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June 13, 2011

Orioles off-day news, notes and opinions: Matusz, Pie, defense

I’m assuming the prevailing topic on today’s off day will be Brian Matusz's issues. I’m not sure I have much more to add to the debate that wasn’t included in today’s newspaper, either in my game story or in Kevin Cowherd’s column. However, I will say that the people suggesting that the young lefty just had one bad outing are missing the point. I’ve written this before, but I didn’t think Matusz looked like himself from the early days of spring training. However, I chalked that up to his having trouble grasping some mechanical changes that pitching coach Mark Connor had suggested. The reports about his velocity and the crispness of his stuff weren’t good in his rehab outings. And regardless of what his numbers looked like in his first two starts of the season against two bad offensive ballclubs, the quality of his pitches was way down from what you are accustomed to seeing from Matusz. It could be any number of things. Matusz still could be uncomfortable with his mechanics. He may still be regaining arm strength. He still may be a little rusty, and he still could be a little timid letting the ball go. Or it could be an injury issue, though Matusz says that he is 100 percent healthy. Either way, the concern has to be that there’s been little to no improvement in his pitch quality from one outing to the next. You expect Matusz to have some struggles as he gets back into the swing of things, but you also have every expectation to see some progress, and the Orioles haven’t seen that.

There have been plenty of people, me included, who have been banging the drums for outfielder Felix Pie to get more playing time. I'd still like to see him out there because I think his speed and athleticism add dimensions the Orioles need more of, but I don’t think I’m being overly harsh when I say that Pie has really not done much in the opportunities he has had. I don’t say that as a reaction to his failing to come up with Ben Zobrist's ninth-inning triple Saturday, leading to Kevin Gregg's blown save. It was a tough play, and while Pie should have made it, his defense has been mostly solid. I’m also going to ignore his latest base-running blunder Sunday. But his offense has been a major disappointment. Pie is hitting .240 over 96 at-bats with no homers and five RBIs. He has just five extra-base hits and still hasn’t drawn a walk. He has just one steal in two attempts, and he’s sporting a .240 on-base percentage. With Derrek Lee returning Tuesday and Luke Scott moving back to left field, it’s really hard to foresee Pie getting much playing time going forward barring an injury to an outfielder. It will be interesting to see whether the Orioles trade Pie before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.

The Orioles' defense was just atrocious the final two games of the Tampa Bay series. Center fielder Adam Jones failed to make a couple of plays, Pie didn’t make that one big play, first baseman Brandon Snyder struggled Saturday night and third baseman Mark Reynolds' defensive issues are becoming a real concern. His 14 errors give him the league lead. It’s not a stretch to say that bad defense cost the Orioles six or seven runs over those final two games. For a team that doesn’t get consistently good starting pitching and gets very few breakout games from the offense, defensive breakdowns will beat them just about every time.

This play didn’t result in a run, but I can’t imagine it endeared catcher Craig Tatum to Buck Showalter and the coaching staff either. With Casey Kotchman on third base in the third inning, Alfredo Simon threw a pitch that got away from Tatum and rolled toward the Orioles’ dugout. Tatum, obviously assuming that Kotchman was going to score easily -- and he should have -- kind of sauntered after the ball as it rolled toward the dugout. It wound up stopping against the dugout netting, and Kotchman never broke for home, which was lucky for Tatum, who initially had given up on the play.

One thing that I’ve always tried to avoid -- especially from my seat in the press box -- is lecturing fans on how to act and how to spend their money. However, I don’t think I’m crossing the line too much when I question why Orioles fans aren’t a little more aggressive in going after potential souvenirs, particularly ones hit by the home team that are close to the field of play. There were two instances in Saturday’s loss in which the Orioles could have used a little help from their fans. Sure, Rays left fielder Justin Ruggiano made a nice play to elevate over the left-field wall and take back a home run by J.J. Hardy in the seventh inning. But why did the fan seated in the front row -- dressed in Orioles gear, by the way -- pull away from the ball and allow Ruggiano a free run at it? Hardy and hitting coach Jim Presley certainly would have liked an answer to that question. That ball was over the wall and fair game for a fan. Also that night, Kotchman was able to reach about three rows into the seats to try and catch a foul ball without being impeded even a little. I’d be the last one to advocate a fan's interfering with a ball in play, but there’s no harm making a play on a ball coming down in the seats.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 6:30 AM | | Comments (62)
        

Comments

Maybe the Os could hire Jeffrey Maier for the newly created position of "fan coach," teaching the fans how to interfere with balls in play. Special classes could be held on how to verbally abuse opponets, etc. What we really need is a new Wlld Bill Hagy. That's the 10th man the Os are missing.

I'll be seeing the Os in Pittsburgh on 6-21. 6-20 is the Pirates' 40th Anniv. celebration of their 1971 WS Championship, and the bad memories are still too fresh for me. We wasted four 20 game winners....

Jeff, I normally like your columns, but I'm embarrassed to be an O's fan when Jim Presley makes a comment like that. The Orioles shouldn't need fans to win games like that. They have been LOSERS for 14 straight years. That's not a fan's fault. Maybe Presley should look within and tell the team to play better. Maybe Hardy should have hit the ball 2 rows deeper... but dont blame the fans when you have SUCKED for 14 years.

