Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 21: 1990 Donruss, aka The Red Plague

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 21: 4-2 over the Toronto Blue Jays


1990 Donruss Randy Milligan

In every collection tucked into a closet or spread out in a basement there is one set that a collector has way too many cards of.  For me, it's 1990 Donruss. Distinctive because of it's red borders and copious amount of errors, variations and mistakes, this set is the epitome of the overproduced neo-vintage (aka junk wax) era of the early to mid-90s that almost killed the hobby.

I bought a lot of these cards.  I mean A LOT of them. At 50 cents per pack of 16 cards it was easy to accumulate a large quantity cheaply and quickly. Oddly enough, despite buying four or five packs a week for most of the summer, I didn't actually complete the set until two years ago or so as there were a handful of cards that I somehow missed during my initial collecting days.

In the meantime I picked up a lot of doubles. As of this posting, I have about 2,547 cards for this set. The completed set is only 716 cards so yeah that leads to quite a few duplicates.  While that 2500+ number is impressive, I've also probably given away roughly 600 cards in the last couple of years. Any trade I've made in the last three years where the recipient had 1990 Donruss cards on their wantlist received a handful or more of them even if they didn't ask for them. 

Until recently I didn't really check to see if I was sending out error cards instead of actual duplicates since, except for the most notorious ones, there really wasn't much difference between the correct card and the error card. The Trading Card Database lists 89 variations or errors in the set with the most famous being the Juan Gonzalez reverse negative, a card that was highly sought after that summer.

Errors like that are rather easy to detect, others not so much. Along with incorrect birth dates or checklists with the wrong numbers listed there were the cards with a line through a letter. Such as this Kevin Hickey card. Who even notices that? Not me that's for sure.

Despite the overabundance it remains one of my favorite sets because it came during my peak collecting run as a kid. Cards were still affordable, card shops plentiful and people traded in person. By 1992 other things had intervened in life and collecting fell onto the backburner for about a decade.

The set also had all the hallmarks of those early Donruss sets. The first 26 cards were Diamond Kings, supposedly the best players of each respective team (Micky Tettleton had the honor for the Orioles). Those cards were followed by the Rated Rookies, each adorned with the iconic blue logo. As much fun as those cards were to get in a pack, Donruss kind of whiffed in their selection as the most recognizable rookies in the set (Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker, Bernie Williams, David Justice, and John Olerud) didn't receive the Rated Rookie status. 

There were also an early form of inserts in the set as packs might contain the Bonus MVP or Grand Slammers sets in addition to the regular base cards. Donruss kept up their awesome quality control in these inserts as well because I'm pretty sure this isn't John Smoltz:


Flipping through the set to send out some more duplicates is always a fun trip down memory lane.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 20: Let the roster shuffling begin

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 20: 4-1 over the Houston Astros

2018 Topps Heritage Richard Bleier

Thanks in part to some solid relief pitching and a clutch 2-run home run by Richie Martin, the Orioles took down the best team in the American League on Saturday. After potentially running into an out in the eighth inning that would have given them the lead, the Astros gifted them a run on an errant throw by shortstop Jack Mayfield. 

Martin then gave them a cushion by blasting a 2-2 pitch into deep left field. Miguel Castro, who had come in to get the last out in the eighth shut down Houston in the ninth to end the game. Since the bullpen debacle on Tuesday in Arlington, the relievers have actually been pretty solid. In 13.1 innings they've only surrendered 2 runs (unfortunately they were both in extra innings and cost them a couple of wins).

That success could pay off later this summer as it might help GM Mike Elias pull in some more young assets. Right now the numbers aren't too pretty, in fact they are downright brutal to look at. However, it could just take a few weeks of continued success to change the market on players like Bleier (everyone loves a lefty reliever), Castro and Mychal Givens. While they won't bring back Zack Britton-esque returns they could bring in a few b-level prospects. 

Castro in particular has looked sharp on this road trip. He's been throwing hard (he touched 99 MPH a few times) and most importantly, he's been throwing strikes. That type of electric stuff could make a team overlook the 5.35 ERA and 6 home runs surrendered in 33.2 innings. He's upped his K/9 (8.29 compared to a career 6.42) and lowered his BB/9 (3.74 compared to a career 4.40). Contending teams are looking for hard-throwing relievers who can strike people out. 

Don't expect any blockbuster deals this summer, most of the heavy lifting was done last season. It's going to be more of an incremental built this summer. Maybe some international bonus slot money, some low-level prospects or the always popular "cash considerations" could be sent back the Orioles way. 

What the moves will do is open up some roster spots for the kids down on the farm. If Bleier or Paul Fry get moved, that could open a spot for Keegan Akin to get some reps with the big club.

The recent run of injuries have also led to the possibility of playing time for position players. DJ Stewart and Dwight Smith Jr.'s trips to the IL led to Anthony Santander making his season debut (and a game-saving catch) and Stevie Wilkerson's return to the roster. If they are out for any real length of time, Austin Hayes could also see some time with the Orioles. Mark Trumbo's imminent return will complicate matters a bit in the short term future, but again, there are potential openings through the trade market.

Keon Broxton isn't exactly lighting the world on fire, but a team looking for outfield defensive depth and speed could be interested. Renato Nunez has shown streaky power from the right side and could be an option for an AL team. Should a contender lose a catcher in the next month or so, Pedro Severino has done all that is possible to entice a team to entertain his services.

So there are options, just not of the blockbuster variety.  I will post up a trade list at the end of the month for the potential chips that the front office has to work with. In the meantime, it's nice to see the Orioles hanging with some of the better teams in the American League. Overall, they are playing a little better which should lead to a few more of these posts (and a better shot at that over 59 wins bet).



Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 19: Deep in the heart of Texas

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 19: 12-11 over the Texas Rangers



1994 Score Jamie Moyer

We have our first reader submitted card! I'm 90 percent sure I own this card, but since I'm on the road right now I can't be absolutely certain. So, Saint Leo Mike happened to text this card to me and I'm using it.  (Normally if I'm heading out of town during the season I post a couple of drafts ahead of time, but I just plumb forgot this time.

The good news is that I was actually at the game! My first Orioles game of the season and it's in Arlington, TX. Globe Life Park, formerly The Ballpark at Arlington, is on it's last season of existence as a baseball stadium. With Link in town for work, I decided to meet up with him for a quick couple of nights of baseball.



What a night it turned out to be. The Orioles's bats, especially Pedro Severino, came alive and we were one triple from Dwight Smith, Jr. away from a cycle, something neither one of us has seen live before.

Of course, the Baltimore bullpen being what it is, the Orioles needed all 12 runs to secure the victory as reliever after reliever struggled to keep the Rangers off the scoreboard. The game ended with the tying run on second as Michael Gyvens struck out Elvis Andrus (kudus to the "Baby Shark" walk up music). The strikeout came on a slider in the dirt that skipped by Severino and all the way to the backstop.

As it was happening I was dead certain that Severino's throw was going to end up in right field and the Rangers were going to tie the game. Alas, the Orioles' bad luck extends only so far and the animated catcher made a perfect throw to Chris Davis to end the ballgame.

