Archive for February, 2012

Adam Jones has Crazy Orange and Black Cleats

February 21, 2012

This morning, O’s center fielder Adam Jones tweeted (no surprise there) a picture of his spring training cleats, and they are…well, they’re something to see. Have a look:

SimplyAJ10: Rockin the Camos

So, according to Adam, that design is supposed to be camouflage. I dunno, looks a bit pixelated to me…maybe camouflage that you would see in a hunting game for an old Atari or original Nintendo system?

Not sure I’m a fan, but I’m sure lots of O’s faithful would love to get their hands on a pair of these – or on a copycat sneaker. What do you think about AJ’s footwear fashion sense?

Three Orioles on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects List

February 21, 2012

Baseball America has released their annual Top 100 Prospects list, and it features three players in the Baltimore Orioles’ organization. Pitcher Dylan Bundy comes in at #10, shortstop Manny Machado at #11, and infielder Jonathan Schoop at #82. BA had this to say about the prospects:

Bundy – Major League ETA 2013. First goal: Beat big brother Bobby to Baltimore. Next: Make the Orioles relevant.

Machado – MLB ETA 2013. Power-hitting shortstop can restore honor to the phrase “Manny being Manny.”

Schoop – MLB ETA 2014. His power potential and infield actions are far beyond his brother Sharlon’s.

The good news for the O’s is that they have improved from last year’s BA list, which only had two Baltimore players on it (Machado at #14 and Zach Britton at #28). The bad news is that par for the course in the American League East this year is four players – Toronto, New York, and Tampa each boast four players on the list, while the O’s and Red Sox have only three each.

While none of these three players are expected to see time in the Major Leagues in 2012, they offer at least a small glimmer of hope for the future of the O’s. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how they fare in the minors this year, as well as how they do in Spring Training. Given the Orioles’ track record of player development lately (especially pitchers), don’t rush to crown any of these guys “savior of the franchise.” Still, don’t be afraid to get at least a little excited about the Bundy-to-Wieters battery coming to OPACY some day soonish.

h/t @MasnSteve

GOOBVISION – I'm Coming Home

February 16, 2012

And now, for a very special announcement. After five years in Raleigh, North Carolina – the last two of which he spent providing us with his hilarious videos – Goob is finally coming back home to B’More. Not only that, but he is going to continue giving Ravens fans exactly what they want, but on a much larger stage.

I’ll let Goob explain…

Our little Goober is all grown up! He’s come a long way from his first video here at the Nest, and I have no doubt he’s destined for big things with Ravens 24×7. And don’t worry, he and I aren’t completely divorcing from our blogging bromance – that’s an announcement for another day though. For now, let’s all celebrate the RETURN OF GOOB!

Rumor or Best Rumor Ever? O's "Quietly" for Sale

February 15, 2012

The dream of all O’s fans has long been for owner Peter Angelos to sell the team. It’s widely agreed upon that the only way the Baltimore Orioles will EVER be respectable again is for sweeping change that starts at the very top of the organization. Well, one Washington, D.C. radio personality has apparently heard a rumor that will make even the most jaded orange and black faithful perk up a bit.

According to Eric Bickel (that’s “EB” for those of you familiar with the Junkies – who used to be in Baltimore on 99.1 WHFS), “It’s my understanding that the Baltimore Orioles are quietly for sale. Peter Angelos is actively selling the team at least privately to some people around him.”

Bickel had more details:

Bickel says that Angelos’ agreements with the Nationals and MASN have a minimum sale price for the Orioles franchise.  ”My understanding is that the number that was being floated around last night was $365 [million].”  He added that this asking price “isn’t enticing” to potential buyers because Angelos wants to retain the TV rights.

Wouldn’t it be just like ol’ Greedy Petey to sell the team, but hold onto MASN, his cash cow?

So in that scenario, I guess the new owners would have no access to the team’s cable network, which is the organization’s main source of income?

Sounds super.

