July 15
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issue 15
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how far away is u.s. soccer?

The world's soccer championship will be decided today at 11 am when France takes on Croatia.

World Cup 2018 will be remembered for a lot of things. It's been, almost without debate, the most "entertaining" of any World Cup we've seen over the last thirty years.

There have been some dramatic finishes, great goals scored, and just enough penalty kick shootouts to keep us liking that concept and hating that concept at the same time.

The tried-and-true -- Germany, Brazil, Argentina -- weren't factors this time around. Heck, Italy didn't even make the tournament, let alone get upset in the round of sixteen.

Players rolling around on the ground and feigning injury, always a theatrical treat if nothing else, seemingly reached an all-time high in this World Cup. But, the reality is that "diving" has been and will continue to be part of the World Cup ritual, in much the same way baseball players will always get their panties in a bunch when a guy hits a home run and stares at the ball for one or two extra seconds as it leaves the playing field.

And for those of us in the United States who follow soccer, this World Cup will be remembered as the one the United States national team missed. For the first time since 1990, the U.S. didn't play in the World Cup (of those seven, they qualified for six and received an automatic berth in one).

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar isn't a guarantee, either. While it might seem like "there's plenty of time", that's simply not true. Qualifying for the games starts in 18 months, and although the U.S. should breeze through the first stage of CONCACAF qualifying, the second and most important stage will, as always, present quite a challenge.

The good news, looking far, far ahead, is that the 2026 World Cup that's being played in the U.S., Mexico and Canada will afford the American side an automatic berth as a host country.

But what about 2022?

The darling of American soccer for the next decade will be Christian Pulisic. But who else will join him to try and get the U.S. to play in the 2022 World Cup?

If you think the Orioles are about to start a "rebuilding" project, the U.S. soccer team has that on their plate and much, much more.

Of the players who were on the pitch in Trinidad last November when the Americans fell, 2-1, and missed out on their qualifying spot for WC 2018, the only player guaranteed to be a starter on the 2022 effort is Christian Pulisic.

Seriously. That's it. Pulisic could be the sole-starting-survivor.

It's likely Bobby Wood will still have a chance to play a significant role in the quest for 2022, but he'll be pushed by some young attacking players.

By the way, the U.S., as of today, doesn't even have a head coach for the national team. But they'll get one. And his appointment will impact guys like Wood, who has a style that may -- or may not -- appeal to the new American coach.

The U.S. men's national team is going to look much, much different in 2019 and beyond.

Clint Dempsey. Gone.

Michael Bradley. Gone.

Jozy Altidore. Gone.

While those three -- one, two or all of them -- could still see an occasional game in '19 while the configuration of the roster is still up in the air, there's no chance any of those three will be part of the team trying to qualify in 2022.

Their time has expired. All three were critical parts of several U.S. World Cup efforts but the game has caught up to them -- at least at the international level.

The U.S. doesn't even a goalkeeper penciled-in at this point. That job is up for grabs.

Several players who saw spot duty in the 2018 qualifying process will be part of the mix now, including Kellyn Acosta, Paul Arriola, Julian Green, DeAndre Yedlin and Jorge Villafana.

But make no mistake about it, the U.S. qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is very much -- make that very much, underlined for emphasis -- a coin flip at this point.

And no, this has nothing at all to do with that silly, old argument that "the best athletes in the U.S. don't play soccer".

In a country of 330 million, there are plenty of 18 year olds to go around. And more than enough soccer players have essentially had a ball at their feet since age six.

The U.S. men's soccer team doesn't need "better athletes".

They need "better soccer players".

Only time will tell what this current crop of 20-year olds can do in the lead up to Qatar 2022.

But as you watch the World Cup final today, know this: The U.S. has a long, long, long way to go.

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as clock ticks, o's try to maintain leverage

First, the good news.

Take a sip of your coffee and swallow it, please.

The Orioles won last night.

Yep, they did. It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win is a win. The Birds nipped the Texas Rangers, 1-0.

I told you to swallow your coffee.

But the big news isn't a rare win, but the trade talks that continue to flicker involving Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Adam Jones.

Why Machado is still playing is beyond me, but he is. The good news is that he continues to hit well.

Britton closed the game last night and looked good, again, despite a walk that eventually had the tying run in scoring position with two outs.

Apparently back at full form now, Zach Britton is expected to start drawing significant offers this week as playoff contenders look to fortify their bullpen.

Jones made a terrific defensive play last night, even though his work with the glove is now average at best.

All three players have drawn interest as the trade deadline approaches in two weeks.

The Phillies and Brewers seem most interested in Machado's services, although something tells me the Yankees don't really participate in these on-again, off-again talks. They've probably said to the Orioles, "When you get your best offer from one of these other shmucks, call us and we'll give you our best offer at that point."

And don't be surprised if the Yankees offer is the best offer. And don't be shocked if Manny winds up in New York in late July.

But as the days go by with no deal made, the Orioles are putting themselves in a vulnerable spot.

The teams that want Machado are already in position to make the playoffs without him. The Yankees are going to the post-season whether they get Manny or don't. The Phillies and Brewers are both going to be in the hunt in September with or without #13 in their infield.

The Orioles, as those three teams know, are either going to get a haul of prospects for Manny or they're going to get left holding the bag at the end of the season when he becomes a free agent and all the Birds get in exchange for his free agent departure is a draft pick.

I think it's inevitable that Machado gets dealt in the next fourteen days.

But I also know that we're talking about the Orioles here. They could miss a 14-inch putt on the 18th hole with a chance to win the Masters and then lose in a playoff.

Nothing is a done deal with the Birds until it's a done deal.

Meanwhile, their leverage to make a whopper of a trade could diminish if one of the interested teams says, "You know what, we're out. We're going to try and find someone else."

That is, until the Yankees get tired of everyone putzing around and make their best offer. But that offer is only as strong as the number of teams who are playing the trade deadline game.

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british open top 7

The British Open (no, I'm sorry, I will not refer to it as The Open Championship) is set to start next Thursday, July 19 at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland.

It's the third of four majors on the professional golf circuit this year. Patrick Reed won The Masters back in April and Brooks Koepka repeated as U.S. Open champion last month at Shinnecock Hills.

Who will raise the Claret Jug on Sunday, July 22nd?

I'm glad you asked.

Over the next week, #DMD will give you the projected top seven finishers at this year's event.

One thing you might be wise to expect: a playoff. The last three British Opens played at Carnoustie required a playoff to determine the winner.

In 2007, Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia in extra holes.

In 1999, Paul Lawrie came back from a 10-shot deficit to win a playoff over Jean Van de Velde and Justin Leonard.

In 1975, Tom Watson edged Australia's Jack Newton in a playoff.

So, if you're suspecting this year's event at Carnoustie might need "overtime", you might very well be right.

But #DMD doesn't think so.

Could Carnoustie be the site of another Spanish player having a chance to win on the 72nd hole? Rafael Cabrera-Bello hopes so, especially if it's him.

The winner won't need anything but 72 holes to get the job done. So, let's look at the top seven finishers, shall we?

We started on Wednesday, July 11 with Francesco Molinari at #7.

Tommy Fleetwood checked in at #6 yesterday.

Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick was our #5 pick.

Zach Johnson came in at #4. Spoiler alert: He's the only American you'll see on this list.

The last time they played the British Open at Carnoustie, a Spanish guy had a chance to win. Sergio Garcia, in fact, had a 10-foot putt on the 72nd hole to claim his first major title, but the putt lipped out and he eventually lost in a playoff.

I see a Spanish player once again factoring in this year's event.

But it's not Garcia. And it's not Jon Rahm, either.

At #3 on our projected leaderboard is Rafael Cabrera-Bello.

Despite just missing the cut at the Scottish Open this past Friday, RCB is one who fits the "great player to not have a major title" role. He finished T4 in last year's Open, won by Jordan Spieth, and has played in six British Opens with five cuts made.

If you're a believer in strength-of-field numbers, Cabrera-Bello has three top five finishes in the last nine World Golf Championships events.

That he won last year's Scottish Open also doesn't hurt his confidence heading into this week's event at Carnoustie.

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July 14
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issue 14
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"so, what do you think?"

I've been asked about a dozen times in the last week or so: "So, what do you think the Ravens are going to do this season?"

I guess it's football season if that question is being bandied about.

I've come up with a stock answer for everyone. Not because I don't want to have a conversation about it. It's just that trying to make a guess about how the Ravens will do is...well...just that.

It's a guess.

"If you made me bet the win total right now and the number was 8.5 wins...I'll take the over."

That's my stock answer.

The obvious issues about the Ravens' season have nothing at all to do with what I think they might do, record-wise.

To me, the three biggest questions about their season are very obvious.

What's the key for the Ravens? The health and performance of the quarterback, of course.

1. Can they stay healthy at the key positions? Namely, quarterback, offensive tackle, wide receiver and defensive back?

2. What kind of performance will they get out of Joe Flacco?

3. Can they win at least four road games?

If those three line items all have a check mark in their box at season's end, the Ravens should be a playoff contender. That would put them at nine-win total, at least. Remember my stock answer?

Every team in the NFL knows "health" is the single most important thing about the upcoming 2019 season.

If the Patriots lose Brady, they're done. If the Packers lose Rodgers, it's over. If the Steelers lose Bell, they're finished.

You can't predict it, either. You can be completely healthy for ten or twelve weeks, then lose key players three weeks in a row and the whole season changes. Two seasons ago, the Raiders were well on their way to owning the best record in the AFC and potentially hosting the AFC title game until Derek Carr's December injury wrecked everything. It happens in a flash.

The Ravens haven't been very successful at staying healthy in the last few years. Maybe the football gods owe 'em one?

Flacco gets a revamped receiving corps to utilize. That's all well and good, but we don't really know if those guys are going to be much of an improvement over what he's had at his disposal in recent campaigns. If they are, though, things could certainly improve.

But that's if Flacco's own play is productive. If Flacco has a good season, the Ravens stand to have a good one, too. Not many NFL teams prosper if the quarterback stinks it up.

By the nature of the schedule alone, four road wins always seems to be the target number -- at a minimum. It's pretty rare that a team makes the post-season with less than four wins, although two teams did it last season (Buffalo and Tennessee both went 3-5). The Ravens actually went 4-4 on the road last season. They lost out on the playoffs when they couldn't stop a 4th and 12 pass play in the game's final minute on New Year's Eve.

So, sure, the Ravens can go 3-5 on the road and still make the playoffs. But 4-4 gives them a much better shot at the post-season.

Now that you know what I think, tell me what you think.

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british open top 7

The British Open (no, I'm sorry, I will not refer to it as The Open Championship) is set to start next Thursday, July 19 at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland.

It's the third of four majors on the professional golf circuit this year. Patrick Reed won The Masters back in April and Brooks Koepka repeated as U.S. Open champion last month at Shinnecock Hills.

Who will raise the Claret Jug on Sunday, July 22nd?

I'm glad you asked.

Over the next week, #DMD will give you the projected top seven finishers at this year's event.

One thing you might be wise to expect: a playoff. The last three British Opens played at Carnoustie required a playoff to determine the winner.

In 2007, Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia in extra holes.

In 1999, Paul Lawrie came back from a 10-shot deficit to win a playoff over Jean Van de Velde and Justin Leonard.

In 1975, Tom Watson edged Australia's Jack Newton in a playoff.

So, if you're suspecting this year's event at Carnoustie might need "overtime", you might very well be right.

But #DMD doesn't think so.

If you're looking for an American to show up on the leaderboard next week at Carnoustie, we're thinking it's going to be this guy.

The winner won't need anything but 72 holes to get the job done. So, let's look at the top seven finishers, shall we?

We started on Wednesday, July 11 with Francesco Molinari at #7.

Tommy Fleetwood checked in at #6 yesterday.

Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick was our #5 pick.

Today, finally, you'll see an American name.

Johnson is just the kind of guy who can win over there. He's a bulldog, he can hit it straight, he's a terrific wedge player, and when he's putting it well, there aren't many better with the flat stick.

He has a British Open title, too, which certainly can't hurt next week.

It's kind of hard to think about Zach Johnson having as many major titles as Vijay Singh (3), and more than the likes of Bernhard Langer, Greg Norman and Jose Maria Olazabal, but if he can pull off one more major victory, that's where things will stand.

Johnson is an elite player without all the fanfare and Golf Channel headline stories. I'd take him on my Ryder Cup team every time, by the way. He flies the U.S. flag as well as any player.

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July 13
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issue 13
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on owens, papa john and manny

What's the link that connects those three, you're wondering?

Hang tight. We're going to present one.

Terrell Owens is going in the Hall of Fame on August 4th. The ceremony for incoming HOF'ers typically takes place in Canton, Ohio.

But Owens isn't "typical". He never was, in fact.

So, instead of attending the ceremony in Canton, Owens is going to host his own event at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he played college football.

The Hall of Fame announced on Thursday that they won't mention Owens individually during the induction ceremony in Canton. He'll be referenced one time only, included in the list of names who earned induction in 2018.

Owens hasn't commented on that announcement, but give him time. He always has something to say.

The Hall of Fame is well within their rights to eliminate Owens from their induction ceremonies on August 4th. He's still a Hall of Famer, of course. He'll receive his (ugly) mustard colored jacket in the mail a few days after the induction ceremony.

But there's no reason at all that the Hall of Fame should be pressed into mentioning Owens during the ceremony.

He's not in Canton, by his own decision. It's an obvious attempt to agitate the Hall of Fame. He knows it. They know it. We all know it.

T.O. made up a goofy three sentence explanation about why he wasn't going to Canton, but the reality is he's not attending the ceremony because he wants to prove a point.

And that point?

That he should have been inducted in either 2016 or 2017.

He doesn't get it.

The Hall of Fame isn't a slam dunk for anyone, except maybe for guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Baltimore's own Ray Lewis.

You have to earn your way in. First ballot guys are few and far between. And nothing about your legacy is altered, diminished or tainted by the fact that you didn't gain entry in your first year of eligibility.

Owens' fragile feelings were hurt when he wasn't included in the class of 2016 or 2017. So he tried to upstage this year's event by refusing to go.

He just doesn't get it.

Stay in Chattanooga, T.O. You'll do just fine there, out of the spotlight, and surrounded by people who will undoubtedly spend most of the evening telling you how great you were.

Just a day after "Papa John" Schnattner said the "n-word" during a conference call, teams throughout sports are going out of their way to distance themselves from him and the Papa John's pizza chain.

Several major league baseball teams ended season-long sponsorships on Thursday and the University of Louisville is considering removing Papa John's from their stadium name.

The teams with sponsorship deals have every right to be leery of the blowback if they continue their relationship with Schnatter and/or Papa John's.

Louisville doesn't have much choice, either. Is it appropriate to have their football stadium named after Schnatter's product and company?

Probably not.

The saddest thing about the Papa John's issue is that good people, with families to support and bills to pay, are going to have their lives disrupted by this latest controversy.

Sure, it's Schnatter's name in the paper and face on the TV, but if the Papa John's business crumbles or, at the very least, diminishes, folks are going to lose their jobs.

Managers...out of work.

Pizza "creators" (that's what they're called these days)...looking for a new employer.

Delivery specialists...unemployed.

Through no fault of their own.

All because Schnatter used the n-word.

Like Owens, the pizza mogul clearly doesn't get it.

When you own the company and thousands and thousands of people are working for you, it's even more important that you stay above the fray at all times.

That's easier said than done, obviously.

Schnatter isn't experiencing the feel of hot water for the first time, either.

Last year, he blamed slow pizza sales on NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem.

He quickly backtracked on that one, but it was too late. The damage was already done.

Oddly enough, it wasn't that hard to believe that Schnatter might have been right. Fewer people might have been watching the games. Fewer folks might have been in the stands. It makes perfect sense, then, that fewer people might have been buying pizzas, too.

But with player-league relations already tense, the last thing Roger Goodell needed was a pizza guy piling on about the national anthem saga.

This time, though, there's no way he's "right".

It's 2018. You can't use the n-word any longer and not expect a mammoth reaction from the rest of America.

And then there's Manny Machado.

The Orioles are on the verge of dealing Machado for a package of prospects that will hopefully be part of a rebuilding project in Baltimore.

There's no telling where Manny might wind up in the next few days or week, but teams are lining up and making offers, waving some of their best AA and AAA players in the Orioles' direction in hopes of snagging the shortstop/third baseman.

It's inevitable that Machado is going to be dealt.

If the game was "DEALT" instead of "HORSE", Machado would have D, E, A and L at this point.

It's all but over for him in Baltimore.

So here's the question.

Why is he still playing?

Who above Buck is smart enough to make a company declaration and say "Manny doesn't play again until he's traded"?

The Orioles are 26-68.

That's 42 games under .500 for those Flyers fans who don't have a calculator handy.

Why on earth would you be playing the guy on your team that you're just about ready to trade away for a boatload -- hopefully -- of prospects who will help reboot your organization?

The Orioles don't get it. Like Owens and Papa John Schnatter, they're just not thinking very clearly.

All it takes is one fastball to the hand and Machado is suddenly out for 8-10 weeks.

One weird slide into second base while Manny is off balance and we have a knee injury that ends his season.

It makes zero sense to have Machado in the lineup right now. None.

This impending deal for Manny could be a franchise changer for the Orioles.

