Monday, April 27, 2009
"We got 50 girls standin' outside our dressing room door, lookin' for the winners, WOOO!!"
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
I thought of that game last night when thinking about tonight's Game 4 of the Caps-Rangers series. I wrote in my playoff preview how Alex Ovechkin needed to be "The One" in this series. After getting back in the series in Game 3, tonight is the night where that has to happen. Ovie, who has been held goalless with four assists in the series, needs to take over and win a game by himself. He needs to strap the team on his back and carry the Caps to victory tonight.
Yes, his teammates will be vital in helping him do that, but if there's one guy who can dominate a series just by sheer force of will, it's Ovie. He's already tried to contribute in other ways, using his 'mates, getting under the skin of the Rangers through the media and his appearance at Rangers practice before Game 3. But Ted Leonsis doesn't pay him to be Claude Lemieux, he pays him to score goals. He pays him to dominate. And tonight's the night where he needs to do it. In a must-win game, on the road, in front of a fire up Madison Square Garden.
Ovie, you got the press clippings, you got the ESPN pieces, you got the notoriety. Now, you have to put together a signature playoff game. As John Cena would say, "Your time is up, my time is now/You can't see me, my time is now."
"I will break them Hangar"
Here's the aforementioned ESPN piece from Tuesday night's edition of "E:60." I will also post a link to this great Puck Daddy piece on the clip.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I suppose the headline on this game could be: "Markakis, Huff and the boys from Norfolk help O's break skid."
Brad Bergeson got it done in his first career start for the Orioles and the team snapped a 5-game losing streak. The youngster, called up from Norfolk to take Alfredo Simon's spot in the rotation, pitched a solid 5 2/3 innings for the win. Bergeson didn't have overpowering stuff, but he was around the plate and kept the Palehosers off-balance all night. And when he did run into trouble in the 4th and 5th innings, when the White Sox took a 3-2 lead, he didn't panic and kept it to a one-run deficit. The thing that stood out the most about Bergeson's performance tonight, besides a wicked tailing fastball, was his poise. He certainly got a test early in the 1st inning, as Sox slugger Carlos Quentin was battling Bergeson, hitting foul ball after foul ball. Many a young pitcher would have gotten frustrated and lofted a meatball up there that Quentin would have deposited into the bleachers. But Bergeson hung in there, kept making tough pitches and got Quentin to whiff to end the inning.
The side story to Bergeson's first outing was the reawakening of the Oriole bats after being held in check for two straight games. Aubrey Huff launched his first bomb in the first inning, crushing a Jose Contreras offering into the terrace boxes in right field. Then, after the Sox had taken the lead, the O's started taking the Windy City lads to the woodshed, scoring two runs in each of the next 4 innings to turn this one into a rout. They first managed to tie the game when Brian Roberts walked, moved to second on a groundout and then scored on a Nick Markakis double. Two batters later, 'Kake would give the O's the lead for good, coming around on a Luke Scott single. Markakis was on fire tonight, finishing 4-for-4 with 3 runs scored and 2 RBIs. That $66 million contract is looking like a bargin, if that's possible.
The game saw mini-breakouts from a number of O's who had been scuffling at the plate, including Huff, who cranked a 2nd homer into the center field bleachers in the 8th; Scott, who went 3-for-4 and raised his average over .300; and Cesar Izturis, who went 1-for-3 but got things going in the 6th with a walk and stolen base before scoring on Lou Montanez's double. Izturis would add a two-run double of his own in the 7th. Montanez, filling in for the concussed and DL'ed Ryan Freel, was the other Norfolk callup to make an impact tonight. The only O's who continued to struggle were Felix Pie, who hit three weak groundouts to go 0-for-3, and Ty Wigginton, who went 0-for-5 with a costly error at 3rd base.
The bullpen looked very sharp tonight, as the O's were able to use three of their strongest relievers so far this season - Danys Baez, Chris Ray and Jim Johnson - to kill any hopes of a Sox comeback.
Still, the story of the game was Bergeson, who is hopefully a harbinger of things to come from the O's farm system. I do not have any delusions of grandeur that the O's are going to make any noise this year. All I ask is that the team be competitive and show some hope for the future. And if we are going to lose, I'd much rather lose with young guys like Bergeson than with retreads like Mark Hendrickson and Adam Eaton. There's a reason those guys have bounced around the league. It's because they aren't very good. The lesson from this season, I suppose, is that we're going to have to put up with the Eaton's and Hendrickson's while we await the promise of the Bergeson's. By this summer, hopefully we will be seeing more of the latter than the former.
So, as Michael Reghi used to say, you can book this one to the Orioles. The O's can get back into that series-winning mode they were on before by winning tomorrow night. It will be Jeremy Guthrie against John Danks. Until then, if you like an Orioles win, give me a FUCK YEAH!
...and my personal favorite, UGA...
Lost in the euphoria of last night's Caps win, I didn't do a post about the Orioles latest loss yesterday morning to the Boston Red Sox. After losing a 2-1 nailbiter on Sunday, the O's lost in more conventional fashion yesterday: by seeing their pitchers get torched for double-digit earned runs. I won't go into too much depth here, actually, I'll just give you the Cliff's Notes version of the O's 5th loss in a row.
- Mark Hendrickson was lit up for a second straight outing, yielding 8 baserunners (5 hits and 3 walks) in 5 innings of work, along with 3 earned runs.
- Dennis Sarfate had his worst outing of the season, getting pounded for 4 hits and 3 earned runs in his only inning of work.
- Radhames Liz made Hendrickson and Sarfate look like Sandy Koufax and Dennis Eckersley by getting hammered for 6 earned runs in 2/3 of an inning. With an ERA of 67 in two outings, Liz earned himself a one-way ticket to Norfolk.
- The O's pitchers helped two more slumping Red Sox hitters, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, break out. Pedroia finished 4 for 5 with 3 RBIs and Ortiz went 2 for 4, including a two-RBI triple. Yes, only the O's pitching staff could allow the lumbering Ortiz to hit a triple.
- Felix Pie struck out one more time, making it 7 K's in his last 15 at-bats.
- Ryan Freel had to be carted off after getting hit in the head with a pick-off throw. Despite his complaining to the media last week about playing time, let's hope Freel is OK.
- Despite his supposed steady work in the field, Gregg Zaun is an absolute sieve at the plate. The O's catcher is hitting .118 this season. Is Matt Wieters ready yet?
So, another loss in the House Of Horrors that is Fenway Park. The Birds at least get to come back home today, where they will open a 3-game set with the Chicago White Sox. Until, Otto has a special message for this game.
"Ach Du Scheisse!"
Monday, April 20, 2009
Ok, now that was more like it. The Caps played their best game in a month at a time when they needed it the most. Going down 3-0 would have signaled curtains but the Caps never let the Rangers sniff a commanding lead in the series by scoring early, playing excellent defense and getting good goaltending from Simeon Varlamov to get themselves back in this series.
