Thursday, April 29, 2010

Worst Case Scenario

Well, the Washington Capitals worst fear came true. They became the first team in the NHL's modern playoff format to blow a 3-1 series lead as the number one seed.

The Caps could never successfully solve Montreal's goaltender, who turned into the second coming of Patrick Roy. Alex Ovechkin played with incredible energy throughout the game, and anybody who blames him for the loss or says he can't handle pressure really is immune to athletics. Stand up, Tracee Hamilton. I'm talking about you.

The lack of the Caps role players in this series led to their demise. Alexander Semin and Mike Green were non-existent, although, in Semin's defense he was totally snake bit. Semin was on the wrong end of a couple posts, and a goaltender that stopped everything that came his way.

Green's exploits led to all of the goals Montreal scored in game seven. There was his useless crosscheck in the first period that led to a Montreal power play goal, the overskate of the puck to leave it just laying there begging for a Canadien to pick it up and score an easy goal, and the waste of offense he proved to show throughout the series.

Green will certainly be the subject of trade talks this summer. If he isn't, then the Capitals will be fooling themselves. He's an overrated defensemen who may be the best scoring defensemen in the game, but with all of the other firepower on the team they don't truly need him to succeed. The Caps are in need of a defensemen who can shut other players down without any letdowns, and Green is certainly not that guy. However, since Green does possess unique skills, there are certainly teams that would be willing to give up good players for him.

The only thing that may keep Green around is his immense popularity in town---especially with the female crowd. Green is young, cool, and an NHL hockey player. That will keep you in female circles for awhile.

The Caps game seven loss was not a surprise. This town is cursed when it comes to sports, and this was just another case of a massive let down. I wrote yesterday that the game was a massive turning point in Caps history, and they totally blew it. They had a chance to win this town over outright and they let it slip through their fingers. The bandwagon will certainly die down for a little bit now, and if the Redskins get better next year look out. As long as Ovechkin and his other comrades are on the team there will be certain excitement at the Verizon Center. The problem is we are past that point, and DC is a city full of fair weather fans. Winning will be what keeps them interested in a sport like hockey.

The Caps blew it---AND THEY KNOW IT, TOO

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Do or Die for the Caps

Four playoff series' in the Alex Ovechkin era---four game seven's.

The Washington Capitals have been heavily favored in the playoffs the last two years, and each time they have gone to game seven. In 2009, the lowly New York Rangers had a 3-1 lead on the Caps before Ovechkin and his crew stormed back to win game seven at the Verizon Center. In round two, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins were down 2-0 in the series before winning three of the next four and taking game seven to end the Caps season.

What will the end game be in 2010?

Unfortunately, professional sports builds up heroes and brings down goats. That's the way it is. Dan Marino? Couldn't get back to the Super Bowl. Charles Barkley? Couldn't win a title. Stockton and Malone? Jordan was just too great. Alex Ovechkin? Sidney Crosby has a title and an Olympic game winner. It's unfair to guys who are great that their teams just don't supply their great player with the same firepower as the winners, but people see it as the star being the failure. Let's not kid ourselves: if the Caps don't win tonight, it won't be on Alex Ovechkin. Mike Green has been so non-existent that I thought I saw him taking classes at American U the other day instead of being in Montreal.

Ovechkin needs to win this game in order to not be perceived as a failure. The Caps have already underachieved the last few years, and a loss as the President's Cup champions in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the 8th seeded Montreal Canadiens would be absolutely devastating. Not only would Ovechkin lose in the first round, but he wouldn't make it to at least the conference finals for the third straight year.

In order for the Caps to win tonight, their role players must show up as they did in the regular season. Green, Alexander Semin, and Tomas Fleischmann must make major contributions tonight to avoid a destructive loss at the Verizon Center. If the Caps lose tonight, it's possible they could lose confidence, and certainly a ton of momentum as the premier team in DC for a few years.

One must remember that DC is a bandwagon town. Couple that with the fact that no team here has been very good in the last twenty years since the Redskins last championship in 1991. The Caps have completely capitalized on the woeful Nats, the brain-dead decisions of the Wizards, and the utter dysfunction of the Redskins. A loss tonight would kill their momentum, especially as the Redskins and Nats can only get better from this point forward.

Alex Ovechkin is one of the top ten players to ever wear an NHL jersey. His personal stats now and when he retires will be incredible, but he needs to make the Stanley Cup Finals this year to be taken seriously among the greatest players ever. A loss tonight in the first round would be like Kansas losing in the NCAA round of 32: they wouldn't even have given themselves a chance this year to win.

Monday, April 26, 2010

2010 Redskins Draft recap

The Washington Redskins finally addressed a five year problem when they drafted offensive tackle Trent Williams out of Oklahoma University. Williams is known for his athleticism and ability to get to the second level when blocking. The second level is when a lineman can get to the linebackers and cornerbacks when the team is running the rock.

New Head Coach Mike Shanahan is famous for his zone-blocking schemes, and the Redskins believe Williams is a better fit for the system than now Seattle Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung. Okung was the top rated left tackle in the draft and is known for his dedication to the game, and extremely sound technique. Williams, however, is not known for his dedication to the game. When you have a top five pick in the draft, you better make sure the guy you are taking is the real deal. When you pass up the real deal, you will regret it for years to come. The Redskins better hope Williams doesn't live up to his reputation as a lazy, undedicated player.

The Redskins used a pick on LB Perry Riley. Riley should be a solid player for the team, but he may not make an immediate impact. The other players drafted by the Redskins were taken in the later rounds, which screams special teams or project type players. Let's be honest, with Shanahan and Bruce Allen's draft records, there is reason to be skeptical of anybody the Redskins pick from here on out.

