Monday, July 25, 2011

It's July 25th. Do you know how many losses your Orioles have?

I won't blame you if you don't know the answer. I had to look it up myself.

That would be 58.

58 losses on July 25th.

Do you know what the average number of losses the AL East Champs have had over the last 13 years?


The Orioles will have that many within a week's time. They're on pace for a 64-98 record, worse than last year's record, which at one point was on pace to set a record for futility in the modern area. I also doubt there will be another Late Season Buck Miracle in August and September. Whatever magic Buck had when he took over the team last year as run out.

58 losses.

I know it's not rocket science we're talking here, or any analytical stats that provide a wealth of information. But it's just another reminder of how bad the Orioles are -- and how far they have to go to contend in the AL East.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Baltimore becoming a one sports town again

I was born in 1979. The Colts left in 1984 meaning I came of age as a sports fan in a city with one team: the Orioles. Needless to say, it sucked. Baseball seasons became that much more important even though they usually ended in heartbreak. I hung on every pitch, every at-bat. Because during football season I was relegated to rooting for another team in another city.

Fast-forward some fifteen-odd years later. The Browns moved to Baltimore, became the Ravens and won a Super Bowl a few years later. The Orioles, meanwhile, fell into the abyss of horrible sports franchises sometime around 1998 and they've yet to crawl out. Actually, they're only sinking deeper and deeper into it.

So here we are, back in that same place, living in a one sports team city.

Let's face it, the Orioles might as well join the ranks of the Blast, the Bayrunners, Mariners and any other minor-league cut-rate sports team that plays its home games in Baltimore. The O's should move to the Baltimore Arena and play the games there, inside that old, decrepit monstrosity of terribleness. The Orioles don't deserve Camden Yards.

Even die-hard Oriole fans are starting to turn in their fan cards. And why shouldn't they? The Orioles have turned their back on fans for years. It's time the remaining fans do the same to them. Sports fans around Baltimore are praying that the labor dispute that has the NFL on hold gets resolved soon so we can forget about the Orioles and focus all our attention on the Ravens.

It happens every year.

This year was supposed to be different. But shame on us for thinking that could ever happen.

So here we are again, folks.

We might as well join the ranks of Buffalo, Tennessee, Green Bay and Jacksonville as one-team football cities. Because let's face it, the Orioles don't play Major League quality baseball.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Steelers' Clark: Ravens/Steelers not a rivalry

Ryan Clark is speaking out of his ass.

Ryan Clark is either not very bright or he's just trying to get under the skin of Ravens players and fans. He recently said:

"People try to make this game between the Ravens and the Steelers like so much of a rivalry, of a fight, you know," Clark told KDKA-FM in Pittsburgh. "You can say it's a rivalry if you like, but for something to be a rivalry, I think both teams have to win equally. The hate between the fans doesn't make it a rivalry. Teams have to win equally, and that really hasn't been the case in our situation."

Yes, it's true that the Steelers have a better record against the Ravens. That record soars to dominate levels when Ben Roethlisberger is playing. But to say that the Ravens/Steelers is not a rivalry is completely outlandish.

Most of the games are decided in the 4th quarter, usually by a single play. Both teams were 12-4 last year and 9-7 the year before. They've played 3 times in 2 of the last 3 seasons. At least one of the games between these two teams is a nationally televised game.

But yes, it would be nice if the Ravens could level out the record some more, but that doesn't mean that this isn't a rivalry.

It's the best damn rivalry going on in the NFL right now, and will be for the foreseeable future.

So sorry, Ryan. You're absolutely wrong.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stupid, stupid, stupid...

Well, I'm reserved to the notion that second half the season is going to be one massive FAIL meme, and it appears that I will only write entries on the team when they do something stupid that deserves commenting on.

Well, today's stroke of Orioles genius comes via Brittany Ghiroli, the Orioles beat reporter for Ghiroli does a great job following the team and always has her finger on the pulse of what fans want to know. After the hapless writing of Spencer Fordin, Ghiroli is a breath of fresh air.

Anyway, today Ghiroli wrote about Jim Johnson and the Orioles' stance that he's "untouchable".

Relievers Koji Uehara and Jim Johnson are both having excellent seasons in the later innings, but Uehara has drawn tepid interest given his age and injury-prone status. Johnson has established himself as one of the best setup men in the American League, and the organization -- which has told several teams it's unwilling to discuss offers for the reliever -- continues to have internal discussions about moving Johnson into a starting role next season.

