Posted on 14 April 2012 by WNST Staff
Posted on 14 March 2012 by WNST Staff
Odds to win the 2012 World Series
Philadelphia Phillies 11/2
New York Yankees 13/2
Los Angeles Angels 7/1
Detroit Tigers 8/1
Texas Rangers 10/1
Boston Red Sox 10/1
San Francisco Giants 15/1
Tampa Bay Rays 18/1
Miami Marlins 20/1
Cincinnati Reds 20/1
Atlanta Braves 22/1
St. Louis Cardinals 25/1
Arizona Diamondbacks 28/1
Milwaukee Brewers 28/1
Washington Nationals 30/1
Los Angeles Dodgers 40/1
Toronto Blue Jays 40/1
Chicago Cubs 40/1
Colorado Rockies 40/1
Cleveland Indians 60/1
Chicago White Sox 65/1
Minnesota Twins 75/1
Kansas City Royals 80/1
New York Mets 80/1
Oakland Athletics 80/1
Pittsburgh Pirates 100/1
San Diego Padres 100/1
Seattle Mariners 100/1
Baltimore Orioles 150/1
Houston Astros 200/1
Odds to win the 2012 AL Pennant
New York Yankees 13/4
Los Angeles Angels 7/2
Detroit Tigers 4/1
Boston Red Sox 11/2
Texas Rangers 11/2
Tampa Bay Rays 9/1
Toronto Blue Jays 22/1
Cleveland Indians 28/1
Chicago White Sox 35/1
Kansas City Royals 40/1
Oakland Athletics 40/1
Minnesota Twins 40/1
Seattle Mariners 60/1
Baltimore Orioles 75/1
Odds to win the 2012 NL Pennant
Philadelphia Phillies 9/4
San Francisco Giants 7/1
Atlanta Braves 9/1
Cincinnati Reds 9/1
Miami Marlins 9/1
St. Louis Cardinals 11/1
Milwaukee Brewers 14/1
Washington Nationals 15/1
Arizona Diamondbacks 14/1
Colorado Rockies 18/1
Los Angeles Dodgers 18/1
Chicago Cubs 22/1
New York Mets 40/1
Pittsburgh Pirates 40/1
San Diego Padres 50/1
Houston Astros 100/1
Odds to win the 2012 AL East
New York Yankees 2/3
Boston Red Sox 3/1
Tampa Bay Rays 9/2
Toronto Blue Jays 12/1
Baltimore Orioles 100/1
Odds to win the 2012 AL Central
Detroit Tigers 1/4
Cleveland Indians 10/1
Kansas City Royals 12/1
Chicago White Sox 12/1
Minnesota Twins 16/1
Odds to win the 2012 AL West
Los Angeles Angels 4/5
Texas Rangers 1/1
Oakland Athletics 30/1
Seattle Mariners 45/1
Odds to win the 2012 NL East
Philadelphia Phillies 1/2
Miami Marlins 11/2
Atlanta Braves 6/1
Washington Nationals 8/1
New York Mets 50/1
Odds to win the 2012 NL Central
Cincinnati Reds 7/5
St. Louis Cardinals 2/1
Milwaukee Brewers 11/4
Chicago Cubs 18/1
Pittsburgh Pirates 30/1
Houston Astros 100/1
Odds to win the 2012 NL West
San Francisco Giants 5/4
Arizona Diamondbacks 2/1
Los Angeles Dodgers 11/2
Colorado Rockies 7/1
San Diego Padres 15/1
Over/Under Regular Season Win Totals
Arizona Diamondbacks 86½
Atlanta Braves 86½
Baltimore Orioles 69½
Boston Red Sox 90½
Chicago Cubs 73½
Chicago White Sox 75½
Cincinnati Reds 87½
Cleveland Indians 78½
Colorado Rockies 80½
Detroit Tigers 91½
Miami Marlins 85½
Houston Astros 63½
Kansas City Royals 78½
Los Angeles Angels 91½
Los Angeles Dodgers 80½
Milwaukee Brewers 85½
Minnesota Twins 72½
New York Mets 73½
New York Yankees 93½
Oakland Athletics 72½
Philadelphia Phillies 93½
Pittsburgh Pirates 72½
San Diego Padres 73½
San Francisco Giants 87½
Seattle Mariners 71½
St. Louis Cardinals 85½
Tampa Bay Rays 86½
Texas Rangers 91½
Toronto Blue Jays 81½
Washington Nationals 83½
courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV).
Posted on 06 February 2012 by Glenn Clark
As the confetti dropped Sunday night at LucasOil Stadium in Indianapolis to punctuate the New York Giants’ Super Bowl XLVI win over the New England Patriots, a harsh reality set in throughout Charm City.
While the Baltimore Ravens were eliminated some 14 days earlier, the immediate hangover effect of an AFC Championship Game loss lingered into Super Bowl week. The significance of the Super Bowl even without the Ravens’ involvement prevented the malaise of the football offseason from setting in too quickly.
It’s here now though, and it absolutely stings.
Just as we’ve finally had enough time to get over the Ravens’ heartbreaking defeat in Foxborough, we’ve been forced to accept the fact that there really isn’t anything on the sporting horizon that we can deflect our purple energy towards. After working ourselves into a frenzy over the course of the last two months, we have basically no choice but to sit on our collective hands for the better part of the next seven months while we wait for John Harbaugh’s team to take the field once more for real.
Sure, we’ll all drink some beer and tell our favorite Earl Weaver stories on Opening Day. Most of us will throw down a few shekels on the Kentucky Derby winner on Preakness Saturday in May. We’ll be gripped to any rumors related to the Purple Birds.
The moments of excitement will be fleeting and there will certainly be no outlet for us to channel any level of sporting fervor.