The Redskins did technically get a second round pick when they traded for QB Donovan McNabb. McNabb is a definite upgrade over the now Oakland Raiders QB Jason Campbell, but it remains to be seen how the team does with him at the helm. Teams don't just trade in their own division without knowing something first. If the Redskins win more than seven games this year, they should look at it as a successful season. Taking a left tackle in the first round, even if they did take the wrong guy, is a step in the right direction.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

2010 NFL Draft Recap

The Baltimore Ravens did it again. This time without a first round pick in hand.

Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta, and the rest of the Ravens brain-trust used the three extra draft picks to acquire premium talent in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. The Broncos just had to trade three picks to acquire Tim "Jesus" Tebow. All the Mighty Power to them.

As usual, I love what the Ravens did with their draft. They added a monster off the edge in Sergio Kindle, a fleet-footed tight end in Ed Dickson, another tight end in Dennis Pitta, and a few extra picks in the later rounds who are projects. Kindle and Terrence Cody of Alabama should contribute right away, while Dickson and Pitta will compete with Todd Heap for reps at the tight end position.

The Ravens needed to upgrade their pass rush. That's an absolute fact. They couldn't get to the quarterback consistently without using blitz packages. Kindle will team with Terrell Suggs who will terrorize opposing offensive lines coming off the ball with their speed and strength. When you watch Kindle play on tape he looks like he is a cheetah chasing a gazelle. Let's just say that doesn't end well for the gazelle in most cases. Suggs had a down year last year and looked to be out of shape, but all indications are that he has slimmed down and is ready to roll in 2010.

The Ravens did all of this without using a first round pick. They still got premium talent from the 43rd overall pick on, which is incredibly impressive. Many prognosticators had the Ravens taking Cody at 25 overall, and they still got him with the 57th pick overall. It's a testmanent to how Ozzie works the draft board on draft day.

The Ravens have been successful over the years because of how they draft. They don't just pick up quality players in the first round; they pick quality hall of fame caliber players in the first round (Ray Lewis, Jon Ogden, Ed Reed). They have picked many pro bowl players in the later rounds when most late round guys are special team players or projects. Ozzie and DeCosta have an incredible track record with draft picks, and it makes you believe any of the guys they picked this weekend could turn into very quality players for years to come.

If I had to pick, I would say that I think Kindle will be a tremendous player for the Ravens. He fits their defensive mindset of tough, crazy, and willing to not just tackle; but absolutely destroy anything in his way. Yes, cliche fans. He "plays like a Raven."

Look for my recap of the Redskins draft in the next day or two.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Ravens are Finally on the Board

After the Baltimore Ravens traded their first round pick, 25th overall, to the Denver Broncos on Thursday night, the Ravens knew they would not be able to pick again until the 2nd round on Friday night. Many wondered why the Ravens didn't take highly touted players still available at 25 like Kyle Wilson or Jared Odrick. Did they make a mistake? Time will tell, but as Charley Casserly said when asked who had the best second round, Casserly said, "The Ravens. Ozzie hasn't had a good draft in what? 12 months now?"

General manager Ozzie Newsome and his staff are known for their expertise at hitting on draft picks. The Ravens started Friday by taking Texas OLB Sergio Kindle at 43rd overall. Known for his strong motor, fierce hitting, and speed (4.67 40 time) Kindle was the typical first round talent that slid because of injury issues. Kindle has had four operations on the same knee since high school, but Newsome doesn't believe the knee will be a problem.

I think getting Kindle was a typical coupe for the Ravens. Well known coming from a program like Texas, Kindle may have the same impact that Brian Orakpo had with the Redskins in 2009. Kindle is much faster than Orakpo and has better instincts for the game, but he may not be on the field as often because of the Ravens quality depth at the position. I think if Kindle gives a solid pass rush and can make plays on third down the Ravens will be thrilled.

With their second pick in the 2nd round of the draft, the Ravens selected Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody. "Mount Cody" as he is referred to because of his massive size, is the type of player who can plug the middle of the line like Kelly Gregg. Cody, like Newsome, is a former Crimson Tide.

I like this pick because many had Cody as a late first round talent. To get him at the 57th overall selection is a steal. Cody must keep his weight down so he can stay on the field. The Ravens needed a DT to replace the aging Kelly Gregg in a year or two, and to make sure their defensive line had enough players to keep a fresh rotation going throughout the grueling games this season.

The Ravens picked Oregon tight end Ed Dickson in the third round. He's a very fast player who can run seam routes with the best of them. He's not much of a blocking end, but then again not many tight ends coming out of college are good blockers anymore. Dickson will team with Todd Heap to form a solid tight end group.

The Ravens will have four more selections on Saturday to end the draft. The Ravens may not have had a first round pick in 2010, but you can bet they believe they got their first round pick on March 5 when they acquired Anquan Boldin from the Arizona Cardinals.

More on the Ravens draft and their offseason in the coming posts!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2010 NFL Schedule Released

The 2010 NFL schedule has been released, and if the Ravens want to get back to the playoffs it will be a very, very tough road. The Ravens will start their season on the road in primetime against former assistant coach Rex Ryan and the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. The Jets will be opening their brand new stadium in the Meadowlands, and this game will be played with the highest of emotion.

The Ravens then travel to defending AFC North champion Cincinnati for a matchup against the Bengals. The Bengals have not shown the ability to put together back to back winning seasons since, well, ever. However, the Ravens never seem to play well in Cincinnati, and this matchup will be a big test.

