Results tagged ‘ Baltimore Orioles ’

I Love That Guthrie Ruffled a Few O’s Feathers

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Come on Orioles faithful, I always thought you had a thicker skin.

I mean seriously, you are going to get all hot and bothered about a T-shirt won by a starter that beat you in a competitive fight for who gets to host the first 2014 World Series game? 

downloadAre these the same O’s squad that thumped their chest mightily upon the Camden Yard grass after sweeping the mighty, mighty Tigers and proclaiming the “ best was yet to come”.

Doesn’t sound like the same team, or the same confident fan base right now. I should not matter one iota if the O’s are not royalty outside the friendly confines of the Charm City, you knew there were  going to be peril ahead, but letting a cotton blend T-shirt be your albatross……Did not see that coming.

I mean this is a city that boasts such nicknames as Mobtown, Monument City, The City of Firsts and my personal favorite, The Land of Pleasant Living.  Hate to say it, but being down 0-3 in a 7 game series doesn’t project pleasant images or optimism to me at this critical juncture.

imagesSeriously, you got to give it to the imagination of your mid-West foes to come up with something like this that got so deep under your fan base’s feathers that it bothers you to this extent. I always thought the Balti crew had thick feathers, but now maybe we have seen someone show a crack in your 2014 armor.

Just chalk this one episode up to the creative juices possibly flowing from the fountains of Kauffman Stadium and hope your team doesn’t see a raven, but an oriole perched upon their visiting dugout during your 4th chance at trying to break the Royal’s ever tightening grip and choke out your 2014 black and orange hopes and dreams of getting to the World Series.

I actually applaud wearing the T-shirt to a winning post-game presser. I was not done to directly humiliate the Baltimore team, your squad has humiliated themselves quite nicely being down 3-0 and currently losing Game 4, which would be a bit Poe-etic.

2663963Heck, I would have made a celebratory Royals tongue-in-cheek T-shirt for your possible elimination featuring a Royal with a mason’s trowel in hand placing bricks with a bound and sweating Oriole within the wall……My own twisted ALCS head tilt to your homegrown macabre master Edgar Allan Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado”.

Jeremy Guthrie was just having fun in the moment. Chill out, or this series will be quickly over and we might not be able to “Quote the Oriole…nevermore…nevermore!”

4 Former Rays in the Fight for a A L C S Ring

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This weekend  as teams in the American League made their final pushed to secure a American League Divisional Series crown, several former Tampa Bay Rays had their own imprints on who and how these ALDS series would end.

By966ImCYAAkoPbWith regards to hurlers, we saw 2 American League Central division rivals who on Sunday took to their pitching mounds on opposite sides of our nation’s shores battle it out to either extinguish or extend their team’s post season dream.

We all sat and witnessed early on Sunday as Detroit Tigers southpaw David Price provided his team an ample chance to extend their A L D S series, their once potent bats went suddenly silent and with it the Tigers were swept by the Baltimore Orioles.

images (5)Price only made one untimely judgment during his 8 inning, 5-hit, 2-run appearance on a lone pitch that Baltimore DH Nelson Cruz sent to right field for a 2-run Home Run that also secured all the runs the Orioles would need to sweep their A L D S series against the Tigers in away confines of Comerica Field.

And as Price and his team gathered their packed their gear for the last time in 2014 , another former Rays pitcher was to write himself into the M L B history books.  

Just a time zone away as the Orioles celebrated their A L D S conclusion with their home fans, James Shields and his Royals teammates were in the midst of securing their own ticket to the ALCS and provided yet another unique story line to the Royals ever-expanding Cinderella storybook postseason.

download (1)Shields might have given up an early Home Run to Mike Trout to spot the Angels a 1-0 lead, but his teammates had his back on this day.  The Royals provided their own 3-run barrage in the bottom of the 1st to give Shields some much needed run support and with additional 2-run bursts in the bottom of the 3rd and 4th innings, provided all the offensive firepower needed for the Royals.

The Royals did not only defeat the heavily favored Angels on Sunday, but finished off their A L D S sweep of the Angels in front of their home fans.

