Tag Archive | "Domenic Vadala"

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O’s can’t sweep, but they win the war

Posted on 09 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

Over Labor Day weekend the Orioles took two-of-three from Tampa, which probably made the Yankees smile. While they beat the O’s in walkoff fashion in yesterday’s series finale, they weren’t smiling anymore. After winning the Tampa series at home, the Orioles steamrolled into Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to rain on the Yankees’ parade. The problem with how this series went down is that the Yankees won the finale, and did so in dramatic fashion. So in a way it almost feels like the Orioles lost the series due to the order of the events. Nevertheless, the Orioles got excellent starting pitching in this series, much as they’ve done throughout Buck Showalter’s tenure as manager. One stat that jumped out at me during yesterday’s game was that during the Orioles’ recent four-game winning streak, they hit .406 with runners in scoring position. Wasn’t that a sore spot overall for much of the first half of the season?!

While those few months make a difference, the Orioles are still out of contention. However unlike in past years, they’re catching the hearts and minds of Baltimore. Gary Thorne mentioned on MASN yesterday that the resurrgence under Showalter has turned into a national story. That’s certainly easy for a local play-by-play guy to say, however keep in mind that Thorne also works for ESPN, and thus very much has his pulse on various stories in the national sports scene. That said, as much of America enjoyed picnics and cook-outs on Monday afternoon, the Orioles set to beating the Yankees in game one of the series. Brian Matusz took the ball against AJ Burnett of NY, and did so with about as much success as one could have. In six innings of work Matusz threw 106 pitches, giving up three runs over five hits. The thing with Matusz is that he’s a southpaw. One can look at Jake Arrieta and see a guy that has similar stuff to Matusz, however a left-hander with that kind of moxie is something that’s fairly rare, and can be deadly. Matusz also has an effective changeup that he mixes in with his fastball which has seemingly left opposing hitters perplexed of late. On Monday the Orioles got doubles from Caesar Izturis and Josh Bell; if you can get that kind of production from the bottom of the order, you’re really in good shape.

Speaking of Arrieta, he got the ball on Tuesday night, with the same kind of result. Arrieta went 6.1 innings, spreading two runs over eight hits. The big story in this game was that Yankee starter C.C. Sabathia was going for his twentieth victory of the season. Common sense dictated that he’d get it seeing that they were playing a team in the Orioles who was out of contention. I might also add that Sabathia has owned the O’s over time as well. Not on this night. Sabathia also pitched 6.1 innings, but gave up five runs. Joe Girardi seemed to keep Sabathia in a bit longer in hopes that his offense would put something across to get C.C. that twentieth victory. If anything, that hurt his cause more, as the O’s were hitting. Noland Reimold even hit his third homer of the season in the win, a moon shot to left field. This was a classic AL East game in that the Orioles added on runs when they needed to, giving Arrieta another win under his belt.

Yesterday the O’s had a chance to sweep their first series against the Yankees since 1986, and it appeared that they would do so. With Koji Uehara coming in to close out a 2-1 Oriole victory, suddenly Nick Swisher stepped to the plate. You know the rest…walkoff home run. However Brad Bergesen’s effort in this game should not go unnoticed. One run over four hits in 6.1 innings; seemingly all of the Oriole starters’ lines are very similar of late. We know that the Orioles have won their share of games in this fashion…just ask the White Sox, Angels, Red Sox, and Nationals. Live by the sword, die by the sword. As I said above, if you’re going to drop one game in a series you probably don’t want it to be the last one, as it leaves a sour taste in your mouth. However that should not be the case for the Orioles, as they’re doing the unthinkable as we speak. If this team wins 12 more games in 2010, they’ll have one win more than last season. Did anyone foresee this even being in the argument at 2-16? This season hasn’t been kind to Birdland, but this year’s end will pay dividend’s to new beginning’s in 2011. The O’s were far from the best team this year to this point, however their heart should be uncontested.

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Ty Wiggington: Al comeback player of the year?

Posted on 08 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

Ty Wiggingon has been as valuable to the O’s in 2010 as any player to any other team. In the first third of the season, Wiggy was one of the only rays of blonde sunshine on a team that seemingly had perpetual storm clouds over it’s head. Wiggington was unsure of his status coming out of spring training in that it appeared that Dave Trembley was going to platoon him at various positions (including DH). However with all of the injuries to various players at the very beginning, Wiggington all but guaranteed himself a spot in the lineup in some capacity day in and day out. The running joke with Wiggington coming out of spring training was that he wanted to make it difficult for Dave Trembley to not put him in the lineup. While Wiggington did more than enough to earn his share of playing time, he also proved his worth through his play.

