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December 30, 2010

O's getting some positive press

As I patiently wait for the Orioles to get a decision from reliever Kevin Gregg and to try to finalize negotiations with free agent first basemen Derrek Lee or Adam LaRoche, I figured I'd pass along an interesting take on the club from Sports Illustrated's Joe Sheehan. Sheehan made his predictions for the club for an article on SI.com and his No. 2 prediction concerned your Baltimore Orioles.

Sheehan wrote: "The Orioles will be next year's Padres. San Diego's storybook run ended just shy of success, the team falling to the Giants on the final day of the season to miss the NL West title and the postseason by one game. The Orioles will meet the same playoff-less fate in the loaded AL East, but not before getting the attention of the industry with their impressive set of young pitchers. Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta are already in the majors, and top prospect Zach Britton could join them by midseason. The offense isn't yet ready for prime time, though it does include the underrated Nick Markakis and forgotten Matt Wieters. Look for the Orioles to finish above .500 for the first time since 1997."

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Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 10:09 AM | | Comments (90)
        

Comments

From Sheehan's lips to God's ears!

I agree with the prediction that the O's will achieve a .500 or better record this season. Of course, injuries could derail the O's, or any other team for that matter, but the O's look ready to hit .500 this year. And if they look competitive, they will be much more attractive to next year's free agents.

I really think the birds are going to surprise a lot of people this year. I like the moves they've made so far, and when they sign a 1B, the lineup will look legit. If the pitching comes together like it has the potential, I really think they have a shot at a wildcard this year.

Let's hope an SI article doesn't carry the curse of the cover. Not being included in the discussion of cellar dwellers would be a refreshing change.

Pitchers don't bat in the AL. How will the O's overcome 150-200 run deficiency on offense? We desperately need some power to drive in more runs or forget about contending.

Nice to hear somebody saying something positive about the Orioles for a change. I think our chances will look even better once we finally sign a first baseman and a few pitchers. But my guess is, all quiet on the Warehouse front til after New Year's...

Can't wait to hear from the waynes, gils, not brooks's, and the others who think the Orioles will finish 0-162 this season.

If they were to give Carl Pavano the 3 year contract that Pat Gillick would give him if were here and the Give Adam LaRoche the 3 year contract that Gillick would have awarded him a month ago at this point they could see that .500 mark. Unfortunately LaRoche will end up with another team. Team will end up around .475 winning percentage. Too much competition in AL east

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Jeff Z's reply: Yeah David, look at all those GMs lining up to give Adam LaRoche a 3-year deal.

Who is going to play center field when Adam Jones gets injured this year?

A 500 record if all current players perform and an rub producer in the middle of the order is obtained. I suggest they sign Russell Branyan if the current candidates wont take the O's offers.

Why doesn't McPhail realize that if he were to sign LaRoche for 3 years, that when he signs Prince Fielder for 7 years / 21 mil per year in 2012(yeah right!), that LaRoche will still be very tradable? The team has no trade chips with which to make the team better in the future.

I understand most teams are pretty well set with a few teams holding spring training tryouts for the final spots on the roster, and Joe Whoeverheis has to come up with something for Sports Illustrated. But to make any prediction -- good or bad -- about the Orioles in their current state is as silly as going all-in without looking at your hole cards.

I wonder if any other team has as many important roles to fill as the Orioles -- but not enough to look it up.

It's a nice, safe prediction, though. Really. If the Orioles actually record their 82nd win sometime in 2011, Joe Whatshisface can trumpet his genius until he goes hoarse. If the Orioles finish where the smart money would be placed right now (assuming an even money bet), only a scant few might remember such a prediction ever took place.

I'm a believer, too -- a believer in patterns. And so far, this one looks all too familiar.

just give be an offense like we had in 2008 when Huff and Mora had banner seasons and we had the worst pitching in basaball and Tremblay.
With this pitching staff and Showalter and that offense we would be a wild card , for sure. Sign a credible 1b like Larouche and Gregg and we can compete.

As much as I'd like to agree with this prediction, I can't because it is so absurd. The Orioles were not even close to 4th place in 2010, yet they are suddenly going to climb at least 3 spots in the division to win the wild card? Achieving a .500 record in 2011 is a long shot for the Orioles and would be an incredible achievement, but to predict that the Orioles have any shot of even being in the running to make the playoffs next season is delusional.

I have been pridicting for the last several years the young pitching staffs would bring the O's a .500 season. My Yankee friends just laugh at me. I have finally given up hope for this team. Hey, at least it is easy to get tickets for the games!

I'll hold onto my predictions until Spring Training is well underway.
The O's under Showalter played beyond anyone's expectations for a full third of a season last year, and with Reynolds they have added significantly to the offense. So, I am cautiously optimistic for this season, but so much can happen between now and the opening day (nobody expected BRob to miss most of the season at this time last year), predictions on their final standing at this point are nothing but balloon juice.

Hey, why can't the O's turn it around? It's all about the pitching and ours is coming together.
The offense has to improve and the additions of Reynolds and Hardy should hopefully help. We still need a 1B and maybe Lee is a better solution than Laroche, especially if Laroche wants 3 years. Who hoes he think he is and who else is going to pay him for that long? Maybe he deserves to sit around longer!

spedden, why in the Lord's name would you give Fielder seven years at 21 per? That guy is a walking poster child for a bad contract to be. The Phillies are already regretting the deal they gave to Howard, the Cubs think about jumping off the Hancock building every time they look at Soriano in LF and how much they still have to pay him, and the Yankees kick themselves every day for giving ARod all those years.

Fielder for 7/160 is a franchise breaker, he won't last. There are real concerns about his conditioning, he's got the worst body in baseball. C'mon, be serious.

I'd much rather have LaRoche for three years, at the end of the deal, he'll only be 34. Heck, I'll even go four with him, he's a good risk. People here wanted the Orioles to go four with Dunn. I will grant you that LaRoche is older than Dunn, he was born three days before Dunn in November of Orioles' Magic year 1979. And LaRoche figures to have better longevity than Dunn and especially Fielder.

So much here I don't understand, so little time to learn.

Hey Jeff Z,

I do appreciate the positive tone from our friend @ SI.com, Joe Sheehan.