This organization just continues to push people away.... think that guy will ever buy a ticket again?

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Jeff Z's reply: Ben, nobody is blaming fans for over a decade of losing. Let's not get carried about here. I just mentioned that players and coaches were surprised that fans didn't go after two balls hit into the seats and instead, gave Rays defenders free runs at the ball. There's nothing more. I'm not suggesting this is a sign of apathy, bad fans, or anything else. It's one item - the last one mind you - in a five item off day blog post. I have no problem being criticized for writing it, but I don't think it's worth getting all worked up over, like I'm all calling out Oriole fans for not being good fans.

Pie has shown over and over again that despite some talent, he has poor instincts (and I am being kind choosing the word "poor") for the game. Those lack of instincts include poor judgment and a clear lack of focus (resulting in too many "near" catches). Maybe there is a third base prospect available for a trade!

The defense, especially Reynolds, is pathetic. How much longer can they put that guy out there? And Jones has regressed the last few weeks. He was horrible over the weekend and really struggled in the last homestand as well. As for Brandon Snyder, he is not a mlb caliber 1B.

If Matusz is being honest, and he isn't hurt, then he's not mlb caliber either. That stuff won't play.

One thing the O's really need to change is their patience at the plate. I think Reimold needs to play everyday. Between the O's DH and sometimes LF in over 350 PA they have 6 walks. And though he looks like Kevin Youkilis by comparison, Jones hardly ever walks either. I would rather they just go get somebody like Nick Johnson to DH next year, Vlad has pop but he gives away so many at bats and has only one way of getting on base.

Time to start lining up trades, if the entire bullpen, Guthrie, Hardy (if he won't sign extension, Pie, Vlad, Lee, Scott aren't on the block something is wrong. This team needs at least 2-3 more years, there are no shortcuts. I would also send Britton down to delay service time and shut down Matusz.

Jeff,

I completely agree with you on fans assertiveness. That ball is fair game, what, you don't a rare souvenier. Anyway I own bar in Fells and the entire place was uo in arms over the fan using his HAT to catch the ball and then turning away at the moment of truth. It was very disappointing.

This is too funny Jeff: There’s no harm making a play on a ball coming down in the seats.
Jeff, the Orioles have no fan base and the fans that actually do attend the games are inept?
I don’t know if that is a wise strategy on how to win ball games.
As for me I can’t remember if I saw the play live or not because I was bored and channel surfing. Also, I don’t remember if the MASN announcers complained about the fan not trying to make the grab either. If I were the Orioles, I would try to focus on playing better overall team defense. I think that would be more helpful here then worrying about fan involvement or lack thereof! Also, it would be nice if Andy MacPhail showed a pulse to show that he is still alive. The season is still young and the Orioles are only 3 games under.500. Hopefully, he is working the phone lines in order to get a deal done. We need some help in Baltimore, like yesterday!

I was at the game Saturday night when Pie just flat missed Zobrist's drive to left. Granted, Pie's speed allowed him to even get near the ball, but when he did he just stuck his glove out and MISSED. I couldn't help thinking of Manny Ramirez sticking his glove out and missing a fly ball by two feet.

Being compared defensively to Manny Ramirez is not a good thing.

On the other hand, the O's missed numerous opportunities to get a key hit with runners in scoring position. Vlady, that $18-million/year man, stranded runners repeatedly.

We are all keenly disapointed with the O's performances, yet they are so far ahead of last year that we should be happy to see this year's team as a necessary building block toward an actual winning season next year. If they can score some runs. If they can hit with runners in scoring position. If they can find 5 quality starting pitchers. If they can hold runners on base. If they can field the ball.

The O's are definitely better, but there is a long way to go yet.

Couldn't agree with you more, Jeff. However, at least fans backing away from a ball is understandable...I'm willing to bet there are quite a few fairweather fans who think that touching any ball (even one in the seats) could get them ejected.

The thing that is a bigger pet peeve for me is when home fans take balls away from our fielders. There are far too many "Bartman-esque" plays at Camden Yards.

When does Reynolds get a break in Baltimore? If it's not his Ks, it's his average. When his average goes up, people moan about his defense. I'm not excusing his play, but we need to get off the guy's back. At the beginning of the year he was playing some pretty hard nosed defense, so I'm not gunna put him under the gun after one bad series.

Jeff:

Gotta say you're off on this one. You just can't expect a fan to go after these foul balls right over the fence.

To this day, it's bothered me how the whole Steve Bartman incident was handled. You can't possibly expect fans who are at the ballgame to enjoy themselves to have to follow the exact trajectory of the ball (whether it's over the fence or not) and to follow who has hit the ball.

If ML teams are going to put fans right on the field with access to playable balls, no one has a right to blame a fan who in the heat of the moment (I've been to hundreds of games and never caught a foul ball), in what is potentially a lifetime memory of snagging a souvenir to make any logical decisions (particularly when a child is with them, or they are eating/drinking beer).

