Even Now For O's, Plenty To Play For

August 16, 2009|By Peter Schmuck

On the same day that president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail confirmed that Dave Trembley would remain as manager at least through the end of this season, the Orioles exploded for their biggest offensive performance of the year and tied a couple of club records to boot.

If you're looking for some greater meaning here, you're probably going to be disappointed, but the surprise mugging of the first-place Los Angeles Angels in Friday night's series opener at Camden Yards is proof - if nothing else - that the O's still have a pulse at this discouraging juncture of the 2009 season.

Not much of a pulse, mind you, but 19 hits certainly will get your blood pumping again and - just maybe - remind some of the lost souls in the Orioles' clubhouse that it's more fun to win than to go through the motions and wait for the next free-agent cycle.

The whole Trembley thing was probably just a coincidence. MacPhail told The Baltimore Sun just a few hours before Friday's game that there would be no in-season changes with regard to the manager and coaching staff, and it wasn't as if the clubhouse was full of guys with their heads buried in the newspaper. I'm not even sure Felix Pie would recognize Dave out of uniform.

No, the offensive explosion was a lot like the Ravens' 400-yard passing frenzy on Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium. It was great fun to watch, but you're probably not going to see it again anytime soon.

What you are going to see at Oriole Park is a team going in two directions at the same time. The youth movement is going full steam ahead, with many of the top minor league prospects already here and - for the most part - holding their own. The veteran nucleus of the team, meanwhile, has seemed for the past month as if it's ready to pack up and go home.

The Orioles returned to form Saturday night with a 5-1 loss, and it's very likely that Friday night's burst of vitality will be remembered in a week or two as a fluky, isolated incident in the Orioles' latest second-half funk, but it doesn't have to be that way.

This is the perfect opportunity for some of the veterans to unpack their bags, look in the mirror and do something that they haven't done in awhile.

Man up.

Melvin Mora needs to stop brooding about his lost season and do something that will allow Orioles fans to remember him for the good player and great citizen he has been throughout his career in Baltimore.

He needs to show the young kids that the game and the team are just as important now as they were when he batted .400 in the playoffs for the New York Mets in 1999.

Aubrey Huff needs to understand that he's a role model for the likes of Nolan Reimold and Adam Jones, even as he plays the happy slacker in the clubhouse. It's OK to be the guy who proves you don't have to look like Mr. Universe to drive in 100 runs, but it isn't OK to chase every ankle-high 3-1 pitch to get your numbers up at contract time.

Ty Wigginton is a gamer, but when you have almost as many double-play balls (13) as doubles (14) and you're hitting a buck-eighty with runners in scoring position and fewer than two outs, maybe you don't try to hit every 2-0 pitch 600 feet. Maybe you figure out that the approach you're taking with two outs and runners in scoring position (.314 average) is actually the right approach all the time.

Brian Roberts is everything you want in a leadoff hitter/middle infielder, but he has been banged up this year and he has - too many times - looked sulky and distracted. You probably would, too, if you spent a month playing through a bronchial infection and the rest of the year with other unannounced bumps and bruises. Carrying all those losing seasons around on your back doesn't help either, but if Roberts wants to be a winning player, he needs to act like one every day. That's more important right now than at any other point in his career.

Of course, there's plenty of blame to go around when you're 20 games under .500 - from the front office, the manager and coaches to the players cashing those big checks in the clubhouse. But there are no villains here, just a bunch of guys who have gotten into the habit of losing and need to find a way to break it.

Listen to Peter Schmuck weeknights at 6 on WBAL (1090 AM) and check out "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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