• Steve Henson of Yahoo Sports gives the Orioles a B-minus in his list of midseason grades:
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• ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick includes the Orioles' bullpen on his list of the biggest overachievers in the first half of the season:
If you're looking for an explanation for Baltimore's surprising start, the bullpen is a pretty good place to focus. Orioles relievers are 15-13 with a 3.28 ERA, compared to 24-35 and 5.71 last season. After going 13-31 in one-run games a year ago, the O's are 17-12 this season.
Closer George Sherrill, acquired from Seattle in the Erik Bedard deal, can be an adventure at times. But he has converted 27 of 32 save chances through a combination of good stuff, better deception and even better intestinal fortitude. Sherrill has become a fan favorite in Baltimore, which could complicate matters if general manager Andy MacPhail decides to dangle him at the trade deadline.
• FoxSports.com's Dayn Perry believes Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts is the top American League All-Star snub:
In the AL, it's Brian Roberts of the Orioles. He's a slick-fielding middle infielder who gets on base and is on target for 60 doubles this season. That's an All-Star. In fact, Roberts and Ian Kinsler, who made the AL squad as a reserve, both deserved to start at second ahead of Dustin Pedroia.
• Kyle Oppenhuizen of USAToday.com writes that Roberts isn't expecting to make the trip to Yankee Stadium for the midsummer classic, despite being one of five AL players in the running for the final spot through the All-Star Game Final Vote:
There's a chance, right? "Zero. I think you need to be playing at home," said Roberts, batting .295 with seven home runs from the leadoff spot. "I certainly think you need to be in a big market."
With a New York Yankee, Jason Giambi, on the ballot, and the Chicago White Sox's Jermaine Dye involved, Roberts doesn't see himself getting to Yankee Stadium, but that's OK with him.
"That's not what I play for," Roberts said of making the All-Star Game. "It's a great honor, but it's not going to make or break my career."
• SI.com's Tom Verducci reviews the major story lines of the first half of the season and says several teams that traded away a big name for young talent in the offseason, such as the Orioles, have fared better:
The fallacy of the one-player-away theory. Look at the biggest trades of the offseason: The Twins traded Johan Santana to the Mets, the Marlins traded Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers, the Orioles traded Erik Bedard to the Mariners and the Athletics traded Dan Haren to the Diamondbacks. Each of the teams that dumped the star player has a better record than the team that gave up young talent to get him.
• In a story on ESPN.com's Page 2, Jonah Keri discusses the 2005 Orioles team that started out hot but fizzled in the second half of the season, and wonders if this year's Tampa Bay Rays can avoid the same fate:
The 2005 Baltimore Orioles were coming off seven straight losing seasons. Under manager Davey Johnson, the O's had ripped off two straight playoff berths in 1996 and 1997. They then unceremoniously dumped their skipper, deciding that winning wasn't as important as having a manager who would take flak from the owner while intoning "Please sir, may I have some more." But in '05, Baltimore charged out of the gate, winning 26 of its first 39 games and 42 of its first 70. The Orioles stood in first place as late as June 23. But this was a team with multiple fatal flaws, not the least of which was a starting outfield of Larry Bigbie, Luis Matos and Sammy Sosa that's a contender for worst trio of the past quarter-century. Also, unlike this year's Rays, it was an old team, featuring the likes of 40-year-old Rafael Palmeiro, 40-year-old B.J. Surhoff, the 36-year-old Sosa, 34-year-old Javy Lopez and 33-year-old Melvin Mora. Predictably, this group fell off in the second half (or, in the case of Palmeiro, tested positive for steroids). The O's fell below .500 by the end of July and never recovered, ending the year in fourth place again at 74-88.
• SI.com's Richard Deitsch has a Q&A with Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr. on the first half of the season and other topics:
SI: Will the Yankees make the postseason?
Ripken: I say they do. The Rays will have a lot to say about that and they will be a strong team down the stretch, but I think we know the Yankees can handle the pressure. They are a talented team.
I like Joba Chamberlain as a starter. I thought they should have made him a starter from the beginning and take a little stress off his arm. He's a real valuable guy coming out of the pen and setting up Mariano Rivera, but he's a horse. He can log some innings and as a starting pitcher that is really critical. He seems to have handled the transition and I look forward to him having a good second half. I think the Yankees make it.
• SI.com's Gennaro Filice moves the Orioles up three spots to 12th in this week's power rankings:
George Sherrill is showing some kinks in the armor. With the second-most saves in baseball (27) behind Francisco Rodriguez, Sherrill has been one of the biggest surprises in the first half of this season. But Baltimore's first-year closer has three blown saves and two losses in his last nine outings. While Sherrill's hat bill could use a good bending, the real problem has been his abandonment of the fastball. No need to get cute with the offspeed, Georgie Boy -- just bring the heat.
• Aram Tolegian of FoxSports.com has the Orioles ranked 14th in his updated power rankings, down one spot from last week:
Not too many pundits expected the O's to be above .500 this late in the season. They'd need a prolonged hot run to actually be in contention in the AL East, but there's something to be said for being one of baseball's 15 teams with a .500 or better record at this point of the season.
• ESPN.com ranks the Orioles 16th, down four spots from last week:
Daniel Cabrera has more complete games this season (two in 18 starts) than he did all of last year (one in 34 starts).
[Compiled by Dan Morrison]