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O’s Today: Liz to the ‘pen (I don’t get it…)

Posted on 16 March 2009 by Drew Forrester

The ever-changing Orioles pitching rotation got a tad thinner today when the club informed Radhames Liz that he will have to make the opening day major league roster as a member of the bullpen. 

Liz made 17 starts for the Orioles a year ago and was, for the most part, a liability as a starter, with a 1.779 WHIP and nearly as many walks (51) as strikeouts (63).  Still, as far as young pitchers in spring training with major league experience, Liz has to command a small measure of respect from Dave Trembley and Rick Kranitz.  Evidently, any respect he does get will come from performing well out of the bullpen, at least for now.

I’m not completely sure why the bullpen-banishment took place — then again, almost every pitching move the club has made since the start of the off-season hasn’t made sense to me.  

Liz was “decent” in spring training.  His E.R.A. is high (a disease plaguing every O’s starter but Guthrie for about the last three years), but his walks are down. Gotta take the good with the bad, I guess. He is what he is…a young man, somewhat overmatched at the major league level, who has been thrust into an uncomfortable position in Baltimore because the team’s pitching has been so woeful in recent years. That said, he’s occasionally been a bright spot — and with better command of his fastball and the ability to get ahead of the hitter in the count, he could turn out to be a contributor in the rotation.  

They gave Daniel Cabrera 12 lives, it seemed.  Doesn’t it make sense to give Liz the chance to at least LOSE the starting spot he inherited last season because the team had nowhere else to turn?  He might not have been good enough last year — but don’t 17 starts in the major leagues give him the edge over, say, Brad Bergesen?  Or, any of the re-treads they brought in like Adam Eaton and Mark Hendrickson?  

I thought the mantra for ’09 was:  ”we’re not going to win anyway…”

Isn’t that why the team eschewed conventional wisdom and passed on quality free agent veteran pitchers in the off-season?  

“We’re not going to win anyway…”

So, why not give Liz a shot at starting the season in the rotation? 

If your response is:  ”He got his chance last year — and he stunk…”

Someone following the game of baseball would reply:  ”Yeah, so did Adam Eaton and Mark Hendrickson…”

Liz’s demotion could also mean the Orioles are more concerned with the health of Jim Johnson then they initially let on yesterday when they announced Johnson would be shut down for a week with a shoulder impingement.  

Perhaps they’re thinking they might need a right handed pitcher to move in for Johnson if his injury is worse off then initially reported?

These are among the questions I’d be asking if…of course…the team hadn’t locked me out of spring training by refusing to provide me with a media credential in Ft. Lauderdale.

On Monday, the O’s dropped a 5-3 decision to the Twins.  Mark Hendrickson went three innings and gave up 5 hits and 2 earned runs…while David Pauley worked 1.2 innings and surrendered 2 earned runs and 4 hits.  Neither of them should be a starter for the ’09 team unless seven other guys get the bird flu.

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O’s need Eaton to come through. Or, they might be through.

Posted on 13 March 2009 by Drew Forrester

Adam Eaton was decent today in his spring training debut. 

That’s the good news.

Sure, it’s “only” spring training and it was “only” three innings of work, but Eaton threw 24 of 30 pitches for strikes and worked his way out of a first inning jam.

The bad news?

Eaton better be the real deal or the O’s are potentially in serious trouble in 2009.  It’s not the best situation in the world, having to depend on a guy who hasn’t had an E.R.A under 5.00 in the last three seasons, but, as the saying goes — it is, what it is. 

For all the good that Andy MacPhail accomplished in the off-season: the Pie-for-Olson deal, shipping off disgruntled Ramon Hernandez, signing Cesar Izturis…and the two contract extensions for Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis — the issue now centers on the team’s starting pitching and how they’re going to compete over a 162-game schedule with a collection of young arms and re-treads.

Right now, if Opening Day were this Monday, the team’s starting rotation would look like this:  1. Jeremy Guthrie – 2. Koji Uehara – 3. who knows? – 4. who knows? – 5. who knows?

I don’t know about you – but “who knows?” probably won’t win more games than he loses.

