Man, the Maryland Jockey Club sure has some nerve.
While Pimlico Race Track sits there crumbling, the MJC continues to spend money on their fair-haired-boy, Laurel Race Track, and is now seeking to have half of a recent $8.7 million improvement expenditure reimbursed to them by the state of Maryland.
Really? Are you serious?
It's your track in Laurel. And it's your responsibility.
But there's a lot more to this story. The nerve of the Maryland Jockey Club is staggering.
The Baltimore Sun is reporting that over the last five years, MJC has spent about 87% of a $45 million "improvement account" on -- you know where this is going -- sprucing up Laurel Park.
That's right. The state of Maryland, through a fund called the Racetrack Facility Renewal Account, has forked over roughly $39,000,000 to the Maryland Jockey Club so they can improve Laurel Park, all while Pimlico sits in ruins and 7,000 seats were deemed "unsafe for use" during the recent running of the Preakness Stakes.
I'm not sure who we should be more furious with...the Maryland Jockey Club -- for ignoring Pimlico -- or the state of Maryland and its racing commission, for not having their fingers on the pulse of this "improvement account" that has clearly been used to benefit Laurel Park while Pimlico wastes away.
Just move the Preakness to Laurel already and get it over with. It's very obvious that's the intent of the Jockey Club. It has been for a while now. And will continue to be.
Oh, but do not give them one nickel of reimbursement for that recent $8.7 million improvement bill they handed over. No. No. No. If they want Laurel to look that pretty, let them pay for it themselves.
This is like your ex-wife's husband asking you to chip in for her breast implants. "Well, you do still get to see her at family functions," he says to you while giving you the "opportunity" to give him $2,000 so you can admire her new body at the 4th of July picnic and Christmas dinner.
The Maryland Jockey Club has poor-boyed Pimlico long enough. It's always been their secret plan to let it rot away, which, of course, it has been doing now for more than a decade. The proof of that comes from The Baltimore Sun and their research that shows the Jockey Club has spent $39 million on Laurel and $6 million on Pimlico through the "improvement account" over the last five years.
There's no getting out of it now. The Jockey Club has sought to spruce up and improve Laurel Park while allowing Pimlico to decay.
So they should be paying for Laurel's upgrade in full. And the state should just go ahead and close down Pimlico, move the Preakness to Laurel, and get it over with.
Take whatever money you've been wasting on Pimlico and hire more police officers to get Baltimore City under control. That's a good start.
But in no way should the state of Maryland give the Jockey Club another nickel for Laurel Park. If they've spent $39 million on it over the last five years and it's not up to their standards, perhaps they've been doing it wrong all along. Either way, the time has come for the state to start saying "no" to the Maryland Jockey Club, in the same way you'd say "no" to your ex-wife's husband.
Pay for it yourself.
Look, I completely realize that in the middle of an 11-2 game, announcers and analysts are looking for any morsel of information they can pass along to try and kill time.
If you think it's miserable getting shellacked in a baseball game as a player, it's even worse for the men and women forced to sit there and talk about it.
So, we have to excuse O's color analyst Jim Palmer for his Tuesday night critique of pitcher Dan Straily.
After Straily gave up a 3-run homer to Khris Davis -- he's the one who actually swings the bat -- in the 6th of last night's 16-2 O's loss at Oakland, Palmer opined that Straily had a unique opportunity at hand.
"This game's obviously in the books," Palmer said. "But Straily can still use the rest of the time he's out there to try and discover something." I spit out my late night cup of Royal Farms coffee when I heard that one.
A few minutes later, Straily discovered something alright. He discovered that his ERA was going up again after allowing yet another 3-run homer.
I might be wrong on this one. If so, check back in here later today, around 3 pm EST, and say, "Straily's still on the team." But there's simply no way Dan Straily can be on the team's roster for this afternoon's game. He has to go. Not because he's a bad guy or a bad professional. He's just not a major league pitcher.
His current ERA is 9.82. Sure, Gabriel Ynoa also allowed three home runs last night. But Ynoa's ERA is "only" 5.65. Straily can't get anyone out. Or, at the very least, he can't get people out until the other team has smashed him for six runs and has grown tired of running around the bases.
I understand the team's roster plight. It's hard to bring someone up from Norfolk when you don't have anyone down there that you think is better than, say, Straily or Ynoa. Heck, they brought Ynoa up from Norfolk and you see what that's getting them. Nothing.
But trotting Straily out there to get hammered two or three times a week isn't helping anyone.
This rebuilding project is a real hoot.
The Orioles are now 21-52. In 12 of those 52 losses, they've surrendered double digit run totals. That's 23%. I have to type it out again to make sure I'm presenting it correctly. In 23% of the team's losses this year, they've allowed 10 or more runs.
And we think the Maryland Jockey Club has been intentionally allowing Pimlico to crumble, huh? These last two lost seasons for the Orioles really are complete works-of-art, albeit under two different management teams.
They lost to the A's last night, 16-2. By the way, the Birds have played Oakland six times this season. They're 1-5 against them. The A's have scored 54 runs in those six games.
For those of you who are longing for a modest 2-game win streak, hang in there. After they lose in Oakland this afternoon, the Birds head to Seattle for a 4-game series with the Mariners, who are 31-46 and in the beginning stages of their own tear-down. Brandon Hyde and Company might actually win a couple of games in the Pacific Northwest this weekend.