It seems really small of Presley (I didn't even see his quotes on the matter) to possibly turn on a fan. Solution: start winning ball games without relying on the fielding of the fans.

Jeff, while you or I might know to make a play or not on a foul ball, it's utterly ridiculous to expect that of any fan. You and the Orioles owe that fan an apology.


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Jeff Z's reply: Let's not be ridiculous about owing a fan an apology. I didn't call him a terrible fan, question his manhood. I simply questioned why you wouldn't go after a ball that was hit in the seats. I totally see the argument about a fan worried about being ejected for interfering. Totally see that side of it. But on the other example, Kotchman reached three rows back into the sides. THere was no gray area there. The ball was three rows deep.

Jeff, are you kidding me. This column and Presley are jokes. Your really going to sit here and blame the fans for not interfering with the play? I blame the organization for 13 pathetic seasons. The last time I saw the Orioles as a winning team was when I was in middle school. The sad thing is every off-season and every season I try to convince myself this will be the year to turn things around. I live in Baltimore and go to games on a routine basis. I have put up with these losers and bad baseball for way too long. The Orioles are lucky that more and more fans are not jumping ship to the Nationals and Phillies (where they actually spend money on quality players and know what they are doing in the draft). This column and Presley can kiss it. I'm so fed up with this organization it's not even funny. Blaming the fans is ludacris. Hey Jeff, did you ever thing that that fan who didn't interfere with the play was a)scared of being ejected b) was a first time fan at a game and doesn't know all the regulations of baseball c) wasn't trying to be a cheat (and I know it's fair game when in the stands, but come on that's dirty) d) or simply wasn't paying attention because that fan PAYED MONEY to come enjoy a day at the park and relax, I'm pretty sure the O's wouldn't cut a check to him for the play, they barely cut checks to players. Seriously, you professionals really need to be careful about what you say because there is barely a fan base left. I work at a high school and I can tell you that the O's have lost an entire generation of fans. The only young fans that are left are from the ages between 25 and 35, and I wouldn't consider them that young. Hey, I'm sure it was the fan's fault that the O's have no offense, young talent (that's legit), defense, high baseball IQ, moivation, and no closer (hey lets not give koji the job because he was the only one that actually executed). One last thing about the closing scenario, sure Pie could have made that play, but last time I checked Gregg still had the lead with two outs and gave up a single to a weak first baseman. Unbelievable for even including the fans in a negative way about the O's. Maybe it's acceptable blaming fans when it come to the Ravens (even then keep in mind we are the ones paying) because we have been spoiled with a great winning organization. I hope you put a new column out with an apology. As for Presley, how's your offense doing? He's the only one that should be taking heat....

All things being equal,if Lee is playing first Saturday night, we win that game. Brandon Snyder should have scooped that ball out of the dirt on the throw from Andino in the top of the 7th. Not excusing Andino for a bad throw but come on, a major league ready 1st baseman makes that play. That would have ended the inning without the run scoring and the O's win 5-4. Can't wait to see Lee back on Tuesday.

Jeff, just like the players, the fans here in B-More don't have any 'want to.' But really, the team shouldn't have to rely on the fans for a little help to get the job done. WANT TO!!!!!

Pie should be sent down to AAA, I think he would clear waivers. Perhaps the Pirates would claim him on waivers but thats about it. THe thing Pie needs is to play everyday & he's not even close to good enough to do that on the MLB level. The kid is raw & needs reps. Everyday reps is the only thing that will shape him as a potential MLB player, smarten him up & round out his game. The upside to sending him down is worth potentially losing him.

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Jeff Z's reply: This is just my opinion but I think there is less than a 10 percent chance that Pie clears waivers.

As for Reynolds (one of my favorite topics since the trade), why not try and make him our first baseman? Lee won't be here next year. Lord knows Fielder won't be here either. We don't have anyone in the system. We are obviously committed to having him in the lineup because he hits HRs, so why not get him off the hot corner?


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Jeff Z's reply: That may be an option going forward, though Josh Bell may have to force that move by dominating Triple- A pitching.


I'm praying that my daughter grows up to root for another team. I don't want her to go through this crud every year. Parents always want more for their kids, right?

Totally agree with Presley. From my upperdeck perch I have often entertained fantasies of helping the Orioles win by messing with an opposing team's fielder on a ball that's fair game in the stands. Can't you lucky ducks who get seats close to the field put down your lattes and blackberries for 2 seconds and help me realize my dream vicariously?

Matusz is one of my favorite players on the team. (I always like crafty pitchers with deep arsenals because it is fun to think along with them: Boddicker is still my favorite pitcher, I think). And sure feel guys walk a fine line between success and failure. But I wonder if part of Brian's problem is that he has never really struggled with pitching before. Reports are that he just dominated college, he did well in the minors too, and I'm not sure he has figured out how to deal with injury, mechanical problems, etc. In other words, I wonder if he has a bit of the prima donna in him, even if his personality seems wonderful and upbeat from what I read from you guys. In this context, maybe if Buck gets a little tough with him it will pay dividends in the future.

