Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Box Score

Her parents met my parents at Yankee Stadium with the Orioles in town. It was the "Why Not" year of 1989. My bachelor party took place at Memorial Stadium and we ate crabs. She hated baseball and I had no clue what it took to be a husband or to work on my issues at 27. I went to 2130 by myself and the marriage ended in the October rain after the playoff loss to the Indians. The Baltimore Orioles helped me through my parents divorce in 1970 and my own. They continue to be in my heart at all times.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Hold the Bat Level

My grandfather, Dino Bartoli is in hospice care in Florida at the age of 90. I spoke to him on Friday night and again on Saturday morning. He played baseball for Shickshinny in the Pennsylvania minor leagues in the late '30s. He won the MVP for hitting .368 one year. He received a $5 check from Chick's Auto Service, one of the team's sponsors. He loves baseball and the Orioles. He watched every game the Orioles played on TV for decades. He taught me how to hit a baseball. "Hold the bat level, hit line drives." When I spoke to him, he told me to call his two brothers, Sergio and Renato, both deceased. I tried to talk to him about baseball. "Have you seen the Orioles play?" I asked. "Nah," he said. He was confused for most of the conversation until I said, "Do you remember Earl Weaver?" He said, "Oh not him. Don't send him here." He remembered Weaver ferociously arguing calls with umpires. Ever since I made that call, the Orioles have been winning games. I found his 1932 Shickshinny School football picture by searching on his name. He's in the upper right corner with a bandage on his hand. I was named after him.

Friday, May 25, 2007

When Bad Teams Happen to Good People

The Orioles are playing like there is an unfavorable steroid report implicating the whole team on a reporter's desk about to be published. They are on a pace to hit the fewest home runs in the team's history and they play in what Mike Lupica once called a Little League park. They lost games this week to the Nats, the Jays, and now the A's. Tonight's game ended with two men on and a strike out. In the offseason, the only players who agree to come to Baltimore are relief pitchers, mostly from the national league who are coming off good years when batters from other teams forgot to swing the bat against them. When they arrive in Baltimore, they are shellacked from that point on. I used to tell my wife that I wanted to watch the Orioles until they start playing well so I can witness how things got turned around. However, things continue to move in the wrong direction and it's only May.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Losing the Oriole Way: The Dave Criscione Story

Whenever I think of the "Oriole Way" I think of Dave Criscione, a seemingly nondescript catcher who played in seven games during the 1977 season. He batted nine times and collected three hits--a career .333 hitter. He was originally drafted by the Senators in 1969 and played for the Rochester Red Wings. One night in late July, the Orioles were tied 3-3 with the Brewers going into the bottom of the eleventh inning. Weaver sent Criscione to the plate to pitch hit for Dave Scaggs. I remember watching this game on a black-and-white TV. Criscione drilled a Sammy Hinds pitch into the left field bleachers to win the game. I remember him jumping the last few steps to home plate like it was the greatest moment in his life. He was never heard from again and out of baseball soon thereafter. In those days, Earl could insert a role player in any situation and that player would deliver. That was the Oriole Way. That was Oriole baseball. What I want is someone with the heart of Dave Criscione who can step up to the plate with the game on the line and jack one out. In only nine major league at bats, all for the Orioles, Criscione won a game. For the past ten years, we have been the team that gives up that homerun.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Fire Perlozzo Now

Leyland, Torre, Weaver, Stengel, LaRussa--are managers who can impact a game. Perlozzo is not that type of manager. He validates and enables, sends mixed messages, second-guesses himself, and most of all does not inspire in the least. His postgame news conferences are, even in their most energized form, banal. He's likable and a good guy, but his presence will not win games.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Oriole Meltdown Continues

I watched enough of tonight's game to see a dispassionate collection of million-dollar salaries attempt to put the past behind them. They wasted a solid performance by Erik Bedard after scoring their requisite three runs. In the fifth, with one on, and the Jay's Ohka on the ropes, Tejada golfed what was definitely ball four into a ground ball out. Miguel is going through the motions and his .320 batting average has been hardly impactful--mostly singles. He clearly wants out. In the eighth, Baez grooved a high fastball to Glaus and the ball is still traveling as I write this. Down 5-3 in the ninth, any kind of comeback was out of the question. Another lackluster showing in an increasingly dismal season.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Who is Jeremy Guthrie?

Heading into the ninth inning today with a 5-0 lead, we were a franchise on the rise, poised to beat the Red Sox for the second time in three days. For an instant, I thought the year might be salvagable. Jeremy Guthrie had stymied the Sox for eight innings with a masterful three-hitter. Francona had removed Ramirez who looked as though he had been playing left field in a lawn chair for the entire series. One out in the ninth and I'm almost ready to turn the TV off. A pop-up to the catcher for out number two, it seemed, but the ball squirted out of the catcher's glove. Guthrie pleads his case to stay in but Perlozzo opts for the safe bet and the $20M revamped relief corps. Enter Danys Baez. What damage could he possible do? Baez is another in a long line of relievers who've joined the Orioles over the last decade who have done nothing but damage. Trombley, Timlin, Kline, somebody from the Brewers, and others--all shellacked. Baez has aimed the ball from his first pitch with the Orioles and today was no different. We would have a better chance getting outs with Joan Baez on the mound singing, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." Danys serves one up to Big Papi and he pounds it off the wall in left center. It's 5-1. Then Willy Mo singles. Chris Ray took it downhill from there and the rest is history. One of the worst losses in franchise history, in a decade of melting down, a colossal collapse. Like the 1986 World Series in reverse. Get used to seeing the Red Sox celebrate. Sam Perlozzo manages not to lose. He doesn't manage to win baseball games. Someone asked the question, "Who should replace him?" How about someone who knows how to win as an Oriole like Dempsey or Dauer or Murray or Frank Robinson? Jeremy Guthrie is a winner. He won the College World Series--more than anything the Orioles have done in the last 24 years. The Orioles have become predictable bad theatre against the Red Sox and the Yankees--inventing ways to lose games from intimidation and lack of confidence. They play passionately until the denouement--and then they disappear. The collection of players, not a team, has played best over the past decade when they are 20 games out of first. When he left the game in the ninth, Guthrie dedicated his performance to his mother. The rest of the team owes her son an apology.

