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Longtime Ravens personnel man reportedly joining New York Jets

Posted on 18 June 2019 by Luke Jones

Former Ravens scout Joe Douglas has turned to his roots to begin filling out his front office as the new general manager of the New York Jets.

According to NFL Network, Douglas is hiring Baltimore assistant director of pro and college personnel Chad Alexander to be his director of player personnel. Alexander, 44, has worked for the Ravens since 1999 — the year before Douglas joined the organization with which he spent 15 years — and has served in roles ranging from pro personnel assistant and area scout to assistant director of pro personnel. Earlier this offseason, first-year general manager Eric DeCosta promoted Alexander to his current title, which entailed working with co-directors of player personnel Joe Hortiz and George Kokinis as a scouting administrator and chief evaluator of college and pro prospects.

Alexander served as Baltimore’s assistant director of player personnel for 10 years, a position that consisted of evaluating NFL talent, providing advance scouting reports on opponents for the coaching staff, and assisting with free-agent workouts. He spent six years as a college area scout, covering three different regions for the Ravens over that time.

Douglas, who was most recently serving as Philadelphia’s vice president of player personnel, is also expected to hire former Baltimore director of college scouting Phil Savage.

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Ravens to play three prime-time games as part of 2019 schedule

Posted on 17 April 2019 by Luke Jones

Aiming to defend their AFC North championship and make the playoffs in back-to-back years, the Ravens are scheduled to appear in prime time three times during the 2019 season.

Baltimore opens the season at Miami on Sept. 8, but the schedule is headlined by a Sunday night encounter with defending Super Bowl champion New England on Nov. 3. This marks the first time the Ravens will host Sunday Night Football since 2012, which was also against the Patriots. It’s worth noting, however, that three other originally-scheduled Sunday night games — one in 2013 and two in 2015 — were flexed out of the prime-time spot over that time.

The Ravens will also host the New York Jets for a Thursday game in Week 15. They are 6-0 in Thursday home games under 12th-year head coach John Harbaugh.

Making their first trip to the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Ravens will take on the defending NFC champion Rams on Nov. 25 for their lone appearance of the season on Monday Night Football.

Surprisingly, this marks the first time since 2006 that the Ravens and Pittsburgh aren’t scheduled to square off in a prime-time game — if including the 2016 Christmas Day classic that kicked off in the late afternoon — but these AFC North rivals will play in the regular-season finale for the first time since 2007 and the fourth time ever, which could create some captivating drama.

After a few daunting stretches of road games in recent seasons, the Ravens are the only team in the NFL who will alternate home and away games throughout the season, the first time that’s occurred in franchise history. The most challenging stretch of the season appears to be Week 7 through Week 12 when the Ravens play four playoff teams from a year ago, but even that run includes their bye week.

The Ravens will play five games against playoff teams from last season: Houston, Kansas City, the Los Angeles Rams, New England, and Seattle. They have nine games against opponents who finished below .500 in 2018: Arizona, Buffalo, Cincinnati (twice), Cleveland (twice), Miami, the New York Jets, and San Francisco.

For now, 12 of Baltimore’s 16 regular-season games are scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday starts, but most games are subject to flexible scheduling (see below).

2019 SCHEDULE

Sunday, Sept. 8 at Miami Dolphins — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: As road openers go, the Ravens can’t be too unhappy with an opponent considered an early favorite for the first pick in the 2020 draft as these teams meet for the sixth time in the last seven years.

Sunday, Sept. 15 Arizona Cardinals — 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
Skinny: Ed Reed played against the Ravens as a New York Jet in 2013, but Terrell Suggs walking into Baltimore as “the bad guy” after 16 seasons in purple will be surreal.

Sunday, Sept. 22 at Kansas City Chiefs — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny:  A trip to Arrowhead Stadium is always a daunting task, but these teams played one of the best regular-season games of the season there last year.

Sunday, Sept. 29 Cleveland Browns — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The Browns have four all-time wins at M&T Bank Stadium, but last season’s Week 17 meeting between Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson left everyone excited for more.

Sunday, Oct. 6 at Pittsburgh Steelers — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: For the first time since 2013, the Ravens will not play be playing under the lights at Heinz Field, which will make everyone in Baltimore happy.

Sunday, Oct. 13 Cincinnati Bengals — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: You can make reasonable arguments for Baltimore, Cleveland, or Pittsburgh to win the AFC North, but it sure feels like the Bengals are “drawing dead” with Andy Dalton at this point.

