Friday, November 30, 2007

Base Hits: 11/30/2007

I guess I need to applaud the organization when they do something right, like invest in a baseball complex in the Dominican Republic. This will help the Orioles increase their scouting presence in Latin America (which was pratically nil) and is a good step in the right direction. It's stating the obvious but the farm system really needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. This should be the first step in a long process.


There had been talk (to my shock and horror) that the Orioles might sign SS Cesar Izturis instead of letting Luis Hernandez learn on the job next season. It's a great relief to know that the Cardinals signed him to replace David Eckstein at short. Why?

"We definitely value his defense," general manager John Mozeliak said on Friday afternoon. "We also think that offensively there could be more in there. Speaking with our staff, we felt that we could probably tap into a little bit more there, as well."

Let's make one thing clear. Izturis is no longer even an above average defensive shortstop and hasn't been since 2005. This is the same kind of crap you heard from Oriole brass about Paul Bako even though his defensive skills had long since eroded. These guys get a rep and they never seem to lose it. Eckstein's range was actually better than Izturis the last two seasons and Izturis fielding percentage is only marginally better. I don't get these GM's sometimes.

OK, now I'll say something nice about Izturis. He signed a baseball for my son at Dodgertown a couple of years ago. There.


A sculptor named Bill Rains is sculpting a statue of Dave McNally for a new ballpark in Billings, Montana.

I will now tell the story of the time my father faced Dave McNally. Gather round children.

My father was a pretty good ballplayer and his team faced McNally's team for the Montana state championship. Dad was pretty good and played with boys a couple years older than he was so he was only 13 when he faced off against the 18 year old McNally. Dad went in to pinch hit at some point and said the first pitch was a sweeping curveball that looked like it was heading for his head so he bailed out only to have the ball break sharply back over the plate for strike one.

My father thought to himself that he was ready for that pitch and he would hang in there and wait for the break this time. This time however, the pitch didn't break and drilled Dad right between the shoulder blades. He caught his breath, tried not to cry and trotted down to first.

After the game (which McNally won), McNally walked off the field and met with the Oriole scout and signed his first professional contract.

(Paul Harvey voice) And now you know....the rest of the story.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Don't Look Back In Anger

With a lull in the offseason action before the winter meetings, a look back at some items from the past season...

John Maine

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth was heard from some Baltimore fans about the O's trading away John Maine as an afterthought in the Kris Benson deal. Even my faith was shaken a bit early this season as Maine was looking like the real deal, pitcher's park and lack of DHs to face aside. The more I predicted his demise, the better he seemed to pitch. Well, at season's end it looks like Maine is beginning to come down to earth.

After a 10-4, 2.71 ERA first half, Maine posted a 4-6 record with a 5.53 ERA after the All-Star break. Pitching in a pitcher's park. In front of arguably the best defense in the NL. I'll say it again, no way a flyball pitcher like Maine succeeds in the AL, certainly not at Oriole Park. I expect his 3.91 ERA will be about the kind of pitcher he is, at least when he is under the best of circumstances.

Rodrigo Lopez

I thought it was a mistake to let Lopez go since I prophetically guessed that there would be injuries in the rotation this season. But Lopez got hurt out in Colorado and missed most of the season anyway so it all became a moot point.

But we did get a couple of minor league relievers that can strike batters out and keep the ball in the park. Jason Burch was hurt for most of the season but came back to pitch well for Frederick this year. Jim Miller excelled in Bowie and got called up to Norfolk before season's end. Both are young and miss bats so they may provide some inexpensive relief options for the O's in a couple of years. In retrospect, the trade wasn't so bad after all and I'm not even taking into consideration that Lopez had become a malcontent.

The Great Bullpen Experiment

The O's made news last offseason by quickly signing some free agent relievers to the tune of $42 million. How'd that work out?

Chad Bradford was overworked by Sam Perlozzo in my opinion but Dave Trembley nipped that in the bud and got him into a more reasonable 78 games when he was once on a pace for 90+. Bradford was forced to pitch in situations that he was not suited for due to injuries but still posted a very good 3.34 ERA and had 6 Win Shares out of the bullpen. Worth every penny.

Jamie Walker was also overworked a bit by the former manager but still posted a 3.23 ERA over 81 games and contributed 7 Win Shares out of the bullpen. Again, worth every penny.

Danys Baez sucked and as it turned out, he was hurt anyway. Baez got the biggest contract of the free agent relievers which was ironic because he had the most questionable credentials. He's had Tommy John surgery and who knows when he'll be back. Disaster.

Scott Williamson was signed for $900,000 to see if he could recapture that lightning that once resided in his right arm. He couldn't and was released after 16 appearances. But for the price of a Paul Bako, he was worth a flier. This one's a push.

The free agent relievers weren't the disaster they were portrayed to be but when your bullpen is still horrific with help from competent veterans, it doesn't help your case.

