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Orange fireworks: Players and Trembley flip Peter Angelos “The Bird” today in The Sun

Posted on 03 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I’ve been saying for years that Fort Lauderdale Stadium and the Orioles’ sub-par Florida spring training situation is by far the biggest sin of all of their many sins and finally the folks over on Calvert Street are doing some “investigative journalism” with the orange birds. The club’s No. 1 promise to the public is that it’s doing everything possible to commit all of its resources to fielding a winning team.

That’s the goal in baseball: winning a championship. You always want to give your team the best chance to compete.

The Angelos family hasn’t done that for the entire tenure of their ownership in regard to the significance of spring training as anything more than a line item expense. The mere fact that they’re the only organization in the sport to have “two camps” in Florida that sit three hours apart is telling enough. It’s bad business. It’s bad baseball. It’s just inexcusable, unacceptable and dumb.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium is a dump. It’s a disgrace. It’s been a disgrace for the entire balance of the 15 years they’ve played there. I’ve worked many, many a morning and pulled many 12-hour days at Fort Lauderdale Stadium doing radio and covering baseball back when I was a “real” media member. I’ve spent 100 days of my life at that facility over the years before the team banned me from having a press credential.

Most of the fans here in Baltimore never make it there and it’s not like the team does anything to market having fans come south with their off season efforts. So it kinda goes unnoticed and when I bitch about it – and again, I think it’s probably the most obvious and lousy “white elephant” of all of their many sins – the fans don’t really care or “get it” but it’s so bizarre and so blatantly “bush league” in the eyes of anyone who knows anything about baseball from management to players to coaches to the locker room attendants that it defies description.

Just the mere fact that the visiting teams come in and see the situation and don’t lay down negative comments day after day is astonishing. Apparently, according to The Sun, the situation over at the minor-league camp is even worse. I haven’t personally been to Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota since 1995. It was “amateur” then, but not in disrepair. It was “minor league” but it wasn’t “unsafe” as several of the opposing teams indicated in contacting MLB and refusing to schedule games against the Orioles farmhands.

But the quotes in The Sun aren’t from Nestor. Or Drew Forrester. Or the glowing crap you’ll hear on MASN from Jim Hunter, Fred Manfra and the “boys club” who all take their paychecks from Peter Angelos.

They’re from the players themselves, who also take their paychecks from Peter Angelos. And it’s precisely these types of stories that makes Angelos ban a guy like me from having access. Because the players would be talking my ear off to get their message heard in the public eye.

Today’s whoppers and haymakers from their best people and players are “instant classics” and are sure to have the Angelos family in “flip out” mode on this Friday before Opening Day. It’s almost like all of the players just got together and decided to give the team’s ownership a rectal examination of unprecedented proportions.

This morning, it’s like Brian Roberts, Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora, Dave Trembley and Jake Arrieta are on the front page of the local newspaper wearing FREE THE BIRDS shirts!

Here come the quotes:

Dave Trembley: “I think we’ve finally reached the point where it’s fish or cut bait. We’re in the business of developing players. What would enhance that development is a facility that is more conducive to us all being all together and being on an even playing field with the other clubs.”

Brian Roberts: “I think most of us would be lying if we said this is what any of us would expect from a major league organization.”

Aubrey Huff: “When you have a big-league team that has a weight tent with rented weight equipment located in the parking lot, that’s pretty sad.”

Melvin Mora: “That’s the worst field I’ve ever played on in my life and I’m from Venezeula.”

Chris Ray: “I don’t know what to say about the facility other than that it just needs to be leveled and rebuilt. It’s a shame. You draft someone, hype them up and then they go to that facility and they’re like, ‘Wow.’ I think that’s a little bit embarrassing.”

Jake Arrieta: “We’re all very blessed to be in the situations that we’re in, but it also comes with the territory that you expect to have nice facilities to work out in. Not that we’re tired of Twin Lakes, but I all think we deserve something better.”

And here is my favorite, from a minor-league farmhand named Mike Costanzo, who was given the “Nestor treatment” by the franchise: “We were told to not say anything about the field, but if nobody says anything, it’s never going to get fixed. It’s tough to get quality work in here.”