Let's just hope Dan Straily's not part of the traveling party later on this afternoon.
|Chris June 19|
|That's an amazing stat about the Orioles. They've given up 10 runs (or more) in 12 games this season. Wow !!|
|Jason M June 19|
|A 5 year old mare died at Laurel on Sunday, let's hope Laurel doesn't become the new Santa Anita, another Stronarch track. Who know what these people are up tom after what they have done to the city of Baltimore, it's disgusting. These Canucks are trampling on a sacred tradition in moving the Preakness out of Baltimore. This is evidence that they put the wheels in motion years ago to pull this off. Laurel's track is now very nice and has amenities that Pimlico doesn't have. But the Preakness will never be what it was at Pimlico when it is in Laurel. They will have commoditized it and ruined it.|
|Tom June 19|
|Thanks, Neutral. Makes sense.|
|Neutral Observer June 19|
|@Tom, "Keeler" is "Long Arm".|
|Poppa Joe June 19|
|Mike in Catonsville calls President Trump "orange man" but it's the conservatives who are mean spirited according to most with a [D] next to their name.|
|K.A. June 19|
|Yacobonis should be a regular "opener" for the O's as of today. Let's see what he does against the A's but he's definitely better than Ynoa and Straily. Watch Jimmy Y. pitch. He knows what he's doing.|
|Tom June 19|
Who is Long Arm?
|Neutral Observer June 19|
|Looks like @The Long Arm has returned after his brief hiatus/take my ball and go home. Welcome back, Arm!|
|unitastoberry June 19|
|The variables with the latest Oriole rebuild are huge. It all hinges on several things. Elias ability to find the right talent via drafts and trades. And ownerships ablity to pay the right money to that right talent when and if Elias finds them. Then when they get the right talent find a manager who can win 10 games a year on just his abilty to manage.
Not exactly a sure thing on either end especially with this teams track record under the current ownership. Wake me when its over and until then I'll read the articles here and a few other places lol.
|Steve of Pimlico June 19|
|I'm not sure how this Oriole rebuild,will work in a division with New York and Boston still able to go out and get just about anyone they need or want. Elias didn't have to contend with teams with their resources in AL West.
|Keeler June 19|
I know the law...I helped write it. Not going to argue about silly little points. I know that OD/Rosecroft can apply for matching funds. I know that THE BIG T...gets a fixed amount.
Courts will decide it.
You really should go back and read House bill 990.
Did MJC cross all the T's and dot the I's. Nope.
My main point was that the fund is the fund. If it isn't used up after 16 years the money goes to the Education Fund.
Horseracing operators have always skirted and skated by. This is nothing new.
The Article was a silly premise, it was argued that the spigot should be turned off...just because.
I'm just guessing, but I think that they will get reimbursed...because they put in some of their own money[which everyone, including the Sun seems to miss] Reread the matching funds segment. IF you think that the MJC can't produce matching funds statements, you underestimate creative accounting.
And I hate to say it....but you are correct on Pimlico....and I hate that. It deserves a miracle.
|"Track Guy" June 19|
|Mr. or Ms. Keeler:
You are wrong. It's that simple. I don't know where you get your information but it's wrong.
The fund is available to anyone, not just the MJC. But all improvements and money requests must be approved by the Commission. You seem to miss that point.
That they asked for a vote for Pimlico improvements and then begged for forgiveness with the Laurel improvements is where the issue lies. They are going to get hammered for the Laurel situation.
As for Pimlico, wish for its survival all you want but that track will be dirt and dust by 2021 or 2022. It's over.
|Tom June 19|
|16-2? Can you imagine the outcry in town if the Ravens lost 25% of their games by 28 points? I agree with whoever it was here that said this team might not win 40 games, let alone 50 games.|
|Keeler June 19|
The money "contributed" to the RFRA comes directly from Video Lottery Terminals, in other words CASINO's. Just because it is a separate fund, it disproves YOUR assertion and validates mine.
There are lots of legalese involving matching, racing dates and other things.
No doubt that way more was spent on Laurel. The number of dates will likely[though who knows where this goes as the courts will decide this, this is heading for a lengthy court fight] save the MJC. But that is just an opinion.
I want Pimlico saved. MJC does not. That is obvious.
Casino/Track Welfare is going to be front and center in the years to come. Not just here in Maryland but all over the country. Without that "help" racing would be on it's last legs. My capitalistic/markets sensibilities would/should lead me to letting horse racing die, but I like it and it does provide a multitude of jobs[most are not great], but open space, farms, horses...a lot of that is good for society.
|HERMAN June 19|
|MFC is correct, the city of Baltimore has the equivalent of a "bowl game" once a year in the Preakness. It pumps money into the local economy, gives the city the chance to shine.
But the ways in which both politicians, and those in charge of racing in Maryland have made decisions on legalizing gambling and horse racing in Maryland has done nothing to improve the sport, or Pimlico, or Maryland's once great standing in breeding and racing.
As Baltimore slides into third world status losing Pimlico will be seen as just another step in the long horrible process.
|G-Man June 19|
|The Preakness will be run at Laurel Park in 2021. That was decided back in January. Ask the construction guys who are down there doing the work and they'll tell you. They have to have everything finished by April 1, 2021.|
|J.J. June 19|
|I second the motion of @That Guy. It's horse racing. Who cares? I'd rather read about Tiger and the Orioles and Michael Pierce's weight problems.|
|Carl June 19|
|Nice info from "Track Guy" there. Thanks for sharing.|
|"Track Guy" June 19|
|Mr. or Ms. Keeler is misinformed.
The RFRA is not governed at all by the casino share law. It's a separate fund moderated entirely by the Racing Commission and is in place, according to the by-laws I have in front of me, "For the express purpose of upgrading and improving any facility that focuses on breeding, training or racing, with such improvements requiring a majority vote of approval by members of the Commission."
What those of us within the industry know is something Mr. or Ms. Keeler must not. MJC never approached the Commission about the improvements they were making to Laurel but would consistently ask for the Pimlico improvements to be voted on. Once the improvements were made at Laurel, then and only then did they go back and ask for reimbursements, as yesterday's Sunpapers article showed.
Heads are going to roll from this one. Midnight is about to strike on the MJC.
|That Guy June 19|
|Who cares about an "improvement account"? It's horse racing. No one cares about it. As Drew pointed out, if the Jockey Club people are spending money on Laurel and not Pimlico, just go ahead and shutter Pimlico and get it over with. Move the Preakness down I-95 and see if that helps. Or here's a better idea. Just close both tracks and save the money. It's horse racing. NOBODY CARES ABOUT IT.|
|Tomas Juan June 19|
|@Rich I'm pretty sure President Obama was called much worse...|
|Tom J June 19|
|This bum Straily should have been told to keep walking after that embarrassment of throwing BP to the Red Sox the other night. Straight pitches right down the middle. And the same thing last night??? I think he's given up 22 HR's in like 47 innings so far. What a joke. The minor leaguers are laughing at him.|
|Keeler June 19|
|@RJ wrote that Drew was out of his slump, but today's "not well thought out" article mires him again into the abyss. What he is writing is that willy nilly the state, the commission and some other "they" can re-write the rules as a penalty for not plowing money into Pimlico.
