Friday
September 15
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVIII
Issue 15
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how long until nfl adopts new cfl rule?


There's not much the Canadian Football League does that the NFL would choose to mimic.

That might change, soon.

And no, the NFL won't be going to wider fields or anything like that.

Earlier this week, the CFL announced the league will no longer allow for padded practices during the season.

John Harbaugh won't like it, but one of these days soon, his team won't be allowed to practice in pads during the regular season.

I know what you're thinking. "How can they actually practice football if there's no contact during practice?"

I agree. So does just about anyone else who has followed the game during their lifetime.

But the new CFL rule is now in place to protect the player. It's being done for their safety. No full contact is likely going to mean less injuries, less brain trauma and a more healthy work environment for the players.

It's coming soon. You know it. The NFL will be monitoring the situation in Canada quite closely and if it goes over well, you can expect a similar plan to be implemented soon.

Here's the funny part. The two principles in the league, the owners and the NFL Player's Association, will not be able to oppose one another when the discussion centers on eliminating padded practices in-season.

The NFLPA is all for player health and safety. And if the owners want the contact practices eliminated to help themselves been less vulnerable to law suits and court cases, all they have to do is ask.

The coaches will hate it. So will the GM's and player personnel folks. But they're not the ones getting hit with gazillion dollar law suits because some ex-player in Kansas City can't remember his home address or his cell phone number.

If the 32 NFL owners get together at a league meeting and decide to eliminate padded practices, they'll be gone quicker than a Chris Davis strike out.

It won't help the actual game, of course. If you ask John Harbaugh privately about the reduction in practice sessions and padded practices in training camp, he'd point to those modifications as reasons why the quality of play is down around the league.

We see it every Sunday. Guys can't run the right routes. They don't know the right way to tackle anymore. Offensive linemen aren't shedding players and leveraging themselves as well as they did a decade ago. Coaches will point to the reduction in practice time as the biggest factors working against them these days.

Just wait until you can't actually put pads on the players starting September 1 or thereabouts. You think the football is semi-shabby now? It's only going to decrease in quality.

Change doesn't happen overnight in the NFL. But it's only going to take one powerful owner in the league to broach the subject over cocktails at a league meeting and the next thing you know, a committee will be assembled to analyze and discuss the merits of elminating padded practices in-season.

My guess? The 2020 NFL regular season will be the first one where padded practices aren't allowed.

We're not that far away, trust me. The CFL has opened the floodgates. And once the owners in the NFL realize they're less at risk, padded practices during the season will be a thing of the past.

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the fat lady is putting on her make-up


It's not over yet, but if the Orioles were playing the game of H-O-R-S-E and the word was "over", the O's would now have O-V-E after last night's 13-5 blowout in New York.

The Yankees scored six times in the first inning off of Wade Miley. That was the ballgame.

Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge continued to pound Orioles pitching on Thursday night, with two more home runs in a 13-5 laugher over the Birds.

Miley did record one out last night, so the evening wasn't a total loss. Oh, and he didn't walk anyone, either. But he gave up six runs and made Buck Showalter go to his bullpen early. It wasn't a pretty sight.

It's amazing to see how the Orioles have self-destructed over the last fourteen days. After sweeping Boston at Fenway and Seattle at home, the Birds looked to be gaining serious momentum for that second wild card spot.

Then came a four-game split with the Blue Jays at Camden Yards that started a downward spiral that has lasted two weeks now. Last night's drubbing at the hands of the Yankees lowered the Birds' record to 72-75. If 86-76 is going to be the record needed for that second wild card spot, the O's have to finish the campaign 14-1. If 84-78 winds up being good enough, the Orioles need to go 12-3 down the stretch to reach that mark.

Yes, the fat lady is putting on her make-up and getting ready to take the stage. It's almost over.

There will be plenty of time in the coming months to dissect the 2017 campaign, but this recent tailspin has been all about the team's offense suddenly getting the bird flu. No one has hit worth a hoot over the last two weeks.

Even last night's 5-run output was misleading. Twice the O's had runners on 1st and 2nd and no one out and couldn't score. It's been that way a lot recently. Plenty of runners on base, but no one driving them home.

The starting pitching was pretty decent in Toronto earlier this week. The Blue Jays scored four, three and two runs in the three game series, and yet, won twice. They won a pair of games because the Birds scored a grand total of seven runs in the three game series.

Just like it did last year when the chips were down, the Orioles offense has gone in the crapper in September. Jones, Davis, Trumbo -- all three coming up empty on numerous occasions. Tim Beckham has cooled off -- as expected -- and even Jonathan Schoop has had a quiet road trip to Cleveland and New York, although he did connect on his 32nd home run last night in the Bronx.

As good as the Birds were in August, they've been just as bad in September.

And with only 15 games remaining now, they'll need a miracle to make the post-season.

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this weekend in
english soccer


Contributed by #DMD's English Premier League Reporter
MATTHEW CARROLL


Well that didn’t take long. Just over a month into the season and after only seventy-seven days in charge, Frank de Boer was given the boot at Crystal Palace with his now former side failing to either pick up points or find the back of the net in the four games the Dutchmen was in charge.

His replacement, former England national team manager Roy Hodgson, will have his first opportunity at the weekend to begin righting the ship but just before then, Matchday 5 will get underway with another Friday kick off and, as usual, all games available live on the NBC family of networks or online at NBC Live Extra.

Saturday, September 16 (all times eastern)

10am – Manchester City @ Watford – Vicarage Road, NBC Sports Network

Manchester City took control and cruised after Liverpool were reduced to ten men, with four goals to follow the one they had put past the Reds just before Sadio Mane’s sending off in route to a 5-0 victory in their early season showdown. They will travel to Vicarage Road Saturday to take on Watford, the surprise side of the young season who are thriving under new manager Marco Silva and who moved unbeaten in their first four matches of a top-flight season for the first time in their history when they got past Southampton 2-0 and up to fourth place in the table, only two points behind their weekend visitors.

After impressing in the second half last season in his ultimately fruitless efforts to keep Hull City from relegation, but nonetheless establishing himself as one of the rising young managers in English football, Silva will get a better idea of exactly how far he has brought his new side when the formidable City comes to town, with the Citizens running out winners in the last four and unbeaten in their six all time Premier League meetings with the Hornets (D2), the draws the only time they have walked away with points in their last eleven get togethers with the Citizens across all competitions (L9).

Sunday, September 17 (all times eastern)

8:30am – Arsenal @ Chelsea – Stamford Bridge, NBC Sports Network

After being left to stew throughout the international break over the disastrous effort they put forward in a 4-0 defeat to Liverpool, which once again raised the question about the direction of the club under manager Arsene Wenger with the ink barely dry on the two-year contract extension he signed earlier this summer, Arsenal silenced their critics for the time being with a dominant team performance and a convincing 3-0 victory over Bournemouth. They will face a much sterner test on Sunday, when they open up the Sunday slate with a trip across town for a London Derby with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues made it three in a row since their surprise opening weekend defeat when they held off Leicester City for a nervy 2-1 win, which jumped them into third place in the table only a point behind both teams from Manchester. The question now is will they see the Arsenal side that performed against Bournemouth and that have taken three of the last four meetings (L1) with their neighbors, or the one that forgot show up at Liverpool and that have lost their last five visits to Stamford Bridge, with a sixth to certainly bring the Gunners and Wenger’s critics right back out of the woodwork.

11am – Everton @ Manchester United – Old Trafford, NBC Sports Network

After going perfect in their first three, Manchester United’s unblemished start to the campaign came to an end when, despite having several chances before the final whistle to move back ahead, they dropped points for the first time this season in a 2-2 draw at Stoke City. They will wrap up the weekend action when a familiar face pays a visit to Old Trafford, with former United legend Wayne Rooney returning to the historic footballing ground after his summer transfer to an Everton side that once again showed how sorely they are missing Romelu Lukaku’s goal scoring prowess up front in 3-0 loss to Tottenham.

The Belgian international, who has already bagged four goals from four games this year, will be squaring off with his former side as well for the first time since his big money move to United this summer, but it will be the return of Rooney that will likely garner all of the attention on Sunday when he brings his boyhood club to Old Trafford where the Toffees have managed only two wins in their twenty-five all time Premier League visits (W18 D5) and, despite salvaging points from both meetings last season, have not beat the Red Devils in their last five meetings across all competitions (L3).

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we're heading to pittsburgh for ravens-steelers on december 10!


We're one game into the season and I'm already targeting Sunday, December 10 as a "must see game" on the Ravens' away schedule.

That's when John Harbaugh's team heads to the Steel City for a Sunday evening nationally-televised encounter with the Steelers, and #DMD is making the trip to Pittsburgh to see it all happen.

Our group will have upper level seats together, so those traveling with friends will be seated right next to one another. Pittsburgh's bark is much worse than its bite. I've been there a dozen times, probably, for Ravens-Steelers and the fan base is much more tolerant of visiting fans than urban legend suggests.

But it's still comforting to sit with other Ravens fans and those you traveled with to Pittsburgh. So our tickets are "group seating" where everyone is together.

We'll leave Baltimore at 12 noon, arriving at Heinz Field roughly around 5 pm for the 8:30 kick-off.

You will NEVER go hungry or thirsty when you travel with #DMD. Upon departing from Baltimore on our luxury motor coach, we'll supply everyone with lunch, plus there's always an extensive supply of DuClaw beer, soft drinks and water.

Upon arrival in Pittsburgh, we'll break out pre-game dinner for everyone, plus there's more food and drinks for our purple-clad travelers.

Oh, and brush up on your Ravens trivia. The winner of our trivia contest receives $100 in cash!

If you've traveled with us before, you know how our bus trips work. We'll sell only 40 of the available 55 seats, leaving a little bit of room for folks to stretch out on the ride up and back to Pittsburgh.

The bus will return to Baltimore immediately after the game ends.

We do it all for you. Bus ride, game ticket, all the food and drink you can handle, plus Ravens trivia. It's the safest and easiest way to travel to Pittsburgh to see the Ravens.

Eight of the available 40 seats have been pre-purchased by one of our corporate partners, leaving 32 seats for purchase.

Oh, and here's something new we're implementing for #DMD travel. You will be allowed to board the bus and select your seat(s) based on the date of your purchase. In other words, if you are the first person to buy a seat on our bus trip to Pittsburgh, you'll be first in line to board the bus.

It's not quite what they do on Southwest Airlines, but it's close. The sooner you buy your seat on our bus to Pittsburgh, the further up in line you are when it's time to board the bus on December 10.

If you're interested in joining us for the big showdown in Pittsburgh, just go here.

Help us Paint Pittsburgh Purple on Sunday night, December 10!!



h1>we're heading to pittsburgh for ravens-steelers on december 10!

We're one game into the season and I'm already targeting Sunday, December 10 as a "must see game" on the Ravens' away schedule.

That's when John Harbaugh's team heads to the Steel City for a Sunday evening nationally-televised encounter with the Steelers, and #DMD is making the trip to Pittsburgh to see it all happen.

Our group will have upper level seats together, so those traveling with friends will be seated right next to one another. Pittsburgh's bark is much worse than its bite. I've been there a dozen times, probably, for Ravens-Steelers and the fan base is much more tolerant of visiting fans than urban legend suggests.

But it's still comforting to sit with other Ravens fans and those you traveled with to Pittsburgh. So our tickets are "group seating" where everyone is together.

We'll leave Baltimore at 12 noon, arriving at Heinz Field roughly around 5 pm for the 8:30 kick-off.

You will NEVER go hungry or thirsty when you travel with #DMD. Upon departing from Baltimore on our luxury motor coach, we'll supply everyone with lunch, plus there's always an extensive supply of DuClaw beer, soft drinks and water.

Upon arrival in Pittsburgh, we'll break out pre-game dinner for everyone, plus there's more food and drinks for our purple-clad travelers.

Oh, and brush up on your Ravens trivia. The winner of our trivia contest receives $100 in cash!

If you've traveled with us before, you know how our bus trips work. We'll sell only 40 of the available 55 seats, leaving a little bit of room for folks to stretch out on the ride up and back to Pittsburgh.

The bus will return to Baltimore immediately after the game ends.

We do it all for you. Bus ride, game ticket, all the food and drink you can handle, plus Ravens trivia. It's the safest and easiest way to travel to Pittsburgh to see the Ravens.

Eight of the available 40 seats have been pre-purchased by one of our corporate partners, leaving 32 seats for purchase.

Oh, and here's something new we're implementing for #DMD travel. You will be allowed to board the bus and select your seat(s) based on the date of your purchase. In other words, if you are the first person to buy a seat on our bus trip to Pittsburgh, you'll be first in line to board the bus.

It's not quite what they do on Southwest Airlines, but it's close. The sooner you buy your seat on our bus to Pittsburgh, the further up in line you are when it's time to board the bus on December 10.

If you're interested in joining us for the big showdown in Pittsburgh, just go here.

Help us Paint Pittsburgh Purple on Sunday night, December 10!!



Thursday
September 14
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVIII
Issue 14
subscribe to the #dmd rss feed


no, sir, it's not time for the orioles to "play the kids"


I marvel sometimes at the way people look at sports.

It's like they never played a minute of baseball, football, basketball, soccer -- you name it -- themselves.

Over the last few days, I've heard and seen a familiar cry from Orioles fans around town.

"We should be playing the kids now! Bringing them up and having them sit on the bench isn't helping them at all!"

I heard it several times yesterday afternoon on talk radio, callers blasting Buck Showalter for not playing rookie outfielder Austin Hays or not giving Richard Rodriguez more innings of work on the mound because he has a "live arm".

"How come you haven't played any of the rookes I gave you, Buck?" "We're actually still trying to win games, Dan."

Austin Hays and Richard Rodriguez are fine right where they are, actually. In the dugout...on the bench. That's where they should be.

The Orioles are still trying to make the playoffs.

Yes, I'm aware they're 72-74 and 4.5 games behind Minnesota in the wild card race. It doesn't look good. At this point, with just sixteen games left, it would take a minor miracle for the O's to climb over four other teams and snag that second wild card spot in the American League.

But, until they're eliminated from the race, you do not "play the kids".

Why play 140 games at full-speed, giving it your all, only to then decide with less than a month to go that you're throwing away all of that work just so Austin Hays or Chance Sisco gets 50 at bats or Richard Rodriguez gets 20 innings of mound duty?

It doesn't make sense.

I'd go as far as to say that in the games recently where I've seen Showalter use Hays or Rodriguez, I actually think it's fair to be more critical of Buck with those moves. Why would you play those greenhorns in games that matter, Buck?

It's probably fair to throw Joey Rickard in that mix, too. He definitely has a lot more major league experience than the other September 1 call-ups, but Rickard -- to me, at least -- isn't getting any better after two seasons with the big league club. Why play him at this point if the game is still on the line and the playoffs are still at stake?

Rickard has 59 strikeouts and 9 walks this season. He's in over his head. Nice kid. Plays hard. Over-matched, though.

Showalter despises the September 1 roster expansion. He's on record saying he's not in favor of it and thinks the rosters should stay at 25 throughout the season. Perhaps he sticks Austin Hays into an important game or let's Richard Rodriguez appear in a game where he's clearly overmatched as a way of saying, "You wanted me to use these kids...you're the ones that want the rosters expanded...so I'll use them, even though they're not ready."

Buck doesn't always get his way with the roster decisions made by Dan Duquette. Showalter has never been a fan of Mike Wright or Tyler Wilson, for example, yet he's seen them time and time again in his locker room and, at some point, is forced to use them even though it's against his better judgment as a manager.

So I'm willing to give him a pass of sorts when he uses Austin Hays or Richard Rodriguez in any game that's not a blowout -- because perhaps he's sending Dan Duquette a message in doing so.

But until the Orioles are eliminated from the post-season, those two shouldn't be playing. Period.

Neither should Chance Sisco. Or Pedro Alvarez. Sisco is a rookie who isn't ready for the big lights yet and Alvarez, as we saw again last night, can't hit major league pitching consistently enough anymore to warrant playing time.

As for the kids coming up, sitting on the bench, and "not learning anything", that's on them. They're learning plenty if they have their eyes open and they're watching the games.

They're learning a lot just by being on the same bench, in the same hotel, and in the same locker room as Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, Jonathan Schoop, Buck Showalter, etc. They can observe how major league players prepare, study and perform at the highest level. Then there's Chris Davis...you can learn how to take strike three from him.

I don't mind the roster expansion and I understand its value every September 1st. If your team is out of the race, bringing up minor league hopefuls for a taste of big league action makes perfect sense. Using a prospect in a blowout game in mid-September is also understandable.

Giving Austin Hays a start tonight against the Yankees? Dumb idea.

And, yes, even if Hays hits a home run tonight, it's not a smart move to have a player not ready for major league action playing in place of a real major league player.

Once that "y" is next to the Orioles name in the standings (y - indicates team has been eliminated from post-season play), they can play all the kids they want. Have at it. But while there's still hope of making the playoffs, you play your "real" team. Every night.

And please don't be that goof who says, "C'mon man, they're done. The season's over."

It's not over. It might be over for you, because you don't understand sports, but it's actually not over for the Orioles until the math says it is.

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thursday sports with David Rosenfeld

DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.


Last Sunday in a 20-0 win against Cincinnati, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco threw 17 passes and completed nine of them. According to the play-by-play from the official NFL statistics, the Ravens ran the ball on 29 of their 32 official offensive plays in the second half.

Forced into a second-and-long on the second play of the third quarter after a false start penalty on offensive lineman James Hurst, Flacco threw behind Terrance West, who had the ball deflect off his hands into the arms of Bengals’ linebacker Nick Vigil.

And that was basically it for Flacco.

After the great play moments later by Terrell Suggs to strip Andy Dalton of the ball inside the Ravens’ 10-yard-line, there were nearly 11 minutes left in the third quarter. The Ravens led 17-0, not 35-0, and were backed up near their own end zone. The game was hardly over. Yet the Baltimore staff went on to call 12 consecutive running plays.

Joe gets sad when he's only allowed to throw the ball 17 times in a game. And rightfully so, perhaps.

Twelve in a row! It was completely astonishing, for more than a few reasons.

It was astonishing that an NFL defense would allow an opponent to get three straight first downs after the opponent ran the ball on all nine downs in that sequence, Throw in the first down the Ravens got on another running play after a personal foul for good measure.

It was astonishing that a 10-year NFL veteran quarterback never checked to pass on any of those plays, like he apparently did on his short completion to Jeremy Maclin in the first half that became a 48-yard touchdown.

It was astonishing that the Ravens were able to easily win a game in today’s NFL playing like that. After all, all the second-half strategy got the Ravens was three points. Baltimore’s defensive show had to have been one of the best single-game performances in recent NFL history.

What wasn’t astonishing was the reaction following the game, by experts from the NFL Network to ESPN to the Baltimore Sun to the team website.

Baltimore has found its formula for the season, they said --run the ball and rely on the defense.

Vintage Ravens football, they said, harkening back to the turn of the 21st century. Remember when the young Joe Flacco was praised for his “game manager” abilities, as opposed to being ridiculed for them? Well that plan sounds better now than it did then, they said.

But I don’t buy it at all. Not for a second. I don’t believe that’s the formula for the Ravens, or for any other team.

There is no magic formula. Every game is different, both from what you know before the game and the unknowns that happen during the game. The astonishing and unusual things that happened for the Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium last Sunday are unlikely to happen again.

The New England Patriots may have Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the benefit of what has been a weak division for years, but much of their success has come from being different every week.

For years, opposing coaches, broadcasters and others have consistently been surprised each week by the Patriots, who seem to do the opposite of what is expected.

So I’d rather the Ravens come out throwing on Sunday at home against the Browns. If not, I’d like them simply to be different than they were in Week 1, because there’s no chance of the recipe for success being exactly the same.

In their next 15 games, I doubt the Ravens can even come close to recording three straight first downs after handing the ball to West and Buck Allen nine consecutive times.

The Ravens defense forced five turnovers against the Bengals; the law of averages suggests they won’t force five in a game again for several years, let alone this season.

Great defense or not, the Ravens will get behind this year. They’ll face a defense that’s on top of its own game. They’ll play in loud stadiums that aren’t three-quarters full like Cincinnati’s. Flacco and his offense will get the ball with three minutes left in the first half on their own 15-yard-line and need to pass it a bunch to get into scoring position before halftime.

Like any other team, the Ravens will need to find more than a few ways to win this year. And like every other team, they won’t always find a way.

The good news is that John Harbaugh’s team probably has the pieces to win a lot more than they lose.

Their quarterback has been behind before; say what you want about him, but that’s often made him play better, not worse. If Joe’s not playing like he’s capable, Dean Pees’ defense is good enough to keep games close enough until the quarterback can make a few plays.

Their quarterback has also had many games where he’s been particularly good, showing off his big arm and his experience. Assuming he’s healthy, he will have those games again this season. Those suggesting Flacco is going to be relegated to game manager seem a little out of touch.

The defense has standout players at every position, not just in one area. The kicker is certainly one of the best in the history of the league.

It’s not that the Ravens don’t have any weaknesses. And it’s not that the Ravens won’t be forced to adjust due to injuries or other things beyond their control. It’s just that Harbaugh’s team seems like the kind of group that can win 10 games in 10 different ways.

Unless, that is, Flacco really can’t play.

Then they’ll have to rely on a guy who has no experience coming from behind. Then the defense might put too much pressure on itself, knowing it has to be almost perfect. Then the opposing defense can take advantage of the fact that the Ravens’ running backs are West and Allen, neither of whom is Adrian Peterson.

Only then will the Ravens be able to win a game only one way. Only then will they need to rely solely on a single formula. Until then, I look forward to seeing the next way this 53-man roster gets another victory.

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#1 curley rolls on, calvert hall earns double ot win on the road


High school soccer is heating up in the area and the MIAA A-Conference boys schedule featured several games on Wednesday.

Yesterday's marquee match-up in the A Conference featured No. 2 McDonogh at No. 9 Loyola and the visiting Eagles were able to hold off a late push by the Dons to win 2-1 and remain undefeated.

Loyola was coming off of an inspiring 3-1 win at Calvert Hall last Friday night, so yesterday's visit from the Eagles was a chance for the Dons to make yet another statement.

But McDonough jumped out quickly, scoring off a corner kick five minutes into the game, when Aidan Welsh was able to beat his defenders and put away a shot.

The score remained 1-0 at the half, but the Dons came out in the second half and applied heavy pressure, forcing the McDonagh goalkeeper to make a spectacular save early on. Loyola, however, paid a heavy price for its pressure, as McDonogh caught the Dons with a counter-attack and Casey Settleman scored to stretch the Eagles’ lead to 2-0.

The Dons got one back when Alex Reid put away the rebound off a volley by Cole Hendrix, which smashed into the cross bar. The Eagles were able to hold on from there and escaped Blakefield with three points.

Patrick Milmoe had save nine saves for Loyola and Baskett Kiernan also stopped nine shots for McDonogh.

Elsewhere in the league on Wednesday, Tommy Sidleck recorded his second hat-trick of the season and Nick Richardson added three assists as top-ranked Archbishop Curley continued to roll with a 6-0 victory over visiting Archbishop Spalding.

Nick Balcer opened the scoring for Curley and senior Brandon Knapp chipped in with his first tally on the year. Ben Stitz assisted on two of Sidleck’s goals.

Also on Wednesday, No. 10 Calvert Hall escaped Bel Air with a 2-1 double-overtime win over John Carroll.

