July 31
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Issue 31
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adrian beltre is my favorite all-time non-oriole

It's fun to occasionally admit things like this.

We're all so conditioned to only root for those who play for OUR team(s) that we don't often get the opportunity to reveal those dirty secrets about opposing players.

I have always loved the way Ben Roethlisberger plays quarterback, for example. He's a beast. I'd take him on my team any day.

I love the way Dustin Pedroia plays baseball. Always have. Wish we would have had him in Baltimore a decade ago.

While others around here were spewing hatred at Sidney Crosby, I was the guy always saying, "Yeah, who likes all that winning he does, anyway?" I'd take Crosby in a heartbeat.

But my all-time favorite non-Baltimore athlete is definitely Adrian Beltre of the Rangers. He's not only my favorite non-Oriole, but like I said, my favorite all-time non-Baltimore player.

I'm not sure what it is, specifically, but the way he loves the game of baseball is so apparent whenever he's on the field (or in the dugout). His interaction with teammates -- and opposing players, too -- is magical.


There's probably not a better friendship in the league than the one that exists between Beltre and Elvis Andrus. Those two, together, are baseball's Odd Couple. I'm not sure which one is Jack Klugman, but when those two get together, it's definitely "Felix and Oscar" time.

That Beltre is a Hall of Fame player is neither here nor there. In fact, it actually polishes his reputation as an interesting, funny, classy competitor.

Last week's episode where Beltre was told by the umpire to move back into the on-deck-circle, then moved the circular mat eight feet closer to home plate and stood in it...that's one of the funniest things you'll ever see someone do in the heat of the moment. Only Beltre would have thought to do that.

Oh, he got kicked out of the game for that stunt, but the Rangers were already losing 18-6 in the 8th inning.

I don't know where Beltre ranks on the list of all-time great third basemen. He's been a helluva player, that's for sure. He'll likely finish his career (20 years and counting) with more hits, doubles, home runs and RBI than Cal Ripken, for example. He's no Mike Schmidt, but he's not that far off, either.

The reality, though, is there's only one Adrian Beltre. I really wish he would have played for the Orioles at some point.

I hope Texas Rangers fans know how fortunate they've been to have him in Arlington for the last seven years.

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it's deadline day for duquette, o's

July 31st has finally arrived.

After almost a month of speculation about the Orioles being deadline buyers or sellers, we've come to the moment of truth. As of 11 pm Sunday night, the O's haven't done anything except add a journeyman pitcher who will be a free agent after the season.

If they're "buying", they need to make some deals happen today.

Several major league teams have inquired about obtaining O's left hander Zach Britton.

If they're "selling", the clock is ticking -- quickly.

Sure, they could try and swing a deal or two in August, but that's a tricky effort given that players first have to pass through waivers. It's much easier to do a deal prior to today's deadline. Clean and easy. As long as you can find a willing trade partner, that is.

That's why today is important. The O's still control their own destiny as far as deals and trades go.

National baseball writers said on Sunday they thought it was 50/50 that Britton would be dealt by today's 4 pm deadine. Trading Britton seems like the smartest thing the O's could do, yet I don't think anyone would be surprised if Britton is still in Baltimore tomorrow morning.

One of two things are happening with Duquette: Either he can't fleece someone for Britton and doesn't want to agree to a lopsided, soft trade (completely understandable, by the way) or the GM still believes the Birds can make the playoffs and wants Britton around to help the Orioles reach that destination.

I hope it's not the latter.

I fear it is, by the way. I think Duquette is still engaged in "we can make the playoffs" thinking.

That's why everyone is staying. Well, except for Hyun Soo Kim, who was sent to Philadelphia last week as part of the Jeremy Hellickson deal. But all the others -- Smith, Castillo, Brach, Britton, Machado, et al -- are staying in Baltimore because the GM still fancies their chances for making a playoff run.

I've been saying for a month now that the club should sell and sell heavy at the deadline. This opportunity doesn't come along very often.

But unless something dramatic happens before 4 pm today, the O's aren't doing much of anything. None of us are surprised by that, of course, although we quietly hoped Duquette and the front office staff would come to their senses come deadline day.

Apparently, they didn't come to their senses.

The O's are going to play out the string with this group they've been using for the better part of four months -- with nothing to show for it.

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ravens discussing kaepernick, rgiii

The Ravens have made it public. They've had actual dialogue with Colin Kaepernick about coming to Baltimore.

Speaking at the team's open practice on Sunday night at Ravens Stadium, team owner Steve Bisciotti and president Dick Cass both acknowledged that the club has talked with Kaepernick recently.

Steve Bisciotti said on Sunday he's received assurances from Colin Kaepernick that he won't be protesting the National Anthem in 2017.

Bisciotti even admitted the team has discussed the situation with former and current players, including Ray Lewis and Ben Watson. There's still no timetable for Joe Flacco's return, and with Ryan Mallett's spotty play in training camp thus far, it's a reasonable conclusion that Kaepernick could come to town to replace Mallett and serve as Flacco's back-up.

The Ravens have also discussed bringing in former Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.

But Bisciotti told the fans in attendance at Sunday night's practice that the club is doing its due diligence with regard to the potential Kaepernick signing. “I hope we do what is best for the team and balance that with what is best for our fans,” Bisciotti said. “Your opinions matter to us. … We’re very sensitive to it, and we’re monitoring it, and we’re trying to figure out what’s the right tact. So pray for us.”

Based purely on the fact that Bisciotti spoke up about Kaepernick during a fan Q&A session, it's safe to say he'll have the final, deciding vote if the football staffers decide to pursue Kapenerick. Bisciotti would typically deflect a personnel question with a short explanation -- "That's why I hire those guys. They get to make the personnel decisions" -- and a reminder that he's "just the owner", but this is a special case and Bisciotti knows he'll ultimately have to answer a lot of questions if the Ravens do, in fact, sign the embattled ex-49'ers quarterback.

And he also knows that some significant portion of his customer base will be angry with the club no matter what eventually transpires with the signing of Kaepernick.

“I know we’re going to upset some people, and I know that we’re going to make some people happy that we stood up for somebody that has the right to do what he did,” Bisciotti said.

That quote alone tells me the Ravens are knee-deep into internal discussions about Kaepernick. One train of thought: They won't sign Kaepernick and then cut him. They don't need that P.R. headache. Rather, if they sign Kaepernick, it's likely going to cost Ryan Mallett his job. Some of this depends on Flacco's return date, but the feeling I'm getting is that the Ravens would simply swap Kaepernick for Mallett.

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July 30
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Issue 30
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shepherd's junior golf win* will always have an asterisk

This is groundbreaking stuff here today at #DMD.

I've written a lot about golf over the last three years, but never once have I written about -- or cared about -- the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur, hosted and run by the United States Golf Association (USGA).

That changes today.

16-year old Erica Shepherd won* the US Girls Junior Amateur on Saturday. Under normal circumstances, that victory* would be considered a monumental achievement. In Shepherd's case, unfortunately, it comes tarnished and branded with a major "what if?" attached to it.

It's here where I'll state the (fairly) obvious. If you're not a golfer, this story will not interest you. If you don't play golf, you won't understand the nuances of the controversy at hand. That doesn't make you a bad person, by the way. It just means you won't "get it", in much the same way I wouldn't understand a controversy in, say, MMA or UFC.

On Friday in the semifinals of the Girls Junior, Shepherd defeated* Elizabeth Moon on the first playoff hole to reach Saturday's championship match. She did so with the aid of a rules infraction by Moon that could have easily been avoided by Shepherd. That Moon violated a rule is unquestionable. That Ms. Shepherd contributed to the saga is also unquestionable.

And that's where the real story begins behind Shepherd's win* on Friday.

Match play golf and stroke play golf are two totally different animals. In stroke play, a player MUST hole his or her ball in order for a score to be recorded on the hole. In match play, that is not the case. An opposing player may, at his or her option, "concede" a putt of any length, at any time. Typically, a concession is only offered when the putt in question is deemed close enough that the competitor involved in putting the ball would not miss the putt if forced to attempt it.

While not an exact science by any means, putts of any distance inside two feet are typically conceded, particularly by more accomplished players. They're simply not missing putts of that length.

On the 19th hole of Friday's semifinal match, Elizabeth Moon had a 5 foot putt to win the match over Erica Shepherd. What happened next was heartbreaking for everyone involved.

Moon missed the potential-winning putt. Her ball rolled just left of the hole, stopping roughly 6 inches past the cup.

Typically, the opposing player would say, "That's good", conceding the 6" putt that remained, and the two players would carry on to the next hole.

Except Shepherd didn't say "That's good".

Moon quickly raked her ball back -- assuming the 6" putt was "good" -- and attempted the 5-footer again, which is quite customary in match play golf.

But by raking the ball back without a formal concession by Shepherd, Moon was guilty of a rules infraction. And in match play, that infraction results in a one-stroke penalty. And via that penalty, Shepherd was then deemed the winner* of the match.

Now, it gets good.

The video account of the episode on the 19th green clearly shows several things, as you'll see below (you can fast forward to about the 2:00 minute mark to see the incident in question).

As soon as Moon touches the ball, Shepherd's coach -- who was serving as her caddie in the event -- says to her (inaudibly on the video, but later confirmed by Shepherd), "Did you give that putt to her?"

Shepherd quickly replies in Moon's direction, "I didn't say that was good..."


At that point, right then, the match is over. Shepherd has won*. Once a player confirms they didn't concede a putt, they can't go back and retroactively do it.

Here's what the video doesn't show. According to Shepherd after the match, she had her eyes closed while Moon was putting.

"When I hear that the ball doesn't drop, I finally open my eyes and she's already, like, dragging the ball back," Shepherd said in a post-round interview.

It's hard to say if that's true or not. There's no video showing Shepherd with her eyes closed. She very well might have closed her eyes, not wanting to watch the winning putt get jammed in the hole. Or maybe her eyes were open and she saw the whole thing. Only she knows that.

Either way, though, it's an awful way to win*.

If she did, in fact, close her eyes when Moon was putting, that offers an explanation as to why she didn't concede the 6" putt to her opponent.

If her eyes were open the whole time, then that's an even bigger issue.

I'll take her word for it that her eyes were closed when Moon putted. But that, for sure, was a contributing factor to how everything unfolded on that playoff hole. Under "normal" circumstances, as soon as the putt is missed and it stops 6" past the hole, you would say "That's good" and head off to the next tee box.

These, though, weren't "normal" circumstances. Shepherd's eyes were closed, by her own admission. And by the time she opened them, her opponent -- assuming the 6" putt was good -- had already raked the ball back to herself.

There are lots of observers who have watched the video and offered a similar commentary on the situation. They contend Shepherd was well aware of what was going on...the tone in her voice alone suggests she's well aware her opponent has committed a rules infraction: "I didn't say that was good." It sure sounds like she wasn't all that sympathetic about what had just happened.

It's hard to say what Shepherd's intent was -- but I'll assume her "eyes closed" statement was true and give her the benefit of the doubt.

Moon screwed up. No question about it.

So, too, did Shepherd.

The difference between the two mistakes? Moon's faux pas cost her the match. Shepherd's error actually helped her win*.

When the dust settled, Shepherd told the USGA she would given the putt to Moon. "I'd obviously give you that putt every time," the winner* said to Moon as they shook hands.

Too bad she didn't give it to her when it mattered most. Then again, when your eyes are closed, it's tough to see the putt go past the hole by six inches.

"I don't want to win* this way," Shepherd stated on the green as the USGA official explained the rules infraction to Moon.

But she did win* that way. Shepherd won* because her opponent committed a rules infraction that Shepherd helped contribute to, albeit not necessarily intentionally. Or maybe it was intentional. That, I suppose, we'll never know for sure.

The solution for Shepherd? Easy. She should have explained the extenuating circumstances to the USGA. "I had my eyes closed when she putted. When I opened them, she had already touched her golf ball. I didn't get the chance to say "that's good" because I had my eyes closed. I'm as much at fault as she is..."

That's precisely what happened, by Shepherd's own account. Instead, she put the nail in Moon's coffin by ONLY saying, "I didn't concede that putt to her." Game, set, match at that point.

Had she said right from the outset, "I had my eyes closed and didn't get a chance to give her putt (the truth, we think)..." perhaps the USGA would have taken that into account.

And then Shepherd could have been a hero by saying this, "I'm going to respectfully ask that you allow us to continue playing as if I conceded that putt to her. I don't want to win* this way. If you don't allow us to go on and continue the match, I'm going to forfeit my spot in tomorrow's championship match."

Someone will no doubt suggest that a 16-year old isn't equipped to think that quickly in the aftermath of a frenzied situation. That's where the girl's parents come in. They could have suggested it, too.

The odds are quite good that the USGA would have denied Shepherd's request. "Rules are rules," they would have said.

But faced with having one of their national championships tarnished by a forfeit and a rules controversy, perhaps the USGA would have allowed the two to continue their match. Maybe, just maybe, the USGA would have used common sense for once instead of citing an infraction in their rule book.

I doubt the USGA would have caved in, but you never know. If they did, the two would have gone on to settle the match "the right way". If they didn't, Shepherd then could have been a hero of historical proportions by simply forfeiting the championship match.

She would have forever been known as the young lady who wasn't willing to win "at all costs". She would have been remembered as a winner, without actually having won.

Ironically, Shepherd did wind up winning*. After the semifinal victory* over Moon, she went on to win* the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur on Saturday.

Except her victory* will always have a notation next to it. Five years from now, ten years from now, twenty years from now -- she'll be the young lady who won* the U.S. Girls Junior because she didn't concede a six inch putt.

She'll never be able to erase that incident, no matter how many actual other tournaments she wins fair and square.

A lesson learned for everyone involved, hopefully.

Including the USGA.

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poll results on the kaepernick saga are in

On Thursday of this past week, we asked #DMD readers to complete a poll connected with the Ravens potentially signing former 49'ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The results weren't surprising. They mostly mirrored what was heard on sports talk radio over the last couple of days with regard to the Ravens bringing in Kaepernick.

Here are the results and the corresponding percentages of the votes:

I am against it and will not buy a ticket if they sign him: 38%

I do not like it but if they sign him I will support the team: 42%

I am fine with it: 16%

I think he is a good addition to the team and I support his political stances: 2%

He will probably be starting by Week Four: 2%

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billy joel at the garden in new york!!

If there's one place you simply must see the great Billy Joel perform, it's Madison Square Garden in New York City.

So, let's do it!

#DMD is putting together a one-day mega-trip to the Big Apple on Saturday, September 30, and you're invited to attend!

We're heading up there to see Billy Joel play on the evening of September 30 at the Garden. You have your choice of upper or lower level seating for the concert. The lower level seats we've secured are right next to the stage! You'll love those seats. But if you'd prefer to sit upstairs, we have good seats available there, too.

We'll be leaving the Towson area at 9:00 am on the 30th. Breakfast will be provided by Royal Farms, lunch will be served as we enter New York City, courtesy of our friends at Palmisano's of Baldwin. We'll have ice cold Duclaw beer on the ride to NYC, plus an awesome Billy Joel trivia contest with a $50 cash prize to the winner.

You'll have the bulk of the afternoon to spend in New York City. The concert starts at 8 pm.

If you haven't seen Billy Joel at the Garden, this is a must-check-off item on your bucket list. It's a once-in-a-lifetime show.

We'll be returning right after the show, so those of you with Ravens-Steelers tickets for Sunday, October 1st at Ravens Stadium will have plenty of time for a good night's sleep before cheering on the purple birds on Sunday afternoon.

Everything is included in the pricing below. Round-trip luxury motor coach transportation, food, drinks, concert ticket, etc.

Lower concourse pricing: $395 per-person

Upper concourse pricing: $325 per-person

You can go here to reserve and pay for your tickets to see "The Piano Man" at the Garden with #DMD.

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July 29
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Issue 29
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orioles snag hellickson from phillies in bizarre attempt to remain competitive

Unless Dan Duquette has this wildly masterful plan that we won't see come to fruition for another day or two, the man has lost his mind. Totally.

The Orioles, now 6.5 games behind Kansas City (and five other teams) for the second wild card spot, made a trade last night that appears as if the team is still of the mindset they can be helped in 2017.

Except they didn't actually add anyone of quality.

Not even a year after hitting one of the most dramatic home runs in team history, Hyun Soo Kim is gone, heading to Philadelphia in the trade that brings Jeremy Hellickson to Baltimore.

The Birds acquired soon-to-be-free-agent Jeremy Hellickson from the Philadelphia Phillies just as last night's 8-2 drubbing in Texas was ending. It's kind of fitting that O's and Phillies made a senseless deal. Neither team seemingly knows what they're doing.

The Orioles sent Hyun Soo Kim and a minor league pitcher named Garrett Cleavinger to Philadelphia -- for a two-month rental in Hellickson.

Kim's departure is no big deal. He was done in Baltimore at the end of the season and Buck Showalter played him as often as you and I throw Hotel California in the CD player. With the emergence of Trey Mancini as an every day player, Kim was easily expendable.

Now, the 2015 3rd round draft pick? Who knows? Some folks in the organization like his stuff, others are wishy-washy on it. But the mere thought that the Birds had to give up two players to pry Jeremy Hellickson from the Phillies is staggering.

And that one of those players was just selected by the club three years (drafts) ago is equally mind-blowing. We're giving up on that kid for a two-month rental? And our record is 48-54, by the way. Maybe if the O's were 54-48 and one game up in the wild card race, I could understand getting cornered into a 2-for-1 deal for a journeyman rental.

I have no idea what on earth Duquette sees in Hellickson. I'm guessing David Cone and Josh Beckett weren't available?

If the Orioles are that concerned about their starting rotation, I understand how they'd come to a decision to add another arm or two. Maybe they're on the verge of shutting down Chris Tillman, who was shellacked again last night in Arlington. Maybe Dylan Bundy -- already over his career innings high -- is a start or three away from his season coming to an early end in an effort to protect him from overuse.

But Hellickson? Really?

The Birds can't just trot Mike Wright, Alec Asher or Tyler Wilson out there for the last two months of the season?

What's the difference between finishing 72-90 and 75-87? I mean, who cares at that point?

Hellickson's 4.73 ERA in the National League will look more like 5.25 in the American League. When you've allowed 111 hits in 112 innings in the National League, you can expect more of the same when you're facing the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, Indians, Royals, etc.

That this organization is actually making a deal for a player as mediocre and non-impactful as Jeremy Hellickson speaks volumes. And this really isn't about Hellickson's quality. It's about the Orioles perverted, twisted idea that they're somehow going to prove to the fan base that they never quit or give up.

I applaud their enthusiasm. But they're living in fantasyland. Jeremy Hellickson isn't taking the team from (near) last place to second place in fifty-some games. Dan Duquette can't possibly believe that one veteran starter is that important, can he?

And we're still hearing the O's are trying to part ways with Zach Britton and Brad Brach. That seems like a smart move, actually. Ship those two guys out, bring in four to six prospects, and let's start re-tooling for 2018 and beyond.

But bringing in Hellickson? That's like Van Halen going back to David Lee Roth one more time. There's no reason at all to do it. He's not adding any real value to the team -- or the band.

This, as I wrote yesterday here at #DMD, is the "Oriole way". Wait, wait, wait. Take too long. Don't make a decision. Put everyone on hold. Take a few more games to see how it sorts out. And then, at the end, there's nothing left to do except a grab-bag attempt at an improvement that shouldn't have been strived for in the first place.

Three weeks ago, when they were in another one of those 7-game funks that dumped them closer to last place than third place, the Orioles should have been on their horse, making everyone on the roster available except Jones, Mancini and Schoop. The haul they could have made by moving 4-6 veteran players -- including, yes, Manny Machado -- would have kick-started an interesting rebuilding process.

Some folks in town say the Orioles aren't "smart enough" to make those kind of deals. I don't subscribe to that, although it's getting more and more difficult to defend Duquette's acumen on trades and transactions. I think a blind squirrel could trade Machado, Britton, Brach, Trumbo (has a limited no-trade clause), Gausman and Castillo and get a more-than-favorable return on that lot of departed players.

I'll refresh back to the top of this piece and say it one more time: Maybe there's more to this deal than we're originally seeing. Perhaps Britton and Hellickson both go to the Dodgers for a haul-and-then-some. If that happens, I'll applaud Duquette.

But the GM said last night after the trade was finalized, "Jeremy Hellickson is a solid, dependable, veteran Major League starter who knows how to win in the American League. We think he will provide us with quality innings over the last two months of the season." That doesn't sound like a guy they're re-packaging as part of another deal.

