Archive for March, 2011

Earl Weaver to Throw First Pitch…to Buck Showalter

March 30, 2011

Via Roch Kubatko of MASN comes this delightful little bit of information this morning.

That’s right, The Duke of Earl, Earl Weaver, will throw out the first pitch at the O’s April 4th home opener.

Awesome enough in itself.

However, to add an exclamation point to the ceremony, Buck Showalter will be on the receiving end of the pitch.

The symbolism here is obvious. The last guy to win a World Series as O’s manager passing the torch to the guy who we all hope will be the next (Oops. Joe Altobelli was manager in 83. Earl was 68-82 and 85-86). I guess it would have been too over-the-top to just have Earl hand Buck a baton, huh?

Needless to say, I enjoyed the news.

Hey, when you’ve endured 13 straight losing seasons like we have, it doesn’t take much to get us excited.

See you all at the Yard on Monday.


Men's Journal: Is Buck Showalter Too Smart for Baseball?

March 29, 2011

The Buck Showalter quotes that have been floating around for about a week now are all from an article in the April issue of Men’s Journal. The entire article is now available online, and it would be well worth your time to go check it out.

Here are some highlights (to my mind, at least):

On Buck’s departures from his previous gigs in New York, Arizona, and Texas:

The stated reasons for his departures varied, but the whispers were the same at every stop: For all his savvy, he wore people ragged with a slakeless thirst for control. Players groused that he called each pitch and changed signals three times a game. Suits in the front office bitched that he tried to undermine them or invade their turf. Fairly or not, a reputation grew and attached itself to him: He’d fix your team but drive players and employees batshit.

On Buck’s greatest strength:

“One of Buck’s strengths, maybe his best one, really, is the ability to spot talent that people miss,” says Don Mattingly, the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who played for Showalter’s Yanks in the early ’90s. “He could tell, from an instructional camp in Florida, which guys had the traits and the demeanor.”

“I remember in 1990, he showed me the stat line of a kid who was a marginal prospect in low-A ball,” says New York Post columnist Joel Sherman, who’s covered the Yankees for 22 years. “He pointed to K’s and walks and said, ‘Forget the other numbers; that kid’s going to be a star.’ ” The kid, of course, was Mariano Rivera, whom Showalter twice kept out of trades.

On Buck’s motivational tactics:

Soon, he sat with each player privately and told them, in blunt terms, what he expected. To Brad Bergesen, a second-year starter with a habit of eyeing the dugout when things unraveled: “Trust your stuff, be the big dick in the shower — and if you look in the dugout once, you’re coming out.” Bergesen hadn’t won a start since May, but went 5–3 from then on, with an ERA under three. Something like that happened with the rest of the staff as well. Pre-Showalter, they went 32–73, with a five-plus ERA. Post: 34–23, 3.54.

On his weaknesses:

He’ll keep mental lists of opposing skippers who get their relievers up early and bait them with moves in the middle innings so he can “pound their tits” in the eighth. “No one in the game can steal signs like Buck or catch a guy tipping his pitches,” says Bob Klapisch, a columnist for The Record in Bergen County, New Jersey. “But the drawback is, he couldn’t back off, loading his players with information instead of letting them play on instinct.” Adds Gene Michael, the ex-GM of those Yankees teams: “I had to tell him sometimes to stop with all that. He’s great at strategy but takes it too far, and the guys tune him out after a while.”

Seriously, go read the whole thing.


O's Make Final Cuts, Opening Day Roster Set

March 29, 2011

Buck Showalter (who is still on our shit list for the time being) and his staff made final cuts today down at O’s camp, optioning Craig Tatum, Zach Britton, and Brendan Harris to Triple-A Norfolk.

With that, the roster that the team will bring north this week to start the season is officially set.  Here it is:


1. Derrek Lee

2. Matt Wieters

3. Brian Roberts

4. J.J. Hardy

5. Mark Reynolds

6. Cesar Izturis

7. Robert Andino


8. Adam Jones

9. Nick Markakis

10. Vladimir Guerrero

11. Felix Pie

12. Luke Scott

Jack of All Trades/Home Run Machine

Note: Not actually Jake Fox

13. Jake Fox

Starting Pitchers

14. Jeremy Guthrie

15. Brian Matusz

16. Chris Tillman

17. Jake Arrieta

18. Brad Bergesen


19. Kevin Gregg

20. Koji Uehara

21. Jim Johnson

22. Mike Gonzalez

23. Jason Berken

24. Josh Rupe

25. Jeremy Accardo

Buck Wusses Out, Calls Theo Epstein to Apologize

March 28, 2011

Well, that didn’t take long.

Late last week, we O’s fans were rejoicing over Buck Showalter basically giving a middle finger to the Red Sox and Yankees, through his comments to Men’s Journal magazine. (Well, most of us were anyway.  Some people just can’t help but bash every single thing the O’s do, even when EVERYONE ELSE is on board.)

WNST notwitstanding (hey, not everybody over there is crazy – Rex Snider is right with us on this one), pretty much every O’s fan that I talked to via face-to-face conversations, Facebook, or Twitter had virtually the same reaction: Buck Yeah!