The Ravens finally come back to Baltimore to start their home schedule against the lowly Cleveland Browns on September 26. It is paramount that the Ravens come back to Baltimore with at least one win or else it may get ugly quick.

The Ravens travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers in week four, but they will not have to face quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has been suspended for at least four games by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The Ravens schedule is grueling to start, but it's not surprising. The NFL never seems to give the team any breaks with regards to their schedule, and this year is just the latest example. Of four primetime games, the Ravens only will play one game at home. For a team that has made the playoffs and won at least one playoff game each year, they will not have a home Monday Night Football game again since 2007. They will not say it publicly, but I can guarantee the Ravens hierarchy is none to pleased about this.

The Ravens will certainly get a break in the middle of the year when they play the Bucs, Broncos, and Bills at home and the Carolina Panthers away. Not to say that these teams are bad, but the Ravens should be able to handle them. The Ravens will have four of their last six games at home, which could be important as they drive towards the playoffs in late November and December.

The schedule does not make much of a difference. Everybody knows who they will play, but it's just a question of when they will play them. The Ravens were dealt a tough hand to drive towards the playoffs, but let's be clear. If you want to be an elite team like the Ravens want to be, you must win games against good teams on the road.

The Ravens believe they are on the cusp of being an elite team, and if they make it through this schedule with 10 or 11 wins then I would have to consider them ready to make a big run in the playoffs.

Here is their complete schedule:

What do you think of the Ravens schedule, and how many games will they win?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

2010 NFL Mock Draft

With the NFL draft only two days away, I'd like to offer my own mock draft. Mock drafts have become the norm among sports sites because, well, let's be honest---PEOPLE LOVE THEM!

Here is my top 10 including the Ravens pick at 25.

1) St. Louis Rams: QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

I think the Rams are terrified that Bradford may not sign because of the utter dysfunction that the Rams are in. Nobody attends their games, there isn't a clear owner, and it's possible they will move soon. Nevertheless, they can always draft the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner and trade him for players or picks. Bradford is a very smart QB, and he can stretch the field the way many NFL teams like to these days. His accuracy his also such that he can be between 65% and 70% in the league. I'm not too worried about the guy's injury problems.

2) Detroit Lions: DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska

Suh is one of the most dominant defensive players to come into the draft in a very, very long time. Baltimore Ravens personnel man Eric DeCosta went as far as to say that Suh is the best defensive player he's graded since Charles Woodson came out of Michigan in 1998. The Lions are trying to build their team on the defensive side of the ball because coach Jim Schwartz is known as a defensive-wiz. Suh should be able to step right in and make an impact for a Lions team that couldn't stop anybody last season. I believe I could have averaged two yards per carry last year against them.

3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma

McCoy is a very solid prospect, although he is not the athlete Suh is. Many project McCoy to be a plug the gap type of player at the next level who can eat up a blocker or two, but won't make a Warren Sapp type impact. Defensive tackles are difficult to find, and the Bucs need one badly. The pick makes a lot of sense, and McCoy will be a Buc SOONER (Applause) rather than later.

4) Washington Redskins: OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State

The Redskins need an offensive tackle badly. No, really. They have neglected this position for what seems like five years, and now that they have fired up the Redskins faithful with Donovan McNabb it's a necessity to protect him. Okung would fit the bill with his size, good feet, and athleticism. Okung should start right away, and I can't see the Redskins taking anyone else. If they did, they should never draft again.

5) Kansas City Chiefs: S Eric Berry, Tennessee

Berry is the type of athletic, ball-hawking safety that the league craves these days. With all of the spread offenses and teams with multiple receivers who can run and catch, it's paramount to have a guy like Berry in your backfield. He should make an impact right away with his size and speed, and overall knack for the position. Berry is the pick here, and the only other player I could see them going for is an offensive tackle. Berry fits the bill for me.

6) Seattle Seahawks: OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma

Many people have had Jimmy Clausen, Berry if he falls, or Dez Bryant go at this slot. I think Pete Carroll knows he needs to protect whomever he has playing quarterback for him more than anything. If Berry falls here, he's the pick. If not, Carroll is protecting the blind side.

7) Cleveland Browns: QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame

Okay, do I think Clausen goes here? No, I don't. I just don't know which way Mike Holmgren is leaning. I actually like Clausen and think he'll be a fine professional QB. Many believed CB Joe Haden would be drafted here, but he has slipped out of people's minds of late. I'm open to suggestions as to who the Browns will take.

8) Oakland Raiders: OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland

Okay, the Raiders are the stupidest organization in football. Only they would take a guy who barely played at Maryland, was beaten like a drum, but looked great working out in shorts. No, I'm serious. If the Raiders don't pick Campbell, he will free-fall into the end of the first round. You watch. Any bets? Takers? I'm open to them.

9) Buffalo Bills: OT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa

Bulaga is the typical overachieving tackle from Iowa. He has short arms, slow feet, and is not too huge. He is very well coached, though, and many think he can be a starter on the right side for a decade. Bills fans will not like this pick, but I think this will be the pick with a QB being taken later in the draft.

10) Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech

Everyone knows Jack Del Rio is on his last legs in Jacksonville. Hell, we've saying that for three years!! Maybe he'll stay 10 more years. The Jags need a combo backer/end in the worst way, and Morgan fits the bill. He's fast, big, and very agile, and can help the Jags for the foreseeable future. I wouldn't be surprised if they picked CJ Spiller either, but they have a very good running back already.