I guess Nick Markakis must’ve been in the shower or “unavailable for comment” on this one.

Costanzo’s quote is almost poignant to me because that’s EXACTLY what FREE THE BIRDS was all about.

“If nobody says anything it’s never going to get fixed.”

It almost brings a tear to my eyes. I’m a BIG Mike Costanzo fan all of a sudden. I’ll be monitoring that young man, who showed some big-league bravery for that quote but will undoubtedly be in the corporate “doghouse” for life after that one.

Aside from being quality journalism by Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly, it’s the kind of story in this economy that will piss off Angelos so much that you might even see the fireworks ads get pulled from the May editions. Mr. Angelos reads The Sun every day and will be ripe and randy today, no doubt about it.

I can hear him now…

“The insubordination. These ungrateful millionaires. How dare they speak this way about our franchise to the media!”

There’s one thing Peter Angelos hates the most and that’s hearing the unfiltered truth about how bad this franchise is in so many ways in print or in the media. Seeing his highest-paid employees flipping him the bird in the morning fishwrap – well, that’s gonna make for an interesting weekend.

Of course, Angelos and his son John declined to speak about the “Fort Lauderdale situation” in the media.

The worst part are the paper-thin and almost silly quotes from Orioles spokeperson and huge WNST fan, Greg Bader, who knows less about P.R. than any P.R. person I’ve seen in 25 years of doing journalism for a living.

Now, apparently, a baseball expert and groundskeeper, Bader officially deemed the field in Sarasota “perfectly safe and adequate” after a handful of visiting MLB teams refused to show up and play games there.

I’ve only met Greg Bader twice, but my guess is that he never played an inning of baseball in his life. Or pitched on unmeasured mounds? Or caught a two-hopper after it hits a rock in the dirt? Or had to work out to get into shape for a 162-game Major League grind that baseball demands.

(As an aside, the first thing I learned when I began doing sports radio in 1992 and hanging around baseball players was how HARD the job was. As a kid it sounds like a fun gig, but being a Major League Baseball player is HARD, HARD work. These guys make millions of dollars and if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Baseball players live pretty difficult, complex lives from April 1st through October 1st. I have great respect for the work they do, which can only come when you see it first hand.)

Bader also said the club has “always had the urgency” to find a new home. That is just a stupid, silly thing to say. Urgency? They’ve had 15 years and roughly 80 percent of the MLB teams in South Florida have relocated or found better situations since the Orioles landed in Fort Lauderdale by sheer accident in 1996, after going several years in weird and bad situations in Miami and St. Petersburg.

They’ve been offered at least five sites that I can think of over the years – from Sarasota to Orlando to Vero Beach to Jupiter to Winter Haven — and have never done anything to rectify the combination of the major and minor league camps, which should have been done in 1997 or 1998 at the latest. No other team would DREAM of having a split camp and say they’re serious about a winning organization. It’s just unconscionable.

The 2009 season has already gotten off to a rocky, rocky start.

They have absolutely zero starting pitching. Jeremy Guthrie has been dreadful. Koji Uehera certainly bears watching but the rest of the retreads from Adam Eaton to Mark Hendrickson to Rich Hill to Danys Baez to the soon-to-be-celebrated Alfredo Simon are just arsonists of varying degrees at this point.

Brian Roberts isn’t healthy.

They’re still banning free speech in the media and being miserable and unprofessional to deal with at every level.

And now, every level of their organization from manager to players to minor leaguers are popping off in the morning newspaper about how “bush league” their ownership is in regard to spring training and a commitment to winning. It’s like a scene out of “Major League” but the Orioles have become the Indians.

Next Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay still doesn’t have a starting time and the Ravens are expecting 20,000 people at M&T Bank Stadium that morning and afternoon for an Inside Lacrosse doubleheader and no one in the city knows what the parking situation might be. The game is eight days away. You’d think they’d announce to the Tampa Rays, their season ticket holders and their employees when the game will be played. (Again, this kind of management is just unheard of in professional sports in 2009.)

Oh, and the Yankees are bringing 30,000 obnoxious fans into town on Opening Day to cheer for Baltimore’s greatest homegrown player in a generation as he takes the field at Camden Yards wearing pinstripes.