Sunday, Oct. 20 at Seattle Seahawks — 4:25 p.m. (FOX)
Skinny: You know six-time Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas has been thinking about this one since before the ink was dry on his four-year, $55 million contract with his new team.

Sunday, Oct. 27  BYE
Skinny: Baltimore’s break falls no earlier than Week 8 for the eighth consecutive year.

Sunday, Nov. 3 vs. New England Patriots — 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Skinny: Times have definitely changed as just six players remain who were with the Ravens the last time they beat Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, which was in the 2012 AFC championship game.

Sunday, Nov. 10 at Cincinnati Bengals — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: For the second year in a row, the Ravens will not close the regular season against the Bengals. New Year’s will never be the same.

Sunday, Nov. 17 Houston Texans — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Deshaun Watson went down with a knee injury weeks before the Texans’ last trip to Baltimore, but seeing him match up with the man who beat him out for the 2016 Heisman Trophy should be a blast.

Monday, Nov. 25 at Los Angeles Rams — 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Skinny: After going against the speedy Jackson in practice for a year, former Raven Eric Weddle will certainly share his tendencies with his Rams teammates for this attractive prime-time game.

Sunday, Dec. 1 San Francisco 49ers — 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
Skinny: The 49ers finished 4-12 last year, but a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo would make this late-season encounter far from a layup for the Ravens, who will be playing on a short week.

Sunday, Dec. 8 at Buffalo Bills — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The Ravens are 0-2 in their previous trips to western New York with neither of those being played in December when the weather can be major factor.

Thursday, Dec. 12 vs. New York Jets — 8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFL Network)
Skinny: Four-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley returns to Baltimore as the Ravens will hope to be jockeying for postseason positioning on a short week, which is always a test.

Sunday, Dec. 22 at Cleveland Browns — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The upstart Browns have four prime-time games on their schedule, but I’m honestly surprised the Ravens’ trip to Cleveland wasn’t one of them.

Sunday, Dec. 29 Pittsburgh Steelers — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: How exciting would it be for this one to be flexed to Sunday Night Football if the division title happens to be on the line?

Notes: Flexible scheduling can be applied for all Sunday games in Weeks 5 through 17. A flex-scheduling change would be announced at least 12 days before the game except in the final week of the season. For Week 17, the Sunday night game is announced no later than six days prior to Dec. 29.

Another wrinkle implemented in recent years is a select number of games being “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and FOX to bring certain games to wider audiences.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 8-4 loss to Yankees in home opener

Posted on 04 April 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles falling 8-4 to the New York Yankees for their first loss in a home opener since 2015, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A rebuilding club deserves credit for a winning week, but the Orioles bullpen entered Thursday ranked 13th in the AL in ERA before allowing six runs in 3 1/3 innings to squander a sixth-inning lead. The bullpen ERA currently sits at 6.32. It hasn’t been pretty even in the wins.

2. I’ll have more on Chris Davis this weekend, but a smattering of boos during introductions steadily grew with three strikeouts before he was replaced by Hanser Alberto, who was put on waivers four times this offseason and received a loud ovation before singling. This situation is uncomfortable on multiple levels.

3. Watching Mike Wright give up the go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth, I couldn’t help but think of Earl Weaver famously saying he gave Mike Cuellar more chances than he gave his first wife. Wright flashes occasionally, but the 29-year-old now has 95 career appearances in the majors.

4. Coming off the injured list, Alex Cobb certainly had a more successful season debut than he did last year after signing with the Orioles so late in the spring. He deserved a better outcome despite giving up a Gary Sanchez solo homer on his final pitch of the day.

5. The effectiveness of his split-changeup was evident as Cobb induced 10 swinging strikes out of the 32 times he threw it. His 12 swinging strikes tied his third-highest total in a start all last year. He needs that pitch to be able to miss enough bats to be successful.

6. With the Yankees currently missing Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andujar, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, and Troy Tulowitzki, it must be nice to be able to lean more heavily on a young talent like middle infielder Gleyber Torres to collect four hits and two home runs, including the go-ahead shot.

7. Dwight Smith Jr. has collected at least one hit in each of the first seven games as he continues to take advantage of playing time. You expect offense from Trey Mancini and Jonathan Villar — who led off the first with a home run — but Smith has contributed nicely.