I haven't been able to figure out Duquette and the Orioles at all over the last four weeks. This makes them even harder to understand. They've continued to cling to this notion that they're a couple of players away from bouncing right back into the playoff race -- when everything and every piece of evidence in place points to the exact opposite happening.

This, I'd say, is Duquette's swan song in Baltimore. The whole situation has been badly mismanaged. Sure, the owner is far more involved than it would appear on the surface. I think we all know that. But Duquette is clearly out of his mind if he believes Jeremy Hellickson is going to help the Orioles wiggle their way back into the post-season picture.

It's all pretty comical at this point.

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letting lavar ball run the sport of basketball is a huge mistake

The more I watch this whole LaVar Ball saga unfold, the more I'm starting to think everyone's in on it.

ESPN, adidas, the NBA, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, Deadspin -- every source, everywhere. I think they're all in cahoots with that clown, Ball.

What other explanation could you give at this point? Are they all seriously not aware how much of a grandstander this doofus is?

A legend in his own mind, "the best coach ever", LaVar Ball.

In case you missed it, Ball is back in the news this week after taking his AAU team to Las Vegas for a high-profile summer tournament where a bunch of 16 year olds showcase their skills and out-of-the-arena egos. Except, this year, no kid in the building has a bigger ego than the self-proclaimed "greatest coach of all time", LaVar Ball.

Ball's so great, in fact, that this week alone he has, A) Yanked his team off the court in protest of a technical foul called against him, which, by the way, he COMPLETELY deserved. B) Engaged in an in-game incident with a female referee that was so tense and combustible, she was removed from her position and replaced by another (male) official.

In a wild, off-the-wall interview after that game, Ball continued to hammer away at the female referee. In most cases, I'd post the video here for you to see for yourself. But it's so obviously tainted with Ball's own agenda against females and female referees, I decided to just paraphrase his post-game comments about her. "She's terrible. She's a woman. She's a bad referee."

It was more damaging than that, but you get the message. It was an obvious attack on her, as a female, not as a referee. It was deplorable, both in the game and afterwards. Somehow, no one in the media scorched him for it in the aftermath.

The thing Ball doesn't realize is this: Summer basketball, for all involved, typically serves as a growth period for everyone. The coaches, players and, yes, referees, all get to go about their craft without the usual pressures that come with "real games". The referee in question? She's a D1 college ref. She must know a little something about the game.

But Ball doesn't get the whole "summer league" thing. To him, this is the NBA Finals and NCAA championship game all wrapped into one. It's about HIM. Not about the kids. Not about their growth. Not about making them better. It's about LaVar Ball being the show.

That adidas is throwing rose petals at this guy's feet is maddening. It's one thing if they want to curry favor with his NBA-rookie-son, Lonzo Ball. That might not be a bad business move. Get him before Under Armour does, right?

But if you have to go through the dad to get to the kid, it's not worth the soul-selling you're going to do. The dad thinks he's the star. He believes that, too. You can just hear him now, enjoying a scotch and cigar with his buddies: "They're throwing some money at Lonzo, but I'm the centerpiece of the whole thing. They're gonna sell a lot of sneakers if I get in their camp."

ESPN continues to feature his AAU team like they're a traveling group of Cleveland Cavaliers stopping off in out-of-the-way-places like a minor league carnival. They're running highlights, showing dunks and blocks and, worst of all, broadcasting or streaming LaVar Ball's post-game "press conference".

Yep, you read that right. LaVar Ball holds a press conference after every AAU game. And people apparently care.

You might say I must care a little bit, or I wouldn't be writing this here today. I care only enough to call out these fools for making this guy into a bigger-than-life centerpiece of nothing. I'd certainly never, ever "cover" one of LaVar Ball's AAU games or break down what he says after a game about a bunch of 16 year old kids and -- most importantly -- their head coach. Oh, yes, after each game, Ball critiques his own performance. I know that doesn't surprise you.

Worst of all? His kid, Lonzo, could wind up being the real deal. We'll see what happens when the bright lights get turned on next November, but he was a solid college player and had some dazzling moments with the Lakers' summer league team earlier this month. It's not out of the question that he could be a star in the NBA in no time flat.

And there are two other Ball-players on the horizon, LiAngelo, who currently plays at UCLA, and LaMelo, who turns 16 next month and is part of the traveling circus AAU team we've had shoved down our throats recently.

LaVar Ball is going to be in the spotlight for a long time if those two wind up panning out and becoming NBA-potential players. I don't know if we can handle that as a society.

I do understand that everyone is looking for a gimmick to cover. It's hard to tell whether ESPN thinks LaVar ball is actually newsworthy or a freak show that chews up content on their website and four minutes of SportsCenter, Pardon the Interruption or Stephen A. Smith's daily yackfest.

Perhaps the other news sources who cover Ball's every move also think he's a clown. It's not that different than professional wrestling. Everyone's in on the gag, except the feasting public. They keep believing it's real, the same way I used to think Black Jack Mulligan was actually squeezing blood out of people's ears, hence the big black "X" over the TV screen.

But it's OK for the public to be duped. We're always willing to sign off on the latest craze. When someone with smarts like adidas grovels at LaVar Ball's feet, that's when you know things have taken a turn for the worse.

In a couple of years, Ball will demand that LiAngelo go to the Lakers to join his older brother, Lonzo. You can see that one coming a mile away. And if the elder Ball doesn't get "his" way, LiAngelo will sit out. He'll do the same thing with LaMelo, too.

"If they all three can't play together, ain't no one playin'." Tell me right now, with a straight face, that you can't already hear LaVar Ball saying that at a press conference in 2020.

You can't do it, right? Of course not. Because it's apparent, by now, that the fatther believes he's going to run the sport of basketball, living vicariously through his three sons while he showcases himself as the mastermind behind the sport's biggest new enterprise.

If the NBA and adidas and ESPN want to sell their soul to this flake, they can do it. But they're absolutely going to regret it. I'm as certain about that as I was that the follow up to the Counting Crows' amazing debut album, August and Everything After, wouldn't hit the same bar as "August" did.

I was right. Recovering the Satellites was solid, but it wasn't good as August and Everything After. And I'll be right about this goofy basketball-father, too. He will do far more harm than good while he remains part of the landscape. Bet on it.

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billy joel at the garden in new york!!

If there's one place you simply must see the great Billy Joel perform, it's Madison Square Garden in New York City.

So, let's do it!

#DMD is putting together a one-day mega-trip to the Big Apple on Saturday, September 30, and you're invited to attend!

We're heading up there to see Billy Joel play on the evening of September 30 at the Garden. You have your choice of upper or lower level seating for the concert. The lower level seats we've secured are right next to the stage! You'll love those seats. But if you'd prefer to sit upstairs, we have good seats available there, too.

We'll be leaving the Towson area at 9:00 am on the 30th. Breakfast will be provided by Royal Farms, lunch will be served as we enter New York City, courtesy of our friends at Palmisano's of Baldwin. We'll have ice cold Duclaw beer on the ride to NYC, plus an awesome Billy Joel trivia contest with a $50 cash prize to the winner.

You'll have the bulk of the afternoon to spend in New York City. The concert starts at 8 pm.

If you haven't seen Billy Joel at the Garden, this is a must-check-off item on your bucket list. It's a once-in-a-lifetime show.

We'll be returning right after the show, so those of you with Ravens-Steelers tickets for Sunday, October 1st at Ravens Stadium will have plenty of time for a good night's sleep before cheering on the purple birds on Sunday afternoon.

Everything is included in the pricing below. Round-trip luxury motor coach transportation, food, drinks, concert ticket, etc.

Lower concourse pricing: $395 per-person

Upper concourse pricing: $325 per-person

You can go here to reserve and pay for your tickets to see "The Piano Man" at the Garden with #DMD.

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July 28
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 28
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ravens in tough spot with kaepernick

Let's get this out of the way first. Much has been made over the last day about Ravens' head coach John Harbaugh saying the team would have an interest in Colin Kaepernick.

He didn't say the team wanted to sign Kaepernick. In fact, his direct quote was this: "I wouldn't rule it out. He's a really good football player."

There's a big difference between what Harbaugh said and the numerous headlines I saw sprouting up all over the place on Thursday.




I guess any of those could work in a pinch, but the best headline of all would be this one: "Harbaugh won't rule out Kaepernick".

A little less glitzy than the others, for sure. But more accurate. Far more accurate, actually.

The Ravens did add a quarterback late Thursday night, but it wasn't Kaepernick. The team signed former Arena league quarterback David Olson, who once played for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. Olson is here as a short-term solution in the event Joe Flacco is able to return to training camp sometime next week. If Flacco's injury appears more serious than first thought, the club would likely then pursue a veteran to serve as Ryan Mallett's back-up.

What Harbaugh said about Kaepernick on Thursday was easy to decipher if you speak coach-ese. He knows the subject of Kaepernick's signing in Baltimore is a delicate one. He's also man of his own convictions, which -- if you know Harbaugh -- are mostly in direct contrast to those of the former 49'er's quarterback who is looking for a job in the NFL.

And Harbaugh also knows what everyone else has figured out by now. Kaepernick's play on the field -- should he ever make it that far -- is probably not worth the aggravation the club is going to get from the fans, sponsors and any other interested parties.

Make no mistake about it. Colin Kaepernick wouldn't be welcomed by a large group of the fan base in Baltimore. I don't have any sort of data or survey to back that up, but I'm taking what I've heard, read and digested over the last 24 hours and can make that assertion with relative certainty.

And, here's the touchy part. If Kaepernick's status in the league is clouded by his 2016 in-season protest, who wants to be the guinea pig who tests the waters to see what kind of reaction you'd receive by signing him?

It's just not worth it.

The Ravens are no strangers to signing players with checkered pasts or personal issues. Frankly, Kaepernick's protest and some of the other dumb things he did last year -- like wearing a shirt promoting and approving of Cuba's Fidel Castro -- aren't nearly as serious as what former Ravens wide receiver Donte Stallworth did back in 2009. Stallworth was found guilty of DUI in a motor vehicle accident in Miami that killed a pedestrian. And yet, the Ravens signed him in 2010.

The list of other law breakers who were employed by the Ravens is too long to list here. You know who they are. And, again, nearly all of their police-blotter activities were more damaging than Kaepernick's national-anthem-stunt last football season.

But all of these issues and incidents have to be treated differently. Why? Well, there's a story behind them all. What Ray Rice did and the way he handled it was different than what Donte Stallworth did and the way he handled it and what Stallworth did was different than what Jimmy Smith did in Towson back in 2014 and so on and so on.

Kaepernick's issues are unique. And the Ravens will have to figure out how they're going to deal with the questions if, in fact, they do decide to sign him.

The Ravens will likely point out that Kaepernick has donated his time and money over the last ten months to military and law enforcement organizations in an attempt to show that he's a supporter of those groups, not a detractor. He claims the message he was sending with the national anthem issue last season was aimed more at the government as a whole and less at individual branches of it. He says -- and this could very well be true -- that the media was responsible for turning the whole thing into something it wasn't.

When the dust settles though, the question that will be brought up behind closed doors at Owings Mills is this one: "Do we want a back-up quarterback who is drama-free and won't create a week's worth of headlines when he shows up? Or do we want a carnival act?"

And then, the biggest factors have to be considered. "What will the fans think? And what will our corporate sponsors think?"

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

I'll jump in here and give my opinion on the whole thing. It won't take long.

I wouldn't employ Colin Kaepernick on my team. That position might be considered too pro-American, too "conservative" or too narrow minded, but that's how I would handle it. Given the opportunity to hire Mr. Kaepernick for a position in my organization, I'd choose not to do that.

And if your next question would be, "Are you saying you wouldn't hire him because of his refusal to stand for the national anthem and his disparaging public remarks about law enforcement officials?" I would say, simply, "Yes, that's one of the reasons."

I thought the quarterback's promotion and adoration of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was a shameful act as well. It's one thing to stand up for what you believe in and author a peaceful protest. It's another to promote a tyrant like Castro. Perhaps Kaepernick regrets that situation he created. When it happened, he claimed his comments praising Castro were taken out of context. That might still be his position to this day.

All of that bundled together is enough for me to say "no thanks" when the topic of Kaepernick joining the Ravens is brought up. It's not my team, mind you, but if I did own it, he wouldn't be employed by me.

And if that somehow makes me a bad owner or a "bad guy", I'll own it. If you can't stand for the country's national anthem, we're probably not going to be friends. I don't care how well you throw a football, shoot a basketball or hit a baseball. If you can't stand up for the national anthem, you should work for another organization.

In the end, I'm not willing to risk the brand I've built and the loyalty I've created with ticket holders and sponsors over a run-of-the-mill quarterback who is known more for what he did on the sidlelines than what he accomplished on the field of play. That's ultimately why the Ravens didn't bring Ray Rice back after his domestic violence issue. They simply didn't want to face the push-back they might have received from ticket buyers and corporate supporters.

When I add up all of that stuff, it's simply not worth the risk of signing a marginal player like Kaepernick.

The Ravens don't have the same luxury I have, though. They can't be quite as steadfast. They're in a pickle now because their starting quarterback is injured and they're in need -- temporarily at least -- of a decent-caliber quarterback to back-up Ryan Mallett. Kaepernick's name was bandied about immediately afer the news about Flacco broke on Wednesday.

And the dilemma facing the Ravens is a slippery slope no matter which way they go. If they sign him, they face an abundance of criticism from their fan base. If they don't sign Kaepernick, they'll be accused of ganging up on him the way every other team in the league has supposedly ganged up on Kaepernick in the wake of his political positions.

If Flacco doesn't get hurt, none of this happens.

But it was natural right from the start for Kaepernick's name to come up once Flacco was sidelined.

Harbaugh said all the right things on Thursday when asked about the possibility of signing Kaepernick. He talked about summer phone calls, philosphical discussions and Colin's quality as a player and a person.

It sounded a lot like a coach who was eager to try and add said player to his roster.

Except, in this case, we know Harbaugh was doing what every other coach in the league would do if pressed into duty and forced to address the while elephant in the room.

On the record: "We'd love to have Colin be part of our team."

Off the record: (who knows what Harbaugh and owner Steve Bisciotti really think?)

And therein lies part of the issue with the entire ordeal. Teams really aren't allowed to say exactly what they think because the media and fans will have a field day with it -- no matter the direction the club takes. It's a lose-lose situation, unless the quarterback no one wants miraculously guides his new team to the Super Bowl. And that's not happening in this case, for sure.

So, we come full circle back to the initial question. "Is it worth the trouble to sign Kaepernick?" You're not getting Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, of course. You're not even getting Andrew Luck or Matt Ryan, for that matter. You're getting something akin to Brock Osweiler meets Alex Smith -- a little bit of quality, but not enough to make a difference.

Why go through the hassle to get a guy who really isn't going to help you win? Forget the off-field-shenaningans for a second. Is Kaepernick good enough to clearly out-play Ryan Mallett? And then, if the answer is "yes", you weigh Kaepernick's potential up against the strife you're causing by bringing in an objector like him.

In my mind, it's simply not worth it.

If the Ravens do go ahead and eventually sign Kaepernick, I won't waiver in my support of them. I'm a fan of the team, the organization and the people who play and work for the club. They're the BALTIMORE Ravens, which means they're my team. I've seen people over the last 24 hours say they'd stop rooting for the Ravens if they sign Kaepernick. I wouldn't do that.

They're in the business of winning games and making tough player personnel decisions, some of which occasionally aren't popular ones. If their call is to bring Kaepernick in, I'll still support them, even though I might not necessarily be supportive of him. Call it basic indifference, if you will.

If you're asking me to make a prediction on what the Ravens do, I'd be surprised if they sign him. Perhaps if the Flacco injury winds up brushing up to the start of the season, they might have to make a more bold decision than if they only need "an arm" for a week or two of training camp.

I don't see Harbaugh going against his values. That said, the coach needs to win some football games in 2017. If Kaepernick can help the Ravens win, the decision might be made for Harbaugh, better judgment be damned.

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is britton the one to go?

With just four days left before the expiration of the non-waiver trade deadline, the Orioles have yet to do anything.

The other three contenders in the A.L. East have all made recent changes, some significant, but Dan Duquette has yet to pull the trigger on any kind of deal, whether that's adding quality players or sending quality players away in exchange for some potentially-helpful minor league prosepcts.

This, if you've followed the Orioles over time, is part and parcel of their operating methods. The Birds are rarely the first to strike. They're crumb-snatchers most of the time, waiting for the others to make the big deal(s) and then picking up any left behind morsels.

Tampa Bay made some bold moves on Thursday to try and stay in the thick of the playoff race. The Red Sox don't need much help, but they made a deal anyway earlier this week, just to tighten things up. The Yankees were the first team to jump in last week when they acquired three players from the White Sox.

The Orioles haven't done anything.

But that might change over the weekend. Scouts from at least two teams (Dodgers and Astros) will be in Arlington, Texas over the next three days to watch closer Zach Britton, who likely has the most value of any Oriole that the club would be willing to deal before Monday's trade deadline.

I'm all for Britton being dealt. I think I've made that clear over the last two weeks, but I'll reiterate it one final time to go "on the record".

I'm not anti-Zach Britton, by the way. I see his value. I understand how terrific he's been over the last few years. But I also know right now is probably his peak-value moment -- and with the O's about to wobble their way out of the playoff race, I'm willing to give up a valuable piece to add some quality minor leaguers to our laughably bare farm system.

The Astros and Dodgers have plenty of money to burn, only in this case, "money" represents young talent. The Orioles would be foolish to hang on to Britton if they can fleece one of those two teams, or any other organization for that matter.

Some would say the Birds were foolish in the off-season by not somehow adding a quality starter or two to their pitching rotation. This is an opportunity to balance out that foolishness. We'll see if they do it.

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billy joel at the garden in new york!!

If there's one place you simply must see the great Billy Joel perform, it's Madison Square Garden in New York City.

So, let's do it!

#DMD is putting together a one-day mega-trip to the Big Apple on Saturday, September 30, and you're invited to attend!

We're heading up there to see Billy Joel play on the evening of September 30 at the Garden. You have your choice of upper or lower level seating for the concert. The lower level seats we've secured are right next to the stage! You'll love those seats. But if you'd prefer to sit upstairs, we have good seats available there, too.

We'll be leaving the Towson area at 9:00 am on the 30th. Breakfast will be provided by Royal Farms, lunch will be served as we enter New York City, courtesy of our friends at Palmisano's of Baldwin. We'll have ice cold Duclaw beer on the ride to NYC, plus an awesome Billy Joel trivia contest with a $50 cash prize to the winner.

You'll have the bulk of the afternoon to spend in New York City. The concert starts at 8 pm.

If you haven't seen Billy Joel at the Garden, this is a must-check-off item on your bucket list. It's a once-in-a-lifetime show.

We'll be returning right after the show, so those of you with Ravens-Steelers tickets for Sunday, October 1st at Ravens Stadium will have plenty of time for a good night's sleep before cheering on the purple birds on Sunday afternoon.

Everything is included in the pricing below. Round-trip luxury motor coach transportation, food, drinks, concert ticket, etc.

Lower concourse pricing: $395 per-person

Upper concourse pricing: $325 per-person

You can go here to reserve and pay for your tickets to see "The Piano Man" at the Garden with #DMD.

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July 27
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 27
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flacco, buck both hurt their team on wednesday

I know it's not Joe Flacco's fault, per se, that he's injured and can't start training camp with the rest of his teammates, but that's one injury the Ravens can ill afford to start the 2017 campaign.

Flacco will miss at least the first week of camp after injuring his back lifting weights recently, and the Ravens are smartly taking every precaution to make sure their starting quarterback is good to go on September 10 when the season kicks off.

That hands the starting quarterback gig over to back-up Ryan Mallett for the time being. You'll hear the Ravens say all the right things about Mallett and his experience. They'll point to the end of the 2016 campaign when he mopped up for Flacco after the former Super Bowl MVP went down with a November knee injury. They'll mention how much of a student he's been as Flacco's apprentice over the last two seasons and how he's "ready for this opportunity".

How much trouble are the Ravens in if Joe Flacco's back injury is serious?

John Harbaugh or Marty Mornhinweg won't state the obvious, of course. The Ravens are in trouble if Flacco's injury is serious. Mallett might be able to cobble together a few decent performances and might even shine brightly once or twice if he's forced to play in 2017, but Joe Flacco he isn't.

Without Flacco for any extended period of time, the Ravens can't make the playoffs.

