Tag Archive | "ryan"

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Leonhard: “I’m open to moving on”

Posted on 19 January 2009 by Drew Forrester

I’m sure Jim Leonhard wasn’t trying to make a statement today at Owings Mills, but his words resonated loudly though an otherwise quiet Ravens’ locker room.  

The diminutive safety who drew widespread praise from teammates, fans and media spoke at length this afternoon about the ’08 campaign and his future both with the Ravens and, possibly, with Rex Ryan.

“This loss hurts so much because it could be the kind of opportunity we don’t get again in the future,” Leonhard remarked.  “We knew it was a one-game winner take all kind of deal and we felt good about our chances.  But, when you have that chance, you have to capitalize and we didn’t.”

Leonhard was a terrific off-season signing for Baltimore but his one-year contract leaves him open and available to the highest bidder, a fact he noted works in his favor now.

“I think I proved to everyone that I can play in this league and I can contribute a great deal to the team,” he said.   “I’d like to think people in Baltimore and around the league see me as a starter.  That’s my goal, obviously, because everyone who plays in the league wants to start.  But I enjoyed my time here a lot and if they want me back and we can work something out, I’d definitely consider it.”

Leonhard’s defensive coordinator in Baltimore was Rex Ryan.  If he does return to Baltimore, Leonhard will have a new boss, because Ryan has accepted the Head Coach position with the New York Jets.  Leonhard talked openly about the possibility of moving on to New York with his erstwhile defensive chief.  “Rex is a great coach and I’d love to play for him if that’s where this takes me.  I see him as a guy with a lot of potential and it’s really going to depend on who wants me and what my role is going to be with that team.”

An early-season injury to Dawan Landry catapulted Leonhard into the starting safety position and he not only became a strong force in the secondary, he helped solidify Baltimore’s special teams unit as the team’s main punt returner over the last half of the season.

“We had a heck of a run, but we came up short and now it’s time for everyone to sit back and decide where they go from here,” he said.  “I’m open to moving on if I have to, but I like Baltimore and think this is a team that can win again real soon.”

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Rex Ryan spends his off day with Jets and Rams

Posted on 11 January 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

As we predicted earlier in the day, it was indeed today that Rex Ryan spent his “down time” with the N.Y. Jets and St. Louis brass in the hopes of being their next head coach. Obviously, this can be a tricky situation, coaching who are still in the hunt for this year’s Super Bowl to interview for their next job. It’s weird. Everyone who has ever gone through it has told me that. But this morning reps from both franchises flew into Baltimore and spent a few hours with Ryan.

By this evening, when the game between San Diego and Pittsburgh is over, Ryan will be back on track to lead the defense to an AFC Championship Game and a chance for another Super Bowl.

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The Miami Mission: Quieting the crowd won’t be a factor

Posted on 03 January 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It could’ve been a whole lot worse this weekend, being in New Jersey or Foxboro. Landing in Fort Lauderdale and having it be 75 degrees on Jan. 2nd, well, you can’t ask for much more.

I spent the middle of the day yesterday in Owings Mills and the team is definitely “loose,” which is a good sign. The Ravens are the better team. They seem to know it. They seem prepared and all of the talk is about winning and taking care of business.

Art Modell was hanging out for lunch with John Harbaugh and I dropped off some “INDUCT ART” signs. Harbaugh told me he’s going to put one up in his office. I told him the city needed a win. He seems confident that the Ravens can win this Sunday.

The flight down wasn’t nearly as chock full of Ravens fans as a “normal” NFL road weekend. Just a handful of fans, and it appeared that many of the seats were filled with families and kids going back to school from the holidays. I’m honestly not expecting the usual “purple takeover” of South Florida. And from my many contacts with folks this week who love to travel to support the Ravens, it seems many are more concerned with getting to Nashville at this point, almost assuming a victory.

Call me the bleeding heart purple optimist, but I don’t see how they’re going to lose to Chad Pennington. I think the defense will force trouble for the Dolphins offense (running and passing), the weather is not a factor, the Ravens players CLEARLY love to play on the road and Joe Flacco is pretty unflappable even when the crowd is a factor and the Miami fans are easily the worst in the NFL when it comes to creating an intimidating environment. The last two trips the place was half full and raucous with Ravens fans.