Hey, I'm trying to be optimistic here. Yesterday was depressing to watch.

Jeff,

Expecting fans to come up with that home run ball is absolutely off base. I think that I would've been able to come up with it, but the line between catching it in the front row and being ejected for interference is not black and white. Your and Presley's expectations are way off-base. Some of us have spent years around the game/playing the game, others just like to watch. The Kotchman play is a little different but still, pretty unreasonable.

As was said prior to my comments, it's a little hard to put yourself out there for a team that's been losing for so long. Make no mistake, attempting to catch a ball whilst competing against professionals for it, is putting yourself in harm's way.

I'm in lock step with you on Pie. But how will Luke return to left field with his torn labrium?

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Jeff Z's reply: He's been playing left field with a torn labrum most of the season.

By rule, it is perfectly legal for fans to go after a ball hit into the stands, even if a fielder has a play on it. The rule states that if the ball goes into an out-of-play area, no interference can be called. That also means that if fielder and fans go after a ball and the fans touch it and the fielder still manages to catch it, it is still an out. So, for home team pop-ups or fly balls into the stands, turn into a defensive back and knock the ball down. If a home team ejects a fan doing something like that, someone should explain the rule to the team.

That's also why there was such a stink over the Maier play. He clearly reached into the field of play and interferred with Tarasco. The umpires blew that one.

So, yeah, I think the Orioles are somewhat justified in wondering why their fans don't go after hometeam balls in the stands. You think Ruggiano catches that ball in Yankee Stadium?

Jeff, it was widely reported that Tillman intended to train with Matusz beginning last December. Both have had unusual declines in the velocity of their fastballs.

Is it possible their "training" is the root cause of all that has happened since early on in Spring Training? Were their workout regimens approved by the organization or does the club even have a say?

I hate thinking they hurt themselves and the organization was completely unaware of what they were doing, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe this isn't the root of their problem.

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Jeff Z's reply: There were also working out this offseason with Hobgood, who is hurt, but I think that's just coincidental. One, Matusz says that he is healthy and TIllman, other than some back stiffness, hasn't had any injury problems. Two, if you look at measures of such things, the velocity of Tillman and Matusz has now dropped two consecutive years. So I don't think their training regime has anything to do with it. Fair question though.

Jeff,

Let's be frank. Andy Macphail kissed this season goodbye when he went after retreads at the corner infield positions rather than quality offensive players. Reynolds is hitting .203 with 65 k's, 14 errors and dozens of balls he never touched that a 3B with good range gets to. Lee is hitting .229 with 4HR's and 15 RBI. Lee came to camp hurt{as expected} and has already spent about 20 games on the DL. Lee is done. Period. In addition Dutch{or Duke as NB prefers}will never throw a pitch for the Orioles in the regular season as I predicted.

The minor league system is in shambles due to lack of quality scouting, especially in Latin America, and a plethora of injuries.

How does Andy Macphail still get a pass in this town from the majority of the print and broadcast media, other than you? Is Andy holding 8'10" glossies on some of your peers? The truth is that after 4 years of Macphail the team is barely treading water with no help available from the cavalry. Does Andy deserve accolades for a less than mediocre performance? The bar has been set pretty low here in Baltimore if some think that he does.

I, too, am growing tired of being disappointed year after year by the O's performances. I am not at all sure that the "grow the arms, buy the bats" approach works. After watching Tampa Bay over the weekend, I think they've developed some very good hitters as well. Why is it that other teams can build, or rebuild, a whole TEAM and not just a few free agent aging veterans? Tampa Bay also has some very good pitchers. The Marlins have blown up the entire team TWICE and come back strong afterwards. Maybe the O's should relocate to Florida, if that's what it takes to build a contending team.

Reading all of these comments by mostly guys, I'd like to give another perspective. Sunday's game was one of the most interesting games I've ever watched. Starting with the HR in the 1st inning, the base stealing, even the drama of Matusz "choking in the heat", there was constant movement. Complaining about fans' ineptness, Adam Jones' failure to grab that ball, might be what critics do. But I think we need more action in the game. That was the first "in the park" HR I can remember! And the Rays did contribute to the excitement throwing that ball into the stands. I wonder if the fan that caught it kept it? Even if there are "flubs", we are still seeing the best "reality" show going! Now, we just need the O"s to have fewer "flubs" and more runs!

I was at Saturdays game and didn't a fan touching a ball hit by a Oriole cost us a run?????


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Jeff Z's reply: Not that I remember. I think a ball bounced in the stands for a ground rule double, but it wasn't because of fan interference.

Jeff - put me on your side. No excuse to let th opponents have free reign in the stands. Doesn't it seem like there are many more injuries throughout baseball this year? Have any thoughts about that? I am also disappointed in the attendance this year. we should draw at least 20K every night..the O's do put on a better show this year and are still only 3 games under .500 and would be no worse than 3rd in other divisions. Whats your take on realignment? Any chance? Thanks for all you do (from a transplanted O's fan of 60 years who is now in Las Vegas)

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Jeff Z's reply: Not sure why it is Charlie, but does seem every year, there's more and more injuries. And every year, there seems to be one predominant injury or ailment. This year, it's the oblique. Last year was, if I recall correctly, appendicitis. I have no idea why that is because players these days seem to work harder than ever in the offseason and be in the best shape possible. Very skeptical that this realignment thing will go through. We've heard an awful lot about it over the years, but nothing seems to happen. I'd be in favor of some form of it, but I'd need to study the proposal a little more carefully to have more of an opinion on this latest one.

