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Buck Showalter

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The Baltimore Orioles Second Half Needs

Posted on 04 July 2013 by mattcostantini




85 contests into the 2013 campaign and the Baltimore Orioles find themselves 3 1/2 games back of the Boston Red Sox.  Although I’d rather see the Birds in 1st place as opposed to 2nd, it’s not the worst position to be in.  Especially considering their record against the Division Leaders.


5-2 in 2013, 18-7 since 2012.

Now I’m no genius, but it would seem to me that if the Birds of Baltimore are only a few games back come the end of the season, getting a series against the BoSox could only be advantageous.  Well what do ya know, we finish out the season with a 3 game homestand against those very chowderheads…  Anticipate on the yard being just a little bit electric for that set.

As you watch this team you get the feeling that they could be serious contenders for an ALCS Crown, or dare we ever imagine, a World Series Championship.  You only get that feeling on certain nights though.  It just so happens to be the nights that 1 of 3 players are on the field.

Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, or Wei-Yin Chen.

Don’t get me wrong; every time Chris Davis, Manny Machado, and Adam Jones walk into the batters box you get the feeling as well, but when you have the three pitchers mentioned above on the mound this team looks close to unbeatable.  In fact, when those same three pitchers are on the mound the team is 26-13.

So what is holding this team back from becoming a true World Series contender?

Hint: It’s not an acquisition from the Chicago Cubs of Scott Feldman (7-6, 3.43 ERA, 73 SO or if you like career numbers as a better barometer 46-50, 4.65 ERA, 506 SO)

It’s two starters you can trust handing the ball over to on the 4th and 5th game of a playoff series.

Right now Buck Showalter does not have that.  Unfortunately, Buck doesn’t have a problem placing that trust in Jason Hammel.  Lately that trust has been hard to attest for.  Last years “ace” has lost his last 3 decisions and hasn’t been credited with a win since May 27th, against the Washington Nationals.  Granted, in one of those losses he only allowed 2 earned runs in 6 & 2/3 innings, but without Wei-Yin Chen in the starting rotation and ????? ??????? as your fifth starter, this is the time when the Orioles needed Hammel to step up to his early 2012 caliber and he did not do it.

More of a problem than Jason Hammel, is the wishy washy assortment of bull pen/youngin’s vying for the 5th starting spot.  TJ McFarland is an awful starter.  He may become a solid bull pen guy, but I don’t want to see that guy starting a game EVER again (for the record can we get the mustache back please?)    Steve Johnson seems like a legitimate option but injuries have held him back from having the opportunity.  We don’t need to throw stones at the fragile head that is Jake Arrieta anymore, he’s just a “filthy stuff having” memory of our past that now resides in the Windy City.

Zach Britton and Kevin Gausman seem like the two most feasible options.  Gausman struggled in his first few starts but then in his last 3 outings has gone 10 & 2/3 allowing just 2 earned runs.  Buck obviously does not trust giving the starts to 22 year old at this point and it is being rumored that with Wei-Yin Chen’s return Gausman will be optioned back to the minors.  Zach Britton on the other hand, in 16 innings through June has only allowed 5 earned runs.

My take on the whole starting pitching ordeal.

1. Chris Tillman 2. Miguel Gonzalez 3. Wei-Yin Chen 4. Jason Hammel 5. Scott Feldman

1-4 is a no-brainer in my opinion.  Although Jason Hammel has had his struggles of late, to this point wearing the black and orange he has been solid for this team and I think he can get it back together.

While Wei-Yin Chen is getting his second rehab start down in Bowie give the former Cub Scott Feldman his chance and see if he can provide this pitching staff with a shot in the arm.  Give Zach Britton the starts until he proves he’s not worthy of them or until Chen returns and get Kevin Gausman regular work in the minors.

Best case scenario for the O’s, Zach Britton pitches well, Wei-Yin Chen returns to form, and Scott Feldman enters the bullpen as a long reliever.

That being said, Buck Showalter has forgotten more about baseball then I will ever know and until we are no longer battling for a top spot in the AL East, IN BUCK WE TRUST.

