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They Might Be Ravens: A Look at the 2014 Draft

Posted on 01 May 2014 by Tony Wisniewski

Draft prognostication could easily re-brand itself as mental masturbation.

Todd McShay, Mel Kiper, Walt Cherepinsky, and anyone else regarded as an “expert” on who might choose who in next week’s NFL Draft, is merely taking a wild guess.

Things change.  Deals evolve.  GMs get pick-happy.  No one really knows what’s going to unfold in next Thursday’s first round, let alone the next six rounds that will carry on through the weekend.

Considering the track record of GM Ozzie Newsome, as well as today’s new that he openly stated the team is already fielding calls and offers to trade out of its first round spot, it’s nearly impossible to predict–with any degree of accuracy–who the Baltimore Ravens will select.

Instead of predicting via traditional mock-draft style, in this series, we’ll do a deep-dive into some of the potential early-round picks and their likelihood of donning a purple jersey this fall.

The following players, in one way or another, have the best shot at being the Ravens’ first draft pick–whether that pick comes at 17 or doesn’t happen until the second-round, these are the players that it’s safe to assume the Ravens have the most interest in–partly due to position, mostly due to talent on the board.

In the coming week, this series will highlight each of these players individually.

Taylor Lewan, Offensive Tackle, Michigan:  Will likely be long-gone by pick 17–unless his off-the-field issues turn out to be more troublesome than originally thought.

Zach Martin, Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame:  Originally thought as a mid-first-rounder, it’s looking more likely that he will be closer to the first-half of the first-round.

Morgan Moses, Offensive Tackle, Virginia:  Depending on who you talk to and who you read, Moses is a fringe-first-rounder with a lot of upside.  The only issue is that he is a true left tackle–where the Ravens need a right.

Cyrus Kouandijo, Offensive Tackle, Alabama: Even though he has tremendous size (6-6, 322) he’s been labeled as un-athletic and slow–also has a history of knee issues.

JaWuan James, Offensive Tackle, Tennessee:  A smart, high-character player, he lacks footwork and polish.

Eric Ebron, Tight End, North Carolina:  A true playmaker and matchup nightmare, there’s little chance he’ll be available after pick 12.

Troy Niklas, Tight End, Notre Dame:  Not a first-rounder, he could be a player the Ravens consider if they do trade out of the first round and pick up a second, second-round pick.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Safety, Alabama:  Originally thought to be one of the Ravens’ favorites, he’s crept much further up the board, perhaps into the top-10.

Calvin Pryor, Safety, Louisville:  It’s possible he’ll be available at pick-17, the only problem is that he’ll be there because other teams are shying away from him due to his inability to make big defensive plays.

Darqueze Dennard, Cornerback, Michigan State:  One of the most talented corners in the draft, it’s likely he won’t fall as far as 17, but if he does, don’t be surprised if the Ravens don’t take a hard look.

Bradley Roby, Cornerback, Ohio State:  It’s unlikely the Ravens would take him at 17, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Kyle Fuller, Cornerback, Virginia Tech:  See comment on Roby.

Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State:  A fringe-first rounder, he’s more likely a candidate to be taken in the second-round, should be be there when the Ravens hit the clock.

Brandin Cooks, Wide Receiver, Oregon State:  An absolute burner, the Ravens will certainly kick the tires if players like Lewan and Clinton-Dix are off-the-board.

Cody Latimer, Wide Receiver, Indiana:  It’s possible, barring a trade out of the first round, armed with two second-round picks, the Ravens would take a flier on this boom-or-bust pick.

Carlos Hyde, Running Back, Ohio State:  Probably not really on the Ravens’ radar, but he’s the number-one back in the draft–a true position of need.

Terrance West, Running Back, Towson:  The local product could very well be a second-round target for his hometown team.

CJ Mosely, Linebacker, Alabama: Considering Newsome’s affinity for his alma mater, this isn’t too much of a stretch.

Anthony Barr, Linebacker, UCLA:  This could be a dark horse pick, as Barr is a pass-rushing specialist with a ton of upside–he could be the “best player on the board” by the time the Ravens pick at 17.