Jeff, Just wanted to say that your "Notes" column and the give and take responses from your readers is the most interesting sports column in either Baltimore/Washington paper.


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Jeff Z's reply: Thanks a lot. I enjoy doing it.

Personally, whenever a ball is hit my way, whether in territory or not, my number one thought is PERSONAL SAFETY and that of the friends and family around me. I work in the medical field and know the folks who run the medical station at Camden Yards so I know about the injuries that can occur when struck by a batted ball. A souvenir worth a few bucks isn't worth a contusion, concussion, broken bone, whatever. I'm at the ball game to watch a game, NOT to become part of the action, not to play some active role in a game's outcome. If we as fans are expected to do that, then we should get a cut of what the players' earn. Anyway, the whole idea of it is ridiculous, it comes out of frustraton with a ballclub that is about as erratic and inconsistent of any O's team I've seen in 30 plus years. One day the defense is great, Adam Jones is making epic catches, Mark Reynolds is making the highlight reel with some nice nabs, the next, people are saying we should dump the bums because they can't field. As for Matusz...that's a real concern; it could be he does't have pain, but perhaps is suffering from muscle atrophy of some kind that has caused his drop in velocity. I remember Flanagan had this problem, might have been 1980, muscle atrophied in his shoulder; no pain, but a drop off of production. Give Matusz some body strength tests to see what's up. Despite these ups and downs, I'm still an O's fan and always will be and look forward to when they put things right again. Go O's!

I agree with every thing you said about Pie, Guthrie, and fans making grabs in the seats against opposing players. I thought the same thing.
The thing about Guthrie is that he always pitches just good enough to lose. It is an intangible quality that you see way too often. Folks like Black Jack McDowell have ERA's near 5 and end up being 20 game winners, and the Guthrie types annually have sub 4 ERAs and are losers.

if pie does not have any baseball instincts and luke scott has his shouldier problem, where is nolan reimold. pie might have speed in the outfield,but if he can't keep his head on straight why put him in a game. also on jeremy guthrie,if he is possible trade material, i would hope we could get some real worthwhile player in return for him not some has been minor leaguer. i am curious who is a possible canidate for the all star game this year. i would guess thus far it might could be adam jones. there sure aren't any other players doing anything to make the all star game.

Jeff, what are your thoughts on a potential trade for Guerrero? I'm not sure he would get much of a return, but I'm thinking DH may be the best spot for Reynolds's bat. Obviously there has to be someone to play 3B, but an offensive liability maybe preferable at this point. I seem to remember this team winning a lot of games at the end of last year without a big bat at third.

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Jeff Z's reply: I have no inside sources telling me anything at this point and things won't heat up on trade front until we get into July, but I'd be surprised if Vlad is still an Oriole after trade deadline. Some team will be looking for a right-handed bat. Let's face it, Vlad isn't what he was, but he still is a productive and respected bat.

Jeff,
You are right about the fan catching Hardy's homerun ball. I was seated one section away in left field, so I wasn't sure if the ball was in the stands realtime. But after I saw the replay on the bigboard there was no doubt the fan should have made a play on that ball. It looked to me like the guy was scared of the ball as if it were a line shot. And although there are lots of fan sympathetic fans on this post, I can tell you my entire section was yelling at the guy. At least touch the LF glove when it appears near your chest.

On another note, I saw the inside the park HR a little differently than most I have heard/read. It appears to me that Jones didn't think he would get to the line drive and was putting his glove up as a decoy. He then realized that the ball would hang up long enough and had to make a last ditch effort to catch it on the other side of his body. It's a tough play on a line shot right at you, but you can't let the ball get past you like that in the air. I'm not buying the ball knuckling in the air excuse that the broadcasters were trying to sell. Your take?


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Jeff Z's reply: The ball clearly had some tail or knuckle or whatever you want to call it on it, but I felt like it should have been an error. Jones makes that play pretty much every time. It just seemed to me that he got a bad read on the ball and was caught in between. You weren't the only one who suggested that he may have been trying to decoy. Jones didn't elaborate when he was asked those questions, sticking to 'I just missed the ball."

I am usually one to be level-headed but I'm getting irritated here.

1)Pressley: Blame the batter for not hitting the ball deeper, your comments make you look small.

2)I'd rather see a .240 OF who can play smart and with great defense. That wins ballgames. See Minnesota. Felix Pie will and has cost more wins than he gains for the team.

3)In the same manner as pining for Pie, Koji is not closer material, he's not durable. Gregg is our best option.

4)The Matusz thing sickens me. How can he be so bad now? Both he and the manager (and the pitching coach too) need to stop this hissy fit. Keep it in house and work it out there.

