Thursday, February 10, 2011

You go in for ONE little surgery...

Okay, apparently my body decided to party like it was 2009 (minus the pesky coma thing). That is my one and only excuse for going AWOL and missing the balance of the NFL playoffs (Ravens imploding, Packers showing that they were bigger than Injured Reserve), the Orioles making good trades and smart free agent signings (replacing 3/4 of the infield with good defense and better offense, adding quality arms to the bullpen and taking a low risk high reward chance on a good starting pitcher trying to make a comeback), and the Capitals being possibly the most maddening team in the NHL. It's enough to make a man want to go back under the nitrous to see what happens the NEXT time he wakes up.

So in no particular order...

  • Packers win the Super Bowl
There is something to be said for a team that refuses to lose. The Green Bay Packers were a trendy pick to make it to and even to win the Super Bowl before the season started (more than a few prognosticators had the Packers facing the Ravens in Dallas, with the winner of the matchup split pretty evenly down the line). Then they started getting injured. Their starting RB, their top WR, body after body like a Drowning Pool song with thigh pads. But once they got in the playoffs they were like a team possessed, and they did what they had to do to beat a plucky Steelers team that surprised the majority of the football population by winning as a team without their QB and then rolling along after they got him back. All the credit goes to Green Bay for doing it, doing it, doing it well.

Ladies Love Cool Rodgers?
  • Orioles trade/sign a whole new infield
Last year was NOT a good year to be an Oriole fan or player, and the infield was atrocious. The lone Oriole All-Star was a guy who was a sub .250 hitter that had a slugging percentage of .415. As a 3rd baseman. Just in case you didn't know, that is NOT good. The Opening Day 1st baseman couldn't hit a home run while playing 1st (he had 1 HR in 140 at bats last year before being designated for assignment/waived, and THAT was as a DH). The shortstop hit like the Mendoza Line was akin to the sub 4 minute mile before Roger Bannister laced up some sneakers. And the 2nd baseman spent 2/3 of the season on the disabled list with a back injury (then missed the end of the season with a concussion he suffered after hitting himself in the head with a bat. It is hard to find a more apt metaphor of what it has felt like to be an Orioles fan these last 13 years). Well, the team turned the page after Buck Showalter came aboard, and the front office turned the page on the infield. Gone are Ty Wigginton, Cesar Izturis, and Garrett Atkins. In their place are Mark Reynolds, JJ Hardy, and Derrek Lee. Reynolds is a strikeout machine, but he is only 27 and has some real power, not to mention having a decent glove at 3rd. JJ Hardy is as good with the leather as Izturis, even if he doesn't get the same credit for it. And his bat is an actual offensive weapon, which will be a nice change. Derrek Lee had a down season for him last year, but he is not the same kind of "wing and a prayer" that Atkins was, and he is a plus defender. Brian Roberts is technically a holdover from last year, but since he only played about 1/6 of the season it is almost like having a whole new infield this year.

But in the biggest news, the team signed Vladmir Guerrero to be the DH, moving Luke Scott to LF and (odds are) Nolan Reimold back for another year at AAA. This improves the team's offense dramatically, and the effect on the defense is not as dramatic as some have stated. Scott is not as fast as Felix Pie, but he is a more natural LF whereas Pie is a natural CF. That means a lot when you are talking about how to read the ball off of the bat. Scott might not be able to get to the ball as fast as Pie, but he'll take a better angle and make a quicker decision on the ball than Pie will, too. And if Scott gets near it, he catches it. The Young Guns have another year under their belts, and if Justin Duchscherer can recover the form he had with the Oakland (where he had a career ERA of 3.13 and a career WHIP of 1.14) he could be a real gem for the team.
  • The NFL owners and the NFLPA just can't wait to kill the golden goose
The owners and players have 3 weeks to figure out how to divvy up a multi-billion dollar pie before the word "lockout" becomes the reality of the league. I truly don't think they are going to kill the entire season, but I would not be surprised if this doesn't get settled until July or August, if for no other reason than the players would like to not have to go through the rigors of training camp (or at least they will hopefully lessen the length of the camp by a few weeks). And I think that this will eventually lead to an 18 game season (something I mentioned over a year ago but do not have the time to find because I am being put to bed, hopefully just for the night), but not for the 2011 season. But as we get closer to March 4th (when the current CBA officially expires) we will see what the negotiating table yields.

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