Tag Archive | "mike"

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An example of great journalism by Yahoo’s Mike Silver

Posted on 20 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

We spend plenty of time “outing” phonies and charlatans in our business. But, alas, there are many, many dedicated, responsible and interesting journalists in the cyber-universe and when I find them, simply put, I celebrate them.

If you’ve been following this Raiders story closely — and I am, mainly because of the bizarre nature of the management, ownership, leadership and discipline of the Oakland Raiders, whose success and franchise closely mirrors the Baltimore Orioles in many ways — this story by Yahoo’s Mike Silver is a must-read.

So just when you think the Orioles are really bad, just consider that you could be a Raider fan as well.

Angelos and Davis really do have a lot in common: old world owner, a little too involved, no one who is competent or wise wants to work for them, etc.

But, like Bob Haynie, I digress…

This is one of the best “exposes” in recent memory on the dysfunction of the Raider Nation under Al Davis.

Keep in mind: Davis is in the Hall of Fame and Art Modell is not.

Feel free to comment below…

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I knew the Raiders were screwed up, but c’mon…

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I knew the Raiders were screwed up, but c’mon…

Posted on 17 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Three months ago I had the privilege — well, actually, it was more disgusting than enjoyable — of sitting two feet behind Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis on a flight from Southern California to the Bay Area. He was pleasant, filthy and old. Like, VERY old.

At the owner’s meetings, you can only imagine the treatment he’s given after treating the first “establishment” like enemies — moving his team, suing them and coining the phrase “abstain” during any of the league’s votes on various issues from collective bargaining to television deals.

The Oakland Raiders have always been a little kooky because, like the Orioles, they have a kooky owner.
Al Davis

Davis is eccentric, borderline senile and clearly marches to his own beat.

But tonight, with whispered words leaking that his current head coach Tom Cable might’ve assaulted one of his own assistant coaches (defensive assistant Randy Hanson) in a meeting and went as far as to send him to a clinic for an apparent broken jaw, this puts the league and the rest of the teams on red alert as to how weird and uprofessional a place that Oakland is to work in the NFL. (Later tonight, ESPN refuted the intial report and now the word is it could’ve been an altercation between defensive coordinator John Marshall who fought with Hanson).

Among the people I know in the league, the Raiders are a lot like the Orioles — they are the LAST place in the league you’d want to work because the place isn’t run like the rest of the “premier” teams in the sport.

Peter Angelos

In this SI.com piece, the magazine named Angelos and Davis as the “two worst owners in sports.” So, please, don’t think that I’m being “original” on any level making this comparison.

But Oakland is clearly a zoo on a lot of levels. It must really suck to be a Raiders fan, especially when you hear this kind of stupidity and childish behavior.

Clearly, Roger Goodell is going to find this on his desk tomorrow morning and the fans and the pundits will be piling on Davis and how screwed up the Raiders are.

And this is on top of all of the allegations of Mike Shanahan from 20 years ago and Lane Kiffin’s bizarre departure last season amidst a sea of turmoil.

Geez…beating up your own assistants!

And these are the people RUNNING the organization?

Can you imagine John Harbaugh punching an assistant coach? Or Brian Billick? Or Marvin Lewis?

It just wouldn’t happen.

Now, of course, at least Rex Ryan could say that he has it in his DNA based on the Buddy-Kevin Gilbride episode.

Here’s a sample of an Al Davis press conference:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtbLLnDR4ps[/youtube]

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Ravens sign Michael Oher to a five-year contract

Posted on 29 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

The waiting is over! Michael Oher will be in camp tomorrow and will meet with the media. In the end, he missed four workouts. He’ll be on the field Friday morning when the veterans all report for the first time.

These eleventh hour signings are all-too-common but are a bit of a necessary evil. There’s a lot of money at stake. It’s a real fistfight on the negotiating side and I never pick sides on these and the Ravens do their best to not get the media or anyone else involved.

Of course, agent Jimmy Sexton will be bandying the numbers at some point later tonight and we’ll report the signing bonus and salary. That’s just the way it works.

In the end, it always gets done. It will all around the league for the other 26 first-round “holdout” draft picks as well. Every hour over the next few days you’ll be hearing of more signings.

