Posts Tagged 'Matt Wieters'

Buck Showalter & The Rejuvenated Orioles

The first four months of Orioles baseball in 2010 have been tough to bear witness to. Not to mention the twelve losing seasons that preceded them. But a different and exciting style of play has swept over the team since the debut of new manager Buck Showalter this past Tuesday.

Baltimore completed a three game sweep of the L.A. Angels last night, and they did so with an attitude of “This is how it should be.” It is hard to say how much a manager can really affect a ballclub. After all, skippers don’t hit, pitch, or field. But to anyone who saw the three victories the Orioles rattled off this week, the energy level was completely different, from the usual, as was the result on the scoreboard.

The games haven’t been perfect or pretty by any means. Take last night for example, when relief pitcher Jason Berken gave up a 3 run shot to Torii Hunter in the eighth to tie the game at 4. Showalter had the confidence to leave Berken in there, and he went on to retire four of the next five batters while recording the win.

The offense seems to have had a big spark as well. Adam Jones, Felix Pie, Luke Scott, Josh Bell, Matt Wieters, Brian Roberts, and Nick Markakis all swung the bat well and drove in runs in the three wins this week.

Buck summed it up pretty well in the post-game news conference last night: “Nothing’s as bad as it seems, and nothing’s as good as it seems. I tried to come into it with a real open mind. There’s enough track-record players here that you know they’re better than that, but things snowball. We all know that.”

The Birds finally have a guy who knows baseball, and knows baseball talent when he sees it. He is going to be evaluating the whole roster in these remaining two months to find out who are his guys are, who he can count on, who can handle adversity/injury, and who just doesn’t belong. I couldn’t be more optimistic about the future of the club, it’s in the right hands. The foundation is set, and now the time has come for a winning team to emerge.

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Weekend Recap

Loved the final round of the Masters yesterday. Great golf, great drama. Personally I was cheering for Tiger. He’s my favorite and I thought it would be cool for him to go out there and win it all after going through a tumultuous winter of shame and disgrace. I know there were quite a bit of folks who just couldn’t bring themselves to cheer for the man, but you got to respect his game. CBS’ Peter Kostis made a great comment during yesterday’s telecast: “Say what you will about Tiger the person or Tiger the brand. Tiger the golfer is still exciting.” It looks as if viewers agree. Preliminary Nielsen  estimates indicated CBS’ rating for Saturday’s third round was 33 percent higher than 2009’s third round coverage.

And although it was who Tiger drew the ratings, it was Phil Mickelson who finished atop the leaderboard to earn his third green jacket in seven years. Mickelson has always been “the peoples champ” and it was so enjoyable to see him win the tournament given the circumstances surrounding his wife Amy, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last summer. He played tremendous golf, shooting 67’s on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Sunday’s final round was also bogey-free for Mickelson, what a great way to finish.

Now on to a topic slightly less heartwarming. The state of the 2010 Orioles after 6 games.  They own a record of 1-5, their worst start since 2002. Like I always do because I’m a homer, I’m going to look at this situation with the glass half-full.

The starters have for the most part done their job, through six games they rank 13th in the league with a 3.89 ERA. I know it’s early to be referencing stats but they really do not lie and the starters have held up their end of the bargain, plain and simple.

The run support was one run short in the first four losses. But on Saturday and Sunday scoring zero and two runs respectively is just not enough. Garrett Atkins is hitting .350 and Matt Wieters .409, however they bat towards the bottom of the order. No one else on the roster owns an average higher than .300.

Mike Gonzalez has now blown two saves and people are calling for his head. I was fine with the first one on opening night in St. Petersburg, and pretty frustrated when he did it again in the home opener on Friday. I’ve given him the benefit of the doubt but now my leash is short with him. He better rattle off a few solid scoreless innings before his next blown save. If he can’t, its time for Dave Trembley to make some changes at closer.

