Thursday, July 29, 2010

Welcome Aboard Buck Showalter !

We Knew The Deal Was Done !

Admid all the commentary and speculation, we ALL knew Orioles management had their eye on Buck Showalter. Mr. Showalter is one of the most knowledgeable baseball men to grace the game... which is why ESPN And "Baseball Tonight" has been fortunate enough to have his insights. Buck knows how to manage - period!

What Buck Showalter Brings To The Dugout

Never forget That Buck Showalter lead the then lowly New York Yankees of the early 1990's back to their winning ways. He also took the helm of the expansion team Arizona Diamondbacks and got them on the right winning track. He also left his mark with the Texas Rangers. Buck brings the idea and methodology of winning back into the managers office, clubhouse, and dugout. It is going to be very interesting from a fans view to watch Mr. Showalter "weave his magic" in the coming months.

What Can We Expect As Orioles Fans ?

Buck will NOT turn this 31 and 70 team around over-night with huge roster changes or fancy thinking line-up cards. He will collect information, take notes, make mental notes, and act accordingly. Since he is signed through 2012, he has some time to get the best product possible on the field. Keep your expectations low and you will be rewarded with some pleasant surprises as a Orioles fan. But make no mistake, Mr. Showalter will have instant impact in Baltimore soon as he brings in his briefcase and laptop - count on it.

Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below by clicking on the "orange" comments link.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Autograph Collecting 101

It never ceases to amaze me that fans come to the ballpark expecting to get autographs... yet are not prepared to have the players sign for them. Usually these are the "go to the ball park twice a year for a company picnic" types that could care less about the game or players. They see people getting autographs and want to capitolize on the opportunity. Having collected in-person baseball player and celiberties autographs for over 30 years, here are some simple manners and methods to follow:

Autograph Collecting Basic Rules - The Top 5

1. Bring your own sharpie markers and pens. Players DO NOT carry them, and fellow autograph hounds are under NO obligation to share their writting instruments with you. They are not going to share with you if it even comes close to them missing an autograph opportunity of their own since players often come around in groups of 3 or 4 to sign for fans. Get cards, hats, equipment, and photos signed in blue (prefered) sharpie, get baseballs signed with either good blue or black ball point ink pen. Team Fan Shops are usually great at keeping all of these in stock if you forgot to bring some with you - GO BUY YOUR OWN.

2. Bring your own item(s) to be signed. Do NOT expect people to share their baseball cards, previous game foul balls, score book pages, etc. Purchase a new offical Major League baseball or a game day program book for a good medium to collect signatures on if nothing else. Be prepared - period !

3. Be kind and polite to your fellow autograph hounds. Don't rush the rail, push or shove, or crowd others when a player approaches to sign. Likely as not, you will get your turn to get your item(s) signed just like everyone else. A little courtesy goes a long ways and is appreciated. Competition often ensues in these situations, especially close to game time, but I have found time and again patience has it's rewards :)

4. Always thank the player for taking the time to sign for you. They are doing you a favor - never forget that or take it for granted. By the same token, do not be disappointed if a player makes an excuse or refuses to sign for you. It is their right, and they might be having a "really bad day" you do not know about. Just assume a "get them next time" attitude.

5. Make sure to bring something to protect your newly acquired autographs until you can get them home. Common sense will save you the heart break of a smeared or ruined signature later. Use a zip-lock sandwich bag to protect your baseball from the weather and drinks now covered with autographs. Gallon size zip-lock bags will usually be big enough to hold the afore mentioned game day program. Bring and use a large lined envelope or top-loader to protect that 8 x 10 pitchers color photo you took and developed. Card collectors know to carefully place the autographed cards in snap cases, or leave them mounted on the pages as is until they get home depending on the weather and their personal collecting habits.

These are the basics of collecting in-person baseball player autographs. Will get into more specifics and advice in future posts. Your comments are welcome... feel free to leave yours by clicking on the orange "comments" link below - bat

Monday, July 19, 2010

Second Half Expections For The Baltimore Orioles

Congrats to David Ortiz (Red Sox) for winning the home run derby. And thank you FOX for taking the All-Star game to a new commeralized high for network television coverage. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver should have drank a couple of red bulls before the game... their PBP nearly put me to (zzzzzzz) sleep. Heard audience ratings were way down compared to previous years as well.

Not alot has changed for the Orioles since my last post. They continue to find ways to lose games, and are 29 - 62 at this writting. They were swept for the third time this season by the Blue Jays over the weekend. Interesting that good crowds still show up and cheer the birds on. Must be the opportunity to share time with family and friends, along with great food and beverages in the fun atmosphere of Camden Yards for the evening. Who cares if they win, right???

The rumor mill is running rampant in blogs, posts, and Twitter about all the possible new managers the Orioles are considering. It would seem Juan Samuel's days as interm-manager are numbered now. Since taking over the helm he has certainly done no better than Dave Trembly did. Juan does explain the games bad plays and errors better at post-game press conferences on MASN than Trembly ever did. Not sure whether or not that is an managerial asset worth having.

