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Orioles great Mike Cuellar dead at 72

Posted on 02 April 2010 by WNST Staff

Orioles pitcher Mike Cuellar died today of stomach cancer in Orlando.

Cuellar’s wiki:

Miguel Angel Cuellar Santana (May 8, 1937 — April 2, 2010), best known as Mike Cuellar [coo-el’lyar] is a former left-handed starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who spent most of his career with the Baltimore Orioles. He shared the American League‘s Cy Young Award in 1969, and won 20 games four times from 1969 to 1974 as the Orioles captured five division titles. Cuellar, nicknamed “Crazy Horse” while with the Orioles, ranks among Baltimore’s top five career leaders in wins (143), strikeouts (1011), shutouts (30) and innings pitched (2028), and trails only Dave McNally among left-handers in wins and shutouts.

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[edit] Professional career

A clever pitcher with an excellent screwball and changeup, Cuellar was signed by the Cincinnati Redlegs as an amateur free agent in 1957 after drawing attention with a no-hitter he pitched for a military team in 1955 while serving in the Cuban army during the Batista regime. After two disastrous relief appearances with Cincinnati in 1959, he spent five years in the minor leagues and Mexican baseball, including time in the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians farm systems, before being acquired by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964. After going 5-5 for St. Louis, primarily in relief, he was traded to the Houston Astros in June 1965. He began to come into his own in Houston, joining their rotation in 1966 and winning 16 games in 1967, before being traded to Baltimore in December 1968.

Finally, he found a major role with the Orioles, who were entering their strongest period in 1969. On August 10, Cuellar’s string of 35 batters retired in a row was ended by Cesar Tovar, who also spoiled Cuellar’s no-hit bid in a one-hit shutout against the Minnesota Twins. Cuellar finished his first season with Baltimore with a record of 23-11, 182 strikeouts and a 2.38 earned run average, and shared the Cy Young Award with Denny McLain, becoming the first Latin American-born winner of the award. He started Game 1 of the 1969 American League Championship Series, but had no decision as the Orioles won 4-3 in 12 innings. In the World Series against the New York Mets, he won Game 1 by a 4-1 score but left Game 4 after seven innings, trailing 1-0; the Mets won 2-1 in the tenth inning, and completed their Series upset with a win in Game 5.

Cuellar was 24-8 in 1970 with 190 strikeouts and a 3.48 ERA, leading the league in wins and complete games, and finished fourth in the Cy Young voting. He was 20-9 in 1971 with 124 strikeouts and a 3.08 ERA. By this time he was part of a strong pitching staff, forming with Jim Palmer and McNally one of the finest rotations ever. The trio combined for eight 20-win seasons in three years (1969-71), racking up a combined 188-72 (.723) record, while the rest of the staff was 130-92 (.586). In 1971, Pat Dobson joined them by posting a 20-8 record, forming the Orioles’ “Big Four” 20-game winners; only one other team in major league history, the 1920 Chicago White Sox, has had four 20-game winners. Cuellar was ineffective but fortunate in Game 1 of the 1970 ALCS, leaving in the fifth inning with a 9-6 lead (helped by his own grand slam home run). He was pulled again in the third inning of Game 2 of the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, behind 4-0 (though the Orioles came back to win), and was again hit early in Game 5, giving up three runs in the first inning; but after abandoning his screwball he settled down to go the distance, winning 9-3 to clinch the Series championship. He won Game 2 of the 1971 ALCS 5-1, but lost Games 3 and 7 in the World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Game 7 by a 2-1 score.

A winner of 18 games in both 1972 and 1973, Cuellar lost a 2-1 11-inning marathon in Game 3 of the 1973 ALCS against the Oakland Athletics. He enjoyed a great 1974 season with a 22-10 record, 106 strikeouts, a 3.11 ERA, five shutouts and 20 complete games, placing sixth in the Cy Young voting, and split a pair of decisions in the 1974 ALCS against Oakland, winning Game 1 but losing the final Game 4, again a 2-1 contest. After two sub-par seasons, he was released by Baltimore. He signed as a free agent with the California Angels in 1977 and was released that May after appearing in only two games. Attempting a comeback at age 42 in 1979, he had a combined 7-6 record with three clubs in the Puerto Rican and Mexican leagues.

In his 15-season career Cuellar had a record of 185-130 with a 3.14 ERA, 1632 strikeouts, 172 complete games, 36 shutouts, and 11 saves in 453 games and 2808 innings pitched. In five ALCS and three World Series, he went 4-4 with 56 strikeouts and a 2.85 ERA in 12 games.

On August 10, 1971, Cuellar gave up Harmon Killebrew‘s 500th career home run.

In a 1976 Esquire magazine article, sportswriter Harry Stein published an “All Time All-Star Argument Starter,” consisting of five ethnic baseball teams. Cuellar, a Cuban, was the left-handed pitcher on Stein’s Latin team.

Currently, Cuellar lives in Orlando, Florida and is an active participant in the Hispanic Heritage Month event.

[edit] Other career highlights

  • 4-time All-Star (1967, 1970-71, 1974)
  • Led league in winning percentage (1974)
  • Finished eighth in 1969 MVP voting, tenth in 1974 voting
  • Became the first player to hit a grand slam in the Championship Series in 1970 against the Twins

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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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Al Davis

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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:

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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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