BALTIMORE -- The year 2012 has welcomed strange days that have nothing to do with any antiquated Mayan forecast and everything to with baseball at the extremes. The season has already seen a perfect game, a no-hitter and a cycle, three rare results that can't compete with what's happening with the Baltimore Orioles.
Five Cuts on a weekend dominated by the two pitching-led franchises who make their homes on either side of the Capitol Beltway:
Did you see the guy in the Batman underpants who leapt from the bleachers at Camden Yards on Opening Day and spent 63 seconds eluding justice on the outfield grass, his cape flouncing in the breeze, before a pile of policemen -- presumably in defiance of Commissioner Gordon -- finally tackled him in left-centerfield?
NEW YORK -- A few days after Jayson Werth signed his first professional contract in mid-June 1997, the first-round pick of the Orioles traveled to Baltimore for an introductory press conference at Camden Yards.
With the injury problems that have beset the Phillies, it is very possible that if you ranked the major league teams from 1 through 30, you might go through six American League clubs before you reached your first National League squad. See if you agree with this order: 1. Angels. 2. Yankees. 3. Rangers. 4. Tigers. 5. Rays. 6. Red Sox. 7. Phillies.
Less than a year after retiring in disgrace to avoid a second performance-enhancing drug suspension, Manny Ramirez just might catch on with another major league team. Ramirez was reinstated from the retirement list in mid-December, began working out in Florida in January, and the Orioles, A's, and Blue Jays have since shown public interest in signing the 12-time All-Star. That interest comes despite the fact that Ramirez would still have to serve a 50-game suspension (reduced from 100 games in recognition of his having sat out all but five games of the 2011 season) before he could take the field and will turn 40 right around the time that suspension would end in late May.
BALTIMORE -- Dan Duquette spent over two decades in the front offices of major league baseball teams, culminating with his role as Red Sox general manager in which he helped assemble the key pieces of what would become Boston's 2004 Curse-busting World Series title team.
Yankees ace CC Sabathia used the threat of his opt-out clause Monday night to increase his contract from $92 million to $122 million and stayed with the Yankees. Sabathia's call to remain in pinstripes aided New York and deprived a star-infused free-agent class of a bit more glitz, but the group still contains three other players with a chance to receive deals for at least $20 million per year. Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes have an excellent chance to top the $20-million-a-year mark, and the iconic Albert Pujols, the top guy on the market, actually has been shooting to get into the $30-million-a-year range.
They will go down as the most thrilling 129 minutes in baseball history. Never before and likely never again -- if we even dare to assume anything else can be likely ever again -- will baseball captivate and exhilarate on so many fronts in so small a window the way it did September 28, 2011.
BALTIMORE -- A few minutes before taking the field to stretch Wednesday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Rays gathered around TVs in the visitor's clubhouse at Camden Yards to watch the Boston Red Sox. As Carl Crawford's fly ball to left put the finishing touch on the Toronto Blue Jays' 5-4 win over the Red Sox, the Rays erupted in cheers and high fives.
Baseball insiders are all but certain that well-respected executive Andy MacPhail will leave his post as president and general manager of the Orioles. MacPhail's expected departure is the latest in a string of blows covering more than a decade for the storied franchise gone south. But the real question now is the interesting one: Will anyone of stature take such a job?
BALTIMORE -- Ask the Baltimore Orioles' Jeremy Guthrie if he's concerned about the possibility of becoming only the second pitcher in the past 30 years to be saddled with a 20-loss season, and he emphatically replies, "No, I'm not.''
The Rangers boosted their bullpen by trading for Orioles setup man Koji Uehara, sending Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter to Baltimore.
Five years ago this week, the Orioles were deep into talks with both the Astros and Angels as they attempted to unload Miguel Tejada in a blockbuster trade. If they consummated the Angels deal, they would get Ervin Santana, Erick Aybar and Jose Arredondo in exchange for Tejada, according to Jim Duquette, who was then the vice president of baseball operations for Baltimore; if they did the Astros deal, they were going to get Roy Oswalt, Morgan Ensberg and Adam Everett.