Hopefully, Brian Roberts and Luke Scott will return to the line-up this week. Their contributions to the team are not always reflected in the stats or on paper. Their presence in the club house and dugout, attitude, and advice to fellow team members can not be measured or quantified. With either Roberts or Scott in the line-up, you WILL see an entirely different team playing on the field. Add a new manager to the mix with different line-up ideas, and the Orioles may win a few more games than you might expect. As trade dead line approaches, look for some serious changes on the 25 man roster.

As we continue into the second half of the season 29 games back, best Orioles fans can realistically hope for now is maybe 62 wins and 100 loses. There are some tough series against some great teams ahead in the schedule... and for those teams "the cylinders are all clicking". They are already fighting for post season playoff positions, and are probably looking at their Orioles games as a way to "pad their overall standings". While trying to think positive... perhaps Baltimore can at least have the satisfaction of being "the spoiler" to some teams playoff hopes in the American League East division.

Guess we need to keep an eye on the offical press releases and transaction reports and see what the Orioles decide in the next couple of weeks. Meantime, we gather around the HDTV near 7pm each evening with drinks and snacks, and watch that nights games on MASN, ESPN, WGN, or TBS. Some nights the remote control gets a through work-out.

During and after the game we check #Twitter for Orioles beat reporters comments, and links to blog posts and game summaries. Even the reporters ocassionally agree that the REAL reason for going to Baltimore Orioles games is sharing quality time with family and friends... and lets not forget "the great food and beverages" !

Please feel free to "click on" the comments section below and share your Orioles fan or baseball in general thoughts. Agree or disagree, it's all good --- just keep it clean. Can also be found on #Twitter: @batspeed29 of course !

Saturday, July 10, 2010

LeBron James Steals Sports World Spotlight For 15 Minutes

Seems the whole world of sports paused, choked, gagged (then spat) when the Lebron James decission came down Thursday during an ESPN "special". A special that was so sponsored and commericalized we may never buy those advertisers products again. Actually, many of us never used those products or services to begin with ! As a result of Lebron's decission, word has it alot of endorsement signage has been taken down, and the fans have been burning his Cav's jersey... understandable right ?

REAL Baseball Fans Can Relate To Cleveland Cavs Fans

Serious Fans of the game of baseball can understand the flustration of Cleveland Cavs fans as their beloved "super-star" Lebron moves on to the next big deal with the Miami Heat. Baseball sees about 200 favorite players sign-up for free agency as soon as possible at the end of every season. Every player hopes that their stats, scouting reports, and agents will land them a better contract than the one they had.

Sure, the press conferences all have "a positive spin" about opportunity to be on a winning team, with all the right players that will win a championship ring. Some even cite personal relationships with coaches, managers, or other players and the desire to play with them. Bottom line is professional athetes are just that... "pros". And "pros" go where the immediate, or future (endorsements) $$$ lead them. Loyality ends when the term of the contract is over. As a fan of ANY professional sport, you will always have to remember that.

It's NOT Fair In Any Sport

In baseball, as an example, we see the most monetized teams: the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, and Philadelphia Phillies taking their "cherry picks" of the free agent market every off-season. With no concern for payroll, penalities, or taxes, the New York Yankees put an All-Star Game caliber of quality players on the field every night line-up cards are exchanged. Why? Because they can afford to! Very few of the New York Yankees 25 man roster were drafted, instructed in their Minor League system, and eventually brought up to the Major League club. Most were acquired in their prime from free agent signings promsing tremendous rewards for 3 to 5 year contracts.

This is not fair to the other (lower) 24 teams who can not compete with the outragous 5 year $100+ million contract offers for the best pitching and position players. Like die-hard Cleveland basketball fans with Lebron James, faithful baseball fans have watched their favorite players lured away into Yankee pin-stripes. Most recently Oakland saw Jason Giambi, and now Nick Swisher head for New York. Both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira left the Rangers for Yankee-land. They talked (with $$$) Johnny "I'll never play for New York" Damon into leaving Boston ---- then discarded him now that he is pass prime years. (psssst! Johnny had left the Royals to come play for you Boston). Both A.J. Burnett and C.C. Sabathia head-line the recent pitching talent the New York Yankees have acquired... like any other teams ever had a chance to compete.

The Line-Up Cards Are Always Changing

Since free agency has been around for a long time now in baseball, it's fans have come to admire the team as it is THIS season. With injuries, roster changes based on performance, and trades you never know who or what might be on the field until you hear THAT games offical line-up card. Basketball, Football, Hockey, and even NASCAR driver fans have to accept the fact change is going to happen.