Ironically, if you compare Wiggy’s numbers year-over-year, you get a mixed bag of results. Wiggington’s played in nine more games thus far in 2010 than he did in all of ’09, however that’s also the result of the fact that Aubrey Huff was a Baltimore Oriole last year. Wiggington’s hit better this year, although that’s proportional to the added games and at-bats. While he’s struck out more, he’s also drawn 2o more walks than he did in 2009. His strikeouts are up, but again that also has to do with the fact that that he has more games than last season.

So it seems that his stats aren’t such an imrovement over last year. Then why would I argue that he should be considered for comeback player of the year? As I said, Ty Wiggington was the one ray of sunlight for the Orioles when they were struggling so much at the beginning of the season. Perhaps it wasn’t the number of hits or homers that came off his bat as necessarily as it was when those hits came. As an example, on April 19th Wiggy had a homer and four RBI to lead the Orioles over the Oakland Athletics 8-3, snapping a nine-game losing streak. The next night in Seattle, he hit his third home run in four games, although the O’s lost to Seattle. On May 1st he hit his seventh and eighth homer of the season, helping to lead the Orioles to a 12-9 win over Boston in a donnybrook that was attended by me. The following day he hit a walk off double in the 1oth to give the Orioles a 3-2 win over the Red Sox, and their first series victory of 2010.

Wiggington has always been a solid major leaguer. He was never a superstar or a guy around which you might build your team, however he’s always been solid. He reminds me a lot of former-Oriole Jeff Conine in that he’s always been a consistent hitter, and a better clubhouse guy. The Orioles did most of their big time struggling in April, when they went through and above-referenced stretch where they lost nine of their first ten games. Ty Wiggington finished the first month of the season hitting .308 with six homers and 12 RBI. While he’s fallen back to earth a bit since then (especially in June when he hit .209), he’s been one of the only Orioles that’s consistently produced all season. The key word for me there is consistent, or consistency. Lots of players can be one-hit wonders in that they have their one brief shining moment, only to fade into the sunset after it’s over. Ty Wiggington has always been a consistent player that’s consistently produced for hs team.

So again, why should he be considered for comeback player of the year? What has he had to come back from? If Wiggy’s not to get this award, that’s probably the reason why he wouldn’t qualify. Last season he hit .272, which is hardly a shabby year. However I would also submit that he wasn’t brought to Baltimore to have the role that he’s seen He was brought here to be a platoon player at various positions, perhaps at times only playing for three days or so each week. He’s done that and then some. Although he wasn’t injured or miss any signifigant time during the season, he has outdone himself and what the Orioles wanted for him when they brought him in.

Admittedly I probably didn’t make the case for Wiggington very well in this column. Basically all I outlined was a guy that stepped in and performed admirably when his team needed him. However as bad as the Orioles were during that stretch of time, imagine where they would have been without  Ty Wiggington. It’s my understanding that Wiggy wants to return to the Orioles in 2011. My only question would be why the Orioles haven’t gotten a deal done to this point? He seems like a great teammate, good clubhouse guy, and a consistent player. How can you go wrong?

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Maryland beats Navy 17-14

Posted on 07 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

My Dad grew up a Baltimore Colt fan, and while as he went through college and started a family he probably lost his “die-hard” tag, to this day he still has a Baltimore Colt trash can in his garage. To this day I think he probably likes Fidel Castro a bit more than Robert Irsay, who moved the Colts to Indianapolis when I was three years old. While when it came to professional football I grew up rooting on the burgundy and gold, I also spent a lot of Saturday afternoons at Byrd Stadium with my Dad and his college buddies. While those are great memories with my father, there was always a certain bitterness that I sensed from him towards the entire football establishment. As I got older (and more and more infatuated with sports), I realized that his team was taken from him by a drunk hack of an owner.

Unfortunately, Irsay was probably well ahead of his time in that the reason he moved the team was due to the fact that the city wouldn’t build him a state-of-the-art stadium with luxury suites. (10-15 years later, it would become commonplace for teams in all sports to hold cities hostage if they balked on a stadium deal.) That aside, my Dad and I went to yesterday’s Maryland Terrapin season opener against Navy at M & T Bank Stadium. It was his first time attending a game at the stadium that’s become the home of Baltimore football. Our seats were on the club level at the 50-yd line (a friend of my Dad’s that came with us bought them off some guy on the street for half price). He was absolutely stunned when he entered the stadium and saw what a great place it was. I don’t think he would ever admitt it, but I think he was somewhat moved by all of the pictures and murals on the walls of the concourse depicting the old Baltimore Colts. Furthermore he was very impressed with the fact that on the Ravens ring of honor they had a banner that said “Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts.”

