July 15
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 15
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gausman, cubs bullpen provide evening of laughs (sort of)

The natives started getting restless about 12 minutes into last night's game at Camden Yards.

That's how long it took for the Cubs to take a 4-0 lead in the first inning, as Kevin Gausman gave up two homers before most of the crowd had settled into their seats.

It was eventually 8-0 in favor of Chicago before Buck Showalter waved the white flag and Gausman shuffled off the mound having allowed eight earned runs in three innings of work.

Kevin Gausman only hung around for 69 pitches on Friday night in the loss to the Cubs. His ERA is now 6.39 on the year.

That's probably not the best way for a pitcher to start the second half of the season. As Ben Affleck said at the end of Good Will Hunting: "I don't know much...but I know that."

Fortunately, though, the Chicago bullpen isn't very good and they couldn't weasel their way home after being handed an 8-4 advantage in the 5th inning. The Orioles recovered to eventually tie the game at 8-8 in the bottom of the 8th inning before Addison Russell's 8th home run of the year in the 9th beat the Birds, 9-8.

Yes, the #9 hitter dinged Brad Brach in the 9th for the game-winning homer. That's how it goes for the O's these days.

The comeback was nice and it made the game worth attending for the 34,000 who showed up downtown last night. If I'm the Orioles, last night's crowd was probably the most concerning of the season to date. Second half kicking off, defending World Champs in town for a rare series in Baltimore, a Friday night in the middle of the summer -- all of those components smell standing-room-only to me, but instead, 34,335 made their way into the ballpark.

Oh, and if I'm the Orioles, I'm also concerned about Kevin Gausman.

After a series of encouraging starts right before the All-Star break, perhaps Buck Showalter was trying to send Gausman a message by giving him the start on Friday night to start the proverbial second half of the campaign.

"You're our #1 guy," Buck was (maybe) saying.

Eh, not so fast there, skipper.

A three-run homer and a solo shot in the first made it 4-0 Cubs. A Ben Zobrist two-run shot in the 2nd inning made it 6-0. And in the third, after a walk, Jason Heyward's blast made it 8-0.

Gausman didn't come out for the 4th inning.

Showalter eschewed using Brad Brach in the 8th inning with the Birds trailing 8-6, instead giving Zach Britton an inning of work in that slot. Britton then handed the ball to Brach to preserve an 8-8 tie in the 9th after Mark Trumbo hit a 2-run homer in the bottom of the eight to complete the comeback from 8-0 down.

Brach then surrendered Russell's home run and the whole game fizzled right there in front of everyone.

It was nice to see some fight in the Orioles. Granted, the Cubs' bullpen is in need of some help, which is why they're only 44-45, but the Birds chipped away just long enough to finally turn an 8-0 deficit into an 8-8 tie. There for a while, it looked like we might see one of those 15-2 losses we've come to expect in 2017.

The loss once again sends the Orioles into a tie for last place (or a tie for 4th place, depending on how you see things) with Toronto, who beat the Tigers on Friday night, 7-2. Both the Birds and Blue Jays are 42-47 now, a full 8.5 games behind the Red Sox, who scored twice in the bottom of the 9th last night to beat the Yankees, 5-4.

Speaking of bad bullpens: That's now 7 games the Yankees have lost in the 8th or 9th inning since May 25. If I'm Dan Duquette, I'm calling the Bronx Bombers today and telling them to pick any relief pitcher they want from the Orioles roster -- and make us an offer.

It would be fun to fleece the Yankees during their time of desperate need.

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storms disrupt play at caves valley, but langer now leads

At some point, everyone assumed Bernhard Langer would work his way to the top of the leaderboard at the Constellation Senior Players Championship at Caves Valley.

The 58-year old German has won 32 times on the Champions Tour, including nine major championships. He's enjoying a "Tiger like" run on the senior circuit over the last five years.

Langer posted a 7-under round of 65 to kick off the event on Thursday and trailed Larry Mize by one shot after that opening round.

Looking for his fourth straight Senior Players Championship title, Bernhard Langer made seven birdies in 16 holes on Friday before a storm interrupted play late in the day.

Mize couldn't get out of his own way on Friday and shot 76 to fall well down the leaderboard, but Langer did just the opposite. After an opening bogey at the benign first hole, he reeled off seven birdies in the next 15 holes, including four straight from hole number one through four.

Just before the final lightning delay of the day, Langer rolled in a putt at #16 to get to 13-under for the tournament, two shots clear of former U.S. Open champ Corey Pavin.

To see Langer up and close and personal is almost startling. He's barely 5'9", probably weighs in at about 170 pounds, and looks more like a cyclist than a golfer. But he's a "fit" 5'9", 170, for sure. I had the chance to talk with him on Tuesday night at a dinner I attended where he was speaking and you can tell just by shaking his hand he's in premium condition, particularly for someone pushing 60 years old.

Pavin couldn't hit it out of his shadow when he was a rock star on the PGA Tour in the mid 1990's. He's actually smaller than Langer.

Yet, here they are, two of the smaller men in the field, perched at the top of the leaderboard of another senior major championship.

Putting and wedge game -- putting and wedge game -- putting and wedge game. I preach it to my high school players all the time and remind myself how important those two issues are when I'm preparing for some sort of significant amateur event.

John Daly hits the tee ball 30 or 40 yards past Langer and Pavin. Maybe more. He's at 1-under par through 2 rounds (70-73).

I like the re-routing they've done with the golf course for this event. By flipping the nine-hole rotation, the players now finish on three very good holes, the par-5 7th (now the 16th), which is difficult for any of them to reach in two shots. The downhill par-3 that follows is now the 17th hole and one errant swing and a ball heading right leads to an almost automatic double bogey.

And the round now ends on the best hole on the course, in my opinion, the uphill par-4 9th, which serves as the 18th hole this week.

I'm not much for the change to the 11th hole (playing as #2 this week), if we're telling the truth. They took what was a hard par-4 and turned it into an easy pitch-and-putt par-5. There were probably agronomy or other turf related reasons for doing it, but they made the course easier, not harder, by modifying the 11th hole.

There have been rumors for the last few months that Caves Valley is working with the PGA Tour to try and bring one of the Fed Ex Cup events to Baltimore. I would love to see that, obviously, but I shudder to think what the "big boys" would do to the course if Langer and Pavin are 24-under par between them through two rounds.

I'm sure they'd narrow the fairways quite a bit for a PGA Tour playoff event -- and that alone would help inflate the scoring -- but it's still very likely that something in the 20-under par range would wind up winning.

Heck, let's be honest. Something in the 20-under range might be leading after the third round of today's event.

If you're heading out to Caves today, stay hydrated and be aware of the late afternoon weather. Once those weather-warning signs go up, get yourself to a safe location on the golf course or head back to your car.

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billick in the ring of honor?

With the recent announcement that former Ravens head coach Brian Billick will be serving as a color analyst for the four pre-season games this August, it appears the relationship between Billick and the Ravens is on very solid ground.

Does that mean Billick's induction into the team's Ring of Honor is next on the horizon?

That the club extended a broadcast offer to Billick would suggest they're ready to make that move.

Granted, it's pre-season football, and the former coach will likely be in no position at all to question or criticize John Harbaugh during one of the broadcasts this summer. That's always a sticky subject, particularly when the guy who replaced the former coach is still on the sidelines.

Billick will be an excellent analyst for Ravens football, I believe. They got it right by giving him a microphone.

Now, they need to get it right and put him in the team's Ring of Honor.

Yes, there were some mediocre years sprinkled in his 9-year Ravens run. It wasn't all perfect, that's for sure. But he changed the face and the mentality of the franchise when he showed up in Charm City in 1999. I don't think anyone would argue that point.

If tough, gritty, demanding John Harbaugh was what the Ravens needed in 2008, then stylish, flamboyant and intelligent Brian Billick was just what the doctor ordered for a floundering Ravens franchise after the 1998 season.

Billick brought a sense of order and togetherness to the football team that Ted Marchibroda unfortunately wasn't able to produce.

They won a Super Bowl under Billick, of course, which is the primary reason why he's a Ring of Honor candiate. John Harbaugh will also go into the team's Ring of Honor someday, for sure. We're talking two outstanding coaches that we've been blessed to have in Baltimore, albeit with completely different styles and personalities.

I'm not certain Billick's going in this year, but the team hasn't announced an inductee for 2017. With his new role on the team's pre-season broadcasts, it makes perfect sense for the Ravens to set aside a date this season and get Billick's name up on that stadium facade.

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July 14
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 14
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and...what to do with buck?

An Orioles fan asked me about Buck Showalter on Wednesday at the Constellation Senior Players Championship Pro-Am.

"Is it time to move on from Buck?" he asked. "He's never been to a World Series."

"This time last year, Joe Maddon had never won a World Series," I reminded him. "I think the Cubs were smart to hang on to him."

"The Orioles should keep Showalter," I concluded.

I understand how it works in sports. The coach typically gets a lot of the blame and only a minimal amount of credit. We've seen how that works here in Baltimore with the on-going battering of John Harbaugh, who "rode the coattails of Ray and Ed Reed" when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in New Orleans five years ago. When the team wins, someone else is the reason. When they lose, Harbaugh's the culprit.

That's not to say that Harbaugh doesn't have his faults. He does, of course. They all do. But the balance always tilts to the negative when it comes to addressing the coach's impact on the Ravens and their games.

Showalter, in my opinion, is a very good manager. Yes, it's true, like Harbaugh, he has some blemishes. And the record book doesn't lie: Buck's never been to a World Series. There's no denying it.

In the early stages of his career, Buck was apparently the ultimate micro-manager and his nitpicking ways cost him admirers and supporters. Buck not only knew how to manage baseball games, he also knew how to play music over the PA system, paint the walls of the locker room, outfit the stadium employees and provided opinions on countless other nuggets that weren't germane to his role as manager of the team.

That Buck Showalter is long gone, according to people in the Orioles organization. He's just a manager now. And a solid one, too.

Any thought that it's time for Buck to be kicked to the curb is silly, if you ask me.

I get it.

The team is underachieving, for sure, and even I wrote here at #DMD last week that a club that goes on a prolonged losing skid is often times "tuning out" the coach/manager at that point and just playing to play -- without much regard for whether they're piling up wins or losses.

And there might be guys in the Orioles dugout not fully connected to Showalter at this point in the season. There have been whispers for a large part of the season that Buck and Manny Machado aren't exactly BFF's, but in no way should that indicate that the manager has worn out his welcome.

Machado, if you believe what you read in the recent ESPN The Magazine cover story, most certainly marches to the beat of his own drummer. He admitted as much. I'm sure his "I smile when we win and I smile when we lose -- I just love to play the game that much" philosophy isn't easy for an old-school skipper to accept. It might not even be easy for Adam Jones to digest, for that matter. But Machado is going to be that way no matter who manages the ballclub.

Showlater's relationship with Machado -- or player, directly -- shouldn't impact his future with the club. There will always be a veteran or two who aren't big fans of the coach or manager. It's just the way it is.

The debate about Buck never reaching the World Series is an interesting one. It's true that once he left the Yankees and Diamondbacks, both teams made it to the Fall Classic in quick fashion -- without Showalter.

Happenstance? Or something more involved?

Either way, that was then and this is now. The Orioles had a very good shot at making the World Series in 2014 when they made it to the American League Championship Series, but a red-hot Royals team swept the Birds.

I remember Zach Britton giving up some important runs in Game 2.

I don't recall Showalter striking out with runners on 2nd and 3rd in a one-run game or failing to hit a sacrifice fly.

Players play and coaches coach. It doesn't get much more simple than that.

And yet, it's also reasonable to assess the coach or manager on a game-by-game basis because they ARE in charge of their lot. There's a fine balance there. Most times, I find, people tend to over-examine the coach and under-examine the players themselves.

Someone in our foursome on Wednesday at Caves Valley asked me what I thought the most important thing was about Calvert Hall's golf championship season in 2013, my first year with the Cardinals.

"We had a lot of great players," I shot back, quickly.

Easy answer there.

Buck would probably say the same thing if the Orioles someday win the World Series under his guidance.

Can they get there under Showalter? That window might be starting to close, sadly, but that doesn't mean Buck's window with the club should be shutting as well.

He's far from the biggest problem facing the Orioles these days.

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nine birdies sends mize to early lead at caves valley

I thought Caves Valley was playing kind of easy on Wednesday when I caddied out there in the Pro-Am.

But I didn't realize it was playing that easy, as Larry Mize torched the place for nine birdies on Thursday in the opening round of the Constellation Senior Players Championship. Mize made one bogey to shoot 8-under 64 and take a one-shot lead over Bernhard Langer, Steve Flesch and Corey Pavin.

1987 Masters champion Larry Mize carded a 64 on Thursday to take the first round lead at Caves Valley.

Heck, Brandt Jobe was 9-under par through 16 holes before playing the final two in 3-over par to finish at 6-under. Jobe's on quite a heater. He finished Top 5 at the recent U.S. Senior Open.

That Mize, one of the Champions Tour's mid-range players off the tee, was able to conquer Caves Valley on Thursday speaks to the relative ease of the place when matched up against the best golfers in the world, senior or otherwise.

The course was flawless on Wednesday, but playing firmer than I remember it in past visits -- whether playing there or caddying -- with ample fairways and reasonable rough. For the average amateur teeing it up out there on a Thursday, it would have played "tough but fair", I suppose.

But for the best over-50 golfers in the world, the course almost borders on "not challenging". Or, at the very least, it's a step away from being challenging. Maybe that's a better way to put it.

Thirteen players shot 68 or better in Thursday's opening round, including Paul Broadhurst, who was the professional in our group on Wednesday in the Pro-Am.

When you give a professional golfer of any real stature a wedge in his hand, they're going to score. Caves features at least six holes like that. They're playing the back nine first this week, so when I rattle off these holes, remember I'm giving you the "current" rotation as the players are playing it this week. They'll have wedge in their hand at #1, #2, #4, #5 and #7 on the front nine. On the back, they might have wedge at #1 depending on their drive, but then they'll have wedge at #2, #3 and #7.

Two of the par 5's are reachable for those guys.

If anyone's wedge and putter is well-oiled, they can shoot a really low number, like Mize did yesterday.

Oh, and don't forget, those guys can hit a 7-iron from 160 to three feet on a handful of occasions in any round. They're really good.

I thought 16-under was going to win. I'll stick with that for now. First round scoring is typically much better than scoring on the weekend, so I'll still say 16-under wins the tournament.

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arrieta makes his return to camden yards on saturday night

Jake Arrieta is back.

The Cubs right-hander will make his first visit to Camden Yards on Saturday night since being traded by the Orioles in 2013.

You know how this one will likely go. One of two ways...

Arrieta either mows down the Birds over 7.1 innings, allowing just four hits and one earned run while striking out 10.

Or...he doesn't make it out of the fourth inning and the O's tag him for seven runs and nine hits.

There's likely no middle ground.

Arrieta was once part of the O's famed "pitching calvary" that was thought to be the first step in getting the Birds back into contention in the American League. But after faltering badly in 2012 and the early part of 2013, the Birds gave up on him and shipped him to the Cubs -- along with Pedro Strop -- for veteran pitcher Scott Feldman.

In 2015, he captured the National League Cy Young award, going 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA.

But his Cy Young was won in the second half of the 2015 season, when he put together a historic run with a 12-1 record with an 0.75 ERA in 107 1/3 innings over 15 starts.

Baltimore baseball fans have bemoaned Arrieta's success since he left Charm City. Tomorrow night, they get to see the improved version up close and personal.

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July 13
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 13
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some days are better than others

I have no idea how many days in my life I've spent on the golf course. It's easily in the thousands, having played the sport since my mid-20's.

You like to think every occasion you're out there is special, but there are moments that stand out over the others.

Yesterday was one of those moments.

Drew with Frank Kelly III (right) at Caves Valley on July 12.

I had the honor of caddying in the Constellation Senior Players Championship at Caves Valley and was so very fortunate to be in a group of good friends from Kelly Benefits and Kelly Payroll. The professional in our fivesome was Englishman Paul Broadhurst, who won last year's British Senior Open title at Carnoustie.

I caddied for Frank Kelly III, which was just a complete treat. Frank and his entire family are tireless supporters of Calvert Hall (his brother, Brian, is the head lacrosse coach) and we spent a lot of yesterday's round talking about Calvert Hall golf and the growth of the program in general.

Frank's game was strong, too. He works for a living -- I reminded him of that on a couple of occasions to soften the blow of an off-line shot -- but you could tell there's some really good golf in there if he were able to play a little more.

There's not enough space here to tell you what kind of quality Frank Kelly III brings to the table as a man. They don't make them like that anymore. He's a wonderful family man, very strong in his faith, and as genuine as they come.

My great friend Brian Hubbard, another ardent supporter of the golf program at Calvert Hall, was in yesterday's group as well. Hubbard invited me and the Calvert Hall golf team out to Monday night's Profile of Champions event at Martin's West, which featured a 2-hour meet-and-greet with Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman, Larry Mize and Fred Funk. Those four guys shared some funny stories from the PGA Tour, but then also took time to discuss how they balance their golf life with their faith, using a relationship with God to battle the pressures of their self-employed golfing lifestyle.

It was really cool to share yesterday with Brian. He played well and one of my recent Calvert Hall grads, Graham Pfluger, was on his bag, so I got a double treat there. And my assistant coach at Calvert Hall, Andy Kolarik, also caddied in our group yesterday. We had a blast together, like we always seem to do.

David Kelly and Mike Kelly rounded out the fivesome. They both hit some great shots on Wednesday, with David hitting it to two feet at #4 (which is being played as #13 for the tournament) for a tap-in birdie and Mike nearly making an ace at #8 (#17 in the tournament) when his tee shot stopped about 20 inches from the hole for a kick-in birdie.

