It’s only April 25, but the first true test of this year’s Orioles team is upon them. After dropping two in a row to Oakland while making some remarkably boneheaded plays (both physical and mental), the Boston Red Sox pay a visit for two games beginning tonight. This will be our first indication of whether or not the O’s are truly better this season than the past decade of futility.
Consider: Last year the Bosox won 15 of 18 against Baltimore. Fifteen of eighteen! And remember, the Sox crumbled last August and failed to make a playoff appearance. Manny Ramirez basically went AWOL, David Ortiz had a heart scare and Jon Lester battled non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Their season essentially unraveled on them when the Yankees went into Fenway and swept five games from them. But the Sox still managed an unbelievable .833 winning percentage against the O’s.
Granted, the Baltimore roster has changed since, especially in the bullpen, but the kind of dominance Boston exhibited last year isn’t a fluke. Their starting pitching, slugging power and closer are all still stronger than Baltimore’s. And there are still plenty of Orioles on the roster who were there last year and were subjected to the carnage. That kind of losing can create psychological pressure on players; it’s just human nature.
Top it off with the reality of Schilling and Beckett starting these two games against Cabrera and Loewen, and there’s really a good deal at stake. Win both, in whatever fashion, and maybe there’s real hope and potential in these ’07 Birds. Split the series and everybody’s content. Lose both and there’s a real sense of “here we go again”.
So this is the first real opportunity for the Orioles to back up their claims about this being a better team that can contend for something other than fourth place this season. And following the vapor lock of lots of different players over the previous two games, I just hope they stop over-thinking, pouting and lacking focus.
Here’s your chance, guys: Show us something. Show the Red Sox something.
As Draft Day approaches for the Ravens, I’m less and less certain they’ll pick an offensive lineman in the first round. I firmly believe if Joe Staley is gone by the time the 29th selection rolls around that there aren’t enough quality linemen available worthy of that selection. I’m actually rooting for one of two scenarios: Aaron Ross, a cornerback from Texas, falls in their laps, or, if Staley and Ross are both gone, they trade down and acquire either another second round selection or a third rounder to replace the one from the Willis McGahee trade. I’m always comfortable with the idea of Ozzie & Co. having lots of middle and late round selections. Remember that as hyped as first round picks are, quality organizations build depth by making astute picks later in the draft. Some examples, just off the top of my head: Edwin Mulitalo, Dewan Landry and Adalius Thomas. More players equals more competition for jobs equals more wins.
Speaking of Draft Day, be sure to tune in around 3 p.m., following Loyola lacrosse, for WNST’s draft coverage. I’ll be in studio with Thyrl Nelson and Michael Popovec following the draft as it unfolds, taking your calls and breaking down the events of the day. Especially as it pertains to the Ravens. Keep it tuned in all afternoon and evening and call with your opinions. You can be the first in Baltimore to talk about our newest Raven (currently known as Player X).