25) Baltimore Ravens: DeMaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech

Okay, let's be honest---I'm a big-time homer with this pick. I love Thomas and his blocking, athleticism, speed, and hands. Thomas is a bit of a project because of the offensive option-like system he played in at Ga Tech; however, that may work in his favor because he won't be pressured to contribute right away. The Ravens are now set at receiver with the additions of Mason, Boldin, and Stallworth. Thomas would be learning his craft from some of the very best, and he could become a legitimate target for many years to come. If Thomas is here, I think he will be the pick.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Off the Schneid

The Baltimore Orioles ended their nine game losing streak on Sunday in Oakland by beating the Athletics 8-3. They salvaged the four game series after losing the first two, and then losing another one-run heartbreaker in walk-off fashion on Saturday.

Brian Matusz (2-0) turned in another quality start and got the win, while Ty Wigginton and Nick Markakis had consecutive two out RBI hits with runners in scoring position to go ahead early. The Orioles now have five hits all season with two outs and a man in scoring position. That number speaks to dumb luck, pressing, and more dumb luck. You can't script five hits in 50 or so chances quite like that.

Matusz was very effective today in striking out eight and walking only one. He is a tremendous talent who can spot his pitches beautifully, craft an at-bat, and put guys away with his change-up or filthy breaking pitch. He only goes to the breaking pitch a few times a game, but when he pulls it out he makes batters look foolish. Matusz is quickly becoming one of the games brightest young pitchers, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him win Rookie of the Year. Yes, folks; he's that good.

The Orioles will now embark on a trip to Seattle to face the Mariners beginning Monday. I'd love to see them start pressing the issue a little bit more. Stolen bases, hit and runs, going first to third on singles. As we saw with the A's today, if you press the issue and force the opposition to make plays, you are making it a lot harder for them. There were a few times today where I thought the Orioles runners should have taken an extra base and didn't. Although it didn't cost them today, it has been costing them to start the season.

I think Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are seeing the ball much better and are becoming more comfortable. Jones needs to start laying off garbage pitchers and let the game come to him. He's hitting a lot of pitchers pitchers, which is not allowing him to drive the ball in the gaps.

Markakis does not swing at the same garbage pitches and is starting to drive the ball with authority. I am never worried about Markakis because he is a true professional hitter, and he will be around .300 when all is said and done.

Let's see what they can do as they head to Seattle

Friday, April 16, 2010


The Orioles lost to the Athletics on Thursday night to begin a ten day road trip to the west coast. I was not able to watch the game, but from what I read in the game story on the Baltimore Sun website it looked to be a pathetic showing.

Adam Jones looked to have a solid game going 3-5 with a double and a triple, but other than that---WOW.

The O's are now 1-9, and the season is already spiraling downhill. They've lost Brian Roberts for a good portion of the season, their closer who turned out to be a bit of a fraud, and Koji Uehara, who has been nothing short of disappointing in his two seasons in Baltimore.

I'm not too sure what to say here. The Ravens start training camp in more than three months, therefore, I'll need to keep coming up with something interesting to say about the Orioles. Wait a second, of course I'll be able to come up with something interesting. I always do!

Look for a piece on what I believe can and can't be fixed, and how I'd move forward with the team if I were running it. Hey, there's really not much else to say at 1-9.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


The Orioles lost to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night in what may have been one of the more sickening losses I've ever seen from an Orioles team. The O's fell to 1-7, and 0-5 on their opening home stand. Yes, those numbers are correct.

I'm going to rattle off a few positives here:

Brian Matusz is absolutely the real deal. He pitched seven and a third innings of two hit ball and was completely dominant.
Felix Pie had three hits tonight and seems to be a much more confidant hitter than at any point last season.
Mike Gonzalez didn't have to come in and get booed after his wife delivered his first child yesterday (No, really she did).
Oh, and Ty Wigginton Homered twice

The Negatives:

I don't know if it's karma, supernatural, or just a freaking curse. The team gets no breaks, can't create their own breaks, and when given an opportunity will not give themselves a break. More players in scoring position, and no runs scored.

If Adam Jones swings at another first pitch curveball in the dirt with men on base, I'm going to throw something through the television set. The guy is a tremendous talent and incredibly athletic, and you'd think he'd figure out how guys know how to bait him into swinging at garbage. Come on, Adam. You can't be serious. You don't have to swing at everything; That's why you get THREE STRIKES.

The base running is absolutely atrocious. What the heck was Felix Pie doing going to second on a single with the two, three, and four hitters coming up with a 3-0 lead? That out changed the entire momentum of the game. It's quite simply unacceptable and is losing team baseball. You just can't have stupid mistakes like that.

If we continue to let first pitch strikes down the middle go for strikes, I'm going to throw my dog through the wall. Yes, I'm talking about you, Nolan. I'm talking about you, Matt. Don't hide, Nick. There's being patient, and then there's being ridiculous. Being patient means you aren't swinging at garbage right away like Jones does. You three guys have three times the eye Jones has, and you don't even get garbage on the first pitch. Pitchers basically are aware that you don't swing at first pitches down the middle. Right away, you're down 0-1. Swing the bat. I'm begging you. You three are such terrific hitters in this league, and you are making it hard on yourself to hit. If you don't believe me, I urge you to watch the games back.

The defense. You are not off the hook. Wigginton let a ball go through the infield with one out in the eighth that my older sister would have knocked down. The ball was quite literally eight feet to the right of where you were. Ty, I know you aren't Brian Roberts, but I also know you are a professional infielder. It went from two out and nobody on, to Matusz tiring and having to work harder. We know what happened next.