Broadhurst, who is playing in next week's British Open by virtue of his Senior Open win last summer, was an awesome guy as well. He toured the par 72 course in 5-under par and was really only in danger of making one bogey all day. He missed the green short at #5 (#14 for the tournament), then promptly chipped in from 20-feet for par.

Frank Kelly III (left) and 2016 Senior British Open champion Paul Broadhurst.

In all of my years caddying out there (in the mid 2000's), I never saw anyone birdie 16, 17 and 18 in succession. Broadhurst did it yesterday.

The field is very strong this week. There's really no telling what Broadhurst might do in the tournament. He hits it straight off the tee (he missed one fairway yesterday) and has a very solid iron game. It will -- as always -- come down to his short game and his ability to navigate the four par 5's. He could have reached #2 (the 11th hole for members) in two but didn't hit a great second shot, then easily reached #12 (the third hole for members) in two and nearly made the eagle putt.

If he can play the par 5's in eight under for four days, I think he has a chance at doing well.

The golf course looks absolutely superb. The greens were fast, but not incredibly, out-of-this-world fast. I didn't have a stimp meter handy, but my guess is they're running at 12 or so. The players will be able to putt them this week/weekend without much concern for putts getting away from them.

My guess is the winning score will be somewhere in the 16-under par range. I think someone will be able to shoot four rounds of 68 (or better) out there.

If you're going out to Caves, have a great time. There are lots of good vantage points available to watch the golf. And stay hydrated, by all means.

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thursday sports with David Rosenfeld

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 Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.

I honestly try not to judge what matters to another person, in sports or otherwise.

No matter what it is, or what I think about it, it’s yours to keep. And there’s a good chance that in our nation of 325 million, and our world of 7.5 billion, there are plenty of other folks of every race and creed who share your interest.

I once walked down a downtown street in Pittsburgh and witnessed something called “Anthrocon,” which is an annual convention of “furries,” people who like to dress up in costume as anthropomorphic cartoon animals. The attendance at that convention in 2017 was more than 7,500 people. Seriously.

Honing in on the sports world, the biennial Olympic competitions that now alternate between winter and summer are a good example. According to the IOC, there are now 42 Summer Olympic sports and 15 Winter Olympic sports. Most of them exist in our minds for a couple weeks and then disappear for four years. Skeleton, anyone?

Actually, because of that scarcity, I’m more than ok with you pretending to care about curling for two weeks. It’s sort of fun, and at the very least it’s a reward for all the athletes who toil in obscurity and often poverty for 20 years on their way to perfecting their craft.

The two combatants on August 26 in Las Vegas.

There is one thing in sports that I wish nobody cared about. I honestly don’t understand why anybody cares about it, except for the people who are going to make money from it. I really don’t think you can call yourself a sports fan if you sincerely think it’s a legitimate use of your interest and time.

I’m speaking of Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor, August 26 in Las Vegas.

Mayweather is a boxer, albeit a retired one. McGregor is a mixed martial artist. Those facts alone scream “exhibition” to me. Yet somehow we are supposed to believe that the event is worth a pay-per-view fee of $99?

Like every other “big” fighting event, the enjoyment will all come before the actual fight itself. The four-city press junket going on right now, where the participants take the typical jabs at each other in public before laughing together all the way to the bank, will be amusing I guess. I’m sure the training regimens of each man will be covered breathlessly, and each will tell us how they’ll pound the other into submission.

Once the bell sounds, though, what’s in it for anybody except money? Even if McGregor turns out to be a competent boxer that can compete with an all-time great like Mayweather, what will it prove? McGregor will go back to the UFC, Mayweather will go back to retirement and the event will be quickly forgotten.

It’s nothing but a big joke, really. But I’ve already talked enough about that. I’d rather talk about other reasons you shouldn’t care.

Floyd Mayweather is a batterer of women, plain and simple. According to a Deadspin article from 2014, he’s been either arrested for or cited with seven separate physical assaults on five women. Several other times, the police were called in response to a Mayweather threat that was either actual or perceived.

He’s spent time, but not enough of it, in jail for his domestic abuse. Less than 90 days. Unlike, say, Ray Rice, he appears to have learned nothing from his experiences, and the incredible amount of cash paid to him for both the August event with McGregor and his 2015 borefest with Manny Pacquiao seems to prove that nobody cares about his behavior anyway.

Speaking of cash, Mayweather is also a serial tax cheat; whatever President Trump has or doesn’t have on his erstwhile tax returns, he won’t even come close to Floyd. Most recently, the agency says he still owes his entire 2015 tax bill, and rumor has it that’s the real reason he agreed to face McGregor in August.

So there’s another reason not to watch. As much as any of these guys is always doing it for the money, Floyd is literally doing this for the money, which he will then immediately send to the IRS so he doesn’t get arrested.

Floyd Mayweather is a horrible person. For some reason, though, he is consistently apologized for. When a trainer of another fighter went after him for his domestic abuse, venom came down toward the trainer, as if it was totally inappropriate for him to bring it up.

How can anybody want to watch Mayweather fight? I just don’t understand it.

Meanwhile, McGregor must be the most profane athlete (in public, anyway) to have ever hit the airwaves. At the first pre-fight press conference, he wore a custom suit that on first glance appeared to have a typical striped pattern on it. A closer glance showed that the pinstripes were created with the words “f**k you” repeated over and over again.

Classy, Conor. Real classy.

The great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said that “sports doesn’t build character, it reveals it.”

I think that showed off pretty well in that press conference. The great Princeton coach Pete Carril once said that “you can’t separate the player from the person,” yet the people who do business with Floyd Mayweather do it all the time. Quite a shame.

I know many people love the UFC and mixed martial arts, even if I don’t. There is still a core group of boxing fans in this country, I suppose, even though boxing ceased to really matter a generation ago. I hope, for their sake, that they get something out of this August 26 event in Las Vegas.

Personally, I wish it would just go away.

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from the desk of
brien jackson

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.

As the "debate" over how the Orioles should approach the deadline rages on, one continuing theme running through the background of the conversation is that the Orioles should improve in the second half simply through regression to the mean.

Between injuries and the under performance of several key players, the Orioles ought to be somewhat better positioned simply through the normal ebb and flow of a baseball season as guys like Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, Kevin Gausman, and Chris Tillman round into form and play at least reasonably close to what was expected of them coming in to the season. It's a comforting thought to be sure.

It's also almost certainly delusional.

Now to be fair there's a nugget of truth there that gives the entire theory a veneer of plausibility. Getting Zach Britton back from the DL will certainly help the team out, just by giving Buck Showalter another good reliever to deploy late in games. While much has been made of the challenge of Brad Brach and Mychal Givens "shifting roles" in the bullpen with Britton (and Darren O'Day) out of action, the real damage there was removing one of the best relievers in the game and replacing him with the likes of Vidal Nuno.

There are lots of statistics used to evaluate hitting these days, but a .239 average on balls in play is perhaps the most eye-opening piece of data working against Manny Machado so far this season.

With Britton back everyone moves down a notch on the depth chart and the group replaces its worst pitcher with one of the game's best.

Offensively, Manny Machado really is a player who shows every indication of bouncing back from statistical purgatory. Despite his .230 batting average, most of Machado's stats are fairly in line with his career averages. His walk rate and strikeout rates are within ~2% of his career averages, his "ISO" (isolated power, or slugging percentage minus batting average) is a very respectable .215, or 20 points higher than his career average. His line drives are down a bit, but his HR/FB ratio is steady, and his "hard" contact rate is actually 5% higher than his previous career high.

The one number that stands out in explaining Machado's dismal looking batting line is a .239 batting average on balls in play. To help conceptualize that, this is removing strikeouts from the equation entirely and only considering at bats in which the ball was ut into play, and Machado's average in those at bats is 9 points lower than Chris Davis' career batting average including strikeouts. That's well below the typical range for big league hitters, even ones who aren't so good.

For context, journeyman utility layer Willie Bloomquist finished his career with a .235/.274/.309 career batting line...and his BABIP was .317. A .239 BABIP just doesn't happen that often, and when that stat gets that far out of the normal range you expect to see something in the batted ball profile that helps to explain it. An increase in infield fly balls, a trade off of line drives for fly balls, something along those lines. When those aren't present, as they aren't with Machado, the only explanation is simple statistical variance. Or, colloquially, bad luck.

But while it's entirely reasonable to expect Machado to break out soon, that's not really true of just about anyone else the Orioles are counting on. Take Adam Jones for example. His 29 home runs in 2016 did a lot to obscure the fact that he had a bit of a down year last season, and his .265/.310/.436 slashline was good for a wRC+ of just 96, or 4% below the average American League hitter.

And why was Adam's slugging percentage a decidedly unimpressive .436 despite coming up just shy of 30 home runs for the season? Because that .265 batting average and his 19 doubles both represented the lowest such marks that Jones has put up in any season with the Orioles. This year looks alarmingly similar for the centerfielder: He currently has just 9 doubles and .267/.305/.436 slashline that's nearly identical to his 2016 performance (though since offense his up league wide this season, he's now 8% less productive than a league average hitter).

Or consider Mark Trumbo, whose career year carried the Orioles' offense in a big way in 2016. I'm not the first to point out that his current slugging percentage of .422 would be the worst such mark of his career other than his injury plagued 2014 campaign, but again his .254 batting average and .316 on base percentage are nearly identical to his 2016 performance (and in the case of OBP it is identical). Trumbo's performing more or less exactly how he has throughout his career so far this season...just without the power.

But considering that home runs are WAY up around MLB this year and everyone has all-but acknowledged that the baseball is juiced, that's only cause for even more concern about the value the O's latest bad free agent re-signing is likely to bring to the table the rest of this season.

Can Dylan Bundy make it through the entire 2017 campaign or will his highest innings total ever catch up to him?

And when it comes to the starting rotation, well, what you see is probably what you get. Chris Tillman is obviously capable of being a more effective pitcher than he has been in his 11 starts this season, but his mechanics are still clearly being affected by his shoulder injury, so there's no way of telling when or if he'll get himself right.

Kevin Gausman has been better of late, but he's not turning in 7 shutout innings every fifth day, nor is he making up for the near black hole that at least 2/5 of the rotation represents each turn through. And what's worse, Dylan Bundy is already showing signs of coming back to Earth as he's less than 2 innings pitched away from the career high he set last season, so any gains from Gausman will likely be offset by diminished performance by Bundy.

And that assumes that Bundy can stay in the rotation all the way to the end of the season, which seems like a stretch at this point.

And then there's another elephant in the room: the converse of disappointing results regressing to the mean is a second half decline from people putting up better than expected numbers in the first half. We saw this last year with Mark Trumbo, and probably half of the players in the All-Star Game will end up with less than stellar second half lines simply because they won't maintain the pace they're on so far.

The Orioles have already started suffering from some of this as Wellington Castillo went from having a career year at the plate a month ago to "boasting" a wRC+ of 85 today. Seth Smith has gone through a similar process, to the point that the platoon specialist is below average against right-handed pitchers.

Looking forward, Jonathan Schoop is having a career year thus far and looks like a good candidate to slip up at some point, and Trey Mancini's BABIP is a whopping .385. That's 8 points higher than Ty Cobb's career mark, by the way, and a level that only one qualified hitter (Tom McCreery) has ever reached for a career (he retired in 1903, if you were wondering). So just as Machado is likely to rebound simply by having his luck even out, Mancini is likely to see his productivity decline for the same simple reason.

Making this all the more complicated is that the Orioles just aren't in as good as a position as the more optimistic among us want to make it appear. Yes they're only 4 games out of the wild card race, but there are four teams ahead of them in the standings, and Seattle is one game up on them in the win column.

If you're optimistic and assume that 86 wins secures the second WC spot, the O's would still have to go 44-30 the rest of the way...a 96 win pace over a full season. That's not impossible, but it's not likely either. And that's especially true when you consider the following: For all of the talk that the O's luck has finally run out and they're no longer breaking the projections and formulas and yadda yadda....they actually still are.

Using their run differential to predict their Pythagorean "expected" win-loss total gives you a record of 37-51...or five games worse than their actual record. So in a sense the "Orioles magic" is still there. They're still winning close games and playing well ahead of where they're "expected" to be. It's just that the baseline performance has been so terrible that even with the "Buck and the bullpen" formula clicking they're still a sub-.500 team.

Maybe that will turn around going forward. Maybe the core group of hitters they have will start playing like it's 2015 all over again and carry the beleaguered roster into the wild card game yet again.

But that's very unlikely, and the braintrust at The Warehouse would be incredibly foolish to actually make any bets on it.

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July 12
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Issue 12
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golf rules aren’t complicated as long as you abide by them

There have been two issues within the world of golf that have cropped up this week and fueled plenty of water cooler discussion. Both are important to the integrity of the game.

Last Sunday in the final round of the Irish Open, Jon Rahm mismarked his golf ball on the 6th hole, but was not penalized for his infraction after Eurpoean Tour rules officials looked at the transgression on video and deemed it was an “insignificant” advantage.

Last week, TV golf analyst Brandel Chamblee authored a scathing piece about the “anchoring rule” connected to use of the long putter by Champions Tour players Bernhard Langer and Scott McCarron. Chamblee essentially suggested that both players should discontinue playing on the TOUR until they figure out a better way to use the long putter so they – once and for all – stop the behind-the-scenes chatter that both are violating the “anchoring” rule.

Jon Rahm was excited earlier this year when he won at Torrey Pines in San Diego, but he wasn't too thrilled with the controversy that followed his win last weekend at the Irish Open. "I feel like there's a mark next to this win because of what happened and that's too bad."

Langer was at an event I attended last night in Baltimore as part of this week’s Constellation Senior Player’s Championship and three prominent professional players on the senior circuit, Tom Lehman, Larry Mize and Fred Funk, all spoke on the record about Langer’s on-course integrity and suggested he was free and clear of any rules scrutiny.

"If Bernhard says he’s not anchoring, he’s not anchoring. Plain and simple, he’s not anchoring. His integrity is well documented." said Lehman.

Rahm’s situation is clearly much different than the one Langer and others who use the long putter are facing these days.

The 22-year old rookie clearly mismarked his ball last Sunday. In my book, that’s a penalty and nothing much else needs to be discussed about it.

With Langer, McCarron and the others, it’s more about the interpretation of the anchoring rule that’s leading to questions. Can your hand(s) brush against your clothing during any part of the stroke? That issue, precisely, has never been addressed by the USGA as part of their “anchoring” rule.

It’s been interesting to note how people have reacted in the wake of the Rahm non-ruling last Sunday in Ireland.

"This is what’s wrong with golf," someone wrote on the Golf Channel website. "There are too many dumb rules like this. He put his ball back close enough to where it was. What’s the difference between one inch and two inches?"

"Golf has too many rules," another person explained. "You get frustrated by them all and it winds up spoiling the game for you."

So, yes, golf does have a lot of rules. But the game is governed by three basic principles. They’re easy to understand: 1. Play the ball as it lies. 2. When marking your golf ball on the green (or anywhere else), always return it to the location of the original marking spot. 3. The ball must be holed (unless it’s match play) in order for a score to be recorded.

There you go. Golf’s pretty easy once you get those rules down.

I don’t think Rahm intentionally mismarked his golf ball last Sunday. I’m almost certain of that.

But that’s not REALLY the point.

He failed to return his ball to its original spot on the 6th green last Sunday, which should have resulted in a penalty – in my opinion.

That doesn’t make Jon Rahm a bad guy in the least. It just means he made a rules blunder and there’s a penalty for that sort of mistake.

For some reason, the European Tour official didn’t see it that way and allowed the mistake to be overlooked.

Your golf ball’s proximity to the hole is critical once it’s on the green. I assume most everyone can agree on that. If your shot lands 10 feet from the pin and you move it to within 6 feet, for example, you’ve created quite an advantage for yourself.

Likewise, if your putt is 18 inches from the hole but there’s an imperfection in the putting surface directly in front of your ball, moving the ball one inch to the left or right could dramatically alter the putt you’re facing.

In fairness to everyone playing, your ball must always be returned (to the best of your ability) to the exact spot from which you previously marked it.

Rahm marked his ball to the side (with a coin), then returned the ball to the front of the coin when he went back to replace it a minute or so later.

That’s a rules violation.

In Langer’s situation, they’re trying to figure out if he’s “anchoring” the long putter by having his hand(s) touch his shirt at some point during the stroke.

The rule simply needs to be written more clearly. And claiming that Langer is “anchoring” is giving him unfair treatment when, in fact, he’s apparently abiding correctly by the current rule that’s in place.

There’s nothing unclear about the rule Jon Rahm violated. How that wasn’t a penalty is beyond me.

And no matter what the comments say on golf-related websites around the country, the Rules of Golf really aren’t that difficult to understand. It’s only when you break one of them that you get agitated and ready to pounce on anyone who suggests it’s YOU who needs to be more vigilant in your efforts to conform to the standards of the game.

it's pro-am day at caves valley

While the "real" golf tournament begins tomorrow at Caves Valley with round one of the Constellation Senior Players Championship, a lot of amateurs get their day in the sun (literally) today with the Pro-Am taking place both this morning and this afternoon.

Each group that goes out today will contain a foursome of amateur players and a professional in the field for tomorrow's event. The group plays 18 holes of golf, with the professionals playing for a little extra cash so they have something to keep them fully engaged throughout the round.

I'll be out there caddying today, so if you come out, be sure and say hi. The rumor is my group is going out at 7:50 am and contains Paul Broadhurst, the Englishman who won last year's British Senior Open Championship. They keep that stuff a state secret, but my bird-in-a-tree at Caves is telling me I'm out at 7:50 am.

The 4-day tournament begins tomorrow. Tickets are available at the gate for just $20.00.

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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.

The Orioles are penny wise and pound foolish. If you're looking for a succinct explanation of how they got themselves in their current roster mess, you could do a lot worse than that.