Why risk having Machado get injured playing completely meaningless games?

The Orioles have done some dumb things in the last year or two, but this one might be their all-time cake-topper.

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68 losses on july 12

Yesterday's 5-4 home loss to the Phillies leaves the Orioles at 26-68.

The 2014 Orioles -- remember them? -- went 96-66 en-route to the A.L. East title and a spot in the American League Championship Series.

That team lost 66 games all season. This team has 68 losses and we haven't yet reached the All-Star break.

And yet, for reasons no one can quite figure out, the likes of Jace Peterson keep on playing.

That's not to pick on Peterson individually. There are others who have little or no future with the Orioles who have also played recently, including Colby Rasmus and Craig Gentry. Rasmus finally called it quits once he was secure with his ten-year pension status and Gentry is injured but due back at some point soon.

Centerfielder Cedric Mullins is knocking on the door in Baltimore, but no one is around to answer it.

The only qualified guess about why guys like D.J. Stewart, Cedric Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle aren't up in Baltimore playing with the big league club is that silly "service time" issue that teams use when they have no vision.

Go ahead and bring them up in September, when their service clock doesn't start, but they have 27 games to play. That's barely enough time to find a girlfriend in town who is impressed that you're a major leaguer.

Oh, and while some of the teams the Orioles play in September will still have their varsity roster intact, plenty of others will be using their AA and AAA call-ups, meaning, in essence, the level of competition is altered in the season's final month.

Bring them up now and they're seeing real major league players in July and August, at the very least. Well, until you play the Royals.

For a team that's been very adept at creating fake injuries over the last few years, this team seems hesitant to do that with guys who need one created for themselves; Trumbo, Davis and Rickard come to mind quickly.

But with no one really at the helm in the Warehouse, this is what you get.

Bad decisions (had a bunch of them this year), weird decisions (why was Rasmus brought back in June?) and decisions that didn't pan out (bringing three Rule 5 guys north in March).

And there are kids down on the farm who have blistered the ball, albeit against minor league pitching, for the last three months. If you can't bring up a guy during a 110-loss season and turn him loose, when can you bring him up and turn him loose?

Here's a newsflash: You could bring the entire Norfolk roster up to Baltimore and they'd win once out of every ten games, which isn't all that much different than this current crop of major league players is doing.

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british open top 7

The British Open (no, I'm sorry, I will not refer to it as The Open Championship) is set to start next Thursday, July 19 at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland.

It's the third of four majors on the professional golf circuit this year. Patrick Reed won The Masters back in April and Brooks Koepka repeated as U.S. Open champion last month at Shinnecock Hills.

Who will raise the Claret Jug on Sunday, July 22nd?

I'm glad you asked.

Over the next week, #DMD will give you the projected top seven finishers at this year's event.

One thing you might be wise to expect: a playoff. The last three British Opens played at Carnoustie required a playoff to determine the winner.

In 2007, Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia in extra holes.

In 1999, Paul Lawrie came back from a 10-shot deficit to win a playoff over Jean Van de Velde and Justin Leonard.

In 1975, Tom Watson edged Australia's Jack Newton in a playoff.

So, if you're suspecting this year's event at Carnoustie might need "overtime", you might very well be right.

But #DMD doesn't think so.

Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick hung around the U.S. Open leaderboard last month before settling for a tie for 12th.

The winner won't need anything but 72 holes to get the job done. So, let's look at the top seven finishers, shall we?

We started on Wednesday, July 11 with Francesco Molinari at #7.

Tommy Fleetwood checked in at #6 yesterday.

You're going to see a lot of European players on this list, I'll warn you now. That trend continues today.

Among the young English players, this kid might wind up being the best of the bunch. Our #5 is Matthew Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick is a 23-year old from Sheffield who has played 9 PGA Tour events in 2018 and made the cut in 7 of them. He finished T12 at the U.S. Open last month.

He's no stranger to big moments, even at 23. He won the U.S. Amateur in 2013 and two years later won one of the European Tour's biggest events, the British Masters.

While he doesn't have the "prodigy" cachet that Rory McIlroy had as a teenager, Fitzpatrick has become England's "fair haired boy" since Luke Donald's tumble down the world rankings.

He will win a major championship or two in his career and the British Open seems a likely spot for at least one of them. While he's challenged a bit by length off the tee, the expected "dry and running fast" conditions at Carnoustie next week will help him pick up some distance.

Thinking about trying to win a big wager next week? Fitzpatrick isn't a bad bet right now at 60/1.

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July 12
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issue 12
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new ravens ticket format causes a stir

I'll be the first to admit this one doesn't hit home for me.

Maybe if I owned Ravens season tickets I'd have more of a personal interest in it, but since I don't, I'm only gathering information and presenting it for the sake of discussion.

The Ravens mailed out their 2018 season tickets early this week and lots of people around town started receiving them yesterday.

The only issue? There weren't any "tickets" in the box.

In a move that's been in the works for a couple of years now, the Ravens and the other 31 NFL teams have gone to a "hard card" season ticket and will no longer distribute individual game tickets for the eight regular season games and two pre-season games.

Odd, right?

Maybe not.

These are now a thing of the past for Ravens fans.

As is the case with anything new these days, it's all tied into your smart phone. If you don't own a smart phone, you'll need to get one.

The "hard card" gets downloaded into your phone and you simply present your phone at the entry gate at Ravens Stadium. Voila! You're in.

If you're a season ticket holder who attends every home game, this new policy isn't an issue at all. It takes a couple of minutes to go through the process of moving your card over to your phone and then that's it.


If you don't use all of your tickets, that's where it might get dicey.

There's an answer for everything, of course, and the "hard card" can also be transferred over to someone else so they can present their phone at the entry gate and gain admission to the game.

You can also still sell your tickets on the secondary market, although the steps to do so admittedly get a little more time consuming. Oh, and there's a fee attached to the process if you're selling them through the NFL's ticket exchange website.

A lot of folks who popped up on social media on Wednesday are upset with the whole thing.

Among their chief complaints:

"I collect all game tickets. I can't do that anymore."

"I donate some of my tickets to charity. How do I do that now without the benefit of a physical ticket?"

"What if I want to give my tickets to a friend or family member?"

All of those things have been considered by the Ravens and the NFL, don't you worry. Well, except for the "collecting" item. That's over. You'll just have to end your snazzy looking man-cave wall mount at 2017.

You can still donate your tickets to charity. They'll just have to go through the same process that anyone else does who possesses a transferred ticket.

Pain in the butt? Probably.

You can send your tickets to anyone, anywhere. As long as they have a smart phone, they're good.

So why do this in the first place? Most NFL season ticket holders want to know the answer to that question. Doesn't this fall under the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" file?

Not really. Because in some ways, it is broke.

Ticket fraud is a huge issue in the sports and entertainment world. With print-at-home tickets, a dishonest person can print as many paper tickets as he/she wants, sell them all, and then the first person to enter the arena is the only one who gains admission. Everyone else is out of luck.

Transferring the tickets to your smart phone eliminates the potential for fraud.

Times have changed in the world of season ticket holders and fan "loyalty". Thirty years ago, if you bought a season ticket, it was likely you were going to every game. Most people, back then at least, wouldn't have thought about selling their tickets to a Steelers fan (we didn't actually have a team here thirty years ago, but you know what I mean).

Twenty years ago, you had the hard ticket in your hand if you were scalping it outside the stadium. That process was a little less risky than the one you have today, where guys stand out front of Ravens stadium waving paper tickets. There's no telling how many times someone has given a guy $20 a seat only to get up to the window and have the big red "X" show up on the ticket scanner.

This new system will greatly reduce ticket fraud.

And while the teams won't say this publicly, it also helps restrict and/or reduce the number of visiting fans who gain access to tickets. It's still possible, but now you have to ask for, and receive, personal information from the person buying the tickets from you. If they're not willing to give out their phone number and/or e-mail, the transaction can't be completed.

But most importantly, the new process means that the NFL and the home team will now know the identity of every person who owns a ticket or tickets on that game day.

They'll now have your phone number and e-mail address at their disposal.

They can market to you before, during and after the game.

It also potentially helps with some in-stadium security issues as well.

There are, as I see it, still some glitches, but I'm guessing smart NFL execs have answers to these questions.

I have an 11 year old son. He wants to use the bathroom during the game. He doesn't own a smart phone. How does the usher know to let him back in the section when he returns?

Do I have to accompany him?

All season ticket holders received "hard cards" with lanyards that they can wear around their neck for in-stadium access. But what if I buy the tickets from a friend and I don't have those?

I get in the stadium using my smart phone. But how do I move around once I'm in the stadium, knowing I don't have a hard, physical ticket to display?

No one likes change.

This is a pretty significant change, truth be told.

But lots of venues and teams have been doing this for a few years now.

I've been to a bunch of Capitals and Wizards games in 2017 and 2018 and I've yet to have a hard ticket in my hand. Everything they do down there is via the internet and/or your smart phone.

It's not that hard to figure out.

Even a dummy from Old Mill or a Flyers fan can do it, although they might have to use the 1-800 number for assistance.

To me, it's not a big deal. I suspect my Orioles mini-plan will go the smart phone route sometime soon, in fact.

I'm far more worried about the Ravens new wide receiving corps than I am a collectors item game ticket.

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"The Keen Eye" of 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 Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.

it’s all been done

The 2003 Detroit Tigers had a record of 43-119. They lost more games than any team in American League history.

A terrible irony of that season in Detroit: the manager was Alan Trammell, recently elected to the Hall of Fame, perhaps the most beloved player in team history. His coaching staff included Kirk Gibson and Lance Parrish, Trammell’s teammates on the famed 1984 Tigers team that began the season with 35 wins in its first 40 games.

Three of the most important players on the best team in Tigers history coached the team during the worst season in team history.

Aside from that, those 2003 Tigers were a little different than other unbelievably awful teams. The only comparable team from modern times was the 1962 Mets, who famously won only 40 games. They were an expansion team, though.

The 2003 Tigers were, for lack of a better way of putting it, the worst team ever without an excuse to be that bad.

The 2003 Detroit Tigers won 43 games. Can the Orioles of 2018 surpass them?

At this point, the 2018 Orioles are a close second, on pace for 44 or 45 wins with a team featuring plenty of players who won 85 or more games four times in five years from 2012 through 2016.

If there’s any kind of fire sale soon, then these Orioles will no longer be a team without an excuse. But up until now, it’s about the same.

Or is it worse? The 2002 Tigers won only 55 games; a terribly bad team just got even more terrible the next year. The 2017 Orioles won 75 games, and were above the .500 mark as late as September 8. Now that’s a bad fall!

All of which makes you wonder…why?

Why does a team without an excuse play like one that has an excuse? I’ve heard a few thoughts on the matter.

Peter, Lou and John Angelos? I mean, I doubt it.

Brady Anderson? Who even knows what the guy actually does?

Dan Duquette? Buck Showalter? Can a person go from genius to dolt in six months? I say no.

Chris Davis? That’s a good one. It’s pretty hard to go from a guy with a .923 OPS, 47 home runs and 84 walks to whatever that is out on the field (sometimes) now. Still, he’s only one guy, albeit a high-paid one locked into a contract.

People are always looking for answers. Our modern analysis, and even our eyes, do a pretty good job of telling us who looks like a winner and who doesn’t.

There just isn’t an answer for this, is there?

It’s a legitimate anomaly, one that’s being recorded as we speak but can’t really be explained.

The Orioles currently have a team batting average of .227, 20 points below the league average of .247. The 2003 Tigers finished with a batting average 19 points below the league average. Scary.

Times have changed. The league batting average in 2018 is currently 12 points below the average from 15 years ago; this is an era of the home run and the strikeout. Still, the Orioles are hitting like it’s 1968. Pitching was so dominant that year that the next year the mound was lowered.

It’s one thing for an entire season or an entire league to experience an anomaly, like 1968. It’s another for it to happen to just one or two teams.

On the other hand, this season is on its way to being an anomaly all around. There are four teams on pace to win 100 games, and all of them are in the American League. Three of them—the Astros, Red Sox and Yankees—are on pace for numbers approaching 110 victories. A number reached by the occasional team looks like one that’s in the sights of three teams in one season.

Apparently, the Indians, at 49-41, have been taking offense to the fact that nobody in Cleveland talks about them. Everyone in town is obsessed with the soon-to-be terrible Cavaliers and the always terrible Browns and forgetting the winner, a team that’s eight games ahead.

They look like chumps compared to the Yankees, Red Sox and Astros, though. It took them until the end of May to get their 30th win, after all.

Hopefully the Orioles will get their 30th win sometime in July. With the All-Star Break, they only have 15 more games this month.

Back in Detroit, the Tigers jumped from 43 wins to 72 wins in 2004. The 29-win improvement was the biggest improvement since the 1989 Orioles, who won 87 games during the 1989 “Why Not?” season after winning 54 games in the 1988 season where they lost their first 21 games.

By 2006, with Jim Leyland now at the helm, Detroit won 95 games, defeated the powerful Yankees in the Division Series and swept the Athletics in the ALCS before losing to St. Louis in the World Series. The best part. Of the 25-man roster that won the pennant for the 2006 Tigers, 10 players had been on the 2003 team.

Certainly, they weren’t the best players on the 2006 team, those guys who’d also lost 119 games three years earlier. In the interim, the Tigers signed veterans like Pudge Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen. A young Curtis Granderson, who came up in 2004, blossomed into a star player. Justin Verlander won the Rookie of the Year award.

Still, those losers from three years earlier made big contributions to a season that ended in late October. They just needed a little help and a little luck.

The Tigers made the moves they had to make in the wake of their embarrassing season. Who’s to say that the Orioles won’t do the same thing?

Their futility allowed them to draft a player like Verlander, a dominant college pitcher who was in the Major Leagues less than a year after he was chosen. Who’s to say that the Orioles won’t find a player of similar talents through the draft in the next two or three years.

Can Ryan Mountcastle, whenever he joins the team, be like Granderson when he joined the Tigers? And exactly who will the Orioles get for Manny Machado, and how quickly will they get a chance to make a difference?

The Orioles will likely be terrible in 2019. It’s probably unlikely that they’ll approach this season’s sad state of affairs. And even if they do, they’ll have an excuse.

The Orioles are a bad Major League baseball team. They have all the characteristics, from too many “Four-A” guys to terrible veteran contracts to a front office that made poor decisions on starting pitching. We know they’re not “this bad,” no matter what their record says.

As hard as it is to believe right now, there’s absolutely hope that good things aren’t that far away. One need only look at the Tigers to see the blueprint.

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british open top 7

The British Open (no, I'm sorry, I will not refer to it as The Open Championship) is set to start next Thursday, July 19 at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland.

It's the third of four majors on the professional golf circuit this year. Patrick Reed won The Masters back in April and Brooks Koepka repeated as U.S. Open champion last month at Shinnecock Hills.

Who will raise the Claret Jug on Sunday, July 22nd?

I'm glad you asked.

Over the next week, #DMD will give you the projected top seven finishers at this year's event.

One thing you might be wise to expect: a playoff. The last three British Opens played at Carnoustie required a playoff to determine the winner.

In 2007, Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia in extra holes.

In 1999, Paul Lawrie came back from a 10-shot deficit to win a playoff over Jean Van de Velde and Justin Leonard.

In 1975, Tom Watson edged Australia's Jack Newton in a playoff.

So, if you're suspecting this year's event at Carnoustie might need "overtime", you might very well be right.

But #DMD doesn't think so.

Englishman Tommy Fleetwood hopes to have a more important trophy his side at Carnoustie next week.

The winner won't need anything but 72 holes to get the job done. So, let's look at the top seven finishers, shall we?

We started on Wednesday, July 11 with Francesco Molinari at #7.

You'll notice a trend in these predictions over the next six days. They'll include several players who have never won a major championship. Today's #6 is no different.

Tommy Fleetwood nearly won the U.S. Open last month, shooting 63 on the final day to nearly steal the title from Brooks Koepka. We see him as a legitimate contender for the British Open, and he comes in at number six today.

Fleetwood, and the rest of the Europeans, have a definite advantage when it comes to playing Carnoustie.

They know how to "play the weather" and they can adapt to the ever-changing conditions in Scotland. You might get the early tee time on Thursday morning and play in breezy, gentle conditions that permit you to play stock 7-iron shots up in the air or you might draw the afternoon with wind and drizzle and you'll need to play the ball down to keep it out of "the fan", as they say over there.

Fleetwood, an Englishman, knows how to play that kind of golf.

He likes the food in Scotland, or at the very least, knows what to order and what not to order. The same can't be said for Americans and other international players going over there.

Time change isn't an issue for him, either. Several American players went over early, in fact, to better acclimate their bodies to the time difference, playing in last week's Irish Open to get a head start on things.

Everything sets up well for Fleetwood next week. He's a terrific driver of the golf ball, as he showed at Shinnecock Hills, and he's worthy of winning a major championship or two in his day.

Can Fleetwood do what Lee Westwood never could?

He very well might do it. Next week, in fact.

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July 11
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issue 11
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orioles can't afford to foul this up

There's been a melancholy tone around these parts for most of the last week.

Maybe it's the summer heat getting to us.

Or perhaps it's just human nature to feel sympathetic for someone when they're down and out.

Whatever the case, we've been genuinely kind to the Orioles here at #DMD in July.

