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A gloomy forecast — today and for the ’09 Birds

Posted on 06 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

The sky is gray across the horizon in downtown Baltimore this morning as the Orioles kick off their 2009 campaign amidst a city full of Yankees fans and the inaugural appearance for Baltimore’s homegrown Mark Teixeira as a pinstriper. It was a dark day even before the clouds and scattered showers moved in from the south.

The Orioles, who haven’t played a meaningful game since October 1997, appear to be about to put another 162 insignificant games into the record books as the “dark era” of Birds baseball continues, the longest stretch of inepetitude in the history of the storied franchise. The Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Orioles “win/loss” total at 71 1/2, which means if the Orioles play just “18 games under .500″ you win the bet.

I’m not a betting man, but based on what I’ve seen for six weeks in spring training regarding their pitching, I’d be jumping at the “under” on this proposition. That said, I like this team, these position players and the quality of the character it appears Andy McPhail has assembled.

I want to cheer for Brian Roberts. I like Luke Scott and Adam Jones. I’m interested in Felix Pie, although I think he’ll probably be this year’s version of Jeff Stone. I think Aubrey Huff looked inspired for six months last summer and I’m not convinced he won’t rebound with another big year. I’m not sure what to make of Melvin Mora at this point in his career and I think Cesar Izturis will be fun to watch field the ball. And Nick Markakis is just a solid ballplayer, almost a throwback.

On the rare nights that the bullpen will be delivered a 7th inning lead, it’ll be fun to see if they’re as good as advertised.

Some things I’m watching for this season:

When will Matt Wieters arrive for good and how will he perform? It’ll be the biggest franchise mid-season debut since Ben McDonald, which was a very, very big deal.

Let’s be honest: these current starting pitching is a joke and if Jeremy Guthrie, Koji Uehara, Mark Hendrickson, Alfredo Simon and Adam Eaton are the real five starters we’ll use all season, this team is probably 10 games under .500 before Memorial Day and then it becomes a “what to do?” for McPhail.

How will Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman do on the farm this year, especially before the All-Star break. If the current O’s veterans are as bad as we think they’ll be, which of these guys will be heatlthy, effective and ready to promote?

And will the Orioles start the M.L. service time on any of these kids with a summer call up? Or will McPhail allow the current veteran group to get their heads beaten in night after night? Or will Danys Baez or Brian Bass or David Pauley step in and perform? Or not?

That’s why we watch and certainly I’m poised to talk baseball every single day on WNST and AM 1570.

I just hope in these tough economic times, perhaps the people of Baltimore will return to baseball this summer and come to care again about the Orioles, if not in the stands perhaps on their TV’s around town. Of course, it would help if the franchise actually did its fair share and “came back to the people.” During the last six months, the team did exactly two events to promote their team. One of them was two days ago.

They continue to do foolish, selfish and mindless things that almost go unnoticed by the media that is in the business of making excuses for their sins so they can benefit financially.

Today’s starting pitcher — their No. 1 guy and big “hope” for the season — had his paycheck cut by 15% four weeks ago. Happy Opening Day, Jeremy Guthrie!

They continue to ban free speech, even daring their current players to not speak out about unsafe playing conditions in spring training.

We’ll see how much “progress” the organization has over the next six months. Let’s see how the puppies do on the farm. Let’s see how the young emerging stars perform in a mostly empty stadium and with starting pitching that no one can takes seriously as a team that will compete in the AL East in 2009.

But, let’s see how the season goes. My prediction: 65-97. Probably worse if someone doesn’t come in and save the rotation by July.

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Drinking the orange Kool Aid at Fan Fest

Posted on 04 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

There are two types of Orioles fans left in the Baltimore area and they are distinct groups:

Those who drink the Kool Aid…

And those, like me, who have examined the big picture of what’s happened to this franchise over the past 13 years and are pretty angry about its impact on our fun, our lives and the community.

With Opening Day looming, everyone who has EVER loved baseball perks up and pay attention. Even if it’s only to notice: “Hey, its’ Opening Day!” Most people in Baltimore realize this team won’t contend but if you love baseball you’ll at least open one eye on Monday afternoon to catch the score. I’d venture to say that 75% of the city will wake up Tuesday morning at the office and know whether the Orioles won. (That number used to be more like 98% in 1998!)

Those who unconditionally still drink the orange Kool Air or “want” to drink the Kool Aid probably went down to Fan Fast today at Camden Yards. I opted to not give Mr. Angelos any more money that he won’t spend to get the team a quality spring training facility.

Instead, I’m sitting here watching the Fan Fest festivities on MASN HD television and getting some of my WNST “CEO work” done and thinking about baseball season and how it’s going to go for the Orioles and Matt Wieters and these young players and what inevitable drama will unfold.

The only real “punishment” I’m getting for not having a press pass is being “banned” from knowing the Orioles players, which is almost ludicrous because as you saw last week, Jeremy Guthrie and Brian Roberts were happy to chat with me at the World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium. Charley Eckman would’ve called them “right guys” and they are decent, solid dudes. (As an aside, I also exchanged pleasantries with Davey Johnson, which is always fun.)

As a media member – well, at least I was for about 23 years until I was banned – I got to know so many of the players and what kinda guys they are. So I guess that’s my “price to pay” — I don’t get to report to you what good people the Orioles have on their team this year. Or not…

While it looked a tad bit chilly and windy at Camden Yards, the event was a “made for TV” informercial/season preview with interviews between co-workers Jim Hunter, Jim Palmer and the like of Andy McPhail, Aubrey Huff, Adam Jones, Dennis Sarfate and Ryan Freel.

They did a nice job with “get to know you” chats with these players and  I especially like that I can see Jim Palmer in high def. For a well-compensated network to finally “discover” HD in 2009 tells you all you need to know about the vision people at MASN.

But I digress…

Here are a few observations, because my seat is the same as yours at this point, which is its own unique point of view watching Jim Hunter and Amber Theoharis and others interview their co-workers in black hats that say “O’s”.

I honestly didn’t know what Ty Wigginton or Koji Uehara looked like until today. Ditto Freel, who really seemed to be a pleasant “aw, shucks” kinda guy. He reminded me of Bob Backlund back in the late 1970’s when he was a baby face.

Freel freely thanked the fans several times and seemed genuine. (As an aside, why doesn’t the owner of the team ever do that? Just come on the TV and say “thanks” on his own network that he’s making over $100 million this year on?)

Andy McPhail did a stand up with Jim Hunter and said all of the right things. He made it clear he expected a big improvement in Adam Jones. He also talked a lot about character and what kind of players — “gamers, blue collars guys, character guys” — he wants on the team. Fair enough.

I like hearing that the Orioles want good people in their organization. From what I know of the 2009 Orioles, they’re pretty good guys and they clearly dislike Angelos’ management and ownership style as much as the rest of us. (Again, this is one of the reasons the Orioles banning legitimate media isn’t a good thing for the fans. The fans never get to know the truth unless, like yesterday in The Sun, they speak out.)

I’ve known Gregg Zaun for 17 years. I’ve cheered – VERY hard – for Zaun for 17 years through his days in Kansas City, Florida, Toronto and Houston. He’s a great person and loves Baltimore and the Orioles. That’s an upgrade there no matter how you look at it and he’ll keep the seat plenty warm for Matt Wieters, whenever the Orioles decide to promote him to the bigs.

