So I was all set to write about my experience watching the White Sox and Orioles at Camden Yards on Monday, when I had a conflict arise, so I was stuck listening to the game on radio. Taking the lead from Detroit Free Press' Mitch Albom , I decided not to let the small little fact that I was not at the game, get in the way of me reporting as if I was. I mean I've been to Camden Yards before, so I'll just weave that knowledge in the following story.
Despite the typical Baltimore steamy summer temps (mid-90's), it's always a treat to see a game at Camden Yards. Entering on Eutaw Street, I saunter over before the first pitch to Boogs, for the best baseball barbecue in the majors. Man it smells great standing here in line, though it must be about 140 degrees by the open pit.
Checking today's starting rosters I notice that after winning the first 3 games of the series, the White Sox have given Tadahito Iguchi and Scott Posednik the day off. Ozzie Guillen has done a great job of keeping the whole team fresh, but the 2 weak spots on the roster, Pablo Ozuna and Timo Perez are the fill-ins today. The White Sox sent down Willie Harris, which I don't like, since Harris is a superior defensive second baseman and outfielder to Ozuna, plus adds a great pinch-runner off the bench. With the recently acquired Geoff Blum brought in to be a back-up at third base and shortstop, I don't see the value in Ozuna. And don't get me started on Timo Perez.
Leading off the game, Mr. .291 OBP Perez, walks and ends up scoring on a single by Carl Everett. With Brian Anderson having little left to prove in the minors and with his ability to make a fair contribution to the team, the guy keeping him off the major league roster is Timo, so I'm conflicted by any success by him. The White Sox end the first inning up one nothing. It's amazing how often the Sox have scored first this year. I'm guessing they lead this category by a substantial number.
Looking around the park in my best Albom view, I see Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie a few rows in front of me. Ah, just another day at the park.
The second inning has Pablo Ozuna making an error and then not turning the double play smoothly, costing Mark Buehrle an unearned run. Looking at the Orioles roster, I see they must have decided to give Rafael Palmeiro a rest today. Well deserved, I say. Did you know he has played 154 games or more for the last 9 years? He must really have some great natural recuperative body to be able to battle through the aches and pains a 41 year-old man would deal with. Palmiero has always seemed like a class guy, I'm glad to see he has cleared his name of steroid allegations this season.
Did I mention that Billy Graham and the Pope are sitting in the seats right behind me?
The game is going by quickly, as at the end of 5, the game is a little more than an hour old. While Daniel Cabrera has looked good so far, it's the game's most economical pitcher, Mark Buehrle, who is most responsible for the quick pace. During the top of the 6th, Carl Everett scores on a single by Jermaine Dye. Dye and Everett have been really solid contributors, exceeding what I expected from them this season.
I guess I should mention that the A.J. Pierzynski was hit by pitch, high up on the arm. After yesterday's incident with Iguchi getting nailed in the fanny, only to then have the home plate umpire immediately warn both teams, I'm glad that today that isn't the case, as the White Sox have to be able to protect their hitters.
With the one-run lead, I suspect that will be enough for a victory, with Buehrle pitching. In case you were unaware, he is working on a streak where he has pitched 6 or more innings, 49 straight times, which is the longest since the 1970's. With 2 outs, Buehrle hits the only batter in the Orioles lineup who seems to have his number, BJ Surhoff. Smart. Wait a minute. Did home plate umpire Tom Gorman just throw Buehrle out of the game? Unbelievable! Considering just what had happened the last 2 days, some kind of retaliation seemed just, but then adding in the streak Buehrle was on to throw him out one batter short is plain cruel.
(We interrupt this story for a feature called GREAT MOMENTS IN BASEBALL HISTORY, IF TOM GORMAN WOULD HAVE BEEN BEHIND THE PLATE.)
Joe DiMaggio only one game behind Wee Willie Keeler's consecutive game hit streak is tossed from the game in the third inning, because umpire Tom Gorman doesn't like the look Joltin' Joe gave him after a strike call. DiMaggio winds up with 43. Gorman is quoted saying, "hey, there was no guarantee he was going to continue the streak, anyway."
What an amazing story, 44 year-old Nolan Ryan is one out away from pitching his 7th no-hitter, when Umpire Tom Gorman throws him out of the game one out short of 27 for cursing after a pitch gets away from Ryan for a ball.
In an electric setting in Camden Yards, Cal Ripken is set to break Lou Gehrig's iron man streak, but home plate umpire, Tom Gorman, removes Ripken from the ballpark, before the first pitch, after noticing Cal is in violation of the uniform code.
(Now, back to our regular story.)
As soon as the Buehrle ejection happened, the first thing that went through my mind was I bet Hawk Harrelson is going APESHIT on the White Sox TV Broadcast. The guy definitely has his faults and if you have a choice between listening to the best broadcasting team in all of baseball, (Sox radio crew Ed Farmer and John Rooney) you don't even hear Hawk, but I enjoy Hawk better than having to sit through half of the broadcasters who are generic to a fault. The best thing Harrelson does is bring excitement to the game and add some great stories about players from the 60's and 70's. I'm not giving the guy absolution (though I did consider asking the Pope for help, since he was sitting next to me), but I appreciate that Hawk has opinions(*) and is not just a melodious robot. (*often wrong, but generally interesting)
Despite losing Buehrle, the White Sox kept the Orioles off the board, with Luis Vizcaino getting the last out of the inning. With Vizcaino starting to pitch better, the White Sox have a deeper bullpen than anyone else in baseball. While they don't have a dominant closer like the Yankees, Twins, or Angels, they do have 6 quality relief pitchers in their pen. Unless GM Kenny Williams gets his dream of bringing in Billy Wagner, the "closer by committee" theory will be getting its ultimate test, as Dustin Hermanson's health is a concern. A guy to keep an eye on is Neal Cotts, who has been one of the top left-handed specialists in all of baseball. One more year like this and he could salvage the Foulke/Koch trade debacle.
The White Sox continued to hammer away, like they had done during the whole series, with Timo Perez peeing on my dream of having no "Teamo in team", slamming a double to plate another run. Then, Pablo Ozuna made up for his error, with a 2-run double in the 8th. I still feel Perez and Ozuna are a collective drag on the team, but so far, most every decision Ozzie Guillen has made in 2005 is virtually impossible to criticize.
So I leave the game, with the White Sox finishing their sweep of the Orioles, winning the series finale, 6-3. Oh the sites and sounds of Camden Yards. What a day! And did I mention that on the way out, I swear I saw Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson?