Tag Archive | "Domenic Vadala"

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Do the Orioles know something about Jose Bautista?

Posted on 27 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

Nevermind the fact that the O’s got swept by Toronto this past weekend. The big story out of this series is what came out of the last game. Long story short, Jose Bautista got hit by Rick VandenHurk in the third inning, and Shawn Marcum hit Luke Scott in the fourth. At that point both benches were warned, however Buck Showalter brought in Alfredo Simon in the fifth, who promptly hit Bautista a second time. Both Simon and Showalter were tossed from the game, and Marcum made the following statement after the game:

“I guess that’s how they do things over there. I think we have a little more respect for the game and respect for players on other teams. We’re not going to throw at them on purpose, even if they have 50-plus homers. It is part of baseball; I understand you have to pitch people inside, but to bring a guy in from the bullpen and throw two pitches at him and then get ejected, it seemed like it was very intentional.”

First off, regardless of the record I’ve always been proud at the way that the Orioles have approached every game this season. One thing that Dave Trembley preached was respect for the game and you opponent. If anything, the O’s might have been respecting the game by doing what they did. First off, I would submit that Bautista was in fact hit intentionally on both occasions. If that’s the case, I would say that it was done with good reason. Bautista’s hit 52 homers in 2010…his previous career high was 16 in 2006. I don’t want to convict someone of steroid use in the absence of concrete evidence, however the fact remains that one of the indicators of steroid abuse is a player who’s numbers are inflated year-over-year. (Bautista hit 13 homers in 2009.) There’s no question that his home run total is raising eyebrows at the very least.

That aside, Jim Palmer’s said on more than one occasion on MASN that Cito Gaston has a reputation for stealing signs. So is there potentially more than meets-the-eye here? As I’ve said on more than one occasion, I have no issue with teams enforcing the unwritten rules of the game when they’re broken. Stealing signs is a big no-no. We’d be naive to think that it doesn’t go on, however the fact is that baseball’s always been a gentleman’s game, thus is shouldn’t go on. I’ve seen on more than one occasion in games against Toronto this year where the batter’s literally had his bat waiting for the pitch when the Oriole pitcher threw it; almost like he knew where the location would be prior to the pitcher knowing it. Where I come from that’s called junk ball, and it shouldn’t be tolerated.

Shawn Marcum might want to think twice next time he wants to make comments like that, because perhaps there’s good reason for Bautista to have been hit. Certainly it could have been coincidental for sure. However if that’s truly the case, why did Toronto retaliate immediately against Luke Scott the next inning? The O’s could have thrown at Bautista because of the stealing signs, and/or because they know or think that his numbers are being churned out artificially. The Orioles won’t see the Blue Jays again until next June at Camden Yards. Marcum probably won’t forget this…neither will the Orioles.

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My fickle friend

Posted on 24 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

Small as it is, I’m shocked that there’s a movement amongst Ravens fans to bench Joe Flacco. Seriously…do you people really want Marc Bulger as the starting quarterback moving forward? For those that are in the becnh Flacco camp, you’re entitled to your opinions. However I also see this as part of what’s turned into the mentality of today’s sports fans. Win now is a fine attitude to have, but I don’t think it’s worth winning now unless you still have a plan in place for the future. In the Ravens’ case, they drafted Joe Flacco and started him on opening day. He’s since taken the team to the playoffs twice; that’s a pretty good start for an NFL quarterback, especially one that didn’t play at a big-time college. So people are willing to forget about those first two seasons after two suspect performances (one of which was a win)? What is this…Philadelphia?!

For those that want Flacco on the bench, you’re not alone. Sports all across America are now having to deal with fickler fans than what they were used to for years. In my opinion, satellite television has as much to do with this as anything else. With the advent of NFL Sunday Ticket, a Baltimore fan can now watch the Patriots or Packers every Sunday. Then they tune in to watch the Ravens, and they wonder why their team can’t do that. A Baltimore fan can now buy the MLB Extra Innings package and see the Yankees or Red Sox each night, and wonder why the Orioles can’t look like that. As a result, most fans (myself not included) don’t want to hear about how in two or three years their team is going to be really good. They can follow a really good team at home with their satellite dish. They want to win this year. I threw in a jab above about Philadelphia, but it’s really true. A good friend of mine is an Eagle fan, and in his opinion a coach should be fired after a loss. How many times did those fans want Donovan McNabb benched when he was their quarterback? However as much as it pains me to say it, those Philadelphia fans were probably ahead of their time in being so fickle all these years. Now the rest of the country is starting to follow suit.

