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6/22/2007 12:26:00 PM

Woes of loving the O's

Brooks Robinson
The glory days of Brooks Robinson offer little consolation for current Orioles fans.
John D. Hanlon/SI
By Mallory Rubin

Being a young Baltimore Orioles fan is not easy. I was conscious for only the second half of Cal's career and for playoff berths in 1996 and '97, but that's about it. When my Dad grew up in Baltimore, the Orioles were a proud franchise. The American league wasn't ruled by the Yankees, it was ruled by the Birds. The Orioles had the best record of any team during the 1960s and the ‘70s and won championships in '66, '70 and '83. My Dad can talk about Brooks Robinson winning 16-straight Gold Gloves, Jim Palmer never allowing a grand slam and Eddie Murray playing the game with quiet and consistent excellence. He can talk about Earl Weaver's managerial antics and love of the three-run homer. He can talk about the Oriole Way.

I can't talk like that. The team hasn't given me those memories. Instead, my Orioles have handed me little more than over-hyped prospects, failed trades and bad signings. And there's no forgetting Jeffrey Maier reaching over the outfield wall.

But still, even as a once-loyal fan base loses faith, I watch, I care, I hope. I'm embarrassed that Joe Girardi turned down the manager's job this week but excited about Andy MacPhail's appointment as the president of baseball operations.

In his introductory press conference, MacPhail sounded confident that he is the man in charge. He said he wouldn't be in Baltimore if he didn't feel he had complete control.

"I'm absolutely responsible for baseball operations," MacPhail said at the press conference. "I like one voice. I like simplicity."

I like it too. And I like that it seems owner Peter Angelos has finally handed over the reins and decided to let someone who knows how to run a team do so.

When team General Counsel Russell Smouse introduced MacPhail, he said, “the fans have been sending a strong message that they want change. The Orioles have heard that message and are responding.”

It's about time. MacPhail is a capable executive and genuinely wants to be in Baltimore. He spent eight years in Baltimore while his father, Lee, ran the Orioles. According to The Washington Post, MacPhail's childhood contributed to his desire to run the Orioles before the end of his career.

And so MacPhail gives me hope. So too does the fact that the trend of the team's top prospects falling from favor, getting shipped away in trades that never pay off, suffering from injuries or simply never meeting their potential, seems to be coming to an end. The talent in the farm system right now is thin, but it's still worth believing in the last crop to join the parent club.

Erik Bedard has top-of-the-rotation stuff, as does Daniel Cabrera. Bedard seems to have gotten over his inconsistencies and this season is leading the league in strikeouts and has a respectable 3.64 ERA. Cabrera, on the other hand, is still plagued by his lack of control; he is leading the leagues in walks. He has not shown the type of improvement pitching coach Leo Mazzone expected to see, but it's way too soon to give up on his high-90's fastball and no-hit stuff. Young lefty and former first-round draft pick Adam Loewen is out for the season with a fracture in his elbow, but recent surgery should not hamper his preparation for 2008. And though closer Chris Ray is having a poor season (4.45 ERA and five losses) he showed great promise last year and notched 33 saves.

Rookie Jeremy Guthrie has a 1.64 ERA in 10 starts this season and has been nothing short of sensational. He has a positive work-ethic, good mound presence and a fresh arm for his age (he's 28, but he took two years off from pitching to go on his Mormon mission).

There's youth and talent in the field as well, though admittedly not as much as on the mound. Though his star has fallen in this past two years, second baseman Brian Roberts is still a stud in the field and on the base path. But it's right fielder and former first-round draft pick Nick Markakis who really has star potential.

