Friday, October 24, 2014
In 1974, Rich Coggins must have felt as fuzzy as he looks on this card. A year earlier, he had batted .319/.363/.468 (134 OPS+) in 110 games as a 22-year-old rookie. His nine triples were second on the club only to fellow rookie Al Bumbry's 11. He was also the Orioles' first runner-up to Bumbry (.337) in batting average. But the hits didn't fall in for Coggins as a sophomore. He had a brutal April (.154/.241/.250), and things didn't get a whole lot better from there. Aside from a .354 average in July, the outfielder didn't bat above .250 in any single month. He finished the year at .243/.299/.319 (81 OPS+), which didn't really cut it. The year ended on a particularly sour note for Coggins, as he took an 0-for-11 collar in the team's ALCS loss to the Athletics. He did steal 26 bases in 32 tries, combining with Don Baylor and Paul Blair to give the O's a trio of outfielders with at least 26 steals apiece. But Rich wouldn't get a chance to reverse his fortunes in Baltimore, as the Birds shipped him north to Montreal with Dave McNally in exchange for Mike Torrez and Ken Singleton.
As bad as 1974 seemed for Coggins, things were worse beyond Charm City. His major league career had only two more seasons and 103 games left to it, as he compiled a measly .498 OPS (43 OPS+) for three teams. I've read that a thyroid condition was to blame for his abbreviated and downward-trending career. How frustrating it must have been to be robbed of his livelihood at age 25.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
This box consisted of a single pack of 2008 Upper Deck Spectrum, a bunch of 2013 Topps products (Allen & Ginter, Opening Day, Archives, and flagship Series Two), and to my surprise, a few packs of 2014 Topps Heritage. Each box also comes with a randomly-inserted "hit", which in this case was a 2005 Topps Update All-Star Stitches jersey relic of Morgan Ensberg. It doesn't get much more random than that, and the swatch is a lovely deep orange. I also pulled a Craig Gentry autograph from one of the Opening Day packs, which is a nifty thing to get even if I couldn't pick the guy out of a lineup. I filled a few more set needs for Heritage, and got some 2013 Topps Series Two and Opening Day Orioles that I needed. There was also this Brooks Robinson insert from last year's Allen and Ginter, a fortuitous pull from a six-card pack. On the back, it lists some notables that share Brooksie's May 18 birthday, including Pope John Paul II, Frank Capra, Tina Fey, Reggie Jackson, actor Robert Morse, and Superfly Jimmy Snuka. Truly news you can use.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Including the postseason, the Orioles played 169 meaningful games in 2014. They won 99 of them, a level of success they hadn't approached since 1997. That was something of a common phrase throughout the year: "since 1997". It's little wonder, since that was the last time the O's stood atop the American League East after 162 games. Make no mistake, this team belongs to Baltimore's baseball history in a high place, as does that wire-to-wire squad. As the saying goes, "flags fly forever". The Orioles might have been stopped four wins short of the pennant, and eight shy of the big shiny trophy, but they were still division champions. That flag will hang in Camden Yards next year, and the year after, and so on. A four-game stretch of bad breaks and near misses shouldn't cancel out 162 (or 165) successful games.
In my second year as a season-ticket holder, I was fortunate to attend 25 games, including the first three of the club's four postseason home contests. It was my pleasure to witness 17 wins against just eight losses:
|1||1||Monday, Mar 31||boxscore||BAL||BOS||W||2||1||1-0||1||Tied||Britton||Lester||Hunter||2:53||D||46,685|
|11||11||Saturday, Apr 12||boxscore||BAL||TOR||W-wo||2||1||12||5-6||4||1.5||Britton||Redmond||3:39||N||30,446|
|23||23||Saturday, Apr 26||boxscore||BAL||KCR||W-wo||3||2||10||12-11||2||1.5||Britton||Duffy||3:09||N||34,941|
|33||33||Friday, May 9||boxscore||BAL||HOU||W||4||3||19-14||1||up 0.5||Chen||Williams||Hunter||2:29||N||28,875|
|35||35||Sunday, May 11||boxscore||BAL||HOU||L||2||5||20-15||1||up 1.5||Cosart||Tillman||Qualls||3:21||D||45,944|
|45||45||Thursday, May 22||boxscore||BAL||CLE||L||7||8||13||23-22||3||1.5||Outman||Patton||Atchison||4:22||N||18,894|
|47||47||Saturday, May 24||boxscore||BAL||CLE||L||0||9||24-23||3||2.5||Kluber||Jimenez||3:05||D||36,873|