If you’re already down in South Florida, we’d love to see you at our party at Alabama Joe’s on Lantana just west of I-95. The party starts at 4:30. We’ll stay as long as purple fans are coming in and hanging out. Two games. A perfect way to start the weekend, watching some NFL action all night in 75-degree Florida.

It will be interesting to see Rex Ryan’s defense vs. the wildcat. There’s been plenty of talk about the Dolphins’ signature package and it’ll be something to watch for sure, the matchups the Ravens’ defense will give the Fish when Ronnie Brown goes under center.

Miami has a lot of Ravens memories:

* The bad loss in the hurricane back during the Super Bowl year. I stood on the field that night and the mud seemed to be three inches thick.

•    That great playoff win when Terry Allen ran wild to move the Ravens into the second round back in 2001. (By the way, that was the Ravens’ most recent January victory, so maybe Miami is still the place to be.)
•    The devastating loss last December, when Brian Billick opted to kick the field goal at the wire and Matt Stover missed the game winner against Cam Cameron’s winless squad.
•    And, of course, the most recent foray a few weeks ago when the Ravens just pounded the Dolphins into submission and capitalized on their mistakes.

Other than the hideous Sunday Night game back in 2000, the trips are always full of sunshine and empty seats.

It’ll be a little different this Sunday, but it’s just a shame more of our fans couldn’t find a way down south. But we can all dream for a repeat visit to Florida – a few miles to the west in Tampa – later in the month.

Festivus is on. I’m in Florida. Life is good.

It’s hard to think that the season could end so abruptly down here in the sunshine. Of course, we’re stuck here until Monday. So worse case scenario: at least if they lose it’s still 75 degrees.

But they’re not going to lose.

Stay warm up there!

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Could Baltimore’s Jim Schwartz wind up as head coach in Cleveland?

Posted on 01 January 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

As the coaching “hiring” season heats up over the coming weeks, the candidates are lining up in Cleveland, Detroit, Denver and with the N.Y. Jets and that’s only “so far.” Who knows what’s going to happen in St. Louis, Dallas, Tampa Bay and a few other places? And then there’s Oakland — the Siberia of NFL coaching.

Our very own WNST.net Friday companion Jim Schwartz, defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans and Arbutus native, is next up in two places — Cleveland and Detroit — while Rex Ryan is slated to speak with the N.Y. Jets, St. Louis Rams and Detroit at some point over the next few weeks.

Schwartz was in Cleveland for a few years in the mid-90’s and was part of the Berea Brigade, when the fans boycotted the facility after Art Modell made the announcement that the Ravens were coming to Baltimore. He spent three years as Marvin Lewis’ assistant here and left for Tennessee when Brian Billick was hired in 1999. He’s been the defensive coordinator for the Titans for eight seasons now and has interviewed in four organizations (San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami and Washington) for head coaching jobs. He is expected to leave Tennessee in the next few weeks and is restricted after Friday from interviewing or accepting a head coaching positions until the Titans are eliminated or win the Super Bowl. The same is true for Ryan, who like Schwartz and the Giants Steve Spagnuolo is being inundated with interview requests while trying to win a championship.

Spagnuolo will also be a favored candidate as is Leslie Frazier in a few places. And Eric Mangini and Mike Shanahan are still out of work with various contract money still coming to them in 2009 and beyond.

I’ll write more about the coaching hiring process over the weekend. Lots to tell and it’s a fascinating, incredible “mating call” getting these coaches and executives into jobs and how it affects so many lives and families across the NFL as all of these guys are truly modern-day vagabonds in search of one of 32 jobs in the world as an NFL head coach. Like I said, lots to tell.

Trying to get the Nashville trips on sale by noon on Monday…

Stay tuned…

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Rex Ryan receives permission to interview with N.Y. Jets

Posted on 31 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

‘Tis the season to gain head coaching employment in the NFL and with the 11-5 regular season finish and the Ravens headed back to the playoffs in Miami this weekend, it’s not a shocker that defensive coordinator has received permission to interview for the head coaching position with the New York Jets.

