Friday
August 31
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perfect in the pre-season


Hey, 5-0 is 5-0, whether you're playing pre-season football or chess.

Winning is always better than losing, unless you're the Orioles, where finishing with the worst record is actually more beneficial than finishing with the second worst record.

The Ravens capped off a perfect 5-0 pre-season last night by beating the Redskins, 30-20. Yes, both lineups were mostly comprised of guys who will be unemployed in less than a week. But we've now seen enough in the month of August to know something about this 2018 Ravens team.

Breshad Perriman's run in Baltimore is likely over and last night's lack of effort on a first half interception probably wasn't the final straw...but it could give John Harbaugh one final piece of evidence when the two have "the talk" sometime soon.

Perriman just doesn't have it. He's never really had it, truthfully, but you can't buy speed. And so, the Ravens always gave him one more chance. And then one more. And then, finally, one more after that.

Some other team, some other coach, some other time -- maybe he figures it out. But in Baltimore? It's just not happening. He'll go down as one of the team's all-time worst first round draft picks. Perriman makes Kyle Boller look like Peyton Manning.

The curtain likely closed on Breshad Perriman's Ravens career last night.

Robert Griffin III didn't play last night. Most observers feel that was a clear indication that he's made the team. Some NFL reporters are saying the Ravens have been contacted about trading Griffin, as teams scour the wires for an available back-up. Earlier this week, remember, the Saints picked up Teddy Bridgewater and traded away a draft pick for him.

Griffin has clearly displayed a decent level of acumen in this pre-season. Whether he can still play and win in the NFL is another question. But he's definitely still one of the best 64 quarterbacks in the league (insert your tired, aging Colin Kaepernick joke here).

My guess? I wouldn't be shocked to see the Ravens trade Griffin and go with Flacco and Jackson as their two quarterbacks. I'm by no means saying Jackson is ready to handle a starter's workload, but every roster spot is valuable and I'm not sure it makes much sense for the Ravens to use two spots on players who most likely won't play at all.

It could depend on who else around the league becomes available when the roster cuts are made, but I can see the Ravens moving Griffin if a veteran tight end or defensive back gets let go.

I don't put a lot of stock in pre-season. But if I'm Kenneth Dixon, I'm a little concerned about my job security this morning. Mark Thompson looked really good last night against the Redskins and Dixon's on-again, off-again career has to worry the Ravens. Injuries and a suspension might finally catch up to Dixon.

I also don't think Albert McClellan's roster spot is locked up. Yes, the Ravens are somewhat thin at linebacker as it is, but McClellan, coming off a knee injury, hasn't done much this pre-season to convince anyone that he's ready to handle a significant number of snaps per-game. McClellan does play a key role on special teams, though. That might be his saving grace.

And perhaps the most intriguing decision on the Ravens' plate involves Kaare Vedvik, the back-up kicker/punter. I've been saying this for three weeks now and I'm not changing my tune until I see the final roster. I think the Ravens are going to try and somehow stash him away via the injury list OR just make the bold move and cut veteran punter Sam Koch. If the Ravens let Vedvik go at 3:00 pm today, he'll have a job somewhere in the NFL at 3:25 pm.

I'm not one for cutting veteran players just because someone outshined him in pre-season, but Vedvik is clearly the real deal. He's so "real", in fact, that if Justin Tucker went down with a hamstring injury the Ravens probably wouldn't feel much impact if Vedvik were on the roster.

The big question, of course is this: Can the Ravens somehow pay Vedvik enough money after creating a fake injury that he'll take that sort of deal rather than go kick for someone in the league this season?

It's not often a punter-kicker scenario in the team is filled with this much drama -- so enjoy it while you can.

The weird pre-season schedule didn't do much to help the Ravens. Four pre-season games is already one or two too many. Five is worse. Joe Flacco played roughly the equivalent of one full quarter of football during the month of August. The wide receivers probably played about a half or so. It's hard to develop chemistry together when you don't play -- together.

What we saw in the pre-season is pretty clear. The Ravens have a lot more "team speed" than in recent years. The defensive side of the ball, in particular, seems a lot quicker.

The offensive line is still a work in progress, but, barring the center position, the Ravens are fairly well stocked up front. If Flacco stays healthy and the receivers pan out, the offense should be more like the one that finished 3rd in the league over the second half of the 2017 campaign -- and less like the pedestrian group we saw in 2016 and in the first half of last season.