General Manager Dan Duquette has drawn most of the ire of fans for a season that, so far, has been a colossal disappointment, but the truth is that the pathologies that have gotten the franchise to this point go back a lot further than his tenure, and show no real signs of abating in the near future.

Chief among those problems is the team's unwillingness to spend up to the rest of the league on amateur talent, particularly in the Latin American market. I'm not breaking any new ground here I know, but you really can't say enough what an amazing waste of resources it is to be trading away international signing pool money for other teams' minor leaguers who don't even crack the ranks of the O's top 20 prospects.

And that's to say nothing of their long running practice of shutting out the international amateur market entirely.

Could Mark Trumbo's new 3-year deal be one of the reasons why the Orioles continue to avoid spending "early money" on the Latin American market?

It's hard to truly get a read on the organization's thinking because Peter Angelos just doesn't discuss such things with the media, but the most common explanation is that the hard-headed owner finds the seven figure signing bonuses that the most talented 16 year olds pull down completely ridiculous.

At first blush that's not the most unreasonable stance: Not only are these kids we're talking about, but they're a long way off from the major leagues. The odds of any one of them making the big leagues, let alone actually becoming stars, are pretty long.

But on the other hand, this is a completely untenable way to go about building a baseball organization in the long run. People like to call prospects lottery tickets, but it's much better to think of them the way you think of assets in a portfolio. And the Orioles are the guy putting all of their money in savings accounts and CD's thinking that it's the "safe" thing, and eschewing high-potential stocks altogether.

Just like that guy is never going to get rich from managing his money, if the Orioles keep trading away money that could be used to sign the next Gary Sanchez or Miguel Sano to pick up players like Milton Ramos instead, they're going to have an incredibly tough time finding their next great homegrown star...or even just a minor league aspect that's valued highly enough by everyone else in the league to be worth something in a trade.

The O's mindset also fails to take proper account of the actual scope of the money involved here, and on this count Sano is a very useful example. That's because the Orioles actually had the chance to sign Sano a few years back, and were one of the young stars preferred destinations.

The hang up was the Sano camp insisting on a bonus in the $4-4.5 million range, which Angelos and Andy MacPhail balked at. Maybe that seems reasonable to you, but consider this: The next winter the Orioles eagerly signed first basemen Derrek Lee for a $7 million salary. For nearly twice as much money as it would have cost to acquire one of the best international prospects of this decade, the Orioles got the benefit of a past his prime first baseman who hit .246/.302/.404 in 85 games for them.

In fact, for the combined amount of money that the Orioles spent on players like Lee, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmiero, Javier Lopez, Vlad Guerrero, etc. prior to 2012, they could field an entire lineup and bench of Miguel Sano's, and still have a few left over to trade for an ace starter or two.

And really, it's the relative flippancy with which the team spends money on the Major League roster that makes the disparity so much worse. The days of bringing in past their prime former All Stars on free agent deals might be over, but it's been replaced with a regime that consistently overspends on its own free agents, apparently unwilling to let anyone from the current run leave town and risk angry calls to the local radio station.

That's meant Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo getting top dollar despite the market never really developing for either (in Davis' case Scott Boras was actually floating the idea that he was going to become an outfielder to generate interest before the Orioles caved and met Boras' demands). It's meant J.J. Hardy getting bought out of the free agent market despite hitting only .268/.309/.372 in 2014 (probably in large part because there was a major rumor that the Yankees wanted him to replace Derek Jeter for a season or two).

The exceptions here largely prove the rule: Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters were free agents who clearly didn't justify their existing salary (and pay cuts in baseball are pretty rare), while Nelson Cruz ending up in Seattle after 2014 was the most overdetermined transaction in recent memory. Meanwhile, when it comes to pitching, they actually haven't given up on overpaying for former All-Stars with familiar names, as the Yovani Gallardo and Ubaldo Jimenez signings show.

But the biggest problem with the way the Orioles have conducted business is the lack of flexibility and value it's brought to the organization.

Who knows, maybe Duquette really is better at scouting other teams' minor leagues than most GM's, and the players he's acquired in the last week will become solid role players with the big league club.

But the problem with outsmarting everyone else in the minor league market is that everyone else's opinion of your assets actually matters quite a bit. If no one else sees the same potential in your savvy acquisitions that you do, they don't value them enough to trade you useful major league players that you want/need from them.

So even in the best case scenario, if the Orioles don't get serious about swimming in the pool for high-value prospects, they'll never have the kind of asset value they need to address roster holes in the offseason or at the trade deadline.

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The PGA Tour Player Handbook, which sets out practices and policies governing the independent contractors who participate in Tour events, states in its “Conduct of Players” section that players shall not “associate with or have dealings with persons whose activities, including gambling, might reflect adversely on the integrity of the game of golf.”

Before the 2000-01 football season, Vegas futures books pegged the Baltimore Ravens at 28-1 to win the Super Bowl. According to a widely-reported story, Phil Mickelson had backed his high opinion of the Ravens with a $20,000 bet, and walked off with a before-tax profit of more than half a million when the Ravens crushed the Giants in the big one, 34-7.

Before the 2001 baseball season, Vegas set the Arizona Diamondbacks at 38-1 to win the World Series. Mickelson liked the Diamondbacks to win it all, to the tune of another 20 grand. Led by Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, Arizona won the Series over the Yankees in an exciting seven games. Phil and his partner The IRS cashed out a profit of over three-quarters of a million dollars.

The PGA Tour Player Handbook, in its “Conduct of Players” section, states that players "shall not have any financial interest, either direct or indirect, in the performance or the winnings of another player." The Handbook also prohibits players from gambling or playing cards on the premises where tournaments are conducted.

In August of 2001, Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods were involved in what would turn out to be a seven-hole playoff for the title in the NEC Invitational at Firestone Country Club. On the first playoff hole, Furyk left his third shot in the bunker while Woods had a 35-foot birdie putt. Phil Mickelson was in the players' lounge when he turned to the table next to him and offered to bet $20 at 25-1 odds that Furyk would hole out from the bunker. Stewart Cink and David Toms turned down the bet. Mike Weir accepted. Furyk holed the shot. Phil won $500. There is a rumor that Weir paid off in Canadian money.

It is said that early success as a gambler is one of the Devil's worst curses. Skip forward to 2010 or 2011. Mickelson had flourished on the golf course. He won the Masters in 2010, notching his fourth major championship and 38th Tour win. But his teams weren't coming through down the stretch, and the kids coming up were harder to beat in money matches. Phil found himself deeply in debt to one of the truly great gamblers of all time, William T. (Billy) Walters.

William T. (Billy) Walters

Billy Walters came to Las Vegas around 1980, already a good and successful sports bettor. He fell in with two men who were experimenting with the use of computers in sports betting. The experiment paid off in spectacular fashion, and the three won many millions of dollars in the next decades. Walters spread his winnings around, buying high-end golf courses, hotels, automobile dealerships, and other blue-chip investments. But he never lost the urge to book a bet for a pigeon eager to make one.

Another high roller who was deep in debt to Walters was Thomas C. Davis, a member of the board of directors of the Dean Foods Company. Davis was scum. He once stole $100,000 from a charity he managed that raised funds for a battered-women's shelter to pay a casino debt. In return for forgiveness of parts of his debt to Walters, Davis would leak the quarterly earnings reports of Dean Foods to Walters in advance of their public release, giving Walters the opportunity to buy or short Dean Foods stock. Davis also tipped Walters that Dean Foods was planning to spin off a very profitable subsidiary, WhiteWave Foods Company. Davis and Walters exchanged this information over disposable cellular devices they refered to as "Bat Phones." After the feds stepped in and assessed the damage, it was determined that Walters made at least $40 million in profit from Davis' inside information.

Thomas C. Davis

During this time, Mickelson's debt to Walters reached a record level. The amount was so high that Mickelson could never bet his way up out of the hole. Walters was faced with a choice: send in the legbreakers to collect the debt in full, or devise a way for Mickelson to do a valuable service that would benefit Walters. If the former way was chosen, Walters realized that Phil would no longer consider him a "friend," and that the benefits of that "friendship," that is, very much money, would no longer flow to him. So:

In July, 2012 Walters called Mickelson and told him to buy Dean Foods stock. Mickelson, on the next possible trading day, made purchases of Dean Foods totaling $2.4 million, a transaction amount at least 10 times greater than any amount he had previously made on any stock. Several days later, when the insider information became public, Dean Foods stock rose by 40% and Mickelson made a $930,000 profit. According to Securities and Exchange investigators, Phil's profit went to his friend Billy to pay down his gambling debt.

The scheme fell apart when Thomas C. Davis got jammed up on another beef. He sang like a canary, and ratted out Billy Walters as the mastermind of the Dean Foods caper. Federal investigators traced trades of the stock and found Mickelson's highly suspicious purchases and sales. Phil had no stomach for a protracted legal fight when FBI agents approached him to discuss the case on the driving range a few hours before his tee time at a major championship. He immediately lawyered up.

Phil Mickelson was not charged criminally in the case. He was listed in the indictment as a "Relief Defendant," defined as one who has received ill-gotten gains as a result of illegal acts of other defendants. Thomas C. Davis pled guilty and became a co-operating witness for the government. Billy Walters declined a plea offer and elected to go to trial.

Walters' lawyer, Barry Berke, characterized the charges against his client as "based on erroneous assumptions, speculative theories and false finger-pointing." At trial, he told the jury that Billy Walters was "the Babe Ruth of stock trading," and didn't need to resort to illegalies to make huge profits.

To the surprise of Billy Walters and no one else, Walters was convicted on all 10 charges against him. His sentencing is set for Friday, July 14.

Phil Mickelson's lawyers negotiated a deal that kept him from a seat at the defense table. In return for the immediate return of an amount equal to the profit Phil made from his Dean Foods transactions ($930,000), immediate payment of a $105,000 civil fine, and a promise to testify if called as a witness in the trial, no criminal charges would be filed against him.

Thomas C. Davis, as a cooperating witness, will be sentenced after the sentencing of Billy Walters. It will be interesting to see how much time the judge gives him. It will be more interesting to see how much time Billy Walters is sentenced to on Friday. We have a Poll below that asks what Walters' sentence will be, and note specifically that it doesn't ask for how much time he should be given.

The PGA Tour Player Handbook, which sets out practices and policies governing the independent contractors who participate in Tour events, in its “Conduct of Players” section, states that players shall not “associate with or have dealings with persons whose activities, including gambling, might reflect adversely on the integrity of the game of golf.”

Players who violate the section above are "subject to suspension from tournament play for a minimum of two seasons."

What do you make the odds of that happening?

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This contribution was provided to #DMD by our friend and resident right-hand-man George McDowell, who never saw a wager he didn't like. If only he would have won more of them.

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July 11
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Issue 11
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it feels weird to not dislike this aaron judge kid

This is going to get very awkward in the next few years.

The more I see of Aaron Judge, the more I like him. I mean, really like him, in the jealous, envious kind of way. You know, like "how come that guy can't play for MY team?"

It's easy to just say, "I don't like him. He plays for the Yankees." Save that stuff for some goon who plays for the Flyers. Every creep on that team is easy to dislike.

Pinstripes or not, it's impossible to dislike Aaron Judge. I'm sorry, but that's true.

For once, the Yankees appear to have a player in their lineup that is actually easy to like instead of easy to dislike. But how do we balance that here in Baltimore?

Now, that doesn't mean we have to root for the Yankees to win or anything crazy like that. No, no, no. I have no interest in seeing the Yankees be successful.

But let's face it: Judge is on the cusp of becoming baseball's new cult figure. And for all the right reasons. Well, we hope they're all "right". No one wants to talk about the pink elephant in the room, which is the power he exhibits at the plate, but if baseball doesn't care, why should any of us?

As he bombed his way to the Home Run Derby title last night, the legend of Aaron Judge discarded the training wheels and started riding the bike all on his own. If it's possible for a player's coming out party to be an exhibition hitting contest, Judge succeeded in that endeavor on Monday evening in Miami. He was amazing.

I've never been much for the Home Run Derby. I can say, without hesitation, that last night was the first time I've ever watched it from start to finish. That's true. There have been plenty of years where I didn't see one swing of the bat from anyone.

I was glued to the set last night, though, to see if the kid from New York could pull it off. The first round was spectacular. Justin Bour of the Marlins hit 22 home runs. He needed the 30 second bonus to reach the 22-figure, but he did it. Judge hit 22 without the 30-second bonus, then clobbered one in the bonus round to eliminate Bour.

That moment was more exciting than his win in the Finals over Miguel Sano of the Twins. It was akin to the U.S. defeating the Soviet Union in the semi-finals of the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid. No matter what Judge did after coming back from 22-0 down to beat Bour, it wouldn't top his 23 home run output against the hometown favorite.

Maybe he'll wind up having some "a-hole" moments in New York and we won't wind up liking him quite so much, but for now, this kid seems like he's just a genuine, soulful young man. It's hard to believe he plays for the Yankees, actually, although the Red Sox have assumed the league lead in guys-you-don't-like over the last decade.

Every team in baseball has players who are easy to dislike. That's natural. But Judge isn't one of them in New York.

It feels so distinctly odd to be crowing about this kid, but then again he's seemingly still on level ground and worthy of all the respect he's garnering due to his staggering power display(s) at the plate.

If he does something to earn our ire, fair enough. For now, though, I'm proudly a member of the Judge's Chambers or whatever that dumb thing is they're doing in New York these days.

Baseball needs good stories and upstanding people and Judge seems to put a check mark in both of those boxes.

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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.

When I was a kid, the MLB Home Run Derby was an annual highlight of my sports fandom.

My younger brother and I would anticipate it for weeks, spend the day watching previous year's versions on ESPN, and then hang on every at bat for the event. As the years passed, though, the event lost its luster to the point where I barely paid attention, at best, and treated it as a punchline at its zenith.

Part of that was just getting older, I'm sure, as the contest is definitely marketed towards kids.

Another part of the event's decline was the end of the home run boom, and the passing of the days when guys like McGwire, Griffey, Sosa, and Bonds were slugging it out for the crown each season. But honestly, the event just got boring. The drama was gone, for the most part, and in its place was Chris Berman shouting decades old schtick over glorified batting practice.

Can Max Scherzer and the rest of the players in tonight's All-Star Game duplicate the excitement of Monday evening's Home Run Derby in Miami?

Despite the occasional gem like Josh Hamilton's record setting, moon shot blasting round in Yankee Stadium in 2008, nothing MLB did could consistently liven up the event. It got to the point that it was heavily rumored that MLB and the players' union would just as soon have dropped the contest altogether if not for the money ESPN was paying to broadcast the event.

But that era is gone, because the Home Run Derby is back. This year's event, which saw Yankees' rookie Aaron Judge cement himself as an emerging superstar with both a win and a dazzling display of 500+ feet bombs was one of the best in the history of the contest, and caps off a run of three straight genuinely captivating derbies that's been worth the time spent watching.

The best thing MLB ever did for the Home Run Derby was making each round a timed event, doing away with the pretense of "outs" altogether. If there was any one thing that had made the event downright unwatchable sometime between 2009 and 2014, it was watching the hitters take pitch after pitch after pitch, waiting for a perfect meatball to blast and trying to avoid being penalized for swinging without putting the ball over the fence.

By doing away with that penalty and just making the event a "hit as many dingers as you can in X minutes" affair, MLB has put a premium on swinging the bat and keeps the action moving, and brings an added dramatic element to the chase as well. As good as this year's Derby was, it probably still doesn't quite compare to the final moment of the 2015 event, the first under the current format, when hometown star Todd Frazier won it all while just beating the clock in the finals.

And as an added bonus, the new timed format keeps the pace on a tight schedule, and a Derby that ends before 10:30 is definitely a nice bonus.

The new crop of exciting power hitters makes a big difference as well. This year was all about Judge, of course, and the buzz throughout the entire night was clearly centered on how much damage the giant was going to do. On that front Judge definitely didn't disappoint, hitting multiple shots over 500 feet and even, at one point, driving a shot into the retractable roof of Marlins Park that didn't even count because it technically didn't clear the outfield fence.

Winning the trophy was almost beside the point by the end of the night. Judge had already given the crowd what they came to see.

But the Yankees' slugger was hardly the only attraction at the event, nor the only excitement provided on the night. The night's most dramatic offering might well have been the first pairing of the first round, when reigning champ Giancarlo Stanton's furious comeback attempt came up just short thanks to a series of popups, and the top seed was knocked out by Gary Sanchez, the second Yankees' youngster in the event.

Sanchez's very selection had caused controversy when Tampa Bay journeyman Logan Morrison whined about not getting an invitation, adding an extra layer of meaning to the number eight seed knocking out the top dog and baseball's long standing king of power. In fact, that would prove to be the theme of the night, with a new generation of young stars taking center stage and providing an action and drama packed evening that delivered from beginning to end.

Major League Baseball finally hit gold with their new Home Run Derby format. Now we can only hope that tonight's All-Star Game can live up that lead in.

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couples withdraws, but senior golf field still very strong

I'll admit I'm a little bummed out personally that Fred Couples won't be playing in this week's Constellation Senior Player's Championship at Caves Valley.

The former 1992 Masters champion -- and my favorite golfer of all time, truth be told -- withdrew yesterday while continuing to battle back issues.

Nine years after his memorable playoff loss to Tiger Woods in the 2008 U.S. Open, Rocco Mediate (left) is one of the fan favorites playing this week at Caves Valley.

But Couples' removal from the field hardly changes much about the quality of play we'll see out there this week. This is, after all, a major championship on The Champions Tour and there are dozens of household names and plenty of former champions in the field.

3-time major champion Vijay Singh is playing this week, as he continues to split time between the regular PGA Tour and The Champions Tour. Once Singh settles on playing the Senior circuit full-time, expect him to be a weekly contender when he's in the field.

