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February 28, 2010

Ravens interested in T.O.? Say it IS so.

When I read Kevin Van Valkenburg's report from the NFL combine that John Harbaugh has opened the door to the "return" of Terrell Owens to the Ravens, I almost spit out my granola.

OK, it was three Egg McMuffins, but who's counting. The possibility of the Ravens making another run at T.O. is almost too delicious to contemplate -- at least from the perspective of a sports columnist and a blogger. If that really happened, I might actually set up a cot next to his locker and just live there all season.

I'm not holding my breath. Ravens fans remember what happened when the Ravens traded for T.O. a few years ago. He made such a stink about not wanting to play in Baltimore that the trade ended up being rescinded. I'd like to think this is a forgiving town, but who are we kidding?

Hypothetical scenario: If T.O. could guarantee that he'd catch 50 balls next year and make two game-winning plays, would you want him?

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:35 AM | | Comments (43)
Categories: Just football
        

News item update

Just a little housekeeping note here, but if you've noticed that I have not published a "News item" column in a couple of weeks, don't be alarmed. Because I'm at spring training covering the Orioles pretty much exclusively, I'm going to concentrate on the O's in my column for the next few weeks, but the "News item" columns will resume either at the end of spring training or when I get my sense of humor back -- whichever comes first.

In the meantime, I'll try to pop a random "News item" and "My take" in here once in awhile. Here's one now:

News item: The U.S. bobsled team won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics for the first time in 62 years.

My take: I hope one of the guys got to shout "I'm going to Disneyland," since that's where a lot of Americans got their first taste of what it might be like to ride in a bobsled. Still remember my first time on the Matterhorn. I never missed bobsledding on ABC's Wide World of Sports after that, and I still miss Jim McKay, God rest his soul.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 10:16 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Schmuck being Schmuck
        

Adrian Gonzalez update

For those Orioles fans who are secretly holding on to the hope that the Orioles get off to a surprising start and then go shopping for a marquee power hitter at midseason, you probably should take note of a story by my friend Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com out of the Chicago White Sox camp..

According to Knobler, the White Sox are very keen on Gonzalez and might be willing to put together a package for him that includes terrific young infielder Gordon Beckham. That's based on speculation by a White Sox insider and I'm not sure I'm buying it, but it is -- at the very least -- an indication of what it might take to get someone like Gonzalez, who would make a huge difference in the White Sox lineup and a similar impact on the Orioles.

Of course, whether the Orioles would be involved in a midseason market for Gonzalez might depend on whether Garrett Atkins is able to bounce back from last year's disappointing offensive performance.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:39 AM | | Comments (31)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Zrebiec: Guthrie gets the nod

Jeremy Guthrie, the Orioles’ Opening Day starter for the past two regular seasons, will get the starting assignment for Wednesday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Tampa Bay Rays at Ed Smith Stadium.

“I’m excited,” said Guthrie. “It’s fun to be able to pitch in a game against opposing hitters. It’s been five months or so.”

Closer Mike Gonzalez and reliever Will Ohman are also expected to make their Orioles’ debuts Wednesday.

Guthrie went 10-17 with a 5.04 ERA in 33 starts last season. While new acquisition Kevin Millwood is expected to start Opening Day of the regular season against Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field, Guthrie will likely slot in behind him.

- Jeff Zrebiec

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:07 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Just baseball
        

February 27, 2010

Intrassquad rotations

Nothing floats my boat more than a good intrasquad game, and the Orioles will hold seven-inning intrasquad extravaganza on Monday at Ed Smith Stadium. Here are the seven pitchers who will twirl for the orange and black squads.

Orange

Chris Tillman
Mike Hinckley
Wilfrido Perez
Ross Wolf
Chorye Spoone
Josh Perrault
Brandon Erbe

Black

Jake Arrieta
Jim Johnnson
Luis Lebron
Troy Patton
Armando Gabino
Frank Mata
Alfredo Simon

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 12:42 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Orioles: Bergesen off the mound

Pitcher Brad Bergesen had to go indoors to throw for the first time this spring from a mound. It's been raining all morning, but there are plenty of indoor facilities at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. To be fair, there were a number of covered practice mounds in Fort Lauderdale, too.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:41 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Luke sticks to his guns

lukeap.jpgI'm sure most of you have read Jeff Zrebiec's story on Luke Scott and his reaction to Major League Baseball's ban on bringing firearms -- even legal, licensed ones carried by players with government-issued carry permits -- into the clubhouse.

Luke's reaction is not surprising. He's a strong gun-rights advocate, but even he concedes that the rule makes sense, since MLB can't assume that everyone who wants to possess a weapon is qualified to do so safely.

This isn't a Second Amendment issue. Nobody's telling Luke he can't keep a firearm in his home. The clubhouse is controlled by the Orioles and Major League Baseball, so the constutional protection on their premises belongs them them, not their employees.

The issue isn't new. MLB actually instituted the ban last year in reaction to the some highly publicized incidents involving players and guns. Orioles president Andy MacPhail told Jeff that the ban is "entirely appropriate."

Of course, I'll be interested to hear you take on the matter.

AP photo

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:15 AM | | Comments (40)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Orioles: Leadoff understudy

With Brian Roberts rehabbing a slight disk herniation, it's probably fair to wonder who would be the leadoff guy if he needs a break, but manager Dave Trembley isn't ready to tackle that question...or very many others that relate to who plays and who doesn't during both the exhibition season and the regular season.

He bristled when I asked him about Felix Pie for my column in Sunday's print edition. (Check it out on the Web site tonight). He also seemed reluctant to discuss lineup contingencies during his afternoon news briefing on Friday.

"Everybody seems to want to talk about who's going to play and how much,'' he said. "I've been concentrating on the workouts and the drills and when we get to the games, I'll think about that."

If you want my opinion, I would think that the everyday player who makes the most sense as a fill-in leadoff man would be Adam Jones.

Most manager's focus on speed and on-base percentage when they pick their leadoff hitters, but there have been historical exceptions. Gene Mauch used Brian Downing as the leadoff man during some of the Angels' better seasons in the 1980s, because Mauch felt that on-base frequency was paramount. But the fact that his speediest outfielders were not great OBP guys probably had something to do with that.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 6:25 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Just baseball
        

February 26, 2010

Orioles: Bergesen ready for next step

Brad Bergesen is scheduled to throw a bullpen side session tomorrow, and seems very upbeat about it. I did get around to asking about the bruised shin that ended his breakthrough season last year and he said that feels fine, too, but he says he can still predict the weather with it.

The Orioles medical staff ordered all kinds of tests to determine if Bergesen suffered a fracture when he was struck by that line drive off the bat of Kansas City's Billy Butler last July 30. No fracture was ever detected, but Bergesen said that he was told that there had to be something more than a bruise for the injury to linger through the winter.

Tillman update: Chris Tillman threw batting practice today and said his back felt fine. Dave Trembley said today that Tillman will next throw in Monday's intrasquad game.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 1:25 PM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Zrebiec: Matusz changes agents

Orioles starting pitcher Brian Matusz has decided to switched agents, hiring CAA Sports as his representation. Matusz, 23, had been represented by Marc Agar, who negotiated the pitcher's contract with the Orioles after they chose the left-hander with the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft.

"I was with Marc since high school and he's been nothing but great to me," Matusz said. "We had a great relationship. It was a tough decision. There are a lot of great agencies out there, but I'm excited to move forward with CAA. I'm also happy to have this behind me so I can focus on preparing for the season."

Matusz had five formal meetings with agents before choosing CAA, whose baseball division is headed by Casey Close and whose agency includes Brodie Van Wagenen and Nez Balelo.

Matusz is the third prominent Oriole to switch to CAA over the past couple of years, joining starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie and center fielder Adam Jones. CAA represents more than 75 active major leaguers, including Derek Jeter, Ryan Howard, Ryan Braun and Ryan Zimmerman.

-- Jeff Zrebiec

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 1:17 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Just my luck

I overslept and missed the nutrition meeting in the clubhouse this morning. Guess I'll have to continue to live on pizza and peanut M&M's for another season. Is Diet Dr. Pepper in any of the food groups?

Baseball has come a long way since I started covering it while Roch was in elementary school (which is weird since he's only about six or seven years younger than me). In those days, nobody came down from the New York central office to brief the players on drugs, gambling and trans fat. MLB officials sometimes came down for a poker game or a lavish carb-loaded meal, but you usually didn't get a lecture with it.

That was before Pete Rose and Jose Canseco and even the 1984 Pittsburgh cocaine scandal. Now, it seems like there's somebody sounding off in the clubhouse every morning, and Kevin Millar has been gone for more than a year.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:24 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Just baseball
        

O's: Arrieta on the outside

While I'm warming up for another scintillating day of pitcher fiedlding practice and live BP, take a look at my story today about Orioles prospect Jake Arrieta, who is trying to bounce back from an up-and-down 2009 season.

