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Wanted: Orioles Offense. 7 Day Wrap Up

Posted on 09 July 2013 by mattcostantini

 

 

So here we are Orioles fans, a week and a few days into July and the Orioles bats have become anemic.  So far this month there are only two players batting over .250, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis.  Aside from those two, you are seeing some sickly numbers across the board and it’s coming at the worst time possible, the Rangers are in town.

The Birds have gone a dismal 2 and 5 over the last 7 dropping series’ to the last place White Sox, the debilitated Yankees, and last nights 1st game against the Rangers.

In the series against the White Sox the O’s averaged just 2.6 runs per game, down from their season mark of 4.8.  Now far be it from me to say the White Sox batters shouldn’t be able to out-hit the Orioles with their 27th ranked offensebut c’mon!

“Well Chris Sale’s top 5 in ERA”

He didn’t pitch against us.

The worst part is that the Birds’ only win in the series came against Hector Santiago, who pitched a great game. Watching this series you would have thought they ran into the mid-90′s Braves judging by the starters stat lines(Santiago 7IP, 2ER, 9K’s Quintana 7IP, 0ER, 11K’s).  Orioles batters with runners in scoring position were non-existent going just 3-18 over the series (This will be an on-going theme for the rest of the article).  JJ Hardy will take the majority blame here with his 0-6 with RISP.  The starting All Star shortstop in the month of July is batting just .115 with only 1 extra-base hit.  It’s alright though because the Birds are headed to New York just after giving them the brooms.

The Yankees series gave the Orioles no breathing room as Ivan Nova put on an Oscar-worthy CC Sabathia performance (9IP, 3H, 2ER, 11K’s) but Baltimore still had the 2-1 lead going into the 9th!  Cue Jim Johnson, blown save number 6 in game 1.  Game 2 had a different feel as Chris Tillman struggled getting first pitch strikes and seemed a little wild all day.  Yankees take it 5-4, even though the Orioles got to Andy Pettitte early on.  The final game of the series saw a great comeback win in which Adam Jones dropped the hammer on Mariano Rivera with an eventual game winning 2-run shot in the 9th.  The bats continued their struggles through this series too, 2-17 RISP accruing 2 runs in 2 of the 3 games.  Momentum is now on the Orioles side with the Adam Jones late game heroics though right!?!?

Not at all when Scott Feldman got rocked by his former team (Rangers) in his Camden Yards debut allowing 7 runs over 5 and a third.  In all fairness Feldman had to pitch close to the vest all night as the Black and Orange converted just once in 12 opportunity’s with RISPMatt Wieters hit a 2-run homer in the 7th to somewhat absolve himself from the normal amount of heat he would take for striking out 4 times in a game.

If you just go by the numbers in the last 7 games, Matt Wieters is 0-6 with RISP, batting a mere .211.  The 2nd Base Trio of Alexi Casilla, Ryan Flaherty, and Brian Roberts are .156 reaching base just 7 times (Brian Roberts with the majority of at bats).  JJ Hardy and Chris Davis are both batting sub .125, although Davis has 2 HR and 5 RBI.  The only saving grace at this point is Adam Jones and Nick Markakis combining for a .339 with 8 runs.

Don’t worry O’s fans the pitchers will not be getting a pass here eitherJason Hammel and Scott Feldman need to be more consistent from start to start, a solid 1 run performance against the Yankees but allows 5 against the White Sox?(Hammel) and  2 in Chicago only to come home and get shelled by the Rangers. (FeldmanChris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez both get passes in my book as they have been the only consistent starters in this rotation.  Let’s all just collectively pray to the Baseball Gods that Wei-Yin Chen’s return Wednesday brings some stability to a wildly inconsistent (as of late) rotation.

On the injury front Steve Johnson is throwing in Sarasota which could get some of these over-used relievers a little R&R in the second half and Wilson Betemit on the other hand, well, who cares.

I for one can’t wait until the All-Star break hits so that the Orioles can get a rest and their heads away from their recent struggles.

-Matt Costantini

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NFL: Super Bowl XLVII-Baltimore Ravens vs San Francisco 49ers

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Ravens 2013- A Year of Firsts

Posted on 07 July 2013 by mattcostantini

In 2012 Ravens fans saw a lot of finales, 2013 on the other hand, there will be a lot of firsts.  We saw certain players outplay their monetary value, we saw other players finish out legendary runs in town, and we saw Joe prove that he is good enough.

 

Although I could relive this version of the past every year, it’s a lot more interesting to look ahead to the future.  So what will the firsts be this year for the Purple and Black?