This is the kind of effort the Caps need all the time. Clearly, it appears as if the key to beating the Rangers is to get a couple of quick ones past Henrik Lundqvist and making the Rangers play catch-up. That's easier said than done against King Henrik but this Ranger team does not appear equipped to come back from too many big defecits. The best part about tonight was that the Caps did not rest on getting a 2-0 1st period lead. They kept attacking New York, hemming them in their own zone for long stretches. They played with desperation, yet didn't press, something they struggled with in Washington, particularly in Game 2. Now, the matter is: Can they do this 3 more times? If they do, the Caps win this series. If the Caps bring anything less than what they did tonight, the Rangers could steal this thing yet.
Notes From The Hangar:
- Simeon Varlamov was very, very solid tonight. He made the saves when he had to, something Jose Theodore couldn't do. The team did a solid job of building a coccoon in front of him and limiting the quality looks the Rangers had. I wouldn't go so far as to say a star is born, but Varly was unphased by playing in a hostile Madison Square Garden, by Sean Avery's antics and by the 33 shots the Rangers put on. Dude is as cool as ice, at 20 years old no less, his rebound control is superb and his athleticism is off the charts.
- I thought John Erskine was the Caps best defenceman tonight. He played with his usual snarl but under control and he baited Avery into some stupid penalties. Erskine initiated but didn't retaliate.
- At the same time, I thought Mike Green was a weak link. Greener looked like he had Flubber on his stick the thing was bouncing off it so much. The guy was an adventure out there, especially in the 1st and 2nd periods.
- Alex Ovechkin was going like a madman tonight. Even more than usual. But unlike the two games in Washington, he didn't try to force plays. If he was the Tasmanian Devil in games 1&2, Ovie was controlled chaos tonight. His pass on Alex Semin's 2nd goal was a thing of beauty.
- I've said it before and I'll say it again, Brooks Laich is the perfect playoff player. That goal he got tonight was exactly what he needs to do in this series: get traffic in front of Lundqvist and bang in rebounds.
- The Caps had three lovely bing-bangers (one-timers into open nets) tonight. Both of Semin's goals and Tom Poti's goal were perfect passing plays.
- How awesome was Backstrom's pass on Poti's goal? Does that kid have eyes in the back of his head or what?
- Donald Brashear was a welcome addition back in the Caps lineup tonight. The Rangers didn't engage in much chicanery tonight knowing they'd have to answer to somebody.
- And now that I've mentioned the word chicanery, allow me to discuss Sean Avery's night. Games 1 & 2 showed what Mr. Sloppy Seconds can bring to the Rangers: physicality, agitating and creating mayhem in front of a goalie. Tonight showed how the diminutive, starlet-dating winger can kill your club. Avery spent almost 10 minutes in the box and none of those penalties were of the smart variety. Let's see, he punched Erskine in the face in full view of the ref, he ran Varlamov to earn an interference call, took another interference call trying to start something with Nicklas Backstrom, took a whack at Varly and Erskine in full view of the ref to get another roughing call and, finally, an early exit from the game. The Caps power play didn't punish Avery for all his sins but you could tell he was testing the limits of John Tortorella's patience. I'm surprised he didn't staple Avery's ass to the bench after that punch on Erskine. The funniest part, at least from a Caps fan's perspective, was watching Avery slink away the minute Brashear growled at him. Little man didn't feel like playing so rough then, did he?
And for the first time this series, I actually feel like posting the highlights from NHL.com.
So, one win in the books. Let's make it another on Wednesday night eh? Until then, let's call this one more...for the good guys.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
"You see, life...is greatness. And greatness is what you make out of it, you understand?"
There will be no 4th straight series win for the Orioles as they lost their 4th straight game and 3rd in a row to the Boston Red Sox.
This time around, the O's actually got a very good outing from Koji Uehara but couldn't get anything off Sox starter Jon Lester and when they did have chances, they couldn't deliver the big hit.
Uehara deserved better today as he held the Red Sox at bay over 7 strong innings. The only runs he gave up were a Paul O'Neill/Jorge Posada Memorial Bloop RBI Single (Posada and O'Neill were/are the masters of "excuse me" hits) to Mike Lowell and an RBI single to Dustin Pedroia. For most of the game, the O's couldn't touch Lester, who struck out 9. And when they did get some guys on base, the couldn't get them in, as witnessed by getting two on with none out in the sixth. Robert Andino had singled and Brian Roberts walked, and for the first time all day, Lester looked vunerable. But Felix Pie and Nick Markakis struck out and Aubrey Huff grounded out to end the O's rally. The O's only run came off Takashi Saito and even then, they squandered an opportunity for a big inning. Nick Markakis and Huff hit back-to-back singles but then Ty Wigginton hit into a fielder's choice (scoring Markakis but giving the Sox an out), Luke Scott flied out and Gregg Zaun, pinch-hitting for Ryan Freel, struck out to end the game. All told, the Orioles left 6 more men on base today.
Some Hangar Observations:
- Adam Jones left the game in the first inning after pulling up lame running out a ground ball. The postgame report says it was a sore hamstring. Not good.
- Felix Pie replaced Jones and turned several of the balls hit to him in center field into an advensture. At the plate, Pie came to the O's with a reputation as a big whiffer and so far he hasn't disappointed in the season's first two weeks. He's struck out 6 times in his last 12 at-bats. Somebody on the Orioles coaching staff needs to channel his inner Lou Brown and somehow convince Pie that with his speed he should be hitting the ball on the ground and legging them out. Perhaps make him do 50 pushups for everytime he hits the ball in the air? Pie is a guy with the skill-set to be another Al Bumbry/Omar Moreno type but goes to the plate with the mentality of Rob Deer. He's a slasher who thinks he's a home run hitter.
- It's not good for your offense when the light-hitting Andino is your best hitter.
- Ryan Freel has already begun complaining about playing time. Um, Ryan, when you're 1-for-14 it's hard to complain about PT. Here's a hint: Stop chasing balls up in your eyes like you did today. And when you do get in, get on base and rack up steals. It's the only way you're getting to get at-bats. If you're not doing that you're pretty much useless to this club.
- Chad Moeller did make a nice catch in the stands. Unlike Freel, Moeller at least does something when he gets in there. The shame is, he's likely to be out of a job the minute Matt Wieters shows up.
- Does David Ortiz look like he aged in dog years or what? He looks like the guy that got released by Minnesota back in the day, not the feared Big Papi. Injuries and not having Manny Ramirez around can do that but still, it's odd watching Ortiz struggle to hit pitches he either would have taken or mashed into the bleachers just 3 years ago. He's looked awful in a series where, most of the time, the Sox have been feasting on Orioles pitching.
- Brad Bergeson, who was the O's minor league pitcher of the year last year, will be getting the call on Tuesday against Chicago.
So one more O's loss in the bank. I knew I should have taken a picture of that 6-2 record, it would have lasted longer. One more game in Boston tomorrow at 11 a.m. for Patriots Day up there before coming home. With Mark Hendrickson on the mound, the potential for ugliness is at Defcon 4. But until then, one last time, let's get Otto von Bismarck's thoughts on the game.
Sorry I'm a bit late to the party on last night's Orioles game but I was in Ocean City without access to my laptop. I was with a buddy of mine and a bunch of his work colleagues. Fortunately, the place we had dinner at had a TV in the bar, and even better, I had a clear view of it from my seat. Since we were dining at a pricey Italian restaurant, the food took forever so I did get to watch the whole game. I love multi-tasking.