Well then.

There's no denying that outside of a few bad outings, Johnson has had a terrific year. He's also on pace to throw over 100 innings as a relief pitcher and will be 29 next year. He's not some young buck who the Orioles are hoping will be a part of their next winning team. He's a prime trade candidate.

You know the saying, "sell high"? Well the Orioles clearly don't.

And the talk of converting Johnson to a starting pitcher? There's been rumblings about Johnson wanting to be a starter (like he was in the minors) but as the other saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Even if the Orioles were to keep Johnson (and they shouldn't), making him a starting pitcher would be a colossal mistake. Johnson excels where he is. Leave him there.

No, actually trade him, so his new team can leave him there.

Hopefully Andy MacPhail is simply posturing here, but really, would you be surprised if everything Ghiroli wrote was true?

I wouldn't. And I expect the Orioles to say and do a lot of dumb things for the remainder of the season.

Stay tuned.

The Bad Oriole is about to really live up to its name.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

City Tour #5 -- Porto, Portugal

Before and after my recent vacation to Portugal, many people asked me "why Portugal?" when they found out where I was going.

My usual answer was, "why not?"

I'm lucky enough to have already visited some of the bigger, cultural cities in Europe: Athens, Rome, Florence, Venice, Prague, Vienna and Budapest. And since my wife and I are saving France for our 10th Anniversary, we settled on Portugal since it's relatively cheap compared to other European countries such as Spain, Germany and Belgium, and can be reached by a direct flight.

And I'll be honest. We picked Portugal for superficial reasons. It's not like we were really interested in the country's culture or history ahead of time. For us, the price sounded good and the country has a good mix of geographical landscapes, meaning we could visit Porto, the home of Port wine, the coastal town of Lagos, and the bustling metropolis of Lisbon all within a week.

Our first stop was Porto, which is located in the northern part of the country. The people who didn't ask "why Portugal?" because they had some previous experience with the country, highly recommended Porto, even saying that we should skip Lisbon if we had to, as long as we made it to Porto.

So did my experience in Porto meet their praise?

Yes, it did. And then some.

Porto has been called "Europe's hidden gem" and I can see why. It's a small city when compared to some of Europe's giants, and very picturesque due to its waterfront, which gives it a cozy feeling. It's cheap -- cheaper than the rest of Portugal -- and the access to wine, especially Port wine, is not to be missed.

1. Arts & Culture -- 7 -- Porto has a very interesting history, having once been settled by the Romans and occupied by the Moors, making for some impressive architecture that was spared by the 1755 earthquake that decimated much of central Portugal. But for me, Porto offered up a jarring contrast of the past in its architecture and the present when the Porto F.C. won the Portuguese Cup our second day there and the town literally exploded into honking car horns and people chanting the fight song through the streets of the city. I listened to Antena 3, an indie rock station, whenever I could. I basically pay Sirius $12 a month to get the same station. I also attended a concert by the American band, The National, while in Porto and it also reminded me how modern this city really is. The crowd was so into the show -- more into any show I have ever attended in the states -- and the band fed off of that energy turning in an awesome live performance. I left Porto impressed for several reasons, key among them being the energy that the city has for the now.

2. Food -- 8 -- Porto's cuisine -- and Portugal's to a larger extent, especially so close to the coast -- predominantly featured pork and seafood. Sometimes the seafood was wrapped in pork. The offerings in Porto were good, but they didn't blow me away, even when we dined at the #1 Trip Advisor rated restaurant. OK, I was blown away by the sandwich in that picture, but I didn't come to Porto to do a "Man Vs. Food" episode. I wanted some really good food. And what I found was solid, but failed to leave a lasting impression. Thankfully, there didn't seem to be many tourist traps in Porto due to the city being a minor tourist city in Europe, so it was a relief to know you could walk into almost any restaurant and get decent food at decent prices. There is something to be said for that. But what earns Porto its score is the Port wine. We made a day out of touring the different port cellars and met a really cool British couple who traveled to Porto for the weekend. Each port cellar offers a tour, which we never took. Just the port, please! And each place we visited was generous with the tastings. So generous, that my wife got drunk and I caught a solid buzz. And if Anton and Sarah are out there, cheers!

3. Mass Transit -- 8 -- For a city its size, Porto has an impressive mass transit system comprised of a light rail "metro", buses and a funicular. The metro got us from the train station to our condo, and to and from dinner one night but Porto has a very walkable city center and after a while, we realized that the bus better served us if we needed to take mass transit at all. The zone system in Porto is confusing, which made purchasing tickets a chore. But the system is very clean, efficient and laid out well.