Shields provided an adequate 6 inning,  6-hit, 2-run outing that were only tarnished by Home Runs by Trout and Albert Pujols. The Angels 2 most powerful hitters could of changed the series landscape , but their solo HRs were the only runs given up by Shields.

Interesting side note, the only other Angels run was given up by former Rays RP Wade Davis who came on in the top of the 8th inning when former Rays farm hand Josh Hamilton scored Howie Kendrick from Third Base to plate the last run of the contest for the visiting Angels.

images (1)The Orioles also boast two other former Rays in INF Kelly Johnson and DH/OF Delmon Young. Now I’m really happy to see Johnson get a chance at the post season and especially as he has been on the roster of almost everyone in the American League East at some point in the last 2 seasons.

Johnson deserves this kind of celebratory goodness as the guy is a team player who just enjoys the game and still gets excited when he sees his name on the line-up card.  

My personal feelings aside about Delmon Young, I’m glad he got to see his former team, the Tigers, leave the field as he enjoyed celebrating a A L D S title with his new O’s squad.

Johnson was an intricate pick-up for the O’s near the end of the season bringing in the versatile Johnson to play wherever needed, and providing a stop-gap at Third Base that was left vulnerable by Manny Machado’s late season ending injury.

Johnson’s only appearance in the A L D S was as a pinch-hitter for Caleb Joseph in Game 2 in the 8th inning and he flied out to center field. 

downloadYoung however did not only get a chance to shine in Game 2 himself, but his pinch-hit 3-RBI double into deep left field for Ryan Flaherty  plated the games winning run in the Orioles 7-6 victory.

Young’s heroic pinch hit during game 2 got him a start in left field for Game 3, but he was lifted for David Lough in the top of the 9th inning after going 0-3 on the day.

Still, Young and Johnson should be on the Baltimore A L D S roster when the A L C S contests begin Friday, October 10th in Camden Yards with the Royals sending Shields to the hill to try and give the Orioles their first defeat of the 2014 post seeason.

Going to be interesting to see if Shields or Davis get a chance (or two) to face their former teammate Young, or Johnson during the A L C S.

By9r9YVCcAAYjttNo matter who’s squad ends up winning the 2013 American League crown,  I am proud as heck of Shields, Davis, Johnson and even Young for being parts of their team want and hope to raise not only banners, but champagne on their quest for a World Series journey.  

And lest we forget, because the American League defeated the National League in the 2014 All-Star Game, the World Series will ultimately begin soon enough in either Baltimore or Kansas City.

Never would have envisioned these two teams fighting for the right to represent their league in the World Series. Proves once again there is no such thing as a “sure thing” in regards to baseball, and I would not have it any other way.P

 

 

 

I Choose to Not Buy Centerplate Products

 

I am a huge dog  and overall animal fan. I have on numerous occasions told people that my pure black German Shepherd Hansel was my DFF (Dog Friend Forever). Animals have dotted my entire life and sometimes I do get an affliction of treating them almost like another human.

images (7)So maybe it is just me, but I’m appalled at the recent video surfaced on August 21st showing a man with his dog on a leash basically beating discipline into his dog while traveling in a closed elevator while staying at a hotel in Vancouver, BC.

Sure we all have disciplined our pets, but not while they are seated on an elevator floor and by kicks to their middle regions or applying foot to hind quarters. For me it was a newspaper slight pop and putting their nose near their badly placed deposits. And neither of these actions were done out of anger, frustrations or even a hint of hurting my beloved pet. 

Subsequently after the British Columbia SPCA viewed the actions a search warrant was issued for Desmond Hague the current CEO of Centerplate Inc., which is the largest food services vendor that provides food options for us locally at Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Lightning, Orlando Magic games and at many other major sports venues in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

images (5)Even though the investigation into the animal abuse case involving Hague is on-going, it will be interesting to see how this event will effect in-stadium sales for Centerplate for the rest of the baseball season and possibly hurt the conglomerate during the upcoming MLB post season.

Hague has issued an apology for his actions, but maybe it is a bit too late to possibly fend off the extremely negative effect such actions will have on devote animal loving fans and if the vendor will feel any significant financial pains while the case is open.