After the first week breather against the hapless Bills, the Ravens will have their hands full for a few weeks without Jimmy Smith. If they can somehow be 3-1 after that Sunday night tilt in Pittsburgh, John Harbaugh's team will be in good position.

My optimist thought of an 11-5 season hasn't changed at all. Flacco and the key offensive pieces have to stay healthy. That's the biggest issue I see.

And what about you? You've had the whole month of August to make your call. What will the Ravens record be this season?



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sports gambling poll question shows mixed results


In one of our more popular poll questions ever, the opinions were nearly even across the board on yesterday's question about sports gambling.

32% of you voted for "I might try it once just for the experience."

30% of you said "A couple of times a month."

20% of you said "Never."

11% of you said "Several times a week."

And 7% of you said "At least once a week."

Doing that quick math that most Flyers fans can only dream of, that looks to me like 20% of the people who answered the poll question would never wager on a game if sports gambling becomes legal in the state of Maryland.

The other 80% of those who responded indicated they'd participate in some fashion, including 30% who say they would wager on games a couple of times a month.

Thanks to all who participated in yesterday's survey.

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thanks a lot, trumbo


With the news late last night that the Yankees have acquired Giants' right fielder Andrew McCutchen, we can all gang up on Mark Trumbo now.

Maybe I'm crazy, but Trumbo would have been a nice fit in New York.

Alas, with season-ending knee surgery looming, Trumbo wasn't available to the Yankees. That's too bad.

Would the Yankees have been interested in Mark Trumbo if not for his August knee injury?

There's no telling if they would have even wanted him, but it's pretty evident what New York is doing right now. They need someone with some offensive prowess to play while Aaron Judge is still out with his wrist injury. And Giancarlo Stanton, who has played in 53 straight games, needs a day off here and there.

McCutchen is a nice fit in New York, albeit only for one month. He, like Adam Jones, is a free agent at the end of the season.

But McCutchen hasn't ever faced American League pitching, other than the brief interleague meetings each season. Trumbo has spent the bulk of his career in the American League.

Perhaps the Yankees wouldn't have wanted Trumbo at all. He has one year left on a deal that pays him $12 million per-year.

But given that they took McCutchen, we at least know the Yankees were in the market for a right fielder who can hit. Go ahead and make your quip about Trumbo and hitting...I get it. But you know what I'm getting at, nonetheless.

Trumbo will almost certainly be the subject of trade talks this winter, if for no other reason than he has no value at all to the Orioles in 2019. They're losing upwards of 100 games with him or without him next season.

On the field, Thursday night wasn't kind to the Yankees. Detroit scored three times in the top of the 9th to turn a 7-5 deficit into an 8-7 win at Yankee Stadium.

At roughly the same time the Yankees were blowing their 3-run advantage, the Red Sox were steaming back from an early 4-0 hole in Chicago to beat up on the White Sox, 9-4.

There's still a month of baseball remaining and the Red Sox and Yankees face each other six more times, but the A.L. East looks all but over.

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ryder cup intrigues boosts playoff event


The next four days will decide quite a bit on the PGA Tour.

The coveted $10 million first place check for winning the season-long FedEx Cup is still very much up for grabs. Thirty players are going to be eliminated from the chase this week, as the TOUR cut-off after the event at TPC Boston is those within the top 70 on the points list.

The battle for three of the available Ryder Cup captain's picks will also end sometime next Tuesday when Jim Furyk announces three of his four selections.

Could one more week of solid golf earn Xander Schauffele a Ryder Cup call next Tuesday?

Tiger Woods has one of the spots. That leaves two. It's almost a certainty that Phil Mickelson will get one of the others. Now we're down to two.

After his win last week at the opening playoff event, and with Tiger Woods mentioning him often these days, it's safe to assume that Bryson DeChambeau is getting added to the team by Furyk. He finished 9th in the standings.

The safe money says Woods, DeChambeau and Mickelson are announced next Tuesday.

But what about the last pick?

It's likely coming down to Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau.

Schauffele finished 12th in the point standings. Finau finished 15th. Schauffele was better in 2017. Finau had a better season in 2018.

Matt Kuchar is still available, too. What if he were to pop up and win this week or next in Philadelphia?

Billy Horschel has a history of making eye-popping September runs. He played well last week at The Northern Trust. If he were to win this week or next, Furyk could lean in his direction.

