About this blog:

About This Blog:
I'm Denim. I cover all things sports, in particular Baseball, Football, College Football, & Hockey, especially the Baltimore Orioles, Penn State Nittany Lions, NY Giants, Colorado Avalanche, & Vancouver Canucks.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

US World Cup Recap

The USMNT's defense was total crap all tournament. They need better defenders with more defined roles.

Tim Howard made many impressive saves, but he shouldn't have had to face so many shots, often left all alone, facing pointblank attackers. It's unfortunate for this team that Howard is nearing the end of his career.

On the offensive attack, they always stopped and passed around trying to set up a play, rather than taking shots, giving the opposing defense and goalie too much time to set up. It seemed like no one knew what to do, or who should shoot.

Losing Jozy Altidore messed up their offensive game plan, simply because they didn't bring anyone else who plays his position in the same way. That also forced Clint Dempsey to play out of position, which took away some effectiveness from their best player. His pure talent is what allowed him to score the goals he did.

I congratulate U.S. Soccer on their success, and making it to the Knockout Round, but this team had the talent and potential to make it further. Yes, we must look forward to the future, but it's time for US Soccer to take another step forward. And unfortunately, they are entering a rebuilding stage, due to the ages of many of their key players. Hopefully the next Tim Howard, Landon Donovan, and Clint Dempsey will come along in the next 4 years.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Santana for Closer? (and other Orioles notes)

In order to compete with the elite teams in MLB, you need a consistent closer. If Tommy "Heartburn" Hunter continues to struggle, I think the Baltimore Orioles should give Johan Santana a chance in that role when he is ready in June. It'd be a way to maximize his potential to reach his former skill level, while safely limiting him to only one inning every few days.

Hunter has only 2 blown saves, and fortunately the O's came back to win both of those games, but it hasn't been pretty. He hasn't had a 1-2-3 inning yet, always allowing several baserunners before shutting the door. This is nothing new for Hunter. He deserved a shot in the role, but he isn't a stable enough pitcher to stay in it.

Baltimore Orioles 1B Chris Davis is back and starting in today's lineup. Unfortunately, C Matt Wieters was put on the DL. The Orioles are in 1st place in the AL East, even though haven't had all of their positional starters in the lineup at the same time for even 1 game yet. 

©2014 Denim McDemus

Friday, May 9, 2014

Contraction, It’s Not Just For Pregnancy Anymore

A lot of Major League Baseball fans complain about this season’s Interleague Play setup. Instead of having a set time period when all teams play someone from the other league, and teams playing all of their interleague games in a row, now there is an interleague series going on at all times. This is due to the fact that since the Houston Astros were moved to the American League so that the leagues would have the same amount of teams, each league has had an odd number of teams (15), so someone has to play interleague at all times.

I personally have no problem with ongoing interleague play. It allows for novel matchups on a daily basis, and a variety of teams to watch oppose your favorite team.

While I agree that both leagues should have the same number of teams, I also think they should have an even number of teams. This could be resolved by contracting two teams, one from each league, leaving each with 14 teams, while weeding out teams with poor attendance and low-spending owners. This idea was proposed by Major League Baseball several years ago, and probably should have been done. The league wanted to contract the Florida Marlins and the Minnesota Twins, but I only agree with half of that plan.

First off, the Florida Marlins must go. I don’t think too many people will disagree with that. Their ownership has a history of disappointing their small fan base. They almost always underspend, fielding what amounts to a minor league team, while charging Major League ticket prices. The few times the team has succeeded were ALWAYS followed by a fire sale unloading of their talent. The local fan base doesn’t care, ownership doesn’t care, so why should the team even exist? It shouldn’t. Let’s be honest, a summer sport like Major League Baseball will never succeed in Florida, there are just too many other things to do, which brings me to my next point.

No matter how many exciting young players they bring in, no matter how well the team plays, no matter how many AL East Titles or World Series Championships they win, the Tampa Bay Rays still struggle to fill their stadium. It’s time to face the facts, the MLB and Florida are not a good mix. If the always-exciting Rays can’t draw fans, no Florida team will. That being said, there is no way the league would or should contract the Tampa Bay Rays. It’s certainly not the fault of the team or ownership that the seats are empty.

My solution? Move the team. Considering growing television markets and rising population, combined with the league’s oversaturation in the East, everything points towards moving the Rays out West. MLB has been salivating over the Las Vegas Market for a while now. I’m not completely convinced their transient population can sustain a Major League team, but that seems to be the most likely destination for any new or relocated team. Hopefully the tourist population will fill the seats well enough. The Rays certainly have a better chance of drawing fans in Vegas than anywhere in Florida.

