Emotional Investment

October 12, 2012 - Leave a Response

Standing in the press box at Yankee Stadium Thursday night in the 8th inning, I just knew the series was over. Two men on, nobody out in a tie game where the Orioles couldn’t buy a hit didn’t seem much like a recipe for success.

I was thinking how disappointing it was for fans to have come so close, to know the O’s should have won game three and again missed opportunities in game four. Truth be told, some of the disappointment was my own. I’ve made no secret of growing up an Orioles fan and how that forged my path in this business. So, I’m thinking, “Here they go again. The Birds just are not quite ready to handle the Bronx on the biggest stage.”

I was also contemplating the emotional investment Orioles fans have made in this team and how much harder it is when you give yourself over to a cause, dying inside hoping for its success. Coming off an AFC title game gut punch for Baltimore (not even close in relative terms ALDS vs. missed trip to Super Bowl, but emotionally, not much different), to have to suffer through back-to-back heartbreakers against the Yankees just seemed an awful lot for this fan base to bear.

And then Brian Matusz, one day after giving up the game-winning HR, got a ground ball out. Enter Darren O’Day. Already overused, the side-armed righty, whom, according to Jim Johnson, tosses softballs, got out of it. He baffled the best of the Yankees lineup to escape, then did it for two more innings. Next up, Pedro Strop. He hadn’t pitched since October 3rd, having fallen out of favor. Strop dominated the Yanks for two more innings.

Manny Machado led off the 13th with a double, and two batters later, J.J. Hardy finally represented the Orioles bats with a clutch hit.

At last, Jim Johnson earned redemption for game three, mowing down New York’s 3-4-5 hitters 1-2-3.

They did it.

All day long they had to hear about the Yankee mystique, and how the playoffs here are too big for the Birds. But Baltimore was the one to rise up and stave off elimination, giving its fans who had invested so much one more magical moment in a season full of impossible dreams. It’s why the investment is worth it because the reward of a shared cause success delivers euphoria.

Now, it’s a game five, essentially the same situation they faced a week ago in Arlington, Texas. We knew in that game all the pressure was on the expensive, All-Star riddled lineup of the Rangers. Ultimately though, the pressure proved too much for Texas and the Orioles celebrated in champagne. The pressure tonight relies solely on the Yankees. They expect nothing less than a World Series crown. To lose a game five, at home, to the inexplicable O’s goes way past unacceptable in Gotham. Here’s to one more night of shared investment for Baltimore.

Game 3 ALDS Preview

October 10, 2012 - Leave a Response

The last time the Orioles had travel problems they dropped two of three on the road. If they do that again this time, their season ends.

I’m guessing though, that since the Yankees also got stuck on a train and missed a night’s sleep that has to cancel out any negative effects.

The best thing going for the Birds tonight is having Miguel Gonzalez on the mound. He has thus far proven immune to the anxieties of pitching in the Bronx going 2-0 in his two starts here this year. The last time out in fact, he dominated with seven shut out innings. He told me he wanted to pitch in New York again, that he feeds off the atmosphere.

But before we get too hooked on the fact that he’s done well here, it would serve us to remember that if we are to expect future performance based on the past the Orioles would not have won 95 games so far, or 85, or maybe even 75.

Not living in the past or worrying about the future has been a credo for Buck Showalter this season. And despite the magnitude of this moment, they still know it’s all gravy from here on out.

Injuries, inexperience, (was going to add less talent, but I think we can almost put that to bed) have all been ignored to reach this point so the pressure resides squarely in the 3rd base dugout.

Joe Girardi will once again bat Alex Rodriguez 3rd in the lineup even though he no longer is best suited for the role. The indignity of losing a 4th series in New York to the upstart Orioles would not only demoralize, but surely cost plenty in pinstripes their jobs.

So, the Orioles will take the field loose, confident, and believing there’s is a special season ready to continue. Can’t wait to watch.

I leave you with a the practice unfurling of the flag, what a sight here in the Bronx.

Orioles Celebration

October 7, 2012 - 2 Responses

5 minutes of the O’s celebrating their Wild Card win. If you love the Orioles, you must watch this.

The Happiest Place on Earth

October 7, 2012 - Leave a Response

Without question, that place was the Orioles clubhouse following their 5-1 Wild Card victory in Texas. I have never seen a group of people that full of joy. Nick Markakis smiled for minutes at a time. Remember, Markakis is the surly star who wears a shirt pre-game that reads: Do I look like a *$&^$*@ people person?