Jay Payton

Giving Payton $4.5 million per year was a questionable call made all the more so because the version we fans were treated to was not very Payton-y. However, the Orioles were desperate to find somebody to help out in leftfield so you can forgive them for reaching. Payton responded by posting the worst season of his career. (I'm beginning to think leftfield at Camden Yards is cursed. Curse of Conine? Or Surhoff?)

The last time Payton was so bad with the bat was 2002 and he responded the next year with the best year of his career. Hopefully, this is the case in 2008 and we can trade him to a contender for prospects during the season.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Base Hits: 11/28/2007

After engaging in a little double speak about changing positions earlier this offseason, Melvin Mora will reportedly play winter ball in Venezuela and split time between third base and the outfield. Less than a month ago Mora stated the following about moving off of third base:

"I don't want to play those games," he said. "I'm one of the best third basemen in the American League and in baseball. If you are going to move me, you have to make the team more competitive."

I guess someone forgot to tell him at the time that moving to left would make the O's more competitive. You know, filling a gaping hole in left and allowing better production at third (Tejada) as well as improving defense and perhaps a steady bat at short (Hernandez). Nice to see that he finally got the message...


I never weighed in on the Aubrey Huff nonsense but since Andy McPhail is still pondering punishment, I'll beat this dead horse a little more.

I have Sirius radio and although I don't listen to Bubba the Love Sponge, I do listen to Howard Stern and have an idea of what goes down on Bubba's show. Imagine the uncensored Howard Stern program...only rawer and more profane. That pretty much sums it up.

I don't think anything Aubrey talked about on Bubba's show was in bad taste. OK, it was in really bad taste but I don't think I was surprised at the activities Aubrey described. I was in the Navy and when hanging out with a bunch of single guys of the ages of 18-30, I'd say about 75% of us were involved in at least one of the activities Huff spoke about. Chasing women? Watching porn? Drinking? Hanging out with strippers and porn stars? Is anyone really shocked that single professional ballplayers engage in such activities? I'm not. I would imagine the 75% rule applies to them too.

His comments about Baltimore seemed to stem from questions about the nightlife and on that point, Aubrey's absolutely correct. Fell's Point is great but it's not Ybor City by a long shot.

That being said, maybe Aubrey needs to familiarize himself more with the batting cages and less with the watering holes and meat markets next season...


Former Oriole player and manager Davey Johnson will be up for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager, not a player.


Talks between the Dodgers and Orioles have stalled as Baltimore would rather sign Erik Bedard long term than trade him. I don't spend much time speculating on trades but Matt Kemp would be a wonderful addition if Bedard cannot be signed.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Out of Commission

I've been laid out by a fairly serious infection for most of the last few weeks but decided now is the time to get back to blogging.

The fall leagues are wrapping up and since I haven't seen it talked about anywhere else, I thought I'd highlight the Oriole prospects in Arizona and Hawaii.

Arizona Fall League

The O's prospects helped the Phoenix Desertdogs to the AFL title as they beat the Surprise Rafters in the championship game 7-2. OF Nolan Reimold went 2-5 and scored a run while RP Bob McCrory struck out two as he pitched a scoreless 9th.

But the real story for the O's is Arizona was the debut of Jake Arrietta as he dominated the cream of the crop of minor league batters in his first professional games. Check this out: 14 games, 16 IP, 16K, 7 BB, 0.94 WHIP and a record of 1-0. Oh, let's not forget the 0.00 ERA. That's an impressive start for Arrieta against professionals of any level but he did it against the best minor league hitters in baseball. You still have to think he'll start in Bowie this spring but he might rise a lot faster than anyone imagined.

RP Bob McCrory led the league in saves with 5 and posted a 1.50 ERA while striking out 11 in 12 IP.

Every other player of note was a good news/bad news situation.

Hayden Penn

Good News: He led the league in strikeouts with 27 in only 21.1 innings

Bad News: He also posted a 6.45 ERA with only one win

Nolan Reimold

Good News: He led the league in homers (6) and RBI (23)

Bad News: He only hit .245 and struck out 33 times in 29 games.

Look for Penn and Reimold to both start in AAA and spend most of the season there.

When I actually watch the championship game I may have a couple more observations.

Hawaii Winter League

The Honolulu Sharks lost the division race on the last day of the regular schedule and will not be playing in today's championship game.

What the Sharks were able to do is to showcase some Oriole prospects who can flat out hit.

IF Brandon Snyder took the league batting title hitting .378 and slugging .544. Snyder hit 2 hoeruns but showed he can rack up all kinds of basehits including two triples. C Matt Wieters had a successful professional debut hitting .284 with 9 doubles and a homerun in 30 games played. Almost as impressive was the fact that he struck out only 15 times and walked 12 times. That's pretty good control of the strike zone for a green player like Wieters. Coming on strong later in the season, 2B Miguel Abreu posted very impressive power/speed numbers, hitting .297 hitting 2 homers and stealing 8 SB in 34 games. He's not too patient (only 1 walk) but I'd keep an eye on him at high A Frederick next season.

Chad Thall and Brett Bordes pitched well out of the bullpen, both striking out around a batter an inning.

More to come, lots to catch up on!