As first reported by the AP, Ryan is expected to interview for the job in New York at some point in the near future. Earlier this week, NFL.com’s Adam Schefter reported that Ryan would be a lead candidate in St. Louis, once the Rams fire interim head coach Jim Haslett who replaced Scott Linehan in midseason.

Ryan, along with tight ends coach Wade Harmon, were original hires of Brian Billick when he took over the head coaching job in January 1999. It’s very unusual to allow an existing assistant to interview during the week of a game but perhaps Ryan will have time to interview after the Ravens victory in Miami on Sunday.

Many times “deals” are cut to wait for specific coordinators, as was the case when the Ravens waited three weeks to interview Brian Billick after his Vikings lost in the NFC Championship Game. Last year Ryan interviewed in Atlanta and Miami before eventually returning under contract to continue as the Ravens defensive coordinator under John Harbaugh.

Several coordinators including Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz both have the week off during their team’s respective byes and are expected to see a few interviews this week.

We’ll continue to monitor the coaching carousel as the month plays out.

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Harbaugh and Bisciotti celebrate Festivus

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Bisciotti and Harbaugh walk ‘arm in arm’ into 2009 Festivus

Posted on 29 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

What a difference 52 weeks makes. It will be a year ago this Wednesday — on New Year’s Eve — when Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti walked into Brian Billick’s office and abruptly fired the head coach who led his franchise to its only Super Bowl win. It was the biggest story in the city for weeks, and many folks were surprised and many questions were asked. For me, it wasn’t so much the actual firing of Billick as much as the “I changed my mind” reasoning so closely removed from a 13-3 season and the fact that Ozzie Newsome was clearly kept out of the decision. At the time I was a loud critic of the move, especially considering that Bisciotti didn’t have a clear vision of where the franchise was headed or who he wanted to hire as a head coach.

The thinking was this: Who is Bisciotti going to hire who is better than Billick?

Three weeks later, after getting turned down by Dallas offensive coordinator Jason
Garrett and eliminating defensive coordinator Rex Ryan from contention, Bisciotti turned to a “low mileage” young special teams coordinator whose QB brother was far better known not only in Baltimore but throughout the league and in college circles as the head coach at Stanford.

Bisciotti, who is a self-made billionaire and who did it by hiring great people, was pretty offended last winter at the mere notion that his decisions and pick to lead the organization on the field would be questioned. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever seen him publicly “chippy.”

Harbaugh and Bisciotti celebrate Festivus

Harbaugh came to this job as a universally revered “coach’s coach,” the son of a football coach and the brother of a very successful NFL quarterback. I had at least 20 NFL “insiders” who immediately called me and told me that Harbaugh would be a “great” NFL coach. Harbaugh had ZERO detractors. Even Brian Billick privately applauded Bisciotti’s choice to replace him as being “a great move.” Yesterday, as the clock struck zero and Harbaugh had led Bisciotti’s franchise full-circle and back into the NFL postseason, the two men embraced in as genuine a lock as you’d ever want to see on the field at M&T Bank Stadium. You can see the moment on video here… and it was celebrated with the fans.

We can revisit all of the details of last January’s semi-bizarre job search and all of the possibilities and permutations and fallout of a bloody, unexpected firing of a Super Bowl champion coach amidst a locker room full of revolt, dissent and mouthy and aging players. All of my January Bisciotti/Garrett/Harbaugh blogs are still here in the archives if you care to read them.

Here’s the point: Bisciotti has made three MAJOR calls in 2009. First he fired Billick, while owing him $18 million, a ballsy and risky move if there ever was one. Then, he hand-picked unproven John Harbaugh to lead his football team in January. And finally — you might never get anyone to admit this on the record within the franchise — Bisciotti absolutely JUMPED on the table in the draft room in April and insisted that Ozzie Newsome trade up into the 18th pick to take a New Jersey kid from “small school” University of Delaware named Joe Flacco to be his franchise quarterback.