That leaves the question of which 2nd team to contract. I say no to the Minnesota Twins. They are a major presence in the Midwest, in one of the most important markets in the region. They have a better track record of spending and on the field success than several other teams. Contracting the Twins is not the answer. So who?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Toronto Blue Jays. Canadians will never fully support baseball, and the Jays don't draw crowds now that the novelty of the new stadium is gone. Plus they are the only current MLB team outside of the US, causing the need for passports, work visas, international flights, etc. Ownership has gone out of their way to spend money on the stadium and big name players, but there just isn’t a large enough interest in the sport of baseball in Canada. How did the Expos fare? Sure, the franchise could be relocated like the Rays, but then we’d have to pick another AL team to contract. This is an easy way to cut each league down to an even 14 teams, while confining the league to the continental US. 
How would I reorder the remaining teams? Move the Rays from Tampa Bay to Las Vegas, and put them in the AL West. Move the Houston Astros to the AL Central. Move the Cleveland Indians to the AL East. The AL West goes back to having 4 teams (or leave Houston in the West and leave the Central with 4 teams).

The National League East could be left with 4 teams. If the league prefers for the East to have 5, move the Pittsburg Pirates to the East, setting up an intrastate rivalry with the Philadelphia Phillies. I’d leave the NL Central with 4 teams, as the East and West are somewhat more important markets for the league. The Midwest Region can just be happy they didn’t lose the Twins.
So, for what it’s worth, this is my proposed solution on how to get each league down to an even number of teams, while having the same amount of teams in both.   

©2014 Denim McDemus

Thursday, May 1, 2014

NHL 2nd Round Picks

Here are my picks for round 2 of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens
Despite the Habs sweeping The Tampa Bay Lightning, I think Boston goalie and likely Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask will play up to form, and take the Bruins over the top. (Bruins in 6)

Pittsburg Penguins vs. NY Rangers
The Rangers are my sleeper pick in this year’s playoffs. They have been playing great hockey since late in the regular season. They are better than the Columbus Bluejackets, who wore the overconfident Penguins out. (Rangers in 6)

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild
The upstart Minnesota Wild pulled off a 1st round upset over a young and inexperienced Colorado Avalanche team. Every game was close, and most went to OT. The Chicago Blackhawks, on the other hand, are the defending Stanley Cup Champs, and are filled to the brim with playoff experience and talent. Chicago isn’t the best team in this year’s playoffs, but they should be able to win this series. (Blackhawks in 7)

Anaheim Ducks vs. LA Kings
The LA Kings are red hot right now, coming back from a 3 game deficit to win 4 straight, and I don’t see the overrated Anaheim Ducks stopping their momentum any better than the San Jose Sharks did. (Kings in 4)

©2014 Denim McDemus

"You did what?!"

The Baltimore Orioles made YET ANOTHER terrible roster move. To make room for returning 3B Manny Machado, they sent 2B Steve Lombardozzi, batting .292, down to AAA Norfolk, instead of Ryan Flaherty (.188), David Lough (.172), Steve Pearce (.143), or recent call up Jemile Weeks.

In my opinion, Lombardozzi has earned the starting 2B job, or at least a right to share time with Jonathan Schoop.

Why does Orioles manager Buck Showalter persist on keeping Flaherty and Pearce around for year after year of mediocrity, while blocking deserving players from the roster? The team as a whole has to be more important than any individual player. This team will never succeed with Flaherty and Lough being automatic outs every time through the lineup. The O's always use the excuse that Flaherty is "versatile" on defense. Sure he'll play any position, but he plays them all poorly.

This is not the roster move of a team that wants to "win now". Stop digging the team into a hole, just to give repeated chances to players who will never be more than they are. Schoop deserves to be in the Majors. Lombardozzi belongs in the Majors. Flaherty, Pearce, and Weeks never will. Lough isn't ready yet.

Apparently I care more about the Orioles success than their management and front office do...