And as long as they put their best foot forward during the early days of this rebuilding project they're undertaking, I suppose most of us will give them plenty of rope over the next year or so.

If these trades are his last important task for the Orioles, let's hope Dan Duquette pulls the right strings for the Orioles.

As I wrote here yesterday, if you're OK with the Orioles trading away three or four of their best players, you better be ready to watch a lot of losing in 2019 and 2020.

Here's the deal, though. And, yes, there is a caveat to all of this wheeling and dealing.

The Orioles better now screw this up.

And if you're of the mindset that the organization can't be completely trusted during this critical time of repair, you're well within your rights to believe that.

This is a franchise that started the 2018 season with no manager or general manager under contract for 2019 and beyond. While that might not seem outwardly strange to someone who doesn't understand sports, anyone with a discerning eye for what goes on in the locker room and on the field knows it's counter-productive to have a situation like the one the Orioles have saddled themselves with this season.

There are lots and lots of reasons why the team is 26-66. One of them, I believe, is connected to Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette and the uncertainty that lies with both of their positions.

But that dead horse has flies on it at this point. Leaving Buck and Duquette hanging in the breeze was dumb. Let's move on.

The next three weeks will go a long way in shaping the look of the Orioles in 2019, 2020, 2021 and possibly even into 2022. The pressure is on. It's showtime.

They better not screw this thing up.

Whatever the best deal is for Manny Machado, make it. If that means you send him to the Red Sox, then by all means, ship him up there.

If the Yankees make you the best offer, put him on the train and send him to the Bronx.

If it's Los Angeles, that's fine too.

The same goes for Zach Britton. And Adam Jones. And anyone else.

I've said this before and I'm still here saying it today. The only guy on the entire roster I wouldn't trade is Dylan Bundy. That's it. Everyone else is available for the right price.

But the ones we know are likely to go will set the foundation of the Orioles for the next few years. It's critical that this doesn't get fouled up somehow.

It's OK to have a soft spot for the Orioles, even now when they're embarrassing themselves nearly every night and are an unthinkable 40 games under .500 on July 11th.

I've definitely "gone soft" on them this year, mostly because I know they're miserable.

But they owe it to the fans to get this trade-deadline stuff right. We might have to endure another season or two of 60 wins, but we'll put up with it as long as we can see some light at the end of tunnel. Or, I will, at least.

As Eminem said, "You only have one shot..."

This is the occasion where the Orioles set themselves up for the future.

They better get this right over the next three weeks.

The future of the franchise -- on the field -- depends on it.

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british open top 7

The British Open (no, I'm sorry, I will not refer to it as The Open Championship) is set to start next Thursday, July 19 at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland.

It's the third of four majors on the professional golf circuit this year. Patrick Reed won The Masters back in April and Brooks Koepka repeated as U.S. Open champion last month at Shinnecock Hills.

Who will raise the Claret Jug on Sunday, July 22nd?

I'm glad you asked.

Over the next week, #DMD will give you the projected top seven finishers at this year's event.

One thing you might be wise to expect: a playoff. The last three British Opens played at Carnoustie required a playoff to determine the winner.

In 2007, Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia in extra holes.

In 1999, Paul Lawrie came back from a 10-shot deficit to win a playoff over Jean Van de Velde and Justin Leonard.

In 1975, Tom Watson edged Australia's Jack Newton in a playoff.

So, if you're suspecting this year's event at Carnoustie might need "overtime", you might very well be right.

But #DMD doesn't think so.

Is it time for Francesco Molinari to move into golf's "elite" category?

The winner won't need anything but 72 holes to get the job done. So, let's look at the top seven finishers, shall we?

#7 -- Francesco Molinari

Fresh off his win at the Quicken Loans National, Molinari is slowly starting to work his way up the list of "best players without a major championship".

He now has eight career wins, including five on the European Tour, where he spends most of his time. He's made two Ryder Cup appearances (2010 and 2012) and is a virtual lock for this year's team as well.

What he doesn't have, though, is a major championship. And it seems likely, if not expected, that his first major will come at the British Open.

Might his turn come next week at Carnoustie? Maybe.

We see him as a player to watch and expect you'll see his name on the first page of the leaderboard at some point in the final round on Sunday, July 22nd.

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one more day with george

Since an appearance by George on "The Juice" is so rare, I'll leave it up one more day for those of you who didn't get to hear it on Tuesday.

He's heading back to North Carolina today.

And "The Juice" will return tomorrow with a recap of another Orioles win, hopefully, and a preview of the World Cup final.

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July 10
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are you ready for the orioles to really stink?

So, unless there's a sudden, dramatic turn of events, the Orioles are actually going to go through with a trade or three as the deadline approaches in three weeks.

Manny Machado all but said his goodbyes to the fans -- through the media -- on Monday afternoon before the Orioles beat the Yankees, 5-4, in the opening game of a doubleheader at Camden Yards.

Adam Jones was interviewed by Gary Thorne last weekend in Minnesota and seemed resigned to his fate, too, although Jones dropped a couple of hints that he wouldn't mind returning to the team when he hits free agency this winter.

Zach Britton knows it's coming as well.

Manny Machado is expected to be traded sometime in the next two weeks. How will his departure impact your affection for the Orioles?

There are even rumors swirling that some clubs have asked for guys like Mychal Givens, who is under team control until 2021.

So, it's happening. The Orioles look like they're about to deal the only few good players they still have on their roster.

What are you going to do now?

Not "now" as in today -- but now as in, during this rebuilding project, which could take a couple of years at a minimum, what are you going to do?

Are you on board with it?

If you are, that means you have to know the losses are going to come fast and furious. Sort of like we've seen this season, basically.

This, of course, is a necessity if you're the Orioles. Machado and Britton most certainly will be with new teams next season and the organization knows it. While they aren't the only two players on the team worth a hoot, their loss will certainly impact the club's ability to remain competitive in the American League East.

Add Adam Jones, and maybe even Mark Trumbo, and you've lost four players who can help you win a game on any given night.

There's no telling what their record will be this season when all is said and done. 45-117? 50-112? Does it even matter?

And will it matter next year when they go 55-107? And the year after when they go 64-98?

Are you still in, no matter what?

Or are you going to take a hiatus until the team is good again?

There's no real right or wrong answer here, mind you. It's your money, after all. And it's your television set, too.

If you don't want to buy tickets or watch the games until the team gets competitive again, you are free to do that.

I'm wondering if you've thought about it at all?

A lot of you, I assume, probably haven't watched much this year since the team started off 8-27. The attendance has dropped off as well, which isn't at all surprising.

It takes a unique individual to stay devoted to a team that's not only losing now, but almost guaranteed to lose for at least two more seasons after this one. And that's if the organization makes the right moves with these trades later this month and can make an appeal to a free agent or two in 2019 and 2020.

Are you in?

Or out?

I'm in, by the way, in case you were wondering when I was going to reveal my position.

I'll still buy my 13-game plan next season and I'll still watch the games. I get it. We had a decent little run for a few years and almost made it to the World Series in 2014. It was fun. Now it won't be much fun for a while.

But I'm still in, mainly because the uniform says "Baltimore" on the front.

And if this season has taught us anything, it's that the players are suffering right along with us, even more, in fact, as the losses pile up and the prospect of a last-place finish becomes clearly evident.

Yes, I know they get paid a lot of money to hit .160 or go 2-12 on the mound.

But deep down, they hate this.

And while I can walk away, they can't. They have to show up every day, put the uniform on, and try as hard as they can to stop losing.

Maybe I've oddly developed a new level of respect for the Orioles in the wake of this horrendous season to date.

But I'm "in", I've decided.

I'm interested to know if you are, too.

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from the desk of
brien jackson

BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.

The 2018 Orioles are bad. Really bad. And when a team is this bad, big changes are inevitable.

Manny Machado's departure is apparently imminent, and Zach Britton, Brad Brach, and Adam Jones will likely be right behind him. Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman might even join them, and Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter will both likely be replaced after the season ends.

An entire era of Orioles' baseball is coming to an end in the very near future.

While most of the focus is on lamenting the losing and preparing for a rebuild, why don't we take a second to appreciate the good times that were instead?

Oh, and they were good. The Orioles made the playoffs three times between 2012 and 2016, and no American League team won more games than the Birds over those five seasons.

The good times were really good!

The 2012 team was a fantastic surprise: A contender no one saw coming but who rode an historically good record in close games to a wild card berth, knocked off the two time defending AL champions on the road, and very nearly beat the Yankees in the ALDS as well.

The 2014 Orioles were arguably the best team in the junior circuit that season, and but for some of the best outfield defense you will ever see from the Royals in the ALCS could have easily advanced to the World Series.

Even last year, when this group's window finally slammed shut, the O's were above .500 and in the thick of the wild card race on September 8th.

And yet it feels like a lot of Baltimore fans let the moment pass them by without fully appreciating how good they had it.

I guess that's understandable, even common. The goal is to win, after all, and anything short of a championship every year means losing, ultimately. But man is that a sad way to approach baseball, in particular.

The differences between good teams in baseball is so slight that, usually, you have to play 162 games just to separate them by a couple of wins. Sometimes even that many games doesn't do the trick.

Tossing the best teams into a best of 5 or 7 tournament format creates outcomes that are virtually random, and all sorts of very good teams don't make it through. The 1990's Indians had one of the greatest collections of talent in history. They didn't win a World Series.

The Greg Maddux-era Braves dominated the divisional era like few teams ever have, and won one world title. The Griffey/Johnson/ARod era Mariners never made the series, nor did the record setting 116 win iteration of the team. Ditto for the Moneyball A's teams.

In short, being the best team doesn't get you as far in the baseball playoffs as it does in football or basketball, and there's no magic formula to winning 11 games in October. Regular season wins are much more within the realm of control for good teams, and as such a better barometer of "success" over a long period.

But if nothing else, there's simply entertainment value in having a team playing meaningful games into September. This year should definitively show us that.

Nor does the bottom falling out entirely on this group diminish what they did previously. If anything this is the norm in baseball. The Phillies, Rangers, Reds, and Pirates also enjoyed periods of contention this decade, and then were suddenly terrible.

The Royals are now the Orioles chief competitor for the worst team in baseball, just three seasons after winning it all. Heck the Mets couldn't even get a second bite at the playoffs after losing the World Series in 2015.

So yes, the Orioles are historically bad right now, and changes are eventually coming. Maybe it will be a quick rebuild, or perhaps the team won't see a winning record for a decade or better. Maybe they'll bomb this trade deadline, or maybe the market will heat up in the near future and they'll land some future stars after all.

Let's leave those concerns for another day. For now let's pause and appreciate that for six years this group played (mostly) competitive, meaningful, baseball and stayed in the playoff chase into September.

Let's honestly think about what an achievement it was to be the AL's winningest team for 5 years, especially given where we all thought this team was on Opening Day 2012.

Let's raise a cold Natty Boh to Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette. Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton, and Chris Tillman.

Spare a thought for Delmon Young and Bud Norris, and the time the O's beat three Cy Young winners to sweep the Tigers out of the playoffs. And yes, let's give a hand to Chris Davis and Peter Angelos for their contributions as well.

And when the good times return, and they will, let's spend a little less time fretting over every flaw we pre-emptively imagine will leave the World Series out of reach, and appreciate watching good, quality baseball in the moment.

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george makes his first "juice" appearance today!

You've read his work here at #DMD.

Today you can hear George McDowell speak (yes, he's real!) in a lengthy edition of our daily podcast, The Juice.

George came up from North Carolina to stay with me and my family in Hagerstown during this week's Maryland Open golf tournament.

We went out looking for crabs yesterday (not always easy to find in the western part of the state) and had a fun afternoon together, culminating in recording the podcast late last night.

The podcast includes discussion about the Orioles, golf, Mount Pleasant (of course) and I even slithered in a question about the new Supreme Court judge.

He has been hanging around Fountain Head golf course for the last few days with his trusty video camera as well. At some point soon, I suspect you'll see an article or two from him while he's here in Hagerstown.

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July 9
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issue 9
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it's an all-star game and an exhibition game

People around the country are worked up that Bryce Harper -- in the middle of a somewhat dismal season, truth be told -- was named a starter for the National League All-Star team on Sunday.

Folks in Cleveland are upset that Francisco Lindor got snubbed for Manny Machado at shortstop.

Listen up, everyone.

It's an exhibition game.

It. Doesn't Matter.

Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper was voted an All-Star Game starter by the fans.

If it did matter, Luis Severino would start and pitch as long as he could for the American League and Max Scherzer would throw his seven or eight innings for the National League.

But since the game is basically a mid-season frat party for the rich-and-famous, Severino will throw an inning or two as will Scherzer. And the rest of the pitchers will all do the same, essentially.

Bryce Harper isn't having a great season, but he sure as heck isn't Chris Davis. Harper is hitting a woeful .219, but his .374 on-base percentage is solid and his 21 home runs rank him 3rd in the National League.

He's an All-Star player who might not be having a starter-in-the-All-Star-Game type campaign, but it's not an embarrassment to have him in the game on July 17.

Oh, and don't forget: The game is at Nats Park.

As much as we think Manny Machado is having an excellent offensive season, the reality is Cleveland's Lindor is probably having a better overall campaign.

Lindor is better defensively, for sure, and his numbers with the bat are comparable to Machado's. The stat nerds will also point to Lindor's WAR, which ranks 4th in the A.L. at 5.3.

But, again, who really cares?

Maybe the players do. I'm not sure why it matters to the fans, though. If you live in Cleveland are you not going to watch the game because Machado is the starter over Lindor?

Every worth player is going to play in the game. Machado will get his at-bats and so, too, will Lindor. Harper won't play all nine innings, even though the D.C. faithful would love to see that.

It was cool to see Nick Markakis finally get an All-Star Game nod in his 13th big league season. He's one of the main reasons why the Braves are alive and well in the National League East at the midway point of the campaign.

As for the Birds, the only guy on the team even remotely worthy of consideration is Machado. There's not one other player having close to an All-Star caliber season in Baltimore.

I'll watch the game next Tuesday night no matter who starts, pitches, plays short and so on.

It's a baseball game with the best players in both league suiting up and making an appearance. It's a showcase event. I couldn't care less who starts.

If you care, that's your fault.

"The Juice" returns on Tuesday

I'm taking a one-day hiatus from The Juice to be well rested for today's opening round of the Maryland Open in Hagerstown.

A new edition of the podcast will return tomorrow with #DMD friend and expert-on-everything George McDowell joining me!

Be sure and tune in on Tuesday!!

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once again, arena idea gets shot down

Baltimore will apparently try and build a new hotel to help boost business at the Convention Center.

And they'll take some modest steps to repair and improve Pimlico Race Course.

But a new downtown sports arena isn't in the cards, according to several local business delegates who recently authored a letter to Mayor Catherine Pugh detailing their thoughts on downtown expansion.

That means, for the foreseeable future at least, the Royal Farms Arena will remain Baltimore's top indoor sports and entertainment facility.

Critics of a new downtown arena always throw out the same question first: "If we build a new arena, who is going to play there?"

With Washington D.C. owning franchises in both the NHL and NBA, it seems highly unlikely any expansion efforts by either league would include Baltimore as a consideration.

So, again: Who is going to play in a new arena?

Advocates of a new downtown building would answer that question by saying: "Well, we know who isn't playing in the old building right now."

It's the old chicken-or-egg theory.

Build the arena first and try and attract an expansion franchise or steal a team from another city?

Steal the team first, then build?

Baltimore officials seemingly don't care if there's a new sports arena or not.

But the hotel and convention center project are moving forward.

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"The Keen Eye" of 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 Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.

annoyances edition


Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson

What I would say about the proposed $10 million match between these two has been said here already, so I won’t elaborate too much on it.

If they play for $10 million of their own money, that would be great. If it’s someone else’s money, not so much. I’d rather they get to 1-2 on the leaderboard in a major and play in the final group together on Sunday.

No more Tiger!! At least until he's holding up another trophy.

As much as it pains me to say it, I’m kind of tired of these guys.

I’m tired of 90 percent of the fans at a golf tournament following Tiger Woods and his playing partner while the people winning the tournament are out playing the course like it’s a regular Wednesday afternoon.

I’m tired of people singing Happy Birthday to Phil Mickelson during the U.S. Open every year. We get it: it’s his birthday. He’s almost 50 years old.

I’m tired of the idea that either of them has what it takes anymore to win a major championship, or to be a great player at the Ryder Cup.

I’m really tired of the idea that either of them is a person we should be rooting for; I think both of them have demonstrated plenty of reasons to feel the opposite way.

This big money match between Woods and Mickelson doesn’t feel like the Monday night golf series from the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Woods played Duval and Garcia and was then involved in team matches featuring Nicklaus and Trevino, Sorenstam and Webb.

What we saw then were players at the top of their game, which is why it mattered. Now it would be all about the money, which may not even be their money.



I’d like to give props to an acting coach named Philippa Strandberg-Long, who was recently quoted in the New York Times in an article about the Brazilian soccer star Neymar and his tendency to…um…embellish when a foul is committed against him.

Said the acting coach: “If you have a response that doesn’t correspond to the event, we won’t empathize, we won’t believe you, and we’ll start to question why. Either you are lying or you’re psychologically ill.”

