Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

L. J. Hoes, 2013 Topps #148

L. J. Hoes' Orioles career lasted three games and four hitless at-bats. The Washington, D. C. native and lifelong O's fan was traded to the Astros this afternoon for Bud Norris. I'm still not used to the Birds being a buyer in July, but I'm feeling pretty good about a starting rotation consisting of Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Scott Feldman, and Norris...tonight's Gonzalez implosion notwithstanding.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Harold Baines, 2000 Upper Deck #331

Last night wizened veteran Jason Giambi became the oldest player in major league history to hit a walkoff home run when he took Jason Frasor of the White Sox deep to break a 2-2 tie in the ninth inning. The former American League MVP was 42 years and 202 days old...and now he's even older. Anyway, he broke Hank Aaron's 37-year-old record, and it got me to wondering: Just who was the oldest Oriole to ever hit a walkoff home run? I couldn't find an easy method for squeezing the answer out of Baseball Reference's Play Index, so I had to run two separate queries: one gave me all 128 walkoff home runs in O's history and the other gave me every home run hit by an Oriole aged 35 or older in home wins. It wasn't pretty, but I found the answer.


It was Harold Baines, on May 5, 1999, at 40 years and 50 days of age. I actually touched on this game a few months ago in the wake of Matt Wieters' walkoff grand slam vs. the Rays. As you may have surmised, Baines' blast was also a game-winning slam, the last one the Birds hit before Wieters' heroics. It was hit off of David Lundquist of the White Sox, and it might not have been the most improbable event in the game. To give you an idea, the 9-5 extra-inning affair featured an Albert Belle stolen base, a pinch RBI triple by Baines himself as part of Baltimore's two-run ninth-inning rally, a pinch running appearance by O's pitcher Ricky Bones, and to top it all off, Harold's grand slam was the team's only hit in the decisive tenth inning. Revisiting this completely bananas game for the second time in the past few months reminds me that I have got to find a recording of it somewhere.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Jim Gentile, 1982 TCMA Baseball's Greatest Sluggers #37

July was a rough month for Chris Davis, despite getting voted in as a starter for his first career All-Star Game. The slugging O's first baseman didn't do a whole lot of slugging, when it came right down to it. With two games left in the month, "Crush" has an ugly batting line of .202/.277/.476. He has struck out 39 times in 94 plate appearances with just six walks, and has set an unfortunate team record with whiffs in each of his last 22 games. He's homerless in ten games since the All-Star break, and has gone deep "only" six times in 23 July games. Maybe he just needs to turn the page on the 2013 calendar.

If Chris is looking for inspiration, Baltimore's surprise slugger of yesteryear can offer some. In Jim Gentile's eye-popping 1961 season, he had the best August in Orioles' history. Playing 31 games in the dog days of summer, "Diamond Jim" batted .347/.492/.832(!) with 30 RBI. He blasted 15 home runs in 101 at-bats and struck out only 15 times while taking 25 walks. Gentile was also hit by five pitches that month; if opposing pitchers were trying to bust him inside or knock him off of the plate, they didn't have much luck.

Tomorrow, the basement-dwelling Houston Astros are coming to town. Hopefully they've got the prescription for what ails Chris Davis.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Paul Blair, 2001 Fleer Greats of the Game #78

This card design is a bit too plain for my tastes. I think they should have kept the original photo intact, rather than cutting the player out and sticking him against a white background with a drop shadow. It looks like an artist's conception of Paul Blair in purgatory. And if you're going with all of the white, and the simple centered team logo, and the blue border with name bar, why try to jazz it up with the foil stamp? This is kind of a mess. But I do like the photo of a young Blair in the rarely-seen 1963-1965 home jersey, featuring "ORIOLES" in block lettering across the chest. You don't see Paul Blair on many contemporary cards now, since Topps is bound and determined to include only Jim Palmer, the Robinsons, Cal Ripken, and Eddie Murray as representatives of Baltimore's baseball history. Way to go, guys.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Melvin Mora, 2004 Topps Bazooka #189

