Here are the 5 Ws and 1 H floating around in my head on Thursday night:
1. Who will be the Ravens kicker this season?
Steve Hauschka performed well kicking off last season but only attempted two field goals, making a 54-yarder and missing the other from 52.
Rookie free agent Graham Gano has a huge leg and had a brilliant season at Florida State, hitting 24 of 26 field goals.
It was clear Matt Stover lost a great deal of range last season, but you always knew what you were going to get from him. Anything inside 45 yards was automatic. For a team with visions of a Super Bowl, a kicker can make or break the season. Just ask the 2000 Tennessee Titans.
The battle between Hauschka and Gano will be unlike anything we’ve seen in the 14-year history of the team, as the Ravens will search for their second starting kicker in franchise history.
2. What was the original purpose of the dirt path between the pitching mound and home plate in early-1900s ballparks? For nostalgia, you’ll find the dirt strip at Comerica Park and Chase Field.
I was watching the Yankees-Tigers game last night when the question was posed to me. After researching, I found a variety of possible explanations ranging from making infield maintenance easier for the grounds crew to being made to resemble the “pitch” area in cricket. As someone who loves baseball history, I’m curious to find a definitive answer from a source other than a message board or Wikipedia.
3. Where will Alex Rodriguez play his first game this season, and how bad will the reaction be?
Considering A-Rod wasn’t exactly a fan favorite before the steroid revelations, it could get pretty ugly. Generally, most fans seem to have tuned out the steroid talk, but I think they’ll make an exception for Rodriguez. It makes sense for him to return at home before he faces the heckling in other ballparks.
We might be viewing Mark Teixeira’s reception at Camden Yards as downright cordial compared to what Rodriguez could hear on the road. I won’t worry too much about a guy with a $275 million contract—he can probably afford the tissues to dry the tears.
4. When will we learn where Lance Stephenson will play his one season of college ball? I’m all for an 18-year-old kid taking his time in choosing the right place to play (and attend school?), but this is getting ridiculous.
He would be a lightning rod of attention for the Terps, but there comes a point where you just have to think he doesn’t really want to be in College Park.
5. Why did Nolan Reimold waste a year playing right field last season at Bowie? Knowing Luke Scott and Jay Payton weren’t long-term answers in left last season, Reimold should have been playing there with the Baysox.
Then again, if it weren’t for this, what excuse would the Orioles really have to keep him in Triple A after the great spring and hot start with Norfolk?
6a. How well does Felix Pie have to perform for the Orioles to keep him in the starting lineup beyond the end of May?
As putrid as he’s looked at the plate and even in the field, you cannot give up on the experiment after 51 at bats. Then again, Reimold hit his seventh home run of the season tonight and is hitting over .400 for Norfolk, so it’s going to be difficult to ignore his play much longer.
Pie needs to be hitting at least .200 and looking more fluid in the field by the end of May to justify keeping him in the lineup—or even on the roster. Though it’s a very superficial comparison, Nick Markakis was hitting .182 at the end of April in his 2006 rookie season; Pie is currently hitting .157. The difference is Markakis was managing to pass the eyeball test while Pie is not.
If he wants to stick with the Orioles, it’s time to start showing some of the ability that made him the No. 1 prospect for the Chicago Cubs.
6b (Another “how” just came to me as I write this). How incredible has the Celtics-Bulls playoff series been? Four of the six games have gone to overtime.
Physical—and even dirty—play.