The obvious first that comes to mind is the man, the myth, the legend, Ray Lewis; will not be at Baltimore Ravens training camp for the first time in team history.  The play of Ray in the Superbowl definitely left something to be desired as it was apparent that he had lost a step but his play is not necessarily what the Ravens need to replace.  What needs to be replaced is the leadership of #52.  Baltimore just may have had that leader all along.  Terrell Suggs has always been known as the class clown and the joker of the locker room, but reports from mini camp showed a more down to business Terrell Suggs.  While the offense has no questions about leadership with a Superbowl MVP on its side, the defense is a different story after losing the likes of 27 years in NFL experience between two players.  Without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, John Harbaugh will need Terrell Suggs to step up not only his play, but also his leadership role.  Watch through training camp to see how Suggs adapts to this new role.

Elvis Dumervil, Michael Huff, Chris Canty, and Marcus Spears will all sport the Purple and Black for the first time.  My mouth is watering already just thinking about the combination of Dumervil and a healthy Terrell Suggs opposite sides from one another.  In 2011 the two combined for a total of 23 sacks (Elvis Dumervil missed 2 games that season) and are both a terror for opposing Quarterbacks.  Chris Canty has been battling injuries in New York last year missing 7 games still accruing 3 sacks but is very versatile and can play both Defensive End as well as Tackle.  Marcus Spears looks as though he will be a depth player for the Ravens considering he wasn’t starting for the Cowboys and let’s face it, the Cowboys are a joke.  The veteran addition to the secondary for the Ravens?  Michael Huff; a multi-functional player who can play corner, safety, and nickel.  I don’t put much stock in Huff’s past mainly because players go to Oakland and die a terrible, ugly football players death- perennial losing.  When I watched Michael Huff’s press conference which welcomed him to the Ravens I loved everything I heard from the guy.  He said all the right things and welcomed the challenge of joining the legacy that comes with becoming a defensive player on this team.  I welcome the idea of giving a player who was stuck on a bad team, with bad coaching, and a bad defensive  scheme an opportunity to show his true colors.

Just like with every season, there are rookies.  This years draft picks will be asked to make an immediate impact on this football team, and I think they have what it takes.  Matt Elam the Safety out of Florida is all of 5-10, 206 but hits like a Linebacker and has great open field skills.  Elam also has underrated ball skills in my opinion and will be a force in the run game. I can’t wait for training camp to get started so we can see this kid start getting some real action.  He also hauled in a pick against Joe Flacco in mni-camp.

Filling the void at Linebacker for the Ravens is 6-1, 242 pounder Arthur Brown (Kansas State), yes, a little undersized but he is tenacious when attacking the ball.  He also shows the ability to cover the mid-range routes and Tight Ends over the middle and in the flat (something this team was definitely lacking).  It’s going to be interesting to see if Arthur Brown is going to be the player who is receiving the plays from the sideline or if that duty will be placed on Jameel McClain.

Ray Rice will have a rookie Fullback to break in this year.  The Ravens drafted Kyle Juszczyk in the 4th round out Harvard (You gotta have a Harvard guy right?!) which lead to the eventual release of Vonta Leach.  I am of the belief that that this offense does not need a full time 2 back set and more importantly could not pay a Fullback 4 million dollars.  Although Juszczyk may not be able to drop the hammer like Leach, he will definitely excel athletically and be a threat to the defense in the pass game out of the backfield.  I’m just curious to see if the lead blocker out of Harvard will be ready to make an impact right out of the gate.

2013 will also give Torrey Smith his first opportunity to be the number one wide out with no Anquan Boldin on his side.  This is the Ravens biggest question at this point, which with all the turnover from 2012, isn’t so bad.  I would be lying though if I said this wasn’t my largest concern entering the season.  Ozzie Newsome says he’s excited for the competition between Tandon Doss, David Reed, LaQuan Williams, Tommy Streeter, Deonte Thompson, and Aaron Mellette.

-Tandon Doss was drafted in 2011 out of Indiana, since then, he has 7 receptions for just 123 yards.  There was a point in the Wild Card game against the Colts where Joe Flacco tried to connect with Doss two separate times in the end zone, the 2nd year receiver got his hands on both passes and brought down neither.  Now this doesn’t exactly inspire hope for Ravens fans all around especially because when Tandon Doss was drafted he was known for his hands and not his speed.

-David Reed is absolutely terrible and has no business setting foot into the castle at all.  In fact, I’m fully convinced that David Reed has incriminating photos of someone in the organization and that’s why he has kept his job this long.

