Thursday
October 15
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XV
Issue 15

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someone please get these baseball players a bib and a sippy cup

I love baseball.

Like almost every other kid growing up in Glen Burnie back in the 1960's and 1970's, my dream was to someday become a professional baseball player.

I offer that as context for what you're about to read, because to a large degree these days, professional baseball players are an embarrassment. Nowhere was this more evident than last night both during and after the American League playoff game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers.

In case you missed it, Toronto's Jose Bautista launched an epic home run in the 7th inning that staked Toronto to a 6-3 lead just moments after one of the most bizarre plays in the history of the game had given Texas a 3-2 advantage in the 5th and deciding game of the ALDS. Toronto would go on to win, 6-3, and advance to the American League Championship Series.

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This is apparently what gets baseball players angry these days.

Bautista, as you will undoubtedly see a gazillion times today -- if you can stomach some of these media guys on their high horse -- tossed his bat to the side (the proper nerd-baseball-term is "flipped his bat") as he started his home run trot. This drew the ire of Sam Dyson, the Rangers' pitcher who coughed up the gopher ball, as well as Cole Hamels and other members of the Texas dugout who promptly launched into a verbal shout-down of Bautista as he rounded the bases and touched home plate amidst a wild celebration at Rogers Centre.

Moments later, with Edwin Encarnacion at the plate, Dyson started chirping at Bautista from the mound and started walking towards the Toronto dugout to initiate something with the Blue Jays slugger. The benches emptied and the players did what they nearly always do in moments like that. They hollered a lot, pointed at one another and acted like they wanted to fight. It's almost as "entertaining" as professional wrestling at that point. No one is REALLY going to fight, but there's a whole of testosterone floating around out on the diamond.

The real fun kicked-off after the game, when the Rangers -- who were up 2-0 in the series at one point -- broke out the quote-machine in an effort to bring Bautista back in line with the great model citizens who have been part of baseball's heritage. If you spit out your Royal Farms coffee when you read those three words -- "great model citizens" -- I'm right there with you.

Dyson, one of the goats of the game for Texas, couldn't help but try and gloss that over by pinning blame on Bautista for his bat flip. "He's a huge role model for the younger generation that's coming up and playing this game. He's doing stuff that kids do in whiffle ball games and backyard baseball. It shouldn't be done."

Nerd alert. Nerd alert. Nerd alert.

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Here's the worst part: Someday down the road -- most likely the first time these teams meet in spring training next March or during a meaningless Sunday afternoon game in Texas next summer when the clubs face one another -- Bautista will get plunked by a pitch as a reminder that what he did on Wednesday night was "bad for the game".

Cole Hamels, who was outstanding in his Game 5 start on Wednesday, couldn't leave well enough alone, either. He had to chide Bautista as well: "It's hard to be politically correct. It's tough to see. A lot of us on our team don't carry ourselves that way."

Whatever that means.

These baseball players have to be the nerdiest whiners on the face of the planet, and with awful memories to match their idiotic attachment to those "unwritten rules" they so closely adore.

"A lot of us don't carry ourselves that way..."

Oh, you mean like the decade or so where baseball players used anabolic steroids the same way most of us have a glass of wine with dinner? That was a helluva way to "carry yourselves" back then, Cole. Or are you referencing the pitcher's favorite trick, the pine tar stashed away so you can conveniently "get a better grip" on the ball? That's an unwritten rule, too. Pitchers get agitated when someone turns them in because...well...it's just "part of the game" that pitchers use some sort of sticky substance to help them throw the ball better.

A lot of baseball players carry themselves "a certain way", a fact Cole Hamels probably either doesn't recall or doesn't want to remember. There was Delmon Young -- then of the Tigers -- using an anti-Semitic slur and beating up a man in New York City back in 2012. That the guy WASN'T Jewish is only part of the story, I suppose, but it serves to make Young look even more goofy. His anti-Semitic attack wasn't even aimed at someone of the Jewish faith -- the man he physically confronted was Catholic, in fact. Talk about politically "incorrect", huh Mr. Hamels?

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While players whine about guys "flipping bats", certain individuals are sitting out an entire season because they can't stay off of PED's.

Cole Hamels probably wasn't following baseball much back in the 1980's when major league players were using cocaine as often as you and I had chocolate milk for hot lunch back in elementary school. He probably also forgets that the guy with the most hits in the history of baseball, Pete Rose, isn't allowed to be a baseball Hall of Famer because HE BET ON BASEBALL GAMES WHILE HE MANAGED THE CINCINNATI REDS. Then there's Alex Rodriguez the twice disgraced (or is it three times? I lose track) superstar who had to sit out the 2014 season because he couldn't stop using performance enhancing drugs.

I think I've made my point.

These baseball players are clowns. No one is allowed to have any fun, unless it's the pitcher who strikes out the side with the bases loaded and no one out. He can then pump his fist, tap his heart and point to the sky, and do a little jig as he hops off the mound and heads to the dugout. Oh, but rest assured he, too, will get barked at by someone on the other side of the field. If he's a National League pitcher, he'll have to be on high alert the next time he comes to the plate with a bat in his hand. In the American League, the best hitter on the dancer's team will get a little chin music the next time he's up to make sure he sends a reminder to his pitcher that you're not allowed to celebrate your own success while you're playing the game.

And while they're busy self-policing themselves on something as benign as how far the bat travels when it's tossed aside, guys are using PED's, snorting cocaine, yelling at old Catholic men who "look Jewish" and betting on the freakin' games. Oh, and in almost every case I just cited, they lied about their involvement or connection to their respective misgivings.

It's maddening what baseball players do in the aftermath of success, which, obviously, is also usually connected to someone else's downfall. In this case, yesterday, Bautista was the celebrant and Dyson was the guy the most unhappy about it all. And what did Bautista do to incite such outrage from Dyson, Hamels and countless others on the Rangers who weren't happy? He "flipped his bat" as he began his home-run trot in what was THE SECOND BIGGEST HOME RUN IN THE HISTORY OF THE FRANCHISE and, most certainly, THE BIGGEST MOMENT OF BAUTISTA'S DISTINGUISHED CAREER.

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I couldn't write this without bringing up the NFL and the complete dichotomy between football players and baseball players. In football, you can tackle a guy on the kick-off and it's worthy of a dance that would have made Kevin Bacon jealous in the movie "Footloose". Your team can trail 20-3 with seven minutes left in the game, but if you sack the quarterback, it's time to break out your blue suede shoes and make sure everyone in the stadium knows it was YOU who just made the play. The NFL game is actually built on taunting. They have a penalty for it, now, but it's rarely ever used because it has to fit a very specific set of conditions. I laugh like a hyena when Steve Smith Sr. -- or any receiver for that matter -- catches a ball and then stands up and spins it on the ground. These professionals look so silly doing that stuff, but it's quite clear that it's all part of their in-game process. "What do I do when I catch a pass? What do I do when I catch a pass for a first down? What do I do when I catch a pass for a touchdown?"

NFL players show up one another on almost EVERY play of the game. It's part of the culture of the league. Hell, the best football player in Ravens' history started off every home game by being introduced last and coming out to music, smoke and a dance sequence worthy of extra scenes in the Saturday Night Fever DVD. I'm not saying I like it. I'm saying it is what it is.

Sam Dyson was right about one thing. What Bautista did yesterday was akin to something we would have done in whiffle back in the old days in Glen Burnie. That's when sports was fun. We could gather for a few hours, pick up teams, have at it, "flip" a bat or two, and have ourselves a whale of an afternoon. It was FUN back then. No one liked losing, but we were sure as hell weren't getting all butt-hurt and acting like imbeciles when someone from the other team celebrated his success.

I can't leave out the fans, either. Lots of folks took to social media on Wednesday night and started spewing garbage about Bautista being "all that's wrong with baseball". Yeah, boy, those guys who hit home runs and then toss their bat up in the air have just ruined the game, huh? Clown shoes to anyone on Twitter or Facebook who authored something as idiotic as that yesterday.

Here's the funny part. And I can't believe I'm going to write this, but it's what I feel. I'm actually rooting for the Blue Jays now. That's how low I've sunk, I guess, when it comes to watching these gazillionaires play baseball and then try to start a fight when the opposing player does something special. I almost want Jose Bautista to win the World Series because it would serve to remind the likes of Sam Dyson, Cole Hamels and anyone else who was offended by his bat flip on Wednesday night that you always have an opportunity to keep stuff like that from happening. It's called: Get. The. Guy. Out.

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umbc's soccer streak ends at vermont

UMBC's America East record unbeaten streak of 27 games came to a halt, as the visiting Retrievers fell at Vermont, 3-0, on Wednesday in men's soccer action.

The Retrievers had not lost in the regular or post season in league play since falling at Albany in October of 2012, winning 22 and drawing five times in that span. UMBC's five-game unbeaten streak also came to an end and the Retrievers dropped to 7-3-2 overall and 1-1-1 in league play. Vermont improved to 7-5-1, 2-1-0 in America East.

UMBC produced several good scoring opportunities in the first half, but could not convert. Junior Kennedy O'Shea was the beneficiary of a Vermont turnover deep in their own territory, but his attempt resulted in a routine save by Vermont netminder Greg Walton in the 20th minute. Minutes later, UMBC sophomore Gregg Hauck got on the end of a corner kick, but his header sailed wide of the net. Senior back Malcolm Harris had an opportunity with eight minutes to play in the half, but his drive went over the crossbar. To cap the half, junior Shawn Geary nearly got on the end of a had a James Gielen serve, but could not get a head on the ball and the game went to the half scoreless.

A give-and-go between Vermont's Brian Wright and Charlie DeFeo opened the scoring in the 49th minute of play. Wright initiated the play, feeding DeFeo just outside the 18 and the midfielder sent in Wright on right edge of box, who beat Heavner from 10 yards out, inside the far left post.

UMBC had a pair of shots blocked by the Catamount defense inside the box in the 70th minute in an attempt to tie the score. But Vermont countered and Wright made a pair of great moves along the left side and set up Stefan Lamanna for a one-time goal from close range.

Vermont closed the scoring in the 82nd minute, countering again as UMBC pressed forward to try to get on the board.

The Retrievers return home to face conference-leading New Hampshire this Saturday night at 7:00 pm.


calvert hall-curley soccer showdown set for friday night

Local high school soccer's version of the Ravens vs. the Steelers is going to be a doozy on Friday night at Calvert Hall, as the Cardinals take on the Curley Friars in the second meeting of the season between the two MIAA rivals.

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Rich Zinkand (L) of Calvert Hall and Barry Stitz (R) of Curley will lead their respective teams in Friday night's big MIAA soccer showdown at Calvert Hall.

For decades now, Calvert Hall vs. Curley has been the marquee soccer match-up between those two schools. It's Calvert Hall vs. Loyola in football, for comparison sake, and brings together not only the two current teams but literally hundreds of alumni living in the area who make it a point each year to attend the two games between the teams. Last month at Curley, Calvert Hall scored a 3-1 victory, so Barry Stitz's team will be looking to even the score tomorrow night (7:00 pm) when he takes his club on the road for a huge showdown on LaSalle Road.

If anyone's heading out to the game, shoot me an e-mail (18inarow@gmail.com) or a tweet (@itsahooded4iron) and I'll try to meet up with you for a hot chocolate during the game. I'm looking forward to being there and seeing my old pal Barry Stitz and a lot of other friendly faces as well.

Wednesday
October 14
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XV
Issue 14

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root of ravens' problems? just look at their salary cap

When you read the headline above, what's the most important word you see?

It should be "root".

There are plenty of reasons for the Ravens' 1-4 start. We've touched on most of them over the last month or so. Drafting has played a huge role in the team's success over the last twenty years. It helped the franchise collect two Super Bowl trophies and made them into a model NFL front office. With that success, though, comes the penalty of drafting at the back of the pack. And while Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta and the club's various scouting and personnel folks relished the chance to pick at #26 and still come up with a great player, there have been a lot of misses in the last decade that are now haunting the club in 2015.

This season, specifically, injuries have certainly played a part in the club's early-season woes. There's no sense in listing them and categorizing them as "critical, important, not-important" etc. Any injury to a starter is critical. Any injury to a second stringer is important. The Ravens have had more than enough injuries to key people this season. It has hurt them, for sure.

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Offensive guard Marshal Yanda has a salary cap number of $8.4 million in 2015.

But, what's hurt the team the most is simple -- if you ask me. They just don't have enough high quality players in all areas of the field. They have a very good quarterback (I won't use the word "elite"...we have bigger fish to fry than arguing over the semantics of a word), an outstanding right guard, and a dependable -- yet aging -- wide receiver. There are a smattering of other players on the team who are good enough on any given Sunday to be a game changer (Dumervil, J. Smith, B. Williams, Forsett), but those four aren't consistent enough with their contributions to be "high quality" performers like Flacco, Yanda and Steve Smith.

Now, we get to the root of the issue. If you're looking for the cause of this 1-4 start and what could wind up being the REAL reason why the team goes 5-11 this season, it's simple: The Ravens, uncharacteristically, have woefully mismanaged their salary cap over the last three years or so. Strapped for cash -- cap wise, that is -- the Ravens weren't in a position to keep quality players around in the recent off-season (Ngata, Torrey Smith and McPhee to name three of them). Two years ago, they couldn't spend the money necessary to keep the likes of James Ihedigbo and Corey Graham, neither of whom are world beaters in the NFL, but both were improving as players while in Baltimore and, without question, the club could surely use both of them right now (and last season, too.)

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This really isn't brain surgery. While it IS sophisticated in nature, every team employs one or more incredibly intelligent people to manage, manipulate and, yes, even circumvent the $143 million salary cap in 2015. Managing the cap is just as important as drafting the right players. It's also just as important as running the right schemes on Sunday. And, it's as important as keeping players healthy during the season. As we're seeing now, once you fall into salary cap jail, you're not getting out just by landing on the right spot on the Monopoly board.

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By NOT playing for the Ravens in 2015, Haloti Ngata cost the club $7.5 million on its salary cap this season.

You have to make some hard, perhaps even unpopular decisions, like the Ravens did earlier this year when they gifted Haloti Ngata to Jim Caldwell and the Lions. In doing so, the Ravens took the cap hit THIS year, to the tune of $7.5 million, in fact. It was one of those "damned if we do, damned if we don't" moments. Either pay Ngata $8.5 million or move him on and still get whacked for $7.5 million of "dead money". They chose the latter. So, they lose a quality player, cost themselves $7.5 million on the cap, and have to replace him, too. Damned if they do -- damned if they don't.

In 2015, the Ravens have approximately $21 million of "dead money" on their $143 million salary cap. That's just DEAD money, mind you. I'm quite certain every team has a handful of examples that I'm about to show, so let's not think the Ravens are the only club in the NFL with $78,054 of dead money to a guy (Keith Wenning) who was NEVER going to play a down with John Harbaugh's team. That said, that's precisely what the Ravens have on their books this year. Their salary cap includes $78,054 of dead money to third string QB Keith Wenning -- and that's because they cut him LAST SPRING. He didn't even lose his job in training camp. The guy who replaced him, Bryn Renner? He's on the books for $13,200. And, yes, he's long gone, too. Again, I'll reiterate that every NFL team likely has money working against them -- but it's likely not to the tune of $21 million. Here's a look at the other three AFC North teams, just for kicks and giggles:

Cincinnati Bengals, 2015 "dead money" -- $1,137,132

Pittsburgh Steelers, 2015 "dead money" -- $17,534,828

Cleveland Browns, 2015 "dead money" -- $3,316,197

The Ravens are at $21,546,315 in "dead money"

Now, it's fair to point out that of the club's $21 million, $19 million of it is chewed up by just three players. Ray Rice cost the team $9.5 million this season, the aforementioned Haloti Ngata was $7.5 million and Jacoby Jones was a $2.6 million dollar hit in 2015. Take away those three guys and the "dead money" number is negligble.

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But, the real examination of the Ravens' salary cap woes doesn't come from the dead money discovery, but is reflected more in the salaries of current players who are on the field in 2015. These, then, aren't ONLY salary cap issues. They're all player-personnel-decision issues. Combined, those two are a lethal cocktail for going 5-11. It's one thing to have $2.6 million of money paid out to Jacoby Jones working against you -- it's another to have Lardarius Webb counting for $9.25 million on your salary cap figure in 2015. That's where the Ravens have started to unravel these days. They have players on the team that simply aren't worth their salary and, when factoring in their cap number (because salary and cap number ARE different nearly every time), are actually hurting them from the standpoint of how much of that $143 million they're sucking up.

Why is the salary cap so important to the continued growth and progress of NFL teams? Because once you're locked in an internal struggle to manage the cap, it becomes increasingly difficult to add high quality players to your roster. Just go back to 2013 and the situation involving Anquan Boldin. The Ravens' front office sat down after the season and went through their roster and salary cap numbers with a fine-tooth comb and decided Boldin was no longer a $6 million football player. Per the usual NFL business model, they asked the wide receiver to take a pay cut. He said "no". They traded him away. OK, despite everyone's affection for Boldin, who played a key role in the team's Super Bowl winning season of 2012, you CAN see how hard decisions like that have to be made with virtually any player.

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While Anquan Boldin plays in San Francisco, the Ravens -- three seasons after his departure -- have yet to actually replace him.

It's not uncommon for a club to shy away from a 32 year old player, particularly one who commands a $6 million salary (and Boldin's regular season numbers in 2012, frankly, weren't all that great; he did have an excellent post-season, though). This, though, isn't about whether it was smart for the Ravens to rid themselves of a $6 million football player. Rather, it leads to this question: "What did you do to replace Anquan Boldin when you traded him to the 49'ers?" And we all know what that answer is, right? The Ravens added the likes of Marlon Brown in 2013 and paid him $405,000 -- the league minimum.

Last spring, wide receiver Torrey Smith left the club for San Francisco. Hey, that happens. You only get to be a free agent once or twice in the league, so you have to take advantage of it. What, though, did the Ravens do to off-set Smith's departure? They drafted Breshad Perriman, sure, but a first-year player is by no means a guarantee in the NFL these days. They essentially let Torrey leave and added the combination of Perriman and Darren Waller to replace him. It hasn't worked out well.

They're paying Matt Schaub $2 million this season. And he's the back-up quarterback. And, likely, won't play a down that matters in 2015. Quite an insurance policy and an expensive one at that. Perriman's cap figure is $1.6 million and he's played as many downs as your Aunt Betty. Kyle Arrington is on the books for $1.4 million. He should be paying THEM for the right to have a locker based on his play thus far in 2015. Here's the real kicker, no pun intended: The salary cap number for their punter (one of the best in the league) is $2.4 million and the number for their kicker (the best in the league) is $2.3 million. Oh, and the kicker is a free agent at the end of this season and will demand a salary -- and be worth it, too -- of at least $3.5 million a year.

This cap stuff isn't for sissies, that's for sure. It has wreaked havoc with the Ravens' roster in 2015 and even though 2016 looks better from a cap standpoint, you still have to go out and spend the money wisely -- and there's a question, when you look at this year's roster, if the Ravens are doing that well these days. Arrington has been a complete flop after coming over from New England, Kendrick Lewis is a poor man's Corey Graham (if that's even possible...what a compliment that is to Graham) and Chris Canty can't get healthy enough to make a contribution. Those players represent $4.3 million or so in cap money this season. Not only are they not HELPING, they are, in some cases, HURTING the club with their play.

Oh, and the quarterback of the team is on the books for $14.5 million this season. You think that's bad? His cap "hit" next season is -- wait for it, and take a seat first -- $28,550,000. And $31,150,000 the year after that. And then it thankfully dips all the way down to $24,750,000 in 2018. Yes, yes, we all know Flacco is going to have to re-structure after this season and he won't cost the team $28,550,000 on the 2016 salary cap, but if you think for a minute that getting Flacco to re-negotiate his deal and "play for less" is going to be easy, you haven't paid attention to Joe and his agent, Joe Linta. They want their money, the money Flacco believes he earned by playing out his rookie contract and winning the club a Super Bowl in 2012.

This year's Ravens team isn't very good and there are a myriad of reasons for that. The main reason, though, is they just don't have enough really good players. And the reason they don't have enough really good players is simple; they don't have the space on their salary cap to bring them in. And that, I think we can all admit, is the root of the issue at hand. They have no one to blame but themselves.

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Tuesday
October 13
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XV
Issue 13

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fans and ravens react differently to 1-4 start

John Harbaugh cracked a couple of smiles and even playfully laughed at a reporter yesterday who tried to coax Justin Forsett injury-information out of the coach at his weekly Monday press conference. He wasn't happy about being 1-4, but his manner and style on Monday told this observer that the coach is still even-keeled about his team's record and the way they've achieved it.

"No way, our coaches are doing a great job here," said Harbaugh, when asked by a reporter if he was considering any changes to his coaching staff.

Meanwhile, local talk radio exploded with fans calling in -- on those stations that allow the great unwashed a chance to actually voice their opinion -- nearly all of whom are looking for a scapegoat at this point. Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta, Harbaugh, Dean Pees...they were all put on the chopping block during Monday's aftermath, as ticket holders and fans-in-general cited each of them job-responsibility-failure. I even heard a caller blame it on Joe Flacco, which would have made a smidgen of sense had the caller referenced Flacco's salary-cap number and not the fact that "he doesn't know how to win games" as "Dave in Randallstown" claimed on the air yesterday afternoon.

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That's the worried look of a coach who just saw his team's defense get lit up for 457 yards by Josh McCown of all people.

If you're like me and you have a propensity for reading into body language, facial expressions and voice tone, Harbaugh had the look of a guy who knows what's coming over the next three months during yesterday's gathering with the media. I'm no expert in that field, by any means, but I've sat in front of Harbaugh at those Monday press conferences at least 100 times since he arrived in 2008 and I know his "look" and "sound" better than most.

"We're not going to panic and do anything stupid, we're just going to keep working hard and try and win a game next Sunday," the coach said on Monday. That's precisely what I expected you'd hear from him and, frankly, exactly what he SHOULD be saying to the media after his team' 1-4 start to the season. There's no game in the league worth three wins. You can't go from 1-4 to 4-4 in one weekend. You have to chip away at it, which the Ravens will start doing this Sunday when they head to San Francisco to take on the 49'ers.

Fans, meanwhile, want action NOW. "We fired Cam in 2012 and look what that did," a caller reminded everyone yesterday. "They've got to get rid of Dean Pees tomorrow and save the season." That's true, of course. The Ravens did fire offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in the final month of the 2012 season and handed over the reigns to Jim Caldwell -- and the Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl eight weeks later. But, the caller forgets the Ravens' offense had players that year. Big time players, in fact. Remember that team? Flacco, Rice, Pitta, Boldin, Jones, Torrey Smith. On the other hand, Dean Pees (and you'll read Bo Smolka' case FOR and AGAINST Pees later on in today's edition of #DMD) has a handful of decent players -- at best -- on his side of the ball these days. His best player (Suggs) was injured in the season's first game, leaving him with Mosley, Williams, Dumervil and Jimmy Smith as "quality" players on the defensive side of the ball.

It's not Harbaugh's style to feed the hungry and unsettled fans with a mid-season firing of any kind, particularly when the team's roster has been so depleted with injuries thus far. It's also not his style to give up or throw in the towel, even when circumstances might actually call for it. Harbaugh knows the NFL well enough that he has to operate off of the "anything can happen" mantra until they put that little "y" next to your team's name in the standings that indicates -- eliminated from playoff contention. An injury to Andy Dalton, Peyton Manning or a host of other key players in the AFC would change things dramatically over the next couple weeks of the season. Harbaugh can't plan for that, obviously, but he has to proceed as planned with the team he has at that very moment and see where it takes him.