Before I get into the recap, while I'm on the topic of Ocean City, Maryland, allow me to go on a quick tangent about the place we ended up, an enormous bar called Seacrets. Most of you that have been to or lived in the Mid-Atlantic and visited Ocean City have heard of it. Quite frankly, it's lame. La-la-la-lame. But at the same time, it's one of the most ridiculous places on Earth. They have this very restrictive dress code (they wouldn't let one member of our party enter because he had a visable white undershirt) and they put you through a metal detector as you go in. As if the terrorists are going to target some beach bar in Ocean City, Maryland. Guys, I think they have better alternatives out there.
Then there are the people. Oh, the people. 95% of the guys look like they are auditioning for the newest season of "Tool Academy." Lots of bright colored polo shirts, Baby Gap size T-shirts, gelled up hair and Jersey Shore meathead swagger. The girls are all in halter tops and some of them seem to have a competition going to see who can look the most like a prostitute. We saw this one gal in hotpants that rode up all the way to her ass cheeks. It was an outfit that screamed "Slip me a Roofie!!!" As if that were not enough, the place has a bouncing dance floor, a lot of bands who cover "Laid" by James and these TV screens showing girls dancing in shadow, which generally resembles an iPod commercial. It truly is like the poor man's Sodom and Gomorrah with plenty of overpriced drinks and faux tough-guy bouncers to make it a pleasant experience for the whole family.
Ok, with that said, here were some notes I took from Saturday's game.
- Last night made it abundantly clear what the difference is between the Red Sox and the Orioles. When it comes to the lineups, the O's are right there with Boston. But when it comes to pitching, the O's are as far from Beantown as Istanbul is. Adam Eaton got the start and was awful. Again. And when the O's did get to Sox starter Josh Beckett, the Boston bullpen was able to slam the door. Baseball is all about pitching, pitching, pitching and the Boston pitching is just miles ahead of the O's at this stage of the game. They can go to an ex-World Series MVP like Beckett, while we have Eaton, who helped the Phillies win the World Series last year by not pitching for them.
- That said, Brian Bass looked much, much better than in his last relief appearance. Chris Ray, Jamie Walker and Jim Johnson also looked good. That trio can form the basis of a very good relief corps, if only the starters could give them a lead to protect.
- The O's lineup, as good as its been at the beginning of the season, is ridiculously weak in the 7-8-9 holes. Last night's trio in those spots (Gregg Zaun, Felix Pie and Cesar Izturis) went a combined 2 for 12, left 7 men on base and are all hitting under .200.
-Can't say the O's didn't get some chances. They left a whopping 17 runners on base. Aubrey Huff and Ty Wigginton, batting in the 4 & 5 spots respectively, left a combined 6 men on base. You need better than that from guys in prime RBI spots to beat a good team like Boston.
- Can I repeat again how awful Eaton was last night? The numbers tell it all: 4 innings, 9 hits, 2 walks and 6 earned runs. His ERA in two starts is over 11. I hope Eaton decided to rent and not buy in Baltimore. Actually, I hope he didn't rent either. For his sake, I hope he bought a timeshare because his next game of 6 earned runs might be his last.
So that's all for my commentary of last night's game. This afternoon's game just ended so I will be right back with a post on that one. For now, get used to seeing Otto von Bismarck today.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
The Harvester of Sorrow was in the building today. Henrik Lundqvist just stole another game and maybe this series from the Capitals who look like a very frustrated hockey team. King Henrik made 35 saves, including 16 in the 3rd period. Can't say the Caps didn't have chances in this one. But they missed open nets, they shot it high, they hit Lundqvist in the chest, they put it in the shin pads of Rangers defenders, in short, the Caps shot the puck everywhere but in the Rangers net. The New Yorkers had 29 blocked shots. 29! And not all of them on purpose, some of them the Caps shooters just put it right into their pads. The Rangers managed to get a 1-0 lead and then sat back and crowded the middle of the ice for the next 2 1/2 periods. When the Caps would get some sustained pressure, which was often in the second half of the 1st period and all of the 3rd, the Rangers would just dump it down ice and make the Caps skate 200 feet.
In some ways, today's loss was more disheartening than Game 1's. There was no Jeff Schultz or Jose Theodore to blame. The Caps played how they needed to play to win this game. But every time they would get close, Lundqvist would make a big save or the Rangers would get back and lift the sticks of Caps getting ready to shoot or they would block a shot. By the 2nd period you could see frustration start to set in on the Washington side. It was apparent especially in the body language of the Caps two best players, Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin. I've never seen Greener throw so many lazy passes around the ice and I've never seen more negative body language from Ovie. Alex Semin showed his frustration by cross-checking Ryan Callahan in the face. It just looks like a defeated hockey team right now. I don't doubt they want it, but when you see the arms get thrown in the air and the shaking of heads, its a very bad sign.
The Rangers have turned this into exactly the kind of series they want. In a nutshell, they've turned back the clock to Dead Puck Era. They're whole game plan came out today. Take advantage of a Caps defensive letdown (in this case Viktor Kozlov was the guilty party), get up 1-0 and then sag back and let Lundqvist do his thing.
The big news before the game was Simeon Varlamov getting the start in net over Jose Theodore and the kid acquitted himself well. As has been custom in Varlamov's starts, the Caps D was very cognizant of protecting their young goalie. The one goal he let in was a no-chancer by Callahan on a 2-on-1. Then again, there were so many long stretches where the Caps had the Rangers pinned back in their own end that we really didn't get to see the kid make too many big saves. I think he's warranted the start in Game 3 but we'll see what Bruce Boudreau decides to do. He threw everybody off by picking Varlamov today and the kid didn't do anything to lose the job, so he's likely the man until further notice.
Now, there's two ways to look at Game 3 on Monday in Madison Square Garden.
1) We're fucked.
2) The Caps are able to regain focus by going on the road, like they did after losing several home games in March and come back to take both games in New York.
I'm hoping its option 2 but right now, things don't look good. Lundqvist is in a groove and the Ranger defense is in the Caps' heads. I do believe its about time to press the panic button.
So, it's a must win game on Monday night in the World's Most Famous Arena. it's a nice day today so I think I will take a trip to the beach to forget about this one. Until then, let's say good night to da bad guys...
Friday, April 17, 2009
Two games: 29 runs against the Orioles pitching staff. 19 of them earned. 19 earned runs in two games. I'll repeat one more time, 19 earned runs in two games. I don't know what is a more disturbing number, the 19 earned runs or the 10 unearned runs. The shame of it is, the O's offense has scored 14 runs in 2 games and LOST! That is unacceptable.
