Category: Uncategorized

Baltimore Orioles: Old and new intersect

The Baltimore Orioles’ fortunes aren’t necessarily tied to the local NFL team. Or teamS (plural), as it may be – the current and the former, that is. But…do they? Or did they in the past?

The Indianapolis Colts come to town this afternoon to play the Baltimore Ravens at M & T Bank Stadium. That would be the former Baltimore Colts, that is. You know, the team that left town in the middle of the night on Mayflower moving vans in March of 1984, ripping the hearts of the city and it’s sports fans out all the while? Yes, those Colts. And they’re back – for today at least.

It’s certainly not the first time the Colts have come to town. And it won’t be the last. Baltimore’s really an interesting study of a town in terms of the NFL. In the sense of the NFL, it’s squarely behind the Ravens now. However if you ask most fans (my father included) if they’d take the Colts name and tradition back if given the chance, I think the answer would be yes.

Only in Baltimore do you have the sight of the Colts wearing their white visiting uniforms and coming out onto the field to the thundering boos of many who still remember them fondly. Only in Baltimore do you have the band playing the former Baltimore Colts and current Baltimore Ravens fight song. And only in Baltimore are the Colts the visitors in a stadium that honors “Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts” in it’s ring of fame. Needless to say, it’s an interesting dynamic.

I was three years old when the Colts left. But the mere act ripped my Dad’s heart out, as well as those of his brothers. And that was true of all fans of their generation. So while the Ravens have playoff hopes on the line, today’s game has meaning across the board, regardless of anything else.

However as I said, in some senses the Orioles’ fortunes were tied to that snowy morning in 1984. The reason the Colts left was because they wanted a new stadium – Memorial Stadium had become too decrepit for their liking. And eventually, the writing was on the wall for the Orioles to adopt the same sentiment.

The act of the Colts leaving put both Baltimore and really the entire sports world on notice that owners (especially garbage owners like Robert Irsay) could hold cities hostage by demanding a new stadium. And if that city was unwilling to build it, there was always another city that would do so and except that team as it’s own with open arms. Teams had moved before – heck, the Baltimore Bullets relocated down the pike to Washington. But never like that.

So the movement eventually became not only to secure funding in the Maryland state legislature for a new football stadium at some point in time, but also for a new ballpark for the O’s. At the time, Washington was always the low-hanging fruit in terms of a baseball team relocating. There were rumors that the O’s would go there, or Charlotte, or perhaps even Portland, OR. The threat was real.

With help of course famously from the former Baltimore Colts marching band, the state legislature approved funding for both stadiums. The football stadium of course was on hold because the city didn’t have a team. However in November of 1995 the Cleveland Browns announced their intention to relocate to Baltimore the following season, and they became the Ravens. They played for two years at Memorial Stadium, which I always saw as poetic justice. However the funding that the state earmarked so long before eventually became what’s now called M & T Bank Stadium, which opened in 1998.

Plans for a new stadium for the O’s began in earnest almost immediately. Oriole Park at Camden Yards of course opened in 1992. And as we know, it’s The Ballpark that Forever Changed Baseball. All of these issues (the Colts leaving, resulting in funding for two stadiums) will intersect today in the Inner Harbor, as the Ravens push for the playoffs against the Colts.

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Baltimore Orioles: Thanksgiving leftovers

Not much going on today in Birdland surrounding the Baltimore Orioles on the day after Thanksgiving. But that’s to be expected. Thanksgiving weekend is one of those times of year when most of us get the opportunity to take pause for awhile and remove ourselves from the normal grind of society. The O’s are no different.

Many of us partook in a grand Thanksgiving tradition yesterday of watching football while we ate our meals. Now granted while I love watching football on Thanksgiving, I’ve always thought it was a bit presumptuous of the NFL to basically tell players that they have to give up their holidays so as to entertain others. But the fact is that the entertainment industry thrives on holidays.

Nevertheless, none of us can say that we’ve ever experienced Thanksgiving without football. It’s part of the deal. It’s similar in a way to what MLB does for Memorial Day. Generally we see some form of a triple-header on ESPN, with games at 1 PM, 4 PM, and 7 PM – usually. Heck ESPN2 might even have a night cap at 10:00 as well.

