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Baltimore Orioles and Other AL East Teams Acting Like it is 2005 34

Posted on February 16, 2011 by Dean Hybl

The New York Yankees hope that Andruw Jones can return to the form that saw him finish second in the 2005 NL MVP Award.

With the recent signings by the New York Yankees of Bartolo Colon and Andruw Jones, the Tampa Bay Rays of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez and the Baltimore Orioles of Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero you have to wonder if these teams realize that it is 2011 and not 2005.

If it were 2005, the impact of these signings would without question make these three contenders the top teams in the division and favorites for the World Series.

In 2005, Bartolo Colon won 21 games for the Anaheim Angels and was named the American League Cy Young Award winner.

In the 2005 American League MVP race, Vladimir Guerrero finished third, Manny Ramirez was fourth and Johnny Damon placed 13th.

On the National League side, Andruw Jones placed second while Derrek Lee was third.

Unfortunately as the Yankees, Rays and Orioles look toward 2011, most of these former superstars are years removed from performing at that high level. Read the rest of this entry →

15 Years Ago: Cal Ripken Jr. Passes Lou Gehrig 33

Posted on September 05, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Before officially breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive game streak on September 6, 1995, Cal Ripken Jr. blasted a home run in the contest against the Angels.

It is probably a bit of an overstatement to say that Cal Ripken Jr. saved major league baseball 15-years ago this week when he passed Lou Gehrig to become baseball’s all-time “Iron Man”. However, there is no question that Ripken played a huge role in the healing process following the most contentious labor strike in baseball history.

Baseball had been riding high in 1994 when a desire by the owners to institute a salary cap and the insistence by the players never to accept one halted the sport in its tracks. The World Series was not held for the first time in 90 years, leaving many fans bitter and vowing never to return to “America’s Pastime.”

The strike carried into the offseason and wasn’t resolved until a federal injunction against the owners leading to the resumption of baseball in late April 1995. Overall, the strike lasted 234 days and cancelled more than 900 games while in essence changing very little.

As could be expected, when baseball did return the fans were not rushing back to greet the players as long-lost heroes.

Instead, fans displayed their disillusion with both sides by staying away in droves as stadiums that were typically full were suddenly seeing large swaths of empty seats. Those who did come to the ballparks often brought with them signs reflecting their frustration with sayings such as “$hame on You” or shouted comments like “You ruined the game!”

For most of the 1995 season teams across the league saw attendance figures plummet as baseball struggled to regain the interest of fans who had realized there were other things to occupy time and interest. Read the rest of this entry →

Is The Oriole Magic Back In Baltimore? 7

Posted on September 01, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Koji Uehara has emerged as the closer for the Orioles.

Buck Showalter was hired to turn around the struggling Baltimore Orioles, but no one could have predicted the immediate impact the new manager would have on the team. After winning 32 times in their first 105 games, Showalter, who took over on August 3rd, guided the O’s to 17 victories in the month of August and into the role of spoiler in the American League playoff race.

The winning month for Baltimore was the first for the franchise since June 2008 and marked the first time the Orioles have had a winning record in the month of August since the 1997 season.

But the Orioles haven’t moved into a position to avoid the worst record in baseball and a 100 loss season by beating bad teams at home. The Orioles have become legitimate spoilers in the American League playoff race.

Of their 17 wins, six came at the expense of the Los Angeles Angels to basically knock the defending AL West champions out of contention in their division.

Baltimore also won four of seven against the Chicago White Sox and split a four-game series with the AL West leading Texas Rangers.

They finished the month with a 5-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox that further erodes the chances for the perennial playoff contender.

There is no secret to the success of the Orioles in August. Quite simply, since Showalter’s arrival they have increased their offensive production while decreasing the number of runs they allow. Read the rest of this entry →

Looking to the Future: 5 Keys for the Baltimore Orioles 7

Posted on August 21, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Brian Matusz and the other Baltimore starters have been magical since the arrival of Buck Showalter.

