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Hey Baltimore sports fans, it’s Twitter not Spitter

Posted on 10 November 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

The game is all set for Thursday night and I’m all set to jump a plane to Birmingham, Alabama and make my usual drive through the lovely eastern part of the South toward Atlanta for another Georgia Dome visit and a Thursday night date with Matt Ryan and my old pal Mike Smith’s Falcons. Now that Le’Ron McClain has been found innocent by Park Avenue, I suppose we can move the topic from “spitter” to “Twitter”.

If you are NOT “on Twitter” (as they say) let me make an impassioned plea for you to try it tomorrow night and follow along (or just follow from the front page here at WNST.net or in our LIVE CHAT) and see all the fun you’re missing by not getting completely caught up in the mobile fun of gameday with feedback.

Over the last 18 months, WNST.net has moved from a “little radio station” into the most-viewed and relevant Baltimore sports media site in the new media space. Come see what all of the fuss is about tomorrow night when we crush the coverage of the Falcons-Ravens game.

Along with Chris Pika and Glenn Clark, we’ll be in Atlanta. Thyrl will be at HighTopps in Timonium downing a few Bud Lights and surveying the purple suburban scene and Drew Forrester will be blogging, watching, Tweeting, chatting and hanging with Lucy on one arm and Ethan on the other.

It’s a brand new world of sports media coverage.

Follow us on Twitter on Thursday and find out what all of the fuss is about. You’ll see how good little WNST.net really is…

And if you’re already a Twitter, Facebook or mobile-enabled person already, please visit us as well and jump into the best sports conversation going on in Baltimore during the games at WNST.net…

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Dear Peter Angelos: When will you fix this disgrace?

Posted on 18 June 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

At the risk of “piling on,” I’ve decided to throw my two cents into the blogosphere today to briefly (insert joke here) discuss the situation regarding the Orioles as they continue their West Coast horror tour where no doubt Adam Jones will be tweeting about how great it is to be in San Diego and how pretty the girls are.

Yeah, well I was almost in San Diego, too this week.

When I saw the schedule come out last year I looked to do a baseball trip to my favorite city in the U.S. and watch the Orioles play and needless to say I made a great decision avoiding the So Cal and the Bay Areas this June of 2010, especially considering the U2 show on Wednesday night in Oakland was cancelled. I also thought for a while I was headed to the World Cup in South Africa, but alas, duty calls here in Baltimore in the way of running WNST.net.

I’m much happier to be headed to Harford County for the day to support soccer and my country, than to be watching this dreadful 18-48 baseball team in sunny San Diego over 7 a.m. eggs and bacon.

I built WNST.net so I could write and talk about Orioles baseball on a daily basis but quite frankly – and for the first time in a long time – I’m almost speechless.

There’s a part of me that wants to say “I told you so” – and I DID tell you so and I HAVE been telling you so – but the sick part is how low the franchise has sunk in so many measurable ways.

The 13 years of ineptitude has now reached a low so profound, so sad, so utterly disgusting that even words we could use on the internet wouldn’t be profane enough to properly express our inner rage as Orioles fans, baseball fans and as a sports community.

Everything about the Peter Angelos ownership regime has been appalling. And year after year it’s gotten progressively worse amidst the lies, propaganda, steroids, banning and intimidation of the media and railroading of the fans and sponsors all while profiteering at record levels via a deal with other Major League Baseball owners that has rewarded this behavior with tons of cash for the Angelos family.

Sure, the team is likely lose its 50th game before it earns its 20th victory and there are STILL people in this city who will defend the indefensible, like a troop of Baghdad Bobs.

But let’s get back to the core issue: What the hell is going on here and who is going to be the one to fix it for the fans and the community?

Let’s start with MASN, which is printing money off of the nipple of the people here and now stands to profit even more with no outlay of cash on the biggest superstar in the sport. Think about it: Stephen Strasburg is a cash machine for Angelos via the television rights and he made ZERO investment in the big right-handed phenom.

The Orioles current product on the field is atrocious – on pace to be among the worst teams in the history of modern sport. You can pick on any variety of players or talk about injuries to Brian Roberts, etc. The truth: they’re all just excuses for why the team sucks.

The reason the team sucks is because the owner has made it suck and the deal he has rewards him financially even when the team wins forty-something games in a season.

I’m sick of excuses. I’m sick of the lying. I’m sick of the manipulation and the treatment of the community as a piñata with cheap tricks like “walk up” surcharges on sunny nights.

I’ve written tomes on Peter Angelos and this awfulness many times in the past. Just google it…

But the mere notion that Andy MacPhail is “in charge” is laughable to anyone who has ever stood in a room with Peter Angelos.

MacPhail came here for the money, which was a sure thing, but not the glory, which was always a long shot. Oh, sure, maybe he thought he could fix this rotten franchise from the top down and at least get the team into third place behind New York and Boston.

But, Andy – you’re a smart guy — you had to know you were not really the guy at the top, right?

Pity poor Andy who came here to get a step up into the Commissioner’s lukewarm seat at MLB soon enough and to profiteer off of the riches of the largest television gift/heist in the history of regional cable pirating.