8. Renato Nunez entered Thursday just 2-for-15 before collecting two hits and a run batted in. He sports an average exit velocity of 95.5 miles per hour so far this season, so it’s not as though he hasn’t been making good contact.

9. Yankees starter James Paxton regrouped enough to receive the win, but I don’t recall too many times seeing a pitcher give up two runs on a balk and a wild pitch in a matter of seconds.

10. Much was made about the empty seats, but the lower deck was mostly full except for the right-center bleachers and the overall crowd looked more respectable by the fourth inning. The many complaints about entry lines and ballpark amenities on Twitter were a different story, however.

11. Brandon Hyde managed to run down the orange carpet without incident and received a loud ovation from the home crowd during introductions. Despite the tough loss, a post-game question about that response brought a warm smile to the manager’s face.

12. With the Orioles remembering the late Frank Robinson with a video tribute and a moment of silence, seeing Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, and Boog Powell at the ballpark was comforting. Those men and the memories attached mean even more when you lose one.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following series win over Yankees

Posted on 31 March 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles recording back-to-back wins over the New York Yankees to register their first series victory of the season and move over .500 for the first time since Opening Day last year, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Expectations should never change one series into a new season for any club, but the young Orioles responded admirably after Opening Day when so many were piling on over a pretty run-of-the-mill 7-2 loss. The overreaction certainly shifted to the Bronx by Sunday night.

2. After throwing 182 pitches and walking six in Saturday’s 5-3 win, Baltimore walked eight and hurled a whopping 226 pitches on Sunday. The Orioles threw more in a game only once all last season, which was a 15-inning win at Atlanta (248). Win or lose, that’s just crazy.

3. The surprise of Sunday’s win was John Means, who picked up Dylan Bundy by allowing only one run over 3 1/3 innings to earn his first major league win. Twelve of an impressive 17 swinging strikes came on his changeup, which Jim Palmer labeled “exceptional” during the MASN broadcast.

4. Four of his first five hits were of the infield variety before Trey Mancini clobbered one 419 feet with an exit velocity of 110.8 miles per hour for a homer on Sunday. For someone who experienced some tough luck last year, a fast start was good to see.

5. Brandon Hyde was very liberal with his use of Mychal Givens, who threw a career-high 49 pitches in the finale after 16 on Saturday. The new manager did express some regret in his post-game remarks, which was good to hear. That was still a major stretch, especially in late March.

6. Dwight Smith Jr. took advantage of his three early starts by going 5-for-11 just three weeks after being acquired from Toronto for international bonus slots. The 26-year-old is an example of someone with a golden opportunity to stick in the majors on a rebuilding club right now.

7. Nate Karns being deployed as an opener turned out to be more of a straight bullpen game with him going through the entire order once, but I like the break from convention. No one could have predicted Mike Wright nailing down the first save of the season, right?

8. A career .572 on-base plus slugging percentage isn’t the reason why the 30-year-old Jesus Sucre has played seven major league seasons, but his three RBIs were the difference on Saturday. Go figure.

9. Richard Bleier struggled in his first action since his season-ending lat injury sustained last June, allowing two earned runs and retiring only one batter on Saturday. He didn’t allow his second run last season until May 11. Patience is in order for the crafty lefty.

10. His command definitely needs to improve, but Jimmy Yacabonis has stuff that should play well in a relief role with a mid-90s fastball and a slider with great bite. I could see him in an opener role at some point this season.

11. Cedric Mullins not playing against the first two left-handed starters certainly reflects his pronounced struggles from the right side going back multiple levels in the minors. I’d still like to see him receive more chances before declaring him a platoon outfielder, however.

12. Many will mock the Orioles’ clubhouse celebrations at Yankee Stadium, but these players heard all winter and spring how bad they’re going to be this season and beyond. Let them enjoy the highs when they come. The weekend was fun without having to read more into it.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 7-2 loss on Opening Day

Posted on 28 March 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles suffering a 7-2 loss to the New York Yankees to begin the 2019 season, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Last year brought the joy of a walk-off win on Opening Day and hope before the soon-to-follow revelation of the Orioles being the worst team in baseball. There would be no falsehood of optimism this time with Luke Voit’s blast giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the opening inning.

2. File “an Oriole runner being struck by a batted ball to end the first half-inning of 2019” into the category of stuff you just couldn’t make up when pondering what this season was going to look like.