By the way, this battle for the final spot on the team is a good problem to have, although a couple of guys are going to be disappointed when they have to watch the Ryder Cup instead of play in it.

Thursday
August 30
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maryland and baltimore...still lagging behind


There's good news and bad news when it comes to legal sports gambling in our neck of the woods.

It's available. That's the good news.

And it's somewhat close, even. That's more good news.

But there's no sign on the horizon that Maryland or Baltimore will itself offer legalized sports gambling in the near future. That, of course, is the bad news, if you're an enthusiast who might like to occasionally wager on a game or two.

Starting this Saturday, you'll be able to go to Charlestown, West Virginia and place a legal bet on the sports event of your choosing. Earlier this year, Delaware Park opened their sports gambling facility at the race track, which also houses their modestly sized casino.

Maryland, like they've done for decades, still lags behind.

While neighboring states offer legal sports gambling, Maryland doesn't.

We were behind the times when it came to the idea of state-of-the-art sports facilities, but the Colts getting ripped from us in the middle of the night splashed cold water on our face. The Orioles were handed a beautiful new ballpark in 1993 and five years later, after we stole the Browns from Cleveland, the Ravens got their gorgeous new digs right next to the Camden Yards baseball stadium.

The powers-that-be haggled over casino gambling for more than a decade before it finally got approved. By the time you could play black jack or poker in Maryland, our neighbors in Delaware and West Virginia were already reeling in millions of dollars a year. The number of cars in their parking lots with Maryland license plates told the story.

Oddly, Maryland has built several new sports facilities in the last 30 years, but Baltimore hasn't been able to put together the financing for a new indoor arena. The biggest issue facing Baltimore officials is the simplest one; there's no tenant -- or even hope for one -- coming in from the NBA or NHL to serve as the anchor for an 18,000 seat building.

But this legalized sports gambling thing makes great sense. And yet, Maryland still doesn't offer it.

The infrastructure is in place already. Just use the casinos that are up and running. Sure, there's an initial equipment investment, but that would probably be paid off in a year, if not sooner.

It's hard to figure out what's holding things up. Everyone around us is doing it. And making gobs of money.

New Jersey took in $16.4 million in sports bets in the first two weeks of operation in July. They also now offer legal on-line gambling as well, through a mobile app on your phone.

Is it still the idea that gambling on sports is somehow "wrong"? That clearly doesn't make any sense when you consider that gambling on horse racing has been a significant enterprise in our state for more than a half-century now.

There are some things worth arguing about in our country, still. Having the class recite the Pledge of Allegiance before school? Worth arguing about, in my opinion. I used to start my radio show at 6:07 am every morning by reciting it on the air. I think all schools in our country should do it. I'd argue that one with anyone.

Debating about sports gambling? Not worth doing. It's here, it's happening, people are going to do it anyway, and have been doing it illegally for a long, long time.

Why Maryland lags behind on these matters baffles me.

The only thing the state is missing out on is money. It's all going to Delaware, West Virginia and New Jersey at this point.

My guess is that ten years now, you won't even need to go to a casino to make a sports wager. As they're doing in New Jersey right now, you'll simply place a bet using your cell phone. Maryland should leap ahead of the crowd, not stay behind it.

But as we've seen for decades now, our civic leaders always seem to be pacing themselves when it comes to these ideas. Everyone else makes the money for a while, our residents go elsewhere to spend their money, and then we finally "get it".

For once, it would be nice to lead the pack, although I don't see that happening anytime soon.


 Drew's Morning Dish

#DMD Poll

Question: What happens with the Ravens over their last seven games?
6-1, finish 10-6
5-2, finish 9-7
4-3, finish 8-8
3-4, finish 7-9
2-5, finish 6-10
Name
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DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.


eSports is just getting bigger


Head to the athletics website of Pennsylvania’s Lebanon Valley College, a conference rival of Stevenson in NCAA Division III, and you can scroll through the list of men’s and women’s varsity sports.

You’ll find basketball, obviously. The Dutchmen once won the Division III national championship in the 1990s under Pat Flannery, who later had great success in Division I at Bucknell. You’ll find lacrosse, of course. John Haus, once the coach at Johns Hopkins, is the head coach at Lebanon Valley.

Look closer, though. Right under cross country and before football. There it is.

eSports.

eSports have been in the news lately, for all the wrong reasons. A 24-year-old Maryland native named David Katz killed two other gamers at a Madden 19 competition in Jacksonville Sunday, and wounded several others, before turning the gun on himself.