Here’s the rundown on the “Reality” of the situation:
-Much of the country will immediately shift their focus to College Basketball season. In past years, an exciting University of Maryland has provided a level of excitement after football season concluded. Barring a miracle it won’t be the case this season, as the Terps sit at 3-5 in ACC play with no significant victory and none likely to come. This was to be expected in Mark Turgeon’s first season but it won’t help anyone in the area shake themselves awake from an “end of football season coma.”
One small shining light is Loyola University basketball, as the Greyhounds find themselves tied with Iona for first place in the MAAC at 11-2. This year’s team is the best Jimmy Patsos has ever had, and has a legitimate shot at the NCAA Tournament. The only cloud for the Hounds’ chances is that the Gaels certainly have more overall talent. It doesn’t mean Loyola couldn’t figure a way to a MAAC Tournament title, it’s just reality.
Coppin State entered Monday with a respectable 7-3 MEAC record and a legitimate crop of talent. Morgan State’s season has been mired by a mid-season suspension of head coach Todd Bozeman and has lead to a disappointing 3-6 conference record entering Monday. The Eagles have a semi-realistic chance of winning the MEAC Tournament, the Bears can’t be completely ruled out but have struggled.
Towson and UMBC have basketball teams. One has a first year coach (the Tigers’ Pat Skerry), one has a coach who might be in his last season (the Retrievers’ Randy Monroe). Neither are even a little good.
Before I leave the topic, the University of Maryland women (who provided us a pleasant distraction with their 2006 NCAA Championship run) have a nice team again under Brenda Frese. They’re not liking a team that could make a Final Four run, but they weren’t supposed to be that year either.
-Other fans across the country will turn their attention to the NHL and NBA. With no team in either sport (and no arena for hope of a team relocating here in either sport) Baltimore isn’t afforded the opportunity to shift attention to such areas.
A handful of sports fans in Baltimore are interested in the Washington Capitals, who have made the NHL Playoffs in each of the last four seasons. After firing coach Bruce Boudreau earlier this season, the Caps find themselves sitting on the outside looking in at the playoff picture now under Dale Hunter and aren’t likely to make a run longer than last season’s advance to the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
There are less than a handful of Washington Wizards fans in Baltimore, which might be good news because the Wizards are unthinkably terrible.
-College Lacrosse season gets underway in the next 10 days, and both Johns Hopkins and Maryland find themselves in the Top 10 of preseason polls. A run to the Final Four from either the Blue Jays or Terrapins would be pleasant, but with the National Semifinals and Finals back in Foxborough Memorial Day weekend is not likely to register the same way for any local sports fan.
-That of course brings us to baseball. The Baltimore Orioles play their first Spring Training games on March 5. They’ll hope to avoid being mathematically eliminated from the AL East race before their first game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards April 6. There’s no guarantee they’ll succeed.
That’s where we are. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s reality. I don’t write this to try to depress anyone. The good news (for you) is that you won’t have to talk about it for four hours a day. I’m not afforded the same opportunity. And it’s not as if I’m really telling you anything you didn’t know, I just felt as though Monday was the day everything sunk in.
We’ll still be here for you however…if for no other reason than to pass the time.
Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…
Posted on 08 November 2011 by Luke Jones
Dan Duquette did as well as you could reasonably expect in his introductory press conference after the public-relations disaster that was the Orioles’ general manager search over the last few weeks.
The new vice president of baseball operations — a Massachusetts native — recalled his days of imitating Brooks Robinson and the 1966 Orioles in his backyard as a child. In fact, the Hall of Fame third baseman was the first major league player Duquette met many years ago during a trip to Fenway Park.
In laying out his vision for returning the Orioles to the glory days, he referenced the philosophy of Harry Dalton, who served as general manager during Baltimore’s most prosperous time from 1966 through 1971.
“Aggressive scouting will build you a winning ball club; aggressive international scouting, I believe, will build you a championship ball club. You weave that in with a sound player development operation.”
It sounded heartwarming — even a little romantic — before the familiar warning signals that we’ve heard time and time again from others who’ve tried and failed in turning around an organization stuck in baseball purgatory for the last 14 years.
Duquette stopped short of repeating the infamous “grow the arms, buy the bats” mantra of former front office head Andy MacPhail, but the former Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox general manager made it clear the development of pitching would remain the organization’s top priority. It’s a fair and prudent strategy, but much like his predecessor, Duquette couldn’t resist referencing the “behemoths” of the American League East in what’s become a tired excuse for those wanting reasons to believe in the Orioles again.
Denouncing the inflated payrolls of your divisional opponents might be tolerable if you were being left at the altar every season with 85 to 90 wins, but it smells of excuse-making when you’re not even allowed in the church after failing to approach the 80-win mark in seven years.
But that critique aside, Duquette’s stated commitment to improve scouting and player development is a much-needed strategy for an organization poor in both areas. Despite what many will tell you, finding and developing your own talent and spending money at the major league level do not have to be mutually exclusive. The latter, of course, is dependent on majority owner Peter Angelos, which won’t instill much faith in anyone with ties to the Orioles.
“When you don’t have the resources that the top two clubs have, you have to work harder and you have to work smarter,” Duquette said. “You have to do a better job in scouting and you have to do a better job in player development. If you can build up the inventory of your farm system and you’ve got core players coming to your major league team, you’ve got something to talk about. The team that has the best farm system is the team that competes, year in and year out.”
Working harder and smarter than the competition sounds great, but how much can the organization really improve with holdovers such as John and Dave Stockstill entrenched in the front office with no track record to support it?
And that’s overlooking the fact that Duquette hasn’t worked in a major league front office in nearly a decade. Though claiming he’s maintained contacts throughout the game, how “wired in” will he be to the everyday happenings of baseball circa 2011?