I can definitely see fans possibly making a choice in the coming weeks by possibly invoking an in-stadium silent protest and just stroll by the Centerplate booths instead buying their food items at Centerplate vendors located within your stadium or arena.

images (2)Centerplate also caters the Rays VIP areas like the suite area, Dex Imaging Home Plate Club, Hancock Bank Club, 162 Landing, Papa John’s Bullpen Box, Left Field Terrace, and new Back Porch group seating areas. They also provide food and beverage items for the Everglades Brewhouse and the Rays Press Club.

 But even if you feel Centerplate should feel some sort of financial pain because of their CEO’s disregard, the vendor might not be the only one to feel less dollars in their pocket because of this animal abuse.

A lot of the charities or team organizations also run booths that have to use Centerplate food and drink items and they could also feel a significant pinch to their fundraising efforts if fans decide to boycott buying in-stadium food or beverage items.

images (4)Even worse, the beer, ice cream and cotton candy vendors who patrol both the bowl and upper deck areas are independent contractors who do not work for Centerplate but work on a commission basis when they sell you that cool beverage or neon-colored cotton candy. Such a protest could affect them.

So if you do plan a silent protest of Centerplate please be sure decide individually who you want to hurt the most.

You are permitted to bring outside food into Tropicana Field as long as they fit into these parameters. All items must be for individual or single family consumption. The items should be wrapped, bagged or contained in individual proportions in a soft-sided container not to exceed 16 in. by 16 in. by 8 inches. Only sealed water bottles no larger than 1 liter and child single-serving juice boxes are permitted into the stadium.

images (6)I’m a firm believer in discipline in your animals, but not by forcing fear of physical retaliation into their training or projecting violent interactions with an animal that can’t defend or speak for themselves.  

My actions is in no way a negative reflection on the Rays overall organization, their staff and hope my stand is not viewed as a disapproval of their connection with Centerplate because no one could of seen this event coming without psychic ability.

But I feel strongly about this issue and have decided to partake in this action on my own, but if others want to follow my action……

As of this moment, and during the rest of the Rays 2014 season (which hopefully extends into October), I personally do not plan on buying a single food or drink item from a Centerplate operated stand.  

downloadI do however plan to show support for the volunteer fundraising organizations throughout the Trop. by donating to their cause via tips not food or drink purchases, the tips will never touch the hands of Centerplate and will be the sole monetary property of that organization.

The fundraising organizations should not be collateral damage for this event and hopefully will see a lot more tips coming their way.

I’m going to eat before I hit the stadium for a while and lug around a 1-liter bottle of Aquafina I purchased before entering Tropicana Field. It is as much in a sign of protest as it is cheaper on my wallet overall and will give me my own small sense of doing the right thing.

I worked with Centerplate for many years as their Pepsi representative and most of the employees, supervisors and managers are good people who would or could not do such actions privately.  

I am venting my disgust upwards way beyond their pay grades to the highest level who has done the unthinkable in my opinion. I am not an active animal right activist, but I do believe in the fair treatment of all creatures not mosquito, brown recluse spider or cockroach, but that is just me.

download (1)Unfortunately I do not have the means or proper media influence to let the visiting fans coming into the Trop know about this event. But hopefully the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, Yankees and White Sox faithful are abreast of the Centerplate situation and will take their own actions.

Hopefully Hague will get what coming to him in the coming months, but even in Canada you can’t strike Hague in punishment with the same swiftness he hit his defenseless dog.

I Do Not Envy Jeremy Guthrie’s Decision

Before Tampa Bay had a team, I was an Orioles fan. I know that might be a shock to some considering Atlanta is closer than Baltimore to Tampa Bay, but I fell in love with this team even before they held their Spring Trainings in St. Petersburg. It was a utter shock today to hear of the passing of O’s pitching great Mike Flanagan.

In Baltimore today there began a buzz as to whether current O’s starter Jeremy Guthrie will change his number before the next Baltimore contest as a visual homage to the Oriole Hall of Fame member. Some have speculated that Guthrie will change his number out of respect for the O’s heritage that Flanagan embodies, while others feel it might be a living monument and homage to Flanagan if Guthrie still wore the 46.

