Orioles Matter This Week
By Stan "The Fan" Charles
Wow, what a wild few days in Birdland. First off, there were not one, not two, but three Orioles on the American League All-Star team. That is the way it should be; that's what good teams do.
|Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Jim Johnson
Then, with a 5 p.m. deadline looming on Friday, Dan Duquette and Co. got the deal done with their first-round pick out of LSU, right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman. Gausman appeared at a 6 p.m. press conference and the future suddenly seemed brighter.
Next up, Jason Hammel came down awkwardly on his bad knee and suddenly the Orioles were again playing As the Rotation Turns. Speaking of turns, it turns out Hammel had some of his already loose cartilage lodged in a more problematic spot. He is going under the scope and is already on the DL.
The Friday game, as soon as Hammel left, became a stinker, with the O's never in the 7-2 loss to the suddenly smoking Detroit Tigers.
Next up was the third of six unveilings of statues saluting the greatest Orioles of all time. This time it was Jim Palmer's turn to be recognized by the faithful. The Orioles Legends Series has done something important to the fan base, allowing it to look back with pride on its long and dedicated years of support to a franchise that was the best in baseball for a long time.
The fact that the Angelos family has acknowledged that it's OK the team's great history predated its ownership is a karmic salve for wounds the fans have long suffered.
I missed Frank Robinson's statue ceremony, but the two I have attended have been wonderful reminders of what is so great about Orioles baseball and the sense of community it causes.
Palmer's speech was a tad long (no big surprise), but passionately biased to all things Orioles. His speech set the tone for an amazing day at the Yard -- perhaps the best day there since Cal broke the Gehrig record (OK, maybe that's a stretch).
A meaningful game broke out and the Orioles won, 8-6, in 13 innings; and they won in the old-fashioned way Palmer touched on (did I mention his speech was a tad long?). It seemed as if every player played a special part. On Palmer day, the Orioles got an amazing start from Wei-Yin Chen and got good bullpen outings out of Darren O'Day, Pedro Strop and Kevin Gregg. Matt Lindstrom and Miguel Socolovich did better than OK, despite allowing runs to put the Tigers ahead twice.
I left out Jim Johnson, who blew the save with help from Ryan Flaherty's big error that made two of the three runs Johnson allowed in the ninth unearned. The score was tied, 4-4, after nine innings.
In the 11th, making his major-league debut, Socolovich allowed a run. No problem, because Nick Markakis got a big lead-off double and came around to score on an Adam Jones bloop RBI single, sending the game further into extra innings.
After Matt Lindstrom had an easy 12th, he also let up a run in the top of the 13th. No problem, as J.J. Hardy awakened from a deep slumber, with lumber hitting ball and a home run that tied the score again, 6-6.
After Jim Thome struck out for the second out of the inning, Jones got hit by a Joaquin Benoit pitch. Up strode Taylor Teagarden, in his first Orioles game, and second at bat. His bat looked incredibly slow, I mentioned to a press box usher.
"I could do better," I said.
No, I couldn't do better, as Teagarden hit a game-winning, walk-off homer to the very spot where my brother, nephew and I had stood hours earlier, watching batting practice just before Palmer's statue was unveiled.
When Johnson addressed the media, he beat himself up pretty good about giving up a three-run lead, saying, "The worst part about giving the lead up there was that we had to use up the entire bullpen. That was dog crap."
As he started to talk about how he was on the top step of the dugout during the game-winning rally, I reminded him that this game was like the theme of Palmer's speech about the Orioles' glory days.
"Yeah," he chuckled, "you can't do it alone."
Sunday was sort of anti-climactic, as in spite of a solid second start by Miquel Gonzalez, the O's were demoralized by Justin Verlander, 4-0. Yet, there was one special moment in this otherwise uneventful game. Steve Johnson, the son of long-time journeyman major league pitcher and one-time Baltimore Oriole Dave Johnson, made his big league debut. Watching Dave Johnson in the stands with a smile from ear-to-ear was a huge bright spot on an otherwise dreary day.
So, that was the week that was, and it reminded me about this one question and a partial answer: When was the last time Orioles baseball mattered to you? Even the naysayers out there must admit, there is something in the air, and it might just be Orioles magic. If not in full bloom in 2012, it is most definitely in the air.
Posted July 16, 2012