Walking back to the hotel, Link mentioned that he had never seen a game end like that. Therein lies the beauty of sports. Between the two of us, Link and I have been attending professional games for the better part of 60 years combined and still we see new things. 

There are also things, Holy Grail type of things, that we haven't seen yet. Neither one of us have seen a professional pitcher throw a no-hitter. Nor have we seen anyone hit four home runs in a game or for the cycle, both of which were in play last night.

I can't be sure, but I believe I've never seen a game live that ended with a 12-11 score, but based on the number of Devil Rays games I attended back in the late 90s and early 2000s I can't be sure.

Never knowing what's going to happen after you walk through the turnstile is part of the fun of going to a game. Every single time I've walked into a major league game I've hoped to see a no-hitter. It doesn't matter which team. In the back of my head there is as sense of anticipation until that first hit finds a safe landing spot in the outfield grass. Last night, it didn't take long for that anticipation to be quashed, but still we saw some fun stuff.

As I'm getting older, the exact details of games are fading away so I can't remember some of the accomplishments I saw in my younger days, if I saw any at all. There were a couple of Jake Arrieta appearances in 2015 were he flirted with no-hitters that were fun. Other than that, I would have to dig through the ticket collection to see what else I witnessed.

Now that I think about it there was also the 2015 NLDS Game 3 Cubs/Cardinals game that I attended (standing room only ticket). It was the first playoff game at Wrigley in years and one of the loudest games I ever witnessed in my life. The Cubs became the first team to hit six homers in a postseason game as they won their first postseason game at home since 2003.

I have that game recorded somewhere in my scorebook (currently tucked away in a box somewhere) and is one the reasons I keep score when I go to games by myself. As you can tell, my memory isn't the greatest so it's nice to look back and see the scoresheet. With that prompting I can remember the plays from there.

I can remember Derek Jeter's last appearance at Wrigley that went into extra innings and the applause that he got for what would be his "final at bat" growing smaller each time he came back up after the ninth inning. 

So yeah, it's fun to go to live games.  

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 18: Grand Slams are Fun

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 18: 9-6 over the San Francisco Giants


2018 Update Manny Machado Vintage Logo #35 of 99

It's not often that a team gives up five runs in the first inning and comes back to win. That, however, is the joy of the grand slam. After Andrew Cashner struggled with location and watched the Giants slap the ball around in the first inning, the Orioles came right back and put a six-spot on the board in the bottom of the inning. The highlight - a grand slam by Dwight Smith, Jr.


(Grand Slam comes at the 2:00 mark of the video)

It was great to see his father (and former Oriole) Dwight Smith so happy after the blast to right field.

It was not a pretty inning by either side, but that's probably what you should expect when the teams had a combined 39 and 72 record going into the game. There were wild throws and bobbled grounders, both pitchers were trying to live on the edges and falling behind on the count while racking up egregious pitch counts.

The following inning saw a few more runs skate across the plate. Former Orioles prospect Mike Yastrzemski hit his first career home run as the Orioles broadcast crew was talking to the man that let him go in spring training - General Manager Mike Elias.  In the bottom of the inning, our hero and savior Trey Mancini homered in the bottom of the inning to give the Orioles the lead that they wouldn't relinquish.

My favorite part of the game (granted I only watched the first two inning) was Jonathan Villar prior to Mancini's shot. He bunted to reach base. Then he stole second easily. Not satisfied with that, he stole third as well. It's nice to see a little bit of small ball still exists in this day and age of home runs and strikeouts.

Villar went 2 for 2 with two walks while Renato Nunez went 2 for 4 with a home run. While they may not bring a massive return, if they keep doing what they're doing, they could peak the interest of a club looking to add infield depth down the stretch and fetch the Orioles a couple of mid-tier prospects in return. 

Cashner gutted out five innings after his disastrous start and the bullpen actually held onto a lead as the Orioles picked up their third win in their last six games. Not quite a hot streak, but considering it took them seventeen games to win their prior three, it's a little something positive. Hopefully, that carries into the month of June and they can pick up a few more victories before the trade deadline rips through their roster once again.

According to Baseball Almanac Manny Machado has 8 career grand slams, including three in a month's span of time in 2017.


Monday, May 27, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 17: Hey, Remember Dwight Evans as an Oriole?

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 17: 5-3 over the Detroit Tigers


1992 Topps Dwight Evans

The Orioles made it two out of three over the holiday weekend as they dispatched the Tigers at home Monday afternoon. Dan Strailey, most likely not long for an Orioles uniform, picked up the win. It just so happens that the next photo queued up was of another major league player whose stint with the Orioles wasn't long remembered by most fans.

Following the "Why Not?" season of 1989 that saw the Orioles battle for the AL East title until the final weekend in Toronto, Baltimore stumbled back to fifth place in 1990. In order to boost the play of some of the young players such as Brady Anderson, Chris Hoiles and Leo Gomez,  the front office made some moves to bring in some veterans.

Mickey "Fruit Loops" Tettleton was traded to the Tigers for pitcher Jeff Robinson, Mickey Weston was traded to Texas for lefthander Paul Kilgus and they traded Curt Schilling, Steve Finley and Pete Harnisch to Houston for slugger Glenn Davis.  They also signed 19-year veteran Dwight Evans as a free agent.

Evans, then 39 years old, was coming off of a season where he slashed .249/.349/.391 for the Red Sox and battled back injuries that limited him to just 123 games, his lowest total since 1981. The Orioles envisioned him as a bit of a fulltime utility player, splitting time in the outfield, as DH and possibly at first base, a position he had played rarely over his Red Sox career.

Manager Frank Robinson said when the signing was made:

"We just feel like we can use the experience of a player of Dwight's caliber. We feel he can give us some production and some leadership"

General Manager Roland Hemond took his praise a bit further when talking about his $1.3 million signing:

"To have someone of his stature join our club is a big plus. He's such a fine all-round player, he's a future Hall of Famer"

The leadership wasn't enough to overcome the Orioles deficiencies. Despite a bit of a rebound season for Evans (.270/.393/.378 in 101 games) Baltimore finished in sixth place in 1991 in part due to the failure of Davis to stay healthy and the pitching staff's inability to get people out. He was in the line-up for the final game in Memorial Stadium (1-2 with a walk). A calf injury limited his time, but he did return to the outfield (where his six assists showed signs of the rifle of an arm that was a hallmark earlier in his career) for the Orioles throughout the year.

It was a good enough performance for the team to re-sign him in the off-season, but he wouldn't make it through the spring. Concerns about his health and the need to find spots on the roster for young players like Chito Martinez and David Sequi led to the Orioles cutting him in March. He retired after 20 seasons in baseball with 8 gold gloves and as one of only 10 players to have played in at least 100 games in 19 plus seasons.

He was also a really, really good blend of offense and defense. Bill James and others have made the case that he should be in the Hall of Fame for his merging of the two disciplines and with the voters leaning more to a more open eye to players who didn't have the magic numbers normally associated with Hall of Famers, maybe he'll soon join the growing list of aging veterans that wandered into a Baltimore uniform at the end of their career before being inducted in Cooperstown. I'm looking at you Vlad Guerrero, Lee Smith, Tim Raines, and Jim Thome.