Anyway, no sense in getting all upset over the details at this point. After all, it is still just a rumor. And even if Pete somehow manages to sell the team but keep MASN, it would still be a huge step in the right direction. Getting the Angelos name off the Orioles would immediately bring back a good chunk of the disenfranchised fan base.

Let’s hope it’s not just a rumor, and that more evidence of a potential sale begins popping up sooner rather than later.

h/t Baltimore Sports Report

2012 Mock Draft Round-Up Version 1.0

February 10, 2012

As Giants fans continue to celebrate their latest Super Bowl victory, we fans of the other 31 NFL teams are left to turn deep green with envy while they do. At the same time, though, we turn our eyes toward the next big day on the football calendar – the draft in April. The Ravens fell literally one catch short of a Super Bowl berth in 2011 – will the player that can finally push John Harbaugh’s team over the hump fall to them on draft day?

Before we get into who the mock drafts have the Ravens taking, our usual disclaimer:

Admittedly, we take a very unscientific approach to our mock drafts. I’m the first to admit that the true draft geeks amongst you, dear readers, would probably be better served getting your information elsewhere. These posts are done knowing full well that 1000′s of variables will come into effect between now and the time the Ravens turn in their pick for the first round, and that literally anything can happen. However, that being said, chances are we won’t be appreciably further off on our predictions than any of the other “gurus” out there will turn out to be.

So, if you are just looking for some fun, informal information, we hope you’ll give us a look from time to time as the big April date approaches.

The Ravens are picking 29th this year; the lowest position they’ve had entering any draft under John Harbaugh (2008 – 8, 2009 – 26, 2010 – 25, 2011 – 26). However, they didn’t select from their original position in any of those previous four drafts. In 08, they traded down to 18, where they selected Joe Flacco. In 2009, they moved up from 26 to 23 to get Michael Oher. They traded out of the first round completely in 2010, selecting Sergio Kindle in the second round as their first selection. Last year was the trade fiasco with the Chicago Bears, which resulted in the Ravens running out of time with the 26th pick before nabbing Jimmy Smith at #27.

Based on that recent track record, we have no reason to believe they’ll even be picking at #29. However, that’s all the information we have to work with at the moment, so away we go!

Todd McShay

Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State

(turn sound down)

Burfict is a physical freak with tremendous athleticism and explosive power. He’s a top-20 talent, but questions about his discipline on and off the field are hurting his stock. However, Burfict could contribute immediately and would benefit greatly from the leadership and guidance of Ravens MLB Ray Lewis. And you have to wonder whether the Ravens would press their luck and take another player with character flags after bringing CB Jimmy Smith into the fold last year.

My take: First off, I take issue with McShay’s assertion that they might not “press their luck” with Burfict (due to his off-field issues) because they chose Jimmy Smith – who had similar questions surrounding him – last year. On the contrary, because Smith was such a model citizen during his first season in Baltimore, I’d think the Ravens would instead be MORE likely to take a chance on a guy like Burfict.

Burfict’s “off-field issues” concern missing nearly his entire sophomore season due to academic problems. He plays a bit undisciplined, being benched at Arizona State in 2010 due to his high volume of personal fouls.

Still, he has all the talent in the world, and here’s guessing that the chance to be Ray Lewis’ heir would be enough to make even the crookedest arrow fly straight.

Here’s Scouts’ scouting report on Burfict:

Possesses an excellent frame with good length and thickness. Top-end speed appears above-average on tape.

Durability is not an issue at this point and has appeared in all 24 career games the past two seasons.

Plays with great intensity however, emotions can get the best of him on the field which has led to personal foul calls and costing his team in key situations (Late 4th QTR USC 2010). Also had three personal foul calls against Washington in 2009. No off-the-field issues that we are currently aware of. Had some maturity issues early in his career. Reports are that he has taken big steps this off-season in terms of maturing. Passionate and football is important to him.

Needs work with technique and will free lance on occasion. However, possesses natural football instincts. Make a quick diagnosis, finds the ball and has playmaking instincts. Flashes ability to take a snap shot before taking on blocks and get in position to make a play most collegiate LBs cannot make. Disciplined against play action and can sniff out screens.