©2014 Denim McDemus

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

NHL Playoffs 1st Round Predictions

Are you ready hockey fans? The 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs start tonight with 3 games on CNBC and NBCS. Here are my predictions on the first round:

Eastern Conference:
Boston (54-19-9) vs. Detroit (39-28-15) (Season series: 3-1 Detroit)
My prediction: Bold pick of the round- Detroit Red Wings in an upset in 6

Tampa Bay (46-27-9) vs. Montreal (46-28-8) (Season series: 3-0-1 Tampa)
My prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning in 7

Pittsburg (51-24-7) vs. Columbus (43-32-7) (Season series: 5-0 Pittsburg)
My prediction: Pittsburg Penguins in 5

NY Rangers (45-31-6) vs. Philadelphia (42-30-10) (Season series: Tied 2-2)
My prediction: NY Rangers in 7 (it’s going to be very close series)

Western Conference:
Anaheim (54-20-8) vs. Dallas (40-31-11) (Season series: 2-1 Dallas)
My prediction: Dallas Stars in an upset in 7

San Jose (51-22-9) vs. Los Angeles (46-28-8) (Season series: 3-1-1 LA)
My prediction: San Jose Sharks in 7

Colorado (52-22-8) vs. Minnesota (43-27-12) (Season series: 4-0-1 Colorado)
My prediction: Colorado Avalanche in 5

St. Louis (52-23-7) vs. Chicago (46-21-15) (Season series: 3-2 St. Louis)
My prediction: St. Louis Blues in 7 (but could go either way)

The excitement is about to start, so buckle up hockey fans, start growing your playoff beards (even the ladies), and cancel all of your plans for the next few weeks.
Will your favorite team hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup? We’ll know soon enough, but only after a ton of checks, goals, saves, and game 7 overtimes. Enjoy the ride!

©2014 Denim McDemus

Friday, April 11, 2014

NHL Notes 4/11/14

The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 to climb to 52 wins and 111 points, to tie the St. Louis Blues for 1st place in the NHL's Central Division, and 1 point behind Anaheim for best record in the conference. The Avs have the tiebreaker over St. Louis, so they are technically in 1st place.

Colorado tied their franchise record for wins. Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov broke the franchise single-season record with his League-leading 41st win, surpassing the mark set by current head coach Patrick Roy.

After losing again tonight, the Philadelphia Flyers are in danger of falling down to the last wildcard spot, as Detroit and Columbus also now have 91 points. There will be a lot of unhappy people around here if the Flyers have to play the conference leading Boston Bruins in the first round... (not me, but a lot of people)

©2014 Denim McDemus

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

4/8/14 Sports Notes

The Baltimore Orioles hammered the New York Yankees 14-5. The O’s outhit the Yanks 20-13. Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (1-4, 3RBI) had one hit, a 2-run homer. Every other Orioles starter had at least 2 hits: Markakis (2-5, 1RBI), Young (3-6, 3RBI), Davis (2-3, 2RBI), Jones (2-4, 2RBI), Cruz (2-4, 1RBI), Lombardozzi (3-5, 1RBI), Flaherty (3-5), Schoop (2-5, 1RBI). Every Orioles starter scored at least once. Every Orioles starter had at least one RBI except Flaherty. Doubles by Schoop, Jones, Flaherty, and Cruz. Homers by Jones, Young, and Wieters. The bottom 3 of the Orioles lineup, which had been struggling, went a combined 8-15, 2RBI, 4R.  
Wei-Yin Chen gave up 9 hits and 4 earned runs in 5 innings, but still recorded his first win of the season (1-1), and struck out 3. Josh Stinson went 2.1 innings (1H, 1W, 3K). Brian Matusz gave up 2 hits, including a solo home run to Kelly Johnson. Darren O’Day gave up 1 hit and stuck out 1 in a scoreless 9th.
Today’s game combined the 2 best things in baseball, an Orioles win and a Yankees loss.  

Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said a player will be going on the DL tomorrow and replaced by someone from AAA Norfolk, but would say who, other than it not being SS J.J. Hardy, who has been inactive with back spasms. I’m wondering if maybe it’s Chen, who hasn’t looked right at all, being replaced by Gausman or another starter?     

After being eliminated from the NHL playoffs, the Vancouver Canucks fired President/GM Mike Gillis. Rumor has it that former team captain Trevor Linden, one of my favorite players of all time, may be his replacement.

The Reading Royals of the ECHL were sold to local businessman Jack Gulati, who said he will keep the team in Reading, PA.

Update: The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 to climb to 109 points, only 2 behind the St. Louis Blues, who lost tonight, for 1st place in the NHL Central Division, with 3 games left in the regular season. Avs goals: Paul Stastny, Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Jamie McGinn. The Avs also set a franchise record for most road wins. Nice game in goal by J. S. Giguere. 

©2014 Denim McDemus

Monday, April 7, 2014

Orioles Notes 4/7/14

The Baltimore Orioles made a nice minor league trade, landing closer Preston Guilmet for OF Torsten Boss. 26 year-old Guilmet has had success in the minors since being converted to a closer:
2010 (A): 2.25ERA, 11Sv
2011 (A) 2.16ERA, 35Sv
2012 (AA): 2.39ERA, 24Sv
2013 (AAA): 1.68ERA, 20Sv  
The Orioles expect him to contribute at the Major League level at some point this season.

