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September 3, 2011

Orioles clinch 14th straight losing season. Can they avoid 100 losses?

I know, a 14th straight losing season for the Orioles has been a formality for weeks, if not months.

But the day when it is clinched still usually carries some significance, especially since the Orioles haven't had a winning season since 1997. That day came tonight, when the Orioles dropped their 82nd game, falling, 6-3, to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Starter Alfredo Simon didn't give his team much of a chance, allowing a career-high six earned runs on seven hits and four walks over five innings. All the Rays' runs came with two outs, and five of the six were driven in by B.J. Upton, who hit a two-run double in the first inning and a three-run double in the fifth.

"“It’s one of the reasons why he’s had those inconsistencies in his career,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Simon. “He has a couple of really good outings and then a couple that are just not anything we [need]. We’re looking for people that you know what you are going to get, day in, day out. Command of the fastball has to be there to pitch at this level, and tonight wasn’t one of those nights.”

It was just the Orioles’ second loss in eight games here, and it ended their five-game road winning streak. Of greater significance, the franchise streak of losing seasons will extend into 2012, not that there was any lingering doubt that would occur.

“You don’t want to continue a trend like that,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “Fourteen years is a long time. We got to do something about it, change it up.”

The Orioles look down at only the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are working on a 19th consecutive losing campaign, the longest for any professional North American sports team. The Pirates won today, thanks to former Oriole Derrek Lee’s ninth-inning grand slam to beat the Chicago Cubs, but they are still 64-75 and in need of an amazing turnaround to avoid extending their dubious streak.

As for the Orioles, they can now focus on trying to avoid a 100-loss season. The Orioles have to go no worse than 8-17 over their final 25 games to avoid what would be just the franchise’s second 100-loss campaign since 1954.

Eight wins over the final 3 1/2 weeks of the season doesn't sound too difficult, even for a team that has struggled as much as the Orioles, but consider that they still have four more games against the New York Yankees, seven against the Boston Red Sox, four against the Detroit Tigers and Rays, and three each against the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Angels.

“This last month is where it can really show the [guts] that everybody has, basically,” Jones said. “We got the last three weeks ahead of us. We know that there is no playoffs in our future this year, but we still have 20-something games to go out there and prove something to the rest of the league. We need to take it upon ourselves individually and as a team to go out there and play the game as hard as we can until that last out is made of the season.”

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 10:17 PM | | Comments (25)
        

Comments

Oh well, had to happen eventually. You pegged it though, what a perfect way to lose the determining game. Poor starting pitching, spotty offense, no plate discipline, the only things missing were a critical base running mistake and a fielding error or two.
As for 100 loses, who cares? Will losing only 99 mean that this team is any better?

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Jeff Z's reply: I see your point of view Roy and I know there are a ton of people who agree with you. But to me, losing 100 games is mind boggling. Of all the bad teams that the Orioles have had, only two of those have dropped 100, and one of them was the 1954 club that played 154 games. In a season that was supposed to be about progress, a 100-loss campaign would cap off easily one of the most disappointing years in franchise history. At least by record alone, this team would go down as the second worst Orioles team in franchise history. That is shocking to me.

If there is anything positive to take away from tonight's loss, perhaps it would be stopping all of the silly talk about Simon being a candidate for next year's rotation.
Jeff, one of the problems in watching bad baseball and especially inept pitching over the past fourteen years is that our standards have been so lowered that 1-2 decent outings have us deluded about the ability of a certain player.

Alfredo Simon is a marginal player at best who has no business playing a prominent role on a pitching staff. I was glad to hear Buck not sugarcoating what he witnessed tonight.

It's a very disappointing season, no doubt, but 100 is just a number.

In terms of awfulness to watch, this team is up there, but I'd put these Orioles teams ahead of it:

1998
1999
1988
1987

Hmm, I guess that means I think this is the most unwatchable O's team since 1998. Avoiding 100 losses won't change that.

Jeff,

Every year at this time we put together our 2012 wish list. Here's mine: A left fielder, a second baseman, a third baseman, a first baseman and two good veteran starting pitchers in their prime. Nolan Reimold is blowing his opportunity to be the starting left fielder. He is hitting .230 and his defense is below average. In all of the hoopla over Mark Reynolds 31 home runs, he is hitting only .222, with only 65 RBI's, a .322 OBP, a .479 slugging PCT, has struck out 167 times and is fielding .949. Give me somebody who can get on base, strike out 100 times less and can drive in close to 100 runs at that position.

What's your list?