Finally, Jeff - I'm not mad at you, but I do think you should sit with the fans once to get a perspective about how dead it is out there. That fan could have been on his cell phone when the ball was hit,trying to take a picture,eating, anything but watching the game. I'd bet he didn't even know if we were at bat or not. It's the worst I've ever seen it. Hell, I heard "We are family" in between innings a few years ago over the speakers, and they do the "Day-O" thing the Yankees use. It makes me ill. How do you expect anyone to have a clue to catch a ball? Not many that go pay any attention to the nuances of the game, including the PA peope responsible for trying to get the crowd into it.

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Jeff Z's reply: No problem with you voicing your opinion, Rick. I do go to about two or three games a year as a fan. I have my friends or family in town from New Jersey, we sit in the cf bleachers, and we have a find time throwing a couple back and enjoying a ballgame.

Plain and simple guys, if you come just to watch the game with your family and are concerned about hurting your hands by catching the ball. PLEASE just take a step back and sit in the 4th or 5th row (trust me the view is just about the same and you get more leg room). Let the real O's fans sit close to the action.

Moral of the Story: Don't sit in the first row of any sporting event not anticipating the potential of being part of the action.

You guys can blame Andy, Buck, etc., but at some point we have to accept this team is just snakebitten.

I don't believe in luck or curses, but it's hard not to think something is up with this franchise. Even if you don't like the signings of Reynods, Vlad, etc., there is no way this team should be worse than Seattle and Pittsburgh.

I think the only real negative so far this season that was CLEARLY visible before the season started was the inability of Gregg to close. Why he still has his job, I have no clue. He's saving games at a 75% clip and has a WHIP over 1.50. That is not even good for a reliever, much less a closer...much less a closer in the AL East.

"But Gregg has experience closing in the AL East!"...ya, and he has experience getting rocked in the AL East too. Time to hand the job to Koji or Johnson. Individual player struggles and injuries are not on the team, the manager or GM...but signing Gregg is, and so is keeping him in that role.

Jeff,

I could not agree more with your take regarding the fans and fair or foul balls hit into the seats.

I have the MLB package at home and watch pretty much all the O's games and saw the plays you mentioned. On the Hardy would-be homer, the fan started to make a play on the ball and actually pulled his hands back when he saw the TB leftfielder leap to grab it.....are you kidding me! It’s in the seats; it’s as much the fans ball as it is the players at that point.

I live in Westchester County, NY, about an hour north of Yankee Stadium and have been going to the Stadium to root against the Yankees for over 30 years. Watch a Yankee game sometime, when an opponent gets near the seats.....he can forget about catching the ball, hell he's lucky if he still has his hat.

Which brings me to another topic.....the O’s “fan base”? We travel down for a long weekend each year to watch a weekend series at Camden Yards and we love the place. But I gotta tell you, the place is dead, no life at all. When I stood up to boo as the Twins ran on to field last summer, you should have seen the looks I got from ORIOLE FANS! There's no clapping when we have two strikes on an opposing hitter, no rally chants (that are not artificial)....pretty sad. Do you people have any idea how badly the O's team and their fans get treated at Yankee Stadium and other Parks.

I'm not saying act like an obnoxious Yankee fan, God knows there are too many of those already. But show a little pride, help the team whenever possible. Next time a ball comes you're way; even if you can’t catch it, make sure the other team can't either.

.....and stop whining about losing seasons already. If you're an O's fan, that's life right now. We're stuck in the AL East and until there’s a salary cap, nothings going to change. We'll maybe we can finish in third.

Jeff,

Let me start by saying thanks for all the time and effort you put into covering the Orioles beat. I love reading your articles.

About fan interference, this isn't the first time stuff like that has happened this year. I've been watching games all this season where fans just let the opposing player into the seats to go for a foul ball, and it makes me wonder why they wouldn't try to catch it. For one thing, I want the souvenir. For a second thing, I definitely want to keep that opposing player from making the out, as long as that ball is outside the field of play. I'm surprised to see so much controversy from commenters about this because it's a valid point: Why wouldn't you go after the ball?

I think Jones missed the ball because he saw the Rays' runner at second and he wanted to make a good throw to first to double him off. He had almost been able to do that the play before, and he made a high throw, so he wanted to get his feet set to make a better one the second time, and this left him unable to cope with a tricky, knuckling ball.

And it definitely should have been an error.

But Jones also made a hell of a play on that double in the gap in the 3rd (I think it was the 3rd) when he assumed nothing and ran the bases hard, forcing a bad throw from the Rays and the extra base home when the ball went into the stands. I bet there are few others on the team that would have done that. It's ironic that many fans consider him to be lackadaisical, when he's not only the best hustling player on the team, he's the best player period. And he doesn't get fooled on those outside sliders nearly to the same degree as early last season.