So despite the fact that most of Baltimore traded in its Orioles orange for Ravens purple long ago, I haven't, and I won't.
posted by SI.com | View comments |  

Comments:

Posted: June 22, 2007 3:31 PM   by Anonymous
Yay for us O's fans!! Too bad we can't get Earl back to manage!
Posted: June 22, 2007 3:58 PM   by Anonymous
You just had to bring up Jeff Maier. That kid breaks the rules and was paraded in NY as a hero. He was on David Letterman! I stopped watching the Late Night Show after that injustice and haven't since! Note to Jeff Maier, stay out of Baltimore. Same goes for Letterman. Still waiting for an apology from MLB for the Maier foul-up... like that's ever going to happen.
Posted: June 22, 2007 5:30 PM   by Anonymous
Does anyone know about Terry Crowley's past work? Every game I watch they talk about the "King of Swing," but the hitters never consitently hit. Is he really an asset to the team or is this a case of the O's looking after one of their former greats?
A few things. First, Guthrie is a blessing in disquise, it's too bad that the offense can't seem to perform when he pitches. This kid is something real and I hope the O's can see that. Second, the comments about Terry Crowley support my recent feelings that maybe this isn't the guy he's supposed to be. One huge example is Sammy Sosa. The guy was one swing short of horrendous in Baltimore and is now reviving his career in Texas. Personally, I'm not a huge fan. Third, Chris Ray is a fluke. Please get rid of him while still possible; mark my words, Ray will become the goat of this team.
Miguel Tejada has recommended to the owner to improve the team, because he doesn't want to play for a loser 0's, but it seems to be that the words go into his left ear an go out for his right ear. He is wasting money, and losing fans. I don't understand that behavior, ¿to have a baseball team for stay losing every year?
Posted: June 24, 2007 9:50 PM   by Anonymous
Nothing will fix them until Ripken buys the team from Angelos.....
Posted: June 25, 2007 10:58 AM   by Anonymous
You want a way to re-fill those seats, and get people to WANT to play for the O's? Let's try to get Cal Ripken, Jr to manage this club. He knows the game, he knows the city, he knows the owner ... he would be HUGE. Let him do his HOF tour and then MacPhail needs to begin the courtship process.
Posted: June 25, 2007 1:27 PM   by Anonymous
Cal Ripken as a owner would be the way to go.As manager? Forget it.
He was never a leader.Nor a saint like some people in Baltimore believe.Brooks Robinson was the
Best. Free The O's !!!!
Posted: June 26, 2007 7:52 AM   by Anonymous
We share a similiar background. My dad talks about Brooks Robinson all the time and I watch, waiting for winning to occur. But thankfully, around the end of July every year since 1996, the Ravens go to training camp.
Posted: June 26, 2007 10:28 AM   by Anonymous
I'm just old enough to remember those "old" Orioles. I remember the '83 championship with first-year manager Joe Altobelli. I remember the left field left/right platoon that year of Gary Roenicke and John Lowenstein. I remember Palmer, McNally, Cuellar and Dobson. I remember Eddie Murray coming up as a rookie and being the DH because the O's already had a first baseman named Lee May. After a couple of years, they swapped positions. Another year or two and May retired. I remember Paul Blair hanging out in shallow center field, daring batters to try to hit it over his head. I remember Al Bumbry. I remember Don Baylor, Dave Johnson and Ellie Hendricks as players. I've met Brooks Robinson a couple of times -- truly a gentleman, a class act all the way. Remember the one year Reggie Jackson played for the O's? Mark Belanger's steady defense? Earl Weaver chain smoking in the dugout runway while Don Stanhouse walked the bases loaded (again) before bothering to get anyone out? I could go on and on, but those memories are why I'm still an O's fan, even after the last decade.

I sincerely hope that Angelos is so tired of losing that he really does keep his incompetent nose out of the team operations and lets McPhail have a chance to build a winner. I'll always be an O's fan, I just don't want it to be so embarrassing...
Posted: June 26, 2007 10:30 AM   by Anonymous
Lets hope Andy Mcphail can turn things around. That can only happen if Angelos turns the reins over to him, which is doubtful.
anonymous.
Folks, I love the O's and hate the Yanks, but for the love of god please give up on the Jeffrey Maier thing. It was 11 years ago. It's not like they narrowly defeated in that series. It was 4 games to 1 and they went on to win the World Series. Let it go. Move on. And while we're at it, Peter Angelos please move on, as well.
Posted: July 2, 2007 12:09 PM   by O's in Richmond
Another painful year has arrived for the O's...Now that the O's starting pitching has improved over past years, it's time to get rid of Tejada, Mora, Cabrera, and Gibbons and let the youngsters on the farm and a few new powerful bats lead the way. Build around Markakis and Roberts! Every other team brings kids up that excel in the big leagues.
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