Ben Bender scored the golden goal to rescue the visiting Cardinals, who surrendered a second half penalty kick to the Patriots that erased an earlier 1-0 lead.

Bender was also in the middle of the first Calvert Hall goal, as his cross help create a tally for Sean Barwick.

McDonogh (5-0 overall) is 4-0 in the league and in first-place. Curley is also undefeated (5-0, 3-0). The Friars have nine points in league play, which leaves them tied for second with Calvert Hall (3-1, 3-1) and Mount St. Joseph (5-2, 3-1), which routed St. Paul’s, 6-2, on Tuesday.

Loyola (2-2-1, 1-2), John Carroll (1-3-1, 1-3) and Gilman (2-3, 1-3) all have one win in conference play, while Spalding (2-5-1, 0-3) and St. Paul’s (0-4, 0-4) are still seeking their first conference points.

This story were originally published by our friends at Varsity Sports Network, the area's leading in high school athletics coverage. For scores, highlights and previews of boys and girls high school sports in Maryland, visit www.varsitysportsnetwork.com.

Hughes Mechanical
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we're heading to pittsburgh for ravens-steelers on december 10!


We're one game into the season and I'm already targeting Sunday, December 10 as a "must see game" on the Ravens' away schedule.

That's when John Harbaugh's team heads to the Steel City for a Sunday evening nationally-televised encounter with the Steelers, and #DMD is making the trip to Pittsburgh to see it all happen.

Our group will have upper level seats together, so those traveling with friends will be seated right next to one another. Pittsburgh's bark is much worse than its bite. I've been there a dozen times, probably, for Ravens-Steelers and the fan base is much more tolerant of visiting fans than urban legend suggests.

But it's still comforting to sit with other Ravens fans and those you traveled with to Pittsburgh. So our tickets are "group seating" where everyone is together.

We'll leave Baltimore at 12 noon, arriving at Heinz Field roughly around 5 pm for the 8:30 kick-off.

You will NEVER go hungry or thirsty when you travel with #DMD. Upon departing from Baltimore on our luxury motor coach, we'll supply everyone with lunch, plus there's always an extensive supply of DuClaw beer, soft drinks and water.

Upon arrival in Pittsburgh, we'll break out pre-game dinner for everyone, plus there's more food and drinks for our purple-clad travelers.

Oh, and brush up on your Ravens trivia. The winner of our trivia contest receives $100 in cash!

If you've traveled with us before, you know how our bus trips work. We'll sell only 40 of the available 55 seats, leaving a little bit of room for folks to stretch out on the ride up and back to Pittsburgh.

The bus will return to Baltimore immediately after the game ends.

We do it all for you. Bus ride, game ticket, all the food and drink you can handle, plus Ravens trivia. It's the safest and easiest way to travel to Pittsburgh to see the Ravens.

Eight of the available 40 seats have been pre-purchased by one of our corporate partners, leaving 32 seats for purchase.

Oh, and here's something new we're implementing for #DMD travel. You will be allowed to board the bus and select your seat(s) based on the date of your purchase. In other words, if you are the first person to buy a seat on our bus trip to Pittsburgh, you'll be first in line to board the bus.

It's not quite what they do on Southwest Airlines, but it's close. The sooner you buy your seat on our bus to Pittsburgh, the further up in line you are when it's time to board the bus on December 10.

If you're interested in joining us for the big showdown in Pittsburgh, just go here.

Help us Paint Pittsburgh Purple on Sunday night, December 10!!



Wednesday
September 13
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVIII
Issue 13
subscribe to the #dmd rss feed


did you hear the one about chris davis and the jewelry store owner?


History was made last night in Toronto where the Orioles squandered a 2-1 ninth inning lead and lost to the Blue Jays, 3-2.

Chris Davis became the first player in major league history to have his annual salary ($23 million) equal his number of strikeouts in a season (23 million).

I thought it was funny...

OK, that's overblowing it a bit. Davis only has 174 strikeouts in 2017 -- it just feels like 23 million.

Had he not missed a month of the season with an oblique injury, he'd easily have 210 whiffs by now, maybe more.

"And there's another pitch over the plate that Davis doesn't offer at, that's his third strike-out of the night..."

It's painful to watch Davis at the plate. And when the Orioles wind up officially be eliminated from the wild card race sometime later this month, the "power hitting" first baseman will have to shoulder a significant slice of the blame.

He's been awful in 2017. Now hitting .218 with an on-base-percentage of just .310, Davis has locked up the voting for "Most Disappointing Oriole" of the 2017 campaign. He has a 12-length lead on the next closest competitor.

Davis struck out three more times last night in the crucial loss to the Blue Jays. In the team's current six-game losing streak -- it's September, remember, when you would need a "star" player the most -- he's gone 3-for-20 with 10 strikeouts and 1 walk.

Watching the games and his at-bats, I'd think he was doing it all on purpose if I didn't know better. That's how bad and out-of-whack Davis looks at the plate.

Before last night's loss, Davis slipped into a jewelry store near the stadium in Toronto. The owner came out from the counter to greet him.

"Can I help you?" she said.

"No thanks," Davis replied. "I'm just looking."

Get it? Looking...as in taking strike three.

If there's nothing that infuriates me more about Davis, it's how often he looks at strike three that's right down the heart of the plate. He did it again last night, twice in fact, watching strike three in the second and ninth innings. Oh, he did have a single in Tuesday's loss. It wasn't a complete lost cause.

The fat lady isn't signing yet, but the limo has pulled up to the auditorium and she's getting out of the vehicle. That loss last night was a crusher.

For just the second time in almost two calendar years, Zach Britton blew a save, as the O's closer gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth of the team's 3-2 loss to Toronto.

That leaves the O's (71-74) in fourth place in the East after Tampa Bay (72-74) beat the Yankees, and the Birds are now 4.5 games behind Minnesota (75-69) in the wild card race.

It's hard to fault Britton completely, though. For the second straight night, they produced just six hits vs. Blue Jays pitching. And they scored only two runs in the loss.

But Britton is the closer and it's his job to sew up games in which he inherits a lead. Usually he's spot on. Last night, he wasn't, as a leadoff walk in the 9th predictably came back to haunt him.

Buck Showalter, meanwhile, tried to lighten the room afterwards when he came out of the manager's office to let everyone know about a new purchase he made earlier in the day on Tuesday.

"Hey guys," Buck said as the players gathered their things and headed back to the hotel. "I bought some new colonge today. Anyone want a whiff?"

He then looked over at Davis. "I know you do, Chris."

OK, that didn't really happen. That was another (poor) attempt at humor. Get it? Whiff...strikeout.

I'm here all week, friends. Tip your waiters and waitresses...


a note about tuesday's edition of #dmd


In yesterday's edition of #DMD, one of our writers used foul language in a comment he authored and published.

The comment was immediately deleted as soon as I learned of it, but I did not see it first-hand and it was "up" on the site for a period of time until it was removed.

I apologize for the writer's choice of words and have addressed it with him.

DF

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we're heading to pittsburgh for ravens-steelers on december 10!


We're one game into the season and I'm already targeting Sunday, December 10 as a "must see game" on the Ravens' away schedule.

That's when John Harbaugh's team heads to the Steel City for a Sunday evening nationally-televised encounter with the Steelers, and #DMD is making the trip to Pittsburgh to see it all happen.

Our group will have upper level seats together, so those traveling with friends will be seated right next to one another. Pittsburgh's bark is much worse than its bite. I've been there a dozen times, probably, for Ravens-Steelers and the fan base is much more tolerant of visiting fans than urban legend suggests.

But it's still comforting to sit with other Ravens fans and those you traveled with to Pittsburgh. So our tickets are "group seating" where everyone is together.

We'll leave Baltimore at 12 noon, arriving at Heinz Field roughly around 5 pm for the 8:30 kick-off.

You will NEVER go hungry or thirsty when you travel with #DMD. Upon departing from Baltimore on our luxury motor coach, we'll supply everyone with lunch, plus there's always an extensive supply of DuClaw beer, soft drinks and water.

Upon arrival in Pittsburgh, we'll break out pre-game dinner for everyone, plus there's more food and drinks for our purple-clad travelers.

Oh, and brush up on your Ravens trivia. The winner of our trivia contest receives $100 in cash!

If you've traveled with us before, you know how our bus trips work. We'll sell only 40 of the available 55 seats, leaving a little bit of room for folks to stretch out on the ride up and back to Pittsburgh.

The bus will return to Baltimore immediately after the game ends.

We do it all for you. Bus ride, game ticket, all the food and drink you can handle, plus Ravens trivia. It's the safest and easiest way to travel to Pittsburgh to see the Ravens.

Eight of the available 40 seats have been pre-purchased by one of our corporate partners, leaving 32 seats for purchase.

Oh, and here's something new we're implementing for #DMD travel. You will be allowed to board the bus and select your seat(s) based on the date of your purchase. In other words, if you are the first person to buy a seat on our bus trip to Pittsburgh, you'll be first in line to board the bus.

It's not quite what they do on Southwest Airlines, but it's close. The sooner you buy your seat on our bus to Pittsburgh, the further up in line you are when it's time to board the bus on December 10.

If you're interested in joining us for the big showdown in Pittsburgh, just go here.

Help us Paint Pittsburgh Purple on Sunday night, December 10!!

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wednesday nfl musings


Now that the first week of the NFL season is in the books, here are ten points worth pondering.

Teams rarely fire a head coach in-season, but the bet here is that Chuck Pagano gets the heave-ho sometime in October as head coach of the Colts. Maybe Jim Irsay won't hold Pagano fully accountable because Indy's starting quarterback is out of action, but when you're losing 46-9 to the L.A. Rams, something else is going on besides Andrew Luck not being available.

There's no need to report on this every single Sunday. Players are protesting, we get it. Let them protest without publicity.

I wish the media (national, local -- all of them) would stop reporting on which NFL players are taking a knee during the national anthem. That's the biggest reason why they're doing it in the first place. They want it known that they are, in fact, "protesting". It's an attention-gathering attempt. Please stop reporting on it.

There's not much to take in from week one, but three teams clearly in trouble right out of the gate are the Colts, Jets and 49'ers. What do all three of them have in common? ZERO quarterback play. In fairness to the Colts, they have a really good one in Andrew Luck, but he's hurt. The other two teams have quarterback issues. Then again, they knew that last March and didn't figure out a way to fix it. Here's a question: Can those three teams combine for at least 12 wins? Might be tough...

I'm not a huge fan of freezing the kicker, but it worked for the Broncos on Monday night. With the Chargers setting up for the game-tying goal at the end of the game, Denver called a time-out just as the L.A. kicker nailed the game-tying attempt through the uprights. On the re-kick, the Broncos blocked it and hung on to win 24-21. I don't like the rule that allows for a team to wait until the very last instant to call a time-out. It's pansy stuff. If you can't call a time-out before the kicking team gets set at the line of scrimmage, there's no time out allowed.

Minnesota's Stefon Diggs opened the season with two touchdowns on Monday night. He had seven TD's total in his first two NFL seasons. If he stays healthy this year, expect him to have at least 10 TD catches in 2017 alone. Oh, and do you remember what round he went in the draft? He was a 5th round pick of the Vikings. A grand total of 145 other players were selected before him.

The Ravens are 7.5 point favorites over the Browns this Sunday in Baltimore. I assume that's 7.5 points per-quarter?

At the beginning of the season, I picked Green Bay to beat Oakland in the Super Bowl next February. I'm feeling pretty good about that selection, still. Check back next week, though.

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Tuesday
September 12
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVIII
Issue 12
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joe flacco, alexi lalas -- which one has a legit gripe?


Because he doesn’t often say much of anything that really matters, it’s always important to listen carefully to Joe Flacco in case you do happen to catch a rare meaningful word or two from him.

In the wake of Sunday’s 20-0 snoozer over the Bengals, Flacco sadly lamented his lack of activity in the post-game press conference.

And right on cue, Baltimore reacted yesterday.

”I’ll admit it, it wasn’t much fun out there,” Flacco said at the podium afterwards. “We didn’t throw the ball much, obviously. I’ll take a win throwing the ball 15 or 20 times and winning twenty to nothing but I’d definitely rather win forty two to nothing and throw for 350.”

Joe Flacco would have preferred to "throw for 350 in a 42-0 win" on Sunday in Cincinnati. Some folks in town were upset with those comments on Monday.

”Even when we win, there’s Flacco up there thinking about himself,” caller Rich said on a local talk show just before noon on Monday. “He’d rather throw than win.”

Of course, Flacco said nothing of the sort. In fact, he clearly stipulated, “he’d take a win throwing the ball 20 times”, but he’d prefer to win by double that margin by throwing twice as many times.

Other phone callers chastised Flacco for the mixed message he was supposedly sending.

These folks must not know much about Joe Flacco. Now in his 10th season in Baltimore, if there’s one thing we’ve learned (those who have paid attention) it’s that Flacco typically just says whatever’s on his mind, but none of it ever has any kind of malicious or unsettling intent to it.

If Giancarlo Stanton comes to the plate in the bottom of the 9th inning with his team trailing 3-2 and a runner on first base, how do you suppose Stanton would like his at-bat to turn out?

Single to right field? Double to the gap?

He’s looking to hit a home run and end the game. He’s a power hitter. They hit home runs. It’s what they do.

What’s a quarterback want to do?

He wants to throw the ball.

In both cases, each guy wants to win first and foremost. Winning is always the primary intent.

But they want the team to win because of them. It’s probably not that much different than what Ray Lewis wanted throughout his career. If you asked him, Ray would tell you he’d like to win every game 9-3.

He wanted the game to be decided on defense. And, likely, on his own play.

That’s also what Flacco wants. He wants the game on his racket. You can argue his “elite” status all you want and make the claim Flacco can’t put the game on his racket, but there’s no doubt he wants it there.

He would definitely rather throw for 350 yards and have the Ravens win that way.

So would every quarterback.

And he wasn’t wrong, by the way. On the grand scale, throwing 17 times had to be boring as all get out on Sunday afternoon.

But when the scoreboard showed the Ravens winning by twenty points at game’s end, Flacco had nothing at all to complain about.

And he wasn’t really complaining afterwards. He was just speaking the truth. A quarterback always wants to throw the ball and he wants his arm and his accuracy to be the reason the team won.

Lots of people around town burned the radio lines on Monday but they were actually blowing more hot air than the quarterback did on Sunday.


But as much as Flacco wasn’t really trying to stir the pot on Sunday, former United States men’s national soccer team star Alexi Lalas definitely wanted to create some chaos with his comments on Sunday.

Speaking during halftime of a MLS broadcast where he serves as a color analyst, Lalas raked a number of players over the coals with direct, hard-hitting criticism of either their play, dedication or mental approach to the game.

Lalas played for the national team in the 1990’s and was part of the squad that helped put U.S. soccer on the map in 1994 when they advanced through group play at the World Cup in the United States.

He played internationally for a second-tier Italian club and has been part of the MLS infrastructure as a front office member and a broadcaster for almost 15 years now.

Lalas definitely paid his dues and has a right to his opinion on soccer in the United States.

One of the "tattooed millionaires" who felt the wrath of Alexi Lalas on Sunday was aging standout national team performer Clint Dempsey (it's hard to see the tats in this photo, but they're there).

Let’s also make this clear: Alexi Lalas was, for the most part, a basic, good player. He was not a great player by any means. He would not be on anyone’s list of the best ten American soccer players ever.

I qualify his ability because there are folks who rate a former athlete’s opinion based somewhat on how good his/her career was and how they fared on their respective field of play.

Lalas was a good player, not a great one. But he was a pioneer of sorts for American soccer. That’s where a lot of his angst is rooted, I think.

"It's dark days, indeed, but this is a time for leaders to step up," he began. "And so to the supposed leaders, I will say this....

"Tim Howard. Tim, the Belgium game ended three years ago. We need you to save the ball now.”

”Geoff Cameron. Clean it up, or let's get someone who will.”

"Clint Dempsey. Yeah, you're a national team legend; now we need you to be a national team leader.”

"Michael Bradley. The U.S. does not need you to be zen, the U.S. needs you to play better.”

”Jozy Altidore. Is this really as good as it gets? Because it's still not good enough."

Those were daggers. With sharpened points. Never before has an American soccer player of any value lashed out and carved up his brethren like Lalas did on Sunday.

There’s more.

He went after the team’s coach and best player.

"Bruce Arena. Jurgen Klinsmann lost at home to Mexico. You lost at home to Costa Rica. This is now all on you, not Jurgen,"

Then he went for the jugular with a swipe at Christian Pulisic, the only guy on the team who has actually been any good in 2017: "And, oh, by the way, to all the guys that I didn't mention, it's because you don't even warrant a mention. That includes you too, Wonder Boy."

And he put the finishing touches on his torch session by mentioning the money the current crop of players has made.

"So, what are you guys going to do?" Lalas said. "Are you going to continue to be a bunch of soft, underperforming, tattooed millionaires? You are a soccer generation that has been given everything; you are a soccer generation who's on the verge of squandering everything.”

"So now it's time to pay it back. Make us believe again. You don't owe it to yourselves, you owe it to us."

Lalas is going through the same thing Jim Palmer goes through when he broadcasts baseball games and talks about players making $18 million a year with about 20% as much talent and ability as Palmer had in the 1970’s.

Earlier in the season when the Orioles were playing the Red Sox and Rick Porcello was struggling, Palmer fired off a memorable line. “I mean, he won the Cy Young award and all last year which is nice, but you need more than one good season if you’re going to be making $20 million a year.”

He’s mentioned Jimenez and his $12 million salary on several occasions and always seems to have a one-line jab for C.C. Sabathia and his $23 million anytime the Orioles face him and Palmer is on the broadcast team for that series.

I always giggle anytime Palmer brings up someone’s salary because there’s a tone of anger in his voice that he tries so hard to conceal, but in the end a small slice of it always leaks out.

Oh, and I don’t blame him in the least. If your job pays 20 times more in 2037 than what it pays you now in 2017 -- and all you do is sit around and watch everyone else make that kind of money -- you’ll be irritated too.

Lalas is cut from the same cloth as Palmer, generationally. When he played on the national team, there was no “big time” professional outdoor league and the guys on the World Cup team were thrilled to make $25,000 for their efforts.

These days, marginal players in MLS are making $60,000, good players are raking in $200,000 or more and the stars of the league are at $1.5 million annually.

Yes, the times have changed in American soccer. And it wasn’t that long ago that guys like Lalas were lucky to make $40,000 a year.

Although he failed to call him by name, Lalas even took a swipe at blossoming national team star Christian Pulisic, calling him "Wonder Boy".

But the harsh commentary from Lalas seemed over the top. It came on the heels of two pedestrian performances from the U.S. ten days ago when they lost to Costa Rica, 2-0, and tied Honduras, 1-1, temporarily keeping their fate in their own hands for World Cup 2018 qualifying.

Yes, those were bleak results for a U.S. team that had looked reinvigorated under Bruce Arena in 2017. There were lots of shabby individual performances in those two games, no doubt.

But Lalas’ commentary seemed more “personal” than perhaps it should have been. As a broadcaster, there are times when you do have to call out an individual player. Lalas tore through the team like a wind shear. He didn’t have anything nice to say. About anyone…

And what was he trying to do with those comments? Motivate the team to play better? I guess so. Or was he trying to put players on notice that people who watch the games know what’s going on?

Oh, and here’s the other thing: His individual critiques were all generally spot on. Some of the narratives might have been overblown (I don’t really think Tim Howard believes he’s still playing Belgium in the 2014 World Cup, for example), but the finger pointing was justified in almost every case.

Howard gave up a soft goal against Costa Rica and Cameron was dreadful in that 2-0 loss.

Michael Bradley has been more on-again, off-again than perhaps any player in recent U.S. history. Good one game, non existent the next.

For as much as Clint Dempsey has been a massive contributor to U.S. soccer over the last decade, his best days are behind him. He offered almost nothing in the two games in early September – when the U.S. needed him most, unfortunately.

Jozy Altidore is the most polarizing player on the team. You either think he’s an opportunistic workhorse who can’t be replaced or you believe him to be a lunky, awkward player who fails on far more scoring chances than he should. (I’m in the latter category – I think Altidore stinks.)

And yes, while Arena enjoyed some success in March and June as the U.S. revived themselves after a disastrous 0-2 start to the qualifying schedule, his lineups were puzzling in the Costa Rica-Honduras showdowns and there wasn’t much life at all in the team last Tuesday night at Honduras, where they scrapped for a fluke goal with five minutes remaining to salvage a 1-1 tie.

So, while Lalas wasn’t “off” in his assessments, the question is “why?”.

And what was with the “underperforming tattooed millionaires” swipe? What was the intention of that punch to the throat? Is there something about a soccer player with tats that leads him to be, let’s say, less physically imposing as one who isn’t inked?

Are "tattooed millionaires" more concerned with how they look than how they play?

I didn’t get that one.

What’s bothering Lalas the most?

Jealousy over the salaries, the chartered flights, the ritzy hotels and the publicity and endorsements the national team players are getting these days?

If so, that’s understandable.

Or was he trying to spark the team to greater heights in October when they face Panama (home) and Trinidad and Tobago (away) with a World Cup qualifying spot on the line?

If that’s what he was trying to do, only time will tell if they were listening.

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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.



Ravens football is back, and so is dominating defense in Baltimore!

And the Tuesday Morning Quarterback is back for another season as well, now presented in the winners/losers format that's all the rage on the internet these days. So without any further adieu, here are 5 winners and 2 losers from Week One's 20-0 beatdown of most of my extended family's hometown team.

Winners: Ravens' defense

We spent a lot of time talking about the potential of this defensive unit during the preseason and they just announced themselves in a big way in Cincinnati.

C.J. Mosley's key interception in the red zone on Sunday helped stymie a first half Bengals drive that changed the momentum of the game for good.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Andy Dalton is no bum. He's not Brady or Rodgers but he's not Jay Cutler or Tom Savage either, but that's exactly what the Ravens made him look like. Every level of the defense contributed as well: with the front getting excellent push against the run and pass, the secondary more than holding their own on the Bengals' receivers (including A.J. Green, who didn't even catch a touchdown pass seemingly for the first time ever), and the interior linebackers did an excellent job when called on to drop into throwing lanes to add additional coverage underneath, particularly against Green.

That's exactly what they were doing when C.J. Mosley made his crucial interception in the endzone. That play ended what was really the only serious Bengals' threat, when an up tempo look from Cincy got the Ravens on their heels and out of the package they wanted to be in, letting the Bengals move down the field with relative ease. John Harbaugh had the presence to call a well advised timeout, however, stopping Cincinnati's momentum and setting up Mosley's pick.

Of particular importance here is the fact that the Ravens were beyond fantastic in the redzone. The simple fact of the modern NFL is that it's just really hard to dominate each and every play and stop the opposing offense from ever getting any yards. Today's offensive players, particularly the quarterbacks, get used to spreading the field out beginning in high school, so they're very comfortable with concepts and plays that use all of the available space on the field.

With only 11 guys available to the defense, that just leaves too much space to account for when you're in the midfield range, and you have to accept that, at least on occasion, the other team is going to use that space to gain some yards. But that factor goes away when the field compresses in the redzone, and that's where dominant defenses are made in today's NFL. It's also where the Ravens looked their best last Sunday.

Winner: Marty Mornhinweg

You could come up with things to complain about the offensive performance, which was far from flawless. Here's the thing though: The way they played on Sunday is absolutely a recipe for winning a lot of games this year, and basically the exact template I laid out in my season preview last week.