Jeff,

I understand your thoughts about Pie bringing some elements to the game that may not exist elesewhere but he is severly lacking in other areas that a professional, winning team player has (baserunning, plate discipline, overall instincts). It is embarrasing to see some of the things he does when you are paying for a seat to a PROFESSIONAL game. If you want to change the culture of this team, mental errors and bad situational baseball cannot be tolerated. Also, why do you seem to be ignoring the Reimold questions? It seems to me a good eye and power are also things this team lacks and he has both and has not been given an opportunity this year. Making the routine play in left would have preserved the game on Saturday night in the ninth more than likely. No way that is a triple unless you mis-play the ball.

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Jeff Z's reply: I'm not ignoring them at all. I've talked about Reimold plenty on this blog. His power potential and quality of at-bats are definitely something O's lack. But he needs to find some consistency and he hasn't shown it last year or this season (mostly in minors). His defense in left also needs to improve.

This is pretty weak. If your team has to start questioning the fans about how they decide to interfere with a play or not, then that just speaks volumes about the club.

What is the new slogan for this? "Come on down to the yard and help the O's play?"

You're right about one thing, you shouldn't be telling fans how to spend their money or how to act.

Maybe some fans don't care as much about a baseball as you think they should. Maybe some fans are there to I don't know, watch the game rather than be part of it?

Start worrying about what is going on in the field of play and not in the stands. Maybe that would fix the problem.

I agree with the fan who pointed out that Pie seems not to have outstanding baseball instincts in catch fly balls, running the bases, throwing to the right bases. Specifically when Pie chases a ball to his right toward the left field foul line, he does not coordinate his back hand attempt to catch the ball with his stride. The glove does not open up as much as it should. In the recent failure to catch the ball in the ninth inning, his glove was almost closed when the ball hit off the top of it for a triple. Not a good play for a defensive replacement.

I have to agree with the assessment of Pie, he may be athletic but he does not have baseball instincts. He still argues balls and strikes instead of taking responsibility for his own failures. Vlad may be a good clubhouse team-mate but he is awful at the bat when there are runners on base. I notice the opposing catchers put their target wide outside, knowing that he will swing at even balls that bounce in the dirt. Let's hope that Brian Roberts will be back soon.

Jeff-- up near the top of the comments, I wasnt taking a shot at you-- it was a Presley. Your reporting is fine, and you are certainly entitled to your opinion.

However, until Presley rolls out some .300 hitters, he should put his time and energy into coaching, not making fans feel like they need to be the ones winning games for guys that are actually getting paid to do it.

I lost a lot of respect for that guy.

Right now...Bruce Chen has more stuff than our future Hall of Famer Matusz.

Jeff,

You are ABSOLUTELY CORRECT about fans and balls hit into the seats. Too often our fans give away our home field advantage on playable balls hit into the stands.

With all the messages and announcements played at OPACY, can't we convey to the casual fan the role of the home team fan on balls hit into the stands?

How about a pre-game video, which can also be played during rain delays, that talks about, explains do's and don'ts, and shows clips about what good fans do and don't do?

Don't back down on this Jeff.

So let me get this straight...you are claiming both Hardy and Pressley questioned the fans not reaching for balls? Might want to clarify a little better before putting words in players and coaches mouth giving them a bad rep in the eyes of loyal fans...

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Jeff Z's reply: I'm not putting words in anybody's mouth. I had Presley quoted about the play in today's paper. That's on our web site. I never said that they were ticked off at the fans. The replay came on in the clubhouse before the game and several players were watching it, and they all expressed surprise that Ruggiano didn't encounter more resistance. They also brought up the Kotchman play and the discussion turned to how that doesn't happen in many places. There was no ripping fans,nor did I ever say there was.

It looked to me that fan didn't want to hurt his hands catching that HR ball. Didn't anyone else see that he took his baseball cap off and tried catching the ball with his cap before backing off?

Pie is just another MLB player with a lot of raw skills but unlikely to ever refine them.
The list is lengthy.

Speed but no ability to steal bases.
Speed but tons of carelessness running the bases.
Inability to work an AB. Zero walks is crazy.
Speed but very erratic at running down balls.

A guy who doesn't walk and doesn't steal with erratic defense and limited power is at best a fourth outfielder.

A bigger question is why do players like him make it to the MLs w/o getting refined in some basic baseball smarts.

Is it because:
1. They lack the intelligence
2. They don't really care
3. People give them a pass based on raw skills (I think this is very true at high school and college levels)
4. Poor coaching (sometimes true but I think it is least likely)

I'm still dumfounded at the number of pitchers who make it to the MLs after years at high school, college and/or minors and end up in a defenseless position after throwing the ball. They end up at perpendicular to where they should be. No wonder many get hit.

Orioles fans needed to be demoted to AAA for their lack of gusto; no other team is going to claim them on waivers, either.

Seriously, I'm not sure if some fans even know that the ball is fair game for them provided it is not in play. Consider this a "teachable moment."

I played centerfield and that line drive for the home run Jones missed is the toughest defensive play in baseball. But what no one has mentioned is Jones' failure to run hard on a ground ball that he would have beaten out had he run hard from the start. I thought Showalter had broken him of this bad habit. Apparently not. This stuff is a cancer.