This brings about an interesting scenario that the Tampa Bay Rays have not encountered before. With Wade Bogg’s number already retired, this same scenario would not play out of something happened to the Rays early legend. Now I am not predicting, or even trying to be glib here, but what if something happened to someone who has been vital to the Rays cause, would we want the number to be honored, or worn as a visual testament to their past glories.

There are two sides to this coin, and neither is totally foreign or void from the legacy of this game. Every year the entire MLB family pays homage to Jackie Robinson on his special day, with individuals and teams collectively wearing his 42 for that day. Only one player, New York Yankee RP Mariano Rivera wears it daily more as a reminder of Robinson’s greatness and inspiration than out of defiance.

Patches adorn the shoulder of many teams this season to show their love, respect and admiration of fallen baseball legends and heroes who have taken that last jog around the base paths and ascended above. We have seen immortals like Bob Feller and Duke Snider leave us in 2011, their legacy proudly adorns their former teams uniforms nightly.

Recently there was a hard and heated debate in Pittsburgh when Pirates young outfielder Jose Tabata wanted to wear Roberto Clemente’s number on his birthday as a celebration of his life, not a defamation of his legacy. The event never transpired beyond the talking stage, but could there possibly be a reason in the future to condone such actions, relive the past with glory and remembrance of feats of marvel.

With some lofty names of our baseball past, this thought of desecration by wearing their uniform numbers will always be met with shock and vicious candor. Some names do warrant such immortal reverence and retirement for they were the builders of this game and should forever have that honor. This is a touchy emotional issue that each of us has to decide for ourselves the answer.

I am not trying to be glib here, but if something happened to a member of the Rays family, past or present, would I want their number stricken from the Rays rolls. This is a hard decision, and one I am glad we have not had to make so far in this team’s history. But in all honesty, it is coming.

With this team gaining National celebrity and even becoming noticed far and wide for their past and present, one day we will all have to answer this same question in regards to a fallen Rays player. I propose this, let it be decided by the family. Let that emotional decision and visual memory be forged by the loved ones left behind.

Some would embrace a star prospect wearing the number, others would want it sheltered and hidden until the pain subsides. I do not envy Guthrie in this endeavor, but I do wish him guidance and wisdom in this process. Myself, I would surrender the number so it can be displayed and cherished for the rest of 2011, then let the powers that be decide its fate before the Spring of 2012.

For some it is just a number, for others it is a symbol of more than just thread and material. As this issue is being debated far and wide throughout the Baltimore region I hope people here in St. Petersburg remember Flanagan for his time spent in our community. The Orioles have long since left St. Petersburg, currently Spring residents in the Tampa Bay community of Sarasota.

No matter what Guthrie decides over the next few days, I know it will be a thought out and emotional decision. Do you wear a person’s number as a living legacy of their life and career, or surrender it as a symbol of remembrance and homage. This decision will not come easy, and it will not come without opinions either way. It is a incredibly complex and pointed move to be made by one person that will effect so many.

It is always a shame to see one of our childhood heroes, and men who have graced the mound finally leave us, even without a chance to say farewell. But that is one thing I have always loved about this game. It embraces and celebrates its heroes, past and present with a lusty zeal for life.

Tampa Bay has never had to make this decision, but hopefully when the day comes this Rays franchise will cherish the fates, actions and memory of their fallen. Godspeed Flanny, I know I am going to miss you.

Bird is the Word, Part Deux

 

                

I have been known to cruise the newspapers online editions of the teams we are about to play in the major leagues. It has been a pattern of mine to just pull up the paper of the next team and just see what is being written about the Tampa Bay Rays on their website. I have done this since 2008, and sometimes I can find some interesting information, or even some leaked news our own local paper is afraid to post on their site.

So as the Rays ended their series against the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, I spent a few minutes checking out The Baltimore Sun sports section, since the Rays had a two-game date with the birds. As I was cruisnig through the black and white type, I came upon a very likable redition via a cartoon of the Oriole bird. The redition was done by Mike Ricigliano, whos work had been included in the pages of The Baltimore Sun for over 20 years. I guess beginning here again in 2009, Ricigliano has done a daily cartoon image of the Oriole bird, and I would love to include all the Tampa Bay Rays references here from his 2009 collection.