From Mike Duffy at the Ravens website:

“At approximately 9 p.m. tonight, Michael Oher and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, agreed to a five-year contract with the Ravens.

The Ravens are one of the first teams to have all of their draft picks signed this season.

Oher, who is currently in Memphis, plans to attend tomorrow afternoon’s administrative day, which includes weight lifting, meetings, and a session on the field. He is then expected to meet with the media late tomorrow afternoon.

The Ravens were optimistic that Oher would not hold out for long after missing four practices reserved for rookies, quarterbacks and selected veterans.

“We knew Michael wanted to be here,” stated head coach John Harbaugh. “He said that many times. Ozzie [Newsome] wanted him to be here, and his agent wanted him to be here too. The agent wanted to make sure he did the right thing by Michael, and we wanted that.

“A big congratulations to Pat (Moriarty, Ravens vice president of football operations) and Ozzie for working hard to get this done. I think we might be the first team to have all of our draft choices signed.”

Oher is slated to start at right tackle opposite left tackle Jared Gaither, forming the youngest group of offensive tackles in the NFL.”

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It’s about time for Dave Trembley to go…

Posted on 01 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Being on the radio every day over the years I’ve had the sad fortune to listen to more than my fair share of “fire the manager/coach” calls from knee-jerk reactionaries on a mission to be a public “coach killer.” In general, it’s just not my style to call for the firing of a skipper.

In fact in my 17 years on the radio – from Johnny Oates to Davey Johnson, from Phil Regan to Sam Perlozzo, from Mike Hargrove to Lee Mazzilli – I’ve never gone on the air in any fashion and said, “Fire the manager.”

(Not even for Mazzilli, who was such a freaking train wreck that it was reprehensible.)

But, today, I’m strongly toying with the idea that it might be getting close to the time for Dave Trembley to exit.

I’ve watched the first three months of the 2009 version of the Orioles.

They lack consistency in virtually every aspect of the game. They even lack consistent effort, Tuesday night’s miracle notwithstanding. They’re in dead last place and going nowhere anytime soon.

They run the bases like Jeff Stone on certain nights. The mental mistakes and ill-placed errors are maddening at times. But, for me, the worst part of watching the games are the bizarre strategic maneuvers of Dave Trembley and the failure for many of them to ever be properly explained to the fans. Of course, when the Orioles and Peter Angelos summarily ban “free speech” and access to legitimate journalists to ask questions of the manager, it’s made all but impossible to get answers about anything. It’s the “Oriole Way” handed down from ownership.

But on most nights, a somber and sullen Trembley appears before the local “firing squad” of team-employed “journalists” and co-workers and submits a dreadful 10-minute dirge that feels more like a root canal for the fans than a discussion about baseball strategy. And that’s when the Orioles WIN!

I’ve had Dave Trembley on my show before, a few years ago at spring training. I honestly don’t remember much about it but I found a picture of it last year. As I remember, he was relatively uptight even on a midday February afternoon in Fort Lauderdale. It was a Joe Friday-style interview.

But watching him react to the questions every night from a frightened room of my
“colleagues” is only second on the “Are you kidding me?” list to watching MASN’s often-comical dialogue in the middle of the games on “Wired Wednesday.” He hates talking about the game or letting the fans feel “into” the game. Recruiting the community is the furthest thing from his mind. (And none of the fools or cowards in the Orioles P.R. department have apparently issued a memo in his direction that he’s talking TO THE FANS when he makes the bitter-beer face. You know, the people who actually pay the bills? The ones their marketing department is trying to get to come down and fill the seats and drink beer…)

He’s absolutely equally joyless in victory or defeat, as witnessed twice in less than 18 hours after talking about the biggest comeback in the history of the franchise and the subsequent devastating loss this afternoon to the Red Sox after he pulled Brad Bergesen from the game in the 8th inning.

Sure, the pitching is subpar and that’s not his fault. The youthful, streaky hitting makes his win-loss record look acceptable when it’s going well, which hasn’t been much lately. Let’s face it: the team has last place talent in the only place that matters — the little hill in the middle of the diamond.