3. It was a disappointing day for Andrew Cashner in his second career Opening Day start — the other with San Diego — as he lasted only four innings. Brandon Hyde needs his veterans to at least eat innings if this pitching staff is going to survive on even a functional level.

4. If you’re looking for a sign of the Houston analytics influence, Cashner threw fastballs 45.3 percent of the time, a lower percentage than in any 2018 start, and used sliders 32 percent of the time, a higher mark than in any 2018 outing. You still have to execute, of course.

5. Fourteen of the first 17 pitches thrown by the Orioles in the fifth inning were balls, leading to two more runs. They issued eight walks and hit a batter in the season opener. Then again, I’d probably walk everyone too if I had to face that Yankees lineup.

6. Trey Mancini was a rare bright spot with two infield hits and a run-scoring double that chased New York starter Masahiro Tanaka with two outs in the sixth. Mancini accounted for half of Baltimore’s six hits off Tanaka.

7. Striking out three times was the last way Chris Davis wanted to start 2019, but Hyde batting him seventh and removing him for a pinch hitter couldn’t signal any louder a new brain trust being in town. He batted seventh — and never lower — only 18 times last year.

8. The off-day helps, but Hyde using David Hess — Monday’s expected starter in Toronto — behind Cashner and Mike Wright seems less than ideal with Alex Cobb already on the injured list until next Thursday. I suspect the Norfolk shuttle will be as busy as ever sooner than later.

9. Richie Martin looked smooth defensively at shortstop, but late-spring struggles resulted in him finishing with a .582 on-base plus slugging percentage in the Grapefruit League. Some patience is definitely warranted for someone who had never played above the Double-A level until now.

10. Mike Elias joining the MASN telecast for a lengthy conversation was a good decision and one the Orioles should repeat as often as possible with the current state of the major league club. Without compromising ideas, he offered insight on the big picture and what’s going on behind the scenes.

11. If Elias is able to eventually build a championship club, will we look back on the 2019 opener and see a keeper or two in such an anonymous group or merely look at these names in the way we remember the likes of Pete Stanicek, Jay Tibbs, and Rick Schu?

12. The Orioles lost their first opener since 2010, the last time they were managed by someone other than Buck Showalter. That’s no knock on Hyde, but it’s a nod to the man who was at the helm for an enjoyable run that’s not erased solely because of last year.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Super Bowl LIII

Posted on 04 February 2019 by Luke Jones

With the 2018 season coming to an end with Super Bowl LIII, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. While watching New England win its sixth championship in 18 years, my brother-in-law — a diehard Philadelphia fan — said he takes some satisfaction in the Eagles being part of the select group that’s bested the Patriots on the biggest stages. It’s a fair point in which Ravens fans can also share.

2. Some are calling the Patriots’ defensive performance the best in Super Bowl history. The argument has merit considering the Rams averaged 32.9 points per game, but the 2000 Ravens surrendered 2.6 yards per play, forced five turnovers, and allowed the Giants to reach Baltimore territory twice. That darn kick return.

3. Sunday was a feather in the cap for those still believing the “defensive wins championships” mantra, but New England and Los Angeles were middle of the pack in most defensive categories this season. Defense remains important, but elite offense got those two teams to the Super Bowl.

4. Three former Ravens — Albert McClellan, Lawrence Guy, and John Simon — earned Super Bowl rings. McClellan is the most familiar to Baltimore fans, but Guy was a significant player for the New England defense, grading 10th among interior defenders by Pro Football Focus this year.

5. He was enshrined in Canton 20 years ago and many deserving candidates continue to wait their turn, but Ozzie Newsome seeing the third of his first nine first-round picks in Baltimore elected to the Hall of Fame reiterates how worthy he is of a second induction as a general manager.

6. It was a treat seeing Ed Reed included in the NFL’s outstanding 100th season commercial, but was anyone else hoping to see a Reed interception followed by an ill-advised lateral amid the chaos? That two-minute spot was the highlight in an underwhelming year for Super Bowl commercials.

7. James White didn’t do much for New England in the Super Bowl, but he’s the kind of receiving-minded running back the Ravens need to find for their run-first offense. Counting the playoffs, he caught 107 passes for 902 yards and seven touchdowns this season.

8. The resume of new passing coordinator David Culley doesn’t stand out, but hopefully he’ll bring some new ideas after working with Andy Reid in Kansas City. The hire certainly won’t satisfy those clamoring for someone from the collegiate ranks as Culley last coached in college before Lamar Jackson was born.