Let me know what you think.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:19 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Just baseball
        

February 25, 2010

Trembley: Andino is the middle man

Since there have been a lot of questions about who will be the backup at what positions, I asked Dave Trembley today whether Robert Andino would be the guy if the Orioles needed an extended fill-in at shortstop and Ty Wigginton would be the guy if they needed someone to spell Brian Roberts for a significant number of games at second base.

He acted, at first, like it was a stupid question, so I guess it was. He said that Andino would be the guy in either case and also will play some at third base and in the outfield this spring.

Since Wigginton did play eight games at second base last year and has played the position on occasion throughout his career, I kind of figured that would be an out for Trembley to get him some at-bats when Roberts needs a break. Trembley said that he'll find Wigginton enough at-bats spelling the guys at first, third, DH and maybe the outfield.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 1:43 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Orioles: From the left

The Orioles have incorporated some new twists in their spring schedule, including a hitting station only for left-handed hitters to face left-handed batting practice. Manager Dave Trembley explained that this is an attempt to improve the club's overall performance against left-handed pitching this year.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 1:31 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Just baseball
        

O's: Koji update

Koji Uehara threw live batting practice today, using only his fastball and showing good command of the lower part of the strike zone.

"He was down, he had some finish and he looked strong,'' said Dave Trembley.

It'll be interesting to see if he changes the way he mixes his pitches in a relief role as opposed to being a starter. Trembley doesn't expect him to change his style. He just wants to see the great command and the good health.

"He's strikethrower,'' Trembley said.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 12:26 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Chat wrap: Orioles Q&A with Jeff Zrebiec

The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec participated in a live chat Thursday on The Schmuck Stops Here. He discussed the Orioles' outlook for 2010, surprise players so far in spring training and more.

Click below to read the full transcript.

Posted by Baltimore Sun sports at 11:36 AM | | Comments (7)
        

O's: Today's job posting

The Orioles just announced this year's ballboy and ballgirl tryouts. The club will hold interviews on March 6 at noon at the Warehouse for anyone 18 or older who wants to spend the summer in an Orioles jersey, but making substantially less than the $400,000 major league minimum salary.

Question: If candiates have to be 18 or older, shouldn't they be called ballmen and ballwomen. Just asking.

If you want to be considered, show up at the Bud Light Warehouse Bar entrance dressed in business casual attire. It wouldn't hurt if you brought a resume.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:09 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Chilling out

So far, the most exciting thing to happen this morning was Brad Bergesen's flat ground session on the first practice field. He looked comfortable enough, but while we're all monitoring his sore shoulder, I'm wondering if he is throwing totally without pain in the shin which was damaged so badly by that line drive last summer. Guess I'll ask him when I see him in the clubhouse.

Showing up in my usual resort attire was a mistake again today. I know I'm not going to get any sympathy from anyone up north, but it's pretty darn cold.

Dave Trembley is still beaming about the spacious Ed Smith Stadium complex, where you can actually run several different sets of drills at the same time. There are five fields here, so the O's haven't even stepped on the infield at the actual stadium. In Fort Lauderdale, the stadium was the main field with just two other full fields.


Posted by Peter Schmuck at 10:49 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Just baseball
        

O's: No early clubhouse time

The Orioles are going through their annual media training this morning, so there was no morning session with reporters in the clubhouse, but don't misunderstand. Roch and I are here, just in case an early stretching session breaks out.

I applaud the club's public relations staff for working with the players to better understand the media and avoid some of the pitfalls that can lead to strained relationships and bad press, though I'm guessing it would have the same effect if they just put out doughnuts.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:04 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Just baseball
        

February 24, 2010

Tillman looks fine

Chris Tillman said that he's still feeling some back stiffness when he wakes up in the morning, but his bullpen session today went well.

"Very positive,'' Tillman said. "I felt good. I think the trainers will clear me to throw live BP on Friday."

Camp update: The Orioles will play their only intrasquad game of the spring on Monday at Ed Smith Stadium. Richie Hebner and Gary Allensen will be the managers of the orange and black squads, which have not yet been assembled.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 1:20 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Just baseball
        

O's: Fundamental difference

The Orioles have temporary batting cages set up on one of the fields for bunting practice, something manager Dave Trembley is emphasizing more this spring.

"We're trying to add some things that will be an emphasis on the team and allow us to be in a position to win more games,'' he said.

Trembley and the coaching staff took some heat last summer after a series of glaring fundamental mistakes called into question the club's preparation. The O's are determined not to see that scenario repeated.

"Yeah, because I’ve said before, no one is ever going to sing your praises when they’re done correctly,'' Trembley said. "That’s just expected. When they are not done correctly, there is no place to hide. It doesn’t’ sit real good well with you, because it’s obvious. When you do the fundamentals well, nobody says anything to you. But when you do them incorrectly and you lose games, then it becomes a point of contention.

“I told the ballclub yesterday. I’ve got to do things better. I’ve got to make it better for them. That’s why I’m going to ask their cooperation.”


Posted by Peter Schmuck at 1:09 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Baseball America Top 100: Matusz is No. 5

matuszkapustinvertical.jpgThe Orioles are not quite as prominent in Baseball America's list of the game's 100 top prospects this year as they were in 2009, but there is a good reason for that. Two of the three players ranked in last year's top 25 -- No. 1 Matt Wieters and No. 22 Chris Tillman -- are no longer eligible.

Left-hander Brian Matusz is ranked fifth overall, behind Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, Nats pitcher Stephen Strasburg, Marlins outfielder Mike Stanton and Yankees catcher Jesus Montero. The other Orioles on the list are power prospect Josh Bell (No. 37), pitcher Zach Britton (No.63) and Jake Arrieta (No. 99). Brandon Snyder and 2009 first-round pick Matt Hobgood did not make the cut.

Last year, Wieters, Tillman and Matusz were all in the top 25, with Arrieta the only other Oriole on the list at No. 67. If you want to take a look at this year's Top 100, or last year's for that matter, you can check out the Baseball America Web site right here.

Baltimore Sun photo

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:42 AM | | Comments (23)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Today's Bergesen update

Brad Bergesen continues to progress in his recovery from the shoulder strain he suffered in early December. He threw off flat ground on Tuesday and said he expects to throw his first mound session on Saturday.

That's consistent with the club's original outlook. He was expected to be set back for about 10 days, and that would be the 10th day of training camp.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:02 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Just baseball
        

O's: Injury analysis

My column on the Orioles early rash of injuries is now up on the Web site, and you can read it right here. Let me know what you think.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 12:23 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Just baseball
        

February 23, 2010

Orioles: Roberts' rosy outlook

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, who revealed on Monday that he was diagnosed with a small herniated disk in his back about a month ago, said that he thinks he’ll be able to take live batting practice “within a week.”

Roberts took groundballs and was able to participate in most of the first full-squad workout. However instead of taking live batting practice, Roberts hit off a tee and did some soft toss in the indoor batting cages.

“I’m not very far behind” said Roberts, who also lifted weights and did conditioning. “We’re just gradually working back into it.”

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 4:01 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Andy: No worries

President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said today that he isn't worried about the string of injuries that have impacted the Orioles during the early days of training camp and isn't pursuing any additional acquisitions in case Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman or Brian Roberts isn't ready for the season.

"There's nothing that's on my radar screen or from my medical staff where we're getting the heads-up to be concerned about,'' he said. "There is nothing at present that we think is going to leak into the season."

I'll look at the club's early injury situation in more depth in my column for tomorrow's print edition. Look for it later tonight on the Web site.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 3:26 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Tejada: Feeling at home

tejada.jpgMiguel Tejada went through his first workout with his old and new teammates this afternoon and said he felt "like a new man."

The implication was that he had finally put all of his off-field trouble behind him and was returning to the Orioles with a clean slate. He actually was the one who brought up the past during his first extended interview with the Baltimore media and a few national reporters, but said that he was confident that he'll still have a good relationship with Orioles fans.

I think he's right, because -- unlike some of the other players tainted by baseball's steroid scandal -- Tejada has largely taken his medicine (if you'll pardon that expression). He has apologized repeatedly for his trangressions, which include his identification in the Mitchell Report, an age discrepancy and a year's probation for lying to congressional investigators about steroids.

"I don’t think about that,'' Tejada said. "Everybody knows what kind of person I am. I always say that everybody passes it through a lot of things. Everybody knows that I don’t hurt nobody. Whatever happened, happened. After everything is over, I never think that anybody is going to treat me bad because a hundred times, I apologized for what I did. Everybody knows that and everybody knows when I take the field, I respect the game on the field. That’s most important."

