Reporting Mike Popovec
First thing I wanted to point out is the other day I posted some brief thoughts on my Mike Popovec 105-7 The Fan Facebook page (which I would invite you to Like) after seeing a You Tube video on the Birds and the “Why Not Year of 1989” and the closing of 33rd Street.
While there would be two years of Pro Football and a brief stint of Minor League ball played by the Bowie Baysox (who were awaiting their stadium to be built), Major League Baseball would never be played there again in Memorial Stadium. My thoughts are mainly about the organization but it is funny, I can’t remember what I ate yesterday yet I can name the starting rotation of the 1989 Birds and tick off several starters from all the other teams. Well you know where my head is at and it’s pretty much dominated with sports. That all said seeing the old videos and pictures of Memorial Stadium gets me a little more than misty along with hearing the voices of Jon Miller and the late Chuck Thompson.
The other night after Joe Saunders’ dominant performance against the Birds, many opined why we had not re-signed Saunders and that he would be better than either Arrieta or Tillman at the back end of the rotation. While you could certainly make a strong argument for him after his performance for the Birds last year, I remind you he was 1-3 with an ERA over 6 coming into the game against the Orioles the other night. I would also argue that we have to give the likes of Arrieta and Tillman one final chance to see whether they can sink or swim in the majors. Certainly Chris Tillman has afforded himself some more room for error due to the season he had last year but I still believe he has much to prove to the organization. Joe Saunders is not the future and thus would be taking critical evaluation starts. That is not to say the Orioles are in the business of giving away games for the sake of evaluation but sending Arrieta to Norfolk will do nothing for him at the majors anymore.
While we are on the topic of pitchers I do have to admit my gut feeling tells me that Arrieta, Tillman and Britton will not turn out to be the kind of pitchers we had hoped a few years back when we drafted them. Now one or two may end up making a successful transition to the pen like a Brian Matusz or get a chance to start with another team but it’s what my gut tells me. Britton has a longer leash and is younger however I have to admit to feeling pessimistic about those three. I may be wrong and Tillman may end being a serviceable back end starter but I see him no higher than a #3. I hope I am wrong.
What has gotten into Miguel Gonzalez and Jason Hammel when they get into the sixth innings sporting big leads? It is so frustrating to see them have a four or five or six run lead and squander it away giving up walks and to a lesser extent, base hits. Even if you do not have your best stuff, throw the ball over the plate. I would rather you give up five straight solo shots and make the opposition earn it than by walking guys, hitting guys or getting into hitters counts that enable them to get a good pitch to hit. Throw strikes and make them put it into play. I get aggravated to great degrees to see this and this has to unnerve Buck Showalter as well who has continually had to go into his bullpen to bail out these starters that should be able to get through at least six innings with solid leads in the game. Gonzalez did this against the Blue Jays in which escaped a win and than against the Athletics in which we lost the game. Hammel did it against the Mariners the other night and won but in both cases of wins we had to dip into the bullpen too early. Let’s hope this trend fades and quick.
The Orioles recent string of series in which they have played well and won games and series’ has been very critical given the fact that the Red Sox have been red hot and the Yankees despite a slew of injuries have gotten real good starting pitching from Sabathia, Kuroda and Pettitte along with some unexpected performances from the likes of Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner. We have kept pace with them but even more importantly put the pressure on the Rays and the Blue Jays.
Finally, I will be curious to see what Buck will do if another month the likes of Nolan Reimhold and Ryan Flaherty continue to hit a very poor average and with little power…Also I have to admit while he has not been terrible, I expected Chris Davis to be improved at first base and yet he doesn’t seem to scoop balls or make the tougher type of plays the way I would like to see him to but with the way he has swung the bat he has more than made up for it…Kudos to the Orioles who might be the best bunting team in the league with the likes of Manny Machado (who is growing up quickly right in front of our eyes), Nate McClouth, JJ Hardy and Ryan Flaherty who can put down pretty solid bunts. While they rarely would ask Jones or Markakis to bunt they also have the ability to when occasionally called upon to do so.