Nobody knows exactly what prompted Katz to do it, though we do know he had a history of mental health issues and recently purchased guns back home in Maryland. We also know that he was a successful gamer.

If you weren’t aware, being a successful gamer has become a legitimate goal for the millennial set, and even for some who are a little older. 20 years ago, the world started to become fully aware that there were professional poker players. Now, we’re seeing professional gamers; some games are being designed specifically for pros.

Now a billion dollar business worldwide, eSports is being offered as a competitive sport at many U.S. colleges and universities.

Meanwhile, lots of other schools like Lebanon Valley have added an eSports program to their offerings. Only a few of them are considered varsity, so far—Stevenson’s program is considered a club sport—but that’s likely to change in the next few years. High schoolers aren’t being recruited specifically for eSports, yet, but colleges are certainly promoting them as another reason to attend.

All of which begs the question. What does it mean, exactly?

To answer that question, it’s worth discussing what eSports are to begin with.

eSports, in the most general sense, is competitive video gaming. The competition part comes from a few directions.

One, players generally compete as part of a team. Two, teams play against each other and not against the computer; that’s where the fun of college teams comes in, since a team from Lebanon Valley can play against a team from Stevenson in the same way they’d compete in basketball. Three, the games themselves are of a competitive nature, involving fighting, battles, real-time strategy and, of course, sports.

There’s a popular game known as Dota 2, played in matches of two teams of five players. Each of the players individually controls a character within the game, where they collect points and engage in individual battles with players on the other team. Every year, the game developer hosts a tournament called The International, with the prize pool in 2017 reaching nearly $25 million, almost all of it crowdsourced from the community of game players itself.

As we saw during the Jacksonville shooting, many of these events are livestreamed, featuring commentary like you’d hear during a live sporting event on television. The biggest of these events, like The International, take place at the large sports arenas usually occupied by NBA and NHL teams.

I understand the allure of playing video games, especially with the technology that exists in 2018. I certainly understand the allure of making (potentially a lot of) money playing video games, as opposed to getting a real job. I don’t really understand the allure of watching a livestream of someone else playing a video game, but I don’t really understand how people can watch The Big Bang Theory either.

We often talk about our sports fandom as a distraction from real life, but eSports have taken the idea one step further. They’ve created a competitive community, and even a spectator community, out of complete and total fantasy.

At least fantasy football is based on the performance of actual players during actual NFL games every week. Madden is not. It’s a piece of computer software, programmed by humans, simulating NFL players and the NFL game. I saw my brother-in-law, a bit of a gamer, playing it while on vacation, and it’s simply amazing. The quality of the game is nearly life-like.

But it’s not real. When a person devotes hours and hours of his or her life to playing it, he or she is living in a fantasy world that far surpasses a person who spends three hours watching the Ravens game every Sunday.

League of Legends and Overwatch are not real. They are figments of the imagination of talented programmers who know that people love battle games and shoot-em-ups and, in general, putting themselves in faraway fantasy worlds outside of their usual existence.

Knowing that a college has an Overwatch team, however, is not a good reason to decide to attend. If schools are looking to help their students and their communities solve real-world problems, then emphasizing eSports isn’t going to help at all.

But that’s just me. For institutions like LVC and Stevenson, and even big schools like the University of Utah, who are making eSports part of an athletics program, I sort of get it.

Playing an actual sport, even on the Division III level, takes a lot of responsibility. Being a collegiate athlete involves lots of training, lots of practice and lots of time spent away from the academic and social aspects of college.

When you were eight years old and first started playing soccer, that’s what you were doing. Playing. When you put on a college uniform, you may still love playing. But soccer has now transitioned for you to an atmosphere that resembles work more than play.

Being a part of a competitive eSports team, I suppose, can involve a similar amount of practice and time spent away from other parts of college life. While the physical training may not be the same, the mental training required to excel in these games may even surpass that of a sport.

If a student is interested in turning his or her video game play into something more resembling work, then it really is a bit of a parallel to another student wanting to turn his or her childhood interest in soccer into a soccer scholarship.

They may still love playing, but what they really want is to play competitively on a higher level that a school might be offering them. I suppose a school, whether it does it through the athletics program or not, would be remiss not to offer that opportunity if it can.