Stay tuned for individual analysis–”MM”–on each of these players.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Curious Case of Ubaldo Jimenez

Posted on 26 April 2014 by Tony Wisniewski

It ain’t pretty.

The numbers of Ubaldo Jimenez, that is: 52 baserunners allowed  in 27 1/3-innings.  Only 21 strikeouts to pair with a 6.59 ERA.   And, oh yea, no wins.

Jimenez’s start to the 2014 season has been disappointing at-best, catastrophic at-worst.  Perhaps the silver-lining lies in the numbers, dating back to his days in Colorado and Cleveland.

Believe it or not, this season’s horrendous start isn’t the worst of Jimenez’s career.  In 2011, his ERA was at 6.75 through the month of April; and in 2009, his ERA ballooned to an abysmal 7.58 through the first two calendar months of the season.

Things will get better, right?  Well, maybe.

Jimenez’s track record for the majority of his career proves that he basically takes a sabbatical from success during the months of March and April–with the exception of his 5-0 start in 2010–a season where he finished third in voting for the Cy Young Award.

By-and-large, Jimenez gets better.  Except for when he doesn’t.

A deep-dive in his statistics will show that, while he improves beyond April, he has shown signs of struggling in the midst of summer.  During the aforementioned 2010 campaign, Jimenez had an ERA upwards of six during the month of July–much of the damage being done due to a lack of command where he pitched behind in many counts. By most accounts, it was this mid-season hiccup and a pedestrian finish that cost him the Cy Young Award.

Looking a little further, you’ll find that the amount of base-runners Jimenez allows begins to trend upward later in the season, leaving it open to speculate that his already questionable velocity starts to dip after tossing a couple-hundred innings.

Considering that he’s a pitch-to-contact type of hurler, it’s easy to see that when Jimenez can’t command his own movement–which can be as good as anyone’s in the game at times–he can’t effectively record outs and accumulate clean, low-pitch innings.

Some will look at Jimenez’s numbers and ascertain that he’s pretty much all-over-the-board, with the only consistent and reliable trend being the fact that he’ll be better in May than he was in April.

It would be an understatement to say that Baltimore Nation certainly hopes so.

Looking at his career, it ain’t pretty; but it should get better, at least for a little while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Series Synopsis: Royals come to Baltimore looking to end skid

Posted on 25 April 2014 by Tony Wisniewski

The Royals are one of those teams.

On the cusp of being “good,” the Kansas City faithful has hung onto the idea that likes of Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer would lead a generally irrelevant franchise back to a level of respectability it enjoyed during the 1980s and the days of George Brett.

Tonight, a (10-11) Kansas City team rolls into Baltimore looking for some upward momentum after losing four of its last five.

What you need to know about The Royals:

2014 Record:  10-11, last place in AL Central, two games back of first.

2013 Record:  86-76, Third place in AL Central.

Managed by:  Ned Yost.

Streak:  After winning six straight, the Royals have dropped four of five.

Turning Point: Royals’ DH Billy Butler has struggled mightily through 21 games, batting below the Mendoza Line (sub-.200).  If he can find a way to get his bat going, along with the rest of the solid KC lineup,  it could spell trouble for an O’s rotation that has struggled to minimize pitch-counts and efficiency.

Pitching Matchup of the Series:  Ubaldo Jimenez takes the bump for the fifth time as an Orioles’ starter.  He’ll be paired with Royals’ flame-throwing sensation Yordano Ventura.  Jimenez (0-3) is still looking for his first win this season, while Ventura, after earning his first Big League win two starts ago, is looking to rebound from a rocky outing last weekend.  This matchup will set the tone for the series, and if Ventura has his command working, Jimenez could find himself in another spot where he needs to work into the late innings and be much better than he’s been thus far.

Prediction:  The O’s bats came alive in Toronto, and with a healthy lineup for this weekend series at Camden Yards, there’s no reason to think the Birds can’t take two-of-three.

 

 

 

 

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Baltimore Sports Quiz — for real Baltimore sports fans

Posted on 24 April 2014 by Tony Wisniewski

You can fake a lot of things.

People can have thousands of Facebook friends and fake popularity.  Men can wear a power tie and fake success.  Women can fake orgasms.

It’s just the way of the world.

