Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 36

Orioles victory number 36: 6-3 over the New York Mets

1960 Topps Arnie Portocarrero

As far as I can tell this is the oldest Baltimore Orioles card in my collection. I don't remember how I came to acquire it. Chances are I picked it up from a dollar box at a card show or through a trade, although I can't imagine what I would have parted with that would have been acceptable to someone else. It's not like people are willing to part with a 1960 Topps in exchange for 10 1989 Topps.

Still, I have it and I'll keep it. Despite an awesome name, say it out loud and enjoy having "Port-o-ca-rer-o" roll off your tongue, I knew nothing about this pitcher from the Orioles early days. It's fitting that the post follows a victory over the Mets as Portocarrero was a New York native.  He debuted in 1954 for the Philadelphia Athletics and compiled an 18-37 record over 94 games for the Philadelphia/Kansas City organization. In parts of three seasons with the Orioles he would tack another 20 wins and another 20 losses to his totals to finish with a career record of 38-57.

It's a rather pedestrian record for a player who was highly touted coming out of high school. He signed with the Athletics in 1949 and spent the next couple of years in their minor leagues posting impressive numbers in all fields except the win/loss columns. Drafted into the army in 1952 his big league career was delayed two years as he served his country.

Following his military stint he was finally called up to the big club and pitched fairly well for a bad club, garnering a 9-18 record with a 4.06 ERAin 248 innings. Following the season he went to Puerto Rico for winter ball and suffered a shoulder injury that drained the velocity of his fastball. He would struggle to stay in the Athletics rotation over the next three seasons. Once hailed as the savior of the organization, he soon became an afterthought.

In April of 1958 he was traded to Baltimore for Bud Daley*. Daley had spent all of two weeks with the Birds as he had been traded from Cleveland with Dick Williams and Gene Woodling for Larry Doby and Don Ferrarese earlier in the month.

The 1958 Orioles finished 74-79 under manager Paul Richards. Portocarrero had a career year going 15-11 with a 3.25 ERA. Sapped of his fastball he was a pitch-to-contact hurler as he only struck out 90 hitters in 204.2 innings. At 26-years-old it looked like the Orioles might have found a diamond in the rough. Despite the lackluster final record, the 1958 Orioles did have a few of the pieces that would become the foundation for their run over the next couple of decades.

At third base was a 21-year-old Brooks Robinson. Teenage hurler Milt Pappas won 10 games for them. There was some hope for this team, which had only been in Baltimore for four years was turning it around. Unfortunately, Portocarrero wouldn't be around for the payoff. The only highlight of 1959 that he was involved in was not his, but Rocky Colvaito's. On June 10th the Indians clean up hitter slugged 4 home runs against the Orioles. Portocarrero was on the mound for two of those blasts, both of them off of sliders. Injuries limited him to just 39 appearances over the next two seasons and 1960, the year the above card was released, would be his last in the majors. He left baseball the next year and worked as a salesman in the Kansas City area for the rest of his life.

Had he pitched in a different era, a more modern era, perhaps his arm injury would have been diagnosed earlier or he would have rehabbed differently and been able to have a productive career. Instead he became another highly touted prospect that was out of the game before his 30th birthday. 

*Oddly enough - much like Portocarrero sporting a .500 record for the Orioles (20 wins and 20 losses) Daley did the same thing for the Athletics as he went 39 and 39 in four years with Kansas City before he was dealt to the Yankees in 1961.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 35

Orioles Victory Number 35: 5-4 over the Tampa Bay Rays

2003 Topps Jerry Hairston, Jr.

I should be writing about their 5-4, come-from-behind, ninth-inning win on Wednesday night, but the game that sticks with me tonight is the one from the day before.

Losses shouldn't hurt this much when your favorite team has done this almost 80 times in one season. Yet there it was, Tuesday night the Orioles were winning 3-1 in the top of the eighth when I checked my phone.  An hour and 10 guests later I checked my phone again and saw that the final score was 4-3 Rays.  I was actually depressed for the next 30 minutes.

I didn't even watch the game! All I did was check the MLB App and saw the final score. It wasn't until much later that night that I was able to watch the condensed game highlights and it was like watching Ralph Wiggum's Valentine's Day stretched over 10 minutes.

There was the initial sadness (no cards for Ralph) with Tyler Glasnow blowing fastballs by every member of the Orioles line-up. Two innings in and it looked like it was going to be a very long night for Baltimore. Not only were the Orioles looking inept at hitting but the fact that Glasnow was doing it was another needle. The Rays traded more than half of their starting pitching staff and still have more promising starters than the Orioles do. Could the O's have pried Glasnow away from the Pirates if they had sent Kevin Gausman to the Steel City instead of Atlanta?

Luckily the Rays left their tall, young hard-throwing son in an inning too long and he cho-cho-chooses to leave a fastball over the heart of the plate that Tim Beckham absolutely crushed to centerfield. Happiness! God bless that man and the subtle little bat flip. Eighty losses can't keep that man's confidence down.

Then the Orioles slowly build a lead with an opposite field home run by Trey Mancini, who is up to 16 home runs despite a horrendous first half. Mark Tumbo tomahawks a ground ball into left field to add another run. When he's eventually traded in December I'm going to miss the highlights of him swinging at pitches at shoulder level and unleashing hell upon them.

The Orioles are up 3-1 and Alex Cobb had gutted through another decent start. Much like Ralph at this point, we're happy. He has a date lined up with his beloved, he's wooing her with Malibu Stacy cars and Krusty tickets. All is well in his world. But his world isn't reality. All is well in the Orioles world, but their are signs of things heading for the cliff. They fail to add on to the lead when Chris Davis strikes out with runners in scoring position and then Mancini bounces into a double play.

Jonathan Villar leads off with a double and looks like he evades a tag on a play at the plate that would have given the Os a three-run lead. He did evade the initial tag, but he also evaded the plate. If his lead foot is two inches to the left maybe their is a different outcome.

Then comes the bullpen, or as Krusty might say, "Oh God, this is always death." What was once the strongest part of the ballclub is now a collection of untested rookies. Evan Phillips can't throw a strike, Chris Davis can't throw to second and the game is tied. Once Davis' throw on what should have been a routine fielder's choice at worst and a double play at best, this ball game was over.

Miguel Castro comes in to face Willy Ademes and five pitches later he leaves a 95-mph heater in a bad part of the strike zone and Oriole fans are like...

Again, this shouldn't matter so much. I'm old enough to have lost most of my hair. I use modern pharmaceuticals to keep my arteries clear of all the crappy food that I've eaten over the last 40 years of my life. I should not be sad when my team loses a ball game in the middle of freaking August.

August is the dumbest month in baseball anyway. Even fans of teams that are going to the playoffs are bored with baseball this month. They are ready for the postseason and games that mean something. If you're a fan of team that is 40+ games out of contention all you want is for the season to end. The only people that are paying attention right now are the ones that root for organizations that are fighting for a wild card spot. And even they are only kind of paying attention because of vacations, work and preparing for back to school. The real excitement will come down the stretch in September.

