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MIKE FLANAGAN REVISITED

[June 27th] -- Yes, I used to watch the Baltimore Orioles, I admit it. Not to root for them, mind you, just for the joy of watching the only baseball available on D.C.'s local channels. No ESPN or MASN then, just WJZ-13 and the Orioles' Broadcasts.

Starting in 1976, I began to notice a new pitcher for Baltimore. He was a tall, thin lefty with a herky-jerky motion and bunch of curvy, off-speed stuff. He would look like a world beater for oh, five or six innings or so, then Wham! Bam! Whack! And that was that. Exit Mr. Flanagan. Slowly (it took about a season), Flanagan was able to make it past the 6th inning and eventually became one of the best pitchers of his era. He won 167 games over his career, and was selected to several all-star teams.

Fast forward thirty years. In 2006, I began to notice this tall, lanky left with a herky-jerky motion and a bunch of curvy, off-sped stuff. He would look like a world beater for oh, five or six innings or so, then Wham! Bam! Whack! And that was that. His name was Mike O'Connor. Thus far O'Connor has had only one bad outing, two weeks ago against the Colorado Rockies. I was watching the Rockies Fox SportsNet channel here in Idaho, and George Frazier correctly predicted that O'Connor would pitch well the first two times through the lineup, then begin to give up runs as the Rockies began to figure out his unusual motion. O'Connor has redeemed himself his last two starts, allowing just three earned runs in thirteen innings.

I think that the Mike O'Connor that we've watched this far is as bad as we'll ever see. With each game he pitches, he gets better, and learns how to stretch his limited ability even farther. Certainly, he doesn't have top-of-the-rotation stuff, but he could easily be the Nats' number three pitcher for years, winning 12-14 wins every season.

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