I’ll leave it up to others to decide whether a childhood devotion to video games is better or worse than a similar devotion to a sport. I’ll also leave it up to others to decide whether being good at playing a video game shows talent in the same way as being good at lacrosse. I’m guessing the answer might depend on your generation.

eSports is hardly the worst thing in the world, despite its connection to Sunday’s tragedy. It is another part of our world, however, where fantasy has overtaken reality.

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it's called a "sweep"


In case you don't remember, when you play an opponent in baseball in a 3-game series and you win all three games, that's called a "sweep".

It took the Orioles until August 29 to do it, but they finally managed to do it by beating the Blue Jays last night, 10-5.

Crazy, right? The Orioles went five months without sweeping a team in a 3-game series. I guess that's what happens on the road to 40-94.

Scratch "grand slam at Camden Yards" off the list of things Adam Jones hasn't done in an Orioles uniform.

Adam Jones sparked the night with a grand slam that helped erase an early 4-0 Toronto lead. In another surprising stat, it marked Jones' first-ever grand slam at Camden Yards and just the second of his career.

Some would say it could be his last grand slam as an Oriole. Jones is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and there's no telling if the Orioles want him back or if he's willing to take a part-time role in Baltimore for the last few years of his career.

Either way, last night's big moment was pretty special for the team captain and the -- ahem -- 11,834 who were in the ballpark.

After a string of solid starts, Alex Cobb got nicked up early on Wednesday evening, giving up five earned runs in 5.2 innings of work. His ERA now stands at 5.11 on the season.

The O's now head to Kansas City for a 3-game series that could ultimately decide which franchise gets the number one draft pick in 2019. The Birds currently own the worst record in baseball, but Kansas City is right there on their heels at 42-91.

It seems weird to almost want the Orioles to lose all three this weekend, especially after just posting that long-awaited 3-game sweep of the Blue Jays. But such is life in last place. If you're going to stink, make sure you get something out of it in the end.

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Wednesday
August 29
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january football returns...in baltimore


OK, it's time to start getting serious about the upcoming NFL season.

I've seen enough in the pre-season to be fairly confident about what I think the Ravens are going to show us in 2018.

And for the most part, it's good news.

Anytime you predict what a team's going to do in the world of sports, you have to qualify it with the single most important aspect of anything sports-related: health and injuries.

So, I'm piecing this puzzle together based on the simple idea that the key players stay healthy in 2018. It's like that for the Ravens the same way it's like that for the Packers, Patriots, Steelers, Vikings, etc.

If Tom Brady goes down with a knee injury in week four and is finished for the season, that will end their Super Bowl hopes in Foxborough.

Let's then move forward with what I think the Ravens are going to do in 2018.

Walking off together after their AFC Championship win over New England...could 2018 feature the same kind of photo opportunity for the coach and quarterback?

I'll save the game-by-game predictions, since those are nearly impossible to make in late August, and just give you this: The Ravens will finish 11-5 and win the AFC North. Pittsburgh's offense might be a tick or two better than Baltimore's, but their defense will let them down. The Steelers finish at 10-6.

But how will the Ravens compile that 11-5 mark?

Well, that's easy. Joe Flacco, the receivers, and Wink Martindale.

I suspect Flacco will have one of his best seasons as a pro, and certainly of the last four years, now that he appears fully recovered from his 2015 knee injury and has a legitimate group of receivers from which to choose.

I'm not saying Crabtree-Brown-Snead are going to turn the Ravens into an offensive juggernaut, but this is the first time in a long, long time that Flacco actually has a real set of diverse weapons in the huddle with him. They might be thin at tight end, but John Harbaugh's team more than makes up for it on the outside and in the slot.

Mix in what should be a quality running game and a solid offensive line and I see the Ravens offense more than holding its own in 2018.

The MVP of the defense will be Martindale, the defensive coordinator who replaced Dean Pees. Pre-season football doesn't count for anything, I know, but what we've seen just in the four August games tells us Martindale will have the defense looking a lot like those of Rex Ryan circa 2006. Blitzes and overloaded-on-one-side packages will keep opposing offenses on their toes. I see the Ravens as a team that will diminish the run and pass with equal amounts of success.

The Ravens have the best kicker-punter combination in the league -- again. Yes, they've had some kick return issues in training camp and someone will need to step up and fill that role in the regular season, but I can't ever remember a team not making the Super Bowl because they problems in the kick/punt return department. Someone will emerge and fill the role, if only perhaps adequately.

It all adds up to a squad that appears -- to me, at least -- to be on the fast track to the playoffs in 2018. The key components must stay healthy. I'll stress that again.