And, I’m not an unreasonable fan. I’ve known every Baltimore manager and sports coach of this generation very well and my business partner is a decorated NFL head coach. From Gene Ubriaco to Kenny Cooper to Terry Murray to Barry Trotz to Ted Marchibroda to all of the college basketball and football and soccer coaches – I’ve dined with them, drank with them, rapped with them and ultimately learned from all of them.

I’m a coach-lover, not a hater.

Some of my best friends on the planet are current and former coaches in a variety of sports. I love coaches. I respect smart people. There’s a craft to their management and intellect that I know I don’t personally possess. I’ve learned more from sports coaches as a reporter and journalist than I’ve ever learned anywhere in life. I’ve been “taken in” by some of the best coaches in the business all over the country.

I know pretty intimately what managers and head coaches go through and it ain’t easy. There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of personalities and egos and a variety of different ownership and management styles.

I’m not some knucklehead on a bar stool when it comes to this subject matter. I don’t write about this stuff to be inflammatory or directive. But it’s my job to opine and this is my opinion:

I would be actively seeking a new manager.

There are defenses for Trembley and his supporters will illuminate them.

We are talking about a lot of young players on the roster, some who are emerging and slumping at various speeds and degrees. I know – trust me I KNOW – he was doomed to last place with the hand he was dealt and the garden variety of Triple A and washed-up pitchers he’s had to pencil into the starting rotation most nights this season.

It’s not the manager’s fault when a starting pitcher can’t get out of the first inning, which happened twice in one weekend recently.

It’s not about any “one” incident, although today’s hook on Bergesen and the resulting embarrassing loss that leveled Tuesday night’s enthusiasm is Exhibit A. His decision, even moreso than the arsonist effort by Jim Johnson and George Sherrill today, cost the team the game.

The biggest question now is the future. My only question now for Andy McPhail and this ownership is this: “Who will be the manager of the team when the Orioles actually win again?”

(That is, assuming all of the orange Kool Aid drinkers are correct and the team is capable of winning 95 games in 2011. A large, suspect assumption at any rate but let’s go with a “best case” scenario.)

I can all but assure you that Dave Trembley is not the answer to above question. And for that reason, I think the search has either begun or will begin very shortly.

He’s the first Oriole manager that I’ve never had direct access to speak with in a generation. So, I don’t know how he’d react to me but I assure you there would be some quality questions after some of these losses. If they ever issued me a press pass it wouldn’t take long for them to take it away if I started asking Trembley some legitimate questions after games.

Instead of being intimidated I’d be emboldened on live TV every night because this is where you show what you’re really about. Most people are great winners but I don’t even sense any fun or joy when they win, which is really a shame because they don’t win that much!

It’s the worst and coldest part of the franchise at this point watching Trembley brood every night and be evasive, almost “Angelosian.” It’s really weird given their marketing platform of defining moments and joy in “Birdland.”

It’s a time when as a Baltimore sports fan (which is all I am at this point with my press pass revoked for speaking and writing the truth) there’s genuinely a lot to be excited about as the team comes together. The fans are more excited than they’ve been in years because we have some young players with genuine upside. Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, Luke Scott, Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters and Brad Bergesen could just as easily be Eddie Murray, Ken Singleton, Rich Dauer, Gary Roenicke, John Lowenstein, Rick Dempsey and Mike Boddicker when you think about it.

They all seem like “right” guys and they’re really kinda easy to pull for every night.

Honestly, I think this group could be winning more games if the team were better managed and led. And they certainly could be recruiting the community and ca$hing in on the excitement with a leader who was a little more inspirational and less confrontational and gloomy.

The team has been in dead last place for virtually every breath of his tenure as the team’s manager and NO ONE in the room of media “executioners” he meets with every night on live television has EVER crossed him, called him out or asked a question that was unfair or even remotely confrontational. He just comes off like an arrogant ass every night and the business side of me and the Baltimore side of me kinda cringes.

Geez, it’s baseball. Everyone watching a simple press conference after the game LOVES baseball and LOVES the Orioles (even after 12 years of insolence and ineptitude) and just wants to know what’s going on with the team.