With the ever-increasing dependence on statistically-based talent evaluation — more commonly referred to as sabermetrics — how far has the Orioles’ head man fallen behind during his absence from Major League Baseball since 2002?
“Your [former] manager here, Earl Weaver, knew the value of on-base percentage way ahead of the sabermetricians,” said Duquette, who added that Weaver’s book on baseball strategy will be required reading throughout the organization. “In fact, I would call that the groundwork for today’s stats. [Weaver] knew the value of scoring a run. He knew the value of how precious each out is, and he was able to impart that on his ball club.”
For Duquette, there’s little time to get acclimated to his new surroundings as he must balance finding a scouting director and a minor league pitching instructor with a thin free-agent market that opened for business last week. It’s not exactly an easy task for a man who’s just now moving into his office at the Warehouse.
Posted on 20 September 2011 by Nestor Aparicio
There’s been plenty written about the Orioles demise and the AL East standings and the empty stands at Camden Yards speak for themselves as to what the Baltimore community feels the value of the baseball team is circa 2011.
The stadium is empty most nights. Fans stuck with tickets can’t find anyone to take them for free. The city has tumbleweed blowing down Pratt Street most nights when the Orioles play. The fan base is so angry, so disenfranchised, so beaten down and/or disillusioned that they’re literally all but gone.
It’s the Fall of 2011 — the most recent version of The Apocalypse for any lifelong Orioles baseball fan and baseball lover like me. With the tragic suicide of Mike Flanagan last month – and the subsequent tales of the trail of a broken baseball man who loved this city and the Baltimore Orioles more than words can express – the Orioles have clearly hit rock bottom.
Or have they?
Oh, I’ve now been hearing for well over a decade that “the Orioles have bottomed out.” Heck, Ken Rosenthal was writing that stuff 12 years ago when he was covering the Orioles for The Sun. I’m not sure any of us knew how far into the abyss this situation would go but “bottoming out?”
I’m not really sure any of us know where the bottom is anymore when it comes to the Orioles.
This cesspool of lies and shameless civic profiteering clearly has no signs of receding and why should it when losing is far more profitable than trying to win and the owner has no desire to really win a World Series.
And, apparently, the only “outspoken” and “honest” member of the community is, well – me.
And because I’m the only one who’s not a coward and willing to point out the gigantic orange elephant in the middle of downtown Baltimore, people will continue to write on the internet that “Aparicio hates the Orioles.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. I love the Orioles. That’s why I fight for justice. That’s why I tell the truth. I’m the only one who writes this stuff. I’m the only one who cares enough to speak my mind. I’m the only one who challenges the king of Baltimore baseball, Peter G. Angelos.
So while Andy MacPhail came in here the summer after Free The Birds as “Vice President of Baseball Operations” and got four years worth of big paychecks every other Friday while the team never had a moment of relevance and has finished in last place each fall, he’s about to bow out and quit on this morbid experiment that was allegedly going return the Orioles to relevance by cutting payroll, increasing profit and lying to the media and the fans about the goals of the franchise.
After all, the team is serving hamburger and making $50 million per year in profit. So, then, why would Andy MacPhail and Peter Angelos ever conspire to serve you filet mignon?
Maybe the players on the field can’t pull up in the stretch like a lame horse but the fans of the Baltimore Orioles – even some of the most diehard and patient and former orange Kool Aid drinkers and baseball worshippers – pulled up a long time ago and moved on to other pursuits during the hot summers in Baltimore.
So, was I really wrong for shedding honest light on this issue five years ago when we did the “Free The Birds” rally on Sept. 21, 2006?
In the immortal words of Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men,” you’re goddamned right I was right.
I’m proud of Free The Birds. I’m proud of what it stood for and as much as Peter Angelos thought it was some “personal attack,” it’s also pretty clear he never read any of the 19 chapters I wrote preceding the walkout where in 75,000 words I expressed why the Orioles were the love of my life and why everything I’ve ever done in my professional life can all be traced back to the first time I picked up a Wiffle ball and bat in Dundalk.
To be honest, I spent that summer of 2006 in the midst of my own midlife questions and answers and I was struck then by how easy it was for many people to simply walk away from baseball and the Orioles and never come back. Oriole Park at Camden Yards was already getting pretty empty even back then but five years later it has been even harder for me to watch the fun and joy of doing sports media for a living be completely sucked out of me because of the way Angelos has treated virtually everyone in my life who loves the Orioles as well.
And then there’s the losing that chases Baltimore sports fans away from the only sport that matters in the spring and summer.
People in Baltimore simply don’t care about the Orioles anymore. In the heat of the summer, the Orioles are annually mired in last place amidst some more failed policies and cheap payrolls while Angelos sucks tens of millions of dollars from your wallet and every wallet in the state via your cable television bill.
A high-ranking person in the baseball community asked me last week if I really believed that if a change in ownership (he called it a “messiah”) were to appear in Baltimore that the “old Orioles” could be restored.
Honestly, given the price tag of skyboxes and box seats and the lack of sponsorship money in the marketplace, I’m not really sure. I do know that people could easily care about and follow a winner. I’m not sure if the Orioles will ever draw 3 million people again given the Washington Nationals proximity and the atrophy of the sport in Baltimore.
But my Free The Birds campaign was designed to bring awareness to the plight of the baseball franchise and the helplessness of the fan base of the Baltimore Orioles. It was designed to give a voice to the fans in the bleachers who were fed up with losing and lies from Angelos.
I feel there’s great value in what I did. And I feel like my words, en masse, have been the most relevant words written about the baseball team over the last decade.
