Know Your O’s

We’re packing up and heading down to Charm City for the weekend to celebrate my birthday and wedding anniversary, and intend to catch Sunday’s Mets-Orioles game at Camden Yards with family down there. If you happen to run into a clown wearing Mets road jersey No. 70, it might very well be me. In preparation, I contacted my friend Kevin in Maryland, whose writing projects include NumerOlogy, an mbtn-like review of Orioles history by uniform number (the url is giving my browser trouble right now, so I hesitate to pass it along until I know the problem is fixed); a site celebrating various Orioles baseball cards; and an ambitous collecting project known as The Great 1965 Topps Project. (The Johnny Lewis card shown here hails from that iconic set. If any of you can help Kevin complete his his ’65 series via trade, please let him know at the site).

So Kevin knows his stuff, and though his team is having a rough go of it this year, he was a good sport in fielding the following series of questions which hopefully gets you up for the weekend series or at least hungry for steamed blue crabs with plenty of Old Bay (the seasoning, not the disappointing Met free agent). Take it away, Kevin!

MBTN:  Juan Samuel once entered in the middle of a Mets season and ruined it. How’s he done for the O’s so far?

Kevin: Ugh. Juan was our third base coach for the past few years, a job that he was quite suited for…as long as the primary goal of a third base coach is getting Melvin Mora thrown out at the plate by 20 feet. From what I’ve seen and read in the week since “Windmill” took over for Dave Trembley as interim manager, he’s making all of the same mistakes as his predecessor: bizarre hit-and-runs, a revolving door approach to the bullpen, batting Julio Lugo leadoff (as opposed to literally anyone else). If there’s a silver lining to the team’s continued failures, it’s that there’s little chance of Samuel being retained as manager. Speaking of ex-Mets though, I hear Bobby V is interviewing with the Orioles…

(ed note: This makes me happy for Bobby and sorry for myself, but is a lot better than his replacing Joe Girardi).

MBTN: Looks like R.A. Dickey will start Friday and Hisanori Takahashi goes Saturday. How do the O’s hit knuckleballers and lefty junk throwers, respectively?

This one’s easy: they don’t hit knuckleballers, lefty junk throwers, righty junk throwers, ambidextrous pitchers, flamethrowers, sinkerballers, sidearmers, submariners, or even batting practice pitchers. The O’s have scored 193 runs in 58 games (3.3 per game). They’ve been shut out five times, scored a single run 13 times, two runs eight times, and three runs 10 times. Not exactly a formula for winning baseball.

MBTN: Why is Ty Wigginton your best player? Don’t you have Markakis and Jones and Weiters and Tejada and Scott?

Kevin: I’m a big fan of Wiggy, from his whimsical name to his hilarious physical appearance to the fact that he’s been the only guy on the team who has been productive for most of the year. As fun as it’s been watching Ty challenge for the league lead in homers, I wish he had a little help.

Most of the young guys have taken a step backwards for one reason or another. It seems like Nolan Reimold never fully recovered from offseason ankle surgery, and now he’s at Norfolk trying to figure things out. Adam Jones was never a patient hitter to begin with, and without any protection in the lineup opposing pitchers are happy to give him junk to swing through. I have the most faith in Wieters, who Trembley gave a pretty heavy workload in the early going. Samuel has pledged to give him more time off, and he’s working on shortening his swing for better results. On Tuesday he had his first three-hit game of the season, so he may be turning it around. As far as the vets, I’m afraid Tejada is getting old and missing his vitamin B-12 and Scott is the very definition of streaky. Markakis is still getting on base, but again pitchers aren’t challenging him because the rest of the lineup stinks. Other than that, things are great.
MBTN: The Mets saw Matusz at least once this spring and couldn’t touch him. Guthrie scares me too. Why don’t these fellows have more wins?

Kevin: As impressive as Matusz has looked at times, he’s still a rookie. He’s had a couple rocky starts and he’s essentially learning on the job. But his chief failing is that he can’t drive in runs for himself. The same goes for Guthrie. After a nightmarish 2009 season, Guts is back to his familiar role as the de facto hard luck ace. Look at his last start against Boston, when he retired 16 batters in a row but let up two runs in the seventh inning. That was enough to pin him with the loss, along with another bullpen implosion. Are you sensing some themes?

MBTN: The Mets lose most of their games on the road by failing to score enough early then coughing up their slim lead in the 8th and 9th. Which Orioles relief pitcher(s) will come away with the win(s)?

I doubt that any Oriole reliever is stealing a win this weekend, but Will Ohman is as likely as anyone. He’s been a rare scrap-heap success for Andy MacPhail, a once-effective lefty specialist who was derailed by injury and had to make the club out of spring training on a minor league deal. He didn’t give up an earned run until Memorial Day weekend. Of course he’s appeared in roughly 90 games already this year, and hasn’t looked so good in the past week. Also keep an eye out for second-year pitcher David Hernandez. He was overmatched at times in the rotation, but he throws hard and has looked better since being moved to the back end of the bullpen.

MBTN: It’s my birthday/anniversary weekend, and we’re staying at the Hilton Garden on the Inner Harbor. Where do we:
a) watch World Cup games?
b) Get good steamed crabs?

Happy birthday and anniversary! For watching soccer, I know the Hilton has a nifty little bar called the Diamond Tavern. If you’re looking for a pub, there’s the James Joyce on President Street and Captain Larry’s on E. Fort Avenue. Both are within two miles of the ballpark. For crabs, LP Steamers (also on E. Fort) comes highly recommended.

(ed note: We have tentative plans for crabs at Obryki’s)

MBTN: Was Lee Mazzilli a good manager? He was once a hero here but can’t even get work as a broadcaster anymore.

To put it bluntly, no. The Birds have had their share of crummy managers (and crummy teams) over the past 13 years, but Mazzilli was the only one that I can remember who lost the support of the team. The front office supposedly hired him because he talked a good game, but rumor had it that he did zilch in the way of game preparation and wasn’t much of a communicator.

MBTN: What’s the most frequently issued number in O’s history?

It’s a three-way tie between 23 (think Chris Hoiles and Tippy Martinez), 37 (Stu Miller and a whole lot of nothin’), and 39 (Eddie Watt and more nothin’). By my count, each of those has been worn by 30 different guys.

Once again, I’d like to say, ‘Thanks, Hon’ to Kevin for sharing his knowledge of the enemy!

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