Bernhard Langer, who has won the Senior Player's Championship three straight years, will also be teeing it up. Langer has captured nine major titles on the Senior Tour, tying Jack Nicklaus' career mark, but comes in to this event on the heels of some controversy about his continued use of the long putter.

1998 Masters and British Open champion Mark O'Meara will be another former major champion you'll see at Caves Valley this week. When healthy, O'Meara remains one of The Champions Tour's best ball strikers.

Other major winners from their respective PGA Tour careers who are in this week's field include Lee Janzen (two U.S. Open titles), Mark Calcavecchia (British Open), Ian Woosnam (Masters) and Jose Maria Olazabal (two Masters).

And then there's also Kenny Perry, who just won the U.S. Senior Open two weeks ago in Peabody, Massachusetts.

So, even with Couples pulling out of the event yesterday, there's still plenty of good golf in store for everyone heading out to Caves Valley this Thursday.

Daily grounds tickets are $20 each.

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July 10
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 10
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fact and opinion would sell o‘s valuable pieces at the deadline

FACT: Jon Rahm won the Irish Open by five shots on Sunday, which is a significant event on the European Tour. It’s the biggest win of his two-year professional career and gives him some real momentum heading into the British Open at Royal Birkdale in two weeks.

OPINION: Once again, another player mismarking their golf ball created a controversy, although this time around, the officials found in favor of the offending party. On the 6th hole, Rahm marked his ball to the side of his coin, then placed the ball in front of his marker when replacing it a minute or so later. But the rules official claimed Rahm “made an attempt” to remark the ball to the side, even though he failed to do so. I saw the replay. It was pretty simple. Rahm didn’t replace his golf ball in the same location from which he originally marked it. That’s a penalty. But not on the European Tour, evidently.

FACT: Clayton Kershaw threw a complete game on Sunday in the Dodgers’ 5-2 home win over Kansas City. That puts him at 14-2 on the season with a 2.18 ERA. Oh, and get this: In his 19 starts this season, Kershaw has allowed two earned runs or less in – ready ? – 15 of them.

OPINION: It’s likely that Kershaw has 15 starts left in the regular season. 25 wins is a real possibility at this point. So is his 4th Cy Young Award, although Max Scherzer of the Nationals is going to have something to say about that. I realize he’s a National League pitcher and their numbers are slightly skewed because of the no DH rule, but I’m starting to think Kershaw is the best pitcher I’ve ever seen.

Led by Jakob Dylan, son of folk legend Bob Dylan, The Wallflowers produced a hute hit with this album in 1996.

FACT: With their 11-5 win over the Twins on Sunday, the Orioles finished the first half of the season at 42-46. They’re one game out of last place at the All-Star Break. If you asked me to come up with a one-word term for their play so far, I’d say, “Disappointing”.

OPINION: The Orioles might be the most disappointing team in baseball thus far in 2017. I think a lot of people thought Toronto was going to take a step back. No one is shocked that the Cubs are experiencing a slight World Series hangover. But after getting off to a 22-10 start, the Orioles collapsed and went 20-36 thereafter. No other way to say it: They’ve underachieved.

FACT: The Capitals have lost a handful of key players over the last two weeks. Gone are Justin Williams (Carolina), Karl Alzner (Montreal), Kevin Shattenkirk (Rangers) and Marcus Johansson (traded to New Jersey).

OPINION: Those are four pretty big players to lose, particularly Alzner. The Caps decided to roll the dice and throw a bunch of money at resigning T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov, but I think they should have made a bigger effort to keep Alzner, a rock-solid defenseman who got a really nice contract from Montreal. Losing Nate Schmidt to Las Vegas in the expansion draft doesn’t help soften the blow of Alzner’s departure, either.

FACT: The Wallflowers’ 1996 album, Bringing Down The Horse, was their best selling effort with over 5 million in sales.

OPINION: I’d say Bringing Down The Horse was one of the top 5 albums of the 1990’s and most certainly a top 25 album of the last 25 years. I never have figured out how a band can crush it like that with a great album and then not be able to replicate that kind of success thereafter, but there’s no doubt The Wallflowers struck gold with Bringing Down The Horse.

FACT: Houston's Jose Altuve is hitting .342 on the season. That's really good, right? Well, how about this stat: Guess what he's hitting over the last 28 days? .398

OPINION: For nearly one month now, Altuve is hitting just a hair under .400, with 35 hits in 100 at-bats. It gets better. He's hitting .500 over the last 14 days with 21 hits in 42 at-bats. Best pure hitter since Ichiro Suzuki? It's sure looking that way.

FACT: Richard Bleier has appeared in 24 games for the Orioles, with a solid 1.63 ERA but a not-so-great 1.410 WHIP. The O's have had three lefty relief pitchers of any substance this year: Bleier, Donnie Hart and Vidal Nuno. Bleier has the best numbers of the three, by far.

OPINION: Someone in need of a lefty specialist might take Bleier at the deadline but the O's aren't getting anything real valuable in return. That said, the Yankees are reportedly interested in San Diego lefty Brad Hand, who has a 2.30 ERA but a 1.000 WHIP. Why not offer Bleier to the Yankees and see what they might be willing to part with him to have return to the Bronx, where he appeared in 23 games last season?

FACT: The Nationals' bullpen is terrible.

OPINION: They need a lot of help down there in D.C. Any chance they'd take Darren O'Day and his semi-bad-contract off the Orioles' hands? I know there's the whole Orioles-Nationals-MASN dispute that might cloud any favorable dealings between the two franchises, but if I'm the Birds and I'm shopping relief pitchers, I call the Nationals first and the Yankees second.

FACT: The top five selling albums of all time are: Michael Jackson, Thriller (47.3 million), The Eagles, Their Greatest Hits 1971-75 (32.3), Shania Twain, Come On Over (29.3), Led Zeppelin, IV (29.0), Fleetwood Mac, Rumors (27.9).

OPINION: I owned (at one point) four of those five albums. Not much on Shania Twain, but the others listed above are really good. Led Zeppelin IV, of course, was part of a hilariously funny scene in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, where Mike Damone is giving Mark Ratner dating lessons and he suggests as part of his 5-point plan the following: "When it comes to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV." Ratner then gets Stacy Hamilton in the car, but plays the song "Kashmir" instead, which was on the Physical Graffiti album, not Led Zeppelin IV.

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folks are starting to get excited about the ravens

I saw something over the weekend where Shannon Sharpe of FOX Sports picks the Ravens to win Super Bowl 52.

That's not the first time I've seen a national analyst of some expertise pick the Ravens to be a deep playoff team in 2017. There seems to be some building excitement about John Harbaugh's club from the national media, which is a little bit of an outlier.

The heat is on these two in 2017 to get the Ravens back into the post-season for just the second time since winning the Super Bowl five seasons ago.

It's fair to point out that Sharpe played for the Ravens and has a special sort of affection for the organization. It's like Bill Cowher picking the Steelers to win big playoff games on the CBS pre-game show. Of course he's going to do that -- the Steelers are in his blood.

Former players who are forced to make predictions about games that include a team they once played for are in a terrible spot. If they pick them to win, they get criticized for being a "homer". If they pick against them, they get beat up by the fan base of that team for not "sticking with us".

Either way, the predictions should be taken with a grain of salt, right?

In Sharpe's case, though, he cites the Ravens' improved defense and the addition of Jeremy Maclin as the two key components to an improved 2017 campaign. It's hard to argue with the improvements, as they were both very necessary. The Baltimore defense was dreadful in the fourth quarter last year and the team has only had a handful of competent wide receivers over the last two decades.

The biggest question for my money, though, centers on -- you guessed it -- the quarterback. What kind of year will Joe Flacco have? Is the Ravens' offensive line good enough to hold up and protect him for sixteen weeks?

How much will Flacco miss his security blanket, Dennis Pitta?

Is he mobile enough now, 20 months (when the season starts) removed from ACL surgery, to get out of the pocket and make things happen with his feet when he does get pressured?

And what of Maclin, the talented but underachieving pass catcher who had good seasons in Philadelphia and Kansas City but evidently wasn't valuable enough for either franchise to hold on to?

Can he finally give the Ravens a reliable, game changing type of receiver?

Oh, and the head coach is also in an interesting situation, as he's clearly under some stress after missing the playoffs three of the last four years. Nearly everyone assumes the Ravens are in a "playoffs or bust" mode in 2017 and John Harbaugh's future in Baltimore might very well rely on the team making the post-season.

Will that tension affect the way he coaches and handles in-game strategy situations? We know, after all, that one loss can keep you out of the post-season. We saw it last December in Pittsburgh when the Ravens fell to the Steelers in the game's final minute and kept Harbaugh and Company out of the playoffs.

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major championship golf returns to caves valley this week

This week's Constellation Senior Player's Championship at Caves Valley gives area golfing enthusiast the rare opportunity to see the world's best players (albeit all over age 50) up close and personal, and it should truly be a great experience.

It's a "major" on the senior circuit, which not only means four days of golf, but the best-of-the-best will be on hand, including three-time defending champion Bernhard Langer, former Masters champion Fred Couples, Tom Lehman, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Tom Kite, Mark Calcavecchia and a lot of other major champions from the PGA Tour who are now 50 and older.

Tickets are just $20 per-day or $70 for a week-long pass. That's a great bargain in today's sports world of $100 tickets.

I'll be caddying on Wednesday morning in the Pro-Am (I'll post my foursome's tee-time on Wednesday morning here at #DMD, but I think it's somewhere around 8:30 am), so if you happen to be out at Caves Valley on Wednesday morning, please say hi.

The golf will be excellent, I assure you of that. The players will be supremely challenged by Caves Valley, which has undergone some tweakings over the last few years, with "new holes", essentially, at #1 and #11, plus some cosmetic updates at hole #12 and elsewhere.

Best of all, there's easy access in and out of Caves Valley.

For more information on the tournament, just go here.

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July 9
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 9
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champions tour comes to town with "anchoring ban" a hot story

Championship golf is coming to Baltimore this week but the big story isn't Kenny Perry, who recently won the U.S. Senior Open, John Daly, Fred Couples or Tom Lehman.

The players will be overshadowed at Caves Valley by the ongoing controversy regarding the use of the long putter on the Champions Tour (it's technically called PGA Tour Champions but I just can't get used to that -- I'm sorry) and recent criticism from TV analyst Brandel Chamblee aimed at veteran senior players Bernhard Langer and Scott McCarron, both of whom utilize the long putter in competition.

Chamblee recently authored an article on The Golf Channel's website in which he questioned the United States Golf Association (USGA) and their application of a rule that went into place 17 months ago that prohibits a player from "anchoring" the putter to their chest/sternum by virtue of resting their hand(s) against their body during the putting stroke.

The TV analyst went on to specifically name Langer and McCarron as examples of how the USGA's "gray area" has allowed players who utilize the long putter to continue doing so, even though there's widespread speculation in professional golf that competitors are still anchoring the putter despite the 2016 ruling that prohibits them from doing so.

2-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer has come under fire recently by Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee.

"I have great respect for Langer and McCarron and have enjoyed watching them play over the years, both as a fellow competitor and as a commentator," Chamblee wrote. "But for the life of me, I cannot understand why they would risk even the hint of suspicion when it comes to the nature of how they play this game."

That comment and the article on the whole sparked a back-and-forth that eventually concluded with both Langer and McCarron making a public statement, as well as the USGA.

The entire Chamblee column on the The Golf Channel's website can be found here if you care to read it.

As a competitive golfer who has used the long putter for the better part of 13 years now, I have a unique sense of what Chamblee brought up and, yet, I also sympathize with Langer and McCarron, both of whom have been reviewed, analyzed and scrutinized over this whole issue countless times in recent years.

Langer, more than McCarron, has been in the crosshairs for some time, as he has been The Champions Tour's most successful player over the last decade and there has been rampant speculation on TOUR that he still anchors his putter despite the 2016 ruling.

When I watch Langer putt, I have a hard time detecting whether any part of his left (top) hand is, in fact, away from his body. Now, admittedly, I've never stood next to him to see it in person. All of my viewing has come via television which, while displayed in high-definition, is still not nearly as precise as seeing it happen in front of you.

One of the biggest discussions about the anchoring rule is whether or not a player's hand touching his/her clothing during the stroke is considered "anchoring". Langer, it appears, does make contact with his clothing (the button line on his shirt), but is that REALLY anchoring the putter?

Chamblee has become one of golf's most controversial broadcasters over the last ten years. He's one of the few analysts who has routinely criticized Tiger Woods during his fall from grace and was particularly hard on the U.S. Ryder Cup teams that lost in 2012 and 2014. He's definitely of the "speak my mind" class when it comes to golf broadcasters.

Part of the public's backlash against Chamblee has been his relatively unknown career on the PGA Tour, where he won just once in 15 years and played in only six major championships.

"What did he ever win out there?," an internet critic asked recently on The Golf Channel's website. "Who cares what he thinks? It's not like he was a great player."

In Chamblee's defense, he played golf for a living for 15 years and when a PGA Tour event in 1990. He's well qualified to speak on the world of golf, the players, and topics such as the anchor ban on long putters.

Whether he's right to specifically target Langer and McCarron is up for the readers and viewers to decide based on their own observations of those two players.

And then, through it all, the real issue with regard to the anchor ban is that mysterious word -- "intent". We see it all the time in baseball when a pitcher hits a batter with a thrown ball. Was there "intent" or was it just an accidental errant throw?

The same question arises with those on the TOUR who use long putters and are examined for anchoring their putter during the stroke. Did they intentionally allow their hand to rest on their sternum/chest or was it just an accidental brushing of their clothing?

As the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship rolls into Baltimore this week, the biggest story won't be the golf. It will be the ongoing discussion about the anchoring rule and whether or not the USGA needs to more carefully examine their own decision from 2016.

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it's getting harder to believe o's won't be sellers this month

The Orioles won in Minnesota yesterday, 5-1.

That's the good news.

The bad news is there's still no indication at all from Dan Duquette that the Birds are going to be sellers at the trade deadline at the end of July. If anything, it still appears like the Orioles might try and acquire a few new pieces to try and stay in the wild card playoff race.

I don't own the team, obviously, but I'm still here to say that "buying" at the deadline is a backwards move.

Wade Miley picked up just his fourth win of the season on Saturday in Minnesota but that performance might be of interest to teams around the majors who need a left-handed starter at the trade deadline.

It would be one thing if the O's had a wealth of farm system talent and wouldn't be damaged for the long run by moving a few of their younger players at the deadline in an effort to acquire a couple of pitchers and a bat that might help them squeeze into the post-season again.

As we've seen over the years with the Giants and Royals, sometimes just getting into the playoffs is all you need to make a title run. I understand the willingness to make a move or two if you're of the mindset that, A) you can actually turn things around and make the playoffs and, B) you're good enough to make a serious run if you do, in fact, get in.

The Orioles don't have (A) or (B) working in their favor. Not in the least.

They've gone 18-37 in their last 55 games. If, for example, any team in the league would have started the season at 18-37, they'd be among the worst or likely THE worst team in the league. And at 18-37, their season would effectively be over by late May or early June.

The Orioles season isn't "over" at this point because they managed to go 22-10 to start the campaign, but their play in the 55-game stretch over the last two months has put their weaknesses on full display for everyone to see.

Would a starting pitcher or two help if they could acquire such talent at the deadline? Maybe, yes. But maybe not, too. They're likely not going to have enough in the farm system to secure a top flight arm (if one is available, in fact), so the best they'll likely do is pick up someone else's mediocre or journeyman thrower. And that's not a good alternative at this point.

The Orioles are 41-46 now and could -- depending on the outcome of today's games -- be in last place at the All-Star break.

If that alone isn't enough to get the organization to understand that it's time to rebuild a little bit, I don't know what could do it for them.

There's talent in the locker room, for sure. Enough talent to let a few veterans go at the deadline, pick up some decent prospects, and perhaps start another playoff run next April. I wouldn't say the O's need a full "rebuilding". Rather, they just need to retool and add some depth to the organization.

We have three more weeks of this discussion, but with every loss it becomes more and more apparent to me.

Let's sell off some pieces at the end of the month and start looking to the future.

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here's the very last call for our ravens trip to london

We have available one "trip for two" with our group of 30 going to London in September to see the Ravens take on the Jacksonville Jaguars.

We'd love to have you join us!

It's $2,445 per-person for five nights (the lowest price in town for a 5-night trip) and that includes round-trip airfare from Dulles to England, ground transportation, a weekly train/bus pass, hotel stay right next to Wembley Stadium, and a lower concourse ticket to the Ravens/Jaguars game.

Our group departs on Tuesday evening, September 19 and returns on Monday evening, September 25.

This is the only package-for-two we have remaining.

If you're interested, please send me an e-mail today:

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July 8
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 8
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it's like twilight zone stuff now

True story.

My buddy Dale Williams stopped over last night for a glass of wine and the opportunity to catch up and swap recent golf stories.

We turned on the O's game just as Manny Machado was trotting around the bases in the first inning. His solo home run gave the Birds a quick 2-0 lead.

In the top of the 3rd, Machado did it again, only this time it was a 3-run shot that extended the Orioles' lead to 5-0.

"This game is far from over," I told Dale. "At some point tonight, this game will be tied up at 6-6." He agreed, we laughed at how inept the Orioles have become, and went back to our golf talk.

Staked to a 6-0 third inning lead last night in Minnesota, Kevin Gausman couldn't keep the hot-hitting Twins at bay, as Minnesota roared back for a gut-punch 9-6 win to drop the O's to 40-46 on the season.

It wasn't that funny later on in the evening when it was, in fact, a 6-6 game. Dale had left by then, but I shot him a quick text: LOL. Told you...

Kevin Gausman once again couldn't hold on to a 6-0 lead. But that was only part of the story last night.