I'm glad that cards like this exist, showing Melvin Mora looking as awkward and silly as humanly possible. Flat-footed, butt sticking straight out as he tries to avoid an inside pitch. Melvin was obviously a talented athlete, a two-time All-Star who hit 171 career home runs in 13 big league seasons. But he did not make it look easy. For whatever reason, it always seemed like his body was ill-proportioned; his torso was long and lean, and his legs short and stocky. He ran somewhat like a duck, although ducks don't often run. At bat, his swing was a violent, lunging thing. Any time he failed to make contact, he looked so bad that you wondered how he ever managed to hit the ball. But no two players are the same, and Melvin Mora's churning, gangly style worked for him for several years.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Merv Rettenmund, 1972 Topps #235

Before I got totally sidetracked and stopped updating my website for a year or more at a time, Orioles' uniform numbers were kind of my thing. But I need some help with this one, folks. As you can see, Merv Rettenmund is posing in his best batting stance among the palm trees in sunny Florida. But I can't say for certain which Oriole is standing behind him near home plate. Mystery Bird is wearing number one, but that number was last worn in the regular season by 29-year-old rookie shortstop Chico Fernandez in 1968. Fernandez had two singles in 18 at-bats and was never heard from again. Al Bumbry would come along later in 1972 and wear #1 until he and the team parted ways in 1984, but there's no way that blurry orange name plate says "Bumbry".

I think it's Chico. Merv debuted with the O's in 1968, and he and Fernandez were both still in the Baltimore organization in 1969, though the latter played just four games at Rochester that year. I would never suggest that Topps was recycling three-to-four-year-old pictures on their cards back in the day, but...okay, that's exactly what I'm saying. I seem to remember hearing that the card company ran up against some resistance from Marvin Miller and the MLB Players' Association in the early days of the union. In the pursuit of better compensation for the use of player images, Miller urged the players not to pose for new photos. This was especially noticeable in the 1969 Topps set, which was chock-a-block with early-to-mid-1960s player shots.

If my guess is right, I'm sure Chico Fernandez would have been thrilled to appear on a baseball card three years after his pro career ended.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mike Mussina, 1992 Pinnacle #204

The Orioles are having an unexpectedly rough series in Kansas City, so I'm reduced to fashion criticism. One of my uniform pet peeves is when players leave their jerseys unbuttoned halfway to their belts. I'm surprised to see someone as strait-laced as Mike Mussina sporting this haphazard look. I'm sure there's a rational explanation. Maybe he had rookie jitters and forgot to finish buttoning up? Or maybe the sheer force of his delivery has caused his top to pop open...ladies.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ken Dixon, 1985 Donruss #270

Oh Ken Dixon, who dressed you today? A yellow undershirt? Come on now.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tippy Martinez, 1982 Fleer #171

Today is the birthday of one of my favorite people in the whole world. She also happens to be the woman that I'm going to marry in...53 days?! Can it really be that soon? Yes it can, as the increasingly urgent items on my to-do list remind me on a daily basis.

I wasn't able to find any Orioles past or present who were born on July 23, which just proves that Janet is one-of-a-kind. But I can tell you what the O's were doing on her birthday, at the risk of divulging a lady's age. It was the summer of 1980, and Baltimore was looking for a four-game series win at Minnesota. They squeaked out an 8-7 victory in a back-and-forth contest. Ken Singleton was 4-for-5 with a pair of RBI, and Dan Graham drove in three runs on a pair of sacrifice flies and a single. Scott McGregor gutted it out into the seventh inning without his best stuff, as he yielded six runs (five earned) on nine hits and two walks. However, the Birds gave him enough run support that he exited with a 7-5 lead. Sammy Stewart yielded the sixth run, but stranded the tying run at first base. Singleton delivered an insurance run in the top of the eighth, and it proved necessary. Stewart allowed a single and a walk in the ninth, and Earl Weaver called upon Tippy Martinez to put out the fire. The lefty did just that, giving up a sacrifice fly to Roy Smalley but ending the game with a ground ball to second base off the bat of Ken Landreaux.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some wedding invitations to address.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Chris Tillman, 2011 Topps #636

Last night Chris Tillman continued his career-long success against the teams of the American League West by pitching into the ninth inning in a 4-2 win over the Rangers. In throwing a season-high 117 pitches, the righthander held the Texas offense to two runs on six hits and three walks while striking out seven. He improved to 12-3 on the season, and helped the Orioles nail down a rare three-game road sweep in Arlington. There was some controversy over Tillman's selection to last week's All-Star Game as a replacement for Justin Verlander, as his earned run average (now 3.84) is not quite as gaudy as his run-support-boosted win total. But of all the members of Baltimore's vaunted young pitching cavalry of the recent past, only Tillman is left standing as a dependable starting pitcher at present. It was just two years ago that he averaged less than five innings per start in 13 tries with the O's, so I'll happily take the Chris Tillman of 2013.