First and foremost they took care of the football, with only one turnover coming when Terrance West couldn't handle a Joe Flacco pass and tipped the ball into the air. Secondly they ran the ball effectively, totaling 157 yards on the ground and, at one point, putting a double digit string of consecutive running plays together taking nearly 10 minutes off of the clock in the second half. You could say you'd like to see the offense go for the jugular with a passing play at some point there but, frankly, taking that much time away from the Bengals' offense AND spotting the Ravens' dominating defense a three touchdown lead was putting the nail in Cincinnati's coffin.

Most of all, they stayed patient, trusted that the defense was going to carry them, and waited for the big play to come to them. One of those big plays indeed came on defense, when Lardarius Webb's interception of a tipped pass set the offense up inside their own 10 for a a Terrance West touchdown run. The other, though, came on a beautifully designed play that saw tight end Ben Watson run a route over top of Jeremy Maclin and pick the Bengals' defensive back, leaving Maclin wide open for a short slant completion. But all of that space gave Maclin plenty of room to run, and he simply turned on the jets and outran everyone for a 48 yard touchdown.

That's exactly the kind of concept and route that's been underutilized during the entire Harbaugh/Flacco era here, and hopefully an indication that Mornhinweg is going to be much better at getting the full advantage of the speed this team has on the outside than previous OC's have been. The Ravens have too often fallen in love with Flacco's arm strength and spent too much time trying to blow the top of of opposing defenses.

That can work at times, but so can plays like the Maclin touchdown where you get the ball to your speedsters with a play designed to get them open, then just let them run with the football in space. That one play alone, plus the discipline to let the running game and the defense close out the game for basically the entire second half, gets the Ravens' offensive coordination an "A" grade from me this week.

Losers: Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis

For as much as this feels like a sea change of sorts here in Baltimore, it's got to feel like even more of a pivotal moment in Cincinnati.

Owner Mike Brown has been content to stick with the tandem of Lewis and Dalton despite a repeated slew of playoff and big game letdowns over the past half decade both because the Bengals are in a rare period of sustained success and because he's just really darn cheap, but at some point even his patience has to run out. All of this duos flaws were on display in this game, with Dalton wilting under the pressure of a great defensive performance (throwing the ball out of the back of the endzone on 4th down really is a special kind of inept), and Lewis predictably mismanaging game situations, most crucially with a second half punt on 4th down with his team down 20-0.

I have no doubt that Marvin still doesn't understand why that decision all but guaranteed his team had no chance to win afterwards. For as much as we can sometimes rightfully complain about Harbaugh's game (mis)management, Lewis remains the best counterexample that, yes, there are MUCH worse head coaches in this regard throughout the rest of the NFL.

Winners: Ravens' offensive line

All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda and the rest of his offensive line "mates" had themselves a very productive day on Sunday in the win at Cincinnati.

This group got a lot of shade thrown at them over the pre-season with even the optimists calling them "questionable," but I thought they acquitted themselves quite nicely myself. No it wasn't perfect, but perfection is a pretty high bar to clear in any professional sport.

Ryan Jensen was called for three holds, but one of those was in space and otherwise he was matched up on All-Pro Geno Atkins. Austin Howard struggled in pass protection at right tackle, but for the most part the line was good pass blocking and gave Flacco time to throw the ball. A couple of bad looking drops were clear instances of Flacco holding the ball too long, including one where he appeared to look right at his open check down back before trying to scramble to his right and taking a sack.

But most of all the run blocking was very impressive, with the line getting great surge and pushing the Bengals around consistently throughout the game, but especially in the second quarter. That was the one area they really struggled with in the preseason, so it's definitely encouraging that they were able to do it to a very talented Bengals' front seven.

Winners: Terrance West and Buck Allen

Another group that has their doubters, both of these guys turned in solid games with West gaining 82 yards on 19 carries and Allen adding 73 yards on 21 carries. There wasn't a lot of flash to those yards, though both guys did pick up 10+ yard carries, but they were attacking the hole and gaining solid positive yardage consistently and keeping the offense on schedule. West, in particular, was running very hard and seemed to fall forward on every carry.

Loser: Danny Woodhead

For a brief second it looked like Woodhead was poised to be the Ravens' offensive X factor, but just as quickly another hamstring issue forced him out of the game in the first quarter. Woodhead played a crucial role in the passing game early on, both as a checkdown receiver and on a designed pass play that rolled him out into the flat while mismatched with a linebacker. Harbaugh said on Monday that an MRI hadn't been done yet, but all indications are that Woodhead will miss multiple games in the best case scenario, and the Ravens don't have anyone else who can replace the dynamic he brought to the assing game.

Winner: Joe Flacco

Flacco didn't really stand out on Sunday, but he neither needed to nor really got a chance too. But he took some solid hits and came back from them, which was good for building confidence that his back is indeed fine and Flacco is ready to get moving on the season. Additionally he did a good job protecting the ball and not helping Cincinnati the way his counterpart Dalton was arguably winning the game for the Ravens, with his lone pick coming on a tipped ball that was in Terrance West's hands. He did have one bad throw though: A deep out that Flacco buried well short into the ground.

Joe had an extremely tight window on that play and, had he not thrown it into the ground it may well have been picked. That's the kind of throw that Joe really just isn't accurate enough to make, especially when he's late throwing the ball, but that he also insists on trying to complete anyway. The offensive staff needs to break him of those habits quickly, because those are exactly the kind of plays that can derail a team that needs to win with efficiency and great defense.

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TUESDAYS
with
TODD


Todd Schoenberger promises to deliver provocative commentary on the world of Baltimore sports. His no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners style of writing is certain to leave readers debating and disputing, but always thinking. Be sure to follow Tuesdays with Todd!

Twitter: @TMSchoenberger


too early to think about playoffs?


OK, Ravens Nation. Can we all agree the NFL pre-season is worthless and a complete waste of our collective time? If Sunday’s performance on the field in Cincinnati is any indication, Coach John Harbaugh would be best served substituting all future pre-season squads for an irrelevant team. Say, maybe, the kids playing for the Loyola Dons?!?

Seriously, folks.

Not since Peter Boulware in 1997 have Ravens’ fans seen players as dominant as the likes of Suggs, Flacco, Mosley and West in a Week One matchup following limited to no action in the pre-season. Maybe it was the extra rest or minimal physical activity, but does it really matter? The 2017 opener proved the Baltimore Ravens have regained their elite status in the NFL and will not only be respected, but feared by those we face on the field.

Are you ready for another photo opportunity like this one, Charm City?

The Ravens destroyed a Bengals team many so-called experts and prognosticators have seriously considered to be destined for playoff royalty while cooling the proverbial hot seat their coach currently sits on.

Yeah, well that forecast fell limp as the Ravens traveled into hillbilly Cincy and hit the Bengals square in the jaw. And anytime they tried to get up, Mosley and Company pummeled them back to the ground.

Speaking of Mr. Flacco, let’s just say he should never, ever . . . EVER . . . play in the pre-season and only be subjected to marginal practice time. Looking like a young Johnny Unitas, number five was in control the entire game while slicing up the Bengals defense at will. The only Raven who looked dejected on the sidelines was Ryan “Crab” Mallett who probably wanted Flacco to fail but, instead, realized his life as a backup was permanent while he remains in Baltimore.

Is it too early to discuss playoffs? The answer to this is NO, and don’t even bother leaving comments about me being “premature” with this outlook. This Ravens team is the real deal and won’t just make the playoffs, but will soon be placed on the short list for realistic consideration in the 2018 Super Bowl.

May I suggest you keep Sunday, January 21st open on your schedule? Certainly the true blue Ravens fans have already marked this as the day we host the AFC Championship, right?

Some of you who are just beginning to get a taste of Tuesdays with Todd are likely thinking I’m out of my mind to think the Ravens—the same team that hasn’t sniffed a playoff ticket in three years—will be in the post-season mix by season’s end. Well, if that is indeed the case, then tell me the AFC team likely to replace us on the march to Minneapolis!

I’m a big statistics guy and love to analyze data. After all, numbers never lie. So when trying to determine future performance, I prefer to look at historical metrics to make a realistic determination of the future.

And the data is as bullish as it has ever been for your Baltimore Ravens.

Going back to 1990 when the NFL reformatted its playoff structure, seventy percent of all teams making it into the postseason played, and won, a Week One game against a divisional opponent. Add in a Week Two victory against another divisional opponent and the playoff statistic jumps to 83 percent.

Everyone in Baltimore knows who the Ravens play this weekend in the home opener. A certain victory against the pathetic Cleveland Browns, and season ticket owners should expect playoff applications to be in the mail by the end of next week.

Want more?

When removing the Wild Card teams out of the analysis, 94 percent of those franchises beating divisional opponents in the first two weeks of the season actually hosted a playoff game. Yeah, these stats are real.

A Ravens victory on Sunday not only makes the team undefeated, but 2-0 in the AFC North.

I fully expect a Mardi Gras-type atmosphere in Baltimore this coming Sunday. Win doesn’t mean we’re in, but the Ravens would almost have to purposely self-destruct to keep this 2017 team out of the post-season for a third straight year.

See you at the parade next February!

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Monday
September 11
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVIII
Issue 11
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ravens blast hapless bengals to kick off 2017 in style


The Bengals must have thought yesterday's season opener was a home playoff game.

Or maybe the Ravens really are that good.

It's probably a mixture of both, I'd say, although this writer and lots of other folks around town were crowing about the potential of Baltimore's defense throughout the pre-season.

Yesterday, at least, those of us touting the Baltimore defense in August looked pretty smart.

I didn't think the Ravens were winning yesterday's game, so maybe I'm not that wise after all. Then again, I expected the Bengals to show up and be counted. They did neither of those things in a 20-0 loss that was about as lopsided as the score would indicate.

The Ravens defense stood tall on Sunday thanks in large part to the play of Terrell Suggs, who was in the Cincinnati backfield all afternoon making life miserable for Andy Dalton.

The good? Baltimore's defense. It was outstanding.

As we wrote here on Sunday at #DMD, Cincinnati's offensive line is dreadful. The Ravens chewed them up on the edge, in the middle and just about anywhere else on the field. It's not easy to shut out a team in the NFL. The Bengals threatened a couple of times, but were never really seriously in danger of scoring.

Terrell Suggs was a standout on Sunday. So, too, was Jimmy Smith. When the Ravens get big-game performances from those two guys, they're in prime position to win. At his age, Suggs won't do that every week and Smith has a tendency to play well for four weeks, then miss two or three games with an injury.

But yesterday, they gut-punched Andy Dalton and Company.

I told you this defense was going to be good. They might wind up being extra-special good by the time December rolls around.

More from the good column? Justin Tucker was solid, as always, but that's almost not worth mentioning anymore. His two field goals were from 25 yards out. He could make those left-footed.

When Tucker misses a field goal he should make with the game on the line, I'll mention his name again. And who knows if that will ever happen? Love those Royal Farms commercials, by the way.

More good: The Ravens' running game was productive. Without the real need to challenge the Bengals in the air, the Ravens stayed on the ground throughout most of the second half. In all, they rushed for 157 yards. If they do that a lot over the next three months, they'll win plenty of games.

The bad? Well, there's not much to pick on, really, but there were some concerns on Sunday.

As they tend to do most every game, the Ravens burned a couple of senseless second half time outs. Lots of folks will poo-poo those mistakes, and when you win 20-0, who cares about a couple of wasted time-outs, but it's a continuing malfunction from year to year for some weird reason.

If Danny Woodhead is going to get hurt every couple of weeks, his impact on the 2017 team will be minimal. After missing most of training camp with a hamstring injury, he went down with the same ailment in the first quarter yesterday. And just when it looked like he and Flacco had a connection of sorts.

Austin Howard wobbled through a pretty lousy game on the right side of the offensive line. He nearly got Flacco's head taken off in the 3rd quarter on a complete whiff of his blocking assignment on Carlos Dunlap. Howard looked slow all afternoon.

The Baltimore passing game wasn't up-to-par, either, but you can make a sensible argument that they really didn't need to throw the ball once they went ahead 17-0 at the half.

Here's what I saw that left me scratching my head. Is Joe Flacco's throwing arm/shoulder OK? He barely attempted any kind of throw over 10-15 yards downfield.

Or could his lack of (apparent) arm strength somehow be related to his pre-season back injury?

Sure, maybe the scouting report told Flacco and the offense to dink and dunk their way down field, but we know Joe likes to gunsling it a handful of times every game. Other than an early heave that was woefully short, we didn't see anything from him that looked like a "downfield throw". And no, his 48 yard touchdown pass wasn't actually "48 yards". It was a Trent Dilfer-like four yard toss and a 44 yard catch-and-run by Jeremy Maclin.

Flacco's back was supposedly bothering him in training camp. But is his right arm OK? I wish Harbaugh would answer injury questions...

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around the nfl in 95 seconds


If it takes you longer than 95 seconds to read this, you're either a Flyers fan or you went to Old Mill.

Ready...set...and go.

Steelers 21 - Browns 18 -- Typical road win for Pittsburgh. They just do enough to come out on top. Browns might be better than they were a year ago, but losing to them is still going to be a league-wide embarrassment.

Jaguars 29 - Texans 7 -- Either the moment was just too big for the Texans -- and if so, that's understandable -- or they're in for a challenging season. Looks like the career of DeShaun Watson got started a little earlier than expected. Jacksonville just got one of their five wins on the year.

Falcons 23 - Bears 17 -- Any road win is a good one, but any time Atlanta goes on the road -- outdoors -- and wins, it's meaningful. The Bears? They aren't going to be very good this season, I'm afraid.

Ben Roethlisberger now has more wins in Cleveland (11) than any Browns' QB has since the team returned to the NFL in 1999.

Bills 21 - Jets 12 -- The battle of the two franchises that let Rex Ryan derail them. Buffalo's defense is actually pretty good. They might not be an easy out this year if they can score some points. But that's a big "if". Oh, and the Jets are awful.

Eagles 30 - Redskins 17 -- When you win a divisional road game, it's important. This was a big win for the Eagles. But the NFC East is always goofy. Washington might go to Philly later this season and do the same thing to do them.

Raiders 26 - Titans 16 -- A nice, efficient win for the Raiders, who might have been the AFC Super Bowl representative last year if Derek Carr wouldn't have missed the last couple of games and the playoffs due to injury. Tennessee figures to be improved this year, but Oakland just might be the real deal.

Lions 35 - Cardinals 23 -- This game might wind up being a wildcard tiebreaker at season's end, who knows? Arizona gained 45 yards on the ground. That's not good. And Matt Stafford put together a pretty decent afternoon after throwing a pick-six on the first series of the year.

Panthers 23 - 49'ers 3 -- Tough to say if the Panthers are back after a dismal 2016 or if the 49'ers are really that stinky. Maybe they should have kept Kaepernick, they might have only lost 23-10.

Packers 17 - Seahawks 9 -- A nice win for Green Bay to start the season. Many folks think Sunday's opener was a NFC Championship Game preview. If so, the Packers set the tone.

L.A. Rams 46 - Indianapolis 9 -- If Andrew Luck doesn't play this season, I guess there's a chance the Colts might not win a game. When you lose to the Rams 46-9, you're especially bad. The Rams might not score 46 points in the next four games.

Cowboys 19 - Giants 3 -- Boring win or not, don't ever underestimate the importance of a divisional win. Dallas looks revived with Ezekiel Elliott back in the fold. The Giants look shot if Beckham's injury doesn't heal soon.

Best win on Sunday -- It has to be Jacksonville going into Houston and winning. Anytime the Jaguars win it's a shock. But to go into Houston and win -- convincingly, not by three points on a last gasp field goal, but by 22 points -- with Blake Bortles at quarterback, even, was quite a statement from a perennial NFL doormat.

Worst loss on Sunday -- A court summons has been issued to the Bengals organization and they're scheduled to appear in front of the judge on Monday morning. The charge? Failure to appear for Sunday's home opener against the Ravens. Losing to the Ravens is no disgrace. Getting punched in the mouth 20-0, though, is laughable. Then again, they're the Bengals. Losing is in their DNA.

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birds swept in cleveland, fall below .500 once again


If only Ohio would have been as friendly to the Orioles as it was to the Ravens.

Despite a rare strong start from Jeremy Hellickson, the Birds fell once again to the Indians on Sunday night, losing 3-2 and suffering their 4th straight defeat overall.

The Indians have now won 18 games in a row. That's pretty good.

The look of a manager who sees it all slowly coming to an end.

The Orioles, losers of 7 of their last 10 now, have slipped back under .500 at 71-72. That's not very good.

After splitting a 4-game home series with lowly Toronto and losing two of three at home to the Yankees, the O's were easily disposed of by the Indians, who are looking more and more like a good bet to return to the World Series. The Birds are still three games behind Minnesota in the American League wild card race, but showing no signs of climbing back into the fray.

Jonathan Schoop (RBI single) and Chris Davis (24th home run) accounted for the lone Baltimore runs on Sunday night. Schoop had three of Baltimore's seven hits as he continued his torrid 2017 campaign, while Davis was somehow able to re-direct a ball just over the left field fence in the 7th inning to finalize the scoring at 3-2.

It was a good night for Davis. He only struck out once (I know, shocking) and made several sizzling plays at first base.

It wasn't such a good night for Adam Jones.

Jones was 0-for-4 at the plate and grounded into a pair of inning-killing double plays. And for the second time in a week, the normally sure-handed centerfielder dropped a routine fly ball. And when I say "routine", I mean it. It was a ball you and I could have caught. With ease, even.

So now it's off to Toronto for a 3-game series with the Blue Jays and then a 4-game weekend series in New York lurks for the Orioles, who simply must figure out a way to go at least 5-2 over those seven games.

Oh, and don't look now, but guess who is on the mound for the Birds in Toronto tonight? Yep, it's Ubaldo Jimenez. Hopefully Buck stays awake for the entire game this time.

Speaking of the wild card race, the Twins (74-69) host the Padres for two games and then welcome Toronto into Minnesota for four games this weekend.

If it's going to take 86 wins to reach that 2nd wild card spot, the O's have to start piling up some wins. They now need to go 15-4 to finish at 86-76.

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#DMD GAME DAY
Week 1


Sunday — September 10, 2017
Volume XXXVIII — Issue 10

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

1:00 PM EDT

Paul Brown Stadium
Cincinnati, Ohio

Spread: Bengals -3

Forget for just one second that it's in Cincinnati and the Ravens haven't left there with a win since 2011. And keep this in mind today...it's football season!!

Some would say, with all due respect to Christmas, that this is the most wonderful time of the year.

A Ravens win today in Cincinnati would sure help spread some seasonal cheer.

After going 4-0 in the pre-season and getting their starting quarterback healthy, the Ravens appear primed for an early season showdown with the Bengals today. Sure, no one really cares about a team's record in August, but the Baltimore defense stood tall in the four pre-season games and looks like they'll be the unit that will make or break John Harbaugh's team in 2017.

Beginning their 10th season in Baltimore together, Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh look to return to the post-season for the first time since 2014.

The offense? No one is quite sure what to expect. The team doesn't have any sort of "featured" running back, they sorely lack quality depth at tight end, and if any one of the three starting wide receivers gets injured, Joe Flacco's going to have to dig deep into his bag of tricks to generate three touchdowns a game.

Last year's team that finished 8-8 was betrayed by a wildly inconsistent secondary and an inability to finish off games in the waning minutes. Four of the team's eight losses in 2016 came on the opposing team's final drive (Redskins, Raiders, Giants, Steelers), a fact Ozzie Newsome obviously paid attention to this past April when the college draft rolled around.

This season's Ravens defense will not be quite as generous in the fourth quarter. And if the offense can score in the 17-20 points-per-game range, the Ravens have a good chance of winning on just about any Sunday (or Thursday, or Monday).

The Bengals are a formidable opponent, particularly in Paul Brown Stadium. As noted above, the Ravens have lost five straight games in Cincinnati, although this year, the schedule makers flipped the rotation of games. In the past, the Bengals always hosted the regular season finale against Baltimore in late December or early January. This year, the Ravens get to do the hosting in week #17 and the teams open the campaign in Cincinnati.

For the Ravens, a win today sets them up nicely for a productive September. The Browns come to town next Sunday for "Guaranteed Win Day" in Baltimore and then the Ravens head to London on September 24 for a match-up with the Jaguars. With a victory this afternoon in Cincinnati, visions of a 3-0 start wouldn't be crazy in the least.

It goes without saying that every AFC North game is critical, since it's always well within reason to figure that a tiebreaker is likely going to come into play when the division crown is settled at the end of the season. Head-to-head play and your record within the division are both critical. Winning in Cincinnati today could be a huge benefit for the Ravens later on this season.

The importance of divisional games can't be understated. This one today is almost worth 1.5 victories if the Ravens can pull it off.

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keys to today's game


For the Ravens --

A longtime thorn in the Ravens' side, A.J. Green will need to be contained today if the visitors hope to leave Cincinnati with a win.

1. Keep A.J. Green off the field -- The easiest way to keep A.J. Green from hurting you is to limit his time on the field. How can the Ravens do that? By running the ball effectively, or at least well enough to extend a few drives and slow the game down. The Ravens need a productive day on the ground. The yardage total they need to reach? Anything over 115 yards of total team rushing should bode very well for John Harbaugh's team today.

2. Hit some big plays on offense -- Cincinnati's defensive interior is solid, but their linebacking corps and secondary can both be victimized. Flacco and the offense need a handful of big plays (more than 25 yards) to keep the Bengals defensive side honest. How many big plays? If they can generate four plays of 25 yards or more, that smells like a win.

3. Get to Andy Dalton -- The Bengals' offensive line is the team's weak point. It's not only their worst unit, it's one of the weakest offensive lines in the entire AFC. That gives the Ravens a chance to make life miserable for Andy Dalton today. Matthew Judon, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi and, yes, the ageless All-Pro Terrell Suggs -- they must get after Dalton in a big way today for the Ravens to have a chance. How many sacks do the Ravens need? At least four. Four or more sacks of Dalton and that's a recipe for a win.

Tale of the Tape for a Ravens win: 115 yards or more of rushing, four or more plays of at least 25 yards, four or more sacks of Andy Dalton.


For the Bengals --

1. Don't turn the ball over -- If pre-season was any indication of what we might see in the regular season, the Ravens defense might be particularly adept at forcing turnovers in 2017. And with Baltimore's offense figuring to be somewhat limited, at least early on while Flacco finds his way, short fields could be a huge asset for the Ravens. The Bengals have to secure the football when they're on offense. Giving the ball to the Ravens, particularly within their own 40 yard line, could make for a long day for Marvin Lewis and Company. The goal for the Bengals? One turnover -- at the most.

2. Get A.J. Green involved -- As much as the Ravens are going to try and limit him, the Bengals are going to try and get A.J. Green as many touches as they can. Expect him to be targeted 10-12 times, at least, with Jimmy Smith getting the bulk of the one-on-one assignments, although the Ravens will likely offer Smith help at times, particularly on obvious passing downs. Cincinnati's quest? Try to get Green at least 8 catches and 100 yards of receiving. If they can do that, they're in good position to win the game.

3. Field position matters -- With the Ravens owning the league's best kicker, it's important for the Bengals to play the field position game and keep the Baltimore offense from getting inside the 35 yard line. That means "flipping the field" on occasion with big punts and solid return coverage. Pinning the Ravens deep in their own territory is critical. If Baltimore starts more than five offensive series' inside their own 20 yard line, that's a great sign for the Bengals.

