Friday, September 28, 2012

2 Legit 2 Quip: Ride-Him Cup

The Ryder Cup is all set to tee off, and the storylines are thicker than that bad salad on Rory McIlroy’s head.  We are not going to pretend like we know much about golf and go on and on with analysis and predictions, although we do play a mean 18 of putt putt.  If you are looking for an awesome and knowledgeable preview, then go to Grantland for Shane Ryan's piece.  If you're looking to chuckle and poke fun at Europeans, then this is the place for you! A picture stumbled across our desks here at Battle of the Beltway LLC, and we decided to weigh in on what is really going on here...

Sergio: “Look sweetums, my Mom and Dad finally emailed us back! They love the idea of a November date for our Commitment Ceremony!”
Rory: "I'll call the wedding planner!"

Sergio: “Would you prefer the White Floral centerpieces or the Tall Garlands?”
Rory: "Whatever you think is best, handsome."

"Check out Tim Legler's career 3pt percentage!"

Sergio: "Do these yoga pants make my ass look fat?"
Rory: "Yea, but all the right kind of ways."

Sergio: "Hey, have I shown you a picture of Caroline Wozniacki's johnson before?"
Rory: “This is not a deal breaker for me…”

"Why is she letting that donkey do that to her???"

"Oh good heavens, is that the stringed end of her racket!?"

"My name must be close to Rachel Uchitel's in Tiger's contacts list."

"This was Martina Hingis when I started banging her...and this is her after she started doing blow."

“Whomp em gangnam style!”

Sergio: "Phil needs to stop posting pictures of himself by the pool."
Rory: "I know! He's got bigger tits than Craig Stadler."

Sergio: “Check out what Edin is doing with her 9 iron.”
Rory: “Tiger is an idiot for screwing that one up.”

“Have I shown you MeatSpin yet?”

"Look at this picture Brett Favre sent me"

Happy Friday everybody! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Birdland Bulletin: Bundyball

I instantly popped a broner when the wheels of Flight 49 touched down in Seattle.  Following the Orioles 18 inning victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night, the Birds’ brass decided the time was now to call up 19-year-old phenom Dylan Bundy.  You’ve heard of him right? The kid whose fastball makes Helio Castroneves’s car look like an old guy driving a Buick on 495. The kid whose curveball breaks more than Jennifer Aniston’s heart.  This decision has been met with a ton of excitement and a ton of question marks.  Both are valid, but let’s temper everything and look at the addition of Bundy in a rational light, or at least as rationally as we can given how amazing this season has gone.

There are more than a few tenants in Birdland who fear the Orioles are making a knee jerk reaction and rushing the prized prospect to the big leagues.  This is a pessimistic view that fans cannot be blamed for. In fact it has been cemented by the development of arms past such as Adam Loewen, Matt Riley, and Hayden Penn.  These are the same fans who have watched “The Cavalry” go back and forth from Norfolk to Baltimore more times than the conductors of the Underground Railroad.  We’ve been burned before by top pitching prospects who are filled with promise, but run on empty in the results category.  Being skeptical of Bundy’s early promotion is valid and well-founded by years of tumult within our farm system, but fear not and BUCKle up.

The Orioles starting rotation looks like it was put together by Macgvyer with all of the random parts that make it up.  However, this rag tag group of castoffs and late-blooming prospects has held up their end of the bargain and handled their business.  However, due to the lack of star power in the rotation there are those who expect Dylan Bundy to join the rotation and start throwing no-hitters left and right.  That’s not going to happen this year, but he will probably have like 9 no hitters by this time next year.  Sorry, sorry, I promised I would be rational, but for those of you who have read my Birdland Bulletins before you know I have a harder time being rationale about my Birds, than Lindsey Lohan does staying off the police scanner.