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Jeff Z's reply: Mine would actually be longer than that Gil. In no particular order.
1. 2 starters (one a real legit guy who could match up against some of the better pitchers in AL; Obviously I'd prefer top of the rotation ace but not sure where you find that guy; the other an innings eater just to provide depth and make sure the young guys have competition for spots rather than just being handed them. After how they've pitched this year, none of these young guys should have guaranteed spots heading into spring training. Obviously Britton and Arrieta will be in good spots, but nothing should be handed to any of these guys).
2. Multiple bullpen guys: I wouldn't pay a ton for any of them, but find creative ways to fill out bullpen with high upside, good stuff guys. Whether that means Rule 5, small signings or trades, figure it out. Other teams do it regularly and O's never seem to. Really, is there a single guy in the current bullpen that you can pencil into next year's group? Jim Johnson obviously, but he may start. Kevin Gregg's contract means he'll likely be back but probably not in same role.
3. Productive power-hitting corner infielder in prime of career: Ideally, I'd prefer a third baseman to keep Reynolds at first, but I wouldn't be too picky. Need a guy who can hit 30 homers and drive in 100 runs.
4. Left fielder: Agree with you on Reimold. It would be nice if they got a guy who can play good defense - left field defense this year has been atrocious by all involved - and do some things. Hit the ball out of the ballpark on occasion, run a little, handle the bat, hit for a decent average. Ideally, if you get a left fielder and a corner infielder, you can use Chris Davis and Nolan Reimold in a DH platoon or something like that. I don't see Luke Scott being back unless he takes a paycut. I'd be fine with them not having a set DH and moving that spot around, using it as a way of getting guys like WIeters, Markakis and Jones a "half day" off so to speak, and getting at-bats for others in that spot.
5. A second baseman. Ideally, I'd rather see them groom a young guy then sign a Mark Ellis/Aaron Hill type. I'm not opposed to giving Adams a chance but he does seem a little raw right now to be counted on as the starting 2B next year if Roberts can't go.
6. A leadoff hitter: One of the guys you get - whether it's the 2B or LF needs to be capable of being at least a semi-productive leadoff man. YOu can't be crippled when Roberts goes out of lineup. It's killed their lineup two years in a row now. Hardy is uncomfortable doing it, so is Jones. Andino shouldn't be in that spot.

My two cents: doesn't matter. What matters is what this organization does going forward. If Angelos is tired of losing then do what other successful franchises have done recently: bring on a young gun GM, give him carte blanche and let him clean house from top to bottom and that includes Showalater if necessary..

Jeff i guess this year out of all the past few has been really disappointing. i really believed that close to a .500 season was here. That the O's had figured it out. Now I couldn't even guess how many players they need to do well and I don't have any hope that they will go out and get the right pieces even if they were available. They could get decent players with good scouting but that seems unlikely. Anyone ask Buck what his wish list would be ?

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Jeff Z's reply: He's mentioned it a couple of times, but I think those questions will become more and more prevalent over the final 2 weeks of the season.

Does it really matter if they lose 90 or 100+? The team is dreadful with little likelihood that they'll turn things around. Angelos isn't the only problem, but he is the main problem. He's impeded progress in scouting, player development, and accept for a half-hearted attempt to get into Cuba (of all places) he's done little to develop international ties. As long as he's making $140 million a year on MASN Camden Yards can sit empty and he'll still make money. Maybe it's time we stop watching the O's all together.

Jeff,

Always appreciate that you take the time to reply in depth & substance where & when you see fit.

I imagine one or two others on the Sun staff may do that. But you are the only one that i am aware of.

Btw, some of these CAPTCHA would be indecipherable by NSA

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Jeff Z's reply: Thanks Dave, I try to get to as many questions as I can. Agree about Captcha. My bosses are sick of me complaining about it.

I've been an Orioles fan for 57 years. Can recall Willie Miranda vividly. This team has a fighting chance to lose 100. With same ownership, management, scouting and fan base they could easily lose 163 games next year or the year after. Since owneirship's profits rise in direct proportion to losses, where are any incentives to win. Unless the fans force a change (which I dont see happening) we will be having these same blogs year after year. Best idea I can think of is a tax on losses by any Maryland professional sports team that makes a profit. It could even be graduated. 25% of profits for 10 games under .500, 50% for 20 games under and 100% for 30 games under ( for baseball).

The #1 thing the Orioles need is a good judge of talent, the scouts to find them and the personnel that can motivate, train and bring out the best in their young talent. i agree with hiring a young talented GM and giving them the power to make changes. I'm not sure that will happen with current ownership. I don't see much changing until new ownership takes over! Andy is just the end of a long line of baseball people to throw up his hands and leave after his contract expires.