The game itself was a great defensive battle. The Terps scored on their first two drives of the game (without even having to put the ball in the air), which had me wondering if they might run Navy out of the stadium. However the Mids battled back to tie it at 14 in the third quarter. It was fairly obvious to me that Jamarr Robinson doesn’t have the confidence of Ralph Friedgen. Robinson had six pass attempts in the entire game, completing two for 11 yards. That’s almost unheard of in contemporary college football. The one time he did take a shot down the field the pass was picked off. Midway through the third quarter Ralph Friedgen appeared to lose confidence in Robinson, as he inserted Danny O’Brien in at QB, however that was short lived. Speaking for myself, I’d love to see Maryland with a more balanced attack offensively. In all seriousness, they might not win another game this season if they can’t get downfield through the air.

Defensively the Terps seemed to struggle with Navy’s triple-threat option between the 20′s. When the Mids got inside the red zone the Terrapin defense tightened, and was solid. The Terps got strong efforts from Adrian Moten and Kenny Tate. Moten caused Navy QB Ricky Dobbs to fumble in the third quarter when he “supermaned” over the line to tackle him inside the five yard line. On Navy’s final drive of the game, Moten also got flagged for what I think was a bogus facemask penalty after the Terps had stopped Dobbs on third and eight. Replays appeared to show Moten’s hand brushing across Dobbs’ helmet; definitely what I would call a ticky-tack penalty, especially in the fourth quarter. Furthermore, the officials seemed to let both teams play for the entire game, but started throwing laundry out on the field in the last 15 minutes. To make that call at such a critical juncture of the game is…ticky-tack as I put it. With the Terps having kicked a go-ahead field goal, Maryland led 17-14 on that last drive. Dobbs drove the ball down to the one, where Navy had it fourth and goal with thirty seconds left. Conventional wisdom says you kick a field goal; Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo wanted to win it outright at that moment, so he went for the TD. Long story short, Kenny Tate stopped Dobbs short of the goal line, giving Maryland the victory in one of the best football games I’ve ever seen. While I’m ecstatic that Maryland won, Niumatalolo’s decision should not be second guessed. Going for it on fourth and goal was one of the gutsiest calls I’ve ever seen a coach make, and he should be applauded for trying to win it as opposed to settling.

Overall, it was a great day for football, but more importantly for me I’m glad that I got to be there with my Dad. While he’d shrug it off now as being overly sentimental, I know that the Baltimore Colts meant a lot to him when he was younger, and those memories still resonate with him to this day. To be able to attend a game with him in the stadium that is now the Colts’ legacy was very special. However the real winner was the state of Maryland, who can boast both the Mids and the Terps as great programs.

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Terps turn Baltimore red and black

Posted on 06 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

Yesterday being no exception, I’m used to walking out of Oriole Park at Camden Yards on a given Sunday afternoon thinking that all I had left to do in the weekend was have dinner, watch the Sunday night game, and go to bed. It’s refreshing to know that there’s still another day to go! The Inner Harbor should be a buzz this afternoon, as the Maryland Terrapins will take on the Navy Midshipmen at M & T Bank Stadium. First off, in general I root for all local teams, with only a few exceptions (Virginia Tech being one of the big ones). I like Navy; Annapolis is one of my favorite places, my late grandfather was in the Navy (albeit the Italian Navy), I grew up around boats and on the Chesapeake Bay, and they’re a Maryland school. However I’m not even going to try to be unbiased in this case…Go Terps! My love affair with the University of Maryland began on Saturday afternoons in the 1980’s when as a kid I’d go to Maryland games with my parents at Byrd Stadium (Maryland alumni). Whereas most kids my age at the time were probably more into what Testudo was doing, I would always study the quarterbacks and their mechanics. (This same routine was also repeated on winter afternoons and evenings at Cole Field House.)

When it came time for me to go to college, I didn’t have the grades necessary to get into Maryland, and I ended up going to George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. At the time, I had nothing against their teams, and I rooted for them (still sort of do). However I always said that I grew up a Terp fan, my family’s a Maryland family, and if the Patriots ever played the Terps I’d root for Maryland. That was immediately put to the test when in my freshman year George Mason traveled to Cole Field House to play Maryland. I bought tickets in advance and my Dad and I made plans to go. I made the trek to Cole two nights after Christmas with the flu so as not to miss that game. GMU played a tough game, but the Terps prevailed by four that night. The following season, Maryland drew Mason in the first round of the NCAA tournament. (So let me get this straight; two schools on opposite sides of the Capital Beltway from each other had to travel to Boise, Idaho to play?) Mason again played the Terps tough; you can imagine how much sweating I was doing sitting in the GMU student union watching that game with my Terp gear on! Their fans were thinking that the game was theirs, and they were finally going to get their day in the sun. The Terps took the lead with under a minute left, and it ultimately came down to an out-of-bounds call; the refs gave Maryland the ball and they ran out the clock. The looks on people’s faces as I walked out of that building that day were priceless. Ultimately the Terps got their title while I was still at Mason, but everyone remembers their magical run through the NCAA tournament in 2006 (luckily I was long gone by then).