"We just need to trade some veterans right now and start planning for the future," Chris from Overlea said last night on a local talk show. "Get rid of Steve Smith, Webb, Forsett and maybe even Yanda. Some team will want those guys and we can start getting ready for next season now."

That sort of thinking works decently in baseball, where there's no salary cap, but it's impractical to gut your roster during the football season and think you're going to bring in a major haul for the players you send packing. Smith, for example, would probably bring nothing more than a 5th or 6th round draft pick if you traded him away this week. Webb's not even a candidate for trade because no team would want his contract, plus, he's hurt more than he's healthy, it seems. And they're not trading Marshal Yanda; he's one of the only six really good players the team has on its roster these days.

No, unfortunately, there's not much you can do in terms of roster manipulation right now. You have to settle in and take what's coming to you. It might turn out to be 8-8 and it might turn out to be 4-12. In some ways, I'd take 4-12 over 8-8 because of the better drafting position it yields next spring, but I'm saying that as a guy who isn't coaching the team. The coach will tell you 8-8 is better because winning four more games is MUCH better than losing four more games.

Ultimately, like John Harbaugh is doing, fans just need to take the remainder of the season one week at a time and enjoy it for what it is (or isn't). There have been plenty of good days with the Ravens over the last 20 years and more will come in the future. Occasionally -- unless you have Tom Brady or Peyton Maning or Aaron Rodgers -- you get one of these stinkers-of-a-season where your chakras don't line up right and nothing goes as planned. 2015 might not be a campaign to remember, but Steve Bisciotti won't let the organization wallow in mediocrity for long, that's for certain.

The Ravens will rise again. Maybe even this Sunday in San Francisco. Or not.

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terps football: how can anyone trust kevin anderson now?

University of Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson must think everyone in the D.C./Baltimore sports market is stupid. Or gullible. Or a little of both, perhaps.

In firing football coach Randy Edsall on Sunday, Anderson said he woke up on Sunday morning and made the decision to terminate Edsall in the wake of Maryland's 49-28 loss at Ohio State.

Huh?

You mean to tell us, Kevin, that a local website dedicated to covering Maryland sports just happened to guess it correctly last Thursday when they broke the news that Edsall would be fired on Sunday after the Ohio State game? Out of all the things they could possibly predict, a coaching change would be the gutsiest gamble of them all, yet that website went ahead and did it anyway last Thursday and lo and behold, they were right!

C'mon Mr. Anderson, a lot of us were born at night, but none of us were born LAST night.

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Who is making the major athletic decisions at College Park these days? This man, Kevin Anderson? Or someone else?

It would have been much better for Anderson's reputation if he would have said this on Sunday. "In terminating Coach Edsall today, I'd also like to publicly apologize to him for the story that broke last Thursday in which someone within the university's infrastructure leaked our plans to a member of the local media. I'm currently investigating how that all transpired and will handle it accordingly once I'm able to determine who distributed that sort of information without my approval or endorsement. We realize this was a poor demonstration of planning and execution on our part."

That's how it SHOULD have been handled by Anderson. Instead, he stuck with the "I woke up on Sunday and made the decision" line which, we all know, simply isn't true. Somewhere down there at College Park last week, a determination was made that Randy Edsall was finished as Maryland's football coach. You can connect the dots any way you'd like and figure it out. Was it Anderson's decision alone, with no other influences at all? Highly, highly unlikely. Were boosters, vendors and -- ahem -- uniform and apparel providers perhaps the ones pressuring Maryland to make a change? I would assume that played into it, yes.

Ultimately, firing Randy Edsall might have been the best thing for the football program. It's going nowhere, as we can all see, and a mid-season change gives the Terps time to see which players will stay, which will leave and who else might jump on board now that Edsall has left the scene. It also gives Maryland a head-start in their coaching search, which typically wouldn't begin until late November at the very earliest.

But, as much sense as Edsall's firing made, the university and Kevin Anderson deserve an equal amount of criticism for the way they butchered the whole thing. When you can't even fire a coach the right way, what confidence should I have in you and your staff that you'll be able to make the right decision on his replacement? And when you lack the common decency to tell the truth in the aftermath of it all, I have to even wonder if I want you representing the school in the first place. Actually, I don't have to wonder about that: I don't want you representing the school.

Oh, and we should probably take a hard look at just who IS running the athletic department down at Maryland. If boosters and vendors are the ones making the final call(s) rather than the folks who are being paid to oversee UM athletics, maybe that entire process should also be investigated.

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bo's eye view

BO SMOLKA is a longtime member of the Baltimore-Washington media. He covers the Ravens for #DMD and ComcastSportsNet. Bo's insights and analyses are presented by Advanced Heating & Cooling, which offers a variety of energy saving, high-efficiency equipment for heating, air conditioning, and geothermal systems.


As the Ravens have plummeted to depths unseen before -- their 1-4 mark is their worst ever after five games -- the seats are getting plenty hot in Owings Mills. John Harbaugh is taking some heat, but no seat is hotter than that of defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who has seen his defense yield fourth-quarter leads in three straight losses.

Simply put, the Ravens offense, though not always pretty, has done enough to give the Ravens the lead, and the defense has given it right back. The Ravens have made Derek Carr and Josh McCown look like Hall of Famers as they shredded the Ravens defense. McCown, in fact, set a Browns franchise record with 457 passing yards on Sunday. It was the third-most ever allowed by a Ravens defense.

So the talk shows are lighting up calling for Pees' head. Pees has been the Ravens defensive coordinator for four seasons, and has been with the organization for six. Will he be around for a seventh? Here's a case for Pees, as well as a case against him. (In interest of full disclosure, Pees and I many, many moons ago actually worked together. In the late 1980s, I was a rookie in the sports information business, with my first stop at the Naval Academy. Pees was Navy's secondary coach. I didn't do much with our football team then, so we didn't cross paths much, but after one of his news conferences last year we got a chuckle as we recalled the 1989 Army-Navy game, which Navy won thanks to a field goal by a kicker named Frank Schenk -- yes, his last name is pronounced 'shank'.)

THE CASE FOR PEES:

The Ravens have lost Terrell Suggs for the season. Against the Browns, they also lost Elvis Dumervil. That's 29 sacks from last year on the shelf. Three cornerbacks went down against the Browns, and that doesn't count the one (Rashaan Melvin) who was inactive. Rookie project Tray Walker wasn't supposed to see the field on defense this year, and yet there he was playing nickel back in crunch time, with Albert McClellan and rookie Za'Darius Smith playing outside linebacker. Under no circumstances did Pees and the Ravens ever see that alignment playing out in a regular-season game.

So really, what can Pees do? He's arrived at the O.K. Corral with a squirtgun. To be fair, there is talent in this group. Brandon Williams has been the Ravens best defensive player this season. He, C.J. Mosley and Jimmy Smith give the team anchors with each key position group. But the supporting cast around them simply doesn't have enough talent or depth once the injuries hit.

Is that Pees' fault? He didn't construct the roster. Is it his fault the top draft picks of the 2013 class -- Matt Elam and Arthur Brown -- have been colossal busts? Or that the Ravens have been scrambling to find cornerback help for the past two years? Pees is trying to do what he can. At times they have tried to rush three or four and drop into coverage. At times he has dialed up blitzes, but of course a blitz pickup leaves a borderline secondary further exposed. To his credit, you get the sense Pees is trying to get creative and imaginative, making up for a shortage of talent.

The Ravens have remained solid against the run, thanks mainly to Williams. But without a pass rush, it doesn't matter if teams get into 2nd- or 3rd-and-long situations if the quarterback has all day to sit back and make a throw. So Pees is making the best of a bad situation. Could another coordinator produce better results with this group of players?

THE CASE AGAINST PEES:

When a journeyman like Josh McCown throws himself into the Browns record book, and when the defense consistently fails to hold a late-game lead, yes, it's on the defensive coordinator. After the Ravens 0-3 start, Pees dismissed the idea that communication issues were the problem. "It's It’s just technique," he said. "We’re not doing very well in technique."

Well whose fault is that? And players themselves, including safety Kendrick Lewis, have said that communication has been a problem in the secondary. Safety Will Hill was caught going forward as Taylor Gabriel blew by Kyle Arrington on Sunday. Whether that was a technique or communication problem, the result, after Gabriel blew by Hill as well, was a 56-yard gain.

"We didn’t cover the way we needed to," Harbaugh said. "Whether it was deep, whether it was intermediate or whether it was short. We didn’t get the job done in coverage." Who is making the calls on that coverage? Discipline has been a major problem. A dumb penalty on Timmy Jernigan against the Raiders put him in Harbaugh's doghouse. Against Cleveland, a penalty on Lawrence Guy negated an interception, and a penalty by Jason Babin essentially prolonged a Browns touchdown drive. Later, Babin and Za'Darius Smith both got called for being offside.

"The penalties, for the most part, were inexcusable -– late especially," Harbaugh said after the Browns game. "Lining up in the neutral zone, I don’t understand that penalty. How do you explain that one?" It isn't just one player making these mistake. The lack of consistent, disciplined play across the board reflects on the guy putting those players on the field. The bottom line is this defense is not playing well, and if the losses mount, it might not be long before the players just start to tune out. True, this defense is shorthanded and undermanned because of injuries and some underachieving players. But maybe a new face will give this group a badly needed jolt.


#DMD'S HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS SPOTLIGHT
brought to you by
Marsh
Insurance & Financial
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Last week, the #DMD High School Sports Spotlight endured the wind and the rain at Gilman. This week #DMD had to pull a second shift to bring you our High School Sports Spotlight feature game, #9 John Carroll vs. Boys’ Latin.

Boys’ Latin’s P/K Dom Maggio kicked off to John Carroll under sunny skies on Friday. Patriot QB Kurt Rawlings wasted little time shifting the Patriots' offense into high gear. Rawlings led a nine play drive that ended in the end zone on a 25 yard touchdown pass to WR Alex Rasmussen. John Carroll scored on their next two possessions when Rawlings hit WR Ky’el Hemby on a short pass for a score, and then found Rasmussen on a forty yard pass to add another touchdown for the Patriots. It was 20-0 before you finished your first cup of hot chocolate.

The Lakers got off to a slow start last Friday, relying on the leg of Maggio, the #1 ranked H.S. punter in the nation, to flip the field on Boys’ Latins first two possessions. Down by twenty points but undaunted, Laker QB Logan Wisnauskas took the field to lead the Lakers on a fourteen play drive that ended when RB Dajaun Felder, on fourth and goal, scampered for seven yards and a touchdown.

The Boys’ Latin defense, led by DL Victor Dimukeje, stepped up their game, holding the Patriots to a rare six play drive and forcing them to punt. With little time left on the clock, Wisnauskas went to the two minute drill in an attempt to get another Laker score before halftime. The Patriot defense played tough, but Wisnauskas was able to get the Lakers close enough for Maggio to boot a 55 yard field goal (the second longest high school FG in MD sports history), with zero showing on the game clock.

John Carroll, up 20-10, kicked off to start the second half. Wisnauskas picked up where he left off, catching Laker WR Braden Atkinson in stride for 74 yard touchdown. On the following possession, John Carroll fumbled deep in their own territory. Recovered by the Lakers DL Dimukeje, it looked like Boys’ Latin would take the lead. The John Carroll defense, led by MLB Damon Lloyd, stood their ground holding Boys’ Latin to another Maggio field goal, tying the game at 20-20.

John Carroll responded with their running game and an explosive offensive line, picking up hard fought chunks of field position in eight rushing attempts on the thirteen play drive. QB Rawlings finished it off running in for the go ahead score.

Boys’ Latin's offense took the field and Wisnauskas moved the Lakers into John Carroll territory when lightning halted the game with 55 seconds remaining in the third quarter. A decision was made at that point to return on Monday and finish the contest.

When play resumed on Monday, Boys’ Latin took possession, second down and ten yards to go at the John Carroll forty-six yard line. Wisnauskas handed off to Felder for an eight yard gain. After an incompletion, the Lakers elected to go for it on fourth down. Wisnauskas kept the ball but was stopped short of the first down by John Carroll MLB Lloyd. John Carroll took to the air when Rawlings connected with Hemby for a touchdown, then recovered a Laker fumble on the kick off that resulted in another Rawlings rushing touchdown to extend the Patriot lead. Boys’ Latin added two points to their score on a Rawlings Safety while John Carroll was running out the clock.

FINAL SCORE: #9 JOHN CARROLL 41 -- BOYS’ LATIN 22

The #DMD High School Sports Spotlight is brought to you by Greg Marsh and Marsh Insurance and Financial. You'll be able to check in here in each week to see what's happening on the Baltimore area high school football scene, and you should check in with Greg Marsh for all of your personal insurance needs. Give him a call at (410) 426-2282.

Monday
October 12
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XV
Issue 12

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when chips were really down, ravens offense and defense both failed yesterday

I listened to sports radio on the way home from yesterday's game at Ravens Stadium and the callers and hosts (yes, they apparently DO still take listener calls on some stations) were quick to point out that a team that scores 30 points at home should win the game every time.

I wouldn't disagree with that as a general statement about football.

That said, when you have the ball 1st and 10 on the other team's 10 yard line with 1:22 left in the fourth quarter, and you're only down by three points, you should be able to get that ball in the end zone and win the game right then and there.

OK, I gave the offense the criticism they deserved for yesterday's loss. They needed to punch that ball into the end zone and get the win -- and couldn't do it. Once again, fate didn't help, either, as the Ravens had to play the final three downs without Justin Forsett in the backfield after he suffered an injury on a 32-yard catch-and-run that took the ball down to the Cleveland ten yard line. Still, though, the Ravens needed to get in the end zone there by-hook-or-by-crook and end the game.

They also needed to get in the end zone at the end of the Denver game, and couldn't. Needed to get in the end zone in the final two minutes of the Oakland game, and couldn't. Sensing a theme, here?

Enough with the offense, though. They did their part and put up 30 points yesterday, even if three of them at the end of the regulation weren't enough.

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Josh McCown carved up the Ravens for 457 yards on Sunday. And looked good doing it, too.

The rest of this "session" will be spent hammering away at the defense, who got carved up by Josh McCown of all people. In all fairness, McCown was REALLY good on Sunday. I always say "the other team tries, too" and McCown and his receivers manned-up like Ethan Hawke did at the end of "Training Day". Part of the reason for that was another Sunday of dismal play in the Baltimore secondary, with poor spacing, lack of understanding of the scheme they were playing and a woeful job of tackling. The linebackers didn't help out, either. McCown and tight end Gary Barnidge played pitch-and-catch all afternoon, mainly at the expense of C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith, and the Cleveland running game was able to proceed through the second level late in the game and again in overtime as Baltimore ran out of gas -- and players -- as the afternoon rolled on.

The defense was so vulnerable on Sunday that the Ravens tied the game at 30-30 with 0:25 left on the clock and the Browns still nearly did enough to try a last gasp field goal. Travis Benjamin caught a pass and went down at the Baltimore 34-yard line as time expired. Had Cleveland been able to call a time-out before the clocked reached 00:00, they might have won the game with a field goal at the buzzer. You know you're a bad defense when the opposing offense gets the ball on their own 20 yard line in a 30-30 game with under a half-minute left and you can't do anything to stop them. And, worst of all, the Browns actually tried to win the game right there. Historically, a team in that position would have taken a knee and taken their chances in overtime. The Browns wanted to go 35 yards and give their kicker a chance to win it.

Sunday's shocker was the worst home loss in the Harbaugh-Flacco era, period. Yes, I'm fully aware of the Ravens' depleted roster, both beforehand with injuries to Steve Smith and Crockett Gilmore and then during the game, with the likes of Dumervil, Webb, Forsett and Will Davis all leaving due to some sort of ailment. That said, when you're ahead 21-9 at home, against the Browns, with 22 minutes left in the game, it should be checkmate at that point. I don't care which players are hurt, unless every guy on the game-day roster comes down with food poisoining at halftime. You're ahead 21-9, you finish off the game.

Instead, the Browns were the team that pulled up their socks in the second half and went toe-to-toe with the Ravens, beating them in Baltimore with a journeyman quarterback and a patchwork defensive unit that was ranked last in the league when Sunday's game kicked off.

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ravens: lack of depth really starting to take its toll

Prior to the start of the season, I made the unpopular prediction that I thought the Ravens were headed for a non-playoff campaign and a 9-7 regular season record. The two elements I cited as most problematic? Lack of quality receivers and an overall decline in roster depth from the teams we saw in 2014, 2013, 2012, etc.

Five games into the season, both of those blemishes are like white-heads on a middle schooler's chin...there for everyone to see. While Kamar Aiken did manage to enjoy a productive first half on Sunday vs. the Browns, he disappeared in the final 30 minutes and in overtime, but then again, so did everyone else playing wide receiver. In fact, Baltimore receivers had ONE catch for MINUS ONE YARD in the second half of the overtime loss to the Browns. If not for tight end Nick Boyle stepping up, Flacco wouldn't have had a target to throw to in the 3rd and 4th quarters yesterday. Granted, the absence of Steve Smith was damaging -- to say the least -- but you still have to figure out a way to make chicken salad out of the receivers you put out there.

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An all too familiar sight in 2015; Kyle Arrington watching a guy from the other team score a touchdown.

More glaring than the issues at receiver, though, is the team's complete lack of quality depth, another point I drove home back in August when I was watching pre-season games and wondering what the team would do if they had to use the 3rd and 4th stringers at some point in 2015. The step-down in quality on the defensive side of the ball is eye opening. Recently acquired Will Davis was injured in the first quarter and Lardarius Webb left the game just before halftime, necessitating the use of Kyle Arrington at one of the cornerback spots. That...ummmmmmmmm...didn't go so well for Arrington, who has been repeatedly torched this season and was victimized on a half dozen occasions -- at least -- in the second half as McCown and Company chewed up yards in the air.

Kendrick Lewis and Terrence Brooks shared time at safety and they were both liabilities in coverage as well, although Brooks had a run of action in the third quarter where he played the run decently. In general, though, defensive depth has been a major problem for the Ravens ever since Terrell Suggs suffered a season-ending injury in the opener at Denver. Suggs most certainly wouldn't be the difference in this team being 4-1 instead of 1-4, but his injury seemingly kick-started a chain of events in which the "next man up" theory simply hasn't successfully played out.

When Steve Smith returns, the Ravens offense jumps up a notch, but let's also remember the team was 1-3 WITH number 89 on the field and one of the reasons they didn't beat Denver on the opening Sunday was because he failed to corral the game-winning throw in the final minute of the 4th quarter. Still, broken ribs and all, he's better than Marlon Brown and Kamar Aiken put together. Newcomer Jeremy Ross showed some spark as a return man vs. the Browns and briefly looked the part in the first half with 2 catches for 24 yards, but I think we all know he's not the answer to the team's receiving woes. He's just a guy.

In terms of depth, the Ravens will have to see what the medical results are with those who were hurt on Sunday; Dumervil, Webb, Forsett and (Will) Davis. Sadly, there's just not much there to adequately replace those four if, in fact, they're unable to go next Sunday in San Francisco. Another loss or two before the end of October and it will be time to "play the kids" anyway, but for now, John Harbaugh and his staff have to figure out a way to give some inexperienced guys a crash-course in stepping up to the plate, NFL style.


i'll get to kevin anderson and maryland tomorrow (and it won't be pretty)

I'll give Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson credit for one thing. His neatly planned firing of Randy Edsall on a Sunday when all of Washington DC and Baltimore are glued to their TV sets for NFL football was a smart decision. He wanted the story buried yesterday and he got it.

It won't be buried tomorrow, though.

As Anderson or a member of his staff leaked out on Thursday, the University of Maryland fired its football coach on Sunday. There were plenty of reasons for his dismissal and some, frankly, were more than plausible. The way it went down, though, was bush league. Anderson gets his wish, though. Here in Baltimore, we're knee deep in languishing over a Ravens loss to the NFL's version of The Bad News Bears. I'll be back tomorrow to handle the Anderson treatment of Randy Edsall.

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put your money where your mouth is

Each week here at #DMD Game Day, I give you five NFL selections against the spread, my "best bet" of the bunch, and my official Ravens score prediction as well. This all, of course, is for "entertainment purposes only", although with the NFL officially in bed with both of the major fantasy sports companies in the country, the league is actually far more involved in gambling than any of us are, that's for sure.

I'm off to a woeful start through four weeks of the season, sitting at 6-14, although I am 3-1 in my all-important "Best Bet" game each week.

Here's how I fared in yesterday's Week Five action in the NFL:

Seahawks at Bengals (-3.5) -- The oddsmakers like the Bengals so much in this one they've handed them an extra half-point rather than sticking with the traditional 3-point spread that goes to a game between two really good teams. I like Cincinnati too, as Andy Dalton and A.J. Green continue to terrorize NFL secondaries and the Seahawks look more and more like a "decent" team and not much more than that. Maybe it's last Monday night's yawner and 3-point win over the Lions, but I'm just not feeling it from the Seahawks yet. Take Cincy and give the 3.5 here, as the Bengals come out on top 24-17. -- RESULT: BENGALS WIN, 27-24, MAKING ME A LOSER (0-1)

49'ers at Giants (-7) -- Seven points is a lot of points for a NFL game, but I can't see San Francisco traveling East, teeing it up at 10 am (Pacific time) and having any success against the Giants. I'm not sure the Giants are all that good, but the 49'ers aren't good at all, a fact I hope the Ravens successfully illuminate next Sunday in San Fran. I like the Giants to win big in this one, 34-16.-- RESULT: GIANTS WIN 30-27, MAKING ME A LOSER (0-2)

Broncos (-5) at Raiders -- The Cleat of Reality heads out to the black hole today to pay a visit to the Raiders, who somehow have two wins already after just four games. The Oakland secondary, vulnerable against the Ravens in week 2 (and you know you're in trouble when the Ravens offense goes up and down the field on you) will get exposed today by Peyton Manning and his plethora of targets. I'm taking the Broncos to win, 30-17. -- RESULT: BRONCOS WIN 16-10, MAKING ME A WINNER (1-2)

Patriots (-9.5) at Cowboys -- Are the folks in Vegas that high on the New England offense or that down on the Cowboys defense? Or, are they just dangling 9.5 points out there to get you to gobble up the Cowboys? I'll go ahead and take the bait, I guess. I see New England winning, but I'll take Dallas to cover in a 28-23 New England win. -- RESULT: PATRIOTS WIN 30-6, MAKING ME A LOSER (1-3)

Rams at Green Bay (-9) -- Any time you do the whole "well...last week they did so-and-so", you wind up giving Vegas your money, so I'm NOT going to do that with the Rams, who posted an improbable division win on the road in Arizona last Sunday. St. Louis has a good defense, but not much offense and there's just no way they can hang with the Packers for four quarters today. Let's go with Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, 24-13. -- RESULT: PACKERS WIN, 24-10, MAKING ME A WINNER (2-3)

BEST BET OF THE DAY -- It has to be the Giants, who figure to lay the smack down on the 49'ers. -- RESULT: GIANTS WIN 30-27, MAKING ME A LOSER (3-2 ON THE YEAR)


THIS WEEK'S RECORD: 2-3

SEASON RECORD TO DATE: 8-17

BEST BET FOR THE SEASON: 3-2

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it's such a shame no one saw the presidents cup

Several factors played into it, but it's certainly a shame that only the 3,000 complete die-hard golf nuts in the country got to see this year's edition of the Presidents Cup, won by the U.S. in dramatic fashion on Sunday. The time difference was the biggest issue, as most of the golf was played after 10 pm in America and then, if you didn't have The Golf Channel, you couldn't watch any of it live anyway, even if you wanted to grab some coffee and stay up to see it.