Where is the journalism being done on behalf of Mike Flanagan and his family? Why is it that one of the team’s favorite sons – a former Cy Young winner who dedicated 38 years of his life to a franchise – would take a gun to his head on a Wednesday night in August 2011?
And where are the journalists to ask questions about how this could possibly happen and the circumstances that led to such desperation for a wonderful community man like Flanny?
And where is Angelos to answer questions about what the Orioles are doing for Flanagan’s family, who understandably are trying to digest and mourn and make sense of why a 38-year employee of the franchise and one of the most prominent athletes of our generation would take his life on a summer night in Baltimore County.
But this city is full of cowards. Cowards in the business community who won’t speak the truth. Cowards in the media – all with out-of-town, corporate management councils who seek to profit off of the Orioles at any cost and “journalists” who are as soft as the Pillsbury dough boy. And cowards in the political system, who are too eager to take a campaign contribution and look the other way as more than 2.5 million people have been chased out of downtown every summer over the last decade.
Shameful isn’t a strong enough word for what’s happened in Baltimore. It’s more like a civic tragedy.
I called them all cowards five years ago when I did Free The Birds. And I’ll call them cowards now because their ability to “take a check and cough” has led the Orioles and the downtown business community and any ancillary business (like mine at WNST.net) into the abyss with a baseball team that is guaranteed tens of millions of dollars in profit every year and contributes nothing to the quality of life of Baltimoreans who foot the bill for a greedy franchise that leeches off of the banner “sports” in a way that doesn’t bring any sense of pride to our community.
If you really think about it, the Orioles are a source of civic despair. Who in Baltimore wants to brag about a team that finishes in last place every year and seems to have a black could of tragedy and darkness follow it everywhere — from Steve Bechler to steroid scandals to the suicide of their Cy Young Award winner who went on to hold every role in the organization except manager.
And here’s the dirty little secret – there’s absolutely no incentive for Angelos to improve the team and have it compete. And, like Willy Wonka, he never seems to appear, answer questions or give clarity to the direction of the franchise.
The dirty little secret for this segment of MLB owners is very clear.
Here’s the new formula:
LOSING = PROFIT
And that’s a very, very difficult concept for most people to grasp because I can’t think of another line of work or a business in any sector where you can guarantee profit lines by serving the worst product in your industry.
Of course, I don’t know many companies that use their television network as a public utility to print money from every home from the state that subscribes to a cable television package.
Just like the folks at WBAL-AM, who call themselves the “news leader” who had people chanting “Free The Birds” repeatedly on their airwaves for an hour on Sept. 21, 2006 and never mentioned what the chants represented. And even then, Angelos stripped them of the radio rights and made them grovel before ditching CBS Radio last year to continue their cozy “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” style of journalism.
As I wrote in my 19 chapters in 2006, until more people in the Baltimore business community and political scene and what’s left of the “media” challenge these issues and ask hard questions, the Orioles will continue to profiteer, hide, dodge questions and accountability and inevitably finish in last place in the American League East Division.
I’m not passing the buck. It’s the fans of the Orioles and the citizens of the community who have given this franchise a hall pass and allowed and made excuses for how this team could be irrelevant for 14 years running.
If you want the truth, I believe that we get the baseball team that we deserve.
Tomorrow, on the 5th anniversary of our walkout, I will present a current state of the franchise and on Thursday we’ll look to the future to examine how the Orioles will ever become a relevant and/or beloved franchise again in Baltimore.
Comments Off on Five years ago we did Free The Birds rally and I’m still proud of it
Posted on 19 September 2011 by Thyrl Nelson
5 On The Rise
#1 – Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays took 3 of 4 from the Red Sox this weekend to close the gap in the AL Wild Card to 2 games with 10 games to go for each side. Whether the Sox can manage to hold off the Rays or not, they’re in trouble as injuries have taken another mighty toll on Boston this season. Still, after leading Tampa by 9 games as late as September 3rd, there will be no legitimate excuses for the Sox if they should somehow complete one of the worst late season collapses in modern baseball history.
If the Rays somehow find their way in, it’ll be to the chagrin of not just the Sox but of all of the AL teams who do make the playoffs too as the Rays formidable starting pitching has managed to keep them afloat as the bullpen and lineup have spent most of the year learning on the fly. Although it’s a small sample size, the Rays 11-4 record in their last 15 games suggests that they’re peaking at the right time.
Forecast: The schedule suggests that Boston is still in a pretty good place. Six of their 10 remaining games are on the road, but 3 of those and 7 overall of the last 10 are against Baltimore, against whom the Sox are 8-3 on the year. Their other 4 games are against the Yankees, who the Sox have owned to the tune of 11-4 so far this season. Tampa on the other hand has 6 of 10 games remaining at home and 7 of their remaining 10 against the Yankees, against whom they’re 5-6 on the season. Their other 3 games are against the Blue Jays, against whom they’re 10-5 so far.
With a magic number of 7 and 10 of their remaining 11 games against the Rays and Red Sox, the Yankees aren’t yet out of the woods either, igniting essentially 2 pennant races in the AL East when Yanks and Sox both appeared to be foregone conclusions just a couple of weeks ago.
#2 – The Atlantic Coast Conference – ACC fans have been waiting anxiously in the dark as the most recent round of Super-Conference manifest destinies began taking shape again. As all of the moves have seemingly been football driven, fans of the basketball first ACC sat hopefully expecting the conference to do it’s best to keep their 12-member alliance intact and maintain the status quo. Now it seems that the ACC may be on the fast track to becoming the nation’s first super conference as over the weekend news of the intents of both Syracuse and Pitt to join the ACC ranks began to spread.
At the very least, the 2 new members provide the conference with an insurance policy should the SEC come calling officially for Clemson and Florida State, but with UConn already rumored to be poised to follow, it seems but a mere formality that the ACC will add one more player to the mix and become an official Super-Conference with a giant TV network to follow. West Virginia, or on an outside shot South Carolina might be the best bets at #16.