The improvement account is not subject to this kind of random exposure. When casino gambling was voted in a portion was DUE to the race tracks. Sounds like AUTOCRATS just want to rule in any way they want.
This article was a Little Fella special. If you want to abolish Casino/Track welfare then lobby the legislature. Silly premise.
|BJ June 19|
|I don't watch the O's this season. I just wake up, go to #DMD and look at the scoreboard. I refreshed the page this morning because I saw 16-2 and thought it was a mistake. Nope, no mistake. We lost 16-2. Rebuilding is fun!|
|Tim G June 19|
Libs can attack the President but if those same things would have been said about Prez O they would have flipped their lid.
|Mark in Perry Hall June 19|
|I heard Palmer say that last night about Strailly and also heard him drop a hint about Chris Davis getting released. He said something like "There are definitely some guys you're seeing tonight, or maybe not seeing tonight for that matter, who won't be with the club by the All Star Break." I am pretty sure he was talking about Davis.|
|Rich June 19|
|It's interesting that Mike and other liberals call President Trump the "Orange Man". What if conservatives would have called President Obama "The Black Man" ???????|
|mike from catonsville June 19|
|One week a year we get a Super Bowl or at least a huge Bowl game why would Baltimore not want to do everything to keep it here. I'm not a huge tax guy but I'm willing to pay 1% extra sales tax until we get $1 BILLION to spend on Pimlico in return they sign a long term deal to keep the Preakness in Baltimore. After the Billion is collected the sales tax goes away. It won't happen but I would be willing to do that. Yes we need more cops on the streets, yes the area around Pimlico needs to be totally gutted and rebuilt I get that. What I don't want is another loser tag for Baltimore. We've had enough of that, it's time to start winning. Win the war on violence, win the the war on education, win the war on drugs and guns. I hate to start sounding like the orange man but we need to start winning. Lets start by investing in Pimlico and keeping the Preakness. Lose it and it's just another dagger in the heart of Baltimore. We're so much better than that, lets prove it.|
|That Guy June 19|
|Let both Pimlico and Laurel rot for all I care. It's horse racing. It doesn't matter.|
|Ron June 19|
|Can't wait until 2023 when baseball matters again in Baltimore.
In the meantime, I'll follow the team through DMD.
|JohnInEssex June 18|
|Out at Memorial Stadium years ago, sat in the box seats about 20 rows back, just beyond the netting at first base. Buddy of mine got 4 comp tickets from work. First inning, guy goes to his seat on the end, with his hot dog and beverage, about 4 rows back from the field. He just sits down as a foul ball comes screaming and makes a direct hit on his head. You could hear the crack of his head as the ball hit it - the most sickening sound I've ever heard. He was given a towel to attempt to slow the bleeding and his blood drenched it. My 6th grade teacher was our usher and was one of the first to help. He sadly told us that the guy was probably going to lose his eye. Never heard the follow-up, but was always extra leery after that of sitting close at a baseball game.|
|RJ June 18|
|Some Guy, you misunderstood the OP's intent. He/she was saying on any other day when Drew writes about Tiger he gets beat up by the Tiger haters here. Then when there's no Tiger on the website the haters go ahead and write about him anyway. That's the way I read it anyway. Maybe I'm wrong?|
|Josh June 18|
|Trade Mancini? I think you have to. The years of control left might be enough to get a team to part with a decent prospect|
|Some guy June 18|
|Beating up Drew? Sounds like people are beating up Tiger not Drew. And not sure why beating up Tiger should bother anyone, whether they are pro or anti Tiger. Lots of sensitive people out here.
Offer Mancini a modest 6 year deal, if that can't be worked out, trade him.
UTB, they are not "light years" away, stop believing the propaganda
|Unitastoberry June 18|
|If you keep Mancini and he keeps hitting around 300 then gets a big contract he's the next Brian Roberts. He will spend a career here and never contend. This teams light years from being good. But you need at least one good guy with a bat...or do you?|
|Rob Really June 18|
|I took Phil Plantier on my 1993 Rotisserie Baseball team (the "Green Monsters"). Only cost me $3 out of a $260 budget. He hit 34 dingers with 100 ribbies and a 0.843 OPS (no, we didn't know what OPS was back then). Also had Frank Thomas, Dean Palmer and Dennis Eckersley that year. Won the league going away.|
|RJ June 18|
|I don't like Woods but even I'll admit it's kind of pathetic to see people here today blasting him.
As for the Mancini article, I say keep him. Without him, they might not win 40 games. And yes, I'm serious.
I've definitely noticed an uptick in DMD quality over the last couple of weeks. Whatever slump Drew and the other writers were in has passed. Drew's coverage of the US Open is better than anything you'll find at the Sun or the Post. He should be writing golf for those newspapers.
|Paul Ballenger June 18|
|You guys beat up @Drew when he writes about Tiger. Then when Tiger isn't even a factor and doesn't get a mention, you guys bring him up anyway. Strange place.|
|confused observer June 18|
|So if people writing about Woods are fools, what are people who write about the people writing about Woods??
And again with the “all these haters are obviously MONK”, the SOD just cannot comprehend that there can be more than one reader who goes against our site host and dislikes Woods. SOD is like a middle school clique or something. But no worries fellas, I am MONK too lol
|HERMAN June 18|
All right. I admit it. I wrote it to troll you.
Hope you are well.
Met the site owner last week.
I'm still not sure he made the connection between a fellow club member, and frequent comment contributor.
|George June 18|
|@Herman -- Where do you sign up? I picked Rickie to win the Rocket Mortgage Classic in two weeks. Drew picked Sung Kang, apparently unaware that Fowler is good for the game.|
|HERMAN June 18|
|I'm a proud member of ARFF.
Amalgam of Ricky Fowler Fans
|David Rosenfeld June 18|
|Where else but #DMD would you get a Phil Plantier reference? Bravo...|
|Been Berry Good June 18|
|I once caught a home run ball with my bare hands. It broke my thumb. It was high fly ball in the Left field bleachers at Memorial. Hit by a Red Sox player Phil Plantier. A lazy fly ball that sailed into the 3rd row. No glove.