However, I do feel we need to make additional moves in order to have some comfort level with Joe's bold and positive toned prognosticating.

Now, this has been driving me "Nuts" for sometime now and now today even more then usual. Jeff Z, can you explain to me the special reason as to why the Orioles want to pay Kevin Gregg more in one year (10 million) then he has earned in his whole entire career at least according to Baseball Reference (9.9) Million? I find this, well quite frankly absurd! So if you can answer this for me, I would much appreciate it!


http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/greggke01.shtml

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Jeff Z's reply: The O's aren't commenting on their specific targets, but they obviously want the player and think he is worth what they're offering. They also see upgrading the bullpen as the best way to improve their rotation, considering the available starting pitchers out there. Look, I'm not a huge fan of the move either, but Gregg did save 37 games last year. If he doesn't take the two for $10 or whatever the O's offer is now, he'll get something similar from somewhere.

The O's had better get a first baseman signed soon and They need a veteran starter.Seems a lot of teams are signing pitching but here are the O's idly watching.O's gotta pull trigger soon Where are McFail and angelos?

OTOH, there's concern elsewhere that Markakis may not be underrated but for some unfathomable reason, declining.

It is sad to see how happy we are with a 500 team, very sad that we still have Peter as a owner.

As much as it sounds nice to hear something different than another 4-5th place prediction, I think that's a little over the top. 3rd is certainly withing reason but the Sox and Yanks won't end up with the catastrophic number of injuries that would make us leap frogging one of them possible.

The bullpen still has WAY too many holes in it. We've got 3 relievers that should actually be in the show.

The O's will finish 0-162 this season.

Just kidding, ken.

Don't worry about wayne coming over here, buddy. He's too busy running his fake empire of undisputed truth over at Schmuck's blog.

Sure, old wayne says that his musings are just his "opinions", but with how often he throws out the "F" word (I'm referring to the word "fact", get your minds out of the gutter), it's beyond obvious that he believes he's the authority on everything Orioles.

Anyway...

I'm happy to see the O's getting some press, but the fact that Sheehan mentioned Chris Tillman in his article is telling of the possibility that Sheehan doesn't know much about the Orioles.

When comparing the 2011 Orioles to the 2010 Padres, there are three things you have to keep in mind: Adrian Gonzalez, Heath Bell and the Padres ridiculous bullpen.

Who's going to hit .300 with a .400 OBP and 30 home runs for the Orioles?

Who's going to save 45 games and post a sub-2.00 ERA for us?

And past Bell, the Padres had three other relievers who threw 55+ innings and posted ERA's south of 3.25 (Luke Gregerson, Ryan Webb, Mike Adams). And Edward Mujica was no slouch, posting a 3.62 ERA in 70 innings.

As Sheehan notes in the paragraph after his O's prediction, the Padres were a special case in 2010. Their out of nowhere season was based on that unbelievable bullpen and a couple of marginal players putting up solid seasons. Not to mention big help from Adrian Gonzalez.

Could the O's put up a season like that? Sure...

...Arrieta could be 2011's Clayton Richard...

...Bergesen could do the same...

...Reynolds could hit 35 homers...

...Markakis could benefit from having a few other bats in the lineup...

...Wieters could really break out...

...Hardy could stay healthy enough and put up a solid offensive year...

...Accardo could burst back onto the scene like he did in 2007...

...JJ, Berken, Gonzalez and Koji could stay healthy all year and dominate from the back end of the bullpen...

...all of that could happen. But that's way too many IF'S for me to lay down a prediction that the O's will finish over .500, especially since they're playing in the AL East, not the NL West.

Jeff Z's reply: Yeah David, look at all those GMs lining up to give Adam LaRoche a 3-year deal.
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Jeff, I think the point is AM cannot get deals done. We can't (or aren't really willing to sign) Type A or B players. And the longer we dragout the LaRouche deal, the worse we look as an option for other players to come here.

We all know that we won't get anyone player asking for more then a $60 million deal to play here. For those thinking we will sign Prince Fielder need to lay off the crack pipe. AM will offer a low ball deal like we offered Mark Texeria just so fans think they are trying. AM did it with Adam Dunn this year. But to drag out a 3 yr $21 million deal looks really bad on our part.


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Jeff Z's reply: Guess it depends on how you view the player. I wouldn't give Adam LaRoche three years at $21 million or anything close to that. However, I would have made a more lucrative offer to Martinez and Dunn because I think those guys still could be difference makers in the AL East. I don't feel same way about LaRoche.

The Orioles have enough offense to compete. IT'S THE PITCHING. If the O's had four 15-20 game winners like they did in the late 1970s they wouldn't need anymore offense. Sheehan is right - IF the pitching matures like some of us think it will the Orioles will compete. One further point - the Yankees are in trouble. Haven't any of you been following their situation? They lost out on Cliff Lee and Petite will probably retire. Their pitching is definitely down. Their offense is aging. I predict the Orioles will place ahead of the Yankees this year. Let's meet again in September and see who's right!

Eric -

Sheehan wrote, "The Orioles will meet the same playoff-less fate in the loaded AL East, but not before getting the attention of the industry with their impressive set of young pitchers."

ken -

You're absolutely right that seven years would be nuts for Fielder, especially since no one else is going to bid that high.

Not a single team in the NL is going to go over five years for Prince and pretty much all of the big-spending AL teams that would require Prince's services already have a first baseman (New York, Boston, Detroit, Anaheim, Chicago).

My guess is that, if the Orioles are serious about Fielder next winter (and that is something that I highly doubt), they'll be bidding against the Rangers, A's, Blue Jays, and maybe a few desperate NL teams like Washington, Houston, LA and Atlanta (depending on what Freddie Freeman does in 2011).

What makes the most sense, at least from a team's perspective, is to sign Fielder for five years guaranteed, to front-load the contract and to tack on a vesting option for a sixth year. Of course, I doubt Boras/Fielder would be interested in front-loading, since being the highest paid player is what a lot of these guys are about.

If Fielder bounces back in 2011 (his average and slugging were way down in 2010), and hits 30+ homers with a .280/.400/.570 line, you can bet that Scott Boras will be out to match Mark Teixeira's 8/$180 deal. And Boras can talk all he wants, but there's no way Fielder is getting eight years. He's just going to have to settle for matching the AAV, which is $22.5 million.