The bullpen deserves special notice for sucking the life out of the city of Baltimore tonight, too. Thanks for holding the lead down and giving Matusz a win. If you're lucky, maybe he won't let you guys be so comfortable out there by cruising in the game and giving up two hits. It must be rough playing poker while sitting in the bullpen.

I won't forget you, Dave. You're a nice guy. In many ways I feel bad for you that this is your one shot to manage a big league team. The card you were dealt for two years was not a pleasant one. However, you manage baseball games worse than my 5th grade fall team coach. This team is not one with a bopper. You need to press the issue and create runs. A squeeze? A steal? You need to learn how to manufacture runs, especially with guys on who can run, and guys at the plate who aren't going to bop. I don't want to hear about moneyball. The whole use of saber-metrics and OBP is beyond ridiculous. If you want to know how a guy plays defensively, watch some games and you will get a good read. Don't look at baseball defensive statistics. That's just plain lazy of you. Moneyball is not effective unless you have two or three guys who will legitimately hit the ball out of the ballpark at any point in time. Why don't you understand that? WHY? Why do you continue to do this matchup garbage? I don't care if it's by the book and everyone does it. That's great. YOU CAN BE THE ONE WHO DOESN'T. IT HAS COST YOU SO MANY GAMES.

This was a game that the Orioles had no business losing. No other team would find a way to lose a game like this, but the Orioles found a way to give it to the other team in the late innings; just like they did five other times in the first eight games. Can you imagine what may have been had the closer closed the first win in Tampa? The seeds of doubt and "Here we go again" were planted right then and there.

If you know me and how I feel about baseball, you would know that I almost NEVER rip players. I understand how hard the game is. I understand that there are so many variables and explanations for almost everything in the game. I don't see a lack of hustle, and I don't at all believe there are guys out there for themselves. They just do not know how to win at this level, and it shows every single night. People think managing has no effect on a team or a game---THEY ARE COMPLETELY WRONG. Managing and coaching at any level in any sport is all about attitude and confidence. I had a basketball coach in high school that inspired confidence to go along with brilliant basketball tactics to mold a team of guys who weren't the best in the county into winners. I had a baseball manager who inspired confidence in us and knew how to win games. I also had coaches who were beyond clueless and lost games for my teammates and me. Don't ever think for one second that coaching has nothing to do with winning and losing. Is it everything? Absolutely not; but they set an attitude and the team will follow the leader.

I hate ripping players that I appreciate for how hard they've worked to get where they are. Unlike many people, I'm not at all jealous about what money they make. Frankly, I could care less. They deserve it because of many factors, and I am in no way hating on them. I'm just pointing out my observations.

This was a sickening loss in front of a disgustingly low home crowd on a Tuesday night in April. 13,000 people attended tonight's game. It's embarrassing that after 13 years it has gotten to this point. There is rock bottom, but I'm not sure they've hit it.

As Walter Cronkite would say, "And that's the way it is, April 13, 2010."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Santonio Holmes is OUT of the AFC North

Baltimore Ravens fans must be rejoicing today with the news that former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes has been traded to the New York Jets for a 5th round draft pick in the 2010 draft. Holmes has been suspended for the first four games of 2010 for violating the league's substance abuse policy

Holmes, the former Super Bowl MVP, has had multiple off-field incidents since being drafted by the Steelers in the first round of the 2006 draft, and the Steeler brass has had enough. The team is already dealing with the embarrassing off-field problems that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is having, and one of them had to go. Unfortunately for Holmes, he doesn't make as much as the star quarterback.

Holmes has been a thorn in the Ravens side for the past few seasons. He has scored touchdowns in seven of the eight games he has played against them including a 65 yard touchdown in the 2008 AFC Championship game. It's easy to say that Holmes has given the Ravens secondary their biggest problems over the last four seasons.

The Steelers will now go into the season with Antwan Randle El, Hines Ward, Arnaz Battle, and most likely a wide receiver from this year's draft. However, without Holmes running routes, the Steelers do not scare the Ravens as they had the last few seasons. Holmes is quick, fast, and makes big catches at crucial times. The Steelers will certainly miss him on the field.

The Ravens will not.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


There are losses, and then there are LOSSES. This past week for the Orioles has been one of the most frustrating in recent memory; and that's saying something for a team that hasn't had a winning season since 1997.

The Orioles were swept away at home by the Toronto Blue Jays to end the first week of the season. The Blue Jays are expected by many to finish dead last in the American League East division, and for the Orioles to drop these three games against them in their opening weekend is absolutely horrible. The way they lost the three games is equally depressing. Friday night, their new closer blew his second save in three chances, and on Sunday afternoon Kevin Millwood pitched seven brilliant innings before giving up the go-ahead runs after an error by Miguel Tejada kept the Jays inning alive.

Throughout the weekend, the O's bats were dead silent. The Orioles began Sunday hitting 8-46 with runners in scoring position, and it continued Sunday. The O's were shutout on Saturday, and did not score after the first inning on Sunday. Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and many others have been in super slumps to begin the year. It doesn't help that Brian Roberts is hurt, but he will be out close to three weeks. The team needs to get used to playing without him.

It's frustrating to go through two years of rebuilding and seeing young, talented players come up. The time for winning has come, and three or four games have already been blown to create a 1-5 start. It's almost like the players are completely frozen by the fact that the time is to now win. Could losing just be the culture? They seem to do almost every little thing wrong to lose a game at the end. Whether it be a missed groundball, not taking an extra base, not scoring from third with no outs. There must be forces creating this, right?