I would tend to think that there has to be a foul ball fly chart that can be looked at. Using some actuarial tables to figure out how far they have to go.
And when it comes to sitting behind the nets, your eyes get used to them and the netting affect disappears for a large number of people.
And I too vote for the SSWW.
|Tom J June 18|
|So Brian, where do we draw the proverbial line at installing the nets? Do we run it all the way around the stadium because we don't want the person or kid in the bleachers getting hit with a home run ball. Do we take it up as high as the stadium because no one in the upper deck should be hit with a fouled off ball right? What would be your plan to keep all fans in all areas of the stadium safe? Do we net off Eutaw Street because the fans out there certainly aren't watching the game at that point but how many markers are out there from home runs hit. Where exactly do we draw the line?
It says right on the ticket "Beware of batted balls" and "not responsible" so I don't think MLB is on the hook for these.
|LJ June 18|
|Thank goodness. Monk is back, he is all of the guys under various names that hate Tiger.
I have no vote, but the SSWW is fantastic.
|Chris in Bel Air June 18|
|Mancini's value can't get any higher than now when you combine the years of control and his performance to date. His .309 BA is 5th in the AL and 14th for MLB.|
|Biased Observer June 18|
|I don't know how Woods got brought up again, I guess it was Herman who started it and Traveler upped the ante, but I watched all day Saturday and Sunday. Woods was not part of the story of the golf tournament per se...but they sure showed a ton of his shots on both days that he was out of it. It was all on early, but he was featured.
Might be time for a new DMD term.
We have SOD, LF....might need SSWW. The "SACRED SOCIETY of WOODS WORSHIPPERS. Rolls of the tongue.
|Chris in Bel Air June 18|
|At this point, the O's are in need of more, real MLB talent so I am in favor of trading Mancini. Sure, trading him doesn't mean the players the O's will receive in return will end up being quality MLB players. However, the more younger players showing potential they can stockpile the better chances they have at finding quality MLB players for the long haul.|
|Delray Rick June 18|
|GOLFTRAVELER...YOU ARE RIGHT ON. Now the MESSIA is just a happy go lucky guy.|
No, not Chris Davis. We can't trade him. No one will take him.
The subject, of course, is the one definitive trade commodity the Orioles have who might actually fetch something of reasonable quality: Trey Mancini.
Even the national writers and pundits are starting to ask the question now: "Should the Orioles trade Trey Mancini this summer?"
He went 1-for-4 last night in Oakland (the O's lost, 3-2, in case you stopped following along in late April) and is now hitting .309 on the season. His other numbers are just as impressive. Mancini's on-base-percentage is .363, along with 16 home runs and 35 RBI.
His only curse, if you can call being 27 years old a curse? He's 27 years old. Adam Jones has showed that baseball players can still play into their mid 30's, but Mancini's age is certainly an issue as far as the Orioles are concerned. He'll likely just be coming up on his free agency period right about the time the Orioles start threatening to win half of their games again. And at that point, he might be too "old" to dump a big contract on, if that makes any sense at all.
So.....trade him now? Or keep him?
This story has been bubbling throughout the season, but as we head into June's home stretch and approach the month of July, it's well worth revisiting. Mancini is the team's most competent player at this point. He'll be an American League All-Star next month and, unless something really freaky happens, the team's MVP as well for 2019. That is, if he makes it the entire season in Baltimore.
Mike Elias hinted recently on the team's flagship station that Mancini isn't going anywhere. That, I think most of us suspect, was probably just talk radio fodder, an effort by the team's new GM to not create a story where perhaps there isn't one in place. After all, there's no real trade talk until another team calls about one of your players.
But it would seen almost natural for Elias to try and get something of value for Mancini if, in fact, he can do that. The argument in favor of the deal is simple: Mancini isn't going to help you win over the next few years. And when the rebuilding project fully takes hold and the Orioles start winning again, Mancini likely won't be part of that group anyway.
In the meantime, though, this stinky O's team with 21 wins would probably only have 17 or 18 if not for Mancini. He's having a terrific season to date, one of only a handful of guys on the team actually over-performing at this point.
Can you really get rid of a guy who is actually helping you win? When you do win, that is.
Oh, and in case it matters, people in Baltimore actually like Mancini. Maybe it's because he's hitting .309 and making a representative salary. Baltimoreans tend to appreciate those guys, more, let's say, than the guy hitting making $23 million who is hitting .160 on the campaign through 72 games.
To say Mancini is a fan favorite would be stating the obvious. But, in fairness, most of the fans don't know most of the players. Ask someone in the local mall today who Renato Nunez is and they'd probably say "a soccer player".
So does it make sense to trade away the team's most popular player, with three years of service remaining, just because his value is higher now than it might be ever again?
Rebuilders would say "yes!" to that.
Fans of the team would likely say "no".
Me? I think it would probably depend on the deal. I feel like I'm saying the same thing right now I said last year at this time when there was talk of trading other "under control" guys like Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, just to name two. It's hard to ship a guy away that you control for a few years. But if you're losing with him anyway, and you can make a favorable deal, you have to consider it.
Not that Gausman is lighting it up in Atlanta (he isn't), but that trade hasn't produced anything favorable for the Orioles. Not yet, anyway. That day might come, but for now, that deal looks pretty useless. For both teams.
Maybe Mike Elias is better at trading players than was Dan Duquette. He deserves that benefit of the doubt. If he winds up moving Mancini at the deadline, I'll be anxious to see what kind of haul he gets in return. "Haul" might be a strong word. Mancini's a good player, but certainly not a franchise-changer. Still, he's a valued commodity at this point and should bring back something of value in a mid-season trade, especially with three years of service remaining.
And you? What do yo say about trading away Mancini at this point? Please use the comments section below.
from the desk of
BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.
With a fair amount of regularity these days, I find myself thinking about a girl I knew in middle school. She went to a neighboring school, and despite the fact that she lingers in my mind nearly 20 years later I really didn't know her very well at all.
