Monday, June 30, 2008

I might get some flak for this. But whenever race is brought into sports, it causes a storm of controversy. And when it is used irresponsibly, it is cause to call it out for what it is.

There is a man who until the middle of last week was a pitcher for the Houston Astros. Before that he pitched for the Pirates, the Yankees, and the Rockies. Currently he is unemployed. Why is he unemployed, you ask? Because he threw the General Manager of the team to the ground and then tried to choke him.

Let me say in no uncertain terms that I think being unemployed should be the least of his problems, and in fact he should be locked up, like someone who isn't a professional athlete would be if they did the same thing to their boss. Now that being said, I needed to say the following.

I was reading the Sunday Baltimore Sun's sports page when I read the commentary by David Steele (who some of you may remember I have mentioned in the past). His main article was about Babe Ruth and Ruth's granddaughters pushing for the Babe's number to be retired throughout baseball like Jackie Robinson's number has been. Personally, I have no opinion on that. But in his sidebar, bullet point section he mentioned the following...

The last time a pro athlete wrapped his hands around his boss' neck, it led the national newscasts, anger-management and workplace-violence experts were consulted, the president of the United States was pressed for his reaction, and the player was kicked out for a year and became an instant pariah. Of course, the last athlete who did that wore cornrows.

Here is my problem with this statement. It is bad enough that too many times, and way to casually, incidents are made out to be a black / white issue (and by that I don't mean "cut and dried", easy to see one side or the other), mainly because I think it is the easy way out to make an explanation or rationale of something. But when it is taken even further that it is because the last case was someone who was "blacker" than the current case (I don't see any other way to interpret the cornrows statement), well that smacks of sensationalism to me.

Let's look at some facts. According to Chacon himself, he is not sure exactly of his heritage, since he was put up for adoption at age 4...

Chacon was born in Anchorage, Alaska, but has only dim recollection of his biological mother and none of his father (he believes his biological father was African-American and his mother Latina). His mother placed him in a Greeley, Colorado foster home when he was 4, and he was adopted by Tony and Blanca Chacon.

No matter his heritage, he is not Caucasian, as this GIS (Google Image Search) will show you. So basically Steele is saying that since Chacon is a clean cut minority, white people don't have as big of a problem with his choking someone as we did when "thuggy" Latrell Sprewell did it.

Well, here is another reason, maybe not so "black and white". According to Chacon (and I realize that it is just his side of the story) GM Ed Wade was yelling and cursing at Chacon, and Chacon asked him multiple times to stop before finally rising to his feet and taking the altercation to a new level. Wade has admitted to telling Chacon to "look in the [bleeping] mirror", and to raising his voice. He has admitted to these things after at first denying that he ever yelled or cursed at Chacon. Since he has recanted his defense once already, is it not possible, even feasible, that he yelled and cursed at Chacon before that moment? Is that a defense for throwing someone to the ground, or for any physical assault? Not in the least. But it isn't like there was no provocation in the matter. Now compare that to the Sprewell incident. In the course of a practice, P.J. Carlesimo (the coach of the Golden State Warriors, the team that Sprewell played for at the time) instructed Sprewell to make his passes crisper, or to use the parlance used by the coach, to "put a little mustard on the pass". Sprewell responded that he did not feel like being coached or instructed that day and told Carlesimo to stay away from him. Carlesimo approached him anyway, and Sprewell responded by choking Carlesimo for 15-20 seconds before other players pulled him off of Carlesimo's neck. He left the court, then returned a few moments later and threw a punch at Carlesimo, and landed a glancing blow.

So on one hand we have a guy who was yelled at and cursed at by the man who is supposed to be in charge of the entire team, even the coaching staff, and he is belittling another man. On the other hand we have a man who is doing his job by coaching a team, and who has a player who doesn't feel like doing his job, so with no provocation chokes and later punches the man.

Latrell Sprewell acted like a spoiled prima donna who thinks he is better than the other players, like he doesn't need instruction. He acted like a lazy bum who lashed out when he was called out for it, like if your boss were to come past your cubicle and sees you writing a sports blog instead of doing the work you were supposed to be doing (and getting paid to do), and tells you to get to work. Your co-workers will probably overhear your boss, and you will probably be embarrassed (not that this has ever happened to me). Would telling your boss that you don't need them to tell you how to do your job, then saying to stay away, and when they approach you anyway you try to kill them.