9. Eric DeCosta’s presser went as expected, but it’d be refreshing for the organization to express urgency about fixing its everlasting deficiency at wide receiver beyond continuing to say it’s “challenging” to draft and develop there. I’m also not buying free-agent receivers being eager to join this offense this offseason.

10. An Atlanta conversation with ESPN writer Ian O’Connor (4:36 mark) made me ponder how the last quarter-century might have differed had Art Modell not fired Bill Belichick in February 1996. Does Belichick ever wind up in New England? Does Newsome gain full control over personnel in Baltimore? Crazy.

11. Watching Tom Brady win his record sixth Super Bowl reminded me the newly-elected Hall of Famer Reed was just a month removed from winning a national championship at Miami when the 41-year-old Patriots quarterback won for the first time. This has to end at some point, right?

12. Former Raven Torrey Smith summed up my thoughts on Super Bowl LIII nicely. Even the biggest defense enthusiasts won’t convince me otherwise.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts on Mussina’s Hall of Fame election

Posted on 23 January 2019 by Luke Jones

With former Orioles great Mike Mussina finally being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. My only memory of Jim Palmer’s career was his short-lived comeback attempt in 1991, but nights when Mussina pitched inspired as much confidence about winning as you could have. Since Mussina’s 47.8 wins above replacement accumulated in Baltimore, the best Orioles pitcher WAR has been Jeremy Guthrie at 16.2.

2. I remember Mussina’s debut like it was yesterday as he lost 1-0 to the White Sox despite allowing only one run in 7 2/3 innings. That came on a homer by Frank Thomas, who wore out the right-hander throughout his career. You could tell Mussina was going to be good.

3. I rushed home from my own baseball game to watch the final innings of his near-perfect game against Cleveland in 1997 before Sandy Alomar singled with one out in the ninth. Four years later, thoughts were more conflicted as he was a strike away from perfection before falling short again.

4. Anyone who followed Mussina’s final few years in Baltimore couldn’t objectively fault him for leaving after being low-balled by Peter Angelos, but that didn’t make it any easier watching him pitch for the hated Yankees in the following years. To still hold a grudge, however, seems silly to me.

5. The debate over which cap Mussina should wear on his plaque makes for spirited discussion, but it shouldn’t impact how the Orioles honor him. That would be as weird as the tradition of there never being a unanimous Hall of Fame selection until Mariano Rivera on Tuesday.

6. Had Mussina won a World Series with the Yankees, it would have been tough not to compare his career path to that of Frank Robinson, who spent 10 seasons with Cincinnati before winning two championships and two other pennants with the Orioles. I’ll predict a blank cap for Mussina’s plaque.

7. Deciding how to honor Mussina is tricky since he never returned like Eddie Murray and didn’t win a World Series here. My preference would be the Orioles retiring his No. 35 while saving statues for Hall of Famers who also won a championship. It’s awkward, but still a distinct honor.

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8. In addition to his pitching excellence, Mussina won seven Gold Gloves, which is tied for fifth most among pitchers. He was also very good controlling the running game as 39 percent of base stealers were gunned down compared to the league average of 31 percent during his career.

9. It’s pretty remarkable that Mussina will be inducted in the same year as three former teammates: Rivera, Lee Smith, and Harold Baines. I can’t imagine that’s happened too often over the years.

10. I honestly wasn’t as sure about Mussina deserving to be in Cooperstown until I began embracing analytics and context-based statistics several years ago. As others have said, his election is a win for sabermetrics after he hovered below 25 percent of the vote in his first two years of eligibility.

11. Growing up, I spent countless afternoons in the backyard trying to throw Mussina’s knuckle-curve and imitate the pronounced way he’d bend at the waist from the stretch. Needless to say, I wasn’t very successful, but he was a treat to watch for a long time.

12. If the Baseball Hall of Fame had a sense of humor, Cito Gaston would be asked to introduce Mussina and would instead announce Duane Ward. Still too soon? No matter the circumstances, Mussina not pitching in the 1993 All-Star Game at Camden Yards was just wrong.

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Mussina finally moves out of shadows and into Cooperstown

Posted on 22 January 2019 by Luke Jones

Mike Mussina pitched in the shadows throughout his brilliant career.