Even today on TV, a couple of the young players talked about what a cool guy Zaun is for them to be around and how he tells great stories (which he does!)

I must say that I didn’t envy Buck Martinez’s press pass today, interviewing his co-worker, Japanese pitcher Koji Uehara, whose only word in English was “Thank you!”

Uehara had an interpreter and the answer to the first question regarding Camden Yards was this: “Right field is pretty shallow.” That was the first of several laughs.

Honestly, it was like I needed an interpreter for his interpreter. It was borderline hilarious. It reminded me of my four days in Tokyo where communication was definitely at a premium.

I don’t care how much Uehara speaks. The Orioles need him to be a rock star if they’re going to win 75 games. But he seemed pleasant enough and thrilled to be at Camden Yards in a big-league uniform. Good enough for me.

If the only “communication” I’m going to have with the players is to see their co-workers ask them questions I might as well think they’re nice guys. Even if they’re complete turds, at least this won’t spoil it for me.

I’m ready for Opening Day. I’m ready to get to Hooters and have a Bud Light. I’m ready for baseball.

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

Posted on 03 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here come the quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can hear him now…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Roberts isn’t healthy.

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

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

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

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

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

Other than that, things are just fine in Birdland.

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Christmas deadline for Teixeira? Not really…

Posted on 20 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Want the craziest true story I’ve heard in Dallas in my first 24 hours? Apparently, I missed running into Mark Teixeira and Scott Boras in the lobby of the Ravens team hotel here in “Big D” by 15 hours. As much as we’re following this Teixeira situation at WNST as a major Baltimore news story – it has been the most followed, camped-out  Baltimore media popcorn trail since Jayne Miller chased Jobie Palczynski through my old Dundalk stomping grounds of Berkshire (the neighborhood I played little league, in no less) back in 2000 – I never though I’d almost cross paths with the pair of them at their “Texas” hideaway when I boarded the plane.

(I’m even getting people angered by giving them what I feel are “breaking news” stories on the Teixeira trail. Hey folks, news is news and we’re doing our best to be honorable as well. But who knows where the honor is amongst these baseball people who all lie as their lips move in these negotiations that involve crazy millions of dollars.)

Here’s the worst part: I’m a lifelong reporter and journalist and had I bumped into “Tex” I don’t know if I would’ve even recognized him and I have no idea what I’d even say or ask. Or whether I’d believe anything any of these cats would tell me.

Would I say, “Hey dude, how bad do you really want to play for the Orioles?” Or, “Why in the world would you not sign in Anaheim or Boston knowing what you know about this seemingly eternal mess?” And most viscerally, “Why did you hire Scott Boras as your agent?” But after thinking about it, I’d probably simply say this: “Do you care about Baltimore and Baltimore baseball and if you do what will it take to get you to be an Oriole and want to fix this for your hometown?”

(And that’s assuming that I’d actually be given the opportunity to ask questions in order to get lied to by them. The Orioles deny legitimate journalists from asking questions like these. And they resent me pointing out when they lie. But they DO lie. So do the agents. So do the general managers. So do the other owners, like John Henry.)

Maybe Tex would actually look at me with tears in his eyes – the way Mike Flanagan once did – and say, “I’m coming to Baltimore because things need to be changed and I’m the guy to do it!” Now of course, if Teixeira DID say that, I’d be the first guy buying a season ticket and singing the praises of Peter G. Angelos as making a significant change in the direction of the ballclub.

This thing has gone from the ridiculous to sublime for me. All of the effort I put into Free The Birds and my efforts to shed legitimate light on whether this ownership group really cares about Baltimore and baseball in Baltimore comes down to “tipping points” in their stewardship of the franchise like this one right here, right now.

As Third Eye Blind would ask: “How’s it gonna be…?” Are you going to step up and make this franchise real again and make people like ME  — and there are thousands of people like me…more who feel the way I do than don’t that’s for damned sure based on the empty seats alone and the empty city on all of those summer nights – want to come back to the ballpark consistently and live, eat, breath, sleep and DIE Orioles baseball?

Honestly, there were 60,000 of us who sat in 15-degree windchills to watch the purple football team play two weeks ago. The city is on “buzz alert” on a holiday Saturday night with purple fever.

When’s it gonna be like that for the Orioles again? When can we be proud to be Orioles fans again and have some civic pride instead of the mournful and deep shame and anger and “numbness” so many of us sadly feel and desperately want to change.

Signing Tex would say two things:

1.    It would tell me the Orioles are serious about competing for a championship just for stepping up and winning the first competition — the offseason. There is no “second place” here for the Orioles. If they can’t get a kid who played his high school games in the shadow of the lights of Camden Yards in a glorious era to want to come home and wear a gray sweater at Yankee Stadium that says “BALTIMORE” across the crest, then who the hell will they EVER get to take their “Confederate” money? More than anything, whatever he’s worth to Boston or Anaheim or Washington, he’s worth at LEAST 25% more to this franchise right now. Especially considering all the money they have from their TV deal at MASN. And the way they’ve slashed payroll waiting for a “tipping point” player. Teixeira is a game changer (in perception anyway) for them because it’s their ONE chance to win back the fans. Their money would be well-spent for the buzz factor alone. This hot stove conversation during the holidays and Ravens playoff drive is GREAT for them. People want to “buy in” to Orioles baseball. I want to “buy in” to Andy McPhail and the new regime. But I need to see changes. This is the Orioles franchise saying: “Come back! We’re all in!”
2.    From the player side, it would say that Teixeira really IS in Baltimore to “fix things.” Teixeira — unlike Kevin Millar or Jay Payton or Omar Daal or Aubrey Huff or Adam Jones or Luke Scott or Matt Wieters – has a choice in where he’ll play for the rest of his career. Picking Boston or Anaheim (or even Washington if the dough were right) would be what virtually every free agent in MLB would do. The only one who didn’t choose elsewhere in the past decade was Miguel Tejada, and the Orioles overpaid by at least $12 million to get him and there’s no doubt that Miggy has second-guessed his decision because he told me as much himself. Make no mistake about it: if the Orioles snag Teixeira it’ll say as much about HIM as it will about them. They don’t deserve him, really, no matter what they pay. But maybe he is that special guy who will be teary-eyed about Baltimore and wanting to return the Orioles to glory. That alone will brand him as a “Ripkenesque” figure (and then the heavy lifting will begin civic-ly for him). Honestly, his first phone call should be to Ripken and reach out by aligning himself as closely as possible with Cal. (As an aside, I DID get some inside “community” information on Teixeira. He’s a major donor to his alma mater, Mt. St. Joe, donating a “seven-figure” number to the school over his first six years in the bigs. ANOTHER reason to think Teixeira would be a “right guy” as Eckman would say about his commitment to Baltimore via being an “Oriole for life.”

So here’s the Teixeira and Baltimore “passing in the night” story for you:

Several Ravens staffers and fans, in town early to sharpen their golf skills, checked into Dallas a day early. Word is Teixeira and Boras stood in the lobby of  what has become the Ravens’ team hotel in Las Colinas and looked up at the ESPN scroll on the bar TV and Teixeira said something to the effect of: “Well, they found out about this pretty quickly in Boston!”