We had quite a few mutual friends, but she herself wasn't much more than an acquaintance I would see/hang out in large groups with at the kind of events one does those sorts of things at when you're growing up in small town, rural Ohio. Her name was Brittanie Cecil, and if you're a sports fan you almost certainly know her story, even if her name has long since faded from your memory.
On March 16, 2002, Brittanie was struck in the head by a wayward puck while sitting in the crowd at a Columbus Blue Jackets game. The blow fractured her skull and tore an artery in her head, injuries that were not immediately detected after she was transported to the hospital.
Two days later she was dead.
I must confess that there's no existential reason for me to be thinking about her 17 years later. As I said, we weren't any more than casual acquaintances and I probably learned more about her from news articles after her death than I'd learned from any of the times we happened to be in the same place with the same people. And despite the tragedy of the event and the fact that we grew up in such a small area, I can't even honestly say that her death was some sort of immense, world changing tragedy in the local community either.
It was a big event to be sure, but life went on and after a while it was shockingly easy to forget what had happened, despite our home town's brush with national infamy.
No, what has Brittanie on my mind so often these days is the recognition that there's going to be another story just like hers at a Major League Baseball stadium one day, perhaps sooner rather than later.
This isn't the kind of thing statisticians track, but at first glance it appears that incidences of fans being injured by foul balls are on the rise. Last week, a fan was hit in the head at a Nats-White Sox game in Chicago and was seen bleeding from her head as she walked the steps to seek medical attention. Less than a month ago now, a 4 year old girl was struck by a foul ball in a Cubs-Astros game, an incident that received tremendous amounts of attention in large part because of the devastated reaction of Albert Almora Jr., the Chicago outfielder who hit the fateful foul ball.
Both of these fans are fine, so far as we know, but how many more times can anyone sitting in the line of fire, so to speak, count on that kind of good fortune to save them? The ball that hit the fan in Chicago came off the bat in excess of 100 MPH before striking her flush in the head. It was all too reminiscent of what happened to Brittanie Cecil back in 2002, and there's no reason whatsoever to think that, but for the grace of God, those kind of injuries couldn't have taken her life as easily as Brittanie lost hers.
Major League Baseball's shameful reaction is predictable, I suppose. Commissioner Rob Manfred promised to "study" the problem, but indicated that nothing was likely to be done on the matter until next year....at the earliest. Something about it being a facilities problem or something, as though every team couldn't hire someone to rig up new netting within two weeks if they wanted to.
Oh well, it's short sighted on their part too. Should the worse happen, MLB will have to pay up for their indifference through lawsuits and bad publicity that will pile up on top of the cost of the netting they'll certainly install then. That's not an acceptable trade off by any means, of course, but at least there will be a cost for their cravenness.
On the other hand, I can't fathom what it is that makes a certain segment of fans turn into raving, idiotic, mongos online and on radio call in shows whenever this topic comes up. To hear these knuckleheads tell it, expanding the netting down the foul line will ruin the very fabric of the game itself. Oh sure there's already netting at the parks, and has been for as long as I can remember.
And yes, the seats behind those nets are still the most expensive in the park, so apparently they're not so terrible as to induce the people who can afford to to move farther away from the field for the privilege of seeing the actions sans netting. But push it further down the foul lines, at least all the way through the infield? I'm not kidding when I say that the mere suggestion actually turns people into angry, ranting, morons.
Their arguments are predictably bad, as you would expect. "Pay attention," they say, falling back on the old saw that the problem is that there are too few "real fans" at the ballparks these days, people who are spending time doing things other than paying attention to the game. And yes, this is as dumb an argument as you can possibly make, and if you try to use it on me in earnest I'm going to have to conclude that you aren't actually much of a baseball fan at all, and certainly don't know how to properly enjoy taking in a game in person.
Because you know what watching a baseball game in the stands is absolutely, positively, NOT supposed to amount to? Sitting in a seat at rapt attention watching nothing but the ball itself at any given moment. You can do that on your couch. The whole stadium experience is about the OTHER things that live baseball can provide at its best. It's watching the aspects of the game you don't see on TV. It's a kid spending the innings when the home team is in the field watching his favorite player play right field or third base instead of focusing on the pitcher and batter.
And yes, it's about things that don't have anything to do with the game on the field itself. It's checking out the trivia facts about players on the big screen as they bat. It's about knowing that the UDF "frosty chocolate malt" vendor only comes around twice a game if you're lucky, and you damn sure don't want to miss him when he does (yes this was me as an 8 year old, and yes I was a MASSIVE fan who used to score the games I went to. Which also amounted to a distraction).
Sometimes it can mean nothing more than enjoying some beautiful spring/summer weather with whomever is accompanying you to the ballpark. In high school a group of my friends and I would probably make it to at least 10-12 Reds games a year just for the heck of it. We were 17-18 and the Reds weren't very good, so the games didn't have our full attention all the time but we still loved baseball and I'm pretty sure the team and the league were glad to have our ticket money all the same. And we had a lot of fun on those outings, and still have stories from them that we talk about to this day.
But putting all of that aside, telling people to "pay attention" is just meaningless because, well, it's not enough. Balls already come off the mat at 100MPH+, and pitchers are throwing harder than ever while batters are putting more and more emphasis on hitting balls as hard as they can rather than simply making contact with the ball. That's going to increase the velocity of those foul balls, further reducing the time you'll have to react and get out of the way from a window that already isn't very long.
Pay attention all you want, it absolutely does not guarantee you'll have the time/reflexes to avoid a frozen rope into the seats.
Let me end by making sure there's no beating around the bush at all here: Put up the damn nets already. Do it now. ASAP.
Take it from me, the life that's saved may actually be one you know.
Gary Woodland did the near impossible on Sunday. He stood up to golf's ultimate test, with the game's best player breathing down his neck, and held on to a lead for the third straight day on his way to winning the United States Open title.
The phrase "couldn't happen to a better guy" is often overused, but in this case, it's completely appropriate. There was no one on Sunday more deserving of a major championship victory than the very guy who wound up holding the trophy at day's end.
Gary Woodland said afterwards he was "made for this". Trying his best to not sound conceited, Woodland sat in the media room, stone faced, and commented on a number of occasions, "I knew I could do this and play this kind of golf. I just had to let it happen."
