The Orioles’ team-wide offensive drought has mercifully come to an end, as Orioles’ hitters accumulated 21 runs and 41 hits over the weekend in their series win over the Atlanta Braves.
As is often the case, the Orioles’ offense starts with Brian Roberts at the top of the order. The second baseman went 6-for-10 over the weekend, driving in four runs, walking three times, and stealing two bases.
The offense will try to keep it going against the New York Mets who were trampled by the cross-town rival Yankees on Sunday, 15-0. Luckily, the Orioles will not face Johan Santana, though the southpaw gave up nine earned runs in the series finale in the Bronx.
The series begins Tuesday with Jeremy Guthrie (4-6, 5.52 ERA) taking the ball against the Mets’ Mike Pelfrey (4-2, 4.68 ERA).
Here are the 5 W’s and 1 H for the week:
1. Who would have thought rookie Brad Bergesen would be the Orioles’ best starting pitcher when pitchers and catchers reported to Ft. Lauderdale in February?
In his last four starts, Bergesen is 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA and averaging eight innings per start. The right-hander continues to throw a heavy sinker, keeping the infielders busy with ground balls.
Bergesen fields his position well and maintains his focus, something many young pitchers have failed to do in Baltimore over the last few years. Even after being staked to an 11-0 lead after five innings on Sunday, Bergesen continued to show poise, going the distance for the victory.
Former Oriole and current MASN analyst Rick Dempsey has been praising the 23-year-old as a legitimate starter with star potential for several weeks, and he is certainly looking the part in June. Before we pencil him in for a spot in the rotation beyond this season, he needs to produce when teams have seen him a few times. Whether he can do that remains to be seen, but Bergesen is doing an outstanding job in an otherwise–at best–shaky starting rotation.
2. What is the reason for Matt Wieters getting so many days off?
Counting Monday, the rookie phenom will have received six of the last 12 days–not games–off. You obviously can’t allow your starting catcher to go out there everyday, but after Wieters received the night off on Thursday, I fully expected him to be in the lineup on Sunday, especially with Bergesen on the hill and a day off on Monday.
While Bergesen pitched tremendously with Gregg Zaun behind the plate, Wieters is showing signs of breaking out, collecting multiple hits in three of his last four games. The best prospect in baseball needs to be playing more, plain and simple.
3. Where will Shaquille O’Neal be playing his basketball next season?
Though only in preliminary discussions, the Cleveland Cavaliers have talked with the Phoenix Suns about the 37-year-old center. The teams discussed a trade prior to the February trade deadline, but no deal was reached. The Cavs have reportedly dangled Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic.
The Cavs will need to show LeBron James they’re serious about putting a better supporting cast around him. The league MVP will be a free agent in the summer of 2010.
While Shaq would be a nice addition to the Cleveland frontcourt on paper, does he have enough left in the tank to provide big minutes to a championship team?
4. When will we ever see another .400 hitter in Major League Baseball, if ever?
For all of the talk over the last 15 years about steroids, expansion teams, juiced baseballs, and shrinking strike zones, no player has seriously challenged the .400 mark, outside of Tony Gwynn’s .394 average in the strike-shortened 1994 season.
Even the great Ichiro Suzuki’s career-best of .372 in 2004 is a far cry from the prestigious mark. Of any player today, Ichiro would figure to have the best chance to do it with his superior bat control and plate discipline.
Twins catcher Joe Mauer is hitting .414 in 152 at bats this season, but it’s difficult to envision a catcher maintaining a .400 average, given the wear and tear of the long baseball season.
The legendary Ted Williams remains the last man to hit .400 in the big leagues, batting .406 in 1941. It’s a phenomenal accomplishment that hasn’t been reached in almost 70 years.
5. Why is Felix Pie still with the Baltimore Orioles? And, no, it has nothing to do with his 1-for-4 performance on Sunday, only filling in for Adam Jones who was a late scratch with a bruised shin.
Prior to Sunday’s start, the outfielder had only three plate appearances in the month of June. While I’ve made my feelings pretty clear about Pie and his future in Baltimore, he needs to play more if he’s going to remain with the club.
One of Earl Weaver’s biggest strengths was his effective use of the bench. I don’t care if it’s Felix Pie, Gary Roenicke, or Babe Ruth, you cannot expect a hitter to produce if he’s only getting two or three at bats every two weeks.
If Pie is not going to play, expose him to waivers. If he clears, send him to Norfolk; if not, cut your losses and find a reserve outfielder in which manager Dave Trembley has more confidence.
Pie rotting away on the bench does nothing for the Orioles or the young outfielder.
6. How else could an uncapped year produce a harmful effect in the NFL?
Ask the retired players that paved the way for the league’s immense success in the 21st century.
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith has revealed that benefits to retired players in need could be reduced in an uncapped system. While the league claims it has no intention of reducing disability benefits, this figures to be a hot button issue as the two sides try to work out a new collective bargaining agreement prior to next spring.
With the highly publicized stories of poor benefits for retired players–including Baltimore Colts tight end and Hall of Famer John Mackey–over the last several years, it would seem the league and the union would not want to garner any more criticism after improving conditions for retired players under commissioner Roger Goodell’s tenure.
After the slashing of coaching pensions led to the retirement of Indianapolis offensive coordinator Tom Moore and offensive line coach Howard Mudd this offseason, the league and union need to tread carefully to protect the retired players.
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King did some great work covering these issues last week.