I gave lip service to Chris' track record against the A. L. West, so here are the career splits: 11-1 in 13 starts, with an ERA of 2.05. That'll do nicely.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Erik Bedard, 2007 Topps Allen and Ginter #112

Last night Erik Bedard had ten strikeouts and no hits allowed through the first six and one-third innings against the Mariners. However, he found himself working in a 2-2 game, thanks to a bit of sixth-inning wildness and some poor defense: three walks and two Jason Castro passed balls. After Bedard walked Justin Smoak (free pass number five overall) with one out in the seventh, Houston manager Bo Porter came to the mound to ask if the veteran lefty wanted to stay in the game. With his pitch count at 109, Erik told Porter that he was done. Naturally, reliever Jose Cisnero issued another walk, then a Michael Saunders two-run double. It proved to be Seattle's only hit on the night, and they won 4-2, with Bedard getting hung with the loss.

After the game, Bedard gave an honest, blunt explanation of his decision, as he typically does:

"I've had three shoulder surgeries. I'm not going over 110 (pitches). I'd rather pitch a couple more years than face another batter."

I can see his point, but I wonder how many loudmouths whose livelihood does not depend on the integrity of their left shoulder will hammer him for thinking that way...and especially for having the nerve to admit it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dick Williams, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #486

Last night the Orioles won 3-1, giving Buck Showalter his 250th victory as the team's manager. He had previously won 313 games with the Yankees, an even 250 with the Diamondbacks, and 319 with the Rangers. So now Buck can say that he is one of only four skippers in big league history to win at least 250 games for each of four different teams. The others were Joe Torre, Gene Mauch, and former O's utility player Dick Williams. Torre actually reached 250 wins with five different teams, but that's a record that I'd prefer Showalter not chase. I'd feel better with him chasing several hundred more wins in orange and black, if it's all the same.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Mike Cuellar, 1971 Topps #170

The Orioles have had some great Cuban-born players throughout six decades in Baltimore. There's Mike Cuellar, Rafael Palmeiro, Danys Baez...okay, so there have been two great Cuban-born Orioles. But tomorrow another noteworthy native of the Caribbean island will make his O's debut. Outfielder Henry Urrutia, who batted .365/.427/.531 in a total of 67 games at AA Bowie and AAA Norfolk in the first half, has joined the team in Texas this weekend.

"Hank", as Buck Showalter has already taken to calling him, had an uncommon path to the big leagues. After five seasons with a .350 batting average for Las Tunas of the Cuban League, including a .397/.461/.597 batting line in 2010, he made a failed attempt to defect from the country and was suspended for the 2011 season. Urrutia was able to defect in September 2011, taking refuge in Haiti. The Birds signed him for a $778,500 bonus last July, but he encountered difficulties in obtaining a visa and was not able to make his U. S. pro debut until this past spring. While there's a big difference between the minors and the majors, the Orioles were significantly impressed by the way that Henry was able to shake off two years' worth of rust, especially with the bat. I don't expect him to hit .365 against the David Prices and Justin Verlanders of the world, but he doesn't have to do that to help the O's chase a playoff spot. Buckle up, as they say.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tommy Arko, 2001 Topps #741

Topps spent about a decade and a half featuring the previous season's top draft picks in its flagship set. It was enough of a hit-or-miss proposition when they stuck to first-rounders - the inaugural #1 Draft Pick subset in 1989 included Robin Ventura and Andy Benes, but also had flops like Willie Ansley and Ty Griffin. But the company relaxed its own criteria, and so we have this two-player card with 2000 Orioles' third-rounder Tommy Arko and Cardinals' eighth-rounder Dan Moylan, neither of whom ever reached the major leagues.