Here’s the problem:  The Orioles have a decent nucleus of field players.  It’s not a World Series-caliber lineup, of course, but the “nine” they’ll send out there day-in and day-out is capable of winning 75 or more games.  They’ll be one of the American League’s best defensive teams and it looks like team speed won’t be a problem, either.  Putting the bat on the ball and moving around the bases won’t be a weak spot.

Pitching, though, will be.

That’s why Adam Eaton is almost a “must-make” for the O’s.

After Guthrie, who else on team is reliable enough to start every 5th day?

The Japanese kid looks decent enough, but spring training is spring training.  Lance Cormier got a lot of people out in spring training before.  Remember him?  Right.

Even if Guthrie and Uehara turn out to be quality starters, what about the other three games before the ball gets handed back to those two again?

What if Guthrie gets hurt and misses 10 starts?  What if Uehara runs out of gas in August after making 25 starts? 

What if…what if…what if…

In baseball, there’s one tried-and-true theory.  Pitching wins championships.

We don’t expect the Orioles to win a championship with this staff.  

But, let’s hope their lack of pitching doesn’t drop the club from a potential 75-win team to a 60-win team because no one can get hitters out in the first five innings.  Someone in Ft. Lauderdale tells me a few veteran players are already starting to whisper about the poor pitching in spring training.  ”This could be a long six months if this is what we’re going to get on the mound.”  

The last thing you need with a young (improving) team is a veteran player or two grumbling about losing in June — when July, August and September loom ahead.  That said, veterans know the drill.  If you’re 20 games below .500 on July 1, you’re done.  And that makes for a miserable stroll through “the dog days” when the games don’t matter, the fans stop coming and the losses continue to mount.  

This is the gamble MacPhail took in the off-season when he decided to eschew the free agent pitching crop and, instead, add cast-offs like Rich Hill, Mark Hendrickson and Adam Eaton.  

Radhames Liz and Hayden Penn – two minor leaguers who have major league experience – will most certainly have a shot again at the big league level this year.  What will they do with their chance?  

It could be a blessing in disguise if Hill or Eaton don’t get the job done.  That might force the team to move Chris Tillman or Jake Arrieta to the major league team during the summer.  If nothing else, the fans will get a chance to see the future…and if those two are acceptable, it will give the faithful something to think about over the winter after the team produces a 12th straight losing season.

I’ve never rooted so hard for Adam Eaton in my life.

If he’s not serviceable, the Orioles are in trouble.

Don’t blame me if he’s bad.

Blame Andy MacPhail.

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Another bad news day for Orioles as Alomar & Tejada are front and center

Posted on 11 February 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

There’s no doubt that “Roberto Alomar” and “AIDS” will be among the most googled phrases on the internet today, as these outlandish and crazy rumors start flying now that the N.Y. Post has outed a story of an ex-lover who has made allegations galore about the former Oriole All Star and potential future Hall of Famer, Roberto Alomar. Among them, the $15 million suit by his ex-girlfriend Ilya Dall alleges that Alomar had AIDS and had unprotected sex with her after being raped by two Mexican men. (Like I said, it’s a racy one!)

There are links everywhere and no doubt this will be a bloggers’ paradise today on the world wide web. While you are reading about Alomar on the New York Post, be sure to click on the insert piece about Darryl Strawberry’s sex life, circa 1986 and a preview of his upcoming book, “Straw: Finding My Way.”

Here’s a sample paragraph: Strawberry writes the goal on the road was to “tear up your best bars and nightclubs and take your finest women . . . The only hard part for us was choosing which hottie to take back to your hotel room. Lots of times you . . . picked two or three.”

It’s been a nice start to the baseball season, huh?

Let’s not forget that the two biggest stories of today involve two players — Miguel Tejada and Roberto Alomar — who the Baltimore Orioles and Orioles’ fans contributed millions of local dollars to their vast personal wealth. It’s another dark chapter of the Orioles’ dark recent history. And this is on the backside of the ARod saga, which no doubt will reach a crescendo at Camden Yards on Opening Day when 25,000 New York Yankees fans invade the stadium to see Baltimorean Mark Teixeira’s first game as a pinstriper.