Tired of being the whipping boy of the AL East as we B’More fans are, seeing our manager stand up against the baseball “royalty” of Boston and New York was music to our ears. Sure, I’ve heard a few express the sentiment that maybe Buck should just say something along the lines of “we’re not afraid of them, we’ll beat them on the field,” and leave it at that.  However, even Dave Trembley tried that understated approach, and look how much good it did him.

No, Buck took it one step further and really put it out there…

“Derek Jeter is nothing special.

Neither is Wonderboy Theo Epstein.

What of it?”

So we were all very disappointed today to hear that Buck actually called Theo Epstein to personally apologize.

But if all’s well that ends with a backpedaling phone call, this story should now be considered over. Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports that Showalter got on the horn with Epstein and apologized for the remark.


Of course he did.  It is 2011 after all, and if anyone, anywhere, anytime says anything that might be considered remotely offensive or suggests that they might have any inkling of an opinion that “bucks” that status quo, rest assured an apology or mea culpa is soon to follow.

By backing off his statements as soon as a little bit of heat got turned up on him, Buck’s comments now might have done even more harm than good for his team.  Instead of standing up to the bullies on the block, Showalter is now just cowering at their feet as soon as the story started to gain national traction.

Very, very disappointing.

Maybe I’ll hold off on ordering that new Buck t-shirt I had been eying up…

Adam Jones Says O's Fans Wear Yanks/Sox Gear

March 24, 2011

Here’s a curious little video of Adam Jones talking to the Baltimore Sun.  In a tirade filled chat, he discusses “fickle” O’s fans, saying that he has seen, with his own eyes, fans wear Oriole gear one day, then turn around when the Yankees or Red Sox are in town and put on the rival team’s colors.

He also advises O’s fans to “knock the shit out of” Yankees or Red Sox fans who invade Camden Yards.

I can completely get behind the “knocking the shit out of” Yankees and Red Sox fans thing.

But the part about people wearing O’s gear then switching to Yankees/Red Sox gear? WTF? Does this really happen? Have any of you ever seen this?

If true, these people should be hunted down like the vermin they are and mocked mercilessly.

BUCK YEAH! Showalter Rips Jeter, Theo Epstein

March 23, 2011

As if he hadn’t already done enough to win over the fans of Charm City, Buck Showalter may have just cemented himself as the City’s new favorite all-around person.

According to The Bergen Record, the Buck truck had some pretty great things to say about New York Yankees’ captain Derek Jeter and Boston Red Sox GM Theo Epstein in the April issue of Men’s Journal magazine:

In an interview in the April edition of Men’s Journal, Showalter lashed out at Yankees captain Derek Jeter as well as Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, according to a report in the Bergen (N.J.) Record.

“The first time we went to Yankee Stadium, I screamed at Derek Jeter from the dugout,” Showalter said in Men’s Journal, according to the Bergen Record. “Our guys are thinking, ‘Wow, he’s screaming at Derek Jeter.’ Well, he’s always jumping back from balls just off the plate. I know how many calls that team gets — and yes, he [ticks] me off.”

Speaking about the Red Sox, Showalter mocked the notion that Epstein’s biggest offseason acquisitions — namely, left fielder Carl Crawford and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez — were indicative of the Red Sox GM’s savvy.

“I’d like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay [Rays] payroll,” Showalter told Men’s Journal, according to the Record. “You got Carl Crawford ’cause you paid more than anyone else, and that’s what makes you smarter? That’s why I like whipping their butt. It’s great, knowing those guys with the $205 million payroll are saying, ‘How the hell are they beating us?'”

How’s that for subtle?

After sitting through boring John Harbaugh “we really respect the Pittsburgh Steelers” press conference after boring John Harbaugh “[opponent of the week] is a heckuva football team” press conference during the NFL season, it looks like Baltimore may have had our own version of Rex Ryan all along – just on the baseball team instead of the football team.

Does Buck have much room to talk at this point? Probably not. But if he wants to antagonize the Yankees, Red Sox, and their legions of annoying ass fans, we’re more than happy to hear it.

It will be even better when Buck and his team go out there and back it up this season.

Matusz Struggles Mightily in 2nd to Last Spring Start

March 23, 2011

With all the questions surrounding the Orioles coming into 2011, there is one thing that O’s fans know they should be able to pretty reliably count on: 24-year old Brian Matusz will continue his progression into a solid top-of-the-rotation starter.

Matusz was lights out down the stretch in 2010, going 7-1 from August through October, with an ERA of 2.43 in August and 1.89 in September.  After laboring through the early part of the season, it looked like Matusz was quickly becoming what we all hope he can be.

In what was supposed to be his second-to-last tuneup for 2011 though, the Orioles’ young lefty struggled mightily against the Minnesota Twins.  He was scheduled to pitch a full five innings, but went just an inning and a third.

Jeff Zrebiec reports:

I’m sure the Orioles won’t publicly fret too much about young left-hander Brian Matusz, but I’d certainly be concerned after what I witnessed tonight.