Shawn Chacon was wrong to refuse to go to the Manager's Office when Wade told him to go there for a meeting with him and Manager Cecil Cooper, but he did not start the altercation, and he did not begin the escalation of the altercation. And while Chacon was wrong for denying Wade's request to go to Cooper's office, in hindsight it was probably the best thing for him. I have no doubt that Wade's tirade would have been just as bad if not worse behind closed doors and without 24 witnesses (the rest of the team), and seeing how Wade initially denied yelling and cursing, I have to wonder if he would have admitted to it if said witnesses were not there to refute his statement.

Mr. Steele, you are in the wrong here, and stirring up racial issues only clouds the real issues in this case.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

There has been a lot going on since my last post. Jim McKay passed away. Jonathan Ogden retired. I am hoping on Monday or Tuesday to address these things, plus some other points I have been thinking about lately. However, every so often I come across an article that I think needs to be read on its own merits. For instance...

As a fan of University of Maryland athletics, I have no love for any team that plays for Duke University. The phrase "Duke sucks" is used around this house with great fervor and frequency. That being said, it is always nice to have the courts (of law, not of basketball) decree this also to be fact.

Enjoy, and have a good weekend.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Yes, it has been a while since I posted here. As I have stated previously, I would love to post more often. If there is some enterprising entrepreneur who wants to finance my sports ramblings I would gladly find the time to be here much more often. Either way, I am again going to try and be here more often. If I have my time budgeted correctly (and I just might at that) I should be able to do a weekly post. Hey, it works for the City Paper...

So what have we missed? Well...

The Ravens did exactly what I hoped that they would do and traded down in the draft and got some extra picks (including one that they had traded to Buffalo last year in order to get Willis McGahee, leading to the pick being listed as "Baltimore from Jacksonville from Buffalo from Baltimore. The pick went through almost as many teams as Steve DeBerg. Or a Steve DeBerg pass). They went from the 8th pick to the 22nd pick, then moved back up to the 18th in order to draft Deleware QB Joe Flacco (look HERE and HERE to get an idea of who he is and some lingering draft reactions). There are those that say that the Ravens "reached" for him by taking him so early, and there are those (including some in the Ravens draft room) who feel that Michigan's Chad Henne (info on him HERE and HERE) was the better choice. The argument basically breaks down to Flacco played the majority at a 1-AA school, which is not as tough competition-wise as 1-A, where Henne played. Also, Flacco played a lot of his snaps out of the shotgun, while Michigan runs a pro-style offense. All that being said, I like the Flacco pick, and thought that overall the Ravens had a solid draft.

QB Joe Flacco
RB Ray Rice
LB Tavares Gooden
SS Tom Zbikowski
OG Oniel Cousins
WR Marcus Smith
OT David Hale
FS Haruki Nakamura
WR Justin Harper
RB Allen Patrick

It was a draft that covered a lot of needs but not at the expense of talent. I think the surprise of this draft is going to be Ray Rice, a running back from Rutgers.

Now baseball...

The Orioles have played 62 games and have 100 left. So far they are 31-31. If ANYBODY says that they thought this team would even be within 10 games of .500, let alone AT .500 this far into the season they are probably going to also try and sell you a bridge. Manager Dave Trembley has done a great job with this team, and Pitching Coach Rick Kranitz is another big reason for the team's success. Andy MacPhail got a king's ransom for Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada, and wisely decided not to just take the best offer for Brian Roberts or any other players who are available (and as far as the major league roster goes Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are off limits for sure, and I can only hope after what he has shown this season that Daniel Cabrera has joined that list), which has been known around here as the Syd Thrift School of Generally Managing Things (his fire sale of veterans landed us ONE player who was worth a damn in Melvin Mora and one who had more steroids in him than the entire field at the Preakness in Jay Gibbons).