All of the great teams and coaches were patient to a degree with their players. Brett Favre has thrown more interceptions than any other NFL quarterback in history; was he ever benched? I’m not saying that Flacco will or will not be on the level of Brett Favre one day, but Flacco’s also a guy that’s had almost immediate success in the NFL. That doesn’t mean he’s immune to mistakes. So whenever I see an athlete that wins right away (not to name names Stephen Strasbourg), I’m a little wary. We really see what a guy’s made of when he goes through adversity. I don’t think for one minute that John Harbaugh is even remotely listening to the bench Flacco crowd, however the fact is that there are people that feel that way. The only reason I would say to bench Flacco (aside from injury of course) would be if the guy behind him put the team in a better position to win (and didn’t mortgage the future). To use the Philly example again, in my opinion Andy Reid’s mortgaged that team’s future by switching quarterbacks. (Whether or not it was truly his decision is another story.) There’s no doubt that Michael Vick is a better QB than Kevin Kolb, and odds are they’ll win more games…this year. But what happens at the end of the season if Vick signs with another team? What happens in three years when you don’t have a quarterback? These are all things that most people don’t think of when they call for quarterback changes.

There’s a time and a place for everything, including quarterback changes. However Flacco’s a young QB, and he’s going to make mistakes. There’s a reason why Marc Bulger could only catch on someplace (with the Ravens in this case) as a backup quarterback. There’s also a reason that Flacco’s a starting QB, because the coaching staff feels that he’s able to play consistently at this level. Consistently means just that…consistently. Will mistakes be made? Sure, without a doubt. But that doesn’t mean that you kick the dude to the curb when they are.

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Red Sox Nation: Best fans in baseball?

Posted on 22 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

Every fan base in every sport will argue that they’re the best fans in the world. We do it at Camden Yards, and odds are they do it at every other sports venue in America. The Boston Red Sox take this to another level with the whole “Red Sox Nation” movement and so forth. We’re all sick of their fans coming to Camden Yards and acting like it’s their home park. That’s why these past couple of nights at Fenway have struck me so much. Anyone that’s watched the O’s and Red Sox on MASN the past two nights has noticed something that’s not normally seen at the Fens during Red Sox games: red seats.

Gary Thorne even pointed it out on MASN on Monday night. While the games are listed as sellouts because the tickets were already sold, this is a phenomenon known around sports as no-shows. The funniest thing to me is that while the Red Sox are probably destined for an early winter just like the O’s, they’re technically still in contention. That means that some people bought their tickets and decided not to come to the game(s) since they were essentially meaningless. Hmmm…is it possible that Red Sox Nation is truly no better than any other country around MLB or sports? That sounds a lot like Oriole fans not wanting to come out to the yard to see a team out of contention. The only difference s that the Red Sox have already sold the tickets so they still get the gate revenue. However they don’t collect as much concessions money, souvenir sales, etc.

Each time the Orioles have set Camden Yards all-time attendance lows, it’s generally been an early season game early in the week and early in the season where it’s been cold. However that doesn’t stop the media (ie-ESPN) from reporting the fact that the Orioles set an attendance low for an entire day. Does anyone among us think that any national media outlet is going to highlight the Red Sox no-shows? Probably not, especially seeing that the game is listed as a sellout. However anyone that watched Monday’s game heard Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer highlight how chilly it was in New England, and saw people bundled up in the stands. So apparently if you combine cold weather with a team that’s probably not going anywhere, even New Englanders might not necessarily be interested.

I’m not trying to pile on the Red Sox as much as you might think. I’ve seen the O’s at Fenway Park, and it’s one of the most amazing places in sports. Furthermore, to anyone that’s never seen a game there I’ll tell you that the Fenway Faithful are nothing like the pink hatters that come to Oriole Park to root on the Red Sox. Not only was I not taunted for wearing my Oriole cap and pullover (it was mid-April when I went in 2009 so it was cold), but many people came flying up to me to literally welcome me to their ballpark and their city. I might agree that the fans at Fenway Park are some of the best in baseball. My point is that as much as teams like the Orioles are made into laughingstocks about attendance (or lackthereof), not even the mighty Red Sox are above issues in this department.

Admittedly, the Red Sox “attendance problems” are not anything like what we see at Camden Yards. The Orioles at times struggle to put 12k people in the seats during mid-week series’. However, the premise is pretty much the same; most people don’t want to see an uncompetitive team. (I’ve been to at least twenty Oriole games thus far this year, but most casual fans won’t come out to the games unless the team’s in contention.) I take heavy umbrage when hear people say that Baltimore isn’t a very good baseball town, or that the community doesn’t support the team. The fact is that Baltimore is a baseball town, and it’s as good as any other. However the team’s fallen on lean years, which will eventually turn people away (and don’t get me wrong, a column on bandwagon fans is a whole other argument, but that’s for another day).