How freaking hard is it to answer a few questions and be honest and polite with the fans/customers/sheep. The press conference ISN’T for the press — it’s for THE FANS!

Despite my continued outrage at the practices and principals of this Fascist ownership group, I still love baseball. I still love the Orioles. Really I love Baltimore more than the Orioles but one day they’ll actually be merged again. And I still watch the games every night hoping that “tonight” will be the beginning of some kind of run that will bring the Birds to relevancy, if not a championship.

I suppose I’m a little jaded because I’ve essentially BEEN the guy in that room asking questions for 25 of my 40 years on the planet. At sporting events all over the world in every category you can imagine. So, this is my ONLY access to know what’s going on. Your “lens” is the same as mine.

And I don’t like what I see.

On the field. In the press conferences. In the community. And with the results, which are a lot of losses.

Seriously, if you could pick anyone on the planet to be the manager of the Orioles right now, would that guy be Dave Trembley? I’ve been watching his managerial strategies and style over the past two years. I’ve seen enough.

I don’t think the franchise will win with him. I think his direness is unattractive. I think his managerial strategies are questionable and illogical in some cases. And I can’t think for a second some of the younger guys in the clubhouse have any “relationship” with him that inspires them on a nightly basis.

A change is a’coming, I think. It might not happen now for a variety of reasons, among them:

1.    Firing a manager in midseason is a messy endeavor, even when you are in last place

2.    Finding the “right” manager is a search onto itself and easier to perform in the offseason and perhaps you’ll get better candidates

3.    Doing the interim tag can be inspirational for the right guy but could involve a revolving door that’s unnecessary

4.   Does anyone worthwhile really want to take this job? (Joe Girardi certainly ran like hell 24 months ago but perhaps some of the personnel upgrades and minor-league pitching prospects would make the franchise more attractive.)

Who knows? Maybe Andy McPhail is enamored with Trembley. If that’s the case – and McPhail didn’t hire Trembley as much as inherit him – I’d be utterly shocked.

And if Trembley’s not “his man” long term, he should begin the search for a successor immediately because at this point I feel like they’re wasting time and relationship and energy with Trembley.

My good sense says they’re not going to win with him.

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Bergesen goes distance, emerging as a true ‘Ace’ for Orioles

Posted on 15 June 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s still a bit too early to put Brad Bergesen on the Mike Mussina track as the franchise’s first potential “ace” in a decade but yesterday’s effort at Camden Yards has started some buzz about the lanky righthander’s recent work.

The complete game, five-hit, 11-2 victory over the Braves yesterday should come as no surprise. The word on Bergesen’s command began in Florida at spring training and has become evident with his work since his call-up from Norfolk. He pitches quickly. He throws strikes. He mixes speeds. And, with much more consistency than most young pitchers of this generation, he finishes games. He’s what the throwbacks would call a “bulldog” or a “gamer.”

In an era of starting pitchers who generally feel “victorious” about six decent innings of work and turning the keys over to the bullpen, Bergesen is indeed a Jim Palmer-esque throwback with his psyche and longevity. He won’t be throwing double-digit complete games every year in the bigs like ‘Cakes, but yesterday was an impressive afternoon of pitching.

Bergesen, who threw 112 pitches and appeared to be laboring a bit in the 9th inning, has taken a few of his own lumps during his first six weeks in The Show, but he is now 4-2 with a 3.79 ERA and emerging as the closest thing this franchise has to a “sure thing.”

After the years of empty promise of the likes of organizational minor-league rock stars like Rocky Coppinger and Adam Loewen and Matt Riley, along comes Bergesen who now looks like he belongs and is proving it every five days.

Bergesen feels more real than any of them for a reason: he throws strikes and he wants to go the distance.

For one day (or is it two now?) even the offense awakened from its slumber with the unlikely likes of Ty Wigginton (3-for-4, 2 HRs, 3RBIs) and Robert Andino (2-for-4, 3RBIs) bringing the lumber to Derek Lowe and the Braves. Lowe was chased earlier yesterday than in any of his 269 starts in the big leagues.

