We here at B-more Opinionated are always keeping an eye out for those doing positive things in the community and will certainly highlight that from time-to-time on the podcast and here on our blogs (especially as it pertains to local sports). With that in mind, here’s a cool story on the ongoing outreach work MLB is doing in urban Baltimore, in this case involving a few O’s Hall of Famers from the glory days of the franchise.
Thanks to the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation (CRSF) and Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE), youth in West Baltimore will soon have a new place to play ball and hang out. Eddie Murray Field at BGE Park will be the 59th Youth Development Park built by CRSF. The parks created by the Foundation “encourage healthy physical activity and provide mentorship opportunities through youth sports and enrichment programs.” Eddie Murray Field at BGE Park will feature a synthetic turf baseball diamond with dugouts and a digital scoreboard, and will be located behind James Mosher Elementary. The field will be a home for James Mosher Baseball (which is longest continuously operating African-American youth baseball league in the country) and also host after-school programming.
The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation has spent the past 15 years crafting youth development programs in order to tackle the issues facing at-risk youth in affected areas. The Ripken Foundation has completed 59 parks across the country over the last five years. According to statistics from CRSF, the Ripken Foundation impacted over 1 million kids nationwide through its youth programming and Youth Development Parks in 2015.
The partnership with BGE has provided significant financial support, and Calvin G. Butler, Jr., chief executive officer for BGE stated, “BGE shares CRSF’s mission to positively impact the community, especially the lives of young people. Investing in our youth in the communities that need it most will provide the foundation for growth and strengthen Baltimore.” The project is also being completed thanks to financial support from Bon Secours Hospital, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, The Cupid Foundation, Under Armour, and The State of Maryland and Fields, Inc.
“It’s crucial that we provide our youth with opportunities to play, learn and grow in a positive environment,” said Cal Ripken, Jr., Ripken Foundation Vice Chairman, Baltimore Orioles legend, and Baseball Hall of Famer. “Kids need caring adults who can teach them important life lessons like teamwork, respect and personal responsibility; they need guidance to be shown that there are other options besides negative influences. It’s great to provide the kids in West Baltimore with a safe place to play and learn.”
It is always fantastic to see investments made to benefit the youth in our community, but the fact that the Ripken Foundation is behind the project makes it all the more meaningful.
Below is a video from the CRSF featuring a park and program they put together in Florida. Coming soon to West Baltimore!
It would be easy to write off the putrid baseball the Orioles played in Houston – pitching aside – as just a bad series. And I sincerely hope it ends up being an extreme anomaly and one of the low points of the season.
But if you think it’s a total fluke you are kidding yourself. It’s been brewing for a while.
Maybe the bad lighting at Minute Maid Park compounded the issues and this is certainly a streaky team prone to feast or famine at the plate. But what happened against the Astros wasn’t all that different from what we’ve seen since the O’s closed out that stirring four-game series with the Tigers. If anything, this was a steady downward continuation of the Seattle and Anaheim series, where the Orioles were stumped and befuddled by junk balls and slow curves. And in a game of perpetual adjustments, the next step clearly must be made by Orioles hitters. Because the book on them only keeps growing.
My biggest gripe with this entire ballclub remains situational hitting and productive at bats – all of the money and resources are in this lineup so I will be holding them to a considerable standard – and we are now approaching double-digit games on the season where they have wasted a good enough effort from their makeshift rotation. That horror show in Houston with the record strikeouts for a three-game series is clearly not going to be the norm; the problem is the two series that preceded it weren’t all that different.
The Seattle series began with them being lulled to sleep by weak-armed Wade Miley, and as I watched the finale of that series from 14 rows behind home plate with my kids – an equally lethargic effort against Nathan Karns, my concerns started to mount. Here was a kid who can hit an easy 97 m.p.h., going to all these 3-2 counts, and then repeatedly getting O’s hitters to chase curves all over the batters box. I was shocked to see curve after curve – both early and late in counts – from a promising youngster with such a live arm, but as the weeks have gone on I’ve come to appreciate the genius in the Mariners’ approach and now everyone wants to duplicate it.
The O’s won the Angels series, but really were brutal at the plate in all but the opening game, winning game two on a Matt Wieters three-run bomb after showing no life all game, and then following that walk-off with a four-game slump since. They could muster nothing against the likes of Matt Shoemaker and Jered Weaver, two struggling pitchers whose spots in the rotation (and the Majors) were in grave jeopardy. They got totally shutdown in So Cal and followed that with an inept series in Houston, losing all three one-run games, alternating at bats between looking clueless and looking disinterred, scoring just seven total runs against what had been one of the worst teams and worst staffs in the American League.