But you can’t fake sports.  In fact, it might be the one true thing you can’t fake.  And if you want to know what “faking” sounds like while it’s happening, tune in and listen to a Cast-off New York Cop and the Smartest Guy in an Empty Bathroom bumble through their idea of local sports talk every morning.

Last night, at Buffalo Wild Wings in Owings Mills, as part of the Baltimore Sports Media Superstar Competition, WNST proved why it’s the only sports media outlet who has the right to call itself “real” Baltimore sports talk.

The quiz that Nestor and the crew drummed up was the type of stuff that would make even the most seasoned historians, like Bob in Parkville, shudder before going into one of his classic historic tirades.  In fact, I’d be willing to bet that most of the sports media in this town wouldn’t come near any sort of respectable score on the WNST quiz.

I’ve taken a lot of local sports quizzes from outlets like The Sun–and I’ve aced them all without so much as breaking a sweat.  WNST’s was the toughest I’ve ever seen and I loved every minute of it.  It was exactly what you’d expect from real sports people.  The ones who don’t fake it.

In order to join in the festivities, I’m tossing out a quiz of my own quiz this evening.  If you can pass this with an “A,” you can call yourself a Baltimore Sports Fan.  If you struggle, well, I suggest you rectify your sins by taking a deep-dive into the past works of Steadman, Rosenthal, Eisenberg, McMullen, Aparicio, and Vecsey.  Ok–just kidding on the Vecsey thing; those of you who lived through and endured that horror will understand the sarcasm.

 

Here’s the Wiz Quiz–straight off the top of my head…

#1  In what year did the St. Louis Browns move to Baltimore?

#2  What was Rex Barney’s famous tag-line?

#3  What is the significance of Cubs GM Theo Epstein to Baltimore?

#4  Who was the first player to enter the Ravens’ Ring of Honor?

#5  Baltimore had three minor league hockey teams, what were their names?

#6  Baltimore’s USFL team’s nickname was?

#7  Which player won a Grey Cup with the Stallions and a Super Bowl with the Ravens?

#8  Who was the starting quarterback for the Baltimore Stallions during their Grey Cup victory?

#9  Who owned the Baltimore Stallions?

#10  Former Maryland Terps Basketball Coach, Bob Wade, has what significance to Baltimore?

#11  Which former Orioles’ pitching prospect had vanity license plates that read “24KTARM”?

#12  Which Orioles’ third baseman won Sporting News’ AL Rookie of the Year Honors in 1989?

#13  Cal Ripken Sr. wore which jersey number as a coach for the Orioles?

#14  Which two former Orioles make up two of only four members in MLB history to record more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs?

#15  Which movie was filmed at Camden Yards?

#16  Which movie was filmed at Ravens Stadium?

#17  Which owner played a major role in Baltimore not being awarded an expansion team over Jacksonville and Carolina?

#18  Who was the owner of the fashion store Merry-Go-Round, who also played a key role in the  ”Give Baltimore the Ball” campaign?

#19  Which receiver holds the Ravens’ single-season record of 14 touchdown receptions?

#20  Who was “Zeus”?

#21  Who was “Full Pack”?

#22  Which Orioles’ favorite was known for eating Froot Loops before games?

#23  In the 1989 season, in the fateful series in Toronto to finish the season, what strange injury caused Pete Harnish to miss his scheduled start?

#24  Which former Oklahoma Sooners basketball star was once thought to be the heir apparent to Cal Ripken?

#25  Who was “Iron Hands”?

#26  Who returned the blocked Al Del Greco field goal for a touchdown in Tennessee, paving the way for the Ravens to move on to the AFC Championship in January 2001?

#27  Which Ravens’ defensive back fueled much of the Steelers-Ravens rivalry by stepping on Plaxico Burress’ head during a scuffle?

#28  What is significant about the Esskay sign in right field at Oriole Park at Camden Yards?

#29  Who is Len Burrier?

#30  Which long-time NFL punter went to Towson University?

#31  Which Dunbar standout played alongside of Joe Smith, Exree Hipp, Johnny Rhodes and Duane Simpkins?

#32  What number did Deion Sanders wear as a member of the Ravens, and why?