If the Orioles were to start winning again, I think that people would return stronger than ever. Time loves a hero, and the people of Baltimore will latch onto this team in coming years if the trend of the second half continues into 2011. I even noticed an absence of the normal “die-hard” Red Sox fans at Oriole Park when Boston was in town a few weeks ago. Similarly, when the Yankees weren’t going to the playoffs a few years ago their fans didn’t fill the yard either. (The difference was that hey did sell out continually at home because it was the last season in Yankee Stadium.) So am I trying to say that Boston Red Sox fans aren’t as good as Oriole fans? No, not in the least. But the fact is that they’re no different in that when the team’s not in contention people (casual fans) just might decide to do something else as opposed to going to the ballpark.

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Is the NFL a victim of it’s own success?

Posted on 20 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

Let me preface this by saying that baseball is always going to be my favorite sport. There’s no other game that’s as storied and timeless in my mind. Football runs an extremely close second in my mind; however the fact remains that football is probably the perfect game for television (due in large part to the 1958 championship game won by the Colts). Let me re-phrase that…the NFL is the perfect game for television. No other league is able to market itself as effectively or with as much success over the past twenty years or so. However Mark Maskey wrote a great article in the September 19th edition of the Washington Post which really made me think. The gist is basically hat the NFL’s television success is affecting the league at the box office.

According to Maske’s article, approximately 20% of the league’s regular season games are expected to be blacked out this season. Whether or not that truly ends up being the case remains to be seen, however the NFL does expect attendance to be down for the third straight season. So how is there a correlation? In the past ten years or so, America’s satellite customers have fallen in love with NFL Sunday Ticket. For a nominal fee of $300 plus, you can watch every game in the league each week. (This has also grown with the advent of fantasy football, as people hae been able to kee track of each of their players.) So many people have come to the conclusion that it’s better to pay the money to get all of the games rather than go to their home team’s game. The past two seasons has also seen the NFL Redzone channel, which is sort of a junior or vanilla version of Sunday Ticket in that you can see any game where a team’s in the redzone.

So do these things (among others) affect attendance? Survey says: probably. While you’d have to survey people to see if they would truly rather sit at home and watch every game in the league rather than going to the stadium on a Sunday afternoon in order to know for sure. Speaking for myself, I’d still rather go out and see my favorite team (the Redskins) play than sit at home and watch every other game. However I think that you also have to look at where the blackouts occur. Neither Baltimre or Washington will have a game blacked out this year. You can also add cities such as Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Chicago to that list. Those places all support thei respective teams every week. However when was the last time Jacksonville sold out a game? (Probably the last time the Steelers played down there.) The owner of the Tampa Bay Bucs, along with a few local non-profits had to buy up the remainder of the Bucs’ tickets on opening weekend to avoid a blackout locally. Buffalo has always been a tough place to sell out, as has been St. Louis and Detroit of late.

With regard to the franchises I named that might have problems with blackouts, the one thing they all have in common is that they all struggle on the field. However the Redskins have struggled for years as well, along with the Cleveland Browns. Regardless of why anyone has blackouts, I would submit that none of those places have issues with selling tickets due to the fact that the NFL’s television product is so good. In fact, I’ve always thought of Buffalo as having very good fans; if one of those teams was to start winning, the fans would be there. However the other aspect that Maske mentions in his article is the recession. With unemployment at near 10%, it’s hard to justify some of the pricing that we see at NFL stadiums. And I’m not even talking about ticket prices; let’s remember that if you want an officially licensed NFL replica jersey, it’s going to run you $89.99 plus tax. Shirts and hats generally run in the $20-$30 range. The league was able to justify that kind of money a few years ago, however today might well be a different story with salaries down, raises on hold, and people out of work.

I’m not sure that I’m prepared to agree with the notion that NFL Sunday Ticket and the Redzone channel is detracting from NFL attendance. I’ve seen games in a few different stadiums, and the gameday experience at an NFL game is still unlike anything else in sports. Anyone that would rather sit at home and watch Sunday ticket rather than sit with thousands of their best friends at the stadium might want to question what they want out of the NFL. However I would say that it might benefit the league to think about how they’re treating their core customers. Can a construction worker that just lost his job afford a $90 jersey or an $80 game ticket? Probably not. The ticket and concessions prices of course are set by each team, however you catch my point I’m sure.

This brings me back to the blackout thing. I would strongly suggest that the league considered lifting the 72-hour rule. With a potential lockout looming, the NFL stands to face an image problem, so lifting the blackout rule for the remainder of this season would show good faith to the fans. Again, this doesn’t apply to teams in this region, as they’re always sold out. However I do feel badly for people in places such as Detroit (who’ve been hit hard by the recession) that truly can’t afford to get out to a game. And then to add insult to injury, the league blacks out the game on local television because they couldn’t sell out.

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Where does sportsmanship end and gamesmanship begin?

Posted on 18 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

We all know what happened last night; Alex Rodriguez hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth inning off of Koji Uehara to give New York a 4-3 win over the O’s. The fact is that superstars like ARod make those plays when they need to, so that doesn’t tick me off per se. However what does frost me is the fact that Koji appeared to have ARod struck out on a called strike three, however home plate umpire Ted Barrett inexplicably called ball two. Bad calls happen, although it seems that they generally benefit players of ARod’s stature. My real problem is with what ARod did after that; he looked towards the Yankee dugout with a grin on his face. In other words, he knew darned well that he got a gift.

After hitting what’s being touted as the biggest home run since Bobby Thompson’s shot heard ’round the world, ARod proceeded to round the bases pretty slowly. In all seriousness, I think Cal’s lap around the ballpark after breaking the record in 1996 might have been quicker. Especially against a team that’s playing for nothing but pride, taking your sweet time to round the bases and show them up is a bush league thing to do. And let us not forget that ARod’s already had one run-in with this kind of thing this season, when he ran across the mound in Oakland (drawing the ire of Dallas Braden).

This is all part of a growing trend that I’m seeing in sports and it’s not a good thing. People such as myself might as well be speaking Japanese when we talk about unwritten rules in games. (In fact, it’s all Greek to me!) Nowadays we hear so many players, coaches, fans, and commentators talk about how if you win the game who cares what the unwritten rules are. I see that as misguided. In my opinion this really started in college football when the current BCS system came into play. The UPI rankings are no longer about just winning, but also by what margin you win. If the #1 team wins 14-13 and the #2 team wins 35-3, the #2 team will probably be the new #1. I see this as incredibly misguided and wrong, because it effectively encourages teams to run up the score. In baseball the rule has generally been that if you’re up after the sixth inning by five or more, you don’t steal or try to manufacture runs. Nowadays you see teams like the Boston Red Sox who would argue that you never know when a team’s going to come back, so why shouldn’t they try to score. Bill Belichek has routinely said that it’s not his job to stop his offense, it’s the other team’s defense’s job. It almost seems that winning isn’t good enough anymore, you have to punish the other team for having the nerve to step onto the field with you.

Ultimately, I do put winning above sportsmanship in a sense. However once the game’s won, I see no reason to rub salt in the wound unless it’s done as an act of retribution. As an example, if the Orioles have a sizable lead against the Yankees in tonight’s game (in the wake of ARod’s antics last night), I’d have no problem with throwing down a bunt to move a runner over. I remember in 1987 when the NFL players were on strike, and basically the entire Dallas Cowboy team crossed the picket lines. They beat a Philadelphia Eagle team full of scrubs, and did so by a wide margin. Philadelphia head coach Buddy Ryan felt that the Cowboys unnecessarily piled on the score at the end, so when the two teams met again in Philly (after the strike had ended), Ryan returned the favor. There were only about thirty seconds left and Philly had the ball first and goal at the one (up by two TD’s). Buddy Ryan called timeout to run one more play to rub it in. I was never a Buddy Ryan fan, but I have no problem with someone returning the favor if they were shown up. In other word, if ARod gets plunked tonight, I wouldn’t see an issue with that.

Ultimately, you have to have a respect for your opponents and the game when you play a sport. I don’t see running up the score or showing up your opponent as having respect for the game. Call me old school or a mastedon if you want, but that’s just how I see things.

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NFL rules fuel latest clash between DC and Baltimore

Posted on 17 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

I live in Northern VA and I grew up in a “Baltimore family.” When I was a kid the O’s and Redskins were the only teams in town, hence my fandom. However I root for the Ravens and Nationals when they aren’t playing my primary team (I like the Ravens moreso than the Nationals). First off, let me say that since I have roots in both places, I like both cities. Having said that I feel that Baltimore is much more of “my city” based upon a plethora of different things including the way I talk hon! But let’s face it, we’re all the same people regardless of which side of the dividing line we fall upon. Baltimore is proud of it’s Baltimoreness, and Washington has a problem with that. Washington is proud of it’s diversity and individuality, and Baltimore has a problem with that.

That aside, the NFL, the Ravens, and the Redskins are now finding themselves at the center of what’s being billed by the DC media as the latest squabble between the two cities. I’m not going to get into the specifics of NFL rules, however Washington DC is identified as a “secondary market” for the Ravens. That means that WUSA (CBS in DC) has to air the Ravens unless the Redskins are playing (on CBS) at the same time. Oftentimes the two teams are both playing at 1 PM, however the Ravens are on CBS and the Redskins on FOX. So this Sunday at 1 PM, the Ravens will be on WUSA, and the Skins of course will be shown on the same channel at 4:15. However since technically the games aren’t at the same time, WUSA is contractually obligated to show the Ravens in it’s entirety, regardless of whether or not the Skins game has started.

People in Washington are frosted about this, big time. In my case I’m a Redskin season-ticket holder, so seeing that I’ll be arriving at FedEx Field at 12 PM I won’t get to see either game on television. In fact, none of this applies to me in the least because I’ll be in the stadium. Upon hearing it discussed this morning on a local DC sports station, the conversation naturally turned into Baltimore sucks. One of the hosts even called Baltimore one of the worst places in the country. People are entitled to their opinions, however this is part of my problem with DC; the people are so darned petty it isn’t even funny. To begin with, the Redskins kick off at 4:15; odds are the Ravens game will be done by then and IT WON’T EVEN BE AN ISSUE. However most people don’t look at it that way, they’re upset that there’s a chance that this could happen. Is it the Ravens’ or Baltimore’s fault that this is the case? No, however you wouldn’t know it by listening to some of the people talk, you’d think that WWIII was coming and it was DC against Baltimore. More importantly however, this is the case due to NFL rules, not even CBS’. In fact, if the situations were reversed and the Ravens were playing at home (in the late game) with the Skins on the road at 1 PM, FOX 45 would have to show the Redskin game in it’s entirety before switching to the Ravens.

In fact, I don’t disagree that it’s wrong that the beginning of the Skins game might get pre-empted. Each market’s home team should be shown (unless of course it’s a home game that isn’t sold out, but that’s not an issue in either Baltimore or Washington). However these are the rules that are dictated by the NFL. Should they be changed? Of course; under no circumstance should the Redskins be pre-empted by anything else in Washington DC, nor should the Ravens in Baltimore. At the very least the league should recognize that there’s a special situation here, as there is in NY, San Francisco, and maybe even Texas in that there are two teams in the region. My issue isn’t so much with the fact that the Skins might be pre-empted. I recognize that it’s the NFL that’s doing this. People in DC have so much stupid hatred towards Baltimore that it’s not even funny. In fact, it’s childish. No wonder DC gets a rap for being soft, because as I said the people are so darn petty. And again, odds are that none of the game will be pre-empted. Their issue is that it’s the Ravens that are potentially going to be pre-empting the Redskin game. Thus it’s Baltimore vs. Washington, and in their eyes Baltimore is winning.

I know that some of that tension is mutual on the part of Baltimore, however I think that most people in Baltimore take a much more common sense approach to things than do people in Washington. Again, the pettiness is what gets to me. DC wanted a baseball team for 33 years; when they finally got the Nationals, the city council suddenly didn’t want to give funding for the stadium. They had the nerve to argue that they shouldn’t have to pay for a stadium where the majority of the patrons would be from suburban MD and VA. Pettiness. The people are ticked off that the Redskins might be pre-empted due to a stupid rule that was made at the NFL. That’s legitimate, however their ire is aimed at the wrong group. Blame the NFL, don’t blame the Ravens, their fans, or another city. Having said this, before people write in and tell me that I should just drop the Skins and come over to the Ravens’ side, keep in mind that I grew up a Redskin fan. When I see that logo and those colors, I don’t see the face of a greedy owner, I see the team I grew up with (same goes for the O’s). I just wish the people weren’t so petty and bought into common sense a bit more. For the record, I like DC as a city; I love Baltimore!

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Arrieta gets the win despite a few struggles

Posted on 15 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

Pitching is about two things: stuff and moxie. If you don’t have the necessary arsenal of pitches, you’re not going to be able to make it in the major leagues. However you can have the pitches and not be able to carry yourself on the mound, and that can be just as detrimetal (see Daniel Cabrera). Most of the Oriole pitchers have both of these aspects, which is to their credit. That aside, Oriole pitching coach Rick Kranitz has said in the past that out of approximately thirty starts in a season, a pitcher will be really on for ten, really off for ten, and somewhere in the middle for ten. Those “other ten games” are generally what will decide a pitcher’s season.

In my opinion, Jake Arrieta gave us one of those “other”performances in last night’s 11-3 victory. If you look at the box score, you might scratch your head and ask why I would say that. Arrieta pitched six innings of four-hit ball, gave up no runs, walked one and struck out five. That would appear to be a pretty solid performance, and in fact it is. However this is where that comment about holding yourself together on the mound comes into play. I noticed that Arrieta seemed to fall behind in counts by going 1-0 and 2-0. Now admittedly, he was able to pitch himself out of those holes, however that gives an advantage to the hitter. The Blue Jays also hit more home runs than any other team in the league; Arrieta seemed to live on the corners of the plate, and his hooking slider appeared to be more of a curve than anything else. I’m not saying that Arrieta looked bad out there by any means, because that’s not the case in the least. I like Jake Arrieta, and I think that he has an extremely bright future with the Orioles. But as Rick Kranitz said, there’ll be ten games where you’re not totally on but not necessarily off either.