The Orioles ended yesterday’s game with 15 hits and managed 19 runs in the final pair against Atlanta, breaking out of a hideous offensive slump that begin on June 1.

The Birds have the day off and will begin a three-game set with the incoming New York Mets tomorrow night at Camden Yards.

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Mike Green’s missing stick

Posted on 11 May 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I took a call this afternoon about the disappearance of Mike Green’s offense in the Pittsburgh series. The caller referred to Drew’ diatribe this morning about a “stick” issue. Apparently, his sticks were discontinued. It’s an interesting story because sticks are VERY personal for NHL players. I covered the league intimately for 10 years. Every player brandishes his own blow torch, tape, angle and ruler.

It’s a big deal to have to change sticks, like a baseball player changing bats.

I did a little research and found the story here for you.

Rock the red tonight!

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Orioles can make all Moms happy today with Yanks series win

Posted on 10 May 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

The Orioles have the chance to make all orange Moms smile today with a potential series win over the Yankees at Camden Yards after an impressive 12-5 win last night.

Once again, the middle of the lineup is sizzling and even on nights when they give up a less-than modest five runs, they can beat around mediocre pitching with the likes of Phil Hughes, Edwar Ramirez, Jonathan Albaladejo and Brett Tomko. (Makes you ask, “Where have you gone Jeff Nelson and Mike Stanton?”)

Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are both batting .353 now, and have been rock stars since Opening Day. They are both now making a strong bid to be in St. Louis for the All Star Game. Aubrey Huff hit a homer last night and I’m not convinced last year was an aberration. Go back and read my blogs. He was one of my favorite “non Orioles” to watch when he was in Tampa Bay. He always put up big numbers and I think with ducks on the pond so often this year, he’ll be productive. Even if he still thinks Baltimore sucks as a place to party after dark.

Hey, even my boy Gregg Zaun is batting .221 all of a sudden. Luke Scott is one hit away from .300. And at some point relatively soon, you’ll be getting the WNST Text on Matt Wieters getting promoted.

The pitching is still beyond shaky – especially when every first five innings is an adventure nearly every night and they won’t be having 8-run second innings like they did last night – but beating the Yankees is always a nice treat.

Even when the Yankees clearly aren’t “the Yankees” we used to know.

Koji Uehara takes the hill on what looks to be a glorious, stunningly beautiful day for baseball at Camden Yards. I’m just wondering how many Yankees fans will take over the place today?

P.S. Ray Bachman got thrown out of Orioles Park at Camden Yards last night. He has quite a tale to tell.

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Unleash the fury…Harry Kalas and other “non-radio” tidbits

Posted on 29 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

First, I hope Ray Bachman has fun doing the show from 2 til 6 today. (He won’t admit it, but he really loves talking sports and doing the show. And he loves when I’m not there.)

I’m having a “business/strategy” day of respite and I’ve been catching up on sports since 11 p.m. last night when Bruce Springsteen walked off the stage at the Spectrum. (Set list here…)

I watched the Washington Caps win Game 7 on the DVR but only after someone in my life who will remain “unnamed” wrecked my evening by texting me the result while Springsteen was in the middle of singing “She’s The One.” (MAKE A NOTE OF THIS: DO NOT EVER TEXT YOUR FRIENDS A SCORE!!!! A simple, “Hey dude…do you want to know who’s winning?” would suffice. And, honestly, with the score of any game in the universe a click away on my phone why would I want you to wreck my midnight viewing by texting me the result. It’s just unacceptable!)

But, I digress…

Alas, I did watch the game in its entirety this morning (and it’s NOTHING like not knowing the result) and the Capitals are as lucky to be headed to the second round as the Ravens were to escape Nashville three months ago. That third period was amazing and the vibe at the phonebooth looked electric. I missed a pretty special evening, but these are the decisions and memories you create.

(Gotta admit, when Springsteen played “Fire” by request last night and was rocking “Land of Hope and Dreams” I wasn’t thinking about the Caps. And I had no idea someone would send me a random “Caps win” text.)

There’s nothing better in professional sports than Game 7 of a Stanley Cup series. Last night’s win was a memorable evening. These are the games the Caps have consistently lost for a whole generation.