The Orioles spent HOW MUCH on starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez? I hate to say I told you so, but...one good HALF season doesn't change a bad pitcher into a good one. He did have a good season back in 2010 too, but he’s also had seasons with 12, 12, 13, and 17 losses.  So far this season, Jimenez has given up 8 runs in 10 2/3 innings.
Where's Ervin Santana when you need him? 

Ervin Santana makes his season debut for the Braves on Wednesday against the Mets by the way.

If you're disappointed with the Orioles offense so far this season, keep in mind, they are missing Manny Machado and JJ Hardy, so it will get better. And once those two INF return, there will be a competition for 2B, which will hopefully push Flaherty, Lombardozzi, or Schoop to step it up.

With the Orioles bullpen being overused so far this season, why has Darren O'Day only been given 2 innings? He's one of their best relievers.

©2014 Denim McDemus

Sunday, April 6, 2014

4/5/14 Sports Notes

The Baltimore Orioles rallied in the 9th, but still lost to the Tigers 7-6 to fall to 1-4 on the season. They haven't won since opening day.

The Colorado Avalanche beat the 1st place St. Louis Blues 4-0 to reach 50 wins.

The LA Kings lead the Vancouver Canucks 1-0 after 2.

Clint Dempsey scored his first MLS hat trick to help the Seattle Sounders come back to tie the Portland Timbers less than 72 hours after playing for Team USA vs. Mexico.

©2014 Denim McDemus

Friday, April 4, 2014

0-For Flaherty is a Cancer to the Orioles

Baltimore Orioles INF Ryan "0-For" Flaherty is now 0-15 with 7 strikeouts in 4 2014 starts. His overrated defense has been hit or miss.

This is nothing new. He was terrible the past 2 seasons. He is a career .213 hitter. He is not a major league caliber player, and never will be.

So why does the club insist on keeping him around year after year, hogging a roster spot from more deserving players? Why did they trade away Alex Gonzalez to keep Flaherty? Why is Flaherty slated to take over 2B when Manny Machado comes back, taking the spot away from Jonathan Schoop, the Orioles top position player prospect? Why does manager Buck Showalter insist on constantly giving Flaherty starts, ensuring an automatic out in the lineup for the 3rd season in a row?

The worst thing is, Ryan Flaherty seems to not be bothered by his lack of production. He comes off as way too laid back and uncompetitive, often even smiling after each guaranteed strikeout.

Sometimes, it seems as though his "I don't care" attitude seems to rub off on his teammates. It did last season, when the team seemed to lose their "refuse to lose" 2012 mentality, in favor of an "oh well, we lost today" approach. This season, the mentality seems similar.

The Baltimore Orioles still have not been able to sign stars JJ Hardy, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis to extension, and may not be able to keep any of them. They need to be in "win now" mode. That is why they went out and signed several free agents in February. Keeping a laid back, underachieving player like Ryan Flaherty around is not going to achieve that goal. Giving at bats to a guy who is almost always a guaranteed out is not the way to achieve that goal.

Yes, the Orioles are only 4 games into the 2014 MLB season, but they are also 1-3 in the toughest division in baseball. It's not panic time yet. Yes, Ryan Flaherty has only had 15 at bats so far this season, but this is his third season with the Orioles (previously hitting .216 and .224). We know what he can and more importantly can't do.

I know a lot of people who are nice guys, but I wouldn't let them start in a Major League Baseball game for a team claiming to be contending for the post season.

©2014 Denim McDemus

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Orioles Notes 4/3/12

Last night was a poor Orioles debut for Ubaldo Jimenez (5H, 4R), Ryan Webb (3H, 2R), and David Lough (0-4). That being said, it was only the 2nd game of a 162 game season, and was against the defending World Series champs.

Nice start for Orioles FA OF/DH Nelson Cruz: 2HR, 3R, 3RBI. He has basically provided all of the O's offense so far. Take that, people who wanted them to sign Morales instead!

I know it's early, but let's compare stats. Ryan Flaherty: 0-7, 2Ks (nothing new there…). Alex Gonzalez: 3-8, 1 Triple, 2RBI (1 game winner). Who would you have kept as Manny Machado's placeholder?

©2014 Denim McDemus

Monday, March 31, 2014

Pre-Season MLB Picks

American League:
AL East
Tampa Bay
Baltimore (WC)
New York

AL Central
Kansas City (WC)

AL West
Los Angeles

National League:
NL East
Atlanta (WC)
New York

NL Central
St. Louis

NL West
Los Angeles
Arizona (WC)
San Francisco
San Diego

World Series Pick:
Tampa Bay over St. Louis

AL- Chris Davis
NL- Paul Goldschmidt

Cy Youngs:
AL- Max Scherzer

NL- Stephen Strasburg

©2014 Denim McDemus

Opening Day is here!