It all came down to the last match and included South Korean native Sangmoon Bae, too, making for some riveting competition and theater in the final 30 minutes once it became known that Bae could potentially be the hero on his home soil. Added to the drama was the fact that Bae must begin serving two years of mandatory South Korean military duty later this month and, well, it couldn't have been more exciting for those of us who stayed up until 3am to watch it all unfold in hi-def.

Bae couldn't write a happy ending, though, as he needed to win the final hole against Haas and couldn't, so the American team won the event for the sixth straight time. Haas had his own great story, as his dad, Jay, was not only the Captain of the American team but also the guy who picked him to play on the team. Bill was one of two captain's picks -- the other was Phil Mickelson -- and even though he didn't play all that well during the week, his back nine play on Sunday in the singles match with Bae was pivotal in the U.S. team retaining the Cup.

Here now are the individual player grades for the U.S. team. Each player's record for the week is in parantheses:

Rickie Fowler (1-3-0) -- Didn't have his best stuff, but helped get the U.S. off to a good start on day one with impressive play in the alternate shot format. Got steamrolled by Adam Scott in the Singles, but the Aussie would have defeated any American player on Sunday. Grade: C

J.B. Holmes (2-2-1) -- A late addition to the team when Furyk got hurt, he was one of only three guys to play in every match and seemingly found himself a solid partner in Bubba Watson. His failure to hold a late lead in the Sunday singles match against Hideki Matsuyama could have been a hauting loss of a point had the U.S. not hung on to win. Grade: B-

Dustin Johnson (3-1-0) -- The only match he lost was when he and Spieth got waxed by the International team's dynamic duo of Oosthuizen and Grace. Turned in a solid performance overall and beat Danny Lee in the Singles on Sunday to help the U.S. pull out the win. Grade: A-

Zach Johnson (3-0-1) -- Quite a year to remember for Johnson, who won the British Open and then dusted Jason Day in Singles at the Presidents Cup to help the U.S. win the event. Partnered with Phil Mickelson in the team portion and was a perfect compliment to Phil, as the two didn't lose a match in three tries. Grade: A

Chris Kirk (1-2-0) -- Didn't really play much and, when he did, wasn't all that good, but he'll go down as one of the heroes after coaxing in a 15-foot putt at the last hole in the Singles match that gave the U.S. a huge point when Anirban Lahiri missed a short birdie effort minutes later. In general, the stage looked a little too big for him, but once Sunday came around and he was settled in, he put up a decent showing. Grade: C

Matt Kuchar (0-2-1) -- Looked almost disinterested at times on Friday and Saturday and then was outclassed by Branden Grace in the Singles on Sunday. Wasn't playing well going in to the matches and never really got it going in South Korea. Grade: D

Phil Mickelson (3-0-1) -- Other than the "wrong ball fiasco" on Friday, Mickelson was as sharp as could have been expected over the four day competition. Teamed up sharply with Zach Johnson in foursomes and fourball and then smashed Charl Schwartzel in the Singles. Grade: A

Patrick Reed (1-2-1) -- Turned out to be a mixed bag for Reed, who started off slowly and then picked up steam over the weekend. Teamed up with Spieth for a huge win in fourball on Saturday, and played Louis Oosthuizen to a draw in the Singles. Grade: B-

Jordan Spieth (3-2-0) -- Produced some of the best golf on the team during the 36-hole Saturday marathon and teamed up with Dustin Johnson to get the U.S. off to a solid start on Thursday, but his inability to finish off Marc Leishman in the Singles nearly cost the U.S. the Cup. Grade: B

Jimmy Walker (1-3-0) -- Not much to see here, as Walker was barely a factor. Lost his Singles match to lightly regarded Steven Bowditch. Grade: D

Bubba Watson (2-1-2) -- Bubba's balky putter was a major reason why the event went down to the final Singles match on Saturday, as his failure to make putts inside of five feet on both Saturday and Sunday cost the U.S. valuable points. Still, he only lost once, and that was to the duo of Oosthuizen and Grace, who couldn't be touched all week. Grade: C



Sunday
October 11
#DMD GAME DAY
presented by
Volume 15
Issue 11
Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns

1:00 PM EDT

M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD


OK, so I didn't stay up until 1:00 am on Sunday morning watching sports to NOT write about it all, so I'll deviate just a smidgen from the normal #DMD Game Day edition and comment on a bunch of stuff that took place yesterday and last night. And then, we'll get to this afternoon's game at M&T Bank Stadium between the Ravens and Cleveland Browns.

The biggest story of Saturday was unquestionably "SlideGate" out in Los Angeles, where Chase Utley of the Dodgers might of changed the course of the NLDS with a reckless slide into 2nd base that ended the season of Mets' shortstop Ruben Tejada and helped Los Angeles score four runs in the 7th inning in a game they'd eventually win, 5-2. To confuse things even more, Utley was called out on the play, and left the field, only to have the umpires return him to second base when replay revealed Tejada never touched second base and thus, Utley was safe...even though he, too, never touched the base.

Immediately afterwards, social media lit up with armchair umpires and analysts (including me) screaming about the play, with the abudant commentary harshly criticizing Utley for the slide, which in no way looked to be "part of the game" as those who defended him contended it was. A lot of the outrage was directed at Cal Ripken, Jr., who was serving as an analyst on the TV broadcast and somehow tried to blame Tejada for his broken leg instead of pointing the finger at Utley. TV viewers and social media contributors chided Ripken for his position -- including me, I thought Cal looked silly defending Utley -- as the game concluded and the analysts all took turns trying to give their opinion of the play. I half-figured Ripken might make mention of the late Triple Crown hopeful Barbaro and say about him, "Eh, that injury at Pimlico in 2006 didn't look all that bad -- they should have run him in the Belmont a few weeks later."

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This is what it looks like when you don't come close to second base on a slide attempt and instead break the shortstop's leg.

It was pretty simple to break down, for me. Utley MIGHT have been trying to break up a potential double play, but he could have done that with a gun, too, and that would have been as close to "fair play" as was his slide in the 7th inning last night. It wasn't anything close to reasonable. It was shockingly out-of-line and dangerous, so much so that the guy Utley slid into had to be wheeled off the field in a cart. And it also might have changed the course of the entire series, as the Mets have to find a new shortstop now.

The U.S. Men's soccer team lost a heartbreaker to Mexico last night, 3-2, in the winner-take-all Confederations Cup qualifier at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. It was especially disappointing given that the U.S. fell behind in overtime, 2-1, and rallied to tie the game a few minutes later on a goal from substitute Robby Wood. But Mexico struck for the game-winner with two minutes remaining when DeMarcus Beasley badly overplayed a ball near the top of the box and it fell perfectly to the foot of Paul Aguilar, who blasted it past American GK Brad Guzan to send Mexico home a winner.

It was a logical and earned result for Mexico, who pretty much dominated the game from an offensive standpoint. It also exposed the U.S. as a program that is still far behind the rest of the world when it comes to producing high-quality players, particularly those who can go forward with flair and confidence. The only American to have any sort of impact on the game in the regulation 90 minutes last night was Michael Bradley, and on the odd occasion that he created a chance for himself, he failed to produce any sort of dangerous scoring threat. Defensively, the U.S. simply couldn't match Mexico's speed and ability to ping the ball around to one another in close quarters. All three El Tri goals came from close range and were the result of ball-watching or ineffective defensive spacing from the U.S., who are by no means a lock to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

And finally, the reason I got four hours of sleep was the Presidents Cup finale, which literally went down to the 18th hole, where captain's pick Bill Haas held off crowd favorite and South Korea native Sangmoon Bae to give the Americans the final point they needed in 15.5-14.5 triumph. It looked like the International team was going to break their five-Cup losing streak when Australian Marc Leishman shocked Jordan Spieth win a 1-up victory and Bubba Watson putted like a 10-handicapper in the final hour of his match with Thongchai Jaidee, which ended in a tie.

But, putting also hurt the International side, as Anirban Lahiri whiffed on a four-footer at the 18th hole that would have provided his team with an important half point after American Chris Kirk sunk an improbable birdie putt just moments before. As the two arrived at the final green, it looked bleak for the U.S. team, as Kirk had 15 feet for birdie and Lahiri was in tight for his four on the par-5 hole. Match play golf is weird, though, and when Kirk made his putt and Lahiri missed his, the Americans went from losing a point, to getting a half-point, to then actually picking up the entire point on their own. That match and the one involving Haas and Bae turned out to be the difference, and the two winning American players were about as useless as they could be during the previous three days of the competition. And now, they're both the heroes of the 2015 Presidents Cup. Golf's a crazy, crazy game.

Oh, and Maryland football got clobbered at Ohio State, 49-28, although the Terps gave a representative account of themselves and played the #1 Buckeyes hard until mid-way through the 3rd quarter when OSU started a run that would result in 28 unanswered points after the teams were tied at 21-21. There continues to be much speculation that Terps coach Randy Edsall will be fired today, but nothing official has come out of College Park as of Sunday morning.

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today's main storylines - ravens vs. browns


*Can Joe flourish with no receivers? -- When the Ravens DO have Steve Smith their receiving corps is "limited at best". What's that make them today with Smith on the sidelines nursing broken ribs? The good news is Marc Trestman and Joe Flacco have had ten days to figure out how they're going to proceed without #89 for at least today's game with the Browns -- and the other good news is just that...they're playing the Browns and not a real NFL team. It COULD be an issue, though, because you expect Cleveland will sell out on the run and force Flacco and the likes of Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken and newcomer Chris Givens to beat them in the air.

*Baltimore's defense is key -- The Browns had over 350 yards in the air at San Diego last week and played the Chargers tight in a 30-27 loss. Josh McCown was 32/41 in that one, while the Browns also churned out 100 yards of rushing against the Chargers' defense. That sort of production today (456 yards combined rushing/passing) would likely be enough to overcome the Ravens, but Baltimore's defense figures to be a tad more reliable and stingy than what Cleveland encountered last Sunday in San Diego. That said, the Ravens' defense has been vulnerable at times in weeks one through four and has been particularly suspect against the pass, which is where the Browns figure to try and make their mark this afternoon.

*It's still "must win" territory -- That Thursday night win in Pittsburgh got the Ravens their first win of the season, but it doesn't make today's game any less important after an 0-3 start. John Harbaugh's team simply can't afford to lose today's game and drop to 1-4. Cleveland, of course, is already playing out the string, as they know they're not going anywhere, but the Ravens, despite their early-season three-game losing streak, still harbor hopes of returning to the playoffs for the 7th time 8 seasons under Harbaugh. These lay-up games are "must wins" and that's what today's affair with the Browns represents for the Ravens.


percentage points

Here's a look at a handful of key parts and players in today's game vs. Cleveland and some percentage-of-success numbers to correlate with all of it.

11% - If you said to me, "Drew, what are the chances Cleveland wins today?"

77% - Chances of the Browns holding Flacco to under 300 yards passing?

46% - The chances Flacco doesn't throw an interception?

64% - What are the chances Justin Forsett runs for over 100 yards?

59% - The chances any Ravens WR catches a TD pass?

2% - Chances Justin Tucker misses an extra point today?

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put your money where your mouth is

Each week here at #DMD Game Day, I give you five NFL selections against the spread, my "best bet" of the bunch, and my official Ravens score prediction as well. This all, of course, is for "entertainment purposes only", although with the NFL officially in bed with both of the major fantasy sports companies in the country, the league is actually far more involved in gambling than any of us are, that's for sure.

I'm off to a woeful start through four weeks of the season, sitting at 6-14, although I am 3-1 in my all-important "Best Bet" game each week.

Seahawks at Bengals (-3.5) -- The oddsmakers like the Bengals so much in this one they've handed them an extra half-point rather than sticking with the traditional 3-point spread that goes to a game between two really good teams. I like Cincinnati too, as Andy Dalton and A.J. Green continue to terrorize NFL secondaries and the Seahawks look more and more like a "decent" team and not much more than that. Maybe it's last Monday night's yawner and 3-point win over the Lions, but I'm just not feeling it from the Seahawks yet. Take Cincy and give the 3.5 here, as the Bengals come out on top 24-17.

49'ers at Giants (-7) -- Seven points is a lot of points for a NFL game, but I can't see San Francisco traveling East, teeing it up at 10 am (Pacific time) and having any success against the Giants. I'm not sure the Giants are all that good, but the 49'ers aren't good at all, a fact I hope the Ravens successfully illuminate next Sunday in San Fran. I like the Giants to win big in this one, 34-16.

Broncos (-5) at Raiders -- The Cleat of Reality heads out to the black hole today to pay a visit to the Raiders, who somehow have two wins already after just four games. The Oakland secondary, vulnerable against the Ravens in week 2 (and you know you're in trouble when the Ravens offense goes up and down the field on you) will get exposed today by Peyton Manning and his plethora of targets. I'm taking the Broncos to win, 30-17.

Patriots (-9.5) at Cowboys -- Are the folks in Vegas that high on the New England offense or that down on the Cowboys defense? Or, are they just dangling 9.5 points out there to get you to gobble up the Cowboys? I'll go ahead and take the bait, I guess. I see New England winning, but I'll take Dallas to cover in a 28-23 New England win.

Rams at Green Bay (-9) -- Any time you do the whole "well...last week they did so-and-so", you wind up giving Vegas your money, so I'm NOT going to do that with the Rams, who posted an improbable division win on the road in Arizona last Sunday. St. Louis has a good defense, but not much offense and there's just no way they can hang with the Packers for four quarters today. Let's go with Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, 24-13.

BEST BET OF THE DAY -- It has to be the Giants, who figure to lay the smack down on the 49'ers.


LAST WEEK'S RECORD: 1-4

SEASON RECORD TO DATE: 6-14

BEST BET FOR THE SEASON: 3-1

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How Drew sees the Ravens/Browns game --

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Ravens rally after trailing in the 3rd quarter and win their second straight game.

The Cleveland offense under Josh McCown is a little more "NFL like" than the one they'd be using with Johnny Manziel at the helm, so the Ravens have to be respectful of McCown's arm this afternoon. Still, this one is going to come down to the Baltimore offense and whether or not they can produce enough yards and points to overcome the injuries to Steve Smith and Crockett Gilmore. Eugene Monroe's return should help Flacco get more time and even the marginal receiving corps of Brown, Aiken and Givens will benefit from the extra protection.

As for how it plays out, I'll buy stock in the Ravens defense today. I don't see McCown having anything close to the success he experienced in San Diego last week. The Ravens lead at half, 13-7, Cleveland scores early in the 3rd quarter to go up 14-13, and Baltimore scores 13 unanswered points from there to win, 26-17.


Saturday
October 10
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XV
Issue 10

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if players and boosters don't want edsall, he's gone

In the aftermath of my Friday piece here at #DMD in which I said, essentially, "I don't think Maryland is firing Randy Edsall like this -- I'll see it when I believe it", two different people with connections to the athletic department reached out to me (indpendent of one another) and said the same thing: "It's happening, Drew."

I still can't believe Maryland is going to fire Randy Edsall after allowing the story to leak out on Thursday and dangling him in front of all the interested bystanders, but that's apparently what's going to happen on Sunday once the Terps return home from their appointed shellacking in Columbus, Ohio today when they take on Ohio State.

It would be just like Edsall to somehow coax a shocking win out of his club today and throw a wrench into his firing party by beating Ohio State -- on the road, no less -- on the eve of his very-public dismissal. It would be akin to the scene from the movie "Tin Cup" when Kevin Costner's character gets involved with a wager during a pro-am event hosted by his longtime rival, David Simms (Don Johnson). After Simms lays-up on a par-5, Roy McAvoy (Costner) takes a 3-wood out of the bag, drops a ball on the ground, and promptly hits a shot over a pond to 10-feet. Simms then fires his caddie on the spot and McAvoy says, "C'mon David, you can't fire me! I just stiffed it from 230 yards."

That's how Edsall would react, I suppose, if his Terps beat the Buckeyes today and then he gets the phone call tomorrow morning. "You CAN'T fire me...I just beat Ohio State on the road without a real quarterback!"

Alas, that's not happening, as we know, and evidently the proceedings to oust Edsall half-way through the season are in the works and ready to be executed sometime Sunday.

From what I gather, Maryland officials decided a couple of weeks ago that the 2015 campaign would be the end of the road for Edsall and internally they started discussing how they would go about the business of filling his position. At some point after that, a decision was made to hasten his termination based on a fear that some recruits for the 2016 season (and beyond) could desire a transfer in December if the school waited until then to fire him.

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Could today be the end of the Randy Edsall era in College Park? All signs are pointing in that direction.

From a practical sense, it's certainly understandable why the Terps wouldn't wait until December to oust their head coach. They can get a 2-month head-start on massaging not only this year's roster but also the kids who have received scholarships and offers for 2016, 2017, etc. But there's still a stink -- and it's skunk-like -- about the whole story leaking out on Thursday and basically making Edsall's firing a reality TV show for a few days.

I'm still of the mindset he's not going out this way, but people with far more knowledge than me insist that he is, in fact, going out this way.

People are quick to just point the finger at Under Armour and say, "They're demanding results and they want Edsall gone, so he's gone," but I'm also hearing it's far from just Under Armour who wants and expects an improved product on the football field. There are several other high-rolling contributors and sponsors of the program who aren't happy with the direction of the program and they've let it be known, over the last couple of months, that their patience is starting to fizzle out. Apparently, the loss at home to Bowling Green was everyone's coup de grace. You lose at home to Michigan..."eh, we don't like it, but we get it, it's MICHIGAN." You lose at home by a hundred to Bowling Green? That's unacceptable...with all due respect to the folks at Bowling Green.

There was also a player's only meeting a couple of weeks back that was somehow evidently tied into the whole saga. As is generally the case when the players get together on their own, the coaching staff wasn't aware of the gathering and -- not surprisingly -- the whole thing turned into a lodge-YOUR-complaint- session about the coaching staff rather than a honest look at themselves to figure out what more they could do to improve their own play on the field. It's hard to blame the kids for how it all unfolded; they're far from experts on running meetings and such. They're just football players trying to get a degree.

So, unless lots of people "in the know" aren't actually as in-the-know as they think they are, Randy Edsall is getting relieved of his duties tomorrow. I haven't changed my opinion on it at all over the last 48 hours. Is there reasonable cause to let Edsall go? Sure. Is it better to find out NOW that some of his 2016 recruits might want to transfer if the guy who brought them there (Edsall) is asked to leave? Of course. Might his firing invigorate the current crop of kids who have apparently grown tired of not only his act, but the losing and the ridcule that goes with it? Perhaps, but more because that's human nature than the fact that the kids can turn it on and off like that. The Maryland quarterbacking situation isn't suddenly going to turn around because Randy Edsall's not there on Sunday morning, trust me.

All that said -- and it's easy to read the paragraph above and see that I'm NOT stamping "DISAPPROVED" on Edsall's firing -- the way this all unfolded on Thursday stinks to high heavens and tells me something bigger and more problematic is happening down at College Park. Somehow, there's a bigger story here than simply an athletic department wanting to make a change in the coaching position of UM football. The story getting leaked like it did could have been a sponsor or a booster saying, "If they're not going to fire him before the end of the season, I'll expedite things a little bit by making it so uncomfortable for the coach that he'll either step down or the school won't have a choice but to fire him."

Hence the story getting leaked to a website that covers Maryland sports. Once the cat's out of the bag, you don't have a choice but to make the change, take a bullet or two, and start the "next era" of Maryland football.

It speaks volumes about how disjointed and mismanaged they are down in College Park, but that's the way Ralph Friedgen's firing went, that's the way Randy Edsall's hiring went and, it appears, that's the way Edsall's departure is also going to transpire.

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"i don't care what you say, the browns aren't coming to baltimore and beating the ravens."

Those of you who were listeners to my morning radio show back in 2009 will no doubt remember the famous phrase uttered by uber-Maryland-fan, Glenn Clark, who was serving as my producer and occasional co-host back in the old days. As I chided him (endlessly, I'll admit) on a Friday about the prospects of the Terps losing at Duke the next day, he finally had enough, blurting out -- "I don't care what you say...they're not losing to Duke in football!"

Final score from Durham the next day: Duke 17 - Maryland 13

Well, as an ode to my old radio pal and with more than just a touch of seriousness, I'm proclaiming the same thing about tomorrow's game in Baltimore between the Ravens and Browns.

I don't care what you say, the Ravens aren't losing to the Browns in Baltimore.

Yes, I've watched all the games this season (that's your first question, right?). I know we don't have much offense these days. Yes, I know Steve Smith Sr. is likely out. Yes, I've seen the rest of the receiving corps, it's not very promising. Yes, I also know the Browns produced some decent offensive numbers in San Diego last Sunday. Yes, I've seen our secondary this season.

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"Hey, I know you! You're the one who jumped off the bandwagon after we started 0-3 this season!"

I've seen it all this season, and it hasn't been very impressive, but the Ravens aren't losing to the Browns tomorrow. They're just not. Flacco will do what he usually does at home, which is "just enough to win". The running game will be more than efficient on Sunday, which will be quite necessary given the club's lack of receiving options. And the defense, torched by the Bengals in the team's first home game on September 27, will rise to the occasion tomorrow afternoon. Cleveland doesn't have Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. And they're not winning in Baltimore on Sunday.

I don't care what you say...

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rangers, royals, cards and mets all win

In the span of 18 hours, the Toronto Blue Jays went from sky-high and preparing for a two-game home-stand against the Texas Rangers to an 0-2 hole against the Rangers and the possibilty of an early dismissal from the ALDS. The Rangers capped off their improbable trip to Canada with a 6-4 win (14 innings) on Friday afternoon that leaves them just one win shy of a trip to the American League Championship Series.

The Royals were facing the same situation as Toronto and it looked equally as bad for them when Houston jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning of Friday's game in Kansas City. But the Royals didn't post the American League's best record for nothin' in 2015; they battled back to tie the game, then scored the eventual go-ahead run in the 7th inning and held on from there to win Game 2, 5-4. It's really hard to come back from 0-2 down. It's very easy to lose Game 1, win Game 2, and then fight your way through a series and eventually come out on top. That's where the Royals are now, having basically staved off elimination by coming back to win Game 2 yesterday.

Both National League games were pitching-heavy, as the Cardinals got yet another virtuoso playoff performance from John Lackey to win Game 1 of their series with the Cubs, 4-0. Lackey (7.1 innings, 2 hits allowed) outdueled Chicago starter Jon Lester, who wasn't chopped liver by any means. The lefty struck out nine in 7.1 innings of work himself, allowing five hits and three earned runs. But that wasn't good enough to help his Cubs overcome Lackey, who has now made more post-season starts (19) than any active pitcher in major league baseball. He's not Reggie Jackson or anything, but Lackey enjoys the post-season spotlight and tends to up-the-ante when October rolls around.

And even a sterling effort from Clayton Kershaw wasn't enough to derail the Mets in L.A. last night, as they got their own outstanding performance from starter Jacob deGrom and opened their NLDS with a 3-1 win over the Dodgers. deGrom struck out 13 in seven innings of scoreless work and Daniel Murphy homered off of Kershaw, who wasn't bad by any means, but lost for the fifth straight time in post-season play.


u.s. hangs on to narrow one-point lead at presidents cup

Well, the 2015 Presidents Cup has turned into a barn burner.