Nevertheless, I love the idea of Maryland and Navy playing in Baltimore to open the season (on an annual basis). A close friend of mine is a huge Colorado fan, and they open their season every year against Colorado St. in Denver. That’s probably a bigger draw because those are two schools that really don’t like each other. I’m not sure how Navy fans feel towards Maryland, but as I said above I root for most local teams, so I have no problems with the Mids. In fact, I would suspect that a lot of Navy fans probably root for the Terps as well (just not today). However as I said, I think that if this game was to be played every year, a nice local tradition would ensue for coming generations. In college basketball we see this all the time in that the Terps are usually scheduling teams such as UMBC, Towson, Morgan St, etc. Navy is really the only state school that Maryland could schedule in football that would give them consistent competition.

The battle in the stands is always interesting as well. I’ll be interested to see what the fan breakdown is in terms of who’s rooting for whom. Navy has great fans and a large local following, but I would hesitate to say that there’ll probably be a bit more red and black in the stands than navy and gold. Maryland’s expected to have another lackluster year, however a win on opening day against a local rival might set them off on the right track. At the very least, they picked the right venue for this game!

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Quoth the Raven: SURPRISE!

Posted on 05 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

There are generally surprises on every team when the 53-man roster is announced. In my opinion, the biggest surprise from the Ravens’ roster cuts yesterday was QB Troy Smith. When he was drafted I thought that Smith had a bright future in the league, and I still think he could be a solid quarterback. It’s fairly obvious at this point that he probably won’t start for the Ravens anytime soon, however that’s not to say that he couldn’t play somewhere else. (We should also keep in mind that five players will be allowed to be place on the practice squad; odds are Smith will be one of those five.)

The bigger surprise to me isn’t that Smith was cut outright, but that the team’s only going with two quarterbacks. While it certainly helps to have that extra roster spot potentially for another wideout or running back, I think it’s a very risky move. You never know when a backup, or even a third stringer is going to be pressed into action in the NFL. I’m reminded of the 1990 game in Philadelphia between the Eagles and Redskins when nine different Washington Redskin players were carted off the field (including two quarterbacks). As I said, you just never know what’s going to happen in an NFL game. Speaking of the Redskins, they had a similar setup last year with Jason Campbell and Todd Collins being the only two QB’s on the roster. However at the time the Redskins also had Antwaan Randle-El, who was a quarterback in college. I’m sure that Harbaugh will designate someone as the “emergency quarterback,” however I think going into the season with only two QB’s is a bit of a calculated risk.

Safety Ed Reed has been placed on the PUP list, which will mean he’ll be eligible to play only after the first six games of the year. Billy Cundiff ended up winning the kicking battle, and will be the Ravens’ kicker going into week one (and presumably for the entire season). Keep in mind that the Ravens had issues in the kicking game almost all of last season, with Stephen Haushka getting cut in November after shanking a few attempts. Cundiff’s a bit of a journeyman and he’s been around the league a few times, so one has to hope that Cundiff will get the job done for the Ravens’ special teams this year.

The Ravens also traded linebacker Antwan Barnes to the Philadelphia Eagles for an undisclosed 2011 draft pick. Speaking for myself, I firmly believe in building a team through the draft, so if you have a guy like Barnes for whom you can get a draft pick, I’m all for it. Obviously you don’t want to give away the house so to speak (and I don’t think the Ravens did that), but a GM like Ozzie Newsome will be able to find a diamond-in-the-rough with a later round draft pick. Ultimately, here’s the list of final cuts made by the Ravens yesterday:

TE Davon Drew, CB Travis Fisher, DB K.J. Gerard, K Shayne Graham, WR Justin Harper, CB Chris Hawkins, DB Brad Jones, G Bryan Mattison, OLB Albert McClellan, T Joe Reitz, WR Eron Riley, QB Troy Smith, RB Curtis Steele, T Devin Tyler, WR Demetrius Williams

Ultimately like them or not, everyone else that was on the roster are your 2010 Baltimore Ravens. People can debate the roster moves all they want, but ultimately all of that will be a moot issue if the Ravens beat the Jets on September 13th.

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How are area teams perceived nationwide?

Posted on 04 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

In my pieces about bandwagon fans earlier in the week, I wrote about various teams such as the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Steelers that have a lot of bandwagon fans. All of those organizations also have what we call national fan bases. You can go to any stadium around the country and see someone wearing a Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Steelers, or Dallas Cowboys hat. That aside, when I travel I’m always interested in seeing how the teams from my home region are perceived around the country.