There is no better feeling for a baseball fan than Opening Day. Every team is undefeated. Every team has chance. Every player has a shot at a great year. All the waiting and transaction watching is over, and the games that count are about to begin. Enjoy it, America, this is your national pastime.

The Baltimore Orioles open up at home against division rival and defending World Series champs the Boston Red Sox at 3:05pm ET. 

As expected, the Orioles have named Tommy Hunter as their closer. Josh Stinson will be the primary long man. Chris Tillman will make the Opening Day start vs. Boston's Jon Lester. Orioles top position prospect Jonathan Schoop will get the start at 2B. 

Today's Orioles' lineup depends on whether or not RF Nick Markakis plays (neck spasms). The decision will be made based on how he feels during batting practice. The batting order will depend on Markakis' status, but the lineup positionally will be:

1B Chris Davis
2B Jonathan Schoop
3B Ryan Flaherty
SS JJ Hardy
C Matt Wieters
LF Nelson Cruz
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
DH Delmon Young

If Markakis can't play, David Lough will start in RF.  

Boston's lineup: Nava RF, Pedroia 2B, Ortiz DH, Napoli 1B, Carp LF, Sizemore CF, Bogaerts SS, Pierzynski C, Middlebrooks 3B.

I'm anxious to hear the umpire yell, "Play Ball!" I'm ready for regular season baseball. Are you?

Update: Orioles RF Nick Markakis will play in today's game and bat leadoff followed by Hardy, Jones, Davis, Cruz, Wieters, Young, Flaherty, Schoop.

©2014 Denim McDemus

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sports Notes 3/29/14

Baltimore Orioles top position player prospect 2B Jonathan Schoop made the Opening Day roster over Jemile Weeks. He certainly earned it.

Evan Meek also received a well-deserved bullpen spot.

Steve Pearce and Delmon Young won the Bench OF/DH spots as expected.

Catcher Matt Wieters homered in the Orioles 4-3 exhibition game against their AAA team, the Norfolk Tides. 

The Colorado Avalanche clinched a playoff spot for the first time in 4 years with their win over the San Jose Sharks. Semyon Varlamov had a season-high 47 saves. Colorado's goals were scored by Paul Stastny, Cody McLeod, and John Mitchell.

©2014 Denim McDemus

Friday, March 28, 2014

Avs vs. Canucks

My two favorite hockey teams played each other tonight, the Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks. I wasn't sure who to root for, so I guess it's fitting that they were tied 2-2 at the end of regulation time.

The Avs needed the points. They went into the game being 3 points behind the Chicago Blackhaws for the NHL's Western Conference 4th seed and home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Chicago had already lost to the Eastern Conference #1 seed Boston, so Colorado really needed to come away with 2 points.

The Canucks needed the points too. Vancouver is still holding out hope for clinching a playoff spot, coming into the game in 10th place in the West with 78 points (8th seed Phoenix has 84).

It was tied 1-1 after the 1st period, on goals by Vancouver's Yannick Webber (PP) and Colorado's Matt Duchene. After 2 periods, the game was tied 2-2, after goals by Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog and Vancouver's Zack Kassian. The 3rd period was scoreless, taking the game to overtime.

Colorado's Tyson Barrie scored the game winner 55 seconds into overtime, to give the Avs the win and 2 points. Vancouver gained 1 point for the OT loss. The Avalanche improved to 13-6 in OT. Vancouver fell to 11-11.

The game was close all the way through. Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov saved 29 of 31. Vancouver's Eddie Lack saved 25 of 28.

With the win, the Avs have 98 points, only one behind Chicago. The Canucks are now tied with the Dallas Stars for 9th place in the Western Conference with 79 points, 5 points out of the final playoff spot.

©2014 Denim McDemus

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Orioles/MLB Notes 3/27/14

Orioles LF/DH Nelson Cruz was hit in the head with a pitch by Tampa's Alex Cobb near his left ear. His CT scan came back fine, and he doesn't have any concussion symptoms.

RHP Alfredo Aceves decided to take his opt-out clause after finding out he won't be making the Orioles roster.

Sports Illustrated's Joe Sheehan doesn't seem to think very highly of the Baltimore Orioles. I can't wait to laugh at him when they prove him wrong this season.

Sports Illustrated’s American League team by team scouting report only has 1 advertisement in the whole section, right before the last team listed, the Houston Astros. Was this to symbolize the talent gap between the rest of the league and the Stros, or did they almost forget Houston is in the AL now?