No doubt Boras “leaked” the “covert” meeting. But that’s the game. Stir up the masses and use the media as a weapon.

The plotline thickens daily. But I’m not convinced Teixeira needs to sign anything before next week or any self-imposed “Christmas deadline.” Because Boras’ words and deadlines slip. And Red Sox owner John Henry’s media negotiating tactics sharpen. And all the “Peters” twist in the wind, writing blogs and quoting unnamed sources who openly lie to everybody about everything. It’s so bad that John Schuerholz (as fine a guy as I know and an old-schooler who John Steadman so admired) has taken to name calling.

(And by “Peters” I meant: Peter Schmuck, Peter Gammons, Peter King and Peter Pascarelli. Feel free to insert your Dick jokes here.)

I don’t think there’s any deadline. I think Boras has this thing right where he wants it. The media is trailing, fueling the fire. The fans are into it. It’s the ONLY game Baltimore fans have had to play in years. It’s like a pennant race that money CAN buy! The Baltimore fans are killing the Orioles to drive up the price. John Henry is playing poker. Arte Moreno is laying low because he’s got a pretty damned good offer as well. And the Nationals are an outsider with a big need and a big offer.

The only thing better than having four suitors is having five. Who knows if the Yankees will want to play?

Boras has negotiated Mark Teixeira into the stratosphere with this salary drive pitting four cities and four fan bases and four ownership groups into “crisis” mode. It’s a true hot stove bonanza amidst financial crisis in the “real” world. Kudos to Boras! It’s gonna make Teixeira plenty rich but it’s not gonna make him a “right guy.”

Only he can decide what that means and where his “heart” lies. Or his wallet. And why he’ll choose wherever he chooses.

If he doesn’t come to Baltimore and play for Peter Angelos’ Orioles in 2008, I really can’t blame him. But god help him and the Orioles if they can’t work this out because they’ll both get crushed by the fans. And Teixeira will have three cities where he’ll get lustily booed next season.

Pass the popcorn…

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Why all of the noise about A.J. Burnett?

Posted on 26 November 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s another offseason, another free agency period for the Baltimore Orioles and the fan base – or what’s left of it – is stirred up about whether the club will sign pitcher A.J. Burnett sometime soon. Apparently, he lives locally in Monkton (who knew THAT before this week?) and has made some overtures toward the team that he’d actually like to play here in his “hometown” as an Oriole.

So writers are writing about it, Baltimore fans are talking about it, the Yankees are bidding for him and in my own mind I’m saying what any self-respecting Orioles fan should be saying: “Here we go again!”

Are they really going to spend ANY money this offseason? Is anyone worth a damn REALLY going to say: “YES, I’d dying to play for the Orioles and I’ll take less money to do it?”

First, the Orioles are making millions and millions of dollars of “free money” via MASN. Whatever else that comes out of their mouths to the contrary – as usual – are lies. They are absolutely printing money via that TV network. Now, whether they’ll continue to pocket the money or spend it is entirely up to them. (Or, they’ll say it’s totally Andy McPhail’s call, but who honestly believes that?)

So, having the money isn’t the issue. It’s whether (and where and to whom) to spend it at this point.

Are they trying to win? Are they trying to get people to care about the team again? Or are they trying to make more money? I’m never really sure what their direction is because every fall and into winter we get more lies, more “close chases” with marquee free agents with “Confederate money” and ultimately wind up with the bottom of the free agent barrel. Sometimes, as was the case with Aubrey Huff this year, it works out. Most of the time – and you can fill in any name this side of Albert Belle or Omar Daal or Marty Cordova – they wind up taking on another Sidney Ponson-like turd who steals their money and contributes nothing to the team on the field and even less off of the field.

Needless to say, the risk is heightened anytime a pitcher’s name is brought into the equation.

It’s the new Oriole Way. Losing and losers…we’re going on 12 consecutive years of it and if anyone thinks that this organization is one pitcher or one player away from being the Tampa Bay Rays they’re crazy.

Back to Burnett and the current fiasco, circa 2008…

The Orioles have never given a pitcher a huge deal, certainly nothing more than a 3-year deal. I think this is a good policy if you don’t want to waste money, but the Orioles will never get a marquee free agent by employing this Angelosian policy of frugality.

This nonsense of “he wants to play here because of his wife” and “he might take less money” all sounds good on WNST Radio and in the local fishwrap, but if the Yankees are truly offering Burnett a 5-year deal and $80 million I can’t fathom any scenario where he’ll be on the mound at Camden Yards unless it’s in pinstripes.

And you know what? That’s OK, too.

I wouldn’t give a guy whose only 200-inning season in the last four years was last year that kind of dough. He’s also 32 years old and has had a number of seasons where he’s been an “incomplete” on the scorecard. Burnett has already made $38 million in the big leagues and has won just 87 games in 10 years. Is he really good for going 18-10 and 200 innings every year over the next five years? And even if he DOES hit those numbers, is he worth $80 million to a team that’s just praying to play .500 baseball one of these years before I die?

If the price of poker is a four or five-year deal and anything over $50 million I think you have to politely pass on a risk this large. Even at $10 per year, is A.J. Burnett going to be a difference maker in Baltimore?

Even if going in you know your stadium is going to be empty and your team’s starting rotation is a mystery coming into Spring Training 2009.

The money would be better spent on Mark Teixeira, who might actually sell you a handful of tickets and make it look like you’re trying to get better rather than getting a very expensive, risky once-every-fifth day starter, who has never been a No. 1 pitcher in his career.

Word out of the Warehouse that I get is that many of the sponsors have started to tilt on the team and they’re saying the economy is an issue for them. The economy is an issue for all of us. (And we don’t wake up on Jan. 1st having millions of guaranteed dollars streaming in from the cable companies the way they do!)

I can’t imagine that signing Burnett is the tipping point for them to being successful on the field in 2009 and beyond. Monkton resident or not, I’d pass on A.J. Burnett.

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How Much Is $26 Million Confederate?

Posted on 21 November 2008 by Thyrl Nelson

I’m guessing that Peter Angelos and Andy MacPhail are probably two of the biggest Ravens fans in town these days. Although it’s been speculated that the two clubs have enjoyed a somewhat frosty relationship in the past, the O’s have been doing more to reach out to their next-door neighbors in the past few seasons. But moreover, as it pertains to this particular football season, and coincidentally baseball free agency season too, the more attention that the Ravens can draw away from the O’s in the headlines and the local consciousness, the better for the Orioles.

 

Although their 2008 season went off much as expected, there were enough bright spots on the Orioles this season to make the fans hopeful for the future. The budding fruits of the Eric Bedard deal, the growing legend that is Matt Wieters, and the resurgent offense of this year’s club have done enough to excite the fans about the future, and to make this feel like a critical off season in Baltimore. Even before all of the above came to light, Orioles fans had already been looking to this off-season as a big one. The inevitable off-season when the O’s would have their chance to make a run at bringing homegrown superstar Mark Teixeira into the employment of the team that he cheered for as a kid.