Sick isn’t it? But back to Alomar and Tejada…

Alomar was the most skilled player I’ve ever seen play the game, probably the most raw talent of this generation because of his five-tool abilities. I was a big fan of Roberto Alomar. And he was a champion in Toronto and a class act there. Here in Baltimore his reputation was sullied by the spitting incident involving John Hirshbeck, when owner Peter Angelos came to Alomar’s defense and was an outspoken supporter of his second baseman. It was the contribution of Alomar’s spitting fine to Davey Johnson’s wife’s charity that wound up creating friction between King Peter and then-manager Johnson in 1997. Angelos used it publicly as a justification for firing Johnson. (Or, ahem, was it a “forced” resignation?)

Tejada, who is expected to plead guilty today in federal court in Washington, D.C. to perjury and potentially could go to prison, was the next most-talented player the Orioles have had in this generation, another five-tool superstar with MVP-like numbers consistently. He signed the richest deal in franchise history in 2003. He also made a bunch of bizarre, childish mistakes during all of the steroid investigations with stories about vitamins and B-12 shots and his “no speakie English” testamonies didn’t hold up. He was — just like Alomar — a wonderful player to watch play baseball. They were both a “reason” to go the ballpark. They were great, great, iconic baseball players who both get a Hall of Fame “yes” from me if the ballot ever came my way, if we’re only counting what happened between the lines.

But two of the team’s most productive players since the opening of Camden Yards have now been publicly indicted since the sun came up this morning, and Rafael Palmeiro and David Segui and Jason Grimsley and Albert Belle and Sidney Ponson aren’t even among the indicted.

Where have you gone Cal Ripken? And Brooks Robinson?

Like I said, this is what Orioles baseball has come to in 2009. Stories of the character of “heros of Birdland” coming out pretty filthy years later, after they’ve taken more than $100 million of local money out of town.

Not a low blow. Just a fact…

And reporting on these stories with facts like these above give the Orioles “justification” to ban the free speech of the local media and eliminate access from legitimate media.

Just think about it…

Baseball season is around the corner and we’re going to continue to write and speak the truth and the facts.

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Cal Ripken Jr. has nothing to prove

Posted on 10 February 2009 by Drew Forrester

“Hey Cal, Gehrig called, he wants his record back!”  That came in yesterday via the “comments” portion of my A-Rod blog. 

Granted, because the author of that “gem” is a daily moaner at WNST.net, I’m not entirely sure he was actually trying to make a legitimate contribution or just seeking to wind up Baltimore sports fans with another one of his baseless entries. 

Either way, I thought it was interesting.  Actually, I thought it was “stupid” moreso than interesting, but hey, spring’s around the corner and I’m working my “Mr. Positive” mojo these days.  Let’s just stick with “interesting”.

Oddly enough, there were others who either e-mailed me or called the show and threw Cal Ripken Jr.’s name into the ring of Steroids.

I had someone go as far as to write: “Cal should prove he didn’t use steroids.”

Huh?

I know a lot of things have changed in our country over the last 25 years.  Some for the good, some for the bad.  Recently, our 8-time Gold Medal Olympic swimmer smoked marijuana in public.  That’s one of “the bad”. 

I’m still certain, though, that a foundation of our society and, as importantly, our judicial system, is “innocent until proven guilty”.

Cal Ripken Jr. is now forever linked to an era where a huge portion of the players in the late stages of his career were using performance enhancing drugs. 

Unfortunately, there will be people out there who say, “Gotta look at Cal too…look at all those games in a row he played.”

I doubt Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire are on Cal’s Christmas Card list.  Neither are Raffy, Canseco or A-Rod.  All those bums have done is tainted any legacy of greatness that the true “great ones” attained.

So, based on the logic that Cal broke Gehrig’s record during the steroids era, are we to also assume that Greg Maddux used steroids since he had one more win (355) than a confirmed steroids user in Roger Clemens?

No, we shouldn’t assume that at all.

Cal Ripken Jr. doesn’t have to “prove” anything to anyone about steroid use.

Just because he played with a bunch of miscreants doesn’t make him one.

What a game baseball has become.  It’s been filled with so many toxic human beings – on the field and off the field – that even the good guys get scarlet letters on their jersey.

By the way, nowhere here have I written that Cal Ripken Jr. didn’t use steroids.  The only person who knows that is, of course, Cal Ripken Jr.

That said, it’s silly and irresponsible for anyone to say, “make Cal prove he DIDN’T use them…or, Hey Cal, Gehrig called, he wants his record back.”