Tejada comes back to a team that has a handful of familiar faces in the clubhouse and a roomful of promising young players. He may be the oldest player on the team, but he said he doesn't feel that way.

"They make me feel young,'' he said. "They are going to be playing hard and I’m going to try to do the same thing. Everybody knows that I love this game, that I play this game hard, and I know these kids know that I’m really anxious to be a winner. I think they are going to try to give me the opportunity here."

Baltimore Sun photo

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 2:50 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Just baseball
        

O's: Quick Tillman update

Chris Tillman, who has been battling some back stiffness, played catch today and participated in all fielding drills. He is scheduled to resume throwing off a mound tomorrow.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 1:36 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Orioles: Miggi is here

The clubhouse isn't open yet, because the Orioles have physicals before the first full-squad workout, but if you were wondering, Miguel Tejada has arrived in camp, according to several people around the facility.

Not that it was a huge deal. Technically, the players aren't even required to report by today. The mandatory reporting date, according to the collective bargaining agreement, is actually Mar. 2 this year. The earlier reporting dates are voluntary, though they are treated by the clubs and the players as the real deadlines. No one, however, can be fined for being late until after the CBA date.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:13 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Chat wrap: Orioles Q&A with Peter Schmuck

The Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck discussed the team's expectations in 2010, potential surprises and more in a live chat. You can read the full transcript below.

Posted by Baltimore Sun sports at 10:59 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Buster's worried about Brian

ESPN.com's Buster Olney, who popped the rumor a week or so ago that Brian Roberts was suffering from kidney stones, is putting a gloom-and-doom spin on BRob's revelation that he is working through a slightly herniated disk in his lower back.

Buster's take: "Turns out Brian Roberts has a herniated disk in his back, writes Jeff Zrebiec, after an initial diagnosis of a kidney stone. Everybody is saying all the right things now, and it could be that he'll be OK. But keep in mind that he just starting a four-year, $40 million deal, and the fact that he is having back problem now, at age 32, is not exactly ideal, given the demands of his sport. Don Mattingly was one of the most dominant players in the majors at age 28, and then he started having back trouble and was a shell of himself the last six years of his career. Medicine has progressed a whole lot since then, and the O's must hope for the best."

My take: Can't entirely disagree, though I saw Doug DeCinces play many very good years while dealing with a far more serious back injury that left him in horrible pain at many junctures in his career. If Roberts is describing his injury accurately, he probably can rehab it to the point where it won't be a chronic problem, but is there room for real concern? Absolutely.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:39 AM | | Comments (23)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Can't wait to see Miggi

Miguel Tejada is due in camp today for the first full-squad workout, but there always seems to be an air of mystery about him this time of year. Everybody loves Miggi -- I think that was the actual working title for Ray Romano's sitcom until the network suits insisted on something more mainstream -- but he kind of marches to his own drummer. Though he probably should have come in a few days early to start the conversion to third base, he'll wander in today and light up the clubhouse.

Really, he will. That's the thing about Tejada. Just when you start to wonder about him, and this is not the first time he has been one of the last players to report to camp, he shows up and his energy is infectious. His teammates love playing with him. The coaches can't help but smile, even as they scurry off to the local Best Buy to get him an alarm clock.

He'll be the talk of the camp today as he begins work at third base. He'll have extra fielding drills with infield coach Juan Samuel either before or after the regular workout. He'll be fine eventually, but I remember Melvin Mora taking some lumps before he settled in as a pretty good defensive third baseman.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 8:58 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Just baseball
        

February 22, 2010

O's: Roberts has lower back injury

Second baseman Brian Roberts reported to camp today and revealed that he was diagnosed with a "small" herniated disk in his lower back. He worked out lightly today, but said his activities will be limited early in camp. He also is scheduled to film an Orioles commercial today, but we'll save the wisecrack about that for another time.

The injury surfaced a month ago while he was training. He said that he thought it was a back spasm, which he had experienced before, but eventually was treated for kidney stones. When the discomfort did not respond to that treatment, he underwent a spinal examination that revealed the herniation.

What's a herniated disk? The injury used to be called a slipped disk, but it's really just a pinched disk between two vertebrae that sometimes bulges and touches one or both of the spinal nerves. It can be very painful and, in advanced cases, requires surgery to relieve the problem. Roberts said, without hesitation, that it is not a serious herniation and will not require surgery. He plans to take some swings during the first full-squad workout tomorrow and build up to full participation. He did not seem concerned that the problem will impact his readiness for the regular season.

Still, it's another area of concern for a team that already has Chris Tillman trying to loosen up a stiff back.

Jeff Zrebiec will have a full story up on Roberts arrival in camp soon.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 3:00 PM | | Comments (41)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Orioles: The short stop's here

While Orioles shortstop Cesar Izturis is more than willing to help out Miguel Tejada in his transition to third base, he thinks his new teammate will do just fine on his own.

“Everybody knows that he can play,” said Izturis. “It’s a new position, but I don’t think there’s going to be any problem. If I can help out, I will. But he’s been around for a while. He knows how to play the game. I think he played third base in Dominican, in the Caribbean series. I would think that he’s not going to have a problem.”

Izturis said that the presence of a novice third baseman won’t change the way he plays shortstop.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 10:10 AM | | Comments (10)
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Orioles: Reporting day

Today is the official reporting day for Orioles position players, though most of them are already in camp. The notable exceptions, so far, are Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada, Lou Montanez and Josh Bell. Ty Wigginton and Michael Aubrey just pulled into the parking log.

Luke Scott held court with the media this morning. He conceded that his frustration snowballed during his deep second-half slump last year, but said he did not dwell on that part of his season during the winter.

"I did my reviewing during the season while it was going on,'' he said. "It's a tough game. No one's ever figured it out. I don't want to spend the offseason pulling my hair out or adding to my collection of gray hair.

"It had nothing to do with my health...it had nothing to do with my physical condition because last year I was strong through the whole season. Last year, I felt really good. Obviously, when I came off the DL I was strong enough to hit and my shoulder wasn't bothering me. It's just a funny game. It's the mind more than anything.

"Of course, I was frustrated during that second half. Who wouldn't be. I had the makings of a really tremendous season, even considering the at-bats that I had. Yeah, it was frustrating. I'm human. It hurt a lot. But the only thing I can do is move on from it and learn."

Here are a few other of his comments:

On the positions he'll prepare for this spring: "I have not received any communication yet. I imagine I'm going to take ground balls at first and my flies in the outfield, probably kind of like I did last year. Until they tell me something different, I'm going to work at the positiions that I played at and I have a chance to play."

On his reaction to the club's offseason acquisitions:"Personally, it's like, everyone wants to have a really good idea of where they're going to fit in and what they're going to do, but sometimes things don't work out that way, but that's part of being a professional. Part of being a professional is doing the best with what they ask you to do. If they asked me to play shortstop, I'd probably go out and do the best I can. That's being a professional".

On the team:"I think we're more dangerous offensively. I think we're better pitching-wise. I think we've got good leadership. Some good experience on the mound with Kevin Millwood and Gonzalez, those are two pretty good arms right there...I think we definitely are a better team."

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:09 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Just baseball
        

February 21, 2010

MASN's deep bench

MASN's Orioles broadcast crew is starting to take shape, and it looks like it will be a fairly deep lineup once Mike Flanagan is back in the booth, sharing the main color analyst role with Jim Palmer.

Jeff Zrebiec reported Sunday that as many as four former Orioles players will rotate as the third guy on the TV broadcasts. Eddie Murray, Brady Anderson and Mike Boddicker appear to be three of them, with the identity of the fourth still a subject for speculation. If I was guessing, I'd guess Bill Ripken, but I'll just wait and see what happens.

I'll be interested to see how it all sounds. Anderson is a bright guy and a good talker and Boddicker is another link to the club's glory days. I'm not quite sure what to say about the delicious irony of Eddie turning up as a member of the media, albeit as an employee of the team's broadcast network.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:03 PM | | Comments (31)
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Wieters: Man of few words

Just had the shortest interview ever with Matt Wieters.

Me: "Matt, what do you think would be the optimum number of games for a young catcher to catch in a season?"

Matt: "162."

Me: "Huh?"

Matt: "As long as I feel good, as many as I can."

Kind of reminds me of that famous incident back in the 1860s when somebody asked Abraham Lincoln how long a man's legs should be.

"Long enough to touch the ground,'' he replied.

Hopefully, this is the last time I compare Matt Wieters with Abraham Lincoln.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:30 AM | | Comments (42)
Categories: Just baseball
        

O's injury update: Tillman sore

Pitcher Chris Tillman left the practice field today after suffering a back spasm. He was accompanied by trainer Dave Walker back to the clubhouse, where he will be evaluated by the club's medical staff.