With three days of golf in the books, it will all come down to Sunday's singles, as the American team leads 9.5 to 8.5 heading into the final day of play. Just the way everyone wants it.

On Saturday, Jordan Spieth wore the hero's hat for the U.S., as his two seven-foot putts at the 17th and 18th holes gave the U.S. a 1-up win over Jason Day and Charl Schwartzel in the morning alternate-shot match (Spieth played with Dustin Johnson). In the afternoon, Johnson sat out and Patrick Reed joined up with Spieth as the two took on the same duo from the International team, and Spieth birdied holes 7, 8, 9 and 12 (while Reed made birdie at 11) to help the U.S. to a 3&2 win.

The pairing of J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson (the only U.S. duo to play all four "team" matches together) finally lost, as they dropped their Saturday afternoon four-ball encounter to Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace, 1-down. Oosthuizen and Grace have single-handedly kept the International team alive in the competition, as they won all four of their matches over the first three days of the event. Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson resumed their partnership in the afternoon match after sitting out the morning alternate-shot competition, and they continued to excel together with a 3&2 win over Adam Scott and Anirban Lahiri.

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After a late August-slump and two missed cuts, Jordan Spieth has rallied to win the FedEx Cup and play outstanding golf in the Presidents Cup this week.

But, Saturday belonged to Spieth, who partnered with Dustin Johnson for a win in the morning and then got Patrick Reed his first victory of the competition with a four-birdie effort in the afternoon better-ball format. Reed will have his hands full in Sunday's singles event, as he'll lead off for the U.S. side and take on the red-hot Louis Oosthuizen, who has played as well as anyone over the first three days in South Korea.

Sunday Singles Pairings

Match 1, Reed (U.S.) vs. Oosthuizen (Int.) -- This is a tough test for Reed, who came in on "off" form and hasn't played all that great. Reed's fiery, but you also need to make putts to beat Oosthuizen, and I see the South African winning here, 3&2.

Match 2, Fowler vs. Scott -- Nick Price is going for early points, obviously, sending out two of his better players right from the get-go. Scott is still messing around with which putter he's going to use, while Fowler is trying to figure out how to make more putts. The greens have befuddled Fowler this week, but I'm going with the American to win here, 1-up.

Match 3, D. Johnson vs. Lee -- The Americans get the nod here, although Lee's play has improved as the week went on. D.J. wins 2&1.

Match 4, Holmes vs. Matsuyama -- This should be a good one, with Matsuyama's strong iron play getting the better of long-hitting Holmes, 2&1.

Match 5, Watson vs. Jaidee -- This is a critical match for the U.S., who need wins when they get the good match-up, and this is one of them. Bubba should win here. A victory from Thongchai Jaidee could go a long way in helping the International team win. This one ends in a tie (halved).

Match 6, Walker vs. Bowditch -- I'm just not a Jimmy Walker believer and I think this stage is a bit too much for him. Bowditch isn't exactly Jason Day, though, and Walker should be able to go head-to-head with no problem. I'll take Walker in a tight one, 1-up.

Match 7, Mickelson vs. Schwartzel -- Phil has actually played well over the last three days and Schwartzel has been hot and cold. Only playing Mickelson once on Saturday was a smart move by Captain Jay Haas and that extra rest will bode well for the lefty in a 2-up win.

Match 8, Kirk vs. Lahiri -- Neither of these guys have played worth a hoot this week, so this is a uniquely interesting match in that both have a good chance of beating the other. I'm a Lahiri fan, so I'll go with him in a beat-down of Kirk, 5&4.

Match 9, Spieth vs. Leishman -- The much anticipated Spieth vs. Day singles match-up didn't materialize as Haas sticks the world's best player in the 9-slot against Australian Marc Leishman. Can't see Spieth losing this one, as the American posts a 3&2 victory.

Match 10, Z. Johnson vs. Day -- If you couldn't have a Spieth/Day match-up, the next best thing is what you'll be getting, as American bulldog Zach Johnson gets a crack at the supremely talented Australian. Johnson will fight, bite and scratch, but it won't be enough as Day wins 3&1.

Match 11, Kuchar vs. Grace -- Looks like Jay Haas is hoping this thing doesn't come down to the wire, as he puts the two players who have been the least effective (Kuchar and his son, Bill) at the end of the singles lineup. Grace, on the other hand, has played exceptionally well for Nick Price this week and gets the job done here, too, 4&2.

Match 12, Haas vs. Bae -- Both captains are hoping it doesn't come down to end and they've put their weaker players in the back to help ensure it doesn't happen. If, however, the 2015 Presidents Cup does come down to the last two players, it's Bill Haas vs. Sangmoon Bae. Bae, the South Korean, will be under tremendous home-country pressure to produce in this one. The match ends in a tie, though, when Haas makes an improbable putt at the 18th hole.

Prediction: Sunday's singles end 6-6 and the U.S. wins the Presidents cup, 15.5 to 14.5

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caps season starts tonight with stanley cup hopes intact (again)

I've been a Caps fan since 1976. It's not like they've been pre-season Stanley Cup favorites very often, so I'm not quite sure how to react when I see experts all over the country picking the Capitals to play in next June's Stanley Cup Final.

So, I don't know much, but I know this: The Caps are NOT winning the Stanley Cup.

Why not, you ask? Because they're the Capitals, that's why. Somehow, someway, they'll lose next April or May because it's just what they do. They're hockey's version of the Chicago Cubs, a franchise that apparently has earned some sort of generational curse (or in the Cubs' case, three generations) that prohibits them from championship glory. Even when they did make the Finals back in 1998, they got blistered by the Red Wings in four straight games. It's just not meant to be with the Caps. I wish I had better news to report, but I don't.

On the upside, though, the Philadelphia Flyers are going to stink this season, which makes any disappointment the Caps experience just a tad less hurtful. On any night the Flyers lose, we all sleep a little better.

The ride starts tonight for Barry Trotz's team, as the New Jersey Devils visit Verizon Center for a season-opening showdown with the Capitals, who have perfected the art of playoff disappointment so much that even the most ardent of all supporters -- me included -- just assumes they'll figure out a way to botch things next spring when the post-season begins.

The spotlight will shine again this season on Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who is hockey's version of "the best golfer to have never won a major title". Ovechkin has gobs of MVP and scoring trophies, hot girls galore, and all the money he could ever want or need. But he doesn't have a ring. In fact, he's never been close to earning one. So, starting tonight, the burden of producing the first-ever title in Caps history is carried by The Great Eight, who figures to lead a more balanced Washington offense in 2015-2016. Let's see if the Caps defense is good enough to hold up their end of the bargain.


boys' latin-john carroll football suspended due to lightning

Friday's #DMD Spotlight Game between Boys' Latin and John Carroll was suspended in the 3rd quarter on Friday due to lightning and will be resumed on Monday at 4pm. We'll have full coverage of the game (and it's a GREAT one, too!) on Tuesday morning here at #DMD.

In other MIAA football on Friday, visiting Archbishop Spalding trounced Calvert Hall, 42-7, while McDonogh won at home over Loyola, 30-17. Gilman won at St. Frances Academy, 62-13.

Friday
October 9
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XV
Issue 9

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that's a pretty crappy way to go out if this is the way edsall is getting canned

OK, so I'm thinking Randy Edsall is NOT getting fired at the University of Maryland after this Saturday's 49-10 loss at Ohio State. Nope. He's going to stick it out, at least through the rest of this regular season. That's what I think.

I know all about the reports that surfaced on Thursday, indicating Edsall will be dismissed sometime this weekend once Terps return home from their appointed shellacking in Columbus. I'm not buying it. Why? Because no one can be that dumb in the UM athletic office to have leaked this story. Sure, it could have been someone on the outside -- perhaps a higher up at Under Armour or some other vendor associated with the Maryland football program -- but I'm not buying that, either. After all, someone at Under Armour would have to be told that Edsall's getting fired and that sort of privileged information should only be available through athletic director Kevin Anderson. And surely he's not stupid enough to leak out his coach's firing three days in advance of it, right? What purpose would that serve?

If Maryland does indeed fire Randy Edsall late Saturday night or sometime on Sunday, it's a complete black-eye on the Terps athletic administration. Not because Edsall shouldn't have been fired...we can all find reasonable cause for that decision to be made. But because no one, no matter how many games they lost, should find out about their termination from a school-related website, which is what happened to Edsall on Thursday when a website that covers Maryland athletics broke the story that the coach would be gone following this Saturday's game at Ohio State.

Granted, firing someone is never easy and getting fired is even harder than that. It's one thing to get fired in person, but totally different when it's leaked out to the media and you get blindsided by it. I guess I'm overly sensitive about people getting canned after I was terminated in 2014 in a 25-second send off that basically equated to two seconds for every year (12) I worked for the company. But, as I noted above, at least I was fired in person. Here right now, gone 25 seconds later. With no explanation, either. Just...gone. That, though, was a far better way to get the boot than what transpired yesterday with Edsall. How on earth -- if it's true -- was someone at Maryland dumb enough to leak that decision to the media?

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Is Saturday's game at Ohio State the end of the Randy Edsall-era at College Park? If so, Maryland should be ashamed.

That's why I think, somehow, the story that circulated on Thursday isn't accurate. How CAN it be? How can Maryland pre-decide to fire their football coach and then let him go get his doors blown off at Ohio State two days later? If that's the decision and the route you're going, bring the guy in on Thursday, fire him, and have one of his 15 assistant coaches run things on Saturday in Columbus. But give Edsall a piece of dignity, please, and allow him to get jettisoned with a small slice of class.

If, in fact, Randy Edsall gets fired over the weekend, Kevin Anderson should be fired one minute later. And I'm not a guy who jumps and down and screams from the rafters about people "needing to go", but Anderson can't stay in his position if he somehow helped orchestrate an information leak to the media that his football coach was on borrowed time. Again, I'll at least acknowledge someone other than Anderson could have done the leaking part of it, but, at some point, Kevin Anderson had to tell SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE, "We're firing Randy right after the Ohio State game." And for that, Anderson should also get the pink slip.

Maryland football being what it is and all, this is basically what you'd expect from a program that doesn't really have a footprint in their own market (Washington DC), let alone an extended market like Baltimore. "Small potatoes" programs do dumb stuff like leaking their head coach getting fired two or three days before the axe falls. In this case, and I have some experience with this train-of-thought, the Terps might actually be doing Edsall a favor by cutting him loose. No one worth a damn would fire an employee this way.


new podcast is available today

What do The Cars, Yes, The Smiths and The Steve Miller Band have in common? Yes, you're right...all four are up for induction into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. And they're also each featured in today's latest edition of Drew's "3140" Podcast.

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bo's eye view

BO SMOLKA is a longtime member of the Baltimore-Washington media. He covers the Ravens for #DMD and ComcastSportsNet. Bo's insights and analyses are presented by Advanced Heating & Cooling, which offers a variety of energy saving, high-efficiency equipment for heating, air conditioning, and geothermal systems.


The Ravens live to play another day. Oh, they have 12 more "other days," but let's face it: If now- unemployed Josh Scobee could kick a field goal, the Ravens might be sitting at 0-4 and already making vacation plans for early January.

Instead, they are 1-3, and with a home game against Cleveland followed by a road game at the suddenly-awful 49ers, the Ravens, despite all their woes, could be sitting at 3-3 after Week 6. First things first, though. The Ravens can't afford to look past the Browns, especially given all the Ravens issues that have been exposed in the first month.

The Ravens have never lost to the Browns at M&T Stadium under John Harbaugh, and if that streak is to continue, and if the Ravens are to further right their ship, here are five players who need to step up on Sunday:

WR Marlon Brown --

With Steve Smith Sr. sidelined (back), the Ravens must rediscover Brown. He has been a forgotten man for the past two years, with eight catches this season. "Marlon’s role is going to expand. He’ll be on the field for more plays than he has been," Harbaugh said this week. And really, what choice is there? The only other options at receiver, other than Kamar Aiken, are rookie project Darren Waller and Chris Givens, who has been a Raven for a week. Brown needs to show that he can fight off a jam at the line of scrimmage and get open, something he hasn't done consistently, and then catch the ball.

RB Justin Forsett --

Forsett finally broke out with 150 yards at Pittsburgh on Thursday, and the Browns bring in the league's 31st-ranked run defense. Teams have averaged 141.5 yards on the ground against the Browns, and with the Ravens shortcomings at wide receiver, expect the Ravens to pound the ball on the ground and then pound it some more. Left tackle Eugene Monroe is expected back after missing two games.

TE Nick Boyle --

I'm not sure anyone envisioned such a big role for a fifth-round rookie and No. 3 tight end, but with Crockett Gillmore (calf) still hobbled this week, and with Boyle's strength as a blocker, expect to see plenty of him as the Ravens try to hammer away on the ground. Boyle also has shown the ability to catch, and the Ravens went to him on a fourth-and-1 play at Pittsburgh, so Joe Flacco won't hesitate to throw to his fellow ex-Delaware Blue Hen.

CB Lardarius Webb --

Browns quarterback Josh McCown -- yes, it will be McCown starting on Sunday and not Johnny Football -- threw for 356 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers last week. Expect McCown to take to the air again, and most likely he'll try to stay away from Jimmy Smith. That will put Webb on the spot. Steelers receivers had some space against Webb last week. Also, with Michael Campanaro (back) done for the year, Webb is listed as the Ravens punt returner, though it remains to be seen whether he'll actually have that job on Sunday.

K Justin Tucker --

Tucker has had just two games in his career in which he missed two field-goal attempts -- one was against Cleveland at home in 2013. But Tucker continues to be among the best kickers in the league. As others were flailing in Week 4 -- there were 14 missed field goals and four missed PAT kicks around the league -- Tucker nailed a 52-yard game-winner against the Steelers, the longest kick ever made by an opponent at Heinz Field. With the Ravens wide receiver issues, getting into the end zone could be a challenge. But if it comes down to a kicking battle, we'll take Tucker over just about anyone.

Prediction: The Ravens passing game won't be pretty, but won't need to be, because the Ravens will pile up yardage on the ground. Justin Forsett will total more than 100 yards again, and the Ravens --and their fans -- step further away from the brink. Ravens 27, Browns 23

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THIS WEEKEND IN ENGLISH SOCCER
Contributed by #DMD's EPL Reporter

MATTHEW CARROLL

Saturday, Oct. 10 (all times Eastern)

9:30pm - Mexico @ United States – The Rose Bowl, Fox Sports 1

The English Premier League might have the week off but that doesn’t mean the action stops, with EURO 2016 qualifying continuing throughout Europe and World Cup 2018 Qualifying getting started in Asia and Africa. Here in North America, our attention will be focused on the region’s fiercest rivalry when Mexico and the United States square off Saturday night at a sold out Rose Bowl in a winner take all CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football…yep that’s a mouthful) Cup with a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup on the line.

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Could a loss to Mexico on Saturday in the CONCACAF "play-in" game be the end of Jurgen Klinsmann's tenure with the U.S. National Team?

USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will look to extend his unbeaten streak as a player and a coach against Mexico (5W 5D) in a series that the Yanks have dominated at home in recent years, amassing a 10-2-4 record on U.S. soil against El Tri since 2000. Mexico, however, have not lost to the U.S. at The Rose Bowl since 1994, with one of the Yanks two losses to El Tri coming at this same venue in the final of the 2011 Gold Cup, when Mexico overcame a two goal deficit with four unanswered goals in route to a 4-2 victory in front of a rowdy and largely pro-Mexico crowd.

EL Tri will be looking to keep that streak going as manager Ricardo Ferretti, who was appointed on an interim basis in August and will seed the reigns to the newly appointed Juan Carlos Osorio in the coming months, looks to put his stamp on the 80 year old rivalry in his short time in charge by choosing a veteran laden roster that includes Javier "Chicarito" Hernandez, Andres Guardado, and defensive anchor Rafael Marquez, the latter of which is a serious doubt for the game with a lingering groin injury which could leave the Mexico defense dangerously vulnerable and force Ferretti to change the 2-3-5 formation that El Tri has grown accustomed to and has had very much success with over the last year.

Klinsmann is following a similar approach, going with a roster loaded with experience including seven players with fifty or more caps for the national team and four - DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard – that have surpassed one hundred appearances. With sixteen players in his squad a part of the USA’s 2014 World Cup roster, Klinsmann will be counting on his veteran group to get a USA team back on track who has won only one of their last four games, including crashing out in the semi-finals of last summer’s Gold Cup, a tournament they were expected to win.


international team rallies in president's cup

We have ourselves a golf tournament now.

After the U.S. team opened up a 4-1 lead in Thursday's opening round of the President's Cup, it looked like another day of that sort of dominance could end a lot of the suspense over in South Korea.

There WAS dominance on day two, but it came from the International team, who won three matches and halved another to narrow the American's lead to 5.5-4.5 after two days of the President's Cup.

Very little went right for the U.S. team on Friday, including a drubbing applied to the Dream Team of Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth and a bizarre rules infraction slapped on Phil Mickelson that cost the Americans not one, but TWO holes in their match with Jason Day and Adam Scott. Mickelson substituted his golf ball on a hole, switching to a ball with a firmer cover to try and gain more distance on a par-5 tee-shot. Here's what happened after that:

After Mickelson conferred with a rules official about his use of a different ball for that hole, the official incorrectly told Mickelson to pick up his ball. Mickelson actually could have continued playing the seventh in an attempt to win or halve the hole. The U.S., which was all square in the match, lost No. 7 to Day’s birdie. The group waited several minutes on the next tee as the ruling was discussed by the Match Committee. The U.S. was informed that, as a penalty for Mickelson’s violation, another hole was added to the team’s deficit, dropping them to 2 down in the match.

Loss of hole is the penalty for violating the one-ball rule, but there was confusion about why the United States went from all square on the seventh tee to 2 down after losing No. 7.

A statement from the Match Committee read: “The penalty for breach of (the one-ball rule) is a one-hole adjustment to the state of the match. This means that at the conclusion of the seventh hole … the state of the match is adjusted by one hole.”

Mickelson could have continued playing the hole in order to win or halve it. Had he halved Day’s birdie at No. 7, the U.S. would have been just 1 down after the penalty was applied.

Here's how Friday's results looked:

D. Johnson/Spieth LOST to Oosthuizen/Grace, 4&3

Fowler/Walker LOST to Lee/Bae, 1-down

Mickelson/Z. Johnson HALVED Day/Scott

Holmes/Watson WON over Leishman/Bowditch, 2-up

Kirk/Haas LOST to Schwartzel/Jaidee, 2&1


Saturday morning alternate shot pairings

Reed/Fowler vs. Oosthuizen/Grace

Watson/Holmes vs. Scott/Leishman

Haas/Kuchar vs. Bae/Matsuyama

D. Johnson/Spieth vs. Day/Schwartzel

U.S. team on left, International team on right

NOTE: Saturday afternoon four-ball pairings will be announced one hour prior to the conclusion of the Saturday morning alternate-shot matches.

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#DMD'S HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS SPOTLIGHT
brought to you by
Marsh
Insurance & Financial
410-426-2282

The #DMD High School Sports Spotlight is on Boys' Latin (4-1) this afternoon when they take the field against MIAA B Conference rival #9 John Carroll (6-0). Last week, our Spotlight game featured a battle in the trenches. This week, the #DMD Spotlight game is a matchup between two of the best Senior quarterbacks in the area.

Boys' Latin head coach Ritchie Schell and his Lakers will be relying on quarterback Logan Wisnauskas to pick his way through an under-rated and effective John Carroll defense. The John Carroll defense, led by 6’1” 235 lbs. senior MLB Damon Lloyd, will definitely bring the pressure this afternoon. And while that has worked well for John Carroll so far in 2015, Lloyd and his Patriot teammates have not played a quarterback with the talent that Wisnauskas will be bring to the field.

Wisnauskas, who accepted a scholarship to Syracuse to play lacrosse for the Orangemen next year, could have very well earned the same reward with his football abilities. He is long, lean, fast, tough, and he has a "college arm". Accurate, powerful in the pocket and able to throw on the run, it is rare to see a high school quarterback with the talent of Wisnauskas.

Even more rare, in any game at this level, is to have a quarterback with just as much ability on the other team.

Keith Rawlings, John Carroll’s head coach, brings his Patriots squad into this game with a record that is envy of every coach in the area. They've played six games and haven't yet lost. Sporting a powerful pass attack led by his son, Kurt Rawlings, the John Carroll goal is to put up points early and often. Rawlings is able to throw deep with great accuracy to any number of long, lean sure handed receivers. Senior receiver Alex Rasmussen is a favorite target of Rawlings. Rasmussen, being courted by a host of Ivy League schools, is also a stellar student. Rawlings is no slouch in the classroom either, heading to Yale next year to take his game to the next level.

Wisnauskas and Rawlings. Both have Division I ability. Both have great arms and speed. Both have an amazing understanding about the nuances of the quarterback position. What will make the difference in this game?

Meet Boys' Latin’s punter: Dom Maggio is a 6’3” senior, ranked by many as the #1 punter prospect in the nation. Maggio is reportedly heading to Wake Forest next year and is one of those kids you have to see to believe. He may be the difference in today's game, as he's often able to flip-the-field or pin opposing teams deep in their own territory with his expert punting ability. If the Patriots can make up for the field position that Maggio is sure to give the Lakers, the favored John Carroll side should win and remain undefeated. If the Lakers can take advantage of that field position, look for Boys' Latin to deal John Carroll their first loss of the season.

Kickoff is at 4:15 pm today at Boys' Latin.

The #DMD High School Sports Spotlight is brought to you by Greg Marsh and Marsh Insurance and Financial. You'll be able to check in here in each week to see what's happening on the Baltimore area high school football scene, and you should check in with Greg Marsh for all of your personal insurance needs. Give him a call at (410) 426-2282.

Thursday
October 8
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XV
Issue 8

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say goodbye to draftkings and fanduel

Greed. Just pure, outrageously silly greed.

DraftKings and FanDuel couldn't be happy with making $50 million. They had to make $100 million. Couldn't be happy making $100 million. Had to make $250 million. And so on.

I understand human nature. You always want more. Gotta have more. Gotta do more. Gotta make more. But when it comes to money, greed always comes back to haunt you. Well, maybe just "simple" greed doesn't haunt you, but insane greed like what we've recently seen from DraftKings and FanDuel haunts you.

In case you've been in a cave for the last two days, all hell broke loose over the weekend when a DraftKings employee accidentally let it slip that he won $350,000 playing fantasy football on their rival site, FanDuel. That initiated an immediate investigation by the New York Attorney General, who quickly penned a two-page letter that undoubtedly left both companies shaking in their boots. Trust me, both DraftKings and FanDuel are sweating bullets right now. You can bet on that. No pun intended.

Oh, and the NFL is in bed with both of them. So, too, are Major League Baseball teams. I haven't seen NBA and NHL facilities yet this season, obviously, but I suspect you'll see plenty of DK and FD ads on the scoreboard, dasherboards and flashing in the lights throughout the concourses. We'll get back to that in a minute, though.

Here's my own, very limited, involvement with DraftKings. I played PGA Tour golf on DraftKings regularly this past "season" -- with moderate success, which is to say I put in $25 to start and when the (fantasy) season ended in mid-September, I had more money than I started with...but not nearly enough to take four of my best friends out for a big dinner and unlimited wine from the Captain's List. I didn't play one night (or day) of fantasy baseball and through four weeks of the NFL season, I didn't play any football games, either.

