Archive for May, 2009

It's That Time of Year Again!

May 28, 2009

Time to head ‘downy o’shun’ for the annual Ravens Roost Convention!

If you’re a Ravens fan and you’ve never been to one of these, I have to tell you, you are missing the F out.  If you’ll be there too, keep an eye out for D.Baby and/or Nick-a-What?! and come have a beer with us (look for us anywhere you see Roost #65)!

For yous on the interwebs, my hangover and I will holla again on Tuesday.

For the First Time Since 1994(!)…

May 28, 2009

That’s right, it’s been 15 years since the O’s last swept the Blue Jays.

And man, was it a sweep.  If you missed yesterday’s series finale, you missed one of the most exciting games in recent O’s memory.

Facing arguably the best pitcher in the Majors, Roy Halladay, players and fans alike would have probably been happy with just taking 2/3 from Toronto.  By the time the eighth inning rolled around, and the Jays were up 8-3, most of us had pretty much resigned ourselves to that fate.

The O’s exploded for 5 in the bottom of the inning though, and were just inches (ok, feet…it wasn’t very close) from taking the lead when Adam Jones was thrown out at the plate for the third out.

Then, in the 11th, an Aaron Hill dinger off Danys Baez gave Toronto, already owners of an eight-game losing streak, another multi-run lead.

That lead wasn’t to last either though.

Nick Markakis led off the inning with a single off former Oriole B.J. Ryan, then Melvin Mora and Luke Scott followed with singles off of Brian Wolfe.

Enter rookie Nolan Reimold.

Reimold, who had struck out in his only two plate appearances on the day, picked up his first career game-winning RBI on a 3-run walk-off homer, a screamer that just snuck over the wall in left center.

The 12-10 victory was a great ending to a great series for the O’s.

Somehow, I have to suspect Matt Wieters is responsible for this…

 

Matt Wieters to Debut on Friday

May 26, 2009

I was just watching the MASN broadcast of O’s-Jays, and Andy MacPhail was in the booth with Buck Martinez and Gary Thorne in the bottom of the 2nd inning.  As Nolan Reimold grounded into a fielder’s choice, MacPhail made the announcement that O’s fans have been waiting for all Spring.

This friday, at OPACY, against the Detroit Tigers, will be the major league debut of one Matt Wieters.

Get’cha tickets now, O’s fans.

And get’cha popcorn ready.

Hey, Lookie There, Hon!

May 26, 2009

Thanks to a weekend series against the dreadful Nats (just their 2nd series win in the last month), the O’s finally moved ahead of another actual major league baseball team in terms of runs allowed and run differential.  The team they are now statistically less inept than?

The Nats, natch.

 

 

Thankfully, the O’s finally got rid of the turd that was allowing a good number of those runs.

Nest-spectations for the Ravens in 09

May 26, 2009

It’s been a minute since I posted, and for that I apologize.  I promise to get back to it though, starting right now.  I’m going to cheat a bit to start off though, and recycle a post that I wrote for Bleacher Report a few weeks back.  See, BR is having a competition in which they are going to select one person to “cover” each NFL team for the entire 2009 season, starting in training camp.  I started to compete for the Ravens position, but upon further investigation, realized that, unless I hit the lottery, I won’t be able to afford to work for the peanuts that BR is going to pay these “reporters.”  So, as cool as it would have been to be at every training camp session, practice, and home game, it probably just wasn’t in the cards.  I don’t know how well I’d handle being sober/impartial at the games anyway.  – NM

The Baltimore Ravens exceeded all reasonable expectations in 2008, overachieving in the eyes of even the most optimistic of purple-clad fans, putting up 11 regular season victories and two more in the postseason before losing in the AFC Championship game to division rival Pittsburgh.

As exciting as last season was, for both the team and fans, that overachievement comes at a price—that of raised expectations.

Rookie head coach John Harbaugh, along with his rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, set the bar extremely high in their inaugural seasons in Charm City.  Based on their successes of 2008, anything less than a trip to Miami for Super Bowl XLIV could potentially be considered a regression.

