Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Orioles or Ravens (or a mix of both).
Five questions …
1. Is it just me or are we once again too quick to doubt Justin Forsett? I understand skepticism about a running back who will turn 30 in October and is coming off a career season, but there’s too much discussion about finding his replacement considering the Ravens still don’t know who will be starting at a wide receiver spot or at tight end. Yes, it will be a tall order for Forsett to duplicate his 5.4 yards per carry average from 2014, but we are still talking about a back who averaged 4.9 yards per carry in his career prior to last season and has less wear and tear on his body than the typical player his age. For those who wanted to give the offensive line most of the credit for Forsett’s dream season, why is Melvin Gordon or Todd Gurley that attractive in the first round then? It makes sense for the Ravens to look at the running back position in the middle rounds, but I’ll be underwhelmed if a running back is the pick at 26th overall next Thursday night.
2. Is it just me or has Steve Pearce been buried too quickly? Make no mistake, the great story of the 2014 season is off to an awful start with a .507 on-base plus slugging percentage in 52 plate appearances, but I’m surprised to see manager Buck Showalter only give him one start in the last five games. It made sense to keep the red-hot Jimmy Paredes in the lineup, but I’m not sure why Alejandro De Aza (prior to Thursday night) and Chris Davis were automatically penciled into the lineup over that time. I said throughout the winter that asking Pearce to duplicate his .930 OPS from last season would be too much, but it’s not a good look for the organization to have him on the bench this early after he was often mentioned as a reason why money wasn’t spent to retain Nick Markakis or Nelson Cruz.
3. Is it just me or did Jimmy Smith’s injury history play a large part in the Ravens re-signing the cornerback now? It’s fair to acknowledge the risk in investing $21 million guaranteed in a player who’s missed 17 games over his first four seasons, but that played into general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens retaining Smith at a reasonable cost. A simple look at the $25.5 million guaranteed that the Philadelphia Eagles gave free agent Byron Maxwell — the former Seattle cornerback with all of 17 career starts — last month made it obvious Smith could have commanded much more on the open market next offseason. But it made sense for both sides to gain some long-term security as the Ravens couldn’t afford to let their top cornerback walk and Smith couldn’t risk a slow start coming back from a foot injury to hinder his market value. The Ravens will now keep their fingers crossed that this deal works out better than the 2012 extension they gave to Lardarius Webb.
4. Is it just me or are the Orioles’ issues at the corner outfield spots making you pay attention to Nolan Reimold in the minors? I don’t expect the 31-year-old to be the answer, but watching De Aza, Travis Snider, and David Lough make such cringe-worthy fundamental mistakes over the last week has me concerned about the corner outfield positions. Reimold has followed up his excellent spring with an unspectacular start at Triple-A Norfolk (.250/.333/.393), but he’s drawn seven walks and hit his second homer of the season on Thursday. Those numbers aren’t exactly beating down the door for a promotion, but the aforementioned names aren’t undisputed everyday players, either. It’s wishful thinking, but Reimold’s plate discipline and speed could eventually warrant a shot in the leadoff spot, which has produced more strikeouts and fewer walks than any other slot in the order for the Orioles.
5. Is it just me or did John Harbaugh provide some much-needed common sense and historical context in his essay about football? Kudos to the Ravens head coach for this impassioned piece about a game that’s increasingly under attack in the 21st century. Harbaugh struck a fine balance in acknowledging real concerns about the game that must be addressed while reminding us of the redeeming qualities of football that we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss or eliminate. Perhaps it’s the fact that I played nine years of football growing up and still maintain friendships with former teammates going all the way back to elementary school, but research, historical context, and thoughtfulness are more constructive than the fear-mongering we too often see about so many issues facing society. As Harbaugh wrote, the game needs to improve, but let’s not ignore the values it has taught many of us along the way.