With last night’s win, the O’s have won four consecutive series’ for the first time since September of 2004. So much for the annual second half swoon for the O’s, huh? Oriole fans should be really stoked for next season, which in my opinion can’t get here soon enough. This team has really taken to Buck Showalter as their manager, who is also very quick to point out that he has most of the horses that Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel didn’t necessarily have at their disposal due to injuries. Showalter appears to be the type of guy who’s program players seem very willing to buy into. No longer are they showing up at the ballpark to collect a paycheck and go home; they’re there to play ball. And Showalter also seems to “get” Baltimore; when he walked into the media room after Monday’s game and asked what the Ravens’ score was, he showed that he wanted to be part of this community.

Similar to the beginning of the season when you can’t believe that baseball’s coming back, it’s hard for me to fathom that in a few weeks the gates to the yard will be locked and my beloved birds of summer will go away for awhile. However with every action there’s an equal and opprotune reaction. Not only will they be back, but they’ll be back with a renewed sense of how to win. At the end of last season I felt that this team had learned how to lose together. I was wrong, as that continued into 2010. However somewhere between 2-16 and Buck Showalter’s arrival, they figured out that losing wasn’t going to cut it. So in the last two months they rededicated themselves to learning how to win. I often said that 2010 would be the year the magic returned. I felt that would be a process that would last the entire season, but ultimately I’d like to think that I was right; the magic is back and better than ever.

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Is arrogance rewarded in today’s society?

Posted on 14 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

The Ravens beat the NY Jets last night 10-9 to start the NFL season the right way for the purple and black. For whatever reason, I’ve never liked the NY Jets for most of my “career” as an NFL fan. I can’t really tell you why, I just never have. I guess I always saw them as the weak step-sister of NY football so to speak. It didn’t help when Vinny Testaverde, who I always saw as an embarassment to Italian-Americans, joined the Jets in the end of his career. Nevertheless, I’m glad the Ravens beat them.

Everyone chronicled the Darrelle Revis situation for most of the summer leading into training camp, preseason, and now the regular season. Personally, I think that cases as such shed a bad light on professional sports. The way I see it through my “civilian eyes,” Revis signed a contract when he came into the league. By holding out for more money, he effectively welshed on a contract that had been signed. Suddenly, he felt that he was worth more than what he was being paid, so he decided to hold out. Ultimately, he got his way and signed a new deal on September 5th. Not only did he get his payday, but he also missed all of camp and the entire preseason. Yet on the Jets’ first defensive series of the game last night he was in the game. Not only that, but according to ESPN’s Monday Night Football crew, the Jets’ fans applauded his presence during the TV timeout.

In the same regard, this game was played up a lot by the fact that Rex Ryan wanted to beat the Ravens because he felt that Steve Bisciotti made the wrong decision in not hiring him as the head coach. I suppose in a way I can understand that. We’ve all been turned down for jobs that we felt we should have gotten. Heck, at my current job I recently had an associate offered a promotion, and the reasons that corporate gave for wanting to promote this person were aspects of the operation that I had done. In my heart I wasn’t very happy about that, but I didn’t throw down my pad of paper and walk away. However, the person that they promoted did try to go the Darrelle Revis route and tell the corporate office that the compensation they offered wasn’t sufficent; they rescinded the promotion. That aside, this game was made for TV in that the media probably wanted the Jets to win so they could talk about how Ryan was snubbed and he got his revenge. Last I checked, John Harbaugh seems to be working out okay for the Ravens, and Ryan’s made out pretty well.

I suppose that the moral of the story is that if you win, you’re suddenly granted the right to have a degree of arrogance. I think that sends a bad message. Last year the whole story of Mark Sanchez eating a hot dog on the sidelines during a game was somewhat glossed over…the Jets made it to the AFC Championship game. Had they finished the season 5-11, Sanchez probably would have been crucified as the season wore down. How many legal problems and off-field issues did Michael Irving have during his career? Yet media and fans alike allowed him to get away with it because he won. Personally I think T.O. is a bum, and he’s not granted the same courtesy as Michael Irving was (even though his problems don’t come close to those Irving had), because he’s not thought of as a perennial winner. However the one year that the Eagles went to the Super Bowl people talked about how tough he was to play hurt and so forth. Survey says, there’s a bit of a correllation there.