Up 7-0, having a conga line around the bases with your supposed "ace" on the hill, tonight should have been an easy time for the Orioles tonight against the Boston Red Sox. But with the O's pitching staff, nothing is easy. And that 7-0 lead evaporated faster than Lindsay Lohan's career (horrible Rick Reilly pop culture reference of the night). After two solid outings to start the season, Jeremy Guthrie reverted back to the very hittable pitcher he was in spring training and the World Baseball Classic. Guthrie walked four and was shelled for 8 hits in 4 and 2/3 innings. Yes, he should have gotten out of the 5th inning, if not for Aubrey Huff's fielding error. To quote George Steinbrenner, Huff "looked like a monkey trying to fuck a football" on that one. By that point though, Guthrie had already unraveled after the O's had staked him to that 7-0 lead. He gave up four runs in the bottom half of the second and let the Sox creep further back after a solo homer by J.D. Drew. Once Brad Penny, who spent his three innings of work walking the ballpark and giving up a grand slam to Nick Markakis in the process, was removed and the excellent Red Sox 'pen entered the picture, the O's offense couldn't keep pace.
Then again, your pitching staff shouldn't be so horrid that a seven run lead is not enough. Now, over the course of a baseball season, games like this happen sometimes. But with the O's staff, you get the eerie feeling that this isn't an isolated incident. This staff is that bad. Usually, when Guthrie or Koji Uehara pitches the team has a chance, but Guthrie didn't have it tonight. There's no way to look at tomorrow's matchup of Adam Eaton against Josh Beckett and not have a certain sense of dread. After all, the O's offense could score 6 runs against Beckett and still lose by 10. That's how bad this staff is. The worst part is, I know it will not be the last time I will write a blog post like this.
So, that's two straight losses for the Birds, both of them bad. Hopefully Beckett tomorrow looks as awful as Penny was tonight and Eaton somehow manages to channel Jim Palmer and the O's can get back on a winning track. Until next time, take it away Otto von Bismarck of the German Empire...
Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
I mean, I thought I was a bit over-the-top in my reaction but the Caps blog-o-sphere was abuzz with "Theo On Thin Ice" stories. After one game you have Stan Fischler (for those who haven't heard of him, think Clint Eastwood in "Gran Torino" but as a hockey writer) calling the Caps a paper tiger, Alex Ovechkin not worth his press clippings and hinting at a Ranger sweep. Of course, as predicted, much of the blame for the Game 1 loss is falling on Jose Theodore. As explained here, Theo is in the ultimate no-win situation. And as proved, after one game, the critics are flogging Theodore relentlessly. Imagine if he loses 3 more? Personally, I didn't think he was as awful as people said he was. He wasn't good but he wasn't Hardy Astrom either. Theo's play backed Bruce Boudreau into a corner and judging by Gabby's comments, he gave some thought to putting Simeon Varlamov in for Game 2. While it appears that Theo will get the start in Game 2, I get the sense Boudreau feels like he's got an impossible problem with 4 possible outcomes, two of which are bad.
1) You start Theo again, he plays much better and you win. Best case scenario.
2) You start Theo in Game 2, he bombs again and you go to Madison Square Garden down 2-0 in games. Technically, you're not dead, but the Doc is filling out the paperwork to have the feeding tube pulled.
3) You gamble and start Varlamov, he plays well and the team wins.
4) You start Varlamov, a 20-year-old rookie with exactly 5 games of NHL experience, he plays poorly and the Caps lose. Not only are you risking turning the kid into a basket case (ala Carey Price) but if he doesn't do well, who's next? Michal Neuvirth? Brett Leonhardt? Pete Peeters?
No, giving Theo the nod one more time is probably better than throwing Varlamov into the fire this early. Theo has a history of bouncing back, so you give him the chance and if he fails you give the kid a shot. The good news is, there might be no Jeff Schultz (bruised ego) for the next game!
So let's relax a little Caps fans. The Rangers still have to win four games. So far, they've won one. Wasn't it us Caps fans just last year who had visions of a sweep dancing through our heads after a rousing Game 1 win? It's one game, not a series.Make, no mistake though, the vultures are watching in a now must-win Game 2.
But for now, here's some motivational words from "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. WOOOO!!
"No honey, I'm not takin' my clothes off, I'm stylin' and profilin'"
There is a sound that Iron Maiden makes that no other metal band I've ever heard can make. It's this galloping "duh-duhduhduh-duhduhduh" motif that sounds like an armored panzer division on the march. Maiden uses this sound in most of their songs, albeit in various speeds, and yet, it never really seems to get old, mostly because no other band can do it quite like them.
It's debatable which one is best, but there's no disputing the impact of Maiden's first five albums on metal. They pretty much define what power metal is. The first two - "Iron Maiden" and "Killers" - were made with singer Paul Di'Anno, who was replaced by one of metal's great characters, fencing enthusiast Bruce Dickinson. Dickinson then fronted the band through the peak of their commercial popularity, with 1982's "Number Of The Beast," 1983's "Piece Of Mind" and 1984's "Powerslave."
"Number Of The Beast" may have more hits, but for me, "Powerslave" is more consistent. There's only 8 songs but every one of them is top notch. "Powerslave" begins with the propulsive "Aces High," a narrative of an aerial bomber in the middle of a dogfight. The track gets the album off to a rollicking start and it never lets up.
Next up is the politically charged "2 Minutes To Midnight," one of the band's biggest hits. The title is a reference to the Doomsday Clock, which counts down to the probability of nuclear war. Dickinson's lyrics don't mince words: "We oil the jaws of the war machine and feed it with our babies," "As the madmen play on words and make us all dance to their song." It's easy to see why the song is one of the most popular in the band's ouevre. It has the driving guitar riffs and solos but with a memorable hook in the chorus.
"Losfer Words (Big 'Orra) is the last instrumental that Maiden has done and serves as a transition between the almost pop-metal sounds of the first two songs to the darker and more progressive stuff that follows. Nonetheless, it's a strong track that showcases the band's virtuosity. I have zero idea what the title means but does it really matter?
"Flash Of The Blade" was written by Dickinson and clearly references his love for fencing and swordplay. The lyrics are a bit ridiculous, with goofy nods to iron masks and dragons but Dickinson sells them with his absurdly high singing range and the ringing guitars of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith.
Another song with swords as a theme is "The Duellists," which is about the old custom of challenging someone to a duel. This track gives one of the best demonstrations of that signature Iron Maiden sound I talked about early. The rhythm chugging along while Smith's guitar wails over top of it, adding extra depth to the story being told in the lyrics.
Things keep rolling with another fast track, "Back In The Village," another anti-war song, which seems to be about a soldier's flashbacks to killing villagers in war. The song is highlighted by Dickinson's rapid fire shouts at the end.
The album closes on a high note with the best examples of the signature Maiden galloping rhythm, with the title cut, a song about Egyptian pharoahs or some such nonsense. The lyrical content is unimportant though compared to how the whole band interacts on this track. Dickinson's singing is right in lockstep with the rhythm section and Smith's guitar keeps up the motif, especially with the Egyptian-theme on the pre-chorus. The song then does an abrupt U-turn into a fierce instrumental section before coming back to the main riff. "Powerslave" is definitely one of Maiden's more underrated cuts. It show off the band at its finest: the dueling guitars, Dickinson's powerful yelp, the goofy mysticism and of course, that rhythm section.