The Orioles were almost everyone's last-place pick in easily baseball's toughest division, yet entering play on Wednesday they are one of only three unbeaten teams in baseball, along with the Rangers and Reds, and sit atop the American League East. Which means there is already a lot of re-evaluation happening by baseball scouts, writers and competing executives.
With the defending division champion Rays having faded a bit in the wake of losing Carl Crawford and their entire bullpen, the similarly-constructed Yankees and Red Sox are once again set to do battle atop the division, with both likely to make the playoffs regardless of the order of their finish. The bottom half of the division is catching up, however, as the Blue Jays boast pitching and power, and the Orioles look to build on their hot finish to the 2010 season under new manager Buck Showalter with young pitching and veteran bats.
Baltimore Orioles stories in the SI Vault
TAMPA -- Ex-Yankees manager Buck Showalter and his Orioles team left George Steinbrenner Field here with a 10-0 defeat Wednesday, which is not only a reminder of how things have been but could also be a portent of things to come this year, as well.
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Three observations from Orioles camp:
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- I arrived in Florida for spring training last week and the first order of business was visiting with Joe Corchran and Tommy McLaughlin, longtime clubhouse workers for the Boston Red Sox. The guys behind the scenes carry the institutional memory for every big league club, and time with Joe and Tommy is always time well spent.
Hope you all enjoyed the Super Bowl last night. There won't be any football for a while.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Every general manager stays in the same hotel during the Winter Meetings, and that centralization of each team's top decision maker can facilitate trade talk -- and lead to some awkward moments after the completion of a deal.
Managers occasionally make an immediate impact, but rarely has a managerial change made such a stark difference as when Buck Showalter took over the floundering Orioles on Aug. 3 and quickly turned them into a viable spoiler, and maybe much more. "He's exactly what they needed,'' one AL exec said.
BALTIMORE -- As perhaps the most revered Baltimore Oriole in history, Cal Ripken Jr. remembers well what it took to get there. But before he was a Baltimore icon, before he was an Iron Man, even before he was an established big leaguer, Ripken was a 21-year-old rookie mired in a horrific slump and unsure of how to get out of it.
Eric Wedge had a great interview in Baltimore and appears to have a real shot at getting that job. Wedge managed the Cleveland Indians for seven years, winning the 2007 AL Central title, but was fired after last season. The Orioles are still searching for a successor to Dave Trembley, whom they fired earlier this month. Juan Samuel is currently Baltimore's interim manager.
In contrast to their roster of mostly underachieving kids, the Orioles have assembled a list of experienced, accomplished managers as prime candidates to replace the recently fired Dave Trembley for what might be the hardest job in sports, what one baseball executive called a "hell". Internally, even Davey Johnson has been mentioned along with other fellow ex-managers Bobby Valentine, Buck Showalter, Bob Melvin and Eric Wedge.
As Tigers manager Jim Leyland mentioned several times after umpire Jim Joyce's whopper of a mistake on Wednesday night, humans tend to err. The story of Armando Galarraga and Joyce is a very human one indeed, and the nicest ending possible would have been the decision by a human to undo Joyce's error and award the perfect game Galarraga rightfully deserved.
The Baltimore Orioles appear to be leaning toward firing manager Dave Trembley, and could do it as soon as today.
Feel the passion. Experience the pageantry. Live the rivalry. When the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Houston Astros, there's just no telling what will happen.
Brilliant right-hander Stephen Strasburg looks so flawless in the minors, he seems more machine than phenom.
Managers aren't quite like Jenga blocks in which one's fall necessarily precipitates the demise of more, but the Royals' firing of Trey Hillman on Thursday marks the beginning of 2010's open season on skippers.
Baseball is a yawn, not a sneeze.
The Red Sox are a good team. They won 95 games last year and helped themselves with several free-agent signings this past winter. Theo Epstein, their general manager, surely knows this. But you wouldn't be able to tell from what he said to the Boston Herald this weekend after watching his team get swept by the sad, young Orioles.