Tillman apparently first experienced some back stiffness after his first bullpen session a few days ago.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 10:18 AM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Radio update: Joe Angel's back

The Orioles never seem to be in a hurry to get their broadcast talent under contract, which explains why the the radio play-by-play team has been in limbo for the entire winter. Now, it appears, the situation is getting resolved.

Just talked to Joe Angel on the phone and he confirmed that he will be back for the 2010 season. I'm hearing Fred Manfra will be back, too, but haven't been able to get hold of him and the Orioles have yet to make an official announcement.

"This is where I want to be,'' Angel said in a quick telephone interview. "I've left Baltimore twice and come back twice, so this obviously is where I want to be. I'm ready to go."

During the past month, Angel was under consideration for a similar role with the Los Angeles Angels, who are searching for a replacement for Rory Markas, who died suddenly of a heart attack in early January.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 10:06 AM | | Comments (24)
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Zrebiec: Bergesen on track

Orioles starting pitcher Brad Bergesen is scheduled to throw off flat ground today, the start of a program that, without any setbacks, should have him pitching off the mound by late next week. Bergesen will alternate flat ground sessions and off days for the next six days, which realistically could put him on the mound for the first time next Sunday.

Team officials are confident that Bergesen, who strained his shoulder while filming an Orioles commercial in early December, will be ready long before the start of the regular season.

“He’s right there,” said pitching coach Rick Kranitz. “He really looked good the day. His arm action was very strong.”

-- Jeff Zrebiec

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 10:00 AM | | Comments (8)
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O's: Reimold checks in

nolan.jpgNolan Reimold arrived in the Orioles spring clubhouse this morning, looking healthy and ready to go after a winter of rehabbing his repaired left ankle. He underwent surgery in September to clean up a frayed left Achilles tendon and smooth over a bone spur on his ankle.

"It feels good,'' he said. "When I walk, I don't feel anything. When I start running around for 10 hours a day, we'll see."

Nobody seems concerned that he won't be ready to go on Opening Day, though he admits that he doesn't know how it's going to feel when he starts to go full speed. He hasn't sprinted on grass yet, but has been running and sprinting on a treadmill.

"After a lot of running, it still gets a little sore,'' he said, "but it's already better than it was last year. I'm sure I'll be ready."

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:09 AM | | Comments (12)
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February 20, 2010

Orioles hold announcer tryouts

The Orioles are -- as we blog -- holding open tryouts to choose a public address announcer for their home exhibition games at Ed Smith Stadium. I'm a little disappointed, because I was sure Bruce Cunningham would fly in and throw his velvet vocal cords into the ring, but we can hear the candidates auditioning and they all sound pretty good.

I'm hearing if it goes well, they're going to do the same thing to pick this year's radio play-by-play broadcasters.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 1:08 PM | | Comments (62)
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O's: Trembley on Mickolio

Reliever Kam Mickolio came to camp 10 pounds lighter and in much better shape than a year ago, which has manager Dave Trembley wondering if this is going to be a breakout year for another of the players Andy MacPhail acquired in the Erik Bedard deal.

"I'd be very surprised if he doesn't do what we think he can do,'' Trembley said. "He's got to show us...but I think he knows what's on the table for him."

That's as close as Trembley is going to get to saying that Mickolio has a job in the bullpen to lose, but everyone saw flashes last year of what the lanky right-hander can do when he's on his game.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 12:43 PM | | Comments (16)
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Markakis cleans up

Technically, Nick Markakis could have kept his burly beard until Tuesday's first full workout, but he wanted get out on the field, so he shaved both his face and his head before coming out for this morning's hitting session. I'm not sure he even has eyebrows anymore.

I mean, it's quite a contrast. That beard had gotten so bushy, I think the Orioles mascot was nesting in it to save rent.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:24 AM | | Comments (13)
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Orioles: JJ's role formalized

I'm pretty sure Jim Johnson has been paying attention the last few weeks, so it probably didn't come as a big surprise to him that he is going back to the eighth-inning setup role this season, but manager Dave Trembley took him aside this morning just to make sure he understood why the club brought Mike Gonzalez in to be the regular closer.

"I just wanted to let him know, so when he gets asked about it, he doesn't have to be uncomfortable,'' Trembley said.

Johnson moved into the closer role when the Orioles traded George Sherrill to the Dodgers, but he (Johnson) wasn't the same pitcher in the ninth inning that he had been in the eighth. Club officials, in retrospect, felt he just tried too hard to fill Sherrill's shoes and got away from the approach that made him successful as a setup guy.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:17 AM | | Comments (6)
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Mr. Jones

Adam Jones clearly wants to take a leadership role on this team, even though he has only been a full-time player at this level for two years. Sounds like manager Dave Trembley is all for it.

If you haven't read my column on the subject yet, pick up today's print edition or click right here.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:40 AM | | Comments (36)
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February 19, 2010

Live Orioles chat with Schmuck, noon Tuesday

Join Peter Schmuck, who is in Sarasota, Fla., for spring training with the Orioles, to chat about the team at noon on Tuesday.

Posted by Baltimore Sun sports at 2:07 PM | | Comments (18)
        

Hearing: O's state their case (updated)

The special hearing of the Sarasota County Commissioners is well underway and the Orioles already have had the floor. Club counsel Alan Rifkin was the first to speak and outlined the process that led to the 30-year agreement that brought the Orioles to Sarasota. Club facility coordinator Laura Williams also spoke and outlined the team's commitment to the local community. And Andy MacPhail stepped up and echoed the team's "unanimous" approval of the Sarasota area and the Ed Smith Stadium complex.

There also were a number of presentations by county officials to satisfy the legal rationale for the hearing, which was held to counter a legal claim that the Commission did not abide by all of Florida's "Sunshine" laws, which require government dealings to be transacted in the open.

County officials, as well as the Orioles, remain confident that the case has no merit and will not seriously impact the agreement or renovation project.

Now, the commissioners will hear several hours of testimony from members of the community and, almost certainly, re-ratify the agreement later today.

Meanwhile, outside the building, the group opposing the project -- Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government -- pumped up an 18-foot-tall inflatable rat with "BCC Redo Rat" printed on it. BCC stands for Board of County Commissioners.

Hearing wrapup: No surprises. Rifkin said that 120 citizens spoke at the hearing and the sentiment was virtually unanimously in favor of the deal, which was re-ratified by the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners. The highlight for the opposition was the rat -- which was almost big enough for the Macy's parade. I just hope the Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government don't find a way to bill the taxpayers for it.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:15 AM | | Comments (16)
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O's: Koji's 2010 debut

Koji Uehara threw his first bullpen session a little while ago, right beside Jeremy Guthrie. Uehara threw only fastballs and downplayed his performance in a conversation with the Japanese reporters, but they said he seemed to be happy with his velocity and in very good spirits.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:08 AM | | Comments (6)
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Zrebiec: Opportunity still knocks in rotation

It is widely assumed that the Orioles rotation is set with veterans Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Guthrie joining youngsters Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman. However, pitching coach Rick Kranitz was adamant on Thursday that David Hernandez and Jason Berken will be given every opportunity to crack the rotation.

The two second-year pitchers, who combined to make 43 starts last year, are taking the mindset that if they perform well, things will fall into place, and both would be more than happy to pitch out of the bullpen.

“For me, I don’t really look at it as there are no spots. I just go out and control what I can control and the rest will take care of itself,” said Hernandez who went 4-10 with a 5.42 ERA in 20 outings (19 starts). “I kind of figure that they’ll give me a chance to show what I can do with starting at the beginning. But if that doesn’t work out, there are plenty of other spots in the bullpen.”

Berken, who went 6-12 with a 6.54 ERA in 24 starts in 2009, said, “Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do. As of right now, I’m focused on starting, but if it does end up being in the bullpen, then that’s what it is. But anything I can do to help, I’m more than willing to do. I feel like I’m capable of doing both things.”

As for the position players, they don’t have to report to spring training until Monday. However, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Felix Pie, Justin Turner, Scott Moore, Robert Andino, Blake Davis and Rhyne Hughes are already here. Markakis is still sporting his lumberjack beard and carried his son Taylor out to the back practice fields.

-- Jeff Zrebiec

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 10:30 AM | | Comments (21)
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Elsewhere: Waiting for Woods

Have to admit, part of me would rather be at PGA headquarters today for the Tiger Woods announcement. Can't wait to hear what he has to say, though I can't really imagine what he can add other than another apology for his tawdry extramarital behavior and an announcement of his plans to play in the Masters. I've always thought that's where this was going, but we'll find out later today.