Then again, silly and irresponsible is what our society has become.

Silly and irresponsible sums up baseball too.

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Steroids: Others deserve scorn more than A-Rod

Posted on 09 February 2009 by Drew Forrester

Now, evidently, the witch hunt for baseball’s biggest villain has focused on Alex Rodriguez.

A-Rod, in case you missed it, flunked a couple of steroid tests back in 2003. In a method only baseball could conjure up, Rodriguez and 103 other players failed a test that really wasn’t a test. It was a wacky “pre-test” – done to determine if testing, in fact, was needed.

I know, it’s silly. Baseball has perfected the art of silly over the last dozen years or so.

Even more silly than pre-testing is the spotlight currently shining on A-Rod.

Why are we only hearing about Rodriguez and HIS failed test? What about the other 103 players and THEIR names and pictures? Why is the scrutiny just on him?

Breaking news: Baseball players used steroids. (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz)

It’s such a boring, tiresome subject there’s actually dust build-up on it.

Effective immediately, I’m no longer concerned about who used steroids because we never get the complete truth on who passed the test and who failed the test.

But, I do care about something else as it relates to steroids.

And, to me, it’s actually the story we should all be chasing right now.

I want to know this: “Who knew?”

Along the way, since ‘roids became the rage, where’s the secret list of the league executives, team owners, staffers and player personnel folks who have known the identity of the users?

Where is THAT list?

Everyone is quick to scoff at the players who have been caught. A-Rod is the new goat because he supposedly tested positive and it’s easy to ridicule him because of his abundant wealth, good looks and general snobby demeanor — funny enough, those three “charming traits” probably apply to about 75% of the players in the game today. If Chris Gomez flunked a test in ’03 and his name was revealed in 2009, would anyone care? Chris who…?

But, it’s A-Rod, and since jealousy is one of the best tasting items on the human menu, everyone wants to sink their teeth into #13.

I couldn’t care less about A-Rod and his failed tests.

At this point, what’s another player-name anyway?

I would love to see the who’s-who of names that knew about A-Rod and Barry and Roger and Jose and Mark and Sammy and the rest and the rest and the rest of them.

Who, in Baltimore, for example, knew about Gibbons and Segui and Bigbie and Roberts? Who knew? I guarantee you SOMEONE knew. Did the owner know? Did the GM know? Did the trainer know? Did the manager know?

Who, in St. Louis, knew McGwire was on the juice? What about Chicago? I’m sure folks in Cubbie-land were in the know when Sosa was pounding balls out of Wrigley Field in 1998.

Because the players get paid and the fans pay money to watch them play, people only seem to care about the guys in uniform.

The players are sheep.

If there’s a baseball stadium with lights on and a paycheck waiting, they’ll play anywhere, anytime.

The guys in suits and ties – they’re the shepherds. They’re the ones responsible for gathering the sheep together and helping them graze on the needles, the statistics and the glory.

The “suits” sign the players, set the ticket prices, sell the TV ads and rent the players so we all have a team to call our own.

The players only get away with what they can – because they can.

I want to see the list of the people who have checked-off on letting the players get away with using steroids.

Let’s put some scrutiny on those guys and gals.

Personally, I’m going to start placing the blame on the shepherds.

I’d love to see the list of the folks in baseball who contributed to this lost-decade by acting like they didn’t know anything when, in fact, they knew everything.

That’s the only list that matters now.

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Wigginton’s signing is a good one for the O’s

Posted on 03 February 2009 by Drew Forrester

It might have jammed up the team’s “utility-man-infrastracture” but today’s signing of Ty Wigginton is a good addition by the Orioles. 

He’s better than Kevin Millar.  He’s better than Chris Gomez. And, he’s better than Ryan Freel.

Personally, I think, he’ll be the O’s everyday third baseman in lieu of Melvin Mora by July 4th.

Look, he’s not A-Rod.  Ty Wigginton is a journeyman.  But he’s a good journeyman.  

That’s been my debate about their pitching additions this off-season.  They passed on GOOD pitchers like Jon Garland, A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe and, likely, Ben Sheets, who is still out there for the taking but evidently not better than, say, Rich Hill, Mark Hendrickson or a Japanese pitcher who has the same major league ERA as I do.