Word going around the game is that the country's consensus top amateur player, the already legendary 17-year-old slugging catcher Bryce Harper, who is being advised by Scott Boras, will seek to break last year's record $15.67 million bonus set by Stephen Strasburg after Harper is selected at or near the top of next month's draft.
The Red Sox are scuffling and you can hear the cackling from coast to coast.
Last year 71 players were named All-Stars -- that's up from 58 only 10 years ago and 36 when the event began in 1933. Can it possibly get more bloated? You bet. Commissioner Bud Selig's on-field committee has paved the way for even more players to call themselves All-Stars. Beginning this summer, All-Star pitchers who start a game on the Sunday before the Midsummer Classic with be replaced on the team. Moreover, the official rosters have been expanded yet again -- from 33 to 34 players -- with the addition of another position player. Chalk up the usual bailouts based on injuries (real or imagined), and you're likely to see as many as 80 players named "All-Stars." Why not just give everyone a shiny participation medal and announce, "Everybody is a winner!"
This spring, SI.com's baseball writers will be filing postcards from all 30 camps. To read all the postcards, click here.
It hurts me to write about the Orioles.
I spied Guastavo in Kissimmee. The sighting was, given the clarity of a Florida morn, a glimpse out of the blue, like a Golden-crowned Warbler in the states. The proper name of this rare bird is Gustavo Adolpho Chacin, a left-handed pitcher last seen in parts around major league baseball in 2007, best known for winning 13 games at age 24 for the 2005 Blue Jays.
How can a club compete when it has the misfortune of playing in a division that also includes the two highest-revenue clubs in Major League Baseball? The answer for the Baltimore Orioles, for the past dozen seasons anyway, has been: It can't. Since 1997, when the Orioles won the American League East before losing a six game ALCS to the Cleveland Indians, they have endured 12 consecutive sub-.500 seasons, and have just once finished better than fourth in the division -- never once winning more games in a year than did the Yankees or the Red Sox.
Free agent reliever Mike Gonzalez has agreed to a two-year, $12 million contract with the Orioles, SI.com has learned.
One of the things people sometimes miss about the Miracle Mets story of 1969 is just how good the Baltimore Orioles were that year. The Orioles were a team without apparent weakness. They won 109 games -- same record as the famed '61 Yankees. They took the division by 19 games. They showed a breathtaking array of talents in sweeping the Minnesota Twins in the first American League Championship Series.
In the nation's capital these days there's plenty of impatience and lots of talk about when things will finally turn around. The economy? Oh yeah, that too. The state of the area's two major league teams is almost as sad as the state of the economy. In Baltimore, the Orioles started well but have fallen back to a more familiar fourth place in the AL East. Meanwhile in D.C., the Nationals have the worst record in the majors (3-10).
PHILADELPHIA, then BALTIMORE, then MIAMI -- Three cities in three days. It doesn't match a certain new network's 30 spring training sites in 30 days (apologies for the shameless plug). But hey, it's the best I could do. It's also a great way to start the season, not to mention to learn a little about six different teams. Here are 30 observations, insights and opinions from three great cities and six great and not-great teams.
BALTIMORE -- CC Sabathia heaved his white towel toward the bin in the middle of the visiting clubhouse after the $210 million Yankees dropped their well-anticipated opener to the Orioles -- and he missed the bin, too. Sabathia was a little off with his control in his dreadful Yankees debut -- like maybe a zip code or two off.
Stuck in the office on Opening Day? No worries -- we've got you covered. SI.com's baseball experts Ted Keith, Ben Reiter, Jon Heyman, Albert Chen, Tim Marchman and Gennaro Filice will offer live commentary all day long. Check back throughout the day for continuous updates through the afternoon games.
1) The Orioles brought 37 pitchers to camp. Thirty-seven! The cast is so large that ace Jeremy Guthrie joked that the team encouraged him to play in the World Baseball Classic so they could divvy up his innings to some of the other 36 pitchers. This is exactly what a rebuilding team should do: restock the system with power arms (the trades of Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard were designed with just that in mind) and take every low-risk flier you can, such as Rich Hill, a left-hander who could not find the plate last year but has some big-league success on his resume. Baltimore is sitting on a decent inventory of pitching prospects. You're not likely to see many real results on the big-league level this year, but you may get some hints.