4. Look & Feel -- 10 -- The feeling you get when you first arrive in a European city can't be matched in America except for maybe New York City. You rise out of the subway and boom -- you're in the middle of all the action. This feeling never ended for me in Porto. I could have wandered around the city for weeks, just taking in the city views, the architecture and the churches covered in azulejos. Down by the river is where one can just sit and take it all in. On one side you have dozens of Port wine cellars seemingly stacked on top of each other, and on the other side, you have restaurants, cafes, shops and the historical center rising above it. Both sides of the river are connected by an iron bridge that gives off a Paris meets Pittsburgh vibe. Up close, the city can be dirty and run down: abandoned houses are next door to brilliantly restored ones. But when viewed from afar, all of that grime disappears.

5. Overall -- 8 -- Porto is a European city you can explore at your own speed. There were no famous landmarks to see, no famous museums to slog through to see that one famous painting by that one painter. All there was in Porto was a ton of great Port wine, wonderful views of the city, and all the time in the world.

Total -- 41/50

Monday, July 11, 2011

All Star Broken


6-21 in the last 27 games.

Did the All Star Break come at the right time, or what?

Any chance we can just forfeit the rest of the season? Because, really, what's the point in playing the rest of it?

Our starting rotation is made up of guys who you never heard of a few weeks ago and others who were thought to be serving a jail sentences this past offseason.

Meanwhile, former superstar players such as Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero are making their farewell tour. Even the homegrown players like Markakis, Jones and Wieters are just "meh".

And Buck Showalter? His downfall as savior of the Orioles is probably the most tragic to watch. Someone who could do no wrong last year, is now nothing more than a frustrated parent who knows its useless to get upset at their pain in the ass kids.

So what does this all mean?

It means the end of the Orioles for a lot of fans, including this one. I don't watch them anymore, I don't think about them anymore (except for when writing here or at Orioles Hangout). Put simply, I don't give a f--- anymore.

The Orioles are dead to me.

How about you?

And if you do still care, why?

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Last Excuse

In the last 14 years, fans have called for players to be traded or released, managers, coaches and GM's to be fired, uniforms to be changed, better promotions at the stadium -- and about a dozen other things to change the fortunes of this team.

Most of them have been done. But the Orioles just keep on losing.

All that remains is Peter G. Angelos.

Now I'm not saying that replacing Angelos with a new owner today would mean the Orioles would start winning tomorrow. It would probably take a few years before we'd start to see the positives of a new owner start to trickle down throughout the entire organization, if ever.

After all, aside from the owner, we've pretty much turned over everything there is to be turned over within this organization. But the results are still the same.

So is Angelos the last thing standing in the way of returning the Orioles back to respectability? Does he meddle in the baseball operations so much that people are unable to do their jobs? Maybe that is the case. Teams with less resources than the Orioles have been able to get more out of their organization than the Orioles, so the O's don't have many excuses as to why they can't compete in the AL East when the cash-strapped Rays have been able to do it for 4 years running.

So is Peter Angelos the last excuse as to why the Orioles are still so bad?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Is it time to start rooting for the Nats?

Here we are, back in the same place we're always at this time of year.

Twelve games under .500.
14.5 games out of first place.
The pitching, hitting, fielding...the O's are doing nothing well.
There's no prospects in the minors who will be called up to spark the interest of jaded fans like they have in years past.

This is going to be a long second half, folks.

Of course you could talk trades but the Orioles have always held onto players too long as opposed to trading them a year or two early (Luke Scott, Brian Roberts, etc...), so it's doubtful that the O's will be major players at the deadline. Luke Scott, who should have been traded last offseason, is hurt. Add to that, the team's seemingly biggest trade chips at the start of the season -- Derrek Lee and Vlad Guerrero -- are having such poor seasons that if you combined their stats they'd still be disappointments. No one is going to want them enough to give up anything of value. The O's are stuck with them like so many under-performing veteran players of years past.

On the other hand, players like Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy are playing well. I'll be surprised if the Orioles trade the team's two biggest bright spots, despite the fact that Hardy is a free agent after the season and would probably be reluctant to extend or re-sign with a team that has no hope to compete over the length of his contract. And Sun columnist Peter Schmuck recently wrote a column in support of keeping Reynolds and Hardy.