Considering our history with sports franchise poobahs in Baltimore (think Irsay, Jacobs, EBW & Abe Pollin), we’re far from believing that owners should get overly involved in the day-to-day operations of a sports franchise in most circumstances – and this is your chance to fill in the holiday Peter Angelos joke of your choice right here – but obviously an NFL owner’s choice of a head coach and a franchise quarterback has never looked better than it does this morning, exactly 52 weeks to the day that Bisciotti was clearly shaken by the removal of Billick, whom he had deep affection and respect for as a person and a leader of men.

If you’re excited about the Ravens this week and you’ve got purple fever, sure it’s fashionable to give all of the credit to Flacco and Harbaugh (as well as Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Le’Ron McClain, Cam Cameron, etc.) but today is a day we should consider giving the credit to the “mastermind” of several of the most significant 2009 calls that have landed the Ravens in the postseason and headed to Miami this Sunday at 1 p.m.

Steve Bisciotti has played a MAJOR role in the Ravens’ turnaround by making moves that have been greeted with at least extreme “curiosity” inside his own building and amongst his experts. Who would’ve thought that Rex Ryan could get passed over for the head coaching job here for a special teams coordinator and respond in a fashion that has made him the front-runner for the St. Louis Rams job 52 weeks later? Human nature might’ve said, “You can’t bring Ryan back as defensive coordinator” given the strange circumstances.

But over the course of his life, Bisciotti has shown an uncanny ability to find and retain quality people as employees. It’s his “gift” as a business owner, bringing in people who he’ll brag are “better” than him. He’s always told me that it’s the secret of his success.

Sure, he subtracted Brian Billick who I clearly think is one of the better people I’ve met on the planet and a person that I’m supremely thrilled to have on my WNST.net team, but he also added another quality guy in John Harbaugh — as well as a new staff — and the change has obviously worked out fabulously in Year 1. (For the record, Billick had Cam Cameron flying into Baltimore to be his offensive coordinator a year ago today as well, had he not been fired…just a fact!)

The firing of Billick was a change, as I stated last Janaury, that I wouldn’t have made. Many concurred with my assessment. But that’s why he’s Steve Bisciotti and that’s why he’s worth a billion dollars. As the old Indiana Jones movie said, “He chose wisely.”

Many NFL jobs will begin popping open today. Brian Billick might even get another shot to lead an NFL franchise at some point in the next few weeks. Of course, he might be enjoying his quality of life watching football on Fox and doing radio shows and writing a blog here at WNST.net while building his life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

But 363 days later, you would be hard-pressed to make the argument that Billick might’ve gotten this team to 11-5, with or without a quarterback like Flacco. Or maybe not. But at this point, that’s not an argument anyone in Baltimore wants or needs to make. In reality, we’re all in a better place 52 weeks later.

The NFL job carousel will get crazy this week. I’m glad we’re on the other side of this one this season covering a playoff team instead of a job search and all of the messiness involved. Phil Savage is the first of many fired friends of mine this week.

For now here in Baltimore, it’s Festivus for the rest of us.

Bring on the Fish…

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Ravens make this an enjoyable Sunday for us

Posted on 21 December 2008 by Drew Forrester

It’s the “morning after” and what a fun Sunday it will be – sitting around watching football with no worries about the home team and plenty of support for Seattle, Arizona and Kansas City.

The Ravens took care of business on Saturday in Dallas (we had a PACKED house at McAvoy’s last night…btw…man, was that place purple!) and can now sit back and watch the AFC East trio try and present themselves with a last-weekend chance for post-season play.

One thing for sure: the Ravens have a chance for post-season play — a win at home over lowly Jacksonville next Sunday gives them a playoff berth.

And, really, what more can you ask for? 

15 weeks of football comes down to the final game and it’s at home…on your turf…with your fans. 

You’d be considered greedy if you wanted anything more than that with a rookie quarterback, a fullback filling in as a tailback and a secondary that’s been banged up throughout the season.

A week ago Monday, some folks in town who don’t know a good thing when they have it wanted both Rex Ryan and Cam Cameron placed in the corner with a “dunce cap” on their head after both the Ravens offense and defense played a role in the 13-9 loss to Pittsburgh.