Arko was a high school catcher from Abilene, Texas who never hit for average in six seasons in the Baltimore farm system (.204 career AVG), but was willing to take a walk (.304 career OBP). In 2002, he flashed some power, swatting 14 home runs in just 57 games at Rookie-level Bluefield. But he was held homerless in a 22-game stint at Delmarva that season, collecting only eight hits in 63 at-bats (.127).  Tommy never rose above high-A Frederick, totaling 64 games played in three seasons. Early in 2005, he was off to another slow start (.143/.206/.349 in 19 games) when he walked away from baseball at 22. It's almost like baseball is an incredibly difficult game to play or something.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Brad Bergesen, 2010 Topps Heritage #305

"Say", you're asking yourself, "how is Brad Bergesen doing in Japan this year? Funny you should ask! Bergy has appeared in 12 games for the Chunichi Dragons, including 10 starts. He's got a 2-2 record, a 3.75 ERA, and a 1.41 WHIP. In 50.1 innings pitched, he has walked 14 batters and struck out only 19. So...he's not exactly thriving. He's being outperformed by fellow O's exports Daniel Cabrera (4-2, 3.20 ERA, 1.31 WHIP with the Dragons) and Kam Mickolio (2.27 ERA, 15 saves, 1.18 WHIP with the Hiroshima Carp). But I guess it beats pitching in Reno, like he did for a chunk of 2012.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ken Singleton, 1982 Topps #552

Enjoy the All-Star Game, if you're so inclined. Back in the days when you could tell an All-Star by the cyan stars and magenta stripes on his card, Ken Singleton was a three-time participant in the Midsummer Classic for the O's. 1981 was his final All-Star appearance, as the 34-year-old batted .278 and got on base at a .380 clip. In a strike-shortened 103 games, he hit 13 home runs and drove in 49. In what was Ken's only All-Star start, he manned left field and went 2-for-3 with a solo home run. However, the National League notched a 5-4 comeback win thanks to a rare Rollie Fingers blown save. Let's hope the American Leaguers have a better time of it tonight.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Miguel Tejada, 2005 Donruss Studio #38

As I write this post, Chris Davis is on deck in the first round of the 2013 Home Run Derby. He's trying to become the first Oriole to win the slugging exhibition since Miguel Tejada in 2004. (Cal Ripken, Jr. won the 1991 Derby in Toronto, and is the only other Baltimore player to do the honors.) Of course, Miggi had 15 home runs in 85 games at the All-Star Break that year; Davis finished the first half on a four-game dinger streak, giving him a ludicrous total of 37 in 96 team games.

I hope "Crush" realizes the sacrifices that I'm making to root for him this evening. Not only am I recording WWE RAW to watch later, thereby disrupting my customary Monday night routine, but I'm subjecting myself to the bloated excesses and loud nonsense of ESPN's presentation of said Derby. But enough about Chris Berman. A Chris who is actually good at his job is stepping to the plate...after the upcoming commercial break. You're killing me, ESPN.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Brian Matusz, 2011 Bowman #28

Earlier today, I enjoyed one of the perks of being a partial season ticket holder with the Orioles. At 12:45 this afternoon, the team held autograph sessions throughout the ballpark before a 1:30 Q & A with Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette. I chose the autograph station outside of Section 85: Taylor Teagarden, Brian Matusz, and Chris Davis. I'll hold off on showing the Davis card for now, since he's hopefully got a lot of headlines left to make in 2013. Here's the card that Matusz signed for me; I'm sure he'd rather be starting than working out of the bullpen, but he's made the most of his role. He's allowed only 3 of 32 inherited runners to score this year, and has given up 29 hits in 36 innings. As for that signature, we can cut him a little slack; I was near the end of the line, and they were hurrying to ensure that everyone got through.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Frank Robinson, Hank Bauer, and Brooks Robinson, 1967 Topps #1

I look at this card - this wonderful, triumphant card - and can't help taking a flight of fancy. After all, there are a few guys on the 2013 Orioles who compare pretty favorably to the cornerstones of that 1966 World Champion club.

First, there's the slugger. Frank Robinson captured the American League Triple Crown, the Most Valuable Player award, and the World Series MVP to boot. You probably know the numbers by now: .316 AVG, 49 HR, 122 RBI. He also topped the league with 122 hits, a .410 on-base percentage, and a .637 slugging percentage to boot.

Chris Davis isn't really a threat for the Triple Crown, since Miguel Cabrera is a remorseless hitting machine, but he's still leading the world with 35 home runs and a slugging percentage right around .700. He's driven in 88 runs in 93 games, and even with a recent cold streak, he's batting a strong .312. If you're curious, Frank was batting .320 and slugging .613 with 25 homers and 64 RBI through 93 games played in '66.