But I guess that's what being a fan is all about. Still caring about what happens to a crappy team is a sign of life and that apathy hasn't completely taken over. The Rays can also give Orioles fans a bit of hope. They have some exciting young players that they can build around in Adames (brought in via a trade), Jake Bauers (draft), Glasnow (trade) and Blake Snell (draft). There is no reason that in a year or two Baltimore could have a similar nucleus with Ryan Mountcastle, DL Hall, Yusniel Diaz and Bobby Witt, Jr. Right? We can dream about that.

What makes Ralph Wiggum so likable as a character? His unrelenting optimism despite being gifted with limited intelligence and skills. We want him to be happy even if it's just for a few moments or a few days. Even if the rest of reality is shouting that it's just an illusion (kind of like the baseball world and the Orioles recent success). So that's where we are now, I guess. Orioles fans are the Ralph Wiggums of baseball.

As for the card above. I really just like the photo used. It makes me happy. We don't know if Hairston, Jr completed the double play or chucked it into the first row of the stands, but in the moment captured on the cardboard everything just seems right in the baseball world.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 34

Orioles Victory Number 34: 9-6 over the Texas Rangers

2000 Topps Chrome Will Clark

After getting smacked around the first couple of games against Texas (losses of 17-8 and 11-3) followed by another hard-luck loss for Dylan Bundy (3-1), the Os finally bested the Rangers by smacking 4 home runs and outlasting the Rangers offense.

Mark Trumbo led the way with 2 majestic blasts to left field and plated five of the nine runs. Tanner Scott picked up his second victory of the year by working a whopping 2.1 of shutout baseball. It's games like these where the idea of outlawing the win as an individual pitching stat kind of makes sense.

With a reconstituted starting rotation I fully expect quite a few 9-6 games in the future. The Orioles still have three of their starters that they counted on this season (Bundy, Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb) but the other two spots are basically open for grabs. Yefry Ramirez started Sunday's game and was less than effective as he was unable to make it out of the second inning. The young righthander has shown some promise in his first stint as a major league starter, but has struggled a bit over his last two outings giving up a combined 11 runs in 6.2 innings. 

David Hess returned to the starting rotation on Friday, filling in the spot opened up by Kevin Gausman's departure and fared only slightly better than Ramirez. Hess was knocked out of the game in the fourth inning after surrendering seven runs to the Rangers. It was his first start since June 29th and he ran his disturbing streak of allowing five or more runs to five starts.

The moves at the deadline have laid bare the lack of major-league ready starting pitching in the Orioles organization. With a major rebuild under way they are hard-pressed to find five pitchers that can give them a reasonable chance of winning every day. Should they move Bundy in the off-season, this issue will only be more obvious.

Some of the prospects brought in will most likely be given a chance. Dillon Tate will see a couple of starts as will Luis Ortiz. The problem lies in the fact that all of their pitching prospects could use at least one more year in the minors and rushing them up next season might be detrimental to their development.

While the club will have a ton of money off of their payrolls it's unlikely that they will go after any of the big name free agents (not that there are a lot of exciting names). So the rest of this season could be a preview of next season. The good news is that Alex Cobb, with a full winter of rest and regular training, should be better.

Andrew Cashner could be in a spot to rebound as well as he has been betrayed a bit by a .320 BAbip. With the exception of his ugly start in Arlington he had been producing a string of gutty, respectable outings.

Pitching is going to be the biggest key to the Orioles turning their franchise back around. They are now into their second attempt to "grow the arms, buy the bats" as seen by their recent draft history. Their last three first round picks (Cody Sedlock, DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez) have all been pitchers. The main problem with that philosophy is that it takes time and their is no guarantee that it will work.

The last time they drafted three pitchers in a row with their top pick produced a decidedly murky result. Bundy was drafted in 2011 and has turned into a starter that can dominate if he keeps the ball in the yard, Gausman never reached his full potential before being dealt awat and Hunter Harvey can't stay healthy.

As I write this all out, it seems quite depressing because there is no immediate fix for their issues. It will be a long two months of this season and another long season after that before Hall, Sedlock, Tate and the rest are conceivably ready to make a difference. In the meantime the best we can make do is by betting the over in every non-Bundy start and at least make some money.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 33

Orioles Victory Number 33: 7-5 over the New York Yankees

1991 Score Bill Ripken

The Orioles are 6-6 against the Yankees this year. They are 7-6 against the Tampa Bay Rays. That's almost half of their total wins against just two teams. I don't really know what to make of it, but it's an interesting stat in a less than interesting year.

By holding on to the win against New York on Wednesday, the Orioles picked up their first win in the post-purge era. Yes, they had played some games without Manny Machado and Zach Britton, but as some fans had pointed out on social media, trading your pending free agents doesn't neccessarly mean you're rebuilding. Trading Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman, two players with controlled contracts, does.

The game also featured the debut of some of the assets brought back from the recent fire sale. Breyvic Valera started at second base and drove in a run while Cody Carroll pitched a scoreless inning against his former squad. Neither of these players were the centerpieces of their respective deals, nor are they considered especially prized prospects. They occupy a space somewhere between "throw in" and "future cornerstone" in the sense that they will fill in for the holes in the roster until the cavalry arrives in a couple of seasons.

Valera is 26-years-old and had 25 games of major league experience when he was traded from the Dodgers as part of the Machado deal. He doesn't project as more than a utility infielder/organizational depth, but he hits from both sides of the plate and will most likely start at second until Jonathan Villar is healthy.

Carroll throws hard, but has trouble finding the plate at times. Both of those traits were on display during his short stint against the Yankees. He reached 98 MPH on the radar gun several times, but also threw recorded nine balls in his twenty-one pitch Orioles debut. Several of his misses were up in the strike zone, especially with his breaking stuff. He'll have to work on keeping those pitches down if he wants to have success in Camden Yards. If he can keep his slider out of the middle of the plate, he might develop into a late-inning reliever.

It might be awhile until we see the rest of the prospects like Dillon Tate or Yusniel Diaz in the orange and black since there is no real reason to rush them to the majors. Of the players that came back in the trade, Villar is the one that will get the most playing time the rest of this year and that's ok. Give the young players a chance to get accumulated to the organization and then see how they do in training camp next spring.

