Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Preseason Preview: Orioles

It's Tuesday night and guess what I'm not doing? If you said "reading philosophy," then right in one. As mentioned, I do like the class, and I do quite well in it, but it's never the first thing on my nightly list of priorities. So, here's the rundown for the Orioles, who have gone from scrapingly decent to shockingly terrible in the past few years. At the end of the post is also some real-life stuff which I would like to talk about, seeing as this is my blog and my forum for doing so. But you're not obligated to read that; we'll get to the baseball stuff first.

Seeing as I just threatened to throw the Faerie Queene at my roommate unless she stopped singing the Pokemon song, now we have quiet. (If she's reading this: I love ya, Markel). If you have ever taken an English class in your life, you know the size of that thing. My lit teacher even suggested that employing it as a missile was an excellent idea for use. Entirely in good fun, of course.

Yes, well. The paragon of shittiness entitled the Orioles (although not yet descended to Pirates/Royals/D-rays depths).

The Baltimore Orioles

1. Daniel Cabrera, RHP
2. Erik Bedard, LHP
3. Steve Trachsel, RHP
4. Jaret Wright, RHP
5. Hayden Penn, RHP

1. Danys Baez, RHP
2. Chad Bradford, RHP
3. Chris Ray, RHP
4. Adam Loewen, LHP
5. Scott Williamson, RHP
6. Jamie Walker, LHP
7. Todd Williams, RHP

1B Kevin Millar
2B Brian Roberts
SS Miguel Tejada
3B Melvin Mora
RF Nick Markakis
CF Corey Patterson
LF Jay Payton
C Ramon Hernandez
DH Jay Gibbons

The 500 Word Rundown
The Orioles are bad. There, I got it out of the way. They won a scant 70 games last year, and there's no real reason to expect that they'll make significant progress this year. There's certainly no way they're going to finish higher than fourth, and depending on if Tampa Bay plays up (down?) to its usual doormat status or not, they could even end up in the cellar. They did make some effort to upgrade the pitching, but Steve Trachsel and Jaret Wright are nobody's definition of ace. Baltimore scooped them both up after they were cut by their respective New York teams after posing problems in the postseason, which seems to be their general modus operandi. Steve Trachsel won 15 games, but had an ERA three ticks short of 5. Jaret Wright won 11, posted a 4.49 ERA, and was the furthest thing from reliable in the Yankees' abbreviated postseason against the Tigers. Daniel Cabrera is still as mercurial as ever, projected to be a decent-to-good starter but prone to getting utterly thrashed. Where that belief comes from, I'm still not quite sure, as his line last year was a less-than-stellar 9-10/4.74 mark. Erik Bedard, surprisingly, may project to be the best of the lot. He won 15 games with a 3.76 ERA and 171 K - not at all shabby. The bullpen is nothing to write home about - an aging closer (Baez) who's counted the Dodgers, Devil Rays, and Braves among his recent employers, finding only very limited success with each - and a collection of prospects and spare parts. Jamie Walker is the only standout, as he posted a 2.81 ERA for the AL Champion Tigers last year. Submariner and ex-A Chad Bradford also registered a 2.90 mark in limited action for the Mets.

As for the offense, it's the same group as last year, with the lone exceptions being the additions of Jay Payton from the A's and Aubrey Huff from the Astros. The Orioles have an overpriced, but admittedly quite durable and talented, shortstop in Tejada - another former A, what, is Baltimore starting a collection? He hit .330 last year with 24 HR and 100 RBI, but can't do the heavy lifting himself and is severely hindered by lack of a power-hitting backup corps. Pesky second baseman Brian Roberts hit .286 and was good for getting on base, but other than that, the Orioles don't really have a power hitter. The only ones that come close are Huff and catcher Ramon Hernandez (would you know it - ANOTHER EX-A!) who hit 21 and 23 HR last year, respectively.

As I'm taking a closer look at the Orioles, I'm getting puzzled. They do have some decent players, so it makes a little harder to understand how they're quite as bad as they are. I mean, they have a lot more talent than the Pirates/Royals-type teams, and yet they only outstripped the Pirates by three wins and the Royals by eight. The Orioles do have a craptastic owner, Peter D'Angelos, and an uninspiring front office in general, but you'd think that they'd be able to string together at least a smoke-and-mirrors illusion. There's certainly no chance for them in the AL East, and it's doubtful they'll even be close to the perpetual third-stringer Jays, but it makes one wonder why this Orioles team underwhelms so massively. Oh long past are the days when Cal Ripken Jr. and Brooks Robinson roamed the range...