                   

By the way, the title is actually a reference to a song by The Trashman called “Surfin Bird”. It is a classic 1960’s surfer rendition that can become lodged in your head and not come back out. It  is a catchy tune, and I even caught myself today already doing the refrain from the song in my head a few hundred times. Pop on Itunes if you want to get a listen to this timeless California Surfer classic song.

       

The original Orioles Bird caricature first appeared in the paper in June 1966, during the Orioles’ championship season, and quickly became a beacon for readers “who looked for it as eagerly as they did the daily weather forecast,” The Sun once wrote. Created by the late Jim Hartzell, a longtime staff artist, the bird caught on quickly. When Hartzell retired in 1979, his cartoon friend went with him. When readers complained, the paper resurrected the bird, employing a number of artists to draw him. By 1992, the Oriole was gone.

Until now.

“Hopefully, in that one inch of space, this classic little Oriole can capture the essence of last night’s game,” said Mike Ricigliano, the cartoonist who will draw it. Ricigliano’s oddball work has appeared in The Sun (and, previously, The Evening Sun) for more than 20 years.

        


“The Oriole bird cartoon represents a memorable time in the history of Baltimore, the Orioles and The Baltimore Sun,” said Tim Wheatley, assistant managing editor for sports. “It symbolizes Baltimore’s sense of humor, love of sports and optimism. The new cartoon continues that feeling of fun and hope. “The old cartoon was something that readers looked forward to every day because each one was unique, and we think the new [one] will have the same effect.”

Here is last night’s cartoon that was fresh this morning on The Baltimore Sun website after the Rays held on to win their game last night against the birds. I can honestly say that I will check back frequently this season to see some of the great work done by Ricigliano on this character in 2009. The Bird is the Word people.

              

My Review of the Baltimore Orioles for 2009

 


 
 

Here we go again. Another year and another set of reviews and expectations for the American League East division foes. I have decided to write a small review myself on each of the division foes, with the Tampa Bay Rays being critiqued last. This series will not be the way I feel the division will pan out, or even portray any judgments by me as to the order of the teams at the end of the season. This blog will be my opinion, and the reviews will be based as I see the division with no interaction from the talking heads of ESPN or any other news organization.
 
 
I do plan to bring up shortcomings and positives alike in this review. I am not out to blast or even demean any team intentionally here. But that is the nature of the beast. You can not please everyone all of the time. With that in mind, my opinions will not equal probably 25 percent of the readers of this blog. But I will bring out the pluses and minuses that I see as focal points on these squads. The first team I have decided to review  has been deemed by the national media giants to be in the bottom of the division in 2009. But the true fact is that this teams could pop up at any time during the season and snatch games away from both the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees. 
 
 

It is for that reasoning that the American League East will be extremely entertaining in 2009. The possibility of the Orioles makes this division more exciting. And that is what I see happening in 2009. This squad might not have the solid cores of the projected top 3, but they have the talent ,and the relief pitching to steal wins here and there and jumble up the standing before it is all over in September.
 
 
The Baltimore Orioles almost seemed on a mission to implode after striking hard and fast early on in 2008. Who would have thought that this team would jump out into the A L East division lead, and then flounder to the cellar as quickly as they rose. This is a team that lacks the glue right now, but they have signed or acquired a few great pieces that will help them battle nightly like the big boys. Gone are players like catcher Ramon Hernandez,  first baseman Keith Millar, starting pitcher Daniel Cabrera, and reliever Lance Cromier. These guys were not the heart and soul of this team, but they did take valuable at bats and innings with them when they left the team.

 



 


 

 

But the Orioles did not falter in the off season, they made sure that two of their cornerstones know they have futures in the Oriole Orange. Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis know they are wanted in Charm City. And that motivation and confidence can do wonders in 2009. Bringing in the lunch pail workers like Ty Wiggington and Ryan Freel will bring back some of that dust and dirty on their uniforms they have been lacking the last few years.  Grit and guts can win games for you in a competitive setting.  This might have the look of a rebuilding team, but are currently more in the mold of the 2007 Rays, when the talent was beginning to play at the major league level.
 