It’s great to hit home runs, and chicks dig the longball and everyone wants to be the hero. Nut it was borderline selfish the approach many of the club’s top hitters continued to adopt in critical situations.
Failing to take pitches. Hacking all over the place. Jumping at balls after the pitcher had just shown an inability to throw strikes. Bad lighting or not, this was shameful and it’s the kind of series that can come back to bite you in October. Everyone can’t close his eyes and swing from his heels all the time. Fighting to simply make contact and put the ball in play when two runners are on and no out, or the bases loaded and less than two outs, is imperative. I don’t care how many homers you hit and how many Ks are in your DNA. The Astros were a team looking for reasons to roll over, and the O’s provided none.
Going back to the start of the Seattle series – when the O’s looked to be a club about to really take off coming so close to a four-game sweep of the Tigers – they are 3-6, scoring just 28 runs (16 of them coming off homers). Here are the numbers:
Opponent (SP) H/AB Ks RISP
Seattle (Miley) 2/30 3 0-2
Seattle (Walker) 5/31 4 2-9
Seattle (Karns) 6/32 10 0-4
LA (Santiago) 14/40 7 3-8
LA (Shoemaker) 5/33 13 1-2
LA (Weaver) 5/31 8 0-2
HOU (Fister) 8/47 19 2-9
HOU (McHugh) 11/38 18 2-14
HOU (McCullers) 5/33 15 0-5
TOTALS 61/315 (.193) 97 10/55(.182)
So they are hitting below .200 for that stretch – with almost every regular available on a daily basis sans JJ Hardy) and are managing to hit even worse with runners in scoring position. They are striking out 10.7 times per game. And this is during a stretch when they didn’t face any of those team’s best starter (King Felix, Dallas Kuechel, Garrett Richards). I know you can’t win them all, but this team has to be better than this. Miley already got slapped around his next time out, and I have a feeling Shoemaker, Weaver, Fister and the rest are going to continue to get crushed by the AL as well following their blip of success at Baltimore’s expense.
Wasted opportunities are a part of the game. No one stays hot forever and streaks come and go. But the kind of bad habits that manifested themselves in Houston were showing up plenty in the previous two series as well, and with the Indians having a legit staff and Boston outhitting everyone in the league, well, these batters better snap out of their funk and at least attempt to do the little things required to manufacture runs.
The O’s have scored three runs or less in seven of the last nine games and it’s already happened to them 21 times through 45 games. And their biggest challenges are yet to come. And you have to wonder if the starting pitching will be this solid come, oh, August and September.
They can’t possibly as bad as what we’ve seen for the past two weeks all that much longer … but a funk this severe is certain cause for a team-wide reboot at the plate, and they’re going to have be much better very soon with better opponents ahead.
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Tiger Woods made an appearance for the media at his 10th annual tournament at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda yesterday. Tiger answered questions and took to the tee box to fire off a few shots. All three from Tiger ended up in the water. While his stroke demonstrated how far he is from returning and competing, he still spoke optimistically. Among topics covered were Tiger’s health issues, his timeline for getting back to the Tour, and his place in history. Below you can find Jerry’s question to Tiger regarding whether he can reach Jack Nicklaus’ major championships record. Tiger currently sits at 14, four back from Nicklaus. Continue Reading …
Few people tackle an assignment like Jerry.
Recently he has taken to his weekly podcast homework assignments with renewed vigor, and never more so than when he headed to Camden Yards to get the scoop on Hyun Soo Kim, and his interpreter and all of the burning questions I had.
Are these two dudes living together?
Does the translator challenge Kim to learn new English words on a daily basis?
Is it true that Kim was one of the most volatile hotheads of the KBO?
This seemed to be right up Jerry’s alley. If you listened to last week’s pod, I thought I was making it fairly clear I was actually pretty interested in the translator and was thinking Jerry was going to be able to just chat with him. Instead we got three minutes of interview gold here between Jerry and both guys. Turns out Kim is on his Honeymoon, which led to the sidekick getting the boot down the street. Justifiably so.