-Matt Costantini

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It is Time for the NCAA to Grab the Reins and Control College Football

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It is Time for the NCAA to Grab the Reins and Control College Football

Posted on 21 July 2012 by andrewtomlinson

With new accusations the University of Miami Hurricanes football program broke football recruiting rules it is clear the NCAA has to do one thing over the next year and that is grab hold of their football programs.

It seems like the past year has been one black mark on college football after another. First it was the University of Miami scandal featuring illegal benefits and boosters not following rules. Then, it was Ohio State’s turn with players reportedly trading jerseys and memorabilia for tattoos and other benefits that led to the ousting of now dirty coach Jim Tressel. Following OSU was the breaking of the Penn State Jerry Sandusky scandal and finally we arrive back at The U. It has come full circle in the last year and while some scandals may have been left out, it is clear the NCAA has a problem.

Some people may say every college program violates the rules and it may be true in some fashion. At some point though, the association designed essentially to make sure players actually go to class and get a degree instead of just playing amateur athletics, has to bare down and say enough is enough. There are penalties in place to make sure other institutions take notice and follow the rules instead of continuing to blatantly ignore them. The NCAA is in a precarious position of risking the ability for the sport as a whole to function as extracurricular activity instead of essentially being a non-college athletic sport.

The Jerry Sandusky scandal and the fact Penn State University was reportedly unable to face “the death penalty” because the acts that were committed didn’t break any real NCAA football rules, highlights what is wrong with the current standard. In a world where young adult athletes are fed the fabrication that they get one chance, the NCAA seems to continually give the institutions multiple ones. At some point the powers that be in college football need to stop worrying about how to get the most money out of the bowl system and need to spend more time making sure teams can play in the bowls.

We are entering into yet another season where a major college football team will be ineligible for a bowl, with Ohio State University picking up where USC left off from the Reggie Bush fiasco. If that is what the NCAA views as an acceptable way to punish teams, the I’d hate to see the way they punish their kids for taking their car out for a joy-ride. By NCAA punishment precedent, a joy-ride would probably earn someone a timeout. Southern Methodist University got the death penalty and by all accounts it seems like it scared programs straight for a few years and it is time for the NCAA to scare the new crop of NCAA rule breakers into line.

Penn State, while they didn’t break football regulations, clearly broke many rules when it comes to safely carrying out a football program. They endangered the staff, the university, the NCAA and the players on the team, not to mention the numerous kids Sandusky came into contact with. The football team ran the school and Joe Paterno had more power than the president, if that doesn’t scream “loss of institutional control” nothing does. If the NCAA were to make an example of Penn State and say a new era of discipline has started, you better bet a lot more schools would think twice before they let a booster take a kid out to dinner, let alone overlook United States law.

If the NCAA does not start to assert its authority, we are going to continue to see schools think they are above the law and conferences who seem to not care at all. College football is an endeavor for young adults to partake in outside of earning an education and it is a luxury for a University, not a necessity. Sure, you can argue the kids who are there now shouldn’t be punished for the actions of those before them. Yet, if no one is ever punished no one will ever learn and college football will continue this self-destructive cycle.

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Baltimore Orioles Reach Key Seasonal Junction in Series Finale With Twins

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Baltimore Orioles Reach Key Seasonal Junction in Series Finale With Twins

Posted on 19 July 2012 by andrewtomlinson

It may not be a must win game for the Baltimore Orioles today in their series finale with the Minnesota Twins, but it is as close to one as you can get.

There is no such think as a “must win game” unless a loss would eliminate the team from the playoffs, or playoff contention. Instead, there are several key games throughout the length of the season and today’s game is one of them. A win gives the O’s a split with the Twins and a bit of a mental boost heading into a tricky four game series against the Cleveland Indians.

However, a loss this afternoon and the O’s will have won exactly one of their last six series, a road win over the Seattle Mariners during the July 4th week. They are currently sitting a half-game out of the race for the second Wild Card behind the Detroit Tigers and are a whopping 10-games back of the New York Yankees in the no longer close American League East. More important than all of that though could be the fact they only hold a half-game lead over the Boston Red Sox for second place in the East.