As for the sport itself, I even got a few emails this morning from former “doubters” who watched last night’s game and are more “believers” than they were 24 hours ago. Hockey kinda does that to you.

I saw Brent Harris at Ravens Camp on Sunday. His beard is scraggly. The Comcast Sportsnet/Caps promotion for the beardathon is great. I wish I had participated in someway but I look beyond crappy with a beard. (Insert joke here…)

I’m monitoring the Orioles today as well. Mora comes back, gets three hits and Adam Eaton looked, well, like Adam Eaton and his 7.17 ERA. Let’s see how Koji Uehara does against the Halos.

****

One other note, my pal who is a Philadelphia sports fan dropped this one on me this morning:

Here’s his running commentary:

“The biggest mistake the Orioles ever made was getting rid of Jon Miller. What I’ve realized through this whole Harry Kalas thing is how badly they messed that up. Baltimore had its Harry Kalas and Angelos chased him off.

“The players all come and go. Harry Kalas is something that can’t be replaced by Mike Schmidt or Steve Carlton. He’ll live longer than Dutch Daulton or Lenny Dykstra or Curt Schilling. They’re all gone. Harry was eternal. I’ve got Harry Kalas on my ipod, man!

“Jon Miller should have been the Orioles announcer until he chose to die in the broadcast booth. Those days are done. Miller is the last of those radio guys.

(My pal didn’t mention Chuck Thompson, but I will…and Eckman and Steadman and all of those guys who Baltimore loved with their Orioles and Colts and Bullets and Clippers and horse racing and crab cakes.)

“No one listens to baseball anymore on the radio anymore. Kalas was only doing one inning a night on radio. He’d do the first three innings of TV, only fourth inning on radio and then the 8th and 9th on TV. Kalas was bigger than the radio or the TV. He was eternal.

“That’s the biggest mistake. No matter what happens to Nick Markakis or what he ever does, Jon Miller would’ve been there before him and after him.

“When you’ve got him, you’re guaranteed to have an ambassador for your team.”

Amen, Philly friend. Amen.

Clearly, Peter Angelos didn’t see it that way. And his vote was the only one that counted.

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Who will the Ravens pick this weekend? Some clues here…

Posted on 24 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

You gotta love the NFL. The league hasn’t snapped the football in almost three months and the buzz is as strong for the draft as it is for Week 7 of the regular season. It never ends this love of American football. So much enthusiasm and energy and talk about the 26th pick on Saturday for the Ravens.

Amidst that, there are all sorts of stories and storylines:

What will happen with Anquan Boldin and are the Ravens really involved?

My gut AND my sources tell me that it’s not very likely. The notion that Ozzie Newsome would trade a No. 1 and a No. 3 and then have to back up a brink’s truck for Boldin is highly unlikely. Plus, the cap issues of taking on another superstar making a super premium salary seem daunting. If the Ravens had that kind of money, they should’ve kept Bart Scott, right?

Who are the players the Ravens really like and would select at No. 26?

It’s always a crapshoot on draft day when you pick so low. The Ravens were greatly affected by the Atlanta trade for Tony Gonzales yesterday because it’s clear that the Falcons won’t be taking tight end Brandon Pettigrew with pick No. 24. Every name that comes off the board in the first 25 spots – and every trade up or back, and we expect a few – will affect what’s left when the 26th pick hits the clock.

So, when people ask me today and all day tomorrow, “Who will the Ravens pick?” I tell them the same thing every year: “Even Ozzie Newsome has no idea who they’ll wind up getting with a pick so low.”

That said, I’ll take a low pick on draft day every year into perpetuity. The joy of a single-digit pick is far outweighed by the agony of dealing with 16 weeks of bad football during a 6-10 season. Let Cincinnati and Cleveland pick early every year from now until the end of time.

All of these weeks and months of mock drafts are just that: a mockery. One unexpected trade on draft day – and with lunatics like Al Davis, Mike Brown and Daniel Snyder running drafts there’s always somebody doing something – not to mention other legitimate trades for more picks or value, it’s more impossible to predict a mock draft correctly than filling out a perfect March Madness pool. I think you’d have a better chance of hitting the lotto tonight for $150 million.