Oh, and advance ticket sales have been abysmal and they’re having a “Fan Fest” tomorrow that feels like a rumor around town.

Other than that, things are just fine in Birdland.

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Why should Teixeira sign a “hometown discount” deal here?

Posted on 12 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

With all due respect to my colleague Drew Forrester, I have a different “conspiracy” theory on the Mark Teixeira chronicles that unfolded in Las Vegas last week and look like they’ll drag on for a few more days. Here’s the most simple, unasked question of the day: “If you were Mark Teixeira, would you sign up to be a Baltimore Oriole circa 2009?”

I mean, honestly, what’s the upside for him? He’s going to get plenty of money wherever he signs and the No. 1 & No. 2 issues for him – besides the money – are “Can I win there?” and most importantly, “What are the odds I’ll be happy there?”

With everyone and their mother now working for Peter G. Angelos Enterprises or sucking milk from the nipple of the baseball franchise, you aren’t going to EVER hear any REAL analysis in the “old media” about what’s happening in the Warehouse on this one. All you’ll hear from everyone from Steve Melewski to Mark Viviano to Bruce Cunningham to Scott Garceau to Roch Kubatko (and I apologize to the other dozen on the payroll who I’ve left off the list) is this: “The Orioles offered him a LOT of money. He just took the most money and signed with (Bostom Anaheim, Washington, etc.)!”

And Drew – or any of the others — can paint him as a “phony” or a “bad guy” if he wants to and so can you. (For the record I’ve never met or spoken with Teixeira and I’ve honestly never heard anything particularly glowing about his personality or local charm. I don’t think his personality will be selling them tickets. Let’s not expect him to be Cal Ripken is all I’m saying…)

But if Mark Teixeira were my son, I don’t know what I could possibly say positively as a parent (or even an agent) about why he should take a “hometown discount” to come play for the lowly Orioles who have wrecked the franchise over the past dozen years and would fully expect him to be the savior to fix it.

Yeah, maybe Teixeira USED to dream about playing in Camden Yards. Didn’t we all? But that was when it was full and fun and the team woke up on Opening Day with a legitimate chance to win. If you were Mark Teixeira, you’d probably be much more intrigued by an opportunity to spend the next decade in Boston where the stadium is full, the energy is like “real” Major League Baseball and where everyday you’d perform with something on the line. Why does Teixeria want to be standing at first base with an orange cap next spring when he’ll be getting jeered at his own hometown stadium by Red Sox and Yankees fans 20 times?

All of the stuff that made the Orioles enviable 15 years ago when Texeira was a kid no longer exist because of the reign of terror of this ownership group.

That’s why Mike Mussina left. And that’s why no top-tier free agent outside of Miguel Tejada and Ramon Hernandez has even thought about coming here to play. And honestly, what besides Andy McPhail being charming and convincing to all of his co-workers in the media has changed here since 1999?

The team still sucks. The team has plenty of money that it’s refusing to truly spend to bring a winner here. The team still must compete with New York and Boston (and Tampa Bay now) annually. The stadium here is more empty than it’s ever been. And if you think the team’s human resources department has championed “togetherness” and fairness amongst its employees/players, just go ask Brian Roberts or Nick Markakis how it’s been to be an Oriole lately in negotiations. Angelos fights with his best players. It’s not a pattern, it’s a way of life.

So – in your wildest orange fantasyland — if Teixeira DID turn down the extra $30 or $40 million Boston is offering and come “home” to Birdland, what expectations would be placed on him to make this moribund franchise a contender again? He’d instantly become the face of a franchise known for perennial losing. He’d be dubbed “the savior” by the Orioles’ own employees in the media. For $150 million, he’d BETTER be, right?

Sure, as an Oriole he’d be a hometown hero to all of the Baltimore types like you and me for a little while, but then the season would start and as far as I can tell Teixeira is only going to bat four or five times a night and I’m assuming he’d be a lousy pitcher. This franchise isn’t close to being an annual contender for Tampa Bay at this point, let alone Boston and New York.

Really…think about it…what’s the upside for Teixeira to come back and be a part of this mess when he can go win in Boston or Anaheim and make MORE money?