It goes without saying that Kim of course had a huge game within hours of speaking to Jerry, sparking the huge 1-0 win over the Yankees last week and following in the footsteps of Joey Rickard and Darren O’Day as Orioles who had massive contributions just after speaking to us. I’m just saying …
After listening to this clip, however, I am filled with more questions. There might be a second component to this homework, now. Do, does the translator have to drop everything whenever Kim calls? What’s the craziest thing he got asked to say or figure out? Has he ever ordered a pizza to Kim’s house for him? How did Kim choose his walk-up music, and what is it? Do they have walk-up tunes in the KBO? Does the translator like go shopping with Kim’s wife and help her around the mall and grocery story?
Am I the only one with even more burning questions now than ever? I have a dream that by the end of the season Jerry and the translator are like boys and going out for a shot and a beer after the games and stuff. I want to make this dream a reality. I see this relationship blossoming. By September the translator is going to have had a cocktail from one of the bevy of frozen glasses in the back of Jerry’s freezer. I just know it.
UPDATE: so apparently out intrepid producer, Kevin Zwicker, is way ahead of me on the walk-out music thing and has already included it on the bumper music to the interview. Yet still I have questions – what is this tune? Why did it strike a chord with Kim? Is this like the top of the charts pop tune in Korea is it like Korean indie rock? Coleman needs to get to the bottom of the origins of all of this. And soon. Like as soon as these guys get back from Minnesota.
Now that we’ve got this website up and running, and are nearly two months into the podcast, figured it was about time we added some written content. And, with the draft behind me and a few months to go before I start making my training camp travels, well, this is the time of year where I tend to get a little free time. So, while I sit in the customer service area of Thompson Automotive, overlooking scenic Merritt Boulevard I figured this is as good a time as any to riff on the state of the 2016 Orioles.
For all of the talk about the starting pitching and how brutal it can be, my issue is the bats. Again. My biggest fear is that this team will fall into the prolonged scoring slumps that damned last year’s team, and the similarities can be striking. A few games here or there is the difference between hosting a postseason series and sitting it out, and I can’t help but flashback to some brutally frustrating series against the Marlins and Angels and Astros and Phillies early last spring and see the bats performing in an eerily frustrating manner already this season. Especially having just endured our second scoring slump of 20-plus innings already in this young season.
It comes down to approach and situational hitting. It can’t just be waiting for the three-run homer, because it leads to run scoring deluges and droughts that make it exceedingly difficult to sustain any momentum even when the starting pitching is over-performing (and it has been, big time) since Kevin Gausman returned to the rotation and even with Gallardo on the DL. No, the issue for me is a streak offense that often takes 4-5 innings to get cranking, that has repeatedly failed to get to struggling-and-or-bottom tier starters early in games when they are on the ropes, and thus which continues to thrust additional pressure on the O’s bullpen and largely mundane starting rotation.
Let’s be real about this team’s construction and asset allocation – it’s all in the bats. Period. The two biggest contracts in the history of the franchise, a $16M catcher, a $15M shortstop, adding Trumbo and Alvarez to what should already be a potent lineup. On the other side, they paid to keep a great set-up guy and have Ubaldo on a mid-level starter’s deal and Gallardo on a hope-and-a-prayer short-term deal after the failed physical, but the money is in the bats. This team has to mash. And it hasn’t with any regularity.
And I’m going to hone in on the early going of games. The Orioles enter play Friday with just 9 runs scored in the first inning (24th in baseball; ) and 9 runs scored in the second inning (19th in baseball) and 15 runs in the third inning (11th). This despite having the runners on all over the place in the early going again any number of laboring starters already (Kelly, Hamels, Lewis, Estrada, Young, Archer (the second time), Odorizzi, Severino, Sabathia off the top of my head. The struggle is real against a guy like Tanaka and you know that is going to be tough, but far too often we’ve failed to hammer a starting who seemed to be begging for an early shower.
I love that they are working pitch counts much better. I love them running up the pitch totals on a lot of these guys before the fifth inning … but when its 1st and 2ndand no outs on 1st and 3rd and one out in these situations some of the first-pitch hacking and swinging from the heels has killed them. When they look like a slow pitch softball team, they tend to either score five runs in one inning or they lose. Cutting down on the swings, putting the ball to the right side of the infield, manufacturing runs, getting that key sac fly remains a problem, and that’s what scares me. Sure, it can’t be as bad as last season, when they literally went a full season without legit corner outfielders, I tell myself, yet still I worry.