Sunday, May 26, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 16: A long time a' coming

Orioles victory number 16: 9-6 over the Colorado Rockies


2007 Fleer Rookie Sensations Nick Markakis

It's been awhile since the Orioles tasted sweet victory. Baltimore went seven days and seven games between wins, but it felt a lot, lot longer. Since their 5-1 win against Cleveland last Friday they lost the last two games against the Indians, were swept by the Yankees (giving up 34 runs in the process), and were walked off by Colorado in their fist game in Coors Field in 15 years.

The pitching staff has been pummeled, Chris Davis is back on the bench for a "reset" and Joey Rickard had followed Cedric Mullins to the minors. Keon Broxton, acquired for international bonus slot money, announced his presence with authority as he turned on the first pitch he saw as a Baltimore Orioles and launched it half way to the moon in Friday's loss.

The offense, except for the two losses against Cleveland, hasn't been an issue during the most recent losing streak as they scored 5.4 runs a game against the Yankees and the Rockies.  The problem has mostly been the pitching and some boneheaded plays in the outfield that have led to early deficits.

It wasn't a very good week in Orioles land.  Still, there were some bright spots to be found. Renato Nunez rediscovered his swing as he hit .391 with five home runs over the last seven days. Over the same time Richie Martin hit .250. That may not seem impressive, but considering the young shortstop had bottomed out at .156 at the beginning of the losing streak it's nice to see him rebounding a bit. If he can get his offense to a replacement player level, his defense will make him invaluable to the Orioles.

Pedro Severino is wresting the starting role from Austin Wynns by hitting a career-best .275 with five home runs. The animated catcher has also gunned down 4 of 9 would be base stealers from behind the plate. The Hall of Fame isn't adding him to their speed dial list yet, but he is showing that he can be a full time player on a major league team.

While overall the pitching hasn't been great, there have been some encouraging signs. Josh Lucas pitched a scoreless three innings on Saturday night to lock down the win. Dylan Bundy looks like he is starting to adjust his pitching style a little bit. Over his last four starts he's only given up 4 home runs in 23.2 innings. Again, not great numbers, but way better than the 9 home runs over his first 28.1 innings. Andrew Cashner keeps grinding out innings and may be making himself attractive to a team looking for a fourth or fifth starter down the stretch.

The Orioles aren't in a great place right now. They have sold off most of their assets and are filling a lot of positions with stop gap players. The future isn't ready yet (they're still mostly dominating in Delmarva) so fans have to struggle through a bunch of losses with players who most likely aren't going to be around for long. 

It's going to be the small victories that sustain fans through this rough summer. And they are going to be few and far between. This probably won't be the only seven game losing streak that will be endured over the next four months. Hopefully, some of the small moves that Mr. Elias and company have made end up working out. It hasn't cost the Orioles much to see if Rio Ruiz (waivers), Dwight Smith, Jr. (international money) , Keon Broxton (international money) or Hanser Alberto (waivers) are major league players. If even one of them pan out over a whole season then it's a win for the Orioles.

At least the organization isn't deluding itself into thinking they are contenders. That kept them from beginning a rebuild following their success in the late 1990s. Instead of tearing things down they kept trying to add veterans to an already aging core of players (hey Will Clark!) and all it did was drag out the process. This time they ripped things to the ground level fairly quickly and began the overhaul. So instead of a 15-year gap between winning seasons (1997-2012) it's only a four or five year gap. 

In fact, the last time the Orioles won in Colorado prior to Saturday night's win was in June of 2004. They won on a ninth-inning grand slam by Brian Roberts. Jorge Julio picked up the save while B.J. Ryan had the win.  The Orioles finished 3rd in the AL East that year with a record of 78-84. There was hope that it was a turning point season following three straight seasons with 90+ losses. It wasn't. The core of talent was all 30 years old or order and the prospects (Larry Bigbie, Luis Matos, Val Majewski and the rest) never really panned out.

It would be another 8 seasons until the Orioles had a winning season and none of those players were on the roster. Rebuilds don't always going smoothly. So, stay fast Os fans. It will get better. In the meantime find those small victories to celebrate.




Saturday, May 18, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 15: The 1977 Topps Reggie Jackson Card Worth More Than My Car

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 15: 5-1 over the Cleveland Indians.


1977 Topps Baltimore Orioles Team Card



The Orioles beat the Cleveland Indians by mashing a couple of home runs. Speaking of home runs, one of the game's premier sluggers once mashed long fly balls in Baltimore before he became a Yankees superstar. No, not Babe Ruth or Brian Roberts. I'm talking about Mr. October himself - Reggie Jackson.

Three things happened in 1976: the United States of America celebrated their bicentennial, I was born, and Reggie Jackson played for the Baltimore Orioles. It seems that Os fans are a bit divided about his brief tenure at Memorial Stadium (he only played in 134 games after holding out for the first month of the season). It was so short that Topps decided not to recognize it the next season and he was featured in an airbrushed Yankees uniform.

Jackson built his career in Oakland, mashing home runs and striking out with the Athletics starting as a 21-year-old in 1967 and continuing for nine years. In 1976, the reserve clause was finally dying it's much needed death and following the season players would be able to file for free agency. Jackson had hit a league leading 36 home runs in 1975 and driven in 104 runs. With just one more season to go he was licking his chops at the thought of all of the money he could make on the somewhat open market.

A's owner Charlie Finley was not going to pay him anything close to what he was worth. So he traded him to the Orioles on April 2nd, 1976 to the Orioles along with Ken Holtzman and Bill VanBommell in exchange for Don Baylor, Paul Mitchell and Mike Torrez.

Holtzman went to Baltimore, VanBommell went to Charlotte (the Orioles Southern League affiliate) and Jackson went to .... Hawaii? While he sat in the shadow of Diamond Head and pondered sitting out the season, his agent worked with the Orioles to secure his services for a pretty good Baltimore team. This was team during the height of the Orioles American League dynasty having finished first in the AL East 1973 and 1974 and second in 1975.

Their defense was impeccable, especially with Paul Blair in center, Mark Belanger at short and Bobby Grich at second. Jim Palmer was the ace of pitching staff that included fellow 20 game winner Wayne Garland and future aces Scott McGregor, Mike Flanigan and Denny Martinez. Jackson was seen as the final piece to the puzzle that would put them over the top and back into the World Series.

Which, if he had played an entire season, might have happened. Instead, he didn't join the team until May and they were already chasing the Yankees at that point. After a slow start he eventually caught fire (as did his house) and helped the Orioles stay in the pennant race. Unfortunately it wasn't enough and they finished 10.5 games behind the Yankees.

While he never ruled out re-signing with the Orioles, they didn't exactly fit the description of what he was looking for in his future club when he talked to Sports Illustrated in August of that year:

"When I talk about life-style, I mean I want to go to a place with a liberal attitude. I don't like sectarian living—I think that's the word. I don't necessarily mean segregated living, I mean certain people living among themselves: Jews here, Poles there, blacks over there. I'm not interested in playing in any town that has that. I know I'm not crazy about playing in the South, and the Midwest would be impractical for me because all of my business interests are either on the West Coast or in the East...But there are other considerations. I'm not sure I'd fit in with teams like the Mets or the Dodgers that emphasize organization over individual personality."