JustinG.'s Final Trade Rankings
(in order of most likely to be traded)

1. Manny Machado
2. Zach Britton
3. Mark Trumbo
4. Jonathan Schoop
5. Mychal Givens
6. Dylan Bundy
7. Brad Brach
8. Kevin Gausman
9. Danny Valencia
10. Adam Jones

Five players from the list were traded at the deadline. Not bad, but not surprising either. It also isn't likely to be the end of the purge. I fully expect Bundy and Givens to have the name bandied about during the winter meetings. Teams will always be interested in young, controlled arms and with the Orioles basically giving up on next season, any deal that continues to improve their prospect pool would be welcomed.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 32

Orioles Victory Number 32: 11-5 over the Tampa Bay Rays

2007 Upper Deck Sendy Rleal

At some point at the end of March, when the roster had been finalized, General Manager Dan Duquette and shadow GM Brady Anderson had to look forward to weekends like this. They had to know that the team they had assembled would be hard-pressed to compete with the Yankees, Red Sox and Astros, but that with a little bit of luck and some old-fashioned slugging they might be able to contend for a wild card spot.

Unfortunately, as we all now know, that wouldn't happen. Instead the offense disappeared, the starting pitching (while better than last year) was still adequate at best and the bullpen, long a Baltimore asset, was beset by injuries and ineffectiveness. The season was lost by Memorial Day and by the All-Star Game the team was in full rebuild mode.

Yet, for three nights and one day, the Baltimore Orioles showed what could have been. Following a respectful 4-3 loss on Thursday, the offense exploded racking up 37 runs in their next three games. At the center of it was Jonathan Schoop. Mired in a tough season, the second baseman has been scorching hot since the All-Star break (also since his best friend on the team, Manny Machado, was traded). Against Tampa Schoop collected seven hits, three home runs and drove in six runs. He's riding a 12 game hitting streak and has raised his season .OPS from .652 to .720. He's flat out mashing the ball.

Much maligned first baseman Chris Davis had his best three-game stretch with seven hits in fifteen at-bats capping off the weekend with two home runs on Sunday. Almost as important are the five walks against two strikeouts in that time period. An indication that he's finally emerging out of his season-long slump just in time to avoid having the worst season ever.

Along with the rejuvenated offense, the pitching staff has come around as the team picked up decent starts from their big four pitchers. Alex Cobb pitched 6 innings giving up 3 runs in a bit of a hard luck loss on Thursday. Andrew Cashner followed on Friday with a gutty 6 inning outing in which he only let two runners cross the plate. With trade rumors swirling Keven Gausman went out and held the Rays to 2 runs over seven innings.

Also the target of some trade talks, staff ace Dylan Bundy took to the hill on Sunday and produced a typical Bundy-esque outing. He worked seven innings, striking out seven Rays and only gave up four hits. Because he is Bundy three of those hits left the yard. Of the 110 hits Bundy has given up this season 26 of them have been home runs. All three of the home runs were single shots as were the three he gave up in the game before. That's a positive sign amidst a troubling run.

Even with the 3 wins in a row the Orioles still sit a disquieting 42 games out of first place. The best they can hope for is to spoil a few games for the other teams in contention as they did with the Rays outside shot at a wild card spot. That and seeing who might be around next season. The line-up getting rolled out on a daily basis isn't really a building block for the future. This collection of players is pretty much the bungee cord holding your bumper up until you can buy a new car. That new car isn't coming to Baltimore until 2020 at the earliest.

It's not the season anyone, including Duquette and Anderson, hoped for back in April, but maybe it's the one they need. Instead of patching a falling apart car, they finally realize that it'll be better to save and invest in a brand new ride.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 31

Orioles Victory Number 31: 11-2 over the Tampa Bay Rays

2012 Topps Vladimir Guerrero

Two nights, two blowouts. Who are these hitters and what have they done with the Orioles? It's good to see them on the winning side more than once a week. I'm also glad they won last night so that I could post the above card on the day that Vlad Guerrero is officially inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. While Guerrero and fellow inductee Jim Thome may not have had the longest tenures with the Os they did play with the Birds so that means two more plaques will have the words "Baltimore Orioles" printed on them.

The veteran outfielder signed with the Orioles in February of 2011 as part of an influx of veterans brought in by then General Manager Andy MacPhail. The 35-year-old was coming off of his 9th All-Star season and hit 29 home runs and driven in 115 for the Rangers the season before.  Also joining the team that year were Mark Reynolds, JJ Hardy, and Derrek Lee. MacPhail hoped their talents would mesh well with youngish players Matt Wieters (25), Nick Markakis (27) and Adam Jones (25).  It didn't as the Orioles finished fifth with a 69-93 record (oh to aspire to 69 wins).

Guerrero wasn't horrible slashing .290/.317/.416 in 590 plate appearances, but it wasn't quite what the Orioles were looking for after parting with $8 million for the designated hitter. At the end of the disappointing season, the Orioles 14th consecutive losing season, MacPhail stepped down and paved the way for Dan Duquette to remold the team.

While there weren't many highlights for Guerrero or the Orioles that season, he did record his 2500th hit in a Baltimore uniform - a double against Toronto:

His last major league home run also came in the black and orange - a blast to centerfield against the Angels (another former team):

Nothing he did that year rivaled his greatest highlight in Camden Yards. A feat he accomplished as a member of the Angels:

Seriously, how do you hit a 58-foot curve ball after it bounces in the dirt?

As for Thome - I don't have a card picturing him in an Orioles uniform. As far as I can tell there is only one and it's a 2012 Topps Update short print.

I do not own this card so it doesn't count as a victory card.

Thome's Orioles career was much briefer than Guerrero's. He was acquired in July of 2012 to help the Os fill their DH-void. The 41-year-old was traded for Kyle Simon and Gabriel Lino. Lino was a catcher at the time of the trade who made his way up to AAA in both the Phillies and the Cardinals organizations. He is currently back in Philadelphia's organization with Clearwater.  Simon also peaked at AAA and is now currently playing independent league baseball.

For the Orioles Thome slashed .257/.348/.396 in 115 plate appearances. His final career home run also came in an Orioles uniform:

Congratulations to Vladimir Guerrero and Jim Thome on your Hall of Fame inductions.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 30

Orioles Victory Number 30: 15-5 over the Tampa Bay Rays

2017 Upper Deck Masterpieces Cal Ripken, Jr./ Tony Gwynn

Well now.  That was an emphatic victory. Fifteen runs, a solid start from Andrew Cashner and big games from three of their remaining trading chips. Jonathan Schoop homered (his 6th game in a row with a big fly) among his three hits, Adam Jones hit a 3-run shot and Danny Valencia added three hits. Not a bad day's work against a feisty Tampa team.

Whenever Schoop or Jones has homered over the past few days there is that lingering feeling that it might be the last time they do it in an Orioles uniform. If the brass is serious about this rebuild then Schoop is dealt in the next couple of days or at the winter meetings. With a year of control left he could fetch a fairly decent return. Jones would be solid addition to any team looking for outfield help and then who knows what happens in the off-season.

At the ballgame on Thursday I had the discussion with my brother in law (who was wearing a Jones jersey) about the centerfielder's legacy in Baltimore. While it's unlikely that his number is retired (a honor reserved only for those who are in the baseball hall of fame) there is no doubt he would be inducted to the Orioles Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible. Seventy-eight players, coaches, broadcasters, staff members and fans (Wild Bill Hagy!) hold that honor and Jones would hold his own against any of them.