I’m not sure that any holiday goes hand-in-hand with a sport like Thanksgiving and football. But perhaps there’s a bit of a parallel there. I suppose the difference is that most of the league plays every day in baseball. In the case of the NFL, most of the league plays every Sunday. So they’re actually taking games off of Sunday and putting them on Thursday.

I’ve always thought of Thanksgiving and Memorial Day as the great American holidays. They bookend unofficial beginnings of summer and winter, and they’re roughly six months apart. They’re identified by their menu’s, turkey and BBQ, and they’re generally spent with family and/or friends. Not to mention that two great American sports are generally celebrated on these two holidays.

Baltimore Orioles: More Chance Sisco in 2018?

The Baltimore Orioles brought Chance Sisco to the big leagues as a September call-up this year. And the results were very favorable for the young catcher. Sisco hit .333 in 18 at-bats with two homers, four RBI, and an OBP of .455.

The Orioles of course let Matt Wieters walk after last season, and he ended up in Washington. They then signed Welington Castillo, who was this year’s starting catcher. To be clear, Castillo had a solid season and for the most part was good for the Orioles behind the plate. And that’s part of the reason why he’s expected to turn down his $7 million option and become a free agent.

So this opens the door for Sisco in a sense. He didn’t come up with the fanfare that Wieters did, however he’s been a prospect about whom the Orioles have been excited for some time. In ten games behind the plate at the big league level, he turned in a perfect fielding percentage.

The question is whether or not this is the time to fully commit to Sisco as a full-fledge Oriole as opposed to just a prospect. I’d be curious to know how much (if at all) that decision lies with Castillo. Would the Orioles go with the hand of experience if they could get Castillo back cheaply? I suspect they would. You’d prefer not to have to go through on-the-job-training, even with a hot prospect.

But having Sisco waiting in the wings also them options. If Castillo ends up elsewhere, Sisco could easily find himself splitting catching duties with Caleb Joseph. Only time will tell.

Baltimore Orioles: What’s the responsibility to the customer?

The Baltimore Orioles, MLB, and the rest of the sports world are avidly watching the NFL and what’s going on with the anthem protests. This isn’t so much about whether one should stand for the anthem anymore, however. It’s now entered an entirely new realm.

The NFL said this week that their “stance” is that they encourage and want all players to stand for the National Anthem, however it’s not required. Basically, you won’t be disciplined if you don’t. On one hand you have some players arguing that it’s a civil rights issue and so forth. And on the other hand you have fans (paying customers) who are disgusted by the entire thing.

The fact is that NFL ratings are down once again this year – supposedly by approximately 7.5%. When networks and sponsors are paying as much as they are for coverage and exposure, that’s a lot. We can’t be sure that the anthem protests are the reason for all of that, but it’s safe to say that some of it is due to that. However I’m not sure that the number of eyeballs watching is necessarily that different. Sports bars now shoe every game, and people can stream games online. That might attest for some of it as well.

However, where’s the line of justice in all of this? Again, MLB should be watching this intently. One player opted to take a knee before the season ended in September, but this is an issue that might become more prevalent next year for all they know. And in effect, both sides kind of remain at an impasse.

Many people try to liken this to slavery, in that they feel that owners (most of whom are older white gentlemen) are trying to claim that because they pay these players lots of money they can tell them how to behave and so forth. The slavery comparison is out of line – let me just say that up front. However, the fact is that any employer can basically dictate what their employees’ behavior is expected to be while they’re on the clock. And these players are very much employees on the clock during the National Anthem.

This of course comes with the caveat of within reason. Your employer can’t ask you to break the law or anything along those lines. However if the NFL or an individual owner sees that their customers are bothered by players (employees) taking a knee during the anthem, the fact is that they do have a right to in that instance tell players they’re expected to stand. As would MLB.

And the fact is that employers do things like this all the time. Things which could in theory border on infringing on people’s personal liberty. There are companies out there who forbid their employees to smoke. Not you can’t smoke during work hours, or you can’t smoke on company property. But literally you aren’t allowed to be employed there and be a smoker – even on your own personal time.