 

So with free agency in it’s early stages and Teixeira clearly positioned as the prize of the free agent market, the O’s are absolutely at a public relations crossroads. Installing new scoreboards, restoring Baltimore to the road jerseys and broadcasting more games in HD are all steps in the right direction, but all are low risk options. They certainly improve the product of Oriole baseball, but they do nothing for the on field product.

 

Now it’s time to navigate the dangerous and costly waters of free agency and hot stove baseball. Here the stakes are substantially higher, and the opportunities for failure, even potential disaster are much greater when big money contracts are on the line.

 

On the surface, Teixeira looks like a “can’t miss” proposition. But you certainly don’t need me to list the big time, “can’t miss” free agents that haven’t lived up to expectations. A list that might be tougher to make however would be a list of the big money free agents who went on to lead their teams to championships. If you consider that in recent years, free agents have been mostly “pilers on”, it makes the prospect of signing them that much scarier. When you consider all of the big time free agents who have jumped on to playoff caliber teams just recently, yet never got those teams to a world championship, it’s a wonder teams continue to try to build this way.

 

Although recent history shows that you can, and probably should look to contend by building through the draft and developing your own young talent, the prospect of signing a player the caliber of Mark Teixeira is often too much to resist.  Especially when despite all of the small market success stories, and low budget contenders in MLB, the free spending Yankees and Red Sox have run roughshod over the AL East for a decade until Tampa found some magic this season. And although those two clubs have come up short more often than not overall in the last decade, they’ve certainly been a major roadblock to the playoffs for the rest of the division.

 

The other big difference between the Yankees, Red Sox and a select few others, and the vast majority of Major League Baseball is that a few bad contracts, even really big ones, won’t hamstring their payroll for years to come like it would for most clubs. Trying to spend freely like the big boys has thrown many franchises into spirals that have taken years to recover from.

 

Signing Teixeira could be great for PR, but little else in my opinion. The O’s were not lacking in offense last season, and although Teixeira would certainly be an upgrade to the lineup, I doubt that he’d have as much impact on the win column as a solid defensive shortstop and a few legitimate starting pitchers. The O’s it seems, have a number of pressing needs, and while first base is one of them, throwing $20 million + to Teixeira despite all of the other obvious needs of this team would be a huge oversight on the part of the front office.

 

If the O’s want to look at Teixeira, they should look at the difference between what the Braves gave up to get him, with a season and a half remaining on his contract, and what they got in return for him with just a half season remaining before free agency. Every day that Brian Roberts remains on this team, without a long-term deal, or even the prospect of one it would seem, the less valuable Roberts becomes to the O’s, or in a potential trade. If the front office wants to make a big signing this week, it ought to be Brian Roberts, to a long-term deal.

 

If Roberts needs to see more from this team before he feels comfortable signing, then it’s time to ship him out. If he hasn’t gotten that good vibe by now, it’s unlikely he’ll feel it before his own free agency is here. While they’re at it, they should be shopping Aubrey Huff too, his value will likely never be higher than it is right now. With all of the closers on the free agent market, there probably won’t be much offered for Sherrill, so I’d hold on to him for now.

 

Unless they get some pitching, 9 Teixeira’s won’t be enough to get this team over the hump, and if Teixeira sees it that way too, he’s likely to spurn the O’s offer anyway. As I said, big time free agents tend to be “pilers on”. That’s another slippery slope that the O’s will have to climb. If they put their best foot forward and Teixeira tells them “thanks but no thanks”, it’s be a crushing blow to the team and their fans.  After all, if they couldn’t convince him to come here, why would anyone else want to?

 

Actually, that’s probably the million-dollar question. Why would you want to come to Baltimore now? The upstart Rays are poised for an extended run of contention, the Red Sox are seemingly as strong as ever, with a good young core and money to spend too, and we all know how the Yanks are poised to break the bank. The O’s were looking at contending 2 to 3 years from now, and should probably stay that course. If for no other reason, the division looks to be power packed for the immediate future.

 

This is probably not the time to change directions and start bagging free agents, and I suspect the front office feels the same. As long as the Ravens keep winning, they’ll keep the fans reasonably distracted until MacPhail can do something with Roberts. Even if the Ravens went into freefall at this point, the O’s interests would be served, as we’d still be distracted by the meltdown. Or should I say distracted from the meltdown? The O’s have been one for quite some time now.

 

If the O’s do anything this off-season in free agency, I hope it’s to drive up the prices for other teams on big time contracts. They might as well bid it up, no one wants to come here anyway, and so no one will likely call their bluff. Plus, as we all know they’re spending confederate money.

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

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Wednesday Morning’s Crabs and Beer

Posted on 19 November 2008 by Glenn Clark

The one advantage John Harbaugh should bring to the Ravens Sunday as a former Eagles assistant is that he should have an idea of the tendencies Andy Reid and his staff have. Whereas the Eagles might not know what Rex Ryan or Cam Cameron could be thinking, John Harbaugh should have an idea of what Jim Johnson is thinking in a particular situation.

Otherwise, this will be nothing more than a chance for old friends to catch up; with the Eagles DESPERATELY needing a win to take some pressure off of Reid and McNabb in Philly. This could be a dangerous spot for the Ravens. We’ll talk more later in the week.

Let’s see what everyone else has to say….

Best of Tuesday’s WNST Blogs:

Drew Forrester imagines Boras’ Orioles call with Teixeira

Drew Forrester doesn’t think you should spend money on O’s until they spend money

Bob Haynie says Ravens ‘very much alive’ in AFC playoff hunt

Rob Long says Ravens more deserving of MNF than Browns, Bills

Glenn Clark says Terps need to get off to quicker start vs. Vermont

Ed Frankovic says Caps doing good work off ice as well

RAVENS:

The Official Site says Flacco enjoys playing Rock Band

The Official Site finds out what Ravens families are doing for Thanksgiving

The Official Site says Harbaugh thinks Stover’s PAT record ‘amazing’

Eagles Official Site’s Dave Spadaro says Eagles’ run ‘D’ must come up ‘big’ vs. Ravens

Eagles Official Site offers complete Eagles-Ravens release (pdf)

Eagles Official Site’s Merrill Reese says Eagles’ DC Johnson ‘should be able to confuse’ Flacco

The Sun’s Edward Lee says F. Washington feels transition to Baltimore off to ‘awesome start’

The Sun’s Rick Maese says Flacco’s ‘nature’ appears to fit with Ravens’ ‘nurture’

The Sun’s Mike Preston thought Ravens opened Giants game with ‘conservative’ plan

The Examiner’s Ron Snyder says Ravens have third best home record since 2000

The Examiner’s Ron Snyder says Harbaugh, Ravens disagree on impact Giants had Sunday

Aaron Wilson says Ravens RB’s need to bounce back from tough game against Giants

Carroll County Times’ Haruki Nakamura says he understands value of working in community

Philadelphia Inquirer’s Bob Brookover says Harbaugh supporting Eagles coach Reid

Philadelphia Daily News’ Sam Donnellon says Eagles ‘flat out awful’ in close games

ESPN.com has Ravens 13th in power rankings

ESPN.com voters have Ravens anywhere from 10th to 17th

ESPN.com’s James Walker says ‘most expected more’ from Ravens

ESPN.com’s James Walker says stock falling for McGahee, defense

Fox Sports’ Adam Schein says Giants ‘embarrassed’ Ravens

Fox Sports’ Adrian Hasenmayer have Ravens 13th in power rankings

Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer has Ravens 11th in power rankings

CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco has Ravens 16th in power rankings

Yahoo! Sports’ Michael Silver has Ravens 16th in power rankings

TERRAPINS FOOTBALL:

The AP says Navarre looking to ‘go out with a bang’

Florida State Official Site says Noles practice in cold weather, preparing for frigid conditions Saturday night

The Sun’s Jeff Barker says Ralph learning to stay calm in disappointing situations

The Sun’s Matt Bracken looks back at season for commit Franklin

The Sun’s Jeff Barker says Ralph ‘emotional’ when discussing seniors

The Sun’s Jeff Barker says Franklin wants players to offer input during games

The Examiner’s Sean Welsh says Terps ‘ready’ for Florida State

Frederick News-Post’s Greg Swatek says E. Williams trying to keep focus on game, not emotions of senior night

The Diamondback’s Adi Joseph says Terps fans ‘deserved’ chance to celebrate on field with team Saturday night

The Diamondback’s Eric Detweiler says Terps hoping to learn from failure to win title in ‘06

Washington Post’s Eric Prisbell says Ralph ‘loosened’ up to keep control of team

Washington Post’s Eric Prisbell says LB Fokou wants Terps to ‘win out’ and get to Tampa

Washington Post’s Eric Prisbell says Terps want fans wearing black Saturday night

Washington Post’s Eric Prisbell says Terps’ losses all came to teams who lost previous game

Washington Post’s Eric Prisbell says Terps 6-0 at home, 0-3 at night

Washington Times’ Patrick Stevens says E. Williams has brought ‘energy’ to Terps during career

Washington Times’ Patrick Stevens says FSU game nearly sold out

Washington Times’ Patrick Stevens says Terps have remained relatively healthy

ESPN.com has Terps 24th in power rankings

ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich says Noles’ J. Robinson will start for Rolle

ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich says FSU safety McClure has torn cartilage in knee, status unknown

ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich says Terps haven’t lost at home since painting state flags in endzones

Sporting News’ Matt Hayes thinks Terps Jacksonville-bound

Terrapin Times’ Keith Cavanaugh says E. Williams ‘in constant motion’ (must subscribe)

Terrapin Times’ Mark Clem says future Terps amongst those playing in Crab Bowl (must subscribe)

Turtle Sports Report’s Allen Wallace says proximity could get prospect Nunez to College Park

TERRAPINS BASKETBALL:

The Official Site says Vasquez scores 28 as Terps pummel Penguins

The Official Site provides numerical evidence of win

The Official Site says Gary thinks Terps need to improve offensively at start of game

The Official Site says Vasquez has reached double digits in 29 of last 30 games

The Sun’s Don Markus says Greivis’ family in town to see big game

The Sun’s Don Markus says Terps went first 3 and a half minutes without scoring

The Sun’s Don Markus says Mosley gave Terps ‘energy’ early

The Sun’s Don Markus says Padgett first Terp from NYC since Garfield Smith

The Examiner’s Dylan Waugh says Milbourne ‘needs to score more’

Carroll County Times’ Josh Land says Terps finished first half on 20-2 run

The Diamondback’s Mark Selig says Vasquez gets ‘positive’ game under belt

The Diamondback’s Greg Schimmel says blowout scores not totally ‘indicative’ of Terps’ play thus far

Washington Post’s Steve Yanda says Hayes thinks Terps just didn’t hit shots early on

Washington Post’s Steve Yanda says full court press good, big men bad in win for Terps

Washington Post’s Steve Yanda says Gary wants to improve ACC marketing, defends Duke

Washington Post’s Steve Yanda says Terps believe bigs will become ‘adequate contributors’

Washington Times’ Patrick Stevens says Terps best when Vasquez, Neal on floor last night

Washington Times’ Patrick Stevens says Terps went to bench early

Terrapin Times’ Mike Ashley says game started late, Terps started later in win (must subscribe)

Terrapin Times’ Keith Cavanaugh says Tucker’s family has background in dancing (must subscribe)

TERRAPINS WOMEN’S BASKETBALL:

The Diamondback’s Aaron Kraut says Terps need to ‘learn’ from loss to TCU

NAVY BASKETBALL:

The Official Site says Kina scores 19 to lead Mids past St. Francis

NAVY FOOTBALL:

Annapolis Capital’s Bill Wagner says Niumatalolo hoping to get ‘spark’ from Dobbs

Go Mids’ Chris Swezey breaks down Navy’s success on onsides kick (must subscribe)

Go Mids updates results for Navy opponents this season

LOYOLA BASKETBALL:

The Official Site says Lewis scores 23 but Hounds fall to Cornell in NIT

MT. ST. MARY’S BASKETBALL:

The Official Site says Goode Athlete of the Week

UMES FOOTBALL:

The Official Site says ESPN honors former Hawks Shell, Sample

ORIOLES:

The Official Site’s Alden Gonzalez says Bergesen, Reimold added to 40 man roster

The Official Site’s Alden Gonzalez says Huff finishes 16th in MVP voting

The AP says political protests cut Ripken’s Nicaragua camp short

The Sun’s Dan Connolly says Krivsky ‘candidate’, but hasn’t interviewed for front office job

The Sun’s Dean Jones Jr. says O. Salazar still hitting well in Venezuela

The Examiner’s Tony Giro wonders what Orioles doing to lure Teixeira

Washington Post’s Marc Carig says O’s add catcher Reyes

SI’s Joe Pasnanski says Mussina Hall worthy

HORSE RACING:

Thoroughbred Times says all other horses at Laurel test negative for equine herpes

Thoroughbred Times says Magna gets extension on loan

SOME QUICK THOUGHTS:

Terps in the NFL week 11…..

-LB Eric Barton had 17 tackles (14 solo) and forced a fumble in the Jets’ 34-31 win over the Patriots
-DE Jon Condo had 2 tackles (2 solo) in the Raiders’ 17-15 loss to the Dolphins
-TE Vernon Davis had 1 catch for 2 yards and a TD in the 49ers’ 35-16 win over the Rams
-CB Domonique Foxworth had 5 tackles (5 solo) in the Falcons’ 24-20 loss to the Broncos
-QB Shaun Hill went 15-20 for 213 yards and 2 TD’s, and ran 3 times for 5 yards and a TD in the 49ers’ 35-16 win over the Rams
-LB D’Qwell Jackson had 11 tackles (5 solo) and defended 1 pass in the Browns’ 29-27 win over the Bills
-P Adam Podlesh punted 10 times for 409 yards (40.9 yd. avg.) with 1 inside the 20 in the Jaguars’ 24-14 loss to the Titans
-DT Randy Starks had 2 tackles (2 solo) in the Dolphins’ 17-15 win over the Raiders
-S Madieu Williams had 1 tackle (1 solo) in the Vikings’ 19-13 loss to the Bucs
-CB Josh Wilson had 10 tackles (10 solo), forced a fumble, and returned an interception 58 yards in the Seahawks’ 26-20 loss to the Cardinals

Morgan Bears in the NFL Week 11…..