There is every chance that in the next 6-8 weeks (baseball's non-waiver trade deadline is July 31st. Non-waiver means that the player, as long as he is eligible to be traded (does not have any kind of no-trade clause in his contract or does not have trade blocking rights as a result of MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement) can be traded to any other team as long as the Commissioner's Office reviews the trade and deems it is for a fair market value) that some or all of the following players, including Roberts, Aubrey Huff, Kevin Millar, Jay Payton, Cabrera, George Sherrill, Ramon Hernandez, and Luke Scott could all be wearing a different uniform. Or maybe none of them will be. Either way, MacPhail will get AT LEAST fair market value for them, and if his ability (and the abilities of his scouts) stay up to the task then in 2010 / 2011 Camden Yards will be vying for the right to sell postseason tickets. And more than that no fan can ask for, especially after a decade of inept and clueless "leadership".

Finally, a few local notes...

The Johns Hopkins Blue Jays came very close to being repeat National Champions of lacrosse, as well as being the first team with 10 National Championships in the sport. Instead they lost to Syracuse University, who also came into the game with 9 National Championships and left with 10. Even so, the Blue Jays had a great season, coming back from the brink of not making the Tournament to losing 13-10 after eliminating the Number 1 team, the Duke Blue Devils (a team that came in with only one loss on the season, to go with 18 wins, including a trouncing of Johns Hopkins earlier in the season). Dave Petramala is one hell of a coach and I have all he confidence in the world that they will be back in the mix next year.

The Baltimore Blast won their 4th Major Indoor Soccer League Championship in 6 years, then the league folded. It looks like the folding is mainly to reorganize and get rid of some dead wood, but still it was a bit of a surprise to have THAT be the rain on the parade.

That should just about cover everything until I get back (hopefully) next week. Until then, have fun, if you live in the area stay cool, and if you have any questions about anything sports related, leave a comment and I will try to cover it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tomorrow is the NFL Draft. There has been all kinds of speculation as to who is going to go where, and the topic has been discussed by all sorts of people ad nauseum (myself included).

Around here the big speculation is on if former Boston College QB Matt Ryan will fall to the 8th pick in the 1st round so that the Ravens can draft him. I myself do not think that he will make it past the Atlanta Falcons' 3rd pick, let alone the Kansas City Chiefs who have the 5th pick. And even if he does, since the Chiefs just got Minnesota's 1st round pick and both of their 3rd round picks in the Jared Allen trade and the Falcons have 3rd and 6th picks in the 2nd round, there is an excellent chance that one of them makes a deal with the Patriots, who hold San Francisco's 7th overall pick (the fact that "Spygate cost the Patriots the 31st pick in the 1st round and not the 7th shows how little Roger Goodell thought of the infraction).

Everyone who cares to know is aware that the Dolphins have signed Michigan OT Jake Long (which means I really hope that they draft him with the 1st overall pick, otherwise there could be some real confusion). I am going to refuse to do my own mock draft, since I can honestly say that I have not spent the time really looking at the needs of all 32 teams with enough energy / verve to be able to make truly informed predictions. I have said previously that I could easily see Darren McFadden falling to the 8th pick, which would make a trade with Dallas possible (although they could also get their Arkansas fix by drafting Felix Jones with the 22nd pick). It is also established that New Orleans covets LSU DT Glenn Dorsey (and who wouldn't really. He has all the makings of being an awesome player), although if he makes it to the 10th pick I will be more than amazed (since that means that the Ravens also passed over on him), and the Saints probably do not have enough draft ammunition to move up to the 2nd or 3rd pick, which is probably be where he is going to be drafted. However, Sedrick Ellis should still be available, and both the Bengals and Saints would love to add him. The Bengals are drafting 9th, the Saints (as previously mentioned) 10th. Might one of them be willing to give us a second day pick (4th-7th) round plus their 1st in order to move up a slot or two to make sure they get him and the other one doesn't?

This is the second time I have mentioned trading down. Since the last time the Ravens got some compensatory picks for free agents that left the team after 2006 and now have 9 picks in the draft (compensatory picks cannot be traded). I firmly believe that the draft is the way to build a team in ANY professional sport. But no matter how much information you have the draft is always a bit of a guessing game, so the more picks you have the better off you are. I am not a fan of using a top 10 pick on a QB, the position is too risky and costs too much both in cap room and team commitment. The last thing the Ravens need is to bring in an unproven QB to start when they are 16 months removed from being 13-3 and having a 1st round playoff bye, because the pressure to start him immediately will be too much to bear and too much for anyone else who does start (I will say until my dying day that the reason Kyle Boller didn't work out better is because of Billick's starting him his first season after that sham of a QB competition between Boller and Redman). The Ravens need to draft another QB, but the need isn't as pressing as some have said. But a QB drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round would not be the worst thing in the world. I need to see more of Troy Smith. I need to see if Boller really learned anything while serving as Steve McNair's backup. I do not need to see $30 million put in the hands of an unproven rookie who gets thrown to the wolves as soon as the team needs a spark.