As for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown...well it could be awhile until another player synonymous with the orange and black will be inducted. Mike Mussina has the best chance, but there is a chance he goes in as a Yankee. If he did it would be one more blow to the collective conscious of Orioles fans in their never-ending battle with New York. After Mussina, there is a whole lot of nothing.

There could be a few players with tertiary ties to the ball club much like Vlad Guerrero (one season, 145 games) and Jim Thome (one season, 28 games). I could see a faded Mike Trout, fifteen years from now, playing out one more season with the Os as veteran leadership for yet another rebuilding team.

Of course, with baseball you never really know. The Orioles might catch lightning in a bottle with one of the hordes of prospects they've brought in or that they've draft over the next few seasons. It's unlikely, but you never know. After all, in 1978 teams thought there were 47 players worth drafting before Ripken and in 1981 57 players went before Gwynn. So, maybe the next great Oriole is lurking in Bowie or Frederick or Delmarva. Time will tell. Until then, fans will have to be content with the bronze statues that are already in Legends Park.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 29

Orioles Victory Number 29: 7-6 over the Boston Red Sox

2018 Topps Team Card

The Orioles picked up their first win since the All-Star Break and the first in the post-Machado era. In doing so they helped the Yankees, who beat Tampa, edge a bit closer to the Red Sox in the standings. Following the game they helped their long time rivals a bit more by dealing Zach Britton to New York for three pitching prospects.

In one week Baltimore has turned two soon-to-be free agents into eight prospects. How will the prospects turn out? It's too soon to tell. I will give credit to Dan Duquette and the rest of the staff for at least pulling in a vast quantity of prospects back even if none of them are sure-fire future superstars. Even with the lack of a Gleyber Torres-esque return, the Orioles have done an excellent job of restocking their average farm system. At least two of the players (Yusniel Diaz and Dillon Tate) will be among Baltimore's top 10 prospects for next season.

With Machado and Britton gone, what next?  There are six days left before the trade deadline so expect more deals. If Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman are indeed on the table then there is a chance the Orioles could add at least one more top-10 prospect to their organization. Other than that, look for more organizational filler or even, God forbid, possibly some international bonus money.

Duquette and company have made the two easy trades and have done alright. And while they have talked about a rebuild they haven't committed to it..not yet. In order to complete the burning of Eutaw Street they have to make some tougher decisions. Trading the aforementioned Bundy and Gausman would signal that the rebuild is truly under way.  So would dealing Jonathan Schoop, Mychal Givens or Trey Mancini. All of these players have control past this year and could be enticing to not only contenders, but also teams that have stumbled a bit but are looking to improve. Trading young, controlled talent for future talent is the sign of a true rebuild.

Trading pending free agents is nice, but if they stop there, they can always walk it back in the winter by going out and signing other free agents. Which, I wouldn't put past this organization.  At this point I would say that anyone on the major league roster is eligible for a trade. To truly rebuild it will take a few seasons at which players Schoop and Mancini are going to be free agents. Why not move them now instead of devaluing them like they did with Machado and Britton.

Schoop for one seems to be trying to play his way off of the team as he has been red-hot since the break. He has regained his stroke and blasted 5 home runs and is hitting about .340 over the last week. Surely some team (Milwaukee) could use a second baseman with some pop in his bat. Move him out.

Other than trades, expect to start seeing some of the actual prospects come up. It might not be until September (can't start that free agency clock too soon!)  but I wouldn't be surprised to see DL Hall make a late-season start or two. It wouldn't be shocking to see Ryan Mountcastle or Cedric Mullins pick up some at-bats as rewards for their excellent seasons.

Stretch out some of the players that have already made the team. I hope they keep Yefry Ramirez in the rotation. Keep sending Tanner Scott out there in relief. He may be struggling a bit, but there is no other way for him to learn how to get major league hitters out other than to face them. Lets find out if he's the next Zach Britton or the next Brad Pennington. The same goes with David Hess and Mike Wright, Jr. The Orioles need to find out if they can pitch well enough to carry them through the dark times over the next two seasons.

If they go through with this rebuild it will be a tough couple of years for the Orioles faithful, but if they start now and do it right, then they can build a team that can compete for several years after that.

JustinG.'s Current Trade Rankings (updated!)
(in order of most likely to be traded)

1. Manny Machado
2. Zach Britton
3. Mark Trumbo
4. Jonathan Schoop
5. Mychal Givens
6. Dylan Bundy
7. Brad Brach
8. Kevin Gausman
9. Danny Valencia
10. Adam Jones

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 28

Orioles Victory Number 28: 6-5 over the Texas Rangers

2017 Topps Updates Jonathan Schoop.

Well, Orioles fans we made it to the All Star break. It was a long, arduous journey from Spring to Summer with too few highlights sprinkled about, but we still made it. The team gets to reset a bit, we can celebrate Manny Machado on the national stage (at least until he is traded mid-game) and then start an earnest look to the future in the second part of the season.

I won't be able to watch much of the All Star Game on Tuesday night (a drawback to working second shift) so it won't have any chance of knocking off my all time favorite memory of the mid-summer classic.  Turn the clock back to 1993 and a young JustinG. (about to enter his senior year in high school) is watching the game take place in his hometown of Baltimore..

The Orioles were playing pretty good baseball as they entered the break with a 47-41 record and only a game-and-a-half out of first place. After a mediocre start they had a scintillating June riding 10-game winning streak to a 20-7 record for the month.

Perennial All-Star Cal Ripken, Jr. was joined on the roster by young right-hander Mike Mussina who entered the break with a 10-4 record. The game would be remembered by most fans for John Kruk wanting absolutely no part of facing Randy Johnson after the somewhat wild left-hander sailed a pitch over Kruk's head:

Oriole fans also remember the game as the birth of the "Cito Sucks" chant. American League manager Cito Gaston, leader of the dominant Toronto Blue Jays, had a couple of chances to insert Mussina into the game. The hometown crowd chanted, "We Want Mike" as the right-hander warmed up in the bullpen during the ninth inning with the AL leading 9-3. Rather than placate the crowd and bring Mussina into the game, Gaston let his own closer, Duane Ward, finish out the game.

After the fact Mussina claimed that he was just getting his regular work in since he was scheduled to start the first game after the break for the Orioles. It has been suggested though, that Mussina was trying to force Gaston into inserting him into the game. By warming up in the very visible bullpen, he knew that the crowd would start cheering for him and Gaston would have to bring him in. He didn't, and the fans weren't happy. 

Gaston claims that he had informed the Orioles starter that he would only pitch him if the game went into extra innings so that by warming up on his own he was trying to show the Blue Jays manager up. Despite both sides trying to downplay the incident, they both became a little irritated with the matter as the season went on with Gaston reportedly saying, "By standing up, he showed me he's a person with little class. Screw him. I just won't take him {on the all-star team} next year. ... He showed very little class as a person."