As great as he was in Baltimore for a decade, he wasn’t Jim Palmer and naturally played second fiddle to legendary teammate Cal Ripken. Mussina thrived in the Bronx while Roger Clemens and the homegrown Andy Pettitte received more praise and adoration. Arguably three of the 10 best pitchers of all time — Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Greg Maddux — along with a top 20-caliber hurler in Pedro Martinez dominated the era in which Mussina pitched.

He was never the best pitcher in the game and lacked the pinnacle achievements typically associated with Cooperstown, but perseverance and statistical enlightenment have helped the former Orioles great finally take his rightful place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

It was an outcome that appeared unlikely even a few years ago when Mussina received just 20.3 percent of the required 75 percent of Hall of Fame votes in 2014, his first year of eligibility. His 270 career wins appeared to satisfy a traditional standard — only three post-1900 pitchers with more victories have failed to be elected — and his 2,813 strikeouts rank 20th all time, but the lack of a Cy Young Award or a World Series championship as well as only one 20-win season left Mussina lacking in the minds of many traditional voters. A deeper look at the context of his career and the growing acceptance of sabermetrics, however, have brought greater appreciation for the five-time All-Star selection and seven-time Gold Glove winner.

It was a fitting progression for a pitching intellect rarely appreciated as much as he should have been over the course of his career.

His 82.9 career wins above replacement rank 23rd on the all-time list for pitchers with Clemens being the only one with a greater total not to be elected. Mussina ranked among the league’s top five pitchers in WAR seven times — leading that category in 2001 — and was in the top 10 an additional four times in his career, illustrating the longevity of his excellence despite not having an overwhelming career peak.

Mussina’s 3.68 career earned run average doesn’t scream “Cooperstown” at first glance — though Hall of Famers Jack Morris and Red Ruffing have higher marks — but what about accounting for the lucrative run-scoring environment of the steroid era as well as pitching his entire career in the American League East with its hitter-friendly ballparks? Mussina’s adjusted ERA (ERA+) of 123 meant his ERA was 23 percent better than the major league average during his career when adjusting for ballpark and opponent. In comparison, Palmer’s career 125 ERA+ meant his 2.86 career ERA was 25 percent better than the league average as he pitched in a much stingier run-scoring environment from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. Mussina’s adjusted ERA is tied for 30th among starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame.

We’ve always known — or should have, anyway — context matters when trying to compare players of different eras, and advanced statistics are giving us the means to do that more accurately, allowing us to see more clearly that Mussina belonged in the Hall of Fame.

Even after leaving the Orioles for the New York Yankees in 2001, Mussina never did win a World Series ring, but his 3.42 ERA in 139 2/3 playoff innings reflects a pitcher usually at his best when the games mattered most. Who could forget his 1997 postseason in which he registered a 1.24 ERA and a whopping 41 strikeouts in 29 innings? It wasn’t his fault the Orioles scored a total of one run in his two brilliants starts against Cleveland in that heartbreaking AL Championship Series. According to FanGraphs’ Jay Jaffe, Mussina received just 3.1 runs per game in his 23 career postseason appearances with Baltimore and New York.

So much of Mussina’s career will be remembered for how excruciatingly close he came to reaching historic feats. He never pitched a no-hitter, but he was two outs away from a perfect game against the Indians in 1997 before Sandy Alomar singled to left field, leaving Mussina with a one-hit shutout. Four years later pitching for the Yankees at Fenway Park, he experienced an even crueler fate being one strike away from perfection before pinch hitter Carl Everett’s single into left.

A 39-year-old Mussina finally won 20 games in his last season in 2008, but he’d won 16 and 19 games, respectively, in the strike-shortened seasons of 1994 and 1995. He missed out on his 20th victory in the penultimate game of the 1996 season when Armando Benitez gave up the game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Toronto. Those near-misses should count for something when evaluating a pitcher who performed at such a high level for a long period of time against someone else with a shorter period of excellence.

As we move further away from the days when 300-win careers and complete games were benchmarks of greatness, Mussina’s body of work will look better and better. Though often criticized during his career for not finishing contests as observers reminisced about Palmer’s remarkable 211 complete games, Mussina still averaged four complete games over his 162-game average, twice as many as the major league leader in 2018. He finished second in Cy Young voting only once, but eight other top-six finishes speak to how long he was an elite pitcher in the AL while some of the best of the all-time best in Clemens, Johnson, and Martinez dominated the headlines.