Tale of the Tape for a Bengals win: One turnover at the most, 8 catches and 100 yards for A.J. Green, pin the Ravens inside their own 20 at least five times.

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how drew sees today's game


Despite the variables that don't work in Baltimore's favor today, they really do have a chance to win. Sure, they haven't won in Cincinnati in five years, but a couple of those games had no importance at all. The Bengals are good at home, but they are, remember, the Bengals. They can lose any week, to any one.

It's hard for me to believe that Joe Flacco won't have some rust on him today. I realize he doesn't need to play in a pre-season game to still know how to quarterback a football team, but game speed and the physicality that comes with it can't be replicated in practice.

It might help that the Ravens are playing the Bengals in week one. Andy Dalton and his offense likely won't be hitting on all cylinders yet, either.

I see this one playing out the way I suspect a lot of Baltimore games will look in 2017. Baltimore's offense will struggle, the defense will hold its own, and Justin Tucker will account for more than half of the team's point total.

The Ravens strike early on a Flacco to Mike Wallace TD throw, lead 10-7 at the half, then Cincinnati gets a 3rd quarter TD to lead 14-10 heading into the 4th quarter.

Two Justin Tucker field goals put the Ravens up 16-14, but a late Bengals field goal gives Cincinnati a 17-16 victory in the season opener.

I hope I'm wrong. This is a big game today.

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show me the money


Each week here at #DMD, we pick five games against the spread and offer up a "Best Bet of the Day". You're advised to use these selections wisely. Some weeks, they're worth locking in on. Other weeks, not so much.

Last year, I finished ahead of the game at 51-49-2 in the regular season, but only 8-9 in "Best Bet of the Day".

The mythical bet here on every game is $100. And away we go...

STEELERS (-9.5) AT BROWNS -- I don't think Cleveland's going to be any good this year. I expect Pittsburgh to be VERY good in 2017. That said, the Browns will man-up for this one. And Pittsburgh, as they typically do on the road, will figure out a way to squeak one out in the 4th quarter, but I'm going with the Browns and the 9.5 points they're getting in a 23-17 win for the Steelers.

FALCONS (-6.5) AT BEARS -- Nearly every week, there's a "regret game" in Show Me The Money. This is it. I really like the Bears to hang around and cover in this one. I do. I think they might wind up being better than most people think, almost because they have to be. And it's a road game for Atlanta, where they've typically been so-so in the Matt Ryan era. But I'm going the other way, despite my hunch. I'll take the Falcons and give the 6.5 points in a 33-13 win over Chicago. I have a feeling I'm going to regret doing this.

JAGUARS AT TEXANS (-5.0) -- In what will be an emotional day for the Texans and their fans, they couldn't get a better opponent than the Jaguars. Jacksonville's defense might be decent in 2017, but their offense figures to be lame. I can't see Houston giving up a lot of points today, so I'm taking the Texans and giving five points as they beat the Jaguars, 24-10.

PANTHERS (-5.0) AT 49'ERS -- I can't imagine the 49'ers are going to be any good in 2017, but they do have a new coach and teams typically play hard in that scenario until about week ten when they figure out all the things about the new guy they don't like. I'm unsold on the Panthers at this point. I think they're going to be better than a year ago, but I'm going with the 49'ers plus the five points and a San Fran win outright, 22-20.

GIANTS AT COWBOYS (-4.0) -- New York always seems to play well in Dallas. The Cowboys have spent most of the week trying to figure out if Ezekiel Elliott is going to play in this game. Is Dallas the same team that went 13-3 a year ago or are they falling back to the pack this season? I'm not sure about that question, but it doesn't matter, because I'm taking the Giants and the four points in a 27-24 New York in overtime.

BEST BET OF THE DAY: -- I honestly don't feel all that great about any one game above, but let's go with the Texans (-5.0) over the Jaguars as my "Best Bet" selection for week one.

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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.


terps pound over-matched towson


The final result of Saturday's Maryland-Towson game brought little in the way of surprise.

Towson just didn't have the horses to run with its much larger in-state rival, and Maryland had their foot on the gas from the very beginning of their 63-14 victory. But beyond the blowout win, Saturday's game contained a much more positive note for the Terrapins as well.

They've got a good one in true freshman quarterback Kasim Hill.

Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore celebrates one of his three touchdown catches in Saturday's blowout win over Towson.

Pressed into action in place of Tyrrelle Pigrome after a season ending injury, Maryland didn't waste any time giving Hill a chance to show what he could do, throwing the ball all over the field in the Terps' first few possessions and capping each of their first two drives with touchdown passes. Hill finished his first start with 163 yards on 13 of 16 passing on top of those two touchdowns, and also added 41 rushing yards on 5 attempts.

Best of all though is the fact that Hill didn't look the slightest bit intimidated by his first start, nor did he seem to struggle one bit with the Tigers' defense. That might not seem like such a big deal given the level of competition, but this time last year Hill was playing in high school games, and even the CAA is a big step up from that.

What's more, Hill wasn't merely adequate or okay in managing the game for Maryland, he took command of the game right away and never really struggled.

I wouldn't say this changes much for the basic layout of the season for Maryland. They still have an uphill battle just to get to six wins given the depth of competition in the B1G East, and starting a true freshman quarterback very possibly might cost them a game or two down the road that they might have won with Pigrome.

But this is another reason for D.J. Durkin to feel confident about the future he's building in College Park, and another potential boost to his near term recruiting efforts. Remember, Hill isn't a flash in the pan freshman, but a four star recruit who had offers from Penn State, Michigan, and Michigan State as well as the Terrapins. And now he'll get a year to develop on the field, and to show off the kind of talent Maryland will have in 2018, 2019, and 2020, which Durkin can dangle in front of recruiting targets going forward.

As for Towson, I can't say that I saw a whole lot for the Tigers faithful to get excited about.

Yes it's an FCS team moving up to play one of the big boys, but it's not exactly rare to see the smaller schools stay competitive with their FBS counterparts. Moreover Towson didn't have to travel across the country for the game or anything, and Maryland is a middling power 5 school at best.

It would be one thing if the Terps had pulled away from them in the second half, but Maryland dominated this game from the very beginning, and ended the day with 367 rushing yards. Meanwhile no one on the Towson side of things really stood out.

I can't claim to be an expert on the CAA by any means, but after watching both of their first two games I'd be surprised if they were strong contenders for a conference championship this year.

Saturday
September 9
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVIII
Issue 9
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this, that and the other


There's still baseball left to be played, but the Orioles have the look of a team that knows the end is near.

Or maybe that's just the way teams look these days when they play the scorching-hot Cleveland Indians, who blanked the Birds, 5-0, last night in Cleveland.

The O's looked tired, unethusiastic and just plain "out of it" on Friday evening. Over the course of a 162-game season, you'll get those kind of stretches, I'm sure. This, though, is no time to peter out, not with 21 games left and a playoff spot looming.

Wade Miley gave up a first inning 3-run homer on Friday night in Cleveland and that was pretty much the ballgame as the Birds dropped a 5-0 decision to the Indians.

Cleveland has now won 16 straight games. The O's have dropped 5 of 8 now and are 71-70, a full three games behind the Minnesota Twins, and now also trailing both the Angels (72-69) and Rangers (71-69) in the wild card race.

Last night's game got off to a rocky start when Edwin Encarnacion pounded a 3-run homer in the first inning. You remember him, he's the guy that took advantage of Buck Showalter's benevolence last October in the wild card game at Toronto and ended the Orioles season with a similar 3-run jack off of Ubaldo Jimenez. He likes hitting against the Orioles, obviously.

Wade Miley did what he usually does again on Friday night.

He got in trouble early, steadied himself thereafter, threw a bunch of pitches -- and lost. He's now 8-12 on the year.

In fairness to Miley, he wasn't awful on Friday night. The Birds' bats were, though. They mustered a grand total of four hits in nine innings and were only able to register three hits off of starter Mike Clevinger. Machado, Jones and Mancini (2) had the Baltimore base hits on Friday night.

The good news about the last two games of the series in Cleveland? The O's will not face the Tribe's best two starters -- Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.

The bad news? The O's are sending Gabriel Ynoa to the mound today for some reason. And on Sunday night, one of Cleveland's best pitchers since the All-Star break, Trevor Bauer, gets the ball for Terry Francona's team.

Neither of those situations sounds promising for the O's, but I'm still thinking they're winning at least one of the next two games. It's awfully hard for a team to win 18 games in a row, which is what Cleveland's streak will be if they win Saturday and Sunday.


The Towson Tigers football program has accomplished a lot under Rob Ambrose. They've become a perennial contender in the CAA, have advanced to the FCS playoffs several times, and advanced to the national championship game in 2013.

Rob Ambrose and his Towson Tigers head 40 miles down the road today for a big opportunity against the Maryland Terrapins.

In their own world, Towson football is a player.

Today, at College Park, the Tigers get the chance to make a major statement about their program and FCS football.

The Tigers and Terps do battle today at noon a few miles out of Washington D.C. and it's one of those days where Towson has everything to gain and Maryland has everything to lose.

Maryland, of course, is coming off a mammoth victory last Saturday in their season opener, 51-41, at Texas.

But as big as that win was for Maryland, a victory by Towson this afternoon would leap-frog that triumph in Austin four-fold.

Maryland is a Big Ten football team. Going into Austin and winning, while a surprise, no doubt, was not completely shocking.

Towson, a FCS team, going into a Big Ten team's stadium and winning -- now that would be shocking.

I'm an Ambrose fan. I'd be at the game today if my son didn't have a soccer game that I want to watch. I hope Towson is competitive down there.

But I don't see it happening.

The Tigers beat Morgan State last Saturday in their opener, 10-0. Yes, I know what you're thinking. You weren't 100% sure Morgan State actually had a football program. Well, they do.

It was rainy and messy and yucky last Saturday, remember, but that's probably still not a reason to only beat Morgan State, 10-0. Maybe Towson just had an off day. Perhaps the Bears matched up well with Rob Ambrose's team.

In either case, though, I don't see how Maryland beats Texas, 51-41, then loses at home to a Towson team that scored 10 points on Morgan State.

That said, the football isn't round and it bounces in weird ways some times. And if the Terps were ever primed for a let-down game, this would be it.

I don't see a let down occurring. Towson scraps for a while and Maryland might have some issues with a new quarterback at the helm, but the Terps lead 20-3 at the half and go on to win easily, 36-9.


It wasn't the Turkey Bowl last night, but a big crowd turned out to see Calvert Hall and Loyola square off in an early-season soccer showdown at Calvert Hall.

The two teams split a pair of regular season games a year ago and then the Cardinals ousted the Dons in the playoffs, 2-0.

Loyola earned a small measure of revenge last night with a 3-1 triumph that gives both teams a 2-1 A-Conference record.

The Cardinals got on the board early when Sean Barwick one-timed a shot into the net at the five minute mark, but Loyola got their feet under them and tied the game midway through the half on a goal from Chase Llewelyn.

That tally put Calvert Hall on their heels and Loyola responded by dominating the final ten minutes of the half, eventually taking the lead on a terrific finish from 15 yards out by Ben Gallagher.

Both teams are young this season and the drop off in experience showed throughout, as passing, touches and goal-scoring opportunity were all off a hair all night. But Loyola scored a spectacular goal early in the second half when Seth Onolaja got behind the CHC defense and one-timed a cross-field pass from Brandon Hurt into the net for a 3-1 lead.

The Cardinals would respond from there, though, as they created several great scoring chances, but failed to finish any of them.

Elsewhere in the MIAA A-Conference on Friday, #1 Curley stopped St. Paul's, 3-1, #3 McDonogh blanked Gilman, 1-0, and #2 Mount Saint Joseph squeaked past John Carroll, 1-0.

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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.


brien's 2017 ravens preview


With the start of the NFL season upon us, I'm struck by the amount of pessimism that seems to surround this current iteration of the Ravens.

Not only are most national prognosticators picking them to finish third in the AFC North (and you get the feeling that more than a few of them would really like an excuse to put them behind the Browns), but a lot of people locally seem quite sure this is going to be another disappointing year with another bad team.

I guess I get it to an extent: It's just the nature of NFL fandom to obsess over the flaws of your team while not seeing them in others.

The Ravens don't have any flashy names at running back, their tight ends have been ravaged by injuries, and they only have two All-Pro caliber offensive linemen instead of five. But the fact is, you can look around the league and find obvious holes on every team.

A full season of a healthy Joe Flacco is critical for the Ravens if they hope to return to the post-season after two straight years of non-playoff football in Baltimore.

The Patriots team that was a trendy pick to go 16-0 just gave up 42 points at home because their defense looked old, slow, and lacking for playmakers.

The Raiders, another team it's trendy to look at as coming up, still have a shaky looking secondary and a quarterback coming off of an injury.

The Bengals might have the worst offensive line in football and their quarterback consistently comes up short in big games.

The Seahawks still have a terrible offensive line and an extremely thin receiving corp. I could do this all day, but it's not all that common to see fans recognizing that the nature of the salary cap and roster turnover in the NFL just makes it a basic reality that EVERY team is going to have at least one or two clear weaknesses (likewise, I continue to wonder what people who say the Ravens offensive line looks "questionable" are comparing it to, because it's definitely not the other 31 offensive lines in the NFL).

It also doesn't seem like people are honestly comparing this roster to past teams the Ravens have fielded, particularly the 2008, 2009, and 2010 rosters. Those teams had some GAPING holes. The secondary was terrible outside of Ed Reed, with a rotating cadre of duds opposite Reed and Frank Walker getting starts at cornerback.

The receiving group was so bad in those years that people thought Demetrius Williams deserved to be an NFL starter and that Derrick Mason was a Hall of Famer. The offense was consistently unproductive, the quarterback was a new kid from Delaware who was DEFENDED as a good game manager, and people spent multiple seasons demanding the offensive coordinator's firing.

Despite all of that, those teams won 11, 9, and 12 games. They won 4 playoff games in that span as well, made the AFC Championship game, and probably should have made a second one but for an Anquan Boldin drop in the endzone at Pittsburgh that's curiously been forgotten by most people in town.

They weren't feasting on weak division competition either: The Steelers made the Super Bowl in two of those seasons and the Bengals took the division crown in the other.

And this 2017 team compares very favorably to those teams, in my opinion.

The defense may lack the high end production that Reed, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata provided, but it's much deeper and more well rounded.

The current secondary is easily the best the Ravens have fielded in the Harbaugh era, thanks to Ozzie finally putting an emphasis on the cornerback position this offseason. And that lack of high end talent might be overstated as well. There might not be two players with a legitimate claim to being the best ever at their position, but Brandon Williams might be as good as Ngata was at his peak right now, and Jimmy Smith can cover any receiver in the league one on one (except A.J. Green) when he's healthy.

This defense is going to be REALLY good, in other words, and when you factor in the strong special teams play the Ravens almost always get, you have what should be a recipe for at least 7-9 wins.

And by comparison, how bad is the offense really?

If defense and special teams can win games in the NFL, the Ravens might be in good shape in 2017. They have an upgraded secondary and Justin Tucker is the best kicker in the entire league.

Ronnie Stanley is the best pass blocking left tackle the team has had in the Flacco era, and does anyone even remember who the team's second tight end was in 2008 or 2009 now? As far as the receivers go, yes they leave something to be desired in terms of well roundedness, but you do have to concede that it's an absurdly fast group, and if Breshad Perriman stays healthy it rivals the 2012 group (Boldin, Torrey Smith, and Jacoby Jones) as the best group of receivers the Ravens have had under Harbuagh/Flacco. It's definitely better than the aforementioned 2008-10 teams, at the least.

That leaves us with the quarterback position and, I won't lie, I'm not a huge believer in Joe Flacco at this point in his career.

His problems are both obvious and well documented. His footwork and mechanics in the pocket are sloppy and inconsistent. He struggles to read coverage at the line and identify defenders in zone coverage.

When he DOES identify man to man coverage before the snap, he's too easily baited into throwing balls down the sideline the defense would clearly like him to throw (think about all of the balls he threw deep to Marlon Brown like the big and slow Brown was suddenly going to develop 4.4 speed and run under it).

And as Joe admitted last year after the embarrassing loss to the Jets, sometimes he decides where he's throwing the ball before it's even snapped, with no chance to actually make sure the guy he's throwing to isn't covered.

Don't get me wrong, he does things well too. Probably more things than he does wrong, to be sure. But the warts are still there, and aren't going away. Flacco is what he is, and what he is is a good quarterback who's not good enough to carry a team on his shoulders for 60 minutes, let alone 16 games (until the playoffs come around, and don't even ask me to theorize on why Joe can't be THAT guy all year long).

But that's the nice thing about this year's roster: For the first time since at least 2012, Joe doesn't have to be that guy.

Instead of being a quarterback who needs to put up 27-31 points every game to feel confident about winning, Flacco and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg can legitimately have faith that the defense and special teams will keep the Ravens in every game long enough to wait for the moment when they either get handed a good deal thanks to a turnover or big special teams play or they manage to hit a home run play.

And this is where all of that speed at receiver becomes an underappreciated weapon, because they're going to have at least three to five times a game where one of those really fast receivers gets open deep or catches a key block underneath to spring them for a long run.

This offense isn't going to look anywhere close to a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers led unit, but it doesn't necessarily have to. So long as they can avoid mistakes while waiting for the chance to hit those home run plays (and assuming that Flacco is honestly healthy) the offense should be good enough for this team, again led by the defense and special teams, to get themselves into the 10-12 win range.

Not that I'm guaranteeing anything. Things happen in football. Maybe the Ravens get hit with another massive wave of injuries to key starters.

Maybe Flacco's back is worse than we're being told and he won't even be able to be an effective game manager this season. Heck, maybe Flacco will chafe at the idea of being tagged as a game manager with his contract and he'll throw 25 interceptions trying to do more than he needs too.

Maybe the defense isn't actually as good as they looked in the preseason, and blown fourth quarter leads will once again drive us all crazy. Or maybe more things will go right than go wrong, and this roster will play up to its talent level and contend for the Super Bowl again.

Either way, in my opinion, there's a lot of reasons to be optimistic about this season if you're fan of the Ravens.

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down to our last four seats on our bus trip to nyc to see billy joel!!


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

So, let's do it!

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

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

WE NOW HAVE JUST 4 SEATS LEFT ON THE BUS. IF YOU'RE PLANNING ON GOING, PLEASE PLACE YOUR TICKET ORDER SOON USING THE LINK BELOW.

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

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

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

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

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

Lower concourse pricing: $395 per-person

Upper concourse pricing: $325 per-person

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Friday
September 8
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVIII
Issue 8
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plenty of reasons to like the mickelson president's cup pick, but...


One of the most intriguing thing about golf's "specialty events" is always the captain's picks.

The Ryder Cup, by far the grandaddy of the two, is particulary interesting, as the historical importance of that event can often leave an indelible mark on one's career.

There was Bernhard Langer's missed six foot putt at the final hole of the singles competition in 1991 at Kiawah that swung the whole Ryder Cup in favor of the U.S. Talk about coming down to the wire: If Langer makes that putt, Europe win. If he misses, the U.S. wins.

Who can forget Davis Love III rolling in a five footer for par at the 18th hole on Sunday at The Belfry in 1993 to give the U.S. the win? (Speaking of historical notes: I was there...and actually in the background of the winning putt, if you squint your eyes and look hard enough at the NBC footage from the 18th green. But anyway...)

Curtis Strange and Jay Haas -- neither could make a par at the 18th hole on Sunday at Oak Hill in Rochester in 1995. Those two gaffes handed the Cup back to the Europeans and started a decade long run of near-dominance for the gang on the other side of the pond.

Brian Harman finished 12th in President's Cup points in 2016-2017, but he was by-passed for a captain's pick by Steve Stricker, who instead went with veteran Phil Mickelson.

Justin Leonard did two things in his golf career, besides make a bunch of money with a golf swing that wasn't nearly as good as Kevin Costner's in the movie, Tin Cup. Leonard won the 1997 British Open and he made a 45-foot putt at the 1999 Ryder Cup in Boston that gave the U.S. an improbable come-from-behind-victory.

There are some who say Hunter Mahan never recovered from his back-nine collapse in the 2010 Ryder Cup which included a flubbed chip shot near the 17th green.

Last year, it was Patrick Reed who put himself in the spotlight with incredible front nine play in his Sunday singles tangle with Rory McIlroy.

The Ryder Cup is something else. It makes golf history every other year.

Oh, and there's also the President's Cup.

It was created two decades ago to give everyone not born in the United States or Europe the chance to compete on the international stage. It was, truth be told, created out of the PGA Tour's jealousy for what the PGA of America had built with the Ryder Cup.

At times, the President's Cup has been interesting, but even for the most ardent golf enthusiast, it's essentially the equivalent of The Player's Championship at Sawgrass. Which is to say, it's nothing like the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open or PGA Championship.

The President's Cup is simply a holdover event until we get back to another Ryder Cup -- next year.

That said, the captain's picks are always intriguing. In almost every case, Ryder Cup or President's Cup, someone who should have made the team gets bumped at the end and someone who probably shouldn't have been added to the team gets selected by the captain.

And then we discuss it. And agree with the picks. Or beat up the picks.

Captain Steve Stricker made his two captain's picks for this year's event this past Wednesday. One was a solid, no-brainer selection. The other, while not a surprise, was the wrong choice.

Charley Hoffman was a smart selection by Stricker. Hoffman was in contention at the Masters and U.S. Open and finished top 20 in the season's first three major championships. He's had a remarkable year, and literally lost his automatic President's Cup spot because Kevin Streelman made birdie at the 18th hole of last Sunday's FedEx Cup event in Boston to put Hoffman percentage points behind Kevin Chappell, who snagged the 10th spot despite both players accumulating 4,369 points.

It would have been a major injustice to leave Hoffman off the team. He and Chappell essentially finished tied for 10th. Stricker did the right thing with his selection of Hoffman on Wednesday.

Stricker didn't do the right thing when he added Phil Mickelson.

Let's do the pro-Phil stuff first. Mickelson is still a supremely talented player.

In an event like the President's Cup where Mickelson can partner up with someone in every round except the Sunday singles, he's potentially even more beneficial to the U.S. team. Mickelson's ball won't be in play on every hole. He can free-wheel it a little bit more, which is more to his liking.

He's also very well liked by nearly everyone on TOUR. "Good in the locker room" is an often used phrase in sports. It's also something that really matters, particularly in a team event like the President's Cup where you might wind up playing with two or three different people.

Golf is a weird sport. For the most part, you play it by yourself. You learn to hit shots by yourself, make putts by yourself, decide to go-for-the-green-in-two by yourself. You have a lot of talks with yourself in golf.

Occasionally, though, you play in some kind of an event that requires you to partner up with someone. If you've ever competed with a partner in a member-guest or any other kind of two-person tournament, when's the last time you did that and didn't like the person you were playing with? Probably never. Who signs up for an event with a partner that they'd prefer not to hang around with for four to six hours? Only a dummy...

So Mickelson's reputation and friendly nature matters, which is probably the biggest reason why Stricker added him to this year's team. Mickelson hasn't won in four years. His game, while not a shadow of what it once was, is definitely showing signs of wear and tear.

But Phil's slow decline isn't why he was a bad pick by Stricker.

He was a bad pick because Mickelson playing on this year's President's Cup team does nothing at all for what really matters most -- next year's U.S. Ryder Cup team.