Glad to hear that Buck recognizes CONSISTENCY as the key to pitching. Too many guys like Tillman or Simon who look brilliant in one game and then the next 2 outings they get totally rocked. Without consistent starting pitching you ain't got jack.

Here's my list of players/pitchers that the Orioles must look at regardless of who is GM:

105. Chris Capuano (33)
86. Ryan Doumit (30)
79. Rich Harden (30)
76. Raul Ibanez (39)
64. Ramon Hernandez (35)
54. Aaron Harang (33)
44. Coco Crisp (32)
42. Cody Ross (31)
29. Jonathan Broxton (27)
24. Hiroki Kuroda (37)
8. Chris Carpenter (36)

If they don't get any of these fellows, there is no hope for the Orioles in 2012.

The Orioles and Broxton need each other. Borxton needs to get himself together and the Orioles have no one like him! I realize Kuroda and Carpenter are old, but they still have live arms and quite frankly I think they both are worth a two year deal. Kuroda will probable stay with the Dodgers or somewhere out west, makes sense don't it. As for Carpenter he is better then anything the Orioles currently have. That's my justification for signing him! After watching the highlight vidoes of the game last night on MLB. I am totally convinced that Reimold stinks. He is not a left fielder, after Simon threw his "Nothing Fastball" according to my favorite announcer Jim Palmer. Reimold misjudged that long fly ball that hit the top of the wall. It's my opinion that if we had a good left fielder out there, something that Reimold clearly isn't. We need someone new out there. That player is Cody Ross. Him or Coco Crisp could have made that play in my opinion. Not sure if Coco would want to play LF for us. I would only pick up Coco iif we trade Adam Jones. I listed two catchers on tis list. Hernandez and Doumit. Doumit could fill in at first and DH and so could Hernandez, I am just not sure if the O's are willing to spend the dough to bring either one here.
This is my list and these are the players I would soley focus on, there's no one else. No, I am not senile, I am quite aware of the names I ommited, I ommited them because I have "Zero" interest in them, "PERIOD"! There's no one perfect in this free agency period due to age, injury and so on, however I do feel all of these players could contribute to the 2012 Orioles and get them over the .500 mark, but that's only if the Orioles get aggressive here instead of the Andy MacPhail method of "Wait and See" what happens.
Oh one other thing Palmer simply does not like Simon and his "Nothing Fastball". I realize that Simon didn't pitch well last night, but the job Reimold has been doing in Leftfield has been far worse! Ugh I am so tired of this stuff, really I am!

To have a losing season every now and then can be expected.

To have 2 losing seasons in a row is cause for concern.

To have 5 losing seasons back to back is inexcusable.

To have 10 losing season in succession is inexcusable.

To have 15 losing seasons in a row is a disgrace.

They should blow up the entire organization starting with the owner and GM and trade everybody and start from scratch. The organization is ruining their good players (Markakis, Roberts) not developing young prospects (Matusz, Tillman, Riemold) , drafting poorly (Hobgood, Rowell, etc), but most of all they are discouraging the entire team. Nobody like losing it wears on you (Weiters), you begin to think you are a loser........ then after awhile you believe you are a loser.......... and then you actually become a loser.

Trade these guys, let them out of the prison called "The Orioles".....let them go to other teams and have a chance to feel what it is like to win 70-80-90 games.

15 years!!!!!! Really.

Angelos......you should be ashamed. Success isnt always measured by how much money you make.
Sometimes its measured by vision and leadership.

Disgraceful.

Has the time finally come to accept that the Orioles will never be competitive again? Do we need to get lessons from Cubs fans on how to support a losing team and celebrate whatever little victories come our way each year?

100 losses doesn't technically matter, but there is some symbolism to it. I mean, you have to be really, really bad to lose 100. What makes it worse is, as Jeff points out, this was supposed to be a year of progress.

As far as a wishlist, short of a new owner, an autonomous forward thinking GM would be nice, like Friedman, Epstein or Andropolous. The team's fate rests upon the shoulders of it's young players, and if they struggle like they did this year, a few other guys will only be the difference between losing 90 and losing 100.

100 losses doesn't technically matter, but there is some symbolism to it. I mean, you have to be really, really bad to lose 100. What makes it worse is, as Jeff points out, this was supposed to be a year of progress.

As far as a wishlist, short of a new owner, an autonomous forward thinking GM would be nice, like Friedman, Epstein or Andropolous. The team's fate rests upon the shoulders of it's young players, and if they struggle like they did this year, a few other guys will only be the difference between losing 90 and losing 100.