Mussina, who had intended to apologize before hearing that quote begged off by stating that he didn't want to "make any more of a problem". For the record, Gaston managed the AL squad again in the 1994 All-Star Game and did in fact invite Mussina. He actually had him pitch as well. Mussina threw one inning, gave up a hit (Dante Bichette) and recorded a strike out (Barry Bonds). 

None of the above contained my favorite moment. The lasting memory for me came the day before during the Home Run Derby. I had secured a ticket somehow, I really don't remember now and sat in the left field stands to watch the stars of the day belt pitch after pitch out of the ball park.  The line-up included Albert Belle, Cecil Fielder, Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, David Justice, Mike Piazza, Ken Griffey, Jr. and the winner - Juan Gonzalez.

That's right, Griffey didn't win the contest despite having the single-most remembered home run of the contest. On that warm summer day in July, Griffey was the first and only player to hit the warehouse in competition.

That wasn't my favorite moment - in fact it took awhile for the folks in the left-field stands to even know he hit the warehouse due to the angle of the seats. It wasn't until the roar went up from the crowd that we knew what had happened.

My favorite moment was the home run hit by Juan Gonzalez. A blast that sailed over us in the lower left field seats, over the fans in the second deck of left field and crashed off the facing of the third deck - 473 feet away from home plate. To this day it's the longest recorded home run in Camden Yards history and an ungodly testament to what a human being trained in the art of hitting a baseball can do to a batting practice fastball (the home run comes at :50 of the below clip).

It remains the hardest ball I've ever seen hit live in person (and as a left-hander who occasionally caught too much of the plate with some mediocre fastballs I've seen a lot of pitches crushed) and I'll argue it's one of the hardest balls ever hit in the history of the game.

Gonzalez is sometimes forgotten about when it comes to the fearsome sluggers of the early-to-mid 1990s. His inclusion in the Mitchell Report and in Jose Canseco's book have tarnished his legacy quite a bit (and kept him out of the Hall of Fame), but in his day he was down right scary as an opponent.  Yet, by all reports he was one of the nicest players to ever break your heart with a booming home run. (Late in his career I was lucky enough to get his autograph before a game. He signed for about 30-40 folks at a game against the Rays during his second stint with the Rangers).

He never played more than 155 games in a season due to a variety of injuries, but he still managed 434 home runs. Unlike today's all or nothing home run hitters, he also had a respectable .295 career batting average, a .343 on-base percentage and a .904 OPS.  In 1998 he mashed 47 home runs AND 50 doubles in route to his second MVP award. He was a monster - no wonder he was nicknamed "Igor"

Whenever I see the highlight it also reminds of what it was like to watch the game as a kid. These guys were still heroes to me. I was still playing the game with some inclination of possibly being a major league player (that didn't work out - again the mediocre fastball) and possibly sharing a field with some of those very players. 

This was before the strike and before steroids were a thing (although look at that line-up, someone was most likely juicing already). For me there was still more joy in the game than frustration. Hopefully, those moments are still available to young fans. I think there needs to be that belief in the fun of the game and a little bit of hero worship in the younger generations before the jaded skepticism kicks in. Because it is moments like that that carry us through the tough times. A Gonzalez blast or Ripken spearing a ground ball up the middle and spinning a throw over to first are the memories that help when I read about the depressing things associated with modern athletics.

Maybe there was some kid in D.C. on Monday night that was awed by the display Bryce Harper put on and will carry that on as a lifetime memory. Or maybe Machado will do something spectacular in his last game representing the Orioles that will help us get through the back part of this season.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 27

Orioles Victory Number 27: 1-0 over the Texas Rangers

2018 Topps Zach Britton

We're hitting that point of the season where I'm starting to wonder if anything matters at all.  Yes the Orioles won, which is always nicer than them losing, but still what does it all mean? In about a week the roster is most likely to be decimated. There is a good chance that Manny Machado is still in the organization only so that he can represent the Orioles at the All Star game,  which may be the dumbest reason yet for the Orioles to delay a trade.

The things this management staff does is mindbending at times. Take for instance the handling of Zach Britton. He should have been traded last year and he wasn't because of concern over the health of some of the players coming back in the deal, one of which was Colin Moran. Moran has since been traded to the Pirates and the third baseman has put up a slightly below replacement level season (-0.1 WAR) hitting .262 with 8 home runs and and a .336 on base percentage. If you were wondering yes those numbers are better than either Tim Beckham (by a long shot) and Danny Valencia (comparable).

Since then, Britton ruptured his Achilles which disrupted any chance of trading him in he off-season. It also took him out of action until mid-June. A point at which the Orioles were well out of the hunt for the playoffs. As a left-handed reliever who had a history of being dominant he was, by his very nature, a valuable trade asset. The only question involved was how the injury affected his performance.

For the most part it seems that he is getting back to his pre-injury ability. In fourteen appearances he's allowed runs in only two of them but he struggled with his control early in his return. Luckily for the Orioles (and his trade value) he's shown signs of his old dominance since the calendar flipped to July. In six appearances he's worked six innings, struck out six, walked one and allowed one hit. He's also induced 8 ground balls and allowed only 2 fly balls which indicates his sinker is back to it's pre-2017 nastiness.

So why hasn't he been traded yet? There is no reason to hold on to him, it's not like he's an All Star. Waiting is going to only invite the potential of another injury or bad outing. For the good of all things holy don't make the same mistake two years in a row.

And that's what we've come to. Any good performance by a player is now viewed through the lens of it improves his trade value, not as hope for the future. Valencia hits a home run - trade him. Jonathon Schoop singles to the right side to win a game - trade him. Chris Davis makes contact with a pitch - trade him.

Trade them all now. Blow this thing up in spectacular fashion. Trade everybody and call up the entire Norfolk roster. If someone wants Dylan Bundy and is offering a top-50 prospect, do it. Same with Kevin Gausman and Trey Mancini. Let's burn this thing to the ground. It's not going to make that much of a difference in the standings.

OK.  I'm done.

JustinG.'s Current Trade Rankings (updated!)
(in order of most likely to be traded)

1. Manny Machado
2. Zach Britton
3. Mark Trumbo
4. Danny Valencia
5. Mychal Givens
6. Jonathan Schoop
7. Brad Brach
8. Kevin Gausman

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 26

Orioles Victory Number 26: 5-4 over the New York Yankees

2018 Topps Living set Manny Machado

Even in the darkest of times there can be a little bit of light. The Orioles are on pace to win about 46 games this season. That means they are on pace to lose....well a lot. There are many nights where they don't play very well. There is an overall lack of excitement in regards to most of the players in the line-up (I like Jace Peterson as much as the next fan, but he's not exactly a building block). The bullpen, once a strength is a rotating cast of characters struggling to string together three outs at a time.