As a kid that grew up watching the likes of Cal Ripken Jr, Art Monk, and Darrel Green, that’s kind of the attitude that I think athletes should have. The Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1991 with quarterback Mark Rypien winning the MVP. Over the course of the off season he held out for more money, which he was ultimately given in a new contract; as a result, Rypien was booed in the first preseason game at RFK Stadium the following year. In 1994 the Redskins drafted Heath Shuler, who held out for $19 million, which was ultimately granted. Shuler turned out to be a bust, but the Redskin fans never took to him because of his holdout. Yet had he been an instant success like Mark Sanchez, would he have been cheered? Maybe, but we should also keep in mind that we’re talking about a different era and time. Many people accept the fact that Bill Belichek and Tom Brady routinely run up the score on teams, because they win. The fact that the New York Yankees have such a high payroll and throw around the fact that they can outspend people is accepted because they’re perennial contenders. When the Washington Redskins throw money around people say that they’re being stupid with money because they aren’t thought of as a perennial contender. Even the Dallas Cowboys, whom I despise, get a bad rap for having the audacity to build a monstrocity of a new stadium with $100K seats. Go figure, the Cowboys have won one playoff game since 1996.

Winning and losing has unfortunately become the line that people have to toe in order to “have the right” to be arrogant. I suppose that I’m still cut from the mold where you should never do anything to disrespect the game regardless of whether you win or lose. Jumping around like you’ve won the world series after a home run is disrespectful to the game of baseball in my opinion, yet the Boston Red Sox get away with it because they’re thought of as winners. The antics of Darrelle Revis were disrespectful to the game of football; the Jets went to the playoffs last year and are thus winners. What he’s done is no better or worse than what Albert Haynesworth does, yet Revis isn’t thought of as a goat as is Haynesworth. Ultimately, your goal should be to win the game and most importantly to be respectful to it and it’s history. Ultimately, the Ravens did that last night.

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9/11 showed us how sports can unify

Posted on 11 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

On September 11, 2001, I was a college student at George Mason University. After sports, my passion in life is history and civics; that autumn I took a course on the American Presidency which was held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 – 10:15 AM. I had another class at 10:30, so as I got out of class that Tuesday and was walking to the next one, someone walking in front of me got a call on his cell phone. The guy said, “…oh they hit the Pentagon too?!” I looked at the guy walking next to me with a dazzed look; he said, “…that didn’t sound good.” Someone walking behind us over heard the conversation and told me what had happened while I had been in class…

We all remember the events of those times, and if you’re anything like me you can probably recall small little details about that day as well. I remember going home from school because God forbid something else should happen, I didn’t want to be in my dorm away from my family. I remember hearing on a traffic report that there was a broken down vehicle on the side of the road on a highway at some point that day. That brought a smile to my face because at the very least that was some sort of normal occurance on a day that was in no other way business as usual. When I got home from college I immediately took out my Dad’s flag pole and American flag and put it up in the front yard at half staff. When my Dad came home from work and we started watching all of the coverage on CNN, I was flashed back to another similar moment in my own history. While the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger wasn’t a tragedy on the level of 9/11, it was a major event in American history and in my life. To this day, I vividly remember watching (with my Dad) President Reagan speak to us from the Oval Office, just as President Bush did that night.

As we all remember, the sports world literally stopped for about a week after 9/11. To me, there’s no greater personification of the role that sports play in our lives in this country than the events of September 16, 2001. For the first time since the 1987 players strike, there was no NFL football on a Sunday afternoon (at that time of year). Along with the NFL, baseball grinded to a halt on the heels of this horrible tragedy. I remember seeing an interview with Mark McGuire regarding whether they should or shouldn’t play. His comment was that all sports should absolutely take pause because athletes are just that: athletes. Not military personnel, police, firemen, etc. Those are the real heros of our society, not home run kings or quarterbacks. Not the camden heros that we see at Oriole Park, but those that fight to protect our right to call those people heros.

So some of you might be wondering when I’m going to tie this in with the Orioles or Ravens. There are some things that supercede even my love of sports, or sports’ place in our society. September 11th is one of them. The NY Giants had played the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football the night before the attacks; I remember thinking that perhaps a lot of people in the World Trade Center had been late to work after having been up late for the game (thus lowering the potential death toll). However as soon as we realized that America was under attack, even the most ardent sports fan wasn’t even thinking about that game, or about the fact that Cal Ripken Jr. was retiring in a few weeks’ time. One of the ripple effects of the September 11th attacks was that baseball rescheduled a whole week’s worth of games, tacking on a week to the regular season. This allowed Cal Ripken’s last game to be played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (the O’s had previously been slated to finish on the road in NY). While it was nice to see him finish his career in the city of Baltimore, I think we all would have traded that moment for our country to not have been attacked (including Cal).

However when sports returned, we saw it as a unifying force as opposed to a divider. When the NY Giants came to FedEx Field to play the Washington Redskins, I found myself shaking hands with a few NY fans that made the trip, and asking them how things were going in their neck of the woods. They did the same with the Redskin fans, as both cities were attacked. The following spring when the Yankees came to Oriole Park, that same scene replayed itself. I hate seeing my beloved Oriole Park at Camden Yards overrun with Yankee or Red Sox fans. However next time we experience that perhaps we should remember that our military is in the line of fire to protect ours and their rights to come to the ballpark. That Yankee fan bleeds just as red, white, and blue as you or I, and that Boston fan probably loves his country the same as we do. Effectively, we’re all on the same home team.

