While on a family vacation to the snowy and frozen northern part of the nation this week, I jotted down a few notes on Baltimore sports as the Ravens turn for home in the playoff chase and the Orioles turn for the worse after losing out in the Mark Teixeira “sweepstakes.”
* Congrats to the Ravens on a signature victory last Saturday over the Cowboys in the final game in Texas Stadium. It was the biggest victory of the season to date in a game that had a lot riding on it for both clubs. Baltimore did not wilt in the face of Dallas’ fourth-quarter pressure, and in doing so, set themselves up to play January football if everything goes the right way on Sunday against the Jaguars. A year ago at this time, the franchise was reeling from a horrible finish and about to dismiss the coaching staff in an unexpected way after the season. Today, it’s purple holiday lights and smiles when the playoffs (or festivus to the previous regime) are discussed. It’s a great time to be a Ravens fan, no matter how Sunday turns out, because there is hope for 2008 and beyond.
* Congrats to Teixeira on his deal with the New York Yankees. Yes, I am a Baltimore fan first, and would have loved seeing him in Orioles black and orange, but he was under no obligation to provide the Orioles with anything remotely resembling loyalty or a “hometown discount.” Players do not have Scott Boras as an agent from the time they enter the MLB Draft to take “discounts” to play for a franchise that is still trying to find its way after years of mismanagement. Sitting here in Green Bay with my Mt. St. Joe sweatshirt on, I’m glad that Mark will continue to write checks out of loyalty to his high school in Catonsville. Regardless of which uniform he wears, all of us St. Joe grads are glad to see him succeed and to help his old school in its mission.
* There has been plenty written on WNST’s web space about the Orioles failure to launch in the case of trying get Teixeira “home.” The truth is that the Orioles still have to overpay any major free agent to play in Baltimore because of the team’s downturn over the last decade and the knowledge that New York, Boston and Anaheim are places where October baseball is played regularly and money is thrown around freely. Now, the Yankees move into the new Yankee Stadium this year, and they want to make it as attractive as possible so that fans and corporate sponsors will pay the unbelievable ticket prices in the new park this spring. The Yankees want to be relevant in the worst way again, and the crosshairs are on Joe Girardi to get this group home to the World Series.
* As for the Orioles, the best thing Andy McPhail can do now is spend the MASN money on the minor-league system and player scouting. The best position for the club in a few years is to have enough home-grown talent that the free agent market is only used for a mid-level need, and that opposing clubs become willing to deal major-league players for talented minor leaguers that the Orioles have in reserve. I hope that’s the plan, anyway. The turnover in the scouting and minor-league departments over the last 10-plus years have had more to do with the Orioles’ downturn than many realize. Rebuilding from the inside will restore the base that contending clubs are built on. Tampa Bay came to that same conclusion and made a plan which came to early fruition in 2008. You don’t need to spend $180 million on one player, just make sure good young talent is scouted and drafted — signed to long-term deals and kept in the system to be coached by competent minor-league staffs who are successful in player development. Again, I hope that’s the plan.
* If you have a chance, read the story written by Jim Gorant in this week’s Sports Illustrated, titled “Happy New Year.” It is a story about the 51 dogs (47 still alive) rescued from disgraced NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s dog-fighting operation. One of the dogs, Sweet Jasmine, has been re-homed to a loving couple in the Baltimore suburbs. Jasmine is the cover dog on SI, and the story will both warm and break your heart. I worked in the Falcons organization at the time Vick was under investigation for his crimes, and I don’t think he could ever do enough time for what he and his co-conspirators did to those dogs. The story in SI will make you think twice about what you might think about pit bulls as a breed (some of which SI perpetuated in an 1987 article), and it highlights the work of several loving people and groups who helped start the process of rehabilitating these animals from their dire situation.
* Finally, to those who listen to WNST on the radio or visit this little slice of Baltimore sports on the web called WNST.net, Happy Holidays to you and yours. It’s been a long year with a lot of bad news about jobs, the economy, etc., but all of us should take a moment and count our blessings of family and friends during this joyous season. A Happy New Year to us all!