What reaction is Neymar hoping to illicit by rolling along the ground for 25 feet? Is the Portuguese star Pepe expecting applause by collapsing in a heap after a Moroccan player lightly taps him on the shoulder while walking down the field?

The question isn’t why soccer players in the World Cup sometimes turn into actors. Athletes in every sport on every level do that.

The question is why they are such terrible actors. Isn’t the whole point of acting to be as believable as possible in the role you’re playing?

I’m sure that Neymar gets fouled as much or more than any other player in the world. The more skilled you are in comparison to your opponent, the more that’s likely to happen. I’m sure he’d like to be spiked and flailed at on a much less regular basis.

Isn’t the diving the opposite reaction of what would work best, though? If he showed a certain toughness, real or perceived, that would gain him even more respect from fans, referees and opposing players. In fact, he’d probably draw more fouls that aren’t really fouls.


Los Angeles

So, LeBron decided to take his talents to Manhattan Beach and join the Lakers for four years at $153.3 million. I’m not sure the move will even get the Lakers into the top four in the Western Conference playoffs next year, but that’s fodder for another time.

Whenever a situation like this presents itself, we hear about how it’s good for the league when team “X” is good. The Lakers, the Yankees, the Cowboys, etc. Relatedly, we often hear from athletes that it’s always been their dream to play for “team X.”

I’ve never understood either of them.

Oh, it’s good for the league’s media partners when teams in New York and Los Angeles and Chicago are good. Those are the biggest cities with the most eyes watching. The advertising dollar means more when more people are tuning in.

As for the leagues themselves, why does it matter? The NBA has been just fine with lousy Lakers and Knicks teams. Last time I checked the NFL sort of exploded at the same time America’s Team fell into a pit of mediocrity.

Meanwhile, sometimes I understand it when a player signs with a team and says that he’s always wanted to wear that uniform.

Cal Ripken, Jr? Sure. Joe Mauer. No problem. If you spent your childhood in the team’s clubhouse, or grew up a couple miles from the stadium, then it makes all the sense in the world.

Otherwise, just stop lying. You signed with the Yankees because they gave you the best contract, or because they’re good and you like to win. I’d rather you be honest about it than give some silly story about how much the pinstripes mean to you.


Not that long from now

It’s easier to make the playoffs in Major League Baseball than it used to be, right? Thanks to the one-game Wild Card thing, five teams in each league are playoff teams. That’s 33 percent.

With the Orioles on their way to an epic season of historically bad proportion, I got to wondering when exactly the next time will be that the team will get into that top 5.

You no longer need to look at a 24-64 record and wonder how in the world that’s going to flip to 95 or 100 wins anytime in the near future. Fact is that getting to 86 or 87 wins might be enough to be a Wild Card team. That’s certainly a lot more doable.

Fact is that winning 50 games or 62 games in a season doesn’t really make a difference. A bad season is a bad season; a season in which you never even sniffed Wild Card contention is the same whether it’s historically bad or just run-of-the-mill bad.

In other words, it might not be that long from now that the Orioles are back in the playoffs, just because it’s not that hard to make the playoffs.

It’s almost impossible to believe that the team would go on another 14-year stretch without a playoff appearance, isn’t it?

Being in the AL East with the Yankees and Red Sox isn’t going to help the Orioles in their quest for mediocrity, let alone division titles. Still, I’d bet on the team returning to the playoffs quicker than you might think based on this season’s comical record.


Assistant coaches

The head coaches are the stars of the Division I college basketball landscape. The best players hang around for one year, but the best head coaches stay forever. These are THEIR programs, maybe even more than for football coaches since there are only 13 or 14 players instead of more than 100.

There was a time where assistant coaches meant almost as much as the head coach, but that time has passed. These days, most assistants in the big time are hired almost entirely because of “connections” they have in recruiting.

Whether an assistant coach can help develop a player’s skills, serve as the “good cop” for players in relation to the “bad cop” head coach or offer sound strategic advice during games is almost immaterial.

Many assistants are being hired, and paid much more than they ought to be, to simply be the lifeline between AAU programs and their head coach’s program. What they know about basketball doesn’t matter.

The worst part is when one of these assistant coaches who’s served as the main recruiter for a successful program gets hired as a head coach at another school. He has to be in charge of a team, and actually win basketball games, and he has no idea how to do that.

This isn’t a good time for a few assistant coaches around the country, including here at Maryland. For whatever reason, the FBI thinks what they do every day is worth investigating.

Truthfully, though, there’s something good about exposing what these guys are paid to do, which has very little to do with anything that happens on the court.

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July 8
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maryland hoops in hot water (but you can't be surprised)

The news that dripped out of College Park a few days ago about Maryland's basketball team wasn't good.

Sadly, it also wasn't much of a surprise.

There were too many things that didn't add up. None of them were smack-you-in-the-face obvious. But it wasn't a shock -- not to me, anyway -- when word got out that Maryland's basketball program had received two federal grand jury subpoenas earlier in 2018.

I don't know any secret information.

I just know how dirty college sports has become over the last three decades.

What's Mark Turgeon's status in the wake of the federal investigation surroundng Maryland basketball?

I knew someone who worked at the University of Maryland back in the 1990's. He told me once, "We have a back-up (basketball) player spending $5,000 a month on an athletic department credit card! A back up!"

Imagine what kind of deals the best players are getting these days.

And not just at Maryland. We've already seen the likes of Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas and Michigan State get called on the carpet.

The head coaches all essentially say the same thing: "I've never had a conversation with (insert name here of the person who collected the money on behalf of the player involved) in my life."

They're likely telling the truth. The head coach is rarely dumb enough to be the one who says to the representative, "Oh, sure, we'll give him sixty grand to play for us."

It's always someone else who does the dirty work. In Maryland's case, the man on the hot seat is assistant coach Bino Ranson, who was mentioned specifically by the grand jury.

One of the subpoenas referenced a Maryland recruit by name: Silvia De Sousa. How odd is it that the Terps lost out on De Sousa back in 2017 when -- wait for it -- the young man suddenly decided to attend Kansas instead?

Still, though, Maryland's pursuit of De Sousa created a red flag with the feds. Let your imagine run wild and you're probably close to spot on.

The other subpoeana had a redacted name, but most followers believe it's Diamond Stone who got the Terps in hot water. Or vice versa.

Either way, it's just not surprising.

Disappointing? Sure. This whole mess might wind up costing Mark Turgeon his job, after all. But there's just no way you can be shocked at the Terps being the latest school to be called to the principal's office for bad behavior.

It's college sports.

If you're not funneling money to a kid via his family representative or giving his Aunt Clarice a $70,000 gig in the athletic department, you're not trying to win.

That's what they'll tell you, anyway.

"Everyone else is doing it." That's the familiar battle cry these days.

And everyone else likely is doing it, although some apparently do it better than others.

In Maryland's case, it's potentially a big black eye for a program that doesn't really need one.

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o's now 40 games under .500

It's July 8th. And the Orioles still haven't recorded their 25th win of the season.

In trying to come up with new ways to illuminate just how crazy-awful this 2018 campaign really is, I discovered this one yesterday after the 5-4 loss to the Twins in Minnesota.

The Orioles have played 14 weeks of baseball thus far.

The Orioles staked Kevin Gausman to a 3-0 first inning lead on Saturday, but it wasn't enough as the Twins came back to win, 5-4.

Their record is now 24-64.

They're averaging less than two wins per-week.

That's really hard to do.

And here's what else is sort of nuts about the season. I think the Orioles are still trying. I've seen certain moments of give-up in them, like a few weeks ago at the home game against Seattle when Manny Machado strolled to first base on a grounder.

But for the most part, I think the Orioles go into every game and say, "Let's play well and win this one."

They just can't win.

When the pitching holds up, the bats go silent and the bullpen blows a gasket.

When the bats are alive, the starting pitcher can't get through the order the second time around.

When it rains, it pours.

It's more and more apparent with each passing game that the Orioles are headed for a win total of something in the 40's if they don't get their act together and win 7 out of 10 sometime before August 1st.

They have 24 wins.

12 of those 24 have come on the road.

Just for kicks and giggles (and George is sitting in front of me as I write this to verify the effort), I'm going to try and name every Orioles road victory thus far in 2018 in rapid-fire fashion.

I couldn't do it. I got 8 or 9 right. But I lost track of a win in Tampa Bay and two wins in Chicago over the White Sox.

As George just said as he looked at the game-by-game results: "This is pathetic."

I'm not trying to channel my inner Buck Showalter when I say this, but I'm constantly marveling at how hard the team is trying juxtaposed against how bad they are.

They just can't beat anyone.

But as long as I think they're still trying, I'll keep watching.

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a win for varner would be great for golf

Don't look now, but golf could get a huge shot in the arm today.

And it has nothing to do with Spieth, Fowler, Woods or Mickelson.

His name is Harold Varner III.

Harold Varner III is looking for his first PGA Tour win today at the Greenbrier.

Varner is African-American. He's tied for the lead at the Greenbrier in West Virginia, sharing the top spot with Kelly Kraft at 14-under par.

Successful African-American players on the PGA Tour have been few and far between over the last forty years. Jim Thorpe and Calvin Peete were the two most successful until Tiger came along, but if we're allowed to split hairs for a minute, Tiger -- by his own admission -- isn't fully African-American. His mother is from Thailand and his father was African-American.

Varner hails from Akron, Ohio and would follow in the footsteps of Thorpe and Peete.

And he's a player, by the way.

I say that to mean this: He's going to win on the PGA Tour at some point. It might be today or it might be next month, but Varner is going to break through and get in the winner's circle.

And the sport of golf will benefit from it.

When Woods took over golf circa 2000, the number of African Americans who took an interest in golf, bought their first set of clubs, and headed to the course multiplied like Chris Davis strikeouts on an 11-game road trip.

Not surprisingly, the number of African Americans taking up golf has dipped over the last five years, which just happens to be roughly the same amount of time Tiger has been off the PGA Tour radar.

But if Harold Varner wins today, that might change.

Golf, like all sports, needs a constant shot-in-the-arm from someone, somewhere. 20 years ago it was Woods. Recently it was the emergence of guys like Spieth and Fowler who became household names because they not only play golf well, but sell clothing, shoes, mortgages and cell phone service.

If Harold Varner wins today, he becomes a household name because he beat everyone else in the field.

And that's the best way to get the recognition you deserve.

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July 7
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espn silences their commenters

So much for's interactive freedom.

The four-letter network is currently ranked in the Top 30 in daily United States website traffic. How many visitors that equals is unknown, but one thing we now know for sure: Those who visit will no longer have a comment section in which they can share their opinion(s).

The network gave a fancy, carefully worded explanation on Friday, going out of their way to make sure they stressed to everyone that they value all opinions and comments.

“Fans currently have more touchpoints than ever to voice their comments," the ESPN statement read. "We value their opinions, and feel that we are better able to serve them through our customer care team and our social platforms. In fact, we have and are continuing to create content for social that embraces these conversations and interacts with fans.”

They apparently just didn't value them enough to allow them to be published any longer.

This turn of events isn't a great surprise, though.

While used Facebook to filter their comments and make them public, that didn't stop people from publishing stuff that was -- choose one or just check off all boxes -- offensive, inappropriate, racially insensitive, dumb, or not connected to the topic.

Finally, the suits at ESPN said "that's enough".

I imagine this will cost them some readers, in the same way that shutting down the comments here would most likely cost #DMD some daily traffic. But when you're ranked in the Top 30 in several of the most important traffic-data categories, losing a few thousand people who were mainly coming around just to see themselves published probably isn't going to hurt you.

It would be interesting to find out what, exactly, served as the proverbial final straw with the decision-makers at ESPN.

That, to me, is probably the most important question of the entire (untold) story.

After all these years, what was it, precisely, that made you all say, "That's it. No more comments."?

I'd love to know.

I do understand the frustration of it all, even if, by comparison, #DMD is a freshman walk-on and ESPN is a 5th year grad student who made All-American his junior and senior years.

When you publish a story about A, B and C and people comment on D, E and F, it's pretty aggravating.

But, it's also "the internet".

Despite the progress of the last 20 years, the internet is still very much the wild, wild west. It's filled with anonymity and keyboard warriors who would almost never say to LeBron James' face what they're willing to write about him in the privacy of their own basement.

It might sound like a lame excuse, but "it's the internet" is really an appropriate phrase.

I often harken back to my days on the radio when I allowed anyone to call in and have their say, much to the chagrin, occasionally, of some listeners who felt those callers weren't "real" or "making a contribution".

I had a certain caller (apparently) from Indianapolis who would call in on Monday during football season and torment the listeners in Baltimore.

I thought his "routine" was funny, personally. I didn't always like what he said and there was a time or two where he got under my skin, but there was never a moment where I took him too seriously.

A number of my listeners didn't appreciate his act, however.

Any time I was questioned about allowing "him" on the air, I always reverted back to the same old philosophy: "It's called talk radio. People call in and talk. And as long as they're not saying something that could get me fired or get the station in trouble with the FCC, I'm going to let them have their say."

To me, the internet is the same thing. Have their been occasions when I've felt the need to ask people here to tone it down a smidgen? Yes. Do I like everything I read in the comments section here? Not hardly.

But it's the internet.

It was built, in part, to give people a forum to look smart AND dumb. We've all done it, in fact. is apparently putting an end to their readers looking smart, dumb or otherwise.

It's a move that will likely be forgotten about in a week or two.

But for now, at least, it doesn't feel like the "world wide leader" is doing much leading.

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tiger and phil playing for $10 million is only interesting if.....

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were supposed to play a private, secret match on July 3rd in Las Vegas.

The winner would receive $10 million.

And, naturally, it would have been recorded and played back in short order, billed as one of those silly "made for TV" events.

The match didn't happen. There's no official reason why, other than a scheduling snafu reared its head in the days leading up to the encounter and the two players are now trying to agree on a new date.

At some point soon, these two will play for lots of money. No trophies, jackets or exemptions on the plate. Just cash.

If it does happen, and assuming the outcome can be kept a secret, it will be worth watching. But only if the two players are putting up their own $10 million.

OK, if they're playing for $10 million of someone else's money it will probably still be worth watching.

But if they each put up $10 million and the winner gets the other guy's cash, that's some legit "made for TV" sports theater right there.

I know they both have lots and lots of money. And I realize losing $10 million wouldn't crush either of them, although it would probably sting Phil a bit more than it would sting Tiger.

But ten million is ten million.

Mickelson admitted this week that playing 18 holes for ten million bucks would take him out of his comfort zone.

That's when gambling gets serious.

It's one thing to play for a lot of money. It's another thing entirely to play for money that makes you uncomfortable.

Someone recently asked me at Eagle's Nest who I thought the ten best players in the world are, right now.

I replied with this scenario as a way to find out.

Take the 30 players in the world golf rankings as of August 1, 2018.

Create a six-event schedule over 10 weeks and require all 30 players to play in all six events in order to collect their winnings at the end.

Have each player put up $5 million of his own money, with the winner of ANY of the six events earning $10 million. Spread the rest of the $90 million out for top 10 finishers.

That's how you would quickly determine the world's best player.

Have them play six events against the other top 29 players in the world and have everyone on the hook for $5 million of their own money.

Oh, and one more kicker. No logos allowed.

In other words, for these six events, you look like a basic amateur golfer. Shorts, a golf shirt, a baseball cap and a bag of your choosing.

This is put together to determine the best golfer, not the guy with the best sports marketing team behind him.

And without TaylorMade on Dustin Johnson's hat or Under Armour gear on Jordan Spieth, or Rickie's Puma shoes on display, the sponsor(s) would have no reason to help fund that 6-week cash grab.

Those conditions would also make the Tiger vs. Phil match even more appealing.

I want them forking over their own $10 million. I don't want Nike or Workday funding this little 18-hole winner-take-all competition.

Put up your own money and let's get your heartbeat racing a little.

Or, hopeully, and uncomfortably, a lot.

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so...what can we do for the orioles?

The Orioles lost again last night, dropping a 5-2 decision to the Twins in Minnesota.

You might have watched the game and known that fact already. Or, perhaps you just found out when you either checked the scoreboard at #DMD or read the opening sentence above.

Yep, another loss.

That's 24-62 on the season, in case you've lost track.

I don't know what else there is to write about the season that hasn't already been spelled out several times in chapter and verse, both here and elsewhere.

It's awful. Plain and simple. It's basically three months of futility unlike virtually anything we've ever seen since the Orioles started playing baseball in Baltimore back in 1954.

There's no sugarcoating it or making excuses. The team is terrible.

So...last weekend I did some thinking.

To borrow a line familiar to those who used to watch "All In The Family" -- those were the days. Maybe Adam Jones will pie someone in the crowd on July 23rd!

I've come up with some bird-brained ideas in my life, and perhaps you're going to put this down as the king of them.

But hear me out, first.

I even came up with a goofy name for the idea, just because I had to have something to refer to when I wrote about it or put it out on social media.

Here goes.

How about a sell-out at Camden Yards on July 23 when the Orioles play their first home game after the All-Star break?

I mean, a real, live, breathing standing room only crowd to see the Orioles and Red Sox on Monday, July 23.

Every ticket sold.

Sort of like opening day, except we're 35 games out of first place.

We'll call it: "A Sympathy Sell-Out". That is, after all, the main intention of this whole goofy concept. Show the players some sympathy.

Why? You're asking "why?", aren't you?