All of that said, a fair deal for Fielder, if he puts up a big year in 2011 would be something like this:

Five years, $125 million guaranteed:
Year 1: $21 million
Year 2: $23 million
Year 3: $24 million
Year 4: $25 million
Year 5: $25 million
Year 6 Option: $25 million, $7 million buyout

Will someone give Fielder that kind of contract? Probably. Will it be the Orioles? Probably not.

Always great to hear a national scribe share my always upbeat enthusiasm. I say the O's offer Lee $9 - $10M, in the neighborhood of what Pena received. He finished strong and unless they have knowledge of an injury, he could be the pickup of the off-season and give us the RBI bat we need to win, or better yet avoid, those one run losses.

The Orioles should trade Felix Pie to the Red Sox for Adrian Gonzalez and put Gonzalez at 1B. Then, they should sign Gonzalez to an extension, possibly for 6 years/$88 million. The Orioles should then trade Chris Tillman to the Brewers for Ryan Braun and Corey Hart (face it, we are not going to get Fielder). Braun has several more years on his contract, so he would be locked in long term. Then, they should put Braun in LF, while using Hart and Luke Scott as the DH. These trades would certainly improve the Orioles, but I doubt that Macphail would ever pull the trigger on these common sense moves.

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Jeff Z's reply: I can only hope that you hide your sarcasm well, Ben.

Other than predicting that the Yankees will be in the playoffs, there is virtually no credence to anyone's prognostications about baseball, especially nearly three months before the season starts. That said, it is great to read that somebody besides the obvious "orange kook-aid drinkers" (I hate that term) think the O's have a legit chance to make some noise next season. I happen to think so, too. However, "playoffs? We're talkin' about playoffs?" That might be a bit far-fetched. Nothing, however, would delight me more than to finish ahead of the Yankees in the AL East. I wouldn't even particularly care if the O's were 4th and the Yankees 5th.

Jeff, I am serious about the trades that I proposed for the Orioles. They would be beneficial for all the clubs involved, especially the Orioles.

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Jeff Z's reply: That's fine Ben, but Felix Pie for Adrian Gonzalez? You willing to throw in Brian Matusz, Adam Jones and Chris Tillman, too? Tillman for Ryan Braun and Corey Hart? If Andy proposed any of these deals, the other GM would hang up on him so quick his head would spin. Let's try to be a little realistic here.

Jeff -- Poor Bergy gets no respect. Sheehan talks about the Orioles'
"impressive set of young pitchers", but leaves Brad out of the mix. He always seems to be the odd man out when it comes to giving props to the rotation, but I predict he's going to be getting more recognition starting in 2011.
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Eric -- Like you, I don't see it likely that the Orioles will contend next season, but I disagree that it's a long shot for them to finish .500.

They had the best record in the AL East after Buck took the helm, and most of the games they played over the last two months were against divisional foes who were fighting to see whether they'd make the playoffs or not. In other words, they were well over .500 over that span, going 34-23 against some very tough competition.

Consider, too, that so far in the off season only Boston has done much to improve itself. The Yankees are close to striking out in their efforts to upgrade or (at least maintain) their rotation (Lee going to the Phillies, Greinke to the Brewers and Pettitte pondering retirement).

The Rays's offense has to take a hit after losing Crawford and Pena, as they don't have the deep pockets of New York or Boston to make easy replacements (if they had, they wouldn't have let Crawford go). And the Blue Jays haven't done much either, though are expected to be agressive going after remaining free agents; they had a solid 2010, but everything broke their way and most experts don't anything even close to other 50+ season from their middle-of-the-lineup threat, Bautista (think Brady Anderson).

So, aside from the Red Sox, who look to be loaded for '11, every other club in the division has issues. The Orioles haven't turned the corner completely yet, and will need to catch better breaks than in last season (could they do any worse from the standpoint of injuries and underachieving), but a season at .500 or better should attainable, expecially when you consider that the young starters have more major league experience and could step up big.

If (and this is a huge "if") Guthrie and the rest of the rotation pitch like they did after Buck took over, the bullpen is solid and, the hitting and defense are able to hold their own, a run for a playoff spot isn't out of the question.

And remember, if the Orioles can somehow remain in contention at the All-Star break, they might be able to pull the trigger on a trade that would give them a difference maker. Again, I'm not saying it's likely, but if the starting pitching holds up, the O's could be a real handful for teams to deal with.

I really hope that a big effort is going to be made to see if Reimold can play 1B. He is young enough to learn the position while our young pitching learns to pitch at the major league level. It seems to me that a big hitting LF is easier and cheaper to come by than a 1B, e.g. Texeira, Gonzalez, Fielder, etc. I would give Reimold a year to prove himself at 1B and behind the plate and Pie a full year in LF as well. Jeff, are there any top hitting OFs scheduled to be available next offseason?

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Jeff Z's reply: Jose Bautista, Carlos Beltran, J.D. Drew, Cody Ross and possibly Nick Swisher, who has an option for 2012, all could be available.

the O's have a real chance to compete and do something great for their fans they just can't seem to pull the trigger on that final deal that will do it for them. Guerro is still a great hitter and one they should not pass up for a one or two year deal.Pavano and a first baseman would complete their roster and make for a real contender.

Its nice to see a national writer say nice things about us. To the naysayers, question: Why can't we contend for the Wild Card? I'm not saying that we are going to. But outside of Boston, has any other team in our division improved? Actually haven't they all have gotten worse? Now we obviously need a 1B. But isn't our offense significantly improved already? (And don't tell me about Wiggy, really don't).
A full year of B-Rob and our pitchers?
I'm not saying that we are going to win 90 games. But aren't we closer to 90 wins than 60 wins?

JeffZ and all: the main reason Martinez didn't come to the Os is he wanted to catch more than he would with the Os since Weiters is here. Konerko was my first choice but it's now clear he was never going to leave Chicago. So, what to do about first base? I guess the main options are Lee for 1 year or LaRoche for 3. If the team goes with Lee they'll likely be looking for 1B next year and why would they even want to sign Feilder at what the Angles and Rangers will likely offer? Feilder is a big risk becase of his way overweight body AND if his production continues to fall at the alarming rate of last year than I would say no. Look, with LaRoche and Reynolds in the middle of the lineup the Os can expect 70 HRs and 180 or so RBIs per year. That's a significant improvement over recent years.