-TE Visanthe Shiancoe had 2 catches for 41 yards in the Vikings’ 19-13 loss to the Bucs

-I’ll say Morgan 74, Manhattan 70 tonight. This will be a good matchup.

Talk to you tomorrow.

-G

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Friday Morning’s Crabs and Beer

Posted on 14 November 2008 by Glenn Clark

Giants 27, Ravens 17

This WILL be a matchup problem for the Ravens; but they will not be consistently beat the way the Colts beat them. Plaxico Burress will ultimately make some big catches, which I imagine will be the difference. The Ravens have a chance to outscore the Giants (did I really just say that?), but doing so on the road will not be easy.

Maryland 23, North Carolina 13

The Terps will come out and get the lead early in this one; and will be able to put the pressure on the Heels’ offense. I think they can maintain that lead throughout and hold on.

Notre Dame 38, Navy 31

Relax Navy fans, they can’t take away last year’s win from you. But Niumatalolo isn’t quite ready to get his first win over the Irish.

Villanova 34, Towson 17

Sean Schaeffer’s stats will look allright though.

Let’s see what everyone else has to say…..

Best of Thursday’s WNST Blogs:

Joe Flacco says he went with O-Line to see Bond flick last night

Drew Forrester thinks Angelos ‘deserves credit’ for return of Baltimore

Nestor Aparicio celebrating return of Blast tonight in Dundalk

Casey Willett says H. Jackson has followed Flacco since pre-combine

Boy Haynie offers to EAT Maryland hat if Terps make Final Four like Vasquez eludes

Alex Thomas picks Giants 23-20

Chris Pika says Birds still reaching out to other areas in state despite returning Baltimore to uniforms

RAVENS:

The Official Site’s Mike Duffy says Ravens-Giants will be ‘backyard brawl’

The Official Site’s Dan Wilcox (yep) says Ravens will be ‘ready’ for Giants

The Official Site says Rex Ryan sees Giants’ running attack as ‘great challenge’

The Official Site announces community event Monday night

Giants Official Site’s Michael Eisen scouts Ravens-Giants

Giants Official Site’s Michael Eisen says Flacco ‘no ordinary rookie’

The Sun’s Ken Murray says Ravens ‘could be up’ for NFC East test

7 of 7 Sun writers pick Giants

The Sun’s Jamison Hensley says Ravens need to dominate on ground, force turnovers, and get production from receiver not named Mason

The Sun’s Edward Lee says Figurs ‘filling void’ (like 1370!)

The Sun’s Jamison Hensley says Ravens hope to be more successful vs. Eli than they were vs. Peyton

The Sun’s Kevin Van Valkenburg thinks Eli > Flacco, Bill Ordine thinks Flacco > Eli

The Sun’s Mike Preston says H. Jackson getting reputation for developing QB’s

The Sun’s Ray Frager says CBS giving Ravens love this weekend

The Sun’s Edward Lee says Reed had limited participation

The Sun’s Edward Lee says Giants’ Webster missed practice again

The Sun’s Mike Preston says FB Hedgecock important to Giants’ ability to run

The Examiner’s Ron Snyder says 3 Giants combine for more sacks than all of Ravens’ roster

The Examiner’s Steve DeClue credits Heap for tough blocking this season

Aaron Wilson says 52 knows only way to stop Jacobs is to ‘hit him full speed’

Aaron Wilson says ‘matchup problems’ caused by Giants’ Burress

New York Post’s Mike Puma says Butler ‘expects to play’ vs. Ravens

The AP’s Joe LaPointe says Giants have had secondary issues in recent weeks

New York Daily News’ Kristie Ackert says Giants’ ‘wary’ of Flacco

New York Daily News’ Vic Ziegel says Giants regularly coming up ‘big’ this season

Newsday’s Tom Rock says Burress ready to ‘break out’ again

Newsday’s Tom Rock says Blackburn versatile for Giants

Newark Star-Ledger’s Jenny Vrentas says focus on Burress has allowed Giants’ run game to open up

Newark Star-Ledger’s Mike Garafolo says Giants want to get pressure on Flacco

5 of 5 ESPN Sunday Countdown analysts pick Giants

8 of 8 ESPN Analysts pick Giants

ESPN.com’s John Clayton says Ravens-Giants will be one of ‘more physical’ games this weekend

ESPN.com’s James Walker says Ravens have history with Burress

ESPN.com’s James Walker says Cameron ‘bigger pickup’ than Flacco for Ravens

ESPN.com’s James Walker says Ravens know they must give Giants ‘credit’

6 of 6 Fox Sports analysts pick Giants

SI.com’s “Dr. Z” takes Giants and points

SI’s Peter King picks Giants 16-13

Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer picks Giants 20-10

TERRAPINS FOOTBALL:

North Carolina Official Site’s Lauren Brownlow previews Heels-Terps

The Sun’s Jeff Barker says some fans find Byrd ‘outdated and small’

The Sun’s Jeff Barker says today’s practice open to students

The Sun’s Jeff Barker says ‘trends’ favor Terps tomorrow

The Sun’s Jeff Barker says Da’Rel still wearing ‘no-contact’ jersey

The Sun’s Jeff Barker says Terps looking to ‘rebound’ again

The Sun’s Jeff Barker says Portis experiment still not over

The Examiner’s Sean Welsh says Terps need win over Carolina to stay alive in ACC title race

ESPN.com’s Bruce Feldman picks Terps 17-13

Terrapin Times’ Keith Cavanaugh says Ralph keeping Terps ‘on point’ (must subscribe)

Terrapin Times’ Mike Ashley says Terps, Heels ‘similar’ (must subscribe)

TERRAPINS BASKETBALL:

The Official Site previews tonight’s season tip with Bucknell

The Official Site says J. Williams officially inks with Terps

Bucknell Official Site previews Bison-Terps

Bucknell Official Site offers complete Bucknell-Maryland release (pdf)

The Sun’s Don Markus says Terps trying to avoid looking past early season non-conference foes

The Sun’s Don Markus says Greivis thinks Terps look like ‘Final Four team’

The Sun’s Matt Bracken says most think Terps’ recruiting class ‘solid’

The Examiner’s Sean Welsh says Booth thinks Mosley working ‘tail off’ to improve with Terps

The Examiner’s Dylan Waugh says Mosley WILL return from injury tonight

The AP says Terps have chance to ‘overachieve’

TERRAPINS WOMEN’S BASKETBALL:

ESPN.com names Toliver, Coleman All-American

NAVY FOOTBALL:

The Official Site says tomorrow’s game at M&T Bank Stadium sold out

The Sun’s Don Markus says Irish trying to ‘erase memory’ of last year’s loss to Navy

The Examiner’s Dave Carey says Notre Dame players taking emotions of last year’s loss into tomorrow’s Navy game

Annapolis Capital’s Bill Wagner says Dobbs better on Saturdays than during practice

Annapolis Capital’s Bill Wagner says when Doyle has ball, good things happen

Go Mids’ David Ausiello says Dobbs ‘could see playing time’ tomorrow

Go Mids’ Chris Rohe breaks down Notre Dame

NAVY BASKETBALL:

The Official Site says CBS College Sports to broadcast Navy-American

Annapolis Capital’s Bill Wagner says Mids to be without Garcia due to hamstring injury