Lost in the euphoria, but no less important this weekend, Miami upset #17 Ohio State, Clemson upset #21 Auburn and Maryland showed well (in the box score at least) against #18 West Virginia.
Forecast: So far so good it seems. Again, at the very least the ACC will be able to maintain 12 members should a couple succumb to the temptations of the SEC or some other budding Super-Conference and will be able to continue staging their own conference title games in football. At best, the ACC could win the race to 16 and become the first of likely many Super-Conferences. Keep in mind though that the most recent versions of ACC expansion didn’t exactly bring about the anticipated results or football credibility that seemed all but foregone at the time.
#3 – Cam Newton – The controversial Heisman trophy / National Championship winning quarterback turned controversial first round (first overall) draft pick of the Panthers unleashed his second straight 400+ yard passing performance en route to his second straight loss to begin his NFL career. Clearly he’d rather be winning and shining, but for now, he’s shining enough to have us all impressed, shocked and mesmerized. Shredding the suspect Cardinals defense in week 1 was impressive enough, that he was able to do it to the defending World Champs while keeping them against the ropes for most of the game after they had spent a week dissecting his tape is flat out amazing. If the youngster keeps playing like that, the wins will surely follow…as will more accolades.
Forecast: He’ll get a chance at the Jags next week and might be able to muster that elusive first win. After that, the schedule gets kind of hairy for a while. He’ll continue to sling it you can bet, and will learn some tough lessons along the way. The funniest thing may be that sooner or later teams will have to adjust to his ability to sling it all over the field, and when they do, Cam will get his chance to showcase the wheels that gained him so much notoriety last season at Auburn. It’s an unbelievable start to an NFL career, begging the simple question what will the kid do next?
#4 – Detroit Lions – The Lions picked up their second straight win to begin the season on Sunday and in so doing justified the faith of tons of pre-season prognosticators who thought the Lions to be on the rise. The interesting part of the Lions ascendance however is that so far it least it hasn’t been based on the brick wall that will be Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh when the rookie Fairley eventually gets onto the field; instead the Lions have been getting it done on offense with Matthew Stafford playing the part of polished veteran and Jahvid Best rebounding nicely from an injury plagued 2010.
Forecast: The Lions will have their work cut out for them in a contentious NFC North, and health has to be their biggest concern on the offensive side of the ball. When exactly the Lions official window might open is debatable, but for now they’re at least knocking on the door.
#5 – Robert Griffin III – He entered the season as a lightly regarded Heisman candidate from a lightly regarded Baylor program flying largely under the radar. He emerged from a week 1 shootout with TCU (on the back of 359 yards passing and 5 TD) as RG3 and at the forefront of the Heisman conversation. After a 15-day hiatus Griffin and the Bears returned to action on Sunday and RG3 backed up his performance with a 20 for 22 night for a modest 265 yards and 3 TD, while adding 78 yards on the ground for good measure.
Forecast: The Bears will be looking at the Big-12 portion of their schedule soon enough affording Griffin plenty of chances in the national spotlight. And while the Bears may not be able to hold their own against top notch foes (TCU would beg to differ) Griffin might, and the need to keep his foot on the gas could lead to some seriously gaudy numbers along the way.
5 On The Slide
#1 – Professional Boxing – The fact that Floyd “Money” Mayweather was fighting “Vicious” Victor Ortiz on Saturday night (for an outrageous pay-per-view price tag of $69.99) should be in and of itself another proverbial “black eye” for boxing. This is after all the 147 pound division, touted by most as boxing’s best, yet the best match-up they could muster on that night for the best boxer of his generation was a hard punching young southpaw just 2 years removed from quitting in the ring against a middling Marcos Maidana. That Floyd Mayweather has not yet fought Manny Pacquiao is an embarrassment to the sport of boxing and to the otherwise cleaned out by Mayweather 147-pound division. The action that took place in the ring…well that was kind of embarrassing too.
History will remember Floyd winning by a cheap shot, but that’s more likely as a result of our feelings about Floyd as a despicable human being than as a result of what actually happened in the ring on Saturday night. For 2 of the 3 full rounds Floyd landed easily and won decisively. In the middle round, Ortiz showed enough heart and offense to compel some to see it his way, but 2 of the 3 judges at ringside scored that one for Mayweather too. In the 4th Ortiz got aggressive, bullied Mayweather into a corner and then inexplicably charged him like a crazed bull with the crown of his head landing square in Mayweather’s face. That would be the fight’s only illegal shot, but not it’s last controversial one.
Immediately after butting Mayweather, as referee Joe Cortez attempted to step in and separate the fighters, Ortiz began apologizing to Mayweather. Ortiz hugged Mayweather and even kissed him on the cheek before being led to the center of the ring by Cortez to make the point deduction official. When the fighters got back together Ortiz again hugged Mayweather. Mayweather didn’t appear to reciprocate the hug and stood there arms out waiting to resume the action, which he did as soon as Ortiz backed away, landing a quick left followed by a crushing right that left Ortiz on the ground and unable to beat the count.
We’ll remember Mayweather’s cheap shot although his was legal, and forget too that he was dominating Ortiz in a way that suggested he’d end it sooner rather than later and that Mayweather may have been rightly enraged at Ortiz’ illegal and intentional head butt. What we won’t remember is a great fight or one that was worth the buy as neither was the case on Saturday.
Forecast: Mayweather will spend another year or so flaunting and burning (literally) the $25 million plus he made from this farce while we all wait anxiously for him to step in front of Pacquiao and into the beating that so many have been waiting to see him get. Mayweather will get paid again, likely beat Pacquiao too and continue to be a general A-hole. And we’ll keep giving him money.