At this point, there appears to be nothing to worry about. Then again, it was back in 2015 on the first day of training camp when Harbaugh announced that first round draft pick Breshad Perriman "suffered a little knock" on the knee and would miss a day or two. A day or two turned out to be the entire season.

If Flacco's back injury is indeed minor and a week's worth of rest and treatment is the answer, then there's nothing to see there. But back injuries are tricky things. If Joe misses significant time, the Ravens' season is definitely in jeopardy.

As soon as news came out that Flacco was injured, media members and area football fans took to social media to throw some names around of potential free agents the Ravens could bring in to camp. One of the names was Colin Kaepernick.

You might have heard of Kaepernick before. He's the guy who used to be good for the San Francisco 49'ers. In fact, he was the quarterback for the 49er's in Super Bowl 47 when the Ravens won their second title in New Orleans.

Kaepernick is also the guy who lost his starting job with the 49'ers to a scrub named Blaine Gabbert.

And, yes, you might remember that Kaepernick was the player who refused to stand for the national anthem last season.

Oh, and he's unemployed at this point.

I don't suspect the Ravens will bring Kaepernick in at this point, but it's fair to note that both Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta rated him highly when he was coming out of college and heading into the NFL. That kind of affection gets rekindled when a player becomes available at some point in his professional career.

There's also the pesky issue of Kaepernick's "social status" within the league. While he's now off of his soap box and once again standing for the national anthem, the Ravens have to know that bringing Kaepernick in -- even just for a couple of weeks -- will lead to questions about the organization's position on players taking a knee during the anthem or any other sign of protest against the country and its values.

I'm quite certain John Harbaugh and Steve Bisciotti would prefer not to discuss their own political views with the football media. But they'll be forced to do that if Kaepernick somehow winds up in Baltimore. Other players might have to do it, too. It's a delicate situation.

My guess is the Ravens go with Mallett for the first week of camp. If Flacco is unable to return sometime late next week or early the week after that, they'll go ahead and add a veteran as a back-up to Mallett. That could be Kaepernick, assuming he's still unemployed, or any number of other half-has-beens who would gladly hold the clipboard for Mallett and earn another season of NFL service for their post-career pension.

One thing for sure: If Flacco's back injury is serious, the Ravens are in trouble.

The Orioles are also in trouble.

They're now back to five games below .500 after Wednesday's lethargic 5-1 loss at Tampa Bay. The last place Blue Jays -- who scored three times in the bottom of the 9th on Wednesday to beat the A's -- are now just one game behind the O's in the A.L. East.

Wednesday's loss also featured a puzzling blunder from Buck Showalter in the bottom of the 6th inning. It was a game changing oversight from the O's skipper.

Please pay attention to the game, skipper.

The O's led 1-0 on a Jonathan Schoop home run when Ubaldo Jimenez walked Mallex Smith with one out in the 6th. After striking out Corey Dickerson, Jimenez was set to face Evan Longoria.

Jimenez had thrown 90 pitches at that point. His day was nearly done. Why not work around Longoria there and be willing to put him on base, then bring in lefty Donnie Hart or Richard Bleier to go up against Tampa Bay's Logan Morrison?

I'm not saying you intentionally walk Longoria. That would go against the grain of Baseball 101. Morrison, after all, is having a career year.

But here's what I don't want if I'm Showalter: A Longoria home run.

Naturally, that's what happened. Longoria belted a long home run to put Tampa Bay up 2-1 and that, essentially, was the ball game.

Why not send Roger McDowell out to the mound prior to the Longoria at-bat to remind Jimenez that putting the Tampa Bay third baseman on base wasn't such a bad idea? You're not trying to walk him, but you're also not interested in giving him something meaty to hit, either.

In fancy baseball terms, it's called "pitching around" the hitter. You give him something off the plate to see if he's willing to nibble. If he is, maybe you get him out and the inning is over. If you put him on base, at least he's not hitting a 2-run homer against you.

The Orioles were likely going with a new pitcher to start the 7th anyway (which, they did...). What's the difference between Jimenez finishing the inning or Hart or Bleier coming in to hopefully get the final out of the inning against the left-handed hitting Morrison?

I get it. It's not an exact science. But I'd rather have a lefty vs. a lefty than having Jimenez face Longoria in that situation in the bottom of the 6th inning. If it's the 4th or 5th inning, that's a different story. But you're bringing in O'Day to start the 7th anyway, right?

This isn't the first time this season that Buck hasn't been paying attention. But Wednesday's blunder was a game-changer.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers and Astros both have scouts on the road following the Orioles in Tampa Bay and Texas. Both clubs are presumably looking at Zach Britton, who was nicked for a couple of soft runs in the bottom of the 8th inning on Wednesday afternoon at Tropicana Field.

There's also speculation in Houston that the first-place Astros could be interested in Seth Smith, although the Birds won't get much in return for him.

The big feast would come if Britton is sent packing.

While most people feel it's fairly certain the Birds aren't going to pay Manny Machado $350 million in 2018 when he becomes a free agent, everyone is of the same mindset regarding Zach Britton and his pending free agency after next season: The Orioles aren't paying a closer $100 million, which is likely what Britton will command as long as he stays healthy and among the best closers in the game.

It's one thing not to deal Machado at this point. He's an ultra-significant day-to-day piece for the Birds. Forget about his popularity and first ballot Hall of Fame candidacy. The Orioles will lose a lot of games if Machado is pieced off for a bunch of prospects.

They can survive without Britton. Sure, Brad Brach isn't quite the gem that Britton is, but he's good enough to be a reliable closer in the big leagues. One of the best 10 in the game? Probably not. But Brach's not a stiff by any means.

Trading Britton is a no-brainer at this point, particularly if the Birds can get a few quality prospects in return.

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morris, u.s. come up big in gold cup win over jamaica

By now, the proof is in the pudding. Bruce Arena was the right call last December when the United States Soccer Federation fired Jurgen Klinsmann in the wake of an 0-2 start to World Cup qualifying.

The U.S. ran its unbeaten streak to 14 games last night in Santa Clara, California, winning the Gold Cup, 2-1, on a Jordan Morris goal with under two minutes remaining in regulation time. The victory marked the 6th time the U.S. team has captured the championship.

Jamaica put forth a spirited effort. They lost their star goalkeeper, Andre Blake, to a first-half hand injury, and his back-up -- Dwayne Miller -- wasn't up for the task. Both U.S. goals, while hit hard, were potentially saveable, particularly Jozy Altidore's tally just before halftime that put the U.S. up 1-0.

Jordan Morris scored his 5th career interntional goal last night in the 88th minute as the U.S. won the Gold Cup, 2-1 over Jamaica.

But it was the late goal from Morris that sent the Americans home with the title. After a defensive lapse by Morris led to Jamaica's game-tying goal in the 50th minute, the former Stanford star more than made up for the miscue by driving home a ball from 15 yards out in the 88th minute.

It was a deserving result for the U.S. side, who were playing the competition without high-profile forward Christian Pulisic. They were challenged throughout the night by Jamaica's speed on the flanks, and even though there were times when the visitors looked more energetic than the U.S., the bulk of the play was carried by Americans.

Darlington Nagbe had another standout game for Bruce Arena's team and has likely embedded himself into the starting eleven in September when World Cup qualifying continues with a home game against 2nd place Costa Rica and a road game at 4th place Honduras. Nagbe was complimented well by Morris, who might not yet be an automatic selection.

Oft-criticized Michael Bradley seems more praise-worthy when Nagbe and Morris are in there. He's allowed to play a deeper midfield position and isn't as prone to turning the ball over, it seems, when he has some speedy players to dish to in various parts of the field.

With Altidore, Pulisic and Bobby Wood all available in September for the two qualifying games, it seems reasonable to think that Clint Dempsey will continue to be used as a second-half substitute, a role he embraced in the Gold Cup. If Dempsey is good with it, that gives the U.S. a huge advantage as they continue to try and sew up a spot in the 2018 World Cup.

Whether or not it's Arena's influence or just the natural maturation of young players, this American team looks dangerous now. They're not suddenly World Cup favorites or anything silly like that, but at this point it would be a total shock if they don't qualify for Russia 2018. It's been a long time since the U.S. men's team had the kind of team speed they have in 2017.

There were some down moments on Wednesday night. Gyasi Zardes came in midway through the second half and routinely lost the ball. He was involved in the game-winning goal, yes, but even that was purely a desperate cross into the box that was knocked away by a Jamaican defender, only to bounce right to the waiting and willing Morris.

Defenders Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler were outrun on numerous occasions, but to their credit, both never gave up on the play. It's likely neither of them will play in September, although Gonzalez's overall play in the Gold Cup might warrant a second look from Arena.

And Graham Zusi, typically reliable and steady, looked out of sorts throughout the evening on Wednesday. His touch was off, his willingness to battle for loose balls wasn't there and, in general, he just seemed largely disinterested in getting into the fray.

But the good far outweighed the bad on Wednesday in Santa Clara. The Americans got the title they craved, Arena's unbeaten streak rolled on, and yet another young, promising American player found the spotlight with a quality goal in the waning moments of the game.

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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 date was November 19, 2001, and a local television legend named Harry Kakel was sweating bullets.

He’d been producing live newscasts and on-location “hits” for years, but he’d never experienced these kind of nerves. I could only see what he was showing on the outside, and only hear what he was saying to me. On the inside, the fate of his entire professional life must have been rolling through his brain.

Kakel’s station, WMAR, was Baltimore’s ABC affiliate, as it still is today (1). With that affiliation came the biggest prize in network primetime television, Monday Night Football (2), which routinely drew ratings that swamped even the most popular scripted dramas and comedies.

While Towson plays a competitive local schedule each season, Pat Skerry and his Tigers also need big-money guarantee games against Division I powerhouses like Kansas, Kentucky and Maryland.

Yet on that night, the local ABC station was actually in danger of missing out on televising its highest-rated show, its advertisers in danger of not getting what they paid for, and the switchboard in Towson in danger of blowing up from the amount of complaints lodged. And all of it came from a decision that the station had made a few years earlier.

That decision? The Battle of Baltimore.

The local basketball tournament in the late 1990s and early 2000s was the brainchild of Channel 2, with help from the five Baltimore-area Division I schools. In 2001, the tournament was played at Loyola, with the championship game specifically scheduled for 7 p.m. that Monday night as a lead-in to football (3). But the consolation game between Coppin and Loyola went to two overtimes, and WMAR was in big-time trouble.

What happened next is something I never saw before and never saw again. Kakel convinced the coaches and administrators from UMBC and Towson to agree to a six-minute warmup, with no pregame coaching huddles or player introductions. The game tipped off on time, ended just before nine, and viewers were none the wiser, I suppose.

The Battle of Baltimore, meanwhile? The tournament that WMAR would have cut off at precisely 9 p.m., that night, no matter what the score or how much time was left in the game? Well that was gone a couple years later.

If Channel 2, which had invested more time and effort in the tournament than anyone, couldn’t care enough about it to let it preempt 30 minutes of the NFL, why would anyone else care about it? I always think back to that night whenever the idea is broached, and I thought back to it when I read about Rob Ambrose’s grand plans for the football game between Towson and Morgan: the “Battle for Greater Baltimore.”

If Morgan and Towson want to play football every year, I think that’s fine. Each team plays three non-conference games per season, one of which is usually a guarantee game against an FBS opponent (4). If each team considers the other a good opponent for one of the two remaining non-league games, that’s great. If the series lasts for five, 10 or 20 years, great. If it doesn’t, that’s ok too.

The basketball tournament, on the other hand? It’s not about what happened 15 years ago, which might as well be 50 years ago. It’s not about the quality of the teams, which is highly variable from year to year (5). It’s not really about the crowds, because who would have any expectation of large crowds to begin with?

A Battle of Baltimore simply isn’t in the best interest of any of the schools individually. And if that’s the case, it’s not in the best interest of the schools collectively either.

Morgan and Coppin, of course, could never play in a tournament together; as members of the MEAC, they already play twice (and potentially a third time in the conference tournament). More than that, they are financially dependent on playing guarantee road games against power conference schools, and substituting even one of those games could make a huge difference for their athletic departments.

As for Loyola, UMBC and Towson? Well, they already do a pretty good job of playing each other in November and December, with a few skipped years here or there. And they’d prefer to keep playing those games on a home-and-home basis as they work on creating their schedules before each season.

In the future, as it settles into the Patriot League, expect Loyola to play more games against Ivy League schools as its fellow Patriot members do. And all three will continue to play their share of guarantee road games as well.

For those who’d like to get Mount St. Mary’s, Navy and UMES involved, think again.

UMES has the same problem as Coppin and Morgan. The Mount’s coach, Jamion Christian, took his team on a November 2016 adventure tour to West Virginia, Iowa State, Minnesota, Southern Illinois, UT Arlington, Michigan and Arkansas, and he believes that insanity helped his team lead for nearly the entire first half of an NCAA tournament game against Villanova.

Navy may have an Annapolis location, but there’s nothing local about them. And now they’re in the same league as Loyola anyway.

Eight schools, free to make the decisions they believe are best for them, yet constrained by many things as well. It doesn’t seem right to offer them something that might constrain them even more, just because it sounds like a good idea.

Notes --

(1) - In my lifetime (since 1973), WMAR has actually been the local affiliate for all three of the “original” broadcast networks. It was a CBS affiliate until 1981 and an NBC affiliate from 1981-1995.

(2) - Monday Night Football moved to ESPN beginning with the 2006 season. The highest-rated MNF telecast was the famous December 1985 game between the Dan Marino-led Dolphins and the “Super Bowl Shuffle” Bears, which drew an incredible 29.6(!) rating.

(3) - The MNF game that night was the Giants vs. the Vikings at the Metrodome.

(4) - Towson is playing at Maryland this season, while Morgan is playing at Rutgers. Personally, I think that the Big Ten should prohibit its members from playing FCS schools, but you gotta get bowl eligible, right?!

(5) - By the way, no matter what your perception, most of the kids who play basketball for our local Division I colleges are really, really good. I’d encourage you to go see them play whenever you can.

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July 26
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 26
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"why not us?" someone asked

I noted in the Comments section below that someone yesterday broached an easy question about the Orioles and their chances to rebound and potentially make the post-season for a fourth time since 2012.

"Why not us?" the commenter asked.

Others then rallied with replies and explanations. Someone even suggested we "suspend reality" in our efforts to give the O's a puncher's chance from now through the end of September.

Last night's 5-4 loss to the Rays drops the Birds to 48-52. Over the last three years, here are the win totals of the six wild card teams from the American League -- 89, 89, 87, 86, 89, 88. Let's just assume it's going to take 86 to get in this year, even though it might take 87 or 88. "86" is our number.

When someone asks "Why not us?", that's the first thing I look at. For it to be "us", the O's now have to go 38-24 to finish at 86-76.

Why not us? Because we're not good enough to go 38-24, that's why.

Sure, we can "suspend reality" and just root like the dickens for the home team. I do that every night, actually. I really thought the O's were going to blow the game open in the 9th inning last night, that is, right up until Mark Trumbo swung at the first f'ing pitch to end the game on a lame force out to second base.

Trey Mancini's 16th home run of the season wasn't enough for the O's last night as they fell to the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-4.

I suspend reality regularly. I bought two 13-game plans back in February despite assuming, in my opinion, that the O's weren't a playoff team in 2017.

But there's a difference between rooting for the team and being able to make an opinion. One requires no real thought at all. You can "suspend reality", if you will. The opinion, though, sometimes requires you to state or say something you'd rather not make public.

My opinion? The Orioles aren't good enough to win 86 games.

Not with this current 25-man roster, anyway.

If they land Justin Verlander in a trade, I'd perk up.

If they could somehow add another quality starter, I might change my tune.

How are they doing that, though? What are they giving up to get those guys? Our "low fuel light" is on when it comes to quality minor leaguers to offer.

This Orioles team, through 100 games, is 48-52. That's a large enough sample size to tell me what I can expect over the next 62 games.

I don't think anyone else in the division is a World Series contender, mind you, but the Red Sox are better than the Orioles for sure. The Yankees are a lot like the O's, actually. Lots of hitting, sub-standard pitching, a decent bullpen, good at home, below .500 on the road. But the Yankees have scored 106 more runs than they've allowed this season. The O's? They're minus 70 in that department.

Tampa Bay isn't all that good and Toronto stinks. The Orioles, honestly, aren't that far from "stinking". They're 18-31 on the road. That's awful.

I like the "Why Not Us?" theme. It sounds like something a Little League team would put on a cake when they finish the first half of a 24-game season at 2-10. "But there's still a whole second half of baseball and if we go 9-3 we can make the playoffs!" an eager Mom would tell the kids over cake and kool-aid.

Kool-aid is nice. But it doesn't change my opinion on things.

I'm still one of the few around town who thinks the Orioles should be selling players at the deadline. Britton, Brach, O'Day -- those three in particular would have some good value over the next few days. Seth Smith, Hyun Soo Kim and Welington Castillo might fetch you something useful in return. Move all six, I say.

By now, I think we all know that's not going to happen. The O's aren't selling off any pieces. If anything, they're going to slice off a piece or two of their already depleted minor league system and make a run at the post-season by trying to obtain a couple of starting pitchers.

That's not what I would do. But I don't run the team.

I am, though, still allowed to have an opinion on things. And when I do so, I typically don't "suspend reality" just for the sake of doing it.

It's easy to say, "Well, if all of our players hit and pitch well from here until the end of the season, we'll make the playoffs."

That's true.

But we're 100 games in and they haven't done that yet. What makes you think they'll start doing it now? "Just because"???

If you use that logic (everyone might get hot at the right time), why can't that same hopeful thought be applied to Boston, Tampa Bay and the Yankees?

The Orioles are a flawed team. Others in the division are flawed, too. But we're 100 games into the season now and we are what we are...

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dixon loss doesn't crush ravens

A friend at my son's lacrosse camp last night approached me and wanted to talk about the Ravens.

"That Kenneth Dixon injury crushes us," he said.

"Not at all," I replied. "They can win without Kenneth Dixon."

Kenneth Dixon's season-ending knee injury casts an even bigger spotlight on off-season pick-up Danny Woodhead, who figures to play a prominent role in the Ravens' offensive scheme.

And that's how I see it. Dixon was a useful running back, yes. But to suggest the Ravens have now gone from 10-6 to 8-8 because they lost Kenneth Dixon is wacky.

The signing of Danny Woodhead back in the winter looks better by the day, now. Woodhead will be a valuable resource for Joe Flacco as a short-yardage passing option and Terrance West is capable of an 800 yard season if he stays healthy and plays all 16 games.

The Ravens have a shot at returning to the playoffs because of the defensive improvements they made this off-season. Kenneth Dixon doesn't play defense.

Sure, they have to score some points on offense to win, but the Ravens scored more than enough points to win several games they eventually lost in 2016. They scored more than enough points at home to beat Washington and Oakland, but the defense crumbled in the final minutes. They scored more than enough points to win in New York over the Giants and in Pittsburgh on Christmas night, but the defense again collapsed as time expired.

If the Baltimore defense is as improved this season as it appears it might be, ten wins isn't a stretch in the least.

You have to be pretty good to go 11-5 or 12-4 in the NFL. I'm not sure the Ravens are that kind of team at this point, but if things come together for them like they might, 10-6 is a reasonable expectation for John Harbaugh's team.

Heck, I'd go as far as to say about the Ravens: "Why not us?"

The difference being, of course, we've seen the Ravens play ZERO games in 2017. We can "suspend reality" for a minute or two with them. The Orioles are 48-52, 100 games into a 162-game season. I see them for what they are, already.

The Ravens do have some flaws, though. There's no telling what kind of season they'll get out of Joe Flacco. His arsenal of pass catchers isn't all that great. There's newcomer Jeremy Maclin, who appears to be a good signing, plus speedster Mike Wallace and on-again-off-again 3rd year receiver Breshad Perriman. That's an OK trio of wideouts. Nothing more.

Flacco will need to make things happen. He's been a good quarterback in his career, but a Hall of Famer he isn't. Still, if the Ravens can get an upgraded performance from Joe, and the offensive line can stay healthy, the Ravens are a definite playoff contender.

Their schedule isn't super imposing. If they can go 4-2 in the division, they have to figure out a way to piece together six more wins against Jacksonville, Houston, Indy, Tennessee, Green Bay, Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, Oakland and Miami.

Suddenly, ten wins isn't all that out of reach, right?

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billy joel at the garden in new york!!

If there's one place you simply must see the great Billy Joel perform, it's Madison Square Garden in New York City.

So, let's do it!