#33  What is it customary to hold up as visiting opponents’ lineups are being announced at the University of Maryland basketball games?

#34  Which former O’s pitcher lost 21 games in 1954, and went on to throw the only perfect game in World Series history two years later as a member of the New York Yankees?

#35  Why would a true Baltimore fan despise the number that precedes this question?

 

Do you know this stuff without Googling?  Have a trivia question for me?  Shoot a message or leave a comment on how you did.

Click here for the answers.

 

 

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How to be a Baltimore Sports Fan: Issue One

Posted on 23 April 2014 by Tony Wisniewski

Baltimore sports fans are irrational, unrealistic, unforgiving, and hard-to-fool.  Baltimore sports fans are unlike any other sports fans, because they’re–as Toyota used to say–”simply the best.”

Every Wednesday, over the next 40-years or so, I’m going to author a semi-regular feature entitled “How to be a Baltimore Sports Fan.”  The idea behind this stems back to a conversation I had with some college students during my time as an English professor at a local community college.

The conversation went something like this:

Me:  ”This season might be another ‘Why Not’ year.”

Student #1:  ”Why not what?”

Me:  The “Why Not” season in 1989; the year the O’s went from worst to ‘almost’ first.

Student #2:  I was born in 1992.

Me:  Don’t you know any Baltimore history?

Student #3:  Ain’t this English class?

Me:  It is.  But you’re clearly struggling with speaking the Queen’s language–and you’re from Baltimore.

Student #3:  How you know dat?

Me:  I can tell by your accent.  I’m from Dundalk.  I could pick out a Bal-murr accent halfway around the world in a room full of people screaming Chinese expletives.

Alas, it’s this conversation that has sparked this column.  Some people–local youth, sheltered stepchildren, non-local-Ivy-Leaguers-of-the-”local media”–need some help on understanding what it means to be a Baltimore sports fan.

Without further ado.

How to be a Baltimore Sports Fan…

#1 Be Irrational: Fire Dave Wallace and release the entire starting rotation.

Miguel Gonzalez went five-and-two-thirds last night.  Wei Yin Chen went five the night before.  Ubaldo Jimenez hurled five-and-a-third on Sunday.  All three pitchers topped the 100 pitch mark.  It’s impossible, yes impossible, to win more than you lose when your starting rotation consistently throws a full-game worth of pitches at the half-way point in the game.

Show me a team who has a rotation that consistently gives way in the 6th and I’ll show you a sub-.500 record.

Perhaps we’re starting to see why Dave Wallace has been away from the Major Leagues since 2007.  Even though he’s still been around baseball, you have to wonder if his tactics and his style are working, some seven years later.

Think about it, what were you doing seven years ago?  Me, I was finishing college and chasing girls around Canton and Fed Hill.  If my wife ditched me tomorrow and I jumped right back into the bar scene, I’d be as effective as water-logged firewood.

 

#2 Be Unrealistic: The Wizards are 2-0 in the NBA Playoffs, build an arena and give Baltimore the ball!

The Wizards look legit.

Down in the fourth-quarter of both games in Chicago, the Wiz–coincidentally, that’s my name too–have come out on top and carry a 2-0 series lead back to the Mid-Atlantic region–Baltimore sports fans refuse to use the word that describes the area in which Congress meets to discuss their vacation plans and fantasy football teams.

All this Wizards’ success means that Baltimore should definitely build a new arena and focus on attracting an NBA team.

 

#3 Be Unforgiving:  Jonathan Schoop doesn’t belong in the Big Leagues.

He can hit.  He’s got some talent.  But he doesn’t understand the game of baseball and desperately needs to return to a slower-pace at Norfolk.

 

#4 Be Hard-To-Fool:  The Ravens aren’t looking for character guys, they’re looking for cheap talent.

Like it or not, the Baltimore Ravens have shifted their focus.  There was a time when the organization steered clear of troubled players–think of all the receivers they passed on during a time when the roster was devoid of anyone with play-making ability.  Brandon Marshall was a head-case, Chad Ochocinco-Martinez-Wong-Abdullah-Kazamakos-Johnson-Smith was a jerk, and so on.