As far as Scott goes. I think he will be back, and at a reduced rate. Luke's no dummy, he knows that at his age and coming back from injury, he's not going to get close to what he made this year. If they can get him for a million or a million and half, maybe even two, which I think is quite possible, he's the FT DH next year. I don't think any other team will give him more.

There's no reason to doubt that, with his workout ethic and his powerful upper body, he can come back strong next year. He will also be playing for his last big money opportunity. That has to figure into it.

You know, the pitching is the biggest dilemma. If the Orioles were on the verge of contending, I'd say go get those two pitchers you mentioned. I know CJ Wilson of the Rangers might be available, he's a guy I'd like, but he's lefthanded, I wouldn't mind them getting a solid right handed innings eater.

But here's the thing. You have to find out if the youngsters can pitch. That was the idea going into this season. And who knows what might have happened if Matusz doesn't strain his intracostal muscle, or whatever it was. Arrieta just might be ready to step up, so might Britton. Matusz had better have learned something from this year, Tommy Hunter looks like a keeper, and do you keep Guthrie around to be that innings eater who provides depth? You still have Johnson, Bergeson, and Tillman. Another veteran starter might be the piece to hold things together.

I know many people don't want to hear this, but they've messed with Tillman way too much this year. When he has a good outing, they give him another start, but when he falters, he's sent out. Right now his head must be all screwed up, and if Buck Showalter is right, then he'll get the mental side taken care of in the off-season. He has to be in the rotation to start the season, and he has to be given a string of starts, no matter what happens, to see once and for all if he can do it. Indeed, he should be up here right now. And so should Bell and Snyder. As much as I like Andino, he is not the answer at 3B, Bell should be given the same opportunity that Adams is being given. He should be at 3B every day. Let's see what we've got with the guy. And if you keep Reynolds at 1B, Snyder needs to be DHing. He hasn't looked overmatched in his previous cups of coffee, let's see if he's got anything.

Reynolds appears to be a streaky son of a gun, there are times when a slo-pitch softball pitcher could strike him out. But he has undeniable power, he can take a walk, and yeah is fielding pct is 949, but over the past two and a half months, it's over 990. He has not yet made an error at 1B, and only two in his past 31 games at 3B. Trust me, you can do a lot worse than Mark Reynolds. BTW, our friends at ESPN did a statistical analysis of offense for 1B vs 3B. Reynolds offense is below par on the right side, above par on the left side, for whatever that's worth.

Chris Davis likewise needs that opportunity to just get out there and play. That's the only way to find out if he, and the other young guys can play.

Maybe its time to see if Angle or Hudson can be a Juan Pierre type in left field, maybe even in CF and move Jonesy to left. A dedicated singles hitter who can walk and steal bases and play great defense can be very valuable and those two guys project to be those kind of players. Not everyone can hit 35 HRs, ya know. It doesn't seem Reimold is wasting his chance to stake his claim to LF, his time is running out. Very likely Angle or Hudson can be that lead off hitter the Orioles need, even if he's in LF ahead of Reimold.

The bullpen is the bullpen. Many teams go through the process of rebuilding the pen every year. Middle relievers are a most unreliable lot, some years they're great, other years they couldn't get out my niece's 10u fast pitch squad. Nature of the game. Look at a guy like Rafael Soriano. He's been up and down his whole career. Look at Kyle Farnsworth. He's a guy who throws 100 MPH but has never had consistent success. But the Rays needed a closer, Farnsworth was the best fit and now he's having the best season of his career at the age of 35.

If Johnson starts, you'd think Simon, Bergeson, Berken, Eyre, Gregg(in a set-up role), Patton, Strop(who has had some great reports), and maybe Accardo(who has done a nice job at AAA) could be the cadre around which to build the bullpen. Again, you can do worse. Frankly, I'd like to see JJ stay where he is, he might be too valuable to take out of that role.

Andino might not be the answer at 3B, but I have no issues with him at 2B. His defense is way above average, and he's not an instant out, not like Izturis. Not every 2B is Cano or Kinsler, would be nice to have one of those guys, maybe Adams can develop some of that power, but Andino can certainly hold down that position if they need him to. Otherwise, he makes for a great UT guy.

Thanks.

Jeff: RE your list, that looks like quite a Christmas checklist. What's the reality? From what I've heard, not much FA starting pitching available in the off-season. Not much trade bait, it seems to me. Do you think Buck, either as a MGR or as a GM, is enough of a draw to bring good players in? (BTW, I swear that he'd probably drop at least 50% of the team if he thought he could get better players in the off-season.)