Lets see where this ends up, shall we?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Who's On First?

It is Opening Day, you know. Enjoy.

It is Opening Day (I am pretty sure that has been trademarked by someone, I am just too lazy to acknowledge them), and I am excited. Yes I am aware that the Orioles are probably going to be a giant vortex of suck this year. Of course, last year they lost 93 games, and over the last 10 years they have averaged 89.6, or as I like to say, 90 losses per year. So from that standpoint how much worse can it be?

Don't answer that.

Be that as it may, for the first time in years the team has an actual plan other than "Let's throw some money at some borderline talented players and if EVERYTHING possible breaks in our favor (and all the other AL East teams suffer total roster failure) we could win 85-90 games and make the playoffs". That was not working. Instead Orioles owner Peter Angelos brought in one of the best baseball minds in the business in Andy MacPhail, and told him "do what you have to do". And so far he is. He traded Miguel Tejada (making my Orioles jersey moot, but I will forgive him that) and Erik Bedard for 10 prospects. The odds are that Brian Roberts will be gone no later than the trading deadline (and he will probably be joined by a few more players if MacPhail thinks he can get something for them). All of this has been well documented and talked about by many people (including me). So what else could be filling me with such excitement?

There are a few things that are not talked about, like MacPhail establishing an international scouting department, with a focus on Asian and Latin players. And along that same line, his building academies in Latin American baseball hot spots, and committing the resources necessary to make them viable pipelines of talent (the Orioles are woefully behind these trends, but at least they are finally making the attempt to rectify that). But there are two other things that really have me excited for the future.

1. The signing of first round pick Matt Wieters. I like this because the Orioles signed a Scott Boras client (something they have been loathe to do in the past), and they went after a player that they knew would cost them. It is a fact that in baseball probably more than any other sport the draft is a risky proposition. The sheer number of minor league teams (the Orioles alone have 7 minor league teams, there are 30 teams in MLB, some teams have more than 7 minor league teams, very few have less, and there are independent league teams too. Average roster is 25 players. Do the math) means that there are a lot of players in any organization at any time. The odds are against most of these players. That the Orioles spent $6 million just on his signing bonus is a sign that they are omitted to using their resources on the future instead of blowing it on a Jay Payton or an Aubrey Huff , who have already proven out as mid range ability players at best. Angelos signing off on a move like this is very encouraging. But not nearly as encouraging as my second point.

2. The cutting of Jay Gibbons. Look HERE, HERE, and HERE for 3 reports of the release of Jay Gibbons. All of them say pretty much the same thing, but all are worth looking at if for no other reason than what MacPhail says. In particular, when he says

"I gave him the ramifications and what my thinking was," MacPhail said. "I hadn't really reached any conclusions myself. I was wrestling with this one. I was really, to be honest with you, looking for some advice. His advice was, 'You gotta do what you gotta do.' Those were the last words that he left me with, and I took the position of, 'Well, this is what we have to do.' "

The thing that really strikes me is that Angelos, known for meddling in the day to day baseball operations (much to the overall detriment of both the team and the team's reputation) told MacPhail to do whatever he felt was best for the team. The Orioles owe Gibbons just shy of $12 million over the next two years. For ANY team that is a lot of money to eat in order to (probably) lose 90+ games while giving his roster spot to an unproven young player, even if that player had a better spring training than the veteran player. If this does not prove to people that Angelos is serious about rebuilding from the ground up and that he has promised to allow MacPhail to do his job and not get in the way I don't know what will. And to anyone who has a problem with MacPhail going to Angelos about it, the man is the owner of the team and has a right to be involved in the financial decisions. Don't think that the Steinbrenners and John Henry, as well as every other owner, aren't asked for their opinions before their money is spent. The important thing is that Angelos listened to MacPhail and basically said "do what you have to do, I've got your back". They cut a major league player that is owed a good bit of money for an unproven player with minor league options. It is possibly the most encouraging thing that I have seen or heard about this team in years.
I am going to enjoy this team this year. I think that they are going to play hard, play fundamentally sound, and "leave it all on the field". Also, to use another cliche, "this year it is about the name on the front of the uniform, not the one on the back of the uniform". And until they put "Baltimore" back on the road jerseys, "Orioles" will do just fine by me.
4 1/2 hours until Opening Day. I'm ready. Are you?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Okay, it is obvious that with everything else I am doing in my life, the twice a week thing (or even once a week) isn't going to happen with any regularity. But whenever I can get here I will. So without further ado...