If he were YOUR son, what would you tell him to do? (And Dave Johnson, who also works for Mr. Angelos, is off the hook to answer this one! Maybe one day he’ll have to make that decision himself.)

If you want a “Nestor conspiracy,” try this one:

My bet is that the Orioles are NOT serious – as usual – and just threw a number big enough number out to the media and the “sources” to look like they did their best so they can come back to what’s left of the fan base here in Baltimore and say “we gave it the college effort…we offered him $140 million!” It smells like their twisted attempt to win some “credibility” PR by “bidding” on Teixeira. (Two weeks ago, McPhail was telling everyone they really weren’t all that interested in Teixeira. They went from uninterested to “let’s give him $150 million”? I’m just saying…)

The late, great Syd Thrift has long left the Orioles and has left our planet. His words were still the most prophetic in all of the “new era” of Baltimore baseball history: “Confederate money.”

Do you think there’s any way Scott Boras is going to direct Teixeira to Baltimore for a discount?

Get serious…

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Great Tight Ends

Posted on 15 November 2008 by Brian Billick

Tomorrow we may see a substantial achievement by one of the great tight ends to play this game. With one more TD reception Antonio Gates can get to 50 TD receptions in a career faster than any other tight end in NFL history. Not withstanding injury, Gates may well be on the way to the first of many feats to establish himself as one of the great tight ends of all time.

The year 1963 saw the beginning of a major shift in the NFL with the use of the tight end. The evolution of the tight end position has been constant since Mike Ditka changed the definition of the position as the 5th selection overall in the NFL Draft that year by the Chicago Bears when he caught 56 passes for 1076 yards and a still-record 12 TD’s by a tight end (tied by Todd Christensen twenty years later). Ditka, Baltimore’s John Mackey and St. Louis Cardinals Jackie Smith (all drafted in I963) began to shift the tight end position to one from primarily as a blocker to one who could be a major part of an offensive passing attack. All three would go on to have Hall of Fame careers.

These great players were followed by the likes of Charlie Sanders (Detroit) and Raymond Chester (Oakland) in 1968 and 1970, respectively. Dave Casper (Oakland) followed in 1974, our own Ozzie Newsome then came along in Cleveland in 1978, Kellen Winslow (San Diego) and Todd Christensen (Oakland) in 1979. Christensen was actually drafted as a running back by the Dallas Cowboys, moved on to the New York Giants before settling in Oakland and igniting his career as a tight end.

In the mid-1980’s Mark Bavaro (New York Giants) and Jay Novacek (Dallas) came along to prove invaluable parts of Super Bowl winning teams.

Shannon Sharpe started the 90’s off right with the Denver Broncos followed by Tony Gonzales (Kansas City Chiefs) in the later part of the decade.

Looking at this group one thing become readily apparent. If you want a great one you will probably have to use a high draft choice to do it. The chart below shows that you will probably have to expend a first day pick to get a TE of this caliber.

Mike Ditka

1963

Chi

1961, 1st round (5th overall) by Chicago

Kellen Winslow

1980

SD

1979, 1st Round (13th Pick) by San Diego Chargers

Tony Gonzales

1998

KC

1997, 1st Round (13th Pick) by Kansas City Chiefs

Ozzie Newsome

1979

Cle

1978, 1st Round (23rd Pick) by Cleveland Browns

Raymond Chester

1972

Oak

1970, 1st Round (24th Pick) by Oakland Raiders

John Mackey

1964

Bal

1963, 2nd round (19th pick) Baltimore

Dave Casper

1975

Oak

1974, 2nd Round (19th Pick) by Oakland Raiders

Todd Christensen

1980

Oak

1978, 2nd Round (28th Pick) by Dallas Cowboys

Charlie Sanders

1970

Det

1968, 3rd rond (74th pick) By Detroit

Shannon Sharpe

1991

Den

1990, 7th Round (27th Pick) by Denver Broncos

Jackie Smith

1965

StL

1963, 10th round (129 pick) St. Louis

Antonio Gates

2004

SD

2003, Not drafted

Obviously, Antonio Gates may end up as one of the great-undrafted free agent stories of all time. A basketball player at Kent State in Ohio, Gates, if he can stay healthy may break virtually every TE record.