Orioles 25 Man Roster?

After their recent moves, the Baltimore Orioles have 36 players left in Major League camp. They have until Sunday to weed it down to the 25 who will be on the Opening Day roster.

Here’s how the roster seems to be shaking out:

Starting Lineup:
1B Chris Davis
2B Steve Lombardozzi
SS J.J. Hardy
3B Ryan Flaherty (while Manny Machado is on the DL)
C Matt Wieters
LF David Lough/Nelson Cruz
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
DH Nelson Cruz/Delmon Young

C Steve Clevenger
OF/1B Steve Pearce
INF/PR Jemile Weeks

Starting Rotation:
RHP Chris Tillman
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
LHP Wei-Yin Chen
RHP Miguel Gonzalez
RHP Bud Norris

RHP Tommy Hunter (Closer)
RHP Darren O’Day
LHP Brian Matusz
RHP Ryan Webb
LHP Zach Britton
RHP Josh Stinson
RHP Evan Meek
(LHP Troy Patton is suspended for 25 games)

When Manny Machado returns from the DL and a possible rehab assignment, he’ll take over at 3B, which means either Flaherty, Weeks, or Lombardozzi will be headed to AAA Norfolk. Weeks would probably be the odd man out, although he has value as a pinch runner, so it may be Flaherty, although he is a favorite with management. All three are just placeholders for youngsters Machado and Jonathan Schoop.

Top position player prospect, 2B Jonathan Schoop, will most likely start the season in AAA Norfolk to gain more seasoning, despite having a terrific spring. Spring Training stats are what they are, facing pitchers who may not even see the major leagues. Regardless, Schoop definitely needs to work on his defensive decisions. He won’t be used as a utility INF, because he needs at bats, and those are at Norfolk right now. Look for Schoop to show up in Baltimore by midseason at the latest.

Lefty Troy Patton is suspended for the first 25 games of the season for violating the league’s banned substances policy. He will most likely need some game action in the minors before being up to speed. Then the Orioles will have another roster decision to make, deciding if they have a spot for him, since fellow lefty Zach Britton is out of options and had a nice spring.

Expect to see pitchers Brock Huntzinger, Eddie Gamboa, Steve Johnson, Brad Brach, and Kelvin De La Cruz, C Johnny Monell and OF Henry Urrutia at some point in the season.

The Orioles will take time to see what South Korean RHP Suk-min Yoon brings to the table, as he starts off the season at AAA Norfolk, after being delayed in Spring Training by visa issues. He could be used as a starter or reliever, but is coming off of a bad year pitching in relief, after an injury kept him from starting. His contract stipulates that he cannot be sent to the minors after the first year, so this is the window for sorting it all out. He was a bargain though, so it’s a low-risk situation for Baltimore.

The O’s are also eagerly waiting to see if two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana has anything left in the tank once he’s at full-strength.

All in all, I think it’s a pretty solid team, especially when Jonathan Schoop takes over 2B at some point in the season, and 3B Manny Machado gets back to full health.

©2014 Denim McDemus

Orioles Roster Moves and Possible Trickery

Baltimore Orioles OF Nolan Reimold will start the season in his usual spot, on the DL. Honestly, why is this guy still employed? He plays even less often than walking wounded Brian Roberts.
Reimold is still being bothered by his neck, which he's had 2 surgeries to repair, which kept him out most of the past 2 seasons. He last played on July 13, 2013.
Reimold has been a problem child for the Orioles, showing flashes of power, but never fully reaching his potential, while struggling to stay healthy. This is likely his last chance with the club, as he is out of options, meaning he would have to make it through waivers to be sent to AAA Norfolk.  

Rule 5 INF Michael Almanzar is also likely headed to the DL with tendinitis in his left knee. He had a good spring and definitely has talent, but isn't really ready to be in the major leagues. The Orioles claimed him from division rival Boston in the Rule 5 Draft, but he was a long shot to make the roster in the Orioles crowded infield.  

I have to wonder though, if this is a slick way to keep both Reimold and Almanzar around longer, in case roster spots open up, since they are both players the O's will lose if they aren't on the 25 man roster (Reimold is out of options. Almanzar would have to be sent back to Boston)? Putting them on the disabled list gives the Orioles more time to decide what to do with them. 

In other roster notes:
Bullpen candidates Brad Brach, Steve Johnson, and Kelvin De La Cruz, and OF/DH Henry Urrutia were optioned to AAA Norfolk, further weeding down the Orioles' roster. 

The Orioles signed free agent and former Houston Astro 1B Brett Wallace to a minor league deal.