So why now? Why, at age 35, would a guy with a so-so track record at both the U.S. Open and Pebble Beach suddenly emerge victorious?
It was not a fluke, mind you. No, no, no. Woodland didn't just hang around for a few days and suddenly cobble together a back nine 33 on Sunday that gave him the title after the leaders all stumbled on Pebble Beach's incoming holes. Gary Woodland didn't back into winning, that's for darn sure.
So, again...why now?
I believe the foundation for Woodland's victory was actually laid in late January in Phoenix. I believe in these things. You might not. That's OK. But I sure do.
It was at that tournament that organizers of the Phoenix Open asked Woodland if he would allow a young lady from the local Special Olympics program to play one hole with him during Wednesday's practice round. Her name was Amy Bockerstette. Woodland agreed to do it. That decision might have changed his life.
Let's strike "might" from that sentence above. That decision changed Gary Woodland's life.
The video from that day is below. If you've already seen it, go ahead and watch it again. You're probably about 103 views behind me, I'd guess. If you haven't seen it yet, please watch it.
I believe God rewards people who are warm and kind. I believe he's even more appreciative of those acts of kindness when they involve children and/or people with disabilities.
I think Gary Woodland won the U.S. Open on that January afternoon in Phoenix when he embraced Ms. Bockerstette and gave her a memory she'd never forget. As we've all seen over the last day, he's made her into a national hero of sorts.
Sure, Gary Woodland hit that 260 yard 3-wood at #14 yesterday. God didn't hit it.
It was Gary Woodland with that amazing chip on the front edge of the 17th green on Sunday. God didn't hit that shot.
But I believe it was God's intervention that paved the way for Woodland to win in the first place.
Nothing about Woodland's history or stat page showed this was the tournament where he'd get that major championship monkey off his back. He'd never played the Pebble Beach Pro-Am particularly well, although it's fair to note most of his "off" rounds came on the other courses in the rotation that weren't Pebble Beach. But heading into this week's U.S. Open, Woodland was ranked 160th in putting for the year and near the bottom in every "short game" category you could dig up.
Something happened this week, though.
Woodland's nerves were calm. He was resolute, but not overamped. He followed up any bad shot -- and there weren't many -- with a great one. Time after time after time, when faced with a moment that could swing the tournament in someone else's favor, Woodland delivered a key shot.
In the end, he won because he played the best, with just four -- that's right, four -- bogeys in 72 holes of golf on one of the toughest tests in golf.
But he also won because God favors people who shine their light on others who aren't as fortunate.
Nothing will ever convince me otherwise. God bless Gary Woodland. He made a little girl famous and gave her a memory that she'll cherish forever.
And he'll always be a U.S. Open champion, too.
We can strike "U.S. Open" from that sentence if we'd like. Gary Woodland is, simply, a champion.
Gary Woodland won the U.S. Open, but there are definitely others who will wake up this morning and say "what if?". Woodland "only" shot 69 on the final day, finishing at 13-under par when his 30 foot birdie putt fell into the hole at #18. He could have been run down, by several people in fact, but no one could nose past him throughout Sunday's final round. Justin Rose was one behind after making birdie at the first hole, but his otherwise extraordinary short game finally left him by the time the leaders reached the back nine. Truth be told, Rose hit the ball terribly -- for him and his level of golf -- for the first three days, but his work around and on the greens saved him. At some point, he'd have to play better golf. And he couldn't.
Brooks Koepka hung in there and gave it a valiant effort, but his missed 10-footer at #18 was a huge part of Sunday's theatrics. If Koepka would have made that one, Woodland would have led only by a shot heading to the final tee. Koepka's runner up finish gives him a 1st, a 2nd, and a T2 in the three majors thus far in 2019. It's very Tiger-like, for sure. And you just know he's going to be in the hunt next month at Royal Portrush for the British Open.
Speaking of Woods, he stunk it up early on Sunday, then rallied for six birdies in the final 12 holes to post a respectable four day score of 2-under par. Casual golf observers will look at Tiger's performance and say, "He's still one of the best." Those with a more detailed eye saw a 43-year old guy with tape all over his body, playing his heart out, but clearly showing the signs of physical wear and tear that might not ever be fully resolved. That he won the Masters in April is even more and more impressive given his body's obvious limitations.
Sunday's pace of play was never once brought up by any of the TV analysts, but Woodland and Rose finished a hole and a half behind Koepka and Chez Reavie. At one point late in the round, Koepka was putting out on the 17th green just as Woodland was finishing his par putt on #15. The final duo made up a little ground coming in, but they were still woefully behind throughout much of the back nine.
Remember the name Viktor Hovland. Just remember it.
The Orioles lost again. I know we're not really supposed to cover the losses any longer. People's nerves are already frayed and it's not even July yet. But the three game series vs. Boston included some of the worst fundamental baseball this side of the Cape Cod League. Frankly, that might be doing the Cape Cod League some injustice.
Yesterday's goat, predictably, was once again relief pitcher Mychal Givens, who gave up a 1-out homer in the top of the 9th to tie the game at 3-3 after the O's had scored twice in the bottom of the 8th to pull ahead 3-2. Givens then allowed additional runs in the top of the 10th when the Red Sox blew the game open with a five running inning.
Saturday's game featured perhaps the worst moment of the entire season. Yes, I realize that's incredibly difficult to pick out, but I think I've done it. With the O's trailing 4-2 in the eighth, manager Brandon Hyde summoned Chris Davis to pinch hit with runners at the corners and two outs. This was one of those rare chances for Davis to actually make a real contribution...and he never took the bat off his shoulder. Not once. Strike one (looking). Ball one. Strike two (looking). Strike three (looking). I'm not necessarily one for overreacting when the team is 21-49 (at the time), but if ever there was a moment to just say to a guy, "You know what? That's garbage. You make $23 million a year and you can't even swing the bat. You're not playing for me any longer." That was the moment.
That's enough about the baseball team. It's depressing. They're 21-50. That says it all.
The U.S. Women's soccer team produced a 3-0 win over Chile on Sunday that could have been 8-0 if not for the out-of-this-world play from the Chilean goalkeeper.