That wasn't Baltimore in the 1970s (at least that's what I'm told). So the season ended and in November he signed with the Yankees and went on to be the "straw that stirs the drink" in New York. Despite not having suited up in a Bronx Bombers uniform, Topps had time to whip up an airbrushed masterpiece in time for the release of their flagship product.  That is why card number 10 in the 1977 Topps set looks like this:



Now, I told you all of this to get to my point. While the "official" 1977 Topps card featured him in a a "Yankees" hat, Topps did produce a card of him in his Orioles uniform. In fact, it is one of the rarest and most expensive Orioles cards ever to see the light of day.  Here it is:



Look at the big ol' Reggie smile! Yes, that is an actual card made by Topps, not some custom card made with a laptop and a laser printer. What it is, is a proof card that Topps made before printing the set. A proof card lets them check the design and see how it looks in real life. If they like the design features they fire up the printers and start churning out the real cards. 

According to Keith Obermann, Topps had three proof cards generated following the 1976 season: Jackson, Jerry Grote and Danny Thompson. These cards are never meant to see the light of day (or the collecting public) yet, according to Obermann, there are eight copies of the Reggie Jackson card floating around . The pictured above sold in auction for $60,000 in 2016. That's not a bad chunk of change for a card that is only 42 years old.

It's understandable that Topps would want to capitalize on Jackson's move to the Yankees, and New York fans were probably excited to see the new superstar in the hometown colors when they ripped their packs open, but it didn't help the Orioles fans who were looking for a little piece of proof that he had played for their favorite team. 

Orioles fans did have one small token of proof that he was with the team. The card that is featured at the top is the 1977 Orioles team card. On the far right of the second row is Mr. Jackson wearing the number 9 jersey he made famous during his short stint in Baltimore. See he was part of the team even if he isn't featured on the checklist on the back of the card.

It would be a long time until a mainstream manufacturer released another card with Jackson in an Orioles uniform. I remember seeing this 1988 Score Reggie Jackson card back when I was a young collector and thinking "Huh, I didn't know he played for the Os". 

About a decade ago, The Fleer Sticker Project had a pretty nice rundown of cards and photos that featured Mr. Jackson in an Orioles uniform. There honestly are more than I thought from that time frame, but are all kind of oddball or limited releases. Since then, a handful more have been produced  and there will probably be more as the card manufacturers capitalize on the nostalgia of us middle aged collectors. Still, if you're digging  through your collections and find one of these (the back will be blank) feel free to send it my way.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 14: The prospects, they are a coming

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 14: 5-1 over the Los Angeles Angels

2019 Bowman Chrome Prospects DL Hall

Even with the win on Sunday it wasn't a great weekend in Baltimore. Cold, rainy weather caused delays throughout the 3-game set, extending Orioles fans misery by hours. The first two games were carbon copies as Baltimore stayed competitive until the later innings only to see their bullpen falter. The pitching staff on a whole gave up four more home runs which, at the pace they're giving them up this year, isn't really that bad. Instead it was more of an inability to throw strikes and make quality pitches that led to their downfall.

A series like this will be repeated time and time again during this season. When they happen, it's reassuring to know that the prospects are down on the farm, and for the most part, doing a pretty good job. Even more encouraging is the fact that some of the pitching prospects are off to strong starts. Figuring out which prospects are going to excel is a little like trying to understand goaltending in hockey. At best, it's voodoo.

In regards to pitching prospects, it's doubly so. A kid drafted at 18 or even at 21 years-old is at best an unknown quantity. They may be lights out in college or throw 96 as a high-school senior, but that raw talent may not translate to the professional league. So it's always best to pile up as many prospects as possible and hope that a couple of them make it through the weeding out process.

Six of the Orioles top twn prospects according to MLB.com are pitchers. How many of them are going to stick in the big leagues? Maybe one or two? If you go back ten years to 2009, FanGraphs also had six pitchers in the Orioles top ten prospects.  Of those six, two are still pitching  and have had pretty good careers (Jake Arrieta and Zack Britton). Brian Matusz had a decent year or two, but the others Brandon Erbe, Kam Mickoliio and Troy Patton came and went like yesterday's newspaper.

The good news for Orioles fans is that the six pitchers currently ranked are showing various signs of success. Grayson Rodriguez (ranked 5th overall) is almost unhittable in Delmarva as he has struck out 41 batters in 26 innings while only walking 8 and giving up just 15 hits. 

After an impressive first year in 2018, Zac Lowther (#8) has moved up to Bowie and continues to find ways to get people out. The lefthander is walking a few more people this season (4.9 BB/9 versus 2.6 BB/9 last year) but is keeping the ball in the park.

Fellow lefthander Keegan Akin (#6) is striking out more than a hitter per inning as he navigates AAA ball for the first time. With the way the Orioles are blowing through pitchers this year, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could see some time with the big club at some point this summer.

The same goes for the man pictured above, DL Hall. The Orioles first round pick from 2017 is currently the highest ranked pitcher and third ranked prospect overall in the organization. His record last year at Delmarva (2-7) didn't reflect how well he pitched at the end of the season. A bump up in competition this year has him struggling a bit, but that's not to say he won't figure it out. He struggled a bit to start last season and then finished strongly. A lefty who can reach 95-96 on the radar gun is always going to get a chance to succeed. 

Hall is only 20 years old. There is a chance he could rocket through the minors and end up in an Orioles uniform by 2020. He could also flame out and spend the next 10 years bouncing around the minors. That's the beauty and frustration of prospects - you just don't know what's going to happen.

For now,  it's fun just to think about what could be. Especially in a season where the Orioles are going to struggle to win 60 games the prospects are hope for the future. Even if the national media doesn't rank the Baltimore prospects that high (only two made the top 100) they are still something different and intriguing for the local fans. Tracking their progress through the minors is a great distraction from what is happening on the field at Camden Yards this summer.



Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Orioles Victory Card 13: Just a photo of a card today

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 13: 4-1 over the Boston Red Sox

1997 Topps Todd Zeile

Sorry for the lack of an actual post. Dealing with insurance companies is always fun. Bet y'all forgot Zeile played for the Birds, didn't ya?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 12: A Good Sports Day

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 12: 3-0 over the Tampa Bay Rays


2018 Topps Dylan Bundy

That's right, we're going back to back Bundy's.  That's what happens when you shut down the best team in the league over 7 innings. The O's walked away with a 3-0 win thanks to Bundy's 7.1 innings of 3-hit baseball. He struck out 4, walked 1 and only threw 96 pitches to pick up his first win of the year. That's good stuff.

The first Saturday in May is always a fun day. Baseball is in full swing, the NHL and NBA playoffs are well under way, the Kentucky Derby runs and there is usually a big boxing match. Let's run down my sports day:

Liverpool wins. They kept their Premier League title hopes alive with a dramatic 3-2 victory over Newcastle. Late substitute Divock Origi, who replaced all-world star Mohamed Salah, headed in a free kick that glanced off of his marker and past the keeper. Salah was removed from the game after colliding with the Newcastle goalkeeper, setting up the dramatic late goal.

A long shot wins the Kentucky Derby after the favorite is disqualified. On a muddy track in Louisville Maximum Security appeared to win the race with ease, but an objection was raised. After 20 minutes of review it was determined that the betting favorite interfered with two horses and was disqualified. That meant 65-1 shot Country House was the winner. Chaos is always fun.

