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!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Don't Pop The Champagne Just Yet

Random Musings From This Weekend

Wow! Can You Believe It?!?! The Orioles beat the Marlins in their last game, then propelled that momentum into a SWEEP of their 32 mile away neigbors the Washington Nationals over the weekend. Attendence figures were very impressive: Friday - 43,484, Saturday - 28,635, And Sunday - 22,951... all showed up in the hot, humid, muggy 90 degree plus "summer-time" conditions of Inner Harbor Baltimore. Cold beverage sales in Camden Yards were probably equally impressive.

Orioles have actually won four games in a row, and have Monday (06-28-10) off to "re-coup" and prepare before facing the Atlanta Braves. Sounds great doesn't it? Before we go a pop open a bottle of champagne to celibrate this mini streak... we need a reality check. The Orioles are 23 and 52, worse record in baseball. So put away the cork screw and contain your excitment just a little bit.

So What's Next?

Some roster changes (exit Garrett "sit on the bench" Atkins) are being made to make room for some additional pitching. Long over-due and bound to help overall. Luke Scott and Adam Jones have found their swings connecting with some baseballs now and then. Infield and throwing errors seem to be occuring less and less. And perhaps most important of all - there is a little "swagger" in that dugout now. Up in the bullpen, theres some earned and deserved JOY. The players body language no longer reeks of defeat. Instead, it has been replaced with some confidence that says "Hey! We CAN win some games". The television cameras do not lie. More of the players are at the rail watching the game, cheering their team mates on, and "high-five-ing" every little thing.

So maybe we will keep seeing a little better play on the field, alot better player attitude (* thanks Nick *), and some more wins than expected from the Orioles. Winning four in row IS something to be proud of. So, I am not going to pop the cork on that champagne just yet, but will keep the bottle on ice :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

So, You Are An Orioles Fan, Huh?

I am a Baltimore Orioles fan. I turn into an 8 year old kid everytime I get my ticket scanned, go through the turnstile, and pass the gate. I pause "superstitously" to adjust my cap for Orioles "good luck" that night. My eyes get big, my ears take in the pre-game music, and I follow my nose to Boog's Bar-B-Q to say "hi" to Mr. Powell if he is on his stool signing autographs and talking to fans. For The next three and half hours or so, I am in baseball heaven.

Have to remember, I have gone through ALOT to be at this game tonight. Bought my ticket on-line weeks in advance, have driven 210 miles from central Southwestern Virginia, and checked into a local hotel already. So four games a season is usually my limit.

With a record of ONLY 19 wins, and 52 losses (at this writting)it is very hard to be a loyal Orioles fan. It is very flustrating to see your team lose night after night against even medicore teams. Whether it is a poor outing by the starting pitcher who is throwing "batting practice", a game changing throwing error, or a dropped ball... my poor Orioles find some way to lose.

Since I watch the majority of the games on Mid Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), I hear all the pre-game, during the game, and post-game comments and analysis from the in the broadcast booth "experts". Usually they get it right, but they are human and make mistakes. One on-going theme and subject I fully agree with is "it begins and ends with great pitching". And the Baltimore Orioles have none. Great pitching can shut down great hitting everytime... that is a fact! Need proof? Think of the tandem "one-two punch" of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson winning the World Series for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Baltimore Orioles have neither great starting pitching, nor an excellent bullpen. Ownership and management does not go out on the free agent market and sign the best ace pitchers available like other clubs who have no regard for payroll like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Not real good at "before the dead line" trades either. The few they do sign to inexpensive contracts have questionable records, sporadic sucess, and often lousy overall stats. Seems the Orioles "want to cultivate from within" with first round draft picks and their minor league clubs. This idealogy still has not produced a winning team on the field for years now. Orioles need to "buy" some pitching talent - it is that simple folks!

So I remain a flustrated loyal Baltimore Orioles fan, watching and going to games when I can, knowing no one in ownership or management cares what little 'ol batspeed29 thinks. Seems the Orioles are on their way to losing over 100 games this season... must be the wonderful staff AND Boog's roast beef sandwiches that keep me coming back to Camden Yards :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

You Collect Baseball Cards? You A NERD Or What?

People are always looking for "mutual interests" with those they come in contact with in everyday life. In social settings, it is a "common ground" question to ask others "You Have Any Hobbies?". I always proudly answer "I collect baseball cards". This usually gets raised eyebrows and dropped jaws from the men, and cute smiles with twinkle in their eyes from the women. The ladies know here is a 50+ year old, 6 foot, 240 lb. guy "who still has a little bit of kid in him". The men think "bet he doesn't have a circular saw or a hunting rifle". They are right on all counts.

It is easy to get labeled "An OLD Nerd" when you have such a hobby you apparently should have out-grown. You get those "I thought only kids collected baseball cards" like comments. These usually come from the computer on-line game playing crowd that can not understand the pleasure of actually "touching and owning" a collectible item. Baseball card collecting is also my connection to the players and history of the game. To the serious inquiries from "gamers" I refer to the current price guides. Their jewel cased CD's of the latest (now used) games do not seem to have the same value... hmmm? Also doubt they would realize the bids some of my baseball cards get on eBay if placed for auction.

Though now as an adult I can appreciate the inherent "preceived value" of the older major star and Hall of Famer baseball cards in my collection, I still get a thrill out of opening the packs of the latest releases and sorting them. In a stressful world, I find this activity very relaxing with a favorite CD playing in the background. Some guys find their "comfort zone" in their shop with a table saw and a 2 x 10. Others love heading out into the woods to find "Bambi's Mother". Mine is at the dining room table sorting and filing baseball cards on an older bath towel.

I promise not to mention your saw blade is dull and not cutting well, or your rifle sights are off, if you promise not to label me with a "juvenile hobby".