Having said that it is hard to not recognize the accomplishments of Tony Gonzales: (those in RED are current Hall of Fame players. The only HOF missing from this list is John Mackey whose numbers don’t rate in the top ten).

RK

NAME

Year

Rec

Yds

Avg

Lg

TD

1

Tony Gonzales

12

870

10426

12.1

73t

71

2

Shannon Sharpe

14

815

10060

12.3

82t

62

3

Ozzie Newsome

13

662

7980

12.1

74

47

4

Kellen Winslow

9

541

6741

12.5

67t

45

5

Jackie Smith

16

480

7918

16.5

81

40

6

Todd Christensen

10

461

5872

12.7

50

41

7

Mike Ditka

12

427

5812

13.6

76t

43

8

Jay Novacek

11

422

4630

11

49

30

9

Dave Casper

11

378

5216

13.8

52t

52

10

Antonio Gates

6

378

4831

12.8

72t

49

Kellen Winslow is considered by many to be the best based on the numbers he generated even though he was a part of an offense with such great receivers as Charlie Joiner, Wes Chandler and John Jefferson. With all this talent outside, it is truly amazing that he was able to generate this much offense.

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The Young and Restless

Posted on 14 November 2008 by Brian Billick

As I prepared for my game this week between the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs I had a chance to see first hand what the Chiefs are going through with their purging of their roster and building anew this franchise. Trading away their best defensive player (Jared Allen to the Minnesota Vikings) and loading up on draft choices this year you can clearly see the commitment the Chiefs have made to the future, and the growing pains they are experiencing at 1-8.

Seeing Herm Edwards and Carl Peterson put this plan in motion, I can’t help but think back to the 2002 season when Ozzie Newsome and I were faced with the same task.

As much as we as coaches would like to think otherwise, our jobs (particularly that of a head coach) are inexorably linked to the finances of any given situation. In 2000 the Baltimore Ravens reached the top of the professional football pyramid winning Super Bowl XXXV and then returning to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs in 2001. The price was unavoidable, however.

In 2002, the Ravens fielded the youngest team ever (19 rookies) in the history of the NFL. The decisions made in the preceding years to the “Cap Purge” of 02’ were all made with the consensus agreement that the team would have to be gutted after the 2001 season. With every signing leading up to the Super Bowl year General Manager Ozzie Newsome would make the obligatory observation, “Now we all know the piper has to be paid in 2002, right.” It was an acknowledgment by all involved that the expenditure “over the cap” had an unavoidable consequence in today’s NFL. That for every dollar “over the cap” you spend you will be devoid of those dollars in subsequent years.

At the heart of the Ravens’ Championship year were players like Shannon Sharpe, Priest Holmes, Rob Burnett, Duane Starks,Tony Siragusa, Qadry Ismail, Sam Adams. Jeff Mitchell, Jamie Sharper, Jermaine Lewis and even future Hall of Fame Rod Woodson would all be victims of the financial “balancing of the books” that every team must come to recon with.

It was only fitting that the cover of the 2002 Ravens’ Media Guide adorned the oil portraits of myself and Ozzie. Indeed, we where left with the task of rebuilding a championship team with our “financial” hands tied behind our backs. We did so in the only way left to a team in this situation and that is to draft and draft well.

Draftees like Jamal Lewis, Adalius Thomas, Todd Heap, Gary Baxter, Casey Rabach, Edgerton Hartwell, Ed Reed, Anthony Weaver, Dave Zastudil and Chester Taylor would team with holdovers Chris McAlister and future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden to form an AFC North Division Championship team in 2003. They key was the franchise’s willingness to take the dramatic steps to “purge” their championship team of older and more expensive talent and replace it with younger more affordable players.

The problem lies in being a victim of your own success. When you draft well, even though the young player comes cheaper, they play themselves into the higher priced market that makes it increasingly tough to keep all of your good players. Ultimately, the successes of drafting Ed Reed, Todd Heap and Terrell Suggs then forced the Ravens to let go of Jamal Lewis, Adalius Thomas, Gary Baxter, Casey Rabach, Edgerton Hartwell, Anthony Weaver, Dave Zastudil and Chester Taylor. It has become a vicious cycle, in a reverse of nature, the “young eating their old.”