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Jeff Z's reply: Oh, I totally agree Bill. No way they can address those things all this offseason. That's why they remain a couple of years away from being competitive. I know it's tough to hear, but even the most optimistic Oriole fan cannot think that this team is close to contending. As for Buck, he could help a little but I think those factors are overrated. Free agents want a ton of money and a chance to win. That more than anything is what it will come down to with the difference makers on the market.

This franchise keeps selling hopes, however, after this season we all must realize that there is no hope for us under the present regime. They are shameful and have disgraced all who bleed the orange and black. Where is their pride? Never ever thought we would see the way we would become such a trainwreck as it is now. That earthquake recently was that of the Late Orioles turning over in their graves!

Just a comment: I don't think Chris Davis will ever learn to hit a breaking ball. I think Adam Jones, for all his natural talent, has probably reached his plateau, and it's not all that lofty. I think Markakis will never be a better hitter than he is now. I don't believe Reynolds will ever have a respectable on-base percentage. I think our pitching is Britton, Arietta if he heals properly, and Johnson; which means we're about 9 short. And I don't believePeter Angelos will ever commit the time or resources necessary to save this organization. In short, there isn't a glimmer of hope for this team in the foreseeable future.

But I'll be an Orioles fan till I die--unless the team is stripped away from the city.

Jeff:

I'll echo Dave - Your efforts are truly appreciated, especially by a native Baltimoreian now far from home and trying to stay connected.

My honest opinion - Whatever negative symbolism might be associated with 100 wins is overshadowed by having as high a draft pick as possible.

I would much rather lose, say, 104 and pick #2 (Houston looks to have #1 as a lock) than to lose 95 and pick #4 or #5.

Do you think that is an unreasonable perspective?

Thanks,

Steve Severn
Amarillo, TX


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Jeff Z's reply: No, not at all. I could see that.

Do you even watch the games, ken?

Tommy Hunter looks like a keeper? Why? Because of his 6.21 ERA? That's not it? Then is it the fact that he's given up more than 12 hits per nine?

Sure, Hunter's young and he's got stamina, but what in the world has he done with the Orioles to show that he's a keeper? The guy has thrown six starts and he's given up 4+ runs in five of them. That's awful, ken.

Same with Josh Bell. What has he done to deserve a chance to show us what he's got? Guys who hit .250 and strike out 25% of the time in AAA aren't going to cut it in the majors. And every time Bell has stepped to the plate in the majors, he's shown us that he doesn't belong. He's overmatched by AAA pitchers nightly. How in the world would he have a chance against Major League pitchers?

And don't even get me started on Robert Andino. Sure, it was fun to watch him for a few weeks in April, but since May 1, he's hitting .242 with a .617 OPS. Considering the fact that we gave up any hope of mediocre offense in favor of defense at shortstop for two years with Cesar Izturis, you would think that O's fans would be sick of Robert Andino.

Moving on...

There is no short-term fix for this team. Unless Britton, Matusz and Arrieta magically turn into Hudson, Zito and Mulder over night, there's absolutely no way the Orioles are going to contend any time in the next three years.

And that should be proof enough that Andy MacPhail's tenure as GM has been nothing but an absolute failure. When you bring in a guy to build a loser into a contender and you're not a single step closer to contention four years later, it should be clear that that guy didn't do his job very well.

Same question as last year before Buck took over. They played well over the last two months, avoided losing 100, and what did it get them? A lower draft pick.

It is so, so sad to read articles like this. For someone like myself to follow the Orioles during the "Oriole Magic" and "the Oriole way" years, now we have to endure articles trying to avoid 100 losses. That was unthinkable in the past. There was a time, not so long ago, that the news was if the Orioles would WIN 100 games. But the losing continues, and despite all the promises from the Oriole hierarchy, nothing changes. Obviously MacPhail was not the answer, contrary to the high expectations when he took over. I suspect the only hope for improvement would be either a change in ownership or change in ownership attitude. Otherwise, the ownership will run the Orioles into the ground in the same manner that Robert Irsay destroyed the Baltimore Colts.

Well, it's really not worth watching, is it? Regardless of W-L record, this is not competitive baseball and not good baseball. Why would would I watch it? Because a bunch of not-good-enough athletes have congregated in Baltimore to play bad baseball in a 5/6s empty stadium in front of piped in cheers?

When they get serious about playing ball in Baltimore I'll pay attention again. This is just not entertaining or interesting on any level.

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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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