I realize Stricker is worried about this President's Cup, the one he's the captain of and responsible for, along with winning the competition itself. But by adding Mickelson, he's robbing someone like Brian Harman or Gary Woodland of a chance to earn their stripes playing in an event that might better prepare them for a Ryder Cup experience sometime down the road.

I'm not really advocating either Harman or Woodland, specifically, although both earned enough points to be considered for one of Stricker's captain's picks. I'm simply saying if either of them continues to play well and makes their way on to next year's Ryder Cup team, it would be nice if they had some "Cup experience" under their belt rather than going in as a greenhorn.

Me, personally? I would have narrowed my list down to two choices: The aforementioned Harman, who finished in 12th place in the standings, right behind Hoffman, or Tony Finau, who has six top 10 finishes in 2017 and is really starting to blossom as a strong, steady player on the PGA Tour. Finau was 23rd on the points list, but he's had an outstanding 2017 portion of the PGA Tour season and would be coming in with the hot hand, so to speak.

Either of those guys, Harman or Finau, would have made more sense than selecting Mickelson, in my opinion.

Mickelson's played in so many President's Cup events they should rename the thing "The Mickelson Cup". His addition to this year's team, while reasonable, doesn't help U.S. golf in the big picture.

Giving a guy like Brian Harman a chance to play, for example, would have been a much smarter move by Stricker. Is Mickelson a better player than Harman at this stage in his career. Maybe not. Five years ago, yes, Mickelson's game was superior to Harman's. Now, in 2017? Harman might be his equal or a smidgen better.

Mickelson is a "draw", that's for certain. Fans still come out to see him play and TV cameras still pick up on him, even if he's four over par and going nowhere fast on a Friday afternoon.

I doubt Stricker felt the need to go for promotional value by selecting Phil for this year's team. I'm pretty sure Stricker thinks Mickelson gives him the best chance to win.

It's a shame that Stricker and his co-captains didn't think more about what really matters in U.S. golf -- and that's the Ryder Cup. If they were thinking about the 2018 competition in France, Mickelson would be home watching the upcoming President's Cup like the rest of us.

And someone else would potentially be gaining valuable experience that might come in handy next September just outside of Paris.

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gausman, birds humbled by yankees again


Kevin Gausman didn't have his best stuff on Thursday afternoon at Camden Yards, as the Yankees won their rubber match of the 3-game series, 9-1, to drop the O's to 71-69 on the year.

I feel like we've said that a lot this season about Gausman -- "didn't have his best stuff".

And he certainly didn't on Thursday, as the Yankees dinged him for three runs in the first inning and eventually built up an 8-0 lead in front of (supposedly) 14,000 or so at Camden Yards.

Aaron Judge clobbered a 2-run homer in the first inning on Thursday that helped stake the Yankees to an early 3-0 on Kevin Gausman and the O's.

The O's are still in the wild card race, but with each loss now, they're getting closer and closer to creating a dire situation for themselves with 22 games remaining.

In fact, the situation doesn't look all that good this weekend, as the Birds are in Cleveland for a 3-game series with the Indians. Cleveland, in case you didn't know, has been playing pretty well of late. They've won 15 straight games.

Here's the good news. I don't think the Indians are winning 18 in a row. In fact, it's probably a good time to catch them, truth be told. I like the occasional sports wager and if I had a grand laying around to play funny-money with, I'd bet the O's to win tonight, or Saturday, or Sunday.

Cleveland's not sweeping the Orioles this weekend, is essentially what I'm saying.

That said, losing two out of three won't help the Birds, so they need to get themselves back on track, pronto.

They'll turn things over to Wade Miley tonight, which, as we all know, is potentially a recipe for disaster. Miley typically throws about 100 pitches in five innings and roughly 45 of them will be out of the strike zone. Let's hope he turns in a solid performance tonight or it could be a long evening near Lake Erie.

After the Cleveland series, it's off to Toronto and New York for visits with the Blue Jays and Yankees. From the frying pan to --- well, the frying pan.

If it's going to take 86 wins to claim the second wild card spot, the O's now must go 15-7 from here until the end of the season. Given their schedule, that's going to be tough.

If 84-78 will get the job done, they need to go 13-9 the rest of the way. That's much more practical to accomplish, although still not a walk in the park given the O's opponents in September.

And if the home series with the Yankees turned out to be a dud ON the field, it was an amazing flop OFF the field, where the O's drew a grand total of 65,000 and some change for the three games at Camden Yards.

Yes, the weather was crappy on Tuesday, Wednesday's game was rained out, and Thursday's 1:35 pm tilt didn't do much for ticket sales.

But the 65,000 attendance figure is derived from tickets sold, meaning the club was likely going to draw about 15,000 on Tuesday and Wednesday with perfect weather. Bad weather hurts walk-up crowds, but based on what we've seen from the attendance figures recently, no one's walking up to the ballpark to buy tickets.

Attendance in the Seattle home series was lousy, it wasn't much better vs. the Blue Jays over the long weekend, and this week's Yankees series was dismal given the opponent and the playoff race.

There were nine games in major league baseball on Thursday. The only team to draw less than 15,000? The Orioles.

San Diego even packed in 21,000 for a game with the Cardinals. The White Sox and Braves both outdrew the O's on Thursday.

The Padres are actually outdrawing the O's this year, believe it or not. When that's happening, you know things aren't going well.

The Blast just moved from downtown to the suburbs for their indoor soccer games. Maybe the next baseball stadium should be in Hunt Valley...

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this weekend in
english soccer


Contributed by #DMD's English Premier League Reporter
MATTHEW CARROLL


With the first international break of the season now in the rearview mirror and only one more round of the marathon that is World Cup Qualifying left to be played before the draw for Russia 2018 takes place in December, the English Premier League will resume when Matchday 4 kicks off bright and early Saturday morning. Be sure to keep that alarm set as you won’t want to miss the doozy of a kickoff with every game available live across the NBC family of networks or online at NBC Live Extra.

Saturday, September 9 (all times eastern)

7:30am – Liverpool @ Manchester City – Etihad Stadium, NBC Sports Network

Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp (left) squares off against Man City's Pep Guaridiola in a key early-season showdown this Saturday.

The weekend will waste little time getting started when pre-season title favorites Liverpool and Manchester City square off at the Etihad Stadium for a massive early season showdown, with both sides registering two wins and a draw from their first three games and tied in the “it’s way too friggin’ early in the season to start worrying about where each team sits in the table” on seven points. While you definitely can’t win the league in September, you can certainly lose it, and both sides will be looking to get an early season edge over the other before the campaign ramps up over the coming months.

While Liverpool are unbeaten in their last five league meetings with Manchester City (D1) and have walked away empty handed in only three of their last thirteen get togethers across all competitions (W6 D4), City have managed to hold serve at home, losing only one of the last eight between the two at the Etihad Stadium (W4 D3), with the 4-1 drubbing that the Reds put on the Citizens back in 2015 not only one of the signature wins of Jurgen Klopp’s young tenure in charge at the footballing giants but also the only time they have tasted defeat in their last twenty-three league matches at home (W13 D9).

10am – Tottenham @ Everton – Goodison Park, CNBC

After grabbing a win in their opening fixture and then following it up with a more than respectable draw on the road at Manchester City, Everton were brought back down to earth when they were humbled by defending league champions Chelsea before the break, with the Toffees looking dangerously short on attacking options throughout as they were unable to register even a single shot on target in a 2-0 defeat. They will need to find their attacking prowess if they hope to have a shot when one of the leagues stingiest defenses over the last few years comes to town as Tottenham visit Goodison Park.

The Spurs had suffered a similar fate to Everton in their own matchup with Chelsea the week before, falling to the holders 2-1 and then surprisingly dropping points at home to Burnley their next time out when they conceded late in injury time for a 1-1 draw. They know they will be in for a difficult road test at the weekend where, despite going unbeaten in their last ten league meetings (W4 D6) with Everton and in their last four at Goodison Park (L1 D3), the Toffees have been almost unbeatable at home since the New Year, winning ten of their eleven matches in the league at their friendly confines (W10 L1).

12:30pm - Manchester United @ Stoke City – bet365 Stadium, NBC

After taking nine points from their first three games while not yet conceding a goal and sitting top of the table, Manchester United returns from the break hoping to keep their perfect start to the season intact when they make the trip to the bet365 Stadium and Stoke City to wrap up the Saturday action, with the Potters rebounding from an opening weekend setback against Everton to take all three points against the listless Arsenal before equalizing late in the second half courtesy of the seemingly ageless Peter Crouch to earn a hard-fought point on the road against the always defensively stout West Brom 1-1.

Since their return to the Premier League back in 2008, Stoke City have stumbled often against United and face a daunting task to walk away with something this weekend after dropping twelve of their last eighteen meetings in the league (W2 D4), which included losing streaks of six and five games, but, after losing four of their first five since their promotion back to England’s top flight, the Potters have managed to hold their own at home, going unbeaten in their last four against the Red Devils (W2 D2) while manager Mark Hughes is unbeaten in his last three head to head with Jose Mourinho (W1 D2).

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Thursday
September 7
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVIII
Issue 7
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if you believe ray lewis, the ravens were "that close" to signing kaepernick


So this is one messy situation the Ravens are facing now.

Thankfully, the season starts this Sunday and as long as they can get from here to there safely, no one will really care that much about Colin Kaepernick come next Monday in Baltimore.

In the meantime, though, Ray Lewis has stuck a stick in the hornet's nest.

But there's no telling if what Ray says happened really did occur, and even if it did, there's likely a few missing pieces that might make it all add up just a tad more comfortably than it is right now.

In short, Ray Lewis went on national television this past Tuesday and said, in so many words, that the Ravens were interested in signing Kaepernick until his girlfriend posted a tweet that depicted Ravens' owner Steve Bisciotti as a slave owner and Lewis, in particular, as one of his slaves.

The photo (above) used in the tweet posted by Colin Kaepernick's girlfriend caused quite an uproar. Ray Lewis contends it cost Kaepernick a job in Baltimore.

Let's get the easy stuff on the table and handled right away. No one will argue this: The tweet posted by Kaepernick's girlfriend was asinine. It was not only hilariously ill-timed, given the quarterback's unemployment status, but about as far from the truth as it could possibly be. Steve Bisciotti is not a "slave owner" and Ray Lewis isn't a slave.

If Kaepernick didn't dump his girl immediately after she posted that tweet, it must be because she's a really good kisser.

Now...let's talk about the impact of the story Lewis portrayed on Tuesday, which had a number of different tentacles. You, like I'm about to do, can make your opinion on which parts of Ray's story are truthful and which might not be.

I'll start with this: If the Ravens really did consult with Ray Lewis on whether or not the team should sign Colin Kaepernick, they deserve all the grief they can get. Ray Lewis is an ex-football player. A great one, yes, but merely a football player and nothing more.

Why the Ravens would consult with him about a player they wanted to sign is beyond me. Yes, I'm aware of the social ramifications regarding Kaepernick's availability and (potential) signing with a NFL team. Why call Ray? Why not check in with Steve Smith Sr. as well? Or Ed Reed? Those two have their finger on the pulse of a football locker room just like Ray Lewis does.

I'm not sure I believe Ray when he says the Ravens checked in with him to either say "Yes" or "No" to the Kaepernick signing. Ray Lewis, five years removed from playing for the team, still wields that much power in the team's infrastructure that the Ravens are going to seek him out about signing a player?

I can't find a place to wager on that one, but I'd take the "No, they didn't" bet if I could.

There might have been contact with Ray (perhaps he initiated the call?) and the subject of Kaepernick might have come up in the conversation, but I'd be stunned to find out that Steve Bisciotti reached out to Ray Lewis specifically to gather his "Yes" or "No" vote on Kaepernick joining the Ravens.

And, to repeat, if it really did happen that way and the Ravens were utilizing Ray Lewis to make their final decision on Kaepernick...they deserve all the grief they can get.

Now, what about the meat of the story itself, which, as Lewis contended, had the Ravens on the verge of signing Kaepernick until that idiotic tweet was posted and garnered national attention.

That's a slippery slope. Should Kaepernick be held accountable for the actions of his girlfriend? Probably not. I mean, if she robbed a bank while he was working out at the gym, would that be his fault? Of course not.

But there's no denying that it's not a good look for Kaepernick's girlfriend to post something as flammable as that tweet and then not have the quarterback issue an immediate statement of some kind that apologizes for his girlfriend's social media gaffe.

The tweet? All on her. No apology from Kaepernick afterwards? Completely on him.

Lots of people have jumped on Bisciotti's case over the last two days admonishing him for making a player personnel decision based on a social media post of the girlfriend of a player he was considering signing.

First, we don't know if that really happened. Ray Lewis said it did, but there's no way of knowing if it really did.

And second, Steve Bisciotti has the right to hire or not hire anyone he wants. In today's world, social media matters. It wasn't a "thing" in 1997. But in 2017, what you post or what you're connected with in social media is carefully reviewed by potential employers, sponsors, etc. Just ask Michael Phelps. He didn't willingly approve of a social media picture that included him at a college party with a smoking bong in his hand, but he paid the price for it.

If Kaepernick's girlfriend posted an insensitive tweet and picture and the quarterback himself didn't apologize for what was obviously an intended direct criticism of his potential employer, the Ravens have every right not to hire him.

Oh, and one other thing no one's talking about that puzzles me. Did Ray have permission from the Ravens to openly discuss the Kaepernick situation on the Showtime TV show he appeared on this past Tuesday night? I highly doubt it. I'm sure Kevin Byrne -- along with Bisciotti, Dick Cass and anyone else in the organization -- about had a cow when he heard Ray divulging company secrets on national TV.

Even if the Ravens consulted with Lewis as he suggests they did, what would compel him to tell everyone that?

If you haven't seen the three minute piece where Ray spills the beans about the Kaepernick signing that didn't happen, here it is below.



#DMD HDTV


I keep shaking my head every time I see something about a team in the league not wanting to sign Kaepernick and the uproar it causes with folks who believe he's being "mistreated".

Colin Kaepernick does not have a divine right to play in the NFL. All 32 teams have the right to sign him -- or not sign him.

I've said this from the start of the whole fiasco, dating back to last year when Kaepernick's "take a knee" saga commenced: I wouldn't hire him to work for my company. I don't want him earning a paycheck from my organization. I do think he has the right to be employed. But I wouldn't employ him.

I'm baffled why more teams haven't just said that, plain and simple. "We're not interested in hiring Mr. Kaepernick." End of story. And, no, they do not owe anyone an explanation on the hiring practices of their company.

That's where the Ravens made their first mistake, way back at the beginning of training camp when Joe Flacco was hurt, Ryan Mallett was stinking up the pre-season opener against the Redskins, and Kaepernick's dumb girlfriend hadn't yet hit the "send" button on that tweet.

Rather than try and be nice and play the politically correct card, Bisciotti and the Ravens should have just told the truth.

"Yes, we want to sign Colin Kaepernick."

Or -- "No, we don't have an interest in signing him."

All that rhetoric about "reaching out to him to see if he wants to play football" was eye wash. Of course he wants to play football, how else is he going to make a million dollars in 2017?

Asking people to "pray for us" as if you aren't smart enough to make your own decisions on football players? Wildly off target.

I don't think Steve Bisciotti really expected or even wanted people to go home and "pray" for the Ravens to make the right call on Colin Kaepernick. So why say it? All it did was add another misaligned piece to a puzzle that can't be completed.

I'm all for prayer. I know most of the country isn't anymore -- which is one of the reasons our nation is a mess, by the way -- but I'm pro-prayer. That said, asking football fans to "pray for us" was an awkward statement at best from Bisciotti, who often says he doesn't like speaking to the media and, at this point, I'm starting to believe he actually doesn't.

So, what we have here, still, is a muddy mess, which kicked off a month ago because the Ravens wouldn't make a decision and stick with it.

That is, unless you believe Ray Lewis, who says they actually did make a decision and were getting ready to "make a deal" with Kaepernick until his girlfriend posted that regrettable tweet.

And Kaepernick's failure to do damage control was likely the final straw. Maybe he privately messaged the Ravens and apologized. Knowing P.R. like I do, though, that apology would have conveniently been leaked by someone in his camp in an effort to show contrition.

Here's what I know: In the end, it's much better that the Ravens don't sign Kaepernick. Whether or not you believe Ray's story, the aggravation of signing Kaepernick would have far outweighed any potential production you might have been able to extract out of the former 49'ers quarterback.

There are question marks about Kaepernick's play. He might be decent and a contributor. He might not be worth a hoot. That's uncertain.

What isn't uncertain, though, is that his arrival in your city -- Baltimore or elsewhere -- would create a circus that no teams wants, needs or might even be equipped to handle. Girlfriend in tow or not, the baggage that comes with signing Kaepernick just isn't worth it. Some of that's not his fault, by the way. Some of it is, though.

It's a sad situation, but one that ultimately probably worked out best for the Ravens. They might look bad for a while, and they likely need to have a sit down with Ray Lewis and chat about his "role" with the franchise, but when the dust settles they'll be much better off without a side show for a back-up-quarterback.

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thursday sports with David Rosenfeld

DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.


Since joining the Big Ten before the 2014 season, the Maryland football team has won at Penn State, Michigan and now Texas.

That’s a combined stadium capacity of 314,292, if you’re counting.

Does it matter that none of those teams was any good when Maryland beat them?

Those wins in November 2014 in Happy Valley and at the Big House hardly provided any momentum; the Terps went on to blow a big lead at home against Rutgers, get routed by Stanford in a bowl game and then finish 3-9 the following year, a season during which their head coach was unceremoniously fired.

The victory in Austin last weekend seems better than those ones. The Terps were bigger underdogs this time, and the Longhorns were ranked, whatever that means in Week 1.

Still, as great a coach as Tom Herman might be, most of his Texas players finished 5-7 last year, including an embarrassing loss to Kansas, a team that had lost 19 straight Big 12 games.

Predictably, Michigan and Penn State have returned to form; ironically, the Nittany Lions have done it under James Franklin, once Maryland’s “coach-in-waiting” under Ralph Friedgen. Based purely on high school talent and availability, Texas ought to be the nation’s best program every season, and maybe they’ll get close as quickly as Michigan and Penn State have recovered.

Maryland's football stadium: Sufficient enough to keep Terps football relevant or outdated and an obstacle they'll constantly have to overcome?

But what about Maryland? Exactly what is the ceiling for Maryland football? It’s a question worth asking after coach D.J. Durkin’s team won at Texas, and it would have been worth asking if they’d lost 50-0 in Austin too.

As mentioned many times before in this space, and by commenters on this forum, Maryland has a fantastic athletics program. When the Big Ten got Rutgers, the conference (sort of?) got the New York market. When it got Maryland, it actually got nationally-competitive teams across the board, and a legitimate commitment to and history of postseason success. The league got another Ohio State, another Michigan, another Penn State.

Except for one thing, of course. And maybe it’s the only thing that matters, at least to the bottom line.

So can Maryland ever have that one thing?

Let’s start small. When the Terps joined the Big Ten, and the league thankfully eliminated the football divisions named “Legends” and “Leaders,” Maryland was placed in the East division. So was Rutgers. Oh, and so were Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. And Michigan State, who just happened to make the College Football Playoff in 2015.

The truth is that the football team doesn’t really play in the Big Ten conference. They play in the Big East. Maryland sees Northwestern for the first time this season, and won’t see Illinois for the first time until next year. Any game against the West might as well be a non-conference game.

But the Terps see their divisional teams every year, and their divisional record is what matters in making the conference title game.

Durkin can keep on bringing in highly-ranked recruiting classes. Maybe, in terms of coaching talent, he’s the next great thing. But when will that show up on the field? Maryland could be 10 times better two years from now than it was last year and still finish in fourth or fifth place in the division.

In what year will Maryland beat Ohio State, and will it be a win like those against Michigan and Penn State three years ago? When will the Terps beat those two teams again? Is it more likely that Michigan State returns to the conversation after a down year in 2016 or that Maryland joins that conversation?

That’s on the field stuff, though. And who’s to say that Durkin can’t recruit and coach the caliber of players that can beat teams at the highest level? That’s what teams and coaches at Maryland are expected to do, after all.

It’s off the field, in the big picture, that Maryland won’t ever have that one thing.

That one thing, of course, is a combination of lots of smaller things, some of which are pretty big. Confusing, I know.

Maryland will never have a 90,000-seat stadium, nor should it.

If the school tore down Maryland Stadium and built something new in its place, and money and space were no object, they wouldn’t build one that big. It would never be filled, at least with Maryland fans.

It may be College Park, but it’s not a college town. We may have great schools in Montgomery and Howard Counties and good ones elsewhere, plus the MIAA and WCAC, but nobody has a 10,000-seat stadium filled to capacity on Friday nights.

As Gary Williams says whenever he has the opportunity to do so, we live in a professional sports area. Our monstrous stadiums have been built for those pro teams and their rabid fan bases.

Plus, Maryland isn’t Nebraska in its devotion to the state’s flagship school. There’s a large group of non-alums in our state’s largest city who consider College Park to be Washington’s school, which pretty much by definition means it can’t be Baltimore’s school. You can leave Ritchie Coliseum, head south on Route 1 and be at the D.C. line in seven minutes, and people who live near Ritchie Highway aren’t too fond of that.

Maryland football can build a beautiful indoor practice facility, have successful seasons, create more revenue for the athletic department and make a greater imprint nationally. But the area in which it plays isn’t going to change.

So what can Maryland football do, really?

People associated with Maryland athletics like to think big, but for me it starts with thinking small.

Maryland’s next 11 non-league games are tentatively set, through 2020. 9 of them are against FBS teams: next year’s semi-home game against Texas at FedEx Field, home-and-home series against Temple and Bowling Green, home games against Central Florida, Syracuse and Northern Illinois and a renewal of the West Virginia rivalry on the road in 2020.

How about making it a goal to win seven or eight of those nine games? If Durkin’s Terps don’t have that kind of record over the next four seasons, then what kind of progress is the program really making?

As far as the Big Ten schedule goes, success simply must be incremental for Maryland. The Terps don’t have the pedigree to turn losses of 62-3 and 59-3 into wins this year. The goal must be to be competitive—in recruiting, at the skill positions and with strength and conditioning—so that the fans can see competitiveness on the field.

Recently, almost every team that plays Ohio State loses. But how do you lose, and why do you lose? One year you might lose because you never had a chance to begin with, but the next year it might be because of one half. Then it might be one quarter, or one series, or one turnover. Eventually, when it a team puts itself in position to win, it has to win.

The folks down at Maryland aren’t interested in moral victories, I suppose. They’ve invested too much for that.

But something big, like an appearance in the Big Ten football championship game, starts with lots of smaller things, things Maryland can accomplish even without a 100,000-seat stadium and a history of Rose Bowl appearances.

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here's who will be in minnesota next february


The 2017 NFL season begins tonight in New England.

I'm sure I could have posted these picks on Friday or Saturday and you wouldn't have said, "Yeah, it's easy to make the picks now after the Patriots throttled the Chiefs on Thursday night, 34-17", but fair is fair. The season predictions stuff has to be published in advance of the first game of the campaign.

So, that's what I'll do here today.

I had the Panthers beating the Chiefs in last year's Super Bowl. Carolina stunk in 2016 and the Chiefs got out-field-goal'd by the Steelers in Kansas City in the AFC Divisional Round.

I learned my lesson: I'm picking the Patriots to win every Super Bowl as long as Tom Brady's healthy and still in the league, which could be another decade or so.

Is this the year Aaron Rodgers earns his second Super Bowl ring?