Buck Showalter smiled too. The serious taskmaster let down his guard, never tried to fix his hair after a six champagne bottle dousing, and relished the victory.

Meanwhile, Joe Saunders beamed at knowing he made so many second guessers apologize. I told him that during the 6th inning, Twitter had blown up with the likes of, ‘Wow, was I wrong about Saunders.” He replied, “I appreciate that. I know my record sucked in this ballpark…. but I’ve had some success here too. I’m just glad to bring playoff baseball back to Baltimore.”

Miguel Gonzalez, with whom for some delightful reason has started to share a bond, came up and hugged me, then told me this was the best day of his life.

Adam Jones and Tommy Hunter shared the award for most exuberant. Their collective efforts to ensure nobody left that clubhouse without wrinkled digits will never be forgotten.

And there was Brian Roberts too. He who suffered through so much bad baseball, only to now miss out on the good times took part. He earned it through years of wallowing as the face of a downtrodden franchise.

But I think the biggest moment may have been when the players surrounded Dan Duqette, screaming and singing, as they bathed him in booze. He gave so many a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd chance to stick in the bigs and they showed their appreciation to the point I’m not sure he could breathe.

As someone who grew up watching the Orioles glory years, then watching them waste away, to be thrust into the middle of the best franchise moment since 1983 was an honor and privilege that continues to give me goose bumps. I apologize the pictures aren’t the clearest, but even through the blurs, I believe the true measure of the moment is shared.

Can’t wait to see what might happen next.

Watch Pete’s videos from the clubhouse on wbaltv.com

Football season for the Orioles

October 5, 2012 - One Response

Jumping into the playoff fray for their first time in 15 years, and the Orioles land on a Game Seven.  Okay, it’s the wild card, but with the addition the 2nd non-division winner baseball’s post season it serves the same purpose.  Win and advance, lose and go home, options previously left for the NFL playoffs.

I know plenty of Oriole fans are frustrated at this scenario, particularly since the game is played in Texas.  But a one game, winner take all contest serves Baltimore well.  

A story today on Grantland, previewing the A.L. Wildcard pointed out eloquently, that even the woeful Houston Astros won a best of one series 54 times this year.  It also pointed out that the worst teams in baseball often beat the best.  

So putting a pair of teams together that each won 93 games allows for the possibilities that anything can happen.

The Orioles I talked to agree.  Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Joe Saunders all were lauding the opportunity they have. Every one of them telling me this format better suits Baltimore.  After their season of intense theater, they seem so well prepared for the pressure.  

Sure Yu Darvish has better stuff than Joe Saunders. Sure Joe Saunders has never won a game in this ball park.  Sure the Rangers trot out a lineup littered with all stars, ones that have at times pulverized the Birds this season.  

So what.

The Rangers are reeling after the worst final week choke job in recent baseball memory.  They went from the best record in the American League to wild card in the blink of an eye.  All the pressure rests squarely on their shoulders.  The Orioles just hope to apply a little more, and in doing so, bring playoff baseball back to Camden Yards on Sunday. Image

Pete previews Texas

October 4, 2012 - Leave a Response

The Orioles went to St. Petersburg with three possibilities regarding their playoff future. Host a game Thursday for the A.L. East crown, host a wild card game Friday, or hit the road for the wild card.

The worst case scenario won out, and it’s a shame for Orioles fans.

They missed out on their chance to celebrate with the team for making the playoffs. They finished the season on the road — and now could end their season away from Camden Yards.

Compare that to the good fortune of Oakland which celebrated twice with its fans. First they went crazy when locking up a post season spot, then again Wednesday when they clinched the A.L. West.

But as long as they have a game on the schedule, hope remains, and the fact it’s a one-game playoff works to their advantage.

Texas has lost seven out of nine games, throwing their five game lead in the toilet over the span of a week. They aren’t exactly rippling with confidence. And despite the Orioles history in Arlington, moments of misery that include a 30-3 loss in 2007, and a bludgeoning this year that saw them give up 9 runs in one inning, one game works to their favor.

They will face a rookie pitcher, albeit a talented one, in Yu Darvish. But after watching some of the best pitching they faced all season, Darvish might look like Triple A. Chris Davis laid out that thought last night to me, and did so with a grin on his face. With his six game HR streak coming to an end on Wednesday, I asked if he was ready to start a new one. “Yep”, was the simple answer.