I've heard a lot of talk about his decision to handpick the media and not take any questions, which casts some doubt about the sincere nature of whatever he has to say, but I don't' know if there's a right way to do something like this.

If I am handling the guy, I'm not going to put him at a podium with 500 media in the audience and let everybody have at him. The way he's doing it, from a public relations standpoint, is probably the best of a bunch of bad options.

There's also been a lot of speculation whether his wife will be there to support him. Don't see how that really matters in this case, unless you're an avid TMZ fan. Nobody's going to be able to dress up this pig. Tiger is going to have to go out and play golf and start winning again. That's the only way he'll ever change the subject...but he'll never get completely out from under this scandal.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:31 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Schmuck being Schmuck
        

Orioles: Civics class

I'm getting ready to get a lesson in county government. I'm at the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners building in downtown Sarasota for the public hearing on the 30-year deal the Orioles signed with the county to occupy the Ed Smith Stadium facility.

Two groups have brought a lawsuit against the county, claiming the deal violates Florida sunshine laws, which require government activity to be transparent. The county and Orioles believe the case is without merit, but it could delay the start of the $31.2 million renovation project.

Orioles officials are expected to testify at the hearing. I'll try to keep you posted, though I'm guessing you'd rather I was hanging around the ballpark to see if Miguel Tejada reports to camp early this year.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 8:06 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Just baseball
        

February 18, 2010

MASN update

MASN officials still aren't saying a lot about the final makeup of the television crew for this season, but I'm hearing that Gary Thorne recently agreed to a new four-year contract, which dovetails with the five-year deal that Jim Palmer signed before last season.

No work on the replacement for Buck Martinez, but I'm still guessing it will turn out to be Mike Flanagan. That's been my feeling all along, but the Orioles have been talking to several other candidates. They could even go with a rotation of several guest color analysts, but there are some possible drawbacks to a plan like that. The guest commentators are less likely to be as immersed in the day-to-day drama of the club and also could have a tougher time developing good chemistry in the broadcast booth.

Guess we'll know soon enough, but I think the Orioles have a bad habit of leaving these things hanging way too long.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 3:05 PM | | Comments (43)
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Orioles: Dave unplugged

Manager Dave Trembley held his first post-workout news briefing of training camp and used the opportunity to clear up a couple of things. He made it official that Koji Uehara would be competing for only a bullpen role -- which everyone has known for months -- and he addressed a report that Brian Roberts is suffering from kidney stones.

"I think it's in his (Uehara's) best interests and the best way to get him through the entire season,'' Trembley said. "There will be more opportunities for him to be successful and for us to win. He agrees with that. Koji has been nothing but tremendous with me. He has been very cooperative. He's a team guy."

Concerning the report about Roberts, Trembley said he talked to his second baseman and was told that the problem was a back spasm and not a kidney issue.

"He told me when he's here he'll be a full go,'' Trembley said.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 2:01 PM | | Comments (8)
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A good Ohman?

Left-hander Will Ohman was the last free agent to sign with the Orioles this offseason, and he said he did so because the O's represent a great opportunity to make the team and bounce back from a difficult season with the Dodgers.

"Obviously, the opportunity is great, pitching in this division,'' he said. "It's the opportunity to go against the best of the best, and it's kind of a homecoming here. There are a lot of guys and coaches from the Cubs. I'm looking forward to working with Kranny (pitching coach Rick Kranitz) again."

Ohman will be competing with Wilfrido Perez and Alberto Castillo for the left-handed specialist role, and he appears to be the early favorite.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:27 AM | | Comments (15)
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Orioles: Getting up to date with Pie

Outfielder Felix Pie already is in camp, which is quite a switch from last year, when he struggled to get here from the Dominican Republic and reported late. He said his sore left quad is healthy again, though it took months to work the soreness out of it.

He's also more comfortable in the clubhouse after seeming distant and isolated early last season.

"It feels like home,'' he said. "All my friends are here."

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:17 AM | | Comments (35)
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Another night on the town

Pardon the Bruce Hornsby reference above, but that song title popped into my head this morning after spending several hours getting to know Sarasota last night. Steve Queior and Bob and Michelle Messick of the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce toured a group of club officials (including Andy MacPhail and Dave Trembley) and media around a couple of the nice nightlife areas.

I think the point was to show us that you can have as much fun in Sarasota as we did in Fort Lauderdale, not that I ever had any doubts. I've been a fan of this area since the Orioles trained here briefly in the early 1990s, though the area certainly has grown up over the past couple of decades. The only downside was that Dave couldn't find any Notre Dame fans to commiserate with, but it's early.

The highlights: Happy hour at Libby's in Southside Village and a classy, impressive Italian meal at Mediterraneo on Main St.

We haven't even gotten out to the keys yet. There are some great spots -- and terrific beaches, of course -- a few miles west of Ed Smith Stadium. I don't go to the beach much, because I scare the tourists when I take my shirt off, but I love the powder-white sand along this part of the gulf coast.

Shameless Jeff Zrebiec plug: Our shiny-headed beat phenom did a nice package on the Sarasota facility and what it's going to look like when the renovation project is complete. Take a look at it right here.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 8:58 AM | | Comments (13)
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Orioles: Day One

Spring training has begun...sort of. The Orioles pitchers and catchers are undergoing their physicals this morning before taking the field for the first official workout. Can't wait to see the pitchers in their their first PFP (Pitchers Fielding Practice) and the catchers taking BP. If you haven't noticed, I'm planning to use a lot more acronyms this year.

Favorite memory of the first workout last year: Rich Hill arrived to begin work on regaining his command after experiencing freaky control problems the previous season. Guess he didn't want to set the bar too high too early, because he fielded his first comebacker of the spring and threw the ball into the palm tree behind first base. Later in the week, during a bullpen session, he buzzed a fastball right past the head of pitching coach Rick Kranitz, who was observing from what he thought was a safe distance.

I thought at the time that I ought to get him a bumper sticker that said, "If You Don't Like The Way I Pitch, Stay Out Of The Bleachers."

In fairness to Rich, who is a good guy with a great sense of humor, he got things together for awhile, but couldn't stay healthy. When he's right, he has one of the best curveballs I've ever seen. Join me in wishing him -- and Dave Duncan -- the best of luck in St. Louis.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 8:32 AM | | Comments (10)
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February 17, 2010

Orioles: Bergesen update

Brad Bergesen says that he's making daily progress in his recovery from the shoulder strain he suffered in December. If all continues to go well, he'll be back on the mound in about two weeks.

Check out the Orioles Notebook on the Web site a little later today for a more of his comments, but here's what he said about the controversy surrounding the injury, which was suffered during an Orioles commercial shoot.

“I haven’t paid attention to that, but that’s what I do all the time,'' he said. "I don’t read the newspaper. I don’t watch (ital)Baseball Tonight.(ital) I don’t read the blogs. Good or bad, I just don’t want to get caught up in it. But I had gotten a couple of text messages from friends that can’t help themselves but to tell me what people are writing.”

That's probably the right way to handle the situation, but I'm a little concerned that Bergesen doesn't check out the blog. I need the business.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 3:34 PM | | Comments (27)
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Orioles: The new closer arrives

Free agent acquisition Mike Gonzalez, who enters training camp as the presumptive regular closer, said he can't wait to get started. He played catch today and will throw his first bullpen session as an Oriole during tomorrow's first pitcher/catcher workout.

"I've been ready to go for two weeks already,'' he said.

Even though he was brought here to fill the closer role, he said he's not thinking about anything like that yet.

"The big thing for me right now is coming in healthy,'' Gonzalez said. "I'm coming in 100 percent and feeling good about the situation."

He's the new guy in the clubhouse, but he got to meet many of his teammates at FanFest and isn't worried about getting comfortable with a new team.

"It shouldn't take that long,'' he said. "As far as being nervous, it's like going from one family to the next, except that I'm going to have a lot more younger brothers than I'm used to."

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 1:45 PM | | Comments (1)
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If you haven't already...

...check out my column in today's print edition or on the Web site right here. I give my opinion on how the Orioles should react to the uncertain status of injured starter Brad Bergesen.

Let me know what you think?

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:46 AM | | Comments (29)
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O's: Arrieta looks ahead

Jake Arrieta knows that there is no definite opening in the starting rotation at the major league level, but he says he is going to go about his business this spring as if there is.

"I'm going to come in here and pitch to the best of my abilities and make it tough on them not to put in on the Opening Day roster,'' he said. "If that's not the case, if I have to go back and start at Norfolk, that's fine. I'm confident I'll be here soon."

Arrieta said that his up-and-down performance last year was an education that will help him succeed at the next level.