TOWSON BASKETBALL:

The Official Site says Tigers ink Philmore, Gumbs

UMBC BASKETBALL:

The Official Site previews UMBC-Stevenson

COPPIN BASKETBALL:

The Official Site previews exhibition contest with Cheyney

MT. ST. MARY’S BASKETBALL:

Carroll County Times’ Bob Blubaugh says Eers trying to maintain position at top of NEC

ORIOLES:

The Official Site’s Spencer Fordin says Huff honored with Silver Slugger

The Official Site’s Spencer Fordin says Birds expect to be ‘active’ in free agency

The Sun’s Dan Connolly says MacPhail will be ‘kicking tires’ of available superstars

The Sun offers list of free agents Orioles might have interest in

The Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec says Birds still undecided on Spring Training home

The Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec says Mets’ Heilman ‘makes sense’ for Birds

The Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec says Birds denying interest in Ramirez

The Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec thought Birds would have signed Markakis by now

The Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec still thinks Roberts will be traded

The Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec says players like new uniforms

ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark says Birds will be throwing dollars around

Sporting News’ Cal Ripken Jr. (same one) says Nicaraguan media provides strong turnout for press conference

BLAST:

The Examiner’s Sean Welsh says Wakefield still views Blast as ‘defending champs’ in new league

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL:

The Sun’s Stephen Kiehl says charges against St. Frances’ Karcher dropped

HORSE RACING:

The Sun’s Bill Ordine says no other horses in Laurel barn show signs of virus

Thoroughbred Times’ John Scheinman says Laurel horse tests positive for equine herpes

SOME QUICK THOUGHTS:

-Congratulations to SunTrust Athlete of the Morning Jaime Ramirez; who clinched the first state title for Tuscarora’s boys soccer team with his penalty kick. This was just the 5th year for Tuscarora soccer.

-I’ll say Maryland 82, Bucknell 68-but it will be closer than that. I’ll also say UMBC 106, Stevenson 62; Towson 68, Navy 64; LaSalle 77, Morgan State 71; and Mt. St. Mary’s 74, Loyola 72. But what do I know?

-It would be pretty special to see a picture of Mark Teixeira with Baltimore written across his chest.

Talk to you tonight at Maryland-Bucknell.

-G

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Early Orioles end of season report card

Posted on 26 September 2008 by Keith Melchior

I figure all the blogs next week are going to focus on the Ravens, so I’ll do my Orioles report card for the 2008 season now.

I rated the team a C at the midway point because they were competitive and showed some promise of improvement. But oh, how the mighty have fallen, and fallen hard and fast right to the cellar.

I’ll start from the top:

Dave Trembley…. D  He is frustrated and has lost the team. You simply can’t finish the last 6 weeks of the season 8-28. He did a lousy job handling the pitching staff early in the season and saw 7 of them end up on the DL or miss multiple starts because of injuries. Remember a few years ago it seemed like every prospect had arm troubles? He has to win next year of face being canned. 41-40 at the midway point was a start, but too many losing streaks, 15 on Sundays, 9 straight as I write this, and 4 other losing streaks of 5 or more games will cause lots of gray hair and disgruntled fans.

Jeremy Guthrie, Aubrey Huff, Nick Markakis…A  All performed better than expected. Guthrie pitched his ass off and got little or no support. Huff had a career year and was cheered more than he was booed…what did he call Baltimore?….Markakis has been solid all year…100 walks, 100 runs.. Sign this guy to a long term contract.

Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora, Adam Jones, Luke Scott….B  They had their ups and downs. Roberts remains the catalyst, Jones is showing promise , Scott is a decent role player, Mora got hot and carried the team on his back, but still has mental lapses in the field, and now he is starting to get hurt more often.

Jay Payton, Kevin Millar, George Sherril…C  Payton played well in Jones’ absence, Millar is what he is and is steady in the field, Sherril went on DL but only had about 4 or 5 saves since July 1.. Can’t give him less than a C since he was an All-Star. That was the last game he looked like a real closer.

Daniel Cabrera, Brian Burres, Garrett Olson, Radhames Liz, and the rest of the bullpen…….D  When you can’t throw strikes and end up allowing baserunners, you can’t win baseball games. PERIOD

Cintron, Fahey, Castro, Leo Hernandez, plus anyone else who played SS,  Jamie Walker, Ramon Hernandez…. F    Can you say SUCK, boys and girls?

Jim Johnson, Matt Albers……Incomplete. Both performed well until they got hurt. Lets wait until they play a full season before we really assess a true grade

Team… C-, playing .500 ball at the midway point was acceptable and entirely unexpected. In fact, many people were getting their hopes up. Playing .333 ball for the 2nd half is not acceptable and it showed in the attendance figures. They hit but couldn’t pitch, then they pitch but couldn’t hit, then they couldn’t pitch or hit. Contrary to what anyone may believe, they have not improved on the field of play but they have gained valuable experience. How far that experience will take them remains to be seen. Unless the owner pays a lot of money to improve morale, the beatings will continue.

Summary; I realize the Orioles weren’t supposed to win this season, but few people expected a last place finish and 16 games out of 4th place. This team has shown for the last 11 seasons they can’t win unless they spend money for some top-notch free agent players. They have needed a power hitting 1B and LF for years. SS is a major concern as is the C position. Experts say Matt Weiters will most likely start 2009 in Norfolk to gain more experience facing better pitching. Time to part ways with Cabrera, Walker, and Millar. Sign Markakis to a bonafide deal, get a decent defensive SS, power hitting 1B, and pitchers who can throw strikes and not have a 2 or 3 to 1 WHIP ratio.

So here we go with another season of NOT watching the Orioles play baseball in October for the 11th straight time. No wonder baseball isn’t important to many people after July. There’s nothing to talk about except negativity as far as the Orioles are concerned. Many people choose to ignore the Orioles after the Ravens begin playing instead of repeating all of the negative comments and complaints over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over…….(is that 11 times?)

Wait til next year!!!

GO RAVENS!!

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‘See The Birds’ journey of 2008 ends with another lost season of failure tonight at Camden Yards

Posted on 24 September 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Come one, come all!

As a matter of fact, I hope more than one of you actually COME to Oriole Park at Camden Yards tonight where a few hopeless losers like me will set forth a few last phantom, hollow cheers for another season that never was.

That’s 11 in a row on my watch. The Orioles haven’t played a meaningful game since October 1997. And the crowds have withered to virtual nothingness.

I know you probably haven’t noticed through the servings of the Purple Kool Aid on MASN, but they’ve now quietly lost eight in a row. And they’ve won six times since August 17th.

“Wake Me Up When September Ends” indeed…

How bad is it?

Well, the team has $1 tickets available tonight and most of the city doesn’t even think it’s worth that. There might be 5,000 in the park tonight. It’s kinda like a minor league baseball game or something out of “Major League,” which 20 years ago was just a funny movie about the Indians and Cleveland.

At this point, it’s the current state of Baltimore baseball. Empty seats that the Orioles can’t beg people to come and sit in for ONE DOLLAR!

So, why are we going tonight? Well, our “Crabs and Beer” curator Glenn Clark purchased eight tickets last week for $8 and decided that bringing seven friends tonight would be a cheap date and some good fun.