But the band then saves its best for last with the 13-minute "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner," a song based on the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem of the same name. Theoretically, there's no way a song like this should work. It sounds like something straight out of Spinal Tap. But work it does. After five-minutes of pure Maiden-ness, the song cuts to a atmospheric, watery guitar solo, augmented by Dickinson's spoken word passage before kicking it back up again. The song really is an impressive feat and even though it's 13-minutes long, you don't really notice that. The song would foreshadow some of the more progressive experimentation the band would use on later releases. One of the best things, to me, that you can say about a song is that there isn't anything out there quite like it and in the case of "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" that's true. You'll never hear a song like this before or after.
I debated in my own mind which Maiden release I wanted to do for this series. While its impossible to do a series called "Metal Classics" without Iron Maiden, it's equally hard to pick which Maiden album to do. I suppose I dig "Powerslave" the most because it's an album where you don't skip tracks. You can put it on "Aces High" and just sit back and listen for the next 50 minutes. It's also, to me, the best demostration of who Iron Maiden is and why they are the preeminent power metal band to ever exist.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Well, it wasn't 30-3. The Rangers actually showed some mercy this time. In the 8th inning when Matt Albers was throwing the ball to the backstop, the Rangers didn't try to score. That's the best that can be said about this game. The Rangers showed mercy. I wish I had more but there's not a whole lot more that can be said about this one. I'll just let this graphic do the talking...
Thankfully there's an off-day tomorrow before travelling to Boston. Wonderful. Until the next time, Otto says...
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I often tell myself to not blog angry. But fuck it, I'm blogging angry.
Maybe the omens were there that this was going to be an unusual night. It has been raining, cold and windy here on the East Coast for about 24 hours. It's some of the most miserable weather I've ever encountered in my 30 years on this planet. About 7 minutes into tonight's Game 1 my cable went out and I was forced to go to the Grotto Grand Slam sports bar, surrounded by Flyers and Penguins fans. I don't know exactly what hell is, but all they needed to do is wave some Terrible Towels and play "My Heart Will Go On" and it couldn't be much worse.
And then there was the game. Like a wrestling heel winning a match with his foot on the ropes, the Rangers stole a game they had no business winning. The Caps pretty much outplayed them in every facet 5-on-5. But the Rangers got 3 perfect snipes and one goal that was complete B.S. in every way. Scott Gomez came down the ice 2-on-2 with Sean Avery. The two Rangers criss-crossed and that jerk Avery stuck his leg out and tripped Mike Green, giving Gomez a free run at Jose Theodore. Of all the calls the refs made tonight, HOW IN THE FUCKING WORLD DID THEY MISS THAT!!!! Avery couldn't have been less discreet about it if he tried. He might as well have waved a sign that said "Hi, here's some interference!!" And yet no call. Theo compounded things by letting in a weak shot but still, that interference was an obvious call that has to be made. This being the Washington Capitals, whose playoff misfortune I documented earlier in the day, of course it ended up being the difference. OF FUCKING COURSE!
- Being a hockey player myself, I know the pros are much better than I could ever hope to be. These guys have skill and speed that mere mortals could only dream of. That said, Jeff Schultz sucks. S-U-C-K-S sucks sucks sucks. The guy is soft, he can't score and he can't move the puck well. Other than that he's great. Brandon Dubinsky made him look like an in-house player with that "How's she going?" move on the game-winning goal. Please, Bruce Boudreau, I'm begging you. Get this chump out of the lineup and replace him. With anybody. Doesn't matter if its Brian Pothier, Karl Alzner, Sami Lepisto, hell, you can drag Rod Langway out of the stands. Anybody but Schultz.
- To give the devil his due, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was as good as his team needed him to be. He didn't flinch in the face of a hurricane of Caps shots in the 1st and 3rd periods.
- The Rangers found the spot on Theo and it was top shelf. Other than the Gomez goal, all three New York tallies were upstairs over the glove hand. Not good.
- The loss was a waste of an inspired effort from Alex Ovechkin. He was all over the place tonight.
- The Caps had some lovely hits in this game. Mike Green's shoulder check on Fredrik Sjostrom was a beauty. That was "Get In The Weight Room!" quality.
- Too many fucking penalties. What else is new?
- Avery's trying, with his trip on Green and whack at Theodore late in the 3rd, but he has a long way to go before I hate him as much as Scottie Upshall, Hines Ward or Ulf Samuelsson. Give him time though.
So that's it for this piece of shit game. Good riddance. Gotta shore up the D, stay out of the box, keep the Rangers going to the box and keep up the energy 5-on-5 in Game 2 on Saturday. Until then, say good night to da fuckin' bad guys.
Just as a little background, "...And Justice For All" is probably the angriest, most progressive and most political album Metallica ever did. With multiple time changes, intricate guitar solos and lengthy song structures (the shortest track is 5 minutes long) "...And Justice For All" was Metallica pushing the limits of thrash metal to the most extreme. The arrangements here were so complicated, the band would soon completely change its approach because the tracks were so difficult to pull off live. The lyrics might be the angriest that James Hetfield has ever written, partly inspired by the death of bassist Cliff Burton in 1986. The album's concept is a broken justice system, but it also contains themes of insanity, paranoia, war and corruption. And on top of all that, it flat out kicks ass.
So, here now for your amusement is my useless opinion about the Caps-Rangers series, broken down under each track from "...And Justice For All." I'll put down the song title, followed by a player, place or things related to this series. Enjoy.
1) "Blackened" - Expectations
The first track on "...And Justice For All" starts off as Metallica albums did back in the day, with a dose of classical guitar before exploding into a full-on metal assualt. The song seems to be about the apocalypse and that ties in with what will happen shall the Caps fail to get out of the first round this year. A Southeast Division title and a playoff berth are no longer satisfactory. Fans have their eyes on a larger prize and expectations for this team are very high. Can the Caps handle having external pressure to win for really the first time?
For the Rangers, there's a different kind of pressure, that of playing in New York. But if there is one thing working in their favor, it's that most experts do not expect them to win this series. Knowing the world doesn't expect much of you can help ease the pressure. Since nobody outside New York thinks they can win, the Rangers can relax and just play hockey. It's up to the Caps, who have the better team talent-wise, to go out and crush any thoughts the Rangers may have about winning this series. If they let the Rangers steal a game or two early, it could be trouble.
"Blackened is the end/Winter it will send/Throwing all you see/Into obscurity"
2) "...And Justice For All" - Caps power play
One of the longest and most complex songs on the record, the title track is a scathing indictment of the justice system. On the other hand, the Caps power play will be a scathing indictment of the Rangers discipline, should the New Yorkers decide to have a parade to the penalty box. The Caps had the league's 2nd-ranked power play and when it's clicking, it can be scary good. The Caps can put four-world class talents on the ice at the same time: Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Alex Semin and Nicklas Backstrom. Throw in the power game of Brooks Laich in front of the net and the Caps have a combination of passing, grit and skill that can score at will.
If there's one thing the Rangers can exploit however, it's the all-offense, all-the-time approach of Green and Ovechkin, who play the point on the power play. The Caps gave up a lot of shorthanded goals this year because Ovie and Green were up ice all the time, leading to easy breakaways and odd-man rushes. Last year, Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau had to change things up against Philadelphia, putting Ovechkin down low and the more defensively-responsible Sergei Fedorov at the point because Flyer penalty killers were exploiting the Caps aggressiveness.