Boston and San Jose won their playoff games. They looked good from across the lobby of the hotel I was working in.

The Orioles won thanks to Bundy and Dwight Smith, Jr.'s long home run. It's always fun to beat the best team in the league. The win puts them on pace for 57 victories. It's a little behind what I need, but still within range.

Canelo Alvarez capped the night by outpointing Daniel Jacobs in Las Vegas. It was a close fight with the challenger Jacobs landing some big shots.Alvarez wasn't hurt and methodically picked apart his bigger opponent. With the win, Alvarez now holds the IBF and WBC Middleweight titles as well as the WBA Super Middleweight belt.

It was a great sports day for everyone!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Orioles Victory Card 11 : A tale of two prospects

Orioles Victory Number 11: 5-4 over the Chicago White Sox

2019 Topps Dylan Bundy


Baseball is a funny game and projecting success or failure of prospects is more or less a shot in the dark. Of all of the professional sports picking which player will succeed and which will be selling cars three years after they're drafted baseball has to be the toughest. It's also the longest journey for prospects. Kids drafted this summer may not make an impact for three or four years.  And that's for the ones drafted in the top two or three rounds.

Even if those prospects make it to the majors, year-in and year-out success can be tough to maintain. Just because someone was a first round pick doesn't mean he is going to win 20 games. Vice versa, just because a player is drafted in the 46th round doesn't mean he is going to be a career journeyman. Sometimes that 46th round pick can be leading a team in victories while the first round pick is just searching for a start where he doesn't give up a home run.

In 2011, the Baltimore Orioles made Dylan Bundy their first round pick and the fourth person chosen in the major league draft. He was the fourth pitcher taken following Gerrit Cole (Pirates), Danny Hultzen (Mariners), and Trevor Bauer (Diamondbacks). It took them all summer to sign the strapping righthanded high-school pitcher from Oklahoma, but with his skill set (two breaking balls and a bat-breaking 98 MPH fastball) the consensus was that he wouldn't be long in the minors.

That same year, way down in the 46th round - a round where favors are cashed in and family friends are drafted, the Atlanta Braves selected John Means, another high school hurler from fly-over country. According to Means, he was surprised at being drafted and was injured at the time the scout came out to visit him in Kansas City.  The scout actually advised against him signing at the time and so Means went to college. After a year at a nearby community college, Means ended up at West Virginia and then, after his junior season, was drafted in the 11th round by the Orioles in 2014.

By 2014, Bundy had already made his major league debut, a 2-appearance, 2-inning cup of coffee in 2012, been subject to a pitch count controversy, and was recovering from Tommy John surgery. He was also in the middle of a 5-year $6+ million contact. He was also a leading figure in the next wave of great Orioles pitchers that would return the organization to their former glory.

After sailing through the minors in his first year in professional baseball (from Delmarva to the majors in just one summer) the pain in his elbow kept him on the shelf for over a year. Recovery and rehab consumed all of 2013 and the beginning of 2014. He lasted just nine semi-productive appearances in Fredrick and Aberdeen before shoulder pain shut him down for the rest of the summer.

Means shared roster time with Bundy on that 2014 Aberdeen IronBirds. Following a brief stay in rookie ball, the left-hander made nine starts in Aberdeen and pitched fairly well, striking out 33 and walking only 2. He would spend the next four years working his way up through the system, never once making a top-prospects list for the Orioles, but also never getting to the point where he was in danger of being released. He gave up hits, but walked few and kept the ball in the park.

In 119 minor league starts from 2014-2018 Means had a pedestrian Win/Loss record (35 and 41) and an uninspiring 1.323 WHIP. There were some positives, he only walked 2 per game and gave up .8 home runs per game - a dreadfully important stat for pitching in the bandbox that is Camden Yards. With the Orioles in complete burn down mode, he earned a late-season call-up to the majors. He appeared in the first game of a double header against the Red Sox and gave up five runs on six hits in a 19-3 blowout. He didn't walk anyone but did give up a 3-run homer to J.D. Martinez.

Bundy had pitched in the game prior to Means' debut and lasted about as long (3 innings) and also surrendered a home run, a 2-run shot by Mookie Betts. He was saddled with the loss, his 16th of the season. The home run was the 39th out of 41 that he would give up during a trying season.

He was no longer the upper-90s power pitcher that had debuted with such promise six years earlier. That electric fastball, when left in the middle of the plate, was knocked around by hitters in ballparks all across the American League.  Bundy is still the de facto ace on the Orioles, now more by attrition than by sheer talent.

There are moments when he can look untouchable. He spots the fastball and then mixes in a sharp breaking slider that has hitters looking foolish. It's still there, that spark of a dominating pitcher, but all too often he labors around the strike zone. He fails to hit the corners and falls behind in counts. Then he is forced to come over the heart of the plate, and there it is extremely vulnerable. Despite several years in the majors he is still learning to pitch within his current talents. He now has to be more Greg Maddux than Roger Clemens.

Meanwhile, John Means has succeeded by being John Means. Mix speeds and pitches (according to FanGraphs he uses his change-up about 33% of the time and his fastball about 54% of the time with an 11 MPH difference between the two). He works fast and doesn't give up home runs. Well, at least until his last start when the White Sox tagged him for two bombs and jumped his hard hit percentage from 16% to 20%.

All of Means stats come with the usual small sample size warning. As he pitches more, the hitters will develop a "book" on him. His tendencies will become known and it's on him to figure out the next step, how to get major league hitters out when they know what you're throwing.

The summer is long, especially if you have any investment in the Orioles, and John Means may never win another game in the majors. Bundy could figure it out and become a dominant, soft-tossing ace.

For the record, John Means currently has zero officially licensed baseball cards. There are some minor league cards floating around, but he has yet to have one issued by Topps or even by Panini. On the other hand, according to the Trading Card Database, Bundy has 1,064. That will most likely change over the summer as Means will pop up Topps Update series and a handful of other releases.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Orioles Victory Card 10: Time to check on how the season is going


Orioles Victory Number 10: 4-3 over the Chicago White Sox

1991 Score Bob Milacki

May 11th.  That's when I wrote about the Orioles 10th win last year.  They're a solid seventeen days ahead of last years pace.  And that's with a decidedly worse roster. Not to mention they've already gone through their first round with the AL East.  While 10-16 and a last-place position in the standings isn't anything to write home about it is at least a little better than what we were expecting.

They're on pace for about 62 wins which translates to 100 losses. From a financial position I'm happy about the pace (yes I took the over on 59.5 wins before the season started) but not comfortable. There are more four game losing streaks in the future, so it would be nice if they offset them with a couple of three or four game winning streaks. If they can up their winning percentage to around .400, that would be fantastic.

Do they have the horses to get to that mark? Maybe? The offense seems to be coming around and they've had a couple of decent starts. Chris Davis has hits, Trey Mancini has shaken off his knee injury and a sophomore slump, Renato Nunez looks like a diamond in the rough as does Dwight Smith, Jr. Now, a couple of those names could end up being trade bait as the summer rolls around so there could be a little drop off post trade deadline, but in theory some of the holes could be filled by the next wave of Orioles stars.