(Honestly, I think he’s just trying to poke me into doing “Free The Birds 3″ tonight.)

But I’m not biting…

For the record, I’ll be wearing my FREE THE BIRDS gear tonight. Not to elicit a parade or a mini FTB3 event. It’s just simply to tell them that I’m still here. And I still care. And that they still suck. And the last place freefall over the last month just reinforces that they still suck.

They have to win three of their last four to get to 70 wins. In March we called Las Vegas and the “over/under” was 67. As we toss back frosted adult beverages tonight at Regi’s and the Wharf Rat, they have exactly 67 wins. For those of you who bet the over, good luck! You have a REAL reason to come to the game tonight! LMAO…

Andy McPhail has repeatedly exposed himself to me as a coward and a weak company man. He, like his boss who’s gone back into a self-imposed exile while the fans vanish from downtown, doesn’t want to take legitimate questions from legitimate journalists.

I’ve now spent two seasons exiled from “Birdland,” being disallowed to do what I’ve done to feed my family since I was 15 years old. (And yes, I had a family at 15!)

In case you’re keeping score, the Orioles have complied a record of 139-189 since the Sept. 21, 2006 original “walkout” that we called a Rally. And it was a Rally. And I did cry out for positive change.

I’ve heard many people “credit” WNST for all of the changes with the Orioles. We don’t want any of the credit and I certainly can’t accept any of the blame for this continuing fiasco.

We can debate and celebrate the merits of McPhail’s changes and specifically the trades to obtain Luke Scott, Adam Jones and George Sherrill. And we can talk about the pending promise of Matt Wieters or Brad Bergeson. And we can discuss how Aubrey Huff “let his bat doing the talking” this season. And we can fete Brian Roberts for being the greatest soldier of them all, especially when he could’ve been lacing them up in Wrigley Field next week on a World Series contender.

Sure, like every other organization, the Orioles have some “bright spots.” But as Bill Parcells would say, “they are what they are.”

And that’s 67-90 and with a standing eight-game losing streak and a 6-27 record since Aug. 17th.

They are, by any standard, the worst team in Major League Baseball right NOW. If the season started all over again today and they played with these Bad News Bears, they might rival that crappy Detroit Tigers team from a few years ago. They might win 40 games over the next 162 as is. And to think they have 40 players available on the big-league roster at this time of the year and this is the best they can do?

I watched the latest slapstick at The Yard last night, dropping a 5-1 lead to the Rays in the nightcap and watching Mr. Happy, Dave Trembley, face the firing squad of his co-workers in the press room.

(Here’s where I’ll use the internet to “geese” a bit…and no, I don’t know if the Greaseman is dead but I sure hope he’s not. I really like(d) Doug and I absolutely admired him as a listener and marvel at his work as a colleague. If he really is dead, I’ll write something. If he isn’t, I’ll probably give him a call to tell him how big of a fan I really was (although he’s heard that before)!

Back to “geese-ing”…I actually have covered sports long enough now (since 1984) to remember in vivid color the post-game press conferences of Frank Robinson and Johnny Oates before all the lights and cameras of MASN glaring down on you in front of a Wayne’s World set in the basement of the stadium. I remember when they were simple desk chats in the manager’s office with Sparky Anderson over a post-game spread with his feet on the desk and him spraying you with barbeque while you talked baseball with him. He was an absolute gem!

I suppose we’re forever relegated to watching these “pressers” — as we call them — on TV. It’s really the same crap I’d get if I had a press pass and I don’t have to look at snarling naked athletes or get sneered at by some 22-year old dude who doesn’t know where Charles Street is.)

In the words of Bob Haynie, but I digress…

We’re going to the game tonight. We’re starting at Regi’s at 4. We’ll go to the Wharf Rat around 5:30ish. We’ll have a few beers. We’ll eat some food. And we’ll walk to the game.

If you want to join us, the price is certainly right – even in this economy.

If you want to sit with some real “old school” Orioles fans and be amongst some nice people, c’mon down!

It ain’t “Free The Birds 3.”

I didn’t have the energy to do it all again. I’m busy building Baltimore’s No. 1 sports media company and website.

I tried “See The Birds.”

I tried selling group tickets for those ingrates. I’ve tried digging down to find some iota of honest-to-God enthusiasm for the team through the few personalities who appear to be engaging. (For the record, I’m a big fan of Kevin Millar, Brian Roberts, Adam Jones and Jeremy Guthrie.)

I even offered them a “season of amnesty” – an olive branch — which I’ve held true to for the most part (even amidst more of their old-world Marxist policies and mean-spiritedness and evasiveness and general bullying).

Even though they’re creeps, I’ll stand by “amnesty” because I’m peaceful person. And I love the Orioles.

I want a better baseball team and a better experience with the team and the brand and the uniforms and the people that I fell in love with as a little boy in 1972 and followed like family for most of my life.

And even though Baltimore deserves better after building that palace downtown for the baseball team 20 years ago, it doesn’t appear that there’s any substantial change on the horizon. And the games are going away for another six months after this weekend. So I won’t have the opportunity to see how lame this all is again until April.

And I’ll go back and investigate and see if it’s more fun in 2009 with “Baltimore” on the road jerseys for the first time since I was a little boy.

I sincerely doubt it, but I’ll keep giving it try. I still really love baseball when it’s done right. And we love it so much that it will most certainly dominate our lives beginning next week when the playoff games star shot-gunning out all day long.

Playoff baseball and the fall of the leaves and the crisp autumn air…I live for that stuff!

I honestly don’t know what tonight represents, other than the 2nd Anniversary of “Free The Birds” and the 11th season of this organization disgracing Baltimore and the traditions of the Orioles.

We — Glenn, Drew, me and anyone else who wants to come — have no agenda other than to try to have some fun at the ballpark with friends, old and new.

So tonight I will make a few hours to “wave bye-bye” (in the words and voice of Jon Miller) to the season of 2008.

The 11th year of the black hole of Baltimore baseball sports ownership.

They are limping into last place.

They’ve won six times since August 17th!

There’s only one place to go from there, right?

They’ve finally set themselves up for success.

It can’t get any worse than last place with a thud.

They’re bound to claim a victory sometime soon. Maybe it’s tonight?

And they’re bound to come “really close” to signing Mark Teixiera (or Free Agent X) who signs elsewhere.

They clearly just won’t have the money, despite MASN printing gobs of money of that they don’t want you to know about.

Blah, blah, blah. Lies, damned lies and the Orioles.

Just let me know when Peter Angelos comes out of his cave and answers some questions from the “free” press. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a conversation with one of his employees like Roch Kubatko or Amber Theoharis sometime soon with overflowing optimism for the 2009 campaign. Exclusively on MASN, of course. The channel no one watches and the website no one visits.

It’s been two years since “Free The Birds” and the words in my 19 chapters still resonate honestly and the Orioles are still my first love.

Free The Birds 3?

Nah…

Tonight, we’ll just have a little fun…

And let ‘em know we’re still watching. And we’re still waiting for them not to be so mean and to not suck anymore.

I’m not holding my breath!

(Thank god for the Ravens and this Pittsburgh bus trip and football on Monday night!)

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