Sure, Adam Jones hasn’t gotten going yet and Alvarez has just found his swing, and Schoop is coming out of a prolonged slump. We have yet to see the best of this group. But given the way this team was put together, grabbing some early leads, helping out kids like Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson so they aren’t pitching with no run support for five and six innings at a time, putting up some consistent run streams so that the “A Team” of relievers (Givens, O’Day, Brach, Britton) can grab time off en masse will prove vital over 162 games, and now just over 25 games in, the bottom line to me is a handful of more sensible at bats and the O’s would have at least sustained that seven-game streak to start the season and they’d be at least seven games over .500 to this point.
Bottom line: Yeah they’ve faced some decent pitching – and also a bunch of guys the league has been pounding this season – but have already scored three runs or less 13 times through their first 27 games. That can’t happen. They have scored three runs or less 9 times in the last 14 games alone. And they rank in the bottom five in the league in GIDP.
And for all of those who want to bash the pitchers (despite most of these guys over-achieving thus far in my book), well, in 10 games since Gausman’s return the starters have a sparkling ERA of 2.85 and a WHIP of 1.01. The starters have struck out 54 batters in 60 innings in that span, while walking just 22. Yet the O’s are just 5-5 in that span. Again, not good enough and while some of it is on recent bullpen blow-ups (and Britton’s freak injury), I’d put the lion’s share on bats that have failed to take advantage of a plethora of potential game-changing situations.
- Give me more Kim, please, Hon. Lets get him a few games in a row and see how that goes. My ideal line-up to try to break this funk might be something like this – Reimold, Kim, Manny, Crush, Trumbo, Jones, Schoop, catcher, Flaherty/Janish. Mix it up some and see if we can get a few guys on base before Manny comes to the plate for the first time in a game.
- I’m not sweating this JJ Hardy situation all that much. I love Janish’s glove and I think he’ll be fine as a regular in a limited sample size (4-5 weeks). Even with Hardy’s renewed health this season, literally all of his power came in one Pesky Pole game at Fenway. Dating back to the start of the 2014 season, Hardy has 19 HRs and 97 RBI in 277 games, while hitting .247. That translates to 11 homers and 57 RBI over a full 162, while hitting below .250. If this line-up performs as it should, getting the occasional double out of Janish/Flaherty and strong fielding should be sufficient.
- I feel like Rickard coming off the bench for a series this weekend wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
- Don’t worry, Coleman won’t actually be trying to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) here and actually contributing to this site in the written form much. Promise. We wouldn’t do that to you guys. Though my bro-in-law, Jerry’s arch nemesis Uncle Tim, just might be adding some blogs. Jerry has already secured the much-anticipated exclusive with Kim’s interpreter, however, industry sources tell me, so start the hype machine for next week’s pod.
- On the Ravens draft, one kid I continue to hear rave reviews on is RB Kenneth Dixon. Even some evaluators I know who frankly didn’t love Baltimore’s draft believe that kid can be an outright feature back in the NFL if he cuts down on fumbled. “Best pick in the draft,” one personnel director told me who is lukewarm on other Ravens’ picks. “He is the second best back in the draft. There might not be even that much different from him and (Ezekiel) Elliott as long as he cuts down on the fumbling.” Big if, but still … Was surprised to hear Eric DeCosta talk about Nebraska OL Alex Lewis as a left tackle. Other teams figured he pushes early for a starting guard spot and works as a swing tackle if not, perhaps even more on the right side. Will be interested to see how that plays out.
- With Don Shula in declining health, this would be a great time for those with a deep appreciation for Baltimore sports, and who can remember the Colts in their glory, to tell these kids about Shula’s roots in this city. Used to love to hear stories from my grandfather about some of the greats he got to see up close back in the day. Those stories don’t live on unless they are told by those who lived them.
- Big shoutouts to Kevin Zwicker who has done tremendous work producing the pods thus far. Huge part of the B-more Opinionated team here. And, assuming this actually gets posted to the website and not lost in some internet abyss, then, well, welcome to the team Intern Joe as well. And a huge thanks to our sponsors who have joined us here at the very start – Jimmy’s Seafood, Otterbein Bakery, Natty Boh, and most of all to an amazing set of guests already.
- Ideas for a Baltimoron or Marylander you think we should have on the pod? Hit us up on Twitter (@BmoreOpinionate) and let us know. Thanks for your support!