Pitching has been a wild card. There have been some good moments and a lot of not so good moment. Andrew Cashner has 4 wins while John Means has 3. Cashner could be pitching his way to a contender while Means, an 11th round pick from 2014, could be the surprise of the season. Meanwhile Dylan Bundy doesn't have a win and continues to struggle with watching balls fly over the fence, they have no closer and they've used three position players out of the bullpen already.  So again, a mixed bag.

All of this means that the Orioles are right on pace with where everyone thought they would be. They are going to lose about 100 games. There are going to be disappointments, Cedric Mullins and Tanner Scott, to go along with the success stories.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 9: It's Brady Time!

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 9: 9-1 over the Chicago White Sox



2001 Upper Deck UD Reserve Brady Anderson

Chris Davis hit a home run yesterday. It was his second of the year and 242nd of his Orioles career. Currently he ranks 6th all-time in franchise history trailing only Cal Ripken, Jr., Eddie Murray, Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson and Andrew Jones. It is possible, with a halfway decent season, he could catch Jones who is 21 big flies ahead of him on the list.

The man pictured above, Brady Anderson, is, along with Davis, one of only two Orioles to have hit 50 home runs in a season.  Anderson, currently the VP of Baseball Operations, slugged 209 home runs during his playing days in Baltimore. Known for freakish workout habits and long side burns, Anderson was a fan favorite during his playing days.

In his prime (and when he wasn't out injured) he was the type of ballplayer that most teams would like to have on their roster. While his home run totals fluctuated from year to year he was a doubles machine, racking up 329 of them over his career. From 1992 to 2000 he never had a season with less than 25 doubles. He could steal bases as well. His 307 SBs are a modern day record for Orioles players (George Sisler had 354 but most of those were for the St. Louis Browns). His defense wasn't too shabby either.

For the past few years his role on in the organization has been a little nebulous. Some have referred to him as a "shadow GM" and his roles in acquiring players as always been somewhat unknown. It was a bit of a surprise that the new regime kept him on over the offseason. New GM Mike Elias seems to value his "institutional knowledge" and he claims that there is plenty of work to split up between himself, Anderson and the rest of the front office staff.

Could keeping Anderson on board be a public relations ploy by the new staff? Possibly, as Anderson was one of the most popular players over the past 30 years and cutting him adrift wouldn't have been a great move for a club that will have a cavalcade of new faces over the next few years. Fans do enjoy having a bridge from one generation to the next and Anderson can fill that role over the next few years. He's also probably on his way to becoming a GM at some point so why not stick around and learn some new tricks from Elias?

Due to the breakout nature of his one solitary 50-HR campaign (he never hit more than 24 in any other season), his statuesque physique, and the fact that his best year came in the mid-90s, his name was constantly associate with the steroid rumors of the day. There was never any definitive proof that he juiced and he adamantly denies it to this day. He never popped up in the Mitchell Report or failed a test or was caught with a bottle of Andro in his locker.

This isn't an argument for or against if he used steroids, just an enjoyment of the fact that he had a pretty good career for the Oriole and that for my generation at least, the number 9 will always be associated with Brady Anderson.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 8: It's Bowman Season!

Orioles Victory Number 8: 6-5 over the Tampa Bay Rays


2016 Bowman Ryan Mountcastle

While the Orioles were blowing and regaining leads against the best team in the American League, hundreds of card collectors around the globe were ripping open packs of brand new 2019 Bowman cards. It's where the prospects are. For those who focus on the future more than the present, Bowman is the set that really gets things going.

For me, I randomly buy some Bowman here and there and then forget about it. Every couple of years or so I'll go through what I bought just to make sure I don't have any hidden gems floating about as it sometimes takes a few years for prospects to pop and make it to the majors.

Take the card above. It's three years old and Mountcastle still hasn't made it to the majors. He is still regarded as one of the Orioles top prospects (MLB.com has him second as does Baseball Prospectus while Baseball America has him ranked third). Everyone agrees that the young man knows how to hit a baseball, but where exactly he's going to play on the field remains a mystery. Already in his young career he's lined up at shortstop, third base, and (starting this season) at first base.

It wouldn't be shocking to see him get some reps in the majors later this summer with eyes on him being a full-time major league player next season, but for this season he should stay in Norfolk and demolish AAA pitching.

So who makes the cut for this season's future prospects in the 2019 Bowman set? Well, according to the checklist on Beckett.com, the base set has two rookie cards (Cedric Mullins and DJ Stewart) along with veterans Trey Mancini and Mychal Givens. The prospects are:

Rylan Bannon - drafted in the 8th round in 2017 by the Dodgers and part of the Manny Machado deal. The infielder is ranked 23rd by MLB.com and started the season in Bowie.

Ryan Mountcastle - in Norfolk for this season.

Ryan McKenna - The speedy outfielder was picked in the fourth round of the 2015 draft and is currently ranked 7th overall by MLB.com. He's playing the outfield for Bowie this season.

Yusniel Diaz - The centerpiece of the Machado deal last season, the Cuban-born outfielder struggled after the trade initially, but started to pick things up towards the end of the season. He is the consensus top prospect in the organization and despite starting the season in Bowie, may crack the Orioles line-up by the end of the season.

DL Hall - Hey, a pitching prospect! The 21st pick overall in the 2017 draft, Hall is rapidly moving up through the Orioles system. He starts in Frederick this season, but may see time in Bowie as well. MLB.com has him ranked third overall behind Diaz and Mountcastle.


Last year's top pick, Grayson Rodriguez makes an appearance in the Bowman Scouts' Top 100 insert set while Dean Kramer, who had a cup of coffee with the Orioles last year, has a Chrome Prospect Autograph insert.

I doubt I'll invest too much into Bowman this year, probably just pick up a team set or participate in  a group break, but if you like speculating on young talent, this is the product to get.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 7: Chris Davis' Best Weekend in a Long, Long Time

Orioles Victory Number 7: 8-1 over the Boston Red Sox


2016 Topps Now Chris Davis (card number 13) . Print Run of 266

It's funny how quick time goes. The card you see above was "released" on April 11th, 2016. That's only three seasons ago. For Chris Davis it must seem like a lifetime. When this card was made available by Topps, Davis was coming off of a 2015 in which he hit 47 home runs, posted a 5.3 WAR and slashed .262/.361/.923. Even with 206 strikeouts that was pretty impressive.

It was also the first year of his brand new $161 million 7-year contract, the most expensive deal in Orioles history. The Orioles got off to a hot start that season. As the card mentions, the Orioles were 6-0 thanks to his game-winning home run. They would add one more win to run their franchise-record streak to 7 games.

The Orioles would go on to win 82 more games that year and finish second in the AL East which was good enough to qualify for the Wild Card play-in game. What happened there is best saved for another day.

As for Davis, he had an o.k. season. His slash line dropped to .221/.332/.792 and he only hit 38 home runs.  He still posted a 3.8 WAR and had 38 home runs. Not a great season (especially for $23 million) but it wasn't horrible. Unfortunately it would be the best season he would post for the next three seasons.

Almost three years to the date (April 13th, 2019) Topps produced another Topps Now card of Chris Davis. This card celebrated the fact that Davis had managed to pick up his first hit in 54 at-bats, a streak that started way back in September of 2018.