Bosox Blowout

You need to do things to win games. Take Jay Gibbons for example. He hit the ball where Schilling pitched it yesterday. Not one other player saw the need to take Schilling's first pitch offering on the outside corner to the opposite field. Tejada, Mora, and Payton saw first pitch strikes there with regularity and never once punched the ball in that direction. I know it's easy for me to second-guess from my perch on the couch, but you can't simply play catch-up with Boston and hope their bats will go to sleep. If I can see enough from the television to have an opinion then what are the coaches doing? You need to step up to the plate and do things to win games, change your routine, alter your approach. Wade Boggs turned the Yankees into a winner because he acted like a hitting coach. He taught them patience and they won championships. It was Torre and Stottlemeyer as well but Wade provided the example for Bernie and Jeter. Where is the leadership? Yesterday, we had the Big Curt on the ropes and didn't cash in. Another thing that defies my sensiblity. We are not a good defensive team and yet we have the best fielding percentage in baseball. I've seen errors this year that I have not witnessed in the last fifteen: botched double play exchanges, hockey goalie deflections at first, dropped balls, etc. One of the goals of this blog is to attract players the caliber of the Big Curt to witness the ongoing pain we experience as Oriole fans and hope they take an interest in our plight and come to Baltimore. This post is dedicated to Queenie Swift and Carolyn Bartoli, two great mothers and grandmothers who have passed on, and who loved the Orioles like their own children.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Biggest Win of the Year

I turned on tonight's game with guarded optimism. It's a special treat to watch a game at Fenway regardless of whose playing. The Red Sox have the largest division lead in May since the 1984 Tigers team that went 41-9 to start the season. Tonight, I felt we had a chance because Julian Tavares was pitching for Boston--someone to get them from Point A to Schilling and Beckett and the rest of the series. It's hard to imagine that Tavares is still in the big show. The Birds and the Sox both had opportunities to cash in early and it looked like we were going to give them the game after competing for much of it. Nick Markakis would not let it happen. He went 4-5 and saved the game with a leaping catch that robbed V-Tek of extra bases or a home run. He then threw to first from right center and nearly doubled the man off. Nick is a steely-eyed killer. Melvin Mora hit the ball hard. Burres battled. A gutsy, heart-wrenching, nail-biter of a victory to the end. The Sox smoked the ball but the hits didn't fall. Willy Mo Pena, who destroyed the Orioles two weeks ago, botched two catchable balls. It wasn't their night. We play well in Fenway and my theory is that the O's are more comfortable playing the Red Sox in Boston then at home in Camden where half of the faithful are rooting for the cherry hose. We will either steal another one or get pounded tomorrow against Schilling. Even with the gluttonous and hated Yankees hiring Clemens to save the day, the Sox are still the team to beat this year. We're better than last year, and continue to improve.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Thank God For Tampa Bay

At first I bristled at the idea that the Devil Rays were our biggest rivals when a friend of mine who is a Red Sox fan recently suggested it. I refused to watch the Orioles play Tampa Bay in the first few years of the franchise. Games at Tropicana Field were dimly lit and boring and reminded me more of a jai-alai arena. The games have the energy of being played in a baseball funeral home. But the Rays were beating us and beating us soundly. Against the Orioles they mounted at least three late inning comebacks courtesy of Jorge Julio. So then I started watching. I'm sure Peter Angelos sent out an edict in his sonorous tone: "YOU MUST NOT LOSE TO TAMPA BAY." And now we are dominating--at long last! Peter Angelos should pay a luxury tax to the D-Rays for keeping the Orioles out of last place the last several years. Without Tampa Bay, we would have finished in the basement every year and Angelos would have been under more pressure to field a winner.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sell the Orioles Now

All one needs to do is look at the ownership of the Yankees and Red Sox to realize that we don't have anything close to an owner who is interested in the fans. The game has passed him by. All of the 70's cartoon bird kitsch and the old Orioles hanging around the park creates the illusion that we as fans should still care about this team--but it isn't getting the job done on the field. I heard Dempsey say last week what a "gorgeous park" we have. "It's one of the most beautiful parks around." Last time I checked someone still needs to play baseball in it. I'd trade a crumbling Memorial Stadium any day of the week for a winner. Suddenly, everyone on this team has warning track power and the pressure on the young arms to deliver has resulted in injuries. Loewen's injury reminds me of what happened to the Met's Bill Pulsipher years ago. Sell the team to Cal now and let him build a winner.
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