Looking at all those factors, it is probably clear to you that winning against Minnesota today isn’t just important, it is almost an imperative. All year one of the biggest questions in baseball has been about whether the Orioles are for real or not and just weeks ago there was heavy discussion about whether Baltimore should be buyers at the trade deadline. Now, because of the losing, everything is in flux. The O’s look a little like frauds wh0 can’t hit, can’t pitch and can’t string wins together and again look like a potential seller at the deadline.

A win against the Twins to split could change it all. Winning today is an important step to righting the ship and getting the team at least somewhat back on course. Perhaps they aren’t the runaway AL East Champs people believed they were in May or early June, but there is no reason this team cannot be at least competitive, if not a Wild Card team. In order to achieve those goals though, they have got to win on Thursday, otherwise every loss after it will not only move them closer to a below .500 record, but to a position where there is again a season of no-hope.

Baltimore may be a perfectly flawed team, which many think is an oxymoron, but they may have the right types of flaws to allow them to overcome their biggest obstacles. They don’t have a top lineup, but pretty everyone can hit for power, have a flawed pitching staff, but a bullpen that has been solid most of the year and all together a team suited to hang with the big boys, but not necessarily beat them.

Keep in mind, heading into the season the goal was never to beat the big boys, but rather carve a path back to baseball relevance. So far, they have begun to do that, but the team has reached a fork in the road with one path leading them towards eventually success and the other leading back to where they started before Spring Training. If they want to press on down the path they have been on, to a return to relevance, they have to show the fans and the rest world that despite a series opening loss to start the second half, they are not going to go quietly by dropping the first two.

Obviously there is a lot of baseball left, so there is no way to call Thursday’s game a must win. Looking at it though, you can see it is one the Orioles might have to win in order to keep their heads above water. If they can’t win, especially with one of their best pitchers in Wei-Yin Chen on the mound, it could mark the point in the year when the team enters full slide mode.

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Washington Capitals Take Big Risk With Big Investment in Mike Green

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Washington Capitals Take Big Risk With Big Investment in Mike Green

Posted on 16 July 2012 by andrewtomlinson

The Washington Capitals are taking a big risk by signing Mike Green to a reported three-year $18.25-million dollar contract, as the defenseman has yet to show he can play at a high level for multiple seasons.

It is no secret Mike Green was at one time a face of the Capitals’ franchise. A founding member of the “Young Guns” quartet — a Capitals marketing campaign, not a new boy band — Green has broken the NHL record for consecutive games with a goal by a defenseman, earned the nickname “Game Over Mike Green” and been a Norris Trophy candidate. Several injuries and largely inconsistent play have made him anything but a lock to be a productive defenseman for the rest of his career though.

Green declined to sign is qualifying offer of five-million dollars from the Caps, but him walking away was something everyone knew would not happen. With the Caps letting Dennis Wideman walk to the Calgary Flames and an already thin defensive core, they couldn’t let him walk away or they would risk failing to field a competitive team. It is not as if they were out of options though and the one they chose, they may regret going forward.

Saddled with a concussion, ankle and wrist injuries the last few years, Green is becoming nothing but a question mark for this team. After starting out white-hot to start the season, Green went down after taking a puck to the face and never regained his form. He started out with three goals and three assists before the injury and after, he had just one assist in February, March and the handful of games in April. He may have contributed two goals to go with two helpers in the playoffs, but altogether his totals from last year do not justify the size of the contract he got.

Using CapGeek.com to look at Green’s cap-hit, quickly you find out he is being payed a similar amount of money as players head and shoulders better than him. Comparable hits include Brett Burns from the San Jose Sharks, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith from the Chicago Blackhawks, Dion Phaneuf of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins. During his three year stint as an offensive powerhouse from the blue line, Green might have deserved the same money as the players previously named, but not after the last two he has had.