Not quite as memorable of an accomplishment.

In today's victory, Davis continued his slow crawl back from the depth of Hell with his first home run since August 24th, 2018.

  It was a vintage Chris Davis home run, gone from the moment it cracked off off the bat. It was also his hardest ball hit of the season:
So, is Chris Davis back? Not in the sense of the 2013-15 Chris Davis where he was one of the most feared power hitters in the league. Is he back in the sense of providing at least replacement level numbers? Possibly.

He finished off the series against the Red Sox by going 4 for 12 (.333), driving in six runs, with two doubles and a home run. He did strike out four times (including twice on Monday), but most of the balls he put in play were pretty well struck. There are signs that perhaps he is poised to have a better season than last year despite his slow start. His current BABIP is .125, yet his average exit velocity of balls put in play is 90.4 MPH and he has a hard hit percentage of 50%. That means he's making solid contact but it hasn't been translating to hits until this weekend.

At some point all of these hard hit balls have to start falling in. He's also making more contact than in the past. While we're still well within the small sample size realm, his 34.3% strike out rate is the lowest since 2016. So if he's striking out less and hitting the ball harder, that should translate to more hits. Hopefully.

It's unlikely that he ever approaches the highs of 2013 and 2015, but if he can get back to the 2016-type of production that would be enough to stay in the line-up and help the 2019 Orioles win more than their expected shares of games.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 6: Tim Nordbrook and Bobby Gritch Entwined in Free Agency

Orioles Victory Number 6: 9-5 over the Boston Red Sox



1976 Topps Tim Nordbrook


Today's card comes courtesy of a trade. Now that I'm settled back in and have access to the complete collection, the trading has picked back up. Two trades in ten days is pretty good for me. In exchange for a bunch 2019 Topps duplicates, Trading Card Database member madams30 sent this card and thirty-nine other cards I needed from Texas.

While the five 1976 Topps he included were the hook, the nine 1988 Topps may have been the most important. Why? Because they completed my 30 year quest to complete that set. I quest that, if I'm not mistaken started with a box of cards purchased from Price Club (for you young kids, that's what Costco was before it was Costco). It was the first time I purchased an entire box of cards and if I'm not mistaken I did consume all of the gum that came in the backs.

That box had 540 cards (36 packs of 15 cards each) and most likely included just a few duplicates. That means it took me 30 years to knock the remaining 250 or so cards left on the checklist.  Speaking of the checklist, I'm sure more than a few of them have cards marked off on them.

Pretty sure Tony Armas completes the collection. Could be wrong though.


That's enough about 1988 Topps, let's get back to Nordbrook. He was born in Baltimore in 1949 and drafted by his hometown club in the ninth round of the 1970 draft (18 spots after Rich "Goose" Gossage).

He made his way through the minors in four years, highlighted by a .287/.364/.685 slash line for the Rochester Red Wings in 1974. That earned him a quick six game call-up in 1974 and another 40 games in 1975 as a back-up infielder. He was a solid defender but he wasn't going to unseat Bobby Grich and Mark Belanger.

He appeared in 27 more games for the Orioles in 1976 before being sold to the California Angels in September of that year. He ended his Baltimore career with a slash line of .183/.301/.498. He bounced around for another three seasons, seeing time with the Angels, White Sox and Blue Jays before playing his last game in 1979.

Oddly enough, Nordbrook and Grich would intersect again post-Baltimore as they were both part of the inaugural MLB free agency class in 1976. Part of the reason the Angels bought Nordbrook from the Angels in 1976 was because he was set to be a free agent. Back in those days, teams were limited to signing only two free agents. The exception was that they could replace the number of players they lost in free agency. The first two signees for California were Don Baylor and Joe Rudi. With Nordbrook choosing free agency, that opened up a third slot for the Angels.

That slot went to California-native Gritch. As part of the first free-agent class Gritch could be considered the first free agent to spurn the New York Yankees. They wanted him, and supposedly offered him a $2.2 million contract. He turned it down to play in front of his parents in California. The Yankees didn't sulk for long, they used that money to sign Reggie Jackson. That turned out ok.

Also of note. While this card shows Nordbrook wearing the number 43, he changed it late in 1975. The new number - 8. He and Dave Skaggs would be the last players to wear it before a certain lanky infielder from Havre de Grace, Maryland would make it famous.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 5: All hail our new hero Trey Mancini

Orioles Victory Number 5: 12-4 over the Oakland A's



2017 Topps Update Trey Mancini

The headlines from yesterday's game will all be about Chris Davis and his ongoing streak of futility. Lost in the schadenfreude of his 49 consecutive at bats without a hit was that Trey Mancini went 3-for-3 with 2 runs and 2 runs batted in. His first inning home run, the fifth of the season, ignited the scoring outburst that led to victory.

With the mass exodus of players and Davis' current hardships, Mancini has emerged as the face of the franchise. Despite entering just his third full season in the major leagues he is the veteran leader of the team. A stellar rookie season was followed by a less than successful sophomore year. Was it a product of his knee injury? Or, was it Mancini reverting back to a norm?

Honestly it's hard to say. This is a player that has barely cracked the 300 game mark in the majors. He is 27, which is to say he should be in the middle of his prime playing days. It also puts him in an interesting position. He's not young enough to be considered a prospect, but he isn't exactly a grizzled veteran.

So what do the Orioles do with him? Do they build around him or do they trade him off for more assets. He may be on the older side, but he is also an extremely affordable player who has power. He has 56 home runs in the 318 games hes played in. He also hits a lot of line drives. For a power hitter his average launch angle is 6.4. Usually a power hitter will be in double digits (Aaron Judge is at 11.8 this season). A team needing right-handed power could be interested him especially since he's under team control for another three seasons.

Of course, all of those reasons are why the Orioles should keep him as well. He's their best player and he's affordable (he's earning just $575,000) and isn't blocking anyone in the system. In fact, he's most likely best as a first baseman so he's kind of blocked by Davis. Besides the fans (all 6,585 that showed up on Monday) need someone to rally around during these trying times.

It seems he wants to embrace the role of leader. Speaking to NBC Sports in spring training he said,

"I’m definitely trying to do my best to be a leader on the team and be somebody that the community can look up to as well." 

He can do that by being an example to the younger players on the team, by remaining a professional no matter how trying the season may be. He can also do it by being the best hitter on the team. It's going to be a long season, but at least Trey Mancini gives the fans a reason to keep going to the games.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 4: A little behind...so here's your card

Orioles Victory Number 4: 5-3 over the Toronto Blue Jays


2002 Upper Deck MVP Tony Batista

The next game isn't over so I still made the deadline. The ol' day game after a night game got me.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 3 - David Hess Will Lead the Way

Orioles Victory Number 3: 6-5 over the Toronto Blue Jays



2018 Topps Chris Tillman

Seriously, I'm obviously having trouble keeping up with these wins. No off days, actual morning shifts and a two hour time differential is wrecking havoc on my free time writing. Oh and I was recapping the Lightning victory over the Senators as well.  It's hard to watch two games at once when you're supposed to be keeping track of one of them.