The question is if manager Dave Trembley will take the fall. I believe the team needs a bona fide manager who has proven he can give ballclubs a shot in the arm. I feel bad for Trembley because he was dealt a developmental hand, but it's time to win. The time is now, and the club just looks like the same old, same old.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Rob Dibble: New Meaning to "No" cheering the Press Box

Although I am a loyal follower and rabid Orioles fan, I will watch the Washington Nationals when they're on television or when the Orioles aren't playing. They're not a very good club, but I won't even pick on the team. No, today I am picking on their color analyst from MASN Rob Dibble. The "Nasty Boy" himself.

Dibble joined the Nationals broadcast team starting in 2009, and has been leaving his mark ever since. For a guy who never played for the Montreal Expos or Washington Nationals, he is one of the biggest homers I've ever listened to on television. The guy constantly defends the team or berates other teams or umpires during broadcasts. When his partner Bob Carpenter (don't even get me started on him) asked him if he'd ever heard of an athlete with a thyroid condition in reference to Jose Reyes, Dibble said something to the effect of "if he goes to Canada for blood running." Basically, he accused Reyes of using PED's on a baseball broadcast. Are you kidding me? That's so unprofessional I can't even comprehend how he mentioned that.

Dibble is also famous for berating umpires and making excuses for his pitchers by blaming the umpires. "We" as he refers to the Nationals like he, too, plays for them, never get any calls. He'll explain that a pitch is a strike, then the MASN camera will show the strike box with the ball clearly outside of it by a few inches, and Dibble will still ask how the call wasn't made. Yet, when the teams are reversed he'll completely defend it. The guy is so totally in the tank for the team, but he has never even played for them. This isn't Jim Palmer with the Orioles or Keith Hernandez with the Mets. This is Rob Dibble with the Washington Nationals.

Dibble actually clapped on the broadcast and said, "Yes!!!" during a triple by Willy Taveras. Really? Clapping? Cheering? Game five of a 162 game season during the second inning. He must think they only get a triple once or twice a season. Okay, they get about ten per year, but that's beside the point. Dibble's "That'a boy!" and "Take it and Like it!" chants during games are so unprofessional it leads me to conclude that he must think he needs to be the biggest homer in the game to keep his job. Maybe the Lerners (Nats owners) and Stan Kasten are telling him he needs to spin a beautiful tale to a horrific product on the team. I find it to be embarrassing that Dibble does this because it's completely, and utterly unprofessional.

Dibble needs to understand that he is a journalist now. He's not a player or fan. He needs to be objective because that's his job. When you become irrational, how does anybody know when things are going well? Making excuses for a team, cheering, and berating the other team sounds very fourth grade. He also sounds like a parent. Is he? Maybe, but not of a guy on the team. Come on, Dibs, you were a very good closer in your day; but it's time to put on the suit and become the objective journalist you have chosen to become.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Opening Night

The Orioles held on last night in Tampa for their first win before heading back to Baltimore for their home opener on Friday. Coming back after being swept would not have been such a great feeling, especially since a loss would have meant new closer Mike Gonzalez would have blown two saves in the first three games. Can you imagine the reception he would have gotten when he is introduced to Baltimore today for the first time? Ouch.

The Orioles got clutch hits last night from Matt Wieters, Garrett Atkins, and gutty pitching from Brian Matusz. Matusz (1-0) did not have his best stuff and walked five batters, but he still gutted out five innings and allowed only two runs. Can you imagine what he's like with his mediocre stuff? The guy's pretty good, eh?

Opening day for any city (save Washington) is a great day for the home team. The optimism is high, and after six long months you finally get to see your favorite players representing the home team again. I'll be there in my Nick Markakis jersey, and I hope others are there, too. Camden Yards is a park that will never disappoint, and it never gets any better there than opening day.

I like the matchup today with Brad Bergesen going for his first start since a horrific shin injury ended his season in July of 2009. He will be opposed by Toronto Blue Jay Brandon Marrow. Marrow, a former Seattle Mariners flame-thrower, has been a bullpen hand during his career, but will start the season in the rotation. It will be interesting to see how he does when he has to go more than five innings.

See everyone tonight at the Yard

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Another Close Call

The Baltimore Orioles lost their second straight game to open the season against the Tampa Bay Rays. The heartbreak was not as bad this time as the Rays went ahead 4-2 before winning 4-3. It was a very well played game with bounces and plays that could have gone either way. If you know my blog, you know that I just call that for what it is: baseball.

Adam Jones had another single, and Matt Wieters collected two more hits and scored a run. The Orioles just never could get another hit in the clutch with runners on, and part of that is a credit to Rays pitcher Matt Garza, who pitched a terrific game. Garza threw every pitch for strikes, changed speeds, and located beautifully. Sometimes you have to credit the other team, and this was one of those nights.

Jeremy Guthrie pitched very well tonight in giving up only three runs in 6 1/3 after having a terrible spring training. Guthrie located his fastball and slider very well, and got some key strikeouts in big situations. The Rays are a terrific offensive team, and Guthrie gave the Orioles more than a chance to win this game.

The Orioles are facing a tough task. The American League East has three of the best teams in baseball, and the Orioles must climb them to be a contender. The Orioles are certainly much improved, and there is no doubt they are competing with the Rays down to the last out. One or two guys makes a huge difference in baseball, and right now the other teams have those guys. Once they start playing teams that aren't the Sox, Yankees, or Rays, I believe they will start winning a lot more consistently. However, they just need to get over that hump.