Carli Lloyd scored twice in the first half for the Americans, and added some fodder to the recent "celebration" discussion when she scored the game's opening goal and calmly clapped her hands together in "golf clap mode" rather than running around like a maniac and celebrating.
After the game, the U.S. women confirmed their toned down post-goal theatrics were in response to the criticism they received for their outbursts late in the 13-0 win over Thailand on June 11. In some ways, it's good to know the players realize they might have gone overboard a touch. In other ways, it looks like they're just giving their detractors the middle finger with the "golf clap" idea. What would have been better than toned down celebrations would have been a simple acknowledgement from the team members that their behavior in the win over Thailand was over the top.
By the way, the U.S. handled Chile with ease on Sunday and two of their most important players -- Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan -- didn't even see the field. How's that for depth?
There are a handful of really good teams in this World Cup, but none of them are even close to on par with the U.S. side. It's clearly their tournament to lose. No doubt about that.
"The Keen Eye" of
|DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.|
This Week’s Subject: Golfers
The great sportswriter Dan Jenkins passed away earlier this year. He covered almost everything in sports, but was certainly best known for his golf writing, first in Sports Illustrated and then later for Golf Digest.
Back in the 1970s, when golfers and writers had a different kind of relationship, Jenkins spent an evening (and early morning) at a watering hole near a tournament site with Tom Weiskopf, more than a quarter century before Weiskopf stopped drinking and probably saved his life.
The story, as Jenkins told it, went like this. A terribly hungover Weiskopf blundered through the first two holes the next morning in 6-6, then called for a PGA Tour official on the third tee. Weiskopf told the official that he wouldn’t be able to continue unless he had an egg sandwich, a vanilla milkshake and three aspirin…and quickly.
By the time Weiskopf finished the third hole, he had what he needed. He went on to make eight birdies and shoot 66. Jenkins arrived at the course after Weiskopf had finished his round, and when he saw the score declared that it was “the greatest round of golf ever played by a dead man.”
So Jenkins had a way with words. And he happened to have been there to see just how dead Weiskopf seemed. Still, you’d have to imagine the situation was one that occurred relatively often in those days, even if other players didn’t have the clout or the gall to demand an egg sandwich.
Much is made about Tiger Woods being the first pro golfer to “look like that,” and that’s certainly true in some ways. Still, there were plenty of great all-around athletes who played the game well before Woods. I’d bet that many of them were better athletes than Woods, who concentrated almost solely on golf from the time he was two years old.
There’s little doubt, however, that the way players “prepared” for their rounds of golf has changed immensely.
On this weekend’s U.S. Open coverage on Fox, Paul Azinger noted how early tournament leader Gary Woodland had arrived at the course. His tee time was 2:45 local, and it was only around noon. Azinger then mentioned that the great Spaniard José María Olazábal, in the 1990s, was the first player he saw do that.
Weiskopf was a talented player, one who never quite reached his immense potential. I’m sure he had a lot of fun on those nights before all those morning tee times, but you wonder how much more fun he would have had with a few more victories.
I haven’t been to a million golf tournaments, but one thing that’s stood out from my visits is just how much some of these guys, well, stand out.
I didn’t realize how big Phil Mickelson is until I stood 10 feet away watching him hack some kind of mid-iron out of the rough at Baltusrol. For some reason, officials let me and a friend walk across a fairway there just about the time that Geoff Ogilvy was walking by. Major champion. Big dude.
On the same U.S. Open broadcast the other day, Azinger, now pushing 60, said that players like Woodland and Brooks Koepka might seem like midgets and/or non-athletes compared to players in 15 or 20 years.
There’s a reason that players like Woodland and Koepka, or even smaller guys like Rory McIlroy, look like they do. It’s not just because people who might have chosen some other sport a while back grew up watching Woods and decided to choose golf instead.
It’s the anti-Weiskopf philosophy, really. You can’t look like that without preparing to look like that, almost every day.
The Englishman Justin Rose was always a precocious talent. He showed that as a teenager, when he finished in the top 5 at the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, and he showed it in recovering from a very poor start to his pro career to eventually become a top-ranked player and major champion. He’s an incredibly consistent player, in a way that even other major champions like McIlroy haven’t been.
I read once why Rose thinks he’s been able to get that way. At a certain point, he realized that he was preparing inconsistently.
If he had an earlier tee time, he did what many of us do. He tried to sleep as late as he could and still be ready for his round. If he was playing in the afternoon, obviously, he didn’t have to do that. He could be more leisurely, or maybe the opposite, arriving at the course earlier than he might usually.
At a certain point, as he grew older, Rose decided to change all that. If his tee time was 8:30, he decided to wake up at 4:30, so he could mimic the feeling of being well-awake that he had playing later in the day. He eats at a similar point before a round, even if he’s not particularly hungry, and if at all possible arrives at the course in a similar time window, even if it’s still dark.
It seems obvious that a player would want to feel as good as possible before playing, but it wasn’t always that obvious.
Azinger, who does this often, brings up an interesting question. Who is the golfer of the future, exactly? What does he or she look like?
We know that people keep getting bigger, which in the general population is mostly a negative. In sports, however? It’s the opposite, when it comes to performance.
Nutrition, exercise and sport-specific training is more detailed and more advanced than ever. Strength can be developed (naturally), and not just come from genetics, more than ever before. In golf, the revolution has really come from speed; even smaller players can develop technique that makes up for what they lack.
So, to me, it’s not so much what the golfer of the future will look like or how he’ll fill out the shirt from his sponsor. There will always be a wide variety of body types, and swings, and preferences on the best way to get from Point A to Point B.
The question is how much more advancement can be made in the off-the-course aspects of athletic performance.
Mickelson, for instance, has done something to jump into the top of the tour statistics this year in driving distance, despite turning 49 years old yesterday. Will the next generation of top players be able to compete well into their 50s, with players 30 years younger? Is there a Tom Brady out there?
How much more can equipment advance, and what rules might need to change surrounding equipment, if any? We know that the players are going to keep getting stronger, faster and more powerful, but what about the clubs and balls that they use? Will the technology keep up?
And that’s before you even start talking about golf courses, which is a somewhat unmanageable problem. We won’t be able to simply stop using hundreds of courses and build hundreds more to make up for their obsolescence.