In December 2007, I was in rural Navan, Ontario, to eat breakfast with Erik Bedard at his favorite hometown joint. It was tiny place (maybe 25 by 40 feet) conveniently named the Navan Restaurant, and menu prices ranged from 98 cents for coffee to $7.79 for a dish called "The Hungry Man." Bedard nodded when the waitress asked him whether he'd like his usual, and she returned a short while later with a plate of two eggs sunny side up, split sausages, beans and tomatoes, hold the home fries. "I try to avoid fried foods," Bedard explained. "Bad stuff."
Matt Wieters is new, and he is not. Old, and he is not. Rare, and he is not. For the Baltimore Orioles, who made him the fifth pick in the 2007 draft, he is the future, and he is not (at least not yet). The best prospect in baseball, and there is hardly anyone around the game who would suggest that he is not.
1. The World Baseball Classic: An unknown oddity in 2006, the WBC is now a legitimate, big-stage international event after what turned out to be a highly successful debut. What to look for in March of 2009? How about the possibility of Alex Rodriguez, who switched teams to play for the Dominican Republic, facing Derek Jeter and Team USA in the semifinals? You can get a peek at pitcher Yu Darvish, 22, of Japan, who someday may trigger the next stateside posting war. How about a Sunday night game between the U.S. and Venezuela (and a possible start by Johan Santana) in the first round? Or Cuba vs. Mexico in Mexico City? The new double-elimination format makes every game exciting: The loser either goes home or to the losers' bracket.
The Central divisions take center stage in this week's edition of Diamond Digits as we examine the Cardinals small-ball, big-run win, the active home run hitter on the hill, and a calming influence for the troubled Tribe bullpen.
With seven weeks left in the season, roughly half of the teams in the majors can reasonably consider themselves a shot to play into October. If you're a fan of one of the teams in the other half, well . . . while all the attention from here on out will be paid to the Yankees and the Red Sox, the Mets and the Phillies, and even the upstart Rays and Marlins, there are actually good reasons for many of you to send in your ticket deposits for 2009. Here are five of them:
The winter of 2007-08 brought us some honest-to-goodness blockbuster trades. Hitting prodigy Miguel Cabrera, star starters Johan Santana, Dan Haren, Erik Bedard and Dontrelle Willis plus standout shortstops Miguel Tejada and Orlando Cabrera all changed teams in the busiest winter trading season in years.
1. E-Jax's resurrection: Five years ago a Dodger hurler by the name of Edwin Jackson burst onto the scene in the dog days of September by outdueling Randy Johnson in his major league debut, which happened to be on his 20th birthday.
Also in this column: • White Sox seek more for Crede • Rangers want Salty to catch • Hampton looks OK, not great • More news and notes
The Cubs and Orioles have resumed trade talks involving second baseman Brian Roberts, and one person familiar with the talks indicated discussions were starting to get serious.
Also in this column: • Theories on the Santana delay • Thoughts on Selig's extension • More news and notes
Teams are starting to salivate over the prospect of trading for Orioles ace Erik Bedard, who has wisely refused to sign Baltimore's three-year offer to remain with baseball's messiest organization. But for a variety of reasons well beyond Bedard's greatness, it won't be easy to pry Bedard from Baltimore.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. --Superstar pitcher Johan Santana is still more likely than not to be traded here -- perhaps even by the end of the day Monday -- and once Santana's gone, attention will then turn toward Dan Haren, the A's fine and inexpensive right-hander, and Erik Bedard, who is maybe as talented as any starter outside Santana and maybe Josh Beckett.
Judging by the streams of fans flowing out of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, you'd swear the game had ended. The driving rains sent even the most loyal Orioles' supporters running to the shelter of their cars, or the cover of the nearest bar. But beneath her broken-down umbrella, Bernadette Scudder stood, waiting and wondering if the umps would ever call this game. She can't tell you the name of a player, the outcome of a single game or the Orioles' standing in their division, but no matter how late the hour, Scudder would see this, and every home game, through to its end.