Yet, on a night like last night, baseball can still be fun. The best player in a generation for the team belts two home runs including a Ruthian shot that landed over 440 feet from where contact was made. A struggling hitter slapped a ball the other way to score the winning run. The bullpen held it together and a once-dominant closer showed flashes of his old self in locking down the win. Best of all it came at the expense of the Yankees.

It's small moments like this that will get you through the season.

Seriously, how much fun was that first home run? That baseball was destroyed. Manny Machado took all of his recent frustration with the trade talks (for the first time this season it seems like it might be getting to him) and unloaded it on that innocent baseball. It's good to see his power coming back down the final stretch of his Orioles career.

It might have been the last great game he will have in the orange and white of the Orioles. So remember it fondly. There might not be that many more like it this summer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 25

Orioles Victory Number 25: 5-4 over the New York Yankees

1985 Topps Mike Boddicker

The Orioles snapped another lengthy losing streak on the backs of home runs by Mark Trumbo and Danny Valencia. For once, there were actual runners on base when the balls cleared the fence and provided enough runs for the Os to edge out the one-run victory.

Yea.  Twenty-five wins. On July 9th. That's so very, very bad. Sadly it might get worse. How? Well, the trades should start happening any day now. That means players that have been good enough to warrant attention from other teams will soon be playing for those other teams leaving holes in the Orioles line-up that will presumably be not as good as those that they are replacing.

One of those players is, of course, Manny Machado. The widely talented shortstop is the most sought after asset on the trade market this summer. There are reports that seven teams have made former offers for Machado and that the deal could come down this week.

That would lead to yet another wonderful slap in the face for the 2018 Baltimore Orioles. Their lone all-star representative, Manny Machado who was voted in by the fans on Sunday, could be playing for another organization by the time the game rolled around. A game taking place just down the interstate in Washington, D.C. none the less.  Great times.

This has happened in recent memory. In 2014 Jeff Samardzija was traded from the Cubs to Oakland after he had been named to the team but before the game was played. For the game Samardzija was deemed ineligible and wore a generic uniform and hat.

Photo by Jesse Johnson USA Today Sports

With the Dodgers as one of the leading contenders for Machado's services, history could repeat itself. As the game no longer determines home field advantage as it did in 2014, the league may let him play for the either team. In fact, they should lean into it and play it up. Maybe the winner of the home run derby gets to pick which team he plays for or there is a pre-game coin toss for his services.

The Cubs were still represented at the Mid-Summer Classic in 2014 as Anthony Rizzo made the squad. Will the Orioles be so lucky? Probably not, there really isn't a healthy player on the roster that has earned that distinction. So they could theoretically not have a player in the game.  That would be awesome.

Things could also come full circle if the Cubs end up snatching Machado. One of the players that is rumored to be on the way to the Orioles would be Addison Russell. The Cubs shortstop was one of the key players that went to Chicago in the 2014 Samardzija deal.  That would make me smile. 

We'll see what happens.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 24

Orioles Victory Number 24: 8-2 over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

1981 Topps Dan Ford

Is this technically an Orioles card?  No, no it's not. I don't care. This is my blog and my rules. I have no idea who defaced this card of Disco Dan Ford. I don't think that's my handwriting (plus I would have been all of 5 years old and living in Germany when this came out). Could I have defaced it at a later date? It had to have been done sometime between 1982 and 1985 since those are the years he was with the Os.

Does it bother me that a card has been "ruined" like this? No, not really. I'm pretty sure I could snap my fingers and find a replacement in near-mint condition for this 37 year-old card. That someone (possibly me) took the time to scratch it out and "update" it makes it more endearing to me. Ford was a good player, and a key platoon player during the 1983 championship run, but he was no superstar. So it's not like someone scribbled all over a '52 Mantle.

In fact, it reminds me of a simpler time of collecting (caution - old man waxing nostalgic) when I was more concerned with getting cards of players that played for the Orioles. If you had offered me Ford, an Al Bumbry card and a couple of other no-name Baltimore players for a 1981 Tim Raines rookie, I would have made the trade in a heartbeat. After all, who cares about some guy playing in Montreal?

I have no doubt that this card was once wrapped in a rubber band and thrown in a shoe box. As a kid I just liked having cards, there was no need to worry about their condition. That didn't come until much later. Cards were to be looked at, traded and thrown in a box and stuffed in a closet when it was time to go to school.

Part of me wishes we could go back to that - get away from the "mojo" hits and $1,000 eBay sales  - but that's not going to happen. Heck, I'm as guilty as the next person to hoping that any pack I open has a Mike Trout short-print or insert in it that I can flip for a few bucks in the ol' PayPal account. Still, I almost get as big a thrill when I pull a Johnathan Scoop base card - just because it has the Orioles logo on it. Maybe I should find an Andrew Cashner base card and break out the ballpoint pen for old times sake.

Oh, in regards to the game - Mark Trumbo ups his trade value with two bombs and Kevin Gausman had another solid start.  Way to break another losing streak, boys.

JustinG.'s Current Trade Rankings (updated!)
(in order of most likely to be traded)

1. Manny Machado
2. Mark Trumbo
3. Brad Brach
4. Danny Valencia
5. Mychal Givens
6. Jonathan Schoop
7. Zach Britton
8. Craig Gentry

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Orioles Victory Cards 22 and 23

Orioles victory 22 : 10-7 over the Atlanta Braves in 15 innings
Orioles victory 23: 7-5 over the Atlanta Braves

2007 Upper Deck Masterpieces Cal Ripken, Jr.

Who had the end of June before I screwed this up?  You did? Congratulations.  I knew it was going to be something along these lines. An extra inning game the night before I had to work a morning shift. Add on top of that plans to see the Pirates play and once I saw that Manny Machado had hooked a home run down the line late Friday night I knew the streak would be over.

They then tacked on another win on the back of some timely hitting.  Nothing like scoring seven runs off of two hits (a grand slam by Mark Trumbo and a bases-loaded double by Chris Davis) and another strong start by Dylan Bundy.

It's their first winning streak since June 5th-6th (coincidentally against a National League team) and they have a chance to win three games in a row for only the second time this season. The win also moved them out of the overall cellar in baseball. They're tied with the Kansas City Royals with 23 wins, but due to the fact that they've played one less game they have a slightly higher winning percentage. Guess they're not very serious about the number one overall draft pick next summer.

Could this be a sign that the Orioles are starting to put things together? The Braves are a pretty good team and these two wins were more reminiscent of the way the Orioles have won over the past few years. Decent enough pitching with a lot of offense. 

Only time will tell if they can keep this up and salvage the lost season.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 21

Orioles Victory Number 21: 3-0 over the Washington Nationals

1982 Topps Benny Ayala

Hey, hey, hey the Orioles actually stopped a losing streak before it began. Instead of going a week and a half between victories they managed to only go one game between wins. Andrew Cashner returned to throw 4 and 2/3 innings of shutout ball (start shortened due to rain delay) and the bullpen kept putting up the zeros (even though Brad Brach made it interesting in the ninth).