Next update from the Ballpark at Arlington, talk to you then.

Thome’s Message

October 3, 2012 - Leave a Response

I love Jim Thome.  He’s the only player I cover any more that’s older than me.  And with such experience comes wisdom.  

A few hours before the Orioles face the Rays, still  hoping to somehow win the A.L. East or at least guarantee another game at Camden Yards, Thome has a message for his team.

He reminds his younger mates, two of whom are less than half his age, to relax and understand that no matter what the Orioles have made the post season.  But more  importantly, for them to cherish every moment of this incredible journey.

I could tell them the same things, but of course they would mean nothing. But coming from a man with 612 career home runs, and a man who has played in the post season in nine different seasons, it means the world. Image

Orioles survive Invisi-Shields

October 3, 2012 - One Response

James Shields pitched the best game I’ve ever seen in person.  A club record 15 strikeouts, zero walks and did it all on just 106 pitches.  I was told he would have come out for the 10th if necessary.  

But he made one mistake, and made it to the wrong guy.  A high change up to Chris Davis was mauled off the R in center field some 440 feet from home plate.  Davis now has a HR is six consecutive games tying the club record set by Reggie Jackson in 1976.  

Credit the Rays, they gave their all in a game that means nothing to them.  They did their fans justice.  Still, the Orioles found a way to beat them anyway, in their cow palace.  The kind of wins that reminds us again, the O’s belong to be here.

Miguel Gonzalez had no major league resume before this season, and his minor league resume had been tossed in the trash by 29 other teams.  But the O’s gave him a chance and he somehow has repaid them with 9 wins and the ability to match the best, at their best when Baltimore needed it most.

Gonzalez went six and a third innings allowing no runs and striking out seven. That of course is the perfect recipe for the Orioles this season.  Get to the 7th with a lead, and they win.  Jim Johnson closed it out going through the heart of the Rays order.  

Johnson was then thrust into the post game spotlight, nothing he enjoys less, but shared how proud he is too be part of arguably the best bullpen in the American League. 

The Orioles hopes of winning the division, of winning the top spot in the wild card thus guaranteeing more baseball at Camden Yards continues because of this win.  Feeling awfully lucky to be here and witness.

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Pregame for a big game

October 2, 2012 - Leave a Response

The Rays will not lay down.  Their lineup remains the same as does their attitude according to their manager, Joe Maddon. On Twitter, Maddon wrote “We’re going to go hard to win these 2 games just the way Buck and the Orioles did it last year. I know he wouldn’t want it any other way”

Not news Oriole fans necessarily wanted to hear, but maybe they’ll just have to be a little louder.  They certainly are here in numbers.  During batting practice we saw more orange than blue, and this picture, just minutes before first pitch, shows a healthy spread of Oriole fans.  

I’ll say again though, amazing to see so few people here to watch a pair over very good baseball teams. 

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O’s fever grips Baltimore and beyond

October 2, 2012 - One Response

Oriole fever has gripped the Baltimore metro area of course, but I have to say I am a little surprised at the commitment from fans to support the team in St. Petersburg.

Roughly 1,500 fans attended Monday’s game, and hearing ‘Let’s Go O’s’ chants throughout the contest brings me a wry smile.

The flight to Tampa Monday morning began with the flight attendant on the microphone starting off her safety speech with ‘How ’bout them O’s’.  As we hit the shuttle to baggage claim,  I saw the Wild Bill Hagy tee shirt and almost started and O-R-I-O-L-E-S chant right there.

While waiting to do live shots for 11 News at 5&6, orange-clad fans stopped by to say hi.
Compared to the fan support for the Rays, which still have a shot at the post season, it’s laughable.

Now, I’m not forgetting that as recently as August, Oriole Park at times suffered puzzingly low attendance. But 15 years of losing took some time to overcome for Baltimore fans. When they recognized the O’s commitment to winning this season, they represented well.

The game didn’t go well for the Orioles. Manny Machado finally looked like a 20-year-old rookie, and Baltimore couldn’t get the clutch hit with 2 outs in the 9th.

Tonight the O’s face a Rays team that no longer has anything for which to play and have to win to keep their hopes of a home playoff game (or even a division title.)

I’ll have live coverage at 5, 6, & 11 on WBAL TV, will join WBAL Radio at 5:35, and even join NBC Sports Network at 6:00 all in preps for the Birds biggest game of the year. So please, stop on by!

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