Relevant lyric: "The ultimate in vanity/Exploiting their supremacy/I can't believe the things you say/I can't believe/I can't believe the price you pay/Nothing can save you"
3)"Eye Of The Beholder" - Caps secondary scoring
Another scathing lyrical track, this one about censorship. The lyrics take the view of the oppressor, telling his subject that he can have his freedom of choice, but only if he does it the way he's told. Censorship is also a relevant topic when it comes to the Caps secondary scoring. Pretty much anybody not named Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, Semin and Laich, seemed to censor their goal-scoring for long stretches, especially in February and March.
Tomas Fleischmann looked like he was on his way to a 25-30 goal season over the course of the first 3 months, but he hit the wall big time in 2009, scoring only 4 goals since January. Eric Fehr looked like he was poised for a breakout at one point in 2009 but his scoring touch disappeared as quickly as it arrived. Fedorov will be there, he's always been a solid playoff performer. But what about Viktor Kozlov? He's yet to score a playoff goal in his 14-year career, only registering 6 assists in 21 career playoff games. That has to change, especially since he is likely going to be skating on Ovie and Backstrom's line. Anything the Caps get from Michael Nylander, Professor Matt Bradley, David Steckel and the returning Donald Brashear should be considered gravy. No matter who it is, the Caps need more than 5 guys to do the scoring in order to go where they want to go.
Relevant lyric: "Do you take what I take?/Endurance is the word/Moving back instead of forward seems to me absurd"
4) "One" - Alex Ovechkin
The most famous song off "...And Justice For All" is a grim ballad about a soldier who has lost his arms, legs, sight, speech and hearing. It was based off the 1938 Dalton Trumbo novel "Johnny Got His Gun" and has maybe the most well-known kick-drum solo in the history of music. That would seem to have little to do with hockey but the title can refer to what Ovie needs to be in this series. Like Neo, Ovechkin has to be "The One."
He's got the individual honors, he's got the adulation, now it's time for the league's best player to step up and carry his team on a long playoff run. Ovie needs a signature playoff moment and what better stage to start on than The Big Apple? Yes, hockey is the most team-oriented of games but the Caps happen to have the one player on Earth who can win a game by himself. The time is now.
Relevant lyric: "Now the world is gone I'm just one/Oh God, help me/Hold my breath as I wish for death/Oh, please God, wake me"
5) "The Shortest Straw" - Sean Avery
One of the more lyrically complex songs on "...And Justice For All," "The Shortest Straw" seems to deal with injustice on its surface. It could also be about a failed revolution. The lyrics do deal with the subject of infamy and there may not be a more infamous player in the NHL than Meester Sean AAAAAAvery ($10 if you can guess the movie that reference comes from. Just say the name like that but slowly.)
All the national pundits are wondering what Avery might do in this series. After all, the last time he was in the playoffs, he inspired his own rule. To his credit, Boudreau says the Caps plan is to ignore Avery. But let's see how long that lasts the minute Avery cheapshots someone, dives or runs away from a fight. Avery is capable of doing all three of those things on a shift. If the Caps are able to ignore Avery's antics, it will go a long way towards rendering him ineffective, even a liability to the Rangers if he is taking long sabbaticals in the penalty box.
Relevant Lyric: "Shortest straw/Challenge liberty/Downed by law/Live in infamy/Rub you raw"
6) "Harvester Of Sorrow" - Henrik Lundqvist
The simplest song on "...And Justice For All" is also one of its most intense and the title is what King Henrik could be for the Caps if he's on his game.
The Rangers netminder is the kind of goalie who can steal a series and the Caps will need to get to him early and often if they want to win. At the same time, if the Rangers are going to win this series, they need Lundqvist to be otherworldly in goal. On paper, the Rangers have the better 'tender but the Caps have the better team overall. Not to sound like Dan Fouts or Tim McCarver but whoever wins out in that battle will take the series.
Relevant Lyric: "Anger/Misery/You'll suffer unto me/Harvester of sorrow/Language of the mad"
7) "The Frayed Ends Of Sanity" - Jose Theodore
This song is about paranoia and no player on the Caps roster inspires as much paranoia as Theo. All year, the mainstream media has picked on the Caps goalie as the weak link. Now he has the chance to prove that the Caps can win with him in goal. The one thing Theo has going for him is that he's never lost a first round series as a starting goaltender. The bad news is that he's in a no-win situation in this series. If he and the Caps win, they were supposed to win. If the Caps lose, much of the blame is going to fall on the goaltender and all the media talking heads are going to say things like "The Caps would be Cup contenders if they had a better goalie." The fans calling for Simeon Varlamov to assume the starting role will get a lot louder if Theo fails to get the Caps out of Round 1.
Relevant Lyric: "Loss of interest, question, wonder/Waves of fear they pull me under"
8) "To Live Is To Die" - Mike Green and the Caps D
The final song written by Cliff Burton, this nearly 10-minute instrumental (with a brief speaking passage) was also the last instrumental Metallica would do until "Suicide And Redemption" from last year's "Death Magnetic." The final lines of the song are written on a memorial stone for Burton in Sweden, where he died while the band was on tour. In the context of the Caps, the title can also refer to Mike Green and his gambling style of play, as well as the defense corps as a whole.
With Greener, you're going to get his offense. He's the best D-man in the league as far as scoring goals and jumping into the play. But his go-for-broke style can also lead to odd-man rushes for the other team, as witnessed in the season finale against Florida. You don't want to see Green alter the style of play that has made him a Norris Trophy candidate, but in the playoffs, you would like to see him be more cognizant of his own end. Then again, Greener is the least of the question marks surrounding this defense.
Is Brian Pothier ready for the rigors of the postseason?
Which Shaone Morrisonn will show up? The consistent force from last season or the inconsistent defender from this season?
Is Tom Poti healthy?
Are Milan Jurcina and John Erskine too slow?
Is Jeff Schultz too soft?
The answers to these questions will go a long way towards whether the Caps live or die in these playoffs.
Relevant Lyric: "Cannot the kingdom of salvation/Take me home"
9) "Dyers Eve" - The Caps playoff history
The most personal song on the album, about James Hetfield's ultra-religious upbringing in Downey, Ca., "Dyers Eve" can also sum up the angst that builds up in Caps fans around this time. After all, this club's playoff history is as gory as an Eli Roth film. The list of collapses, chokes and heartbreak is longer than "War And Peace" Let's see, there was the Easter Epic in 1986. Ron Hextall's second goal in 1989. Blowing a 3-1 lead to Pittsburgh in 1992. Dale Hunter's hit on Pierre Turgeon in 1993. Petr Nedved in four overtimes in 1996. Jason Doig's too-many-men on the ice penalty in 2003 that cost them a three overtime game against Tampa Bay. Joffrey Lupul last year. It's ugly.
Of course, much of the team's history changed on this day:
This Caps team seems different. It's a club poised for a breakthrough. The door is open. Now they have to walk through it.
Relevant Lyric: "Dear mother/Dear father/You've clipped my wings before I've learned to fly/Unspoiled/Unspoken/I've outgrown that fucking lullaby"
The Hangar's Call: Caps in 6
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Another day, another series win, another George Sherrill near-heart attack for the Orioles.