#DMD is putting together a one-day mega-trip to the Big Apple on Saturday, September 30, and you're invited to attend!

We're heading up there to see Billy Joel play on the evening of September 30 at the Garden. You have your choice of upper or lower level seating for the concert. The lower level seats we've secured are right next to the stage! You'll love those seats. But if you'd prefer to sit upstairs, we have good seats available there, too.

We'll be leaving the Towson area at 9:00 am on the 30th. Breakfast will be provided by Royal Farms, lunch will be served as we enter New York City, courtesy of our friends at Palmisano's of Baldwin. We'll have ice cold Duclaw beer on the ride to NYC, plus an awesome Billy Joel trivia contest with a $50 cash prize to the winner.

You'll have the bulk of the afternoon to spend in New York City. The concert starts at 8 pm.

If you haven't seen Billy Joel at the Garden, this is a must-check-off item on your bucket list. It's a once-in-a-lifetime show.

We'll be returning right after the show, so those of you with Ravens-Steelers tickets for Sunday, October 1st at Ravens Stadium will have plenty of time for a good night's sleep before cheering on the purple birds on Sunday afternoon.

Everything is included in the pricing below. Round-trip luxury motor coach transportation, food, drinks, concert ticket, etc.

Lower concourse pricing: $395 per-person

Upper concourse pricing: $325 per-person

You can go here to reserve and pay for your tickets to see "The Piano Man" at the Garden with #DMD.

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July 25
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 25
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gausman, bundy headed in opposite directions

No one is confusing Kevin Gausman with Max Scherzer these days, so we'll keep things in their proper perspective.

But Gausman's performance on Monday night in Tampa Bay continued a reversal in fortune for the young righthander, as he improved to 7-7 on the year by throwing six shutout innings in the O's 5-0 victory over the Rays.

After falling to 3-7 at one point earlier in the season, Kevin Gausman has rebounded all the way to 7-7 after last night's win over Tampa Bay.

Throw out two ugly starts in the last six weeks -- three inning clunkers at New York on June 11 and at home vs. the Cubs on July 14 -- and Gausman has been the team's best starting pitcher since mid-June, lowering his ERA from 6.60 to 5.79 in that span.

I'm not bragging about a 5.79 ERA -- but it's trending in the right direction after reaching 6.60 on June 11.

In his last 14 starts, Gausman has pitched into the 6th inning on 11 occasions and has allowed 4 earned runs or less in 9 of those 14 outings.

Cutting down on walks has been a key to Gausman's recent success. Since surrendering a season-high six free passes in New York on June 11, Gausman hasn't allowed more than three walks in a game, and his strikeout totals are up as well. He's whiffed at least seven batters in six of his last nine outings.

He still lacks in consistency, yes, but Kevin Gausman has patched together a pretty reasonable last six weeks of pitching for the Birds.

It's a shame Dylan Bundy has gone the other way of late.

The game log on Bundy is nearly the complete opposite of Gausman. On May 6, Bundy was 5-1 and his ERA was a paltry 2.17. He now stands at 9-8 with a 4.53 ERA.

He's allowed four or more earned runs in five of his last ten starts, and has struck out 46 batters while walking 20 in that span. We won't be comparing Bundy to Max Scherzer either, I'm afraid.

But Gausman's seemingly getting better while Bundy is tailing off considerably. Why?

Bundy has already reached his career-high in innings pitched (119.1), prompting some baseball insiders to wonder if perhaps the Birds are considering shutting Bundy down before too much longer. While the O's need to stretch him out as much as possible, it does make sense to think about Bundy's long term viability if the Birds eventually fall completely out of the American League playoff race.

Ending Bundy's campaign after, say, 150 innings, would be the smart thing to do. But the pitching-starved Birds can't make that call until they see how he's throwing at the 150 inning mark and where they are in the standings at that point, too.

Part of the team's trade-deadline strategy might be to add two reliable starting arms so they can make a smart decision with Bundy and send Ubaldo Jimenez packing at the same time.

Whatever the case with Gausman and Bundy, the numbers don't lie. Gausman has been good-to-very-good over the last six weeks. Bundy hasn't been very useful in that same period.

For the O's to get back in the playoff race, their starting pitching needs to improve while their hitting continues to sizzle. That combination -- solid pitching and good hitting -- was woefully lacking from mid-May through the All-Star break. After being swept by the Cubs two weekends ago, the Orioles' offense came alive in a 4-game sweep over Texas and they managed to score 20 runs in three games against Houston, although they lost two of three in that series.

If the hitting continues to impress and the starting pitching improves, the O's can make a run at one of the two wild card offerings in the American League.

But that's a big "if".

And a major part of the team's pitching consistency starts with the duo of Gausman and Bundy. Right now, they're at opposite ends of the spectrum.

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looking into golf's crystal ball in 2021

Someone asked me yesterday how many majors I thought Jordan Spieth would own in the next five years.

Without thinking, I blurted out "at least six".

Already at three following Sunday's win of the British Open at Royal Birkdale, Spieth would need to win just three more between now and 2021 in order to reach six career major titles.

Consider that done, friends.

Expect Dustin Johnson to have three major titles by the time the 2021 PGA Tour season closes.

He'll win at least once more at Augusta in the next four years. And he's bound to capture two more along the way. Heck, he very well might win the PGA Championship next month at Quail Hollow in North Carolina.

There's no telling what Spieth might accomplish in his career. Ten major titles doesn't seem out of the question in the least. But there are only four of them played per-year. And once they pass, they're gone for good.

Just for fun, my friend asked me rattle off how many major titles I thought six other players would have by the end of the 2021 campaign. I played along.

Dustin Johnson: I think Johnson's a shoo-in to win a Masters at some point soon. He'll also figure out a way to claim at least one more major, probably a PGA Championship. Give him three majors by the end of 2021.

Rory McIlroy: The talented Irishman showed some signs of breaking out of his long funk in last week's British Open. While his putter continued to betray him, ball striking improved greatly for Rory at Royal Birkdale. Like Johnson, you have to believe McIlroy will figure out a way to win at least one green jacket sometime soon. That's all he needs to complete the career grand slam, by the way. Already at four major titles, I'll say Rory has five by the end of 2021.

Brooks Koepka: Backed up his U.S. Open win at Erin Hills with a T6 at the British Open. He's the real deal, folks. His game travels well, much like Dustin Johnson's, but he has to improve as a putter to have any chance of winning a Masters title. Over the next five years, though, you can expect Koepka to win at least one more major, if not two. Pressing me for a number? OK, I'll say he has three major wins by the end of 2021.

Hideki Matsuyama: Everyone continues to rave about Matsuyama, but he still doesn't have a major victory in his career. And while I do think he'll win one at some point, I'm not so sure it happens over the next five years. I think he's the outlier of the group. He'll have zero major victories by the end of 2021.

Sergio Garcia: After finally breaking through at Augusta this past April, Garcia is no longer the best-player-without-a-major-title. But can he win another major or two as his career moves well into its back nine? I think so. He might always win another Masters title, and it seems reasonable to think he'll be a threat to win a British Open at some point. Officially, though, I'll say he stays on one major and doesn't win another between now and the end of 2021.

Rickie Fowler: He'll get his soon, I think. Golf's most polarizing player is still without a major victory, but he's knocked on the door a bunch of times. At some point, he's going to break through. Fowler's game is geo-flexible. He can win anywhere in the world, as he's already done in his career, and the more he plays Augusta, for instance, the more likely it is he'll figure out one or two of the majors that suits him best. I'll say Fowler has two major wins by the time 2021 comes to a close.

Including the remaining major on this year's calendar, that leaves 17 majors to be played between now and 2022. Of those 17, I project 10 of them will be won by the combination of Spieth, Johnson, Koepka, McIlroy and Fowler. Statistically, that seems unlikely. But those are five of the sport's best ten players right now, and there's no sign that any of them are going off the rails anytime soon.

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billy joel at the garden in new york!!

If there's one place you simply must see the great Billy Joel perform, it's Madison Square Garden in New York City.

So, let's do it!

#DMD is putting together a one-day mega-trip to the Big Apple on Saturday, September 30, and you're invited to attend!

We're heading up there to see Billy Joel play on the evening of September 30 at the Garden. You have your choice of upper or lower level seating for the concert. The lower level seats we've secured are right next to the stage! You'll love those seats. But if you'd prefer to sit upstairs, we have good seats available there, too.

We'll be leaving the Towson area at 9:00 am on the 30th. Breakfast will be provided by Royal Farms, lunch will be served as we enter New York City, courtesy of our friends at Palmisano's of Baldwin. We'll have ice cold Duclaw beer on the ride to NYC, plus an awesome Billy Joel trivia contest with a $50 cash prize to the winner.

You'll have the bulk of the afternoon to spend in New York City. The concert starts at 8 pm.

If you haven't seen Billy Joel at the Garden, this is a must-check-off item on your bucket list. It's a once-in-a-lifetime show.

We'll be returning right after the show, so those of you with Ravens-Steelers tickets for Sunday, October 1st at Ravens Stadium will have plenty of time for a good night's sleep before cheering on the purple birds on Sunday afternoon.

Everything is included in the pricing below. Round-trip luxury motor coach transportation, food, drinks, concert ticket, etc.

Lower concourse pricing: $395 per-person

Upper concourse pricing: $325 per-person

We'll have our full PayPal purchasing option available later today at #DMD. In the meantime, if you're interested in securing seats, you can e-mail me:

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July 24
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 24
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spieth's triumph at birkdale more electric than jack's '86 win

There's nothing I can write here today about Jordan Spieth's improbable back nine in Sunday's British Open that will come close to actually doing it justice.

I read two dozen pieces on Spieth's triumph last night and I couldn't find anyone else that could do it justice, either. No one really knows what to say or write. It left a lot of folks speechless.

It's one thing for Spieth to come out firing on all cylinders on Sunday, fire a final round 63 like Henrik Stenson did a year ago, and waltz to a 7-shot win. That would have easier to write, in some ways. We would have used words like "virtuoso", "coronation" and "unparalleled" to describe Spieth's dominant victory.

With his win at Royal Birkdale, Jordan Spieth now just needs to win the PGA Championship to complete the career Grand Slam.

But that's not what happened. What did occur was so improbable and so stunning that it left us with nothing to offer except a shake of the head and a smile. We might not ever see anything like it again, honestly.

Spieth, as you likely know by now, started the day with three bogeys in his first four holes. He couldn't make a putt, either, which was completely un-Jordan-like. By the time he three-putted from 12-feet on the 9th green -- missing a 2.5 footer for par there -- the tournament was officially up for grabs, with fellow American Matt Kuchar steadying himself in the early going and tying Spieth at 8-under par as the two headed to the incoming nine holes.

When Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters at age 46, he, like Spieth on Sunday, did so in improbable fashion. Nicklaus shot 65 on that final Sunday, but needed help from a trio of players, including Seve Ballesteros -- who led by three shots with 90 minutes remaining -- Tom Kite and Greg Norman, both of whom missed putts on the 18th hole that would have sent the tournament to a playoff with Nicklaus. Jack's stirring back nine "30" included an eagle at 15 and birdies at 16 and 17.

But what Nicklaus did in 1986 pales in comparison to what Spieth did on Sunday at Royal Birkdale.

Anyone who has ever played golf (at a reasonably high level) knows all too well the feeling Jordan Spieth had in the opening four holes. He had made just four bogeys in the first 54 holes of the golf tournament, then suddenly made three bogeys in the opening four holes on Sunday. How does that happen? Because it's golf, that's how.

He then went on a 2-hour odyssey of hitting tee shots all over the place, missing fairways, hitting awful iron shots, but saving himself with well-timed chips, pitches and holed putts.

The 13th hole was the epitome of Spieth's day. He hit a horrendous drive on the par-4 hole, so poor, in fact, that he was unable to play his second shot without taking a one-shot penalty drop. After retreating some 80 yards backwards -- away from the green -- and taking a drop on the practice range, he was able to somehow make a bogey and lose only one shot to Kuchar, who had enough time to eat and shower while Spieth figured out how to play the 13th hole.

It served as a de facto "time out" of sorts for Spieth, who gathered himself after that bogey and played the best five holes of his life.

It's one thing to shoot 65 like Nicklaus did in 1986. Once a great player gets on a roll and starts holing a few putts, low numbers are always possible.

It's another thing entirely to play like a 10-handicap for the better part of 13 holes, with the notion that you're "choking" embedded in your head as you're doing it, and then somehow turn it completely around and do everything right for the last five holes. That's what Spieth did on Sunday.

He made a birdie at 14, an eagle at 15, another birdie at 16 and 17, then two-putted for the win at 18. And here's the thing: After missing a slew of relatively simple putts in the first twelve holes, Spieth one-putted five straight holes (13 through 17) and none of the holed putts were kick-ins, particularly given the stakes at hand.

When it was all over and they were presenting the silver medal to the "champion golfer of the year", Spieth finished at 12-under par, good for a 3-shot triumph over Kuchar. But it was always in doubt until Kuchar hit his approach into a greenside bunker at 18 and Spieth was safely on the green, 35 feet from the hole.

I wrote here yesterday that Spieth's the best putter in the world. It didn't look like that was the case when he three-putted from 12 feet at the 9th hole on Sunday. But he didn't miss when it mattered most -- and that's why he won the Claret Jug.

National golf writers started the obvious discussion about Spieth and Tiger Woods on Sunday night, saying that Spieth looked a lot like Tiger on that back nine surge. He might have looked like Tiger with his play over the final five holes, but we never saw Woods stumble and bumble in the final round the way Jordan did in the opening holes on Sunday. There was nothing "Tiger-like" about it.

But where Spieth did resemble Woods was the way he pounded Kuchar into submission when given the opportunity. Kuchar didn't play poorly on the back nine, mind you. He made birdie at both par 5's coming in to keep things close, but he was no match for Spieth's uprising that started on the 14th hole.

In Tiger's heyday, no one could stand up to him. Woods showed up at a tournament, everyone else knew he was winning, and that was that. Spieth doesn't quite have that cachet yet, but he's getting closer with performances like we saw at Birkdale.

In the modern history of golf, only two players managed to win three major titles before their 24th birthday. Jack Nicklaus was the first to do it. Jordan Spieth has now done it. That's a remarkable accomplishment.

Greg Norman, Bernhard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal -- three of the best players of the 1980's and 1990's -- only won two majors each. Spieth has already won three. At age 23.

There's no telling where he's going from here, but you can completely erase any thought that Spieth was a kid with a bit of a weird swing who scraped together a Masters and U.S. Open title in 2015 but wasn't likely to make much noise in the future.

He's as legit as they come. Like Woods, he's not a great driver of the golf ball, although Sunday's final round was a bit of an outlier at Birkdale. He drove the ball fairly well until the last 18 holes -- then he couldn't find a fairway with a GPS.

His iron play is unmatched. His short game is impeccable. And his putting is sublime.

Dustin Johnson has athleticism. Rory McIlroy has style. Brooks Koepka has power. Hideki Matsuyama has strength.

Jordan Spieth has heart.

And nerves of steel.

In some ways, Spieth's more like Nicklaus than Woods. Jack's upright swing and flying right elbow were unconventional in the same way Spieth's bent left elbow at impact isn't exactly a model to copy. Jack was a great driver of the ball, Spieth isn't. But Spieth's short game is much better than Jack's ever was, for sure.

Where they resemble one another the most, though, is on the greens. Jack would chew you up and spit you out if the tournament became a putting contest. Spieth will do the same thing.

When it comes to heart, no one in golf matches Jordan Spieth in 2017.

We may never see anything again like we saw on Sunday at Royal Birkdale. I'm sure Spieth hopes the remainder of his major championships aren't quite as dramatic or nerve-wracking.

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birds salvage one game in astros series

Houston came to town on Friday and promptly scored 23 runs on Orioles pitching over the 3-game series.

Who's surprised? Not me.

But the O's did manage to win one of the three games, with a 9-7 triumph on Sunday at Camden Yards providing the Birds with a 5-5 record on the 10-game homestand to open the second half of the season.

They're not going to make any noise over the final two and a half months going 5-5 every ten games, but Sunday's win sends the team off to Tampa Bay and Texas on a good note, if nothing else.

Is Dylan Bundy starting to run out of gas? The right-hander has now pitched more innings than in any previous big league season. And his ERA continues to go up, up, up.

But the pitching, still...

Dan Duquette seems convinced he can add a quality arm or two to the staff between now and next Monday's trade deadline. I'm eager to see who he adds that might be able to help -- and equally excited to see what pieces the Orioles have to give up to get someone decent.

These next six games will tell us a lot. After being swept in Baltimore in a 4-game series, the Texas Rangers promptly went to Tampa Bay and took all three games from the Rays. Tampa Bay has lost four straight. Maybe the O's are catching them at a good time this week? Or will the Rays feast on that bad Baltimore pitching and turn things around?

Then it's off to Texas for three games before the Royals (3 games) and Tigers (4 games) come to town.

If the Birds are looking to get back in the wild card race, they'll need to go 9-4 in the next 13 games. It might be too early to start doing that kind of math, but getting back to .500 at some point soon is paramount if the O's really do fancy themselves post-season contenders.

The key for the Orioles in Sunday's win? They only struck out four times all afternoon. They're going to win a lot of games with those kind of numbers working in their favor. As Ben Affleck said in Good Will Hunting, "I don't know much...but I know that."

Jonathan Schoop continued his season-long tear, going 3-for-5 and knocking in his team-best 70th run of the season. If everyone in baseball wasn't so in love with Aaron Judge of the Yankees, Schoop would at least be a worthy mention for American League MVP honors. He's had that solid of a campaign thus far.

Schoop's performance with the bat offset another dismal outing from Dylan Bundy, who looks more and more like a guy who might not be pitching by Labor Day. Already over his career-high for innings pitched, Bundy isn't getting any better as the starts pile up. He surrendered seven earned runs in 5.1 innings of work yesterday, striking out just four while walking three.

Yes, I know, the Astros have a very good hitting team. But Bundy has been scuffling for well over a month now.

If Duquette can add a quality pitcher or two in the next week, there's a chance Bundy will be the odd guy out. Ubaldo Jimenez will either be released or "injured". One thing for sure, the Orioles are in desperate need of an upgrade on the mound. It can't come soon enough.

At this point, I say the Orioles should be listening to offers for anyone on their 25-man roster except for Jones, Schoop and Mancini. Those three aren't going anywhere. The rest? I'm listening...

But Duquette -- and possibly owner Peter Angelos -- doesn't see it that way, apparently. He's still of the mindset the Birds can contend if they add a couple of new pieces before the trade deadline. It's fair to point out that the bats have certainly perked up over the last seven games, but it's Camden Yards in 95 degree heat -- the ball's supposed to fly out of there like crazy.

If the O's can continue hitting like this (unlikely) and if their starting pitching would improve (more unlikely), they might be able to make a run at .500 over the next couple of weeks. Anything short of a .500 record by mid-August should be the final straw for this 2017 edition of the O's. By then, though, it's improbable that Duquette could pull off the same kind of deal he might be able to swing over the next week for guys like Britton, Brach, O'Day, Castillo or Smith.

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u.s. will face jamaica in gold cup final

Talk about the soccer gods giving you a gift.

The U.S. assumed they'd be facing arch-rival Mexico on Wednesday night in Santa Clara, California, the Gold Cup final will instead pit the U.S. against Jamaica, who shocked El Tri last night in the semifinals, 1-0.

The U.S. has enjoyed great success since Bruce Arena assumed the head coaching duties last December. The Americans reached the Gold Cup final on Saturday night with a 2-0 win over Costa Rica.

In fairness to Mexico, they fielded a "B team" in this edition of the Gold Cup, electing to sit their regulars after a tough 3-week competition in the Confederations Cup in Russia back in mid-June.

The Americans made it to the Final with a 2-0 win over Costa Rica on Saturday night in Dallas. That win looms particularly important for the U.S., as they play host to Costa Rica on September 1 in a crucial World Cup qualifying tilt.

A supreme confidence builder and nothing more, really, the Gold Cup is an opportunity for coaches to look at dozens of players within their system, which is exactly what Bruce Arena did in the opening "Group Play" format, before adding veterans for the quarterfinals and semifinals.

While Arena toyed and tinkered early on, he got down to business once the knockout stage arrived, adding veterans like Omar Gonzalez, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and goaltender Tim Howard. All five of those guys played key roles in Saturday night's win over Costa Rica, a team that throttled the U.S. 4-0 last November in the game that ultimately got Jurgen Klinsmann relieved of his duties.

Jamaica won't be a walk-in-the-park on Wednesday night, you can bet on that.