Beyond the numbers, Mussina possessed the rare combination of power and intellect, using his low-90s fastball to overpower hitters and making them look silly with his trademark knuckle-curve and superb changeup. For the generation of Orioles fans who never got to see Palmer pitch, Mussina offered the chance to see something special every time he was taking the hill.

The deep regret was seeing him depart for New York, but that was a much greater byproduct of the deterioration of the Orioles under owner Peter Angelos than any disrespect on his part. That divorce left a complicated relationship between Mussina and Baltimore that’s thawed in recent years, but it should take nothing away from what he accomplished with the club that drafted him out of Stanford in 1990.

From the moment he made his major league debut at new Comiskey Park on Aug. 4, 1991 (a 1-0 loss on a Frank Thomas home run) to the final signature performance of his Orioles career (a 15-strikeout, one-hit shutout against Minnesota on Aug. 1, 2000), Mussina more than proved his worth as the second-best pitcher in club history. He’ll never be adored in the same way as Palmer or the Orioles’ five other core Hall of Famers after his eight years pitching in pinstripes, but that’s OK.

Even as Mussina now joins the most prestigious group baseball has to offer, he’s used to being in the shadows.

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 11) – Letting The Moose Loose in pinstripes

Posted on 22 January 2019 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 11 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend.)

 

 

11. Letting The Moose loose in pinstripes

 

“We’re not in the business of making arrangements with baseball players that border on economic insanity. We are in the business of putting a first-rate team on the field which is composed of athletes who are generously compensated. But when the demands of any one player or more than one player exceed what we believe to be reasonable, we are prepared to go in another direction. If we’re not able to do that, then we become the prisoners of the respective ballplayers. We aren’t going to do that. We don’t operate that way. We play fair. We pay generously. We pay what is generous and proper. I think $72 million to Mussina is plenty of money to Mussina.”

Peter G. Angelos

WBAL Radio

October 2000

 

 

 

 

THE PETER G. ANGELOS OBSESSION WITH INJURIES and medical reports was in full swing every offseason following the Xavier Hernandez incident in December 1998, when the journeyman pitcher walked away with $1.75 million of orange and black money without ever having to pull a jersey over his head. Angelos wasn’t just outraged and angry. He felt the Orioles had been fleeced and was once again feeling just how powerful the Major League Baseball Players Association was in the sport. In many ways, they employed even dirtier legal tactics then the word salad filth he was accustomed to with tobacco companies and asbestos cases in building his wealth.

The Orioles needed pitching heading into the 2000 season and big right-hander Aaron Sele was on the marketplace as a free agent. Thift and the Angelos boys, who were clumsily heading up the baseball evaluation for the Orioles, both liked his solid makeup and track record with the Boston Red Sox and then the Texas Rangers. He had won 37 games the past two years in Arlington and, at 29, was hitting the peak of his career. He finished strong at 10-3 for the Rangers and helped lead them – along with former Orioles manager Johnny Oates and GM Doug Melvin – to the American League West title in 1999. This was his first big chance to cash in on free agency and the Orioles were considered a prime suitor. Other starting pitchers Andy Benes, Omar Olivares and Darren Oliver were also on the market, but Sele would be a perfect fit for the No. 3 spot in the rotation behind Mike Mussina, who was entering his final year under contract to the Orioles, and Scott Erickson, who struggled in 1999.

On Jan. 7, 2000, Roch Kubatko of The Sun reported that Orioles had agreed with Sele on a four-year deal worth $29 million, with the veteran turning down a four-year deal for $28 million to remain in Texas. Thrift, who was only negotiating a portion of the club’s deals because Angelos always had his hands on the phone as well, told the newspaper, “There’s always the possibility of something not happening.”

Thirft’s words were prescient.

After agreeing verbally to the deal with the Orioles, Sele was administered a physical that the team said raised questions regarding the strength of his arm. Angelos demanded that two years be taken off of the deal. Angelos said that Orioles doctors believed that Sele only had 400 innings left in his right arm.

One of Sele’s agents, Tom Reich, told The Associated Press there was a difference on interpretation with the Orioles on medical tests. Sele had never undergone arm surgery, but missed most of 1995 with an arm injury. But that was five years earlier.

“The dealings with Baltimore were very cordial from beginning to end and it just didn’t work out,” Reich said. “To me, Peter Angelos is a good guy.” This was after his client lost $14 million in guaranteed money and was branded in MLB circles as “damaged goods.”