Actually, as you'll see below, that's not really the case. But I have to admit I feel kind of silly not picking the Patriots to win it all. I know I'll be watching them hand another Lombardi Trophy on Super Bowl Sunday (night) and say to myself, "Why on earth did I pick against those guys?"

The only reason I'm not picking the Patriots? It's just really hard to repeat in the NFL. That's it. Nothing more.

Here's how I see things shaping up in 2017. Feel free to bet your house on these picks. But you probably should have a back-up living arrangement just in case.

Oh, and in just about every situation, the health of a team's quarterback is paramount to their predicted success. If the Raiders lose Derek Carr again, for instance, they're done. If the Steelers lose Roethlisberger, they're also done. You get what I'm saying.

AFC East: The easiest division in all of sports stays that way in 2017, as the Patriots romp to yet another division title with a 12-4 record. Buffalo? No good. The Jets? Terrible. Miami? Eh, who knows? If Jay Cutler is halfway decent, maybe Miami sniffs the ten win mark and a second straight wild card berth. But it's New England going away, per usual.

AFC South: I'm doing what most everyone else is doing and buying stock in the Tennessee Titans, but I also think Houston will stand up and be counted in '17 as well. Forget the Colts and the Jaguars. They might combine for 10 wins -- maybe. I'll go with the Titans to win the South at 10-6.

AFC West: I think this one is pretty easy to figure out. It's the Raiders and Kansas City at the top and the other two teams are looking up at them all season. I'll go with Oakland to win the division at 12-4, with Kansas City next at 10-6.

NFC East: Even with Ezekiel Elliott, I didn't see the Cowboys duplicating their miraculous 2016 campaign in 2017. Too many things went right for them last season, until that throw by Aaron Rodgers broke their hearts in the NFC Divisional Round. Without Elliott for 4-6 games (who knows?), the road gets tougher for the Cowboys. Everyone in the NFC East has warts. Any of the four teams could probably finish 10-6 and win the division. I'm going with the New York Giants to win it at 9-7 and Dallas to finish with the same record but lose out on the tiebreaker.

NFC South: It's Atlanta's division to lose, but I do think Tampa Bay will give them a fight. Someone in this division always seems to pop up out of nowhere and make a surprise run. That team might be the Saints this year. But I'm going with the Falcons to win the division at 11-5, with the Bucs close behind at 10-6.

NFC West: I'll go with the Arizona Cardinals here in a bit of surprise. I think the sun is starting to set on the Seahawks' run. The Rams and 49'ers both stink. Arizona wins the division at 10-6, the Seahawks finish at 9-7.

NFC North: If the Packers could ever keep their playmakers healthy for an entire season, there's no telling what they might do. Whether or not they do that in 2017, I still like Green Bay to win the North at 13-3, with the Lions next at 9-7. I think Minnesota and Chicago will be better, but not good enough to sneak into the post-season discussion.

And now...for the AFC North.

The Cleveland Browns are going to be better than they were a year ago. Mostly because they have to be. But they're still the division doormat and more than two wins in the AFC North would be a shockingly good result for them. I see the Browns at 4-12.

I lost faith in the Bengals a couple of years ago when they won the division and once again stunk it up at home in the playoffs. As long as Marvin Lewis is there coaching, they're not winning anything of substance. Cincinnati goes 8-8 this season. And Marvin comes back again next year, naturally.

The Steelers are clearly the team to beat in the division. As long as the three B's stay healthy, they'll be in great shape come January. Pittsburgh's secondary has long been a work-in-progress, but they're sure to be helped by the recent addition of Joe Haden. Pittsburgh goes 11-5.

I'm not sure what there is to say about the Ravens that hasn't been said here already. So much of their season depends on the health of Joe Flacco and the production from the three wide receivers -- Perriman, Wallace and Maclin. If those four stay healthy and they're productive, the Ravens can be a contender. But a lot of other things have to go right for them in addition to that. Ryan Jensen has has to come through at center. Austin Howard needs to stay injury free at right tackle. As does Ronnie Stanley on the left side of the offensive line.

I do believe the defense has the tools to be a Top 5 unit. I'm not sure how great the pass rush is, but the interior line should be formidable in stopping the run. The secondary appears improved.

And the Ravens have the best kicker in the entire league, bar none. He'll win three games for them almost by himself.

I don't see the schedule being particularly imposing for the Ravens. Their model is simple: Go 4-2 at a minimum in their six AFC North games, and 6-4 over the rest of the schedule. That would come out to 10-6 and give them about an 82% chance of making the playoffs, based on statistics over the last two decades.

Unfortunately, I think they come up one win short of that 10-6 mark.

I'm calling this a 9-7 season for the Ravens. They'll be in the playoff hunt in December, but 9-7 won't get them into the post-season, unfortunately.

AFC Championship Game -- Oakland defeats Pittsburgh, 34-20.

NFC Championship Game -- Green Bay defeats Arizona, 37-28.

Super Bowl: Green Bay beats Oakland, 31-27.

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Wednesday
September 6
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Issue 6
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a baseball player broke the rules? shocking (not really...)


This stealing signs story out of Boston is going to be a big one. If you thought "Deflategate" was overblown, just wait until the big boys at the 4-letter network sink their teeth into "Signgate" or whatever it's going to be called.

We'll be sick of hearing about it by, oh, Friday or Saturday of this week, I'd say.

But it's going to be a biggie, because everyone's going to conveniently forget the biggest part of the whole story.

Every major league baseball team steals signs. Or, at the very least, attempts to steal them.

Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski on stealing signs: "People are trying to win however they can. It's an edge they're trying to gain."

Now, granted, I don't know that any are quite as devious or creative as the Red Sox were when they were somehow using Apple watches to do it, but if you think the 29 other teams in Major League Baseball don't have blood on their hands, you're kidding yourself.

That's why, just like with Deflategate a couple of years ago, I couldn't care less about the stealing signs story in Boston.

It's baseball, after all. You know, the sport where pitchers intentionally throw at the other team's players just for the heck of it. Or, to send a message, which supposedly is acceptable.

Baseball's the sport where guys get aggravated when someone slides into the base a little too hard or tries to steal second when they're winning 9-2 in the 8th inning.

And here's the funniest part: Stealing signs is actually NOT against the rules in baseball. It's permissable. Using an electronic device in the dugout, though, is against the rules. That's where the Red Sox got in hot water.

Our own Ravens got caught cheating last year when John Harbaugh was scheduling too many padded practices and was -- get this -- turned in by someone in his own locker room. Professional sports teams read the rules, understand the rules, try their best to abide by the rules and, ultimately, spend a lot of time trying to figure out ways to circumvent the rules.

There's an old NASCAR garage saying that rings true in virtually every other team sport: "If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'."

I don't approve of what the Red Sox did, by the way, but I'm big-boy enough to know they're going to try and steal signs just as sure as Dustin Pedroia's uniform has dirt stains built into it. Either he gets dirty in batting practice or the locker room guys rub a bunch of mud on his jersey a half-hour before the game. Guaranteed...

Just like in Deflategate, when you didn't hear a bunch of quarterbacks barking and complaining about Tom Brady, I doubt very seriously we'll hear a lot of grandstanding and high-horse-viewpoints from major league baseball players. For they know, like Aaron Rodgers did when he admitted he actually OVER inflates his footballs, that stealing signs is chicanery just like throwing a spitball or rubbing pine tar on a baseball is chicanery.

Baseball has always looked the other way when it comes to "doing whatever you need to do to win". Corked bats? No problem. A decade of rampant steroid use? All good. Guys still getting nailed with PED's today, even though testing is in place? Not a surprise.

So the Red Sox stole some signs. Big deal. Everyone's doing it, because they've always done it. And it's not against the actual written rules.

Red Sox General Manager Dave Dombrowski spoke openly about it on Tuesday when the story broke.

"Do I think sign-stealing is wrong? No, I don't," Dombrowski said. "I guess it depends how you do it. But no, I never thought it was wrong. I guess everybody in the game has been involved with it throughout the years. People are trying to win however they can. It's an edge they are trying to gain. Sometimes your sophistication of signs can make a difference. So no, I never felt like it's wrong. Put it this way, I was never brought up that it was wrong."

Baseball has to be the most suspicious of all the sports out there. Why do you think the pitcher and catcher both put their glove over their face when they come out to the mound to chat? You know why. Because there's an employee for both teams at the stadium who is sitting there just waiting to lip-read and quickly relay the information to the manager.

Pitchers hiding pine tar on their arm, hat, belt buckle...anything they can do to put a little extra movement on that 93 mph slider, right?

Professional football has the same issues as baseball. When a coach talks into his headset on the sidelines, he always shields his mouth from open, plain view. Why? For the same reason as they do in baseball. So someone with lip reading skills in the opposing organization doesn't translate the conversation and get the details to his coach on the sideline.

Isn't that considered cheating? Or no?

As far as the Red Sox are concerned, it's not just that they were stealing signs. It's how they did it and got caught that will be the big topic of conversation for the next week or two.

But it's all the same to me. They were stealing signs. They got caught. The Yankees will try and steal signs tonight at Camden Yards. So will the Orioles. They might not be as brazen about it as the guys in Boston were, but they'll be trying nonetheless.

Would this story be any different to you if, say, the Rangers, Indians, Mets or Rockies were the ones who got caught? It wouldn't matter to me. They're all doing it. Boston just got caught.

I might opine on this again once the punishment is handed down, but you won't be getting a column a day from me about the Red Sox stealing signs. It's just not a shock in the least.

What about the players in major league baseball getting that fake Adderall prescription so they can stay level throughout the season and keep themselves alert through the arduous 6-month campaign?

Are we OK with that? I am, by the way. Which is to say, really, that I just no longer care about baseball players trying to circumvent the rules to enhance their performance. They're not going to stop, so why bother worrying about it?

If Major League Baseball outlawed Adderall altogether -- prescription or not -- the players would still find a way to pop one every morning. It is what it is.

If the players think they can get an edge -- stealing signs, greasing up the ball, using Adderall -- they're going to try their best to pull it off.

And when they get caught, it will blossom into a huge story because that's how our media works in this country. It's a big deal -- only until the next (bigger) story comes along.

I'm not getting caught up in it, though. The game is filled with players and teams trying to gain an edge of some kind. I stopped caring about it a long time ago, actually.

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yankees closer betances fails as o's come back for 7-6 win


As O's Hall of Famer and broadcaster Jim Palmer always likes to say, "The game of baseball has 27 outs for a reason."

What Palmer is trying to say is that getting a major league team out 27 times in a game isn't always easy. Sometimes you get the first 26 and you're in good shape, but it's that 27th one that eludes you.

Another walk-off home run for Manny Machado gave the O's a 7-6 win over the Yankees on Tuesday night.

Such was the case on Tuesday night for the New York Yankees, who were all well and good after 26 outs, but not doing so well thereafter.

Manny Machado's second home run of the game in the bottom of the 9th inning gave the Orioles an unlikely 7-6 win at Camden Yards and the O's are now just one game out of the wild card race after the Twins were 2-1 losers in Tampa Bay and the Angels pulled off a big win of their own in extra innings in Oakland.

The O's trailed 6-2 early on after Jeremy Hellickson produced yet another rotten start and the Yankees scored six times in the third inning to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 6-1 advantage.

But New York wouldn't score again after that, and the O's slowly chipped away at the 5-run hole, with Machado, Jonathan Schoop and Mark Trumbo all homering for the O's to make it 6-5 after six innings. Six Oriole relief pitchers -- including Ubaldo Jimenez -- kept the Yankees scoreless after their third inning uprising, setting the stage for Machado's 9th inning heroics.

After closer Dellin Betances recorded the first two outs of the 9th, Tim Beckham drew a walk and Machado then deposited a 1-0 pitch out of the ballpark to set off a wild celebration at home plate, as the O's improved to 71-68 on the year.

Every Baltimore starter except Beckham and Chris Davis had at least one hit last night. Davis struck out three times as his average dipped to a woeful .222 in 2017.

And Adam Jones made a rare error in centerfield, dropping a routine fly ball in the third inning that contributed to New York's six run outburst. Jones went 1-for-4 at the plate.

In the end, though, Machado saved the night -- again. After slogging through a miserable first half, Machado has been the best player in the American League since the All-Star break, with his average now up to .273 to go along with his 32 HR and 91 RBI campaign to date.

Zach Britton worked the top of the 9th to keep the game at 6-5 in favor of New York, setting the stage for Machado's final-at-bat heroics.

It's a shame no one was there to see it all. The game started 2 hours and 14 minutes late due to a rain delay and even then, only 14,377 people wound up buying tickets anyway, as O's home attendance continues to suffer despite the team being right in the thick of the American League playoff race.

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wood's late goal lifts u.s. to undeserving 1-1 tie at honduras


You have to forgive the entire Honduran soccer team if they didn't get a wink of sleep on Tuesday night.

They were robbed of three critical points in World Cup qualifying earlier in the day. In broad daylight. Robbed. Stolen from.

Bobby Wood's goal in the 85th minute, on what might have been one of three reasonably decent scoring chances for the United States in the entire game, lifted the U.S. to an improbable 1-1 tie at Honduras that leaves the American team in solid position to advance out of the CONCACAF region and qualify for next summer's World Cup in Russia.

Make no mistake about it. Tuesday's tie was a fluke for the American team. A complete and undeserving point, but one they will gladly put away for safe keeping with only two qualifying games remaining on the schedule.

If you thought last Friday night's 2-0 loss at home to Costa Rica was bad, Tuesday's pitiful display in sunny Honduras looked like something out of an advanced CYO league.

With injuries to defenders DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks limiting his roster choices, head coach Bruce Arena gambled on Tuesday and went with experience first and foremost on the backline, starting ageless DaMarcus Beasley on one side with hard-working-but-skill-deprived Matt Besler tucked in next to him.

But it was the right side defensive pairing of Graham Zusi and Omar Gonzalez that almost single-handedly cost the Americans the game.

They were each guilty of lack of awareness on the Honduran goal in the 27th minute, with Zusi and his cement feet failing to track back and close down Romell Quioto, who eventually gathered a loose ball in the penalty area after a poorly timed and executed tackle attempt by Gonzalez. Quioto's uncontested right-footed shot from eight yards out clanged off the far post and in the net for a 1-0 lead for the hosts.

Zusi looked lost throughout the first half, exploited for speed and muscle on two other occasions, as was Beasley, who has clearly seen better days, but still gives a professional effort every time he's called upon.

Once the Hondurans went ahead 1-0, the life left the U.S. squad.

From that point until they scored in the 85th minute, the American offense looked wilted, uninspired and just plain lousy. Only Christian Pulisic and Jordan Morris showed any spunk at all, and the two of them couldn't beat a pesky, spirited Honduran defensive group.

The announcers are in Spanish (which, honestly, makes it pretty cool), but the Bobby Wood goal can be seen below.



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Arena might not have been smart with his opening 11, but the second half subs he utilized all played a key role.

Wood came in with 17 minutes to play and collected the big goal.

Paul Arriola gave the U.S. some much needed energy in the offensive end and pestered the Hondurans for every loose ball in his 28 minutes of work.

And even Geoff Cameron, one of the primary goats from Friday night's debacle vs. Costa Rica, subbed in and gave a good account of himself for 27 minutes while the Americans went forward in search of the tying goal.

Gonzalez actually semi-redeemed himself in the 75th and 79th minutes while the Americans pressed the play going forward. Twice he was left alone to defend a Honduran counter-attack and on both occasions he was able to tackle or knock the ball away just as the situation started to look dire.

And goalkeeper Brad Guzan, while not forced to do anything heroic, per se, was able to get in front of the four or five legitimate scoring threats sent his way in the second half while Honduras tried to pad its 1-0 lead.

That all led to Wood's improbable miracle with roughly five minutes left in regulation. After Pulisic was fouled some 22 yards from goal, Kellyn Acosta pounded the free kick on net and the rebound off the save made by the Honduran goalkeeper was eventually peppered into the front of the goal, where Wood calmly settled it with his chest and one-touched a shot from close range into the net.

It was a good goal from a technical standpoint, but one filled with good fortune nonetheless.

Honduras can blame themselves a bit, for they were never able to put that second goal away that would have given them a huge win and left the U.S. on the outside looking in.

They can also blame "luck", too, for if Acosta's shot is deflected by the goalie in any other direction, the game likely ends 1-0 in favor of Honduras. That is bounded directly to an American player, who then chipped it to another, who then headed it to Wood -- well, that was about as "bad fortune" as any team could receive in a six-second span.

For the Americans, Wood's goal might have been a World Cup saver. They now have two qualifying games remaining and their fate is in their own hands. A win at home over Panama (October 6) followed by a win at last place Trinidad and Tobago (October 10) will give the U.S. a trip to Russia next summer.

For 84 minutes on Tuesday, their World Cup hopes were flickering. With one goal from Bobby Wood, they're back in the driver's seat.

But let's keep it all in perspective. The U.S. is coming off a pair of astonishingly poor performances over the last five days. They are most certainly not a guarantee to beat Panama in Orlando next month.

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Tuesday
September 5
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVIII
Issue 5
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here's how #dmd works


I wasn't hurting for content today, but Alan's comment (below) from Monday, September 4 was a perfect topic for today's "Back to School" edition of Drew's Morning Dish.

With that school theme in mind, then, allow me to educate you a little bit today.

Alan asked, in so many words, how I decide what gets written and published here at #DMD each morning. That's a fair question. I never really thought anyone cared all that much, honestly.

Sure, occasionally someone will snipe and gripe about an article I post or one that I don't, but usually that's either just personal agenda coming through or someone would rather ruffle a few feathers than post something worthwhile in the comments section. I understand how it works around here.

But visitors here do have varying interests -- I certainly do -- and I think Alan's suggestion that I pull back the curtain a bit and let everyone in on how #DMD gets published is worth answering.

Survey results here at #DMD showed a large percentage of those who responded follow Braden Holtby and the Capitals, but don't have the same level of enthusiasm for the Wizards.

Warning: It's not very complicated or overly thought-provoking. It kind of "is what it is". But here goes.

Let me first say that back in the spring when we did our extensive survey on all things #DMD, I most certainly took into consideration what our responses provided, data wise. I was stunned at how high the Washington Capitals scored, for example, and how low the Wizards scored.

The survey showed, without question, that the Orioles and Ravens reign supreme around here. I already knew that, but the data proved it as well.

I also know people in these parts want to read about Maryland basketball. Hence, we have an expert on that subject in Dale Williams, who covers most if not all of the Terps' Big Ten and NCAA tournament games for #DMD.

There's also a strong following of English Premier League soccer around here. Personally, I don't watch it. I couldn't tell you five players in the league. But I also know that it surveyed well for us and because there's a following, Matthew Carroll continues to be our expert here at #DMD who provides strong weekly insight on the EPL.

I like college lacrosse, but don't follow it nearly enough to be #DMD's "beat writer" for local college lax. We turn "coverage" duty over to someone who follows it more closely; John Pusateri.

So, the first order of business I typically go through when determining what appears in #DMD under my byline is: Did it interest me? If I didn't watch it, follow it or have an interest in it, I'm likely not going to write about it here. I didn't write a "post-fight story" about Mayweather and McGregor last Sunday morning because I didn't watch the fight. I knew who won, but other than that, I had nothing of substance to offer.

If one of our other #DMD writers would have watched it and sent along something for me to post on Sunday morning, I most certainly would have done that. All of the writers here have carte blanche to write about whatever they want and send it along whenever they like.

So, things you see here at #DMD under my name (and that's anything that doesn't have a headline identifying the writer, for newcomers to these parts) must always interest me or they don't see the light of day because I'm simply not going to try and buffalo my way through, say, a WNBA game or a college football contest that I didn't watch.

Once I've made the determination I'm going to write about something, I then use a pretty simple formula to put it together: "What sticks out in my mind the most about the game or the story I'm covering?"

I don't say to myself, "What do the people reading want to see?" I have no way of knowing that. Instead, I just say, "What did I see and how can I tell the reader(s) about it?"

A recent case in point was Sunday afternoon's 5-4 Orioles win over the Blue Jays. To me, the most pressing issue was the interim manager of the Blue Jays intentionally walking Chris Davis not once, but twice, to get to Mark Trumbo, who is far more apt to do something productive at the plate than is Davis -- particularly when the game is on the line.

Someone in the comments section took offense to the fact that I made that the focal point of the piece I wrote, but to me, that was the story of the game. If you want to just read a basic, "cover all the bases" game report, I'm pretty sure you know where to click to find that kind of stuff. I'm not really all that interested in doing written play-by-play, although occasionally games and circumstances warrant something that resembles more of a "wire story" than an "opinion piece".

It all falls under the same category, eventually: I write what interests me and what makes me wonder if the coach, manager or player got it right. I assume you're interested in reading my opinion(s) on things -- why else would you be here if you didn't want to know what I think about the Ravens, Orioles, PGA Tour, Maryland, UMBC, Capitals, Wizards, etc.?

But what I think about the Orioles or Ravens isn't always glitz and glamour. As Charley Eckman would routinely tell me in the 1980's when we traveled together with the Blast, "You gotta call 'em like you see 'em, chief. And if they don't like it, they can call a cab."

I'm not here asking you all to call a cab, but there will definitely be times when I write critical things of the Ravens and Orioles and people will think I'm being too hard on the hometown teams.

Make no mistake about it, I want the Ravens and Orioles to win. And Maryland. And UMBC. And Towson. And the Caps and Wizards, too.

I remember once -- back in my radio days -- when John Harbaugh and I had a testy exchange after something I either said or wrote drew his ire. I recall saying to him, "John, if you think for one minute I want the Ravens to lose games, you're nuts. It's always in my best interests to have the home teams win, not lose. Everyone's business in town is always better when the Ravens and Orioles win. No one likes a loser. We all love a winner."

We small-talked about it for a few minutes and I stressed to him that while I couldn't let my hope that the team wins interfere with my ability to go on the air the next day and critique the coach and players, he should know that I'm a lifelong Baltimorean with (then) 40 years invested as an Orioles fan and a Colts/Ravens fan.

The same goes here, today, at #DMD. I want everyone in the area to win. I haven't seen a World Series game in Baltimore since 1983. I'm itching to see one again and take my son to a game the way my Dad took me in '83 and '79.

I'm a Ravens fan, through and through. One of the highlights of my life was sitting in the press box in New Orleans watching the Ravens win the Super Bowl, then shaking Harbaugh's hand in the locker room afterwards and offering him my heartfelt congratulations.

So, when I'm writing stuff here at #DMD, it's always rooted in hoping the local teams win. But they don't come out on top every day or every Sunday, and that's when I occasionally have to write something that is less than flattering about a coach, a player or member of the organization.

I wanted Baltimore back on the Orioles road jerseys so badly that I essentially lost my media credential over it circa 2008. I knew it was the right thing for the city and the fans, but the Orioles -- who called what I was doing on the air a "crusade" -- thought I was too hard on them.

Maybe I was too hard on them. Maybe they deserved it. Maybe the name "Baltimore" should have been on the road uniforms all along.

"Funny the way it is" as Dave Matthews sings. Here we are now, in 2017, and the Orioles away uniforms have Baltimore across the front and I'm in my fourth consecutive year of owning an Orioles ticket plan at Camden Yards. It all turned out just fine, I'd say.

One thing for sure here at #DMD. I'm only going to write about something I'm familiar with and have followed. I'll be watching (and rooting for) the U.S. soccer team tonight against Honduras. If you're a soccer junkie, you know you can check in on Wednesday morning and get my unfiltered impressions of the game, win or lose.