-LaQuan Williams is a nice special teams player but has just 4 catches for 46 yards since being drafted in 2011 with no catches last year.  I am interested to see if Williams can make a small impact as a number 4 option for Joe Flacco.

-In the category of “prove your worth“…  Tommy Streeter and Aaron MelletteTommy Streeter is a 6th round pick of 2012 who showed nothing but brick hands in last years training camp.  There is no disputing the speed of Tommy Streeter, but can his hands keep up with his legs?  Aaron Mellette just needs to show the Ravens he’s got potential and can grow, he impressed a few people in mini-camp as well.  Mellette is not known for his speed but his hands and physical play along with jump ball ability.  Let’s be honest though the Ravens don’t need more speed on the corners with Torrey and Jacoby, they need sure hands and a route runner.

-Deonte Thompson has the best opportunity for success in 2013.  He played in the final game of the regular season last year against the Bengals in a contest which the Ravens sat the majority of their starters.  Thompson had 4 receptions for 26 yards.  Although he had extremely limited playing time in 2012 he took advantage of the preseason catching 10 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown.

So prospects are good… This is the NFL though, there’s not time to groom players in the minor’s.  Jim Caldwell is going to have to take advantage of existing talent.  I think the Ravens are going to be using a lot more 2 Tight End sets with Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson.  If Ed Dickson can show consistent production Anquan Boldin may be thoughts of the past.  Dickson did have trouble with drops late in the season but in the Playoffs, he stepped up.  6 receptions for 90 yards hauling in some key first downs that helped the Ravens to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.  The eye test on Dennis Pitta is sufficient enough, he is one of Joe Flacco’s favorite targets and has proven that he can be a consistent contributor to the Ravens offense.  If you’re Jim Caldwell, Jacoby Jones has one obvious value that you need to figure out how to take advantage of on a game to game basis.  Speed.  Caldwell needs to create mismatches with Jacoby Jones on the outside and figure out how to keep safety help away from his side of the field.  This is where that mix of run and pass and play-action could allow Jacoby to have a huge season.

Another key to look for in training camp will be to see how Lardarius Webb looks and the leadership role he will take on with a young secondary.

From a panic ridden fanbase to being awed by Ozzie Newsome’s ability to rebuild on the fly.  Training camp 2013 will have plenty of story lines… And by the way did I mention, the Ravens have the added pressure of defending the crown?

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Buck Showalter

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The Baltimore Orioles Second Half Needs

Posted on 04 July 2013 by mattcostantini

 

 

 

85 contests into the 2013 campaign and the Baltimore Orioles find themselves 3 1/2 games back of the Boston Red Sox.  Although I’d rather see the Birds in 1st place as opposed to 2nd, it’s not the worst position to be in.  Especially considering their record against the Division Leaders.

 

5-2 in 2013, 18-7 since 2012.

Now I’m no genius, but it would seem to me that if the Birds of Baltimore are only a few games back come the end of the season, getting a series against the BoSox could only be advantageous.  Well what do ya know, we finish out the season with a 3 game homestand against those very chowderheads…  Anticipate on the yard being just a little bit electric for that set.

As you watch this team you get the feeling that they could be serious contenders for an ALCS Crown, or dare we ever imagine, a World Series Championship.  You only get that feeling on certain nights though.  It just so happens to be the nights that 1 of 3 players are on the field.

Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, or Wei-Yin Chen.

Don’t get me wrong; every time Chris Davis, Manny Machado, and Adam Jones walk into the batters box you get the feeling as well, but when you have the three pitchers mentioned above on the mound this team looks close to unbeatable.  In fact, when those same three pitchers are on the mound the team is 26-13.

So what is holding this team back from becoming a true World Series contender?

Hint: It’s not an acquisition from the Chicago Cubs of Scott Feldman (7-6, 3.43 ERA, 73 SO or if you like career numbers as a better barometer 46-50, 4.65 ERA, 506 SO)

It’s two starters you can trust handing the ball over to on the 4th and 5th game of a playoff series.

Right now Buck Showalter does not have that.  Unfortunately, Buck doesn’t have a problem placing that trust in Jason Hammel.  Lately that trust has been hard to attest for.  Last years “ace” has lost his last 3 decisions and hasn’t been credited with a win since May 27th, against the Washington Nationals.  Granted, in one of those losses he only allowed 2 earned runs in 6 & 2/3 innings, but without Wei-Yin Chen in the starting rotation and ????? ??????? as your fifth starter, this is the time when the Orioles needed Hammel to step up to his early 2012 caliber and he did not do it.