There were rumors running rampant on various golf message boards that I poke my nose in from time-to-time that something was fishy with DraftKings (FanDuel didn't host PGA Tour fantasy action). "There's no way someone picked THAT lineup," someone would write. I'd look at the line-up leading after day two and say to myself, "That's true. No one would have picked those six guys at random."

The give-away, in my opinion, was when the leader of the $100,000 golf contest had 350 teams (at $3.00 each) entered in the event. That's when others much smarter than me would take to the golf message boards and claim someone on the inside was doing the equivalent of "counting cards" in poker. "Someone on the inside has data on all 90,000 of the teams that are entered this week, and they're using a computer program to pick as many different teams as they can from those 90,000, using one of the favorites (Spieth, Bubba, Dustin, Fowler, etc.) and then a potpouri of five other guys that no one else has." I remember reading that -- or something very similar, I'm paraphrasing -- and saying to myself, "That's actually very plausible. The more "different" teams you have, the better chance you have of one of them being the winner. And then, what you REALLY want, is to be the only guy with THAT specific team."

How else can you explain that someone just happened to pick -- example only, here -- Jason Day, Nick Taylor, Jon Curran, Harris English, Martin Flores and Scott Brown on the week when they all finished in the top 12? And, even more importantly, they were the ONLY person in the 90,000 player contest to have those six players all on the same team...even though they all didn't add up to the $50,000 salary cap? That was another clue. While I (and everyone else who plays, I think) tried to get my six players to fit precisely into the $50,000 cap, there were plenty of weeks when the DraftKings winner didn't come close to using all fifty grand allotted to him for his team.

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There were other rumors floating around that employees would insert teams on Saturday night in the top 50 with a stacked line-up from the Top 15 of the PGA Tour event that week and hope all of their horses came in on Sunday and won them big money. I never saw evidence of that, myself, but plenty of folks who invested way more money than I did in fantasy golf swear that happened regularly. And let's face it, how easy would it be for an employee to go into the program's "back room" at 3:00 am and put a few teams in at 18th place, 35th place, 45th place, etc. and hope those teams panned out on Sunday for a big cash payout? Pretty easy, I'd say.

For certain, there was plenty of on-line discussion about "insider trading" in the fantasy golf world throughout the summer. And I must say, it made a whole lot of sense to me once folks who were piecing the information together made it all public via message boards and blog comments. I assume that's what the Attorney General of New York sniffed out or believes, too.

Golf, though, was just the warm up act for what those creeps could generate with insider information during football season. And that's exactly what they did. They were able to peek into the back room and see what everyone's teams were, and then figure out a way to build a team that was still capable of scoring big points but using a roster that no one else in the field would use. It's not all that different than playing the lottery. If you buy 50 lottery tickets and I buy 200, I have a better chance of winning the whole pot of money than you do, particularly if I make sure all 200 of my tickets are completely different from one another and -- most importantly -- different than your 50.

And now, there's another black eye for the NFL, as if they needed it. They were (and are) so much in bed with those two fantasy draft outfits, the games on Sunday are now rated XXX. The TV networks were part of it, too. They took the ad money, the league and the teams took the marketing and in-stadium money and everyone loved everyone...right up until the you-know-what-hit-the-fan on Monday and we started to learn some of the dirty little secrets about fantasy sports.

Oh, for all of you out there who think, somewhere in the deep recesses of your demented mind, that the NFL is close to becoming professional wrestling, this fantasy sports fiasco might be the nail you drive into that "fixed" coffin. It's not that far fetched to think that ANYTHING is possible these days. I'm certainly not saying the games are contrived and the outcomes are orchestrated -- but what I am saying, for sure, is that anything is possible. "Where there's a will, there's a way."

If a bunch of really smart people wanted to sit in a room and devise a plan to bilk the gambling-crazy public out of $5 billion, they could do it.

In fact, they did do it.

So, this is the beginning of the end for those two companies. And rightfully so. It might take a year for them to finally get shut down, but it's headed in that direction. At the very least, the way they're structured and doing business now will change dramatically over the next year. Either way, both companies will NEVER make as much money as they just did in the first ten months of 2015.

Funny enough, both DraftKings and FanDuel (and any of the other fantasy sites operating in the U.S.) got a free pass a couple of years ago when the government decided fantasy sports wasn't "gambling" because it was a "skill" to pick the right players, not blind luck. But, they couldn't just get rich and even ultra-rich using that free pass. No, no, no. They had to get over-the-top rich. They had to break the bank. And when one of their underlings bragged about winning $350,000 (on a rival site, no less -- when's the last time a guy who worked for Pepsi went on Facebook and bragged about how great Coke tastes?), the cat was finally out of the bag.

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u.s. makes easy work of international team on day one of president's cup

Whenever the U.S. plays the alternate-shot format in the Ryder Cup, they get drummed. Either the European players are really, really good at it or the Americans don't play it very well. Whatever the combination, alternate shot is always the U.S. team's bugaboo in Ryder Cup play.

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Quite a start for the U.S. on Thursday, as Watson (left) and Holmes (right) made easy work of their International foes.

It doesn't bother them in the President's Cup, though. Riding the wave of an early drumming of Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama by J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson, the U.S. team surged to a 4-1 lead after day one of the event in South Korea. Only Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed lost for the U.S., who will try and take command of the 4-day event with another impressive showing in today's fourball match that begins at 8:30 pm TONIGHT here in the U.S.

Chris Kirk and Bill Haas, who sat out Thursday's opening match, will play together in Friday's four-ball event and the duo of Kuchar and Reed will sit out. Anirban Lahiri and Hideki Matsuyama will sit for the International Team today and Sangmoon Bae and Charl Schwartzel will play after sitting out on Thursday.

Here's a look at the results from yesterday's alternate-shot competition:

Holmes/Watson (U.S.) defeated Scott/Matsuyama, 3&2

Oosthuizen/Grace (INT.) defeated Kuchar/Reed, 3&2

Fowler/Walker (U.S.) defeated Lahiri/Jaidee, 5&4

Mickelson/Z. Johnson (U.S.) defeated Day/Bowditch, 2-up

Spieth/D. Johnson (U.S.) defeated Lee/Leishman, 4&3


SECOND DAY FOUR-BALL PAIRINGS:

Spieth/D.Johnson vs. Grace/Oosthuizen -- Prediction: The Americans continue their roll and dispose of the pesky South African duo, 2&1.

Fowler/Walker vs. Lee/Bae -- Prediction: Danny Lee had a terrific summer on TOUR, but not nearly as good as the one had by Fowler. U.S. wins this one 2-up.

Z. Johnson/Mickelson vs. Scott/Day -- Prediction: This could be the backbreaker for the International team if their all-world duo can't get it done. They will, though. Scott/Day win 3&2.

Holmes/Watson vs. Leishman/Bowditch -- Prediction: I didn't think the foursomes pairing of Holmes/Watson was a smart one, but I love these two together in better-ball. They make easy work of the Australian duo, 5&4.

Kirk/Haas vs. Jaidee/Schwartzel -- Prediction: Let's just assume this thing can't be a landslide after two days, so I'll go with Jaidee/Schwartzel here, 1-up.

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arrieta blows pirates away, 4-0, in wild card showdown

If for any reason at all you thought Jake Arrieta's Cy Young regular season was a fluke, you're probably starting to re-consider those doubts after last night's epic performance in the wild card game at Pittsburgh. Holy cow was that guy good on Wednesday night.

Arrieta struck out 11, walked none, and wiggled his way out of a potentially season-changing inning in the 7th by inducing a double play with the bases loaded and one out. He would wind up throwing a complete game, 4-hit shut-out as the Cubs eliminated the Pirates, 4-0, in Pittsburgh. It was quite the masterful performance from the erstwhile Oriole, who hit two Pittsburgh batters with pitches and was later dinged on the hip himself, kicking-off a brief skirmish between the teams on the first base line that took umpires the better part of ten minutes to get under control. But the Cubs wouldn't and didn't back down, sending the Pirates to their second straight home shut-out loss in a wild card game.

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He might only make one more start this season depending on what happens in this next series, but what we're seeing from Jake Arrieta is historic.

Make no mistake about this: Jake Arrieta will never buy another cup of coffee in Chicago. He has a lifetime free pass after that outing on Wednesday night. The Cubs gave him a run in the first, then hit two more home runs later on to move ahead 4-0. It was over at that point, as Arrieta out-dueled Pittsburgh ace Gerrit Cole and would go to become the first picher in major league history to throw a complete game shut-out in the playoffs with double-digit strikeouts and NO walks. Quite a night for the Cubs, who now move on to play their Central Division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, in the best of 5 NLDS.

Oh, and check this out. Here's what Arrieta has done in the last two months. Over his final nine starts of the regular season, Arrieta went 8-0, with a 0.27 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .132 opponent batting average. Since baseball began keeping track of earned runs over a century ago, no pitcher has ever had an ERA that low or an opponent average that low over a span of that many starts. And after Wednesday's game in Pittsburgh, those numbers sit at 0.24 and .132. Unreal stuff from a guy who was traded for a bag of balls and some Southwest Airlines tickets by the Orioles four seasons ago.

Wednesday
October 7
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XV
Issue 7

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nfl has spooked kickers with new extra point distance

I'll make an official prediction right here, right now at #DMD. Clip this out and stick it on the refrigerator.

This will be the only year the NFL has the 33-yard extra point in the rule book. This time next year, it will be gone -- and back to the 20 yarder we all knew to grow, love and make with 99.99% effectiveness.

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but kickers across the NFL are struggling thus far after four weeks of the 2015 campaign. It's not a huge, other-wordly drop-off, but it's definitely easy to spot. More kicks are being missed, more games are being lost and whether it's a coincidence or not, more distance has been added to the extra-point this year.

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Jason Myers of the Jaguars missed TWO game-winning field goals in last Sunday's OT loss to the Colts.

That added distance has definitely affected kickers. Even our own Justin Tucker missed a kick against the Bengals in week 3. If you want to know how it's affected kickers, I'll tell you. For the purposes of this example, it's going to help if you're a golfer. If not, perhaps there's another similar analogy from another sport -- from which you can then get a better idea of why kicks are being missed in 2015.

Let's pretend for a second that a new rule existed in golf. After you finished holing out on each green, you then had to make a 12-inch putt. If you did that successfully, you got to tee off 25 yards in front of the tee markers on the next hole, thereby shortening the hole by 25 yards. A 12-inch putt. You'd make every single one of them. You could honestly make 100 out of 100, 150 out of 150, etc. You could go an entire summer and not miss a 12-inch putt.

Alright, let's now continue pretending that during the up-coming golf "off-season" the powers that be change that putt from a 12-inch putt to a 3-foot putt. From 12 inches to 36 inches. Doesn't seem like much, right? Well, you'd go 100-for-100 making the 12-inch putt but you'd likely be lucky to go 90-for-100 on the 3-footer. In fact, particularly because the putt would change every hole, you'd probably go more like 85-for-100. That's not really the point, though. But I did want to make you understand that a 12-inch putt in golf is made EVERY TIME and a 3-footer is missed more than you'd like.

What's the point? By making you putt a 3-footer instead of a 12-inch-putt, you're now required to focus, use energy and actually employ and trust your technique to make 17 more putts per-round (in theory you wouldn't putt on 18). If you miss a couple of those 3-footers, your confidence is shaken. When your confidence is shaken, you're not going to play good golf. And just the fact that you now have to "go to the well" 17 more times in a round will chew at your nerves. It's tiring...grinding on putt after putt, knowing your score and the result of your match ties into your ability to make EVERY putt you look at (even though we that's not possible.

I remember a decade or so when I did some work for the Senior PGA Tour and had the chance to interview Tom Kite prior to an event out at Hayfields CC. We discussed putting in the interview and Kite said something which has stayed with me ever since. "I think every one who plays golf at a high level has a certain amount of "made putts" in them. That number varies from player to player, but you have a built-in number of putts you're going to make and once they're gone, your putting suffers because now you have to MAKE the putts go in." It was an interesting theory. And I understand it, but hope I never come to face to face with it. Kite was basically saying, "You only have 5,000 putts that are going in...once those 5,000 go in, none are automatic after that. You'll have to MAKE every putt for the rest of your life."

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That's what they've done to kickers. Now, EVERY extra point they attempt is potential failure. They no longer get a breather. Now, it's time to man-up on an extra point. It's not apples-to-apples, but there IS a connection between extending the extra point by 13 yards and putting kickers under FAR more pressure than they've ever faced. And by putting them under more pressure, it inherently increases their chances of cracking. See: Josh Scobee.

Prior to this year, extra points were automatic or marginally close to it. In 2014, seven extra points were missed ALL season. It didn't require any real physical energy and most certainly didn't contain nearly the level of focus or concentration than, say, a kick from 50 yards would require. But a 33 yard kick? Whether it's for an extra point or not, that's a kick that can absolutely be missed by anyone at anytime (go ahead, throw a Billy Cundiff joke in there). Granted, in the past, if you missed more than two extra points in a season, you were likely out of a job (again), whereas now, in 2015, coaches will be much more tolerant of a missed extra point from the 33 yard line.

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It's simple math. The more kicks you make a kicker attempt, the more likely he is to miss.

And, please, I'm not judging whether or not the new extra point distance is a good idea or bad idea. I'm not even at that argument yet. This topic today is about the NFL artificially making a kicker's job a lot more difficult, albeit completely unintentionally (I think). You and I might not care that a kicker's job is tougher with the increased yardage, but you know who WILL care? The owners...when it's THEIR kicker who misses a game-winner or two and complains of physical and/or mental fatigue. And that's why by this time next year, you'll see the extra point either back to the 20 yard line or abolished completely.

"Kickers shouldn't be the difference in us winning and losing," a disenchanted owner will chirp at the league meetings next March. "They're a supplement to the game. The fans pay to see the quarterback throw to the wide receiver, not a guy kicking a ball around." The owner(s) lamenting the kicker's increased importance in the game will likely be the one whose team was the most affected by a missed kick.

I should also note that I'm not even 100% sure the added extra point IS the reason for what appears to be a downturn in kicking so far this season. But if it's NOT the added distance, what is it? Kickers just aren't as good anymore? Shaun Suisham got hurt in Pittsburgh, so they were forced to sign Scobee. If Suisham doesn't tear his ACL in pre-season, Scobee doesn't get traded to the the Steelers. Was it kicking in that hell-hole of a stadium in Pittsburgh finished Scobee off? Or did he finally run out of kicks? Is that -- in theory -- part of the downturn I'm investigating? Good kickers make their kicks and bad kickers miss some. Is that it?

Whatever it is, perception is fact. And when more kicks are missed this season and more games are won (and lost) because of missed kicks, the owners will blame it on the increased distance of extra points. Their perception will be fact. And they'll change the rule back to a distance of 20 yards for the extra point in the upcoming off-season.

Oh, and they might very well be right.

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grading the orioles, day five

We started our #DMD Orioles report card on Saturday, October 3rd, handing out grades to Machado (B+), Paredes (C-), Jimenez (C+) and Hardy (D). Sunday, October 4th, we gave post-season grades to Tillman (D+), Pearce (C-), Brach (B) and Schoop (B). On Monday, October 5th, it was Flaherty (D), Davis (A), Wieters (C) and Chen (B). Yesterday, we graded Adam Jones (B), Caleb Joseph (C-), Miguel Gonzalez (D), Brian Matusz (B-). Today, we'll wrap up the report cards from 2015 and take a look at the seasons of Kevin Gausman, Zach Britton, Darren O'Day and Gerardo Parra, who spent the last two months with the club. We'll be grading Parra ONLY on the time he spent with the Orioles.

Kevin Gausman (C) -- He has "A" stuff, but he just can't figure out how to command it. After a promising 2014 in which he made 20 starts and sported a very useful 3.57 ERA, Gausman went the other way in '15, with a 4.25 ERA, despite a lower WHIP than the year before. Gave up 15 home runs in his first 25 starts in the big leagues, then allowed 17 HR's in 17 starts this season. Something happened between 2014 and 2015. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: You never know what to expect because the club has jerked Gausman around for much of the last three years, but it seems logical he's unquestionably in the starting rotation next April when the Birds head north. Then again, the club hasn't ever treated Gausman like a "regular" on the 25-man roster. If he can make 32 starts in 2015, I think he's VERY capable of winning 12 games with an ERA in the high 3's.

Darren O'Day (A) -- There might be an argument that no one on the team played baseball better than Darren O'Day did in 2015. In other words, he was better at what he does than anyone else on the team was better at their given position. He was that good this season. Made 68 appearances (for the third straight season), producing a career-best 1.52 ERA and a WHIP of 0.934. Allowed 11 earned runs all season. Yep, eleven (11). WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: Is the most likely of the four prominent Orioles free agents to re-sign with the club. I can see him getting offers from other clubs, but nothing worth leaving Baltimore over. I'd say it's 80/20 he's in an Orioles uniform next season.

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Orioles thought they had a contributor with the deadline deal for Gerardo Parra but his .268 OBP didn't help much.

Gerardo Parra (D) -- Ventured over to the American League for the last two months of the season and got his feelings hurt. Was having a remarkable season in Milwaukee, then saw his batting average dip 90 points when he started facing off-speed-heavy American League pitching. Hit .237 for the O's with a J.J. Hardy-like on-base-percentage of .268. More was expected -- and needed.WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: I don't see any reason to re-sign him, but there might not be much more available on the open market. Honestly, he's precisely what the Orioles DON'T need -- a guy with marginal power who doesn't get on base much. The Orioles need guys with .340 OBP's, not .315. I'd pass on him.

Zach Britton (A-) -- I'll deduct just a whisker of a point from his grade (hence the A- instead of A) because he allowed the same earned runs in 2015 that he did in 2014, but he pitched in 11 more innings in 2014 (76.1 -- and 65.2 in '15). No matter, he's become one of the game's most reliable closers and together with O'Day, gave the Birds a dynamic 1-2 duo to finish up the final two innings. Ended the season with a 1.92 ERA and allowed just 3 HR in 58 appearances. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016:He's the team's closer. Done deal.

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president's cup begins in south korea tonight

You'll be watching Thursday's golf on Wednesday night here in the U.S., but don't be confused; the 2015 President's Cup has arrived and the first day of play will consist of five foursomes matches, otherwise known as "alternate shot". Bill Haas (captain's pick) and Chris Kirk will not play in Thursday's opening matches for the U.S., while Charl Schwartzel and Sangmoon Bae will sit for the International side.

Here's a look at the respective matches and my prediction for how they'll turn out:

U.S., Watson/Holmes vs. INT., Scott/Matsuyama (The two long ball boys are an odd pairing unless they asked for it. The steady International duo wins 2-up.)

U.S., Kuchar/Reed vs. INT., Oosthuizen/Grace (Now this American pairing I like; Kuchar wants to have fun, Reed wants cut your heart out. They win 3&2.)

U.S., Fowler/Walker vs. INT., Lahiri/Jaidee (Walker's the most over-rated player at the event; Lahiri might be the most under-rated. International team wins 2&1.)

U.S., Mickelson/Z. Johnson vs. INT., Day/Bowditch (A sporty pairing from Jay Haas. They'll go as far as Zach's putter takes them. Which will be -- a half-point. They end all square.)

U.S., Spieth/D. Justin vs. INT., Lee/Leishman (The dream-team figures to be a natural pairing, but D.J. isn't the best partner for alternate shot. U.S. wins on the 18th hole, 1-up.)

Day one ends with a 2.5 - 2.5 tie.

Tuesday
October 6
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XV
Issue 6

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are ravens woes tied to offensive coordinator(s) -- plural?

I know Bo Smolka, our Ravens reporter, is also writing about Trestman in today's October 6th edition. I have no idea (as I write this at 9:45 pm on Monday night) what his piece is about or what he thinks of the situation involving Marc Trestman, but I have a thought or two on it. So, I'll share mine and you can read Bo's Eye View below and see what Bo thinks of the Ravens offense and offensive coordinator.


"Do you know how many different people told me how to play quarterback?" he asked me.

"No, but I probably can figure it out," I replied.

While walking down the fairway, I could see him counting in his head. I started to do the same thing. Ten seconds later, we reached his ball. He hit a nice shot into the 6th hole at Caves Valley, a sweeping dog-leg to the right with a tough as all-get-out green. His ball hadn't stopped rolling when he said, "I've had four different people try to teach me how to quarterback. And they all had a different philosophy on it."

"OK, you had Cavanaugh. Then Fassel..." I said. Then I stopped.

"Neuheisel. And Billick, even though he was the coach. I was getting it from him, too," he concluded.

Throughout that conversation with Kyle Boller back in 2008, I never felt like he was complaining or bitching about what transpired in Baltimore. He really wasn't. He was sad, actually, and I could tell from his voice he was questioning himself just as much as he was questioning them.

I remember we chatted at length about Cavanaugh's philosophy and how different it was from Fassel's. And how different Neuheisel was from both of them. "Just when I start to get connected with one of them, he's gone," I remember Kyle saying. Again, it never came across like he was making an excuse. He was explaining, in his own words, why perhaps his development as a quality NFL quarterback hadn't moved along at quicker pace.

The Ravens, remember, then brought the late Steve McNair to town in 2006, further slowing Boller's career path. But by the time McNair showed up here, Boller's die had been cast. He had all of '03, '04 and '05 to get it right and he couldn't. In the meantime, he had four sets of voices in his ear telling him how to play the position.

What's my point?

Is there any chance Joe Flacco is going to fall victim to the same issue that plagued Boller? I'm trying my best not to let the first four games of the year worry me. Really, I am. And I'm fully aware Flacco has a very limited corps of reliable weapons to work with in 2015. I get all of that. But, as I watch the games, I'm not seeing a crisp-Joe-Flacco. I'm seeing an occasionally active guy who makes some really good throws (he made a couple of ELITE throws in overtime of the Pittsburgh game) and then makes a silly mistake that an 8th year quarterback probably shouldn't make.

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Is a 4th offensive coordinator going to send Joe Flacco into information overload?

Cam Cameron, Jim Caldwell, Gary Kubiak...and now Marc Trestman. And that doesn't count the various quarterback coaches he's worked with since 2008 in addition to those four offensive coordinators I listed above. When does Flacco either start to tune them out or just improvise and do his own thing because after being in the league this long, that's just what (elite) quarterbacks do? From what I've heard at Owings Mills, Flacco and Kubiak got along famously because the former offensive coordinator essentially allowed Joe a lot of input on both the weekly game plan and the in-game offensive calls. Without question, Kubiak's departure disappointed Flacco. He's not anti-Trestman, either. But Flacco was VERY pro-Kubiak.

Trestman doesn't have much to work with, granted, but he did inherit one of the NFL's winningest quarterbacks and a guy who won't ever throw-up stinker-after-stinker like Jay Cutler did for him in Chicago. Why, though, doesn't Flacco look "elite" thus far in 2015? Is it because he doesn't have any receivers? Has the Eugene Monroe injury decimated the team's passing game that much? I threw this question out last week and people FLIPPED their lids, but I thought it was relevant and worth asking, so I'll put it out there again. Would this exact Ravens team be 1-3 if Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady played quarterback instead of Joe Flacco? Are they 1-3 because of the quarterback or 1-3 because their defense stinks?

