I attended Oriole fan fest at the Baltimore Convention Center in January. As I drove down Russell St towards Pratt, I could still see the Ravens banners on the light poles on the road. Ironically, the Ravens had just lost to the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL playoffs the week before, ending their season. I felt a bit odd driving to an event for the “boys of summer” while evidence of the NFL season was still very fresh in the hearts of the fans. That day the O’s had approximately 12,000 people attend fan fest, including yours truly. I suppose that at the time I felt as if I was in some sort of strange time tunnel in that the city itself appeared to be in between worlds. The wounds of the Ravens’ loss was still in the hearts and minds of most people, however the city was starting to paint itself orange in anticipation for the Orioles.
Now I suppose we find ourselves in the reverse situation, as the Orioles’ season begins to enter it’s doldrums, and the Ravens are beginning their assent to the forefront of people’s minds. In looking towards the NFL season, Ravens’ fans should most certainly feel a sense of excitement, as the team is looking to once again compete to be amongst the NFL’s elite. While Joe Flacco finished the regular season with a QB rating of only 88.9, he did have a completion percentage of 63.1%, and he finished with 3600 yards plus for the year. However we also need to keep in mind that the Ravens also had only one 1,000 yard plus receiver in Derrick Mason. Going into 2010, the Ravens have added Anquan Boldin (formerly of the Cardinals) to their receiving corps, which gives Flacco another big target with sure hands. Boldin’s presence will probably also force defenses to play more zone coverage against the Ravens, which will open up passing lanes underneath for Joe Flacco. Ultimately with two receivers such as Boldin and Mason, Todd Heap should have the opprotunity to cut open across the middle.
The heart of the Ravens’ team is still the defense, led of course by Ray Lewis. As they say on the street, ’nuff said. However they have sustained some injuries thus far in camp, as Domonique Foxworth is out for the season with a torn ACL. Cornerback Chris Carr also injured his hamstring, and Haloi Ngata left this morning’s practice with back spasms. The thing that’s exciting about the Ravens this season is that I personally believe that they’re a black horse candidate to win the AFC North. While the Steelers didn’t make the playoffs last season, that was probably due in large part to injuries. The Steelers lost Willie Parker when he signed with the Washington Redskins, and Santonio Holmes when he was traded to the NY Jets, replacing him with their old friend Antwaan Randel-El (formerly with the Redskins). Most importantly, Pittsburgh will be without Ben Roethlisberger for at least the first month of the season due to suspension (possibly six weeks). Does anyone see Byron Leftwich causing a quarterback controversy in Steel Town? Survey says: probably not. The Bengals are of course the defending AFC North champions, however needless to say I would think that T.O. will probably have that franchise in shambles by week five or six.
So as Baltimore’s purple clad warriors begin to gear up for the season, the boys of summer are still here playing every night. Needless to say, it’s been a tough year thus far. However I think that we have to view 2010 as two seasons; 2010, and 2010A. The 2010 portion of the season included a 2-16 start numerous injuries, poor play, and ultimately the firing of manager Dave Trembley in the beginning of June. Since then, Juan Samuel led the Orioles valiantly, however to no avail. On July 29th the Orioles effectively ended 2010 when they announced the hiring of Buck Showalter as the Orioles’ permanent manager, launching us into 2010A. Opening night was on August 3rd against the Angels…Brian Matusz pitched a gem for ‘dem O’s, who beat Anaheim 6-3. One week later, the O’s have played six games in their new “season,” and have a record of 5-1.
Unfortunately we all know that this truly isn’t two seasons, and that going into play tonight the Orioles have a record of 37-74 on the year. However if this past week is any indication, the future is still bright. Granted many people felt that the future was bright back in January at fan fest as well. However at the time the O’s were a franchise that had some pieces in place but lacked a true direction. Now that a bona fide manager is in place and many of the injured birds are returning, the Orioles look to finish the last two months of the season in a respectable manner. 2010 was always supposed to be about putting the ingredients together, and while it took a bit longer than people would have expected, that finally appears to be happening. Going into play tonight the O’s had played six games under Showalter, all six of which had been quality starts. Even pitchers such as Jake Arrieta (who didn’t end up getting a decision in their start) have pitched well. The team appears to be paying much closer attention to detail, which will ultimately win them games. If these O’s stay hot through the end of the season, odds are they’ll take that momentum into 2011, and the sky’s the limit from that point forward.
So perhaps one of these days people will drive down Pratt St to Oriole fan fest through a Ravens’ Super Bowl parade. It seems that sports fans in Baltimore have suffered for too long in that the city was dealt an unfair blow in losing the NFL for so long, and now for the past 13 years the Orioles have struggled. However perhaps that era of disappointment is coming to an end. So with that said, ain’t the beer cold?!