If you're not a soccer junkie, there will still be here something for you tomorrow. And if there isn't, by chance, odds are Thursday morning's edition will have something that catches your eye.

I noted recently where someone was upset (or seemed to be) because we didn't provide "coverage" of the Orioles game from the night before. We don't really "cover" the season like a beat writer does. We follow the team, sure, and we probably have game-related content at #DMD eight out of every ten games the team plays, but, again, content decisions are made based a lot on what happened in the game itself and did anything stick out that was worth writing about or critiquing?

Sometimes, even in August or September, a game will go by where we'll just throw the result on the "Scoreboard" with a small detail or two in "Breakfast Bytes". That doesn't mean #DMD is any less interested in the Orioles.

If you want to read "coverage" of every game, you know where to find that, I'm sure. If you want to know if walking Chris Davis twice to get to Mark Trumbo was smart, I have an opinion on that subject. If you want to know if I think Buck should have taken the starting pitcher out earlier, I have some thoughts on that, too.

Our writers here are very versatile and can opine on a number of subjects. They are free to write whatever they want.

One of the best things about my 12 years on the radio in Baltimore was that I was allowed to open the microphone every morning and talk about whatever I wanted. I was never told to talk more Ravens, less Ravens, more Orioles, less Orioles, etc. If I wanted to talk high school sports, I did. If I wanted to talk about UMBC soccer or basketball, I did. If I wanted to talk about the Capitals, I did.

The same goes for this place. The writers choose their topics and off they go. The commenters have free reign, too, save for those occasions when they forget it's a sports website and break off into beating up one another for reasons I can't begin to figure out.

Occasionally, even, I'll see a comment like the one Alan posted on Monday and it will get me thinking. And writing. So, thanks, Alan, for a suggestion that I heeded this morning.

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when maryland agreed to play texas in football


Where was Ralph?

That’s the question the die-hard, seasoned Maryland fans were asking each other after their Terrapin football team dominated and defeated the University of Texas Longhorns on Saturday. A team very few had gifted a high percentage to win, the Terps took a trip to Austin and crushed a team playing with a remarkable emotional anchor following the deadly aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Fans of the Maryland program had been clamoring for the football team to play a marquee opponent for decades; a team with the same gravitas as, say, an Alabama, USC or even a Texas. When the University chose to lose its heritage soul and join the Big Ten, fans were able to satisfy their worthy-seeking appetites when foes like Ohio State and Michigan arrived on the schedule.

Maryland football coach D.J. Durkin and his Terps team are basking in the glow of a big win over Texas last Saturday, but it was a former coach in College Park who made the game happen.

Long before the move to the powerhouse football conference, though, Maryland was desperate to join the ranks of the top-tier level programs; and the program knew it had to enhance its schedule.

Enter former Maryland Head Football Coach, Ralph Friedgen.

About six weeks following the Terps awful 2009 season, when the team finished with an abysmal 2 and 10 record, Ralph wanted to meet with his old friend, Dr. Erv Raffel to discuss his opinion if Maryland was ready for the limelight and establish itself as a premier football program. It’s a big deal going from recreational to great, and not a lot of University's are prepared to handle the pressure that comes from high-end athletics.

Erv would know. As the former President of the Terrapin Club, and an instrumental figure in facilitating the initial meeting between Art Modell, John Moag and former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening, Erv’s forty-plus years on the inside of the Terrapin Athletic Department qualified him to know the finest option for Maryland football was to receive an long overdue adrenaline shot if it ever wanted to receive National Championship consideration.

And, in typical Erv fashion, he knew it would be best to have the football team force the University into a 21st century spotlight than the other way around because, at that time, very few on the College Park campus possessed the vision and understanding of how college football is a bonafide revenue juggernaut.

The conversation between Maryland and Texas negotiating a potential game began during the 2009 season. And as bad as Maryland performed on the gridiron, Texas was just the opposite. The Longhorns finished the season number two in the country and played in the BCS Championship Game against Alabama. It was obvious the Terps needed an opponent like Texas more than the 'Horns needed Maryland.

In July 2010, Maryland inked a contract to play a home-and-home series against the Longhorns. The first game was scheduled to be played in 2014, at FedEx Field in Landover, but had to be rescheduled when the University jumped to the Big Ten. Rather, the game was pushed to Austin in 2017, with a rematch set for September 1, 2018 in Landover.

Maryland’s victory on Saturday was equally sensational as it was serving as a reminder of how dismal the program has been this decade. When Coach Friedgen instructed former AD Debbie Yow to move forward with the Texas agreement, he figured the Terps would be making a regular appearance in conversations about the BCS Championship when the teams met. Unfortunately, it’s been just the opposite.

Coach Friedgen was fired only a few months after the Texas contract was signed and didn’t get to lead his alma mater to Austin, and hopefully beyond. Despite the 2010 Terps having an epic turnaround, finishing the season at 9 and 4 and Friedgen being named ACC Coach of the Year, he was relieved of his duties at year-end. And, sadly, Dr. Erv Raffel passed away suddenly in September of the same year.

The landscape for the Maryland football program has completely changed as the cast of characters from the 2010 Texas signing are all gone. The new faces are applauding the win in Austin as being the start of great things for the Terps. I, for one, am hopeful. The team looked like a Ralph Friedgen team on Saturday: Organized, Passionate and Victorious.

The next question fans will be asking is can this team establish a run of January bowl games and find themselves in conversations they only dreamed of in 2010? Only time will tell.

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bundy's unexpected meltdown helps yanks win pivotal series opener, 7-4


For three innings yesterday, Dylan Bundy looked like he might be on the verge of another one of those epic performances like he authored last week in a 4-0 victory over Seattle.

He allowed one hit in that game vs. the Mariners and held the Yankees hitless through three innings on Monday afternoon.

A flat performance from Dylan Bundy on Monday was part of a 7-4 loss to the Yankees that keeps the Orioles 1.5 games behind Minnesota in the wild card race.

Then the fourth inning happened and Bundy fell apart at the seams. A 3-0 lead was erased, the Yankees tied the game en route to making Bundy throw 34 pitches, and by the time he left the mound in the fifth, New York was up, 5-3.

Don't feel bad if you were sort of shocked by Bundy's wobbly mid-game performance yesterday. No one else saw it coming, either, especially Buck Showalter, who allowed Bundy to come back out for that fifth inning and cough up a 2-run homer to Starlin Castro.

Buck's a good manager. But he sure does love leaving his starters in there to fight their way through things when a call to the bullpen would be more suitable. Leaving Bundy in there at the 90-pitch mark with four walks -- not the best decision of Showalter's season.

The 7-4 win on Monday afternoon pushed the Yankees to 74-63 on the year and dropped the Birds to 70-68. In that mythical chase for 86 wins and, we think here at #DMD, the second playoff spot in the American League, the Orioles now have to go 16-8 over the last 24 games to finish at 86-76.

If not for two extra-innings wins over Toronto on Friday and Sunday, the O's might be starting to make October golf plans. Every win in late August and September is critical when you're in the playoff race, but those two were supremely important.

The next two games with the Yankees are huge, too. Following these two games with Joe Girardi's team, the O's will head to Cleveland where they'll face one of the hottest teams in all of baseball for a Friday-Saturday-Sunday series. Then it's off to Toronto for three games and then to New York for four with the Yankees.

Anything less than 7-3 on that road trip might doom the Orioles.

But first, they need to win these next two at home against the Yankees. Jeremy Hellickson is on the mound tonight for the O's against C.C. Sabathia. In tomorrow's series finale, Kevin Gausman will oppose Sonny Gray.

And the disabled list stint is nearly over for J.J. Hardy, who should be available for duty at some point this week. The question is, of course: When will he play and how often? It seems highly unlikely that Buck would toy with the team's lineup and/or chemistry at this point, so nearly everyone expects Tim Beckham to continue as the team's starting shortstop and Hardy will get worked in occasionally as a starter and more often as a defensive replacement for the unsteady Beckham.

If Showalter somehow decides to just give Hardy his old starting job back and Beckman then retreats to the bench, expect an uprising of sorts from Orioles fans.

The world of social media won't be pretty if Beckham is replaced with Hardy.

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Monday
September 4
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVIII
Issue 4
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why walk a guy who is a strikeout waiting to happen?


I'm not saying Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons is the next Casey Stengel or anything like that, but boy did the Blue Jays miss him yesterday.

Gibbons missed the game -- his second in a row -- while dealing with a personal matter. So DeMarlo Hale took over as interim skipper for the Jays and he produced not one, but two puzzling moves late in the game, the last of which cost his team the ballgame.

Maybe he was just trying to say "thanks" to the Orioles for that one year of employment back in 2012 when he was the team's third base coach.

The Blue Jays rolled the dice twice on Sunday by intentionally walking the strikeout machine, Chris Davis, to get to Mark Trumbo. The move backfired the second time around in a 5-4 Orioles win.

Perhaps he hasn't been following the Orioles and, more specifically, Chris Davis this season.

Or maybe he just went with his gut, which worked the first time he intentionally walked Davis to get to Mark Trumbo -- but was oh so wrong the second time, when Trumbo produced a big hit and ended Sunday's game with the Orioles pulling off a 5-4 win.

Seriously? You intentionally walked Chris Davis to bring Mark Trumbo to the plate?

As Mr. Hand said to the class in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, "What are you people...on dope?"

It's fair to note that on both occasions when Hale intentionally walked Davis yesterday, he was setting up a force play at third or second by doing so. Trey Mancini's two out double in the 8th brought Davis to the plate with the Birds trailing, 4-3, but the visitors elected to put Davis on in order to get to Trumbo. "Ha ha, you idiots just cost yourselves the game," I said. "Davis is a strikeout waiting to happen and Trumbo is capable of beating you, like he did back on opening day with that home run."

Alas, Hale's gamble worked out in that instance, as it was Trumbo who whiffed and Toronto maintained their 4-3 edge.

It wouldn't work out the next time, though.

The same scenario presented itself in the 12th inning, except the O's got a leadoff double from -- who else? -- Jonathan Schoop, then had Trey Mancini and Adam Jones record outs, which again brought Davis to the plate.

I get the "force out" issue and all, but why on earth would you not pitch to Davis there? Sure, he did somehow manage to scratch out a hit in his previous at-bat, but that likely only served to further guarantee that Davis isn't getting another hit some 40 minutes later.

Davis was 1-for-4 in the game. His batting average is .224. He strikes out more times in a game than you make right turns on red in one day. What's it add up to? Davis isn't beating you with his bat in that situation. He had his one hit for the afternoon...

Instead, Hale walked Davis to again get to Trumbo.

The stats might have begged Hale to make that move. "Stats, schmatz" as the saying goes. Here's the stat that matters: Davis is not a good hitter. Trumbo is a decent hitter. And Trumbo has come through in the clutch about ten times as much as Davis has since the two have been in Baltimore together over the last two years.

That's always the risk you take by intentionally walking a guy. The next man up might get the bit between his teeth and say, "Oh, OK. You actually want to face me? That's cool. I'll show you."

I have no idea if that happened yesterday in the 12th inning, but Trumbo immediately roped the game-winning hit to left field and Hale was left holding the bag.

Not that the loss really mattered to Toronto -- their season is effectively over with at this point -- but they gift-wrapped a game to the O's on Sunday that otherwise would have given them a 3-of-4 series win in Baltimore. You can't make up ground by splitting four games with the team above you in the standings.

I can't imagine anyone's going to crush Hale over his decisions. He was the interim manager, for starters, and the Blue Jays aren't any good. What's another loss along the way?

But I have to wonder if Gibbons would have done the same thing? Would a real manager intentionally walk Doctor Whiff to get to Mark Trumbo? With less than two outs and in need of a double play, maybe he would. But is just trying to "force a force" worth by-passing Davis to get to Trumbo? Not in my world, not when you know there's at least a 50% chance Davis is going to strike out.

I don't understand some of these managers. Stats, computers, data, blah, blah, blah. If you follow baseball at all, you have to go with what the actual game on the field tells you. The game, these days, tells you to face Chris Davis whenever you can. He's going to strike out.

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mizzell, woodrum now get to prove ravens made a mistake


What a conundrum quarterback Josh Woodrum faced on Sunday afternoon when his phone rang and he looked down and say the "216" area code flashing with the phone number.

216 is Cleveland, for those that don't know, and it was the Browns calling Woodrum to let him know they'd just claimed him after the Ravens made him part of their final cuts on Saturday.

After an impressive training camp with the Ravens, Josh Woodrum was claimed by the Browns on Sunday and could potentially face the Ravens in week two of the season in Baltimore.

Woodrum was about to go to quarterback hell.

But it's a job and you're in the NFL -- at least for now -- so Woodrum took the call, signed the deal, and he's now a member of the Browns. Who knows, he might get a snap or two in on September 17 in mop-up duty when the Ravens throttle the Browns 30-7 in Baltimore.

Losing Woodrum to the Browns doesn't hurt the Ravens.

But running back Taquan Mizzell signing with the Bears might be the move the Ravens wind up regretting.

It was expected that someone would scoop up Mizzell after his impressive four-game pre-season with John Harbaugh's team. It turned out to be Chicago who did the scooping.

And now, we just have to hope the Ravens running back triangle of Buck Allen, Terrance West and Danny Woodhead holds on and stays injury free in 2017. If they do, the Ravens have some versatility in their backfield. Those three aren't going to set any NFL records or anything like that, but each will have a role and have shown in the past they're capable of producing some quality work.

But if the need arises for another running back this season, I think the Ravens will regret letting Mizzell get away.

And when you're already (possibly) challenged offensively, giving away potentially-productive offensive players doesn't make much sense.

I understand that special teams matter and Mizzell -- due to his size -- probably wasn't someone Jerry Rosburg was thrilled to have on his return and coverage units, so it's going to be harder for a one-trick pony -- especially a rookie -- to make the 53-man roster. I get that.

But what happened to that famous Ozzie Newsome mantra: "The most valuable guys are the ones who touch the ball or touch the quarterback"??

Does a 4th string linebacker with potential really have more value than a running back who could make ten carries a game, produce 40 yards or more, and scamper into the end zone for a touchdown?

My guess is this came down to special teams. Rosburg wanted "A" and "B", while offensive coordinator Marty Morhninweg wanted "C" and "D" for his department, except neither of those two were special teamers.

And Rosburg won out.

Losing Woodrum isn't that big of a deal. If Flacco gets hurt, they're going with Ryan Mallett anyway, and by the time Flacco's MRI is read by team doctors, the club would have another quarterback on a plane to Baltimore and it wouldn't be a guy like Woodrum who has as many regular season snaps in the NFL as you and your neighbor's dentist.

But Mizzell really looked the part in pre-season. I argued here at #DMD on Sunday that throughout the month of August he looked every bit as productive as Terrance West. Sure, the games don't count, but like I said in the piece above about Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis, you watch the game with your eyes. Forget the stats -- or at the very least, don't let them dominate you -- and go with what your eyes tell you.

My eyes told me Taquan Mizzell would have been a good Raven.

I hope he doesn't turn out to be a good Bear, instead.

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


D.J. Durkin just might have earned his program defining win to open the 2017 football season.

Let's keep things in perspective to begin with. Texas is not the 23rd best college football team in the country. That ranking was largely the product of the Longhorns' pedigree and program size, plus hype over adding last season's coaching hotshot Tom Herman, and Texas will spend more time fighting to reach bowl eligibility this year than they will having a meaningful chance at winning the Big 12.

Likewise, Maryland hasn't "arrived" yet either, and won't have a chance in the Big 10.

They're nowhere near as good as division rivals Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan, probably not as good as Michigan State, and maybe not even as good as this year's Indiana team. They've started off their season with a big, exciting win, but that alone doesn't vaunt them into the role of contenders.

And knowing this program's history they're at least as likely to lose to Towson this Saturday as they are to beat any one of the top three teams in the Big Ten.

But that game in Austin can be a pivotal moment in ultimately pushing this program to at least the second tier of Big Ten programs if Durkin and the administration can build on it.

The biggest thing that stood out about the entire game Saturday was the poise with which the Terps carried themselves throughout the afternoon.

You can try to reel off stats all you like but in the wild west shootout world of college football it's often hard to tell what any of that even means anymore.

Here's what impressed me about Maryland: You expect that a team that walks in to Texas' home stadium in front of a rowdy opening game crowd as 19 point underdogs to fold like a cheap card table when their first drive ends with a pick-six and spots the Longhorns a 7-0 lead without even possessing the ball. That's exactly what premier programs ranked in the top 25 are supposed to do to also-rans coming into their stadiums in September, and it was easy to roll your eyes and get ready for the drubbing the Terps were going to endure.

Instead quarterback Tyrell Pigrome led Maryland on a ferocious run that saw them score four unanswered touchdowns before a blocked FG returned for a touchdown got Texas back in the game at 27-14. Again, that could have been the turning point where the Longhorns woke up and stopped messing around with Maryland, and for a little while it looked like that might happen. Maryland could only get a field goal before the end of the half, and then the second half opened with the Texas offense scoring their first points of the game followed by a 91 yard punt return touchdown to bring Texas to within a field goal at 30-27.

Then when Maryland answered with a touchdown, Texas came back with one of their own to keep the score within three to open the 4th quarter, and the script was right there for everyone to read. lucky underdog Maryland fights their hardest but talent wins out in the end and Texas escapes with the season opening win.

Instead, the Terps held off Texas' offense for nearly the entire quarter, scoring a touchdown themselves to push the lead to 10 halfway through and then putting the game to bed with a 12 yard TD run with two minutes left that gave them a three score lead.

It was a gutsy, confident performance from start to finish that saw Maryland make big plays in crucial spots on both sides of the ball, and ultimately they led the entire way outside of that opening drive miscue. Again, the stat line doesn't really tell the whole story, but Maryland controlled that game in a big way, seemingly coming through with a 3rd down conversion or a huge defensive effort everytime it looked like Texas was finally set to right the script and take control of the game.

That's not a formula for winning 8 or 9 games in the Big Ten conference by any means, and there's a lot about the Terps' performance in Texas that should keep Terps' fans realistic about the rest of the season. While a couple of the 3rd down conversions were genuinely memorable, they were 3 for 11 overall in those situations. Maryland converted only 18 first downs in total for the game, compared to 26 for Texas, and 2 of those came thanks to penalties.

Durkin's group didn't exactly play a clean game either, racking up 10 penalties for 53 yards (compared to 11 for 117 for the Longhorns).

But still, that win is in the books, and it's a huge one for Durkin and the Maryland program overall.

Maryland got big time national exposure for the upset over the weekend, several moments from the game are going to find their way into the program's promotional materials to get both boosters and recruits excited, and the recruiting staff can credibly use it on the trail to pitch their targets on the idea that Maryland is a legitimate program that can win games on the big stage and is headed in the right direction under Durkin.

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Sunday
September 3
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVIII
Issue 3
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ravens could regret cutting mizzell


Yes, it's only pre-season, but Taquan Mizzell won the award for "best player in games that didn't matter".

And yesterday, he was cut by the Ravens as they chopped away 14 more hopefuls to get down to their final roster number of 53.

Let's hope they don't regret the move. I think they might.

Mizzell could still wind up in the Ravens organization sometime today. His agent will be in contact with others around the league who made roster their roster cuts yesterday and any of them that need a running back will have a bunch of impressive tape to look at if they're willing to consider Mizzell. Failing a deal elsewhere, Mizzell might be willing to accept a spot on the Ravens' practice squad.

But even a practice squad assignment is dicey, because anyone around the league can pluck Mizzell away from Baltimore.

Joe Flacco returned to practice on Saturday. It was a happy day for him. But for the 14 players who were cut on Saturday, there weren't many smiles.

I thought Mizzell did more than enough in training camp and in the four pre-season games to warrant a roster spot, but Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh saw it differently.

With a less-than-impressive group at running back, the Ravens could use another guy in the backfield. And not just another guy, but someone with quality. Mizzell looks like he has that quality.

There's also this scenario: If the Ravens put Marcus Canady on injured reserve today, they can bring him back later in the season and that would temporarily open up a spot on the 53-man roster which could be used for Mizzell. If the Ravens don't make that move, their roster is closed off at 53 and Mizzell remains on the outside-looking-in.

It's fair to note that Mizzell's style is very similar to that of Danny Woodhead, who was brought in after the 2016 campaign and spent most of training camp nursing a leg injury. Woodhead's absence opened the door for Mizzell to shine in August, but once the veteran is set to return, there's not much room for Mizzell on the roster.

Still...he was so good in pre-season that you assumed Ozzie and Company would figure out a way to keep the kid from the University of Virginia.

It would be a shame for another team to grab Mizzell and reap the benefits of his talents. But that's the fun (and agony) of going from 98 players at the start of camp to 53 players just prior to the season opener. A handful of those guys you let go wind up catching on in the league somewhere else and could potentially turn into decent players.

Here's the thing about NFL rosters. Most teams have anywhere from 22 to 30 high-quality professional football players. The really good teams might have 32 or 34, the bottom feeders might have 18 to 20, but for the most part, teams have somewhere between 22 and 30 excellent players. Not Hall-of-Famers, mind you. Just solid professional players that you don't want any other team to have.

And then there's the rest of the roster. There might be another 12 to 15 players on the roster that you really like, but losing them wouldn't necessarily change your season. And then there's the final 8 to 10 guys who really are interchangeable with the rest of the teams in the league. The 53rd guy on your roster might also play for the Jets and Falcons this season, for instance.

Mizzell likely fits in that latter "8 to 10" category, simply because he's a rookie, and a running back, and both of those things make for a short shelf-life in the NFL. Running backs are like smoothie shops in Los Angeles -- there's one on every corner. But finding a diamond-in-the-rough like Mizzell isn't easy. They don't come around very often.

Let's hope by 4 pm today, the Ravens have figured out a way to either bring him back or get him to the practice squad, where the challenge will then be to somehow squeeze Mizzell onto their 53-man roster before some other club in the league loses their own running back due to injury and snatches Mizzell off the Ravens' practice squad.

I realize I'm venturing into player personnel now and my eye for talent pales in comparison to Ozzie Newsome's, but I thought Mizzell looked every bit as a good as Terrance West during the pre-season. In some ways, by being able to catch the ball out of the backfield, I had Mizzell above West on the depth chart.

But my depth chart doesn't count. And West is a veteran now, while Mizzell is still trying to earn his first paycheck in the league. And, yes, it's worth reminding everyone -- including me -- that Mizzell was doing his damage in pre-season games, where the talent level is roughly half of what it will be in the regular season.

Mizzell did play against the "1's" in pre-season though and was definitely one of the team's eye-opening rookie performers, along with Jaylen Hill and Bam Bradley, both of whom made the final 53-man roster yesterday.

It apparently wasn't enough, though. Let's just hope his departure doesn't come back to haunt the Ravens somehow.

And one final training camp note: Joe Flacco returned to practice yesterday, as did the aforementioned Danny Woodhead and oft-injured Breshad Perriman, so the Ravens appear to be all systems go for the September 10 opener in Cincinnati. Flacco's health was probably a factor in the release of former Liberty University quarterback Josh Woodrum yesterday, as the Ravens will go with Flacco and Ryan Mallett on the 53-man roster to start the season.

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bats and fans fail to show in o's 7-2 loss to toronto


OK, OK, OK. We knew the Orioles weren't going to score eight runs a game for the final 30 games of the regular season. They had to cool off at some point.