#2 – Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens backed up their impressive week one domination over the Pittsburgh Steelers by being beaten in all three phases of the game by the Tennessee Titans and are now left to reevaluate their estimations of their own greatness.
Throughout the Harbaugh era these Ravens have been far too professional to overlook opponents, even when those opponents don’t seem to have much of a realistic chance at winning against them. Or maybe, as we look back at games like Carolina and Buffalo in 2010, perhaps Sunday was the first time that the Ravens paid the price for taking a second division caliber team lightly. Regardless, on Sunday the Ravens had their proverbial lunches eaten by the Titans and then were charged with cleaning up the scraps when their bully nemeses were through.
The Ravens will surely have to pick up those scraps quickly and put them to use against St. Louis as for now at least, the loss served to bring the Steelers back into a tie for the division lead (albeit only week 2). There are plenty of wins to be had on the Ravens schedule; the question may simply be whether the team is professional enough to go about collecting them.
Forecast: This should serve as the wake up call that a team as professional as these Ravens have been shouldn’t have needed in the first place. They’ll get St. Louis coming off of a short week before returning home for a slugfest with the Jets. The Steelers meanwhile get the Manning-less Colts next week.
#3 – Arian Foster – Last year’s improbable rushing champ started this season without the fullback who had cleared holes for him to run through last season and with company in the backfield in Ben Tate who the Texans envisioned as the starter before losing him to injury last year. He continued his trek by injuring his hamstring, calling fantasy owners concerned about his health for their own reasons sick, tweeted images of his MRI and proclaimed himself ready for week 1. He wasn’t.
Ben Tate though was, possibly compelling Foster to rush back to action this week against the Dolphins, where he rushed for 33 yards on 10 carries before re-aggravating the hamstring and coming out of the game for good. Ben Tate in the meantime has gone over the century mark on the ground in each of the Texans first 2 games and will likely remain a big part of the mix with or without Foster.
Forecast: The smart thing would seem to be to rest Foster until his hamstring issues are clearly behind him. More likely though, Foster, gamer that he is, will continue trying to rush himself back and struggle with the injury all season. Either way, Ben Tate seems to be a viable part of the running game for the foreseeable future and for now a better option than Foster.
#4 – Chiefs, Seahawks and Colts – The Manning-less Colts looked terrible again, this time at home against the Cleveland Browns. The already injury riddled Chiefs suffered another embarrassing defeat and in the process may have been hit with their worst injury so far, apparently losing Jamaal Charles for the season with an ACL injury. And the Seahawks although mostly healthy look like they may be the worst team in football without Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback.
All three playoff teams from 2010 are off to 0-2 starts and looking like long shots to get back there.
Forecast: Count all three squarely in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.
#5 – The NBA Season – With each passing day, the likelihood of seeing an entire NBA season or any part of a season at all get bleaker and bleaker. The more concerning part, for the league and its fans, should probably be that no one really seems to care very much. Unlike the NFL lockout, which had us spinning and clamoring for updates daily, everyone seems resigned to the expectation that here simply won’t be an NBA this year. Folks were missing football despite the fact that we never actually missed any football at all. Judging by the attention or lack thereof to the NBA’s labor issues, basketball…we’ll see you when we see you.
Forecast: This isn’t getting better anytime soon. Check back in February.
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Posted on 16 September 2011 by Glenn Clark
I remember it like it was yesterday.
It was the summer of 2000. I was between my junior and senior years at Perry Hall High School. I was on a leadership camp trip in the mountains of Pennsylvania, playing volleyball and hanging out with friends.
It wasn’t a very big group of us there, in fact the group was small enough that we were all staying in one vacation house. As we were all still not even 18 years old, the guys on the trip were staying on one floor while the girls on the trip were staying on the other.
Upon coming home from swimming (or some other activity), the group of guys on the trip noticed one of the girls was using the bathroom on our floor-which we were all trying to use to take showers. As boys that age are known to do, we immediately began hassling the girl from outside the bathroom.
It was at about that moment when the leader on the trip (who we all respected) walked into the hallway and proclaimed loudly, “BOYS! QUIT YER BITCHIN’!”
For some reason, that moment was always stuck with me.
As I’ve read comments from Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson and members of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense (including DT Casey Hampton) this week about various things related to the Baltimore Ravens, the term “quit yer bitchin'” has come back to mind.
Johnson told reporters in Nashville this week that the Ravens-particularly LB Ray Lewis, S Ed Reed and DT Haloti Ngata-were “trying to hurt” him in their January 2009 AFC Divisional Round playoff matchup. Johnson ultimately was forced to leave the game with a sprained ankle, but all parties involved agreed the player popularly known as “CJ2k” was injured on a clean play.
Hampton (and other Steelers defenders) complained this week about illegal cut blocks and chop blocks from Ravens Offensive Linemen (namely RG Marshal Yanda) in the Ravens’ Week 1 35-7 victory at M&T Bank Stadium.
(A note to Ravens fans: be prepared to see a lineman called for SOMETHING during Sunday’s Week 2 contest with the Titans. It’s usually how things like this work in the NFL.)
Perhaps there’s some truth to some of the accusations made by Johnson and the Steelers. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Ravens players said to themselves in 2009 “we’ll have a much better chance of beating this team if the dude from East Carolina isn’t running for 200 yards.”
But unless Johnson could point to a play when Reed or Lewis offered a Hulk Hogan style “Atomic Leg Drop” on him after the whistle, his claims of foul play are largely without merit. Football players are historically known for being scrappy even after a play. There’s no doubt in my mind that many High School football players in the area have suffered Indian Burns, eye pokes or other simple injuries at the end of a play.
It’s part of the game.