However, as unnecessary as the Hendrickson signing was, the Wigginton signing is beneficial.

He’s a GOOD journeyman.  You need one or two of those along the way to patch up the holes and give you some consistency in the dog days of August when, in the O’s case, you’re 25 games out of first place and the games don’t matter anymore.  ”Someone” has to play in those games.  

The Wigginton addition also potentially paves the way for a spring training trade of either Brian Roberts, Luke Scott, or both.  They’ve tried to sign Roberts over the winter but he’s heard “the story” one too many times from the O’s – “we’re gettin’ better, hang in there with us” – and is begging for a transfer, as Private Santiago did in “A Few Good Men”.  Scott is a decent-enough-hitter but not a gold glove candidate…and with Pie’s arrival from Chicago – and Freel and Wigginton both able to play left field – the O’s could also part company with Luuuukkkke if they could pull off a reasonable deal.

On the whole, It’s been an off-season filled with low-budget, “take a chance on me” type of player signings and acquisitions and Wigginton probably fits that criteria…but he’s a career .270 hitter and a capable defensive player and he’s only 31.  He can still play.  His history shows that.  He’s not a gamble, unlike a Rich Hill, Brad Hennessey or David Pauley.  Best of all, he’s actually coming to the O’s on the heels of a decent season in Houston, unlike some of their other off-season reaches like Hill, who, for example, pitched in 5 games a year ago before he was shut-down by the Cubs.  

It does create a possible logjam in the part-time player category, as Freel, Gomez and Wigginton are nearly identical images of each other.  Freel plays more outfield than the other two.  Gomez is the only one who can play shortstop – or has in the past – and Wigginton’s best position is probably third base.  But, in general, all three are fill-in types and that might be one more part-timer than the O’s really need.  Make no mistake about it, though, if you’re ranking the three, Wigginton is the best of the trio.

I like this signing.

It feels good to say (write) that.  

I must be getting soft.

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Off-season O’s summary: “We saved a bunch of money”

Posted on 02 February 2009 by Drew Forrester

One thing for sure, the economy didn’t affect the Orioles and their off-season efforts.

They kept almost all of their money.  It’s hard to feel the pinch when you don’t spend any of it.

The Birds acquired Rich Hill today and he’s likely to battle Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehra for the right to lose to the Yankees on either day one, two or three of the regular season in April.

At least Hill has more career wins (18) than Guthrie (17) and Uehara (0).

Granted, the Cubs got one good year out of Hill, who made 32 starts in 2007 and was 3rd in the national league with 183 strikeouts.  Last year, they got five starts out of him before he was shut down in early May.

Sounds like he’ll fit right in with all the other question-marks the O’s signed this winter.

Did I mention he made $445,000 last year?   

Like I said, he’s a perfect fit.

Here’s a list of the pitchers the Orioles COULD have had this winter:

Jon Garland, Derek Lowe, A.J. Burnett, Ben Sheets, John Smoltz and C.C. Sabathia

Those pitchers each have TWO things in common:  1) They’re expensive and, 2) They have a history of success.

Here’s the pitchers Baltimore wound up acquiring this winter:

Brad Hennessey, David Pauley, Mark Hendrickson, Koji Uehara and Rich Hill.

All of those pitchers have TWO things in common:  1) They’re all relatively inexpensive, except Uehara, who will make $1.25 million LESS than Jon Garland despite the fact Garland is younger and has 106 more major league wins than Uehara…and 2) no one else in the league wanted them…

I said at the beginning of the off-season that I would wait until February rolled around to determine the success level of the O’s winter efforts.

February is here.  I’m unimpressed.

Naturally, the O’s apologists will prattle on about how much “upside” all of these n’er do wells like Hennessey, Pauley and Hill have…”upside” is code word for: “at one point people thought they were going to be good and then they turned out to be not-so-good but maybe there’s still hope…”  

Bottom line:  The O’s could have spent money on pitchers. 

Bottom line:  They didn’t.

The only reasonable off-season move the team made was re-signing Nick Markakis and even that $66 million contract is backloaded to pay him nearly $16 million six years from now.  In 2009, Nick The Stick will perform his services for $3 million as part of his staggered payment schedule.  They also added slick-fielding shortstop Cesar Izturis, but I would have used that money to bring Garland in and would have given the no-hit, good-field shortstop position to Juan Castro.  What do I know? 