Jeremy Guthrie is coming apart at the worst time possible, right when teams are keeping a close eye on him in hopes of acquiring him for the pennant race. And outside of Koji Uehara and maybe Jim Johnson, no one in the bullpen will bring back anything, due to their contract and/or performance.

Adam Jones could be traded, his value is pretty high and he could bring back a hefty return, but the Orioles will never trade a player they've built a media campaign around. So you can toss that idea right out of the window.

So what else is there to discuss? What reasons do we have to continue watching this team?


Absolutely, positively nothing.

The future looks as grim as it ever has, maybe even worse.

Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals are having themselves an exciting season. A season, I might add, that we all thought the Orioles would be having this year.

The Nats are 45-43 and are unlikely to make the postseason (they trail the first place Phillies by 10 games and the wild card leading Braves by 7 games), but they're playing exciting baseball in July thanks to the emergence of some of their talented young pitchers.

Sound familiar?

After last season, the Orioles were supposed to parlay their late season pitching success into a solid staff in 2011, but it hasn't happened. Brian Matusz was injured to start the year and is now in Norfolk after losing velocity. Brian Bergesen has shuttled between Norfolk and Baltimore and still hasn't found consistency. Like Matusz, Chris Tillman has lost velocity and is struggling in Norfolk. Only Zach Britton has really opened eyes (3.47 ERA) but even he has shown signs of unraveling lately (5.91 ERA in his last 2 starts). Meanwhile, Jake Arrieta has 9 wins but still has an ERA of 4.74. Thanks to the meltdown of 2/5 of their rotation, the Orioles have been forced to use fodder such as Chris Jakubauskus (6.75 ERA) and Mitch Atkins in the rotation.

Down in D.C., the Nationals entire rotation has an ERA below 4.11. And despite the tragic injury to Steven Strasburg that's sidelined him for over a year, the Nationals still have a wealth of pitching talent. Jordan Zimmerman, 25, has an ERA of 2.82 and walks just 1.7 batters per 9 innings. But the real firepower is found in their bullpen, where 23 year old Drew Storen has 22 saves and a 2.53 ERA. Tyler Clippard, 26, has an 11.4 K/9 rate and an impressive 1.86 ERA. Henry Rodriguez, 24, has a 1.91 ERA and a 10.2 K/9.

What do the O's have in their bullpen?

Koji Uehara, 36, and Jim Johnson, 28, both of whom should be traded this year.

Offensively, the Nationals are getting some good production from journeyman players like Michael Morse (.889 OPS) and Laynce Nix (.831 OPS). Their star player, Ryan Zimmerman, has been injured for most of the year and their second baseman, Danny Espinoza, has 16 home runs and an .809 OPS. Jayson Werth, signed to a massive long-term contract the Nationals are sure to regret, is scraping by with a .694 OPS. So offensively, the Nationals resemble their Baltimore counterparts: a few bright spots sprinkled in amongst drek.

The Nationals will benefit from Strasburg coming back next year, as well as the emergence of their #1 pick from 2010, Bryce Harper. The Nats also have a better farm system and a GM in Mike Rizzo, who's not afraid to make bold moves and spend money.

Meanwhile, the Orioles have a barren farm system with their best prospects 2-3 years away and a GM who is conservative and refuses to spend money internationally.

The Nats also have Davey Johnson as manager. Remember him? Yeah, it's the same guy. He took over for the Nationals when their previous manager, John Riggleman, oddly resigned a few weeks ago after Rizzo wouldn't extend his contract. Talk about falling up instead of falling down.

Yeah, Buck Showalter may still be a good manager but his stock is at an all-time low in Baltimore. Gone is the messiah-like aura from last August and September and his take-no-prisoners attitude. Unfortunately it seems like he's been replaced by an android programmed to manage exactly like the last couple of Orioles managers: Dave Trembley and Sam Perlozzo. Remember that organizational depth chart that was supposed to light a fire under players when they saw the list of players gunning for their jobs? Showalter has relentlessly stuck with his aging veteran players despite their struggles while talented players like Nolan Reimold rot on the bench.

I'm pretty much finished with the Orioles at this point. I was excited for this season, thinking we'd be better -- thinking we'd be having a season much like the Nationals. But as hard as it is for me to say it, there's more to like about the Nationals, now and moving forward. The Orioles will always be my first love, but it may be time to move on and start dating again.

And the Nationals are looking pretty cute right now.