Trey Mancini, who has been more than competent at first base playing in lieu of the injured Chris Davis, looked like he had never played the position before in last night's loss. It was completely bizarre. Two balls hit right at him somehow got by, he threw to second base in search of a force out that wasn't there, and he failed to hold on to a throw at first that any good-fielding high schooler would have made.

And Buck Showalter had Caleb Joseph attempt a bunt in the 6th inning with runners at 1st and 2nd and no one out in a 7-6 game -- with Ruben Tejada up next at the plate.

Talk about strange...

Back to Gausman. As is his custom, the right hander breezed through the first three innings last night and looked in complete command of his pitching arsenal. Minnesota then nicked him for two runs in the 4th to cut the score to 6-2, but the pitcher himself did solid work to get out of the inning relatively unscathed after loading the bases with just one out.

Gausman didn't make it out of the 5th, though, as the whole thing fell apart on him after allowing two runs to make it a 6-4 game. He'd go on to be charged with two more runs (one earned) as the Twins knotted things up at 6-6 after five innings.

While he didn't get the loss (it went to Miguel Castro) there are still more questions than answers as it relates to Gausman.

Mancini's off night at first base was hopefully just an outlier. He's been good at that spot this season. He's not Chris Davis with the glove, but he's pretty reliable. Last night, though, he was a liability there.

And it's hard to understand what exactly happened in the 6th inning when Joseph, hitting .282, successfully bunted two runs over who were stationed at first and second with no one out.

We have to assume that call from Showalter. I can't imagine Joseph would give away a free out on his own accord. Either way, it was a head scratching move, either from the manager or a veteran player.

For starters, why take the bat out of Caleb's hand there?

And with Tejada coming up next, why hand over a valuable out at that stage when it's likely the light-hitting shortstop isn't going to produce anything with the next at-bat?

Predictably, of course, Tejada struck out and then Seth Smith grounded out to end the inning.

Manny Machado went 4-for-5 on the night to raise his average to .224. He hit a pair of home runs and nearly had a third in the top of the 7th inning on a ball that hit the top of the wall -- probably one foot shy of clearing the fence and tying the game at 7-7.

On that play, though, Machado only made it to first base for a single, which drew the ire of color analyst Jim Palmer, who has routinely questioned Machado's baserunning this season.

I have agreed with Palmer on almost every occasion this year -- that I've seen -- where he calls out Machado for his lack of hustle. I've written about some of those transgressions here at #DMD.

Last night, though? I'm not sure Machado could have made it to second base anyway. He didn't really break into a verifiable home run "trot" when he hit the ball. He got out of the box with some intent and started to run to first. I wouldn't say he was sprinting, but he wasn't "trotting", either.

The ball was hit hard and sharply. It was more like a long line drive than it was a "towering fly ball to deep right". The ball hit the wall and bounded directly to Minnesota's centerfielder, who expertly played the carom and rifled a throw back into second base.

I watched the reply several times and I think it was coin flip as to whether or not Manny would have been safe at second base anyway.

He's not the fastest guy in the league, you know.

Murphy's Law reigned supreme again, though, when Jonathan Schoop struck out in the next at-bat and Adam Jones grounded into an inning-ending double play. Had Machado been on second base, the inning would have stayed alive for at least one more hitter.

Palmer's a great broadcaster and nearly every time he's jabbed at Machado's lack of hustle this season, I've bought stock in it. Last night wasn't one of those occasions, though.

And finally, in the 8th inning, Byron Buxton scored from first base on a ball that just snuck past Ruben Tejada at shortstop and bounded harmlessly (we thought) into centerfield. Adam Jones got to it and then threw the ball back into the infield, except Buxton didn't stop at third base. With Jones not firing the ball into the cut off man in the infield, Buxton raced all the way home and Minnesota extended their lead to 9-6.

It was probably more parts good play from Buxton than bad play from Jones, but the experienced centerfielder wasn't completely engaged in the play, either. That's what happens when you're busy losing five games in a row and seven of your last eight.

So, the hits just keep on coming for the O's, who were saved a spot in last place by virtue of Toronto getting hammered at home on Friday evening by the Astros.

That's five losses in a row and a 40-46 mark for Buck's team, who finish up the series with two more games in Minnesota before mercifully getting a four day break next week for the All-Star Game.

One thing for certain. The "bizarre meter" can't get much higher than it rang last night in that 9-6 loss to the Twins. Strange times indeed.

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it's summer league nba and the spotlight is already shining on lonzo ball

File this one under "You wanted it, kid, and you got it."

Lonzo Ball, the newest member of the L.A. Lakers, made his summer league debut last night, and it wasn't a storybook debut for the 2nd pick in the recent draft.

His first pass of the night was a roof-raiser, but other than that, it was a forgettable summer-league debut for Lonzo Ball on Friday night in Las Vegas.

ESPN chronicled his outing "nightmarish" after the youngster went 2-for-15 from the field in a 96-93 overtime loss to the neighboring L.A. Clippers.

He did manage five assists and dished out several other eye-popping passes, but his shooting was dreadful and his inability to get anywhere near the rim was also revealing.

After the game, his crazy father said the rookie of the year award is "sewn up" already for Lonzo. One summer league game and the kid's the rookie of the year? Easy there, pops.

The elder Ball, who craves the spotlight far more than his kid, also offered this gem: "If LeBron ever comes to the Lakers, I guarantee he'll win a championship with my son."

Wow, really, LaVar? That's a mammoth statement from you.

You mean to tell me if the best basketball player in the world comes to the team your son plays on, your boy will help HIM win a title? OK, I get it.

Someone get the Dad some smelling salts.

LeBron James could go to any of six or eight teams in the league and help them win a title. Lonzo Ball just went 2-for-15 playing against half-a-scrubs in the summer league. Who has more influence on winning?

One thing for sure: Whether or not you're an NBA fan, this Lonzo Ball story will be worth following in the 2017-2018 campaign. The father has done a great job of promoting his son in such a way that we're all going to tune in to see if he can live up to the hype.

I'm guessing he won't.

But I'm not sure that LaVar Ball even cares about that. I just think he craves the hype, but isn't really all that worried about fulfilling the expectations along the way.

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here's the very last call for our ravens trip to london

We have available one "trip for two" with our group of 30 going to London in September to see the Ravens take on the Jacksonville Jaguars.

We'd love to have you join us!

It's $2,445 per-person for five nights (the lowest price in town for a 5-night trip) and that includes round-trip airfare from Dulles to England, ground transportation, a weekly train/bus pass, hotel stay right next to Wembley Stadium, and a lower concourse ticket to the Ravens/Jaguars game.

Our group departs on Tuesday evening, September 19 and returns on Monday evening, September 25.

This is the only package-for-two we have remaining.

If you're interested, please send me an e-mail today:

charity golf outing spots are filled

Thanks to those of you who e-mailed me over the last couple of days about the charity golf outing at The Suburban Club on July 17. Our group of four has been filled and we're looking to a great day raising money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

I appreciate the response(s) and the offer for a donation from those of you who didn't get selected.

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July 7
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 7
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how much did chiti, wallace leaving o's hurt team's pitching staff?

This has become a story lots of folks in town are talking about these days, so it makes sense to least bring it up here today at #DMD and give everyone the opportunity to add their own opinion to the meat wagon.

How much impact did the off-season departures of pitching coaches Dom Chiti and Dave Wallace wind up having on the Orioles?

The Birds are now a season worst five games under .500 after last night's 6-4 defeat in Minnesota and it was once again a one-inning meltdown that made the difference in the game. Dylan Bundy buzzed through the Twins' lineup in the first two innings, then got dinged for six runs in the third.

What role did Brady Anderson have in the departures of Dom Chiti and Dave Wallace and how much has their absence affected the O's pitching staff thus far in 2017?

The team's starting pitching has been bad for two solid months now. In fairness to the bullpen, while they've been bruised and battered a bit here and there as well, they're forced into duty of some length at least three times a week these days. In summary, the pitching staff has been ineffective since early May and there's no real relief in sight, no pun intended.

Chiti and Wallace left the club in part over a spat with Orioles front office executive Brady Anderson. The former centerfielder -- according to stories published after Chiti and Wallace left -- tinkered with some of the younger pitchers' mechanics during off-season workouts. There were other contributing factors as well, but the main point about the departures of the two pitching coaches was they felt handcuffed and undermined by Anderson's influence.

What would 2017 have looked like had those two stayed on board and Roger McDowell not been tabbed as the team's new pitching coach?

No one knows, of course. But it's a question worth asking.

And why should it be asked? For the simple reason of the Orioles getting a better grip on how their organizational ladder either contributes -- or doesn't -- to the team's on-field product.

There's no use in piling on Peter Angelos about his affection for Anderson. It's well documented and likely not changing any time soon. And there are folks in the Warehouse who have told me Anderson cares far more about the team's play on the field than does Dan Duquette.

But the strife created by Anderson's interference with some of the team's young pitchers can't be ignored. It apparently cost the team two valuable employees and may have significantly contributed to what has been thus far a poor first half of baseball from the Orioles.

While that scenario can't be repaired, shouldn't the O's be "living and learning" on the subject of Anderson's role, which, nearly everyone says, has never really been completely defined? One day he's in Norfolk working with some young hitters, the next day he's in Bowie catching fly balls in the outfield with Double-A hopefuls and then in the off-season, he's instructing Mike Wright to alter his throwing motion.

It's an odd organizational structure to say the least. That's not to say Anderson might not someday by a valuable piece to the Orioles puzzle. But right now, there has to be a question about his role and how involved he is and whether there's a conflict with others in the front office or the dugout.

Speaking of Duquette, is he still of the mindset that the Orioles are going to be buying at the trade deadline in three weeks? They're now 40-45, 8.5 games behind pace-setting Boston, and their 15 road wins are tied for worst (with Detroit) in the American League. The Birds are 6-22 in their last 28 games away from Camden Yards.

To reach 88 wins (which would put the team in one of the two wild card spots, or thereabouts), the Birds have to go 48-29 from here to the clubhouse.

Let's get all of the important numbers on the table to understand the math: The Birds were 22-10 at one point in May. They're now 40-45. They've gone 18-35 over their last 53 games. And somehow, now, they'll need to post a record of 48-29 to (likely) make the post-season again.

I'm an optimist, generally, but I don't see any way that can happen.

And I can't imagine for one second that Duquette really believes, in his heart of hearts, that the Orioles can do it.

No one knows this because the owner doesn't really talk at all with the media, but the speculation around town is that Angelos will not allow for a massive fire sale at the trade deadline that would essentially be the team waving the white flag on the 2017 season.

In that case, then, Duquette's hands are tied and his "we're buying, not selling" comments add up, even though that's probably not the right direction for the franchise. But no matter what the circumstances, the Orioles trying to "buy" at the deadline is just a bad move.

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from the desk of
brien jackson

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.

The Orioles are heading for disaster.

I'm not just talking about this season, which looks more and more like a lost cause every day.

Come 2019, things look pretty bleak for the franchise as it stands right now. Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, Brad Brach, and Zach Britton will all have to be re-signed before Opening Day of that year, and Jonathan Schoop just after that.

Worse still, there's no obvious help on the way from the minor leagues. The team's most well known prospect, pitcher Hunter Harvey, has had to deal with multiple arm injuries already. The only prospect they had in anyone's top 100 this year, Chance Sisco, is quite possibly a player without a position given scouting assessments of his catching ability.

Chris Davis' $161 million contract in 2016 was just one of several questionable deals the O's have made with returning free agents in recent years.

That's not telling you anything you don't know obviously, but it's worth restating just to get a sense of how it's gotten to this point, and why.

For starters, the team has simply not valued the acquisition of amateur talent the way the vast majority of the league's teams have in the past decade. In fact, as of this writing, the Orioles remain the only franchise who has yet to come to terms on a known agreement with an international amateur free agent. Instead, they've dedicated their international signing pool money for other teams' lesser prospects.

Instead of scouting around for the next Gary Sanchez or Luis Severino, the Orioles have brought in talents like Milton Ramos, who has never risen above being the 19th best ranked prospect in the Mets' minor league system. They haven't been quite so flippant with respect to American amateurs in the draft, but they did casually toss away top draft picks to sign Ubaldo Jimenez and Yovani Gallardo despite a bearish market at best in both cases, and last year they traded away the 76th pick in the draft and over $800,000 in signing pool money just to get the Braves to take on the balance of Brian Matusz's contract.

But hey, that last move freed up enough money to let them later trade for...Wade Miley. Which highlights another common problem; deadline deals marginally useful players. Before Miley there was Gerardo Parra and Bud Norris as stand out examples, and while none of these were bad deals in isolation, none of them were significant upgrades for the team either and, on balance, just served to deplete the farm system of assets and potentially cheap fringe players for the big league roster.

And then there are the free agent contracts, where the team's goal seems to have been to keep as many of their free agents as possible, often with little regard for what the market is.

Chris Davis got nine figures when, by essentially every account, no other team was even engaged in serious talks with him. Mark Trumbo gets an eight figure AAV despite lacking a natural position and with Trey Mancini big league ready.

Darren O'Day, who has never been an elite reliever in terms of being able to get out batters on both sides of the plate, got a new contract worth just $5 million less than Andrew Miller's free agent contract.

Even J.J. Hardy, who signed a deal in the relatively exuberant aftermath of the 2014 ALCS run, only hit .268/.309/.372 with 9 home runs that year and could have been more than capably replaced by a then pre-arbitration Manny Machado, rather than re-signed to a 3 year, $40 million contract with a vesting option for a fourth season.

The pressing question is: Who is driving all of these decisions?

And while fans have the knives out for general manager Dan Duquette, the most likely answer is actually the guy at the very top; Peter Angelos.

It was Angelos who was reported to be dealing directly with Scott Boras during the Davis negotiations, and the Orioles antipathy for international free agents goes back further than Duquette's tenure with the team.

These days it's Angelos who reportedly refuses to allow the team to sell big league role players to accumulate whatever assets and cheap minor league bodies they can get under the belief that fans won't accept even a minor rebuilding operation amidst a very nearly lost season. It would seem to follow from that that Angelos may have been the driving force behind the sort of "make a trade just to make one" moves like acquiring Miley and Parra.

And the aggressive signings of Ubaldo and Galllardo always had the appearance of a team that was motivated in very large part by a desire to fulfill to fan demand for a starting pitching acquisition...and if no other team wanted them well it just made them easier to negotiate with.

Looking forward, if palace intrigue is your thing, it seems odd that the team's collapse since early May hasn't come along with any real turf fighting in the media.

With most teams you'd be seeing people angling to keep their jobs by shoving as much blame as possible elsewhere, but so far the Orioles' brain trust seems to remain fairly amicable. One way to read that: If the problem is the owner, there's nothing to be gained by saying so publicly.

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would pro outdoor soccer work in baltimore?

I received a call from someone on Wednesday asking for the opportunity to have an informal meeting over lunch to discuss the prospects of Baltimore landing a professional outdoor soccer team in the next couple of years.

I agreed to do it. I'll happily give my advice once I know more about the particulars.

Baltimore is apparently in the running for a team in the USL, which is essentially our country's "Division 2" league, underneath Major League Soccer.

They're talking about building a 20,000 stadium and hoping to fill it with Charm City's enthusiastic soccer base throughout the spring and summer.

I don't know much about the league specifics. How many games they play is, naturally, the most important topic when trying to figure out if a team will "work" in any city.

Here's what I do know, without having my finger at all on the pulse of the situation. There isn't a sport other than baseball or football that will put 20,000 people in the stadium 10-15 times a year in Baltimore or the neighboring areas.

Professional lacrosse figured they were on easy street in Baltimore, what with all of the lacrosse heritage here and the gobs of families connected to the game via youth lacrosse. Wrong. It didn't work out here and the team (Bayhawks) now plays down in Annapolis at the Naval Academy (where they are drawing reasonably well at around 5,000 fans per-game).

Baltimore in the summer is a weird place because everyone seems to be gone at some point for stretches at a time. It's tough for folks to go to soccer games in July when they're on 68th Street in Ocean City.

I contended for years that Major League Soccer wouldn't work in Baltimore. There just aren't enough people here willing to invest their time and money in supporting a franchise to the tune of 25,000 or more per-game.

A lower-rung professional team might work here -- I'm anxious to hear the details of the league, other attendance figures, etc. -- but if they're going to build a 20,000 soccer-specific facility and expect it to be filled 10 or 15 times a year, I think they're going to get their feelings hurt.

What do you think the prospects are for a professional outdoor soccer team in Baltimore?

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here's the very last call for our ravens trip to london

We have available one "trip for two" with our group of 30 going to London in September to see the Ravens take on the Jacksonville Jaguars.

We'd love to have you join us!

It's $2,445 per-person for five nights (the lowest price in town for a 5-night trip) and that includes round-trip airfare from Dulles to England, ground transportation, a weekly train/bus pass, hotel stay right next to Wembley Stadium, and a lower concourse ticket to the Ravens/Jaguars game.

Our group departs on Tuesday evening, September 19 and returns on Monday evening, September 25.

This is the only package-for-two we have remaining.

If you're interested, please send me an e-mail today:

charity golf outing spots are filled

Thanks to those of you who e-mailed me over the last couple of days about the charity golf outing at The Suburban Club on July 17. Our group of four has been filled and we're looking to a great day raising money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

I appreciate the response(s) and the offer for a donation from those of you who didn't get selected.

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July 6
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 6
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and at the halfway point
of the season . . .

As is typically the case in baseball, there are some interesting stories at the midway stage of the campaign.

Our Orioles are an interesting case for sure.

They started off red-hot, had the best record in baseball at 22-10, then went through a wretched stretch that included tying a record for inept pitching that dated all the way back to 1924.

And yet, because each league now allows two wild-card teams to enter the playoff picture, the Orioles aren’t that far off the pace.