Opening Day starter Chris Tillman threw 79 pitches in his last Spring Training start, getting the Orioles ace ready for the 3/31 opener. 

OF/DH Delmon Young and RHP Josh Stinson continue to prove they have earned roster spots. Young is almost assured to make the team now that Urrutia, Reimold, and Almanzar are no longer in the running. Stinson is out of options and has had a dominant spring, so he likely has won a bullpen spot.

©2014 Denim McDemus

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Where Is That?

The Big "Ten" Conference now having 14 teams makes me once again cringe at all the conference shifting that has gone on around college football in recent years. I don't mind expansion, when conferences add teams which make sense geographically.

Maryland and Rutgers moving to the Big Ten makes sense for Penn State, but they aren't close to the rest of the conference, which is midwestern other than Penn State, which was a stretch add itself, not being in the midwest, and being much closer to the former Big East Conference, which had most of the teams PSU played when they were an independent.
Nebraska made slightly more geographic sense in the Big 12 than the Big 10. Sure, they are close to Iowa, but they are too far west for the Big 10, just like Penn State is too far east.

TCU joining the Big 12 made a lot of sense. They now play schools close to them, instead of Mountain Region teams. They also are proof that a "small school" can play with the big boys in a "major" conference. But West Virginia moving to the Big 12 made no sense at all. The state isn't adjacent to the states of any other Big 12 teams. They are closer to the SEC, or even the new eastern Big Ten teams. And Iowa State would definitely make more sense in the Big 10.

Virginia Tech moving to the ACC made sense, but Pittsburg, Syracuse, and Boston College? Huh?! They are no where near the other teams. Plus the ACC stands for Atlantic Coast Conference, so what's with these new landlocked schools? The implosion of the Big East cause a lot of the geographical mess we now have in college football. Pitt lies in between Penn State and the Big Ten. Perhaps we need a northeastern conference, much better constructed than the Big East, including Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers, Pitt, Syracuse, BC, etc, but without Big East geographic oddballs like Miami and VA Tech?

Then we get to the SEC. Texas A&M and maybe even Missouri should be in the Big 12. Arkansas is borderline to go either way. Florida should be in the ACC, since I'd love to have the 3 big Florida teams (Florida, Florida State, and Miami) in the same conference.

All of the NCAA Football teams jumping conferences lately has made a jumbled mess of random opponents. I think the NCAA should completely scrap the current conferences and start from scratch, making regional conferences where you play the teams closest to you.

Sure, there are some longtime bitter rivalries (such as Ohio State vs. Michigan) that should be kept intact, but most of them are geographically close already, so they wouldn't be impacted. And the longtime members of most conferences are geographically close to each other, because that was the original point of the conferences. Plus, I'd have the non-conference games of each conference be against a nearby conference, so that is another way to ensure established rivalry games if the two teams didn't end up in the same geographically based conference.

Think of the new or renewed rivalries: Penn State vs. Pitt vs. West VA, Miami vs. Florida vs. Florida State, Texas vs. Texas A&M vs. Texas Tech vs. TCU vs. Rice vs. Baylor, Nebraska vs. Oklahoma, Iowa vs. Iowa State, maybe Pitt vs. Ohio State. 

Most geographic areas have big schools, small schools, and schools somewhere in between. This would eliminate the current problem of smaller schools struggling to gain revenue and exposure, and being lowballed in the rankings and bowl selection, simply because they play in a "small school" "non-BCS" conference with an "easy" schedule. If they played in a regional conference with school of varying size, they would garner more respect in the overall college football picture. And the many upsets in recent years prove the talent gap has lessened, and the smaller schools would be able to compete better than you think.

Do I think this makes sense? Yes. Do I think it will happen? No, not wide scale anyway. But I do think there will be some major changes in NCAA football conferences the not too distant future.

©2014 Denim McDemus

Monday, March 24, 2014

Thanks For Stopping By

The Orioles traded veteran INF Alex Gonzalez for 25 year-old INF Steve Lombardozzi.

The Tigers are going to start Gonzalez at SS. That's right, a top tier team thinks he's starter quality. After a great spring, I don't blame them.

The O's are going to use Lombardozzi to fill in at 2B or 3B until Manny Machado comes off the DL, the exact same way they could have used the more experienced Gonzalez. They are talking Flaherty at 3B and Lombardozzi at 2B, which pushes top position prospect Jonathan Schoop to AAA, and Jemile Weeks to the bench, if not AAA himself.

In order to make room for Lombardozzi on the 40 man roster, the Orioles DFAed catcher Johnny Monell, who also had a great spring.