Here's what I think. In the nicest way I can say this -- Joe's not the easiest guy in the world to work with, particularly if you're an offensive coordinator who has a theory or philosophy that doesn't mesh with Flacco's. I'm not saying Joe's a "bad guy". Not in the least. He's a pleasant, friendly, considerate man from what I know of him. I don't know anything about Marc Trestman but I do know Joe Flacco. I wrote a ghost blog for him at the old radio station back in 2008 and did several interviews/radio shows with him prior to 2014. I bumped into him at a local country club over the summer and we chatted about golf for 10 minutes, his family for one minute and football for 30 seconds. In other words, I have a working knowledge of Joe's personality. This much is true: He's a tough guy when it comes to football. He thinks his way is the best way. And now, with his FOURTH coordinator telling him how to play the position, is this the voice that finally gets the quarterback to just say, "I know what I'm doing...no need to help me."?

I'm anxious to see what unfolds this Sunday and next, when the Ravens will likely be without Steve Smith Sr. What kind of rabbit can Flacco pull out of his hat against the Browns and 49'ers? And what about Trestman? He's clearly in the cross-hairs and we're just a quarter of the way through the season. Had the Ravens not won last Thursday night's game in Pittsburgh, I think Trestman would have been a 10-day whipping boy on the local talk shows. If the Ravens somehow fall to the Browns this Sunday, both the coordinator AND quarterback need to take cover.

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grading the orioles, day four

We started our #DMD Orioles report card on Saturday, October 3rd, handing out grades to Machado (B+), Paredes (C-), Jimenez (C+) and Hardy (D). Sunday, October 4th, we gave post-season grades to Tillman (D+), Pearce (C-), Brach (B) and Schoop (B). On Monday, October 5th, it was Flaherty (D), Davis (A), Wieters (C) and Chen (B). Today, we'll take a look at the seasons of Adam Jones, Caleb Joseph, Miguel Gonzalez and Brian Matusz.

Adam Jones (B) -- Everything was down just a tad for Jones, who played in 137 games and failed to make 600 plate appearances for the first time in six seasons. He didn't have a bad season. In fact, he had a good one. But missing 25 games cost him, and the club, for that matter. Biggest issue with Jones continues to be his on-base percentage, which was .308 in 2015, the lowest of his career (since becoming an every day player in 2008. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: If healthy, he's a 30 HR/100 RBI guy with Gold Glove capabilities in centerfield. Would be nice to see him make a concerted effort to get his walk numbers up near 40 or so, but that probably won't happen.

Caleb Joseph (C-) -- Just doesn't get on base enough to be anything other than an 8th or 9th hitter in the lineup, but he does have a little pop in his bat (11 HR in 100 games) and is decent defensively.WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016:Unless I'm reading the tea leaves wrong, Joseph will be the team's catcher in 2016 (assuming, obviously, that Wieters is gone) and Clevenger will back him up. There are worse things than having Caleb Joseph being your every day catcher. Like Travis Snider being your every day right fielder...

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One bad season could be enough to put Miguel Gonzalez on the hot seat next spring in Sarasota.

Miguel Gonzalez (D) -- After a three-year run where he was close to establishing himself as a quality #4 starter, Gonzalez bottomed out in 2015 and had his worst year as a professional. Only made 26 starts and posted career-high numbers in losses (12), ERA (4.91) and WHIP (1.339). Strike-out numbers were also down. In fact, he posted the lowest strike-out-to-walk ratio (2.14) of his career. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016:For a team starved for starting pitching, it would seem odd to trade Gonzalez in the off-season, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Birds package him with a minor league prospect this winter. Perhaps 2015 was the anomaly in his 4-year window of work or it might have been the beginning of his career downfall. If he does last through the off-season, he'll go into spring training as one of the team's veteran question marks, with no rotation spot guaranteed.

Brian Matusz (B-) -- As much as he's been maligned over the last couple of years -- and rightfully so -- Matusz produced a reaonsably acceptable campaign in 2015. His appearances dropped marginally (63 in 2014, 58 in 2015) but his ERA finished at 2.94 and his WHIP of 1.184 was the second lowest of his career in a relief role. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016:I'd be surprised if he's on the roster when the team heads to Sarasota next February. I think Buck would like an upgrade.

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bo's eye view

BO SMOLKA is a longtime member of the Baltimore-Washington media. He covers the Ravens for #DMD and ComcastSportsNet. Bo's insights and analyses are presented by Advanced Heating & Cooling, which offers a variety of energy saving, high-efficiency equipment for heating, air conditioning, and geothermal systems.


Imagine you bought a shiny new car, and within a month of driving it off the lot, you realize something just wasn't right. It didn't have nearly the horsepower you thought it would. It sputtered, it stalled, and then on a trip across town, one of the wheels just fell off.

For some reason, Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman comes to mind...

It's hard not to feel for Trestman, who in his first year with the Ravens is charged with running an offense that has been without its top deep threat all season and now will be without its top playmaker -- some would say only playmaker -- for the next week if not longer.

This isn't quite what Trestman signed up for, is it? When Trestman and the Ravens arrived for training camp in July, there were questions about the wide receiver position, but the Ravens had veteran Steve Smith as an anchor of the group and rookie speedster Breshad Perriman as the high-upside top prospect. Others such as Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken and Michael Campanaro would carve out supporting roles.

Now fast forward to Week 5: The Ravens don't have Smith, they don't have Campanaro, and they haven't had Perriman all season. When the Ravens host Cleveland on Sunday, barring a miraculous recovery by Smith -- who was unofficially ruled out by John Harbaugh over the weekend with a back injury sustained in the Steelers game -- the Ravens will be starting Aiken and Brown at wide receiver. Chris Givens, who most recently was a third-stringer for the Rams, was acquired in a trade and is suddenly the No. 3 receiver, with rookie project Darren Waller also in the mix.

This led Sports Illustrated's Peter King to declare that the Ravens receiver depth chart "is the worst in the league right now," an opinion that is hard to argue with.

So what can Trestman do?

One answer would be to rely more on the tight ends, who have always been a key part of Trestman's system. But wait: The Ravens starting tight end, Crockett Gillmore, is also hurt, leaving that job in the hands of rookies Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle. Harbaugh indicated on Monday that Gillmore, who has a calf injury, could return this week.

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Perhaps not expecting much is the key...but the Ravens sure could use some help from newly acquired WR Chris Givens.

Another would be to see if the Ravens can use the speed of Givens to stretch the field in a way no one has been able to do this fall. The Ravens have taken a few deep shots for Aiken, but he's been well covered every time. Aiken has come up with some huge catches, including a tough 20-yarder that set up the game-tying field goal at the end of regulation in Pittsburgh. But neither he nor Brown have shown the ability to get behind the defense or even strike much fear in the heart of the defense. One residual problem with that is that teams figure they can handle Aiken and Brown 1-on-1, which frees up more blitz pressure. That, in turn, gives Joe Flacco less time to find his receivers, who have a tough time getting open. It's a vicious cycle, but one Trestman and the Ravens could be locked in until Smith and/or Perriman return.

The most obvious solution is to lean more heavily on the ground game. Justin Forsett finally broke out with 150 yards at Pittsburgh after being held to an average of about 41 yards in the first three games. Now more than ever, the Ravens need Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro and the running game to produce. But again, when the receivers don't strike fear into the defense, safeties can cheat up, they can crowd the box, and the yardage on the ground can be hard to come by.

If there's any consolation, it's this: The Browns, who visit M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, have the league's lowest-rated defense. They are giving up 141.5 yards a game on the ground, the second-highest total in the league. They rank 22nd in pass defense. So if ever the Ravens offense needed a boost, this Browns defense just might be it.

And let's face it: At this point, Trestman, Flacco and the Ravens can use all the help they can get.

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Monday
October 5
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XV
Issue 5

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baltimore already starting to pressure birds about chris davis

Remember that old saying, "be careful what you wish for..."?

After a disastrous 2014 campaign where Chris Davis produced a dismal .196 batting average and suffered an embarrassing PED suspension in September, every member of Orioles nation was ultra-hopeful that the first baseman would return to form in 2015.

He did. In a big way. You could even say -- wait for it -- that Davis did some of the best work of his career in 2015.

The first baseman (and occasional right fielder) put the finishing touches on an impressive "contract year" by clubbing two more home runs in Sunday's 9-4 win over the Yankees, giving the slugger 47 home runs and 117 RBI for 2015. His .262 average was still his second worst as a "full-time" Oriole (since 2012), but the long ball paid big dividends for Davis and he finished the last four seasons with the most HR's (159) in the majors. Yes, he's always a candidate to strike out three times in a game, but make no mistake about it as the season comes to a close: Davis will be one of the three most sought-after free agents this winter when the cash starts getting thrown around a couple of weeks after the last out is made in the World Series.

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Producing the numbers in a "contract year" is what it's all about and Chris Davis did that in 2015.

It's time for Davis to get paid. And for the first time in their history, the Orioles have a player that other teams around baseball will actually covet. This is unfamiliar ground for the O's, who are usually the hunter (or, actually, pretending to be the hunter) and not the hunted. For the first time ever, other clubs REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want a player from the Orioles' roster. That will put pressure on the Orioles to sign Davis for more than just themselves. The fans, many of whom stuck with the club during their decade of despair (2002-2011), are literally demanding that the team re-signs Davis, no matter the cost or length of obligation. They're pointing to the boatload of TV money the club brings in, along with the upgraded national TV package all MLB teams are benefitting from, and saying, simply, "We don't care what it costs...re-sign Chris Davis!"

It's fair to remember, though, that Davis is the ultimate decision maker now. The fan can DEMAND the Birds re-sign him, but Davis has the right to take any offer he wants. Maybe he thinks the Orioles aren't going to be contenders next season and for the next couple of years after that. Perhaps the Angels or Dodgers or Cubs come calling and he likes their chances of winning better than what he might encounter in Baltimore. While I agree the O's should make a significant effort to re-sign Davis, I also have to at least remember it's not THEIR call -- it's HIS call.

This is the real question: Will the Orioles make a realistic contract offer to Davis, who expects to command something in the neighborhood of $22 million a year for at least five seasons? Or will they shove something in front of Davis' agent, Scott Boras, that essentially says, "We're doing this to show we really like the kid, but we can't play at the big boy table."? The fans are already campaigning for the club to re-sign Davis at any cost and Adam Jones has also openly stated he wants the team to keep Davis. There's going to be a lot of pressure on the Orioles to keep Davis in town. A LOT OF PRESSURE. Pressure, frankly, they've never felt or dealt with before.

Most of us are resigned to the fact that Davis will sign elsewhere this winter. It's just not the "Oriole way" to cough up $100 million or more for a baseball player. In fact, they've never done it. We can only hope the Yankees don't scoop him up and make him their full-time right fielder. Same with the Red Sox, who say they're going to move Hanley Ramirez to first base next season. If Davis can't play first base in Boston, perhaps he can patrol right field for them. He'll be expensive, though. And both of those clubs have been trying to scale back on payroll over the last couple of years, although the Red Sox ponied up big bucks last winter for Rick Porcello and Pablo Sandoval. My guess? I think the Mets could be a player for Davis if they don't re-sign Yoenis Cespedes this off-season. There will be others, too, who are captivated by his power and his defensive skills.

The Orioles, meanwhile, are the one team that has a built-in advantage. Davis likes Baltimore. He enjoys playing for Buck Showalter. Camden Yards has been very, very friendly to him. In the end, though, it's going to come down to money and rewarding Davis for the last four years, the 2014 fight-with-the-Mendoza-line notwithstanding. While it makes sense that the Orioles -- of all teams -- should honor Davis and his production by making the BEST offer out of all the bidders, we all know that's not the way the ballclub operates. Someone else will undoubtely covet Davis more than the Orioles will -- and that's where he'll wind up signing.

Fans like to yap a lot about "drawing the line" and "vowing not to spend a nickel next year" if certain players aren't signed (Teixeira in 2009) or re-signed (Davis, in this case). One look at Twitter over the last few days and you see a lot of folks chirping about not supporting the club in 2016 if they let Davis get away. I admire their passion, for sure, and there IS an obligation on the team's part to field the best team possible, but my recommendation to folks in Baltimore is you better prepare yourself for the inevitable -- Chris Davis played his last game as an Oriole yesterday, October 4, 2015.

And I look forward to seeing you guys on opening day.


#dmd welcomes a new corporate partner

We've been around 14 months now and today, finally, we've joined forces with a local jeweler! #DMD is pleased to bring aboard Charles Nusinov & Sons, located just minutes off the Baltimore Beltway on Satyr Hill Road in Parkville. Nusinov & Sons has provided affordable fine jewelry, quality repair workmanship and expert customer service since 1923! That shows you just how much the local community has valued and supported them -- almost 100 years, in fact! Not only will Nusinov ads be seen here at #DMD, but they'll be involved in several of our upcoming events as well, starting with my 11th annual charity golf outing coming up on October 19 and including our annual "Winter Apparel Drive" to support the great people at Helping Up Mission in downtown Baltimore.

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With the holidays approaching, now is the time for you guys (particularly) to be thinking about a special gift for that lady in your life. Do yourself a favor and make it easy this year. Stop in to Nusinov & Sons sometime soon and ask for Sydney and tell him you need some help making this year's holiday extra-special. He'll take extra-great care of you once you give him the lowdown you're a #DMD reader! Nusinov's is also an area leader in engagement ring offerings, so if the time is right for you to pop the question, Nusinov's is your place to go for that once-in-a-lifetime purchase.

You can visit their website at: www.charlesnusinov.com -- or give them a call at (410) 661-5050.

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another wacky sunday in the nfl

I'm sure glad I don't bet on NFL games. If I did, I'd be broke. And homeless.

The Saints saved me from "a J.J. Hardy" (0-for-5) yesterday, as I finished the day going 1-for-4 on my NFL picks when New Orleans beat Dallas in overtime last night, 26-20. That win -- and cover by the Saints, who were 3-point favorites -- did manage to improve my "Best Bet" record to 3-1 on the year, but I'm a lowly 6-14 overall through four weeks. Just about everything I thought was going to happen didn't, except in the three games I considered playing (I was going to take the Jets, Vikings and Panthers) but didn't. It always works that way, naturally. I was close to taking the Jets, but took the Eagles instead. That was a loser. I was on the verge of taking the Vikings plus the points in Denver, but opted for the "sure thing" and took the Chargers minus seven against the Browns. Another loser. And, having taken the Panthers for three straight weeks to start the season, I laid off of them yesterday and went with Arizona. Another flop.

Week four of the 2015 NFL season produced a typical slew of "can't-believe-that-happened" outcomes, including the Jacksonville kicker missing a game-winning overtime field goal and the Arizona Cardinals losing at home to a Rams team that scored six measly points against a woeful Pittsburgh defense seven days ago.

Get this: Week four has come and gone and the Packers, Bengals and Broncos are each 4-0. Well, OK, you're not that shocked by that stat, right? Green Bay has the best quarterback on the planet, Cincinnati is very well balanced on offense and defense and the Broncos have a terrific defense and an aging but still capable (barely) Hall of Fame quarterback. Oh, but they're not the only three 4-0 teams these days. The Falcons and Panthers haven't lost yet, either. That's right, both of those teams are 2-0 at home and 2-0 on the road. Atlanta couldn't beat the Little Sisters of the Poor last season and the Panthers split with them. This year, so far, they're both 4-0. It's a crazy, crazy league.

The more I see of the Bengals, the more I'm thinking they're legit. Now, I'm also smart enough to know two things: None of this matters, actually, because the "real" Bengals always play down a notch come playoff time. And as long as they have Marvin Lewis at the helm of their clock management department, there's always a chance the Bengals will give away a chance to win the game. But -- I'll admit this much: They look VERY dangerous thus far. And I'll also admit I look like I was wrong about them, as I had Cincinnati pegged as a team that would take a step back in 2015. Not the case at all.

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It doesn't matter what his receiving corps looks like, Aaron Rodgers always figures out a way to win with them.

It's amazing how good Aaron Rodgers is, isn't it? When Jordy Nelson went down with a torn ACL in a pre-season game against Pittsburgh, lots of folks assumed that was the dagger for Green Bay and Rodgers. After yesterday's 17-3 win at San Francisco, the Pack are 4-0 and Rodgers is again looking like a candidate for the league's MVP award. I said this last week about the Green Bay quarterback: I think there's a real argument that right now -- as in, say, the last few years -- he's playing the quarterback position better than Peyton Manning or Tom Brady ever have. I'm not saying Rodgers is going to have a better career than either of those two; I'm just saying I think his level of play over the last few seasons is better than any 3-season period of either of the other two guys. Just a thought...

I caught the last few minutes of the Colts/Jaguars game and I overheard one of the announcers say, "Let's see if Matt Hasselbeck can put the Colts back on top". I said to myself, "These idiot announcers...Matt Hasselbeck is like 42 years old -- he's been out of the league for three years at least." Turns out Hasselbeck's only 40. And he DID play yesterday against the Jaguars in place of Indy QB Andrew Luck. Matt Hasselbeck's still in the NFL. Holy cow. Speaking of TV announcers, nothing grates me more than hearing this, which I heard TWO TIMES on Sunday when a right-footed kicker missed a kick wide left. "And he pushes that one wide left, it's NO GOOD!!" When you're right footed and you kick a ball that goes wide LEFT of the goal-post, you have PULLED the ball there...not PUSHED it. When you're a right footed kicker and you miss it to the RIGHT, you've then PUSHED it. C'mon man...

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grading the orioles, day three

We started our #DMD Orioles report card on Saturday, October 3rd, handing out grades to Machado (B+), Paredes (C-), Jimenez (C+) and Hardy (D). Sunday, October 4th, we gave post-season grades to Tillman (D+), Pearce (C-), Brach (B) and Schoop (B). Today, we'll take a look at the seasons of Ryan Flaherty, Chris Davis, Wei Yen Chen and Matt Wieters.

Ryan Flaherty (D) -- Buck's favorite player barely finished above the Mendoza line at the plate (.202) and even though he's steady defensively, there's simply no reason to think Flaherty can contribute to an every day lineup. As the 25th player? Eh, maybe, but if you're counting on Flaherty to deliver for you in the long haul, you're in trouble. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: As long as Buck's the manager and the club doesn't spend a lot of money on free agents, Flaherty will have a job in Baltimore. In fairness to him, he WAS (and is) more reliable than Everth Cabrera, whom the Birds signed in the off-season and kicked to the curb before your family went down to Ocean City for the first time this past summer. Flaherty will be there in Sarasota next February trying to figure out a role for the 2016 Orioles.

Chris Davis (A) -- Won the team's MVP award and produced yet his second 45-plus HR season in the last three years, finishing with 47 HR and 117 RBI. Continues to sparkle with the glove at first base, and Buck even trotted him out there in right field in July when the club was pondering whether to trade him at the deadline and he held his own there, too. Still strikes out too much, but that's always going to be his one big blemish. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: I suspect he'll hit a bunch of home runs for the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Tigers or whichever team coughs up the big bucks for him this winter.

Matt Wieters (C) -- Tough to give him a grade when he didn't even play half the season, but what we did see from him wasn't all that impressive, hence the "C" on his report card. Appeared in 74 games, going .265/.318/.419, with 8 HR and just 23 RBI. His strikeout numbers were UP and his walks were DOWN (from his season averages) and his power has yet to return after missing nearly an entire year after Tommy John surgery. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: The Orioles are in a quandry with Wieters, who has finally reached free agency for the first time. In order to protect their investment and receive a draft pick as compensation if he signs with a new deal, the Birds have to make him a qualifying offer. Wieters COULD take that deal and stay in Baltimore for one more season and try to play his way back into bigger demand in the winter of 2016. If they don't offer him a contract, the O's get nothing in return if Wieters signs with someone this off-season. I'm guessing they DO make him a qualifying offer and that gets them a draft pick when he signs with the Angels this December.

Wei-Yen Chen (B) -- Durability is still an issue for Chen, as he again failed to reach 200 innings, but he posted a career best 3.34 ERA and will be a hot commodity on the free agent market this winter. Finished 2015 with a career high 153 strike-outs but also allowed 28 home runs, the second most he's ever surrendered in one season. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: I think he'll go to the National League (Philadelphia is my call) and continue to trend up. He'll likely hover around the 3.00 ERA mark in the N.L.


baseball playoffs set, houston grabs final spot

It took a loss by the Angels to make it happen, but the Houston Astros -- a laughingstock for the last five years -- are headed to the American League playoffs. The Astros grabbed the second and final wild card spot on Sunday, finishing at 86-76 (a year after going 70-92) and earning a one-game trip to the Bronx where they'll face the Yankees on Tuesday night. The Astros will send likely American League Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel (20-8, 2.48) to the mound while New York will counter with Masahiro Tanaka (12-7, 3.51).

Toronto will face Texas in the ALDS, with the Blue Jays hosting Games 1, 2 and 5 (if necessary). The Kansas City Royals will await the Houston-New York winner and will also host 1, 2 and 5.

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From a bust in Baltimore to one of the best seasons in the modern era, Jake Arrieta found his form in Chicago this season.

In the National League, the Chicago Cubs finished the season with a remarkable 97-65 record. And what does that get them? A trip to Pittsburgh on Wednesday for a one-game wild card match up with the Pirates, who will send Gerrit Cole (19-8, 2.60) to the mound. Chicago will counter with perhaps baseball's best individual story of 2015, erstwhile Oriole pitcher Jake Arrieta, who had a historic second half and finished the year with a 22-6 record and a 1.77 ERA. Sadly, one of those teams -- Pittburgh or Chicago -- only has one game left in their season and they won 98 and 97 games respectively in 2015.

The Pittsburgh-Chicago winner takes on Central Division champion St. Louis in the best of five NLDS, while the Mets and Dodgers will face off in other NLDS series.

Sunday
October 4
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XV
Issue 4

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terps in trouble, ravens could be, too

Let's get to the easy summary first. If Steve Smith is out for any extended period of time, the Ravens are in trouble. By "extended", I'm talking about anything PAST missing two games. John Harbaugh said on Saturday that Smith's broken ribs will keep him out of next Sunday's home game with Cleveland. That's fine. The Ravens are still going to win that game, even though I think we'd all agree the Browns are prime feasting material for number 89. If Smith can't go against the 49'ers in two weeks, that's going to be an uphill climb, but at this point, if we knew for certain the wide receiver would ONLY miss two games, I'd take that in a heartbeat and go 1-1 and say "thank you very much".

If this rib injury lingers on to the October 26 game at Arizona, the Ravens are in deep doo-doo. At this point, the Ravens aren't in must-win territory EVERY week, and I'm expecting them to go win (Cleveland), win (San Fran), loss (Arizona), but playing without Steve Smith in any of those games has to be a concern for Harbaugh. If only they had a better platoon of receivers from which to choose while Smith is out.

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We're right there with you Coach...we're not sure either.

Now, we get to the tougher of the two situations that surfaced on Saturday. Maryland got the Cleat of Reality down in College Park, losing 28-0 to a Michigan team that didn't look much like the #22 team in the country for about 40 of the game's 60 minutes. The Terps, though, looked a lot like a Big 10 bottom feeder who are still very much in over their head, despite last year's decent conference showing and wins at both Penn State and Michigan. There's lots of head shaking about the program these days and we're starting to pick up more and more "Edsall's gotta go" commentary as the losses start to pile up. When Maryland left the ACC for the greener pastures of the Big 10, everyone suspected it would take the football program a lot longer to catch on than it would the basketball team. And those suspicions were correct. The Terps will be a national title contender in hoops this season. Maryland football will be lucky to win 5 games in 2015.