 

 I think they are just restructuring this team around some solid core ballplayers with an eye on some covert destruction during the season on their foes. This team is being fashioned to be one that might just sneak up on you and put 5 runs on the board fast, then try and hold that lead for the victory. Do I think that they will avoid their 12th straight losing season this year?  Maybe not, but they will also be closer to th2 .500 mark than for the last few seasons. The Orioles  will be counting on Jeremy Guthrie at the front of their rotation, then it tails off a bit with mystery. To say that this team was not open to change in the off season would be a joke. 
 

 

The only member of the rotation basically guaranteed a job for 2009 was Guthrie, who was 10-12 last season. Koji Uehara came over from Japan as the first Japanese player signed by the Orioles, and he should make the Orioles Opening Day roster. Uehara is an 8-time Japanese All-Star, but how much does he still have in the tank will be the question early on in the year. More importantly, can be adjust to the American style fast and be a productive member of the rotation.  Several Japanese pitchers have come over to the United States and not adjusted well to the pace and style of the game.



 
 

On of the key questions this Spring might be the off season trade of  pitcher Garrett Olson to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for leftie Rich Hill. It  might end up being the one move made in the off season that could make or break the team in the middle of the rotation.  Hill doesn’t come here with established positive numbers in the majors, but the potential of this young pitcher has pure upside to it right now for the Orioles. The team also signed tall leftie journeyman Mark Hendrickson as basically a swing man. He could post up in any of the four other open rotation spots and eat up innings for the team. Radhames Liz had a interesting first season in the majors and is going to get a shot at the rotation, and former closer, Danys Baez has been vocal about taking a shot at going back to the rotation this year. Baez might be the biggest question mark right now because of his large contract and he will be pitching for the first time in 2 years after Tommy John’s surgery.
 

The Oriole Bullpen is not weak, but they will not have the dominating  relievers Chad Bradford and Lance Cormier who were with the team during their 2008 surge to the top of the division. This brings out the fact that the Bullpen needs to be tweaked in 2009. The arms are still there that finished 2008, but  Brian Burres is expected to see more time at long relief, and  closer George Sherrill might have a bigger  upside in the Bullpen this season. Since coming over from Seattle, Sherrill has been an effective stopgap for the Orioles and can be just as productive, if not more in 2009. His 2008 All-Star appearance late in the game shows that pressure and great hitters do not phase him at all.
 

 

But the Orioles will  also have reliever Chris Ray back in 2009 after Tommy John’s surgery. His fastball and command will be welcomed back with open arms.  This give Sherrill a great set-up man in the 8th inning and should solidify the Bullpen a bit in the season. But the trio of Jim Johnson, Jamie Walker and Dennis Sarfate will have to improve during the year to give the Orioles a steady Bullpen. All three are at that crossroads where if the team is to be successful, they will shoulder a lot of that responsibility in the late innings.

 

The Orioles infield will be dominated by  All-Star Brian Roberts, but some additions might make the usually porous Orioles  middle defense more of a roadblock in 2009. Cesar Izturis, comes to the team as a free agent and will be manning the shortstop hole for the next two years for the Orioles.  This tandem have both been to the All-Star game, and might give the team a better up-the-middle defense than they have seen in quite a while.  A good bit of work might be needed on timing during the spring, but both men should prove to bring more double play opportunities and advantages to the Orioles. Roberts will be the man with the power in this duo, but Izturis is not an easy out and is very skillful on the base paths. Roberts set an AL record last season by hitting 51 doubles as a switch hitter.
 

On the corners the Orioles will  be manned by veterans Melvin Mora and Aubrey Huff. Over at third, Mora began a monster second half after getting a cortisone shot for his aching  right shoulder.  With the time off this off season to heal, he should come into camp ready to throw and man the hot corner. Huff is coming off both his first Silver Slugger award, and the Edgar Martinez award as the best D H  in the game last year. Huff might be counted on for even more production in 2009. His move from D H is first base will not be an easy one for him, but has played the position before this season.  His defense is not stellar at first, but it is better than his reputation.  His work ethic in the spring will set the tone for what should be expected out of him at first in 2009.
 