If the flirtation with Rolando McClain proved anything, it’s that the Ravens have given in when it comes to looking past a players’ off-the-field issues or personal flaws.

Maybe it’s just the state of the NFL and society, but if you told me that this organization would have allowed itself to be yo-yoed around and attached to the negative press that Rolando McClain created, I’d have bet you’d first see Peter Angelos doing the Wild Bill O-R-I-O-L-E-S cheer atop the Orioles’ dugout in game seven of the World Series.

 

#5 Be The Best:  Ubaldo Jimenez needs some love.

This Friday night, in Baltimore, Jimenez will make his fifth start as an Oriole.  It’ll come against a spry and aggressive Kansas City lineup.  He’s ranged from horrendous to decent thus far.  If you’re at the Yard on Friday night, get behind Baltimore’s $50Million man.  Give him some love.

But if he gets chased after giving up more than five runs in less than five innings, boo him like he’s the lovechild of Billy Cundiff and Mark Teixeira

 

 

 

 

 

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The tale of a pseudo superstar

Posted on 22 April 2014 by Tony Wisniewski

I used to be the next great Baltimore media superstar.

It was the mid-2000s, I was working in the sports department at The Baltimore Sun.  I was young, handsome, brilliant, and knowledgeable.  I was the type of sport-laden “mind that would come along once, maybe twice in a generation”—a self-describing line from The Big Bang Theory’s Dr. Sheldon Cooper.

Alas, Sheldon Cooper and I have a lot in common—as our stories are mere fiction, derived from the type of creative make-believe that convinced someone like Anita Marks into promoting herself as a former “professional quarterback.”

I was never the next superstar at The Baltimore Sun, or anywhere else in Baltimore.  In fact, I’m fortunate to even be able to call myself a former media member—it’s an accomplishment that many yearn for, but rarely obtain.

Nearly a decade after I sat in The Sun’s news room answering the rapid-fire high school sports score-reporting line , I finally have come to terms with the fact that I have nothing to show for my efforts other than a shared byline on a small story about Baltimore’s Jessica Long.

Now, at 30, I’m no longer young.  Married, with budding specks of gray invading my mop, and more than several extra pounds protruding over my belt, it’s up for debate whether I’m still handsome.  And years removed from any sort of blog writing or sports reporting for websites like Examiner, Bugs and Cranks, and a dozen or so self-created failures, I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone—other than close friends and family—who believe I know jack about Baltimore sports.

But here I am, back at it, thanks to the kick-in-the-pants from my buddy, Will, a fella has forgotten more about local sports than I could ever hope to know.

Will and I remember a time when Baltimore media boasted legendary media members like John Steadman, John Eisenberg, Ken Rosenthal, Vince Bagli, and Chuck Thompson.  These days, most Baltimore media outlets—with the exception of a few (WNST being the frontrunner) have forgotten the idea of what “local” means—lack the local passion and historical firepower to opine about anything other than less-than-stellar and dimwitted attempts to discern the “here and now,” with little recollection of what it was like “then and when.”

Don’t get me wrong, here and now is king when it comes to media—but there’s a thing called context, and it means a heck of a lot when generating conversation with a fan-base as knowledgeable, excitable, and pleasantly irrational as the one here Charm City.

A guy like me remembers the “when,” and lives the “now.”  And it’s this, and this alone, that has thrust me into coming back and being a member of local sports media.

If I have to do it on my own, so be it—which is why I’ll be writing at BaltimoreSportsWiz.com.  But, truth be told, left up to me, I’ll choose to bring whatever  talent I have left from my days a delusional up-and-comer in the Baltimore sports world to WNST.net and WNST 1570AM, where I’m a member of the “Baltimore Sports Media Superstar” competition.

I’ve heard some of the other contestants who are up for the gig on the WNST Audio Vault.  Some are really good, others are really passionate, and I have no idea if I’ll be lucky enough to even be in contention.  And that’s OK because I’ve come to realize that I’ve missed being immersed in the local sports conversation, and it’s time to jump back in.

With an opportunity like WNST’s contest, and a little bit of remaining God-given ability, there’s no reason I can’t fulfill what I once thought I was—a Baltimore sports media superstar.

But for real this time, not just make-believe.

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