Then, if the pitching is as good as it was under Showalter this year could be very, very interesting!

Huh?

The most laughable prediction I have seen in 45 years. .500 should be said by Jim Mora where he said PLAYOFFS.

The Orioles, should AM finish his job and sign LaRoach, a lefty reliever and an inning eating starter, they would probably finish close to or at .500.

But these are the O's and AM, we will NOT sign one of quality two 1Bs available, we will not pay for a decent 4-5 starter and he will resign Hendrickson.

Moral of the story, while the Sox and Yanks will be better, the Rays and Jays will fade a little, the O's permanent cellar dwellers will finish a distant 28 games out of first.

Buck had a great two months, but that new enthusiasm will fade and we will hit our annual rut in late May or early June!

Expectation Management is a concept all O's fan should keep in mind, because we don't have the horses and we aren't in the NL West!

Keeping it real!

Jeff: I agree with you that the Orioles should have made a lucrative deal with Dunn. I really wanted us to sign him. The problem is LaRoache is as good as the Orioles will sign.

We knew they wouldn't spend on pitching. Of course I thought it was big name pitching like Cliff Lee, not Brandon Webb being out of our price range. But they aren't buying the bats like they said either. I would be happy if they signed a one year deal to a first basemen, then did everything in their power to bring Prince Fielder. But that isn't going to happen. So we need to settle for Type C talent.

Jeff,
I share your opinion on the rumored LaRoche deal. LaRoche's offensive production is average at best for 1B, and according to advanced defensive metrics, his glove is nothing special either. Signing LaRoche to a 3/$21MM deal is completely unnecessary, as his mediocore production can, for the most part, be supplemented by players willing to accept one-year deals. With the 1B options beyond Lee looking rather bleek, do you see any chance that the O's attempt to sign one of the remaining DH-types to supplement the offense? I will conceed that moving Scott back to LF or 1B is less than ideal defensively, but Guerrero, Thome, or Ramirez would provide the lineup with some much needed pop. Thanks.

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Jeff Z's reply: There is a chance of that, but I'd say it's not a very good one. It sounds like team officials are pretty against potentially having a defensive liability at first base.

The Orioles should just sign Troy Glaus or Russell Branyan and share some time with Jake Fox at first. They should also trade Robert Andino because he is out of options and i dont see him making the team with Izturis and brenden Harris and they might as well get a player to be named for him. Maybe the Os should look into signing Delwyn Young the guy can play all over the field and will give the Os alot of flexability. For pitchers i say they sign Bruce Chen and Rodrigo Lopez give both of them a chance to make the rotation or stick them in the bullpen. They both will be valuable to the Orioles young pitching staff. I would also like to see the Orioles re sign Will Ohman cause they will need a lefty in the pen and he was good for them last year. Laroche is a good player but 3 years is a little much. I like Derrick Lee better but i doubt he wants to play here and wants alot of money for one year. What ever option they pick will be better then last year, so no complaints no matter what. Hopefully Josh Bell or Brandon Snyder will go on a tear and force there way to the majors. If i were GM this would be the roster


Catcher:Weiters
1st base: Troy Glaus
2nd base: Roberts
shortstop: Hardy
3rd base: Reynolds
outfield: Jones,Markakis,Pie
bench: Izturis,Fox,Reimold,Delwyn Young,Scott, Brenden Harris is in the minors if someone gets hurt.

Pitching Staff:
Starters:Guthrie,Matsuz,Burgeson,Rodrigo Lopez,Arietta

Bullpen: Bruce Chen,Will Ohman,Vanden Hurk,Berken, Accardo,Jim Johnson,Simon, Gonzalez, Koji would all battle for a spot in the bullpen

I agree w/ woodieman that the second half of '08 was off the hook with 5 guys hot over a 3 month period. Hard to duplicate that but the potential is there to do it.

And i agree w/ notbrooks the the SI dude hasn't actually watched much O's games - Tillman is not on the brink. yet.

And i agree w/ Ken Francis that Bergeson is poised to be the man. All he does is get outs with a low pitch count. The kid is a bulldog and if in shape from the get go - very important for a guy who relies so very much on precise location - could blossom.

@Squirrel

You're not understanding the Gregg deal. It's not 8-10 million each year, it's 8-10 million total.

I still think it's unnecessary to sign him as I would rather have two lower priced guys since relievers (with exception to a few) are so year to year anyway...

But the idea that you think they are offering him $16-20 million is borderline insane.

Eddie Ohs @ 1:18PM -- I think you have a great point. Everyone just assumes that the Red Sox and Yankees will finish at the top because they always do. The Red Sox indeed look pretty formidable with their rotation and the bats they added (along with the assumption that injuries won't kill them as they did last year). But the Yanks are on VERY shaky ground. They definitely have a potent offense with Cano, Tex, ARod, Swisher, Granderson et al; but with so many questions in their rotation, they could be leapfrogged. The Orioles' lineup can't match the Yanks, but our starting pitching looks MUCH stronger. Plus, we still have opportunities to enhance the batting order, but it will be tough for the Yanks to acquire quality pitching at this point.

I swear that gives me cold chills in hope, but I remember feeling the same way before the start of last season.

And I agree with LaRoche sentiment here: he is not worth the money/years. I'm not excited for D Lee either, though I'm sure he'll be in DC. Jake Fox and Luke Scott at 1B and grab Thome for DH. Deal Pie and move Reimold to LF; or vice versa.

Bring on April!

@ Chris in Hawaii

Thank you, you're right. I am so fired up about Gregg even I can't tell the forest from the trees. Oi. Yes the contract is somewhere near this. The Orioles are close to a two-year, $12MM deal. I copied and pasted it to ensure accuracy.
I am so dizzy sometimes. Seriously, though if the O's are going to splurge why not trade for Soria or Papelbon? I did hear Soria might be available. The Orioles should make it 11 teams interested in Soria. Though I am quite certain the cost would be steep.
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/554173-mlb-trade-rumors-10-teams-that-should-go-hard-after-joakim-soria

Sorry, Jeff Z for being a bit inaccurate, I still feel Gregg is not the answer though no matter what the cost!