Similarly, the Steelers’ complaints about cut blocks and chop blocks may be relevant to some extent. Blocks below the waist are often a part of football, whether safe or not. It’s a thin line as far as determining when someone is in front or in back of you, whether the block hit at or below the waist, where the block was meant to hit before a player moved/flinched/fell or whether you were truly engaged in a block with the player or not.
It’s a lot to determine. It’s even more when you consider these plays often end in piles of players, as was the case on Ray Rice’s game opening 36 yard run-a play Yanda was excused of throwing an illegal block during.
Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he threw a block that could have been argued as illegal without having any illegal intent. Maybe he had the intent to throw an illegal block but actually landed a clean one based on how the play developed.
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Posted on 24 July 2011 by Peter Dilutis
BALTIMORE – On Sunday, the Orioles fell to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 9-3 in what amounted to yet another series loss for the Birds.
Jeremy Guthrie started the game and pitched seven innings in what Buck Showalter called “tough conditions,” likely referring to the heat, lack of defense, and questionable umpiring that Guthrie had to battle through during the game.
Guthrie gave up six hits in his seven innings of work, allowing three earned runs and four walks while striking out one.
After the game, Jeremy Guthrie was very short with reporters, expressing frustration over his most recent outing that went much like numerous others over his 4 1/2 seasons in Birdland.
“My stuff was better than my mound presence, absolutely,” Guthrie said. “I showed a lack of mound presence on the mound; how one reacts, how one responds.”
Guthrie was asked if he was frustrated by the circumstances surrounding his start, especially considering his offense failed to get him a fair amount of runs in yet another decent start by the right-hander.
“I’m just frustrated with my own job,” Guthrie said. “Don’t worry about things you can’t control. The things I can’t control don’t frustrate me as much.”
Of course, the elephant in the O’s clubhouse is the fact that Guthrie may not be making the flight back to Baltimore when the Birds return home on August 5th. When asked if he was thinking that this could be his last start in Baltimore, Guthrie responded with frustration.
“I don’t think so, but if it were, it was kind of a perfect microcosm of my career in Baltimore, if it happened to be that.”
When asked to expand on his comment, Guthrie responded “next question.”
Asked if he’s heard the rumors, Guthrie pointed the finger at the media for bringing them up so often.
“I only hear it because you guys bring it up every 3 1/2 minutes. Most players don’t hear the rumors, most players don’t know. I guess it’s exciting for everyone else to talk about it, so we hear about it through those avenues. They don’t call us players. I never got a call from another GM saying I’m being discussed.”
Guthrie’s teammates were also asked about the possibility of losing their staff ace.
“He’s here right now,” Adam Jones said. “Until he’s gone, or if he even gets dealt, I’ll address that then.”
Matt Wieters also commented on Guthrie’s importance to the Orioles.
“Guthrie’s big for us, we’re not going to think about that,” Wieters said. “We still consider Guthrie a guy that’s going to go out there every five days and give us a good outing. Since I’ve been here, he’s been able to go out there and eat up innings every year, eat up quality innings, and he’s been what the staff has needed.”
As Guthrie quipped as he ended his brief chat with the media…
“Good talk guys.”
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Posted on 23 July 2011 by Luke Jones
BALTIMORE — With the trade deadline only a week away, the Orioles have a very difficult decision to make when it comes to the future of Jeremy Guthrie, who could be making his final start with the club at Camden Yards on Sunday afternoon.
Do you trade your most consistent pitcher — even with an ugly 4-13 record — and further destroy a starting rotation sporting a 7.88 earned run average over its last 23 games entering Saturday’s action? Or do you retain your lone veteran presence on a club still hoping to develop the likes of Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, and Brian Matusz and forgo any potential return of younger players for the future?
The trade winds have whispered Guthrie’s name for a few seasons now, but the Orioles ultimately viewed their de facto ace as more valuable to them than any other team trying to pluck him at the deadline. Despite a 42-61 record in five seasons with the Orioles, Guthrie has a career 4.10 ERA over that span, including three seasons in which he finished with an ERA below 3.85.
By no means should the Orioles simply send Guthrie to the first taker, but perhaps a look at the unfortunate case of Luke Scott should make president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail think long and hard about trading the 32-year-old pitcher. Scott was once again placed on the disabled list Saturday with a torn labrum in his right shoulder and will miss the rest of the season as he opts to either undergo surgery or go through a lengthy rehabilitation program.
A year ago at this time, Scott was in the midst of becoming the team’s most valuable player when he hit 27 home runs and posted a .902 OPS. Instead of trading Scott at last year’s deadline or moving him in the offseason, the Orioles abstained and now face the decision of what to do with the 33-year-old power hitter in his final year of arbitration and making $6.4 million this season. While a team-friendly offer is within reason this winter, it would be unwise to offer arbitration and to pay Scott upwards of $7 million with his health being such an uncertainty at age 34 in 2012.
Instead of moving Scott — who has a .826 OPS in his four seasons in Baltimore — when they had the chance to get younger value in return, the Orioles now face the prospect of allowing a declining Scott to walk for nothing.
“My heart’s desire is I’m going to be here when the organization makes that turn to get back to where we need to be,” Scott said. “But that’s out of my hands. All I can do is just get ready for this challenge that’s coming up to get myself ready for next spring training and to bring to the table what I bring to the table when I’m healthy. The rest is the Orioles’ decision. The good Lord has control of my future, and my hope is it will be here.”
The comments are unsurprising and echo the thoughts of Guthrie whenever the pitcher’s been asked about his desire to remain with the Orioles amid trade rumors the last few seasons. The Stanford product has done everything asked of him and has always said the right things during his time in Baltimore, with very little in return in the way of run support and accolades.