No Baltimore or mid-Atlantic team has what you might call a national following. However depending upon where you go you’ll find mixed results in a sense. Obviously if you go to Cleveland you won’t find many people with any love for the Ravens. It also matters which sport we’re talking about. When it comes to baseball most people are very sympathetic to Baltimore fans. One of the best trips I ever took was to Fenway in 2009 to see the Orioles play. Most of the Red Sox fans were very welcoming, and a lot of them told me that they hoped to see things looking up soon for the Orioles. And I’ve seen that kind of empathy towards the O’s in most places I’ve gone, including the southwest and Colorado. Players such as Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken to this day have bought the Orioles a great deal of goodwill. I spoke with one fan in Denver during a trip out there who told me that he had never really followed baseball until he started paying attention to Cal’s streak, and when he found out that Denver had a team he became a fan. Occasionally you’ll find some sneering Yankee fan that’ll just laugh at the Orioles, but that happens across the board.

With the Ravens it’s a little different. Baltimore’s plight of losing the Colts and not having a team for so long still makes people very sympathetic. That, combined with the legends of Johnny Unitas generally makes people look approvingly on the Ravens. However there’s no doubt that Ray Lewis’ brush with the law and subsequent murder charge has taken its toll on the Ravens’ reputation. While I do understand that kind of mentality, I also have to call it into question. The fact is that Lewis was exonerated of the charges. However, there’s a certain stigma that comes with a murder charge that never goes away; I understand that. But doesn’t mean that the Ravens are a bad or thuggish organization? I would say that if you feel that way you should dislike the player, not the team.

Baltimore fans have a lot of bearing on how our teams are perceived. As Oriole fans, we’re unfortunately used to seeing out-of-town fans in our stadium. Speaking for myself, I’ve always thought that Boston fans were the worst of the bunch. (The visiting fans at Camden Yards that is; I’ve been to Fenway to see the Orioles play, and the fans there are some of the most accommodating and decent fans I’ve ever met.) Where do I begin?…I’ve seen Red Sox fans urinating in Oriole hats, Red Sox fans complaining that not enough Red Sox merchandise is sold in the stadium, Red Sox fans purposely getting Oriole fans tossed from the ballpark, and Red Sox fans booing an in-stadium feature on Cal Ripken while say that Yaz is the only #8 worth cheering for. Each time I’ve gone on the road with the Orioles, I’ve felt an obligation to be on my best behavior because I believe that in that situation I’m representative of the Orioles, the Oriole fans, and the city of Baltimore as a whole. So if I behave like a moron, people in that city are going to come away with a negative impression of all of us and our teams. Furthermore, if you need any more proof that the fans’ behavior counts towards what people think, look no further than Philadelphia fans.

All in all, in my opinion Baltimore teams have a decent reputation around the country. I haven’t been in every state or city, however I’ve seen a decent amount of places here in the USA, and I would say that Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken Jr. are the most high-profile Baltimore athletes. Johnny Unitas is up there as well, although I think that Baltimore not having football for so long probably puts him a notch below Brooks and Cal. It’s amazing where you meet like-minded people sometimes though. Last year I was walking through Milan’s Malpensa Airport waiting to board a flight to Paris (with Washington DC my ultimate destination that day). Since I was returning from a vacation at my family home in Italy, I decided to sport an Oriole polo shirt on the flight. Just as I’m getting in line to board the flight, this guy walks by me, raises his fist in the air and says, “Go O’s!”

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The O’s need to bring blind American justice to Matt Garza

Posted on 03 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

First off, the Ravens lost their preseason finale to the St. Louis Rams last night 27-21. I wouldn’t read anything into the game with regard to the upcoming season, as the starters watched the game from the Ravens’ sideline. The highlight of the evening (and quite frankly the most worrisome thing in my mind) was Dannell Ellerbe  taunting the Rams’ sideline during his interception return for a TD. That’s what you would call bush league, and television cameras caught John Harbaugh making that very clear to Ellerbe. (Nationals’ manager Jim Riggleman could stand to learn a few things from Harbaugh with regard to talking to Nyjer Morgan about his bush league antics.)

This evening the Tampa Rays come to Camden Yards to play the Orioles in a Labor Day weekend series in crab town. Matt Garza gets the ball tonight for Tampa in game one against Kevin Millwood for the Orioles. The last time the O’s saw Garza was at Oriole Park on July20th; long story short, the O’s beat Tampa 11-10 that night on the heels of back-to-back-t0-back homers. I’ll leave it at that, as well as with Garza’s comments in this morning’s St. Petersburg Times:

“I owe them a lot of payback for the type of outing I had last time against them,” he said. “They had back-to-back-to-back. So I’m going to make them feel really uncomfortable in the box. So they know, this (stuff) doesn’t happen, so don’t get used to it…I’m going to go in there, hair on fire, like I have been and go after them and say, ‘Hey, you got me the first time, well I’m going to shove it down your throat this time.’ “

Let’s stop and think about this for a moment; it’s the Orioles’ fault that Garza pitched like garbage and got shelled last time? On one hand, one might argue that shows how little regard people have for the Orioles around the league (until the hiring of Buck Showalter that is). It’s almost been an embarrassment when the Orioles have beaten you. However, those are some pretty strong words coming from any pitcher with regard to any other team. The O’s and Rays renew aquaintances 18 times a year…seriously, how stupid is Matt Garza? I almost want to laugh it off as nothing because the guy’s dumb enough to say something like that. You’re coming into the Orioles’ stadium to play in front of the Orioles’ fans, and you’re going to make a comment like that?!