Two days later, Sele signed a two-year, $14.5 millon deal to pitch for his childhood hometown team, the Seattle Mariners. Once again, a former Angelos employee was involved.

“This thing is like a star falling out of the sky,” said new Mariners general manager Pat Gillick, who felt he got a bargain. “We’re satisfied Sele is as healthy as he was when he finished the season with the Rangers. He underwent a physical on behalf of us with another physician, and our physician talked with that doctor and is satisfied. There is going to be normal wear and tear. You really have to rely on your medical people. They know which bumps along the road you have to watch for and which you can work through.”

Of course, Gillick got in a nice shot on Angelos to the media at the Sele press conference 3,000 miles from Baltimore.

“I’m not aware of exactly the concerns were with Baltimore,” Gillick said. “I think there were some differences of opinion there. I think this is a business where timing is very important. You only have a very small window. You have to react very quickly. Those who hesitate, as they say, are lost.”

By now, the complaints about Angelos were long and varied from any of the long list of qualified baseball

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Dear Zach Britton: We’ll forever salute you as Mister ‘What If?’ in Baltimore

Posted on 25 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

Dear Zach:

Your time has come to leave Angelos Island and trade in the orange and black for your most unlikely second MLB franchise – the Evil Empire and the pinstripes of the dreaded New York Yankees.

Instead of back in black, you’ll be back in blue next week.

Start spreading the news, you’re leaving today! And much like Manny Machado, this is very likely the road to City Y on the way to City X.

On the grandest stage and pitching into October – well, we think they’ll actually put you in the game in The Bronx – you’ll have a chance to throw your way back into something that looks like the contract you probably deserved after what you did here from 2014 through 2016.

I remember Don Stanhouse from my youth. I saw Gregg Olson drop deuces on 33rd Street into his prime. And I watched all of the rent-a-hats from Don Aase to Lee Smith to crazy-ass Randy Myers around here and you are the king of the firemen in the Charm City.

The closest thing I ever saw to Eckersley – and that’s high praise even if you’re not on the Red Sox charter!

No one ever did it better than you, Zach!

And I’m not holding my breathe to think we’ve ever going to see it again, late into summer nights, as Orioles fans with games on the line in money spots. The first thing we’ll need to see to ever replicate anything resembling you will be late-inning leads. And methinks there won’t be a lot of those in the pipeline in the coming years in Baltimore.

There are so many “what ifs?” around your dozen years with the Baltimore Orioles organization. I’m sure you were taking that all in – out in the bullpen for the final time on Tuesday night. Like Machado and Markakis and a few others of the modern era who “made it out” with big-time productivity and contracts with lots of zeroes, you remember the slums of Fort Lauderdale every spring and that time long ago when all the organization that drafted you did was finish in last place.

We do, too!

You were a part of changing that around here and we’ll forever salute you!

I remember your youth and promise. The whole Arrieta, Matusz, Tillman class of “growing the arms.” And now a decade later, we start to see the history of buying the bats.

Those of us who have been paying attention can easily piece together who is where, and why?

As much as the folks who watched you dazzle and become the most automatic finisher this side of the best of Eckersley in his prime, you will always be remembered – and tied to – Buck Showalter’s epic fail in Toronto in October 2016. It will forever be the black hole of modern day Orioles baseball – how a baseball genius left Ubaldo Jimenez on the hill and you in your prime on the pine at Skydome with the season on the line in extra innings.

As you kinda pointed out last week on your media exit tour, it’s still inexplicable and irreversible. It always will be, even for Buck.

It took the Baltimore Orioles 14 years to solve the Armando Benitez-Tony Fernandez bomb in 1997.

Who knows how long this current back in (the) black hole era will last? And who made who?

We’re just getting started around here with the coronation of Dillon Tate, Josh Rogers and Cody Carroll and the eight new baby Birds on the farm from this July haul and heist of the Dodgers and Yankees.

In the future, the Orioles will need dirty deeds done dirt cheap in the late innings.

Buck will fairly get his chunky and complex #DearOrioles letter later – and it certainly would be unfair to judge him solely on a pitch you never threw in Canada – but his story and yours are forever tied to Toronto and that fateful night. It’ll be the last time the Baltimore Orioles will have a chance to win a postseason MLB game for a long

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