So I missed David Hess' 6+ inning, bullpen-saving start against the Blue Jays.  The Orioles really needed a starter to work deep into a game in order to save some arms. It shouldn't be so shocking that he worked into the seventh inning, he did work at least six innings in seven of his starts last year. Hopefully, he can keep that rolling this year and become one of those unsung, back-of-the-rotation innings-eaters that help keep a team around .500.

Trey Mancini and Jonathan Villar keep hitting and Chris Davis managed a walk (baby steps). The bullpen did enough to hold the win, even if it was a bit of a Katie-bar-the-door ending. Brandon Hyde kept true to his closer-by-committee stance as Richard Bleier became the third pitcher to pick up a save. 

Hopefully they keep finding a way.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Orioles Victory Card # 2: Well...this was unexpected

Orioles Victory Number 2: 7-5 over the New York Yankees


2002 Fleer Ultra Brook Fordyce

If you had the Orioles taking two out of three from the Yankees on opening weekend, well you're better at this than I am. I was thinking one of three would be good and if they were at least competitive for all three, but lost, that would be ok as well.

Instead, timely offense, Yankee mistakes and a cavalcade of relievers all led to the O's finishing up the weekend in second place, mere percentage points out of first. This could be the high point of the season (if you're a glass half empty person) or the beginning of a super fun summer (if you like the glass being half full).

One of the fun surprises was the animated actions of Pedro Severino. It was a delight seeing him pump his fist after strikes and emphatically position his glove to remind the pitcher where he wanted the pitch to be.  As a former catcher (through high school, at least) I remember there were certain pitchers that needed a little extra support or encouragement. Either they didn't pay attention that much or were quick to get down on themselves if something went wrong.

Watching him pump up Dylan Bundy throughout the first four innings was great. Hopefully, that's something that can continue throughout the season. As for Bundy, there were some positives to take from his start. He only made it through 3.2 innings, but he did strike out 7 and more importantly did not allow a home run. That's something that only happened in 9 of his 31 starts last season and only once in his last 15 appearances. 

The five walks were a bit of a bummer and the biggest reason he couldn't make it out of the fourth inning, but it's still a positive start for him. There were five flyballs hit against him, but nothing that came close to leaving the yard. That's quite an accomplishment against the Yankees. He'll get to face them in his next start in Camden Yards this weekend, hopefully the results are the same.

John Means bailed the pitching staff out with a solid 3+ innings of work. He racked up 5 strikeouts of his own by mostly featuring his change-up. It was working so well that he basically broke Giancarlo Stanton  with a change-up to end the jam the Orioles were in in the fourth inning. I'm all for him rolling through the AL East throwing his change-up 45.6% of the time. Just keep throwing it until they hit it.

On to the Blue Jays!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number One: We're back, baby!

Orioles Victory Number One - 5-3 over the New York Yankees


2000 Upper Deck HologrFX Stars of the System Matt Riley

Welcome back to the Orioles Victory card series!  Now entering it's second season of existence, the O's Victory Cards will celebrate every win the 2019 Orioles manage to pull off with a photo of one of the cards in my own personal collection. 

Last season I was only able to showcase 47 cards, for all things holy hopefully there will be a lot more on display this year. It's an entirely new team (except for Chris Davis) and hopefully the start of a new era for Baltimore baseball. 

As for me, it's also a new start. Whereas every post last year, well just about, came from Pittsburgh, my wife and I have relocated a little further west. These posts will now originate from Salt Lake City, Utah. Yup, just a bit of a change. For the first time in my life I am living in the mountains and, more importantly, in a town that doesn't have major league baseball or the NHL.  It's going to take some adjusting.

The good news is, now that I'm in the mountain time zone, most east coast games are over by about 7:30pm.  Not too many late nights spent staying up to watch sports. Which could be a good thing because I believe there will be days where my work shift begins at 6:00am.  Yea, working a swing shift schedule!

As for the Orioles, they have new players, new front office management and a new manager. They also have lowered expectations. So, any wins are nice, but wins against the Yankees are doubly nice. On Saturday, deploying an "opener" for the first time, the Orioles managed to beat the big, bad Bronx Bombers. 

Newcomer Nate Karns worked the first two innings and then Jimmy Yacabonis worked the next three. A cavalcade of relievers worked the rest of the game with Mike Wright, Jr. picking up the save. Is this a sustainable model of success? Probably not, but the beauty of lowered expectations are that they can try stuff out without any pressure to succeed.

The defense has looked pretty decent so far which should help their pitching staff out. The situational awareness of the fielders seems to be be miles above where it was last year and they're making the plays they need to, when they need to.

The offense is a little shaky, that's for sure. Not sure where the power is going to come from other than Trey Mancini and Davis. Perhaps this will be a return to "small ball". They showed a willingness to run in spring training and a Dwight Smith, Jr. stolen base helped plate some runs today. Maybe we'll be in for a summer of watching them spray the ball all over the yard and then scamper around the bases forcing other teams to make mistakes.

Whatever we're in for, thanks for tagging along and giving me an excuse to show off some of my cards.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The First Card of 2019

I got a bit of an early start on the 2019 set this year. Why? Because I actually finished off the 2018 set in a reasonable time. Yup, three whole days before the 2019 set was released.  I happened to be in Target the other day so I picked up a fat pack and ripped it open. Here is the first card that greeted me:




Ahh Pedro Strop. The only player still standing from the infamous Jake Arrieta deal. Yup, five years after Strop and Jake Arrieta were shipped to Chicago for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger, only Strop remains with the team he was traded to. Arrieta had a few decent years in Chicago before absconding to Philadelphia as a free agent. Feldman made all of 15 appearances as an Oriole before going to Houston. Clevenger hung around a little longer, playing in parts of three seasons with Baltimore before being traded to Seattle in the Mark Trumbo deal.

Strop and his lopsided cap have been a fixture in the Cubs bullpen for six seasons now. He's been a set-up guy and a closer.  He's been a workhorse for Chicago, appearing in 361 games during his tenure there.

What does this mean for the Cubs? Probably nothing. The last two years a Phillie has been my first card of the season and it didn't mean anything for them. What does it mean for me? Well, that's simple. The release of 2019 Series One means that baseball is almost here! In just a few weeks pitchers and catchers will report for Spring Training and then the fun is under way.

Speaking of fun, here is the first Orioles card of the year.



Hey Dylan Bundy. It's one of the three starters that the Orioles have on their roster. That's cool. After some speculation he may be moved in the off-season, Bundy looks like he'll be the anchor of the rotation that is still in the process of being decided. After him, the only locks are Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb. Spring Training will be an open audition for the remaining two spots. That's going to be fun, right? {Insert Krusty the Clown groan here}

It might be bad baseball in Baltimore this year, but it's still baseball! 

As for the design of this year's set. I like it. It's not one of my favorites of recent releases, but I'm glad they toned down the white on the front of the card. The border along the right and bottom of the card do give it a bit of a reverse-1982 look. The back of the card isn't bad, but the border and use of a gray background kind of makes the card look like it was cut off or off center.



Not a bad look for a base set. As for the inserts...yeah, ok. They're fine. My usual complaint of their being way too many stands. The 1984 set is a fine set to update with current players, but doesn't hold the same nostalgia as the 1983 set.