Andy thought: “They’re loaded with money, the old man is looking for ANYONE to stand at the front door and protect him and I’ll cut the payroll, show him I can make him a fortune and tell the fans we’re going young…

“What’s the worst thing that can happen when the team is already awful? It’s gotta get better, right?”

Wrong.

Welcome to 18-48 and a chase at the worst record in the history of modern baseball Baltimore, Andy MacFail…

And when the boyish general manager isn’t making UStream videos in a somber, Barack-like posture from the oval office of The Warehouse in May, he’s running from the real media and looking for an escape hatch from this living breathing, two-month old turd in June in the hopes of getting a one-way ticket back to the MLB offices on Park Ave. in New York.

Last week it must’ve really hit home when – for the second time in three years — he couldn’t find anyone reputable to even consider taking the job and manage this team. I personally think Bobby Valentine flew in for the crab cakes and to sit across the table from Angelos and MacPhail and laugh in their faces on behalf of my father, who is no doubt flipping over in his grave over at Gardens of Faith at the mere notion of the last 13 years of losing.

On the field, where it certainly matters the most, they can’t get any players outside the organization to come here and play. (They’ll probably coin a contract phrase for Kevin Millwood after what he’s been subjected to here over the past four months. It’ll be the “Millwood Clause” that says trade me ANYWHERE but Baltimore).

And even more disheartening, thus far they’re on the road to wrecking the career of Matt Wieters and this crop of young talent.

Think about being 24 and being 18-48 and feeling like there’s no hope and there’s no one around you who is providing any hope. You come to the ballpark and it’s either empty or filled with fans from Boston and New York.

The players on this 2010 Orioles team at times simply look outclassed but at other points disinterested and/or disheartened. There are no excuses for not running out ground balls or fly balls. There are no excuses – period — when you’re in the big leagues and are expected to perform and at the very least put out a requisite big-league effort.

Angelos and MacFail fired the surly manager Dave Trembley and to my eyes it looks like it’s gotten even worse the past two weeks under Juan Samuel, whose Spanglish prose in the pre- and post-game at least injects some gallows humor into my living room each night around a solid dose of constipation from poor Jim Hunter and Rick Dempsey.

Sometimes it feels like Gary Thorne is laughing at the team under his breath and Jim Palmer and Mike Flanagan probably see this as standard operating procedure because they know what a freaking mess the whole place is from the top down in more ways than anyone could ever know.

The MASN house ads would be pulled if anyone there had any sense and they’d be out trying to sell a sponsorship to Maalox or Tylenol, which are requisite medication to be a nightly watcher at this point.

I think the message the fans should be sending is one of demanding accountability. Honestly, that’s what Free The Birds was all about. Someone there who is responsible should have to answer for this and apologize for this and be held accountable for this.

But instead, Angelos remains invisible, the millions of former Orioles fans mow their lawns and wait for Ravens training camp to open and the dozen bloggers and the few thousand sheep who continue to drink the 18-48 Kool Aid continue to defend the indefensible.

Like my Pop said there really is a sucker born every minute.

But I haven’t given up, especially not after seeing the Chicago Blackhawks hoist the Stanley Cup last weekend. They are the twin cousins of the Orioles here in Baltimore. Bill Wirtz might’ve actually been worse than Peter Angelos and that’s a bold pronouncement coming from me.

But yes, I’m still prone to watching them play most nights as my Facebook statuses will attest although I’m guilty of missing Jake Arrieta’s masterpiece on Tuesday night due to a severe case of the sandman.

But, alas, perhaps a true gem appears in the body of Arrieta who has looked the part of Jake Cool in his first duo of outings against top-notch competition.

We’re trying to somehow, someway digest what’s left of 2010 as a local baseball fan and Arrieta has given us a glimmer of a reason to “look up” every five days as the Orioles lose their way into baseball history yet again.

Look, it’s not shocking that the team sucks and they’ll finish in last place. What IS a shock is that the team is 18-48 and we have almost 100 more games left in this steamer of a season.

Are you watching?

Will you be watching in two weeks, four weeks – FOURTEEN weeks from now?

Are you rooting for them or against them at this point?

Well, for the next 3 ½ months Ty Wiggington will be playing and probably not as well as he did in April. And Jake Arrieta will be pitching until they shut him down for throwing too many innings in September. And Nick Markakis can keep demanding accountability within an organization that lacks accountability from its head down. And they can keep feigning this ridiculous notion that Brian Roberts is miraculously going to appear after the All-Star break.

All of this masks the ugly truth: the worst might be yet to come once MacFail starts dealing off Millwood, Tejada, Scott and any other remnant item any other franchise might want to take off his hands and unburden his budget of another $5 to $10 million before year’s end.

But there’s a lot of bad baseball ahead, I’m afraid.

But I have plenty of Free The Birds shirts left over from last month if you want to state your case.

And we are doing a bus trip up to Yankee Stadium to see them play on Labor Day Monday.

I’d try to get a group to go down to Camden Yards to have some fun but every time I try that it fails.

Our sponsors want no part of baseball. Our listeners and readers don’t want to go to the games with us.