SmittyATL -

How does our rotation look "MUCH stronger" than New York's?

The O's have one sure thing (Guthrie), a young stud hoping to improve (Matusz) and three question marks (Arrieta, Bergesen and ?).

The Yanks have one sure thing who's much much much better than ours (CC), a young stud hoping to improve (Hughes) and three question marks (Burnett, Nova and ?).

Sure, I guess you could take the potential of Arrieta and Bergesen over the inconsistency of Burnett and the potential of Nova, but CC is the X factor that tips the scales in favor of the Yanks. And if Andy Pettitte comes back, there's not even a discussion.

And then there's that Yankee offense that's always capable of scoring 900+ runs.

Sure, anything is possible, but a lot of things would have to go right for the O's and a lot of things would have to go wrong for the Yanks for said leapfrogging to take place.

@ Jacob Nachash -- The Bosox getting better, I can buy, but not the Yankees. Where have they improved themselves? Unless they're able to resign Pettitte, which is looking more and more unlikely, their starting rotation should be worse, not better, than 2011.

I'm hopeful the Orioles sign Lee. LaRoche and his agent have him way overrated. They blew their contract last year, and are seemingly doing it again.

Lee's a short-term solution. Proven commodity, healthy, and if he gets a 1-yr deal with us, he should hit well for a decent 2012 contract. We can trade him later in the year if need be.

I don't think we put Luke or Nolan at 1B. Let's first reestablish the solid fundmentals like defense and pitching, and then work on our hitting upgrades.

As for the SI.com article, nice to hear it, but didn't we think good thoughts in 12/09?

That would make for one Happy Happy New Year!

Bold prediction indeed, slight lunacy however. The Padres Pitching Staff was 2nd in all of Baseball. Only bested by the Champion Giants. 3.36 & 3.39 Respectively. Matusz is a burgeoning stud but expecting Tillman and the rest of the supporting cast to compose a rotation that wud sky rocket from 27th in all of MLB to even a top 10 slot would be more than remarkable. Yes, they will be better most likely, potentially, hopefully even. They could possibly shave at least a half run off their team ERA, which I have stated previously shud be a goal, and wud bring them at least 10-15 more wins. But you can drink Orange Koolaide from here til Opening Day but this staff CANNOT, as currently composed, shave a run and a half off its collective ERA, which is exactly what going form 27th to 2nd would be. I'm afraid our SI guy is trying to make a name for himself (kudos for the bravado bucko) and for the willingness to put your reputation on the line, but at best the team ERA drops by a half run. Equally remarkable, moreover, would be a season barring injury to one or more members of this staff, the addition of top flight bullpen help (Gregg wants to be elsewhere) the prospect of injuries to major AL East Competitors coming true, maybe even a full run reduction if all these things would transpire, but any run shaving has to be complemented by an increase in run production if we're to suddenly go from door mats annually coughing up 30 spots in the win column to spanking the Sox, Yanks, Rays. Apparently SI Guy can't see that glaring hole at first base, which ain't getting filled the way we will like it. This must be addressed, and adressed w a significant thumper and not w junk. Meaning Lee or LaRoche must be manning that spot. Both, bring solid defense too which helps reduce infiled errors and helps the ERA. Adding Thome to pop the left handed stalwarts in the division wud be the real key lincpin to remarkable run production but this is the kind of move teams make when they think they are in contention. Quite telling when the O's don't make these moves. They see themselves, more likely, as not ready for prime time, so it puzzles me how an SI Guy could envision an historical turn around.
I like the Machismo, but its merely hebris folks. 3rd place at best w a staff ERA around 4.00, Offense that comes in around 7th or 8th in the AL. I know its getting tough to sell that dinosaur (SI Sports), Wild Predictions won't get it done any more than accurate, educated guessing. N.ice try though

Jeff,

Any word yet on who will be in the MASN boothe for the Orioles this season? I am hoping for an all new cast except for Palmer! Please tell me that Flanagan will not be analyzing Orioles games this year!

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Well, I know Gary Thorne signed a multi-year deal before the 2010 season so he'll be back. I think the same on Flanny. Not sure if MASN will have the guest broadcasters like they did last year.

Patience is a virtue but this wait on a 1st base signing is well past that. And Gregg as well.

Both LaRoche and Lee have turned us down in the past, signing less lucrative offers elsewhere, as has Vlad. While they would be good additions, at what point do the O's say enough already and move on? Why wait indefinitely for a player that obviously doesn't want to be an Oriole and will go elsewhere as soon as anything close will be offered?

I really hope an aging, overpriced Lee isn't our 1B this year. This year is optomisticly going to be a winning season but probably not a playoff run. Why add a 1B that will most likely be replaced in a year anyway. Jeff, regarding the emphasis on defense at 1B, has the front office considered Reynolds at 1B and taking a shot at Beltre at 3B?

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Briefly, but they don't think Beltre wants to play in Baltimore or is worth the money that he's asking.

Jeff, and the rest of you Orioles fans.

This team is only getting "some" positive reviews. It's precisely clear to me and whoever knows Baseball, that the only reason that is, is because of Mr. Showalter, can we all not agree on that?

Baltimore Orioles Majority Owner, Mr. Peter G. Angelos, has recieved so much criticism over the years and he hired McPhail, and Mr. Showalter to relieve the burden of the media, and the complaints, by bringing in 2 top names. But, if we all know how Mr. Angelos works, he is laughing at this State, and City, over how he has run this "once-proud" franchise into the ground.

My only hope is that Mr. Angelos does what is best for this city, and give the franchise completely to Mr. Cal Ripken Jr. But we all know that won't happen.

Second, I sincerely hope that Senator Barb Mikulski reads this, and reads how sad and over Mr. Angelos they are, and hope she can order him to sell the team. That's the only way he will give it up, in my mind.

We seen alot of crazy stuff with this congress, and it won't surprise me, if Mikulski does this....I hope and pray to God that she does.

We all love you Senator Barb!! Please help us!

Jeff

Have the Orioles made any contact or do you see them making contact with the represenative for LHP Bruce Chen?

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: No.

The O's could afford Soriano. He would turn the bullpen into a major plus. why not sign him? Jeff have you heard anything about what the rangers plan to do with Chris Davis? He would be a good young player to take a chance on.