In training camp of the 2002 purge year Todd Heap had a humorous, but acute observation. We had long had a tradition on our team that the most veteran players got to sit in first class when we traveled. Typically that would be seven or eight players, usually with 10+ years in the league. Todd Heap, who was just entering his third year in the league, at our first OTA with this young group observed, “Coach, looks like I am going to be in first class this season.”

Having spent the day with Herm Edwards, it’s clear he is finding the same things I did in 2002. Though tough getting through the loses, it was one of the most enjoyable years I have had coaching. Working with and developing the young talent is what being a coach is all about. Herm will also find that by having to play so many young players you are going to learn a great deal more about them than you might otherwise have a chance to do. Next year when he looks at his roster and sees a bunch of 2nd and 3rd year players he will not have to worry about how they will play in their first starts. They will all have 10 to 16 games of playing experience.

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Baltimore through and through...

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Pictures of the new Orioles jersey

Posted on 12 November 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

We made it to the Gallery today. Lots of ways for you to see the new jerseys here at WNST.net. There are videos in wnsTV and there are pics here below…

Enjoy…

Jim Palmer sports the new Baltimore uniformsBaltimore through and through...
The Maryland patch on the sleeve
The Orioles bird sporting BaltimoreThe new hats
More with Cakes...

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Rocking the Red with the Caps in D.C.

Posted on 29 October 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

I’ll admit it. I’m biased.

I inexplicably fell in love with hockey when I was five years old at the Baltimore Civic Center at an AHL Nova Scotia Voyageurs-Clippers game. I saw the ice. I saw the action. I was hooked. During my 40-plus years on the planet,  many of my best and most personal sports memories have been made at hockey games.

Most of the people who’ve listened to my show or read my work over the past 17 years know of my affinity for the puck. We’re running our first-ever “Caps Puck Bus” next Thursday night (tickets are only $50 for the whole evening of fun) and I expect it to be memorable.

Last night, I made my first of many pilgrimages down to the Verizon Center in D.C. to see the Caps take on my adopted favorite team, the Nashville Predators. It was a memorable game. The Caps took it to the Preds early, at one point holding a 23-5 lead in shots and a 2-1 advantage. Nashville came back to even the score late in the game, forcing a rare OT shootout, which the Caps won taking a 4-3 victory.

Sure, Alex Ovechkin was missing last night, away with his ailing grandfather but it was still an eye-opening experience seeing more than 15,000 people in the rink last night all “rocking the red” on a chilly Tuesday night.

Sure, I’ve had my differences with the Capitals over the years. First (and this is no secret), I thought the combination of moving into D.C., firing David Poile, changing the logo and those hideous blue jerseys were all bad ideas. It hurt the franchise and it made me feel less connected after being a guy who for a decade drove to the Capital Centre in a red, white and blue sweater at least 35 times a year to see Mike Gartner, Gaetan Duchesne, Dave Christian, Bobby Carpenter and company beat up the Flyers, Islanders, Penguins and Rangers. Some of my favorite memories in sports were waving white pompoms and screaming at Ron Hextall.

I also had another problem as a Caps fan in the 1990’s: my radio show ended at 6 p.m. and getting from upper Towson to downtown D.C. made it impossible to see an entire game. So, I just went on a hockey hiatus in some ways, for nearly a decade.

Last season, the Capitals reached out to me personally and asked me to come back to Caps games. I went to a few games during the stretch run and wound up taking a bunch of friends (including Hockey Meg, Agent Orange and WNST blogger Ed Frankovic) down to games. For Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoff series against Philadelphia, we threw Drew Forrester and Phil Jackman into a car and had a blast.

Like I said, I’m a hockey goober. I met my wife at a hockey game in Manchester, N.H. I have scores of friends who’ve entered my life and stayed through hockey. My best pal, Tom Kapp, allowed me to take his kid to a game a dozen years ago in Hershey and now his kid, Tyler, drags him from rink to rink in his quest to be an NHL goalie.

Hockey can be infectious like that. I’ve said it many times: it’s the best sport there is for the sheer energy and action.