…for the record, on that September 11, 2001 our class on the American Presidency covered the special war powers of the President. I remember the professor saying that nobody had ever seen them used in our lifetimes. How ironic things can be sometimes. With all of that said, my deepest appreciation and thanks goes out to the thousands and millions of military personnel, policemen, firemen, etc. that protect the O so beautiful and spacious skies of our beloved United States of America. Be you liberal or conservative, black or white, northerner or southerner, Oriole fan or otherwise, you live and breathe the amber waves of grain of the United States of America. You wave the star-spangled stripes of Old Glory as the banner of your homeland while singing a song that was written in Baltimore Harbor as it’s national anthem. With all of this said, may God rest the souls of the deceased of 9/11 in peace, may he provide comfort to the survivors, watch over our military, and may he always continue to bless our America.

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Showalter and Harbaugh: Taking Baltimore Back to the Future

Posted on 10 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

The two main coaches in Baltimore right now are Buck Showalter of the Orioles and John Harbaugh of the Ravens. Both are with their respective teams for various reasons, both have different backgrounds and levels of experience, and both are at different stages of their lives. However they have one thing in common, and that’s Baltimore. To expound on that a bit, they’ve both inherited a rich tradition and lineage in that there’s greatness behind them. While the Orioles have been in a state of malaise for thirteen years, we all know the history and traditions that are associated with them. Showalter inherits the legacy of Earl Weaver, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, and Cal Ripken Jr. In the case of the Ravens, there’s a twelve-year span of time where there was no football in Baltimore, which stands in stark similarity to the most recent stretch of Orioles baseball. However Harbaugh is now taxed with stroking the legacy of Don Shula, Johnny Unitas, Alan Ameche, Raymond Berry, and Ray Lewis (who of course is still on the team).

Again, the common link between these two men is Baltimore, and thus the Baltimore fans. One of the reasons that I love Baltimore so much is because of it’s legacy as a survivor. Let us not forget that Baltimore was attacked by Brittish forces in August of 1814 (during the war of 1812). The resulting Battle of Ft. McHenry gave us our beloved Star-Spangled Banner, which essentially celebrates the fact that the city of Baltimore never fell to the Brittish forces that night. The city (and thus the nation) “survived.” How does that translate to the O’s and Ravens? Baltimore’s rich football legacy was hijacked in 1984 Robert Irsay and the Mayflower moving vans. However for twelve years the fans kept the legacy of Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts burning in their hearts, in hopes that one day the NFL might see fit to return to one of the places that helped to make it so great. Eventually those efforts paid off when in 1995 Art Modell announced that his Cleveland Browns were moving to Baltimore to become the Ravens.

The Orioles last contended in 1997 under the leadership of Davey Johnson, one of Earl Weaver’s former players. Since Johnson rode out of town on the heels of going wire-to-wire in first place and winning manager of the year, it’s been lean times in Birdland. Seemingly everything that this franchise has done has been wrong. We all remember the Albert Belle debacle, which might rank up there with the Glenn Davis trade as one of the worst moves in team history. Speaking for myself I’ll never forget the year that they lost Rafael Palmeiro and BJ Surhoff to free agency and/or trades, and then tried to market Delino DeShields as their big free-agent pickup the next year. They even tried bringing Palmeiro (who was always a fan favorite) back, however that blew up in their faces when he tested positive for steroids. Ultimately, a long series of poor management decisions by Peter Angelos and the people around him have led to these thirteen losing seasons, marred by embarassments and NY/Boston fans taking over our beloved stadium.

While some people would argue that Angelos is still mismanaging the team, I would tend to believe that through the hiring of Andy MacPhail and Buck Showalter, this team is on the right track once again. In the past few seasons they’ve drafted well and made some good pickups (although they should have gotten a big bat this past off season, as has been admitted by Andy MacPhail). I suppose my point is that through all of that, the Baltimore fans still stand by the team. Some would laughingly say that drawing 9100+ on a weeknight is hardly having people stand by you. However anyone that’s attended a game since Showalter’s shown up in August knows what I mean. The fans are into and behind this team. When people think of suffering fans, those of cities such as Cleveland, Boston, and Philly come to mind. However not having football for so long combined with the Orioles’ rocky thirteen years has put Baltimore fans in a similar category. Yet they’re still there, as resiliant as ever. So Buck Showalter and John Harbaugh are tasked with taking the traditions and memories of the past, and turning them into the future. I suppose that I’m reminded of the closing scene of Back to the Future III; as he lifted off in his new time machine, the Doc told Marty and Jennifer:

Your future isn’t written yet. Nobody’s is! So make it a good one…both of you.

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