Saturday, July 19, 2008

O's Try to Break Sunday Swoon Against Tigers

The Orioles have lost 14 straight Sunday games. The Sunday losing streak begs several questions along the lines of "What time is 'lights out' for the team on Saturday night? or "It's eleven o'clock, do you know where your Baltimore Orioles are?"

The hard-hitting Tigers await them tomorrow.

It's gotten to the point where I can choose to avoid the Oriole experience altogether on the Sabbath day, especially after witnessing the brutal loss to the Nationals a few weeks ago. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and two strikes on the batter, O's fans were on their feet in abundance urging George Sherrill on.

Not me. I've been humbled before. Belliard's incredible blast, as painful as it was, approached the divine.

We need to change our approach and I've started thinking about our options. We could enlist a member of the clergy—a heavy hitter--to throw out the first ball at next Sunday's game. How about Archbishop O'Brien?

It could work but we would need to do it every Sunday. And then it hit me. What about prayer?

Outfielder Luke Scott reads the bible religiously. He could lead something non-denominational like the "Serenity Prayer" with alterations.

God, grant me the serenity to hit the ball where it is pitched
To accept the things I cannot change and get on base
The courage to change the things I can by driving in runs
And the wisdom to know the difference between a ball and a strike.

At this point, I'd be willing to try anything—including papal intercession.

The Orioles have played incredible baseball in the first half of the season. They need to find a way to win on Sundays, whatever it takes.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

All-Star Umpires

Remember in the 70s when you knew most of the umpires as well as the players.

In those days, the all-star ballots featured the likes of Brooks and Frank Robinson, Willie Mays, Willie Stargell, Carl Yastremski, George Brett, Lou Brock, Reggie Jackson, Harmon Killebrew, Johnny Bench, Rod Carew, Henry Aaron, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer. You watched the whole game just to see these players collected in one place.

The umpires were all-stars too.

John Shulock, Don Denkinger, Bruce Froemming, Joe Brinkman, Nick Bremigan, Durwood Merrill, Harry Wendelstedt, Vic Voltaggio, Ken Kaiser, and Ron Luciano--whose fights with Earl Weaver were legendary.

There was a strike zone that never changed for an entire season. A strike was a "stee-RIKE."

You trusted them implicitly.

I never wondered about the strike zone or whether the ump's interpretation of where the ball is pitched was going to affect a game. Today, the strike zone changes from inning to inning, team to team and batter to batter. What was a strike in the first might not be one in the seventh. Balls that paint the lines of a batter's box are called strikes.

Unfortunately, today's umpires, prone to taking spinning classes and weight training, have the power to change a game's outcome. Maybe more ballpark franks and soft ice cream would sharpen their vantage points.

I don't even know their names.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wheels Coming Off

The Orioles have battled valiantly this year so far but the last two weeks have been a struggle. During the last ten years of losing, when things have gotten off to a good start, there is always one moment that has turned the tide for the worse.

Last year, the Mother's Day Massacre footed the bill. Blowing a 4-run lead in the ninth at Fenway drove the dagger in for good. Three years ago, on June 1st, BJ Ryan in his last season with Baltimore gave up a two-run game winner to David Ortiz--season over.

This year, it may have already happened. On June 29th against the Nationals, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, George Sherrill thought he had strike three on a pitch to Ronnie Belliard.

Belliard crushed the next pitch just inside the foul pole, a glorious bomb that traveled high into the waning sunlight of a humid DC afternoon, and with it went any aspirations of contention for the 2008 Orioles.
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