The O's improved to 6-2 and assured themselves of a third straight series win with tonight's 7-5 victory over the Texas Rangers in a roller coaster ride of a game. It looked early on like the Rangers were going to play Home Run Derby with O's starter Alfredo Simon, as Texas got 3 solo homers in 2 innings by Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis. But Simon had to leave after an inning and 1/3 due to an apparent elbow injury and the O's bullpen slowed the Rangers down, led by sterling work from Dennis Sarfate, as well as contributions by Chris Ray, Jamie Walker and Jim Johnson. The O's offense chipped away at Rangers starter Brandon McCarthy with homers by Luke Scott and Aubrey Huff and an RBI single by Adam Jones. The bullpens then took over until the 10th when the O's exploded off of 400-year-old Rangers reliever Eddie Guardado. Jones hit a mammoth 2-run shot into the O's bullpen and Scott followed 3 batters later with a 2-run double that scored Nick Markakis and Ty Wigginton. That gave the O's a seemingly secure 7-3 lead into the bottom of the 10th.
Then, Mr. Excitement entered the picture. George Sherrill came in and did what George Sherrill does. What is that you ask? Well, he didn't get the nickname "Mr. Excitement" by going out and going 1-2-3 every time. Sherrill gave up 4 straight singles to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Omar Vizquel (he's still in the league?), Ian Kinsler and Young to turn it into a 7-4 game with the bases loaded and nobody out. After forcing an RBI groundout from Josh Hamilton to make it 7-5, Sherrill gave up two towering flyballs to Hank Blalock and Cruz, both of which went to the warning track. But they stayed in the yard and Mr. Excitement escaped once again. Manager Dave Trembley might not live much longer or may take up smoking as long as Sherrill is the closer. With Sherrill the name that always comes up is Don Stanhouse, the O's closer in the late 70s who earned the nickname "Full Pack" because he would make Earl Weaver so nervous by getting into jams that Earl would smoke a full pack of cigarettes while Stanhouse was on the mound. I'm not even the O's manager and Sherrill makes me want to smoke a full pack of cigs.
Two Random Notes:
- The Oriole catchers finally threw out someone trying to steal. Opponents were a perfect 11 for 11 stealing bases against Gregg Zaun and Chad Moeller but Zaun threw out 2 Rangers tonight to end that little streak.
- The O's brass bragged all off-season about the improved defense and it has been on display in Texas. First, there was Markakis' great catch from last night and then tonight, Jones and Brian Roberts executed a perfect relay play to nail Young at the plate and get a key out when the game was still tied 3-3.
So that's all for tonight. The O's can once again try to get a sweep tomorrow night. If nothing else, they can hopefully avoid giving up 11 runs, which they've done the last two times they've tried to get a sweep. Of course, that's an iffy proposition with Mark Hendrickson on the mound tomorrow against ex-Oriole Kris Benson. But for now, if you like an Orioles win, give me a Hoo-rah!
First, there was the sad death of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart (a Maryland native) last Wednesday, just hours after he had won his first game of the season with his dad in attendance.
Then yesterday there were three more public figures who passed away. There was model and porn star Marilyn Chambers...
And in the sports world, there was former American League Rookie of the Year Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, the former Detroit Tigers pitcher known for his quirky habits (talking to the ball, massaging the dirt on the mound, etc).
Finally, there was the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies and NFL Films Harry Kalas.
While the name may not ring a bell, Kalas's voice was unmistakable. It was hard to not see an NFL highlight clip and not hear Harry. His Phillies calls had slipped quite a bit in recent years but he was still Kalas and he still had his charms. Like the way he drew out the name "Saaaammy Soooosa." While I generally have no love lost for Philadelphia teams, looking back, it was good that Harry got to call the final out of a World Series.
R.I.P. to them all.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Ah, Texas. Like John Wayne Gacy's crawlspace, whatever-the-Rangers-Stadium-is-called-these-days is a place where things get buried, in this case, the ERAs and WHIPs of pitchers. The victims this day were Texas' Vincente Padilla and the O's Koji Uehara. Padilla got the hook first, after being blasted for 7 earned runs on 11 hits in 3 1/3 innings. Koji fared a little bit better but was clearly laboring by the 6th inning and his stat line looked just as ugly: 5 innings, 7 hits and 7 earned runs. Danys Baez, who looked sharp the first two games, morphed back into the hittable pitcher we all remembered from 2007. He did inherit a mess from Uehara, bases loaded with none out, but he helped turn a 10-4 rout into a 10-9 nailbiter. However, some solid holds by Jamie Walker and Jim Johnson kept the Rangers at bay. George Sherrill came on, and of course, put the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position. But Nick Markakis bailed Sherrill out with a brilliant catch of a long flyball by Michael Young and Flat Breezy struck out Marlon Byrd to end the game. Just another day at the office for Sherrill, who Jim Palmer fittingly nicknamed "Mr. Excitement."
But with the bad pitching came hitting. Lots and lots of hitting. Aubrey Huff had the biggest night, going 4 for 5 with 3 RBIs. Markakis and Brian Roberts kept up their hot starts by going a combined 5 for 10 with 3 RBIs and 5 runs scored. But the biggest shot came off the bat of Felix Pie, who hit his first home run as an Oriole and then punctuated it with the fastest home run trot since Pete Rose. Seriously, dude looked like Usain Bolt flying around the bases. And oh by the way, how nice were those new Orioles road unis with "Baltimore" written across the chest...
So let's just call this one another typical night in Texas. The O's can assure a third straight series win tomorrow night with Alfredo Simon going against Brandon McCarthy. But for now, if you like an O's win, give me a Domo Arigato!
You see, it seemed every year for 3 straight years I ended up with Julio on my roster. Looking back now, you may be asking: why did you let Jorge Julio anywhere near your fantasy roster? Well, remember, Julio was the Orioles closer back in the day and actually posted decent saves numbers for a couple of years.
But man, he came with a huge Buyer Beware tag. To be honest, part of the reason I ended up with Julio so often was because he was so predictable. He was going to end up with 25-35 saves and at least 500 heart palpatations and 5 broken remote controls. You could always tell a bad Julio outing right from the get-go. His first pitch would be a slider that would bounce 5 feet in front of home plate. Then he'd throw another slider that would bounce 8 feet in front of home plate. Keep in mind that Jorge threw a 97 mph fast ball. Behind 2-0 in the count, Julio would try to crank up the fastball and overthrow it, usually 6 feet over the hitters head or half a mile outside. And that would be all she wrote. Pretty much an automatic blown save and Orioles loss.
Not only that, but much like his forefathers Doug Jones, Mike Timlin and Armando Benitez, you could always count on Julio imploding in a big spot. The guy was like the A-Rod of closers: he would go 1-2-3 with a 3-run lead in a meaningless May game against Texas but in a 1-run game in August against the Yankees or Red Sox, Julio set more fires than a 90s Norwegian black metal band.
My ultimate memory of Julio was duing an interleague game against San Francisco. Me and my buddies were in attendance and Julio came into a close game to try to get the O's out of a jam. Not a chance. Julio got shelled and I got drunk as hell. I let Julio have it with a stream of obscenities and had the urge to see how many beers I could drink before alcohol poisoning set in. When he was dealt to the New York Mets in the trade that brought Kris Benson to Baltimore, I didn't care whether Benson was a bust or not (he was), I was just glad to be rid of Julio. He was the sort of pitcher that cost fantasy GMs championships and real life GMs their jobs.