"I'd get into the fifth, sixth or seventh inning and I've give up most of my runs in one inning,'' he said. "There was one inning where I wasn't making the right adjustments. I've got to do better.

"I was really good for four or five innings. The hitters (at Triple-A) are really patient. The first two times through the order, you can pitch them the same, but they are taking notes. They're making adjustments and I didn't adjust as well."

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:26 AM | | Comments (16)
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Orioles: Reporting day

The Orioles are filtering into the clubhouse on the official reporting day for pitchers and catchers, and we've already had a group interview with Koji Uehara, who says his elbow feels good.

"Compared to last year, it feels really good,'' he said through interpreter Jiwon Bang. "I threw yesterday at the minor league complex and it felt good."

When somebody asked him about his chronic hamstring issues, he was a bit more circumspect.

"So far, so good,'' he said.

Uehara is slotted as a middle reliever this year, but he said he hasn't heard that officially from the Orioles.

"I haven't really spoken to the skipper or the front office yet,'' he said -- and Jiwon really did use the word "skipper," but my goal is to stay in the major leagues all season. We'll see what happens."

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:14 AM | | Comments (10)
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February 16, 2010

MacPhail: View from the top

Stopped by Andy MacPhail's office today on the second floor of the clubhouse complex and got a look at the facility from the catbird seat. The Orioles and the Sarasota County crew have done a great job of manicuring the practice fields, and MacPhail has a panoramic view of all them. He's also got a large balcony with nice patio chairs, which would make a great auxiliary press box.

Of course, the Ed Smith Stadium complex is going to be a work in progress for quite some time.The clubhouse building has been repainted in an Orioles motif, which gives it a newer look. There's also work going on inside the stadium, but much of it is short-term sprucing up. The major renovation work probably will start when the O's head north for the regular season.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 1:48 PM | | Comments (34)
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Orioles: Koji update

Japanese pitcher Koji Uehara is in Sarasota and worked out this morning at the Orioles minor league complex at Twin Lakes Park. There are a number of players already in town -- though the official reporting date is tomorrow -- but with the locals scurrying to get the major league facility ready for the start of pitcher and catcher workouts, players wanting to get in some early work were asked to do it at Twin Lakes.

We've heard we might see Koji here at the Ed Smith complex later today, but he apparently will be in tomorrow to meet with manager Dave Trembley and pitching coach Rick Kranitz. I've been told that Koji will have the same setup as last year. Jiwon Bang will again serve as his interpreter, but Uehara will have a new personal trainer/masseuse.

The Japanese media contingent will be smaller this year, partly because of economic considerations and partly because Uehara's new bullpen role makes it difficult to predict when he'll pitch. Japanese reporter Hideki Okuda is here today, but pointed out to me that many of the sports media entities in Japan are concentrating their travel budgets on the Winter Olympics and the World Cup.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 12:57 PM | | Comments (22)
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The new place

We keep referring to the Ed Smith Stadium complex as “new,” but only in the sense that it is new to the Orioles. The White Sox originally trained there and turned the place over to the Cincinnati Reds when they left for Arizona.

It's got some miles on it, but the facility is much newer than the old Fort Lauderdale Stadium complex and is a much better logistical fit for the Orioles. When they get it remodeled – hopefully by next spring – it should be more of a showpiece, but it’s already a huge improvement over what they had before.

There’s still some legal maneuvering going on in Sarasota, and there’s a hearing later this week related to the long-term deal that was struck to lure the Orioles to the west coast of Florida, but the deal is not believed to be in serious jeopardy.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 6:16 AM | | Comments (21)
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February 15, 2010

Orioles: Pondering Bergesen

Obviously, there will be a lot of interest in how Brad Bergesen fares during the early days of training camp, but I doubt we’ll have any kind of feel for the situation for at least a couple of weeks.

The team has indicated that his strained shoulder should only set him back 10 days or so, which would not keep him from opening the season in the rotation – if he holds his place. Fair enough, but don’t be surprised if we’re still talking about this in March.

I don’t think anybody is being disingenuous here. In fact, I think everybody’ has been pretty forthright about what has to be an uncomfortable situation for the club. But expect the training staff to be very conservative with Bergesen, especially with such a huge window for him to get back in throwing shape.

Also, you can’t forget about his leg injury, which lingered months longer than anyone predicted. Bergesen is a finesse guy, so anything that could affect his mechanics even slightly could be an issue.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 5:15 PM | | Comments (58)
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Zrebiec: Get me out of here

I’m just telling everyone that there’s only so much one little bald guy can take. Living with Schmuck for seven weeks is like bunking in the elephant habitat at the Baltimore Zoo, only the zoo probably smells better.

Schmuck is the only guy I know who buys Hawaiian shirts at BJ’s Wholesale Club for $12 and then spends $4.50 a pop to have them dry cleaned. He’s also the only guy I know who refers to his favorite soft drink as a Diet Doctor, but obviously has never seen a real one.

It’s probably just a matter of time before he starts blogging from the dog track.

-- Jeff Zrebiec

Instant update: When I figure out who gave Zrebiec my blog password, there’s going to be hell to pay. I’m getting ripped by a guy whose idea of fashion is a Loyola T-shirt and a pair of silver Nike’s that he obviously stole from the costume closet of “Starlight Express.”

Instant analysis: Children, children. It's just the first day. Can't you get along for one day? As the interim Orioles editor, I have a feeling it's going to be a long, long spring training.

-- Ron Fritz

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 4:14 PM | | Comments (9)
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Let’s get it started

Welcome to Camp No News Is Good News. Orioles pitchers and catchers are required to report on Wednesday, but they should start turning up around here any minute.

Why is no news good news? Because so much already has been decided before the club breaks out the balls and bats. The 25-man roster is about three or four players from being set, so the only real news over the next several weeks probably will be bad news. Hopefully, it’ll just be the usual array of sore hamstrings and quads, because the Orioles really can't afford to lose any key players for any length of time this year if they hope to take a significant step forward in the American League East.

I suppose Andy MacPhail could pull another free agent pitcher out of his hat over the next few days, but this camp will be about keeping people healthy while everybody prepares for the regular season. That’s not to say that the team is set – because unexpected stuff happens every spring – but it’s pretty close. I’m also not saying that this team is ready to rock, but I’m guessing that you’ll settle for a team that will pique your interest and project forward in a meaningful way.

Guess that’s why we’re here.

So, check out The Schmuck Stops Here regularly throughout spring training, because it will be the place for up-to-the-minute info on whatever is happening at Orioles camp from now through the season opener and, of course, throughout the 2010 season.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 3:12 PM | | Comments (10)
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Goin' south

The time has finally come for Jeff Zrebiec and I to get on a plane and head for Sarasota to check out the Orioles' new digs. Hope everyone who goes down there over the next couple of months for vacation gives us a shout.

So, I'll leave you with a trivia question: Which major league team, which still bears the same name and plays in the same location, had the best record in baseball for an entire season and did not play in the postseason.

Bonus points if you can name the manager without looking it up.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 8:23 AM | | Comments (34)
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February 14, 2010

Orioles: It's on

The Orioles won't start pitcher and catcher workouts until Thursday, but The Sun has kicked off the baseball season today with an Orioles package that includes Dan Connolly's look at what might happen at Sarasota during the six-plus weeks of spring training and my column, which proposes the possibility that the club's stable roster could end up being a blessing or a curse.

If you want to read it, just click here.

If you want to read Dan's story, click here. The choice is yours, but I would obviously rather you clicked on mine.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:50 AM | | Comments (57)
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February 13, 2010

News item: Today's column is up

If you haven't read it yet, my latest "News item" column is up on the Web site and will be in the Saturday print edition. If you read it right here and don't laugh uproariously, then you have my humble apology.

Instant update: Please disregard the prediction that the Maryland men would beat Duke today at Cameron Indoor Stadium. I never would have gone out on that limb if I had known Greivis Vasquez was going to take the first half off.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 12:10 AM | | Comments (44)
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February 11, 2010

Orioles: Some bad Bergesen news

Orioles right-hander Brad Bergesen was pretty confident he would be ready to go when pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota next week, but he suffered an odd setback in December that could for the O's to change their pitching plans during the early weeks of training camp.

Bergesen, who was a Rookie of the Year candidate when he was forced out of action last year by a nasty line drive off his shin, just told The Sun that he tweaked his throwing shoulder while filming a commercial for the Orioles. He has undergone an MRI and apparently did not suffer any serious damage, but the shoulder strain is going to set him back in spring training. Here's the story by Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly.

What does that mean for the Orioles rotation? Will Andy MacPhail take a harder look at some of the remaining pitchers in the free agent market?