But after torching and scorching the Seattle Mariners in three games at Camden Yards, the O's bats have suddenly quieted down a bit. Saturday night's 7-2 loss to last place Toronto means the O's have now scored just three total runs in their last 23 innings.

Wade Miley allowed just two runs in six innings of work on Saturday night but the Blue Jays nicked the O's bullpen for five more runs in a 7-2 win.

It's far from time to panic, obviously. The O's are 69-67, just 2.5 games out of the wild card race, and still well within striking distance of the Twins (71-64) and Angels (70-66).

But losing two of three (thus far) to Toronto -- at home, particularly -- is not a good look for the Birds, who were stymied by four Toronto relief pitchers last night after Marcus Stroman was hit with a line drive in the second inning and had to leave the game.

And Baltimore's own bullpen wasn't up to the challenge on Saturday night. Newcomer Richard Rodriguez made his major league debut in the 7th inning and promptly surrendered a 3-run homer to Josh Donaldson that extended Toronto's lead from 2-0 to 5-0. Alec Asher then gave up a 2-run shot in the 8th that put the Blue Jays up 7-0 and that was the ballgame.

Not that you particularly enjoy prospering from another team's bad fortune, but it appeared as if the O's got a tremendous break in the second inning when Mark Trumbo lined a ball off the elbow of Marcus Stroman. Going into the game, Stroman had the fifth lowest post-All-Star-break earned run average. Getting him out of there in the second inning was thought to be a game changer for the Birds, especially given that the Toronto pitcher who came in -- Matt Dermody -- is awful against right handed batters (they're hitting .417 off of him in 2017).

Instead, Dermody was outstanding in his 2.1 innings of work and then newcomer Luis Santos came in and was equally impressive in his 3.1 innings.

Suddenly, the O's have to win today to avoid losing 3 of 4 to Toronto in Baltimore. And if not for Jonathan Schoop's heroics on Friday night, who knows how the series might have ended?

The only thing more disappointing than the O's bats going silent this weekend? The attendance at Camden Yards.

Let's hope the O's brass has taken note of the Labor Day weekend home crowds and sends a quick note to Major League Baseball and asks to be on the road for Labor Day weekend 2018.

While a bunch of other teams around baseball were drawing 30,000, 35,000 and even upwards of 40,000 on Saturday, the Orioles were bottoming out at the gate, drawing just over 14,000 to last night's 7-2 loss to the Blue Jays.

Here's how bad the crowds have been over this 4-game series so far: The O's have drawn about 42,000 to the three games against the Blue Jays. The Giants, with the third fewest wins in all of baseball, drew 39,000 -- to yesterday's game with the Cardinals.

The O's haven't had one crowd over 20,000 in the series with Toronto. That stinks, friends. We can blame the weather, the long weekend, the beach three hours away -- but 42,000 tickets sold for three critically important games in Baltimore is not very good.

Let's hope the player's enthusiasm isn't being raised or lowered based on attendance figures at Camden Yards. If that's the case, it's no wonder they're not scoring any runs.

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down to our last four seats on our bus trip to nyc to see billy joel!!


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

So, let's do it!

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

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

WE NOW HAVE JUST 4 SEATS LEFT ON THE BUS. IF YOU'RE PLANNING ON GOING, PLEASE PLACE YOUR TICKET ORDER SOON USING THE LINK BELOW.

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

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

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

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

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

Lower concourse pricing: $395 per-person

Upper concourse pricing: $325 per-person

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Saturday
September 2
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Issue 2
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u.s. produces historic stinker with with world cup spot on the line


They weren't going to officially qualify last night, but if the U.S. would have defeated Costa Rica on Friday evening, a spot in the 2018 World Cup would have been all but locked up.

Instead, we saw one of the worst performances in U.S. men's soccer history -- particularly for a critical home game -- and the ensuing 2-0 loss at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey leaves the U.S. in a tight spot now with three qualifying games remaining.

Let's give Costa Rica the credit they deserve. The other team tries too, and the visitors were in the game right from the very first whistle. The U.S., sadly, never matched Costa Rica's intensity, although there were some occasional bright spots for Bruce Arena's team.

So how does a squad (U.S.) lose to another one that hadn't won on its soil since 1985? There's a simple answer for that one: The U.S. had virtually no one produce a strong individual performance on Friday night. When there are 11 players on the field and not one of them is able to author something excellent, that's a recipe for failure.

The only U.S. player who looked even reasonably competent last night was Michael Bradley, which is really saying something considering he's been up and down throughout the previous six CONCACAF qualifying games. Other than Bradley's performance, no one from the U.S. did anything to stand out.

Clint Dempsey was used as a substitute on Friday night against Costa Rica, but the magic wasn't there this time around as he failed to produce anything of note in the 2-0 defeat.

Worse than that, several players were shockingly bad. And if we're doling out blame, let's start with the head coach, Bruce Arena, who was forced into making a couple of delicate lineup choices due to injuries to starters and those decisions turned out to be bad ones.

It's also worth discussing the site of last night's game and how even that was a poor decision by the U.S. Soccer Federation. But we'll get to that shortly.

Before the 2018 World Cup qualifying series started, those who follow the U.S. program closely knew the team's primary area of weakness was defense. A 2-1 loss at home to Mexico in the CONCACAF opener last November included a late defensive gaffe that helped the visitors to a surprising victory. Four days later at Costa Rica, the backline was shredded in a 4-0 thumping at Costa Rica that cost then-head coach Jurgen Klinsmann his job.

The U.S. hadn't lost a game since then, though, and everything seemed back on track after Arena took over in December. The U.S. went win-draw, win-draw in their next four games and seemed poised to continue that rise last night when Costa Rica came calling.

But those U.S. defensive lapses reared their head again, as both Tim Ream and Geoff Cameron were victimized in the first half on a goal from Marco Urena, who took a long pass after the two American defenders failed to narrow the middle of the field. Once he collected the ball and was in a one-on-one situation with Ream, it only took him a few seconds and some nifty moves around the American to get into shooting position, where he then sent a shot past Tim Howard to give Costa Rica a 1-0 lead.

While Cameron and Ream both conspired to give Costa Rica that first half scoring opportunity, Howard wasn't exactly johnny-on-the-spot there, either. He overplayed Urena's right foot and was off balance when the ball was eventually sent to goal. It wasn't a "horrible goal" allowed by Howard, but it was a shot he could have stopped with better positioning.

Meanwhile, the U.S. wasn't doing much of anything offensively in the opening 45 minutes. Then again, it's kind of hard to do "anything" when your constantly getting tackled, shoved and sent to the ground.

And that's not sour grapes, either. This wasn't a dirty performance from Costa Rica. Not in the least. You want dirty? Watch Honduras on Tuesday night when they play host to the Americans. They'll kick anything that moves. And if it's not moving, they'll kick it until it does.

Costa Rica played hard, fair soccer on Friday night. And in the first half, particularly, the U.S. looked like they were starting to run a little scared by the time Urena put them ahead in the 30th minute.

Unable to match Costa Rica's intensity, the Americans headed to the locker room down 1-0 at intermission. But it was a concerning halftime deficit -- at least to me -- because the Americans were thoroughly outworked on their home field in the opening 45 minutes.

The second half didn't get much better, although the U.S. did create a few quality scoring chances in an effort to tie the game. Ream missed a chance to make up for his first-half defensive blunder but couldn't direct a corner kick into the net in the 50th minute, then minutes later a Christian Pulisic shot from 15 yards out was re-directed and seemingly headed for the net before Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Nevas came up with a sensational save to keep the score 1-0 in favor of the visitors.

Jozy Altidore had a chance or two that he couldn't finish -- that's a typical theme for him in big games -- and even a 70th minute insertion of super-sub Clint Dempsey didn't yield anything beneficial. Dempsey spent most of his 20 minutes on the ground, complaining and begging for a foul call and a free kick.

New American star Christian Pulisic was barely a factor on Friday night in the 2-0 loss to Costa Rica that sends the American team to Honduras this Tuesday in almost "must win" territory.

And the aforementioned Pulisic, the team's best offensive player, had nothing in the tank in the second half. He played with good pace in the first half and was interested in going forward and taking on Costa Rican defenders. In the final 45 minutes, he offered very little. It was the worst half of soccer he's produced for the U.S. side since Bruce Arena's first game back as head coach in March.

Urena then got behind Cameron in the 82nd minute and was able to finish off a semi-breakaway with a nice right-footed shot past Howard to finalize the scoring at 2-0.

That goal, while backbreaking, was somewhat understandable given that the Americans were pushing forward with big numbers in an attempt to knot the game at 1-1.

No one played well for the U.S. team last night. When that's the one sentence summary of 90 minutes of soccer, you can assume the result was a loss. And it was.

The location of Friday night's game was also very questionable.

The stadium, with a seating capacity of just over 25,000, was jam packed with Costa Rica fans. There will always be visiting supporters in attendance at critical CONCACAF games, but to see upwards of 10,000 Costa Rica fans in the facility had to be somehwat disheartening for the U.S. team and a pick-me-up for the eventual winners.

And while Red Bull Arena is a state-of-the-art facility, it doesn't have the history that places like Columbus, Boston and Chicago do in terms of hosting important World Cup qualifiers. Why couldn't Gillette Stadium be used for last night's game?

Everything was a bit "off" last night. The lineup wasn't all that strong, the soccer played by the U.S. wasn't very good and even the stadium selection left something to be desired.

And now, the U.S. must go to Honduras on Tuesday night and win a game. A tie wouldn't kill them, but a loss would be particularly crushing, as Honduras enters the game with eight points, the same amount the U.S. has through seven games.

Following Tuesday's tussle at Honduras, the Americans have two games left. They'll be home against Panama (still have a chance) and away at Trinidad and Tobago (not going to qualify). Meanwhile, Honduras will finish up at Costa Rica (World Cup spot all but locked up) and at home vs. Mexico (spot all but locked up).

So, unless the U.S. wants to bank on help from Costa Rica and Mexico, they'll need at least one point and hopefully three full points on Tuesday night.

One thing for sure: They must play better soccer than they did last night in New Jersey.

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first wave of ravens roster cuts provide little surprise


There weren't many surprises on Friday when the Ravens sliced their roster down to 67 players, but there might be a shocker or two by 4 pm today when the team has to make their final decisions and produce a 53-man roster in advance of the September 10 opener in Cincinnati.

4-year veteran Lorenzo Taliaferro was probably the biggest name to get his walking papers on Friday, but even that's not a big surprise. The Ravens wanted to move Taliaferro to more of a fullback position in 2017, but that didn't work out well. And with the off-season addition of Danny Woodhead, coupled with Buck Allen and Terrance West holding down their roster spots, Taliaferro was an easy decision for John Harbaugh and his staff.

Traded to the 49'ers last March, Jeremy Zuttah returned to the Ravens earlier in training camp and figured to have a lock on the starting center job. Until he was cut on Friday, that is.

Jeremy Zuttah, acquired a few weeks back after a brief run with the 49'ers, was among those cut on Friday. He wasn't very good last season in Baltimore, which is why the Ravens traded him to San Fransicso following the 2016 season. But when John Urschel shocked the team with his sudden retirement at the start of training camp, the Ravens needed someone with experience at the center position. They took a chance on Zuttah (again), but he wasn't up to the task.

Zuttah's release means Ryan Jensen will likely enter the season as the starting center, although the Ravens did acquire a center via trade yesterday, sending a 7th round draft pick to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for Tony Bergstrom. Jensen has been decent in pre-season, granted, but it could spell trouble for Baltimore's offense if he's forced into a full-time starting role this season.

Perhaps the only other notable name that could be considered a "surprise" from Friday's first round of cuts was offensive tackle De'Ondre Wesley, who spent 2015 and 2016 in the Ravens organization. Already thin on the offensive line, it was expected that Wesley would make this year's squad.

Keenan Reynolds was among those cut on Friday. The former Navy quarterback showed some promise early in training camp as a wide receiver, but his bread and butter in the NFL is going to be as a kick/punt returner, and when he fumbled a punt on Thursday night in New Orleans, his fate was sealed. The Ravens will likely try and figure out a way to keep him around if they can, since Michael Campanaro can't possibly go the entire season without getting injured, but for now, Reynolds' career in purple is finished.

The team also cut tight end Larry Donnell on Friday, roughly six weeks after he was released by the New York Giants. Donnell did manage a touchdown catch in the opening pre-season game against the Redskins, but he looked slow during his pre-season action.

And quarterback Thad Lewis was also released yesterday meaning, for now at least, that Josh Woodrum is one step closer to making the opening day roster. Woodrum could still be axed today, obviously.

The most intriguing question for today when the final fourteen players are released: Will Taquan Mizzell make the team? The running back out of the University of Virginia has been one of the team's most surprising training camp performers. The numbers are going to probably catch up to him, although Friday's release of Bobby Rainey at least shows that the coaching staff values Mizzell, who has seen a lot of first team snaps in practice (and games) with Danny Woodhead out of action over the last two weeks.

The quarterback situation is also worth following, but only because it potentially gives us a full glimpse into the comfort level the Ravens have with Joe Flacco and his back injury. If they're unconcered, expect Woodrum to get cut today. If they're not sure about Flacco's injury, they'll likely keep Ryan Mallett and Woodrum.

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down to our last four seats on our bus trip to nyc to see billy joel!!


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

So, let's do it!

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

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

WE NOW HAVE JUST 4 SEATS LEFT ON THE BUS. IF YOU'RE PLANNING ON GOING, PLEASE PLACE YOUR TICKET ORDER SOON USING THE LINK BELOW.

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

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

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

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

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

Lower concourse pricing: $395 per-person

Upper concourse pricing: $325 per-person

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Friday
September 1
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Issue 1
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crowds at camden yards hardly matching o's stellar play


All the way around last night, everything was lousy at Camden Yards.

The Birds had their 7-game winning streak snapped by Kendrys Morales and the Blue Jays, who are now playing out the string and just hoping to finish the season without making it look too obvious that they couldn't really care less if they win or lose.

In reality, last night's 11-8 defeat wasn't all that bothersome. The Birds (68-66) are still one of the hottest teams in the American League and it was pretty unlikely they were going to sweep all four games from Toronto anyway. A blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn -- or something like that.

The real downer of the night was the attendance. Playing their best baseball since starting the season 22-10, the O's certainly deserved to see more than the 13,802 who showed up at the ballpark last night.

Let's hope Camden Yards looks better than this next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday when the Yankees come to town for a huge 3-game series with playoff implications on the line.

It hasn't been a great week for the crowds in Baltimore, although a couple of reasonable excuses do exist.

Monday night's crowd of 15,106 was a tad alarming given the weekend sweep of the Red Sox in Boston. You would have expected something in the low 20's, perhaps.

Tuesday's announced attendance of 13,736 wasn't very good, either, but not even half that many people ventured down to the stadium to battle the muggy, rainy weather conditions. It wasn't a great night for baseball. You throw that crowd out and chalk it up to "one of those nights".

The Wednesday afternoon attendance was 16,983 -- not terrible for a weekday afternoon game.

But last night? 13,802 packed their way in to see the Birds and their 7-game winning streak. That's a Tropicana Field crowd there, friends. For a team in a playoff race, in the final month of the season, 13,802 is a pretty dismal showing.

Yes, I'm aware it's the final week of summer. I suppose some folks are "downy Ocean, hon". And you can probably make an argument about Thursday night being the start of a long Labor Day weekend. Oh, and there's the State Fair in Timonium, too.

But let's be real about it: 13,802 in attendance stinks given what the O's have done over the last ten days.

The only thing worse? Jeremy Hellickson.

Hellickson was shelled in his 4.2 innings of work, giving up 7 earned runs on 7 hits while walking four and striking out just two. On a night when the O's staked him to a 5-2 lead and needed something decent from the starting pitcher for six innings, Hellickson couldn't get the job done.

Neither could Mychal Givens, either, as he gave up three earned runs in 2.1 innings of work.

The Baltimore offense continued to percolate on Thursday night. The O's cranked out 16 hits and 8 runs, which, on most occasions, would be more than enough production to win the game.

It wasn't good enough last night.

Come to think of it, nothing was actually "good enough" at Camden Yards on Thursday evening.

The stadium was basically 30% full, the O's lost to a bottom feeder, and they wasted a high-powered night at the plate.

Under normal circumstances a weekend home series with the Blue Jays would probably feature a turnstile count of somewhere near 100,000, but with this being Labor Day weekend, I can't see a three-day total of more than 75,000 or so.

The real barometer as far as attendance goes will be next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday when the Yankees come to town. With school back in session, the droves of New Yorkers who typically invade Camden Yards when the Yankees come to town will likely be substantially diminished. That means Baltimore baseball fans will be making up the majority of the attendance for the 3-game series.

As curious as I am to see how the Birds fare against the Yankees on the field, I'm even more anxious to see what the attendance will be for the three games. The O's are averaging roughly 25,700 per-home game this season to date. Given the circumstances and what's potentially up for grabs next week -- and considering that one of the games is on a holiday -- I'd think we'd see at least 95,000 people at the ballpark for the three games combined.

If they can't do 35,000, 30,000 and 30,000 for a pivotal showdown series with the Yankees, something's wrong.

For more than a decade, there was never a reason to head to Camden Yards to see a game in September. The team was typically out of the playoff race by mid-July from 2000 through 2011.

These days, though, the franchise has given baseball fans in town every reason to buy tickets and go to the games in August and September. And yet, people still aren't doing it.

Let's hope the city responds in September and the stadium looks and feels like a place with high energy. The Orioles deserve it.

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ravens finish pre-season with another sharp defensive effort in win over saints


OK, let's make sure we all know that finishing 4-0 in the pre-season is in no way a sure sign of things to come in the NFL regular season.

The 2008 Detroit Lions finished 4-0 in the pre-season and went on to go 0-16 in the regular season.

But the Ravens put the finishing touches on a perfect month of August last night by nipping the Saints in New Orleans, 14-13, and the model of success in the fourth game was the same one used in the first three pre-season affairs. Defense reigned supreme while the offense failed to do much of anything.

Get used to that "model", folks. You might see it a lot in 2017.

C.J. Mosley and the rest of the Ravens defense look to be hitting on all cylinders as the 2017 regular season gets set to kick off next Sunday, September 10 in Cincinnati.

I've said this so much over the last four weeks that I'm starting to sound like a broken record: The Baltimore Ravens defense is going to be outstanding in 2017. I'm not saying it's going to be reminiscent of the 2000 defense that reached "legendary" status, but this defense is quick to the ball, big and long, and extremely athletic. There might not be a weakness anywhere.

The offense? Well, that remains a work in progress, although it's difficult to make any assessment of its potential without Joe Flacco in there taking snaps, pre-season or not.

If Flacco's healthy (and for the record, I'm hearing from a Ravens source that Flacco is moving around well) and can go as planned in Cincinnati on September 10, the Ravens have a legit chance at winning that season opening game. I know they haven't won in Cincinnati since 2011, but the Bengals are still the Bengals. Wake me up when they win a football game that really matters.

The one other player who has missed time with an injury that could affect the team's offense is Danny Woodhead. It will be interesting to see how Marty Mornhinweg uses Woodhead once he's ready to return, but I think he could be a very valuable commodity for Flacco and the offense.

Remember the Ray Rice days when Joe liked to use the diminutive running back as a safety option when downfield receivers were covered? I can see Woodhead supplying Flacco with the same kind of comfort in 2017. But Woodhead has to get healthy first -- and stay healthy, too -- in order to be a valuable piece of the offense.

I keep hearing people bemoaning the offense and wondering how the Ravens are going to score enough points to win games.

Sure, you have to score something to win, but there might be a lot of occasions during the season when anything more than 13 points will get the Ravens a victory. I know it won't make for exciting football, particularly at home, but you should probably be rehearsing your Monday morning water cooler phrase: "A win is a win..."

The Ravens have the best kicker on the planet. I know lots of folks poo-poo that statement since kickers aren't "real" football players and all, but Justin Tucker will win at least three or four games for John Harbaugh's team in 2017. You know that's true as well.

Here's the skinny on the season: The goal, as always, is to go at least 4-2 in the division. That's accomplished by beating the Browns twice and splitting with the Bengals and Steelers. If you can somehow squeeze a pair of wins out of either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati -- and assuming you beat Cleveland twice -- you have a really good chance of winning the division.

The Ravens schedule isn't overly taxing. They have two gift wins already in place...in London over Jacksonville and at home vs. the Bears. I know, the game in the U.K. is a bit tricky since the Ravens haven't done that trip before and the Jaguars have, but Jacksonville stinks. I don't care what you say, Blake Bortles isn't winning a football game against this Ravens defense. But you should probably take "the under", of course.

Following that formula, the Ravens have six wins. They have the Dolphins at home on a Thursday night. That's seven victories. Somehow, they need to come up with at least three more wins against the likes of Detroit, Minnesota, Green Bay, Oakland, Indianapolis, Tennessee and Houston.

The key is the division play. Losing twice to either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati would be crushing.

The biggest factor remains Joe Flacco, obviously. It's not good to have to so much of your season come down to one player, but we all know it to be true in the NFL. If your starting quarterback goes down, you're done.

If Flacco is healthy and gets through the 16-game schedule unscathed, the Ravens might be a very solid team in 2017. That's a big "if", of course. Back injuries are weird (just ask Tiger Woods) and the team's offensive line isn't all that deep, so the club can ill afford any sort of significant injury bug to the likes of Stanley, Yanda and Howard, in particular.

Even when completely healthy, the Ravens likely won't be an offensive powerhouse. I think we can all agree on that. Their running game isn't all that great. Who knows what kind of production you're going to get from the receivers? There are lots of questions. But, I'll say it again: You don't need to score 24 points a game to win in the NFL.

Health, health, health. If the Ravens stay healthy on the offensive ball, they can be good enough.

And if the pre-season showed us anything, it's that the Ravens defense has a number of players who have been sprouting for the last couple of years and they're now finally ready to take full bloom.

Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Carl Davis -- those are just three guys who showed throughout the pre-season that they're ready for prime time. Mix in this year's draft picks and the solidified secondary and there's reason for excitement.

Unlike the AFC East, which is a cakewalk every year for the Patriots, the AFC North is a 3-team race virtually every year. Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati -- all three have the goods to win the division. My guess? The team with the best defense and special teams is going to come out on top when the dust settles after week number seventeen.

The Ravens have the tools to be the best team in the division in 2017.

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down to our last four seats on our bus trip to nyc to see billy joel!!


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

So, let's do it!

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

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

WE NOW HAVE JUST 4 SEATS LEFT ON THE BUS. IF YOU'RE PLANNING ON GOING, PLEASE PLACE YOUR TICKET ORDER SOON USING THE LINK BELOW.

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

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

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

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

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

Lower concourse pricing: $395 per-person

Upper concourse pricing: $325 per-person

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O's SCOREBOARD
Sunday, October 1st
Orioles
0

Rays
6
WP: B. Bell (5-7)

LP: K. Gausman (11-12)

HR: Casali (1)

RECORD/PLACE: 75-87, 5th place

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College football: Terps hang tough in Lansing, but fall to Michigan State, 17-7.

College hoops: Maryland rebounds from 15-point halftime deficit to nip visiting Bucknell, 80-78.

Ovechkin returns after puck to the face, Caps hang on to beat Minnesota in D.C., 3-1.

PGA Tour: Austin Cook opens up 3-shot lead in search of first TOUR win at RSM Classic in Georgia.