They're pesky, hard working and always willing to go forward with enthusiasm. Think El Salvador minus the late tackles, biting, spitting and reckless play. Jamaica will attack, constantly. It's not always well formed or organized, but they certainly aren't going to sit back and play for penalty kicks.

Jamaica's goalkeeper was the Man-of-the-Match last night, as Andre Blake made seven saves, including several of the spectacular variety. If he can continue that kind of play on Wednesday, the Americans will need to step up their game.

Kick off on Wednesday night is 9:30 from Levi's Stadium.

Following the final vs. Jamaica, the Americans will begin full training and preparations for the next two World Cup qualifiers -- the aforementioned September 1st home match vs. Costa Rica and a September 5 visit to Honduras, whom the U.S. blasted 6-0 back on March 24th.

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July 23
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 23
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duquette says o's are buying at deadline

I doubt anyone in Baltimore is seriously surprised to hear Dan Duquette's comments from a Saturday "meet and greet" with Orioles fans at Camden Yards.

I'm sure not.

Paraphrasing here, Duquette said the Orioles are going to try and add some quality to their roster this coming week. He added that he believes the Birds aren't out of the playoff race yet and thus, making a move or two to improve the team could enhance the club's chances of making the post-season in 2017.

Look, there's a chance -- a slim one, I'd say -- that Duquette might be right. If the Orioles could add a good pitcher or two in the next week, perhaps they could make a run at 88 wins and sneak into the playoffs.

But there's a far better chance of the O's not being able to produce a post-season run this year. Last night's 8-4 loss to the Astros puts the Orioles at 46-51. To reach 88 wins, they need to go 42-23 from here on in. Even if the second wild card team gets in with 86 wins, that would still require the Birds to post a 40-25 mark over the remainder of the season.

I'm not sure what Duquette sees that the rest of us don't see. I admire his confidence, or, maybe it's more grit than confidence, but I just don't understand how the team's GM looks at the club in its current state and believes in his heart they're capable of going 40-25 over the last 65 games. And one or two pitchers aren't going to alter the club's "current state", in case that's what you're thinking.

My guess on this is that Duquette received some internal pressure from the veteran players not to give up the ship with two months left in the season. Even last night, when the O's erased a 1-0 deficit with a 4-run fifth inning, you could see the joy in the dugout as the players reveled in 2-run homers from Adam Jones and Jonathan Schoop. They're having fun, still, despite the team's losing record through two-thirds of the season.

I can certainly understand where the likes of Jones, Schoop, Davis, Trumbo, etc. wouldn't want to play out the string over the last 60-or-so games. If you think losing in May or June is dreadful, imagine what it's like to get clobbered three out of five games in August when there's nothing at all to play for except your bubblegum card.

That said, it's the players' job to play. They're not there to run the club. And even though it might be hard to tell Adam Jones you're breaking up the team and essentially throwing in the towel on the 2017 campaign, it's something you have to do occasionally in order to re-boot the system and prepare for the next five years or more.

Here's the other funny thing: For years, Orioles fans were clamoring for a winner, having endured awful baseball from 1998 through 2011. Once the laughingstock of the league, the Birds spent more than a decade as an afterthought in the American League East. Their fan base deserved better. And in 2012, the O's gave it to them.

You'd think at this point, the baseball fans and ticket buyers in Baltimore would be spoiled to the point where they'd reject an intentional white-flag-waving at the trade deadline. The Orioles have, after all, won more games than any other American League team over the last five seasons, albeit without a trip to the World Series to show for it.

Instead of demanding the team buy, buy, buy at the trade deadline and make yet another run at a deep playoff run, most of the knowledgeable baseball fans in town are more than OK with the team shipping off some veteran players at the deadline in return for a handful of high quality prospects who can become the Trey Mancini's of the future in Baltimore.

Not that Duquette should use the fan's opinions as the barometer for his decision(s), but there aren't many people in town who would scream to the heavens if the O's went into "sell mode" this coming week. People get it. This organization is flawed, not just at the major league level, but in the farm system as well. When you get a chance to improve your minor league offerings with a few well-thought-out trades -- also known as "fleecing" -- you bite the bullet and do it.

There have also been several well-respected and prominent national baseball writers who have suggested recently that the O's "sell" at the deadline. That's not the only reason the O's should do it, of course, but it doesn't hurt to have a couple of people of stature supporting the thought that the time has come for your organization to start re-tooling with an eye to the future.

Duquette, instead, says the O's are going to buying, not selling.

It doesn't make much sense to me.

Maybe they'll get beat by the Astros today and lose five of six at Tampa Bay and Texas this week and Duquette will scramble as the deadline approaches and trade the likes of Britton, O'Day and Smith and get something decent in return. That seems a longshot at this point given what Duquette said on Saturday, but if the O's are, in fact, 47-57 by next weekend, the writing on the wall should be enough to pressure the GM into a change of heart.

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spieth has a shot at “tiger history" today

Winning major golf titles is important.

But when you’re a 23-year old kid in 2017, doing something on the golf course that Tiger Woods never managed to do is a very worthy accomplishment.

Jordan Spieth has that opportunity today at Royal Birkdale. If Spieth holds on to his 3-shot lead heading into the final round, he’ll become just the second player to have won three major titles before his 24th birthday.

Jack Nicklaus did it.

Tiger Woods didn’t do it.

In his early 20’s, Woods made it a point to try and beat any Nicklaus record put before him. The biggest challenge of all, Jack’s 18 major titles, would have been easily erased had Tiger been able to stay healthy and had his personal life not dissolved.

Nicklaus was Tiger’s main model of comparison.

For Spieth, he grew up wanting to win golf tournaments in the same way Woods won them. Tiger is to Spieth what Nicklaus was to Woods. And today at Royal Birkdale, Spieth can do something Tiger never managed to do.

But he has to finish the job today, much like he finished Saturday’s third round with a birdie at the 15th and 18th holes to extend a narrow one-shot lead to three as the leaderboard was overflowing with low scores on a sun-splashed Saturday at the British Open.

When Spieth is hitting his tee ball reasonably well, he’s nearly impossible to beat. His iron game is sublime and his putting is almost always razor sharp. Unlike most right handed players who prefer “hook” putts (right to left) over “cut” putts (left to right), Spieth is perhaps the best cut-putter ever.

No right handed player has ever stroked the left-to-right putts with the same precision and authority as Spieth.

He was also pretty good on the hook putts on Saturday, including a 20-footer on the 18th green that tumbled in on the last roll to move him to 11-under par for 54 holes. Right to left or left to right, it doesn’t matter all that much for Spieth. He’s the best putter on the planet right now – and it’s not even close.

A win for Spieth today would give him three of the four majors in professional golf. He’d lack only the PGA Championship to complete the career Grand Slam, and with next month’s PGA taking place at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, Spieth – and the rest of the field – will be playing a golf course he’s seen plenty of times in previous years.

Spieth was likely not much of a Nicklaus follower when he was growing up in suburban Dallas, but when you get the chance to equal a mark that “The Bear” set, you dive in with both feet forward and try to make it happen.

It’s unlikely Spieth will win 18 major titles like Jack managed to do, but winning three majors by age 23 would be a very respectable merit badge. And a victory today would also wipe away any remaining heartache from Jordan’s 2016 Masters collapse, when he frittered away a 5-shot lead on the final day and made a quadruple bogey “7” at the 12th hole.

The losses always out-linger the wins, which is another reason why today’s final round at Birkdale is so critical for Spieth. Not being able to polish off this British Open would give him two “blown” majors, a trait you’d rather not develop, for obvious reasons.

More important than winning, perhaps, is the only opportunity Spieth has to join Nicklaus in the "Under 24 Gang".

Spieth turns 24 next week, so a win today cements his spot next to Nicklaus. And it gives him an achievement that the great Woods himself couldn't even pull off during the early stages of his amazing career.

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dempsey sparks u.s. to gold cup final

Maybe American coach Bruce Arena has found his "super sub".

It just happens to be the guy who now shares the all-time goal scoring record for the United States soccer team.

Clint Dempsey's 57th career goal last night vs. Costa Rica ties him with Landon Donovan for most goals ever by a U.S. men's national team player.

Clint Dempsey came off the bench in the second half on Saturday night in Dallas and set up the first goal of the game and later added one of his own as the U.S. shut out Costa Rica, 2-0, in the semifinals of the Gold Cup. The Americans will play in the Final against the winner of today's game between Mexico and Jamaica.

Both teams had several quality scoring chances in the first half last night. The Americans hit the post less than a half-minute into the game and Costa Rica had a pair of opportunities in the box that were snuffed out by goaltender Tim Howard, who has probably once again established himself as the team's #1 'keeper with his performance in this Gold Cup.

Dempsey's performance on Saturday night wasn't the only glittering moment for the U.S. Darlington Nagbe was terrific, as he continues to set himself up for a starting role in the remaining World Cup qualifying games and Russia 2018 if the American side does, in fact, qualify for next year's World Cup.

Kellyn Acosta acquitted himself well, as did midfielder Paul Arriola. Both of those guys are scratching hard to try and work their way into the "full" American team that will continue qualifying for the World Cup in September. Arriola was particularly effective on Saturday night, showing the best form we've seen from him over the last year.

This team is playing without its star, remember. Christian Pulisic is not being used in the Gold Cup as coach Bruce Arena seizes an opportunity to give other players a chance to shine. There's some speculation that Arena could call Pulisic in for the Final, but that seems remote at this point.

One thing for certain. This American squad under Bruce Arena is starting to make some noise. After a lackluster start to World Cup qualifying that saw the team go 0-2 and coach Jurgen Klinsmann lose his job, the U.S. has turned it around completely under Arena, moving into 3rd place in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings and advancing to the Final of the Gold Cup.

And with Dempsey still kicking butt and taking names, things are starting to look good for the red, white and blue.

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July 22
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 22
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win streak over, o's 9th inning rally falls short

That would have been a comeback for the ages last night at Camden Yards.

Instead, it turned out to be just another 8-7 loss, as the Houston Astros improved to a remarkable 34-11 on the road this season with a win in the 3-game series opener at Camden Yards.

But there for a minute in the bottom of the 9th, the O's looked like they might produce one of the most stirring comebacks in franchise history.

Ubaldo Jimenez gave up three earned runs in the first inning on Friday night as the O's fell to Houston in an 8-7 loss that snapped the team's 4-game winning streak.

Houston led 8-2 heading to the O's final at-bat. Caleb Joseph flew out to start the 9th. Ho hum...

Ruben Tejada was up next. He drew a walk.

As a side note: When you walk Ruben Tejada, you probably should be lifted from the game right then and there. It was, indeed, a sign of bad things to come for the Astros.

Hyun Soo Kim -- yep, he actually still IS on the team -- then roped a double to the left field corner to give the O's a pair of base runners. Adam Jones followed with his own double and it was quickly 8-4.

Manny Machado's single put runners on first and third. Jonathan Schoop then homered to right and it was 8-7, just like that.

Then, one of the weirdest plays of the year took place.

Representing the tying run, Chris Davis tried to lay down a bunt against the shift. The ball bounded harmlessly to the pitcher, who tossed it to first for the easy out.

Why would Davis bunt there?

He apparently made the decision on his own.

"I wasn't seeing the ball real well all night," the first baseman said after the game. "I saw them move over in the shift and decided it might be good to lay one down and try and get on base."

Davis finished the night 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

Down to their last out, the O's watched Mark Trumbo strike out to end the game. The loss dropped the Birds to 46-50 on the year.

Houston raced out to 3-0 first inning lead on Ubaldo Jimenez, then extended the margin to 5-0 in the second.

Jimenez managed to hang around into the 6th inning, but permitted 11 baserunners along the way, as Houston nicked him for six earned runs to raise his ERA to 7.19 on the year.

It's no surprise that Jimenez delivered a clunker on Friday night. That's pretty much his style. Every 5th or 6th start he'll throw in some more-than-representative just to remind you he's capable of doing it, but for the most part, you're losing when Ubaldo takes the mound.

Oh, and Houston, in case you haven't noticed, is really good.

The Astros own the best record in the American League at 64-32 and trail only the Dodgers (66-31) for the most wins in baseball.

There's nothing they can't do. The Astros can pitch, hit and field their position(s). Anything can happen come playoff time, but Houston will enter the post-season as the favorite to come out of the American League and reach the World Series.

For eight innings last night, they humbled the Orioles.

But in the 9th, the Birds showed some guts before their spirited comeback was snuffed out.

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spieth just 36 holes away from a third major title

Suddenly, Jordan Spieth looks like Jordan Spieth again.

And the rest of the field at the British Open is predictably on notice that the soon-to-be-24-year-old is in command of the season's third major after a 65-69 start gave him a 2-shot lead at Royal Birkdale.

Friday's scoring average at windy, wet Birkdale was just over 75. Spieth, playing in the worst of it, somehow managed a one-under round of 69. While the rest of the field struggled to maintain their position, the 2015 Masters champion actually improved his score by a shot.

Jordan Spieth and his caddie discuss a tee-shot into the wind and rain at Royal Birkdale on Friday, where the 23-year old claimed sole possession of the 36-hole lead with a 6-under par total.

He's not going to stroll to the Claret Jug presentation, though. There are plenty of guys trailing him who have the game to make a 36-hole run, including Rory McIlroy, who moved back into the tournament with his own two-under par round of 68 to finish at 1-under par for two days.

Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar are both just two shots behind at 4-under par.

There will be a handful of players further down the leaderboard who put together a solid round today and wiggle back into contention. It always seems to happen like that at the British Open, where weather conditions often dictate the quality of golf -- sometimes on an hour by hour basis.

But the tournament, at this point, is under the control of Spieth, who nearly won the 2015 "Open" before falling one shot short of joining the 3-way playoff involving Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman.

"I still think about St. Andrews in 2015," Spieth said after Friday's round. "I wanted to win that tournament so much. And I was right there, but I just couldn't make birdie at 18 to get into that playoff."

Spieth cited lessons learned along the way. "I think you learn and retain more from the British Open than any other major tournament," he said. "You learn about patience, dealing with the weather, how to handle a bad break or's tough sometimes, but also very rewarding when you handle all of those things well and play solid golf."

Overshadowed over the last year by Dustin Johnson and the emergence of guys like Koepka, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm, Spieth needs another major win to squelch some of that discussion and put himself back near the top of golf's world rankings. He has the game to do it.

Never one of the best drivers of the golf ball, Jordan has made his meal money with an impeccable short game and putting wizardy unmatched by anyone in professional golf today. He's probably one of the best ever at putting left to right putts (for right handers, that's the toughest putt), as he demonstrated on Friday with a 15-foot eagle at the 15th hole that momentarily moved him to 7-under par.

When Spieth is hitting greens in regulation, he's also making birdies by the bushel. That's what's happening thus far at Birkdale. He's rolling in a lot of putts.

And the field at Royal Birkdale is on notice.

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westwood, rahm rules issue carries over to round two

It was a quiet day in the group involving Lee Westwood and Jon Rahm in Friday's second round of the British Open. Not much was said.

It's become an all-too-familiar sight. Jon Rahm surrounded by a rules official.

Rahm was involved in a rules controversy on Thursday that involved Westwood, and when questioned about it on Friday, Westwood didn't want to comment. "I thought the vine he (Rahm) moved was attached to the ground," Westwood said. "He said it wasn't. I don't have anything else to say."

Rahm admitted to moving a vine from behind his ball in Thursday's opening round, but said it was loose and not attached to the ground. Had the vine been attached, Rahm could have been penalized.

"It wasn't even in the path of my swing," Rahm said afterwards. "It didn't affect me at all. I just saw that it was there and decided to move it."

Westwood didn't see it that way, calling over a Rules official after he believed the vine was in the ground.

This is the second time in less than a month that Rahm has been questioned about a potential rules infraction. Three weeks ago at the Irish Open, he mismarked his ball on the 6th green in the final round, but wasn't penalized by the on-course rules official.

That one was much easier to see than Thursday's (apparent) snafu. There were no TV cameras following Rahm in the opening round, so there's no documentation of the incident involving the vine he moved.

It all came down to Rahm's word. He said the vine wasn't in his swing path and wasn't attached to the ground. Westwood differed. Rahm's assertion of what took place is what matters most.

Either way, Rahm, currently at +3 in the tournament, is quickly earning a reputation in golf as a guy who doesn't know all of the rules. Or, at the very least, doesn't play by them.

And that's not a good way to start your professional golf career.

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July 21
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 21
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this, that and the other

Any way we can petition to have the Texas Rangers moved to the American League East?

And we thought our starting pitching was bad here in Baltimore.

Whew...the Rangers' pitching stinks.

If the Cubs came in to Baltimore last weekend at precisely the wrong time for the Birds, the Rangers showed up here at exactly the right time this week. The Orioles were on the verge of falling off the map in the A.L. playoff chase after that 3-game sweep at the hands of the defending world champs, but a 4-game romp over Texas has the O's playoff-heartbeat flickering again at 46-49.

The Birds trailed Cole Hamels and the Rangers 5-1 in the 5th inning, but the bats came alive for the O's over the next two innings and they eventually led 9-5 before Zach Britton made things interesting. The Rangers scratched out two runs and nearly hit a game-tying two run homer with two outs in the 9th before Britton could record the final out.

Mark Trumbo's 16th homer of the season was one of four long balls from the Birds on Thursday night in the 9-7 win over Texas.

Wade Miley wasn't all that good last night, but what's new, right? Still, the pitching performances from Monday (Bundy), Tuesday (Tillman) and Wednesday (Gausman) were more than enough to give some hope that perhaps the Birds are in the beginning stages of a summer rebound.

As we know, it always comes back to pitching for the Orioles. From mid-May through the All-Star break, the team's work on the mound was inept. Over the last four days, they've looked like they know what they're doing. And they've won four in a row. As Charley Eckman used to say, "It's a very simple game."

I'm still very much of the mindset that the Orioles should be looking to "sell" at the deadline, but winning games is sure as heck more fun than losing games. Let's see how the O's fare against the Astros this weekend before we start saving up for playoff tickets.

Michael Oher was released by the Carolina Panthers yesterday, so the natural first-level speculation is that the Ravens would potentially be interested in Oher for their right tackle position.

I hope not.

Oher's best days are behind him. And while it's true he has plenty of NFL experience, the Ravens best move would be to groom a younger player at that position or wait for an August training-camp cut to find someone a little more reliable than Oher.

Too many penalties, too many "off" games and just too much overall ineffectiveness. That's my summary of Oher's play. He's a decent second stringer at this point.

Yes, offensive left tackle is a critically important position and the Ravens are in good hands there with Ronnie Stanley manning that spot. But right tackle is also important and it's paramount the Ravens find a suitable replacement for the now-departed Rick Wagner. One of the keys to Joe Flacco's success in 2017 will be the play of the offensive line. I hope Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta look long and hard at someone other than Oher for the team's right tackle spot.

Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick remains in the news as he tries to soft-peddle his way around comments he made earlier this week about Colin Kaepernick. Vick visited The Dan Patrick Show yesterday to reiterate that he was not saying Kaepernick's hair was the reason no NFL teams have signed him so far in the off-season.

In case you missed it, on a radio show this past Monday, Vick suggested that Kaepernick cut his hair and "go with the clean-cut look" in an effort to repair and enhance his image with NFL owners and team decision makers.

Vick can dance around it all he wants, but he obviously thinks Kaepernick has an "image" issue that goes above and beyond his political stance against the national anthem last football season. In a day and age when I'd say 90% of NFL players sport multiple tattoos on their body and player arrests are as frequent as Chris Davis strikeouts, I can't imagine for one minute that a NFL team is all that concerned with how a player "looks", whether it's body art, haircut, piercings, etc.

It sounded to me like Vick was brushing up against the idea of playing the race-card with relation to Kaepernick's inability to get a job, but only went as far as to suggest that the former 49'ers quarterback clean up his "image" by cutting his hair.

This is what happens when you have a former quarterback who is hesitant to criticize a current (unemployed) quarterback for a drop-off in his play. He goes for the "cut the hair" angle instead, only it makes matters much worse when no one can figure out why a better haircut would increase Kaepernick's chances of securing a job.

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british open: americans on top, but mcilroy's comeback was the big story

Jordan Spieth threw the equivalent of a no-hitter on Thursday in the opening round of the British Open, as the two-time major champion made 13 pars and 5 birdies en-route to a 65 that left him tied for the lead at Royal Birkdale.

No bogeys on any golf course is quite a feat. Doing so in the British Open is pretty remarkable.