Hard to say, but MacPhail has known about this for awhile and he recently dismissed rumors that he was pursuing free agent Jarrod Washburn. If Bergesen isn't ready to go, the club presumably would go to David Hernandez or Jason Berken. Either that or put Jake Arrieta on a faster track.

Below is the video:

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 10:37 PM | | Comments (256)
Categories: Just baseball
        

February 10, 2010

Orioles: Phil Itzoe (1937-2010)

Even though Phil Itzoe worked behind the scenes in the Orioles organization for 45 years, I think just about everybody who was an Orioles fan knew him or knew of him. Just a great guy who never said no to anyone during his 41 years as the club's traveling secretary.

Phil coordinated Orioles travel in good times and bad and did it with great cheer, though it was a difficult job with so many variables that I saw lesser guys on other teams tear their hair out trying to keep everything straight. Not Phil. He was so good at his job that even the out-of-town guys (of which I was one in the 1980s) would call him with their travel-related problems, and he would always find a way to help.

I miss him already.

If you haven't already, go over to the sports section and read Jeff Zrebiec's story.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:04 PM | | Comments (75)
Categories: Just baseball
        

It's a nice day

I think there's a typo in the title of this entry. I'm pretty sure the space was supposed to go after the "n" rather than before it, but my fingers are too cold to go back and correct it.

You know it's snowing pretty hard when the School of Roch is the only educational institution I didn't have to mention when I was reading the closings on WBAL last night. I just read where Rocco has already shoveled his driveway three times, and I'm trying to figure just where in Sykesville you would want to go that bad.

This is where I'm supposed to rub in that I'm going to Sarasota on Monday -- the next snowstorm permitting -- but Jeff Zrebiec just called and told me that the temperature in that part of Florida is barely going to make it to 60 degrees next week. Hardly worth the trip.

If you've read this far hoping that I'd eventually get around to some Orioles news, I think you're going to be disappointed. However, if you want to read my column about the folly of the NFL's looming collective bargaining fiasco, you can check it out right here.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:49 AM | | Comments (126)
Categories: Just baseball
        

February 9, 2010

O's: Washburn rumor doesn't wash

There is a report on FoxSports.com that the Orioles are interested in signing veteran pitcher Jerrod Washburn, but Orioles beat writer Jeff Zrebiec has checked it out with Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and it apparently isn't anything to get excited about. The O's have not had recent talks with agent Scott Boras about Washburn or Alan Nero about Chien-Ming Wang, who also has been linked to the O's in some recent speculation.

MacPhail indicated that he's pretty sure that his pre-training camp free agent shopping is complete, though he wouldn't rule out Washburn if the price comes down to a point that makes him too attractive to pass up. That doesn't appear likely. The O's do not appear to have much interest in Wang.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 5:30 PM | | Comments (174)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Orioles: What a relief...Hendrickson signs

The Orioles obviously didn't want another big snowstorm to delay the signing of reliever Mark Hendrickson, so they got it done a little while ago and designated right-hander Armando Gabino for assignment. Both moves had been pretty obvious for several weeks, but some logistical issues kept the situation on hold.

The O's also just announced that they have signed left-handed reliever Will Ohman to a minor league deal and invited him to major league training camp. That also had been percolating for awhile. Dan Connolly reported last week that the O's had offered Ohman a contract and Jeff Zrebiec posted a blog item here Friday night saying he was their top choice of the remaining left-handed specialists on the market.

Don't know if the front office will have anything else to report over the next few days, and I'm not holding my breath. Pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota in just nine days.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 1:31 PM | | Comments (76)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Orioles: Roster all but set

I'm growing nostalgic for the days when the Orioles brought 37 pitchers to major league camp and then didn't feel like they had enough so they signed Adam Eaton. This year's spring training roster is a little more balanced and there are no wide open spaces on the Orioles' depth chart.

Don't know if that's necessarily a good thing. When the major intrigues of the spring are whether Chad Moeller can hold onto the reserve catcher role and who will be the left-handed specialist in the bullpen, it's going to be hard to generate a lot of excitement during the early weeks of spring camp. I'm probably going to have to start making things up by Mar. 1.

It's probably easier for Dave Trembley, but it's not like he's got an All-Star at every position. He's just got more to work with than last year. How much more remains to be seen.

Right now, you're going to get the occasional minor league signing, but my advice is to use this time to shovel. If you don't have anything to dig out, you can always come over to my place tomorrow and pitch in. We're still looking for the barbeque on the back deck.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:43 AM | | Comments (61)
Categories: Just baseball
        

February 8, 2010

Tonight's filler post

I'm chuckling a little bit at the notion that it's another sign of the Orioles apocalypse that I've got no roster moves to comment on today. My God people, are there teams out there that make a move every day in the offseason?

And, while I'm on the subject, just which quality teams are burning up the headlines right now? I just stopped over at ESPN.com and you've got a choice between Cliff Lee's minor foot surgery, Steve Phillips' comments about sex rehab (which I will be reading, by the way), and the Brewers building a statue of Bud Selig outside Miller Park.

If you want, I could pull a few strings and get the Orioles to build a statue of Peter Angelos outside Camden Yards, but otherwise, there just isn't a whole lot happening during the week before spring training camps open. By the middle of next week, you'll be buried up to your eyeballs in Orioles info -- both here and in the paper -- but I'm kind of happy it's a quiet week. I'm resting my fingers for the big blog push that starts soon after I arrive in Sarasota on Monday.

I'll be the first to admit that the earth didn't move for me this offseason, but if you're criticizing the O's because they didn't sign a couple fringe relievers during the blizzard, you might be getting cabin fever.

And, yes, Wayne, that means you...I mean me...I mean...oh, never mind.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:31 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Digging out like everybody else

Good news. I just found my car. I'd been searching for it for a couple of days after the big storm and finally located it right in front of the house. Now -- thanks to a couple of charitable neighbors (Chip and Kathleen) who helped me dig it out -- I no longer have an excuse for lying around the house wondering what Jim Caldwell was thinking when he sent Matt Stover out to try that 51-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter last night.

No disrespect to Matt, who is a prince and one of the greatest kickers ever, but that wasn't the kind of percentage play you make when you're ahead in the Super Bowl in the fourth quarter and you're supposed to be the better team. The miss gave the Saints the ball back on the Saints' 41-yard line, and they marched in to score the touchdown and two-point conversion to build a seven-point cushion.

Radio, radio That will be one of the subjects up for Super Bowl debate when you join me at six for Sportsline on WBAL and WBAL.com. Hey, I'm not asking. You better be there because I'll be taking roll.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 5:05 PM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Schmuck being Schmuck
        

February 6, 2010

Zrebiec: O’s still not left out

Less than two weeks remain before the first workout for pitchers and catchers and the Orioles continue to search for a southpaw reliever to compete with Alberto Castillo, Wilfrido Perez and non-roster invitee Mike Hinckley for the situational lefty spot in the bullpen.

Will Ohman is the guy that the Orioles really want and they watched him throw a bullpen session in Arizona about 10 days ago. Ohman, a 32-year-old who had a 5.84 ERA in 21 appearances for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, is trying to prove that he’s healthy after having elbow and shoulder surgeries.

The Orioles have extended a minor league offer to Ohman, but he’s holding out for a major league one and a highly-coveted 40-man roster spot. The Orioles will not give him one, though they do figure to present him with a nice opportunity to break camp with the club because Castillo, Perez and Hinckley are all unproven on the major league level. Meanwhile, Ohman has held left-handed hitters to a .204 average during his career.

Japanese left-hander Hisanori Takahashi, a close friend and former teammate of Orioles’ pitcher Koji Uehara, turned down the Orioles’ minor league offer, but he hasn’t completely closed the door on the club. Still, his addition is unlikely because the swingman role the Orioles envisioned for him was the one that the club has since re-signed Mark Hendrickson to occupy.

Joe Beimel is another option for the Orioles. Veteran situational left-handers Ron Villone and Ron Mahay are also available, although the Orioles didn’t have much interest in either earlier this offseason. It’s possible that has changed as the pool of available southpaws has shrunk at this point of the offseason.

Quick plug: This is going to come as a shock to you, but Schmuck actually did some work the last couple of days. If you want to read his column on Joe Flacco that will be in Sunday's print edition, you can do that right here.

--Jeff Zrebiec

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 10:09 PM | | Comments (269)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Snow day

So far, there are two feet of snow blanketing my neighborhood in Millersville with several hours and many more inches of precipitation reportedly ahead, and I'm pretty sure I'm thinking the same thing as all of you:

How's this going to affect the Mark Hendrickson signing?

Big Mark, who is so tall that the snow probably isn't even up to his knees yet, remains in some kind of unexplained medical limbo. I'm guessing that during his physical, they had the same problem as Ed "Too Tall" Jones in that Geico commercial, so they'll just have to guess-timate. I mean, it's not like he signed an $80 million contract.