Hank Bauer paid immediate dividends when the O's hired him as manager prior to the 1964 season. He took a talented but inexperienced team and led them to 97 and 94 wins in his first two seasons on the job. But life was tough in the top-heavy American League, and the Birds finished in third each year. 97 W's did the trick in year number three, and before you could say "sweep", the Orioles had dispatched Koufax, Drysdale, and the Dodgers in a four-game World Series.

When Buck Showalter accepted the O's managerial position in August 2010, the team's immediate hope was to stop the bleeding. At 32-73, they hadn't even won a third of their first 105 games. Buck seemed to provide an instant shot in the arm, as the Orioles went 34-23 down the stretch to avoid the near-inevitable 100-loss mark. They weren't able to carry that momentum into the 2011 season, as injuries and inconsistent pitching left the team mired in last place at 69-93. The Birds flipped the script in 2012, winning 93 games and eking out a postseason berth. They were bounced in the Division Series, losing an agonizing 3-1 elimination game to the Yankees, but for the first time in ages, there seemed to be a strong foundation for optimism. Now, it's the third full season under Buck, and the O's are right in the thick of another American League East dogfight. At 52-42, they're two games ahead of last year's pace, yet they're stuck in third place, five games behind the resurgent Red Sox and a game back of the pesky Rays. Will they match 2012's torrid second half stretch run and return to the postseason, taking a shot at Baltimore's first World Series in three decades? Time will tell.

Brooks Robinson was the homegrown star, a solid hitter with some pop in his bat and an otherworldly defensive presence at third base. He'd already won the A. L. MVP in 1964, but he gladly settled in as a complimentary piece to that other Robinson. He batted .269 with 35 doubles, 23 home runs, and 100 RBI, captured his seventh straight Gold Glove at the hot corner, and was even named All-Star Game MVP for his three hits in a losing effort.

This is where the comparison falters a bit. Manny Machado just celebrated his 21st birthday, so it's not altogether fair to hold him up against a Hall of Famer who collected 2,848 hits and 16 Gold Gloves and inspired an entire generation of Baltimoreans to name their kids "Brooks". But Robinson didn't bat over .300 at 21, as Manny has through the first 94 games of 2013. And Brooks never hit 39 doubles in a full season, much less a bit over half of one. And as for amazing defense, plays like this help the imagination to run wild:

Some enterprising person already compiled an animated image juxtaposing Manny's incredible throw with the one made by Brooksie to retire Lee May in the 1970 World Series.

There's a lot of baseball yet to be played, and the odds don't especially favor the O's in a charge to and through the postseason, but it doesn't sound as insane as it did even a year ago. That's all I could ever ask for.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ramon Hernandez, 2006 Upper Deck SP Authentic #3

It may just be the end of the line for sluggish ex-Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez. Razor Ramon played in just 52 games for the Rockies last year, batting .217 with a .247 on-base percentage and a .353 slugging percentage. He opened 2013 as the backup to A. J. Ellis with the Dodgers, but was released last month after hitting .208/.291/.438 in 17 games. Hernandez signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays on June 29, but was released ten days later. He had managed just two singles in 19 at-bats with Toronto's AAA affiliate in Buffalo. At 37 years of age, it's hard to imagine him getting many other opportunities. If he really is done, he can be proud of a 15-year major league career that included 25 games of postseason experience.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sam Horn, 1992 Fleer Ultra #6

Last weekend, longtime Orioles Card O' the Day reader and commenter William sent me an email to say that he had just shipped a long-promised "Orioles care package", and that it would be arriving Monday. True to his word, a 12"x10"x8" box was waiting for me when I got home that day. The only thing that I knew about this mysterious package was that William had been on the hunt at thrift stores in his neck of the woods and had found some O's-related items that he thought I'd appreciate. With great amusement and a little trepidation, I tore open the box.

Right on top was the package's lone non-Oriole piece: a Ravens flag football jersey that is so garish, it's wonderful. There was a 1996 Starting Lineup figure of Cal Ripken, Jr. sliding into second base. If you grew up with Starting Lineup toys as I did, you will be relieved to hear that the figure does not really bear a strong resemblance to Junior. There was a Miguel Tejada bobblehead, but his arms broke off in transit. Rafael Palmeiro's bobblehead arrived completely intact. There were replica batting helmets from both the 1980s (tri-color cartoon bird) and 1990s (the original ornithologically-correct bird), a miniature glove with a silver "O's" logo in the pocket, and an Orioles baseball card album with 40 pockets (helpfully filled with an assortment of cards, mostly 1995 Collector's Choice). Last and certainly not least was a baseball autographed by Sam Horn.