  • John Harbaugh is the new Ravens head coach - An excellent choice. I know I have been trumpeting the abilities of Rex Ryan as a head coach, and I will fully admit to fervently backing him as the successor to Brian Billick when the whole search first started (and even before Billick got fired if the truth is to be told), but in the grand scheme of things I think that John Harbaugh will be a better overall choice. There is a reason that Ryan didn't get the job with the San Diego Chargers after 2006 and both the Atlanta Falcons and the Ravens after 2007. It seems that he might be a little TOO "straight from the hip" as it were. Ryan even said as much after it came to light that the main reason he didn't get the Falcons job (it went to Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith) was because of the tenor and tone of some of his responses to questions in the 2nd interview. It seems that he might have a little too much of his father (Buddy Ryan) in him. I am beginning to think that he will either remain a coordinator for his entire career or he will have one or two unsuccessful to moderately successful head coaching gigs in between his stints as a defensive coordinator. I really do like him as a coach so I hope that I am wrong. But with all that said, Harbaugh's specialty for the last decade has been special teams. Personally I have always wondered why special teams coaches don't get the recognition that offensive and defensive coaches do. Especially when you realize that while special teams play is at LEAST as important to the game as the offense and defense (when you consider the amount of impact a good or bad special teams play can have on the outcome of a game and compare it to the amount of time special teams units are on the field compared to offense and defense, it may be MORE important). Add to that that most special teams players are a mixture of backups and probably never-will-be off. and def. position players, and that the special teams coach is the only coach besides the HEAD coach that deals with players from both sides of the ball, and special teams coaches seem to me to be uniquely qualified to be head coaches. They are like the backup catcher in baseball (who always seem to make the best managers because they have to know EVERYTHING about not only their team but the other team and spend a lot of time on the bench sizing up how their hunches play out when compared to what actually happens during the course of a game). There is an excellent chance that Harbaugh will not only do well, but also open the doors for more special teams coaches to run teams. Special teams is all about building a unit out of castoffs, formation and execution. Let's see what Harbaugh does with that mentality while running an entire team. Jason Garrett might be an excellent head coach one day, but I don't know if he is really ready, and he has only had one year of success (and that was with a loaded squad). I want to see Mike Singletary run a defense before I give him the keys to a team.
  • The Bedard Trade - It is finally done, and if you look at the package that the Orioles got for him (especially if you compare it to the package that the Minnesota Twins got for Johann Santana - a better pitcher) might turn out to be the deal of the year. I am preaching patience to all the Orioles' fans this year (and probably next). And along that vein I hope that MacPhail completes the trade of Brian Roberts, but at this point not only am I not going to give him grief for not making it already, I am going to praise him for waiting as long as he feels he needs to in order to get the deal that he wants. Looking at what he did with the Twins and the Chicago Cubs, he gets more than the benefit of the doubt, he gets a free pass until he proves that he doesn't deserve it any more. I don't see that time coming any time soon.
  • The NFL Draft - I said previously that I think the Ravens should trade down in order to collect more picks, since I don't see anyone of the value of the 8th pick that would fill one of the Ravens dire needs, at least not anyone that the Ravens couldn't get later on. The Ravens are picking 8th. None of the mock drafts I see are anywhere close to agreeing on anything. I have seen Matt Ryan going from 1st to 8th, and Glenn Dorsey going from 1st to 5th. An intriguing possibility is Darren McFadden, who I have seen going to the Oakland Raiders, but also with wildly varying draft positions. I know that the Dallas Cowboys have expressed some serious interest in him (especially with Marion Barber as a restricted free agent and Julius Jones as an unrestricted free agent). I also know that Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones is an Arkansas alum who would love to add him to the team. To me, that smells like trade bait, and willing trade bait. I can only hope that Ozzie Newsome pulls one of his patented awesome moves*.