I had purged Julio from my brain for a number of years. The last I saw him, he was pitching for Colorado and nearly cost the Rockies a playoff berth by imploding (as always) in a tight spot. I thought the league had run out of teams for him to play the role of bullpen arsonist. So imagine my surprise when I turned on Sunday night baseball yesterday and saw Julio pitching for Milwaukee. I watched him briefly. He started the first hitter off with ball one high and inside and I quickly switched the channel. I knew how this one was going to end.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Say this about the 2009 Baltimore Orioles, at least early on: When they lose, they lose spectacularly. In two losses this season, the O's have been whipped to the tune of 22-5. At least they aren't losing nailbiters.
Here at the Hangar, we don't do a lot of fancy statistical work. Hell, we just shoot from the lip and give our amateur opinions about things. Some may say, what the Hangar does is why mainstream media guys hate bloggers: just some asshole sitting in his mom's basement spewing garbage about things he doesn't understand.
Well, maybe that's true. But I don't need a press pass or a background in sabermetrics to know that Adam Eaton is not going to cut it as the O's 5th starter. He allows too many baserunners and doesn't have overpowering stuff. Eaton got himself into trouble right off the bat. He managed to get out of danger in the first inning but after loading the bases in the 2nd, the potent Rays lineup struck with a 3-run triple by Carl Crawford. All told, Eaton allowed 10 baserunners (8 hits and 2 walks) in 4 innings of work, leaving the game down 4-0. Again, I'm just some dipstick on a blog but I get the sense that's not good.
If Eaton was bad, Brian Bass was worse. Like, "I Know Who Killed Me" bad. Bass was filleted (how you like that Rick Reilly-style pun, eh?) for seven runs on eight hits, including four home runs. The only good thing you could say about Bass's outing was that he went 3 1/3 innings, saving the rest of the bullpen. But surely there has to be somebody in Norfolk or Bowie better than Bass? The guy has been flat-out lit up in two outings this year.
Oh well, the good thing about baseball is that you have another game tomorrow and after a bad outing, you can just do this...
...but it is troubling that the pitching staff looks as bad as advertised, especially in the 4th and 5th starter spots. Despite Mark Hendrickson's strong outing on Friday, it looks like Guthrie and Koji and pray for rain. Are you sure there's no way we can coax Pedro Martinez to pitch here? After all, I'd rather see Pedro get lit up for 5 runs than a guy like Eaton. Even though his fastball has lost some serious juice, you at least know Pedro is a professional who will be around the plate. Or if we can't do him, how about Chris Tillman or Jake Arrieta?
So the O's will now hit the road and travel to that place where ERAs go to blow up: Texas. I get the feeling we're going to see quite a few crooked numbers up on the scoreboard during this three game set with the Rangers. But for now, we'll close the book on a successful homestand with a bad ending. What do you think about it former Chancellor of the German Empire Otto von Bismarck?
Well, the 2008-09 Washington Capitals regular season began with a 7-4 stinkbomb on the road against a Southeast Division opponent, why shouldn't it end that way? I guess the good news is that nobody died or got hurt. If nothing else, the Caps are good at keeping the fanbase on their toes.
All coach Bruce Boudreau was looking for in this game was to head into the playoffs on a high note. Preferably with a strong defensive effort in front of Jose Theodore. It wasn't too much to ask against the Florida Panthers, who were just eliminated from playoff contention. The game was meaningless. Plus, the Caps came into this same arena, against this same team a month ago and held them to 0 shots in the 3rd period. Shouldn't be too hard, right?
Umm, yeah. The Caps turned in one of the worst defensive efforts they have put on this year. It was a litany of bad pinches, poor puck-moving and too many odd-man rushes. The Caps D had no answer for Florida's David Booth, who racked up two goals and three assists. Even though he gave up 6 goals, Theo was mostly hung out to dry, facing a lot of two-on-ones, tipped shots and breakaways. Although he's played at a Norris Trophy level all season, Mike Green was maybe the worst offender. He got burned up ince on bad pinches for a breakaway goal by Radek Dvorak (who skated within 3 feet of Theodore and took a slapshot. My old teammate Louie would be proud) and a 2-on-1 goal by Booth. Greener's not going to want to send this one in on the Norris resume tape.
Besides that, the Caps as a team were outskated and outworked by the Panthers. They were fortunate to be in this one to begin with, and when Alex Ovechkin scored #56 to tie the game at 4 late in the 3rd period, it looked like the Caps may escape. But as was the case all night, the mental focus wasn't there and the Panthers scored two goals in 8 seconds (both on odd-man rushes) to end any hope for Washington. Just a very poor effort all around and not the way you want to go into the playoffs.
The only thing we did find out last night is who the Caps will be facing in the 1st round. And your winner is: the New York Rangers. Game 1 will mark the first time in almost a month the Caps have faced a playoff team. I'll have a little preview up here early next week but needless to say, the A-game is going to be needed. A first round exit is no longer acceptable. Now we're going to see if this team is the bunch that went 4-1 against NHL heavy hitters Boston and Detroit, or the team that got beat 4-1 at home by the 2nd worst team in the NHL.
Here's last night's horrorshow as documented by NHL.com.
So, it's on to the Stanley Cup playoffs and a date with the boys from Gotham City. But for one last time in the regular season, let's say good night to da bad guys.
The Orioles guaranteed themselves a second series win over an alleged AL East contender with a fairly easy 6-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. In the words of the movie "Major League," "Maybe these guys ain't so fuckin' bad?"
The game, for all intents and purposes, was over in the first inning when the O's jumped all over Tampa starter Jeff Niemann for five runs, punctuated by a Melvin Mora grand slam. Jeremy Guthrie looked sharp, scattering 5 hits over 6 innings of work. Relievers Matt Albers, Jamie Walker and Chris Ray each gave up a hit but managed to pitch their way out of any trouble. Ray in particular has been a mystery man this year: he looked great in spring but has been bombed in two outings so far. It looked like he'd be the guy to blow the shutout after giving up a walk and a double to Dioneer Navarro. But he recovered and ended up striking out the side, giving a little Dennis Eckersley-style fist pump after K'ing Akinori Iwamura to end the game. Let's hope this is the beginning of Ray returning to the dominating form he showed in spring.
There was very little to note from this game after the first inning but two things struck me. One, did the O's grounds crew put flubber down on that warning track. The first five games at Oriole Park have seen a ton of ground ruled doubles, where the ball hits that track and bounces about 30 feet in the air. It looks like bouncing a tennis ball on asphault.
Second, the O's did not take a series from Tampa all year last year. Now, they've done it in two games. Like I said in the opening, these guys may not be so fucking bad, especially if they get some decent pitching, because they certainly can hit.
So the O's will try to go for the sweep this afternoon. Things will be a bit tougher with Rays ace James Shields going to the hill against O's fifth starter Adam Eaton. But until then, if you like an Orioles win, give me a Huzzah!