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Nope but he's certainly been past on their depth chart by Mitch Moreland.

Too early to predict W's and L's. I do think the O's will be improved because of Buck. This is a real a manager and I swear that a majority of players looked like they were loafing for the past few years from Ramon to BRob. I don't think you can get away with that under Buck and that in itself, is huge!

I hate the Sox, but I give them credit for what they did this winter, BUT Adrian Beltre had a year in 2010 that I don't think A Gone will duplicate in 2011. I also think the loss of V Mart is going to be very tough for them because they are weak at the catcher spot. They have issues like everyone else, but they also have money to fix them. Drew is fragile, Cameron is always hurt and two of their biggest stars are coming back from injuries. My point is that you have to worry about yourself and see what happens from there.

I like the moves so far by the FO, but they messed up with Dunn. He loves the area and he's a difference maker. Everyone knew what he wanted in terms of dollars except the O's and while the V Mart offer was right there with the Tigers, you have to make it so the player can't think of taking another offer like 4 yrs/60 mil. We have the money!

JEFF WHY DOES EVERYONE SAY THAT THAT THE RED SOX GOT SO MUCH BETTER? THEY ADDED GONZO AND CRAWFORD, BUT THEY LOSS MARTINEZ AND BELTRE. SOUNDS LIKE A WASH TO ME. THE BEST THING THAT THIS SEASON CAN BRING THEM IS HEALTH SINCE THEY WERE SO BANGED UP LAST YEAR. MY THEORY IS THAT THEY ARE PRETTY MUCH THE SAME TEAM AND IF THE ORIOLES SIGN LAROCHE THEY WILL BE THE ONLY TEAM IN AL EAST WHO SIGNIFICANTLY IMPROVED THEIR ROSTER FROM 2010.

..............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Just my opinion and I'll give Beltre credit because he had an absolute monster year but I think Gonzalez and Crawford are significantly better players than Beltre and Victor Martinez. Gonzalez are both Gold Glove fielders, too. The Red Sox got the top postiion player on the trade market and the top position player on the free agent market. Not to mention they've significantly upgraded their bullpen by adding Jenks and Wheeler, I think they are greatly improved, but that's just me.

I get a little tired of hearing all of us so-called Orioles fans bitching and moaning at every little move or non-move the club makes. Are we O's fans or not? Fans, by definition are supposed to be supportive of the team.
Do you critics out there really think that Adam LaRoche is the answer?, or even Derek Lee? or for godsakes, Bill Butler?
How fast we forget how well Buck did with what he had. Now the team has improved, and we are still griping, or even worse, trying to prove how smart we are by complaining about various moves.
Jeff, I am glad you posted something that an unbiased party had to say about the O's
For all you malcontents out there, this will be a good team, and an even better team in '12.
Look, I know we have been a bit spoiled in the past. But Brooks, Boog, Cal and Cakes aren't there any more. We have to build up from the bottom and support his great franchise.
GO O'S!! I don't care what names are on the backs of your uniforms!

@ waspman, couldn't agree more. Joe Whoeverheis has to come up with something for SI, nothing more. Do I hope he's correct? Of course I do. But its probably nothing.

I was in a Dr. office yesterday and picked up a copy of ESPN magazine from last Jan. They were making their 2010 baseball predictions and had the Mariners locking up the AL west and the Giants finishing in 4th in NL west. Joe Whoeverheis probably had a mandatory drug test after he submitted the article to his editor.

Yeah, pitchers don't bat in the AL but they sure do prevent runs.

Hey Ben in Glen Burnie, you really give Glen Burnie a bad name when you actually post what is comical at best and totally ridiculous on the other hand and then have the nerve to say it again to back it up?. Jeff went easy on you! Looks like the rest just blew you off. I couldn't help myself. Pie for Gonzalez (Bos)? I'm guessing your attire for the evening is a backward white jacket and your reservation is in the "stately" rubber room. Am I close?

Guys, the SI comment is nice to see and after the last 2 months of 10', let's just hope that the pitching staff remembers how they did it because that's surely the basis for the prediction. I am cautiously optimistic as well as many who are posting. It seems like that is the operative phrase right now. You'd think we are all from Missouri right now, but damn we've been burned so often since 97', we really have to be patient and hope for the best.

I too agree with Jeff, that LaRoche isn't getting people knocking his door and I think AM is doing the prudent thing and waiting out both he and Lee. I honestly like this tactic from a business standpoint and believe we will get one or the other anyway, but at a more sensible number.

The next very crucial move will have to be getting Balfour over Gregg. Hell, if what I'm reading is correct about the money offered to Gregg, that's what Fuentes is asking for. Get him instead! But, at the very least, get the power arm of Balfour and a lefty and we'll be set.

The only thing left after this is to pray for a healthy season for all. The achilles heal is lack of depth and it's the one thing I see that could keep us from .500 if everyone has their typical year and youth comes to the fore. Go O's.

Hola Jeff,

Steve I think brings up a great idea, why not go after Chen, Why havent they talked about him?

Thoughts Jeff

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Maybe they don't like the thought of Bruce Chen in the AL East. I certainly don't.

Jeff-
So um, did you happen to see the prediction right below in the article, about how the 2011 Padres will be the 2010 Orioles?

I'm very excited to see a little positive press, but at the same time, we've managed to set the gold standard on messing up. Should be an interesting year that could certainly go either way, but would be nice to see AM make a few more moves (where's that #1 starter we've needed now for 3+ years?)

Way to stir the pot though, 60+ comments on a extremely slow news week is pretty good work.


..............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Yes, I noticed that.

I think the O's are on the right track with their young pitching and Showalter as manager. Since they have no obvious prospect in the minors for 1st base (Snyder has not shown power and Mahoney is said to have too long a swing to hit MLB pitching, why not give LaRoche 3 years. It's not like they are actually going to sign Fielder or Pujols next year.

I don't like MacPhail's dithering and reluctance to spend money on salaries (assuming he is allowed by Angelos), but despite that the team is on the right track. Just get a 1st baseman who can hit 25 homers and 80 RBI's and I think we win 82 games this year.

Regarding the comment comparing Bautista's home run explosion last year to Brady Anderson's one year power surge, was Bautista on steroids last year also?