Okay, unfortunately I must abruptly wrap this up now, but as always feel free to ask questions you want answered, either about things I have covered or just things you are curious about. And I also promise to (hopefully) make the next post much more coherent and theme based and less bullet point-y.

*Moves not actually patented, but are universally classified as awesome with enough consistency by the community at large that the awesomeness of his moves are not to be questioned.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

I know it has been a while since I posted, but life keeps getting in the way. In order for me to afford to get online I have to have gainful employment. Said gainful employment has been kicking my proverbial ass lately. Ass trumps blog.

Anyway, I do have some thoughts os the new Ravens coach, and I will try to expound on them no later than next week. But right now I need to comment on the Orioles, Erik Bedard, and the trade.

According to ESPN the Bedard trade between the Orioles and the Seattle Mariners might finally go through later this week, possibly as soon as Friday. The question that everyone has had is what was the hold up? As recently as a couple of days ago we were told that the trade was all but done, and that two of the prospects that Baltimore was supposed to get were pulled from what they were doing (one was playing winter ball in the Dominican) and told that they had to go get physicals so that the trade could be finalized. The next thing you know, the trade is still not finalized and both sides are claiming that a deal was still under consideration but nothing had been finalized. Well that is all well and good, but if the deal wasn't about to happen, why would the Mariners pull one of their players from winter league ball? The only reason anyone could find would be so that they don't get injured and cause the trade to be dropped.

Immediately speculation turned to Orioles owner Peter Angelos, and that he might have nixed the trade like he has done in the past (in 1996 when Pat Gillick wanted to trade Bobby Bonilla and David Wells, and as recently as this past season when he overruled a trade of Brian Roberts to Atlanta). The thing is, we as fans had been assured that Angelos told Andy McPhail (a very respected baseball man who led one team to 2 World Series championships and another within 5 outs of making the World Series for the first time since WWII) that McPhail would have complete autonomy to do what was best for the team. When Andy McPhail came to Baltimore last season, a lot of heads in baseball turned, and people started thinking that maybe Angelos had learned his lesson and that he was going to let people with baseball acumen make baseball decisions. Now everyone knew that it wasn't the case and that Angelos was meddling again, and McPhail should quit because he would never be able to rebuild this team as long as Angelos owned them...

There is one basic problem though. McPhail came out and said that Angelos had not interfered. McPhail has always been known as a straight shooter who doesn't spin fanciful tales to the media or fans. He might keep things a little too close to the vest for some people, but holding info until you are sure it is correct is not a bad thing. So McPhail sys that Angelos is not the reason that the trade isn't happening. How do the fans react? Read the comments from the last link and see for yourself. They keep saying "McPhail is lying! It HAS to be Angelos' fault!!!". Well, according to the ESPN article, that isn't the case. It is really about the legal issues that sprang from the comments of one of the players involved in the trade. One of the Mariners, to be exact. It seems that due to the comments made, there was a potential problem. In case you don't feel like reading the ESPN article, here is the passage in question...

When Jones was quoted as saying the deal was completed, this created a rules question, sources say: If the Jones went for his physical examination, would the Orioles then be beholden to accept him, even if the physical exam did not go well.

The Orioles have asked the Mariners for written language that Seattle will submit Jones and Sherrill for a physical examination by the Orioles -- and if they pass physicals, then and only then will Baltimore be obligated to finish the trade. The inherent risk for the Mariners is that if either Jones or Sherrill were to flunk their physicals in Baltimore, then the respective value of the players would be diminished within the industry.
This becomes MORE problematic when THIS is factored in (courtesy of and
Apparently after agreeing in principle to the deal, the Orioles heard something about Jones having a potential health problem -- a degenerative hip (osteoarthritis) similar to the ailment that ended Albert Belle's career in 2000, just two years into the five-year, $65 million contract he signed with the Orioles.