Personally, I wouldn’t consider the season a disappointment if the Ravens were to fail to reach their second Super Bowl in 14 years of existence.  Keeping in mind that 2008 was truly a season of surpassed expectations, it does, though, seem reasonable to expect that the team at least reach the playoffs again.

However, as any Ravens fan can attest, Baltimore has a history of winning when they are supposed to lose, and losing when they are supposed to win (for example, following a 13-3 2006 campaign, the Ravens entered 2007 with their roster mostly intact, only to lay a 5-11 stinker).

With that in mind, there are several potential pitfalls that could trip the Ravens up as they attempt to reach consecutive postseasons for only the second time in franchise history.

The most obvious obstacle to continued success in Baltimore is the dreaded “sophomore slump” that quarterback Joe Flacco will have to try to avoid.  Due to a combination of injuries and illnesses befalling those ahead of him on the depth chart, Flacco was thrust into the starting role from Week One in his rookie year.

In a situation that is usually a recipe for disaster, Flacco, instead, flourished, showing the poise and pocket presence of a savvy veteran.  While his numbers were not gaudy, especially compared to fellow rookie phenom Matt Ryan, they were very respectable, and were even more so given the dearth of steady quarterback play that has plagued the Ravens since their inception in 1996.

Flacco started every game, and became the first rookie in NFL history to win two road playoff games.  As opposing defenses accumulate ever more film on Flacco to study, his game will have to continue to evolve and improve if he wishes to build upon his early career successes.

One of Flacco’s main strengths in his rookie campaign was that he never tried to do too much, always realizing that he had one of the NFL’s top defenses (No. 2 overall statistically in 2008) backing him up.

The Ravens lost long-time defensive coordinator Rex Ryan this offseason though, who left to become the head coach of the New York Jets.  Ryan was replaced by linebackers coach Greg Mattison.  Despite having coached for 38 years, Mattison is entering just his second season in the NFL.  He was a defensive coordinator for 11 years in the college ranks, most recently at the University of Florida, where he guided the 2006 team to a National Championship.

Baltimore has a tradition of great defenses, regardless of coordinator.  Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, and Rex Ryan all had dominating units, but all also had significantly more NFL experience prior to taking the reins than does Mattison.  In order for the Ravens to continue their winning ways in 2009, Mattison will have to show that he will have no trouble adapting the philosophies he perfected for so many years in the NCAA to the professional level.  If the defense were to slip outside of even the top 10 or so in the league, a team that bases its entire game on field position, turnovers, and low scoring could be in for a big step backward.

A main factor in the Ravens’ reliance on defensive dominance is their lack of explosive weapons on offense, which prevents them from staging many big comebacks or opening a lot of large leads.  Along with a lack of consistent play from the quarterback position, the Baltimore franchise has historically not possessed a dominant big-play type receiver.

The efforts of the front office to acquire the Cardinals’ Anquan Boldin this offseason have thus far been unsuccessful, and they did nothing to address the position in the draft.  As a result, they are voicing their confidence in a corps that includes Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams, and Marcus Smith, none of whom, in turn, inspire great confidence in the fan base.

Mason had a very productive 2008 season, catching 80 passes for 1,037 yards and 5 TDs, and was Flacco’s favorite target.  However, he played through varying degrees of pain all season, and at 35 years of age, does not pose a game-breaking threat, and is entering the December of his career.

Clayton, a 2005 first-round draft choice, displays flashes of brilliance, but has yet to become a consistent weapon on a game-to-game basis.  Despite averaging 17.0 yards per reception on 41 catches in 2008, Clayton caught two or fewer passes in seven of 16 regular season games, and caught exactly two in all three playoff games.  As long as Clayton continues to display his propensity to disappear in games, he will not be a top-level wideout.

Williams is the most intriguing of the group.  Entering his fourth season, Williams has shown the potential to be a deep threat, catching touchdown passes of 70 and 77 yards in his career.  He has had problems staying healthy though, as his games played have decreased every year, from 16 in his rookie season, to nine in 2007, and down to just seven in 2008.  With two full seasons (32 games) of NFL experience under his belt now, Williams needs to prove that he can avoid the injury bug, stretch the field, and reward the faith that GM Ozzie Newsome has shown in him.