Both sides of the argument are well founded, and have major validity. There are those who feel that Bundy is being rushed and is nowhere ready, and those who feel that he will throw no-hitters and cure cancer during his off days.  Fear not Birdland, there is a happy medium between these two extremes and it’s right in front of us and all you have to do is just continue to believe in what the Orioles are building.

For starters, this is Bundy’s first professional season therefore he will not be thrust right into the rotation and counted on to hurl quality starts down the stretch run. Even though he made Minor Leaguers look like children, there is a major jump between hitters in AA and the big leaguers who never miss mistake pitches.  Bundy compiled an impressive 9-3 record with a 2.08 ERA over three levels of the Minor Leagues, but he is not ready to join a big league rotation. The Orioles set a much less media-raped innings limit for Bundy at the start of the season at 130.  He's has already thrown 103 2/3 which means starting in the big leagues down the stretch is not inconceivable, just highly unlikely. 

He is 19, he’s just a pup, and even though his fastball could start more fires than Bear Grylls’s trusty flint, he still has a lot to work on.  Over his stops through the farm system Bundy has shown an inability to consistently stay down in the zone, which he can get away with in Low-A and High-A ball because the hitters are not as advanced.  We saw him get a touched up a little more in Double-A, and if he were to pitch up in the zone in the Majors, his pitches would need drop-down oxygen bags and a flight attendant.  His curveball is an absolute yacker, but he still needs to develop his command of it; remember he’s only 19 years old.  To be a major league starting pitcher you need to have atleast three quality pitches, and ideally a fourth pitch.  Bundy is still developing a feel for his work-in-progress changeup and his cutter.  When ready, his cutter will break explode bats. 

Buck Showalter is the main reason why I believe in this promotion and trust that Bundy will be treated properly. Buck has a knack for knowing his players and putting them in the best position to succeed. He has done it all year with a variety of players (50 to be exact) and there is no reason to believe it will be any different with Dylan Bundy. 

Since Bundy already has two major league pitches, he is better suited to be a reliever in 2012.  Obviously, his career path projects to the top of the rotation, but as of right now there is no question he can sneak up on some big leaguers and get a couple of quick outs for an amazingly effective yet overly-taxed bullpen.  Essentially, he is an extra arm in a bullpen who could use a breather.  A long-relief role suits his stamina, but don’t be surprised if we start to see his power arm featured to help get some of the final 9 outs in a baseball game.  His stuff is raw, but he could get a guy out here or there in a pinch.

Based on the way this Orioles season has gone, it is very hard to look at Dylan Bundy’s promotion in a rational manner.  The Orioles have not finished with a winning record since 1997, their ace Jason Hammel, has a knee less sturdy than Tiger Woods’ wedding vows, their leadoff man and franchise building block Nick Markakis, is out until the ALCS (see what I did there?), their run differential is -10(which is dropping faster than Mitt Romney's approval rating), and they have contributors who they scooped out of Independent ball (Lewwwwww), the Mexican League (Gonzo), and other castoffs who just needed some love (O'Day, McClouth).  My point being irrationality is what our beloved Birds are thriving on right now, and baseball fans can’t jump on our bandwagon fast enough.  It’s been a fun surprising team all summer and now into the fall, and all we can do is continue to believe in the process. BUCKle Up!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Birdland Bulletin: September 6th, 2012

There was just so much emotion and excitement following last night's thrilling victory for the Orioles that we had to break up our Birdland Bulletin into two parts.

Part 1: Our Apologies to Mark Reynolds

Part 2: The Night We Took Back the Yard.

Birdland Bulletin: Our Apologies to Mark Reynolds

by Ben

It’s no secret my disdain for MarK Reynolds is deeper than the Orioles’ starting rotation.  But I may be coming around on the free swinging slugger (a viable option for the title of the next Austin Powers movie).  This is not just a hair trigger reaction to his most recent hot streak (8 HR’s in 7 games), where I will just end up hating him again whenever he cools off.  Everyone knows that MarK Reynolds is inconsistent with ungodly hot streaks, soon followed by slumps that even bears are like “dude, wake up.”  If the baseball looks like a beach ball when he is hot, it must look like the mythical g-spot when he is in a slump.  Either way, this most recent hot streak has a different feel too it; one that just may stick.