Matusz managed to get just four outs, getting knocked out of the game on Joe Mauer’s two-run single off the base off the wall. He surrendered four earned runs on five hits and three walks, and it could have been worse, but Alberto Castillo came in and got Justin Morneau to hit into an inning-ending double play.

Matusz faced 12 batters and eight of them reached base and five of them went to a full count. He threw 56 total pitches, 31 for strikes.

This was supposed to be his second to last start of the spring and Matusz was more than likely going to get the ball in the second game of the season. But he’s yet to throw five innings in a game this spring.


I still have every confidence in Brian Matusz.  However, with all the things we O’s fans have to fret about as we hope against hope for our team to end their 13-year run of awful baseball – the health of Brian Roberts and Derrek Lee, Matt Wieters’ disappointing bat, Mark Reynolds striking out half the time, the rest of the young pitchers continuing to develop, and of course the fact that it’s still the American League East – it would be nice if Matusz was having the type of spring that say, Zach Britton is.

Britton Shines Again, Making Strong Case for Opening Day Roster

March 23, 2011

Orioles pitcher Zach Britton added another line to his extremely impressive Spring Training resume yesterday, pitching five innings and allowing just one earned run against the New York Yankees.  That single earned run was Britton’s first of the spring in 14 innings pitched.

The 23-year old lefty has allowed 14 hits in those 14 innings, struck out nine and walked only four.  His fastball was hitting 96 yesterday on the radar gun.

Despite his strong Spring Training, chances are very slim that Britton will make the trip north with the team to start the 2011 campaign.  As Dan Connolly explains, Britton is in the same boat that players like Matt Wieters and Brian Matusz before him found themselves in, with the team not wanting to start their service clock too early.

Simply put, if Britton begins the year on the major league roster and remains on it for all of 2011, he will earn one full year of service time. Assuming he continues as a major leaguer after that, he will be eligible for free agency after the 2016 season.

However, if Britton is not recalled until April 21 or later, he will not be credited with a full year of service time, meaning he will not be eligible for free agency until after 2017. For a team that is hoping to collect quality young starters, keeping a pitcher like Britton in the minors for three weeks in order to retain him for an additional season is crucial to that development plan.

In addition, the O’s schedule is such that – with early season off-days and whatnot – they likely won’t need a fifth starting pitcher at all until at least mid-April.

All of this means that Zach Britton will likely have a chance to dominate AAA hitters for the immediate future.  Barring any setbacks, though, expect to see this young arm showing up in Birdland sooner rather than later.

Roberts Update

In other news, Brian Roberts had two hits in Tuesday’s action.  The other day, I had expressed some concern about Roberts’ lack of swings in his return to action over the weekend, so it was good to hear that B.Rob was not only getting his hacks in, but was making solid contact.  He also struck out twice, which brings his total to three in just six official at-bats since returning to the lineup.  That’s a Mark Reynolds-type K-clip (the new third baseman has 18 in 48 AB this Spring – a 38% K rate. Ew.)

I’m not too worried about that though.  It is still March, after all.  Every game that Roberts plays is good news at this point, regardless of what his stats are.

Camden Yards Now Ivy-Less

March 23, 2011

With less than two weeks to go before the O’s home opener, comes some terrible news this morning regarding our beloved Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Per the Baltimore Sun, the center field wall ivy that, while not as iconic as the outfield ivy at Wrigley Field in Chicago, nonetheless is synonymous with “The Yard,” had to be ripped down due to a soil pathogen.

The ivy that grows up the wall beyond centerfield at Oriole Park, and contributes to its widely imitated retro feel, was attacked by a soil-borne pathogen and had to be pulled out earlier this month, said Nicole Sherry, the head groundskeeper.

“It broke my heart to tear it down,” Sherry said Tuesday. “I know how much it means to the fans, and it was sad to see it go.”

Sherry hopes to replant this spring or fall, but for now, the “batter’s eye” — the wall behind the pitcher in the hitter’s line of sight — will instead bear a fresh coat of the park’s signature “Camden Green” paint.

I’ll do my best to not take this as a bad omen as the 2011 season approaches…but damn.  I really love that ivy.

'B. Rob' Gets Back on 'Dee Field'

March 21, 2011

After being on the shelf for nearly three weeks – and giving all of Birdland a sense of deja vu combined with absolute dread in the meantime – Brian Roberts finally got back on the field Sunday in Port Charlotte, Florida.

In three at bats, Roberts walked, struck out, and grounded out.

Part of Roch Kubatko’s recap of B.Rob’s day is a bit ominous to me though:

He’s seen 10 pitches and swung at one

I’m probably just being overly paranoid, but it seems to me like by being hesitant to swing, Roberts was showing us that he’s still might not completely trust his body enough to go all out.

After last spring – when he missed nearly all of Spring Training but was playing by the start of the season, only to be injured in the O’s home opener and go on to play in just 75 games, leaving the offense crippled in his absence – it’s understandable that O’s fans are fretting as history looks almost doomed to repeat itself.

Roberts took the day off Monday, but is scheduled to be in the lineup again on Tuesday against the New York Yankees.

Birdland will be watching, a lump in our collective throat.

Countdown to O’-pening day: 11 days.