Camden Yards should be rockin' this weekend. The Orioles are expecting a crowd of 35,000 or more tomorrow night, depending on the walk-ups, and they'll exceed 40,000 on Saturday. Could be a near-sellout for Guthrie vs. Sabathia that night.
You won't recognize the place.
Manager Buck Showalter mentioned earlier this week that he doesn't think any players are counting down the days until the season ends. He feels an energy and enthusiasm that, as we know, is usually missing around here in September.
I don't expect everyone on this blog to be in total agreement on every topic, and the debates that evolve are part of the fun. Varying opinions keep things fresh around here. So does my habit of cranking up the air conditioning.
I've really started to notice how shortstop Cesar Izturis covers the entire scale of emotions among fans.
Within one minute, I received the following two comments about Izturis:
"Roch, I agree on Izturis coming back. He is one of the players (since Buck arrived) who looks completely renewed. I saw Belanger play a lot and he is not Mark Belanger, but he is outstanding. His bat is not as bad as it is depicted. He gets a lot of timely hits with RISP. I think he would be great to anchor the middle."
"Izturis' OPS this year is the worst OPS of any regular in the major leagues in the last 10 years. Let me repeat...Worst OPS in the last TEN YEARS! He has to be gone after this year. Ozzie Smith's D wasn't enough to suffer that."
Greg praised Izturis for his performance last night but noted how the Orioles will have "the worst offensive left side of the infield in baseball next year if Bell and Izzy are the starters. You can't compete in the AL East over an entire season if those are your guys at 3B and SS."
Meanwhile, Brian said he'd be fine with Izturis at shortstop because of the defense he brings. "Can anyone recall Mark Belanger? Izturis is more of an offensive threat.... Also, just who in the name of Luis Aparicio is going to be available to replace him anyway?"
So the Orioles should make an effort to re-sign Izturis or seek an offensive upgrade. I sense that we're equally divided on this subject.
I passed along Showalter's comments about Izturis after last night's game. It's apparent that Showalter is firmly entrenched in the veteran's corner. It's also apparent that the defense is more reliable when the starters are working quickly and throwing strikes, as Brad Bergesen demonstrated in his complete-game victory.
"On defense, that makes you ready every pitch," Izturis said.
Is it easy playing behind Bergesen?
"Yeah, definitely," he replied. "You have to be ready every pitch, and especially tonight when he threw everything for a strike. His slider was good, his sinker was good for him. It was one of those days that worked out good for him."
Izturis made two dazzling plays in the field last night, but also did the little things, like getting in the proper position to take a throw, that can pay huge dividends and impress your new manager.
"It was one of those days, one of those days you just play good. And on defense, everything that's hit to you, you catch," Izturis said.
"Today was one of those days, and hopefully we continue doing it."
Here's a quote from Luke Scott concerning the Orioles vastly improved play under Showalter:
"We have been doing very well. It's refreshing compared to our start this year. It was very, very rough. We've had adversity. To this team's credit, we could have just rolled over and cashed in the season, played mediocre. But I'm proud of my teammates, how our work ethic has been. We come to the ballpark prepared and ready to play every day. We've played hard."
As it should be, and hopefully will continue to be in 2011.
And with a lot more people watching from the stands.