And once one team or one player goes awry, the whole draft changes. Everyone tries to handicap it but it’s a futile effort.

But this much I know: The Ravens would LOVE to trade a few times over the weekend, which is all the more reason to be on our text service. They only have six picks. They’d rather have seven or eight.

Here are some names of guys — and some key positions of need for the Ravens — that you should keep an eye on over the weekend as the names come off the board:

Center – Alex Mack, California. The Ravens brought him into town and checked him out thoroughly. He’s a tough, smart “Raven” kinda guy. If they trade out of No. 26 to move backward (and I still think this is VERY likely because they really want more picks), Mack would be a early 2nd rounder that will help the team. The only question is whether he can help the team at guard because the team already has a two-year solution at center in Matt Birk.

Tight end – A “dream” scenario for the team would be if Brandon Pettigrew fell to them at No. 26. The Philadelphia Eagles at No. 21 would be the one team to tie them up but that’s looking less likely. Again, the Falcons deal yesterday to acquire Gonzales helps the Ravens if they indeed covet Pettigrew, who is a beast at 6-6 and could help the pass protection and provide a safety valve for Joe Flacco.

Wide receiver – While the whole universe seems to think the Ravens are desperate for a wide out, I’m not convinced they’ll take one in the first round. Perhaps they’d select Kenny Britt of Rutgers if he’s still on the board but I don’t think Hakeem Nicks will be their choice. I’ve been saying for two months that WR is not the team’s most acute need nor should they burn a first-round pick on the riskiest of all positions on draft day.

Defensive back – Vontae Davis and Darius Butler. You can never have too many cornerbacks. They’re like pitchers in baseball. If you don’t get one in the first round you’re probably not getting one you feel comfortable in calling a starter. It’s the toughest role this side of QB to fill in the NFL. Davis comes with some immaturity and a little bit of baggage, but he’s the closest thing to a poor man’s Chris McAlister in this draft.

Defensive line/LB – Rey Maualuga. He’s probably the only player in the No. 26 range that the Ravens would consider and this isn’t their greatest need. If they were to take a LB here it would tell you a lot about how highly rated this player would have to be on their overall board. Honestly, all of the USC linebackers look attractive and will almost certainly be gone by the time the Ravens get on the clock in the second round with pick No. 55.

Here’s my hope: Brandon Pettigrew

Here’s my “prediction”: Rey Maualuga

The real story of the Ravens’ drafts and their relative success since 1996 has been tied to what happens AFTER the first round. Between Newsome, Eric DeCosta and Phil Savage and their staffs, over the years the Ravens have become the best team in the league on the last weekend of April. It’s how Newsome and this department has survived so long in one place. It’s an absolute anomaly.

Think about it: What were the odds that in 1996 when Ozzie Newsome passed on Lawrence Phillips and selected Jon Ogden and then went on to take Ray Lewis instead of Leland McElroy at the No. 26 pick that he’d STILL be here in April 2009 making decisions for Baltimore’s football team?

Newsome is still here because he’s really, really great at evaluating talent. He’s got a gift. He’s not always right but he’s been right more than virtually anyone on the planet at doing this.

And most experts say this draft is NOT deep for starting talent beginning Sunday morning. For whatever reason, most scouts aren’t feeling great about finding the next Adalius Thomas or Jason Brown late in the day on Sunday.

It’s a great weekend to be a football fan. It’s a great weekend to be a draftnik. Or just a nerd, like me.

I’ll be bellied up to the bar at Padonia Station at 3 p.m. drinking $2 Michelob Ultras and watching the draft and sending texts to everyone on the text service.

We’re having a “Textathon” weekend because this is the one weekend when we know we’ll be sending you a lot of stuff.

We hope if you’re not on the service you consider joining. And, if you are, we hope you’ll forward our texts to your PSL, purple-loving friends so they know the news and know about WNST.net and our cool text service.

Thanks!

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

Posted on 03 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here come the quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can hear him now…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Roberts isn’t healthy.

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

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

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

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

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

Other than that, things are just fine in Birdland.

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