I'm not a knee-jerk "fire the coach" kind of guy, but I don't see Edsall making a whole lot of progress in College Park. It's probably fair to give him this year and next to see if he can get things going, but it's quite possible these final seven games are going to decide his fate beyond the 2015 campaign. Looking at the schedule, they COULD steal a couple of wins and put themselves in position to win a 6th game at Rutgers to close out the season on November 28. Or, they might not win again this season. I'm not sure which way it's going to go, honestly, but if I had to place a friendly wager, I say the Terps finish the year with five victories.

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put your money where your mouth is

Each week here at #DMD Game Day, I give you five NFL selections against the spread, my "best bet" of the bunch, and my official Ravens score prediction as well. This all, of course, is for "entertainment purposes only", although with the NFL officially in bed with both of the major fantasy sports companies in the country, the league is actually far more involved in gambling than any of us are, that's for sure.

I hit a rough patch last Sunday, going 1-4 against the spread AND flopping on my "Best Bet" pick for the first time in three weeks. I'm back today, though, thinking a little more clearly and ready to have a big Sunday.

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Chargers over the Browns today...easy money.

Browns at Chargers (-7) -- I can't imagine the Browns will put up much of a fight in this one, as the quarterback controversy rolls on in Cleveland. The Chargers are always a solid wager at home, and when Cleveland comes to town, the Bolts are that much more inviting of a play. Cleveland has fought hard in their three games thus far, but today's the day they lay an egg. Take San Diego and give the seven here, as San Diego comes out on top 33-17.

Rams at Cardinals (-7) -- These division match-ups where Vegas is handing out seven-point spreads like free bottles of water are a little bit perplexing. It feels like they're just dying for you to gobble up the Rams and the seven points here -- which means Arizona is probably going to win something like 34-10. Then again, maybe Vegas is thinking that...oh, hell, who am I kidding? I have no idea what Vegas is thinking. I like Arizona to win -- and cover -- 33-20.

Cowboys at Saints (-3) -- Hmmm...let's see. Dallas was 2-0 before last week's home game, then lost to Atlanta in their first FULL game without Tony Romo. Now, they're heading to New Orleans, where the Saints are 0-3 and staring playoff elimination in the face with the Sunday night encounter against Dallas looming. I don't think Dallas can win with Weeden at QB and even Drew Brees at 75% should be enough to ovecome the Cowboys. Saints win -- and cover -- 28-20.

Packers (-7.5) at 49'ers -- I'm going to take the Packers to win in San Francisco, but I think it winds up being by the skin of their teeth. The 49'ers aren't as bad as they've looked in the last two weeks, but they're not good enough to beat Aaron Rodgers and Company. I'm taking Green Bay to win, 23-20, but I'm picking the 49'ers to cover the 7.5 points.

Eagles (-3) at Redskins -- Which Eagles team shows up today? The one that was awful in weeks 1 and 2 or the one that went to New York and slapped the Jets around last Sunday? I have no idea. I'm guessing the Eagles don't know, either. The Redskins are terrible. I don't know what the Eagles are, but I'm taking Philly to win -- and cover -- 24-17.

BEST BET OF THE DAY -- I'm 2-1 in "Best Bets", but I have a really good feeling about today's Best Bet and it comes from New Orleans, where I'm ultra-certain the Saints (-3) are going to win and cover against the Cowboys.


LAST WEEK'S RECORD: 1-4

SEASON RECORD TO DATE: 5-10

BEST BET FOR THE SEASON: 2-1

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grading the orioles, day two

We started our #DMD Orioles report card on Saturday, October 3rd, handing out grades to Machado (B+), Paredes (C-), Jimenez (C+) and Hardy (D). Today, we'll take a look at the seasons of Jonathan Schoop, Chris Tillman, Steve Pearce and Brad Brach.

In no particular order, here we go with day two of our 2015 Orioles report card.

Jonathan Schoop (B) -- If his 2015 "half-season" numbers can be produced for all of 2016, the Orioles will have themselves quite a baseball player next season. He missed nearly all of the first half of 2015 with a knee injury, but once he returned to the lineup and got healthy, he was a nice addition to the offense. Is good enough with the glove that he's definitely not a liability in the field. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: Looks like he could easily become a 25 home run, 70 RBI player hitting somewhere in the bottom third of the batting order. Doesn't get on base enough to warrant a lead-off consideration. Only blemish on an otherwise very good offensive season? 9 walks in 86 games to date. You almost have to be trying NOT to walk to put up those sort of dismal numbers.

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After a terrific 2014 season, Chris Tillman's disappointing 2015 campaign was one of the reasons why the Birds failed to return the playoffs.

Chris Tillman (D+) -- Went 29-17 in 2013 and 2014 with a combined ERA of 3.52...but that was then and THIS is now. Was pretty much awful for most of 2015, at 10-11 with a 5.05 ERA and 1.366 WHIP. Relied far too much on his fastball in '15 and when he lost his command, it was ugly. His numbers were inflated a little bit by the Toronto Blue Jays, who lit him up four times this season, but the bottom line was Tillman didn't pitch anything like a #1 starter should. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: Figures to be the incumbent opening day starter when the Birds reach Sarasota next February, but I expect Jimenez will give him a run for his money for the #1 spot. Needs to work on his breaking ball over the winter and gain some confidence in it so he can go back to challenging hitters and getting ahead in the count.

Steve Pearce (C-) -- Injuries plagued him in 2015 and when he did get the chance to play and contribute, he didn't do much of anything. After a career year in 2014 (.293/.373/.556), he came back to earth in '15 and will likely have to fight for a job next spring in Sarasota. While his HR numbers are decent for a guy who barely played half the games (15 HR in 89 GP), his offensive line wasn't very impressive -- .223/.295/.433. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: If the Orioles don't re-sign Chris Davis, there IS a train of thought that says the Birds might hand Pearce the job at 1B and hope he can produce something comparable to what he gave them in 2014. He's not bad with the glove at first, but his offensive numbers would have to improve a lot in order to justify a full-time role in the field.

Brad Brach (B) -- One of the biggest surprises of the '15 campaign. Produced his first ever sub-3.00 ERA (2.77) and threw a career-high 78 innings. Very impressive WHIP of 1.179 to go with 88 strike-outs and 36 walks. Became a reliable arm out of the bullpen. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: If the Orioles fail to re-sign Darren O'Day, look for Brach to compete with Mychal Givens for the 8th inning role in 2016. Not quite as tricky as O'Day, but will still be useful if he winds up earning the set-up man position next year.

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even without o's, baseball playoffs will be exciting

I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to relaxing in my recliner and watching some playoff baseball over the next five weeks. Heck, one of the playoff spots isn't even a done-deal yet and could require a "pre-playoff game" just to get to a one-game wild card contest. The match-ups are intriguing too, with a couple of cinderella stories in the National League (Mets, Cubs) and a team in the American League (Blue Jays) that might finally be a foil for that outstanding Kansas City bullpen.

As it turns out, the Angels saved their season on Saturday with a dramatic 5-run rally in the 9th inning that provided them with a stunning 11-10 win over the Texas Rangers in Arlington. With Houston winning late last night out in Arizona, the Angels would have been eliminated had they lost on Saturday afternoon. Instead, they scored five times, including four straight singles with two outs that plated both the tying and go-ahead runs. The loss meant Texas still hasn't won the American League West, as Houston remains just one game behind. The Astros need a win today and a Rangers loss to force a one-game division championship playoff on Monday in Arlington. It's a jumbled mess out West, mainly because Texas can't win a game when it matters.

The Yankees are in town -- I know, no one is paying attention -- and have to win today's season finale to ensure they'll host next week's one-game wild card showdown with either Houston, Los Angeles or Texas. There's still a way New York could fall to the #2 position and have to play that game on the road, but a win today in Baltimore ensures that Joe Girardi's team will host the wild card game.

The Mets and Dodgers will face-off in one round of the NLDS while the Cardinals will await the winner of the wild card match-up between Chicago and Pittsburgh. The Cubs will send 22-game winner Jake Arrieta to the mound in that one and there's still a chance the game could be played at Wrigley Field, with Sunday's schedule of games deciding whether Chicago hosts the Pirates or travels to the Steel City.

Meanwhile, Kansas City and Toronto are locked in a battle for supremacy in the American League, as the Royals are one-game ahead in the race for best record and home field in the ALCS (if they get that far, of course). If the Royals finish ahead of the Blue Jays, K.C. will await the wild-card winner in the best-of-5 ALDS and the Blue Jays will get the team who comes out on top as the division winner in the West. Oddly enough, there won't be much difference between the winner and the wild card team, so there's probably no real advantage either way for K.C. and Toronto -- except for travel.

Oh, and his team isn't going to the playoffs, but Max Scherzer tossed his SECOND no-hitter of the year last night in New York against the Mets. Don't forget, Scherzer had two other brushes with no-no's earlier this season. It could have been a truly historic season for the Nats hurler in 2015.

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Saturday
October 3
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XV
Issue 3

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at season's quarter-mark, ravens are what they are (with time to improve)

There's no sense in trying to hide from the fact that the Ravens have finished 25% of their schedule with only one win in four tries. All you have to do is look at the standings and there it is in high-definition. Thursday's win, as I remarked in yesterday's edition of #DMD, was more about "market correction" than anything else. I don't think the Ravens really deserved to win on Thursday, just like they probably didn't deserve to lose the opener at Denver. It's football -- crazy things happen every week, every game, every quarter. Look at the Steelers, for example. Right up until the moment their quarterback hurt, they were flyin' high. One play, one knock to the left leg, and suddenly Big Ben's out for a month or more and the Steelers become the Browns overnight.

Through four games, the Ravens are 1-3. I've seen every game -- as most of you have, I assume -- and my take on the team isn't much different than what we've all witnessed. Through four games, they haven't been very good. They've been very good in small patches and small sample sizes, but overall, if consistency matters, the Ravens just haven't been that sharp on both sides of the ball. They're a 1-3 team for a reason, I'm afraid, but that doesn't necessarily equate to a 4-12 season. No, no, no.

As I wrote on Thursday morning in our Ravens-Steelers preview, a broad-brush way to look at the season is by coming up with your likely best-case scenario after starting with an 0-3 record. It's probably safe to say 10-6 is the BEST you can do, and to get to that record, it's reasonable to think you can go 6-2 at home and 4-4 on the road. Well, the Ravens are now 0-1 at home (1-1 if you pre-count the win over the Browns, which I do) and 1-2 on the road, so they're not all that far off the mark, even though the 1-3 record suggests otherwise. They can most certainly go 6-2 at home. And now, after Thursday's win at Pittsburgh, a 4-4 away mark isn't all that daunting of a task, either. It's not a walk-in-the-park to go 4-4 on the road in the NFL, but it's still there for the Ravens to chase. And so, too, is 10-6.

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This caption could be just about anything..."Hey Joe, how many reliable receivers do you have?"

Therein lies the rub, though. Right now, the team we've seen in weeks one through four isn't capable of winning nine of its last twelve games. The necessary important points of emphasis for winning in the NFL are throwing the ball successfully and defending the other team's passing game successfully and I haven't seen much that tells me the Ravens are going to be able to do those two things "successfully" this season. They have a good-to-sometimes-very-good quarterback, but he can't throw it AND catch it. And, honestly, Flacco hasn't hit on all cylinders for an entire game yet this season and we're four weeks in already. He's had some good halves, a couple of GREAT quarters and some outstanding throws in important situations, but Joe hasn't really had an "elite" game yet.

Then again, other than Steve Smith Sr., there's no wide receiver reliable enough to count on week after week. Kamar Aiken showed a few signs of quality on Thursday night in Pittsburgh but can he do that against the Browns, 49'ers and Cardinals this month? My guess is "no, he can't". I hope I'm wrong. They're still getting nothing earth shattering out of Marlon Brown and Michael Campanaro, despite showing some promise against the Steelers, left Thursday's game with back spasms and continues to fight the injury bug.

It was good to see the Ravens run the ball with effectiveness on Thursday night, but that shouldn't come as a surprise given the sloppy interior line work of the Pittsburgh defense. Poor tackling, wrong gap coverage and just a general lack of quality makes them an easy target to run against this season and I'm guessing plenty of other teams will gouge the Steelers on the ground over the next 12 weeks. Still, for the Ravens, running the ball will be paramount to any future success in 2015 given the lack of pass catching weapons on the roster. They have a unique three-tier grouping right now, each guy with a different strength of sorts. Forsett is the gap-shooter who can smartly take the ball outside if necessary. Taliaferro is more the short yardage option and Allen offers a little bit of both with the added ability of catching the ball out of the backfield. Juszczyk is offer a complimentary piece in that department as well, but he doesn't seem to have a defined role in Trestman's offense thus far.

I said at the beginning of the season the Ravens will finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs and here we are, four weeks in, and I don't see much reason for changing my tune. Despite the 1-3 start, I still think 9-7 is VERY reachable, particularly given what I consider to be four automatic wins (Cleveland x2, Jacksonville and St. Louis) and a pair of 3-game home-stands in November and December. I just don't think they have the receivers in place to win 10 or 11 games and make the post-season. And if something should happen to Flacco...well, you know what that means. As they're about to find out in Pittsburgh for the next month, you can't win games when your "real" quarterback is missing. Flacco needs to stay healthy AND play much better in order for the Ravens to have any kind of chance at a double-digit-win season.

We're not leaving coaching out of this, either. Through four games, we've seen a variety of head scratching decisions, strategies and personnel moves. Thursday night's fake field goal wasn't very smart and the QB sneak in the 4th quarter wasn't all that bright, either, but the Ravens somehow wound up winning the game despite those blemishes. In fairness, though, a lot of this season's early gambles and puzzling decisions have actually worked out in favor of the Ravens. Even though they didn't beat Cincinnati, the fake punt and 4th down gambles all turned out to be good decisions by John Harbaugh. The early 4th down roll-of-the-dice in Oakland worked out favorably, too. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and it looks like Harbaugh and his staff are quietly abiding by that theory thus far in 2015. I can't say that I dislike that theory, either. Shake it up a little bit and keep the other guy guessing, I say.

Oh, and whatever you do Ravens, don't give up. One knock to Andy Dalton's knee and the Bengals might become the Browns, too. Play every game like it's a playoff game if you're the Ravens and see where the chips fall in December.

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grading the orioles

Chris Davis was awarded the Orioles' MVP honor (as voted on by the media) on Friday, out-distancing, we assume, Manny Machado and Adam Jones. I didn't think about it too much, but at first blush I probably would have voted Machado, Davis, and Jones as my 1-2-3. Davis hit a lot of home runs, yes, but he also struck out a gazillion times. Machado, to me, is more reliable at the plate, although their on-base percentage (.360 for Machado, .355 for Davis) isn't all that different. Davis struck out 206 times, Machado had 107 K's.

Before we get to the grades for 2015, Davis was also in the news yesterday for speaking out on his contract situation and mentioning he was "disappointed" the club didn't make him any sort of in-season offer with his pending free agency about to begin in roughly six weeks. Not that he would have signed it, because he most certainly wouldn't have, but I guess Davis just wanted to see a sign of some sort from Dan Duquette and Peter Angelos that they are intent on trying to keep him around. It's rare that a club tries to woo a pending free agent while the season is on-going. It happens, but not often. In Davis' case, it would have been merely cosmetic anyway; he wouldn't have signed any offer the Orioles made and the reality is, their offer probably would have served to anger him more than no offer did.

We'll take a few days to grade key Orioles players from 2015 and put a lid on what turned out to be a disappointing (there's that word again) season overall. The O's were in the race right up until they went 4-16 in August and early September and that put an end to their hopes of a return trip to the American League playoffs. In no particular order, here we go with our 2015 Orioles report card.

Manny Machado (B+) -- Only a career-high 21 errors (19 at 3rd, 2 at SS) kept Machado from getting an "A" in 2015, but he enjoyed his best season ever at the plate with 33 HR, 82 RBI and 20 stolen bases. Finished up with a slash-line of .287/.360/.498 -- all career high numbers for Machado. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: More of the same, with some reasonable expectation that perhaps he can reach the mid 30's in HR and get those RBI numbers up if he hits lower down in the order at some point. Needs to rebound defensively, although it's fair to note a large portion of his early-season errors were of the throwing-variety, and not fielding the baseball.

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Largely forgotten over the final two months of the season, Jimmy Paredes will have to earn his way back on the 25-man roster next spring.

Jimmy Paredes (C-) -- Completely bottomed out by early August and was barely a factor in the final two months of the season. Slash-line of .275/.310/.416 was done mostly in his first 50 games. Started off red hot and enjoyed a solid first two months, but couldn't hit a beach ball by mid-summer. Has no place on the field defensively, so if he can't do it at the plate, he doesn't have a spot on a major league roster. Only walked 19 times and struck out on 111 occasions. He had four more strike-outs than Machado in 53 LESS games. That's a telling stat. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: If the Orioles make any sort of mid-level upgrade to their roster this off-season, Paredes likely won't be with the club on opening day next April. At best, he'll head to spring training with a chance to battle it out for the 24th or 25th spot, but I think it's a long-shot he's in Baltimore on opening day.

Ubaldo Jimenez (C+) -- His wins-above-replacement (WAR) number was 2.4, which almost met his 2.7 number in Cleveland back in 2012 when he enjoyed an outstanding season with the Tribe, but back then he was only making $5.8 million. Now, as a $12 million pitcher, the expectations are higher than 12-10 with a 4.10 ERA and an embarrassing 1.360 WHIP. While those numbers aren't "awful", they're mediocre enough to give Jimenez a mediocre grade. Has the ability to baffle hitters for 4-5 innings per-start, but can't seem to put it all together more than once a month and give the club a truly sparkling outing on the mound. Most certainly hasn't been worth the $24 million the club has shelled out to him in two seasons in Baltimore thus far. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: Will likely enter next season as either the #1 or #2 pitcher on the roster unless the club brings in a quality starter via free agency or trade this off-season.

J.J. Hardy (D) -- Injured in spring training and never really got on track at the plate, producing the worst season of his 5-year Orioles career at .211/.246/.303. Played with an ailing shoulder (and back) throughout 2015, but the signs of a drop-off were there in 2014 when his power numbers sunk greatly. Still plays a decent-to-very-good shortstop, although his range has started to diminish a tad, as expected, now that he's nearing his mid 30's. WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: In one of the worst contracts handed out thus far by Dan Duquette, the club still owes Hardy $50 million over the next three years, so I suspect he'll be patrolling shortstop when opening day arrives in April. It would probably be prudent right now to see if there's a team interested in the final three years of Hardy's contract, but I'm sure the O's would have to kick in some of that money if they could find a willing trade partner.

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#DMD'S HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS SPOTLIGHT
brought to you by
Marsh
Insurance & Financial
410-426-2282

While the #DMD High School Sports Spotlight endured the wind and the rain at Gilman yesterday afternoon, The #1 Gilman Greyhounds endured the Gaels from #3 Mount Saint Joseph. The Greyhounds' powerful offense took the opening kickoff from Mt. St. Joe and it didn’t take long for Gilman to figure out that St. Joe came ready to play.

As we predicted yesterday at #DMD, this game was a battle between the big guys in the trenches. The MSJ defense matched up well with Gilman’s highly regarded offensive line, holding them scoreless in the first quarter. The Greyhounds' offense blinked first when Gilman QB Kasim Hill was intercepted by St. Joe and returned deep into Gilman territory. Mount St. Joseph QB, Bryan Costabile, led the Gael offense onto the field and wasted no time running the ball into the end zone for the first score of the day. The two teams traded possessions into the second quarter, until Gilman was given great field position when St. Joe shanked a punt. The Gilman O-line went to work, chipping away at the Gaels defense and clearing the way for RB Dorian Maddox to put Gilman on the board and tie the game.

Due to a special teams miscue on the subsequent kickoff, St. Joe took possession of the ball at their own two to begin their next drive. That mistake would come back to haunt the visitors. Gilman’s defense amped up the pressure on Costabile and Gilman's Ellison Jordan sacked him for the safety, giving the Greyhounds a 9-7 lead. If any play changed the tempo of the game, that was the one. After the safety, Gilman sent a steady stream of defensive pressure into the St. Joe backfield. The Greyhounds seemed to regain their confidence once they took the lead. Choosing to establish their running game, Gilman wore away at the smaller Mount St. Joseph defense. The Greyhounds scored one more time in the second quarter, taking a 16-7 halftime lead.

The Gaels received the opening kickoff in the second half and Costabile came out throwing. St. Joe had some success in the air, but it was limited and not effective enough to get back the Gaels back into the game. Gilman decided to continue running the ball in the second half and even more so as they added another touchdown and then the final score of the game late in the fourth quarter.

FINAL SCORE -- GILMAN 30 - MOUNT SAINT JOSEPH 7

The #DMD High School Sports Spotlight is brought to you by Greg Marsh and Marsh Insurance and Financial. You'll be able to check in here in each week to see what's happening on the Baltimore area high school football scene, and you should check in with Greg Marsh for all of your personal insurance needs. Give him a call at (410) 426-2282.

Friday
October 2
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XV
Issue 2

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they can call it "lucky"...but we're 1-3 now

Look, I have no idea on earth how the Ravens won that game on Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

As bummed-out Steelers fans passed our #DMD bus after the 23-20 overtime win for John Harbaugh's team, they shouted out "lucky win Baltimore!" and a few other not-so-nice things. More often than not, though, the word "lucky" was used.

That's probably appropriate, frankly. The Ravens weren't just "lucky" to win on Thursday night, they were "extremely lucky" to win. Guess what, anyone who ever hits the PowerBall for $200 million is also "extremely lucky" to win. In other words, who cares if it's lucky? I sure don't. The Ravens needed a win, no matter the score, no matter the way they earned it, no matter who turned out to be the hero. Just go get a win. And that's exactly what they did.

They improved to 1-3 on Thursday night because, somehow, the Steelers swallowed more dummy pills than the Ravens did. The Ravens produced a bag of not-so-magic-tricks that should have, by all rights, cost them the game. They didn't, though, because Pittsburgh had TWO bags of those tricks, including their head coach inexplicably NOT going for a game-winning field goal in overtime and then trying the dumbest of all plays on 4th and 2. One thing we've discovered about Mike Tomlin without peeking at his personal biography in the Pittsburgh Steelers media guide -- he's no Rhodes Scholar. A fake field goal when it wasn't necessary and another Joe Flacco quarterback sneak that didn't work -- on 4th down, no less -- highlighted just two of the critical mistakes made by the Ravens on Thursday night, but those goof-ups paled in comparison to what the Steelers did to throw up all over themselves.

X
A late game-tying field goal and a 52-yarder to win it had Justin Tucker pointing to the sky on Thursday night.

The Ravens won because their field goal kicker is clutch and Pittsburgh's isn't. The Ravens won because their defense stymied the Steelers in the second half -- while, admittedly, the Steelers halted themselves, too -- and held them without a score after falling behind 20-7 early in the 3rd quarter. And the Ravens won because their quarterback can still play in the league and the guy who took the snaps for the Steelers on Thursday night is finished.

It somehow all added up to an improbable 23-20 overtime win for the Ravens, who made some laughable strategical blunders only to be outdone by the Steelers, who practically gave the game away with their play-calling lunacy and decision to NOT try and kick the game-winning field goal from 50 yards out and a smidgen of wind at their back. Sure, Josh Scobee missed two earlier field goals in the mid 40's range, but neither one of those were terribly off-target...they both narrowly slid past the goal post. And by going for it on 4th and 2 from the Baltimore 33, all you did was give the ball to the Ravens at their own 33 instead of their own 43 had Scobee missed the game-winner. I'm not entirely sure what Tomlin was thinking there, but I know for certain if that's Harbaugh who eschews the game-winning attempt and the Ravens give away that game the way the Steelers did, the Baltimore coach would have been roasted for the next ten days by the fans and media.