Buck Showalter has made a great early impression on the Baltimore Orioles during his first weeks on the job already guiding the O’s to more wins in August than they have registered in any previous month this season. As we look toward the long-term future for the Orioles, there are five keys that Showalter will have a chance to evaluate over the final 40 games.

1.Starting pitching – The biggest reason for the turnaround during the month of August has been the performance of the starting pitchers. After barely averaging five innings per outing and posting an ERA above 5 for the first 100 games of the season, the starting pitcher has pitched at least six innings in 15 of the first 18 games for Showalter with an ERA under 3.

The question moving forward is whether Showalter and crew have found the key to pitching success or if at some point the starters will return to their old ways. With three of the five starters in just their first or second season in the majors, the hope is that they are building for long-term success.

Though veteran Kevin Millwood has pitched better in August, if the Orioles hope to make significant improvement in 2011 they will need to add at least one additional proven winning pitcher to the starting rotation.

2.Corner Infield – When the Orioles were the best team in baseball in the early 1970s they had superstars at both third base in Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson and at first base in 1970 league MVP Boog Powell.

In 2010, those two positions are significant weaknesses for the Birds. Showalter will have the next six weeks to see if rookie third baseman Josh Bell can be the long-term answer for the Orioles. So far, Bell has definitely not earned the spot for next season as he is hitting just .216 with no home runs and 4 RBI in 23 games. With the Orioles out of contention it doesn’t hurt to give him a long look. However, if he doesn’t turn things around soon the Orioles will definitely need to address the position in the off season. Read the rest of this entry →

Baltimore Orioles Finally Finding Some Magic 8

Posted on August 09, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Jeremy Guthrie has been brilliant in his first two performances since Buck SHowalter arrived in Baltimore.

In his first week as manager of the Baltimore Orioles, Buck Showalter has proven not simply to be a great baseball mind, but also a pitching guru. After more than 100 games of borderline ineptitude, the starting pitchers for the Orioles responded to their new manager with seven straight quality starts and the results are six wins in seven games and perhaps a new attitude in Charm City.

After 13 years of disappointments Orioles fans have to be careful not to get carried away after winning six of seven games against two teams fighting for playoff positions in the American League. However, the immediate change in performance both offensively and defensively is a hopeful sign that the Orioles have some of the right players in place and simply needed a manager capable of pushing the buttons.

Team president Andy MacPhail said at the beginning of the season that he believed the Orioles were ready to stop rebuilding and start playing to win. A 32-73 record in their first 105 games hardly supported his statement.

However, since Showalter’s arrival, along with the return from injuries of starting second baseman Brian Roberts and starting catcher Matt Wieters, the O’s have definitely played at a different level. Read the rest of this entry →

Nice Show! Orioles Sweep Angels For New Manager 9

Posted on August 06, 2010 by Dean Hybl

New manager Buck Showalter is watching and evaluating every move the Orioles make.

Sure it is just three games in early August, but for the Baltimore Orioles and new manager Buck Showalter the sweep of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the first three games under Showalter is a positive sign in what has generally been a dismal season.

Though the goal for Showalter is long-term success for the Orioles, the short term can be very important for a team that has played above .500 ball in the months of August and September only once in the last decade.

Baltimore has not had a winning season since 1997 and their play in the final two months every season has typically set a negative tone for the offseason. Since 2000, the Orioles have posted a winning percentage of .382 (218-352) after August 1st.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the only season during the recent decade in which the Orioles had a winning record over the final two months was 2004 when they went 32-28. The next season Baltimore jumped out to a great start and led the American League for two months before fading down the stretch.

If the Orioles hope to inject any hope back into the minds of a fan base that is tired after watching 13 straight losing seasons, they can start the process with a strong final two months.

Showalter gives the team the much needed motivation to play hard now because he is using this time to gauge which players he wants to carry the mantra for his team in 2011. Read the rest of this entry →

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