Possesses prototypical traits for a MLB. Has a thick frame and solid anchor. Strong and flashes a violent and quick-twitched strike that can shock blockers. Not just a battering ram, though. Does a nice job of slipping blocks when need be and uses hands extremely well to discard blocks.

A gifted athlete for his size and possesses a wide range to make plays outside of the tackle box. Light on his feet and shows an easy change of direction. Closing burst is above-average and can make up ground in pursuit. Can show more consistency with effort chasing plays though.

A reliable run through tackler. A heavy hitter that possesses a rare ability to uncoil hips upon contact. Angles are consistent in pursuit and does a nice job of corralling ball carriers in the open field. Only concern is that he leads with helmet too much.

A three down linebacker that can make an impact both defending the pass and rushing the passer. Athleticism provides him with a wide range in underneath zone coverage. Does a nice job of reading QBs eyes but needs to do a better job of looking up crossers behind him. Can run with TEs down field but may have limitations matched up with quicker RBs in man coverage. A powerful blitzer up the gut that can run through blocks and create disruption in the pocket. Also was observed hurdling cut blocks on several occasions throughout film study.

With Steve Bisciotti stating in the Ravens’ end-of-the-season press conference that he has no interest in building up the offense at the expense of a steeply declining defense, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Ravens go with D in the first round for the second consecutive year. If Burfict is there at 29, he could be a perfect fit in B’More. Who better to teach him to properly harness all that emotion that he reportedly plays with than the king of gridiron emotion, Ray Lewis? Despite the red flags, for Baltimore, Burfict could be Perfect! (grooooaaaaaaaan)

CBS Sports

Peter Konz, Center, Wisconsin

A three-year starter, Peter Konz (kahnz) was a three-star offensive line recruit out of high school and was considered the state of Wisconsin?s top prep player, choosing the Badgers over Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota. After redshirting in 2008, he took over as the starting center for the injured Travis Frederick as a redshirt freshman early in the 2009 season, starting nine games at the pivot spot. Konz became the full-time starter at center in 2010 as a sophomore and started 11 games, but missed two games due to injury, earning All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors. He started the first 10 games of 2011 as a junior before an ankle injury sidelined him for the final three contests, earning First Team All-Big Ten honors.

Konz is a very good station-to-station blocker and effective puller. He isn?t naturally explosive, but shows the quick feet and mobility to block well on the move. He is aggressive and tough-minded, but has some durability concerns after missing time each of the past three seasons with several injuries.

Konz has an excellent combination of size, strength and quickness and possesses the skill-set to also line up at guard if needed (despite only playing center in college). He blocks with very good balance and raw power and is the top center in this draft class, projecting as a solid top-30 pick.

Pass blocking: Possesses a solidly-built frame with a filled-out body and solid muscle definition. Naturally wide base off the snap. Does a nice job sinking his hips and playing with consistent pad level, sitting in his stance with steady balance. Shoots his hands into defenders with very good placement, flashing strong hands to sustain blocks for an extended period of time. Taller for the center position and will allow his upper body to get high at times. Understands blocking angles.

Run blocking: A physical run blocker with raw power and strength at the point of attack. Gets very good initial push off the snap. Does a nice job with body positioning, walling off defenders to seal run lanes. Not a quick-twitch mover and looks a tad uncoordinated in tight spaces.

Pulling/trapping: Athletic and mobile, blocking well in space and pulling towards either sideline. Shows natural instincts with a very good feel for the position, keeping his eyes elevated and always looking for someone to block.

Initial Quickness: Sets up quickly and gets into his stance in a flash. Stout and aggressive at the point of attack and is tough to move because he plays with such good leverage. Sticky blocker. Konz is a bit stiff in his core and struggles to quickly redirect. Not naturally explosive.

Downfield: Rangy blocker with the foot quickness to cover a lot of ground and easily get to the second level. Takes on defenders with toughness and aggression, looking to finish and dominate.