Because I think the players deserve to know that we get it. We understand the losing. None of them are trying to lose, after all.

In short, I believe the players would be warmed by seeing a filled-to-the-brim stadium -- mostly with Orioles fans -- and knowing that there are people in Baltimore who are with them through good and bad.

I know this might be a tad too pollyanna for 2018 and for a ballclub that might not win 50 games this season.

We're a nation embroiled in an ugly slugfest amongst ourselves. We're kicking people out of restaurants these days because we don't like them. We're making ten year old kids wear tee-shirts that say "F--k Trump" and posting the pictures on Facebook -- and worst of all, we actually think that's funny.

Sympathy, empathy and kindness are not traits we're sending down to our children in 2018. (Well, some of us are, speaking for myself).

So, yes, my idea about the Sympathy Sell Out is based mainly on kindness. The players on the team know the fans aren't happy. They have social media accounts attached to their phones, after all. And you know they're not thrilled about playing 120 meaningless games after that awful 8-27 start basically ended their season before it started.

I can hear the objections now. "Those clowns are making $10 million a year whether I go to the game or not."

That's true. Well, not the part about them being "clowns". But the part about them making their money whether you go to the July 23rd game or stay at home.

"The organization doesn't deserve my money after the trash-heap ballclub they put together this year."

Maybe. I mean, there is a sort of quid-pro-quo that goes with professional sports. The organization takes your money and pledges to make their best effort in developing and producing a competitive team on the field.

The Orioles front office didn't really fulfill their end of the bargain this year. I don't think they would even argue that at this point.

So, I'll ask again. What do we do for the next three months?

Not go to the games?

Is that the answer?

That might be your answer and, if so, I get it. Heck, the football team was a game out of the playoffs throughout most of December last season and 15,000 of you stayed home for various reasons. We're a finicky sports town when things aren't going our way.

I know there are people in Baltimore who are reveling in this tragedy of a season. Whether they'll admit or not, deep down they're salivating with glee at the prospect of a 50-112 season.

You can hear it in their voice on the air. Or it comes through loud and clear with the words they write...and write...and write...and write...annnnddddd...write.

I'm not one of those folks.

I'm saddened by what's happened. I'm not mad. I'm numb to it all by now, mostly, but disappointed for the players more than anything else.

Yes, they're rich. Most of them are, anyway.

But if you said to Adam Jones, right now, "Give back $7 million of your $17 million salary and the baseball gods will let you guys win 18 of 20 games to gain back some respectability", I'd wager that Jones would agree to that deal in a heartbeat.

No one likes to lose.

And no one likes to be embarrassed like the Orioles have been embarrassed this season.

I'd love to see the stadium sold out on July 23rd.

This isn't me leading some sort of campaign to do it. I don't have the firepower or leverage in town to make it happen on my own. Frankly, I'm not sure any one person in Baltimore does have that sort of magic touch.

But I'm throwing the idea out there and hoping maybe a few other folks might be willing to rubber-stamp it and run it up their respective flag poles.

Maybe it catches on.

I think the players would genuinely be impressed if the stadium was SRO on July 23rd.

It would show that we understand what they're going through.

It would be, honestly, the best way to say, "We feel your pain..."

Oh, and Baltimore could always use a little bit of positive public relations, right?

Wouldn't it be good to get Baltimore sports fans a chunk of national goodwill?

The organization could do their part, too. While I know it's too late to alter the ticket pricing for the July 23rd game, they could give everyone who attends the game a free ticket to a game this September, or, perhaps even next April or May.

I'm sure the powers-that-be at the Warehouse would gladly pitch in and help spread the word. Radio ads, TV ads, social media posts...whatever it takes.

I don't even know how I came up with this novel idea. I'm not expecting much to come of it, frankly. But I think it would be the right thing for all of us to do.

I'm in.

That's a start, I guess.

We need 35,000 more people who value the team enough to go out to the ballpark on July 23rd and say, essentially, to the players: "We know you're not happy with the season either...and we're here with you tonight."

Or can you just stay home and print more tee shirts.

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George McDowell

George McDowell is #DMD's foreign correspondent. His international reports are filed from a hardened outpost just across the U.S. / North Carolina border. He writes on sports topics that interest him that he feels might also interest some segment of the wildly esoteric #DMD readership. George has been a big fan of DF and his various enterprises since the last century, and for several seasons appeared as a weekly guest on his Monday evening radio show, Maryland Golf Live, delivering commentary as The Eccentric Starter. George also donates his time and talents to the less fortunate, and currently volunteers as secretary of the Rickie Fowler Fan Club.

The 97th Maryland Open
Golf Championship

The best male golfers in Maryland head this year to Fountain Head Country Club in Hagerstown for 54 holes that will determine the champion golfer of the state. On Monday, July 9, at 7:30 am Dan Falls, Josh Ricketts, and Zach Poffenberger will tee off hole #1 while Yong Joo, Randy Finn, and Chuck Thatcher start on the back nine to kick off the championship.

One hundred and twenty-nine golfers are competing. The low professional and low amateur will each receive a silver medal. The professional purse is approximately $45,000, so if they divvy up the cash like the PGA Tour does, the low pro will take home about $8,100.

Historical Info on the Championship

  • The Maryland Open has been played every year since 1922 except 1943, when it was suspended for World War II.
  • Maryland Open winners who also won major championships:
    • Leo Diegel (1926) won the PGA Championship in 1928 and 1929.
    • Fred McLeod (1927) won the U. S. Open in 1908.
    • Vic Ghezzi (1935) won the 1941 PGA Championship.
    • Lew Worsham (1945) won the U. S. Open in 1947.
    • Deane Beman (1966) won the U. S. Amateur in 1960 and 1963 and the British Amateur in 1959.
  • Maryland Open winners who have played full-time on the PGA Tour [in addition to those above]:
    • Bobby Cruikshank (1928).
    • Wiffy Cox (1942).
    • Fred Funk (1983 and 1987).
    • Bob Boyd (1990).
    • Denny McCarthy (all as an amateur: 2010, 2013, and 2015).
  • Maryland Open winners who have also won the PGA National Club Pro Championship:
    • Bob Boyd (1990) - PGA Club Pro champion in 1988.
    • Wayne DeFrancesco (1994, 1995, and 2005) - PGA Club Pro champion in 2001.
    • Chip Sullivan (2002, 2004, and 2008) - PGA Club Pro champion in 2007.
    • David Hutsell (2011) - PGA Club Pro champion in the same year.
  • Maryland Open winners who have also won the Maryland Amateur Match Play Championship:
    • Martin West (1975, 1977, and 1986) won the Amateur in 1973, 1974, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1993, and 1997.
    • Denny McCarthy (all as an amateur: 2010, 2013, and 2015) won the Amateur in 2013 and 2014.
    • Billy Wingerd (2007) won the Amateur in 2004.
    • Sean Bosdosh (2012 as an amateur and 2016) won the Amateur in 2010.
    • Doug Ballenger (1971) won the Amateur in 1972.
  • Maryland Open winners who have also won the Maryland Amateur Stroke Play Championship [these gentlemen have also won the Maryland Amateur Match Play Championship, making them the only two golfers to have captured all three Maryland major titles]:
    • Doug Ballenger (1971) won Stroke Play in 1973, 1982, and 1984.
    • Billy Wingerd (2007) won Stroke Play in 2001, 2003, and 2004.
  • Past Maryland Open champions in this year's field:
    • Wayne DeFrancesco (1994, 1995, and 2005). [withdrew]
    • Billy Wingerd (2007).
    • Matt Bassler (2009).
    • David Hutsell (2011).
    • Sean Bosdosh (2012 as an amateur and 2016).
    • Brad Miller (2017). [withdrew]

Fountain Head Country Club
Hagerstown, Maryland

Club opened: October 4, 1924.

Head PGA Professional: J. P. Lunn.

Apprentice Professional: Jody Mason.

Assistant PGA Professional: Bob Harchut.

Course designer: Donald Ross.

Par for the course: 71.

Length of course: 6,291 yards; 5,753 meters.

Course rating: 71.3.

Course slope: 125.

Fountain Head Country Club Scorecard

Golf afficianados will immediately note the length of Fountain Head, and with a little arithmetic, discover that it is 555 yards shorter than Merion, 460 yards shorter than Mt. Pleasant, and only 120 yards longer than Rolling Road Golf Club. These afficianados will, following Johnny Miller's insightful prediction for scores at Merion in the 2013 U. S. Open, the #DMD Commenters about Mt. Pleasant in any hypothetical present-day event, and every pilgrim who arrives at the bag drop at Rolling Road and sees a scorecard, will predict scores for each round at something like 14 or 15 under for the leaders.

Fine with me! I love a shootout. If I wanted to see grown men tortured, I would have joined the CIA.

Obviously, with the longest par-4 at 422 yards, and all of them together averaging only 381 yards, the course is ripe for the pickin' by modern bombers. Driver and a wedge on every par-4. Maybe even 3-wood and a lob wedge! The three par-5s – 469 yards, 449 yards, and 543 yards – will yield so many eagles that spectators will think they're in a bird sanctuary.

The average score of all competitors might be 59, or even lower! Technology has truly rendered courses like this obsolete.

We'll be there to record the battlefield carnage. The cut is made at the low 40 and ties after two days. Drew goes off #10 at 8:14 am on Monday and off #1 at 1:14 pm on Tuesday. I'll post real-time scores in the Comments section when possible. If you'd like me to send scores of other golfers, please send the time and hole he teed off in a Comment on Monday or Tuesday, and I'll get it to you.

Drew's notes:

I never want to correct George -- or, as it is, "pre-correct" him, I guess -- but the average score of the competitors at the Maryland Open will not be 59.

Fountain Head is a tough, tough course, mostly because of the greens and the surrounding areas. It's not quite a Pinehurst #2 replica (another Donald Ross design, you might know), but it's close.

Yes, the course is short by today's standards. I'm certain at least one of the par 5's will be playd as a par 4 for the Maryland Open next week, but even 450 yard par 4's aren't anything to sneeze at when you're hitting to a green the size of your front porch.

The 8th hole, as George will see on Monday when he's out there with me, is about as crazy as a hole can get and still be deemed "reasonably fair".

The last time I played the Maryland Open at Fountain Head (2008), I shot 74-73 to make the 36-hole cut on the nose. If memory serves me correctly, the course was played to a par of 70.

I haven't seen the course yet this year so I don't know anything about the length of the rough, but I'm expecting it to be "up" and penalizing.

I know the greens are perplexing.

It will be anything but a walk in the park next week, trust me.

But it will be fun, for sure.

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it's still anyone's world cup

Eight teams remain alive in this year's World Cup.

At this point, I honestly wouldn't bet against any of them.

Sure, I don't think Sweden or Russia are good enough to win three more games, but if they got this far, they're worthy of consideration at the very least.

Thought by many to be the third best player in the world, can Neymar lead Brazil to the World Cup title?

Let's be serious for a second. The event is in Russia. Would you be wildly stunned if the Russian team won the whole thing? Yeah, me neither.

I'm sticking with my original pick of France, by the way. I don't know that they've played the best soccer of the tournament (honestly, that title right now would probably go to Uruguay), but I think the French have the goods to win their quarterfinal match-up with Uruguay and go on from there.

The bracket is lopsided as it can be with the powers all on one side (France vs. Uruguay and Brazil vs. Belgium) and the upstarts on the other (Russia vs. Croatia and Sweden vs. England).

Think about it: This 2018 World Cup is going to have a finalist -- playing for the world's soccer championship -- out of Russia, Croatia, Sweden and England. Crazy stuff...

Despite no U.S. team in the tournament, it's been a captivating month of "football". Out with the old, mostly, and in with the new. Germany never even made it to the knockout stage and Portugal, Spain and Mexico all needed weird things to happen for them in the final game of group play or they, too, would have gone home early.

All three of those soccer-rich nations wound up being eliminated in the first knockout game, with Mexico putting up a fight for 90 minutes before bowing to Brazil, 2-0.

Here's how I see the four quarterfinal games:

Today, July 6 --

France beats Uruguay, 3-2.

Belgium beats Brazil, 4-2 in overtime.

Tomorrow, July 7 --

Croatia beats Russia, 2-0

England beats Sweden, 2-1 (penalty kicks)

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let's learn from the japanese

Consider this is a special edition of #DMD today.

We'll do some deep-diving into sports.

Brien Jackson will handle a complicated situation in the NBA which, as he sees it, might not turn out exactly the way everything thinks it will.

David Rosenfeld will honor a fallen member of the media who worked in the trenches and loved doing it.

And I'm going to tell you about the Japanese team that just recently exited the World Cup with the most dramatic of losses...and yet taught us all something in the meantime.

Hopefully you find something useful out of today's issue.

You might have already heard about the Japanese World Cup story I'm about to present. If so, it won't be "new news" to you. But with so many American sports fans tuning out this time around, I'm figuring there's a better-than-average chance your first exposure to the story will be right now.

Last Monday, Japan fell in the "knockout stage" of the World Cup, losing a round of 16 game to Belgium, 3-2. In that game, Japan led 2-0 with 30 minutes remaining, only to see the favored Belgian side score twice within five minutes to tie the game, then notch the game-winning goal on what basically was the final "play" of injury time at the end of regulation.

There's "heartbreaking" and then there's what happened to Japan on Monday in Russia. It was a tough, tough way to lose.

The pictures you'll see below tell the story, but what they represent is what we should strive to learn.

Please don't use this opportunity to fire off shallow things like, "But...the President." We have enough President-bashing to last us and our children a lifetime. I'm not here supporting or criticizing him. I'm here saying, "Give it a rest for ten minutes, please."

Japan played four World Cup games in 2018. Three of them came in group play, one was the aforementioned kick-to-the-family-jewels against Belgium last Monday.

There were reportedly 8,000 Japanese fans at each game. When each of those four contests ended, the picture to the right shows what they did.

Japanese fans clean out their section of the stadium following a 3-2 World Cup loss to Belgium on July 2nd.

Cleaning up after yourself at a stadium or arena is something we simply don't do here in the U.S.

Maybe we should.

Sure, if we all did that for a couple of years it might put stadium and arena clean-up crews out of business and those fine people would need to find new work. It's a branch off the tree of "no good deed goes unpunished", I suppose.

Last week at Bulle Rock golf course, I pulled the golf cart in at the end of the day and an older gentleman was there waiting for it. I immediately got out and started cleaning the cart, dumping Gatorade bottles and other trash in the can.

I wasn't doing that to mimic the Japanese. I was doing that because I was once the guy who collected the golf carts at Mount Pleasant and I can remember how I felt at 8:20 pm when a guy brought a cart back that looked like he had been living in for three days.

It was a mess. And, yes, while it was my job to clean out the cart, wash it off and store it for the next day, I didn't always agree it was my job to clean up stuff YOU left behind.

The Bulle Rock employee tried to stop me. "Woah, you don't have to do that. We'll take care of it."

We're conditioned, I guess, to clean up after others. Sometimes, simply, because it's our job.

Maybe we should be conditioned to clean up our own messes.

This is where I'd go off on a political rant if I wanted to, but I have as much interest discussing politics as I do chronicling another Orioles loss. Truthfully -- I'd rather chronicle another Orioles loss.

For one hour after their team had been eliminated in the World Cup, Japanese fans walked through the part of the stadium they occupied during the game and cleaned up after themselves.

Then there's the Japanese team.

They played four games in the World Cup this year.

After each and every game, they spit-shined their locker room.

The photo below is one that was taken after their 3-2 loss to Belgium last Monday.

The card on the front of the table is a thank you note, written in Russian, and left by the Japanese team following their 3-2 loss to Belgium.

In the aftermath of a gut-wrenching, soul-crushing World Cup loss, the Japanese team did what it always did after a game. They cleaned up their mess.

The Japanese team left their locker room in perfect, spotless condition.

I've been in thousands of professional sports locker rooms in my day. They are, for lack of a better term, a pigsty. There's tape everywhere, torn up clothing, empty food and drink containers and much, much more.

In Japan, you clean up the mess you made.

And you leave a thank you note, even after you lose.

I see a whole lot of complaining and bellyaching these days from the side that "lost" in the last Presidential election.

I'm sure as heck not seeing a lot of thank you notes.

Everywhere you look in our country today, someone's mad. Someone's posting something of an angry nature on social media. Just a week ago, a guy in Annapolis put an end to a 7-year vendetta he had against a newspaper by taking the lives of five people who had nothing at all to do with his aggravation.

Let's thank the Japanese people at the World Cup for showing us a different way to do it.

Being respectful is an art we've lost in our country over the last decade or more.

I'm not sure how or why it happened, but it did.

The only way it gets turned around is if we -- you, me, the folks next door, their neighbor, etc. -- try to re-discover that lost art.

This is where I might also suggest you re-discover a church to your liking, if you currently don't attend one, but I'll save that for another day.

For now, let's just appreciate the Japanese and the lessons they taught us at the World Cup.

Win or lose, you conduct yourself the same way. With honor and respect for other people. And for your country.

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in tragedy, a note about sportswriting

A lone gunman (name omitted purposely) senselessly murdered five people at the Capital Gazette offices on Bestgate Road in Annapolis last week. All five of those lives were important; all leave behind family, friends and work colleagues (especially the ones there with them) who will never be able to process the horrible tragedy of it all.