Projected Finish: 73-89, fourth place, AL East


And now for the real life stuff. This week, the SLC softball team began their every-night practices (which will carry on for two weeks and then stop for break, before renewing just in time to start playing intercollegiate games) and man, I hurt. Our butts were kicked tonight - throwing, intense cardio/fitness drills, crunches, all that. It feels good, but I'm exhausted and the two extra hours of sleep that I'm able to glean on Wednesday mornings, due to philosophy starting at 11 AM instead of 9:30 AM as my classes do on all other days, will be most welcome.

This is Sarah Lawrence, not exactly your jock bastion, so we're pretty much reduced to groveling on our knees for the required 12 players to even field a team and play varsity games. We have at least 11 committed players, but still only about two pitchers, and we're not interested in playing Dusty Baker Syndrome with them; i.e. throw them until their arm starts to literally detach and has to be held on with spit and Elmer's glue. Hopefully it works out, otherwise we will have been working our butts off for nothing and that would really suck.

Well, anyway... this being, again, Sarah Lawrence, winning isn't the focus so much as getting out, playing, feeling good, etc., all admirable qualities, but I guess I dislike losing. Since we need anybody and everybody, we also accept people of varying skill levels - again, perfectly fine, but when I was running a throwing drill with two of my teammates tonight, there were times when I really wanted to say (but didn't) - "Christ, catch the damn ball." I kept throwing it right at them, and... they'd miss. I just hope that another few rounds of intense practice irons out the kinks. Now, it's not like I'm better than everyone, but at least I can throw the ball straight, levelly, and accurately, not flying off-target rainbows. Well, practice makes perfect. I'll say it here since I'm not going to say it anywhere else. I actually do like my teammates - they're fun and committed girls, and it's not my intent to badmouth them. Which leads me to my next point....

While we were doing stretches, the coaches apologized (!) for using "gender-specific language." I.E. "Let's go ladies!" or "Good job gals!" Excuse me? I understand that this is the land of the bleeding-heart liberals, but unless I missed something, this is a women's softball team, and therefore, this type of language should be perfectly appropriate. However, I suspect it has something to do with one of our new recruits, the first person I've met at SLC whose gender I honestly cannot discern. Looks like a boy, speaks mostly like a girl, plays on the women's softball team, and according to Facebook (tellingly, no gender listed) is into women. Have to admit that the gaydar at least went off immediately, but... guy playing on girl team? Transsexual playing on girl team? Girl playing on girl team? Don't get it. He/she is cute, too, but not knowing the gender is a bit of a stumbling block. I'm actually straight as an arrow, and I'm not into women like that, despite the large lesbian population at SLC... but, well.

This pisses me off. Nothing against her/him, my teammate, but rather the fact that suddenly we're not allowed to be "ladies" any more, and have to be some appropriately gender-neutral term. Let's get it out of the way - I hate the "PC phenomenon." I certainly don't believe in bigotry, or discrimination in any way, but I can't stand the pressing need to encapsulate everyone in such vague language as to be indistinguishable. I am not religious in the slightest, and I hold strong liberal political convictions, but one of my best friends is a conservative, southern Christian. You wouldn't call a group of Republicans the "Politically Neutral Party" if one Democrat was present, and I don't get why it's different here. Whatever gender he/she is, he/she signed up to play on a women's softball team, with women coaches, among other women, and therefore, should expect to be called what everyone else is being called. And please - "let's go ladies!" is not being used in a demeaning connotation. It's something to say to keep the blood pumping (and Christ, it was tonight... never gonna walk again...).

I don't believe in discrimination, but I don't believe in preferential treatment. Contrary to popular belief, the two are not the same - discrimination is to start from an equal footing and treat a party worse, while preferential treatment is to start from an equal footing and treat somebody better. In this case, on a women's softball team, we are all equal in gender, whether biologically or by association. So call us what we are. Girls who love sports and are eager to represent SLC in varsity games in this upcoming season. Go Gryphons.

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