I saw Matusz in his tune-up start at Frederick, and I couldn't believe his lack of velocity. Thought the radar gun was off, but then the opposing pitcher was hitting the 90s. Matusz' best efforts were in the low 80s. He looked tentative, too. Doesn't seemed to have changed much since going into the rotation. Big concern.

Pie needs to be in Triple A. Yea, he's fast and has some pop, but his baseball brains have been left on the bus somewhere. I want to see Reimold and Scott in left, with Reimold getting most of the time out there. Scott's hurting, that's obvious.

Roch, regarding Brian Matusz you indicated he might be having problems grasping some mechanical changes Mark Connor has suggested. Why would Connor change anything Matusz was doing when last year his mechanics were very good? I mean a new coach comes in and makes suggestions to change does that mean Matusz must make the change when he is comfortable doing it his own way?

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Jeff Z's reply: Roch's over at masnsports.com.

Jeff,

Watching the games on MLB.com, I can't tell you how dissapointed I am with the attendance. Sunday's are typically good because I believe (and I don't know this as fact) most people opted for the Sunday ticket package.

If we fans want the O's to play a more inspired form of baseball, then inspire them. Don't say that we are waiting for them to sign big time players or start winning or for Peter Angelos to sell the team, I don't think we get it.

I recently watched the Pirates play the Phillies in Pittsburgh. There were a lot of Philly fans in the stands with their Red or Blue jerseys. They probably thought they would have a good time in Pittsburgh and take over PNC Park.

WRONG! The place was PACKED! The cat walks in the right field corner were filled! Banners everywhere! Black and Yellow everywhere! Th Philly fans were drowned out and all you could hear was "Let's Go Bucs". Everyone was on their feet.

The announcers were saying that they couldn't remember the last time such a spirited Pirate crowd had the stadium PACKED!

And the Pirate players were obviously into it too. They came back and beat the Phils. The crowed was delirious.

We need to stop looking to the Warehouse for a solution because I don' think it's there. Take matters into our own hands. If you want to have a winner on the field, we need to have winners in the stands. And stop taking any crap from Yankee or Red Sox fans.

Maybe we shouldn't be such a "Charm City?"

One question that I need help with: how is it that Rays, Marlins, Pirates, even Blue Jays...seem to find great hitting without spending a fortune, while year after year, O's can't even BUY hitting, much less find any in their farm system? Doesn't seem to matter who our GM is, O's just don't seem to ever have serious hitting.

Jeff, you're way off-base with your complaint about nonassertive fans. I'm a 65 y.o.-5'6"-150lb guy who is going to get out of the way when a 6'3" professional athlete comes barreling my way. Maybe the fan had an injury or disability and can't risk a violent collision. It's just ridiculous to suggest --and yes, you did so--that the O's are losing games because of nonassertive fans.


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Jeff Z's reply: What's ridiculous is you saying that I suggested the Orioles lost game because of their fans. Never said that, never said anything close to that.

All of these player shortcomings included in the comments above harken back to the Dave Trembley era.The O's appear to be rekindling old habits under the new manager. Is there any explanation for this. Are they again realizing in June they are a last place team. It's a little early to quit.They couls move out of last this year.

Jeff,

Upon re-reading your article, you definitely "suggested" that fans allowing opposing defense to occur on the fringe of the stands contributed to our losing.
Even a remote connection is very unfair, as most fans are at the game to see the O's play a good game themselves, not for the fans to "play" the game.

A larger question, as at least one other writer said, is why doesn't Jones run hard out of the box every time he strikes the ball. As I recall, there was a ball in play in the infield which he was SURE that he would be out, so he loafed. Now THAT is helping out the other team!

Totally agree with Jumanji about the "Reynolds Bashing". He may not be Brooks in the field, but who is? Everyone was aware of the strikeouts, etc, whe the trade was made. For those of you who are complaining, look at it this way. Adam Dunn is no better in the field, is hitting .180 and has 84 strikeouts in 200 at bats. And he's making a LOT more money............

I hope Matusz can hit, because he's headed down the Adam Loewen path with this organization.

And remember, McPhail was the GM for the Cubs when Wood and Prior blew their arms out. McPhail's pitching coach there, Larry Rothschild, has had two pitchers with the Yankees go down already under his care (Chamberlain and Soriano).

I hope they don't ruin Zac Britton's arm too. They are talking about "shutting him down" at some point. But it's funny, how come Nolan Ryan is taking the opposite direction with his pitchers. I read where they even pitch batting practice.

Wasn't Ryan part of the ownership group when Showalter was the manager there? If so, Showalter should be asked why they are doing the opposite of what Ryan is doing. And what the Rangers are doing seems to surely be working.

So...someone explain to me when an O's pitcher "misses" the ball is in the middle of the plate and usually ends up being extra bases or a home run. But our pitchers are excellent and our catchers are calling quality games. Not


How can a MLB ball player let the same down the middle of the plate fast ball go by and just turn around and go to the dug out...
Great hitters all worth the 10mil + we pay

NOT

14+ years if misery continues.

Conner quit cause his pitchers didn't listen or learn still making the same mistakes game after game inning after inning.

Such a God awful team.

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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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