Dave Trembley might be 23 games into becoming the next Tom Kelly. Kelly was the interim manager of the 1986 Twins, whose general manager, Andy MacPhail, had no initial interest in keeping him as his full-time manager. But after a 23-game cameo, Kelly earned MacPhail's trust and was named Minnesota manager. Kelly promptly won a world championship in his first full season on the job, to which he added another four years later.
Cal Ripken Jr. will always be known for his consecutive games played streak, but it may surprise many people that just two years into his big-league career, he already was planning for life after baseball.
The Yankees' YES Network rejiggered its broadcast lineup to exclude Joe Girardi from Baltimore this week. But if they're trying to keep Girardi from changing his mind and taking the Orioles managing job, that probably isn't necessary.
The Orioles were so impressed with Joe Girardi's interview on Tuesday that they are expected to offer him their managerial job as early as today. If a contract can be agreed to, Baltimore will soon have its replacement for the just-fired Sam Perlozzo.
People around baseball, and especially those around Baltimore, used to talk in near reverence of something called the "Oriole Way." In a loose kind of definition, the Oriole Way was a blueprint for winning, proven in the team's amazing run through the 1960s, '70s and stretching into the early '80s.
Summertiiiiiime, the song goes, and the livin' is eaaaaaaasy.
The Baltimore Orioles are meeting this morning with manager Sam Perlozzo and are expected to fire him, according to The Baltimore Sun. Bullpen coach Dave Trembley will be named interim manager, according to the report.
COOPERSTOWN, NY -- I will tell the story for years to come about how I played the outfield like Willie Mays in the 61st annual Baseball Hall of Fame exhibition game at historic Doubleday Field. I will conveniently forget to mention I did so like the Willie Mays of the 1973 World Series, turning a routine fly ball into a Sir Edmund Hillary-sized adventure.
Also in this column: • Carlos Zambrano update • Orioles' skipper on hot seat? • Brad Lidge's turnaround • More news and notes
Hopefully you went out and picked up last week's top two recommendations, Reggie Willits and Jack Cust, both of whom took their rightful their places as fantasy studs over the last seven days. This week there are a couple of speedsters to watch for, as well as a pitcher who despite being on the hill for the start of the biggest ninth-inning collapse in the last quarter-century, has the pedigree and guidance to become one of the top two pitchers on his staff.
A Yankees starter climbed the mound in Texas on Thursday -- two of them, in fact -- and didn't pop, strain, twist or break anything. The Yanks, not coincidentally, won their second and third straight games. Their closer, a recent source of concern to some, easily nailed down both ends of the doubleheader. Joe Torre was seen to have smiled.
Back in the late '70s, the Orioles had a right-handed reliever named Don Stanhouse, a big ol' floppy-haired lug of a guy that Baltimore manager Earl Weaver supposedly liked to call "Full Pack." That, it was said, was the number of cigarettes that Weaver inhaled during one of Stanhouse's typically nerve-searing and painfully drawn-out appearances.
Make faces at the oh-so-cuddly panda cub or inspect a moon rock. Cheer on a big-league baseball team or practice spycraft.
1. Six-inning Pads: The concept of a six-inning game is gaining steam around the bigs. (Simply put, you compile a bullpen so dominant that if your opponent is trailing when your starter hits the showers, it's game, set and match.) Over the past few seasons, the Padres have executed this gameplan soundly, but this year they've perfected it. Literally. San Diego's 'pen has yet to give up a single run this season (see chart at right).
The Astros need to trade struggling, just-demoted Brad Lidge while he still has value. And apparently, he still does. Three executives contacted Tuesday said they'd gladly take Lidge off the Astros' hands -- at the right price, of course.