Well its clear the O's will be an improved team. I am positive by the end of the spring we will have added a few arms to the rotation/bullpen and signed the position players we want. We will have a substantial advantage over last year with improved depth. Essentially Showalter is making a few of our previous starters second-teamers. So we are stronger. I would still like to see the O's sign some strong bullpen arms. I can't say it enough, but we had 28 blown saves last year. That means we actually had the chance to be above .500. A stronger bullpen would shore up some of those blown saves and turn us into a more competitive team.

did Joe Sheehan spend time in a mental institution?

Jeff: Chris Davis has been passed on the depth chart, not past.

Jeff, off subject now for a sec

What is your take on Ozzie Guillens son Oney Guillen twitter posts about Bobby Jenks?

..............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Didn't like it. Name-calling on twitter doesn't do it for me.

There's a reason Baseball Prospectus fired Joe Sheehan.

As for Markakis being "underrated" -- that's a joke. He's put up back-to-back .800 OPS seasons (over more than 1,400 plate appearances, so it's not like it's a fluke or anything) in right field while his defense has fallen off a cliff. Meanwhile, his salary escalates to over $10MM THIS coming season.

Markakis is just 27, so he's got room for improvement. But right now, I'd argue that he's one of the most overrated players in MLB.

I know the AL East has the big guns and the Red Sox are making all of the noise this year in the offseason, but I think they have some legitimate holes as well. Their offense is unreal, but their starting pitching is suspect at best. I would rather roll the dice on our young guns than their starters. The Yanks got a year older and no better and the Rays took a big step backward. This is the year we will make strides and turn heads in this division.

Jeff,

I agree with Captain All-Caps about the Red Sox. They are better with AG and Crawford than without, but I disagree with the Conventional Wisdom that adding those two locked up the pennant. If they had just added those guys, yes, that would be a huge shift in power. But losing Beltre and V-Mart does reduce the impact. A few 2010 numbers:

--- 2b HR RBI AVG OPS SB
AG 33 31 101 .298 .904 0
CC 30 19 90 .307 .851 47

AB 49 28 102 .321 .919 2
VM 32 20 79 .302 .844 1

Obviously, ballparks and leagues will impact these numbers, but the homers, rbi, average and OPS are practically even. Crawford is the only base stealer in the bunch, but the Red Sox don't attempt many steals -- because they don't have base stealers, or is it a Moneyball thought process? -- so that may negate that to an extent. And Beltre hit an awful lot of doubles on top of his homers.

Plus, there's the swap of a righthanded hitter and a switch hitter for two lefties. Might help them in yankee Stadium, but could make then vulnerable to southpaws.

And as far as adding Wheeler and Jenks, well, they could be an improvement, but we all know what a crap shoot it is to add relievers, whatever the price. For every rock-solid veteran who has done it year-in, year-out (say, Mariano Rivera), there's a dozen guys who may or may not get it done this year, if you base it on last year (for instance, Jamie Walker, Brad Lidge, Brian Fuentes, and so on).

Boston probably gets a lot better with a healthy Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron and Josh Beckett -- is that too many ifs? Does Kevin Youkilis get the job done at 3rd like he did at 1st? Does Papelbon get his WHIP back where it was?

While we're at it, the Yankees haven't gotten any better. If anything, they've gone backward so far, losing Javier Vazquez and (possibly) Andy Pettitte from the rotation. The Rays lost Crawford and Carlos Pena, plus the best arms in their bullpen. And the Blue Jays haven't added much, plus they lost Cito Gaston, who had a way of getting more out of those Toronto teams than anyone could have expected. John Farrell? Nice resume, but will it translate into managerial skill?

For the Orioles, they are better offensively on the left side of the infield, no worse than they were at 1st base (pending any signings), and gave up only bullpen depth. They are down one veteran starter, but their young arms got another year of big-league experience. And they have a manager who is respected inside the clubhouse and out.

At the very least, there are encouraging signs. Let's see what the new year brings. Happy New Year!

Various stuff....

1. Ben in Glen Burnie is just kidding, no matter what he says. Nobody on earth is that naive.

2. Markakis cannot carry a team. He needs a bat behind him. (Although it should be said that he still hit for forty doubles). With Reynolds batting cleanup, watch his stats rise accordingly.

3. Despite all the LaRoche bashing, the guy was still good for 25-100 last year, was he not? Why all the hatred?

4. Is there something in the water in this town? For those of you who think we will get Prince Fielder next year, why not just skip him and go right to Albert Pujols, who is also a free agent and will be the first $30M man? Better yet, let's get them both. They can stand there at first base together.

5. Speaking of drinking the water in this town, nice to see a national guy do it too. .500 is out of the question. 75 wins would be a healthy nine win increase over last year and make for a successful season by Oriole standards. Actually, 70 is more likely, but that too, amazingly enough, would be a better record than last year.

Jake Fox at first base? Jake Fox is a joke. He is nothing more than a bench player.

3 Observations

1. There are a lot of commenters / Orioles fans that know nothing about baseball

2. Joe Sheehan needs to put the pipe down.

3. JJ kennedy nailed it. The Orioles have none of the things the Padres had last season. I would bet that monkey my eyes that the Orioles dont get anywhere near 90 wins this year.

Andrew T, I suggest you head over to MLB.com and look at Nick Markakis's young career. .293 BA wud be good enough for me, OPS of .831 and many top 10 of top 25 Best in Baseball.
Maybe you were wagering in sarcasm or maybe you haven't heard opposing teams speak about the guy in Balmur that can truly rake it. Reynolds and a slugging 1st baseman or a bonafide DH lke Thme would allow him to only increase his prowess, as for once, they would have to pitch to him.
And his defense, well, he only had 7 assists last yr, when he normally guns down 13 or 14 and leads the majors in that category, but it was n;t for his lack of effortm rather simply opportunity and the fact that players know not to try and run on his cannon. Likewise, his fielding avg is above .990 for all yrs o service, so essentially your whole post was a waste of typing. Plenty of guys on the O's to poke at; Nick Markakis is not the one... go fid another tree to bark at dawg.

never despise meager beginnings ... have to start somewhere...34 - 23 last year with Showalter at the helm ... DO NOT RIGHT THE ORIOLES OFF. Showalter is a master craftmans just wait and watch him work.