So, why have I adopted the Nashville Predators of all teams? Their one and only head coach in their 11-season existence is Barry Trotz, who was the final coach of the Baltimore Skipjacks before they left town for good in 1992. I covered Trotz’s team for the Baltimore Evening Sun for two seasons and we became friends. Trotz went on to win the Calder Cup in Portland, Maine the next season, got the Predators job before the expansion in 1997 and has been their coach ever since. For some reason, we’ve always remained close and in touch.

Over the years, he’s been a frequent guest on WNST and a great friend when we’ve gone to Nashville for games. I’ve probably seen the Preds play in 15 cities across the country over the last decade and I have a closet full of swag he’s been kind enough to send me over the years and I’ve always enjoyed rooting for the Predators because Trotz is such a special guy. (And think about how rare and unique that is in this day and age: he’s the ONLY coach they’ve ever had!)

But, back to the Capitals and hockey locally.

The Caps reached out to me with one message: WE WANT BALTIMORE TO EMBRACE THE CAPITALS! They asked me if I could help or if I had some ideas.

I said I’d help by promoting the sport I love in Baltimore. (If I ever get rich with WNST.net I would absolutely bring a hockey team to Baltimore and be a complete idiot about promoting it and making it work. There’s NOTHING better than going to a hockey game, if you ask me!)

Even without Ovechkin last night (most hockey people would tell you he’s the best player on the planet), the building was still mostly full and the atmosphere the Caps are building is something that should be enjoyed by any sports fan.

If you haven’t been to a Caps game lately, I can honestly say that you’re missing out on some great sports fun.

And it’s easier than you think…

The ride was traffic-free and painless last night (left the house at 5:30, made a stop and was still in my seat 15 minutes before the 7 p.m. start). They’ve done a great job branding their players and the “Rock the Red” promotion. Truth be told, Caps games are a LOT of fun and I’m looking forward to re-embracing my adolescence and throwing on my red, white and blue sweater more often this year.

We’ll be doing a series of “Puck Bus” promotions over the course of the season. Or at least as many as we can effectively market and sell. You fill the seats and we’ll continue to take hockey fans down to D.C.

Hockey has been gone from Baltimore for nearly 15 years. The only way it could conceivably come back to Baltimore is if I get rich enough to do it because I’m the only fool who would even think about trying it again after it’s failed so many times here. (By the way, I’m a LONG way from fulfilling this dream of mine so don’t hold your breath on this one! LOL…)

So, in the interim, I’ve decided that I’m going to embrace the Caps, go to the games like I used to and have some fun while I’m still young enough (even at 40 and aging rapidly) to do it.

Last night brought back all of the memories, right down to accidentally running into the legendary Rod Langway while I was grabbing a beer at the concession stand.

I like the Zamboni.

I like the action.

I like “The Good Old Hockey Game.”

I like shootouts.

I like funny Canadian accents.

I like the horn blowing after a goal.

I even like the silly movie clips (“UNLEASH THE FURY!!!!”) they play on the HD screen at the Verizon Center.

And most importantly, I love the game and the action and the strategy of the sport.

Like I said, the Caps are doing a really nice job down in D.C. with that hockey team. But the only way to find out is to go to a game.

We’re going next Thursday and we’ve made it easy.

Just pay the $50 and show up at the Park and Ride in White Marsh (4:15 p.m.) or I-95/UMBC (5 p.m.) and we’ll take care of the rest.

The link is here if you care to join us.

Game on!

Let’s rock the red…

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Should Terry Francona have called Dave Trembley?

Posted on 17 July 2008 by caseywillett

So there are some people here at Camden Yards who think that Terry Francona should’ve called Dave Trembley and explained to him why he used George Sherrill the way he did in the All Star Game on Tuesday night night in New York.
 
So should he have also sent him a box of chocolates and a virtual hug along with that apology?
 

Francona does not owe Trembley any explanation as to why he used Sherrill the way he did. Francona was trying to win a game that probably will benefit him the most when it comes time for the World Series in October.

Here is the interesting fact:  Franconia actually called Andy McPhail and explained the situation to him but did not and has not tried to call Dave Trembley.

If anything, maybe Francona showed that Sherrill can be used for more than one inning.