When you talk about Green being overpaid, it isn’t an indictment on his ability or skill set, but instead on his ability to stay on the ice to use it consistently. Between 2006 and the end of the 2009-2010 season, Green was one of the top defenseman in the league. His stats have to come with a sort of asterisk though, as the team he played on was the definition of fire-wagon hockey. In the last two season, with a return to a defensive system, not only has Green only put up 31-points, but he also a paltry plus-11.

Perhaps most concerning about all of those stats, is it has come in only 81 games over two years. Considering an NHL season is 82 games long, it is not a good sign Green hasn’t even played the equivalent of one season over his last two. Recurring nagging injures and a few discipline problems have kept him in and out of the lineup. A guy cannot be defined by just two years of his career, but Green has only played a full season once in his seven years an NHLer, which is not good.

It is his consistent inability to stay on the ice that really makes this deal a head-scratcher. If you are the Caps why not head to arbitration, the worst case scenario is he earns more money for one year and you make him earn the long term contract next season. Now though, the team is linked to him for at least three years when they had other options.

Perhaps most puzzling about the extension is the Caps have a player in John Carlson ready to step in to the role currently occupied by Green shortly. Even though Carlson regressed a bit last year, the young hard shooting d-man plays the exact same game as Green and in at least a year should be ready to take over for Green. It seems feasible then, that Washington could have signed him to a shorter deal, especially since Green only wanted a two year deal originally.

Moving forward Washington has to live up to the decision it has made and while they may have a lot of cap space now, as they start to retool the roster, the space occupied by Green might be something they wish they could use. If he stays on the ice and comes back to form, Green’s deal is a steal and gives Washington flexibility, but if his career is any indication of his future, it looks like he might not be a risk worth taking.

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For the Baltimore Ravens, this Season is About Timely Plays, Not Big Ones

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For the Baltimore Ravens, this Season is About Timely Plays, Not Big Ones

Posted on 14 July 2012 by andrewtomlinson

Losing Terrell Suggs is obviously a huge loss for the Baltimore Ravens defense, but the team does not need to look to replace him to get back to the AFC Championship Game, instead they simply need to play well in big spots.

There is no way a team can play at the same level or achieve the same things when it loses its top player. Whether it be offense or defense, losing a key member to a unit hurts on the field, in the locker room and in the huddle, but it does not mean all is lost for the Ravens. They are not anywhere close to being perfect defensively and there are a lot of holes and question marks, but the team just needs to pick its spots to perform well.

Racking up the sacks, turnovers, 90-yard runs and bomb passes for touchdowns are sexy and certainly make a team fun to watch, but they aren’t necessary to win the game. For a team to succeed in the NFL, they simply have to prevent the opposing team from getting into the end zone just enough so they can get into the end zone more. This may sound like a condescending lesson on the football basics, but so often people forget it is about stopping the other team from scoring, not lighting up a stat sheet.

Suggs is a huge member of the defensive core, is a leader and provides pressure off the edge on practically every down. He is a nice weapon to have, but it isn’t like he is the only weapon the Ravens have. His loss will be missed but with Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody in the middle joined by Pernell McPhee and Courtney Upshaw coming off the end, the Ravens should be able to stop the opposition from gaining first downs and driving down the field.

What the group is going to need to learn is that stopping the running back short by a yard on third and three, gets the same result as blowing him up in the backfield does. Sure, it may change the net field position you gain after a punt by a few yards, but then it is up to Joe Flacco and the offense to maintain the same consistency.

Which brings up another point of, what do the Ravens do if they don’t have Ray Rice too?

Rice is incredibly important to this team. He is their home run threat, the five-tool player — can you tell I have been watching a lot of baseball? — and a can’t miss guy when it comes to predicting performance. Yet he isn’t an integral part of the team’s success and if he holds out for part of the season for a new contract, the Ravens can still win. Again, just like the defense, the offense comes down to consistency. It isn’t about scoring the fastest or in the fewest plays, it is instead about scoring often and more than the other team.

Big plays are needed and at times you need to go deep, but the Ravens should not get away from just taking the little gains. Three plays of at least four yards gets you a first down and if you can string together a lot of four yard plays, before you know it you are in the end zone. For the offense, this may be key if only because that is how they will have to play in the postseason.