Baltimore’s always been a tough blue collar town, and that needs to be on display tonight and all weekend. I’m not particularly fond of the Rays seeing that they’re a division opponent, however it’s on now! If I were Carl Crawford or Carlos Pena, I wouldn’t be too happy with Garza right now. If he thinks that he’s going to make it “uncomfortable” for Orioles batters while they’re in the box, or “shove it down their throats,” I would interpret that as saying that he was going to pitch inside. That being the case, does anyone among us think that the O’s won’t retaliate by hitting someone such as Pena or Crawford? Speaking for myself, I don’t believe in hitting people just for the sake of it, but there’s a time and a place for everything. The Orioles may not be in contention, however there’s no reason that an opposing player should ever be allowed to say something like that without being taught a lesson. Rather than flat out blaming the Orioles for having the nerve to beat him around like they did in July, perhaps Garza should have reviewed the tape and learned from the experience. That’s what the likes of Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, and Jake Arrieta have been doing all season (not to mention Chris Tillman). But since Garza’s perfect, he’d rather blame the Orioles.

Maybe I’m overdoing this a bit, but with good reason. I have a real problem with athletes giving other teams what you might call “bulletin board material.” Furthermore, I consider myself to be a person that has pretty thick skin. You could tell me that I was the village idiot, and I’d probably agree with you; in other words, I don’t get offended by much. However I take an incredible amount of umbrage at this. As I said above, so far as I’m concerned, it’s on. If Matt Garza wants to hold the Oriole hitters accountable for his poor pitching, I say BRING IT. The way I see things, our team and by extension our city is being attacked by this low life, and the O’s owe it to the people of Baltimore to bring him what Arlo Guthrie called blind American justice in Alice’s Restaurant. By that, I mean that we need to shove it down HIS throat again, as well as up his derriere.

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Is tonight a throw-away game?

Posted on 02 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

The Ravens enter tonight’s fourth preseason game at St. Louis with a much different purpose than what they had last week against the Giants. Preseason week three is all about letting the starters go further into the game, game planning, and actually playing as if it’s a regular season contest. It’s the Super Bowl of sorts for the preseason, if such a thing exists. If you’re a starter or a regular player this week, you’re attitude is what’s the point? Some teams don’t even play their regulars in week four, and they give the game totally to their reserves and to guys trying to make the roster. Only a few Ravens’ starters are expected to play tonight, however they’ll be used extremely sparingly, probably on the first drive of the first quarter.

 

Even for someone like me who avidly watches preseason football, this week isn’t the most exciting of games. (My attitude about preseason is that it’s better than nothing, however I’m not going to say that it’s the same as a regular season game or anything like that. And in all honesty, I’ll be watching football with my picture-in-picture feature tonight while I watch the O’s.) However when people talk about shortening the preseason, my opinion is that it should stay exactly how it is. Hold on Vadala, how could they go wrong by going to 18 regular season games and two preseason games? Personally I think that the NFL preseason ebbs and flows just as it should. In theory most teams play their starters about one quarter in week one, two quarters in week two, and potentially three quarters in week three, which is the “granddaddy of them all” in terms of games that don’t count. Then come week four the idea is that you get your starters one drive or perhaps half of a quarter just for posterity, and then get them out.

 

People like to talk about the potential for injuries in the preseason, especially in week four. Would the Ravens be in any worse of a position if Donte Stallworth got hurt tonight as opposed to last week? One way or the other he still injured himself in a meaningless game. With that said, if they trim the schedule down to two preseason games, we suddenly might be seeing starters for more time in both games. Everyone’s trying to say that the on-field product might be better in preseason if they condensed it to two games; wouldn’t the potential for injury then be greater (with the starters seeing more time)? The NFL, just like everything else, is a business, and they want people to consume their product. The fact is that we already do that. Regardless of how you feel about preseason football, you’re an NFL consumer. If you’re one of the 68K or so that own Ravens’ tickets, you buy the preseason tickets regardless of whether you want to or not. And odds are that probably own a jersey, hat, car flag, etc. If they keep the preseason like it is, they won’t make any more or less money than they already do (and let me tell you, they already make a lot). However as I said, if you suddenly put players in a position where they’re probably playing more, you heighten your risk for injury.