So it’s a new week of what is still a very young season and grabbing two out of three or dare I even say sweeping  this upcoming series against Tampa Bay is critical for the team’s confidence. After these three upcoming home games they hit the road for a seven game trip on the west coast against Oakland and Seattle. Then they have to face the Yankees and Red Sox for twelve consecutive games! The Birds went a combined 7-29 in ’09 against the two powers of the A.L. East.

And a very interesting and unexpected move in the NFL last night. The Steelers have traded wide receiver and Super Bowl 43 MVP Santonio Homes to the Jets for a fifth round pick in this month’s draft. Holmes will be suspended for the team’s first four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Well this is good news if you are a Ravens fan. Holmes has always been a dangerous weapon at receiver and has made big plays against Baltimore several times in his career, most notably in the 2008 AFC Championship Game when he scored on a 65 yard catch and run.

O’s give up 2 in 9th, fall to Rays 4-3

ST. PETERSBURG — Carl Crawford drove in two runs with a bases-loaded double in the ninth inning to give the Tampa Bay Rays a 4-3 season-opening victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.

Adam Jones, Luke Scott and Matt Wieters homered for the Orioles, who were unable to put the game away because of a lack of timely hitting with runners in scoring position.

Evan Longoria homered in the sixth for the Rays, who loaded the bases in the ninth against Baltimore’s new closer, Michael Gonzalez, with a single, double and an intentional walk. Crawford lined a 1-0 pitch into right field, driving in the winning runs before a sellout crowd of 36,973 at Tropicana Field.

That was a tough loss to take. I was very pleased with how Jones (a triple shy of a cycle) and Wieters (2-4 w/ a HR) performed. However, the whole lineup going 1-12 with runners in scoring position kept Tampa Bay in the ballgame and gave them the opportunity to come away victorious. And that 1 hit out of twelve didn’t even drive in a run.

Starting pitcher Kevin Millwood gave up nine hits and allowed two runs over 5 innings pitched. I really liked the way he commanded the location of his pitches and how he got out of a few jams in the third and fifth innings. He escaped the third inning unblemished thanks to Nick Markakis gunning down Dioner Navarro at the plate after Ben Zobrist’s single to right. He struck out five and only gave up one walk. He did struggle in the top of the sixth, failing to record an out while giving up the Longoria homer and then two straight base hits.

But the middle relief was a huge bright spot. Compared to 2009, when Oriole relievers gave up an A.L. worst 314 total runs, things looked much better last night. Matt Albers entered the game for Millwood with runners on first and second and got Pat Burrell to ground into a timely double play. He then proceeded strike out Sean Rodriguez to end the inning.

Relievers Will Ohman and Jim Johnson were rock solid in the seventh and eighth, retiring all five batters they faced on a combined 22 pitches.

Gonzalez came in to try to preserve the one run lead and struck out the first batter he faced. However he then gave up a single and two straight doubles, the second of which drove in the tying and game-winning runs for Tampa Bay.

It was frustrating to have the middle guys do so well in relief only to have Gonzalez blow it like that. It’s still early though, no need to press the panic button. He is a very good pitcher who will save this squad plenty of games in 2010.

Game 2 of the 3 game series is tonight at 7:10 on MASN2

Orioles 2010 Preview: Hope Springs Eternal

(Image Courtesy of Orioles.com)

Tonight symbolizes a fresh start for the Baltimore Orioles. All the opening days of the past 12 years have been fresh starts in a sense. But they way those last 12 seasons have ended up…yikes!

My favorite team has been hard to watch for the past decade. It has been frustrating, embarrassing, and sad to see sub par baseball year in and year out.