I brought up an idea in our staff meeting this week to throw a big All-Star Game Charity party but I was almost laughed out of the room.

It’s gonna be a long July.

But what I’m really wondering is when it’s ever going to change?

And who will be the one to change it?

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With Nats-Orioles series looming, we get more stupid comments from Peter Angelos

Posted on 21 May 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s another interesting spring weekend for the local baseball aficionados in the area who bring their civic report cards as well as a copy of the MLB standings with them to the ballpark. The Baltimore Orioles are once again visiting the Washington Nationals and this time one set of fans finally cares about the vaunted “Beltway Series” that Peter Angelos swore over and over would never happen.

And it’s not Baltimore…

Angelos, while sitting with me at The Barn in 1997 and then again various times in the ensuing years, opined that the “Baltimore vs. Washington rivalry” would never happen in my lifetime.

Today, with the Nationals beginning to flourish in the NL East in their sixth year of existence and Angelos pocketing upward of $40 million per year off of the transaction, the owner of the Orioles finally spoke out.

Angelos was asked in a rare appearance in the daily fish wrap this morning about whether the “rivalry” would ever catch on to be local Hatfields and McCoys.

His response: “You never know. It’s kind of early to say if that will happen.”

Actually, Mr. Angelos, it’s been six years. The Ravens won a Super Bowl for Baltimore in their fifth year of existence.

The Nationals have the greatest prospect in the sport, pitcher Stephen Strasburg, coming to their ballpark every five days in the midst of what could be a first-ever pennant race this summer for D.C. on the backside of a major first-round flop by the other team in town that wears red, the Capitals.

With the Redskins living in an almost Angelosian world of their own under the reign of Danny Snyder and the Wizards being just as dreadful as the Orioles have been for almost three decades now, the people of the District are waiting for a winner.

And if the Nationals provide that, the people will come and support them in that beautiful new ballpark just off the Metro east of downtown. And they will wear red. And the Senators will be a faded memory just like the Colts were here the first time we celebrated Festivus and decorated our Christmas trees purple in Baltimore.

All of the rhetoric – and believe me I’ve heard plenty of it this week from all walks of life after Free The Birds 2010 – is a waste of time.

For the fans it’s not really about money or players or even love of baseball. It’s really about civic pride.

And what self-respecting Baltimorean wants to go down to Washington D.C. to watch the former Montreal Expos — a team that the ineptitude of Angelos’ ownership birthed — kick our civic asses while the owner of OUR team cheers them on?

As Angelos said today: “”What’s good for the Nationals is good for MASN. That makes me happy, and that makes Mr. Lerner [Nationals managing principal owner Ted Lerner] happy. They are partners in the MASN network. The better they do, the more interest it generates.”

Right…

So in a season when the Orioles are 13-29, it almost BEHOOVES Angelos to allow the Nats to take three in a row here and gain ground on the Phillies and all of the other NL Wild Card contenders.

(Everything I say or do or write regarding Angelos is considering “piling on” these days but 13-29 is 13-29. Thirteen years of losing is thirteen years of losing. And 1,200 in the ballpark will always get you a comparison to the Expos. What’s happened here is nothing short of a civic disgrace, especially in the same generation that gave us Bob Irsay.)

But I’ve saved the best for last – and this was Glenn Clark’s favorite quote today for a different reason.

“I’m sure the Washington team will continue to improve, and I made the side comment that I’m hoping the Orioles will get their act together,” Angelos said.

(As Glenn said, he is DIRECTLY responsible for the Orioles but can only “hope” that they’re on the mend and his speaking of the Orioles in some “third person” way is as sad as it is maddening. He’s gutless to disassociate himself with this mess but such is his pretzel logic and ill manner.)

Angelos is SURE the Washington team will improve because when they make more money this summer on ticket sales, suite sales and advertising revenue instead of MASN house ads, they might actually SPEND it – like they did on this kid Strasburg who will make them a lot of their money back in his first five starts, which will almost certainly be sellouts given that the team will actually MARKET Strasburg and welcome folks down to see him play the way Matt Wieters created a stir here last spring.

Honestly, this is probably my favorite Angelos quote of recent times because it could be MY quote, too.

Read it again:

“I’m sure the Washington team will continue to improve, and I made the side comment that I’m hoping the Orioles will get their act together,” Aparicio said.

Spoken like a fully-vested, responsible, “hopeful” C.E.O.

I “hope” we get our act together.

Yes, Mr. Angelos, so do I.

I’ve been hoping for 13 years now.

And as much as you think you can refer to the Orioles as “they” when you own the team and get away with it. You’re not going to have that happen here.

Maybe your “partners” at CBS Radio and MASN and PressBox and the like won’t take you task on this quote but this might’ve been the dumbest thing you’ve ever said in the media.

Call around town to our competitors and ask them what THEY think about the owner of the team referring to the Orioles in the third person.

Maybe one day Cal Ripken will get involved and we’ll be so lucky!

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Orioles circa 2010: We know they’ll lie, but will they lie down again?