The medical report on Jones was unsubstantiated and Mariners trainer Rick Griffin told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Tuesday that he couldn't talk about the situation because of HIPPA regulations. General manager Bill Bavasi said: "All I can tell you is that we brought Adam Jones home from Venezuela. Beyond that, we're not saying anything."
So as long as the Mariners agree to cover the mistake that Jones caused when he spoke out of turn, here is no problem. If they refuse, then there is always the chance that they are aware of problems with these (or other) players, in which case the Orioles shouldn't make the trade anyway. But the fans have to immediately jump to the wrong conclusions, which fans have done since the beginning of fandom. However, now that the internet is here, these opinions have gone from bars and watercoolers to in the face of everyone who cares to see it, and in fact we are overwhelmed by it. This is why I try to wait a bit before commenting on anything. I might not have the scoop, but I try to have a more balanced look at the whole picture.
And that leads me to the whole Orioles rebuilding project. Miguel Tejada is gone. Bedard is all but gone. Brian Roberts appears to be heading quickly out the door behind them. Reaction has been mixed, both to the returns for the departed players and the need for / wisdom of their departure. Now for my opinion...
The Orioles need to start over if they want any chance to ever compete with the Yankees and Red Sox. The fact is that with the star players that they do have, they have been a consistent 90+ loss team for a decade. They are not going to win consistently with these guys playing, because they don't have enough around them to do so. So the smart thing to do is to trade them for prospects that might come up in the next 2-3 years (when these guys would be leaving as free agents) and do something. Any time you can add 3 or 4 potential pieces for the future at the cost of 1 piece now that, while it hurts to lose it, it will hurt just as much to have it for 3 years and not have it do anything for you. AQs far as I am concerned, the untouchable pieces of the Orioles are Nick Markakis, Adam Loewen, and Matt Weiters (the minor league catcher they drafted last year). The Orioles have control over them for longer than 3 years, and they have a lot of potential (Markakis is a borderline All Star as it stands today, and if Bedard and Roberts ARE traded, and with Tejada gone and Melvin Mora not the player he was a couple of years ago, there is a good chance he will be the All Star representative for the Orioles in 2008). And if in 3 years the team is not moving enough in the right direction, they can also be traded for more prospects. Once you have a nucleus of solid players (read: more than 2 or 3 out of 25), THEN you go after free agents to fill a weakness. Free agency is not how you build a team (and yes, I am looking at the Yankees right now. They win enough in the regular season, but they have fallen apart in the postseason the last 7 years. Is that just a coincidence? I don't think so). So I am all for tading Bedard, Roberts, Mora, Huff, Payton, Gibbons...basically anyone on the team besides Markakis / Loewen / Weiters that the team can get a viable prospect or two for. I am not a poker player, in fact I never play the game. But I do know the basic concept that if you have nothing in your hand, you fold, save your chips, and try again next hand. The Orioles have been sitting with a hand that was all junk, maybe weith an 8 high, for the better part of a decade. Time to fold and wait for the next hand. The nice thing is, in MLB poker, when you fold, they give you some more chips. Maybe even a blue one.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I am suffering from a bit of a time crunch here (waiting to be connected to a conference call that I will have to summon all my willpower to keep from snoring through), but I wanted to give a few quick thoughts on something I heard on the radio the last couple of days regarding the NFL playoff games from the weekend...

For those who weren't paying attention (or who don't care to), both of the home teams won on Saturday (as a rule, in the playoffs the home team is the favorite to win, so it is not a big surprise that both teams won). However, both road teams won on Sunday, which was a surprise. However, while listening to the radio wonks ever since, I kept hearing the question asked "Who do you blame for (Colts or Cowboys) losing the game? I understand that the Colts and Cowboys were favored to win the game, but why does that mean that we have to blame someone on those teams for losing? Why are we not asking who we are blaming on the Seahawks for losing to the Packers? Green Bay scored touchdowns on 6 straight possessions. Who on the Seattle defense is to blame? But that question isn't being bandied about. But we have to blame someone on the Cowboys because the Giants beat them? Why can we not (at least start with) praise for the Giants and Chargers for overcoming game time adversity and at times overwhelming odds in order to defeat their favored opponents? Just because they were favored, did they have to screw up in order for the other team to win? Were there reporters surrounding Goliath (or more to the point, were there pundits feverishly carving words into stone tablets) asking who was to blame for his stunning loss to David?

Talk Show Host: "...and we are back here at WWJD taking YOUR calls on who is to blame for the big man falling to the slingshot wonder, who I have to say is now a dark horse candidate in the hotly contested King race! Methusula, you are in the air!

Methusula: "Hi Kent. Long time listener, first time caller..."