Let’s say their names, purposely, one more time.

Gerald Fischman. Rob Hiaasen. John McNamara. Rebecca Smith. Wendi Winters.

Hiaasen once spoke on feature writing in a graduate school class of mine. That was his specialty; he had a knack for finding the cool story that others would never see. I read anew the story we discussed during his class visit, about the sign you see on Interstate 70 headed west after you leave the Beltway:

Columbus 420 miles

St. Louis 845 miles

Denver 1700 miles

Cove Fort 2200 miles

What in the world is Cove Fort?

Why is that sign there in the first place? Hiaasen wanted to know more about it, and The Sun let him explore.

Of the five we lost, John McNamara would’ve been the one most interested in the day-to-day musings at #DMD. Writing about sports was his dream job, and he got to do it for most of his adult life.

A 1983 Maryland graduate, he went on to author two books about Terrapin athletics in addition to a career at local newspapers. Last week, both Gary Williams and Mark Turgeon offered their appreciation for his work and his character.

John McNamara, one of five killed at the Capital-Gazette in Annapolis.

So, let’s talk about John McNamara. Not personally; I didn’t know him. I’m talking about what he represented, whom he represented: thousands of hard-working women and men in all 50 states.

A sportswriter, for real. Not a person using his job as a springboard to fame, or as an excuse to preen and pontificate. He covered sports, in the way that sports should be covered.

Giving full attention to whatever and wherever you happen to be, Camden Yards or the MIAA “C” Conference soccer final.

Reporting stories as journalists do, by asking questions, doing research, and establishing relationships, even with people who might want to be adversarial or assume the worst.

Providing the analysis that comes with paying attention and being a reporter, which allow for informed opinions that people respect if not always agree with.

There are plenty of people like John McNamara who never make it to The Washington Post or ESPN or drive-time talk radio in a big market. We don’t know them as well because of that, and that’s a shame.

These are the men and women of the fourth estate who truly care about sports, about the people who play and coach, about good journalism. They don’t want to leave that world for something that doesn’t mean as much to them, and for something they won’t enjoy.

These are the most important jobs in sports media, the ones that you know because of their writing and not because of their faces. They’re happy to keep it that way.

On Monday, the college basketball world lost Jim O’Connell, who died of natural causes at age 64. O’Connell, who everyone simply called “Oc,” was the longtime national college basketball writer for the Associated Press.

Like McNamara with his local teams, O’Connell knew everything there was to know about his sport. He was there to chronicle every Final Four, mentor several generations of fellow writers and give the game the platform he thought it deserved.

I was struck by what Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said about O’Connell early this week. “He wrote sports,” Boeheim said,” but he did it in a positive way, always. He was always good to players, coaches, fans, everybody. He was a unique individual, and always had a good word for everybody. Always.”

It’s easy to be cynical about all that, of course. Sports media is not public relations; there’s no rule that coverage must be positive, that reporters must like the players and coaches and that they must always wish everyone well. Boeheim, Williams and Turgeon surely don’t always offer those character traits in return.

Still, what Boeheim really meant was that O’Connell cared. What he was covering mattered to him, and he always tried to translate how much he cared to readers in the hope they would care. He viewed his job as bringing people into the world of college basketball as opposed to pushing them away.

Everything I’ve read about John McNamara, who died in a terribly unnatural way, seems to indicate all the same qualities.

There’s an underrated website out there called, which began many years ago as one guy’s blog about broadcasting gaffes during televised sporting events. In the vein of Rob Hiaasen, I did some reporting about the site for a class in that grad school program. I spoke to the founder, the main editor and several writers. Their suggestions led to other people.

Frankly, what came out of that reporting wasn’t that great. It was too long and meandered too much off-topic. Even in a shortened and better-edited version, perhaps combed over by editing pros like those from the Capital, I’m not sure it would ever have been worthy of being published.

As time passed, Awful Announcing has changed a lot. The page has transformed into a legitimate site for sports media criticism and discussion of the business of sports media. Instead of making fun of announcers, they now do informative podcasts with them.

There was a realization that covering the sports media was more important than joking about it. There was an understanding by the editors that sports broadcasting had levels to it they never understood at the beginning.

In other words, they started to become reporters. They started to translate their expertise and interest in the subject into stories that also were interesting to their readers. They started to act professionally.

The thing is…you don’t have to worry about that with people like John McNamara, and those like him throughout the country. They don’t even necessarily cover sports, though the ones that do have an extra love for their jobs that covering the local school board doesn’t give you.

These are men and women who spend their lives covering the exploits of others and reveling in that. These are men and women who, as they get older, teach the next generation of writers the tricks they learned at a younger age.

These are the people who are the backbone of a media that’s still important in smaller towns, even if the big cities have never shown any interest.

John McNamara.

We ought to say his name as an example of a life senselessly cut short. Let’s also say his name as an example of all the great things about sports and those who write about them.

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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.

For a little while, it looked like the balance of power in the NBA had shifted in a way we haven't seen in nearly five full years.

LeBron was leaving the Eastern Conference for the first time in his career, headed for the Lakers, and he was maybe going to bring Khawi Leonard and another All-Star with him. That collection of talent, plus the existing Rockets, would create a bigger challenge at the top of the West for the Warriors than they've seen since their championship run, while the East was seemingly cleared for the Celtics.

That didn't last long.

Instead the Warriors stomped all over the excitement by announcing that they had signed All-Star big man DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins to the mid-level exception at $5.2 million for one season.

The reaction was almost apoplectic, with dire predictions about the health of the game and lots of fist-shaking over how the Warriors are killing the NBA.

After all, as I saw one person point out, with a starting lineup of Cousins, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and DeMarcus Cousins the Warriors will quite likely boast a better starting five than the Eastern Conference All-Stars this season.

Considering that Golden State already boasted perhaps the greatest collection of talent in NBA history, this was just more proof that the Silicon Valley driven team was destroying competitive balance in the league and that it was time for Adam Silver to do something about the problem of "superteams" in general.

Not so fast, sweetheart.

It's true that the Warriors' lineup is absurdly loaded on paper. It's also true that Cousins, a big man who can run, play in space, and pass the ball as well as anyone else his size in the entire league, is a perfect weapon for the Warriors offense. Ideally Steve Kerr will likely plan on deploying the same "death lineup" scheme that took the team to the top of the mountain, only with a lot more size and Cousins playing the center role with Green shifting to the 4. That's a truly frightening proposition.

But on the other hand, Cousins is also coming off of a fully ruptured Achilles tendon that figures to keep him out until at least January.

Two years ago the Warriors brought in Kevin Durant to help keep them on top in the NBA. Now, it's DeMarcus Cousins who joins the 3-time champions in Golden State. When will it end?

Furthermore, that kind of injury is just devastating for a basketball player, and there's honestly no example of a big guy like Cousins coming back from the injury to replicate their former production, especially in terms of minutes played.

In the most likely best case scenario for the Warriors, Cousins comes back in January and plays 15-20 minutes a game while largely replicating his previous efficiency on the court. The odds that he'll play at an All-Star caliber level ever again, let alone by playoff time, are very slim.

Which is why, for all the sturn un drag about Cousins taking such a small contract to join up with the already loaded two-time defending champs, it turns out that there just wasn't much interest around the league in acquiring his services this year.

Multiple outlets have reported that none of the other 29 teams even made Cousins a contract offer, which rather complicates the narrative that we should all be tearing our hair out that Cousins signed with the Warriors. Furthermore, the New York Times' Marc Stein reported that the extent of disinterest in Cousins was such that the Lakers actually rebuffed a contact from Cousins' representatives pitching a contract to bring Boogie in to join LeBron on roughly the same terms as he got from Golden State.

It legitimately seems like no one other than the Warriors had any serious interest in signing Cousins for this season. That's a bit of a downer for the hysterics, as it's hard to come up with a rule that would force Cousins to sign with a team other than the Warriors when no one else is interested in him, and it completely invalidates the idea that Cousins is taking some kind of massive pay cut just to go get a "cheap" ring in Golden State.

That's not to say that you couldn't take steps to do away with superteams though.

The most obvious solution would be to do away with structured contracts. Unlike in the other major sports, NBA teams don't get to freely negotiate compensation with players. Rather the CBA sets various levels of contracts that can be handed out, including "max" contracts. These are tied to a percentage of the salary cap.

So when a player like LeBron James is a free agent, teams aren't "bidding" for him in a monetary sense. They're all offering him the same terms, more or less (though a player's existing team is allowed to offer substantially more money on the max contract value), and a team's pitch typically involves amenities, a player's level of involvement in management decision, marketing opportunities, plans for the roster...or having a good team already in place and increasing the chances of winning rings.

That kind of dynamic makes superteams and the pairing up of stars just about inevitable, because what's the point of going to a team like the Hawks, Jazz, or Grizzlies if the Lakers, Celtics, or Warriors are offering you the same contract?

It also limits the flexibility of teams to go about roster construction in diverse ways. It's hard to imagine that there aren't multiple owners/general managers around the league who would look at a free agent like LeBron or Kevin Durant and think nothing of devoting upwards of 2/3 of the salary cap to that player, building out a team of role players that complement them with what's left.

Basketball is a superstar driven league, after all, and just getting one player of that caliber can take you a long, long way.

And once that domino falls, other teams are going to follow suit, pushing the allocated cap space for the game's 10-12 best players sky high, and leaving no cap space to create teams that can pair veterans like Curry and Durant, or LeBron and Wade, or Paul and Harden. Teams that eschew this strategy, or just get shut out on acquiring the top tier talents, could instead use roughly the same amount of money to sign multiple second tier stars, and in theory, unless someone in that top tier is willing to take a MASSIVE discount, you'll end up with rosters that look like they were built through a typical snake-order fantasy draft, at least excluding players on their rookie deals. that actually in anyone's interests? While that might theoretically level out of the competitive balance of the league, there's no actual evidence that competitive balance actually increases viewership or revenue for leagues.

Myself, a pretty casual basketball fan, I'm much more interested in watching two deeply talented teams play each other than I am watching role players thrown into starting roles missing jump shots and throwing the ball away. Heck, if for some reason I decide I want to watch slow, sloppy, boring basketball I can turn on a college game just about any night of the week!

And it sure looks like I'm not alone in that. The Cavs and the Warriors meeting in the Finals for four straight seasons hasn't hurt business, and the rise of the Warriors dynasty has correlated with a huge uptick in revenue and interest in the league. That probably shouldn't surprise us, since the NBA is a uniquely star driven league, but that's not really unique to the Association either.

The NFL's recent boom period was dominated by the Patriots and Tom Brady, and to a lesser extent by the Steelers, Ravens, and Peyton Manning. The home run explosion in the post-strike period that saw baseball's business go through the roof also represented the resurgence of the Yankees, the beginning of Derek Jeter's career, and six World Series appearances between 1996 and 2003 for the Bombers.

The fact of the matter is that superteams sell. Some fans love them and the stars playing for them, while others tune in either to root against them, or just because their talent makes them entertaining to watch. Indirectly, the Warriors' critics are proving this point. After all, if anyone was claiming that the Spurs or Celtics needed to be broken up last decade, no one was paying enough attention to remember it.

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remembering charley eckman

So, I screwed up.

Well, first, Happy Independence Day to all of you. I hope you have a great holiday with your friends, family, etc.

OK, now back to the story. I screwed up.

For some reason, I thought the anniversary of Charley Eckman's death was July 4th.

It turns out, he passed away on July 3, 1995.

So here I am, a day late. But still ready to bring you some great Charley Eckman memories.

My favorite rock-n-roll singer -- Jim Morrison -- and my all-time favorite Baltimore sports media personality -- Charley Eckman. Both with the same death-anniversary date: July 3.

For those who don't know about Charley, it would be awfully hard for me to explain exactly who he was in this limited space. And being that all of his career was pre-internet, there's not a lot of footage or achived material for me to publish.

I was able to find one Charley Eckman TV commercial that you can see below. If nothing else, you'll know what he looked and sounded like.

(7:30 am note, July 4th -- The audio for the commercial isn't working yet. We're trying to fix it.)

(Fixed. ~IT Support Dept. (No one silences Mr. Eckman.)


I can safely say there's zero chance Charley ever actually read the City Paper. Not once. But they probably nominated him for an award and threw $1,000 his way and asked him to do that commercial and he complied. Oh, and I'd bet anyone another $1,000 that commercial was done on the first take.

I can hear Charley now. "Just give the stuff you want me to say and let's get this over with. I'd like to make it out to Pimlico for the third race."

If I had to explain to an unknown who Charley Eckman was, I'd simply say this: "He was a savvy, foul-mouthed, devoted, charming sports savant."

That's the simple explanation.

But Charley wasn't simple. He was complicated. And original.

I first met him personally when I was a 12 year old and stumbled up to his front door with another friend and asked if I could shovel the modest sidewalk and driveway at his Glen Burnie home.

Cigar smoke billowed out of the house as he looked us over. "You two will be out there all day," he snorted as the snow fell and we stood there hoping to make five dollars.

"Go ahead and do it," he said. "I'll give you guys some money when you're done."

It took us about one hour to get everything cleaned off. When I went to the door, Charley's wife, Wilma, said he was taking a nap but that he had left a $10 bill for us.

The next summer, I heard that familiar gruffy voice at one of my Little League baseball games at what was then called Dorsey Park near BWI Airport.

My team was the Dodgers. We were involved in a tight game when I heard Eckman shout from the stands, "That's the time to hit and run! Come on, who is managing this outfit?"

Later, after the game, I learned that Charley's nephew was playing on my team. Let's just say that was one interesting summer of Little League.

On a side note, Eckman's name now adorns the main road that enters that Little League park: Charley Eckman Drive.

In my first year out of high school, I was the completely-unprepared-for-it-all sports voice for WJRO Radio in Glen Burnie. In addition to a morning 60 second sportscast, I also did the Anne Arundel County "Game of the Week" during football season.

For reasons I don't remember, I bumped into Charley at a game at then Andover High School. I re-introduced myself and told him what I was doing at WJRO and he snarled at me. "You'll go broke working at that hole-in-the-wall. Go get a real job."

Because life is full of surprises, I did get a "real" job. And that's where I really got to know who Charley Eckman was and what he was all about.

Through my connections at broadcasting school, I landed a paid (if you call $4.40 hourly "paid") internship with the Baltimore Blast in November of 1981. There were two of us who answered the application-call for Blast interns. When we showed up at the offices, the media relations director and marketing/advertising director greeted us.

"One of you will come with me," the media relations director said, "and the other will go with Peggy (marketing)."

"Do you have a preference?" she asked.

"I'll go with marketing," my classmate said.

That, as it turns out, was the greatest decision someone else ever made for me. (Tom Cooper, wherever you are, I'm still eternally grateful, 37 years later!)

I started in the media relations department of the Blast in November of 1981 and didn't leave until April of 1998.

And in that first month, my boss gave me the news. "You'll be working with the radio team from WFBR -- Art Sinclair and Charley Eckman".

Life's crazy, huh? From shoveling his sidewalk to flying in airplanes and eating at somewhat fancy restaurants with Charles Markwood Eckman.

In late November, the Blast hosted the Philadelphia Fever at the Civic Center and there I was, on the 5th floor, in the radio booth, providing game notes and anything else Art and Charley needed to make the broadcast go smoothly.

For Charley, that meant occasionally getting him a refill on his in-game "cocktail". He liked his scotch and water.

I traveled around the country with Charley Eckman for the better part of five years. Airports, arenas, hotels. I hung around him like a young piano player would stick with Elton John.

There was a new story in just about every city we visited.

I remember once we flew into Buffalo for a game and as we departed, the pilot was there at the door to greet everyone and bid them farewell.

He overheard Charley's familiar voice and said, "Mr. Eckman, is that you? I was the ball boy for you in Fort Wayne!"

Charley had enjoyed a couple of drinks on the flight but was still coherent enough to share a moment with the pilot. "Holy cow! How the hell are you leader? It's great running into you!"

I grilled Charley later about the pilot's identity. "I have no idea who that was," he said. "I think he was telling me the truth. But I don't remember him in the least. But the last thing I wanted to do was embarrass him in front of those pretty stewardesses."

Eckman loved indoor soccer.

He was an advocate of the Blast from the very first day the team arrived in Baltimore from Houston, creating a special friendship with longtime coach Kenny Cooper.

"If they figure out a way to bet on these games, there's no telling how far the sport can go," Eckman would say to anyone who was willing to listen back in the 1980's.

He would call Blast games well into the late 1980's. He was particularly proud of the championship ring he received from the 1983-84 MISL title won by the Blast.

Side note number two: If you look closely at his left hand in that video above, you'll see he's wearing the championship ring.

Eckman had some amazing stories about his time in the NBA. As far as I know, he's still the only man in the history of the league to coach a team in the championship series, coach an NBA All-Star Game and, years later, referee in the championship series. That's quite a trifecta.

I remember his favorite NBA story very well. Eckman coached in Fort Wayne from 1954-57. He took the Pistons to two straight NBA Finals, but in year four, the team struggled for the first two months of the season.

Owner Fred Zollner called Eckman into the office after a 5-game road trip where the Pistons failed to win a game.

"Charley, this ballclub just isn't getting the job done. I think these players are mailing it in," the owner said.

Eckman sensed the pressure was off him as Zollner continued to criticize the players.