However, Guthrie will also enter his final year of arbitration this winter after making $5.75 million in 2011. He will be 33 years old next season and will likely seek a three-year contract and relatively substantial dollars. With the Orioles mired in last place with a 40-57 record, does Guthrie really fit the profile of a pitcher who will still be productive by the time the club might — and that’s a major hypothetical at this point — be ready to compete?
It’s not smart to offer multi-year deals to 33-year-old pitchers when you’re not close to contending, which is where the Orioles will likely find themselves a year from now.
As tempting as it is to simply maintain the status quo — you know what you’re getting from Guthrie every fifth day — perhaps it’s time to grant him his release from baseball purgatory. There’s little doubt the right-hander could be of great help to a contender looking for an effective third or fourth starter. In return, the Orioles will hopefully fetch a player or two close to being ready to contribute at the major league level.
While no real fault of his own, Guthrie hasn’t made the Orioles a winner, and it isn’t likely to change anytime soon as he approaches his mid-30s. Failing to get good returns for productive older players has happened far too often over the last 14 years, and it’s really no excuse if you’re trying to eventually contend and not just concern yourself with being a .500 team the following season.
Are the Orioles worse without Guthrie in the immediate future? Yes.
Will Guthrie put them over the top if the Orioles find themselves on the cusp of being a contender? Doubtful.
As brutal as it might be to the current starting rotation should Guthrie be dealt, it’s far more painful watching Scott limp away from his 2011 season with the Orioles knowing the possibility of getting something for him is all but gone.
If the right opportunity arises — a fair trade for the pitcher’s services — MacPhail and the Orioles need to make a deal.
If they decide not to, I hope we’re not thinking back to this conversation again next summer.
And wondering what might have been had they decided to pull the trigger.
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Posted on 22 July 2011 by Glenn Clark
On Friday’s edition of “The Mobtown Sports Beat” on AM1570 WNST, Thyrl Nelson and I celebrated Sunday’s Cooperstown Hall of Fame inductions of Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick with a four hour tribute to the 1996 & 1997 Baltimore Orioles.
During the show, I named my Top 10 moments during that special run in O’s history. As I explained last week, these Birds represented “The Only Magic I’ve Ever Known.”
(I didn’t include Jeffrey Maier or the season ending games in either season on this list. These were the memories we WANT to remember.)
10. Ripken passes Kinugasa (June 15, 1996)
When Cal Ripken played in his 2,216th consecutive game in Kansas City, he already owned the record for consecutive games played.
If he had stopped at 2,210 consecutive games, there would have been no argument that he didn’t hold the record.
With no offense to Sachio Kinugasa, but nothing that happens in Japan can be fairly compared to anything in Major League Baseball. When Ripken surpassed Lou Gehrig in 1995, the record was his.
That being said, the fact that Kinugasa was able to attend the game at Kauffman Stadium made the warm June night pretty special. The evident connection between the two men made the night even more fun for baseball fans.
If you ever get the chance to chat with CSNBaltimore.com writer (and longtime Baltimore Sun columnist) John Eisenberg about this night, please do. The stories are a LOT of fun. I’d tell you myself, but they aren’t my stories.
9. Mussina NEARLY perfect (May 30, 1997)
I have never been more captivated by watching a baseball game than I was that Friday night.
At the time, Home Team Sports (HTS) was still a premium channel on Comcast in Baltimore County. Friday night games however were regularly available over the air (most on WNUV 54), allowing 8th graders like myself to sit at home and watch the games instead of hanging out with our friends.
I’ll never forgive Sandy Alomar for the hit that he managed off Mike Mussina in the 9th inning that night. His brother is my baseball idol, but his name is evil in my mind.
There’s been only one Orioles no-hitter in my lifetime (a combined effort from Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson in 1991), never a solo no-hitter. I’ve seen the Orioles no-hit themselves a couple of times, but I’ve never seen an Orioles pitcher throw a no-no.
I really thought I was going to that night.
8. Wire to wire (September 25, 1997)
With their 9-3 defeat of the Blue Jays at the building formerly known as SkyDome, the O’s clinched their first AL East title since 1983.
More significantly, they became only the sixth team in MLB history to win the division title going “wire to wire”, in first place from Opening Day to Game 162.
It was a remarkable run for the Birds, although 14 year old Glenn Clark may not have fully realized how significant it was because he was too worried about playoff matchups and hoping to avoid the Yankees in the ALCS.
He got his way. Unfortunately it didn’t end up making much of a difference.
7. Brady gets 50 (September 29, 1996)
The legacy of Brady Anderson’s 50 home run season in 1996 can certainly be labeled as “clouded” at best.
That being said, whether the 50 home run campaign (which concluded with a dinger on the season’s final day in Toronto) was aided by substance or simply a result of a former leadoff hitter “reaching his athletic opus”, it still stands as the only time in Orioles history a player has reached the mark.
(Frank Robinson previously held the team record with 49.)
Despite the rumors, following Brady’s home run exploits in 1996 was fun for Orioles fans-especially the stretch were he lead off four straight games by going yard.
And no matter how we felt about it, there’s little chance the Orioles make a run to the ALCS in 1996 without those 50 home runs.
6. A walk off slam (May 17, 1996)
Anderson’s “moment” was a season in the making. The Ripken “moment” was nearly 14 years in the making.
Hoiles’ “moment”? Roughly one swing in the making.
The Orioles trailed the Seattle Mariners 13-10 in the 9th inning. What happened next was something I had practiced in my back yard roughly 160,000,000,000 times.
With two outs, the bases loaded and a 3-2 count (of COURSE it was a 3-2 count), Chris Hoiles hit what can only be described as the MOST ultimate of “ultimate grand slams.”
Thank God I hadn’t stopped watching that night.
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