Posted on 06 April 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

I know, I’m like a freaking broken record. Every year I write about how I’ve wrongfully had my media pass revoked and every year the Orioles make up some more lies to justify all of their mean-spiritedness and lack of professionalism. It’s Opening Day, I’ve again been deemed “not a media member” but that’s just the “off the field” stuff.

On the field, the word “improvement” has been thrown around all offseason in regard to the Orioles. As I’ve said many times, when you lose 98 games it’s hard NOT to improve the following season. It can’t get much worse, really.

As sickening as it is that I’ve taken a myriad of phone calls, emails and correspondence wondering “if the Orioles can win 78 games” – as though this disgracefully low bar somehow passes for “improvement” – I am officially one of the optimistic orange Kool Aid drinkers circa April 5th regarding the 2010 season.

It is my belief that this is the best team the Orioles have fielded this century. In 2004, the Orioles “best” performance was indeed 78 wins. Las Vegas has the 2010 Orioles over/under at 74 ½. If I were a betting man, I’d honestly take the “over” for the 2010 Orioles.

But this might be the year they finally prove they were right all along over these past 13 years of “rebuilding” and buying the bats and growing the arms.

Apparently, 78 wins will get a number of people here in Baltimore excited. At least that’s what people think until they realize that even that lofty “goal” would still be 25 games out of first place in AL East and the season would once again be effectively over right around June 20.

People have asked me every day for a month: “What do you think of the Orioles?”

My answer: “It begins with Kevin Millwood.”

Millwood is an unwitting victim of the wrong end of a big contract and the overlooking of putting Baltimore on his “not to visit” list when he inked his last contract in Texas. But, alas, he’s here now and needs to selfishly pitch well, even in MLB’s version of Siberia. He can set the tone with a big effort tonight in Tampa Bay.

It was different when guys like Scott Erickson and Sidney Ponson were poisoning the next generation of Erik Bedard’s with their antics of bush-league, lack of professionalism. Millwood needs to be the “anti-aging” Orioles starting pitcher. He needs to be more like Rick Sutcliffe and less like the aforementioned bunch of vermin who spread their foul temperament and antics through the franchise like baseball’s version of a clubhouse cancer.

I’m not sure what kind of guy Millwood is – and again, therein lies the Orioles ability to unlawfully deny me a chance to do my job after all of these years – but I hope he acclimates, pitches well and leads by example for kids like Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman, who seem like the real thing.

Matusz might win 15 games this year if he stays healthy. And while that certainly IS progress, it’s not really much different than what Rodrigo Lopez and Eric Bedard both did twice in orange en route to meaningless, forgettable seasons for the Orioles.

But, as stated before, I’m bullish on the Orioles in 2010 in regard to “progress.” I think they might be OK and quite competitive against teams not named New York and Boston — if pieces fall into place and if good health can be found.

If the starting pitching can get them to the 6th or 7th inning five nights a week, that will allow for a more rested bullpen and a real chance for .500.

I’m sold on Miguel Tejada as a relevant third baseman in the AL East. I think he’ll hit .300 and be an RBI machine like he’s always been. He might be 50 years old for all we know, but I think he’ll be the least of the Orioles concerns at this point in his career. He’s coming as a complimentary player not the leader and “franchise” guy he was counted on to be six years ago. His lies, transgressions and B-12 shots will not even be a factor this summer in Baltimore.

Of course, this would be a good year for SOMEONE to step up and be the REAL franchise player.

Is it Nick Markakis, who is quietly putting together a nice Orioles career?

Or could it be Adam Jones, whose Tweets are fun to follow when he’s not up all night in San Diego?

Or will it be Matt Wieters, whose hype seemed justified over the final two months of 2009 when it appeared he was ready to become a star?

At least there are several All Star Game candidates in orange this summer. It’s not another summer of David Segui, B.J. Surhoff and Gregg Zaun playing out their late 30′s at Camden Yards.

I’m not a Dave Trembley fan – the team tanked and quit down the stretch last year and each of those 98 losses were well-earned late last summer. Again, when the owner is the cheapest in the game and when Trembley will manage for 1/10th of what the best managers in MLB yield for a salary, I get what the team is doing.

They’re making money. They’re hoping these kids pan out and selling it to what’s left of a tortured fan base and using their media moles to “plant the seed” of hope. At least they can say they “were patient” while Andy MacPhail built what this cake turns out to be circa 2013, when it allegedly will mature. (They’re always two years away from competing with the Yankees and Red Sox, aren’t they?)

So, are the baby Birds ready to fly? Can the team be relevant enough to compete through the All Star break without falling 15 games behind Boston and/or New York?

We’ll see. But for the first time in a long time, they can legitimately threaten to be a .500 team if they stay healthy and have some key young prospects step up the way the insider pundits around the sport believe they will.

If Matusz is real?

If Wieters is real?

If Adam Jones can improve?

If Nick Markakis can remain consistent?

If Brian Roberts’ back can stay healthy?

If all of the young starters can get to the 7th inning with consistency?

If Tejada still has it?

And this is before we start projecting the likes of Jeremy Guthrie, Garrett Atkins, Luke Scott, Felix Pie and Nolan Reimond, who are all a literal box of chocolates. Does anyone really know what any of these guys will wind up doing come mid-summer? And what does anyone know about the bullpen, led by Mike Gonzalez?