"I agree, Fred," said Eckman. "We've got some guys who just aren't getting the job done."

"I think we need to make a change in your department," Zollner said.

Charley nodded in agreement. "That's a good idea, boss. Who you thinking about changing?"

There was silence in the room.

"That's when I realized," Eckman would say later, and often, when he told the story. "I was the only guy in my department."

Charley also loved telling the story about a late-game timeout he called when the Pistons played the Knicks in New York.

"We're down by one with 12 seconds to go," Charley recalls. "And I call a time-out. The guys are getting water and looking at girls in the stands and the buzzer sounds to go back on the floor and Mel Hutchins says, "Coach, you gonna draw up a play for us or no?'"

"There are only two plays, Hutchins," said Eckman. "South Pacific is one. And put the ball in the hole is the other one. Now when you get the damn ball, figure out a way to score and win the game for us."

Hutchins rolled in a layup in the final seconds to give the Pistons the win.

"Best time-out speech I ever gave," Eckman would always say with a big laugh.

I have lots of other great Eckman stories to share, including my all-time favorite story that involves the Blast.

To hear more, give a listen to tomorrow's edition of "The Juice" podcast. Note: There's no podcast today.

Charley American -- and Baltimore -- treasure.

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this, that and the other

Take a seat for this one. You might be stunned.

The Orioles lost last night.

Chris Davis grounded out with the bases loaded in the top of the 8th and the O's stranded Jonathan Schoop at second base with one out in the ninth as the Birds fell to 24-60 on the season with a 3-2 loss in Philadelphia.

Alex Cobb suffered the loss. He's now 2-10 on the season.

An early Mark Trumbo homer gave the O's a 1-0 lead in Philly last night...but they wound up losing, naturally, 3-2.

Earlier in the day, Colby Rasmus "returned home" and told the Orioles he was finished with his baseball career.

Why the Orioles didn't tell Rasmus the same thing ten weeks ago is anyone's guess, but at least now there's an open roster spot (taken last night by Joey Rickard) for a young player to occupy until season's end.

Mark Trumbo hit his third home run in two games last night. Although he might only be trade-worthy in the American League, he's heating up at just the right time if the Orioles are going to try and move him at the deadline.

The only problem? Every team in contention in the American League already has a DH they're pleased with. Maybe there's a team willing to take Trumbo just to see if he fits in there for this season and the 2019 campaign.

If he was halfway-capable with the glove and could play every day, a National League team might be interested in Trumbo. As it stands now, that appears like an unlikely move.

The Orioles play in Philly again this afternoon, then head to Minnesota for a Thurs-Sun four-game series with the Twins.

Either Sweden or England will be a final four team in this year's World Cup.

Seems odd, right?

Sweden nipped Switzerland on Tuesday, 1-0, and England got past Colombia in dramatic fashion, winning the penalty kick shootout, 4-3, to win the game, 2-1.

Those two winners from Tuesday will face each other in the quarterfinals this weekend.

Colombia scored in stoppage time to bring the score even at 1-1. For most of the second half, it looked as if England were going to win in regulation after a Harry Kane penalty kick goal gave them a 1-0 lead.

Colombia's late goal sent the game to overtime and when no goals were scored in that thirty minutes of extra play, penalty kicks were used to determine the winner.

In the last 24 World Cup games decided by penalty kicks, the team falling behind at any point after a completed round was just 2-22.

England fell behind after the third round yesterday and looked in trouble.

But a Colombia miss evened things up. And after an England goal in the top half of the fifth round, a remarkable save by Jordan Pickford on Colombia's final shot gave England the victory.

Penalty kicks aren't a great way to decide things, granted, but they sure as heck are exciting. As long as you're not the guy taking the shot or the guy trying to stop it, I suppose.

No one can eat 72 hot dogs in ten minutes. Except this man.

Today on Coney Island in New York, Joey Chestnut will try and stave off a bunch of challengers in the annual 4th of July hot dog eating contest.

How many hot dogs do you think -- honestly -- you could eat in ten minutes? Bun and all.

Come on. How many? Could you eat four? Six? I'm not real big on hot dogs, so I'm not a great candidate for this one, but in ten minutes I might be able to eat four.

And that's only if there was a reward available...

There's no chance I could eat four hot dogs in ten minutes just to say, "Look, I ate four hot dogs in ten minutes!"

Chestnut will likely top 70 today. That SEVEN-ZERO. 70. In ten minutes.

Last year he set a new record with 72.

I interviewed Chestnut on my radio show once. I asked him the obvious, dumb question.

"Joey, how do you do it? How have you trained your body to do this crazy contest?," I wondered.

I was prepared for a long, drawn-out explanation about mental warfare and physical training and the like. I mean, it's 70 hot dogs. There has to be a strategy and an effort to it, right?

"I like to eat," Chestnut responded.

I'd never thought of that, actually.

My friend Tony Lombardi of Russell Street Report celebrated the 15th anniversary of his outstanding Ravens-centric website earlier this week.

If you're a Ravens fan, is the only place to go for your daily, in-depth Ravens coverage.

Tony has done a great job keeping the fans connected over the years. He's also embarking on a new project soon where you'll get to hear some familiar Baltimore voices talking sports.

There might even be a guy here that you all know who will be yapping about golf once a week. ;)

Stay tuned.

And Happy Anniversary to Tony and everyone on his staff at RSR.

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save this for late september

My friend and resident #DMD expert-on-everything George McDowell sent along this clip yesterday in honor of the great Jim Morrison.

As I listened to it last night, it dawned on me the Orioles could use this tune at the end of the baseball season. The Birds close out the 2018 campaign by hosting Houston for four games at Camden Yards.

The End

Thanks, George!

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July 3
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the day the music really died

I was eight years old when Jim Morrison passed away.

It was July 3, 1971.

I don't remember it happening. Little League baseball had consumed me in the summer months at that point.

But years later, I would discover the music of Morrison and his band, The Doors. Like most people, the song I recall hearing as my appetizer for the California-based band was "Light My Fire".

I would go on to own every Doors album, sharing my affection for Morrison with several of my Glen Burnie childhood friends. We would often dress up like the lead singer for Halloween parties and the joke around town was, "You guys are supposed to wear costumes to these parties. This is what you look like every day!"

Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors: December 8, 1943 - July 3, 1971

Morrison died at age 27 in Paris, France. Because a hasty burial was arranged and no autopsy was officially perfomed, the nature of Jim's death has always been somewhat suspicious. The cause was "heart failure", but there are still questions even today.

Like a lot of rock-n-roll stars back then, Morrison drank too much used and used too many recreational drugs. He wound up being part of the famed "27 Club", a group of young musical wizards who all passed way at the young age of 27. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, and Morrison all died within a two year period.

My favorite song of all-time still, to this day, is "L.A. Woman", which happened to be on the last album the band released, also titled L.A. Woman.

Morrison's voice changed over the years, ranging from spirited and poppy on their self-titled debut album in 1967 to deep and mysterious by the time they released L.A. Woman in April of 1971.

They didn't put out music for long, but The Doors recorded six albums in four-plus years from 1967 through 1971.

Their first album, which included "Light My Fire" got all the way to #2 on the American charts. Their second, "Strange Days", made it to #3.

Their third release, "Waiting For The Sun", reached #1 in the United States.

Morrison was the lead singer and front man for all of those successes.

I've long thought that "Morrison Hotel" was the best album of the six released by The Doors. To me, Morrison's voice was at its peak for that record and the songs were a great balance of rock-n-roll and deep-track thoughtful music. One of the band's most popular songs is on that album -- "Roadhouse Blues" -- as is one of Morrison's best vocal efforts in his short career, "Queen of the Highway".

When he passed away, the band tried to stick it out and keep making music, but it simply wasn't the same. With all due respect to Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger, The Doors were Jim Morrison. They just happened to be in the band with him.

Don McLean recorded an American musical epic in May of 1971 called "American Pie" which centered on the 1959 deaths of young music stars Richie Valens, Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. The song's central theme -- "The Day The Music Died" -- was an ode to those three and the changing times of our country in the early 1970's.

I always thought the music really died on July 3, 1971.

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from the desk of
brien jackson

BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.

The NBA didn't have to wait long for "the decision" this time. On the first day of free agency this past Sunday, LeBron James confirmed that he is indeed taking his talents to Los Angeles and joining the Lakers on a 4 year, $154 million contract.

The move isn't surprising in the least, as the Lakers have been the favorites to land LeBron for months now.

It even feels preordained, in a way, that the game's premier player, perhaps the greatest of all time, would finish out his prime years attempting to take the league's premier franchise out of the doldrums and back to championship glory.

Given the press and the attention that have followed James since he was in high school, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that he's never actually played in a big market city, and even the hoopla that surrounded his team's in Miami is nothing like the circus that will unfold in Tinseltown next season.

And for a player who at this point is largely working on his place in history, the move puts LeBron in the tradition of Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

This photo from the 2017-2018 NBA season now looks even more interesting with LeBron's announcement that he's signing with the Lakers.

But while there's something special about taking a marquee team to a championship, LeBron has already had a much bigger moment in taking the Cavs to the top of the NBA heap. By bringing Cleveland, his home city, it's only major championship in the past 70 years, LeBron achieved something truly transcendent, and seemed poised to ride out his career playing the Warriors in the Finals forever, a sports legend of the rarest variety.

That it was not "meant to be" says quite a bit about both sides.

First and foremost, it's amazing that Dan Gilbert doesn't come up more often when we talk about the worst owners in sports. This is a guy who made himself a laughingstock (in comic sans) when LeBron left the first time, followed his big talk by presiding over the league's worst team while James went to the Finals every season in Miami, and then was magically bailed out when The King decided to come home in a move that was reportedly very much in spite of Gilbert's presence.

By most accounts LeBron still doesn't much care for Gilbert, and the owner amazingly hasn't put much effort into trying to change that dynamic. Despite failing to put a quality team around LeBron in two separate runs, Gilbert has been telling those around him that he can win a championship without James, and there's much speculation that Gilbert would rather LeBron leave so that he can construct a team that *he* will get the credit for winning with, not LeBron.

Good luck with that.

Then again, the failings of those rosters weren't all on Gilbert, or Cleveland's management, and LeBron has to share some of the blame, especially the second time around.

It was LeBron who reportedly pushed the Cavs to trade for Kevin Love, even at the price of Andrew Wiggins. This despite the fact Minnesota had no real leverage as there were no other serious suitors when the Warriors bulked at moving Klay Thompson, and Cleveland probably could have gotten Love at a much lighter cost if LeBron had exercised a bit of patience.

As it stands Love was good, but nowhere near his best, playing alongside Lebron while Wiggins would be the best second man LeBron has ever played with if he'd stuck around.

Not that Wiggins is a better player than Kyrie Irving, but Kryie was never stylistically or tempermentally suited to playing second fiddle to LeBron, as we saw when he demanded a trade so that he could be the top dog somewhere else rather than stick around what looked to be a perennial championship contender.

But that's been LeBron's MO since the first decision: To stack a roster with a couple of other stars and then try to make it work on the fly.

It worked well enough to make it out of the East every year, but not so well that either of his teams feel like a dynasty on the level of even the post-Jordan era Spurs, Lakers, or Celtics.

And yet it's a dynamic that LeBron aparently intends to continue in Los Angeles. By most accounts the plan was for the Lakers to trade for Kawhi Leonard and add Paul George along with LeBron in free agency. George has decided to stay in Oklahoma City for the max contract, but the Lakers are still very much in the mix for Leonard, and have enough cap space to add another major contract as well.

One possibility, with George signing with the Thunder and leaving them with a luxury tax bill that could be the largest in league history, is taking on Carmelo Anthony in a salary dump. Anthony and LeBron are friends, LeBron's teams have always been speculated as being involved in trade talks on Anthony when he was in New York, and that's the kind of "trade for a star name even if it doesn't make a ton of basketball sense" move that Lebron might force on a whim.

But for as much buzz as this move generates, it doesn't clearly alter the landscape of the game that much.

It makes Cleveland one of the worst teams in the league overnight, sure, and it arguably gift wraps the Eastern Conference to Boston, but they were probably already the best team in the conference if they were healthy.

In the West, however, just adding LeBron doesn't make the Lakers a better team than either the Warriors or Rockets, and might not get them past the Jazz, Blazers, Thunder, or even the Timberwolves come playoff time.

Adding Kawhi and another big star would change that, of course, and might even get them past Golden State. But as LeBron should know by now, it takes time for teams like that to get championship ready. In Miami they never really figured it out until LeBron's second season there.

And Leonard can become a free agent after the 2018-19 season, while San Antonio is apparently asking for the moon from the Lakers in return. A move of that magnitude would represent a huge gamble on this season that could backfire in a big way.

But perhaps that's not where LeBron is going this time. He's already gone off script, as it were, in making his decision so quickly while those in the know were insisting that he was going to wait and see what happened with Leonard before choosing a team himself. LeBron is among the most brand conscious athletes of our time, and maybe this move really is as much about tying his own brand to the Lakers, Showtime, and the celebrity culture around the Staples Center.

And maybe LeBron signed a four year deal rather than a 1+1 contract with the intention of building a sustainable winner in LA, even if it means sacrificing his string of consecutive Finals appearances.

One thing you can say for sure: The LeBron sweepstakes already delivered all of the entertainment promised, and there's more intrigue to come no doubt as the Lakers, armed with around $20 million in cap room, do their best to build a supporting cast worthy of The King.

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is this the best world cup ever?

The semi-finals and finals of this year's World Cup might wind up lacking true international soccer star power, but that won't change the idea that the 2018 tournament in Russia might wind up going down as the greatest ever.

Yesterday's 3-2 Belgium win over Japan had all the makings of an instant-classic, as Japan scored a pair of early second-half goals to seize control of the game, only to see the favored Belgian side rattle off two goals in five minutes (69' and 74'), then score a brilliant goal in the final 20 seconds of the game to pull off the miracle comeback.

With a goal in Monday's 2-0 win over Mexico, Brazil's Neymar remains one of the few international stars still playing in the 2018 World Cup.

There have been a number of wildly exciting games in this World Cup, but none can match what happened on Monday between Belgium and Japan.

With Argentina's Lionel Messi and Portugal's Christiano Ronaldo sent home early from this World Cup, that leaves Brazil's Neymar as the top player remaining who still has a chance to hold the Cup, and he delivered a smashing performance on Monday, scoring a goal in the 51st minute that paved the way for Brazil to eliminate rival Mexico, 2-0.

Today's two games end the round of 16 "knockout stage" with Sweden facing Switzerland and Colombia taking on England.

The winners of these two games will face one another on Saturday, July 7 in the quarterfinals.

Given their experience, Brazil remains the favorite at this point, but Uruguay and France are worthy of discussion as is Belgium.

Croatia seems the best of the dark-horse teams at this point. England could fit that bill if, in fact, they get past Colombia this afternoon.

One thing for certain. This World Cup has been anything but boring. It's just a shame more people in the U.S. haven't been led to watching it.

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July 2
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fact and opinion bets against the orioles every game

FACT -- Jay Beagle -- who was an important cog in the engine of the Capitals -- signed a 4-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks yesterday.

OPINION -- He will be sorely missed in Washington. While he might not have ever grown into the 30 goal scorer that some thought he might based on his AHL days, Beagle was an expert's expert in the face-off department and was an all-world grinder, doing a lot of the dirty work that doesn't often show up on the stat sheet.

FACT -- The Mariners blanked Kansas City, 1-0, on Sunday, improving to 54-31 on the season.

OPINION -- Having just watched them clobber the Orioles in four straight games in Baltimore, it's easy to see why Seattle has a good team. They have power in their lineup, they're solid defensively, and their starting pitching is good enough to keep them in most games. They look a lot like -- dare I say it? -- the Orioles of 2014. Oh, and they have Nelson Cruz, speaking of the Orioles and 2014.

FACT -- Tiger Woods posted a 4-under round of 66 on Sunday to finish T4 at the Quicken Loans National down in Bethesda, MD. The finish was Tiger's second best this season.

OPINION -- ESPN's Kevin Van Valkenburg made this point early Sunday evening on Twitter and I have to agree (thus, I'm stealing it for #DMD). Tiger's 2018 season is better than that of Jordan far. Spieth doesn't have a win, either, and he's basically made $500,000 more than Woods while playing in six more events. Of course, money doesn't really matter to Woods or Spieth. Winning is all they care about. I'm pretty certain one of them -- if not both -- will win at some point this season.

Manny Machado told reporters on Friday he and the Orioles discussed a long term deal several years ago but the two couldn't come to an agreement.

FACT -- Manny Machado indicated over the weekend that he and the Orioles had a contract extension discussion a few years ago but the Orioles "didn't show me the same kind of appreciation that the Angels showed for (Mike) Trout."

OPINION -- OK, Manny's a terrific player. No doubt about it. But if he told the Orioles three years ago that he wanted "Trout money", also known as $35 million a year, it's no wonder the Orioles didn't do the deal. Machado deserves to be among the highest-paid players in baseball, but he's not the same player as Mike Trout. No chance.

FACT -- Only one team in the A.L. West (Texas) is under .500. The other four are all above .500. Only one team in the A.L. Central is over .500 (Cleveland). The other four are under .500.