Another outstanding day off the tee helped U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka reach the top of the leaderboard after day one of the British Open on Thursday.

Spieth, per his typical style, didn't drive the ball all that great in the opening round, but his pinpoint iron work and terrific putting made the difference. If not for a missed ten footer at the 18th hole for birdie, Jordan would have led the tournament after day one.

If he can avoid a big number that typically comes as a result of a wayward drive or two, Spieth should stay in the hunt for the next three days. He'll have to hit more than the five fairways hit on Thursday to claim his first British Open, though.

Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar made it a three-way American deadlock on top of the leaderboard. Koepka and Kuchar are about as opposite as Felix and Oscar from the 1970's TV show The Odd Couple. Koepka hits it 330 yards off the tee and overpowers the course into waving the white flag. Kuchar simply moves the ball around like it's a game of chess, eventually forcing the course to surrender to the torture. Both are very effective strategies given each player's strengths.

But the big story on Thursday came from Rory McIlroy, who was five over par after six holes and on his way to an 80 and even more questions about not only his play, but his love for the game.

TV broadcaster Nick Faldo knows something no one else does, but refuses to say it on the air. Instead, yesterday, Faldo continued to say, "If the stories we're hearing via the grapevine are true, Rory has some things on his mind that are taking away from his golf." Perhaps that's true. But it would be nice to know what those things are so we can make that judgment for ourselves.

On the 6th hole yesterday, things changed for McIlroy. And it all came full circle after a brief conversation with his caddie.

"You're Rory McIlroy. What the f*** are you doing?" his caddie asked.

I guess after watching his player beat it around for the better part of five months with little to no interest in actually competing, McIlroy's caddie got tired of it and spoke up.

It worked.

McIlroy played the back nine in four under par to finish at 71 for the day. From five over par and making Friday night flight reservations to being back in the golf tournament. Just like that.

He has a long way to go to play well enough to contend this weekend, but McIlroy's presence on the leaderboard would create some extraordinary excitement. The world of golf has been waiting for a Rory-Spieth rivalry to blossom, but McIlroy's play over the last couple of years hasn't allowed for it.

Maybe we'll get a taste of it this weekend. Spieth isn't likely going to back up, so McIlroy will have to catch him. As we've seen over the last couple of years for Rory, that's easier said than done.

Perhaps McIlroy's caddie has another tongue lashing prepared for round two.

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the best 34 minutes of the week

We veered off the beaten path a little bit for this week's edition of "The Best 34 Minutes of The Week", but if you're interested in beer -- and who isn't? -- and a discussion about the finer points of craft brewing, #DMD has a special podcast for you.

I checked in with Brandon and Brian at DuClaw -- taste-tested some beers "on the air" (so to speak) and spent an interesting 35 minutes with them talking about beer, brewing and what DuClaw has going on right now.

The podcast is brought to you by Jerry's Toyota and The Baltimore Tent Company.


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July 20
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 20
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fact and opinion rolls on like the red sox

FACT: The Red Sox finally gave Pablo Sandoval his release on Wednesday after they failed to find a trade partner for the struggling third baseman. Sandoval reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Giants -- his former team -- after the Red Sox sent him packing. Boston owes Sandoval $49.5 million.

OPINION: There are lots of differences between the Orioles and Red Sox -- three World Series rings for Boston would be a "difference" -- but Sandoval's release is one of the biggest. The Orioles wouldn't part company with Ubaldo Jimenez during his earlier struggles this season and they owed him $12.5 million. Sandoval was stinking it up and the Red Sox gave him the heave-ho despite owing him nearly $50 million. In Baltimore, we hang on to our mistakes and let them keep bringing us down. In Boston, they eat your salary and try to get better some other way.

FACT: Lonzo Ball won the NBA Summer League MVP award and the Lakers won the mythical "Summer League title" in the 6-game season played by rookies, draft picks and free agent signings.

OPINION: It was amazing to watch ESPN unfurl their promotional flag for Ball and the Lakers. This was, honestly, the equivalent of spring training baseball, yet ESPN treated the whole thing like it was the NBA Finals. Ball performed well overall, although he had plenty of spotty moments in his first foray into professional basketball. Then again, Ball should perform well. He was the 2nd pick in the Draft -- and he was going up against a lot of half-scrubs who will never step foot on a NBA court for a "real" game.

Polo published the clothing choices of Justin Thomas for this week's British Open, even though Thomas might not play all four days. Weird? You bet.

FACT: The Orioles occasionally trot out a group of former players to take on the radio color analyst duties when Joe Angel goes on vacation and Jim Hunter is forced into a full-time play-by-play role. This week's series with the Rangers has showcased Ben McDonald in the booth doing color with Hunter.

OPINION: For some reason, pitchers make outstanding color analysts. Erstwhile O's hurler Dave Johnson is very good, and McDonald has been outstanding this week during his stint with Hunter. McDonald mixes an exceptional understand of pitching with an even better look at the hitters and what they're facing given the in-game situation. The Orioles should figure out a way to get McDonald involved in their TV or radio broadcasts on a more regular basis.

FACT: The Yankees picked up Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox on Tuesday. They needed relief pitching help and they got it, plus Frazier is a legit big-league bat.

OPINION: The Bronx Bombers are going to have to add at least one decent starting pitcher -- if not two -- before next weekend's trade deadline. If they don't, they can't make the playoffs. Their current group that includes Tanaka, Sabathia and Severino is nowhere near good enough to stay alive in the Wild Card race. Losing out on Jose Quintana hurt them, but perhaps Brian Cashman sees the big picture and figures not even Quintana would have been enough to get New York back to the post-season.

FACT: No fewer than six players competing in this week's British Open had their respective apparel companies publish their projected "outfits" for all four days. Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Thomas, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler were among those who did it.

OPINION: I understand some (or most) of this is done by the likes of adidas, Nike, Under Armour, etc. but if I'm a professional golfer and you tell me "here's what you're going to wear all four days of the British Open and we're going to publicize it", I think I'd have to pull rank on them at that point. I'd remind the folks of this: "I'm actually not guaranteed to play Saturday and why don't we hold off on that until I make the cut and play all four rounds?" Golfers being the superstitious lot that they are, I'm amazed some of those guys sign off on pre-publishing their apparel choices. I wouldn't.

FACT: The Dodgers have now won 11 straight games after last night's 9-1 victory over the White Sox in Chicago. L.A.'s road record (27-18) is pretty solid. But how about their home mark? The Dodgers are 39-11 in Los Angeles. Oh, and there's this: The Dodgers have held the lead at some point in 44 consecutive games. That's a new major league record.

OPINION: With 67 games remaining, the Dodgers have a legit chance to win 110 games. They have 66 wins now. They'd need 44 more in their final 67 contests. Can they go 44-23 to close out the season? Seems reasonable to me. 110-52 would be a pretty good regular season, huh?

FACT: Michael Vick suggested earlier this week that embattled (former?) NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick should cut his hair in order to present a more "clean cut image" that could perhaps endear him to a NFL suitor.

OPINION: I know Vick wasn't trying to do this, but any reference or mention of something OTHER than football when discussing Kaepernick only serves to cloud an already-murky situation even more. Kaepernick isn't employed in the NFL because no team wants to sign him. Why they aren't signing him isn't really anyone's business, last I checked. It's amazing that this is still a story to me. If I owned a NFL team, I wouldn't employ Colin Kaepernick. And I don't need to tell anyone why I wouldn't. And no, it's not because of his hair.

FACT: The Pirates are now just four games behind Milwaukee in the National League Central and the red-hot Cubs -- winners of six straight after the All-Star break -- are now just one game behind the Brew Crew.

OPINION: Chicago is starting to make the move we all expected of them, but I would keep a close eye on the Pirates as well. If their good, young pitching comes through for them in the final third of the season, they can definitely overtake Milwaukee and perhaps even challenge the Cubs for the division title. At the very least, Pittsburgh has a good chance to squeeze their way back into the Wild Card picture.

FACT: Colin Montgomerie is doing some in-studio work with The Golf Channel for this week's British Open. In the early stages of Thursday's opening round, they aired a 3-minute retrospective on Greg Norman, a two-time British Open winner who also contended in 2008 at Royal Birkdale, site of this week's championship.

OPINION: Montgomerie made a comment about Norman's "inability to close things out" in 2008 when he led by two shots heading into Sunday's final round before posting 77 on the last day to lose to Padraig Harrington. Ummmmm, Colin? Not sure if you remember this -- but you never closed out one major, my friend. I love when guys get in the booth and tell other golfers how to win a major championship when they didn't do it themselves.

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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.

"What we've got here, is a failure to communicate" -- The Captain, in the 1967 movie "Cool Hand Luke"

The fight between sabermetric statistics and 1950s-era box scores isn’t really a fight between young and old, though it’s easy to see why it’s been framed that way. After all, there’s never been a generation that didn’t think it understood the world better than its kids, or a generation that thought its parents had it all right, in baseball or otherwise.

As Brien Jackson said the other day at #DMD, the divide between using the kind of statistics that show what did happen and using ones designed to predict what will likely happen is a very real one.

But I’m not sure if there’s really all that much of a fight about that. Even if you’re a person who’d rather depend on RBI and batting average, it shouldn’t take you long to understand where advanced statistics are coming from, at least on a general level. More importantly, if you’re a fan of a team and would like that team to succeed, you probably can at least understand why your front office might be interested in them.

And I don’t think the fight is really about what you see when you watch the game on TV. I think Trey Mancini has an outstanding swing -- quick, level and powerful -- and it’s been fun to watch him play this season. I’m sure every other Orioles fan feels the same way, whether or not they preach analytics. If Mancini slumps, or if his BABIP regresses to the mean next season (there, I said it), that will remain the same.

I think the problem is about communication, the inability of one side to talk to the other in a way that can lead to a mutual understanding. Or maybe it’s about the fact that there don’t have to be only two sides.

There’s a place for learning about something anew and adding it into your knowledge bank, as opposed to simply getting validation for something you already believe.

Baseball, and sports in general, are actually really good places for that nuance, because it’s not a matter of life and death, even for the participants.

So how do we start? Maybe by clearing up misconceptions, including ones that have appeared recently on this website.

First, I think it’s preposterous to say that sabermetric analysis has no “soul.” The people who first analyzed the game that way, and the ones who do now, love baseball more than anyone. Why else would they spend so much time thinking and even obsessing about the game?

Sure, none of them (except for Billy Beane, I guess) played in the Major Leagues; they can’t tell you what it’s like to stare down Zach Britton with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth down by one run. But they’ve never pretended that was their goal.

It’s equally wrong, I think, to suggest that sabermetric analysis is a quest for “perfection.” At its heart, it’s a quest to better explain certain aspects of the game. A player seems good, but why is he good, and for how long might he be good?

A team seems to be outplaying its statistics and talent, or vice versa; for what reason? Most important, I think, is that analytics asks hard questions about the “value” of a player, both on his own and in relation to his team and league.

And the idea that “wins” aren’t valued by modern analytics? That’s only true in the sense that wins (and losses) are obvious; in every game, one team wins and the other loses. Analytics dive deeper, intending to help predict why teams will win or lose. It’s a valuable exercise, one that can help teams get better and help fans understand the game, even if they can’t predict how Manny Machado is feeling that day or if today is going to be the day that one of Caleb Joseph’s softly-hit bloopers falls in for a single instead of landing lazily in the second baseman’s glove.

Is everything in baseball explainable? Certainly not. Is the goal of analytics and modern baseball statistics to explain everything that happens (or will happen) in baseball? Certainly not.

Predictive does not mean perfect, and the use of mathematical concepts doesn’t mean that every explanation is scientific. I really don’t think even the most ardent sabermetrician would disagree.

As far as communication goes, I think a good place to begin would be to watch the game differently, maybe even starting tonight.

That doesn’t mean you have to watch the game sabermetrically, which I’m not sure is really possible. Baseball has rules and a daily narrative, and statistics are only one way to tell the story. If you’re on the other side, I’m not suggesting you jot down that Adam Jones seemed really gutty in that at bat or that Wade Miley could be ok if he just had a little more toughness.

I’m just saying that you should notice something new, maybe that you didn’t think about before. How hard is the other team hitting the ball, and does that correlate at all with the score of the game? If you are at the stadium, pay attention to the positioning of one particular fielder throughout the entire game. Did that make any difference in the number of runs scored?

If you’re watching on TV, might I suggest you turn the sound off completely so you don’t have to listen to Mike Bordick making an excuse for every botched play.

Ok, that last one was a joke. Sort of…

As for writing about the Orioles and baseball in general in a statistical way, I think we need to mix it up.

Since we know that even the best predictive analysis isn’t always right, it’s ok to leave it out sometimes. In fact, we’d like to hear about the players about whom you disagree with the stats, no matter how much you believe in analytics. I was willing to listen to the sabermetric analysis that suggested Nick Markakis was a poor defensive outfielder for the Orioles, for instance, but I never believed it for one second.

Baseball is a sport that has a particularly historic and special relationship with its statistics. The current era of advanced analytics ought to make that relationship even better, not worse. Let’s use them in a way that brings baseball fans together as opposed to breaking them apart.

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the best 34 minutes of the week

We veered off the beaten path a little bit for this week's edition of "The Best 34 Minutes of The Week", but if you're interested in beer -- and who isn't? -- and a discussion about the finer points of craft brewing, #DMD has a special podcast for you.

I checked in with Brandon and Brian at DuClaw -- taste-tested some beers "on the air" (so to speak) and spent an interesting 35 minutes with them talking about beer, brewing and what DuClaw has going on right now.

The podcast is brought to you by Jerry's Toyota and The Baltimore Tent Company.


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July 19
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 19
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towson, morgan state get it right with football rivalry renewal

I remember the first time I saw Rob Ambrose at his introductory press conference back in December of 2008. It was on that day when he stood at the podium in a room overlooking the football field at Towson University and said, "We're going to win here -- and we're going to win big."

I recall thinking to myself, "This dude's nuts. But I like big dreamers."

Ambrose fulfilled that end of his initial promise, as the Tigers have won and won big over the last decade, advancing to the FCS title game in 2013 before losing to perennial powerhouse North Dakota State.

Rob Ambrose and his Towson University football team will play host to Morgan State on Saturday, September 2nd.

Now, the Towson coach is on to another dream. I really hope this one works out, too.

Yesterday, Towson and Morgan State announced the development of "The Battle for Greater Baltimore", a once-a-year football meeting between the two schools, beginning this upcoming season when the Bears will visit Ambrose and his Tigers on Saturday, September 2nd.

The two schools haven't met since the 2011 campaign.

Now, they plan on facing one another this season and again in 2018, when the game will shift to Morgan's home stadium.

That's the way it should be.

Ambrose has a dream about the Towson and Morgan State game. “My goal is well beyond this game — and it should be yours, too — that by the time we’re a little bit older, the venues that we own won’t hold this game and that this game gets played at M&T [Bank Stadium] in front of the entire city of Baltimore so that for one day and for one day only, it’s our city, it’s our football teams — the way it’s supposed to be — and it’s our community.”

Ambitious? Sure. After all, Towson can't fill their 11,000 seat stadium right now and Morgan State only averages a couple of thousand people per-home game. How will it one day come to pass that the game becomes big enough to move into a 70,000 stadium in downtown Baltimore?

I don't know the answer to that, but I know Ambrose is the kind of guy who doesn't just say stuff to say it. I'm sure he'll be working hard to put people in the seats for this September's game in his stadium.

The local schools in Baltimore should find a way to face one another in every sport, not just football. That our city doesn't have a "Battle of the Beltway" basketball series is laughable. There's no reason why Towson, UMBC, Coppin State, Morgan State and Loyola can't face each other in men's and women's basketball -- in a tournament style setting.

Right now, most of the schools do wind up playing one another at some point, but what's really needed is an early-season, pre-conference-play tournament over two or three days where all the local teams gather to compete and celebrate basketball in Baltimore.

I'm sure the biggest discussion would center on the venue. Towson and Coppin State both have relatively new buildings and UMBC is about ready to open their new arena later this year. The host school could change every year for that matter. Pick a place, start it out there, and move on to another school once the event has blossomed.

In the case of football, Towson and Morgan State are the only two local Division I schools with a program, so putting the series together wasn't all that difficult once they both decided to play one another.

But getting people interested in the game and the series between the two schools won't be as easy.

With the Ravens so embedded into the weekend sports culture in Baltimore, it's difficult to get area football enthusiasts to set aside anywhere from one to six Saturdays for either Towson or Morgan State. That's why scheduling the "Battle" game on a Saturday when the Ravens don't play at home the following day is very important. It's hard enough to get one all-day kitchen pass to go watch the Ravens at home. Getting a Saturday kitchen pass followed by one on Sunday, too? Tough to do.

This year's date is a good one in that it doesn't buck up against the Ravens, although it does fall on Labor Day weekend, when a large number of Baltimore area families are typically enjoying the unofficial final weekend of summer at the beach.

There's an onus on the local sports community to step up and support these local "rivalry games", but getting people in Baltimore to go watch Towson or Morgan State play football -- particularly if you didn't graduate from either school -- is always a challenge. The level of football you'll see when watching either school play is fairly high. Is it akin to watching the Big Ten? Of course not.

But Towson has gone up against the likes of Maryland before and held their own. And they're always in the hunt in the ultra-competitive Colonial Athletic Association, which many believe is the best FCS football conference in the country.

With their students already back in school, Towson should have a decent following available to attend the September 2nd game. But will they come? Or are most of them heading back home for the long weekend?

And how many fans will Morgan State bring five miles up the road to see the Bears play their crosstown rivals?

I don't know what to expect, crowd wise, but I know Ambrose will be out and about trying to drum up interest in the game. Someday, maybe even while he's still coaching, perhaps enough people will be interested in the Towson-Morgan State game that his dream of playing the "Battle of Greater Baltimore" at Ravens Stadium will come true.

I doubted Ambrose once. I don't think I'll do it again.

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the best 34 minutes of the week

We veered off the beaten path a little bit for this week's edition of "The Best 34 Minutes of The Week", but if you're interested in beer -- and who isn't? -- and a discussion about the finer points of craft brewing, #DMD has a special podcast for you.

I checked in with Brandon and Brian at DuClaw -- taste-tested some beers "on the air" (so to speak) and spent an interesting 35 minutes with them talking about beer, brewing and what DuClaw has going on right now.

The podcast is brought to you by Jerry's Toyota and The Baltimore Tent Company.


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appoval in hand, duquette now free to wheel and deal

Orioles owner Peter Angelos has apparently waved the white flag. Or, at the very least, raised it enough so it's visible.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports on Tuesday, Angelos has given Dan Duquette permission to seek trade partners for Oriole relief pitchers plus soon-to-be-free-agent Seth Smith.

Orioles GM Dan Duquette has been given the blessing to make some trade deadline deals, but he might have to act sooner rather than later, as teams are starting to move players now, ten days in advance of the deadline.

It's not known whether Duquette would have to go back to Angelos for approval on a deal involving a starting pitcher, but with rumors persisting that Colorado has an interest in Kevin Gausman and/or Dylan Bundy, Duquette might be making that call to the owner sometime soon.

Whether the Orioles wind up trading away the likes of Britton, O'Day, Bleier or anyone else out of the bullpen, the mere fact that Angelos is willing to bust apart the team in late July is yet another sign that the longtime franchise owner is quietly starting to understand the importance of taking advantage of a "down" season by re-stocking the team's farm system.

It seems like a "major" deal involving the likes of Manny Machado, Adam Jones or Mark Trumbo probably isn't going to happen. But the Orioles can still pick up some nice pieces if they do decide to part ways with Britton, Brach or O'Day. And Seth Smith should fetch something reasonable, particularly if a team is desperate for a fairly reliable left handed bat.

The Orioles aren't going to add Top 5 prospects, like the White Sox just did when they sent Jose Quintana to the Cubs, unless they give up something big -- like Britton, for instance -- but just knowing that Duquette is free to make a deal is good enough for me.

And with some teams -- like the Yankees last night -- starting to trade now instead of waiting for the deadline, it's prudent for Duquette to get on the phone ASAP and start trying to line up suitors for the pieces he's willing to move.

New York acquired Todd Frazier and former Yankee David Robertson from the White Sox on Tuesday. Perhaps the Birds didn't want to deal within the division -- and maybe the Yankees would prefer not to do that as well -- but missing out on the chance to send a relief arm to the pitching-starved and prospect-heavy Yankees might be regretted down the road.