Flacco looks good.

The receiving corps is much improved.

The offensive line is solid.

And the defensive side of the ball looks very impressive.

Oh, and about that schedule. It's not all that imposing, particularly when you take into account that John Harbaugh-coached teams have always fared well against the NFC and, in particular, the NFC South, whom they face in 2018.

The Ravens have enjoyed two decades of success against the likes of the Saints, Falcons, Bucs and Panthers, going 14-7 overall -- and 7-1 under Harbaugh since he arrived in 2008.

Likewise, the Ravens are 11-8 against the AFC West under Harbaugh...13-8 if you count the playoff wins at Denver and Kansas City.

So, I don't see facing the AFC West and NFC South as all that concerning in 2018.

If the Ravens can go a minimum of 4-2 in the AFC North, that puts them in good position to make a playoff run. They have a "gimme" win over the Bills to start the season and their other non-division game is in Nashville, where the Ravens lost a year ago. But the Titans now have Dean Pees overseeing their defense...you figure it out from there.

Barring anything crazy happening on the injury front, I see this Ravens team returning to the playoffs in 2018.

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from the desk of
brien jackson

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



On Tuesday, Drew brought up an issue that's been simmering all year but hasn't gotten a lot of attention because the Orioles have been absolutely dreadful this season: Buck Showalter is likely entering his final month as the Orioles' manager.

Not that long ago, Buck not being with the Orioles would have seemed pretty close to unfathomable. Showalter came to Baltimore at one of the lowest points any MLB franchise had been at in my lifetime. They hadn't had a winning season in over a decade, Bobby Valentine had very publicly and very crassly rejected the idea of taking the managing job, and a year later Blue Jays front office guy Tony LaCava would turn down their GM job as well. That's genuinely embarrassing stuff.

No matter how often you lose, there are still only 30 MLB franchises, which means that only 30 people can be MLB managers/general managers at any given time. To be turned down like that is....not good.

But Buck didn't turn the Orioles down, and what's more he came to town brimming with confidence and, more importantly, seeming as though there was no other place he'd rather be. That persona, and the strong finish to the 2010 season, made Buck an instant star in this town, a star that stayed unblemished even through a dismal 2011 season.

Then, of course, the Orioles vaulted to the postseason and sustained relevance in 2012, at which point I would have considered the odds of Showalter finishing out his career with the Orioles (if he wanted to) as VERY good.

Things sure do change fast, though, and things have changed so dramatically for the Orioles that I get the sense that few fans even much care whether or not Buck is back in 2019, or stopping to think about what Showalter has meant to this franchise.

Could Buck's next managerial gig take him 40 miles south to Washington D.C. in 2019?

That discontent started the second the Orioles lost the 2016 wild card game, and you had the feeling that Showalter was never going to fully recover from his decision to let the team's season end while Zach Britton sat in the bullpen unused.

The subsequent years have made for an unfortunate coda to that, first with an uninspiring five month slog giving way to a total collapse in September that led seamlessly into this year's disaster. Fans might have been willing to overlook that in 2011, but after five and a half years of being bona fide playoff contenders expectations get raised, and fans start looking for changes.

Furthermore, let's not pretend that Showalter has been perfect and/or doesn't bear any responsibility for the current state of the team. He is the manager, after all, and by most accounts has far more power and influence with the big decision makers in the franchise than most field managers do these days. When you see the Orioles continue to struggle to develop pitchers year after year after year, and then guys like Kevin Gausman and Jake Arrieta go on to pitch like stars elsewhere, the manager is certainly one of the people you need to start asking questions of.

To that end, I'm not sure that Showalter is the right guy to manage a full on rebuild of this team either.

I've never thought that handling young players was one of his stronger suits in his time here, and he has demonstrated the pretty common managerial tic of being loyal to "his guys," which stick out the most when it comes to Davis. If letting Ubaldo blow a playoff game while Britton watched was the beginning of then end of this era of Orioles' baseball, the sign that everyone was going to go down with the ship came in a game late last year in Seattle.

With a scuffling (yeah, let's go with that) Chris Davis coming to the plate against a tough lefty with 2 outs in the 9th and BOTH Adam Jones and Wellington Castillo available to pinch hit, Showalter.....left Davis in the game. He of course promptly struck out, taking strike three as right down the middle as a pitch can get.