Smith, a second year player, was active in only seven games in his rookie year, but did not record any catches.  It is unknown at this point, at least to us fans, what exactly Smith can bring to the table.

The Ravens brought in several free agent wide receivers to their first mini-camp in May, including Jerry Porter, Kelley Washington, and Tab Perry.  As of this writing, none of them had been signed.  The Anquan Boldin rumors also continue to swirl around a number of teams, including Baltimore.

Expecting a Super Bowl Championship in 2009 may be a bit lofty.  Thinking that another exciting, winning season is in the works though, does not seem beyond reason, as long as the Ravens can avoid or work through the pitfalls.

Of course, that all assumes that key players (Flacco, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Matt Birk, among others) remain healthy, but that’s another whole can of worms in itself.

Ravens Sign Kelley Washington

May 15, 2009

The Ravens bolstered their WR corps this week, signing former Cincinnati Bengal Kelley Washington, and showing by doing so that maybe, just mayyyyyyyybe, Ozzie & Co. don’t have quite as much faith in Demetrius Williams and Marcus Smith as they’d have us believe.

Washington, 29, spent the last 2 seasons in New England, after spending 03-06 as a Bungle.  He had only 1 catch for 3 yards during his time as a Patriot.  Kind of surprising considering the rate that NE was racking up passing yards in 2007 (his ONE catch was in 08), but, to be fair, the Patriots have a bevy of “decent” wide receivers.

At 6’3″ and 215 lb, Washington could be the “size” receiver the Ravens have been lacking, although there are going to be some other big WRs in camp this summer (Ernie Wheelright – 6’5″, 220, Marcus Maxwell – 6’3″, 210, Edward Williams – 6’4″, 215).

Washington’s most productive season was in 2004, when he caught 31 passes for 378 yards and 3 TDs.  He has caught only 20 passes in the 4 seasons since.  However, he must have shown something to impress the Ravens’ coaches, having beaten out Jerry Porter and Tab Perry in the mini-camp.

If you want to get excited for Kelley Washington, Ravens fans, just check out this video – not so much for the score as for what comes next (props to Glenn at WNST for the heads-up).

This is BirdLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLand

May 4, 2009

Well, is it 2010 yet?

Since, by the Orioles’ own admission, that’s the next time they have any plans to even try to be competitive, we might as well start the countdown now.

Especially since they are now, in early May, showing the kind of gusto that they usually reserve until late August or September, having lost 14 of their past 17 games after a 6-2 start.  Their 9-16 record ties them with Cleveland for the 2nd worst in the majors, and they are already 8 games out of 1st place and 6 out of the wild card.  Eight games out after playing 15% of the season.  By our calculations, that puts our O’s on pace to finish about 53 games out, and with a glorious 106 losses.

 

After being the first team in MLB to allow 100 runs this season, the O’s continue to lead the pack in that dubious category – 161 (6.44 per game) and counting.  The minus-34 run differential is also setting the gold turd standard.

Are there some bright spots?  Sure there are.  The top 3 hitters in the O’s lineup are tearing it up once again, but you just have to feel sorry for them at this point, as their efforts are for naught night after night.

Some stats for the top 1/3 of the O’s batting order (AL ranks in parenthesis)

Brian Roberts

.308 (25), 32 H (12), 19 R (15), 8 2B (9)

Adam Jones

.355 (11), 33 H (9), 28 R (1), 8 2B (9), 19 RBI (13), .419 OBP (12),  .624 SLG (10)

Nick Markakis

.358 (9),  34 H (7), 27 R (2), 9 2B (6), 24 RBI (4), .447 OBP (5), .547 SLG (21)

The top 3 hitters are accounting for nearly 60% of the runs scored, which is at the same time impressive and pathetic.  After those 3 (and to a lesser extent, Aubrey Huff), the crap show really begins.

If I happen to flip the game on, and Roberts, Jones, or Markakis are hitting, I am glued to the TV.  Gregg Zaun (.129), Felix Pie (.167), or Cesar Izturis (.237)?  Yeah, not quite “must see TV.”

All this, and the dog days of summer are still months off.

Again we ask, is it 2010 yet?

Or, better yet, when does training camp start?


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