Of course, earlier this year people wanted Matt Stover cut from the team because he missed a couple of field goals and all he did last night was boot four of them through the uprights.

And when Joe Flacco delivered a disappointing prime-time performance against the Steelers, calls and e-mails flowed in about #5 “hitting the rookie wall”.

Saturday night in Dallas, Ryan, Cameron, Stover and Flacco all got the chance to say, “I think you owe me an apology.”

It will be a great Holiday week in Baltimore after the boys in purple kicked the stuffing out of “America’s Team” in a showdown game that sent one team within a win of the playoffs and the other team thinking about their January golf vacation.

Now, if only we can get Mark Teixeira in an O’s uniform under the tree, our Baltimore sports Holiday will be complete.

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Fair weather brings…”fair weather fans”

Posted on 15 December 2008 by Drew Forrester

Boy, what a difference a week makes.

This time last Monday, the Baltimore football fans were rallying around a 9-4 team that had just punched our neighbors to the south squarely in the mouth on NBC and in front of the entire nation.  We effectively ended the Redskins’ season (so much so, in fact, that Washington lost to Gilman HS the Bengals yesterday) and the fan base was decked out in purple all week.

“Harbaugh should be Coach of the Year!”

“Cam Cameron is our MVP!”

“Rex’s defense is #1!”

That was last week.

Or, as S.E. Hinton wrote, “That was then, this is now.”

Today, a flock of fair weathered fans have been let loose like pigeons at dawn, circling Charm City and spewing reckless theories about Harbaugh, Cameron and Ryan.

Talk show callers, e-mailers, blog commenters, message board authors — they’ve come out of the woodwork today to blame the coach, the offensive coordinator and the defensive coordinator.

The narrow-mindedness of sports fans is sometimes laughable.  I don’t think it’s JUST Baltimore sports fans, but then again I don’t do talk radio in Cleveland, Dallas, New York, Pittsburgh or Kansas City, so I have no idea how their faithful would have reacted to yesterday’s loss.

I will say that early on this morning, I was proud and pleased with the way folks were handling the crushing defeat to Pittsburgh on Sunday.  Most everyone “took it like a man” (even the ladies) and realized the truth of the matter – you score 9 points at home…you get in the red zone three times and kick three field goals…you let the other team go 92 yards on your turf in less than three minutes at the end of the game – you’re probaby going to lose 99 of 100 games that those three scenarios play out.  The Ravens were one of those 99 yesterday. 

But as the day wore on and the hangover wore off, I started getting more e-mails, more text messages and a quick scan of blog comments and Ravens-related message boards tonight put the knuckleheads on full display.  

“This game is why Rex has to go!” — You mean Rex Ryan should be FIRED over that loss to Pittsburgh?  Wow, OK… FIRED, huh?  

“Cameron’s teams always do this.  Check his history.” — By “do this”, do you mean go 9-5 and have a chance at the playoffs with 2 weeks to go while employing a rookie quarterback, a fullback posing as a tailback and no real deep threat at wide receiver?  

“Harbaugh has already lost 3 games this year when going into the 4th quarter with a lead.  Billick was 52-2 in his career in Baltimore when leading after three quarters.  Harbaugh can’t coach the game when it’s tight.” — This one made me laugh the most.  So now Harbaugh is directly responsible for his team winning the game or losing the game.  How did Harbaugh lose the game against the Titans?  By not being able to convince the refs that was a bogus call on Terrell Suggs?  When did Harbaugh fail to make a throw last night or drop a pass or slip on the 3rd and 10 throw to Nate Washington in the final two minutes?

Coaches coach.

Players play.

It’s the oldest adage in the book.

Do people realize that the other team tries just as hard?

I’m baffled at this air of divine invincibility some of our fans think the Ravens carry around.  As if we’re supposed to win because, well, just because.  

The other teams need and want to win, too.

Sometimes, 5 times this year, in fact, we don’t win.

But 9 times this year we have won.

And in those games, John Harbaugh, Cam Cameron and Rex Ryan were “good enough” on that occasion to guide the team to a win.

