It’s time to look back at the three most compelling events of this past weekend. The Orioles are going to be a big part of this. When was the last time that we mentioned the Orioles and the word compelling in the same sentence late in the month of August? Enjoy the ride Baltimore sports fans. The Ravens are getting ready to gear things up and the Orioles aren’t just Wild Card contenders, at 4 ½ games back they are challenging for the AL East crown. Let’s get to our top three:
Sunday afternoon the Baltimore Ravens made their first round of cuts. Included in those cuts was Kicker Billy Cundiff.
The training camp kicking battle between Cundiff and rookie Justin Tucker was intense from start to finish. I feel bad for Billy because he will not get a chance to redeem himself here in Baltimore after his AFC Championship miss that ended the Ravens hopes of going to Superbowl XLVI. This competition has been the talk of the town since Justin Tucker signed with the Ravens as an Undrafted Free Agent. In the beginning I didn’t believe that Tucker would beat out Cundiff for the job, but as training camp and Preseason went along it became pretty evident that Tucker was starting to edge out Cundiff. It all culminated with Tucker getting all the kicks in the Ravens’ Preseason game vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tucker was nearly flawless in every aspect of his game. Tucker even pulled off a successful onside kick vs. the Detroit Lions. I truly believe that Cundiff didn’t lose the job but Tucker was just that incredible in the competition. I’m fairly certain that Billy Cundiff will be kicking somewhere in the NFL before this season is over. Ultimately I think the Ravens had to consider the potential weapon that Tucker could be. His 53 yard field goal in Thursday’s game had plenty of distance and hit the net above the crossbar. Not out of the question to say that it would have been good from at least 65 yards.
Some will question the Ravens for starting this season with a rookie Kicker. The last time the Ravens attempted this it ended poorly with Steve Hauschka unable to handle the pressure of the job. Hauschka was just 9-13 for the Ravens back in 2009 before being cut after nine games. That year the Ravens picked up journeyman Billy Cundiff. If Tucker somehow folds under the pressure the Ravens would make a similar move. I just think that Coach John Harbaugh, General Manager Ozzie Newsome and the rest of the Ravens personnel staff just couldn’t let the potential talent of Tucker get away. Here was John Harbaugh’s statement after the decision was made to cut Cundiff, “Billy had a great camp, the best he has had with us. He showed, like he always has, a toughness and an ability to come back and be a top-flight NFL kicker. These decisions are never easy, and this one was difficult for all of us – Ozzie [Newsome], Jerry [Rosburg] and me. Of course, that says something about Justin [Tucker], the way he has kicked and our belief in him. But, that does not say something less about Billy. Billy was ready in every way to be our kicker. He’ll kick in the NFL. He’s a very good kicker and an even better person.” I don’t think there is any doubt that Harbaugh and the Ravens have the utmost respect for Cundiff and I truly believe that this was not an easy decision for the Ravens.
Mike Mussina was inducted into the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame before Saturday night’s Oriole game. I don’t understand the venom that some Oriole fans show towards Mussina. He was truly one of the Orioles all time greats and gave everything he had for the organization. I defy anyone to put themselves in Mussina’s shoes and say they wouldn’t have done the same exact thing that Mussina did when he left Baltimore to play for the Yankees. For those that don’t remember, Mussina took less money to stay in Baltimore twice before he finally left to take the deal with New York.
Mussina won 147 games here in Baltimore and was the last true player the Orioles had that I would actually pay to just go watch him play. He was more than just a good pitcher. It was fun to watch the way he would think his way through a game. He prepared and was as mentally tough as any pitcher. He had that bulldog mentality that I love in pitchers. Mussina pitched 200+ innings in 12 of the 18 years he pitched in the Major Leagues. The sad part for the Orioles is that he was the last true #1 starter that the franchise had. He left after the 2000 season. That’s 12 years of starting rotation mediocrity. Congratulations Mike Mussina on being an Oriole Hall of Famer and thank you for all that you gave to the Oriole organization.