160 games left. Let's lay off the "they suck" chants for a few minutes.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Some Positives, One Big Negative

Mariano Rivera is going to the hall of fame because of his incredible ability to nail the door shut in the ninth inning of close ballgames. The Baltimore Orioles have neither Rivera nor anybody near his ability to close, and it has cost them big time over the past few years.

The Orioles wasted a tremendous effort tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays in front of a sold out Tampa crowd to go 1-0 on the young season and take some momentum into tomorrow nights game.

Adam Jones went 3-5 with a double, home run, and single and Luke Scott and Matt Wieters each added solo shots as well. Unfortunately, the O's also went 1-12 with runners in scoring position. With men on 2nd and 3rd in the 4th inning and no outs, the Orioles failed to score when Garrett Atkins popped up, Cesar Izturis grounded out, and Brian Roberts lined out. The Orioles failed to capitalize in a similar situation in the 9th inning, and it cost them dearly.

This really is not a game story blog. If you want that, head to the Baltimore Sun. I'm here to talk about what I see, and I saw a tremendous effort wasted.

Baseball can be a game of luck. The way the ball bounces, being inches short of taking balls out of the park, and hitting into bad luck. The Orioles look to be much improved with Jones scorching the ball, Wieters looking like a veteran, and other contributing players giving much more than past players of the 2000's have. This was a game that two or three years ago could have gotten out of hand in favor of Tampa, but the O's gutted it out; until the 9th inning when their closer blew the game. Mike Gonzalez left too many pitchers up in the zone, and they got drilled all over the park until the game ended.

This team will simply never compete in the division until games like this are nailed shut. Closers are so rare to find, but they just need to figure out how to win these games. This was a heartbreaking game. You cannot spoil an opener like this against a good team on the road and expect to win many games.

Luckily, you can come back the next day in baseball and go for it again. I hate to say this game had much meaning on day one, but emotions creep in, and so do "here we go again" thoughts. The ship needs to be righted tomorrow, but tonight would have been a great one. UNBELIEVABLE

After 184 long days: Opening Day

The Baltimore Orioles will finally get their season underway tonight at 7:05 PM in St. Petersburg, FL, against the Tampa Bay Rays. There are many things to look forward to tonight, and there are certainly major differences from last year's opening day squad against the New York Yankees.

Veteran Kevin Millwood will be taking the mound tonight in his Orioles debut. He was brought in to stabilize the young pitching staff, eat innings, and win some games. I expect Millwood to have a solid outing, but most importantly, I expect him to go seven innings in many of his starts.

Catcher Matt Wieters was not yet with the club last year for opening day, and I'm excited to see what a full year in the show will do for him. Wieters is ready to handle the pitching staff without a mentor, and his high batting IQ should help him keep hitting for average this season, while developing more power to go along with it.

Felix Pie will get the first few starts in left field over Nolan Reimold. Pie was with the team last year, but he was seen as a project. I don't think the club thought he would develop as quickly as he has. Pie was very impressive during spring training, and he has earned his way into tonights lineup. It helps that Reimold is still recovering from an achilles injury suffered last summer.

New corner infielders Miguel Tejada and Garrett Atkins will be interesting to watch, too. Tejada is a proven, consistent bat with a steady glove. Atkins is still trying to find himself after three declining seasons in Colorado. Both of these players can have a major impact on how the Orioles do this season, and we finally get to see tonight just how much they will bring to this lineup.

Who else is excited to get this thing rolling???

Stay tuned for an article about the Nationals and the Donovan McNabb trade.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: McNabb to Redskins

In a stunning development, the Washington Redskins received longtime Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb tonight in exchange for the 37th pick in this year's draft and a third or fourth round pick in 2011.

This is stunning because the Redskins and Eagles are in the same division. This tells me the Eagles really don't think he either has much left or will beat them twice. The Eagles didn't even get the Redskins fourth overall pick in this year's draft. You just don't trade in division unless those two factors are in place. That being said, this is quite the trade.

The Redskins couldn't quite help themselves. They had to get an older player who has name recognition and sells jerseys. Until they prove me wrong, I'll keep saying that. Shanahan and Bruce Allen bring in older players who aren't wanted by their old teams. It's just a fact. The Redskins bring in older, name recognition guys and sell hope. Until I see success ON THE FIELD, I don't want to hear about Super Bowls or the playoffs.

Jason Campbell is a mediocre player. He's had time to show that he's the man, and it just hasn't happened. Don't give me the line. Lots of guys have line issues, and their quarterbacks still make plays. Where he goes is an interesting question.

I'll have more on this trade tomorrow. I can tell you one thing: My sister's fiancee is quite happy tonight.

The LVBR (Least Valuable Baserunner

In recent memory, I cannot recall there being so much rage over the new baseball statistics. OBP, OPS, UZR. The defensive stats that have been analyzed and have been pouring in for the past few years. Teams like the Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, and Washington Nationals have talked about (In the case of Seattle and Boston) setting up their teams based purely on defensive merit. On base percentage has become a rage since the book Moneyball came out a decade or so ago, and baseball players like Adam Dunn have benefited. On-base plus slugging percentage has become a popular way to show a players overall prowess at the plate. Can he get on base? Does he hit for power? That stat measures the two in the same---it doesn't do much for me. Players like Ichiro get on base with singles, then steal second base or can go first to third on a hit, which makes up for a lack of power.

I have tried for some time now to come up with a stat that shows how valuable you are when you do not hit a home run. Getting on base is great, but you don't win by getting on base---you win by scoring runs. To me, scoring runs is the most important thing there is. If you get on first, but cannot score how are you valuable?