I see that as worse than dictating what behavior is expected on the job. That’s literally dictating someone’s life outside of work. And yes, people have been fired for these types of transgressions. But I digress. Should the NFL and perhaps other leagues infringe on the personal liberties of it’s employees? Should they appease their customers at all costs? Again, the sides remain at an impasse.

Baltimore Orioles: Devoid of the “clutch gene” in 2017?

Manny Machado had his share of clutch moments for the 2017 Baltimore Orioles. And there were plenty of others as well. Look back to Opening Day and you’ll see Mark Trumbo hitting a walk off homer to beat Toronto. That’s a big spot and it’s obviously as clutch as it gets.

But also look to last night’s ALCS game where New York came from four runs down late to defeat Houston. You have Judge of course hitting a home run, and New York proceeding to bat around in the following inning. Can we say that something like this never happened to the 2017 O’s? Of course not. But it sure seeed that the times it happened were few and far between.

So how did this clutch gene seemingly land in New York? Perhaps the better question is how does it seemingly always seem to land in New York – over the generations? That’s really tough to say. This is a New York team that knows they’re playing on borrowed time in a sense. They weren’t supposed to be this good this quickly.

And in a sense, they’re soaking in the experience of playing at the level at which they are. And perhaps that’s relaxing them to the point of playing the way that they are. Instead, the Orioles felt the pressure almost from day one. And at a certain point it took it’s toll.

However keep in mind that Judge is a hitter that’s probably similar to the likes of Davis and Trumbo. He’s predictable in the sense that he swings at anything and everything. Right now his bat is catching everything, making people think he’s the begin all end all of hitting. But keep in mind that he had a secon half swoon as well where his bat wasn’t catching anything.

And that’s perhaps part of the story of the 2017 O’s. They were constantly predictable in the sense that teams knew they were going up to the plate hacking. So at some point they’d employ a small wrinkle in their game plan, perhaps as small as late movement one way or the other on a pitch. And being predictable, the Orioles couldn’t adjust.

And that’s part of why they couldn’t seem to get that clutch gene going. Will that change in 2018? It’s going to have to.

Baltimore Orioles: Is the NFL’s loss MLB’s gain?

The Baltimore Orioles and the sports world have been rocked with the national anthem protests across the NFL of late. I have my views on that, and you can find those out if you follow my social media accounts. I’m not going to go into that here.

However regardless of the reasoning as to why, many Americans are turning away from the NFL – for now. That may be the wrong way of putting it; some people claim they’re turning away from the NFL. Speaking for myself, I couldn’t do it. I love football too much!

But that aside, does MLB possibly have an opportunity? Baseball has long whistled a patriotic tune in the sense that three major American holidays (Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day) fall during the season, and the league does a great job of marking them. The past few years the patriotic line of memorabilia has been very strong.

However I would submit that the chance to gain fans isn’t as great as one might think. Baseball’s greatest lack in terms of demographics are younger fans – the millennials. However it’s mainly the older generations (Gen X and Baby Boomers) who are the ones who have an issue with the protests…

…or with the methodology, at least. Most people probably aren’t upset about the protests overall, they’re upset that they’re disrespecting the flag. But that’s another story. Even still, perhaps it’s time for MLB to remind folks that baseball in fact is and always will be “America’s Pastime.”

Baltimore Orioles: Zach Britton on the Boston trip

Zach Britton blew his first save in 60 attempts for the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday. However all’s well that end’s well – the Orioles overcame that and won. I suspect that had the Birds fell to Oakland that day it would have been a much bigger story.

After the game we found out that Britton was going to undergo an MRI for some knee soreness. Britton later admitted that it had been there for a couple of years. However the results of that MRI boded well for Britton, although it’s unclear how long he might be sidelined – if at all.

Britton is on the current three-game road trip, in essence a series in Boston. Britton told the media that he’s had this soreness for the past two or three years, likening it back to the turf in Toronto in 2014 (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

Gosh, I probably had it since like 2014,” Britton said. “I got my cleats stuck one time in Toronto on their turf and it’s something that was kind of bothering me. I think I pitched through it the last three or four years. So, (Dr. Michael Jacobs) kind of wants me to get it checked out.

The aforementioned series with Boston begins tonight at Fenway Park. Jeremy Hellickson gets the start for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Rick Porcello. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.