Too often team’s get caught up in the big plays and explosive shows of force, but in the playoffs those big plays seem to disappear. As a result, it is the teams who can methodically move down the field who often come out on top. The Ravens were not that team against the Patriots last year and need to instead pick their spots to go for it all on both offense and defense.

With potentially several key play makers missing on defense and at least one or two questions on offense, the Ravens are going to need to pick when they want go for the big sack, interception or pass. They have the ability to make the plays, but it isn’t like years past where a missed play on first down can be rectified by a big play on second or third. This team is going to have to make sure it plays within its limitations and understand they are not super human.

If they can play smart football, which by all accounts they will based on the leadership and coaching staff they have, the Ravens will be one of the best teams in football again this year. It is not inconceivable to think they can capture the North and make it back to the AFC Championship Game. That said, the team may look a little different than years past and instead of being a threat to make big plays on every down, fans may have to hold on and wait for the plays to happen at the right time.

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Justin Verlander's Comments Show Players Still Do Not View the MLB All-Star Game as Important

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Justin Verlander’s Comments Show Players Still Do Not View the MLB All-Star Game as Important

Posted on 11 July 2012 by andrewtomlinson

Justin Verlander clearly has a set opinion about what he thinks the MLB All-Star Game is about, and it isn’t about galavanting off with Kate Upton, instead to him it is nothing but a glorified exhibition.

Ever since baseball established the idea the All-Star game should determine home-field advantage in the World Series, the two leagues have played some pretty fascinating games. Tuesday’s game was anything but interesting and was a snooze-fest almost as soon as it started. Of course, the major guy to blame for it was Verlander himself.

In the first inning, Verlander gave up five runs to the National League, was wild and, despite not getting much help from Jose Bautista in right field, could not keep the ball even remotely close to the infield. His performance was out of character and made many wonder what was up with last year’s Cy Young and MVP winner. Later in the evening, Verlander would explain the rough outing and poor command with a quietly alarming opinion.

“I know nobody wants to see me throw 90 mph” Verlander said, via MLive.com. “They like to see the 100 mph fastball. So, hey, I gave them that.”

Clearly to Verlander then, the game isn’t about winning and getting home-field advantage, it is instead about trying to put on a show. It is no secret, casual fans may like to see the high-heat and silly curves he throws, but not the hardcore ones. And what if his preseason favorite Detroit Tigers find themselves in the World Series? Suddenly I imagine he might wish he had painted those corners a little more.

Although, if you know Verlander, he might just want more opportunities to get his first career major league hit this year.

Verlander’s comments may not earn him another All-Star Game start, nor should it, but it does begin to beg the question about how much the players really care about the game. Sure, there was the video of Chipper Jones telling the NL he didn’t want to go out with a loss. If other players are like Verlander though, I doubt his speech stuck in any of their hearts.

In one slip of the tongue, Verlander seems to have unraveled baseball’s marketing line from the last few years of “this time it counts.” Since, if it doesn’t count to the players, who ultimately might have to play in the World Series, who does it really matter to then? If the opinion Verlander offered up is wildly held by baseball players, chances are the whole making it count idea is nothing but a marketing ruse by Bud Selig and the MLB to sell ads and seats.

Sure, people will always tune into the game. It isn’t hard to imagine though, that a few more fans have watched the last few years after seeing the return of close games after 2006 and the NL’s now three-game winning streak. It will be interesting to see if people will think of the game the same way next year, knowing what they know now.

If Verlander’s comments stick around, you have to think many are going to think of the game as just a way to watch players they don’t normally see demonstrate what are essentially the equivalent of cheap baseball tricks. The game should be known for fun competitive baseball, but if it isn’t anymore, then we are back to square-one, with it being meaningless.

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Has the Media Changed the Landscape of Free Agency in Modern Sports?

Posted on 05 July 2012 by andrewtomlinson

If you are a hockey fan, then you have probably been following the Ryan Suter and Zach Parise story for the last week. What has been fascinating is despite the two players not being superstars, when they signed it seemed as if the teams who did not get them had lost out on this generation’s version of Wayne Gretzky.