Roy (Doc) Halladay was mowing them down in order last Saturday afternoon: 00, 01, 02, 03.... Routine. Twice on the day before starts and once more on game day, the Toronto Blue Jays righthander takes a laminated grid containing 100 randomly distributed numbers and locates each one in sequence: 37, 38, 39, 40.... Think of it as Sudoku for Cy Young winners. The purpose of the exercise is to narrow the focus of a lively mind to nothing but the next number, which helps Halladay sharpen his concentration on nothing but the next pitch when he reaches the mound. "I'm not one of those guys who's worried about who's on deck," he says. When he began working the
Remember when Derek Jeter tripped through that 0-for-32 April streak in 2004? He hit .168 that month, finally getting untracked with a homer off Barry Zito. Then he tore things up in June, went nuts in September and ended the season at .292. His other all-around stats were respectable, too, especially considering that awful start.
Director Barry Levinson is one of Baltimore's most noted sports fans. He's a part-owner of the Orioles and his filmography includes Diner and The Natural. SI.com spoke recently with Levinson on the DVD re-release of The Natural, which features a completely restructured first act and 15 minutes of additional footage.
Hugh Hefner was recently a guest of Lakers owner Jerry Buss in his spacious suite at the Staples Center. Hef didn't arrive alone. Twenty Playmates sauntered into the box along with the Playboy owner, who has long been friends with the Lakers' playboy owner. In case you're interested, the whole scene was filmed for The Girls Next Door reality show.
Embarrassment. Injury. Blunt force trauma. Estate planning. The mind quickly accelerates the possibility and the amplitude of catastrophe when you are standing on the infield grass, as I am, 75 feet in front of Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez while he bats with a runner on first base. No infielder ever would be so foolish to put himself this close to the potential harm of a Ramirez line drive, not even armed with world-class hand-eye coordination, a fielder's glove and a protective cup -- all of which, as I am most acutely aware, I do not possess at this moment.
More than any other sport, baseball has always produced great writing, but the immediacy of blogs are ideally suited to baseball's long season. "This ain't football," Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver once said, "We do this every day."
Also in this column: • Guillen, Tigers not close • Cubs strike gold with Irish • More news and notes
The Orioles again seem to be resigning themselves to the fact that they have no chance of competing with the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays in the AL East. New acquisitions Aubrey Huff, Steve Trachsel and Jaret Wright have the biggest fantasy implications. New relievers Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford will help a beleaguered bullpen, but neither will have much fantasy value this year.
Also in this column: • Canseco's computer controversy • Phillies looking at Rios? • More news and notes
Also in this column: • More on Jeter-A-Rod saga • Andruw Jones and the Braves • Rollins' brash talk • More news and notes
Eight years ago the Cubs established in spring training that a 21-year-old named Kerry Wood was not going to make their big league team. "Congratulations," Angels manager Terry Collins told Chicago manager Jim Riggelman one day that spring.
Also in this column: • Bonds' main sticking point • Beane's latest heist • Big Fish left unsigned • More news and notes
Last June, during a 6-21 stretch of amateurish baseball that effectively put the brakes on the Braves' streak of 14 straight division titles, it wasn't hard to figure out exactly what was wrong in Atlanta. The bullpen, a huge worry for the team since spring training, was undeniably and unequivocally awful. That month, the 'pen had five blown saves, a 1-5 record and a 5.13 ERA.
This is part three of a five-part series on the top 75 prospects in professional baseball.
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Mark McGwire is gone, but Sammy Sosa is on his way back.
The Red Sox are up, the White Sox are down. The O's got a C, the A's a D.
Few players are as highly valued within an organization as its prospects. For the fourth consecutive year, I will rank the top 75 prospects in baseball (and honorable mentions), beginning with Nos. 75-61 and counting down the next five weekdays.
The Charlotte Sting went out of business last week, and rightly so. Their embarrassing 11-23 record last year was actually a huge improvement over 2005, when the team won only six games. The Sting were so bad that you don't even know what sport they played.
BALTIMORE -- In one of the biggest games of his pressurized nine-year NFL career, Peyton Manning played with the cool detachment of the greatest Colt of them all, Johnny Unitas, on Saturday. It wasn't anywhere near the best game of his life, but under the circumstances -- a playoff game in the city that now lives to hate the Colts, against a Baltimore defense that was both the most feared and top-rated in the NFL this season -- it was one of the most rewarding.