I already thanked William in an email, but here's a public thanks as well. He said he considered it a "subscription fee" for the blog. I certainly don't expect anything in return for writing this thing every day, but I'll never turn down free stuff.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cal Ripken, Jr., 2000 Topps Gallery #75

On this date in 1996, Cal Ripken had one of his nearest - and goofiest - brushes with disaster in the midst of his record-setting streak of 2,632 consecutive games played. The setting was Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium for the 67th All-Star Game. The American Leaguers were leaving the field after a team photo. White Sox closer Roberto Hernandez slipped on an unsteady platform and flung his arms out in an attempt to steady himself. In the process, innocent bystander Cal was bashed flush on the nose by Hernandez's forearm. The Iron Man suffered a bloodied and broken nose, but had it set and plugged with cotton and didn't even miss batting practice. Ripken demonstrated a self-deprecating sense of humor, telling reporters that his proboscis "was never straight...But it's straighter than it was half an hour ago." He played into the seventh inning in that night's Midsummer Classic but went 0-for-3 as the National League won 6-0. Let that be a lesson for us all: beware of flying forearms.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Tony Batista, 2002 MLB Showdown #002

This is just your periodic reminder that we've come a long way since Tony Batista, Token Oriole All-Star.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Adam Jones, 2012 Topps Heritage Black Bordered #HP45

Mariano Rivera has allowed just 67 home runs in 1,253 innings pitched in his Hall of Fame-caliber career. He had not been taken deep in New York since August 2011, and had not blown a save at home since September 2010. Those were the odds Adam Jones was facing when he took an off-target Rivera cutter out to left field in Yankee Stadium this afternoon, turning a likely 1-0 loss into a thrilling 2-1 victory. I'll remember that one for a long time.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Eddie Murray, 2011 Topps Diamond #651

There might be a few people out there who haven't quite grasped the extraordinary nature of Chris Davis' 2013 season to date. Maybe this will put it in perspective: today, Chris hit a two-run homer in the Orioles' 5-4 loss to the Yankees. (Boooo.) He now has 33 home runs and 85 RBI in 87 games played, matching his full-season totals from 2012. Last year, it took him 139 games to reach those marks. Eddie Murray (pictured above, having hit a baseball so hard that the universe exploded into tiny crystalline fragments around him) had a career high of 33 home runs in his legendary 21-year career. So it's only logical that "Crush" Davis was this year's leading vote-getter among all major leaguers for the All-Star Game: 8,272,243 votes were cast for the O's first baseman. Contrary to popular belief, I only cast about 130 of those votes.

There is plenty of other good news regarding Baltimore's representation in the Midsummer Classic. Adam Jones will make his first start in his third overall All-Star appearance, and J. J. Hardy's strong defense and 15 home runs assured him of his second All-Star Game (also his first as a starter) in a Jeterless American League landscape. This is the first time since 2005 that the O's have had any All-Star starters via fan vote, and the first time since 1997 that the Birds have had three starters. Back then, it was Brady Anderson, Roberto Alomar, and Cal Ripken, Jr. earning fan favor.

A fourth Oriole will represent the American League as a reserve, as Manny Machado celebrates his 21st birthday today by earning a slot backing up starting third baseman Miguel Cabrera. Young Manny is batting .315 with a major league-leading 39 doubles, but has the misfortune of sharing his position with the reigning A.L. Triple Crown winner and MVP. Machado does allow the O's to send four players to the All-Star Game for the first time since 2005, when Melvin Mora, Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada, and B. J. Ryan all went to Detroit in early July.

There are a pair of disappointing absences, for different reasons. Nick Markakis fell about 200,000 votes short of Jose Bautista for the third and final starting outfield slot, so he's now in his eighth big league season without All-Star recognition. (Nate McLouth surged to fifth in the final vote, so it would seem that Baltimore fans were highly motivated this year.) Jim Johnson won't be going to Citi Field either, and with good reason: he blew his league-high sixth save last night after letting only three opportunities slip out of his hands in 2012. He's already walked one more batter than he did last year, and his earned run average is north of 4.00. If he were on his game throughout the first half of this season, the O's probably wouldn't be looking up at Boston and New York in the division standings. Thankfully, it's a long season, and there are still 74 games left to be played.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Ron Hansen, 1963 Topps #88

