Random baseball thoughts: The Baltimore Orioles are now back at .500 following last night’s 2 -1, 10 inning defeat in Oakland. How long until they’re 10 games below .500? 20 games? Even with the unexpected good start, wasn’t it just a matter of time before the Birds “found their level”? This team has a disturbing gap between up – and – coming stars like Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Matt Albers and veteran players who would be best used as role players on contending teams like Millar, Huff and Trachsel. The good news is that the Orioles can’t be considered real contenders, so Andy MacPhail can continue the rebuilding he started in the off-season by trading desirable veteran parts by the trade deadline (Mora, Millar, Payton, Walker, Bradford, Huff, etc.). The bad news is the ballclub is clearly headed for an 11th consecutive losing season (and quite realistically a 12th). How much more can one team’s dwindling fan base endure? We’ll find out by mid-August when Texas comes to town.
Speaking of attendance…I was cruising through the channels last week, catching some NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs and a little MLB, when I stopped cold in my tracks on MASN’s coverage of the Washington Nationals game. Here it was a pleasant spring night, early May, in a ballpark that just opened, and there were entire sections of blue seats visible in the background! For all the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing we do around here regarding the lack of attendance at OPACY, just 30 miles down the road, in a $611 million taxpayer funded gem of a new stadium, the Nats couldn’t even sell out a Thursday night game! By my admittedly amateurish guess, the place might have been half filled. What gives? Wasn’t D.C. the handpicked market to relocate the Expos to because “they haven’t had baseball in 33 years in our nation’s capital and they’re just dying to have a team and it’ll be the best thing for the interests of MLB”? Could it be that Bud Selig miscalculated again? Was Peter Angelos correct in his argument that this Baltimore – Washington region couldn’t support two teams? Did the powers – that – be in the Washington baseball circles badly misjudge the location of the new stadium? (As crazy as it sounds, the best proposal was to put the ballpark out near Dulles Airport, because, ya know, people actually live in Northern Virginia and there’s plenty of ground available for parking and it’s not in Southeast D.C.) Call me a born and bred Baltimorean, but there is absolutely no way Camden Yards would have suffered attendance problems like this in its first year even if a team had existed in Washington in 1992. Here’s the truth: D.C. is a transient town filled with people from everywhere but there. And the natives who might be inclined to go to a baseball game either can’t afford it or aren’t willing to take the Metro night after night to reach such an inaccessible and blighted neighborhood. Mark my words: baseball will fail for a third time in D.C., and in about twenty years they’ll be left with a beautiful stadium and no team. If Cleveland Municipal Stadium was the “Mistake by the Lake”, then let’s call Nationals Stadium “It’ll Cost Ya on the Anacostia”.
Final baseball thought: Chase Utley is one helluva ballplayer and the best in the game right now.
Random football thoughts: Can everyone just wait to see Joe Flacco throw a pass in an actual game before declaring him a “reach” or a “bust”? I realize there’s no more criticized or scrutinized position in professional sports in our country than Quarterback for an NFL team, but let’s just give this a little time, shall we? Whether he played at Delaware or North Dakota State, the Baltimore Ravens decided that Flacco was their guy and therefore did what was necessary to draft him. Admittedly, the Ravens’ checkered history at the game’s most important position gives one pause. And if Ozzie & Co. are wrong this time, it could very well mean a front office shakeup would be justifiable in two or three years. But let’s all exercise a little restraint and patience while we await seeing Flacco in the exhibition season.
Ray Rice will contribute this year. Hopefully, so will Fabian Washington. As for the rest of the Ravens’ Draft Class ’08, who knows? My belief is the draft is a crapshoot anyway, especially after Round One. My resolution for next year is to ignore every Mock Draft I see (sorry, KZ. Don’t take it personally. It’s not you, it’s me.)
What the hell is going on with Marvin Harrison?
Somebody wake up Fred Davis and let him know there’s already a pretty good tight end in D.C. named Chris Cooley. Do you think they cover “Falling asleep at your first mini-camp” at the NFL Rookie Symposium?
Random horse racing thoughts: Big Brown was certainly impressive Saturday, but I’m left wondering how good his competition really is, because absolutely no other horse in the Derby even attempted a challenge. This does not bode well for the Preakness, from either a handicapping perspective or a casual fan’s view. If you eliminate Eight Belles’ second place, the closest any other horse got was Denis of Cork at almost 9 lengths back. And it’s not as if Big Brown was threatening any track records; he just ran away from what appears to be a mediocre field of three year olds. Let’s hope for a little more drama from Old Hilltop on May 17. But I’m not counting on it, especially given the fact that not even one horse from Kentucky will attempt to stop him at Pimlico. Better just bet an exacta box for the Preakness with Big Brown and “wheel the field”. Then hope one of the 35 – 1 shots grabs Place.
I’ll be heading to Pimlico a few times over the next week or so to cover not just the Preakness but also the general state of malaise of horse racing in our state. I’m certainly not the handicapper that Gary Quill is, or the railbird that Ed Frankovic and Jason Jubb are, but I do enjoy the tradition and the thrill that horse racing can provide. I’ll be taking the laptop and the digital camera, so look for some special “behind the scenes” updates from Pimlico right here on wnst.net. GQ, Ed and JubbyJubb, you need to contact me so we can give this some blanket coverage together. After all, we may only host one or two more of these things before Frank Stronach gives up and moves the Preakness to a Florida track.
A Big Congratulations!!! To my great friend and on-air sidekick Darren Rudham and his lovely wife Gretchen on the (finally!) arrival of their first son Maximus! Max checked in last night at a strapping 9 lbs. 9 ozs. and measured 21.5 inches. Yowza! Sounds like a 1st Round pick for the Ravens in the 2029 NFL Draft (Tight End from the University of Maryland, naturally!) Best Wishes to all three of the Rudhams! When Max starts walking, bring him over for some football with my three boys! They’ll teach him all he needs to know!