Again – it’s the worst run franchise in professional sports. It’s not even close. That much has been borne out in living color over the past 13 summers. That will never change, even if Brooks Robinson is throwing out the first pitch on Friday. They are the worst group of people I’ve met in my 42 years on the planet — pure evil in their deeds, intents and actions.

But, perhaps this is the summer that all of their bloody deeds since 1997 are justified and they get people in Baltimore truly excited and energized about baseball.

If Tampa Bay could do it two years ago there’s no reason to believe the likes of Matusz, Wieters, Reimold, Bergesen, Tillman and company can’t step up to become very productive, young major leaguers and all hit their stride this summer.

It’s certainly a lot more possible than during the era of Omar Daal, Marty Cordova and Kevin Millar or any of the past sins of Peter Angelos’ ugly stewardship as the suddenly disappearing owner.

My real prediction: 78 wins.

I don’t think they can be above .500 with 54 games coming in the division against New York, Boston and Tampa Bay. But I think they will certainly be far better and more interesting on the field than we’ve seen here in Baltimore over the last 13 years.

But given the history, let’s all sip the orange Kool Aid one ounce at a time…

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With Big Ben & Polamalu out, no excuses for Ravens tonight

Posted on 29 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

As we all now know, the Steelers will play tonight’s game here in Baltimore without their two best players, with the late subtraction of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger joining safety Troy Polamalu in the black and gold infirmary.

It is not lost on any Ravens fan that tonight it’s clearly: advantage Baltimore.

Big Ben, as ‘yins from ‘donton affectionately call him, has been poison for anything in purple since he entered the league. He is the Ravens kryptonite. Polamalu’s interception of Joe Flacco in Pittsburgh last January must be considered the most heartbreaking play in the history of the franchise.

I don’t think I need to remind you that the Ravens are on a three-game losing streak to our friendly neighbors from the northwest.

Or that this is their first appearance on Baltimore turf since hoisting a second Lombardi Trophy to the Tampa skies last Febuary.

Or that, at 5-5, a loss to the Steelers tonight will effectively end the Ravens season.

I hate the Steelers. You hate the Steelers.

Let’s hope that attitude — and a few first downs and quarterback pressures along with some goofy white towels we’ll all be waving — are enough to keep the Ravens season alive tonight.

I get the feeling we’ll be feeling the loss of Fabian Washington more than we realize — just like when Chris McAlister went away two years ago — but there are no excuses for a Ravens loss tonight.

We can’t cry about Terrell Suggs not suiting up (of course, John Harbaugh has played the cat and mouse injury report game all week with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.)

Flacco needs to be crisp and sharp. Billy Cundiff can’t miss field goals. Matt Katula needs to snap straight. The offensive line can’t create pre-snap penalties. The defensive front seven must make Dennis Dixon run for his life like the rookie quarterback he is tonight.

The game is on national television. It can’t be a coming out party for some guy from Oregon we’ve never heard of.

The only thing worse than losing to the Steelers at home to effectively end our season with leftover turkey from Thanksgiving would be the thought that it happened at the hands of some guy named Dennis Dixon putting on a black and gold cape.

A disturbing thought.

Let’s hope we don’t go there…

The Ravens must win tonight.

My updated prediction: Ravens 34, Steelers 9

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Lots of questions but not lots of answers for Ravens

Posted on 22 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

To say that frustration has fallen across the land here in Baltimore along with an early sunset would be an understatement. Today, once again, the sun continued to set on another season of Ravens football as the Ravens dropped their fifth game of the season as the Indianapolis Colts walked across the purple bird toward the visiting locker room as the winners in their former land of Baltimore.

Today, it is NOT the land of pleasant living.

After a 7th-consecutive disgusting loss for a fan base who built that horseshoe for the Irsay family before having it shoved up its civic backside in March 1984, there are many questions, but few answers the Ravens can provide beyond a disappointing 5-5 record.

Ed Reed and Ray Lewis didn’t even chat with the media. (Why Reed was trying to pitch the ball in that situation is just inexplicable — except that he’s been doing it for a decade, Brian Billick-be-damned!)

John Harbaugh had a rather terse “no comment”-style response in regard to this action.

I’m not a guy who’s ever looked for “goats” in losses. I’ve been around this game long enough to know that mistakes of the physical nature are usually deemed “acceptable.”

It’s pretty apparent that the Ravens have guys in the secondary who are physically over-matched or outrun at various points. That, in a way, is OK. They’re trying hard, doing their best, trying to get in a position to make a play. Domonique Foxworth, Frank Walker, Fabian Washington, Chris Carr — they’ve all had bad days and bad plays in these 10 games, but no one is confusing their results with their effort.

But the mental mistakes? Well, those are the ones that the coaches hate the most. In tennis, they’re called “unforced errors.”

Today, the Ravens made way too many mistakes in decision-making, and most of it came in the last few minutes of the game, opening the door for the Indianapolis Colts after spending much of the day on the all-too-rare “right side” of the Baltimore-Indianapolis 25-year karma.