Apparently the Tigers, and I, see much more value in Alex Gonzalez than the Orioles do...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Some Baltimore Orioles roster notes

OF hopeful Francisco Peguero will start the season on the DL with a right wrist injury.

LF David Lough will return to the lineup tonight. C Matt Wieters returned yesterday.

OF Xavier Paul has been reassigned. Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon (who was delayed by visa problems) and C Johnny Monell have been optioned to minor league camp. The Monell move most likely cements Steve Clevenger as the backup C, although the two put up similar numbers. The roster is now down to 43 (for 25 spots).

Top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy, and former Cy Young winner Johan Santana have been making progress throwing off the rehab mound, and should be eventual options for the Orioles.

Bullpen hopeful non-roster invitee Evan Meek hasn't given up a run in 6 spring innings over 5 games, and is 2 for 2 in save opportunities.

Take Spring Training stats for what they are, but it's a good feeling when your team's slugger, Chris Davis, leads the team in RBI (9).

The Orioles are in "win now" mode, with the uncertain contract status of SS J.J. Hardy, C Matt Wieters, and 1B Chris Davis. That being said, I don't know why they are still up in the air about 2B and top position player prospect Jonathan Schoop starting the season in the majors. The time is now. This team isn't playing for the future anymore.

Bullpen candidates Steve Johnson, T.J. McFarland, and Alfredo Aceves are all scheduled to follow projected 5th starter Bud Norris tonight vs. the Pirates.

©2014 Denim McDemus

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Roster Surgery

Ugh. The Baltimore Orioles have had an exciting spring, with many players outperforming expectations. But a lot of the upcoming roster decisions seem to be headed horribly wrong.

Alex Gonzalez is a much better option to fill in at 3rd than Ryan Flaherty. Flaherty has minor league options, so he can get more seasoning at AAA Norfolk, without hurting his longterm place on the team, if he has one. Keeping him on the roster just because he's been on the team for 2 years doesn't change the fact that he was an automatic out his entire Orioles career, other then a brief period right before Brian Roberts came off the DL. Jemile Weeks seems to be a bust, other than freeing up FA money from trading Jim Johnson, but at least he has speed.

Kelvin De La Cruz and Evan Meek have had way better springs than the pitchers being mentioned above them for the last bullpen spot, as did Eddie Gamboa and Brock Huntzinger, who have already been sent down. Britton and Stinson will be there since they are out of options, but give the last spot (if there is one) to someone deserving.

They are considering bringing in someone from the outside to backup C Matt Wieters. Picking a backup catcher who can field but can't hit is a problem that seems to plague the O's every year, giving them an automatic out in the lineup whenever they rest Wieters. Clevenger and Monell are both having good springs, so give one a chance, with the other on standby.

Why in the world is Nolan Reimold considered a frontrunner to make the team in a bench/OF/DH position? HUH?! He is terrible, and always hurt. He is behind in his spring progress. He is a bust.

The O's almost have to go with Delmon Young to DH when Cruz plays LF, and Berry as a pinch runner. Steve Pearce, Reimold, and Flaherty are never going to be more than bench players. It's time to accept that.

I'd love for once to see them go north with the best 25, but that's not how baseball works these days.

©2014 Denim McDemus

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

3/12/14 Sports News

Some quick hits for today:

In NFL Free Agency, so far the NY Giants resigned RB Peyton Hillis, CB Trumaine McBride, S Stevie Brown, K Josh Brown, & LB Mark Herzlich.
They signed Oakland RB Rashad Jennings, & Seattle LB O'Brien Schofield.
They lost DT Linval Joseph, & S Ryan Mundy.
The Giants really need to stock up on wide receivers and offensive linemen.

Orioles vs Phillies today at 1:05pm ET. The O's won 15-4 last week with similar lineups.

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters tweaked his ankle rounding the bases yesterday, but says he won't get x-rays, just sit out an extra day. He plans to play again on Saturday. 

Korean FA pitcher Suk-min Yoon is expected to make his Orioles debut on Saturday.

The Orioles sent reliever Brock Huntzinger down to AAA Norfolk, despite an impressive spring. Seems to be to accommodate out of options pitchers such as Britton and Stinson.

FA pitcher Ervin Santana finally signed, surprisingly not with the Orioles or Jays, but with the Atlanta Braves.

Huge game tonight in the Central Division, Colorado Avalanche vs. Chicago Blackhawks at 9:30pm ET. The 2 teams are only separated by 1 point. The Avs have 4 more wins, but Chicago has 14 points from OT losses...

The Vancouver Canucks take on the Winnipeg Jets tonight at 7:30pm ET.