While both players are extremely good, could the shear amount of discussion and media “buzz” about the two have created a perceived value higher than what it truly is?

Hockey isn’t the only league where we have seen solid players become perceived superstars through the buzz of media. Steve Nash is a very good basketball player, but I highly doubt he is going to put the Los Angeles Lakers over the top. No one would know that if they checked Twitter though, with people saying he makes the Lakers practically unstoppable. Now people would still be fantanical when it comes to moves like the one for Nash, but I highly doubt it would reach the levels we are currently at in the days before Twitter, Facebook and instant access to radio.

Any owners and general managers who says they do not pay attention to “the noise” on social media sites and large news networks is straight up lying. It is hard not to listen to the noise, since it is everywhere, but at the same time they truly would not be very good at their jobs if they did not gauge what their fans’, their true customer, demands and wishes were. Too often though, it seems the people creating the buzz about players seem to condem the owners and general managers who don’t listen to them.

It is fascinating to me to see pundits and members of the media eliminate NHL teams from the playoffs and crown others Stanley Cup Champions just because of a few signings. You would think after what we saw with Nnamdi Asomugha last year and how many crowned the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl Champions with his addition, sports media personalities would learn from their mistakes. Yet, it seems every year a big free agent signing can cause analysts to go bonkers over some guy they themselves talked up.

Take a look at Prince Fielder and his signing with the Detroit Tigers for instance. People started calling him the best younger hitter in baseball and a better free agent target than Albert Pujols. Sure, he may have out hit Pujols early on this season, but look at where the Tigers are in the standings, below .500, and the Angels, in position to have one of the Wild Card spots. Sure, Mike Trout might have something to do with it, but the underlying theme is the big singing of Fielder isn’t making the Tigers a World Series lock like many predicted in January and it isn’t because Fielder has played poorly. Instead, it is because one player can only have a limited impact.

Much is the same with Parise and Suter, while talked up on Twitter, they aren’t going to guarantee Minnesota a Cup. Now is the interesting part of free agency where we truly test this media affecting free agency theory. With the media darlings off the board, who do they talk up next? Is it former Capitals left-wing Alexander Semin, or could it be someone like Shane Doan? Regardless, it will be interesting to see who gets the most buzz over the Internet, airwaves and through the “noise makers.” If the hot name is signed to a huge deal, even if he probably doesn’t deserve the money spent on him, it will be hard for anyone to say media isn’t influencing the way team’s spend their money.

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The Washington Capitals Must Keep Eye on the Fiscal Future as Free Agency Opens Tomorrow

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The Washington Capitals Must Keep Eye on the Fiscal Future as Free Agency Opens Tomorrow

Posted on 30 June 2012 by andrewtomlinson

Tomorrow marks the opening day of NHL free agency and the Washington Capitals look to be at least mildly active with holes to fill, but General Manager George McPhee and the organization needs to pinch their pennies and save for the future in their moves.

The team made a big splash in free agency last year signing free agents like Joel Ward and Roman Hamrlik to contracts not exactly team friendly. Both players’ contract lengths and cap hits were not supposed to matter though, as they were supposed to help Washington bring the Stanley Cup home for the first time. Looking back now, Washington wasn’t as successful as they should have been, failed to improve on their previous playoff best and ultimately fell short of their goal, with Ward and Hamrlik providing little in the way of support. Now the team is saddled with two bad deals, two players who do not fit what they are looking for and cap hits they can not do anything about.

Perhaps the best news for GMGM is the fact this year is a new year. Part of the beauty of sports is the fact every year is a fresh start for a team. Owners and general managers can find new pieces and spare parts to combine and start another run at the elusive Cup. Despite being able to forget some of the mistakes of the past, the Caps need to remember how painful those big contracts will be heading forward and find solid players at the right price.

There are a lot of big name free agents out there for the Caps’ taking, guys like Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. Despite the two of them being tremendous talents, Washington should not even consider adding them. Yes they would be top players, but the risk of adding another bad contract to the books prevents the team from potentially locking up its star players like John Carlson and Karl Alzner in the future and also rebuilding if needed. Instead, the organization needs to add productive players who have short term deals.