Hopefully on Friday, I will be able to look at this a little closer, with a little less venom. And by then, there is a good chance we will know who the nest coach of the Ravens is going to be, and won't THAT lead to some spirited radio discussions!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

As promised, I am going to endeavor to post twice a week here, hopefully on Tuesday and Friday each week.

Today I am going to discuss one of the biggest myths and misconceptions about the NFL. The schedule ranking. By that I mean that the NFL, in order to promote parity and keep fans hopeful that their team can turn it around (sorry to any Detroit / Arizona fans out there who root for the teams that disprove that rule) use two major facets to facilitate the evening out. The draft and the following year's schedule. We have already looked at the draft, and it is a general rule that the worse a team is in any given year, the higher up their draft position is that off-season. The thing that the NFL does that others don't is choose who a team is going to play based on their final standing in their division. Because of this, you will hear pundits all over talk about how a team is playing a "3rd place schedule" or a "1st place schedule". And that is true. But it doesn't mean crap.

The NFL has 32 teams. These teams are broken up into 2 conferences (the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference, homages to when they were the NFL and the AFL - American Football League - before they merged into one league under the name NFL). Each conference is broken up further into 4 divisions (the North, South, East, and West divisions of each conference). Each division has 4 teams. Simple, straight, and to the point, right?

Every team plays 16 regular season games. Every team plays the other three teams in their division 2 times, one home game and one away game. That is a total of 6 games, leaving 10 left unaccounted for. Every season each conference plays one game a piece against all 4 teams from another division in their own conference and one division from the other conference, on a rotating schedule. By that I mean that in 2007, the Ravens played all 4 teams from the AFC East (Miami, NY Jets, Buffalo, and New England) and the NFC West (San Francisco, St. Louis, Arizona, and Seattle). Last year the Ravens played the AFC West (Denver, San Diego, Oakland, and Kansas City) and the NFC South (Tampa Bay, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Carolina). In 2005 the Ravens played the AFC South (Indianapolis, Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Houston) and the NFC North (Detroit, Chicago, Green Bay, and Minnesota). So by that paradigm, we will be playing the AFC South and the NFC East in 2008 (there are 3 options in the AFC to rotate through versus 4 in the NFC, since we always play our own division). That takes away 8 more games, leaving 2. The last 2 games are going to be against the 2 teams in the AFC (since the Ravens are in the AFC) that finished in the same place in their division as the Ravens in the divisions that the Ravens are not scheduled to play this year. In other words, in 2008 the Ravens are going to play the 4th place teams in the AFC East and the AFC West. So as far as the schedule goes, there is only a 2 game difference between the Ravens and their divisional opponents. Now that being said, 2 games is a big deal in a 16 game schedule. But it isn't the be-all end-all overriding decision maker in a season that many make it out to be. The Ravens play in the AFC North, ended the season 5-11 and will be playing the following teams next year:

Pittsburgh (2x)
Cleveland (2x)
Cincinnati (2x)
NY Giants

Now look at the schedule for the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6, first in the AFC North):

Baltimore (2x)
Cleveland (2x)
Cincinnati (2x)
NY Giants
New England
San Diego

Besides the fact that they play each other, the schedule is virtually the exact same schedule. The biggest difference will be who the teams get to play at home versus playing away, except for the home and home versus each of their divisional foes. And there is no set rotation of getting to play a certain team at home versus playing them on the road, as evidenced by the Ravens having to travel TO Washington to play the Redskins in both 2000 and 2004, with no other meetings between the teams in the regular season in between or since.

In reality, strength of schedule is more a product of the relative strength or weakness of your particular division and the division that you are playing. For instance, in 2007 the AFC South had 3 teams make it to the playoffs, had no team finish with a record below .500, and ended with a cumulative record of 42-22, while the AFC East had only one team make it to the postseason and had a cumulative record of 28-36. And since one team had 16 of those wins and none of the losses, it shows that the AFC East is a weaker overall conference. As far as the AFC North goes, it got one team in the playoffs, one team that had the same record as one of the playoff teams but missed the postseason due to tiebreakers, and ended with a cumulative record of 32-32.

So while the Ravens DO have a 4th place schedule in 2008, it doesn't necessarily translate into helping them have a better season. And THAT, my friends, is the true definition of parity.