Guess I don't need to remind anybody that there are just 11 days left until pitchers and catchers report.

Radio update: Coming up at noon, I'll be helping you get through the ultimate snow day on WBAL and WBAL.com, with more great talk and regular updates from the great WBAL news and weather crew. We'll take your calls and talk about sports, the blizzard and whatever else strikes your fancy. If you are outside of signal range, go to WBAL.com and click on the "Listen Live" icon.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 10:37 AM | | Comments (142)
Categories: Schmuck being Schmuck
        

February 5, 2010

Bedard: Back to M's (Part Deux)

The Mariners Web site now has a story claiming that Erik Bedard has agreed to a one-year deal pending a physical, which is pretty much what has been reported by several Seattle and national baseball sites over the past day or so. The thing that makes the M's Web story intriguing is a line that says Bedard is expected to "miss the first three to four months of the season." You can check out that story here.

Interesting. I mentioned in my earlier item and several times on the radio last night that the $1.5 million guarantee seemed low in comparison to the $10 million Ben Sheets got from the A's, and speculated that it might be an indication that the upbeat reports about Bedard's recovery from shoulder surgery were too optimistic. If anybody really thought he would be back in late May, the price figured to be at least a $4 million base. If he's not going to be back until Aug. 1, then $1.5 million sounds about right.

Maybe I still have my baseball reporter instincts.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 8:47 PM | | Comments (53)
Categories: Just baseball
        

February 4, 2010

Bedard: Back to the M's?

MLB.com's Jim Street is reporting on his blog that the Mariners are closing in on a one-year deal with left-hander Erik Bedard worth $1.5 million and "a shipload of incentives." The base seems low, but it would be a reflection that Bedard probably won't be ready to pitch until midsummer.

I really thought he'd turn up farther down the West Coast, but never ruled out the Orioles. If the medical reports were decent, you would think the O's would have been willing to go a lot higher than a $1.5 million base.

Guess we'll find out soon enough.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 12:30 PM | | Comments (210)
Categories: Just baseball
        

February 3, 2010

Orioles: Sarfate clears waivers

Reliever Dennis Sarfate, who had been designated for assignment to make room for Miguel Tejada on the 40-man roster, has cleared waivers and been assigned to Triple-A Norfolk. He's also been invited to major league spring training.

That should come as no great surprise, even though Sarfate had hoped to be traded before being outrighted. The Orioles aren't the only team with roster spots at a premium. Most major league clubs are tight at this time of year, and a lot of them are probably maintaining some flexibility as the prices tumble for the remaining players on the free agent market.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 4:42 PM | | Comments (65)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Bisciotti takes a swing at the Yankees

Clearly, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is a proponent of the NFL salary cap, and took a light-hearted shot at the Yankees during today's big news conference for their inability to totally dominate Major League Baseball with their huge revenue and payroll advantage over the other 29 teams.

"It certainly doesn't show up in the standings," Bisciotti said. "If I'm a Yankees fan, I'm upset we're not winning 130 games with the roster that they have and the money that they pay out. I think it's a disgrace they only beat the average team by 10 games in the standings with three times the money. I'd fire that GM. You don't need a GM. All you have to do is buy the last Cy Young Award winner every year."

That left me with no choice but to ask him afterward if he thought baseball should impose an NFL-style salary cap, something the baseball owners have wanted to do for decades, but have never been able to overcome union opposition.

"I think the genie's out of the bottle,'' Bisciotti said, pointing out that the huge value of the Yankees franchise is based on the current economic system and nobody is going to impose a new system that might damage the value of the top revenue-producing teams. "There's just no way of solving it."

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 4:31 PM | | Comments (66)
Categories: Just baseball, Just football
        

Ravens: Looking ahead

The Ravens braintrust took questions for 50 minutes this afternoon, but it's not like Ozzie Newsome was going to tell everyone who he might take in the upcoming draft. He reaffirmed his philosophy going forward -- basically saying that he is open to any possibility that would improve the team -- and owner Steve Bisciotti reaffirmed his confidence in the ability of his front office to take the Ravens to the next level.

Bisciotti and team president Dick Cass tried to explain the labor situation without running afoul of a partial league gag order on public statements about the negotiations. The team continues to go on the assumption that 2010 will be an uncapped year, and both Bisciotti and Newsome said they had no major reservations about working within that temporary framework.

Stay tuned for my favorite highlight.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 4:11 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Just football
        

Ravens news conference

The Ravens will hold their annual news conference featuring owner Steve Bisciotti, president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh over at The Castle at 2 p.m. The region's best pro football reporting team will bring you full coverage in The Sun and at baltimoresun.com, including instant analysis at Ravens Insider. I'll be there, too, but I don't want to get in anybody's way.

By the way, you can hear the Q&A session live on WBAL and WBAL.com, or you can watch it live on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 1:01 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Just football
        

Baysox: Taking the plunge...a little late

The blizzard-like conditions and icy roads on Saturday forced the Bowie Baysox to cancel their mascot's appearance at the Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge, and the guilt apparently was just too much for Baysox communications director Tom Sedlacek.

Tom, who also was unable to make his scheduled plunge at Sandy Point State Park, decided to re-enact the plunge at Prince Georges Stadium today. He sent along these pictures to prove that he actually took a dive for Special Olympics Maryland -- sort of.

TomSedlacek1.jpgtom2.jpgtom3.jpg

“I was really excited to participate in the 2010 Polar Bear Plunge, but unfortunately the weather kept me from attending,'' Tom told me this morning, right before they took him away. "The Baysox raised more than $400 to benefit the Special Olympics Maryland, and I felt obligated to jump into the bay for everyone who contributed. We took matters into our own hands, and created our very own bay here in Bowie.”

Clearly, Tom will do anything to promote the Baysox. He and the staff down there come up with all sorts of nutty promotions during the minor league season, so you might want to stop by there this summer.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:26 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Mora, Mora, Mora

If you haven't read it already, I threw a bouquet at Melvin Mora in today's print edition. I hope he goes to Colorado and has a comeback season and gets to the playoffs. If you want to check out my column, you can do that right here.

I'm pretty sure most Orioles fans will look back on Melvin's career in its totality, rather than focusing on the frustration that bubbled out of him near the end of last season. He was a faithful Oriole and deserves to be remembered that way.

Tell me what you think.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:14 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Just baseball
        

February 1, 2010

Jon Miller headed for Cooperstown

Miller_Jon_cropped.jpgNot that anyone should be the least bit surprised, but the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced today that Jon Miller will be this year's winner of the Ford C. Frick Award, which is given for lifetime achievement in broadcasting and admits Miller to the broadcaster's wing of the Hall.

Miller said during a conference call that he was stunned by the news, but he was probably the only one who could have been surprised. He has long been recognized as one of the greats of baseball broadcasting.

"John is one of those special human beings who was given extraordinary God-given talents, but never stopped working at developing those talents,'' said his agent, Baltimore attorney Ron Shapiro. "He works as hard today as he did many years ago. The other special thing about John is how he cares about other people. I never had a client worry about me more than himself, and worry about other people."

What a great and well-deserved honor for a guy who still is very much loved here in Baltimore for all the years when he was the play-by-play voice of the Orioles. He moved on to the San Francisco Giants after the Orioles moved too slowly to renew his contract. There has always been speculation that owner Peter Angelos didn't want him back because he was too honest about the team -- which is certainly plausible -- but it's more plausible to me that Angelos' deliberate, wait-you-out bargaining style left Miller on the market too long and the Giants swooped in and lured him away.

Whatever the reason, his departure was a huge blow to Orioles fans and one of the early organizational missteps that would lead to the club's precipitous drop in fan interest and attendance.

ESPN photo

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 5:32 PM | | Comments (117)
Categories: Just baseball
        
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About Peter Schmuck
Peter Schmuck wants you to know that, contrary to popular belief, he is more than just a bon vivant, raconteur and collector of blousy flowered shirts. He is a semi-respected journalist who has covered virtually every sport -- except luge, of course – and tackled issues that transcend the mere games people play. If that isn’t enough to qualify him to provide witty, wide-ranging commentary on the sports world ... and the rest of the world, for that matter ... he is an avid reader of history, biography and the classics, as well as a charming blowhard who pops off on both sports and politics on WBAL Radio. That means you can expect a little of everything in The Schmuck Stops Here, but the major focus will be keeping you up to the minute on Baltimore’s major sports teams and themes, whether it’s throwing up the Orioles lineup the minute it’s announced or updating you on the latest sprained ankle in Owings Mills. Oh, and by the way, that’s Mr. Schmuck to you.

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