To see Lebron James seek the "next big thing" with the Heat should not come as a big surprise. "King" James is a talented and marketable basketball player that gets a ton of media attention and exposure. And some agent getting 10-percent found this "pro" a far better contract. Guess you Miami Heat fans should remain loyal for the length of that contract, right?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Change Of Venue May Help

After being swept in 3 games in Detroit, the on-the-road action for the Orioles now moves to the July heat of Arlington, Texas and the Rangers for 4 games. Jermey Guthrie once again gets the start, will go around 7 innings, and most likely pitch a pretty good game. Then either defense or bull pen will most likely fall apart, and the Rangers will win the game. It has become predictable... so place your side bets accordingly.

<--- Jermey Guthrie 2003 Topps "Draft Pick" Rookie Card

Jeremy has been around a while now, and knows the hitters well. He has come a long ways since being selected in the first round by the Indians out of Stanford.

It seems a shame to the even the casual fan that several great outings by Guthrie have ended in losses. Jermey's pitching record does not reflect his on the field efforts. It takes 8 other guys on the field, AND a good bullpen to turn the game over too in order to win. Error free defense contibutes to winning games as much as great pitching.

With a 25 - 59 team record going into today's game (worse in MLB) it is obvious all the pieces are not there yet. Add to that Kevin Millwood and Luke Scott both going on the DL, now some border pieces of the puzzle are missing too! Sure Pie is now back in the line-up, but what he can or will contribute is still being considered and observed . Let's hope he makes some of those spectacular plays he made while on re-hab for the Orioles now that he is back.

Will be watching this 4 game set against the Rangers on MASN TV with great interest just like everyone else. Having only 3 wins in the last 10 games, it really is time to get a few wins under interm-manager Juan Samuel's belt :)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hey Bat! Where You Been?

<--- This serial numbered Dave Trembly GOLD Card came out of a forgotten pack of 2009 Topps Baseball today. It serves as a vivid reminder of the changes the Orioles have made so far in hopes of improvement in their dismal performance so far this season.

People have been sending emails, direct messages... couple of phone calls wondering what I have been doing since last post. Saturday (07-03-10) was spent set-up at a local flea market getting rid of unwanted and no longer used items. Sunday, the 4th. of July helped my father with a painting project he has going, and we cooked out afterwards. Since our local team, the Salem Red Sox, is on the road until the 11th. it is a good time to get this project done. And along the way, we watched all the available baseball games, episodes of "Baseball Tonight", and re-plays of some games we missed live. So many games and great plays to even begin to comment on here.

The one game that stands out in my mind is the Orioles winning that game at Fenway. It had been a while since that happened, and the Boston crowd did not like it on the 4th. of July with the world watching. Every now and then Baltimore's bats get hot, wonderful plays are turned, along with smart base running, but there is no consistency.

The Orioles lost again today in a day game, and have a 25 and 57 record going into Wednesday's action. The bats are still hot and they put up alot of runs... just not enough to win it. There have been more roster changes and additions for various reasons. Some of these "new guys" look promising, and may actually parlay all that talent to the plays on the field.

Time will tell, so in the meantime we remain faithful and loyal to watching the Orioles games on MASN TV. Hopefully, the NEXT game will have a different out come... right?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Baseballs Wild Wednesday & Thursday

Every now and then, ALOT of things baseball-wise happen in one day... the flood gates opened on Wednesday 06-30-10 for this fan. Not only did the Baltimore Orioles bats warm up and they hit 5 homeruns in their 9-6 win over Oakland, got to experience my first in-person complete game No Hitter. I have seen No Hitters either on video or Television, but in all my years of going to minor league and major league games this was the first time I was THERE in the stands for a "No-No".

After the game was over I made my way down to the box seats behind the vistors dugout to capture the picture above of the Fredrick Keys celibrating both their 7 - 0 win, and the No Hitter pitched by Nathan Moreau. Make a note: this was Nathan's first Carolina League outing for the Keys, having just been promoted from Full-Season Low A. You could say he made an impression in his debut.

How special was this No-Hitter? Last complete game No-Hitter was spun by then Salem Avalanche pitcher Kip Bouknight on 08-07-02 in (of all places) Fredrick. They are that rare.

As a group, many of us "tipped our caps" to the Fredrick Keys players as they came back to the dugout. Good sportsmanship is universal in baseball, and a little appreciation for an outstanding performance goes a long ways even when your team is on the losing end. Many of the Fredrick players paused and acknowledged us before going down the steps into the dugout. Some classy players on that team :)

Thursday Night (07-01-10) Update

Looks like the Orioles lost to Oakland tonight , and are now 24 - 54. The Fredrick Keys once again beat the Salem Red Sox (2 - 6) tonight. At one point Salem had a 4 to 1 lead, but their un-doing happened when they let Fredrick score 3 runs in the top of the 9th. Final was 6 to 4.

Spoke with Fredrick Keys hitting coach and former Major Leaguer Denny Hocking before Thursday nights game. What a super nice guy from California. I asked him if the team had settled down from the No-Hitter celibration the night before yet. Mr. Hocking said "they jumped around in the clubhouse for about 5 minutes celibrating, then it was business as usual". Denny was also kind enough to sign ten different of his cards for me - Thank You!