The Ravens got several calls from the officials and a few good spots. Most of the “breaks” went their way vs. the Colts. They stripped the ball at the foot of the goal line to avert another Indy touchdown in the first half. They picked Peyton Manning twice early and played very, very well on defense all day, especially considering that they were playing the best quarterback on the planet with the fewest weapons and the worst secondary they’ve fielded during the lopsided rivalry.

But the holy trinity of mistakes — all by key members of the franchise — Flacco’s interception, Reed’s fumble and Harbaugh’s screwy use of the clock and the last, few precious timeouts put the Ravens with a full foot into the grave for the 2009 season with a 5-5 record. Only the late afternoon buffoonery of the Steelers losing to the Chiefs and the Bengals bungling a sure victory in Oakland could keep the Ravens off of complete life support. And that doesn’t factor in the relative mediocrity of teams like Miami and Denver, who have become the Ravens’ competition for a 9-7 playoff berth.

Harbaugh also has to accept the Ravens’ share of the responsibility for why Matt Stover was in a blue and white uniform today kicking winning field goals and the purple franchise is working on yet another kicker who missed a kick today in a game that was lost by two points.

So you think this game wasn’t won by the difference between Stover and Bill Cundiff?

Bad snap by Matt Katula not-withstanding, Stover made all of his tries, including the eventual game-winner with seven minutes remaining. Cundiff’s 30-yard near-whiff is the three points that would’ve won the game.

The kicking game has been the difference between being 7-3 and 5-5.

Period. Not a low blow, just a FACT!

So, just how big was the departure of Stover after all? And whose idea was all of this in the offseason?

For Harbaugh, the honeymoon with Charm City is on life support. The media are already agitated by his various peculiar idiosyncrasies and paranoid policies. And the Ravens are a breath away from elimination in 2009, which is probably just about what they’ve earned on the field with various degrees of poor play, poor preparation and lousy decision-making.

What the hell was Harbaugh thinking throwing that red flag after calling a timeout and not calling for a measurement? Honestly, that’s not a leader under fire in the NFL, that’s amateur hour! If that were any other coach blowing it on the other sideline, that’s exactly what we’d call it.

And, factor in the inevitable aging of a less-than-youthful roster and the injuries to the likes of Terrell Suggs, Todd Heap, Haloti Ngata and Brendon Ayanbadejo and you’ve got a recipe for under-achieving that falls far outside of just Harbaugh’s deficiencies. When injuries happen, teams don’t make the playoffs. You can check the track record on that.

You get the feeling that it’s just not meant to be for the Ravens of 2009.

Oh, and it’s Steeler Week here in the former land of pleasant living.

The Purple Haze is on at 7 p.m. tonight (and every Sunday night). Looking forward to chatting about the Ravens’ precarious situation in the NFL cosmos…

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Hey John: You can’t be 4-4 and seriously talk playoffs

Posted on 09 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Just judging from the sheer volume of social media I consumed all day yesterday, the fan base here is in “quit on the 2009 season” mode. The lofty expectations following a rookie campaign for John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco that ended in the AFC Championship Game led all of us in the Charm City to feel as though this year would somehow be better.

Well, we’re halfway through the race and things haven’t gone according to the best laid plan.

The Ravens have lost four of their last five, including yesterday’s turd in Cincinnati. The team, overall, just hasn’t been as good as advertised in many ways. The Bengals have now embarrassed the Ravens twice in four weeks en route to sole possession of the AFC North lead and have earned the right to crow.

While yesterday’s loss certainly felt like more of a beatdown than the final score — and we’ll get to Steve Hauschka’s missed kick in a minute — the NFL only counts one thing en route to a playoff berth in the tournament: wins. And right now, at 4-4, this isn’t going to get it done.

I could make excuses for all of the other three losses — and losing in the waning seconds on the road to New England and Minnesota doesn’t make you a bad team. But the pair of losses to the Bengals has been illuminating, especially when you consider Marvin Lewis’ recipe for building a team with a 6-2 start.

The Bengals have just about everything you’d want — a world-class quarterback with a world-class wide receiver and a running back who runs like Jamal Lewis with a line that’s got a nasty streak. On defense, they’ve built through a young linebacking corps (sound familiar?) and a pair of first-round cornerbacks who allow the safeties and linebackers to play hardball with the pass rush. Oh, yeah — they also arguably have the best kicker in the sport.

The Ravens, as was in full display yesterday, are sorely lacking in various departments but especially the ability to get off the field consistently on 3rd down on defense. It’s been a defensive franchise for the better part of 11 seasons. All good things must end and the 2009 defense is not up to “Play Like a Raven” standards.

Is that Greg Mattsion’s fault? Is that because of the clear falloff at the cornerback position? Is it not having Rex Ryan? Is Bart Scott missed that much? Is Ed Reed OK? Will Haloti Ngata be injured all year?

The entire secondary was beaten in coverage during the first half and the penalties were dreadful. All over the field. Ray Lewis is still the Ravens best player when Ngata is not dressed and that speaks volumes.