Francona did what any other manager would’ve done — he tried to win the game because his team might need home field advantage three months from now.

To think that Francona was sitting in the dugout thinking and plotting on how he could use up George Sherrill and Scott Kazmir of the Rays so that it will be benefit the Red Sox down the road is one of the most stupid things I have ever heard.

 
I think it is far more interesting as to why Terry Francona called Andy McPhail and not Dave Trembley.
 
What do you think?

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The Blame Game

Posted on 09 July 2008 by roblong

After last night’s game, there’s plenty of people to blame. You can blame Dave Trembley. He did take Daniel Cabrera out of the game in the seventh inning. You could assume Cabrera would have gotten out of the inning with the O’s lead still secured.

I don’t like Trembley’s decision, but I’m certainly not going to blame that loss on him. Players have to make plays.

Trembley went to the bullpen with a four-run lead. It’s reasonable for him to believe he has enough arms to protect that lead.

I hope Oriole players aren’t looking to pass blame. I’m hoping they are looking in the mirror at themselves. They blew that game last night. Miscues, errors and the lack of execution. Not a manager’s decision in the seventh inning.

Players make plays, not excuses. I’m hoping our players aren’t looking for someone to hide behind. I believe they have more character than that.

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Pre game notes

Posted on 02 July 2008 by caseywillett

Here are some notes from Dave Trembley:
 
          The Orioles have not heard from Dr James Andrews in regards to Matt Albers as of this afternoon. They are expecting to hear from him later today.
 
          Kevin Millar is getting the night off so that Jay Payton can get into play. Trembley pointed out that Millar’s 1-24 .042 career average against Meche is not the deciding factor, but is considered when he is making decisions. Millar has only struck out once versus Meche, and his only hit was in his first at bat against Meche back on 8-25-2003. Millar singled to center and was thrown out going into second.
 
 
          Adam Loewen will not be available for the Orioles tonight. Trembley said that Loewen will pitch back to back nights, but not after his first outing out of the bullpen. The original plan was for Adam to stay in the minors till the All –Star break, but he was progressing fast and with Jamie Walker going on the disabled list, there was a need for him.
 
          Ramon Hernandez is batting cleanup for the Orioles tonight and the reason is because Trembley says he did not want four left handed hitters batting in a row: Roberts, Markakis, Huff, then Ramon, followed by Scott. In case you were wondering, Ramon is 8-26 lifestime versus Meche.
 
 
          I asked Dave Trembley if he sees any similarities between the Royals and Orioles and what they are doing, and he said yes and added the Pirates in that equation also. Dave said he knows Royals manager Trey Hillman very well and what the Royals are trying to do is similar to what the Orioles are doing here.

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Pregame O’s notes

Posted on 01 July 2008 by caseywillett

Here are some notes from manager Dave Trembley’s meeting with the media:
 
          As the revolving door at short stop continues, the team is out looking for options outside of the organization for that position. Trembley said that Brandon Fahey and Freddie Bynum will play depending on who does what. I think the problem will be that there is not much out there on the free agent market or in trade.
 
          Matt Albers will go to visit with the famous surgeon Dr Andrews in Alabama tomorrow. Albers is going to get a second opinion on his torn labrum and whether surgery or rehab is the best option. I think having Albers go ahead and have the surgery would be the best for him and the team for the future.
 
          If the opportunity arises tonight, Trembley said he would go to George Sherill again in a save situation. Sherill is a very competitive guy and said it does not take him long to forget what happens. As for his glove that he tossed in the stands last night, he says he does not want it back and that it is not the first time he has done that.
 
          Jamie Walker did something last night that he has not done since 1999. Jamie sat in the dugout to watch a game as he is currently on the disabled list. Jamie told Dave Trembley it is a whole different game to see from the dugout compared to from the bullpen. There is some deal that Walker has with Chad Bradford and George Sherrill where if they come into the game, he goes out to the bullpen. My take is that Jamie could be a nice veteran asset to have for the young guys in the bullpen. He can talk to them about situations and different things. Trembley commented on how sharp and knowledgeable Jamie is and said that not much gets by him. Trembley pointed out that Walker could also help young guys like Liz, Olson, and other pitchers while they are sitting in the dugout.

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