The offense was provided early, compliments Mark Trumbo doing a very bad thing to a hanging curveball:

The "Trumbo Jumbo" (please never say that again Mike Bordick) was his second in three games and fifth on the year. Since coming off of the disabled list Trumbo has been a relative constant source of offense in the Orioles line-up.

Don't confuse that with him tearing up the league. He is still hitting a rather pedestrian .262 with an OBP of .318 and basically playing replacement level baseball. Yet, on the Orioles that puts him squarely in the top tier of offensive performers.

One thing that seems a little different this year is that he is driving the ball to right-field and right-center with more authority than he has in the past. While the murder he committed on the baseball last night was to left field, two of his other home runs this year were to right field. Last year, only three of his twenty-three bombs were to the opposite field.

He's also hitting a lot of balls hard. According to  his average exit velocity is 92.9 MPH which is well above the league average of 88.8.  A lot of those hard hit balls are going back up the middle or to right field.

Per Fangraphs this is his spray chart so far for 2018 (last night's game not included)

And from 2017:

Despite the much smaller sample size, there is a greater proportion of line drives (red dots) and home runs (black dots) going to right field this season.  Is this a result of a different approach to hitting or just some short term anomaly that will dissipate as the season wears on? Hopefully it's the former. If he is focused on driving the ball back through the middle or to the opposite field it will make him a better hitter. His home runs will still come, he's too strong for them not to.

The more important question is, does this change in hitting philosophy make him enticing to other teams? A club looking to add a little right-handed power to their line-up might be intrigued by Trumbo.  While he is nominally a designated hitter he does have experience in the outfield and first base. He isn't going to win any Gold Gloves in the field, he isn't going to embarrass himself either. That opens up National League teams to the pool of prospective trade partners.

In trading for him, a team does have to factor in his contract. He wouldn't be strictly a rental since he is signed through 2019 at a rather hefty $13.5 million. Still, that's not an unreasonable amount of money for a player that has averaged 32 home runs and 94 RBI throughout his career. The Orioles could also kick in some cash to help offset that price tag and sweeten the return a bit. 

Trumbo alone isn't enough to bring back a top-tier young prospect in a trade, but a team might be willing to part with a mid-tier prospect or two to bring that bat into their line-up to gear up for the stretch run. At this point, the Orioles should be all in on a rebuild with the goal of bringing in as much young talent as possible. Trading Mark Trumbo would accomplish that.

JustinG.'s Current Trade Rankings
(in order of most likely to be traded)

1. Manny Machado
2. Brad Brach
3. Zach Britton
4. Mark Trumbo
5. Darren O'Day
6. Jonathan Schoop
7. Danny Valencia
8. Craig Gentry

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 20

Orioles Victory Number 20: 10-4 over the Miami Marlins

2018 Topps Manny Machado 1983 Insert

How about an insert from one of the best designed Topps sets of all times of the most recent superstar player to wear an Orioles uniform?

So, the Orioles finally cracked the 20-win mark on Father's Day. Dylan Bundy pitched well enough to win and finally received some run support.  Baltimore avoids getting swept on the homestand and heads a short train ride south to Washington with a little more confidence in their offense.

A lot has changed since the last time I was able to post here. Chris Davis has been benched. The Orioles went from one Joseph (Caleb) to none, back to one (Corban) and now up to two (Corban and Caleb). One dominating left-handed reliever returned (Zach Britton) while another was shut down for the season (Richard Bleier). Andrew Cashner missed a start while David Hess has solidified his spot in the rotation.

Benching Davis is the biggest move that has happened in the 11 days between victories and probably the most important one. The big first baseman with the big contract was on pace for one of the worst seasons in major league history and looked completely lost at the plate no matter where Buck Showalter put him in the line-up. He's not going to get traded and will most likely refuse an assignment to the minors (a move that Minnesota just pulled with their struggling slugger Miguel Sano) as his right as a veteran player.

The organization can't trade him as his value is significantly below that of a replacement player and he's owed more than $100 million on the rest of his contract. Trying to shoehorn him into the impending Machado trade would only lower the value of the return even more. Nor will the Orioles waive him with the length and money left on his deal.

So now the only solution is to hope that the extra work he's putting in with hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh and jack-of-all-trades Brady Anderson pays off in some shape or form. With a natural regression back to how he's been since signing his large contract would be a boon to the offense-starved Orioles line-up. If he can get his game back to where he's hitting .230-.240 and clubbing home runs every now and then that makes there line-up better.

In the meantime, can he be a reliable off the bench pinch hitter? Showalter had a chance to use him late in Saturday's game trailing by a run and instead pinch-hit Corban Joseph. So at this point the answer seems to be no. That hamstrings an already short bench and will make for some interesting roster decisions once Tim Beckham returns from his rehab assignment.

Corban Joseph is the most likely candidate for demotion once Beckham returns to play third base, which would set Trey Mancini as the starting first baseman (his natural position) and bump Jace Peterson back to the bench. Now the Orioles would have Peterson, Davis and Pedro Alvarez, all left-handed hitters, as their primary replacements. That's not ideal.

The next few weeks will see a lot of change to the Orioles roster (hopefully) and their may be an influx of youth coming in. It would be nice if Chris Davis regains his form enough to be a presence in the line-up instead of a shadow of his former self on the bench.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 19

Orioles Victory Number 19: 1-0 over the New York Mets

2002 Topps Chris Smith

The Orioles swept a series! Sure it was just a two-game series and sure it was against the Mets. And, yeah, they only scored three runs in the entire series, but wins are wins at this point. Their ace pitched like one and their superstar drove in the only run.  It's just as it all should be.

Another thing that Dylan Bundy (the ace) and Manny Machado (the superstar) have in common? They were back-to-back first round picks for the Orioles. Not only that, but first round picks that actually panned out into every day players, unlike the previous handful of picks the organization made. Which is one of the problems that the Orioles have had in developing their system.

Chris Smith (pictured above) was one of those problems. From 1992 (Jeffrey Hammonds) to 2003 (Nick Markakis) the Orioles brass drafted a collection of busts and disappointments. Beau Hale, Mike Paradis, Darnell McDonald and Rick Elder all heard their names called by the Os in the first round. They all kind of sucked.

Chris Smith was drafted 7th overall in 2001 (with Casey Kotchman, Gabe Gross and Jeremy Bonderman, Dan Haren, Ryan Howard and David Wright were still available. Granted it wasn't the greatest draft of all time). Smith, a 5'11" left-hander from Cumberland Collage was a highly sought after power pitcher.

Granted he had only been pitching for a short time as a college player. He had spent two years at Florida State as a power hitting outfielder before transferring to Cumberland in order to become a pitcher.