The first three losses were “excused” in my opinion. Yesterday, however, did a lot to expose the Ravens as a team that’s pretty good but not a serious playoff contender, especially not with that secondary and lack of pass rush.

Sure, Haloti Ngata’s absence needs to be factored into the equation in the Bengals debacle, but the Ravens have sufficient depth at that position and I’m not sure Ngata would’ve been a difference maker in the outcome yesterday in Cincinnati.

As for the offense, Joe Flacco just was not good enough yesterday, nor was the offensive line, which played its worst game of the season. Penalties? All over the place and ill-timed. Productivity? How about making their first third-down conversion in the fourth quarter? That’s just putrid, unacceptable and not worthy of the NFL playoffs.

They didn’t run well. They didn’t pass well. They were out of sync all day and Flacco looked bewildered during his short stints in the first half. Flacco has now dropped five straight to teams led by Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer.

Derrick Mason and Ray Lewis declined to comment after the game yesterday but I’m sure they’ll have something to say on Wednesday at The Castle.

Harbaugh did his usual tap dance around any tough questions from the media — (memo to John: denying that the team doesn’t tackle well is laughable at this point) — but it’s easy to do what you want when you’re in the AFC Championship Game and things are going better than advertised.

But when the team is a disappointing 4-4 at the turn and the one decision that’s truly pinned to Harbaugh’s special teams badge of expertise — the banishment of kicker Matt Stover in the offseason — costing the team team parts of two of the losses, the questions are only going to get tougher around the head coach and around Steve Hauschka.

This team was supposed to go to the playoffs. This team was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. The “upgrades” of the offseason were well-calculated and the draft went well. The Ravens and the fanbase were not prepared to be swept by the Bengals and be 4-4 at the turn.

All eyes will now turn to Cleveland, where the Ravens most certainly will awaken eight days from now at 5-4. Right? We can only hope…

The Ravens have amassed four losses and haven’t yet seen the Steelers, the Colts or a frigid December night at Lambeau Field and a West Coast trip to the zoo in Oakland in early 2010. There’s a lot of football left to be played.

The Ravens will sort this out on the field. They need to go 6-2 to have a chance. They need to go 7-1 to be assured of a spot.

If they do it, they’ll be good enough. If they lose two more times to the Steelers, they’ll be playing golf on Jan. 4th and deservedly so.

And if that happens, John Harbaugh’s gonna have a lotta ‘esplainin’ to do at that postseason press conference while he sits next to Steve Bisciotti and the Steelers and Bengals are still playing football…

Things like:

What really happened in the decision to replace Matt Stover with Steve Hauschka?

What really happened with Chris McAlister and how did we get sold that Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr are upgrades?

Why all the penalties?

Where is the pass rush?

Where is Willis McGahee?

Where is the urgency on offense when the team is down two scores with three minutes left?

Of course, Harbaugh doesn’t really like the tough questions but they’re coming. It’s a tough job. It’s been a lot of fun, this honeymoon of riches and a great start to his era in Baltimore. Getting to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie head coach indeed buys you a hall pass for a while.

I have a feeling a lot of that ended yesterday, with a sweep to the Bengals and a 4-4 record at the turn.

But, as Brian Billick would no doubt tell him, these Monday mornings aren’t a whole lot of fun when the town gets disappointed and the team plays poorly.

And someone has to answer the questions…

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“Colt” Matt Stover reaches out to WNST and Ravens fans

Posted on 15 October 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Matt Stover and I have been trading texts and phone calls for months. People asked me almost daily, “What’s happening with Matt?”

Today, he spent about 20 minutes with Bob Haynie and you can hear the entire episode here in the audio vault. It was a sensational interview by Haynie and I hope you check it out!

For the record, Stover has become one of my favorite all-time Ravens, even though we’ve never been publicly linked because he wasn’t a frequent visitor on my show throughout the years.

Even though I don’t think I’ve done five “on the record” conversations with him in nearly 15 years, No. 3 was always “go to” guy in the clubhouse literally since the nanosecond the team arrived from Cleveland in 1996. I always love to tell the story of the “altercation” we had in the Memorial Stadium locker room after the first game against Oakland. I was wearing a hardhat with the flying B logo. He chastised me. I introduced myself. We came to terms and and it’s been “all good” ever since.

Stover is a rock star of a great guy. A community, family and biblical guy. Always very straightforward and honest, I have immense respect for him even if I don’t always agree with him. He’s truly a man of integrity and a guy I always enjoy spending time and talking about the world with him.

We hugged in the bowels of Raymond James Stadium back on Jan. 28, 2001. We have many mutual friends around the city. His family and mine were on a mutual flight out of New Orleans the morning of the evacuation of Hurrican Katrina.

So, when the whispers of him signing elsewhere started to erupt a few weeks ago – first Cleveland, then the New York Giants – people were peppering me with questions about his intentions.

It was always pretty clear: Stover never wanted to leave the Ravens. The Ravens made it clear, though, that they were done with Stover.

Yesterday, he signed with the Indianapolis Colts. He text me right away to tell me of his decision.

Today, he called me and wanted to speak to the people of Baltimore, who he’s very concerned will see him as a traitor for even considering putting on the blue horseshoe and potentially kicking a game-winner against our beloved Ravens on Nov. 22.