Guys like Jiri Hudler, Niklas Hagman and Carlo Colaiacovo are players who are above average, but more importantly wont demand long contracts or high salaries to fill a need. Washington has holes on their top two lines and on their top defensive pairing and need to think smarter, not harder, when it comes to filling those holes. Look at an organization like the Detroit Red Wings, who have continued to fill their roster holes with lower priced castaways and aging veterans to the tune of two Stanley Cups and three finals trips in just over 10 years.

Fans may clamor for the big names in free agency, but the organization needs to resist the temptation, since this team could either be on the brink of long term success or catastrophic failure. Even if it may be a negative outlook to take, thinking the team in its current construction might not fair well, it is one the Caps need to keep in the back of their mind. Whoever they sign, they need to be able to jettison quickly, just in case they do have to reshape the team. Nothing can hinder a rebuilding or reloading plan more than a bad contract, just look at the Montreal Canadiens with Scott Gomez, so the Caps must make sure they do not give a player too much money or too many years.

There are a plethora of options out there for McPhee to peruse and ultimately offer deals to, he just has to make sure they are the right player at the right price. He has made mistakes in signings before — see Jagr, Jaromir — but has also shown a smart frugal sensibility by signing highly productive players like Mike Knuble and Matt Hendricks. Good players at better prices are available this year, it is just up to McPhee to make sure he finds them to ensure this team can succeed for years to come.

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Long Ball Killing the Baltimore Orioles During Current Three-Game Skid

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Long Ball Killing the Baltimore Orioles During Current Three-Game Skid

Posted on 29 June 2012 by andrewtomlinson

It is the time of the year every Baltimore Orioles fan inevitably waits for, no not the All-Star break, but instead the slide that ultimately marks the end of Baltimore’s ability to challenge for a playoff spot in the American League. Different than most years though, there is one major facet of the game they can fix to right the ship, keeping the ball in the yard.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards is not exactly a cavernous baseball stadium, but at the same time it is possible to prevent other teams from constantly hitting home runs. While considered a hitters park, the slight nuances of the park make it possible for pitchers to give up lazy fly balls and not worry about them floating out. If the O’s want to get the train back on the tracks they have got to get their pitchers back to giving up fly balls and not big flys.

In the last three games the team has give up eight home runs, including three last night in the team’s 7-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Home runs are fun for fans, unless your team is giving them up, but they are killers for pitching staffs. While a home run obviously automatically puts runs on the boards, what really hurts is that it doesn’t leave runners on base. Sure, a double hurts, but at the end of the day you still have a man at second you can get out on a tag-out or force-out. In the last few games, Angels and Indians have not been leaving a lot of options for outs, with so many guys trotting the base paths.

With just over a week left before the break, Baltimore has to look at figuring out how to keep the ball in the park. The team has a decent infield and a solid outfield defensively and the pitchers have to figure out how to use it to their advantage. Stopping a homer is all about throwing quality pitches in hitter friendly counts, not always looking for the strikeout and trusting the guys behind you will make the plays. O’s pitchers can’t be hanging pitches on 2-0, 3-0 or 3-1 counts or they are going to continue to get clobbered.

This slide is fixable, keep the ball in the yard last night and there is a good chance the O’s are in the game after J.J. Hardy’s homer in the fifth inning. It is one of the perils of being a big slugging team like they are this year, you live by the homer but can die buy it too. When, as a team, you primarily rely on the long ball to score, it is hard to put the opposing team’s offense on its heels. If Baltimore could tack on any early runs yesterday, it would have been a different game.

With the team’s offense just not there yet, in terms of scoring on singles and doubles, it is up to the pitchers to buy the offense as much time as it needs to smack one where no one can get it. It all comes back to quality pitches. Throw solid pitches in hitter friendly counts and the staff will start to see their numbers improve and the O’s breakout of their losing streak. If they can’t do it though, this could in fact be the slide every Baltimore fan waits for.

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