What we do know for sure is that preparation will continue to become a bigger industry.
There will likely be more coaches for more aspects of the game, and players will start to work with them earlier in their lives. Justin Rose was in his 30s when he changed some things up; for players of the future, that will start much earlier in their lives as well.
It’s almost comical to think that any great player of this generation would show up to his morning tee time with a bad hangover, and that a sportswriter or anyone else would think that was funny. Maybe we’ve lost out on some of the fun of the old days, but I’m ok with that particular change.
First off, Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. I hope you have a wonderful celebration today.
Now, on to business.
I understand it doesn't really matter that the Orioles are terrible.
We all knew they were going to lose this year. And lose a lot.
I'm just asking this for discussion purposes more than anything else.
Are the 2019 Orioles worse than the 2018 edition?
It doesn't seem possible, right? I mean, last year's team went 47-115 and mailed it in by mid-July. Once the trade deadline came and went and the roster was almost completely gutted, the last two months were nothing but the mere exercise of playing baseball. All reality was gone in August and September of last season, although I do recall the O's one-hit the Astros on the final day of the regular season and won 4-0.
Wait, maybe it was the other way around? See what I mean? It's nearly impossible to remember anything about the final two months of last season.
With yesterday's 7-2 shellacking at home, the O's dropped to 21-49. The 70-game mark seems like a reasonable occasion to do some numbers-crunching. So...we will.
To finish with 48 wins and actually have a better record than last season's fiasco-of-a-team, the Birds need to go 27-65 the remainder of the way. Yikes.
Disclaimer: I know the record this season doesn't actually matter. I know, I know, I know. But as much as I realized the rebuild was going to be painful, I have to say I assumed -- and still do -- that the Birds would be able to eclipse the 50-win mark this season.
Now, I'm not so sure.
I guess the good news is that the Yankees and Red Sox both have just one Camden Yards visit remaining this season. There should be enough baseballs left in the storage closet at Camden Yards to get through those two series', although if I'm the O's, I probably order another 100 just for emergency sake.
If this is even possible, I'd say the hardest part of the schedule is in the rear view mirror. I get it, when you're the worst team in the American League, everyone you play is an upgrade, but we all know there are really good teams (a few), good teams (a few) and then everyone else sorta-kinda stinks. The Orioles probably stink a little worse than, say, the Royals and the Blue Jays, but you know what I'm getting at.
To get to 55 wins, which is where I figured they'd land this season, the Birds have to go 34-58 from now until the end of the season. I think we both know that's not going to happen.
But back to the original headline question.
Is the team worse than last year's?
At the 70-game mark in 2018, the O's were 20-50, thanks to a 10-4 win over Miami on June 17. They're now 21-49. So, for a moment anyway, the 2019 club is a hair better than the one we saw last year.
But that also means this year's team isn't out of the woods yet as far as discussion goes for beating the 40-win New York Mets, who set the futility record from 1960-present with a 40-120 campaign in 1962. Among those teams that played 162 games, the 2003 Detroit Tigers went 43-119, so that figure looms ahead for the O's as well.
I get that the team is terrible, but they'll win 40 and 43 games this year. You can count on that.
Really, you can.
There's no way this year's team is worse than last year's, even though it feels like they are. Maybe I'm wrong on this. After all, the 2019 Birds are giving up double digits at an alarming rate, including twice on this current home stand.
But a loss is a loss is a loss, no matter if it's by 4-3 or 12-3.
I know we're a bad ballclub and I knew this was going to happen, but I'm still wondering if we're somehow worse than last year? If so, that's an accomplishment all on its own.
If Gary Woodland is going to win his first major championship, he's going to have to earn it later today at Pebble Beach.
As it should be.
Woodland posted a third consecutive under par round on Saturday, shooting 2-under 69 to finish his 54-hole journey at 11-under, one shot better than Justin Rose. Lurking just off the pace, still within striking distance, is 2-time defending champion Brooks Koepka at 7-under.
Woodland has his work cut out for him later today, that's for certain.
Here are notes from Saturday's third round --
Woodland hit just 9 of 14 fairways on Saturday, but followed that up by hitting 11 of 18 greens in regulation, which ranked him T13 for the day. His short game saved him. Woodland chipped in for par at the 12th hole from some 35 feet away, then rolled in a 40 par putt at the 14th hole. Those two shots alone are what has him ahead of Rose instead of behind him going into the final round.
Phil Mickelson's quest for the career grand slam is over after a 3rd round 75. Mickelson needed a big round on Saturday and wasn't able to produce it, although he did produce a handful of impressive, prodigious drives, including one at #9.
Likewise, Tiger Woods won't be adding to his major championship total this week after he scratched out an even par round of 71 on Saturday. To his credit, Woods hung in there on a day where he clearly didn't have anything close to his best stuff. It's been that way all week for the 15-time major champion, who never once got his name on the first page of the leaderboard. On Saturday he hit 10 of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens, but wasn't able to capitalize on the early stretch of holes (1-7) where players have a wedge or less into five of those seven greens. By the time his putter showed some life on the back nine, the tournament was over for Woods.
Matt Kuchar was, at one point, just one shot out of the lead on Saturday after a rousing 4-under start to his round, but back-to-back bogeys to close out the front nine derailed him and "Kooch" wound up finishing the day with a score of 70 and a three round total of 5-under. He could still win today, but would need significant assistance from those above him on the leaderboard.
Brooks Koepka is one of only two players to have three rounds in the 60's so far -- Woodland is the other -- and is perched in perfect position heading into the fourth and final round. He'll need a little help as well, but given his recent performance in major championships, there's no reason to think Koepka isn't capable of a magical final day performance. You know Woodland is very aware of where Koepka sits on the leaderboard.
And then there's Chez Reavie, who #DMD had in their Top 10 heading into the week. Reavie sits at 7-under along with Koepka (and Oosthuizen) and has kept himself in the tournament each and every day. He plays Pebble Beach very well. Asking him to produce a mid 60's round today might be a little ambitious, but Reavie is not a fluke. He needs help to win, but he's capable of doing it if the leaders don't hold up their end of the bargain.