I can’t figure out for the life of me why the Orioles are afraid to spend money on quality players.  They have the money at their disposal.  They just don’t want to spend it.  Why not?  If only I could ask Andy MacPhail that question without having him scurry off to the soda table.

It’s obvious the team’s star-studded minor league pitching roster isn’t yet ready for prime time.  Had the likes of Arietta and Tillman been thought of as “opening day ready” the Birds wouldn’t have gone out in search of a journeyman like Hendrickson and a throw-away like Hill.  

With Arietta and Tillman NOT ready, why wouldn’t the O’s have invested some money on Garland, Lowe, Sheets, et al?

Is losing just so acceptable these days that we’ll take the lesser-of-two-evils (inexpensive) and be satisfied with that no matter what the results might be?

I don’t get it.

It’s clearly been an off-season of save and purge for the O’s…

There’s only one way we’ll all be able to determine if the fans buy into the team’s off-season efforts.

Butts in seats.

The green seats at Camden Yards will have the loudest voice in 2009.

If it’s anything like last year, or worse, the silence will be deafening as the customers give a dismissive wave and say, “no thanks”.

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Ravens will sport a new look in ’09

Posted on 20 January 2009 by Drew Forrester

Where will we be this time NEXT year?  

The Ravens’ playoff run for the 2008 season hasn’t been over for 48 hours and they are already forging ahead at Owings Mills in preparation for 2009.

A suggested theme:  ”Let’s play one more game”.

After all, in 2008, the MAXIMUM amount of games a team could have played — 20.  The Ravens played 19.

If only they could have played one more game.

Maybe next year.

But, there will be a lot of action, a lot of news and a lot of changes next year in Baltimore.  Those changes are both obvious and subtle, but equally important.  Some might be changes for the better.  Some might not.  

We won’t know until this time next year.

The most glaring of the changes will be the departure of Baltimore’s long-time defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.  Rex was not only a fixture here, but he takes with him to New York the one intangible that every coach in any sport craves to own — his players enjoyed playing for him.

Forget about the money.  Forget the “contract year” stuff.  Dismiss styles, schemes, etc.  

Almost to a man in Owings Mills, the players played for Rex Ryan first and foremost.

He will be missed.  The players knew his departure was inevitable.  But that won’t make it any easier when training camp rolls around next July.  Will the new defensive coordinator command the same respect as Rex?  Only time will tell.

When a coach leaves, other’s follow.  Players look around the room and say, “that was MY guy…maybe the next coach won’t appreciate me the way Rex did.”  Some might head out of Baltimore with that thought in mind.  A few players have openly talked about Rex in New York and wondered aloud if perhaps their career trail might lead them to the Jets and a stint in the Big Apple.  

While the Rex decision didn’t fall at the feet of the Ravens, the Ray Lewis decision most certainly will be one they make on their clock.

It will go down as the hot-button topic of the off-season, without a doubt.

It appears as if Ozzie’s summer of ’08 gamble to let Ray play out his contract is going to come back to haunt Steve Bisciotti where it hurts the most – at the bank.  Ray kept his mouth shut all year and played football.  At a high-level.  And when Baltimore trotted out of the locker room on Sunday night in Pittsburgh, they took to the field in large part because of #52′s fearless competitive streak and his Hall-of-Fame performance in 2008.  

Ray deserves to get paid.  

Someone in the league WILL pay him.

It would be grossly unfair if it weren’t the Ravens.

But that’s THEIR decision now.  They have a variety of options.  They can re-sign Ray and give him some sort of staggering signing bonus in the vicinity of $20 million for a 4 or 5 year deal.  They can slap the franchise tag on him and extend him one more season – but Lewis will most likely bristle at that option since he’ll say he played 2008 “in good faith” and the franchise tag is looked upon by most players as a method the club uses to duck out of their obligation to reward a player.  They can also apply the little-used transition tag on Ray and allow him the chance to go out on the open market and secure his best deal – and then the Ravens can match it, and keep him, or let him wander off to (insert team here).

As Ray goes, so will the rest of the off-season.