Even more bizarre than not trying to win the game right there was the decision to have Vick throw the ball on 4th and 2 with, arguably, the best running back in the entire league just five feet behind him. Not once, but twice, on 4th down and short, the Steelers didn't give the ball to Le'Veon Bell, who torched the Ravens for most of the evening en route to a 129 yard game on the ground. Instead, on the first 4th down attempt, the Steelers opted to have Vick run with the ball to no avail, and then, the backbreaker, trying a back shoulder throw to Antonio Brown that was horribly placed by Vick and resulted in the Ravens taking over on downs.

But, the Ravens will take the win and not care one iota about how they got it. It's a bit of market correction for John Harbaugh's team, who probably didn't deserve to be 0-3 going into the game and probably didn't deserve to win last night's game to improve to 1-3. Things work out that way, I suppose, and you take what you can get what you can get it. The Ravens were very fortunate to get a washed-up Michael Vick on Thursday night. He added nothing at all to the Pittsburgh offense, other than a few dodges here and there when he ran with the ball. And as much as the Ravens are still behind the eight ball with their 1-3 start, the Steelers are in for a long six weeks without Ben Roethlisberger under center. They might not win a game with Vick in there as their starting QB.

A quick note of thanks to several #DMD partners who helped make our bus trip to Pittsburgh a lot of fun. First, we appreciate the continued support of Jerry's Toyota-Scion, who made the trip more affordable for our busload of fans with their generous sponsorship of the bus trip. We'd also like to thank Harpoon Beer (it went over like hot cakes!), Chick fil-A of Nottingham Square (no one turned down those chicken sandwiches on the ride to Pittsburgh) and our friends at Palmisano's of Baldwin, who provided our pre-game tailgate subs (and those were scarfed down in minutes by our entire crew!).

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ravens game balls for thursday, october 1

Four Ravens get #DMD game balls for their highlight performances in Thursday's win over Pittsburgh.

Running back Justin Forsett Racked up 150 yards on 27 carries and was instrumental in the Ravens' second half comeback from a 20-7 deficit. Was picking up yards in big chunks throughout the night, with a 33-yard gain (game high) and five rushes for eight yards or more. He helped get the Ravens in second and short quite a bit on Thursday, which helped the overall offensive game-plan a lot.

Linebacker Daryl Smith Looked like he had an axe to grind with the Steelers. What a performance from Smith, who was involved in 11 tackles overall (9 solo) and had two tackles-for-loss and a hit on Michael Vick.

Cornerback Will Davis The newcomer who was acquired in a trade with the Dolphins two weeks ago sure looked the part on Thursday night and likely moved into the starting nickel corner with that performance vs. Pittsburgh. Was terrific in coverage, playing tight on his man and using his speed to break up several throws from Vick.

Kicker Justin Tucker A 52-yard field goal is basically a 3-foot putt for Tucker, so it certainly wasn't a surprise when he drilled the game-winner, but 52 yards is still 52 yards. It's not a chip shot. Tucker tied the game from short range in the final seconds of the 4th quarter and then nailed the winner -- those two kicks and the two missed by Josh Scobee turned out to be the difference in the game.


And on the other end, these guys weren't so hot on Thursday --

Rick Wagner -- Had another tough night on the right side, which is one of the reasons why Flacco's numbers were so dismal and the QB was sacked five times. That said, Wagner's biggest contribution was on the Cockrell interception as it was Wagner's tackle near midfield that might have saved a Steelers' TD. It hasn't been a good season thus far for Wagner, who has clearly regressed from a season ago.

Timmy Jernigan -- Another game where Jernigan failed to assert him in the run-stopping game, finishing the evening with just one tackle. He has not been up-to-par in the last three games, that's for sure.

Marlon Brown -- On a night where Kamar Aiken (77 yards receiving, 1 TD) looked the part, Marlon Brown sure didn't. Again. Finished the night with just two catches for 9 yards and failed to step up once Steve Smith Sr. went out of the game with his injury.

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THIS WEEKEND IN ENGLISH SOCCER
Contributed by #DMD's EPL Reporter

MATTHEW CARROLL

While the first day of Matchweek 8 in the Barclays Premier League will go a long way in clearing up the log jam that currently exists in middle of the league standings, it will be Sunday that could very well give us the first glimpse of the eventual league champion. It is Sunday Funday and it doesn’t get much better than this for sports fans, so settle in for football before football to take in one of the best rivalries in all of sports and two colossal clubs go head to head. And don’t forget, you can watch every game every week live on the NBC family of networks or online.

Saturday (all times Eastern)

10am – Newcastle United @ Manchester City – Etihad Stadium, NBC Sports Network

After winning their first five games of the season, without allowing a goal and looking as if they would run away with the league this year, Manchester City has faltered. City have lost two league matches, and their spot atop the league standings, in a row for just the second time under manager Manuel Pellegrini, conceding as many goals in the 4-1 thrashing Tottenham put on them last weekend than they had in their previous eleven games combined.

They will welcome Newcastle United to the Etihad this weekend who, despite a 2-2 draw at home to Chelsea last weekend, find Steve McClaren’s rear end parked firmly on the managerial hot seat without a win to show for his efforts this season and buried in 19th place in the table with only three points from seven games. If recent history is any indication that first win will not be coming this weekend as City are unbeaten in their last seventeen league matches against the Magpies (W15 D2), dropping four goals or more on their visitors three separate times and outscoring them 40-8 overall.

Sunday (all times Eastern)

8:30am – Liverpool @ Everton – Goodison Park, NBC Sports Network

Separated by only a single mile, one of the best local rivalries in all of sports kicks off the Sunday slate of games when Liverpool take on Everton at Goodison Park in the 225th meeting between Red and Blue in the Merseyside Derby. Both sides come into the match flying high off of 3-2 victories in Matchweek 7, though it will be Liverpool who feel they will have the upper hand with their recent run of form against their neighbors and with the return of their talisman Daniel Sturridge.

Liverpool have not lost in nine consecutive league matches against Everton and have tasted defeat in just one of their last eight trips to Goodison Park. Daniel Sturridge, the Reds star striker who returned to the starting lineup only two weeks ago following a long term injury absence, has scored five times against Everton in the league and will like his chances to increase that tally following the performance that he put in last weekend, bagging two goals including the game winner. Everton will be boosted by the likely return from injury of defenders John Stones and Seamus Coleman, who along with Phil Jagielka will be tasked with slowing Sturridge down and limiting his impact on Sunday’s outcome.

11am – Manchester United @ Arsenal – Emirates Stadium, NBC Sports Network

I will see your Merseyside Derby and raise you Manchester United vs. Arsenal, as two of the biggest and most successful clubs in world football square of at the Emirates Stadium to cap off the weekend. With sixteen Barclays Premier League titles between them, either side could find themselves in pole position at the top of the table by the end of the day on Sunday and on their way to adding another piece of silverware to their already impressive trophy cases.

United are unbeaten in their last four trips to the Emirates and, after a slow start to the season offensively, have seemed to have found their groove with three wins out of their last three with nine goals scored. Arsenal's win rate of 24% against Manchester United in the league is their lowest versus any other team, and it looks like they will have to face the firing United attack of Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial without defensive stalwart Laurent Koscielny, who limped off just before the hour mark in their mid-week Champions League defeat to Olympiakos and has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.

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#DMD'S HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS SPOTLIGHT
brought to you by
Marsh
Insurance & Financial
410-426-2282

The #DMD High School Sports Spotlight is on #3 Mount St. Joseph (4-1) and #1 Gilman (4-1) this afternoon in a match-up of MIAA A Conference powers. Mt. St. Joe pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2015 season last Saturday when they needed two overtimes to win 36-33 over McDonogh.

Mount St. Joe head coach, Rich Holzer, hopes to lead the Gaels into Gilman today and to their first victory over the Greyhounds since 2008. Gilman’s legendary head coach Biff Poggi hopes to duplicate last season's 38-14 defeat of the Gaels. Kickoff is at 4pm and this game is guaranteed to be a great one to watch.

The biggest point of contention this afternoon will be in the trenches. It is as simple as this – the offensive line that plays the best will be the offensive line of the winning team. Two of Mount St. Joe’s offensive linemen stand out. Juniors Anthony Ruffin and Kyle Hunter can dominate defenders. They both play low and get off the ball quick and with power. Against any other team, Riffin and Hunter would give the Gaels a decided edge. Not against this Greyhounds team.

Week in and week out, Gilman is fielding one of the most complete high school offensive line units that the MIAA has seen in a long time. They are enormous and they are powerful. Featuring 6’7”, 290 lbs. Devery Hamilton and 6’5”, 320 lbs. Stephen Spanellis, 6’3” , 280 lbs. Wes Mehl, and 6’4”, 280 lbs. Stewart Keehner, all four seniors and all committed to play for Division I schools at the next level. Round those four out with a 6’3”, 295lbs. sophomore named Ja'mion Franklin and what you have is an impressive group that dominated the line of scrimmage and been the keystone to the Greyhounds rushing success this season.

By the way, here's the math: Gilman’s starting offensive line averages 6’4” and 293 lbs. The Baltimore Ravens starting line averages 6’4” and 311 lbs.

This afternoon look for the Gaels QB Bryan Costabile to hook up with wideouts Jadan Blue and Christian Heyward or hand off to Maliek Carr or Avonte Thompson. Keep your eyes on Manny Patterson too. Peterson is a skill position player who plays on both sides of the ball. Gilman will counter with QB Kasim Hill, WR John Fitzgerald, RB Dorian Maddox, RB Antonio Dupree, on offense. This group, behind that line we mentioned puts a lot of yards beneath their feet and a lot of point on the board. Don’t forget about the Greyhound defense. Ellison Jordan and Taron Vincent are stand outs on the defensive line.

There will be a lot of great local talent on the field at Gilman this afternoon. But make no mistake about it, the big uglies will determine who wins this game.

The #DMD High School Sports Spotlight is brought to you by Greg Marsh and Marsh Insurance and Financial. You'll be able to check in here in each week to see what's happening on the Baltimore area high school football scene, and you should check in with Greg Marsh for all of your personal insurance needs. Give him a call at (410) 426-2282.

Thursday
October 1
#DMD GAME DAY
presented by
Volume 15
Issue 1
Baltimore Ravens vs. Pitsburgh Steelers

8:25 PM EDT

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

It's another "travel day" for Drew's Morning Dish, as we'll be taking a bus load of Ravens enthusiasts up to Pittsburgh for tonight's big showdown with the Steelers. Thanks to our friends at Jerry's Toyota-Scion for their continued support of our road trips and a special thank you to Advanced Heating & Cooling and Glory Days Grill for their participation in tonight's trip to Heinz Field. As well, we owe a HUGE debt of gratitude to Harpoon Beer (we have four different samples to "taste test" on the ride to Pittsburgh today!), Chick fil-A at Nottingham Square (everyone loves lunch from Chick fil-A!) and Palmisano's of Baldwin (they've prepared individual subs for our pre-game tailgate party once we arrive in the Steel City.)

The last time the Ravens visited the Steelers, it was a must-win situation for John Harbaugh's team and that's exactly what they did, producing a 30-17 playoff win last January 3rd at Heinz Field. Tonight, in Week 4 of the 2015 NFL season, the Ravens again face a must-win situation, although the circumstances are obviously quite different.

X
This is why Pittsburgh signed Michael Vick...in the event Big Ben went down and couldn't play. Was it a wise signing? We'll see tonight.

There is one similarity, though, and it comes in the form of Pittsburgh's lineup. Last January, the Steelers played that playoff game without one of their best offensive weapons, Le'Veon Bell, who suffered a knee injury in the regular season finale the week before. Tonight, the Ravens will reap the benefits of Pittsburgh missing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who injured his left knee in last Sunday's 12-6 win at St. Louis. The Ravens hope to once again take advantage of that situation tonight at Heinz Field, where their playoff hopes could rest on the outcome of this showdown with their AFC North rivals.

For the Ravens, tonight's game is about redemption and rebounding from last Sunday's home loss to the Bengals, where Baltimore scarfed up a pair of late 4th quarter leads in falling to the Bengals, 28-24. Several players were exposed in that one, most of them on the defensive side of the ball, and tonight's game before a national TV audience gives the likes of Jimmy Smith, Rashaan Melvin and Kendrick Lewis an opportunity to showcase their abilities and prove that last Sunday's dismal performance against Cincinnati was just "one of those days".

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tonight's main storylines - ravens vs. steelers


*Ravens can't start 0-4 -- It's tough to think of a Week 4 game as "must win", but when you're 0-3, that fourth game is, in fact, a virtual must-win. For the Ravens, their efforts to rebound from an 0-3 start and somehow work their way back into the post-season picture takes on a "bigger picture" sort of approach. Traditionally, 10-6 is good enough (nearly 85% of the time since 1990) to get you into the playoffs. An easy way of going 10-6 is to produce a 6-2 home record and 4-4 road record. The Ravens are 0-2 on the road thus far and just 0-1 at home. There's still lots of time to work at that home record, but if you start the road portion of your 8-game schedule at 0-3, it's an uphill task to finish 4-4. This one, tonight, is huge for the Ravens if they want to finish 4-4 on the road in 2015.

*Which Ravens defense shows up? -- This was the same storyline from last Sunday's game with the Bengals. It's a simple question -- "Which Ravens defense shows up?" The last two weeks have been less-than-impressive for Dean Pees and his group of players, as Derek Carr and Andy Dalton have both toyed with the Baltimore secondary in putting up 37 and 28 points respectively. In week one at Denver, Pees was dedicated to keeping Peyton Manning off balance with a variety of blitz packages and stunts that left the future Hall of Famer frustrated and confused. Over the last two weeks, though, the Ravens defense hasn't been as multi-dimensional and the secondary has been exposed in one-on-one coverage. They know what Pittsburgh's going to bring tonight. Can they stop them?

*Establishing the run -- The Ravens haven't been able to run the ball with much success over the last two weeks, but part of the reason for that is the team was behind early (10-0 in Oakland, 14-0 vs. Cincy) and needed to get back in the game. Tonight vs. Pittsburgh, they figure to try and establish the run early and force the Steelers to put eight men in the box, giving the wide receivers one-on-one coverage to beat. If Baltimore can't run the ball, though, the Steelers figure to drop someone into coverage and give up short-yardage passing plays while protecting against the long throw. Running the ball successfully is important for the Ravens tonight.

*Is Michael Vick any good? -- The Steelers will be playing the next five weeks or so with Michael Vick at the helm, so tonight's 2015 debut will give Mike Tomlin a hi-def glimpse of what he'll be working with until Roethlisberger returns from his knee injury. Vick used to be a really good quarterback, but he's now in the November of his career, relegated to a clipboard carrier and full-time back-up. Once upon a time, though, a career journeyman named Charlie Batch went into Baltimore and beat the Ravens, so the history is there for a back-up to come in and play well against John Harbaugh's team. Vick, though, will want to showcase his talents tonight, while Batch was just happy to play and manage the game. The Ravens have to hope Vick tries to do too much, and then capitalize on those efforts if possible.


percentage points

Here's a look at a handful of key parts and players in tonight's game at Pittsburgh and some percentage-of-success numbers to correlate with all of it.

47% - If you said to me, "Drew, what are the chances the Ravens win tonight?"

44% - Chances of the Steelers holding Flacco to under 300 yards passing?

20% - The chances Flacco doesn't throw an interception?

42% - What are the chances Justin Forsett runs for over 100 yards?

33% - The chances any WR other than Steve Smith catches a TD pass?

5% - Chances Justin Tucker misses an extra point today?

78% - What are the chances the team with the most turnovers loses tonight?


How Drew sees the Ravens/Steelers game --

X
Steelers score late in the 4th and win.

Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding the Ravens tonight, I think they have a very reasonable chance of winning. Admittedly, I wouldn't have thought that at all if they were facing Roethlisberger instead of Vick, but the loss of Big Ben -- particularly on a short week -- is a huge blow to Mike Tomlin's team. Desperate times call for desperate measures and the Ravens, are, for certain, facing a desperate situation right now at 0-3. They'll come out firing tonight at Heinz Field. Expect to see an up-tempo offensive pace from the very beginning of the game, perhaps even the no-huddle in the first series, as Baltimore looks to shake those early-game doldrums they've experienced in the three games thus far.

As for how it plays out, I think Pittsburgh does just enough to win, thanks to a 4th quarter Ravens turnover of some sort and a couple of conveniently thrown penalty flags that will help Michael Vick's offense in the final five minutes of the game. Baltimore leads 10-9 at the half, 17-16 after three, and tries to hold off Vick and Company in the 4th quarter but can't do it. The back-up QB runs into the end zone from seven yards out with four minutes left to give the Steelers a 26-20 win.


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bo's eye view

BO SMOLKA is a longtime member of the Baltimore-Washington media. He covers the Ravens for #DMD and ComcastSportsNet. Bo's insights and analyses are presented by Advanced Heating & Cooling, which offers a variety of energy saving, high-efficiency equipment for heating, air conditioning, and geothermal systems.


The Ravens have been here before. No, not at 0-3. The Ravens have never sat at 0-3 before this season. But they have faced a Big Ben-less Steelers team before. In fact, over the course of Ben Roethlisberger's career, he has missed six games against the Ravens, and the Ravens are 5-1 in those games. So the absence of Roethlisberger, who is sidelined with a knee injury, might be the biggest factor that could give the Ravens a season-saving win at Heinz Field. But here are five other players who will go a long way toward deciding whether the Ravens finally get in the win column or fall to 0-4 and essentially stick a fork in their season:

* Antonio Brown

If the Ravens plan was to contain A.J. Green and make the other Bengals receivers beat them, it failed miserably. Green torched the Ravens for 227 yards and two touchdowns on 10 catches. So Jimmy Smith and the rest of the maligned secondary can expect a healthy dose of Antonio Brown, who had 11 catches for 144 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Ravens at Heinz Field last year. He ranks second in the league -- just ahead of Steve Smith -- with 436 receiving yards.

* Elvis Dumervil

The Ravens had trouble containing the mobile Derek Carr in Oakland, and now they have to deal with the mobile Michael Vick in Pittsburgh. Granted, Vick, at age 35, is not the same player he was 10 years ago. But he could still give the Ravens fits if they can't get pressure and then contain him. Vick won't take a lot of deep shots, but if he can run and create time, the Steelers have a slew of receivers and running backs who can do a lot of damage turning short passes into huge gains. Dumervil needs to be better than he's been so far this year.

* Joe Flacco

Well of course the Ravens quarterback will be a key factor in the game. But here's the thing to consider: Flacco has done some of the best work of his career against the Steelers, and at Heinz Field. In 2011 at Heinz Field, Flacco led the Ravens 92 yards in the final two minutes, hitting Torrey Smith with the game-winning touchdown with eight seconds left in a 23-20 win. (Yes, it would be nice to have him back. ...) Since the beginning of the 2011 season, Flacco has thrown 13 touchdowns and two interceptions against the Steelers and is 6-3 in those games. The Ravens have won three of their past five at Heinz Field, and Flacco clearly doesn't shy from the moment in one of the league's most hostile environments.

* Justin Forsett

Remember him? Forsett and the Ravens running game has been MIA this year. Through three games, Forsett is averaging about 41 yards a game with no touchdowns. He totaled 13 yards on 10 carries last week, with no runs longer than 5 yards. The Steelers have the 9th-ranked run defense in the league, but the Ravens and the offensive line -- a supposed strength this season -- simply must produce on the ground. That will set up the passing game. If the Ravens need to rely too heavily on the pass, their shortage of playmaking receivers will be badly exposed -- again.

* Maxx Williams

All indications are the rookie tight end will start in place of injured Crockett Gillmore, who has missed practice this week with a calf injury that sidelined him for the second half on Sunday. Is Williams ready for prime time? The Ravens need him to be. Gillmore, who had three catches for 40 yards in the first half Sunday, has developed into one of the Ravens top receiving options. Williams, who has five catches for 67 yards thus far, was targeted seven times against the Bengals. He can probably expect another busy night, but he also must be block well to get the run game going (see Forsett, above).

Prediction: The Ravens haven't been able to beat anybody yet. They can't cover, they can't tackle, they can't run. Logic suggests they can't beat the 2-1 Steelers at Heinz Field. But Flacco has been at his best here, and the Steelers without Roethlisberger are a different team. It won't be pretty, but the Ravens steal one. Ravens 19, Steelers 16

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go head-to-head with drew in nfl week 4 and win a $50 gift card at glory days

The NFL season is upon us and our friends at Hong Kong Louie have created weekly Contests exclusively for Drew's Morning Dish readers.

Each week, Hong Kong Louie handicaps all the NFL games. For each game, you have the option of selecting the favorite or the underdog. There are no point spreads – you must select the outright winners of the games – the underdogs are awarded commensurately more points than the favorites to reward those who correctly pick the upsets. To score points, you MUST select the WINNER of a game. If you select the winner, you collect the points indicated for that team. If you select the loser, you collect NO POINTS for that game. After all games are decided, each entrants' points for all games are totaled.

Example: If you take the Ravens to beat Pittsburgh this Thursday, you receive 100 points if the Ravens win the game. If you select the Steelers, you receive 136 points if they win. If you select the loser of the game, you score NO points. The same follows for all 16 games played this week. When all games are decided, each entrants' score for all games is totaled.

The player who beats Drew's total points and who has the highest point-total of all #DMD contestants wins a $50 gift card to Glory Days. If no one beats Drew's total, the gift card goes into the following week's Contest and thus doubles next weeks' prize value. Simple enough, right? Just go to the Hong Kong Louie website, register, and you're all set for the season. Each week—prior to the Thursday night game at 8:30 pm—you go in, make your picks, and go head-to-head with Drew.

Here's how to enter the #DMD Contest:

  1. You must be a registered member of HongKongLouie.com to enter the #DMD Contest (it's FREE to register and there is NO obligation of any kind). Many #DMD readers are already registered members of HongKongLouie.com. [And several have already won HongKongLouie cash prizes!] If you are not already registered, it literally takes only thirty seconds to sign up. Register here.
  2. Once you create an account (or if you already have one), go to the #DMD exclusive contest page.
  3. Copy-and-paste or type this password — 3140 — into the password area in the above (#2) link. [Please don't share the password with anyone who is not a #DMD reader.]
  4. Make your selections of the winners of all the games, and then answer the Tiebreaker questions.
  5. At the conclusion of the last Sunday night game of the week, each entrants' score will be published on any computer or phone on which he or she is logged in to HongKongLouie.com.
  6. If you have any questions about the Contest or the log-in procedures, please e-mail: support@hongkonglouie.com. We realize that the explanation here is more complex than the process of entering the Contest, and for that, we apologize. We'll get back to you as quickly as possible with any clearer explanations necessary.
  7. #DMD readers are also cordially invited to participate in the non-exclusive Hong Kong Louie Contests, and compete against all the world for the cash prizes to the winners.


RETRIEVER ROUND-UP

UMBC baseball fell to in-state rival Maryland, 6-2 on Tuesday afternoon in College Park. The Retrievers fell behind early, but got a two-run home run from Hunter Dolshun to take the lead. However the Terps scored four runs in the sixth to take the victory.

The Retrievers fall to 18-20 on the year while Maryland improves to 32-15 in 2017.