My reasons for hating MarKy MarK are well documented and quite legitimate.  His defense at 3B was unforgivably bad.  He booted more groundballs than Cristiano Ronaldo and his throws were as accurate as Fox News.  Offensively, he was even more frustrating.  Swinging at (and missing) everything in sight regardless of the situation.  He stubbornly refused to make adjustments and the status quo for MarK’s at bats made my blood boil.

And then something clicked.  Maybe it was extra work w/ hitting coach Jim Pressley.  Maybe he has been reinvigorated by the team’s surge over the summer.  Maybe it was the call up of Manny Machado that told MarK, “we are going to turn it over to a 20 year old kid because your performance has been abysmal.”  Or maybe Buck sat him down and explained to MarK that either he figures it out or he will be unemployed.

For the first few months of the season MarK was swinging, flailing at everything.  Up, down, in, out, fast, slow, straight, breaking ball, Sleepy, Dopey, and even Rudoplh.  We all know about MarK’s low averages and high strike out numbers, but we could live with them because of his light tower power that was responsible for 35+ home runs every year.  However, this season the power was gone.  MarK was making contact with the ball as much as Ellen DeGeneres does with a pair of balls.  But for the first time in his career (or so it seems) MarK has made an adjustment at the plate.

Bare with me while I get all coachy and wax eloquently about the intricacies of hitting and the adjustments MarK Reynolds has made.  He essentially has split the plate in half.  He is now spitting (baseball-talk for “not swinging”) on pitches on the outside half of the plate; until he gets two strikes on him of course.  He is hunting the fastball down the middle and towards the inner half of the plate, aka “middle-in”.  By looking exclusively for the middle-in pitches, MarK is able to play to his strength of getting inside the baseball and pulling it.  By taking the outer half pitches he is also working counts and getting ahead, thus finding himself in hitters’ counts.  The batter has the advantage when the count is 3-1, 2-0, 1-0, 2-1, etc.  In these counts the pitcher has to throw a strike and more than likely that means a fastball is coming.  MarK Reynolds has put himself in better spots to be productive and it is clear he has a plan at the plate.

With MarK’s recent offensive surge stealing all of the headlines, we are over looking his much-improved defense.  And by much improved I mean being as far away from 3B as possible.  While at 3B Mark Reynolds had stone hands, but since moving to 1B his hands have become softer than what I imagine Minka Kelly’s bottom feels like.  He is snagging grounders glove side and to his backhand, sometimes while sliding on a knee.  He is scooping every bad throw and making picks like he’s played there his whole life.  His footwork around the bag is worthy of an offseason opportunity on Dancing With The StarsJust ask Tim Timmons.

The one thing he needs to work on is his over pursuit of grounders to his backhand side.  He needs to realize they are not his responsibility to field, but rather the second baseman’s.  Thus he must retreat back to 1B to receive the throw.  That all comes with feel and experience, which he is gaining every game.

The bast part about having MarK Reynolds at 1B is the only time he has to throw the ball (besides the old 3-6-3 DP) is when he is whipping it around the horn after yet another Zach Britton sinker that has been topsided by an opposing hitter.

I know this sounds like after 2+ seasons of hating MarK Reynolds I have pulled a Mitt Romney and completely changed my policy.  Don’t get it twisted, my venom is still reserved for MarK, but I wanted to give credit where credit is due.  This hot streak just feels different, but at the end of the day that’s all it is.  MarK Reynolds will cool off and join us back on Planet Earth.  Let’s just hope it’s at the end of October. 

All this picture needs is A-Rod to complete the Eiffel Tower.