 

Behind the plate seems to be basically a position where the starter on Opening Day might not be there for long. Gregg Zaun and Chad Moeller have been brought in to battle for the top spot until uber-prospect Matt Wieters makes his move to the majors.  It has been suggested that Wieters will start out in Triple-A, but should be in the lineup during the summer. Both Zaun and Moeller have signed minor league deals, but  both might survive waivers if sent down and should be  a valuable insurance policy for the Orioles if something should happen to Wieters. Both catchers have average skills with the bat, but they both call great games behind the plate, which should help bring out early season confidence to the pitching staff.



 
 
 

In the outfield, the Orioles will return one of the top throwers in the majors in right field. Nick Markakis gunned down 17 runners in 2008, top the majors in outfield assists. He also proved he could dominate with his bat as he set personal bests in 6 offensive categories last year. His power stroke got better as the year went on last year, and should develop more in 2009.  He will be a fixture in the Orioles outfield for a long time. Another guy who might have cemented himself into center field is Adam Jones. He was acquired in 2008  in the Erik Bedard trade with the Seattle Mariners. And except for some time off with an injury, proved to be a major upgrade in center. 
 

Jones is one of those guys who has great 5-tool potential, and is got a lot better last season. 2008 was the first season that Jones got more than 100 major league at bats, and he rewarded the Orioles with  being a constant base stealing threat and produced a .270 average. His speed and positioning make him one of the young guns to watch in 2009. With another year under his belt at the major league level, Jones should push towards the top pf his game to maybe become one of the best center fielders in the next few seasons. In left, the Orioles will call on Luke Scott, who they got from Houston in the Miguel Tejada trade. Scott had mixed reviews in 2008, but his bat will not be a concern for the team. His 23 homers last season shows he has the power, and with extra reps in left, he will become a more fluid fielder.
 

 

The bench players on the Orioles will be an  huge upgrade in 2009. Wiggington might see most of his at bats at D H , but he can also be used on the corner position, and almost anywhere else on the field. When he was with Tampa Bay, he was the team’s third catching option in case of an emergency. Versatility and a solid bat with a good rate of contact will get Wiggington a lot of playing time this year. Ryan Freel is one of those guys that seems modeled after former Mets/Phillies dirt devil Lenny Dystra. He is always going at full speed and  plays the game at a high rate of speed. He is also a great addition because of his ability to play almost anywhere on the field. Freel can play all the outfield positions, and also in the infield at three positions.  Rounding out the bench should be Lou Montanez,  Donnie Murphy and Oscar Salazar. All three are capable of great things in 2009 with another year under their belts. Salazar made a great impression in this years Winter Leagues and should see more playing time this season.
 

So there you have the basic breakdown of the Baltimore Orioles. This team has the potential to beat anyone on a given day. The biggest key to their 2009 success will be the adoption of the Orioles game plan by their pitching staff.  The team signed two experienced catchers to work with the staff before prospect Matt Wieters makes his way behind the plate for the Orioles. This transition should go smooth for them, with either catcher being a great back-up and mentor to Wieters. With only one position sewn up before Spring Training, it will be interesting how the team’s rotation comes together before the beginning of the season.

 
 


 

 


On the field the Orioles again have the potential to maybe rise to the occasion again in 2009 and put some fear in the top tier of the division. But I do not feel they have the horses yet to stay up there for the entire year. There are prospects in the system who are only a few steps away who might help make that move possible beyond 2009. But as I have learned in 2008, it sometimes is more about the chemistry and the attitude of the team than their obvious strong spots. The Orioles will have a long road ahead of them, but the 2009 season might not garner the success they envisioned during the first days of Spring Training.
 

But the potential is there for a great season. The only real question is to see how high they will rise to the occasion and become a force, or just a spoiler in 2009. I do not see them contending this year, but they will get their licks in against their division foes and make it more difficult for anyone to dominate in 2009. The end result will be the focus and the dominance of the Orioles starting pitching. If the starters can go long into the games and keep the lead or even post this team to within 1 run, it might be an interesting summer in  The Ballpark at Camden Yards.

 

 

Photo credits for today’s blog: www.Baltimoresun.com ( Doug Kapustin), JLeggett( 2 ) and Philromans@ Flickr.com.

 

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