He signed shortly after the draft and then was almost immediately injured. Over the next five years he only appeared in 24 games before retiring, never rising above A league ball. He never really recovered from a misdiagnosed rotator cuff and was soon out of professional baseball.

Lately the Orioles have been a little better at scouting talent. Machado (2010), Bundy(2011) and Kevin Gausman (2012) are all currently contributing to the big league team and the picks in the years that follow are among their highest ranked prospects. Ryan Mountcastle (2015) and Hunter Harvey (2013) are examples.

So, will their newest number one pick, Grayson Rodriguez, follow in the lines of Bundy or Smith? Unfortunately, only time will tell.

Orioles Victory Card Number 18

Orioles victory number 18: 2-1 over New York Mets

1967 Topps Pin Up Poster Brooks Robinson

Alex Cobb picked up his second win on the season by striking out seven over six innings. The victory snapped the Orioles latest multi-game losing streak (this one was seven games) and got them within one game of not being in last place. As of Wednesday morning they still trail (lead?) the White Sox by one game for the worst record in the majors.  Hoo-ray.

Today's card - a Brooks Robinson "poster" from the 1967 Topps series.  I guess it's not technically a card since it's printed on paper stock, but this is my blog and I get to set the rules.  For a card that is 51 years old it's in pretty good shape. It is creased, but good luck finding one of these that isn't, and there is a small tear just above his lip.

I picked it up on ebay with some funds left over from off-loading an Ohtani card. I'm not buying a ton of cards right now (mostly because I haven't seen anything other than Donruss in Target over the last couple of weeks) and having given up on hockey cards I'm kind of treading water in terms of acquiring more cardboard.

There is a vague idea of picking up some cards of vintage stars, maybe some Koufax and Mantle cards that won't break the bank. Also, I really have to get around to picking up a Griffey Upper Deck rookie at some point as well as a Ripken 1982 Topps Traded. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 17

Orioles Victory Number 17: 2-0 over the Tampa Bay Rays

2007 Topps Jaret Wright

Hey, hey David Hess. Have yourself a ballgame.  The rookie went 6.2 innings and didn't allow a run. He bounced back nicely from his last outing in Boston where he wasn't able to make it past the fifth inning and now has two wins in his three starts this year.  It looks like he's locked down the fifth spot in the rotation for the near future. Not bad for a fifth round draft pick.

It was a close game all night long. The Birds jumped out to the lead against Sergio Romo, the on-paper starter for the Rays, when Danny Valencia doubled in Adam Jones. From there it was all Hess as he worked his way through the Rays line-up pitching around four hits and three walks to pick up the victory.

There was one moment that it looked like the Rays might tie it up. Its one of those weird innings that always seem to go against a team stuck in a rut. In the fifth inning, with the Os up by one, Mallex Smith led off the inning with a walk.  Then Hess committed a balk. Still not quite sure what he did as his motion seemed exactly the same as every other one he did with runners on base. With Smith on second Hess tried to pick him off and Jonathan Schoop whiffed on the throw. The ball bounded into centerfield while Smith trotted down to third base.

Runner on third, no outs and some decent hitters coming up. Surely, the Rays would pick up at least one run and possibly more. Yet, Hess worked his way out. He got Daniel Robertson to ground to third with Valencia making a fantastic throw as he had to hurdle over Smith who was diving back to the bag.

Then with the infield in Jonathan Field made solid contact but drove the pitch into the ground right at Manny Machado. Rob Refsnyder followed with another ground ball and the inning was over with the Orioles still in the lead. In the top of the next inning, Schoop slammed his fifth home run of the season over the left field fence to extend the lead.

It was nice to see the Orioles work out of the jam with excellent defense and pitching. If they keep doing that, the wins will keep piling up.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 16

Orioles victory number 16: 9-3 over the Chicago White Sox

2018 Topps Opening Day Jeremy Hellickson

Why hello there dominant Dylan Bundy.  That's what Orioles fans have been waiting to see for such a long, long time. A complete game victory with 14 strikeouts (a career high) on 121 pitches (86 for strikes).  The three runs he allowed came off of one swing of the bat - a home run by Jose Rondon in the fourth inning with two runners on. It's Dylan Bundy - of course the runs are going to come via the long ball.

During the outing, Bundy picked up his 300th strikeout as a starter. He arrived at that nice round number in his 53rd career start and apparently no Orioles starter has racked up that many strikeouts in so few starts. For the record he has 333 career K's in the books with 32 of them coming during relief appearances early in his career. It's an oddly specific record to achieve, but good on him for doing it!

It is the second career complete game for the former first round pick. His first was last year, a one-hit, twelve-strikeout gem against the Seattle Mariners last season. For the record no other Baltimore pitcher has a complete game over the last two seasons.  The last player not named Bundy to go the distance was Ubaldo Jimenez of all players. He retired the final 17 batters he faced in a September start against the Rays in 2016. You would have to go all the way back to 2011 to find a pitcher with multiple complete games in a season. That hurler - Jeremy Guthrie. He worked two games start to finish.

Bundy has a ways to go if he wants to capture the the career franchise record. Jim Palmer, who else, holds the record with 211 which included four seasons that he had at least 20 complete games. Bundy has started more than 20 games just once in his career - 28 last season.  Pretty sure that Mr. Palmer will be holding on to his record for well...forever.

Since 2000 only once has a pitcher completed 10 or more games in a season. Big Game James Shields had 11 for the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays. My how times have changed for that organization as they are at the forefront of the "bullpenning" movement. They plan on starting relief pitchers in all three games against the Orioles this weekend with Sergio Romo starting both Friday and Sunday night and fellow reliever Ryan Stanek starting on Saturday. The theory behind their process is that the relievers will work through the top of the order once and set up the "primary" pitchers to only have to deal with the opponent's best hitters twice through the rest of the game.

It's an interesting concept and will be fun to see if the Rays continue it through the rest of the season and if any other teams adopt a similar philosophy. I don't expect the Orioles, tradition bound as they are, to be one of the teams to copy Tampa's experiment.

For Bundy the complete game start was another solid effort in his wildly inconsistent season. He's mixed dominating starts in with absolute tire-fire outings en route to a 3-6 record. After starting the season off with four starts where he allowed 2 or fewer earned runs, he followed up with three starts allowing five or more including the infamous May 8th start against Kansas City where he allowed 7 runs without recording an out. Since then he's had three starts, 7 shut out innings against the Rays, four runs in six innings against the Red Sox and the complete game against the White Sox.

Home runs have been his biggest issue, allowing a total of 14 through almost 63 innings pitched this season. No longer possessing a blazing fastball (his four-seamer averages about 91.63) he gets hurt when he leaves the ball up in the zone. If he can pitch ahead in the count, as he did on Thursday, he can force his opponents to chase the slider out of the zone because it is quite a deceptive pitch.

Hopefully, for the sanity of Orioles fans, he has more starts like this throughout the rest of the season.