The Seven Biggest Orioles Moments of 2011
by Pat Smith, Bugs & Cranks
A Less-Than-Happy New Year
The very first Big Orioles Moment of 2011 took place only a few minutes into the new year. No one's quite sure how it happened -- or, if they are, they're not saying -- but one guy wound up dead and another wounded when a reportedly drunken Alfredo Simon, showing the kind of control Orioles fans have come to expect from him, squeezed off a celebratory happy-new-year round from a handgun in his native Dominican Republic. Simon's friend Michel Almonte died and Almonte's younger brother was wounded. Simon denied killing his buddy and was aquitted of involuntary manslaughter charges in November. Bailed out in March, he pitched well for the O's in 2011. But his lengthy holiday-season prison stint harkened to the days of Sidney Ponson.
Finally, someone said it: Derek Jeter's a crybaby whose antics earn him more than his share of borderline calls. Even better, the person brave enough to proclaim this was our own Buck Showalter. Men's Journal, in between stories about prostate health and mountain biking, published an interview with the Orioles manager, still emboldened from his team's smoking hot 2010 finish. "The first time [Showalter's Orioles] went to Yankee Stadium," Showalter recalled for the interviewer, "I screamed at Derek Jeter from the dugout. Our young guys are thinking, ‘Wow, he’s screaming at Derek Jeter’ — well, he’s always jumping back from balls just off the plate. I know how many calls that team gets — and yes, he pisses me off.” Sweet Jebus, couldn't you just weep? Showalter also had a few things to say about ex-Boston boy wonder GM Theo Epstein. "I'd like to see what he could do with Tampa Bay's payroll."
Battle of the Assholes: Luke Scott vs. Josh Beckett
In the first month of the season, fans at Camden Yards were treated to an at-bat featuring two of the biggest assholes in the game when Luke Scott came to the plate against Boston's Josh Beckett. Scott, of course, is a Tea Party redneck, a fool and a racist. He kind of outdid himself in early December at baseball's winter meetings, where he held forth on, among things, President Obama's citizenship. And Beckett ... well, he's just a jerk. Anyway, in this particular head-to-head, Scott took Beckett extremely deep, depositing a changeup onto Eutaw Street. Scott, because he’s a dick, flipped his bat and watched the ball fly for a few moments before beginning his trip around the bases. (Because that’s how Jesus would start his home run trot.) And Beckett, because he’s a dick, screamed at Scott in 360-degree surround sound as Scott touched ‘em all. After the game, Beckett implied that he’d drill Scott the next time he sees him, which will actually be pretty awesome. Luke Scott gets a bruise and the O’s get a base. Everybody wins.
That Guy? No? Then How About That Other Guy?
When Andy MacPhail stepped down from his post as Orioles VP of baseball operations - a job all the other teams call "general manager" - lots of names were tossed around as his replacement. New guys, old guys, guys you've heard of, guys you haven't. But one guy whose name was never tossed around was Dan Duquette. At least, not until they offered him the job. How about Jerry DiPoto? Sorry, the Angels just got him. OK, then how about Tony LaCava? Offered him the job and he chose to remain the second in command in Toronto. Ouch. Then maybe De Jon Watson? Said thanks, but no thanks. Peter Angelos and Company then blew the dust off their Rolodex and called Duquette, who last GM'd the pre-World Series Red Sox. What's he been up to for the last 10 years? Why, he's been running a summer camp in western Massachussetts. That totally qualifies him to be the Orioles GM.
1 AM Ripoff: The Ghost of Jeffrey Maier
For a week in August, Hurricane Irene played havoc with baseball in the eastern US. Whole series had to be rescheduled from Washington to Boston. So when Tropical Storm Lee visited New York in early September, schedules were already fucked up. The Yankees, already pissed that the Orioles refused to give up a home game for the sake of the Yankees' convenience, insisted on playing a Tuesday night game against the O's, despite a four-hour rain delay. The teams took the field at 11 pm. And after 1 in the morning, in the seventh inning of a 3-3 game, Yankee catcher Francisco Cervelli hit a fly ball to deep left off O’s starter Tommy Hunter in the seventh. In the ridiculous weather, Orioles “left fielder” Matt Angle swirled in the direction of the ball, which looked to be headed for roughly the middle of the fence. Hello extra bases, right? Oh, it was extra bases, all right. Three of ‘em. Several unemployable humans who occupied the left field bleachers at Yankee Stadium after 1 am got a much better bead on the ball than Angle did. One of those soaking wet members of civil society’s fringes reached at least two feet over the fence and plucked Cervelli’s fly ball from the air. The cold, wet and tired umpires looked at the replay ... and ruled home run. The next batter also homered and the Yankees beat the Orioles 5-3. Last out: 2:15 am.
Mike Flanagan's Suicide
No one has spent more time in the Baltimore Orioles organization than Mike Flanagan. Flanagan, a lefthanded starting pitcher from the team's glory years, won a Cy Young in 1979. He had held numerous positions with the team since his retirement from the field, including VP of baseball operations. For the past few years, Flanagan served as a part time television announcer for the O's on the Mid Atlantic Sports Network. During an Orioles-Minnesota game in late August, various Tweets and news flashes reported that a body had been found behind Flanagan's house in northern Baltimore County. Flanagan was not on the road trip, but was scheduled to work the next home game a few days later. As the game in Minnesota progressed, broadcasters Jim Hunter and O's great Jim Palmer, sounded as if they hadn't heard the awful news. Soon it became clear that the body found behind Flanagan's house was Flanagan's. And that he'd killed himself with a shotgun. For the next days and weeks, as fans tried to make sense of Flanagan's decision to end his own life, there was speculation that Flanagan had become despondent over his lack of success leading the Orioles out of last place. The fact is, no one knows why Flanagan did what he did. And no one ever will.
Much has been said and written about the last night of the regular season, when the Orioles knocked the Red Sox out of the postseason, the culmination of Boston's historic collapse. And that night was awesome. But the night before was pretty damn great, too. Robert Andino, who filled in admirably for Brian Roberts, cracked the first-ever inside-the-park homer at Camden Yards. Watching Jacoby Ellsbury leave a Wile E. Coyote-style faceprint in the center field wall, as Andino circled the bases for a three-run inside job … well, that was just about the highlight of my season. Sad, I know.