Baltimore has a number of key players getting to roam around sniffing for a new deal.  If Ray signs, where does that leave Terrell Suggs?  What about Bart Scott?  Jim Leonhard?  Jason Brown?

Who is going to catch the football for Baltimore in 2008?  Isn’t it time for the franchise to make a dedicated commitment – like they did with the QB position last April – to the passing game by adding a couple of quality, reliable, wide receievers who can endure the tough AFC North?  It would appear that the triple threat of Mason-Clayton-DWilliams isn’t going to get the job done.  That’s not to say that one or two of those players can’t fill a role on next year’s team, but Baltimore needs an upgrade at the receiver position. No hard feelings.  

The secondary is in need of an overhaul and a move toward youth.  Perhaps no department on the team battled injuries like this year’s secondary and on the “heart meter”, it zooms past 10 and goes straight to the top.  But, as we saw Sunday night in Pittsburgh, you can have all the heart in the world but that doesn’t matter to Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes.  The Ravens need to add experience, speed and strength in the secondary.  Better ball hawks.  Better tacklers.  Better players.  That’s what they need back there if they want to beat the Steelers next year.  

George Kokinis will be heading off to Cleveland to take over as the Browns’ GM and the Ravens will lose a high-quality front office mind.  He’s a behind-the-scenes guy at Owings Mills that very few people know. I’ll sum up Kokinis for you in about 50 words.  Do you like Jim Leonhard as a player? Justin Bannan? Fabian Washington?  Those are three important parts of the ’08 team that were all signed off on by Kokinis and handed over to Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh.  Kokinis will be missed.

There’s little doubt that chemistry and personal affection for one another – to a man – had as much to do with Baltimore’s success in ’08 as any element of on-field play with perhaps the exception of the new quarterback from Delaware.  

There’s an old saying:  ”you can’t catch lightning in a bottle…twice.”

How will this team come together next year?  New people.  New personal agendas.  New philosophies.

It might be better, of course.  

But, it might not be.

Joe Flacco will be better.  So will Jared Gaither.  Most of the young players who played a role this year have plenty of upside.  It’s the team experienced corps of veterans who are starting to show the inevitable wear and tear.  But those veterans also comprise the heart and soul of the locker room.  Dan Wilcox is a lion and a player that every man in that locker room looks up to — and he might be moving on if the Ravens elect to not sign him to a new contract.  What happens if Ray Lewis doesn’t get rewarded like he believes he should? Who steps in for him and becomes the team’s beating heart?  

That’s why losing on Sunday was so damaging.

This team – this exact gathering of men – will not be back for a second go-round next season.

These chances don’t come along very often.  

And that’s why Sunday’s loss hurts.

But, teams lose coaches and players every year and they all stay in business and they all do their best to rebound and move on to the next challenge.

For the Ravens, though, the next challenge will come with different people in place.

We trusted the folks in charge of the challenge this year.

It will be hard to replace those that have departed or will move on in the next month or so.

Let’s hope we don’t learn a hard lesson in 2009.

2008 was just too much fun.

And, after all, we’re only asking for the team to play one more game next year.

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Apparently, McNair will not be attending our Friday party after all

Posted on 08 January 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Our party will go on without former Ravens and Titans quarterback Steve McNair on Friday night after all. I’ve been busy planning the biggest purple party in Nashville on Friday night and getting arrangements in order for our bus trip. And I woke up this morning to a bunch of emails, blog comments and phone messages and texts regarding McNair’s appearance at our Ravens Pep Rally on Friday night.

Or lack thereof…

The story goes like this:

I was looking for a party location. I found two: Limelight (Friday) and Graham Central Station (Saturday pre-game). The owner of Limelight is friends with McNair and his people. They absolutely agreed to do the party for charity and absolutely knew it involved Ravens fans and Baltimore. The flyers were purple. As a matter of fact, I spoke with McNair’s agent yesterday who booked McNair onto the Comcast Morning Show earlier this morning with Drew Forrester to promote the event.

Apparently, once the flyer was sent out across the internet, a TV station in Nashville (WKRN) got wind of it and made a big stink on the evening news last night, basically calling McNair a “traitor” for associating with anything Baltimore this week. (Again, folks, this was a CHARITY event to raise money for his Tennessee-based foundation and the Ronald McDonald House here in Baltimore!) Here’s the clip from the City Paper of Nashville. According to them, he’s now bowed out of having anything to do with Baltimore, Ravens fans or the color purple.