 

Ultimately if there’s such a thing as a throw-away game, this is probably it (from the perspective of fans and starting players). Football junkies like myself will be watching, but I highly doubt you’re going to see people heading to liquor stores to buy cases of beer, chips, etc, because the boys are coming over for the game. However if you’re an undrafted rookie or a guy that’s fighting to make the team, this is your season right here. There are jobs on the line tonight, so in that sense it’s a big game. Ultimately nobody’s going to care if Mark Bulger goes two-for-three with an interception tonight, but if Ken Hamlin makes a big hit, that’s going to make a difference in John Harbaugh’s eyes. Consequently, if someone fumbles the football away or whiffs on a block, that weighs in the coaches’ minds as well. Ultimately in the backs of everyone’s minds the key is the same is it is in every preseason game, and that’s to escape with no injuries.

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Thanks Red Sox “fans”, you made my point for me

Posted on 01 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

Yesterday I posted an article regarding bandwagon fans in sports on the toes of the Red Sox coming into Baltimore to play the O’s. In last night’s Oriole victory, the biggest number other than the score (the O’s downed Boston 5-2) was 18,247: the attendance. My point with bandwagon fans was that they find a team that’s winning, and they latch onto them. Furthermore, the worst of them will even try to engage in a bit of “revisionist history” and pretend like they were fans of that team all along. Regardless of where you’re from, if you grew up a die-hard fan of a team like the Red Sox, Yankees, Steelers, Cowboys, etc, I have no problem with that. But if you suddenly started rooting for the Red Sox because they won a World Series after 86 years, the Patriots because they won three Super Bowls and have a hot-shot QB, or the Lakers because they’ve won so many titles and have Kobe “I cheated on my hot wife” Bryant, you need to ask yourself why you follow sports or what you want out of being a fan.

In past years, Red Sox nation would take over Oriole Park at this time of year. Heck, I’ve attended two games against the Red Sox this year (May and June), and there were Boston fans all over the place. There were Boston fans in that group of 18,247 last night for sure; when the Red Sox scored you could hear their pesky little voices cheering. However based on how things sounded over television and the number of boo’s that drowned out those evil Let’s Go Red Sox cheers, it appeared to be a Baltimore crowd. One way or the other, 18K+ is more like a normal Oriole game than a game against Boston or NY. Now admittedly, this series is occuring mid-week, so odds are that it might be harder for people (in both fan bases) to get to the yard for the games. However at the very least I would have expected crowds of 30K for a Red Sox game, many of them Boston fans.

So if this were Family Feud, the survey would probably say that bandwagon fans are just as quick to jump off the gravy train as they are to get on. Many Sox fans that come to the yard do come down from New England, especially for weekend series’. However starting six years ago we saw a lot more Boston Red Sox merchandise in sporting goods stores around the area due to the fact that their fan base started to swell. This season hasn’t been kind to Red Sox nation, as is evidenced by the apparent absence of their fans at Oriole Park at Camden Yards last night. There’s no doubt that teams like the Red Sox probably embraced the idea of bandwagon fans. We never heard terms such as Red sox nation thrown around so forcefully until after they won their World Series. Their goal was to get as many people as possible to join Red Sox nation. Part of that message was that if your home team stinks, feel free to come over to our side and we’ll win for you. We win, and by extension you win…how can anyone go wrong?! Sure it’s a good marketing scheme, but only in the short term. The Red Sox couldn’t have possibly been on top of the world forever, right? So fast-forward to a year like 2010, when they have a slew of injuries that’s seemingly broken their season. Where did all the red go in visiting ballparks? I’m sure the Red Sox were probably shocked when they hit the field for BP last night at the yard and they were heckled by Oriole fans.  So hold on, you mean all of those screaming Boston Red Sox “fans” that used to come to see us play here have abandoned us? That’s right guys, their fandom for you was as fickle as it was for whomever they rooted for previously.

So I guess my message is “once a bandwagon-hopper, always a bandwagon-hopper.” How can an organization be so short-sighted that they’d rather cater to bandwagon fans than the people that have been with them forever and presumably will be? Honestly, if I were a lifelong Sox fan, I’d probably be ticked off to see so many new faces, suddenly to see them disappear again. This is not to say that the Red Sox won’t be good again next season and that those bandwagon fans won’t magically reappear. However the fact is that many of their “fans” made a decision not to see them play in person because it’s looking more and more like the Red Sox won’t be in the playoffs this season. Now you can also argue that the Orioles are the real losers in this scenario because they didn’t get the huge gate that they normally get when Boston comes to town. However this should put the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, and all others who welcome new “fans” with open arms to the effect that those supposed “fans” will leave you one day if you stop winning or have a down year. As for me, I’ll stick with the teams I grew up with through thick and thin, which is the definition of a sports fan. I can look myself in the mirror in the morning and know that I’m honest and true to myself and to my teams. Not all sports “fans” can say the same.