Opinions are mixed in town, but I think it’s fair to say more people than not think the Birds aren’t capable of resurrecting their season and making the post-season in 2017.

That’s my opinion, by the way.

I don’t see much hope for them unless they somehow make a series of drastic and impressive moves at the trade deadline and I just don’t see how they have anything of value to trade away to secure some competent veteran players later this month.

Barring two solid new starters and another reliable bullpen arm or two, it looks to me like the O’s are destined for a 75-80 win season. At the beginning of April, I predicted they’d go 79-83 in the regular season. I think that’s about their pace at this point.

The American League East belonged to the Yankees early on but I see Boston starting to hit their stride. I expect the Red Sox to run away with the A.L. East and cruise to a lead of a dozen games or more by the beginning of September.

Unless the Yankees add some quality pitching, they’re not going to make the post-season. They have the offense, but they can’t stop the other team from scoring runs. And their dynamic bullpen duo of Betances and Chapman has failed them greatly over the last three weeks.

Tampa Bay isn’t bad. They’re a lot like the O’s – live by the home run, die by the home run, but I don’t see them making the playoffs with their current pitching staff.

Toronto is cooked. They’ll battle the Orioles for last place in the division.

There are other stories worth watching in the final three months of the season.

Can Cleveland repeat as American League Champions and atone for that gag job at home in last year’s World Series when they lost Game 6 and Game 7 to the Cubs?

Minnesota needs another arm or two and they could make a run at the A.L. Central crown and Kansas City has played well over the last month to pull themselves back into the playoff race.

Houston is going to run away with the West, but can they sustain that level of play in September and October? And what about the Angels? They’ve stayed above water with Mike Trout out and are in the thick of the playoff chase, too. When he returns after the All-Star break, they have a real shot at making some noise, particularly if they add a quality arm at the deadline.

After several spectacular regular-season campaigns followed by playoff failures, is this finally the year Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers put it all together and reach the World Series?

The National League is a battle of those we expect to be there and those we don’t.

The Nationals will cruise to the East crown again, but their awful bullpen needs to be fixed by September or they won’t last in the playoffs.

The Central Division is particularly interesting as the upstart Brewers continue to lead the Cubs, who most certainly looked like they were nursing a championship hangover in the first two months of the campaign.

At some point, you expect Chicago to win 16 of 20, grab the division lead, and not look back. But Milwaukee has some quality, as the Orioles saw in this week’s series. Everyone’s in need of another good arm or two at the deadline and the Brewers are no different. They’re a legit playoff contender for certain.

Out west, the Dodgers look to be in control, but they have a tendency to go on one of those stretches where they lose 9 of 12 to let the likes of Colorado and Arizona back into the division race.

Colorado could be the most dangerous team in the National League. If their chakras line up right in September, they will be a tough out come playoff time.

At the beginning of the season, I predicted a Dodgers-Astros World Series with the Dodgers winning it all.

Here’s what my playoff and awards predictions looked like prior to the season.

American League Championship Series
Astros over the Indians, 4 games to 2.

National League Championship Series
Dodgers over the Nationals, 4 games to 3.

World Series
Dodgers over the Astros, 4 games to 2.

American League Cy Young Award
Masihiro Tanaka, Yankees

American League MVP
Mookie Betts, Boston

National League Cy Young Award
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

National League MVP
Nolan Arenado, Colorado

Well, I’m pretty spot on thus far with my playoff predictions, but the rest of the individual awards aren’t all that sharp.

The A.L. Cy Young winner is going to be Chris Sale and the N.L. Cy Young winner is going to be Max Scherzer.

At this point, Aaron Judge is the MVP of the American League. The National League MVP honor is up for grabs.

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thursday sports with David Rosenfeld

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 Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.

The Independence Day holiday has come and gone, and these really are the dog days of summer. The baseball team stinks, the football team is three weeks away from training camp and an 88-degree day with less than 50% humidity seems almost pleasant.

I need a vacation, or at the very least some inspiration. A trip to the beach is on the horizon for the former, and maybe something will come around soon to help answer the latter. In the meantime, instead of dissecting what’s wrong with the Birds or what’s certain to go wrong with the other Birds, there are a few things worth noting . . .

The Colts franchise, not only in Baltimore but (much) later in Indianapolis, has been fortunate to retain the services of several excellent coaches. Weeb Ewbank, Don Shula and now Tony Dungy are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ted Marchibroda, of course, coached the team in both cities before he coached the Ravens.

Frank Kush, who died June 22, is understandably just a footnote in team history. His record was 11-28-1, including the infamous 0-8-1 strike-shortened season of 1982. The only reason he’s worth remembering at all is that he just happened to be the coach when the team rolled out of town in the middle of the night. Kush, of course, wanted the team to move to Phoenix, not Indianapolis; he was the coach at Arizona State for 22 seasons.

Frank Kush (1929-2017)

I was stunned to read how much Kush was revered out in the desert, even though he was fired in 1979 after he apparently punched a player and NCAA violations late in his tenure would leave the program on probation in the early 1980s.

Still, the Arizona Republic said that “the story of Arizona State as a university is the story of Frank Kush,” crediting him with being the face of a school, not just a football team, that went from nothing to the big time. Seventeen years after he was fired, ASU named the field at Sun Devil Stadium in his honor. He then helped raise funds for the athletic department for years.

I guess those folks out there never forgot that Kush went 16-5 against Arizona. To us, he was the wrong guy, hired by the idiot owner who thought that a somewhat abusive former college coach who was unceremoniously fired was the right guy. I guess, like they say about politics, all football is local . . .

Speaking of coaches, has there ever been more of a freefall in the opinion about one than there’s been about Phil Jackson? Fine, Jackson and the Knicks recently came to a mutual agreement to end his tenure as team president, not coach, but still . . .

Jackson won a record 11 NBA championships as a head coach, six with the Bulls and five with the Lakers. Some never gave him credit for that, suggesting that anybody could have those titles with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Those voices are coming back now.

Jackson was known for his devotion to the “triangle” offense, brought to him by an assistant coach named Tex Winter. When it was reported and/or suggested that Phil was looking to sign and/or trade for players who would fit with the triangle, he was ridiculed. The game has passed him by, some said. Successful teams must play like the Warriors or the Rockets, jacking three-pointers every 10 seconds. The Zen Master was nothing but an old man.

I’m not a fan of the New York Knicks. I do know that the team has been lousy for years, and much of the blame for that has gone to the owner, James Dolan. I suppose that Jackson has taken up some of that blame over the last few seasons, but I’m surprised at the lack of respect thrown his way as he walks out the door.

Whatever happened to the MLB All-Star Game? A lot of things, I guess, but the worst came when former commissioner Bud Selig panicked after 2002’s tie-game debacle and decided that the winner of the game would determine home-field advantage in the World Series.

The new rule would incentivize the game, Selig said, and who likes incentives more than professional baseball players?

It’s difficult to describe how many fatal flaws there were with this decision. And they go way beyond the idea that an exhibition game can determine anything related to a real game, especially a championship game.

By mid-July, there are quite a few teams that probably know they’re not headed to the playoffs. Back in 2009, let’s say, what incentive did an Orioles player have to help the Yankees gain home field for the World Series. And turning it around, even if that guy was a real team player, what would happen if he committed an error in the bottom of the ninth that led to the NL winning the game?

Whatever happened in baseball during the 2016 offseason, the elimination of the 2003 Selig decree and the return of World Series home-field advantage to the team with the better record was the best thing.

The late Roger Ailes of Fox News once told a reporter that he had helped create a network for people “55 to dead.”

Crass, of course. But he could have easily been talking about baseball or a host of other sports where the average age of TV viewers is at least 55, and going up.

In fact, Sports Business Journal recently did a study of 24 professional sports, and all but one of them has seen the average age of its TV viewers increase over the past 10 years.

Baseball’s median viewer has gone from 52 to 57 since 2006, and it’s unlikely that increase will ebb significantly, since the study also shows that only 7% of the audience is 18 or under.

I suppose that folks in marketing offices everywhere are trying to figure out a way to make their games “younger.” Good luck to them. These TV contracts are big ones, both locally and nationally, and leagues need some bang for that buck.

The fact is, though, that watching a game on TV is quickly becoming an old way to watch a game. Fans, young and old, now “watch” games the way they’d like, rather than the way the broadcaster would like. We have more power than ever before, and it remains to be seen how the ways we use it will affect TV contracts in the future.

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i'm looking for two golf partners
for monday, july 17

Anyone interested in playing golf with me and helping raise some money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association on Monday, July 17?

I'm looking for two golfers to compete with Dale Williams (our Maryland basketball reporter) and me at The Suburban Club in MDA's annual charity tournament. Registration and breakfast start at 7:45 am and we tee off at 9:00 am. Lunch and prizes follow.

Suburban Club

Please have a verified handicap at a Maryland club. Your level of play doesn't matter. We'll take a 20 handicap, 15 handicap, 10, etc. Just come out, have some fun with us, and help raise money for MDA.

I'd love to have two #DMD readers step up and play with us that day. We'll have fun, I promise.

I'll cover the $1,500 foursome cost. All I want from the two additional players is for each of you to provide a $250 donation to the MDA. You can bring the check with you that day.

I'll profile our competition in the July 18 edition of #DMD and include a few photos of our tournament together.

If you're interested, please send me an e-mail today:

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July 5
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 5
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o's pitching might have to repeat a grade with this report card

There isn't a starting pitcher on the Orioles roster who threw well enough to earn anything higher than a "C" grade in the first half of the season.

And the bullpen hasn't been all that much better, but they have a small excuse.

Yesterday here at #DMD we profiled the field players at the halfway stage of the 2017 campaign. Two players (Schoop and Mancini) received "A grades" and two others (Castillo and Joseph) were given "B-" grades. Everyone else was C+ or worse.

The pitching staff won't be quite that fortunate.

Chris Tillman has made just 11 starts for the Orioles in 2017 and has a 7.90 ERA to go with his 1-5 record.

Yesterday's 6-2 loss in Milwaukee was another in a long line of uninspiring performances from Ubaldo Jimenez, who put 13 runners on base in just five innings of work and surrendered five earned runs along the way. But he wasn't nearly as ineffective as Wade Miley was just one day before, as the lefthander allowed four runs on four hits in the first inning alone.

The relief work of Jimmy Yacobonis on Monday and Tyler Wilson and Miguel Castro on Tuesday kept those two games from being blowout losses. But every time the O's starters fail to deliver, an already-taxed bullpen continues to put in more work then they're capable of handling over the long haul. When the O's train completely derails in mid-August, it's likely going to be for that reason more than anything else -- there will simply be no arms left on a nightly basis to get an inning's worth of hitters out.

The Orioles have used 23 pitchers thus far in 2017 (the Red Sox have used 22, for comparison) and only three of them who have appeared in 10 or more games have an ERA of under 3.00 (Bleier, Givens and Brach). While Boston has eight pitchers with 10 or more games who have an ERA under 3.50, the Orioles have just five.

No one who has started 10 or more games has an ERA under 4.02 for the O's (Bundy). That says a lot.

But it's the runners allowed on base stat that is alarming for Buck Showalter's team. Bundy leads the club with a 1.24 WHIP (walks/hits allowed per-inning), which is decent, but certainly not Cy Young material. After that, it's downright dismal. Believe it or not, Jimenez's lousy 1.50 WHIP is next best for the Birds, with Gausman (1.73), Miley (1.74) and Tillman (2.14) rounding out the crew. When you're putting nearly two runners on base per-inning pitched, you're stinking it up.

The Orioles have certainly missed Zach Britton, but the reality is he wouldn't have been getting a lot of chances to close games the way the starters have handed opposing teams four and five run leads on a regular basis.

It's useless to pile on at this point, but the pitching staff remains Dan Duquette's biggest blunder heading into the 2017 campaign. Whether by trade or free agent signing, the Orioles' failure to upgrade their arms has clearly come back to haunt them. The off-season additions of journeymen like Vidal Nuno, Gabriel Ynoa and Edwin Jackson proved fruitless and no one from the minor leagues except Richard Bleier has been consistent in the least.

The biggest issue, of course, was the early season shoulder injury to Chris Tillman, which kept him out of the rotation until May and limited him to just 11 starts in the first half of the season. It's been a bad campaign for Tillman thus far, with a 1-5 record, 7.90 ERA and 2.14 WHIP. That the Orioles didn't have a handle on Tillman's injury in January when they could have been shopping for a decent starter to replace him is squarely on Duquette's desk.

There's no doubt the Orioles offense has been on-again, off-again so far in 2017 and a number of big names have been slow to get out of the gate. But let's be clear: the pitching staff has been downright rotten for about 55 of the 81 first-half games. Tying the major league record with 20 consecutive games of allowing at least five runs sums it all up, I'd say. Not since 1924 had a professional team in the major leagues been that bad.

The report card for pitchers appearing in at least 10 games is below. It's not pretty.

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mid-season report card: pitchers

Brad Brach (B+) -- Thrust into the closer's role with Britton and acquitted himself well, with a 2-1 record and 15 saves on the year. Everything about him numbers wise is solid. The O's will most certainly be fielding calls about his availability in the next three weeks.

Richard Bleier (B) -- Has only thrown 26.2 innings in 23 games, but he's done a decent enough job. WHIP is OK (1.39) and ERA is solid (1.69) and he's struck out 13 while walking just two.

The Orioles best pitcher thus far in 2017: Brad Brach.

Mychal Givens (B) -- There's an argument he's been the team's most consistent arm other than Brach. Has thrown 41 innings in 36 games, so he should still have plenty left in the tank, but let's hope he doesn't get overworked in the next month and a half. Has the best WHIP on the team (1.04) of anyone who has thrown at least 40 innings to date.

Donnie Hart (C+) -- Up and down on the Norfolk train throughout the season but has been steady when called upon with the big league club. 19 strikeouts in 23 innings with a 1.39 WHIP and 3.13 ERA.

Miguel Castro (C+) -- Has enjoyed a couple of shining moments but has also been knocked around a couple of times as well. Probably up to the majors a half-season too early, but the O's have been desperate for a fresh arm on so many occasions that he got pressed into duty. Nice fastball/sinker combo. Could be a keeper in the bullpen in 2018 and beyond.

Dylan Bundy (C) -- The best Orioles starter thus far, but he's certainly not been in good form of late. Leads the team in wins (8), but has allowed a whopping 18 home runs in his 17 starts to date. 80 strikeouts is impressive but 33 walks isn't. He's only one good start away from getting his ERA (4.02) below the four runs-per-nine-innings mark.

Darren O'Day (C) -- Has only appeared in 29 games due to various injuries and his numbers have been affected by it all. Impressive K/9 of 10.48 and the WHIP is decent (1.16) but he's allowed 13 earned runs in 28 innings of work. That's not very good.

Alec Asher (C-) -- Made six starts, three of which were actually OK, but overall his performance has been very hot and cold. Has allowed 56 hits in 55 innings pitched and sports a 5.53 ERA.

Wade Miley (D) -- Has allowed 144 baserunners in just 83 innings of work (96 hits, 48 walks) and has surrendered 12 home runs in 17 starts. Might have had some value at the deadline for a team looking for a 5th starter who also throws left-handed, but his first-half is going to leave "buyers" skeptical.

Ubaldo Jimenez (D) -- Two really good starts (at Cincinnati in May and last week in Toronto) and then a bunch of bad stuff mixed in between, he's split time between the rotation and the bullpen. Has a 6.64 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP. In fairness to him, he's actually been OK when working out of the bullpen. Some completely desperate team might take him at the deadline, but it's doubtful.

Kevin Gausman (D) -- His first-half grade is based largely on the first two months of the season, but he's been better over his last four starts. Started the season with lots of promise but failed to deliver, making 18 starts with a 1.74 WHIP and dreadful 5.61 ERA.

Chris Tillman (D-) -- Clearly battling some sort of shoulder issue (even though he contends he isn't). Won his first start of the season in May at home over the White Sox and hasn't earned a "W" since, with a 1-5 record and whopping 7.90 ERA. Has 36 strikeouts and 26 walks in 11 starts.

Vidal Nuno (D-) -- An off-season gamble by Duquette that hasn't paid off. WHIP (2.25) and ERA (10.43) says it all. He's been really bad in his 12 outings.

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chestnut does it again -- 72 hot dogs this time around!

There are few athletes that make me shake my head in bewilderment like the great Joey Chestnut does every 4th of July.

Yesterday at the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, Chestnut set a new record by downing 72 hot dogs -- with the buns -- in ten minutes.

Joey Chestnut won the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest for the 10th time in 11 years yesterday on Coney Island.

Here's the funny thing. The second place guy wasn't chopped liver -- Carmen Cincotti ate 62 hot dogs/buns in 10 minutes and lost by a whopping TEN hot dogs.

I say this every year in the aftermath of the annual contest. Think about something you like to eat, ANYTHING, and tell me how hard it would be to eat 72 of them in a half hour, let alone ten minutes. And I'm not talking about peanuts or M&M's. I mean a real food of some kind.

For instance, I love broccoli and asparugus. But I seriously doubt I could eat 72 pieces of broccoli or 72 pieces of asparagus in a half-hour. Ten minutes? No chance.

I don't care what it is, you can't eat 72 of them in ten minutes. Chestnut ate 72 hot dogs and the buns in ten minutes. It's mind-blowing.

That's his 10th career hot dog eating title. Here are some of his other career eating/drinking achievements:

Chestnut once ate 182 chicken wings in 30 minutes.

He drank a gallon of milk in 41 seconds in 2007.

In 2010, he ate 37 slices of pizza in ten minutes.

In 2012, he ate 20 half-pound corned beef sandwiches in ten minutes.

Most all-you can eat buffet establishments near his San Jose, California home cringe when he stops in for a bite.