Would I have preferred to see the Ravens throw the ball more on Sunday vs. Pittsburgh?  Absolutely.  I think the team that eventually beats the Steelers this year when it matters most (in the post-season) will do so through the air.  But, and here’s a nod to Cam Cameron who actually does this coordinating stuff for a living, I’ll also acknowledge that turning Flacco loose with a reduced-power running game and no real long-ball threats wasn’t exactly a recipe for “airing it out”, especially when you had to figure that Pittsburgh defense probably wasn’t going to give up more than 14 to 17 points, max.  

But am I ready to FIRE Cam Cameron today?  Holy cow, no.

Did I think the Ravens went soft on the final drive when defending against Pittsburgh’s late heroics?  Yes. But, as I wrote last night after the game, I think Rex was dealing with some personnel issues.  Pryce was banged up, Suggs got dinged and was out for a series and Fabian Washington hurt his hamstring and turned over his role to Frank Walker.  I’m no D-Coordinator but I have to think Rex was squirming at the thought of Santonio Holmes lining up on a “go pattern” and having Walker there trying to hang with him in a dead sprint.  

Is Rex to blame for the loss?  Is it his fault our offense scored 9 points?  (I’ll take a wild guess here) No.

Harbaugh was on the ballot for Governor after beating the Redskins last week.

Cameron and Ryan were the 1-2 combo that had people thinking Super Bowl over the last 8 weeks.

They didn’t suddenly forget how to do their job on a mild December day against the Steelers.

Our best effort wasn’t quite enough yesterday.

It certainly wasn’t the team’s best performance — but it was their best effort.

And it fell a little short.

I can’t wait to see what happens if the Ravens beat the Cowboys on Saturday.

The love affair will blossom once again.

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Mission accomplished: O’s reduce payroll

Posted on 09 December 2008 by Drew Forrester

Congratulations to Andy MacPhail and the Orioles.

They opened their annual winter meeting efforts today by doing what they’ve become experienced in doing over the last 20 months under MacPhail.  Trimming payroll.

The Birds today shipped catcher Ramon Hernandez ($7.5 million in ’08) to Cincinnati for outfielder Ryan Freel ($3 million) and two prospects that will probably have names in the major leagues…someday, maybe. In general, it’s a good move to get rid of Hernandez, who was mostly disgruntled if not mostly out of shape.  The players said he didn’t have much corazon…in Spanish, that means “heart”.  So it’s probably addition by subtraction getting rid of Ramon.  It paves the way for Matt Wieters to join the team in 2009. Too bad the O’s didn’t have that vision last September when it would have been a good marketing tool to have Wieters up for 50-75 at bats.  Oh well, “vision” and “good marketing” don’t often collide in the same sentence when we’re talking about OUR beloved Birds.  The Birds were so desperate to part with Hernandez and his extra 30 pounds that they even threw in a million bucks to make the deal happen…oh well, they can always hike our MASN rates next year to make up for it.

You’ve heard of Ryan Freel, haven’t you?  

He once played in 143 games back in 2004 for the Reds.

In his last two seasons, he’s played in 123 games.


But we saved roughly $5 million in 2009 with this move today.

Your January cable bill should reflect that savings accordingly when your MASN “fee” gets adjusted based on the savings from Hernandez to Freel.

OK, maybe not.

All in all, though, this goes down as a THUMBS-UP deal for the O’s.  They dispose of a guy who was basically going to be in the way in 2009.  They pick up a journeyman who can steal some bases and fill in where/when needed at a variety of positions.  

And they save money.

Let’s not forget that, right?

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Orioles appear to dump Ramon Hernandez off to the Reds

Posted on 09 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

As has been reported all day from the winter meetings in Las Vegas, it appears as though the Orioles and the Reds have finally completed the transaction to send catcher Ramon Hernandez to Cincinnati for outfielder Ryan Freel and a pair of prospects.

The $1 million in cash involved in the transaction will need to be approved by Bud Selig.

Ken Rosenthal of Foxsports.com was the first with the story. He’s had a phenomenal running blog from Sin City…

The rumors regarding Garrett Olson for Felix Pie continue to swirl. But they’re only rumors at this point.

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