Ravens during their WR workout earlier this offseason, but Washington has only caught 10 passes in the NFL over the last 3 years. Then there is Marcus Smith, a second year WR out of New Mexico, who didn't catch a pass in 2008. What he brings to the table is unknown.

To say the Ravens WR options beyond Clayton are limited is an understatement. And their options outside the organization just as limited.

There was talk of trading for Broncos troubled WR Brandon Marshall earlier this offseason, but Marshall is dealing with some severe off-the-field troubles. Then there is another troubled WR in Plaxico Burress. No team has had the guts to sign Burress, coming off an embarrassing nightclub incident in which he shot himself in the leg last November. As with Marshall, a Burress suspension could be imminent, so its unknown how many games the Ravens would have them for in 2009.

Beyond Marshall and Burress, the available wide-receivers are replacement level talent. When the Ravens signed Washington, they also tried out DJ Hackett, Tab Perry and Jerry Porter. Among those names, Porter is the most enticing, but his injury issues are worrisome. And in 10 games last year with the Jaguars, he caught only 11 passes, for 181 yards and 1 TD.

The retirement of Mason leaves Flacco's development up in the air as well. Without Mason, Flacco doesn't have a security blanket that he offered Flacco in 2008. So, unless Mason is posturing for a contract extension, the Ravens will be entering the 2009 season extremely shorthanded.

I wish Mason the best, and if his retirement was brought on by McNair's murder, it's understandable. There is more to life than just football, and we, as fans, have trouble remembering that at times.

But Mason's decision to retire has knocked Ravens from Super Bowl Contenders to a fringe playoff team.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

West Coast Blues

Well, after yesterday's horrible loss, I aim to depress you more. So get the prozac ready.

Since 2007, the Orioles are 14-22 on the West Coast. And starting tonight, they are back on the West Coast to face the Angels for 3 games and then the Mariners for 3.

Can you say 1-5?

At some point, the Orioles are going to have to play well on the West Coast if they want to be a competitive team, just like they'll have to play better against the Red Sox and Yankees at some point and play better in August and September at some point.

But yet the Orioles aren't making any big strides in that department.

You'd think that with good young talent like Brad Bergesen, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters on the team that the Orioles would improve their overall record. But on July 2nd they are 35-43 and a whopping 13 games out of first place. 

Is it 2002? 2003? Or 2009? I can't tell judging by the standings.

What exactly has changed from years past when Jeff Conine and Jay Gibbons were batting clean-up? When Rodrigo Lopez was our "ace"?

I don't know. The Orioles are still a bad team. I thought they'd be a little better than this once they got infused with some top young talent in the form of Reimold and Wieters. But since Wieters has been called up, the team is 12-17 and Wieters has not yet found any consistency at the plate or behind it. 

OK, this is not all Wieters' fault. Simply put, the Orioles still stink because they are a bad team. They can't close out games they should win. They can't get all 3 parts of the team (hitting, starting rotation and bullpen) on the same page.  

They just tease you with extended periods of good baseball balanced out by equal periods of bad baseball.

So it looks like more bad baseball is to come as the Orioles head out west. Maybe they don't like jet lag. Who knows.

One this is for sure is that these next 6 games are going to be as painful as watching the O's lose a game to the Red Sox in which they had a 5-1 lead going into the 9th inning.

That is all.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Well...they ARE the Orioles...

I just wanted to get a quick entry off before the inevitable happens and the Orioles lose a depressing game in which they had the lead 5-1 behind a masterful 8 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 6 K performance by Brad Bergesen before Jason Johnson and George Sherrill proceeded to piss it away with a 2-run home run to Kevin Youkilis and 4 walks that contributed to the Red Sox tying up the score 5-5 in the 9th.

The game is in the top of the 11th inning right now, and the Red Sox have a runner on third with 1 out. So I know the Orioles are going to lose. They wore those rally caps out last night. They will not come back tonight.

So I leave you with this: How long will the Orioles continue to erase every positive step they make? One huge comeback win last night, one huge comeback loss today.

Ying and Yang.

It almost makes me want to close down the Bad Oriole and free myself from this frustratingly bad baseball team.


That's what I call a defining moment!

You want a defining moment? I’ll give you a defining moment.

June 30th against the hated Red Sox. 


The Orioles are down 10-1 after six innings. 

TEN to ONE! 

What happens next? I’ll tell you what happens next.

Oscar Salazar! SALAZAR! Three run home run. I’m talking “Earl Weaver special”.

That brought the score to 10-5. But the O’s weren’t done yet. Felix "You say pee-yay, I say" Pie, drives in another run to make it 10-6.

We’re just getting started people!

* does bad early 90’s hip-hop dance *

The bottom of the eighth inning is where the Oriole magic really kicked in. Here's how it happened.

Matt Wieters singles, Nolan Reimold scores. 10-7.

Ty Wigginton his a sac-fly, Luke Scott scores. 10-8.

Brian Roberts singles, Oscar Salazar scores. 10-9.

* makes Macauley Caulkin from Home Alone face *

Then, Nick “the stick” Markakis lines a double into left-center, bringing home the 2 go-ahead runs.



* does dance again *

Then, Flat Breezy himself comes in to the bottom of the ninth and retires the side.

O’s win. Red Sox lose. RED SOX LOSE!

Did I mention the Sox lose?

Not only is it the biggest comeback in O’s history, it’s the biggest comeback for a last place team over a first place team.

* Oh, I’m not supposed to mention that the O’s are a last place team? OK, let me do that last one over then. *

It’s the biggest comeback in O’s history. Buh-bye Sox fans.

* waves bye to the camera *

That’s what I call a defining moment.