Intangibles: Intelligent with strong football character, working hard on and off the field. Has good starting experience with 30 career starts at center over the past three seasons. Offers some versatility with the skill-set to line up at other offensive line spots. Has strong durability concerns, missing time each of the past three seasons with various injuries. Missed three games towards the end of 2011, including the Big Ten Championship Game, with a left ankle injury.

My take: If Matt Birk retires – as many expect he will – the Ravens will have a gaping hole at center. Andre Gurode was only signed for one season, and while the team could bring back the former Dallas Cowboy – who played OK as a guard in 2011 – getting a stud young center like Konz that can potentially man the position for the next decade is a much more attractive option. The injury concerns worry me a bit though; the Ravens have been spoiled with Birk, who hasn’t missed a game since coming to the team in 2009. Offensive line is definitely a concern for Baltimore entering the offseason. They struggled mightily in short yardage situations in 2011, and while Birk had a very good season overall, his lack of push in those types of scenarios cost the team on a few occasions. However, the last offensive lineman the Ravens took in the first round – Michael Oher in 2009 – has not proven himself to be completely worthy of such a high selection. I could see the team waiting until later rounds to try to find some value at center and/or guard.

In addition to the big-name sites like ESPN and CBS, I like to look at some lesser-known draft sites. As a fellow blogger, I have a great deal of respect for these guys that scout and put together mock drafts in what amounts to their spare time, or for very little compensation, especially compared to the Mel Kipers of the world. I hope you’ll give them a look as your draft fever increases here over the next few months. The first one we’ll look at today is NFLDraftWizard.com. This mock is by a fellow Baltimore guy, Neal Driscoll – Dolphins fan though (yeah, I know). Give him a follow on twitter: @NealDriscoll.

Burfict

Analysis: From a talent standpoint Vontaze Burfict is a beast but there are a ton of red flags surrounding him. The Ravens have had a history of taking a player with a bad reputation and making him fit. Burfict would be an ideal fit in Baltimore and eventually be Ray Lewis’ successor.

Again with the red flags. Unless I’m missing something, the concerns seem to be a bit overblown. Anyway, as I mentioned above, I think Burfict would be a great fit.

Walter Football

I’ve been including Walter’s predictions in my mock draft round ups for a few years now. I’ll undoubtedly get a few “who the hell is he?” comments, but if you take a look around the site, you’ll see that the guy knows his stuff. There is an incredible amount of content on the site, and I read his game previews pretty much every week during the season.

Burfict

Ozzie Newsome indicated that he’ll be looking for Ray Lewis’ successor this upcoming April. Well, Vontaze Burfict makes sense for a number of reasons. He’s one of the best players available and fits the attitude of Baltimore’s defense. He can play next to Lewis right away, and Ozzie Newsome has taken chances on talented head-cases before.

Since just about everybody is mocking Burfict to the Ravens, it’s probably a pretty safe bet that he WON’T be wearing purple and black come next season. However, he’s definitely a guy that Ravens fans should better familiarize themselves with, as we’ll be hearing his name to the point of exhaustion in the coming weeks.

Maybe his “issues” will be better explained as well – I’m still not sold on him being a “head case.”

Until the next mock draft round up, ya’ll.

Ricky Williams Retires

February 7, 2012

On Tuesday, Ravens running back Ricky Williams announced his retirement from the NFL. Williams, 34, had stated following the AFC Championship game that he was feeling good after the season and was looking forward to coming back to the Ravens in 2012. However, after a few weeks to think about it, the veteran seems to have had a change of heart.

Williams has said in the past that he plans on going to medical school once his football days are over, with the ultimate goal of becoming a psychiatrist.

Through his Alma mater, the University of Texas, Williams released the following statement:

“The NFL has been an amazing page in this chapter of my life. I pray that all successive adventures offer me the same potential for growth, success and most importantly fun. I want to thank all my fans, teammates, coaches and supporters for the strength they’ve given me to overcome so much.”