PART 2: The Night We Took Back the Yard

Birdland Bulletin: The Night We Took Back The Yard

by Ben

On the 17th anniversary of the greatest streak in sports, with the man responsible for the streak in attendance, the Orioles took back the Yard that had been over ran for the past 15 years by Yankees and Red Sox fans.

There are 162 games in a baseball season and most times one game is not make or break.  In fact many of you are probably thinking that I am over-appreciating one game (which I have be known to do), but quite frankly last night wasn’t just one game; I can’t stress the importance of last night enough!

The game was sold out – as it usually is when the Yankees bring their legion of parasitic fans to town – but for the first time in 15 years the crowd was Pro-Orioles.  And by Pro-Orioles I mean there was more orange in the crowd than a Jersey Shore Convention. For years Orioles fans stayed at home when the Yankees came to town because those games just were NOT an enjoyable experience.   The O’s would lose, the Yanees fans would let you know about it, your girlfriend would disappear at the end of the game, and she’d reappear the next morning with a gift basket and a baseball signed by Derek Jeter.

Yet last night was different because Cal Ripken Jr. was there.

Last night was different because the Yankees came to town for a pivotal 4 games series only up 1 game in the Division Standings.

Last night was different because for the first time in 15 years, a game in September really mattered.  The Orioles were not playing spoiler down the stretch, they are firmly and legitimately in the hunt.  Whether it is for 1 of 2 Wild Card spots or the A.L. East Crown, the O’s are in it!

Baltimore, at it’s heart, is a baseball town.  The white smoke stack right off I-95 used to have black and orange letters painted on the side that read BALTIMORE.  Now they are purple and gold and have been for the past 10+ years.  Last night was a reawakening for a fan base who has had Peter Angelos pissing in our faces and telling us it’s rain for the past 15 years.

Over the past 15 years I have watched 2,405 Orioles games.  In which the Orioles have lost 1,336 of them.  But last night reminded me why I stuck it out.  Last night reminded why I blindly believed in the potential of Larry Bigbie, the managerial decisions of Lee Mazzili, and the curveball of Daniel Cabrera. 

When I heard the roar of the crowd last night through the TV and saw how packed the stadium was, it felt like 1995.  When the Orioles swatted six homers, every time sending the Yard into a state of euph-orange-ia and the rest of us running victory laps areound our living rooms, it felt like 1996.  When all of Birdland rose to their feet when an O’s pitcher got two strikes on a Yankee batter, almost willing that 3rd strike from the Baseball Gods, it felt like 1997.  For those of us born after 1983, those three years are all we have to cling to.

The 8th inning of last night’s game was a roller coaster of emotions.  With the Birds leading with a comfy (60-0 when leading after 7 innings) 6-1 advantage, the unflappable Orioles’ bullpen aka the Orange Curtain showed some leaks.  Randy Wolf ran out of gas and Petey Strop continued to be horrendous when brought in mid-inning.  He is lights out when he starts an inning, but he’s brought in with runners on…look out for the All-You-Can-Score-Buffet.

After Ichiro tied up the game and capped a five run 8th, my buddy Mish texted me “I’m flustered.”  I started to get that punch-in-the-gut feeling of “here we go again.”  Just your typical ulcer-generating, rip out your heart and stomp on it kind of losses to the Yankees that Birdland has grown accustomed to. 

However, rather than agreeing with Mish, I responded with “The O’s bats will respond!”  I wanted to believe my text, I really did.  But history told me not to…

And then Adam Jones launched a David Robertson’s misplaced 1-2 fastball into the stands…

And then Matt Wieters singles to right…

And then MarK Reynolds lost one into the night.  Followed immediately by Chris Davis depositing one over the scoreboard in right field. 10-6 Birds, cue the Semi-Sonic because Jim Johnson was coming in.  It should come as no surprise that with Cal in attendance, the heroics were saved for the 8th inning in the game where We. Took. Back. The. Yard.  

After the game Yankees manager Joe Girardi said this was just ONE loss.  But to a starved fan base and a hungrier team this was one for the ages.