OPINION -- That's a really weird stat. Basically, every team beneath Cleveland in the Central would be in last place in the West, and every team in the West except Texas would be right on the heels of the Indians in the fight for the Central division crown.

FACT -- Veteran NHL'er James Van Riemsdyk signed with the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.

OPINION -- This was the worst possible decision van Riemsdyk could have made. Why sign with a bunch of pansy-loser-punks? Does he like losing or something? Another guy on the "rat fink" list, I guess.

FACT -- Tony Gwynn had one three-strikeout game in his career. One. Go ahead and insert your Chris Davis joke here. Oh, and guess how many times Gwynn struck out against Greg Maddux (94 AB) and Pedro Martinez (135 AB)? Go ahead and guess. 229 combined at-bats against two of the best pitchers we've seen over the last 30 years. How many K's?

OPINION -- I still say Ichiro was the best hitter of the last 30 years, but daggone if Gwynn wasn't amazing. One 3-strikeout game in his entire career? Holy schnikee. (The Maddux/Martinez answer comes later).

FACT -- Rapper Drake released a much-anticipated new CD on June 29 called "Scorpion". Several of the songs had been pre-released all the way back in February, but the bulk of the album was still unknown upon its release. It set one-day internet streaming numbers.

OPINION -- There are a handful of good songs on "Scorpion", including Elevate, I'm Upset and God's Plan, but for the most part the anticipation didn't come close to matching the delivered product. It's a C+ effort, although he'll be richer-than-rich from it.

FACT -- Both World Cup games on Sunday needed a penalty kick shootout to determine the winner.

OPINION -- It's clearly not the best way to decide a game -- particularly one as important as a round of 16 World Cup game -- but after 120 minutes of soccer, what other options are there? I guess the only thing I'd potentially suggest in lieu of two 15-minute overtime periods is to play another 45-minute half of soccer with a golden goal (first team to score wins) and allow three more substitutions, including one player who previously left the game.

FACT -- I picked Luis Severino to win the Cy Young Award at the beginning of the season. Last night he improved to 13-2 and lowered his ERA to 1.98 in the Yankees 11-1 thrashing of the Red Sox.

OPINION -- I'm gonna wind up being right on this one. Severino is your A.L. Cy Young winner.

FACT -- Tony Gwynn was never once struck out by either Pedro Martinez or Greg Maddux. Never.

OPINION -- That's amazing.

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lebron's last quest begins

If he can pull this one off, then LeBron James is, in fact, the greatest ever.

Can he guide the Lakers back to relevance and overcome the Warriors, Rockets and Oklahoma City?

If he can, crown the man once and for all.

Four straight trips to the Finals in his second go-round with the Cavaliers wasn't enough to keep LeBron in Cleveland.

LeBron took the suspense out of a weekend in Los Angeles on Sunday night when he inked a 4-year, $154 million with the Lakers. In case you've been in a cave for the last few years, the Lakers have been a bit of a laughingstock in the NBA's high-powered Western Conference.

Maybe he just did it for the money. I have no idea what the Cavaliers would have paid LeBron (not $154 million, I bet) and there's no way of knowing if Philadelphia or any other team in the league would have given him $38.5 million a year for four years. If he did it for the money, it's kind of hard to blame him. I've never turned down $154 million, but I can say without hesitation I don't think I would.

But no matter why he did it, here's the deal: LeBron has put himself in an extremely interesting position now. He has, for all intents and purposes, said, "I'll take on Curry and Durant. I'll go toe-to-toe with Harden and Paul."

And, much like we just saw in the final year of his run in Cleveland, LeBron won't have much of a supporting cast in Los Angeles. At least not right away.

Why would a guy who has no reason at all to take on this kind of burden -- take on this kind of burden?

He could have stayed in Cleveland and had a couple of shots at reaching the NBA Finals again in the near future, although the blossoming 76'ers and ever-improving Celtics would have had something to say about that.

Staying in Cleveland would have been comfortable. It would have been easy, basically.

Moving to Los Angeles and taking over the Lakers will be anything but comfortable for him. Well, except for the $154 million.

But seriously, this is a gigantic leap of faith for James. And an admirable decision. It's not going to be easy.

His critics will be waiting at the door every time the Lakers get squashed by Golden State, 124-98.

When L.A. loses by 27 to the Rockets on a Friday night and 21 two days later in Oklahoma City, the headlines will read: "Should have stayed in Cleveland, King".

Why do this?

Maybe he sees this as his chance to do something that Michael Jordan couldn't do.

Jordan went to Washington, albeit late in his career, and couldn't do much for the Wizards except increase their season ticket sales.

James will increase ticket sales in L.A., for sure, but the stakes for him are much higher. Jordan went to D.C. long after his best days in Chicago had passed him by. James is making the decision to join the Lakers while still playing some of the best basketball in his career.

If the Lakers don't win, James will have failed.

Even if it's not his fault, LeBron will get the blame.

And if nothing else, the NBA season just got a lot more interesting.

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DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.

“81 games in” edition


Steve Pearce

Toronto traded Pearce to Boston last week (along with “cash,” always formidable) for a minor leaguer, meaning that the 35-year-old has now played for every team in the American League East.

This is the second time in three seasons that Pearce has been traded inside the division from a bad team to a contender. Two years ago, the Orioles got him (back) from the Rays for catcher Jonah Heim, now toiling in “A” ball in the Oakland organization.

Pearce has played the vast majority of his games in the AL East as an Oriole, of course.

He was lucky enough to record the final out of the game at first base when the Orioles clinched the division in 2014 by beating the Blue Jays. That season, he had 21 home runs, 26 doubles and a .930 OPS. He was the team’s everyday first baseman from mid-September through the playoffs after Chris Davis’s suspension.

The lineup the Orioles took into those 2014 playoffs was interesting, wasn’t it? Pearce had to play every day, and both Matt Wieters and Manny Machado were out for the season. Pearce, to his credit, played like a high-level Major Leaguer in 2014.

The Orioles not only had Pearce in 2014 but also Kelly Johnson, another guy who played for all five teams in the current AL East. Johnson played for Toronto in 2012, Tampa in 2013 and the rest of them the following year; he was traded by the Yankees to the Red Sox in late July and then by the Red Sox to Baltimore in late August.



The Orioles won 23 games in the first half of the season. I believe the math says that translates to 46 wins by season’s end.

The last Major League team to win fewer than 50 games in a season was the 2003 Detroit Tigers, who finished 43-119. Of note…the Tigers won five of their last six games that season, including a game against the Twins where they came back from an 8-0 deficit to win 9-8.

If you recall, the Houston Astros went into the tank semi-intentionally for a few years early this decade. They won 56 games in 2011, 53 in 2012 and 51 in 2013. If the 2018 Orioles get to 51, let alone 56, I’ll be shocked.

On a side note, the 2018 Royals only won 25 of their first 81 games, which I believe translates to 50 wins. The White Sox were 28-53 in their first 81, projecting to 56 wins.

In other words, there’s a decent chance that three teams in the American League will finish with fewer than 60 wins. With the Yankees, Red Sox and Astros, there’s also a chance of three AL teams finishing with 100 or more wins.

It’s a season of haves and have-nots. The Orioles are the worst of the have-nots, so far.

It’s once again worth noting that the most famously awful Orioles team of all-time, the 1988 squad, won 24 of its first 81 games. After losing its first 21 games that season, the team never had a losing streak of more than five games the remainder of the year.

The Orioles still have 13 games remaining against Aaron Judge and the Yankees this season.


Boston and New York

The Orioles still have 22 games remaining against the Yankees and Red Sox, the teams with the two highest winning percentages in the Major Leagues this year.

Based on their overall winning percentage, the Birds will win maybe six of those 22 games. At this point, though, even that seems like a stretch.

13 of the 22 will come against New York. The good news is that eight of the 13, two four-game series, will come at Camden Yards. The bad news is that, entering Sunday’s game against the Angels, the Orioles had won fewer games at home than they had on the road.

By the way, the Orioles won three of four in Yankee Stadium in a series in April. Seriously…

Needless to say, Buck Showalter’s team would be better off not having to see Boston again this year, let alone see them nine more times.

In 10 games so far against the Red Sox, the Orioles have scored just 24 runs.

The Orioles have a six-game road trip to New York and Boston from September 21-26. Neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox will be sweating the playoffs at that point, but with the Wild Card team having to play that one-game play-in I’m sure they’ll still be trying.

I am not sure when the Orioles will be good again. I am sure that the return of the Yankees and the Red Sox to dominant roles within the division is going to make it a lot harder for them to get there, no matter who’s in the front office.



Who will be in the Orioles’ starting lineup on Opening Day 2019? Has there ever been an upcoming season with as many question marks as this one?

Chris Davis will be 33 years old with four years and $92 million left on his contract. Yikes.

Manny Machado may be a better third baseman than shortstop, but he’ll be playing one of those positions somewhere else.

If Adam Jones really wants to stay here, I guess that’s nice. But do we really want him here? For his sake, I hope he’s on a different team.

Mark Trumbo won’t be a free agent until after the 2019 season, so there’s that.

Pencil Dylan Bundy in as the Opening Day starter assuming he can stay out of trouble on the bases in National League parks. I’d rather that he strikes out on three pitches every time instead of reaching base.

Alex Cobb signed a four-year deal, through 2021. Andrew Cashner is under contract in 2019, with a club option for 2020.

Sure, the rotation hasn’t exactly been great (see below), but you could argue that those three plus Kevin Gausman wouldn’t be that bad. Of course, you could have argued that this year as well.

The Davis situation is, quite frankly, insane. It’s one thing to have a player who isn’t coming close to his contract; it’s another to have a player with that contract essentially be the worst player in the Major Leagues.

Sometimes you wonder whether that’s the kind of stuff that only happens to the Orioles, who won’t be very recognizable next year.


The obvious question

Why are the Orioles so bad?

Sports can be funny sometimes. I’m not sure the Orioles are significantly worse than the Marlins or Mets or Reds or Padres, if you just lined up the players. We know they’re not much worse than the Royals or White Sox.

But there is a difference between a historically bad year and 65-97, I guess. So why?

I think it comes down to hitting and pitching.*

Orioles’ pitching has certainly been the least “dominant” in the league. The staff has allowed an average of 10 hits per nine innings, and its WHIP (hits plus walks, divided by innings pitched) is by far the worst in the league.

For what it’s worth, the staff also leads the league with six balks. Seems like an appropriate statistic, if basically unimportant.

Meanwhile, Buck Showalter’s team has an OPS of .665, a number so atrocious that it’s almost impossible to believe. The Orioles have become infamous for having low on-base percentage numbers in this all-or-nothing era of hitting, but this year’s mark of .290 (as a team!) is downright embarrassing.

Imagine for a second that Chris Davis was still a legitimate baseball player, if not a $23 million per year one. Imagine if Jonathan Schoop was healthy and playing up to his potential.

With the season Manny Machado is having, along with the nice fill-in work being done by Danny Valencia, the Orioles probably wouldn’t have a .665 OPS.

And that might make the difference between 23-58 and 33-48. Neither of them would make for much fun this summer, but it would seem a lot different.

*An attempt at humor…

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July 1
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the chase is officially "on"

I waited until the halfway mark of the season to cave in and author this piece.

Even when they started 8-27, I figured the Orioles would right the ship -- somehow -- and still manage to scrape together at leat 60-some wins in 2018.

But now, it's pretty evident.

The Orioles might finish the season with the worst record in the history of the 162-game schedule.

Yes, we could be looking at the worst team EVER in the modern era of major league baseball.

In case you're wondering or just don't know -- because, really, why ever concern yourself with this? -- the record is held by the 2003 Detroit Tigers, who posted a miserable mark of 43-119 and finished a whopping 47 games out of first place.

The chase for 44 wins is on.

The Orioles, after yesterday's 6-2 loss to the Angels, are now 23-59. Yes, that averages out to somewhere around 46 wins for an entire season, but there's most certainly a chance this edition of the Orioles could finish with fewer than 43 victories.

I really didn't start considering it until the 4-game sweep by Seattle earlier this week and the two straight losses to the Angels.

It doesn't seem possible, really. A team with this roster, which includes a bunch of legitimate major league players, can't possibly be this bad, right? They just can't be.

Aren't the baseball gods going to smile on them sometime soon and hand over a 6-game winning streak?

The Orioles have lost 17 of their last 18 games at home. Think about that for a second. At one point, the Orioles were 10-12 at Camden Yards. They're now 11-29 in Baltimore.

How on earth do you lose 17 of 18 games? Let alone 17 of 18 in your own building?

And I guess it can get worse before it gets better, although I don't know how.

Mychal Givens appears to be especially vulnerable, having suffered the loss in five of his most recent eleven outings. Not that we care all that much about win-loss records for relief pitchers, but Givens is 0-6 now.

Givens wasn't helped by Danny Valencia yesterday, who failed to bring in a fly ball to the wall that should have been caught, but he's been his own worst enemy during this losing skid of his. He walked two successive batters yesterday before Albert Pujols' double that eluded Valencia and kick-started L.A.'s 5-run 8th inning rally.

Oddly enough, Valencia has been one of the only guys on the team to play worth a hoot over the last three weeks. He's become the team's de facto starting rightfielder based mainly on the fact that he's producing at the plate.

With Darren O'Day now done for the season (hamstring surgery), the Orioles bullpen will continue to be a mix-and-match effort based on who pitched the day(s) before. That probably doesn't bode well for Buck Showalter.

So the chase is officially on. If nothing else, this effort to surpass the Detroit Tigers will add some interest and intrigue to the final three months of the season.

Yep, I wrote "three months of the season". Did you cringe a little when you realized that? There are three months remaining.

The Orioles need to win 7 games per-month to reach 44 wins.

Surely we can do that, right?

Of course. Except I guess should remind you that during the month of June, the Orioles didn't defeat a team -- not one -- in the American League. The team's only wins came against the Mets (2), Nationals (2), Braves (2) and Marlins (1).

You see...there's seven wins right there. Except the bulk of interleague play is done, save for three games with Philly (including two in Philadelphia this coming week) and two with the Mets.

At some point, the Orioles are going to have to beat American League teams.

The chase for 44 is on.

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tiger needs a miracle

OK, maybe "miracle" is too strong of a word. But Tiger Woods really needs something special to happen today if he's going to win a PGA Tour event for the first time in five years.

Woods produced another under-par round yesterday, but what could have been a special day turned into just another ho-hum round of two-under 68, which leaves Tiger at 7-under par through 54 holes of the event at TPC Potomac.

He trails 3rd round co-leaders Abraham Ancer and Francesco Molinari (-13) by six shots, with a host of other players sandwiched in between Woods and those two.

It looks like that first victory of the season is going to have to wait.

Tiger's next scheduled start is the British Open in three weeks, an event where he would likely have to finish in the top three in order to qualify for the World Golf Championships tournament at Firestone CC in August.

All of this is a lead-up to the biggest story of the 2018 season for Tiger (besides winning). Will he either make the Ryder Cup team outright (impossible to do without at least one victory) or be added to the squad by captain Jim Furyk?

Saturday's round of 68 showed the same things we've seen from Woods time and time again over the last few months. He hit the ball well, for the most part, but made some sloppy swings with his irons. He did manage to make six birdies on the day, but countered those with four bogeys, including a missed 8-footer at the 18th hole.

Ancer and Molinari will be in the final group today, with Ancer steaming into Sunday on the heels of a course-record-tying round of 62 on Saturday. Now a par 70 after two decades as a par 72 under the old "TPC Avenel" name, the golf course in Bethesda is playing difficult this week. An 8-under par round of 62 there is quite impressive.

Woods might need a 62 to win today...and even then, 15-under could fall short by a shot or two.

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messi, ronaldo both sent packing

The folks at FOX, who bought the U.S. television broadcast rights to this World Cup, must have nearly fainted around 4 pm yesterday.

With Portugal's 2-1 loss to Uruguay, that now leaves this year's tournament without the sport's two biggest names, as both Messi (Argentina) and Ronaldo are no longer playing.

Lionel Messi assisted on two goals on Saturday, but it wasn't enough for Argentina as they were eliminated by France, 4-3.

Argentina fell 4-3 to France in the early game on Saturday.

Uruguay and France will now meet in the quarterfinals next Friday.

Today's two games are interesting. Spain meets host nation Russia, while Croatia faces Denmark.

Both Russia and Denmark are just happy to be in the round of 16, while Spain fancies themselves a title contender. But the team that has played as well as anyone thus far is Croatia, who dismantled Argentina in group play, 3-0, and boasts a talented lineup of creative players.

While this Spain side wasn't overly encouraging in group play, they showed good offensive form in the 3-3 tie with Portugal. Russia was decent in group play -- the benefactor of a fairly easy draw -- but this is a step up in class today.

#DMD prediction: Spain beats Russia, 2-0.

Denmark is an interesting team. They play a smart, calculated style of "football" and will give nothing less than 100% for 90 minutes and beyond. They will NOT beat themselves.

Croatia seems ready to take the next step in international soccer, but this could be a bad match-up for them. If they're not able to score early, Denmark's tenacious level of activity could wear them out.

#DMD prediction: Denmark beats Croatia, 2-1 in penalty kicks.

Some will consider this an upset, but Denmark's star is on the rise in this World Cup and they'll pull out a dramatic 2-1 win by virtue of winning the penalty kick shootout.

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