I get it. It’s probably not a bad move on his part considering he lives there and they just put him the Ring of Honor in Nashville.

I like Steve McNair. He was always a stand up guy here in Baltimore and I certainly understand the situation he faces in his hometown. (And after all we’ve been through here this week with the sickening display from Mr. Yankee, Mark Teixeira, I really get it!)

No hard feelings. No big deal. We’ll throw the party, give the same amount we were going to give to the foundations and have a good time. We’ve got enough drama already with the game kicking off at 4:30 on Saturday.

Good luck to McNair. Good luck to the Titans. Good luck to my dear friend Jim Schwartz.

It’s Festivus. It’s football. Let’s just have some fun down in Tennessee.

Party starts at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Limelight. Tickets can be purchased here.

And if you don’t get to Nashville until Saturday, we’ll be waiting for you at 11 a.m. at Graham Central Station as well for more purple fun.

Over the past 10 years the folks from Nashville have been the most hospitable and decent we’ve found in all of our NFL travels. Nice people, good times, pretty girls, country music and cold beer. That’s what we’re expecting to find all weekend.

Oh, and we’re gonna beat their football team and move on to the AFC Championship Game.

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B-Rob praying for White Sox trade

Posted on 03 January 2009 by Drew Forrester

I guess if you can’t get the guy from Mount St. Joe who can play and put people in the seats, you should at least still get someone from Mount St. Joe.

The Orioles are evidently considering a trade that would send the organization’s best employee, Brian Roberts, to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Baltimore native Gavin Floyd, a 5-year major league veteran with a 4.98 career ERA.  A year in Chicago, he had his best season ever, going 17-8 with a 3.84 ERA.  

Floyd, like Teixeira, attended Mount St. Joe before being drafted by the Phillies.

I also assume, much like Tex, that Floyd grew up following the Orioles and enjoyed the thought of perhaps one day playing for the hometown team.

That is, until they started losing 90 games a year and lost 70% of their fan base over a half-dozen years.

As for Roberts, the way his career has unfolded here is nothing short of a bad movie.  

Eight years in the big leagues and Brian Roberts has never, ever, ever – not once – played a meaningful baseball game with the Orioles.  He has put that jersey on 976 times in his career and none of the games have ever really mattered.  Such is the life when you play for the Orioles in the 21st century, I guess.

In the end, though, Floyd would help the Orioles.  They have no real starting pitcher right now with the exception of Jeremy Guthrie and for all the talk and rhetoric about how great “Guts” is – might I remind you he has exactly 17 more wins in the big leagues than you, me and my Aunt Betty.

In fact, there’s probably an argument that Floyd would be the team’s #1 starter if the deal is made.  Or, at the very least, he’ll compete for that spot in spring training.  Don’t forget, we also have Mark Hendrickson in the fold now.  He’ll be good for a 5.00 ERA and a bunch of balls into Boog’s BBQ in ’09.

As for Roberts, he’s now nothing more than a rented mule.  The harvest is over with and it’s time for the farm owner to make a decision.  ”Do I keep him around for another year until the corn grows again or do I just ship him off somewhere and start fresh with another mule next year?”

In a decade of darkness, Brian Roberts has been the O’s brightest light.  He’s been superb ON the field and active and heart-warming OFF the field.  Of the 12,000 or so who still manage to convince themselves to attend home games at OPACY, many of them have been attached to the team in some small way due to Roberts.  He’s the only guy on the current roster worthy of working for the Ravens.  That’s how much he “gets it.”

But, at age 31 now, Brian Roberts is also realizing that it’s one thing to play in the major leagues and reap the benefits of that stardom.  It’s another to play for a team that tries to win.

You can bet everything you own that Roberts is at church right now, praying that the deal sending him to Chicago gets done.

They’ve probably given him the key to the church and said, “Let yourself out when you’re finished talking to God, B-Rob.”  That’s how much time he’s spending there this off-season.

So, the Orioles are evidently considering a trade that would send their best asset to another organization.

Somehow, that’s fitting.

Why hold on to the one or two gems you have and treat them right, now, when you’ve never done it before?

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