|60||60||Saturday, Jun 7||boxscore||BAL||OAK||W||6||3||31-29||2||5.5||Gausman||Gray||2:51||N||44,202|
|64||64||Wednesday, Jun 11||boxscore||BAL||BOS||W||6||0||33-31||2||4.5||Chen||De La Rosa||2:49||N||25,886|
|66||66||Friday, Jun 13||boxscore||BAL||TOR||L||0||4||34-32||3||4.5||Hutchison||Jimenez||McGowan||2:44||N||44,031|
|77||77||Wednesday, Jun 25||boxscore||BAL||CHW||W-wo||5||4||12||41-36||2||1.5||Hunter||Webb||4:03||N||22,020|
|80||80||Saturday, Jun 28||boxscore||BAL||TBR||L||4||5||42-38||2||1.5||Bedard||Chen||McGee||3:13||D||36,387|
|90||90||Wednesday, Jul 9||boxscore||BAL||WSN||L||2||6||49-41||1||up 2.5||Fister||Norris||2:50||N||35,575|
|92||92||Friday, Jul 11||boxscore||BAL||NYY||W-wo||3||2||10||51-41||1||up 3.0||McFarland||Warren||3:05||N||45,389|
|119||119||Wednesday, Aug 13||boxscore||BAL||NYY||W||5||3||69-50||1||up 7.5||O'Day||Kelley||Britton||2:45||N||37,587|
|129||129||Monday, Aug 25||boxscore||BAL||TBR||W||9||1||74-55||1||up 6.0||Tillman||Odorizzi||2:56||N||15,516|
|131||131||Wednesday, Aug 27||boxscore||BAL||TBR||L||1||3||75-56||1||up 6.0||Smyly||Gausman||McGee||2:44||N||20,762|
|139||139||Thursday, Sep 4||boxscore||BAL||CIN||W||9||7||82-57||1||up 9.5||Hunter||Parra||Britton||3:26||N||21,114|
|146||146||Friday, Sep 12 (1)||boxscore||BAL||NYY||W-wo||2||1||11||87-59||1||up11.5||Brach||Warren||3:51||D||31,871|
|147||147||Friday, Sep 12 (2)||boxscore||BAL||NYY||W||5||0||88-59||1||up11.5||Norris||Mitchell||2:57||N||43,707|
|151||151||Tuesday, Sep 16||boxscore||BAL||TOR||W||8||2||91-60||1||up13.5||Jimenez||Hutchison||3:02||N||35,297|
|152||152||Wednesday, Sep 17||boxscore||BAL||TOR||W||6||1||92-60||1||up14.5||Norris||Happ||3:13||N||37,537|
|ALDS Game 1||Thursday, Oct 2||boxscore||BAL||DET||W, 12-3||WP: Tillman LP: Scherzer|
|ALDS Game 2||Friday, Oct 3||boxscore||BAL||DET||W, 7-6||WP: Brach LP: Soria SV: Britton|
|ALCS Game 1||Friday, Oct 10||boxscore||BAL||KCR||L, 8-6 (10 IN)||WP: Davis LP: O'Day SV: Holland|
If you go further down the rabbit hole with me, you'll see that things started well with a personal four-game win streak, followed by a dip that tracked the team's first-half struggles. Then there was a 10-1 stretch (and an embedded seven-game win streak) that lasted through the season's second half and on into the ALDS, before those magical, mystical Royals gummed things up on October 10. But still, I experienced a lot of great games and moments, including:
- Opening Day, featuring the first of Nelson Cruz's career-high 40 home runs.
- Five walkoff wins. The heroes in those games were David Lough, Nick Markakis, Lough again (scoring on a wild pitch, and this game gets an asterisk anyway, because I reluctantly left during a lengthy late rain delay on a work night), Nick Hundley, and Jimmy Paredes. Go figure, right?
- Kevin Gausman's first major league win as a starting pitcher.
- Two of the team's 13 shutouts. How long has it been since the Birds had such a strong pitching staff?
- Four of Baltimore's pivotal 13 wins over the Yankees, including both ends of a doubleheader sweep, the first twinbill they'd taken from New York in 30 years.
- A two-homer, four-run eighth-inning rally to down the Yanks in mid-August.
- A raucous win over the Rays that featured separate instances of back-to-back AND back-to-back-to-back home runs (a first in team history), as well as an astounding catch-and-throw by Adam Jones to take three runs away from Tampa Bay.
- The first division-clinching win in Charm City since 1969.
- Christian Walker's big league debut and first career hit, as well as a multi-homer game from Steve Pearce.
- The first and second games of the Orioles' three-game ALDS sweep over Detroit's three Cy Young winners, featuring a pair of incredible eighth-inning offensive outbursts.
- The first ALCS game at Camden Yards (all together now) since 1997. It represented the beginning of the end for the O's, but the atmosphere was surreal and the game was exhilarating, featuring a comeback from a four-run deficit before the home team succumbed in the tenth inning.
That's just from a 15 percent slice of the team's full schedule. I wasn't there for the walkoff homers from Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado, or Manny's acrobatic defense in his injury-shortened season, or Caleb Joseph's five-game home run streak, or the 60th anniversary ceremonies...it goes on and on. The 2014 Orioles were a joy to watch, and I'm already missing them.