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The psychological make-up of a bandwagon fan

Posted on 31 August 2010 by Domenic Vadala

With the Boston Red Sox in town for three games this week, I thought it was a good time to address bandwagon fans. (Although with the Red Sox fading out of playoff contention, the numbers of Boston fans at Camden Yards this week might be lower than normal.) I make a point of attending at least one game against the Yankees, and one against the Red Sox each year. I feel that I’m doing my part to ensure that at least some Oriole fans are still in the stands. No doubt that some of the Yankee and Red Sox fans that show up at Camden Yards actually drive down here from those cities, or have moved to the mid-Atlantic region from those places. However a lot of them are also natives of the region that either abandoned the Orioles years ago, or perhaps never took to then, or the Washington Nationals, in the first place. (I would also say that I don’t put the children of Mass/NY natives in this category. If you have familial ties to those places odds are you grew up rooting for those teams just as a native would have done.)

So where were all of those Red Sox fans prior to 2003-04? Back in the 1980′s we rarely saw a pinstriped fan at Memorial Stadium. The fact is that these two teams are perceived as winners, thus people tend to like them. Any team that ever sustained a stretch of championships or even winning has always had bandwagon fans. In the NFL the San Francisco 49ers were the big “dynasty” back in the 1980′s with Joe Montana. Of late, the bandwagon team has most definitely been the Patriots in the sense that they’ve sustained a lot of winning. However the Steelers have also seen their share of winning, and as we know they also have their share of bandwagoners. Furthermore, I’ve seen a lot of Saints gear start to trickle into society since February.

People are funny when it comes to these kinds of things. If you combine winning with a “story,” you’ve got the perfect potion for a bandwagon fan. The Red Sox hadn’t won in 86 years so once they finally won a world series (and in the manner in which they did so), suddenly the media has a “story,” and we see the ensuing group of bandwagoners. Incidentally, I don’t have a problem if you’re a lifelong fan of the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankee, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, etc. All of those teams seem to have more national fanbases, so there are plenty of people from other places that probably grew up rooting for those teams. However if the team wins a title and suddenly their fan base swells to huge numbers, there’s something funny going on. A good friend of mine is a Cub fan, and he told me that when/if the Cubbies ever win a title he knows that the same thing will happen as with the Red Sox. People will latch onto the story of the Cubs not winning for so long, and suddenly new people will become Cub fans nationwide. People can root for whomever they want however I will say that as a lifelong sports fan and a fan of struggling teams at that, I take offense to “Johnny-come-late-to the parties.”

Another funny thing about bandwagoners is that they never seem to know their history. I attended a Redskins/Patriots preseason game last year, and I wore a Redskins’ three-time Super Bowl champions hat. At halftime I was standing in line for a hot dog, and a guy wearing a Brady jersey approached me and said how dare you wear a hat like that when the Skins have never gone to the Super Bowl much less won three!  When I explained that they won it in ’82, ’87, and ’91, the guy said that he started following football after the 2001 Super Bowl. Hmmm…didn’t New England win it that year? If you decide to latch onto a team as a bandwagoner, I would at the very least recommend that you learn some of the history behind the team that you’re choosing. If we’re talking about the Dallas Cowboys, don’t stare at me blankly when I mention Leon Lett’s numerous in-game mistakes. If it’s the Steelers, don’t tell me that you rooted for someone else when Bubby Brister was the quarterback. If it’s the Red Sox, don’t talk with a fake Boston accent and then when I ask you how long it had been since you moved out of Boston, tell me that you were born and raised in Northern Virginia and furthermore had never been north of New York! (That’s a true story that actually happened to me at Oriole Park one year.) Sports is about history people; if you’re going to jump on someone’s bandwagon, learn their history.

So when I go off on a tangent like this, people always ask me if I wouldn’t like bandwagoners rooting for Baltimore teams. My answer is always no. Sure it’s great to have a lot of fans and so forth, but I think that Baltimore is such a unique place and it’s teams are so much a part of the city’s identity that potential bandwagoners wouldn’t get it. As an example, could you imagine an O’s game where nobody yells “O!” during the national anthem? If Camden Yards was ever full of out-of-towners who came to see one of their “beloved” Orioles’ games at the legendary Oriole Park, it might happen. Would you want to hear someone from someplace else asking how his beloved Ravens finished in 1988? This is not to say that you have to be here to “get it,” however I wouldn’t want people latching onto my team in order to “be cool.” The O’s and Ravens are “cool,” however the fans here don’t need others to tell us that.

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