Let's see what Duquette does now that he's been given the green light to make some deals. The O's are evaluating Duquette at this point, remember, and how he starts to re-tool the franchise might have a lot to do with whether or not his tenure in Baltimore continues past this season.

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"and your winner of the gold medal and the champion golfer of the year..."

The British Open starts tomorrow at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England. It marks the third of the four golfing majors in 2017 and returns the event to one of the best golf courses in England, where any number of players seem poised to potentially break through and capture their first major title.

I gave my "bottom five" players on the leaderboard yesterday. I expect to see these five guys among the leaders as everyone tees off on Sunday: Lee Westwood, Jordan Spieth, Tyrrell Hatton, Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose.

Now, for my "top five" and eventual winner of the 2017 British Open.

A playoff loss at St. Andrews back in 2015 was a close call for Marc Leishman. Can he take it one step further in 2017 at Royal Birkdale?

Rickie Fowler is now, officially, "the best player without a major title". Let's hope he doesn't take as long as Sergio Garcia did to shed that label. Fowler is primed to win a major championship, but until he does it, there will be plenty of questions surrounding the snazzy dresser with the active social media following. His record in majors speaks for itself. He gets "there" on Sunday -- now he just needs to win one. I think he'll be in the hunt this time around, too.

Australians have had a solid track record at Royal Birkdale and I think that carries over to 2017, which is one reason why I like the chances of Adam Scott this week. Scott has settled into a career of good golf, but with his immense talent and ball striking skills, there's no way he's going to win just one major championship in his career. He's had a shot at the British Open before but squandered a late 4-shot lead at Royal Lytham back in 2012. This is a great tournament for his qualities. I have an inkling this could be a special week for him.

Shane Lowry said this week it was "love at first sight" when he toured Royal Birkdale for the first time in a practice round. That's not the only reason I like Lowry's chances this week, but it never hurts to see a golf course and have it appeal to your eye and your golfing heart. Lowry is an extremely solid player from tee-to-green. If he gets his putter to cooperate, he has a really good chance to win.

After almost two decades of not winning a major title, how funny would it be to see Sergio Garcia win two majors within three months of one another? That could happen this week, for sure. Garcia is now able to play worry-free golf after capturing The Masters and it's that kind of monkey-off-the-back freedom that might help him win this week at Birkdale. That...and an amazing track record in the British Open, make him a scary-good pick. Expect Garcia to be on the leaderboard all weekend and well into Sunday.

But they're all going to be chasing an Australian on Sunday afternoon. It's time for Marc Leishman to break through and win his first major championship. The 33-year old has a pair of top five finishes at the British Open in the last three years -- including a playoff loss at St. Andrews in 2015 -- and has made the cut in the event four of the six times he's played in it. He's already enjoying a quality PGA Tour season, with a win at Bay Hill back in March against one of the better fields on TOUR in a non-major setting.

Leishman is the real deal. He just needs a major championship to prove it. He gets it this week at Royal Birkdale. Good on ya, mate.

July 18
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 18
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it's funny the way we see things

I perused the comments last night while watching the end of a rare Orioles win and noted that #DMD writer Brien Jackson was in the midst of a back-and-forth with several commenters about Trey Mancini's value and the use of some analytical baseball data to suggest that Mancini will likely regress over the next couple of years.

I wrote on Sunday that if I ran the Orioles, there would be three players I wouldn't trade -- Mancini, Schoop and Jones -- and everyone else in the organization could be had for the right player or package of players.

Brien, as you'll see below in his piece today on trade deadline possibilities, is open to trading Mancini. I'm not.

It's funny how the generations see sports differently. I saw things differently than my Dad, for example, and I now see things differently than those twenty and thirty years younger than me. Statistics most certainly have a lot to do with it.

When I was growing up, the pitcher's win total was just as important as his ERA. It was a big deal -- a really big one, in fact -- to win 20 games back in the 1970's and 1980's. If you won 20 games in a season, you were legit.

Then along came Rick Helling of the Rangers in 1998, who went 20-7 but posted a miserable 4.41 ERA. And, suddenly, 20 wins didn't mean that much anymore.

It all changed 20 years ago or thereabouts, as bullpens became more and more valuable and starting pitchers who threw complete games were more of a rarity than an Orioles 3-game winning streak in 2017.

Clayton Kershaw has the most wins in the majors (14) right now. Does that make him the best pitcher, though?

Jim Palmer pitched 211 complete games in his career. Yes, that's correct, but you can go ahead and look it up if you'd like. He pitched 211 complete games.

If you're evaluating pitching greatness, a guy like Palmer with 268 career wins, 211 complete games and 2.86 career ERA has to be on anyone's top 25 list. Right? But if you ask someone to list the best 25 pitchers of all-time, you probably wouldn't see #22's name.

Fast forward to 2009, where Felix Hernandez of the Mariners was voted the American League Cy Young winner with a 13-12 record and 2.27 ERA. It might have just been a down year for the A.L. pitching market, but how on earth can a guy who went 13-12 win the award for the best pitching season? Easy answer. No one really cares all that much about pitching wins anymore. They care much more about how many batters you allow on base, how many strikeouts you record and how many walks you surrender.

The generations just see things differently.

Here's what I care about when it comes to hitting: How many times do you get a hit?

I realize walks are sorta-kinda important, too, because getting on base is crucial. A hitter's on-base-percentage is also a critical stat. But when you get up to the plate, your goal is to get a hit. There are times when a hit isn't necessarily needed, like last night in the 6th inning when Jonathan Schoop drove in the O's first run with a sacrifice fly to right field. But Schoop was only modestly successful in that plate appearance. He knocked in a run, yes, but he also recorded the second out of the inning.

I understand that new-age statistics can tell us a lot more about a player's performance than we might have otherwise known a decade or two ago.

But some of those statistics rob you of your ability to see the game play out as your eyes tell you it's being played.

Mancini is an interesting example of that, I'd say.

I see a kid in his first full major league season with lots of potential. I don't look at stats and data that tells me what he might do in the future. I look at what he's doing now, with little experience in the league, and figure there's a pretty decent chance he's only going to get better. I don't think Trey Mancini's going to the Hall of Fame or anything like that. But Nolan Reimold he's not.

Brien (and others of the new generation who understand stats and data far better than me) talks about juiced baseballs and how how many line drives a guy hits, how many fly balls he produces and his batting average on balls in play and tries to look ahead to say, "Those kind of numbers can't continue and here's why". I get it. That's what statistics and data can do if you allow them to.

I watch Mancini hit and I say, "Every ten times he gets up to the plate, he gets a base hit of some kind. That's plenty good enough for me."

I mentioned earlier that Mancini isn't going to the Hall of Fame. Well, if he goes his entire career going 3-for-10, he actually might earn himself a spot in Cooperstown. I don't suspect he will, but that's the difference between "great" and "good". A .300 hitter is great. A .260 hitter is good.

When it comes to pitching, I have one simple stat I follow: How many earned runs did you give up?

A pitcher's goal is to take the mound and not allow the other team to score any runs. That's the way I see it. I do understand that a pitcher can't be knocked -- entirely -- for allowing unearned runs to score, but ERA is the most important statistic available to determine a pitcher's effectiveness.

If Chris Tillman puts 13 runners on base in six innings but allows just one earned run, he has pitched better, in my opinion, than a guy who puts five runners on base but allows three earned runs.

I don't care how many runners get on base as long as they don't score.

Now, I think we're all smart enough to know there's a direct correlation between how many baserunners you allow and how many (earned) runs you give up. The fewer men you allow to reach base, the better chance you have of them not scoring.

But the only statistic that really matters in pitching is how many runs you give up on your dime.

That's the way us old guys see it. The younger generation doesn't agree.

By the way, baseball isn't the only sport that's gone stats-mad. Golf has as well. There are a bunch of new statistics in golf that are deemed to be very important, including "strokes gained putting", which tells a player how many strokes he gains on the field once he reaches the green.

Because putting is everything on the PGA Tour, any sort of data that tells a player how much better or worse he's putting than everyone else seems to be a reasonably interesting piece of data. But it's still not the most important golf stat to me.

The most important statistic in golf still remains this: What was your score today?

If I make 9 birdies and 7 bogies and shoot 2-under par and you make 15 pars and 3 birdies, who played better? I made six more birdies than you. But you shot 69 and I shot 70. Who played better? You did.

There's a saying in golf: "There aren't any pictures on the scorecard". What that says, essentially, is it doesn't matter how the ball gets in the hole, it just matters how many strokes it took to get it in there.

Baseball is very similar. I don't care how hard you hit the ball, what the "exit velocity" was, how many fly balls you hit, or any of that other stupid stuff. I just care about this: When you came up to the plate, you wanted to record a base hit. Did you? If so, you succeeded. There might be an occasion, like I mentioned above, where only a sacrifice fly was needed, thus a hitter would succeed on that occasion without the benefit of a hit.

But all in all, I judge a hitter based on whether or not he did, in fact, record a base hit or, at the very least, reached base via a walk.

We go back to the old strikeout argument again. To me, the worst thing you can do is strikeout. It's total failure. That's why Chris Davis stinks, in my opinion. Once a game, sometimes twice, he strikes out. What value can you possibly have to my team when you're hitting .225 and striking out 210 times a season?

Yet, there are probably statistics in baseball that suggest Davis is a better "hitter" than Mancini, for example. Or Adam Jones. Or Mark Trumbo.

No, no and no. Davis is NOT a better hitter than Mancini, Jones or Trumbo. He hits more home runs than those three, perhaps. But those three guys are going to get more "hits" than Davis every year because they're better hitters.

I'll take Jones on my team. You take Davis on your team. I then know I at least have one better player than you.

I still think pitching wins matter, but that's just me. I understand the antiquated nature of pitching wins as a meaningful statistic given today's reliance on bullpen use, but Clayton Kershaw doesn't really need the bullpen because he's always ahead 6-1 in the 7th inning.

I'll take Kershaw on my team. You can take Dylan Bundy on your team. My team will beat you nearly every time those pitchers oppose one another.

The generations see things differently. That doesn't mean anyone's right or wrong, specifically, but it does mean we put certain values on accomplishments that some before us or after us might not see the same way.

Give me a guy who hits and a guy who doesn't allow the other team to score any runs. You can have everyone else.

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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.

Despite some wishful thinking that they were still in the wild card hunt coming out of the All-Star break, the humiliating three game sweep the Orioles suffered to the Cubs over the weekend dashed any such illusions. Before Sunday's game was over, multiple national reports indicated that the Orioles' stance had changed (or, at least everyone below Peter Angelos, anyway) and the brain trust was open to being sellers at the deadline.

But "selling" can mean a number of things, from a complete rebuild to a short-term reshuffling of assets with an eye on staying in contention in the near term. By all accounts the Orioles (reasonably) are eyeing the latter scenario, and still expect to be title contenders next season.

With that strategy in mind, here's a ranking/evaluation of the Orioles' trade chips, in order of how essential moving them is to the 2018 Orioles. In other words, the ranking metric here isn't the trade value of the player, but how badly the team needs to trade them this month.

If the Orioles move Darren O'Day and Zach Britton at the trade deadline, Brad Brach might be left behind to anchor the Orioles already beleaguered bullpen.

1. Welington Castillo/Seth Smith: Smith and Castillo are the "supporting cast" players who aren't under the Orioles' control for next season, and thus the sort of assets that simply have to be dealt off in any sort of rebuild, major or minor.

Castillo isn't playing up to the career best pace he started the season on, but his performance to date is extremely similar to his production from 2016, which means he's still likely to opt-out of his player option and seek a deal with more than $7 million in guaranteed money.

Smith, by contrast, is a free agent outright after this season.

Neither is going to bring back a top 10 prospect from anyone's system, but as a decent hitting catcher and a solid platoon hitter, each should still find a market in the next two weeks. Ideally, Duquette would get back a fringe pitching prospect who could bolster next season's bullpen or provide some rotation depth in the near term. But ultimately, if the O's are basically conceding the 2017 season, neither Castillo nor Smith have any value to the franchise any more and need to be moved.

2. Darren O'Day: Zach Britton and Brad Brach get the bulk of attention in this discussion, but the relief arm the Orioles need to, erm, relieve themselves of is O'Day.

In maybe the best example of how foolish the team has been in handing out inflated contracts to their own free agents in the past few years, O'Day is being paid like an elite reliever despite career splits against left-handed batters that are good, but not great. To make matters worse, the 34 year old sidearmer has struggled with injuries and an increasing walk rate since signing the new contract, logging just 65 innings pitched in 2016-17, and he's owed $9 million in both 2018 and 2019.

O'Day is basically worthless in terms of prospect value, but what the Orioles need to get from trading him is salary relief.

3. Zach Britton: In terms of moving veterans for prospect talent, Britton is the O's big fish. We've seen the market for relievers at the deadline explode in the past few seasons, as teams who are obviously contenders seek to load up the backend of their bullpens to exploit the playoff schedule that lets you lean hard on your best relief arms.

The Dodgers, for example, are making noise about wanting to add Britton to the league's best team and form a dominant relief duo with Kenley Jansen. It's reasonable to suspect that every other team that views themselves as a serious contender for the World Series would also like to add Britton, especially considering that he's controllable for the 2018 season as well.

That gives Duquette a lot of leverage, both because he'll have a number of teams bidding against each other for his closer, and because he'll be able to walk away from the table if he can't get the to 15-20 prospect he needs in return, safe in the knowledge that, in the worst case scenario, he'll have another crack at dealing Britton for a strong return this time next year.

4. Brad Brach: The third leg in the Orioles' trifecta of relief chips, Brach is also the guy who seems to get most of the trade attention from Orioles' fans on social media, but also the one I see as most likely to stay in town for the 2018 season.

Like Britton, he's still controllable through arbitration for next season, but his salary is likely to come in at less than half of Britton's. And while he's a very good, maybe even great, reliever, he's probably not perceived as being in the elite tier like Britton is, or like Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller were in 2016.

Because of that, I don't think another team is going to be willing to part with the sort of prospects Duquette is likely to want for Brach this year. If the team is looking at a short-term rearranging of the roster and not a full on rebuild, meaning they plan on contending next season, Brach is a very affordable option to be the team's closer and, like Britton, Duquette will get another crack at trading him next July if things don't work out.

I think given his druthers, Duquette would trade Britton and O'Day for a boat full of prospects and salary relief, and keep Brach around as the bullpen's anchor.

5. Trey Mancini: This one will be controversial, but looking long term the team would do themselves well to think about swapping their breakout rookie for a youngster with higher positional value. With Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo around Mancini becomes a player largely relegated to left field duties, and the Orioles are quietly amassing a decent stockpile of outfield prospects, and may well end up adding a top outfield prospect if they trade Britton and/or Brach this month.

Meanwhile, below Mancini's top line numbers are a bunch of red flags. He strikes out nearly 5 times as much as he walks, his BABIP is at five all-time levels, and he's hitting fly balls out of the park at roughly the same rate that Barry Bonds did over his entire career (and despite that fact, his slugging percentage is only .522 entering play on Monday).

There isn't a need to trade Mancini by any means, but with a number of contenders looking to add outfielders (in particular all 3 of the NL West teams are reportedly chasing Tigers' slugger J.D. Martinez) and Mancini's cost and controllable status making him uniquely attractive, the team might be able to find a bonanza of a deal that returns the pitching/infield prospect they desperately need right now.

6. Chris Tillman: In most years, Tillman would be one of the top rental pitchers available at the deadline. This year, thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness, he's essentially untradeable. The team still needs to listen to offers on him, obviously, and there's at least a theoretical possibility that some playoff bound team thinks he'll get right by the time October rolls around and would be a usefull 4th starter type for them.

But realistically, Tillman's value at this point is in the fact that the Orioles can make him a qualifying offer after the season and his past performance means that won't preclude him from finding a contract anywhere else. The supplemental first round pick that will bring back is worth more than anything the O's can get in a trade for Tillman right now.

7. Manny Machado: Yes, in your most fevered dreams you can imagine Machado being traded for a franchise defining prospect haul that forms the foundation of the club for the better part of a decade. He's certainly valuable enough to justify asking for that kind of haul.

But the thing is, those kinds of trades just don't happen, as no one is ever willing to give up that kind of "Herschel Walker haul" in practice. But from the Orioles' perspective, they can't settle for any less than that.

Any team that hypothetically acquired Machado wouldn't just be getting a player who can help them win next year, but an MVP candidate for 2018 and the right to exclusively negotiate a long term extension with him for 15 months. The O's have around $60 million in payroll scheduled to come off the books after this season, and may free up more if Britton/Brach/O'Day are traded. That gives them a lot of flexibility to take a real run at locking Manny up for the long term this winter, and if that isn't doable they'll have a lot of room to add free agents for a reloaded run next season.

In the worst case scenario the team has a legitimate shot at contending in 2018 with Machado, and if next season goes like this one has they can still get a sizeable return on him at next year's deadline. But there's basically no way the team could trade him this year and not regret the move five or six years down the road.

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british open top ten

Yes, I know, it's no longer called "The British Open".

Except in the U.S., that is.

Over there, they simply call it "The Open Championship" because they just assume everyone else in the world knows they're playing a significant golf tournament somewhere in the U.K. in the third week of July.

I call it "The British Open" because that's what it was before they got all pretentious on us.

He hasn't missed a cut in a major since 2014. Jordan Spieth seems poised to play well at Royal Birkdale in this week's British Open, where he would be three quarters of the way to the career Grand Slam with a win.

This year's tournament is being played at the best course I've personally ever played, Royal Birkdale, in Southport, England. People always ask me what my favorite course is (that I've played). I've been fortunate enough to play Pine Valley, Bethpage, Plainfield, Royal Lytham and a few others that have hosted significant events or major championships, but none have ever been as good as Royal Birkdale.

If you look back at recent British Opens there, long hitters aren't required for winning. Ian Baker Finch won at Birkdale in 1991. He couldn't hit it out of his shadow. Same goes for Mark O'Meara, who won in 1998 and was always "middle of the pack" in driving distance. And Padraig Harrington was the most recent winner at Birkdale back in 2008 and he's never been a big bomber.

Length coupled with accuracy never hurt anyone, just ask Dustin Johnson or Brooks Koepka, the two most recent U.S. Open winners, but this week at Birkdale, you just need to put the ball in play in the fairway and get it on the green in regulation. A few putts here and there will then make the difference.

With that, it's a wide open field. I'll give you five players to watch in today's edition of #DMD and five more -- plus the projected winner -- tomorrow.

I've been putting Lee Westwood in my Masters and British Open top 10's for a few years now and I guess I'll continue to do so until he retires. At some point, I believe Westwood is going to break through and win his first major. It could come this week at Birkdale. Much like Darren Clarke did back in 2011 when he won his first (and only) major at Royal St. George's, Westwood might just have one of those weekends where it all comes together for him. He drives it straight and has a terrific iron game. Putting and chipping have been his nemesis over the years. The time might be right for "Westy" to break through, finally.

I didn't have Jordan Spieth in my U.S. Open top ten last month and he made me look good by slogging it around Erin Hills and never really factoring in the event. I don't see him struggling this time, though, unless he gets the bad end of a crappy weather draw. Spieth won last month at The Travelers in Connecticut and looks to have his putting straightened out after some early season woes with the flat stick. Expect him to be on the leaderboard heading into the weekend. And don't be shocked if he's in the final group or two on Sunday.

There's always an Englishman or two on the first page of the leaderboard that you don't know much about at the British Open and I suspect this year won't be any different. Enter Tyrrell Hatton, who is ranked #23 in the world and seems primed to shine on the big stage at some point very soon. We don't know much about him here in the U.S., but he's a very talented player with impressive numbers thus far in 2017. He finished T4 in the U.S. in both the Honda and Bay Hill back in February/March and posted a nice 10th place showing in the WGC event in Mexico in March. He's the real deal.

Brooks Koepka hasn't done much since winning the U.S. Open last month, but that doesn't mean he can't win this week at Birkdale. He most certainly can. If Koepka's able to drive it this week the way he did at Erin Hills, we might be looking at back-to-back major wins for the American. The thing is, he doesn't even have to hit it that far to win this week. Accuracy matters more than length at Birkdale, but if Koepka's pounding it 335 yards in the middle of the fairway, that sort of game travels well anywhere.

You have to think Justin Rose has a great chance to win this week. There's nothing suspect about his game, he has a major win (U.S. Open) under his belt, and he nearly won this year's Masters before losing to Sergio Garcia in a playoff. Oh, and he's English. He knows how to play courses like Birkdale. This, in fact, is his 3rd British Open at the course, as he also played in 1998 and 2008. If you have some money to spare and you'd like a solid betting choice, this is one of the guys to go with.