More of a problem than Jason Hammel, is the wishy washy assortment of bull pen/youngin’s vying for the 5th starting spot.  TJ McFarland is an awful starter.  He may become a solid bull pen guy, but I don’t want to see that guy starting a game EVER again (for the record can we get the mustache back please?)    Steve Johnson seems like a legitimate option but injuries have held him back from having the opportunity.  We don’t need to throw stones at the fragile head that is Jake Arrieta anymore, he’s just a “filthy stuff having” memory of our past that now resides in the Windy City.

Zach Britton and Kevin Gausman seem like the two most feasible options.  Gausman struggled in his first few starts but then in his last 3 outings has gone 10 & 2/3 allowing just 2 earned runs.  Buck obviously does not trust giving the starts to 22 year old at this point and it is being rumored that with Wei-Yin Chen’s return Gausman will be optioned back to the minors.  Zach Britton on the other hand, in 16 innings through June has only allowed 5 earned runs.

My take on the whole starting pitching ordeal.

1. Chris Tillman 2. Miguel Gonzalez 3. Wei-Yin Chen 4. Jason Hammel 5. Scott Feldman

1-4 is a no-brainer in my opinion.  Although Jason Hammel has had his struggles of late, to this point wearing the black and orange he has been solid for this team and I think he can get it back together.

While Wei-Yin Chen is getting his second rehab start down in Bowie give the former Cub Scott Feldman his chance and see if he can provide this pitching staff with a shot in the arm.  Give Zach Britton the starts until he proves he’s not worthy of them or until Chen returns and get Kevin Gausman regular work in the minors.

Best case scenario for the O’s, Zach Britton pitches well, Wei-Yin Chen returns to form, and Scott Feldman enters the bullpen as a long reliever.

That being said, Buck Showalter has forgotten more about baseball then I will ever know and until we are no longer battling for a top spot in the AL East, IN BUCK WE TRUST.

-Matt Costantini

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The end of my WNSTBSMS dreams

Posted on 17 July 2012 by James Finn

Yesterday was the final day of spring training, metaphorically, and I didn’t make the roster.  I am no longer in the running to become the next WNST Baltimore Sports Media Superstar.

First and foremost, I want to thank Nestor Aparicio for the opportunity.  Not every CEO in Baltimore is willing to hire someone based on the merits of a competition, let alone in radio.  He should be applauded for having the balls to think outside the box, not once, but 4 times.  I had a great time blogging, tweeting, debating, and all things connected with this contest.  It’s an experience I won’t soon forget, and I’m ever grateful for.  To compete alongside many intelligent Baltimore sports minds, and to be included in this elite group was exciting and humbling at the same time.

Ultimately, when it came time for Nestor to make cuts (a position I wouldn’t have envied), he used the results of a written test as the sole basis for selecting finalists.  I did not perform well on this test.  I blame nobody,  It’s my own fault.  I don’t have an encyclopedic memory.  I don’t follow closely enough the Terps (sorry Glenn) or Caps.  I don’t know the names of coaches I wasn’t alive to watch.  Other instances, I failed to remember the names of the 2002 Terps National Championship game, which frustrates me to no end, as I went to high school with a member of that team (Bench player Earl Badu, who my brother SWEARS he beat in a game of 50-put out), and even watch the 3 who went . It was a true test of how little it seems I know, and how little I can remember.

I never claimed it would be easy, but I never said I wouldn’t bust my hump to make it happen.

In the last year, at 32 years old, I’ve went back to school 30 hours a week, worked 3 (unpaid) internships, three part-time jobs to help pay the mortgage, all while trying to break into Stand-up comedy (a trade equally as cruel as Radio).  Next Month, I’ll become a full fledged graduate of the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland (on the Presidents list, no less). I’ve been busier than anybody I know, abandoning the Retail Management training I’ve had nearly all of my adult life to chase a dream.

I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do in such a short amount of time.

My resolve is strong.  I’ll continue to write, always a strong point of mine, and bone up on my history.  I’ll likely start my own blog in an attempt to monetize my efforts, while not completely abandoning my “Barstool” blog here.

To anyone who’d enjoyed my audition, read anything I’ve written, or supported my efforts in any way, I thank you.  Keep your eyes peeled, because you’ve not seen the last of me, or the best I have to offer.  I’m a natural optimist, and just as sure as the Orioles can right the ship (if not this season, soon), so can I.

Fianlly, Best of luck to everyone who still remains in the competition.  As much as I was a part of the competetion, I am equally a fan of the process.  Whomever emerges as the WNSTBSMS winner truly deserves it.

@JamesTFinn on Twitter

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