In his conversation with Haynie, he was very, very forthright about his love of Baltimore and his intentions to live here for a long time while his kids go to school here.

Honestly, that game in six weeks at M&T Bank Stadium could still play out with an immense amount of drama or a kick to win the game on national TV, but for now, Stover is back to being employed in the NFL and he’s drawn the enviable position of kicking for an undefeated team with Super Bowl hopes that are quite realistic with Peyton Manning at the helm.

Strangely enough, this is the second time Stover has been put in an emotional city vs. city position.

Remember: he’s the guy who went back to Cleveland every year for 10 falls with a purple jersey and a B on his helmet. As he said today, the people of Cleveland still scream all sorts of things at him, which is no surprise if you’ve ever worn the color purple on the shores of the Cuyahoga.

I’ll say publicly here in the blog what I said to him this morning.

“Good luck. I love you and wish you well. But the Colts, hey, you’ll never get me to wish the Colts well…”

That’s out of the realm of possibility for me. Out of respect for my Pop, of course.

But I do hope Stover fares well…except on Nov. 22 of course!

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Matt Birk is laying down charity roots in Baltimore as well as Minneapolis

Posted on 06 October 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I spent the early part of last night with Ravens center Matt Birk at Mother’s Grille in Federal Hill where he kicked off his local charity initiative, the HIKE Foundation, with a dinner and cocktail reception.

Birk was extremely active (think, like Cal Ripken kinda active) in the Twin Cities while playing for more than a decade for the Vikings. A well-publicized Harvard alum, Birk has been a finalist for NFL Man of The Year and routinely won awards and accolades for his public service in Minnesota.

His work in Baltimore is just beginning and we had a little fun shooting this video about what HIKE stands for and why there’s a pizza with his name on it at Mother’s.

Here’s the 411 in his words:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieKSCC95Da4&feature=channel_page[/youtube]

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The indignity of 100 losses for the Orioles

Posted on 29 September 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Naturally, the Orioles theme of the offseason — after the firing of Dave Trembley at some point this Monday — will be “progress.” Isn’t that what Jim Hunter and Rick Dempsey talk about after all of these losses, night after night?

Andy MacPhail (and after 2 1/2 seasons of this perpetually sinking ship that knows no depths, we might revert to Chicago’s theme of referring to him as “MacFail,” but that would be giving him too much credit) will preach youth and patience and the injuries to Brad Bergesen and Adam Jones derailing an otherwise promising campaign in 2009.

Brian Matusz is Mike Mussina. Matt Wieters is Joe Mauer. Adam Jones is the next Eddie Murray.

Blah, blah, blah.

Look at the standings. Look at the scoreboard. Look at the 11-game losing streak that they’re adding to every night with complete disasters coming out of the bullpen on a 24-hour cycle. (Oh, that’s right, you forgot they were even playing back around the time Route 140 opened toward Westminster on July 30th!)

I sat the at the bar at Piv’s Pub in Cockeysville last night in a sea of NFL watchers as the Orioles played on one little TV with no one watching them find a way to blow another game.

The Orioles are entering some very dangerous territory here this week: losing 100 games would almost surely convince even the most “bleeding orange” fan that this is not a franchise in the midst of a dramatic “Tampa Bay-like” turnaround.

Wouldn’t it?

Oh, that’s right: the people who STILL believe that the Orioles are “changing their ways” can NEVER be convinced that this civic disaster of a franchise is anything but:

A. Doing the right thing.
B. Changing for the better.
C. Going to the playoffs next year.

It’s too easy to pile on at times like these. With the Orioles, it’s always like shooting fish in a barrel to drop a steamer on them — usually on the field, but ALWAYS off the field.

When they lose 30-3. When one of their pitchers start headhunting. When they’re in the middle of an 11-game losing streak. When the bullpen is a band of arsonists. When steroids allegations come. When they ban free speech from the media. When they treat anyone with an IQ over 90 like a moron. When they tell 1,500 real Baltimore sports fans to “stay home.” When they say they want to promote goodwill and community loyalty while pissing on the biggest media entity on the internet in the city.

It just never ends, does it?

For those of you who hate me remember this: I can’t WAIT for the day when they stop giving “haters” like me this most obvious of material.

The ONLY thing that matters is winning. Because no matter how poorly they continue to treat people who want to help them, they really believe the floodgates will open with fans the nanosecond they go two games over .500.

But here’s the cold reality circa September 2009:

They’re 60-96. They have six games left.

They need to SPLIT the final six games to avoid triple digits losses for the season — and this would be the first time since 1988 that this has occurred and the lowest depth of the Peter Angelos era. (The Birds also went 54-100 in 1954.)

Can they avoid the supreme embarrassment of 100 losses?

I don’t know, but you’d think pride would take over at some point this week, wouldn’t you?

Guess we won’t be seeing those Dave Trembley MASN ads with him treating his wife poorly come next spring training, huh?

Bon Voyage, Dave. I’m sorry I never spoke to you but there was nothing I could’ve done to help your image or keep your job.

You were doomed from the start…

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