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July 17
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 17
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vollerthum cashes in on once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with mccarron

This story could easily be turned into a feature film.

It's that good. And that improbable.

Scott McCarron won Sunday's Constellation Senior Players Championship at Caves Valley by one shot over Bernhard Langer and Brandt Jobe. It was McCarron's fourth Champions Tour win and his first major title.

The victory helped overshadow a controversial week for McCarron (and Langer), who was forced to issue a statement last Monday in response to a critical piece authored by The Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee about McCarron's use of the long putter and the application of the "anchoring rule" that goes along with using a putter of that length.

Caddie Evan Vollerthum of Fallston smiles at the trophy presentation after Scott McCarron's win at Caves Valley on Sunday.

McCarron somehow overcame the whispers and hung around the leaderboard long enough to take advantage of two rare mistakes from Langer, who was seeking his fourth consecutive Senior Players title. Langer hit his tee shot in the water at #17, then missed a four foot bogey putt, and lipped out a six foot birdie putt on the 18th green that would have sent the tournament to a playoff.

But wait...we haven't even reached the "good stuff" yet.

McCarron's caddie for the event at Caves Valley was a 33-year old Fallston native who spent six years in Los Angeles caddying at Bel Air Country Club before returning home in April to re-establish himself in his hometown and caddie at Caves on a regular basis.

Full disclosure: Seven years ago, Evan Vollerthum caddied for me in a Maryland Open qualifier at Rolling Road Golf Club.

Yesterday, he caddied for the winning player in the Constellation Senior Players Championship.

That's quite a difference in caddie experience, I'd say.

Evan got the call on Wednesday morning after McCarron's regular caddie had to return home following the death of his father. At first, Vollerthum was scheduled to caddie only in Wednesday's Pro-Am, but by the time they reached the 8th green, McCarron had offered him the full tournament gig.

"Initially he told me I'd just have the bag for the Pro-Am and that his wife, Jenny, was going to caddie in the tournament itself," Vollerthum told #DMD last night via phone. "I didn't fuss about it when he said that, but I knew I could convince him I was the right guy for the job and suddenly after the 8th hole, he offered me the bag for the next four days."

McCarron could see right away that Vollerthum knew his way around Caves Valley. "He had me helping out on 12 to 14 greens a day," the caddie said last night. "I gave him a really good read on Friday after the thunderstorm. He made a 35 footer for par on the 18th green and it was the first time in the two days I gave a little fist pump. I felt like I had made a contribution with the read I gave him and he nailed the putt. That was big for us."

With Langer at 18-under heading into Sunday's final round and McCarron at 12-under, Vollerthum assumed his player would need something short of a miracle to get back in the hunt. "We figured the worst Langer would shoot would be 68. That would get him to 22-under. We'd have to shoot 62 to get there and force a playoff. It can be done, but we knew it was a longshot."

Langer didn't make a putt of any length all day and was only a couple of shots under par, while McCarron started making front nine birdies and climbing up the leaderboard. "We birdied 9 and 10 and we were a couple of shots behind at that point and I thought, 'Here we go...we might be on to something,'" Vollerthum said.

When McCarron was on 18 green, they were alerted to the fact that Langer had just made double bogey at #17 after hitting his tee shot in the water. "We just kept plugging away, trying to put the best score up we could," the caddie remarked. "It all worked out."

Vollerthum's pay for the five days of work remains a secret, but the typical caddie pay scale is 5% of a player's earnings for the week plus a flat "fee" of roughly $1,500 for the entire week. If a player finishes in the top 10 the percentage goes up to 7% and if he happens to win, the payment is 10% of the earnings.

"The money's nice, I won't lie about that," Vollerthum said last night. "But the most important thing is the validation of all the years of caddying that I've done just to get to this point. And to get Scott's bag and be there for his victory is really special."

Vollerthum won't have much time to celebrate. He'll be on a Monday morning flight for Alabama, where he'll caddie this week in the PGA Tour event that's playing opposite the British Open. He'll be on Frank Lickliter's bag, whom he has caddied for over the last several years at various stages of Lickliter's career on the PGA and Tour.

Such is the life of a professional caddie. To make a living, they need a bag to carry and a player to help. Yesterday it was McCarron, today it will be Lickliter. If nothing else, though, Vollerthum promises to be quite the attraction at Caves Valley for the remainder of the summer.

"I had so many friends out there this week cheering me on, wishing me was something I'll always cherish," Vollerthum said.

After carrying Lickliter's bag this week, Vollerthum will return to Caves Valley to caddie starting next Tuesday, July 25th. When asked if he thought perhaps he might get a special parking spot or anything else of note from the club for his win with McCarron, Evan shrugged it off. "I don't know. I think it all worked out great for everyone. I don't need anything else. This was like a dream come true for me. That's good enough."

Any professional caddie knows the player hits all the shots and gets most or all of the credit. But a professional golfer knows a quality caddie can help with a shot or two during a round that might make the difference between winning and losing.

"What a crazy week," Vollerthum said. "How do you explain it? I was just in the right place at the right time with a guy who was playing great. I'm just thrilled to play a small part in it."

Let's start casting the movie and hiring a producer. That was one hell of a final scene on Sunday.

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among whispers they're "selling", orioles get embarrassed by cubs (again)

With several national baseball writers indicating the Orioles are going to be "sellers" at the trade deadline in two weeks, the Birds continued to give themselves every reason to begin a rebuilding era by getting blanked by the Cubs on Sunday at Camden Yards, 8-0.

Chicago hit 10 home runs in the 3-game series.

The Cubs won all three games, naturally, and outscored the O's 27-11 along the way.

Are the Orioles willing to part with one of the game's best closers and begin the rebuilding process? Some industry experts are saying "yes, they are".

No Orioles starter made it to the 6th inning over the weekend.

It's beyond ugly, now.

The Birds are now a season-worst seven games under .500 at 42-49. Oh, and here come the Texas Rangers for four games and then the Houston Astros arrive to pile on for three more games this coming weekend.

If the reports are true that the Orioles are interested in "selling", we'll have to see how the story plays out given the cryptic nature of quotes attributed to Dan Duquette. "Pending approval from ownership" was the sentence that caught everyone's eye. That means, of course, that Duquette is likely of the mindset that the time is right to move some veteran players and restock the team's depleted farm system with some quality prospects -- but owner Peter Angelos might not be thinking the same way.

The Orioles, meanwhile, continue to lose games with the very players they're afraid to deal to another team. Weird, right?

Ubaldo Jimenez was useless on Sunday, but no worse, really, than Wade Miley on Saturday or Kevin Gausman on Friday. All three of them stunk. And the Cubs' starter on Sunday, Jose Quintana, was terrific. That's never a good formula -- your pitcher can't get anyone out and the other team's pitcher gets everyone out. You're losing most of the time when that happens.

Whether or not the Orioles do wind up "selling" at the deadline, the 2017 campaign is two or three weeks from being over. Once they're 48 and 60, which they probably will be, you can start getting your ten Ravens tailgate parties organized and decide who brings the food and drinks to the stadium.

In fairness to the Birds, we haven't seen this sort of collapse from them in a long time. They've been competitive every season since 2012, which can't be overlooked or downplayed given how awful they were from 2000 through 2012.

This kind of season was always a possibility. A mixed-bag in the starting rotation, some wear and tear on a few veteran players, and a "home run or bust" offensive philosophy -- it all adds up to the Orioles "profile" finally catching up to them.

But while we're disappointed to see them implode in 2017, let's remember they've done a lot of winning over the five seasons previous to this one.

That's one of the reasons why I'm on board with a major "selling" spree. I see where they've been and I appreciate the "rebirth" -- if you will -- of the franchise over the last five years. But this team, with this roster, and this talent, isn't beating anyone of note.

So, it's time to ship off a few valuable pieces, perhaps begrudgingly, and start over again.

I'm good with it.

After all, we're not winning with the current 25-man roster anyway.

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dechambeau wins one for those who "do it differently"

Bryson DeChambeau birdied the 17th and 18th holes on Sunday to win his first PGA Tour event, capturing the John Deere Classic and earning one of the final available spots in this week's British Open.

That DeChambeau won isn't a complete shock. He's been a "winner" in golf for the last three years, capturing the NCAA Individual title and the U.S. Amateur within three months of one another in 2015, then capturing a late-season event last Fall.

With a win at yesterday's John Deere Classic, Bryson DeChambeau is now exempt for all four major championships in 2018.

But his short time on the PGA Tour has been met with disappointment. Until yesterday, that is.

DeChambeau stormed past Patrick Rodgers on the back nine, hitting a remarkable 3-wood from 260 yards out on the par-5 17th to set-up a two-putt birdie, then rolling in a 14-foot birdie putt at the final hole. The final hour of play confirmed that DeChambeau's recent work with his swing and his putter are both paying off.

He's mostly known for his analytical, stats-driven style that includes a devotion to a long-ago published book called The Golfing Machine by a little known swing guru named Homer Kelley. And DeChambeau is the only player on the PGA Tour who plays with irons that are all the same length (a standard 6-iron length).

His golf swing is remarkably consistent. While there are some things about his clubs, putting and golf philosophies that might be a tad "different", one thing that isn't odd is his swing. He's one of the game's best ball strikers already, at 23 years of age.

“People may think my golf swing is really weird and funky, but I think it's one of the most consistent swings out here," DeChambeau said in Sunday's post-round press conference. "If you look at in its entirety in slow motion, there are not very many moving parts."

Like most players looking to break through, putting has been what's held him back as a professional. He tried the long putter with no success, then went to side-saddle style before running into an issue with the USGA earlier this season.

"I've worked hard on every component of my game," DeChambeau said yesterday. "But let's face it. The guy who makes the most putts wins. That was me today. I'm beyond blessed."

DeChambeau wants the win to mean something to amateur golfers who are still trying to figure out the game. "I want them to know how important it is for you to find your own style, your own pace, if you will, and just go out there and work on it until you perfect it," he said. "That doesn't mean you have to find the perfect swing. You have to find the swing that's perfect for you. There are lots of different ways to do it. I want people to know that."

While watching yesterday's senior tournament with me at Caves Valley, my friend Dale Williams asked an interesting question as we observed Jose Maria Olazabal putting out on the 16th green.

"I'd love to ask those guys how much better their golf was once they won on Tour, established themselves, and started making enough money that they knew their income wasn't a concern. How much better did they get once they knew they could provide for their family, buy a nice house, live a comfortable life..."

I thought of that last night while watching the replay of the John Deere Classic and seeing DeChambeau win the title and then break down in tears at the trophy presentation.

How much better is he going to be now, knowing he has exempt status on TOUR for the next two seasons? How much better will he be with millions of dollars flowing into his bank account?

Some players win once and can't find it again.

It's hard to believe DeChambeau is going to fall into that place. He's been winning significant golf tournaments for a while now, and yesterday's triumph at the John Deere confirms what a lot of people already knew: The golf ball doesn't know who's hitting it, where they're from, how old they are, or how much money they have. If you can strike it well and putt it well, the ball will obey you.

DeChambeau will win again, maybe sooner rather than later. He's figured out how to do it "his way". It's a great lesson for everyone out there.

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July 16
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVI
Issue 16
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jones, mancini and schoop stay -- everyone else is available

With a little more than two weeks before the trade deadline comes and goes, the Orioles really need to face reality.

It was a nice little run for five years, but it's time to start re-tooling for the future.

This 2017 edition of the Orioles can't win. And there's nothing other than blind optimism that would suggest they could win next year with this current roster.

Last night's 10-3 pasting at the hands of the Cubs was just another one of those nights where Baltimore's starting pitching was a complete wreck. Sure, it didn't help that Jake Arrieta made his return to Camden Yards and shut down the Birds on two hits in 6.2 innings of work, but this one, again, was all about the O's lack of quality mound work.

He hasn't had a great 2017 campaign to date, but former Oriole Jake Arrieta tamed his former team last night on just two hits in 6.2 innings as the Cubs blasted the Birds, 10-3.

This time, Wade Miley was the victim. He didn't make it out of the fifth inning, the ninth straight game in which an Orioles starter has failed to reach the 6th inning. That's a very eye opening stat and might be as telling as anything you could produce about the ineffectiveness of Baltimore's starting staff. They've now gone nine straight games without a starter giving them six innings of work (repeated for emphasis).

The loss dropped the Birds to 42-48 on the year, still tied with Toronto for fourth place in the East, but sinking more quickly than Kathy Griffin after a bad photo opportunity. Since starting the season 22-10, the O's have gone 20-38. And there's nothing to suggest it's going to get any better.

The Orioles hopefully paid attention to last week's Cubs-White Sox deal and saw for themselves how difficult it is to obtain a quality player in a mid-season trade. The White Sox gave up one of their best starters -- Jose Quintana -- but fleeced the Cubs for four prospects, including two of the better ones in baseball. The Cubs are loaded with talent, as we've seen over the last two nights in Baltimore, so it's a tad easier for them to part with some cornerstone youngsters while they try and play their way back into the post-season for a shot at a second straight title.

The White Sox got a lot better last week when they dealt Quintana. It won't be reflected this year, or perhaps not even next, either, but sometime soon down the road, expect Chicago's "other" team to be back on track.

The Birds would be very smart to follow the White Sox lead and deal early and often as the trade deadline approaches.

I don't run the club -- but if I did, my message to the other 29 teams would be simple. "We're keeping Adam Jones, Trey Mancini and Jonathan Schoop. Everyone else is available."

I realize no one is going to take Chris Davis, but in the unlikely event someone needs an overpaid left handed hitter who strikes out one and a half times a game, he can be had. I'd even help pay some of that salary I promised him until 2037. How's that for being nice?

Machado, Brach, Britton -- all three are available, but not for a song. Someone's going to have to step forward with an awfully big wheelbarrow full of players and prospects before I'd bite on that trade offer. But if I'm the O's, I don't enter this next two weeks with fear. I enter it with hope. And with the right deal or two, the O's could be contending again by 2019 or so.

In fairness to Jones, who is a certain Orioles Hall of Famer someday, I'd probably go to him privately and let him in on the strategy. I'd even go as far as giving the centerfielder the opportunity for a "buy out" of sorts. If he'd rather not endure another couple of years of dreadful losing (he and Chris Tillman are the only two who are still here from the real "dog days", circa 2008), I'd give him the right to approve a trade as well.

But make no mistake about it: I don't want to trade Adam Jones if I'm the Orioles. He's not a "great" player. But he's a "great" employee. He stays -- unless he wants to go.

I'm not giving up Mancini or Schoop. Both have the potential to be outstanding players. Sure, Mancini's still raw and not yet firmly entrenched as a potential star in the league, but the signs are there that he could be a franchise-type player.

Jones, Mancini and Schoop are staying. The rest can go.

By the way, it's interesting to watch the Cubs play in person. I was there last night and watched them intently throughout the game. Maybe it's just a renewed energy after the All-Star break, but they ran hard and played hard from the first pitch until the last one.

Every fly ball they hit was met with the batter sprinting out of the box and rounding first base with pace. It's unlikely a major league outfielder is going to drop a routine fly ball, but if the O's would have bungled one last night, the Chicago hitter would have been standing on second base, not first.

There wasn't a ground ball hit that they didn't run out -- hard.

And when they did manage a hit or a run-producing plate appearance, the Cubs' dugout was alive and celebrating.

In fairness, they were winning throughout the game, so life's a bit more relaxed under those conditions, but you can tell the Cubs are taking their craft very seriously. I guess that's one of the reasons why they won the World Series last year.

It's hard to figure out why they're barely above .500. The usual culprit is mostly responsible -- shaky starting pitching for one -- but they have some outstanding hitters on their roster and their infield defense is terrific. That was my first time seeing Anthony Rizzo play first base. That kid is really freakin' good.


Let's hope Ubaldo Jimenez can somehow stymie the Cubs today and give the Birds one win in the three-game series. The Texas Rangers come to town starting on Monday and the O's haven't always had the best of luck against that ballclub in the regular season. And then the Astros make their only appearance of the season to Camden Yards for a weekend series (July 21-23). You might have heard of them. They're the best team in the American League.

I don't see many wins on the horizon, unfortunately.

I realize the Orioles don't want to throw in the towel. I respect that, even.

But baseball being what it is -- a 162 game grind where you know by the 80 game or thereabouts if you have what it takes -- the signs are just too prominent to ignore. This team isn't going anywhere. And they could really help themselves in the future by facing that fact, dealing away some quality, and adding some good, young players who can be part of an exciting future in Charm City.

As a guy who plunked down money for a 13-game plan back in February, I can say with ease and certainty I would much rather see the Orioles acquire some good, young players at the deadline than sit through another two months of 10-3 losses...just to be able to say, "We tried all the way until the end".

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no shock here: langer on top of senior leaderboard with 18 holes to play

It's one thing to be among the sport's best players and always be hovering around the leaderboard, even occasionally winning a tournament or two.

It's an entirely different story when you're expected to win -- and you do.

Bernhard Langer doesn't have his fourth straight Constellation Senior Players Championship sewed up just yet, but he's entering the final furlong with the lead, as the 9-time senior major champion has a one-shot advantage over Brandt Jobe and a five shot cushion over Scott McCarron and Corey Pavin.

Langer is 18-under par after three rounds thanks to a tidy bogey-free round of 66 at Caves Valley on Saturday.

Those three words aren't heard very often out at Caves: "Tidy bogey-free", that is.

That Langer continues to play well isn't a surprise. He's been dominating the Champions Tour for the last five years or so. But that he shows up and everyone says "It's his tournament to lose" is a true testament to just how much quality his golf game is producing these days.

Golfers are a mercurial bunch. The ones playing professionally or at a high level on the national amateur circuit always think they're one new swing thought away from never shooting over par again. Most players enter a tournament thinking they have a chance to win if they play their very best golf.

Rarely, if ever, will a high-level golfer (or any athlete for that matter) concede defeat before an event begins.

But on the Champions Tour, nearly every player is now saying, "If Langer plays well, I can't beat him." That's very Tiger-esque, as everyone in the field circa 2000-2004 knew they weren't winning if Woods teed it up on Thursday. Tiger didn't always win, mind you, but he was thought to be the winner on every occasion before the first tee ball was hit.

Langer is in the same zone now. If he's playing, he's winning -- until someone proves otherwise. And lately, they haven't been able to prove otherwise.

Jobe would have been leading by a handful of shots had he not butchered the 17th and 18th holes on Thursday and Saturday. He's four over par on those two holes for the tournament, while Langer has played them in even par. There's the difference in the tournament.

And that Langer continues to play well despite the on-going controversy about the use of his longer putter is also somewhat of a miracle. Golf is an extraordinarily difficult sport to play when everything is lined up just right for you, let alone when your mind is preoccupied with other stuff. That Langer can put aside the continued whispers about the "anchoring" issue and beat everyone in the field week after week is a real testament to his fortitude.

It's not a slam dunk that Langer's winning today. Jobe was very solid in the recent U.S. Senior Open and has been knocking on the door for a while now. His play this week shows he's ready to break through and win a major on the senior circuit.

But the smart money goes on the German. If the players themselves were allowed to bet, you know who they'd be wagering on today. And that says it all.

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local product mccarthy in the hunt for victory

If you're looking for a good weekend wind-down tonight and can appreciate a potentially-career-changing local story, check out The Golf Channel from 6pm to 9pm for the final round of the Web.Com Tour's Utah Championship.

Takoma Park's Denny McCarthy, in his second season on golf's top "minor league tour", is just one shot out of first place heading into today's final round. The former Walker Cup star and University of Virginia All-American fired rounds of 69-63-64 to put himself in position to win for the first time on the Web.Com circuit.

The Tour is the country's best professional golf tour that isn't the PGA Tour. The field in every tournament is filled with former PGA Tour winners and young, upstart former high ranking college players and amateurs, like McCarthy, who are trying to earn enough money to secure their PGA Tour card for the following year.

The top 25 money winners from each "regular season" are guaranteed their PGA Tour card for the next season. McCarthy is currently at #46 on the money list. A win today wouldn't guarantee him his card for 2017-2018, but it would come awfully close to doing so. Even a top three finish this week would go a long way in his quest to get out on the big TOUR.

McCarthy is no stranger to pressure when it comes to playing golf. Besides playing at Virginia, he reached the semi-finals of the 2014 U.S. Amateur, made the cut and played all four days at the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, and has been a consistent cut-maker on the Tour over the last two years.

The only thing missing from the Argyle Country Club member's resume is a victory. He just might get it today.

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