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i'm looking for two golf partners on monday, july 17

Anyone interested in playing golf with me and helping raise some money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association on Monday, July 17?

I'm looking for two golfers to compete with Dale Williams (our Maryland basketball reporter) and I at The Suburban Club in MDA's annual charity scramble tournament. Registration and breakfast start at 7:45 am and we tee off at 9:00 am. Lunch and prizes follow.

Please have a verified handicap at a Maryland club. Your level of play, though, doesn't matter. We'll take a 20 handicap, 15 handicap, 10, etc. Just come out, have some fun with us, and help raise money for MDA.

I'd love to have two #DMD readers step up and play with us that day. We'll have fun, I promise.

I'll cover the $1,500 foursome cost. All I want from the two additional players is for each of you to provide a $250 donation to the MDA. You can bring the check with you that day.

I'll profile our competition in the July 18 edition of #DMD and include a few photos and such of our tournament together.

If you're interested, please send me an e-mail today:

July 4
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 4
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a report card most o's won't want to show their parents

This one, I'm afraid, isn't going to be good.

The first report card of the Orioles 2017 campaign was littered with decent grades but the one they're receiving at the halfway point isn't so sweet.

Since starting the campaign at 22-10, the O's have slumped to 40-42. That's 18-32 in their last fifty games for Flyers fans or Old Mill grads who don't have a calculator handy.

One of only two Orioles to earn an "A" grade at the midway point of the 2017 campaign is Jonathan Schoop.

Yesterday in Milwaukee, Wade Miley threw 44 pitches in the first inning and allowed four hits and four runs in a game the O's would lose 8-1. There was even a Keystone Cops rundown situation the Orioles botched that made the whole thing even more laughable. It was "one of those days" for the Birds, who got no pitching help and little offensive output.

Boston and the Yankees both won on Monday. Tampa Bay was off. Toronto lost in New York to the Bronx Bombers.

There are a handful of players who have performed well in the first half, but far more have underachieved, which explains how the team has fallen into fourth place, 7.5 games behind the first place Red Sox and in the middle of the pack in the wild card race. It started well in April, but by mid-May, the swoon was underway.

In fairness, injuries have played a role in the O's campaign. Even though Brad Brach has acquitted himself well in the closing role -- when given a rare opportunity to do so -- the loss of Zach Britton for most of the season disrupted Buck Showalter's bullpen. Darren O'Day also spent time on the disabled list. When O'Day-Brach-Britton are healthy and hitting on all cylinders, that's a pretty tough strech of arms to face in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Chris Davis wasn't doing much when he was healthy, so there's some debate about how much his absence has been felt, but when you take a 40-home run hitter out of the lineup, there's some impact to be felt, for sure. And even though Trey Mancini is having a whopper of a rookie season and adequately handling first-base duties, there's still a thought that Davis being out of the batting order has hurt the Orioles over the last three weeks.

In 31 of the Orioles' 40 wins to date, the team has at least one home run. Take away a home run hitter and it's easy to see how the team's chances to win slightly diminish.

J.J. Hardy is what he is offensively at this point, although his RBI total on non-home-runs was third on the team before his wrist injury (that stat provided by Mike Bordick on a recent TV broadcast, I didn't look it up, but I assume Bordick knows that kind of stuff) a couple of weeks ago. With Hardy out and Ruben Tejada in, the shortstop position takes a step back defensively and there's no improvement offensively, either.

So, yes, every team has injuries and they have to work through them. But the Birds certainly haven't been helped with their set of ailments this season.

There are two main issues with the O's at the halfway point.

Pitching and run "production".

While the Orioles lead the major leagues in runs generated with two outs, their overall inability to score runs that don't include a home run has set them back. The club has won just nine games this season in which they didn't hit a round-tripper. Live by the home run, die by the home run.

And the team's pitching has been bad, to say it in its simplest terms. They recently tied a 93-year old major league record by allowing opposing teams to score five or more runs in 20 consecutive games. The bullpen hasn't been good, the starting pitching has been woefully inconsistent, and the "Norfolk train" has provided little, if any help.

In football, it's often said that blowout losses are indicative of a team that is no longer tuned in to its coach.

Since mid-June, the Orioles have suffered loss of 16-3, 14-3, 11-2, 12-0 and 10-3, plus a handful of 8-1 and 8-2 defeats that were over in the first few innings. Whether that's a coaching issue or not, the Birds have looked lethargic over the last forty games, getting swept by the Royals, Astros and Yankees and losing home series' to both Cleveland and Tampa Bay.

The grades below reflect a group of players who haven't yet reached their stride in 2017. If the Orioles don't find their way soon, Camden Yards will be a ghost town in August and September.

We'll hand out report cards to "field players" today and pitchers tomorrow here at #DMD. Anyone appearing in 24 or more games receives a grade.

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mid-season report card

Jonathan Schoop (A) -- The team's lone All-Star representative (although Mancini could have been selected as well), Schoop is setting himself up for a nice pay day when he becomes a free agent in a couple of years. On pace for a 30 HR, 100 RBI campaign.

Trey Mancini (A) -- Having a smashing rookie campaign, with a team-high .306 batting average to go with 14 HR and 43 RBI. Competent defensively in left field and even a tick better with the glove at first base, he has quickly morphed into an everyday player of some sort (field, DH) with Davis out and will have to be worked into the lineup somewhere even when Davis returns.

Welington Castillo (B-) -- Missed some time with two separate injuries, but when healthy and clicking on all cylinders, he was having a decent offensive season. Has quieted down of late, but his 8 HR, 25 RBI total and .268 batting average is about what you figured you'd get from him for half a season. Could draw some interest from teams at the trade deadline if the O's decide to sell.

The 2017 campaign hasn't been kind to Adam Jones thus far, with a poor on-base percentage (.295) among the things most concerning to Buck Showalter.

Caleb Joseph (B-) -- Don't laugh. Joseph is actually hitting .294 in 48 games. His power numbers will never impress (3 HR), but he has a better on-base percentage (.324) than Trumbo, Davis, Jones and Machado and his work behind the plate is above average. The Orioles might make Castillo available based on Joseph's offense.

Adam Jones (C+) -- This will start a long line of prominent players getting a C grade at the halfway point. Everything is down a smidgen for Jones, who has played in 75 of the 82 games to date. Defensively he's still as good as anyone in the game, but the batting average (.260), HR (13), and RBI (35) are setting him up for an average season at the plate. Poor on-base percentage (.295) is particularly unsettling.

Seth Smith (C+) -- Got off to a good start but has leveled off in the last month. Has only played in 60 of the 82 games to date and there's probably an argument (on his part) that his numbers would improve a bit if his playing time was more regular. A good, steady professional player.

Mark Trumbo (C-) -- Signed a new 3-year deal in the off-season on the heels of a 47 home run campaign in 2016 and hasn't found that form yet in 2017. Does have 40 RBI (3rd on the team) but his power numbers are down considerably (12 HR) and will have to battle hard in the second half to get to 30 HR. Second on the team (behind Davis) with 74 strikeouts.

Chris Davis (C-) -- I'll say nearly the same thing about Davis at the halfway point as I did about him at the quarter point. His defensive work at first base saves him from a failing grade. Has 14 home runs (and would be leading the team in that category if not for the injury) but only 26 RBI and his batting average (.226) and on-base-percentage (.320) aren't nearly good enough. Was on pace for a record season in strikeouts (95 in 61 games) before going on the disabled list.

Joey Rickard (C-) -- You know you're getting maximum effort from every time he's out there, but the production he generates doesn't match the enthusiasm, unfortunately. Anything you get from him with the bat is a plus.

Hyun Soo Kim (C-) -- It's hard to do anything when you hardly play, but his numbers are down across the board in 2017. Has played more of late with Mancini moving to first base, but hasn't done much to justify additional action. The O's should look to move him at the deadline.

J.J. Hardy (C-) -- Still gets it done with the glove, albeit not a Gold Glove candidate anymore, but he's clearly in the November of his career. His offensive numbers aren't great, but he's been productive with runners in scoring position.

Manny Machado (D) -- What else can you say about Machado except "he's having a poor season"? Perhaps there's nothing to this and it's mere coincidence, but he appeared affected by the beanball incident with the Red Sox. Nothing has gone well for him since then, although he does share in the team home run lead with 16. Batting average (.215) is awful, on-base percentage (.285) is worse and he's fourth on the team in strikeouts (69). Worst of all, he's jaked it on a number of balls hit in play over the last month. Defensively he's still among the best, but his overall contribution in 2017 has been minimal.

Craig Gentry (D) -- If Machado tried as hard as Gentry, that would be saying something. Nothing to see here, except a guy trying to play as many years as he can in the big leagues. Can't hit, but fields his position well and has some speed, which is useful in the rare late-game situation where the Orioles need to manufacture a run.

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tiger says he's completed "intensive program"

The comeback of Tiger Woods has apparently reached another benchmark, as the 14-time major champion says he has now completed an "intensive out-of-state program" to help with his apparent addiction to sleep and pain medications.

Woods entered the facility in early June after a late May DUI arrest in Florida.

There's no way to know whether Tiger's telling the truth with this one, but if he has, in fact, completed some sort of professional program, that's a major step in the right direction for him as he tries to figure out a way to launch yet another comeback on the PGA Tour.

Stuck on 79 career wins since 2013, Tiger has played a limited schedule over the last two years while dealing with persisent back and neck issues. He won 5 times in 2013, but hasn't been in the winner's circle since.

There have been mixed messages coming out of the area in South Florida where Woods lives and plays golf. Those connected to his club (Medalist) say Tiger spent much of early 2017 "tearing it up" on the course but then couldn't take that game to the next level. He missed the cut at Torrey Pines in late January, then withdrew from an event in the Middle East the following week after an opening round 77.

He underwent season-ending neck surgery in late April and was in the process of rehabbing from that injury when he was arrested on DUI charges.

Amid reports he was battling an addiction to pain medication, Woods checked himself into a facility three weeks ago and has apparently completed the program.

It remains to be seen if this -- the pain/sleep medication issue -- was contributing to Tiger's poor performance over the last few years. But by completing the program, Woods can now at least move forward with his life and hopefully get himself back on track. If that includes another attempt at resurrecting his golf career, that's great.

If nothing else, though, perhaps completing the program and getting a grip on his prescription medication use will allow Woods to live a better life on the whole.

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July 3
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 3
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is trading gausman a viable option?

When a team that's struggling to piece together two good starts per-week finally finds someone who might actually deliver one on a regular basis, is it wise to consider shopping that player?

Seems odd, I'll admit.

But that's potentially the scenario the O's face in the next 29 days as the trade deadline approaches and the club balances the "buyer or seller?" question on a weekly basis.

With Kevin Gausman turning in several good performances recently, would it be smart for the Orioles to shop him this month as the trade deadline approaches?

Kevin Gausman turned in a stellar performance on Sunday in an easy 7-1 home win over Tampa Bay. Don't look now, but he's been the team's most consistent starter since the month of June. It hasn't been great pitching, mind you, but Gausman has turned around a woeful start to the season with some decent efforts recently.

I'm not sure a pitcher with a 5-7 record and 5.61 ERA is worthy of being labeled a "hot commodity" at the trade deadline, but the Orioles might have to consider moving Gausman if the right deal comes along this month. He's thrown into the sixth inning in six of his last seven starts, which qualifies him as a top-flight guy for the O's, but still gets him some reasonable attention with everyone else in the big leagues.

As we've alluded to here recently, who exactly are the Orioles going to shop if they do, in fact, insist on being buyers at the deadline?

Gausman might be an interesting option to explore, unless the Birds are afraid of another Jake Arrieta situation popping up down the road.

He has been so hot-and-cold in his major league career (as a starter) that a team or two out there might look at Gausman and figure they can fix him or, at the very least, perhaps a change in scenery will do him good. On both accounts, they might be right.

That's the gamble with peddling away a young arm. Arrieta was woefully inconsistent during his time with the Orioles, then blossomed into a Cy Young winner with the Cubs, although I wouldn't argue much with you if you called that 2015 season of his "a fluke". Either way, though, the record books don't lie. Arrieta stunk with the Birds and won baseball's most coveted pitching award in Chicago.

I can't say for certain that wouldn't happen with Gausman if the O's sent him to Arizona, Milwaukee or some other National League team in need of a starter to try and get themselves over the playoff hump this season. But that doesn't mean the O's should be afraid to entertain offers on him.

It seems like backwards thinking for a pitching-starved team to give away one of their only halfway decent hurlers, but there's just not much else on the O's roster worth wanting, frankly.

And more than likely, the Birds are going to be looking for pitching themselves later this month. Would Oakland give the O's Sonny Gray in a deal involving Gausman and another trinket or two? Maybe they would, but isn't that robbing Peter to pay Paul from the Orioles' viewpoint?

I don't make the trades, I just throw 'em out there. But you get the picture. With few available pieces to deal, maybe Gausman is someone the club should consider putting on the market to see what kind of return they would get.

There's still the on-going debate about "buying" or "selling" at the deadline. It appears the Orioles are only interested in buying, but that line of thinking is hazy at best. Boston is poised to start running away with the East. The Yankees might hang around long enough to stay in the wild card race but their bullpen is in shambles. Tampa Bay is better than the Orioles (right now), but it doesn't look like their home-run-or-bust and sketchy starting pitching will be enough to get them into the 90-win range.

The Angels have stayed afloat while Mike Trout has been out for the last five weeks and they'll be wild card contenders, as will someone else -- or two -- in the Central. This weekend's four game series in Minnesota will tell the O's a lot, actually. The Twins already swept three games in Baltimore earlier this season.

I don't think it makes sense for the Orioles to buy at the deadline. I've been saying that for a month. But that's apparently what they're setting out to do.

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would you trade britton to yanks, red sox or nationals?

This might be a pie-in-the-sky topic since, again, the Birds insist they're not selling off any players at the deadline, but there are likely at least three teams who might very well be open to giving up something substantial for Zach Britton at the trade deadline.

Unfortunately, none of those three are exactly vacation families with the Orioles.

Zach Britton in a Yankees, Red Sox or Nationals uniform? Really? Say it ain't so.

The Washington Nationals are in desperate need of a few quality bullpen arms and would pay a king's ransom for a top notch closer. Max Scherzer (on his way to the N.L. Cy Young award) can't pitch every day for them, so on the occasion when the bullpen has to finish things off, it's definitely 50/50 -- at best -- that they can close things out.

Would the Orioles part company with Britton and help their neighbors to the south at the same time? There's that nasty little regional TV lawsuit thing between the two clubs, remember, and even though they are partners in many ways, the fact remains there's a long-standing feud between the ownership groups that might prohibit either team from helping the other.

The good news for the Birds, of course, is that Britton wouldn't come back to haunt them if he moved over to the National League. Sure, the Birds and Nats play one another four or six times a season in interleague play, but that's it.

If he were to be traded to an American League that's a different story.

And two of those teams are situated in the Eastern Division of the A.L., with the Yankees sorely lacking a quality bullpen and Boston always in "upgrade" mode, which is probably one reason why they're always near the top of the division.

Brad Brach could even be a guy the Yankees would covet, and they have the pieces in their minor league system to make a nice deal, one would assume.

But if you're the Orioles, would you deal Britton (or Brach) to the Yankees and help them, potentially, make it to the post-season in 2017?

Would you trade Britton to the Red Sox if they come calling with the best package?

There will be other teams interested in Britton and Brach if the Orioles were to make them available, but those three clubs -- Yankees, Red Sox, Nationals -- are in dire need of pitching improvements. And they might just be close enough to thinking they have the tools to win it all this season that they'll overpay for the right (or left) arm.

Helping the Nationals, Yankees or Red Sox? Seems about as acceptable as trading a key player to the Philadelphia Flyers. Actually, helping the Flyers is probably the worst thing you can do, but you get the picture.

But if the Orioles do decide to shop players, their goal should be to make the best deal they can, no matter who they're dealing with and what division they're in.

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u.s. open at tpc potomac?

Two weeks in a row now on the PGA Tour, a "regular" TOUR stop has played more difficult than the U.S. Open did three weeks ago at Erin Hills.

Yesterday at what we all used to know as TPC Avenel (now TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm), Kyle Stanley and Charles Howell III (no relation to Thurston and Lovey) finished the tournament at 7-under par, with Stanley winning for the second time in his career with a nifty up-and-down for par at the first playoff hole.

But the real winner was the golf course, which was playing host to the Quicken Loans National.

Kyle Stanley won his second PGA Tour title at TPC Potomac with a four-day total of 7-under, nine shots lower than the winning U.S. Open score three weeks ago.

The players were supremely challenged over the four days, but there were still scoring opportunities for everyone. Rickie Fowler made nine birdies on Sunday and was in position to contend for the title with a Sunday surge until he double-bogeyed the easy 14th hole.

When you see a finishing score of 7-under par for four days at a PGA Tour stop, you know the golf course held up well. And here's the thing about TPC Potomac that legitimately makes it a potential U.S. Open venue. It's already a par 70 course.

The USGA wouldn't have to fiddle around with any holes and play them differently (to par) in an effort to secure their cherished par 70 routing. It's already in place for them.

Let's see, the last time the U.S. Open was held in the D.C. area, Rory McIlroy shot -16 in the 2011 event at Congressional CC to finish eight shots clear of second place Jason Day. Maybe that was just McIlroy's week, but when you're seeing a guy shoot 16-under at Congressional in the U.S. Open, it might be time to consider going somewhere else.

That somewhere else could be two miles up the street at TPC Potomac. The infrastructure is already in place in the general vicinity of the course for parking, transportation, traffic coordination, etc. The sprawling venue at Avenel is actually capable of handling more people than Congressional. It might not be a "better" golf course in the traditionalist's eyes, but it sure did hold up well this past weekend.