If you've followed my blog, you know that I am not a fan of Dunn. He either homers, strikes out, or walks. When he does walk or get a single, it's almost meaningless. He is not a threat to steal, go first to third on a single, or score on a gap shot or score from second with less than two outs. He's almost worthless to have on the bases. You might as well put him on base because your odds of getting out of an inning without giving up a run almost go up because with him on base, the threat of him homering or scoring go down.

The stat I've come up with measures your value to scoring when you don't hit a home run. In other words, what is your value for most of the games? I've come up with a method to take how many runs you score in a season and subtract the amount of home runs hit. Then, you divide that by how many games the player played in. What I found was quite interesting. Let's take a look at some players.

Adam Dunn 2009: 159 games, 81 runs, 38 home runs....43 runs without a home run/159=27%

Nick Swisher 2009: 150 games, 84 runs, 29 home runs....55 runs without a home run/150=37%

Darryl Strawberry 1990: 152 games, 92 runs, 37 home runs....55 runs without a home run/152=36%

Reggie Jackson 1977: 146 games, 93 runs, 32 home runs....61 runs without a home run/146=42%

Nick Markakis 2009: 161 games, 94 runs, 18 home runs...76 runs without a home run/161=47%

As we can see, I have compared Dunn with power hitters past and present, and included a current player who is not known for power. In this new baseball era where athleticism and speed count, it's important to be able to run the bases because home runs are not going to be as common as they were in the steroid era. Teams like the Angels and Rays place a ton of emphasis on scoring from every base and taking advantage.

As I just showed, Dunn does not present any kind of threat as a baserunner. In fact, he is one of the least valuable players in the league when he is actually on base. That's why OBP can be a misleading stat. Getting on base is not the object of the game. SCORING is the object of the game. Can you score runs? Do you put pressure on opposing pitchers and defenses to score runs? I will take guys who score runs over those who hit a ton of home runs but don't score a lot of runs because home runs do not come every game. If you are only valable to your team for one day a week, then how are you really helping them out? I think that's why it shows that teams that Dunn has been on aren't totally successful, nor do they get much of an offensive boost when he's there. He's a station to station baserunner that does not pose a threat on the bases.

Players like Dustin Pedroia, Ichiro, Brian Roberts, and Derek Jeter (to name only a few) pose a much bigger threat and though they don't hit many home runs, they will score runs. The object of the game is to score---not to get on first base. Watch games this year with a watchful eye towards this stat, and tell me what you think.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Quick Final Four Predictions

With just under two hours before the Final Four gets going tonight, here are my predictions for who will play on Monday night for the 2010 NCAA title game.

Butler Vs. Michigan State:

It's simple. Michigan State is beaten up and is here on guts and coaching. Butler is here because they're actually really good, and this game is being played only a few miles way from their campus. I like Butler to take the mid-major conferences to the title game on Monday night, an accomplishment that may not happen again for a long, long time.

Butler 75, Michigan State 68

Duke vs. West Virginia:

This is the game of the night. West Virginia is a big, bruising team. Duke has the brains and team talent. I like Duke to make the plays down the stretch to set up Monday night. Point guard Jon Scheyer and two-guard Nolan Smith will make enough plays offensively and defensively to put this one away.

Duke 80, WVU 74

Friday, April 2, 2010

Orioles Acquire Lugo

The Orioles acquired former St. Louis shortstop Julio Lugo today to be their utility infielder. Lugo is still going to be paid $8.6 million by the Red Sox, and he will spell Brian Roberts and Cesar Izturis when they need a breather.

Lugo's arrival makes a bit of sense in that the Orioles weren't too happy with former utility man Robert Andino's so-so spring. Andino does not provide much of an offense punch at the plate, and his defense was not as sharp as they'd hoped it would be. Lugo can provide a little bit more offense when he's in there.

Overall, this is a move that does very little other than assure a quality backup that can take over when needed. If Lugo must fill in on an everyday basis, the Orioles can be comfortable that they will be getting a little bit of offense to make up for the little pop Andino provided.

Keep checking back for updates

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring Training: Please End!

There comes a time in every sport; whether it be in high school, college, or the pro's, where the preseason has just gone on long enough. The practice, conditioning, hard-work, and more importantly, the meaninglessness of the games is becoming too much to bare.

Right now in Arizona and Florida, it has become that time for Major League baseball players.

The last 10 days of spring training must be brutal. Like an eight year old kid counting down the days until Christmas or a freshman in college counting down the days until their first Thanksgiving break. Don't get me wrong; players need spring training to refine their craft and get ready for the mental grind of a 162 game schedule played in about 182 days. The thought of that just makes me want to lay on a beach in Hawaii.

The last 10 days of spring training are meaningless. Everybody is ready to roll, and the pitchers have been stretched out as far as they're going to be when it's the end of March/early April. The hitters have caught up to the pitchers, and everyone is tired of taking infield practice at 9am. The monotony of the spring training routine is wearing down everybody---including the fans. The fans have been giving their take on who to take for fantasy for much too long. It's time we see for real who is going to be a bust, a sleeper, a hot pick-up, and a winner. The prognostications for the nationally publicized magazines are in.

It's time to get this thing going, and that's exactly what we're going to do starting on Sunday night with the Red Sox and Yankees on ESPN baseball with two of this generations best broadcasters Jon Miller and Hall of Fame second basemen Joe Morgan.

The Orioles open on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Keep following the blog for updates. The real thing starts on Sunday night!