But there is plenty of optimism this year amongst players and fans alike. When I look at the 2010 Orioles I see serious potential for growth. That growth is what will hopefully translate into contention with the big boys in the A.L. East in the years to come

So here is my brief outlook of this year’s team:

The starting pitching staff is young (Brian Matusz, David Hernandez, and Brad Bergesen are 23, 24, and 24 respectively) but the they are anchored by veterans Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Guthrie. One would hope there is some improvement from 2009 in which Baltimore’s starters tied for the worst ERA in baseball at 5.37

Brian Roberts once again will lead things off and play second base. He was limited to 19 at-bats during spring training due to a herniated disk in his back. Despite this he is set to go and will play in tonight’s game.  batting second is Center fielder Adam Jones. Jones was named an All Star and won his first career Gold Glove award in 2009. He has improved vastly since joining the team 2 seasons ago. He has tremendous range in the outfield and has become more patient as a hitter. I still feel he has another season or two before he really blossoms at the plate. Right fielder Nick Markakis’ stats dipped a bit in ’09. He is entering his fifth full season as a pro and I’m looking for him to be firing on all cylinders this year. An average of over .300, 25+ home runs, and 100+ RBI’s are very realistic numbers for him.

A familiar face in Miguel Tejada is back on the squad. He will play third and bat cleanup this year. DH Luke Scott and catcher Matt Wieters fill the 5 and 6 spots respectively. This will be Wieters’ first full season in the major leagues and he’d like to pick up where he left off at the end of his rookie campaign. He had a very solid September last year, finishing the month hitting .362, knocking in 14 runs, and having an on base percentage of .425.

Also entering his first full season is Nolan Reimold. He will bat seventh and occupy left field. But he will miss tonight’s opener with a sore Achilles tendon. Felix Pie will fill in. Garrett Atkins joins the O’s after seven seasons with the Rockies. He will play first and bat eighth. He is a career .290 hitter who like Markakis, is capable hitting 25+ HR’s driving in 100+ RBI’s in a good year. His numbers dropped off considerably in 2009, it will be interesting to see if he can rebound in 2010. And batting ninth is shortstop Cesar Izturis. Last year the Orioles needed major help defensively at short and they got it in Izturis. In 2009 he had a .984 fielding percentage and committed only eight errors.

There you have it. I assume it would be appropriate to make a prediction here. I’m going to say the O’s finish 4th in the American League East and just barely miss reaching the .500 mark with a record of 80-82. Just some perspective: the birds have not had more than 79 wins since 1997, when they won the division with 98! I’ll refer back to this post in October when all the dust has settled. Hopefully I’m not too off. Enjoy the season!!!

Loving The New “Birdland” TV Spots

Alright so last week I caught a glimpse of the TV and there was commercial on featuring my favorite Oriole: center fielder Adam Jones. But this Oriole ad was different. You see, when it ended, I was pumped, excited, and ready to buy season tickets!! 

Ok maybe I got a little carried away. But let me walk you through the ad in case you haven’t seen it. 

It has Jones in the weight room doing squats, curls, and agility drills. He’s sweating like crazy and looks pissed off. While all of this is being shown you hear him saying: 

Last season, I earned the title: All Star.
So what??
I’m not working to be called Gold Glove winner or All Star.

I’m working for the title: World Champion. 

And when I earn that, I’ll rest 
…Well, probably not. 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Yes! This is a commercial I can be proud of! Who wouldn’t want to support the team after seeing this? 

There are two more spots that are currently airing that are very similar to this. One is with catcher Matt Wieters and shows him swinging away in the batting cage talking about how games are won and lost in the offseason. The other is with pitcher Brad Bergesen throwing some heat and claiming he can’t wait to attack 2010. 

Once again, I’m probably getting a little carried away here. These are only commercials. But when you contrast these to some of the commercials of last year…what a difference. 

Here are just two of the 7 or so ads that were running last year: 

 

First we have two young ladies at the game. The one on the left mentions how every game they attend, the one on the right just stares at “him”. She asks if she will ever say anything to “him”. We then see the Oriole Bird dancing on the dugout and find out who “he” is. Finally they get his attention and the one on the right blushes. “THIS IS TRUE LOVE” pops up on the screen. 

It’s cute, and I get it. But come on!! Clearly they are marketing the fun part of the game, and there is nothing wrong with that. But when it airs half a dozen times per telecast, it gets to be a little too silly for me. 

Continue reading ‘Loving The New “Birdland” TV Spots’


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