Several players discussed the course with the media following Saturday's round and gave it their personal nod of approval for a U.S. Open hosting. It played tough, but fair, and that's with little or no "extra treatment" to try and dial up the place to make it more difficult.

It stands to reason that TPC Potomac isn't "sexy enough" for the USGA, plus they've never before hosted a U.S. Open at a TPC (Tournament Players Club, owned by the PGA Tour). They did host a U.S. Amateur at TPC Sawgrass in 1994 (Tiger Woods won it there) so there's a smidgen of history in place, but it's pretty well known that the USGA would prefer to go the "venerable old course route" rather than give in and play the national golf championship at a TPC venue.

That said, the folks at the United States Golf Assocation would be smart to look at TPC Potomac. The U.S. Open deserves a once-a-decade appearance in our nation's capital -- but maybe the golf course they thought they'd use forever is no longer the best one in the D.C. area.

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July 2
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 2
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orioles in weird spot with deadline approaching

Someone at the Elias Sports Bureau can look this up in a flash, but when's the last time the Orioles gave up ten or more runs three times within a 9-game stretch at Camden Yards?

I feel like it's been a long time.

That is, until last night when the Rays poured it on in a 10-3 win. That makes three times since June 16 that the O's surrendered a double digit run total at home. The Cardinals clobbered them 11-2 on June 16, the Indians turned the trick to the tune of 12-0 on June 19 and Tampa Bay did it last night.

The Orioles pitching staff is in big trouble.

But you knew that already, I think.

Dylan Bundy threw 99 pitches in four innings on Saturday and never made it out for the fith as the Birds were bombed by the Rays, 10-3, at Camden Yards.

The Birds are now 39-41, comfortably (if that's possible) in fourth place in the East. The fading-again Blue Jays are done, so the embarrassment of drifting into last place seems fairly remote, but as we've seen over the week or so with the O's, their win two-lose two style isn't going to create any kind of uptick in their position in the A.L. East.

This, I'm afraid, is what we're going to get for the remainder of 2017.


With the trade deadline approaching in four weeks, the Birds have to make a decision and stick with it. They have three choices. They can sell off a few (relatively) valuable pieces, they can try and buy someone else's cast-offs or they can simply stand pat and do nothing.

The latter two options seem like the only ones the O's are willing to consider at this point.

Speaking to Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun late last week, general manager Dan Duquette seemed hell bent on buying at the deadline. Or, at the very least, he expects his top performers (he mentioned Machado, Davis and Trumbo by name) to get their act together in the second half and produce at a higher level than they have so far in 2017.

That would be nice. But even that might not be enough.

The Orioles need help. They need better pitching. Much better, in fact.

And if they can't get help, they can't get back in the race.

I do understand the team's reluctance to sell off the likes of Welington Castillo, Seth Smith and Brad Brach, three of the more prominent pieces of trade bait the club has at its disposal.

By doing that, they're effectively throwing in the towel on the 2017 campaign.

So, yes, I understand why they don't want to do it. But they should do it nonetheless, particularly if someone is willing to give up a decent prospect or two for those guys.

They can also ship closer Zach Britton to a contender in July and probably get back a nice piece of change for him. That seems like the most logical move the team could make if, in fact, they're going to "sell" at the deadline.

But the more you hear Duquette speak, the more apparent it is that the team isn't going to be selling off players this month.

Instead, they're looking to buy. But with what?

If they trade Trey Mancini, they're absolutely insane. He's done everything they've asked of him thus far -- and more -- and actually seems to be one of the guys trying every single night. I get it, he's a valuable commodity on the trade market, but his bat deserves to be in the lineup every day, plus you have him under control for five more seasons.

I'd suggest they eat half of Davis' contract and ship him off before they move Mancini. But I also said that in late April here at #DMD and people thought I was nuts back then.

So if they do forge ahead and try to "buy", who are they giving up? Chance Sisco? Tanner Scott? They have some other medium-well prospects in Norfolk and Bowie who might draw some interest around the majors, but not enough to get them anything of substance at the deadline. Sisco and Scott, right now, are probably their two trading pieces.

Why get rid of them, though?

Obviously there's a month left of baseball to help the O's make a firm decision, but no matter what they're record is in late July, trading Sisco and Scott is a bad move, period.

If they can't buy something of high quality that's going to help them this season and next, at least, there's no reason to pull the trigger.

I'd rather stand pat and go 74-88 than give away two decent prospects and go 83-79 and miss the post-season.

I wouldn't mind selling at the deadline, either. I'd do that before I'd buy, if they left it up to me.

No matter what they do, though, the Orioles are in a pinch. They need to buy, but don't have anything to give up. They need to sell, but seem reluctant to do that because of the message it would send to the fan base.

Standing pat and not improving isn't the tonic either, but it appears to be a more comfortable option for the organization as deadline-month arrives.

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a few notes from saturday

The Washington Capitals, as expected, lost Karl Alzner on Saturday when NHL free agency kicked off.

The veteran defenseman signed a deal with the Montreal Canadiens, a team desperately in need of some backline support.

It wasn't a shocking move. Everyone sort of knew going in that Alzner was gone.

Kevin Shattenkirk also did the expected, signing with the New York Rangers. He was picked up by the Caps at the February trade deadline last season and wasn't much of a help. He had his moments in the regular season, yes, but on the whole, he was just your basic contributor in the post-season. Nothing special, in my mind, and not a big loss at all.

And Justin Williams joined the Carolina Hurricanes on a 2-year deal on Saturday. Williams is in the November of his career, but he's still a nice piece to have around. The Caps will miss him, I suspect.

David Lingmerth is still clinging to the lead down at TPC Potomac, but the golf course is doing the winning this week at what we all formerly called "TPC Avenel".

The Swede shot 65-65 to open the tournament, then stumbled to a 73 yesterday that leaves him 7-under par heading into today's final round. Daniel Summerhays (-6) is one shot back, followed by Spencer Levin (-5), Geoff Ogilvy and Sung Kang (-4).

It's pretty rare that you see 7-under par leading a PGA Tour event heading into the final day, but the golf course down there has held up well. There were some years during the old Kemper Open where 16, 18 or 20 under par was necessary to win at Avenel, but apparently that's not the case anymore.

And the U.S. Men's soccer team scored a nice 2-1 win over Ghana in their final tune-up before the start of next week's Gold Cup.

Dom Dwyer and Kellyn Acosta both scored their first international goals for the American side. The U.S. lineup was built largely with younger players, as Graham Zusi, Jorge Villafana and goalkeeper Brad Guzan were the only three players on the field with what might be considered "reasonable" national team experience.

Dwyer is an up-and-comer who might be on the verge of sneaking his way into the team in time for the 2018 World Cup, if the U.S. goes on to qualify.

He's a little raw still (well, a lot raw), but has a great work rate and always seems to be around the ball when it finds its way into a dangerous area. He finished his first U.S. goal nicely in the 19th minute to put the U.S. up 1-0.

Acosta, who is in the mix now to play for the Bruce Arena team that's involved in World Cup qualifying, bent a 20-yard free kick past the wall and put the U.S. up 2-0 early in the second half.

Guzan stopped a penalty kick in the final seconds of the first half that kept the U.S. up 1-0 at intermission.

Ghana did score midway through the second half to finalize the scoring at 2-1, but the Americans played solid defense down the stretch to give Arena a 4-0-4 record (that's 4 wins and 4 ties) since he took over for Jurgen Klinsmann last November.

All in all, there were some very impressive moments for the Americans on Saturday. Dwyer and Acosta aside, Villafana contined to show well until leg cramps forced him out in the 88th minute and Matt Hedges held his own in the back. And Guzan, again, was sharp in goal. It's obvious by the fact that Arena trusted Guzan with the start against Mexico last month in a key World Cup qualifer that the U.S. netminding job is up for grabs at this point. It's not only Tim Howard anymore.

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teaching a youngster to play golf? here's the primer

My nine year old son Ethan wanted to "play golf" on Saturday afternoon.

We go to the range at Eagle's Nest in between swimming and pool activities, but lately he's been pressing me to take him out on the golf course. I like that, of course. So, yesterday, we did just that.

People always ask me, "Is Ethan into golf yet?"

I give them the same answer every time. "He's into everything."

Ethan on the 3rd hole at Eagle's Nest.

He loves video games, YouTube, watching Orioles baseball and swimming. We were at a friend's house for a party on Saturday and he came buzzing through the living room around 6:30 pm, stopped for a second to look at the TV screen, and said this when he saw the score was 10-3 in favor of Tampa Bay: "What happened, did Dylan Bundy get crushed?"

I didn't tell him Dylan Bundy was starting on Saturday. I have no idea how he found that out. But he knew.

So he's into a lot of things, including golf. But I'm not the crazy-golf-dad who puts a club in his hands every day and says, to borrow a line from Caddyshack, "You're going to play golf today and you're going to like it..."

Yesterday, though, he wanted to go out and so we did.

Teeing it up from the "family tees" at Eagle's Nest (par 4 holes are roughly 175 yards), he hit a drive of about 120 yards at the 2nd hole (where we started), but it bounded into the trees that border the right side of the fairway.

When we got there, he went up to the ball and hit it. It didn't go very far, but he advanced it, in the same way a typical 20-25 handicap player might advance it. That he didn't ask "can I move this?" was gratifying. His ball was 20 feet from a tree, but only six feet to his left would have left him a clear shot to the green.

He got the ball on the putting surface in four shots.

Then the fun began.

He putted it past the hole by about 15 or 20 feet, then putted the next one two feet by.

"You have to knock that one in," I said to him.

He missed it, and ran the ball three feet past the hole.

"You have to finish the hole," I explained. "You have to make a putt."

He tapped it in, looked frustrated, and asked where the water cooler was located.

One of the only things I stress to parents of young, learning-the-game golfers is that they must NOT give them any putts on the green. I don't care if it's six inches away, make them putt it in.

Putting is the easiest, quickest way for a junior golfer to see progress because it translates directly to their scorecoard. You can explain the nuances of match play golf (where some putts don't have to be holed) to them at some point in the future, but in the beginning, make them finish every hole by putting the ball into the cup.

I also think it's a good idea to just let them play golf -- real golf -- right from the outset. Don't move the ball in the rough. Don't move the ball from behind a tree (unless they're in danger of hurting themselves with a swing) or out of the water without reinforcing to them that a penalty stroke applies in those instances.

In other words: Start them off actually learning the game of golf the way its intended to be played right from the very beginning.

Moving the ball out of the rough or giving them a "preferred lie" in the rough to help them hit a better shot isn't the way to make them understand that accuracy matters. And it's also not the way the game is played. So, start them out the right way from the first time they play.

Ethan made a seven on the third hole from 180 yards away. He made a six on the fourth hole (a par 3) from 150 yards away. And then we played a modified 13th hole from 135 yards away and he made a five.

At the last hole, he made about a six foot putt. Without question, at some point in my lifetime at Eagle's Nest, I've missed that exact same putt he made yesterday. A six-foot putt can easily be missed (TOUR players average only 50% on six footers), but he was able to knock it in.

Sweaty and in need of a dip in the pool, he announced it was time to head in. "That was fun, Dad. I felt like Tiger Woods on that last putt," he said.

And here I thought kids under the age of 16 didn't know who Tiger Woods was anymore.

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July 1
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Issue 31
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send waller packing -- for good

I assume that's the end of the Darren Waller era with the Ravens.

Maybe not, though. They did, after all, give tight end Nick Boyle two chances after he was suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Waller was suspended for the 2017 season yesterday, which marks his second suspension since joining the Ravens.

On the surface, his loss isn't a big deal. He's a piano mover, not a piano player. But Waller's suspension brings to light a continuing issue in Baltimore.

The Ravens will be without the services of tight end Darren Waller for the 2017 campaign after he was suspended for the year by the NFL on Friday.

Why can't their football players stay away from PED's or whatever is on the substance abuse list that they continue to put into their system?

I don't get it.

And why do the Ravens continue to give these guys second and third chances?

Ray Rice didn't get a second chance. He made a huge mistake in his life, no doubt. But Rice got nothing even close to a second chance from the Ravens or anyone else in the NFL.

There's no telling what Waller was using. In some ways, it doesn't even matter. He should have known, after getting popped once before, that he absolutely couldn't afford anything except walking the straight and narrow this time around. But why these guys can't stay off the juice or the Adderall is beyond me. It's laughable, really.

Speaking of the Ravens, ESPN's Trey Wingo caused a stir late this week when he singled out Joe Flacco in a series of tweets and blamed Flacco's contract after Super Bowl 47 as the primary reason why the club has failed to make the playoffs in three of the last four years.

Wingo got roasted by the local faithful via social media, but the truth of the matter is Flacco most certainly IS partly responsible for the team's failure to make the post-season in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

But it's been Flacco's play, not his contract, that has contributed to those failures. The Ravens did for Flacco what every other team in the league would have done for their quarterback who just claimed the Super Bowl MVP award and was set to be a free agent at season's end.

There's not a team in the league who would have let their quarterback go after those series of circumstances. And please don't bring up the 2000 Ravens and Trent Dilfer. He wasn't a "full-time" starter and wasn't a five-year veteran of the team when he rode the coattails of the Baltimore defense in that 2000 campaign.

Heck, Derek Carr just signed a mammoth contract with the Raiders and Matt Ryan makes a gazillion dollars and neither of them have won a Super Bowl.

Good quarterbacks get paid in the NFL.

It might have been his zenith, but Flacco's performance in the 2012 playoffs was as strong as anyone had ever produced in the post-season. And he cashed in, the way any other player would have with a similar set of accomplishments.

Since then, he hasn't played like a $25 million quarterback, but that's not the biggest reason the Ravens have only made the post-season once since winning that Super Bowl in New Orleans.

Poor drafts, lack of anything even remotely close to an "elite receiver", and a defense that couldn't get off the field on third down -- those three elements of the Ravens have haunted them as much or more than Flacco has over the last four years.

Flacco isn't a great quarterback. We can argue all day about that "elite" word, but it's just semantics. There are two GREAT quarterbacks in the NFL these days: Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.

Everyone else follows accordingly. Roethlisberger is still outstanding, Russell Wilson has his moments, Eli Manning has a couple of rings and occasionally still gets the job done and Derek Carr in Oakland might be the best of the up and comers.

But none of those four are close to Rodgers or Brady.

And Flacco, frankly, is at times as competent as the four I referenced above.

Yes, if Flacco was performing like a $25 million quarterback his play would be better, but that's still not a guarantee the club would be playoff-bound every year. Somehow, Trey Wingo missed that concept. Is the quarterback supposed to throw the ball AND catch it?

I'm on record as saying I think Joe's play has dropped off a bit over the last few years. I wouldn't say it's been a significant decrease in efficiency, but I think it's at least fair to say his play hasn't been as good as we expected it to be on the heels of that remarkable playoff performance in the 2012 season.

But he's most definitely not the reason the team hasn't made the playoffs three times in four years.

Far from it, in fact.

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rays stun birds in ten innings

This one was all but wrapped up for the Orioles.

Tampa Bay trailed 3-2 in the top of the 9th and Brad Brach was one strike away from sealing the deal and putting the Birds back above .500.

But as the great Jim Palmer says all the time on TV, "There's a reason why there are 27 outs in baseball. They're hard to get."

That elusive 27th out was, in fact, hard to get for the O's, as Brach allowed a walk, a balk and a wild pitch in the 9th -- all with two outs -- and the Rays tied it up at 3-3 on a base hit.

Chris Tillman had one of his better starts in the month of June last night against the Rays but the O's bullpen blew a 9th inning lead in a 6-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

In the 10th, Darren O'Day came in and promptly put two runners on board before Steven Souza, Jr. crushed one over the centerfield wall to put the vistors up 6-3.

Mark Trumbo homered in the bottom half of the inning to make it 6-4, but that's how it ended.

Turnabout is fair play, I suppose. The Birds pulled a rabbit out of their hat last weekend in Tampa Bay when they trailed 5-4, then tied it with an 8th inning home run and went ahead for good with a three-run surge in the 9th inning to win 8-5.

Last night, down to their final strike, the Rays battled back to do the same thing to the O's.

In fairness, the Orioles only had five hits on the night. It's kind of hard to win in the big leagues when you record five hits.

Joey Rickard had a great night, making two outstanding catches in left field, doubling in the team's first run, and later hitting a home run that tied the game at 2-2.

He was the only offensive bright spot for the O's, who saw their first three hitters (Smith, Machado, Schoop) go 0-for-12 on the night. Machado is in another slump (0-for-15) and is now down to .216 with a paltry .289 on-base-percentage.

Chris Tillman was decent enough on the mound, although he wasn't able to record an out in the 6th inning. He allowed 7 hits and 2 walks in five innings of work.

Brad Brach? Not so good.

Darren O'Day? Pretty bad.

Orioles? Still trying to get things together.

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last call for caddies on july 12 at caves valley!

If you're fit enough to carry someone's golf bag around Caves Valley for 18 holes, there's an opportunity waiting for you on July 12.

Now, granted, you have to love golf to accept this job, but a one-day caddying opportunity is available for the Constellation Senior Players Championship at Caves Valley. You'd be caddying for one of the amateurs in the pro-am event, but in your group would be one of the professional players who is competing in the actual event later in the week.

You might get to rub shoulders with Fred Couples, Vijay Singh, Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman, etc.

I'm in, and so are several of my Calvert Hall golfers. We won't know who we're caddying for until closer to tournament time, but we'll be toting the bag of an amateur in the field and watching some great golf up close and personal as one of the Champions Tour players tees it up on our foursome.

Not only do you get to watch great golf, you get paid for it, too! Plus, you'll receive a complimentary grounds pass to attend the entire event free of charge.

If you're interested in signing up to caddie on July 12 in the pro-am, just reach out to Caves Valley caddie master Brian Huebeck ( and he'll get you all set up.

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