Ricky ran for 444 yards on 108 carries for the Ravens this season as Ray Rice’s backup. His departure leaves the Ravens with a void to fill at backup running back, as the only RBs remaining on the roster other than Rice (assuming he is resigned this offseason) are 2011 seventh round draft pick Anthony Allen and undrafted Damien Berry, who will also be in his second season. It is highly doubtful that Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore front office will be comfortable entering the season with those two as the primary backups to Rice.

Williams, of course has “retired” from the NFL before, back in 2004 following a failed drug test. It’s entirely possible that the former Texas Longhorn, who marches to the beat of his own drummer, could change his mind again once the 2012 season approaches. In that case, the Ravens would likely be very open to letting Williams – who is still under contract for another year – rejoin the squad. In the meantime, though, they need to proceed as if #34 will not be back, and start looking for a more proven backup for Rice.

On a personal note, I’m sorry to see Ricky go. I’ve always been a fan of his, and grew to like him even more after watching the ESPN documentary “Run Ricky Run” a few years back. I was pumped when he joined the purple and black, and was in attendance when he scored his first Ravens touchdown against Houston in Week 6. However, football is far from the most important thing in Williams’ life, and I’m sure he’ll make good on the promise he made on his twitter account after news of his imminent retirement leaked:

“Thank you all, but this ain’t it, I’m gonna do something really special. ‘Be you and change the world,’

If this is it, I’m glad Williams finished his career in Charm City. If not, I’ll welcome him with open arms when he decides to return to again back up Rice.

O's Trade Jeremy Guthrie to Rockies, Get No Younger or Better

February 6, 2012

This morning, the Orioles traded pitcher Jeremy Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies. Guthrie was engaged in arbitration hearings with the club, where he had reportedly submitted a salary number of over $10 million. According to the same report, the O’s submitted a number of 7.25 million; rather than try to bridge the gap, they shipped the veteran right-hander to Colorado.

Guthrie wasn’t an “ace” by any means, but he was easily the most reliable starter on the Baltimore roster. With the collection of unproven young guys and veteran journeymen constantly shuffling through the O’s rotation, Guthrie was a steady presence. He pitched 175 innings or more in each of his five seasons in Charm City, and went over 200 the last three years. Again, he wasn’t going to go out and consistently dominate, but Guthrie was at least a guy that you could run out there every fifth day and know that he would compete for you, and that he would very likely get into at least the sixth or seventh inning (a very rare feat for Baltimore starters these days), giving the bullpen what was always a much-needed rest.

At this point in his career though, “Gutz” costs money, and there is no room for that type of guy on the O’s roster.

So did the Orioles at least get some decent prospects from the Rockies in the deal?

Of course not.

What they got were two pitchers, Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom, who are neither particularly young nor particularly talented or successful major leaguers.

Hammel, 29, has a career ERA of 4.99 in 115 career starts over six seasons.

Lindstrom, who turns 32 this week, has been a marginally effective bullpen guy over five seasons in the National League.

However, the O’s get both Hammel and Lindstrom combined for roughly what Guthrie would have cost them. Which, in their eyes, is perfect.

Confused about how the deal makes the team better? Well, have a look at this handy-dandy O’s decision-making flowchart, and that should clear things right up.

Pitchers and catchers report in six days.

Excited yet?

Suggs Wins AP Defensive Player of the Year

February 6, 2012

On Saturday, Ravens defensive end/linebacker Terrell Suggs was named as the Associated Press’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year for 2011. Suggs posted the best year of his nine-year career in Baltimore, with 14 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions. He was the best player on the Ravens’ defense, which finished the year ranked third overall in the league. Unfortunately, he was a bit quiet in the postseason, as the Ravens barely squeaked by the Houston Texans in the divisional round before falling just short in New England in the AFC Championship.

Suggs was the third Raven to win the award, joining Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Since 2000, a Raven has won the award four times (Lewis 2000, 2003; Reed 2004; Suggs 2011). No other team has had more than two such awards in that span (Pittsburgh).

While Suggs freely admits that the season was a failure without the Lombardi Trophy, this is a nice individual accolade to help ease the pain.


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