That's the original Yankee Stadium behind Ron Hansen. More accurately, Hansen is standing in Yankee Stadium. The House That Ruth Built was not an easy place to play, but the mega-million-dollar tribute to capitalism that replaced it in 2009 hasn't had that same intimidating atmosphere. Maybe it has something to do with the common fans being priced out of seats, or maybe they're still there but they're being muffled by the concrete moat that separates them from the field-level seats. At any rate, the Orioles have had a fair share of success there in the past few seasons. Tonight, it's been another edge-of-the-seat battle. 2-1 O's after six innings. I'd like to see the Baltimore bats snap back to life after a lethargic series in Chicago, but then people in hell would like ice water, as my grandmother used to say.   Rally caps on, everybody.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Eric Bell, 1988 Fleer #555

Hooray for the red, white, and blue! And Eric "Liberty" Bell! And completely mailing it in for a holiday-themed blog post! Drink some beer, eat some burgers, watch some things explode, but be safe.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Jimmy Key, 1998 Fleer Tradition #230

With my various maladies over the past month, it seems like I've been to Target to pick up a prescription twice per week. I was there again on Monday to get a refill of allergy meds, and I gave in to temptation and bought a four-dollar Fairfield repack. It's almost defensible when you consider that one of the cards displayed in the front of the package was a black-bordered parallel Adam Jones from last year's Topps Heritage. Sure, there was the usual melange of junk wax, mostly 1986-1989 Topps that will be added to the mountain in my spare room closet. But there were a few other curios that helped me to justify the expenditure, including a 1999 Topps Finest Dmitri Young, a 1999 Skybox Premium Fred McGriff (in Devil Rays gear!), a 1986 Sportflics Brian Downing, and of course this Jimmy Key card, which is new to my collection. I'm a sap when it comes to unconventional card photos, and you don't see guys charting pitches on cardboard very often. At least I assume that's what the veteran lefty is doing. He could be trying to beat Mike Mussina at the New York Times crossword puzzle, or writing a letter to his ma. Anyway, between this card and the black-bordered Jonesy I got two more O's than I probably would have if I'd spent my money on a retail pack of 2013 Topps product. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Jake Arrieta, 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen #267

Just because Andy MacPhail's no longer in charge of the Orioles' personnel decisions, that doesn't mean that the Birds can't make deals with the Cubs. Today current GM Dan Duquette kicked off trading season by sending two of the O's problem children to the North Side of Chicago in exchange for an upgrade to the starting rotation. Adios to Pedro Strop. See ya later, Jake Arrieta. Better luck finding the strike zone and getting your heads screwed on straight over in the National League Central.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to have gotten anyone of potential value for Messrs. S. and A. Scott Feldman doesn't have a long track record of success, but he's a ground ball pitcher coming to a team with an excellent pair of left-side infielders. He'll damn sure be an upgrade over the likes of Freddy Garcia, and if he can do a bit of what Joe Saunders did for the Orioles in 2012, it could be the difference between another postseason berth and a long, lonely October on the sidelines.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Brian Roberts, 2006 Fleer #232

Hey everybody, Brian Roberts is back from the disabled list!

...Yes, again. I must sound like a record that has been smashed to bits (broken doesn't begin to cover it), but I hope and wish and plead for the angels of fate to leave the Orioles' erstwhile All-Star alone for a good long while. Let him be. Bring no harm to his hamstrings, cranium, vertebrae, abdominal and oblique muscles, elbows, hips, groin, or any other part of his so-recently brittle body.

Last night finally marked Brian's return from his latest DL stint, as he'd missed 79 games due to a hamstring tear that required surgery. Easing back into the lineup in the number nine hole and serving as the designated hitter, the 35-year-old struck out, singled, and hit a sacrifice fly for the Birds' crucial fourth run in a 4-2 win over the Yankees. In his first game at Camden Yards in a full calendar year, Roberts contributed to a sweep-clinching victory and basked in a loud ovation from the fans who have pulled for him since his rookie year of 2001.

The trusty cliche of "taking one game at a time" never seemed as apt as it does for Brian Roberts. One game in the books. Can he make it through a full series in Chicago? A full road trip, which also passes through New York? Will he last until the All-Star Break? Through July? Through the end of the season, and maybe even the postseason?

Any day that ends with Brian Roberts still standing and in playing health is an important one.