I don't get the whole love affair with Jake Fox either? I think he's a valuable gut y yo have because of his versatility and his ability to hit the long ball, but to give him 1B is crazy talk plus after 13 losing seasons, everyone needs to earn a spot from starters to role players. I expect that Buck will make sure that the best guys for HIS team break camp heading back to Baltimore.

Looking at the position players, I see Luke as a guy who could have a huge impact on this club. If he continues to hit doubles and lefties well like last year and avoid those insane slumps at the plate, he could team with Reynolds to form a formidable duo with 30+ HR capabilities.

I still look at the small moves as ones that can help up even though the names aren't sexy like Marcus Thames. A guy who can come off the bench and hit for power plus he can play many positions. Seems like the bench could be the strongest in years with Izzy as the one lock, Fox or Tatum as the backup catcher, Harris or Andino and hopefully Thames as the 4th outfielder. I am not giving up on Reimold, but if the O's were so against trading him to Tampa for Bartlett, I think he would be better suited to get AB's everyday in AAA and earn his confidence back rather than play sparingly.

For all the Derrek Lee haters ... I really don't think the guy is in a downward spiral - he had a bad year during which he dealt with a thumb injury that hindered his stroke. But he's also one year removed from a .306/35/111 campaign.

He's obviously not a long-term solution, but as a one-year stopgap at the right price, he has a lot of upside. This isn't Atkins revisited, and if you're the Orioles, with dwindling options (not loving LaRoche for 3 years), it's the kind of move you should be looking to make.

Here's hoping! This town really needs the Orioles to return to respectability. A great downtown summer highlighted by a competitive, young Oriole squad would be great for the city. Bring on 2011 and dare I say... a pennant race with some shades of orange & black for the first time since 92!?!

I agree that Nick Markakis is overrated. He has a high fielding %, but that only means that he does not drop routine fly balls or mishandle routine balls hit to him on the ground. Range Factor is a much more accurate fielding statistic, and Markakis' range (which used to be good) has been declining for years and is now average at best. A good example of how misleading having a high fielding % can be is Derek Jeter. Jeter has won several Gold Glove awards largely because of his high fielding %, but people who know baseball agree that Jeter is not a good fielder because his range is low (like Markakis, but Markakis is still a better fielder than Jeter). Markakis has been declining offensively since 2008, when he hit .306/.406/.491. In both 2009 and 2010, Markakis displayed noticeable weaknesses in his offensive game. In 2009 it was his OBP, which plummeted from .406 in 2008 to .347 in 2009. In 2010 it was his power numbers, with his HR total plummeting from 18 in 2009 to 12 in 2010. Markakis has never hit more than 23 HRs , which is not very good for a corner outfielder who does not steal bases and is only average with the glove, and his HR totals have declined every season since 2007. Also, Markakis has stopped stealing bases at a decent rate- the last season he displayed good stolen base skills was 2007, when he was 18 for 24 in stolen base attempts. It;s funny how the Markakis apologists argue that Markakis has not performed at a high level because he does not have a lot of support around him in the lineup. Very good hitters can be made better by having a lot of support around them in the lineup, but they don't need to have a lot of support to perform at a very high level on their own, which Markakis has not done recently. Markakis is a good player, but he is overrated. He will never be able to anchor a good offensive team, but he can be an important contributor on a good offensive team.

If this pitchig is as consistent as the 70 or so games Showalter was the coach in 2010 then it comes down to hitting. Lineup will be decent looking like this...
1-BROB 2nd
2-Hardy SS
3-Markakis RF
4-Lee 1st*pending signing
5-Reynolds 3rd
6-Scott DH
7-Jones CF
8-Weiters C
9-Pie/Reimold

Bench
10-Reimold/Pie
11-Tatum
12-Isturiz
13-name him

Does everyone remember that there were quite a few media outlets thinking the Orioles were really going to make some headway last season?

Nick is over-rated? By who? When?

Please demonstrate the "over-rated" part of the claim. Who/when has Nick been "rated" above others he doesn't deserve to be?

All-star? Nope. Gold Glover? Nope. Top 30 list of Out fielders? Nope.

Nick isn't over rated. He's not even rated.

The only people saying he's over-rated, are the one's that once Over-rated him themselves. He's disappointed fans because he couldn't put the O's on his shoulders and go .310 with 35 and 120RBI's.

No, the only people calling him over-rated are the ones that over-rated him.

For the record. Nick Markakis has a career year in 2011 and makes his first All-Star game. Call your bookies.

Re: TheMythicalOne

Do you remember the Orioles did make head way...or did you turn the TV off in July.

Ok, it's pretty apparent LaRoach wants no part of Baltimore & Lee is hedging.
Therefore, why doesn't Andy take the millions reserved for LaRoach & offer that on top of what he's already supposidly offered Beltre? It's obvious we need to make any deal way sweeter than winning franchises so why not make Beltre an offer he can't refuse?
As soon as we sign him, Reynolds starts taking grounders at first.
I think we're at the point that this club better start thinking out of the box or, that box will be our coffin.

Here's a prediction for the new year:
When Prince Fielder breaks down (as ALL FAT BLOATED players ALWAYS do) within a couple years, not brooks will never admit to the fact that he thinks signing the fat slob to an overinflated contract would be a good thing to do. Remember Mo Vaughn? How about David Ortiz, post roids? Still think Ortiz is worth a fat contract too?

Then there is this "gem" from little paulie:

I have finally given up hope for this team. Hey, at least it is easy to get tickets for the games!

Posted by: Pauly D | December 30, 2010 12:10 PM

It took you 13 years of losing seasons to "finally give up hope?" And since you have "finally given up hope" why would you be interested in getting tickets for games? Once again paulie, it's 'ridiculous' not redicilous, and it's 'predicting' not pridicting. You really need to get spell check if you want to hide under different alias'. LOL

over .500 . . . . i believe it when i see it

There's nothing wrong, after all these years in the wilderness, with setting our sights on a .500 season. You gotta crawl before you walk, people.

Forget the wild card. Aim for third place and consider the season an enormous success if we just do two things: escape the Division cellar and win 81 games. That would be enough to inspire me for another five years to come!

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.


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