That was a big warning flag that Showalter's affinity for the guys who had been around for that 2012-16 run was going to impede his ability to see their current limitations and adjust accordingly, and sure enough Buck's been penciling Davis into the middle of the lineup for a good chunk of this season as well.

Still, for all of the signs that this might be the right time for Buck to go, I'm still not confident about endorsing a change in manager.

The bottom line is that Showalter is a good manager, and didn't stop being a good manager just because the Orioles' roster is a mess full of guys who aren't nearly as good as they were 2 or 3 years ago.

You *might* find a better fit for the team, but there's no guarantee that will turn anything around. The Nationals, for example, got rid of a genuinely bad postseason manager who honest to goodness routinely hurt his team's chances of winning in the postseason....and now they're not even going to get the chance to muck up a playoff game again.

And the D.C. papers are a steady stream of gossip about everyone from the general manager to the star player to middle relievers the team parted ways with weeks ago. The Orioles are going to lose eleventy billion games this year (give or take) and we still haven't seen the knives come out for anyone really. I think that says a lot!

So in short, I don't know exactly what the Orioles will do with their managerial position for next season, and I don't really know what they *should* do either.

I don't much care about this idea that Buck has "lost the locker room," particularly over that 2016 playoff game. Not because I don't believe it necessarily, but because the 2019 Opening Day roster isn't going to have very many players who were around in 2017, let alone for the 2016 season.

If Adam Jones and Manny Machado and Chris Tillman and Britton gave up on Buck that night....what does it matter now? I suppose the big thing is finally finding some harmony between the dugout and the front office. If Buck and Duquette aren't working well together anymore, and Duquette really has sold the front office on his vision of rebuilding the franchise, than Duquette should get the chance to pick his guy to lead on the field. But I can't say that I think they can find a replacement who will be better at the job than Buck.

And I definitely don't think they'll find anyone who will mean as much to the Orioles' franchise as Buck Showalter has in his 8+ years here. The Orioles don't have much to play for these days, and they aren't necessarily very entertaining either. But maybe remember to turn on the game for a few innings every night, or maybe even buy a ticket and catch one more game this season, just to take in what might be Buck's swan song in Baltimore.

You're going to appreciate just exactly what he accomplished here a lot more after he's gone.

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Tuesday
August 28
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issue 28
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it's a shame buck has to go out like this


Several times during last night's Orioles win over Toronto, the MASN cameras panned to the dugout for a glimpse of Buck Showalter.

He was there alright, but just there, a look of solitude on his face that gave way to five months of baseball misery.

Even when the O's staked themselves to a 4-0 lead in the 6th inning, Showalter's expression didn't change much. I guess 38-94 will do that to you.

It was at that moment that it hit me. Buck's going out a loser. And he's not just going out with a losing record. He's going out with the worst record in the history of the Orioles franchise.

Barring a miracle, the 2018 O's will not be able to overtake the 1988 edition that went 54-107. To finish at 55-107, Buck's boys need to go 17-13 in the final 30 games.

The Orioles aren't going 17-13 in the last month of the season. As Ben Affleck said in Good Will Hunting, "I don't know much, but I know that."

Travesty might be too strong of a word to use, but it's the one that comes to mind the quickest and easiest. It's indeed a travesty that Showalter's final season in Baltimore will this one.

Buck Showalter's final season in Baltimore will unfortunately out-glow the sparkle he brought back to Orioles baseball.

Some in town will say "good riddance" on the day it becomes official and Showalter says he's not returning or the Orioles publish their Friday, 3 pm press release that announces he won't be back for the 2019 campaign.

I won't be one of those folks who think it's a good thing that Buck isn't back in Baltimore next season.

Yes, he fouled up the playoff game in Toronto back in 2016. There's no doubt about that. But his positives far, far outweighed his negatives. One mistake -- albeit in an important game -- isn't enough to tilt the ledger in favor of wishing him good riddance.

To me, Buck's legacy will always be that he showed up in Baltimore in 2010 and winning came with him. After 14 consecutive years of losing baseball -- and bad baseball at that -- Buck's teams made the post-season in 2012, 2014 and 2016. We needed that in Charm City. And Showalter delivered it.

Now, part of his history will include overseeing the worst franchise in the organization's history and, potentially, one of the five worst teams in the 162-game "era" of modern baseball.

I hate it.

But it's part of the business, as I'm sure Showalter would tell you. A million dollar a year salary helps stitch up that wound, I suppose, but nevertheless, no coach or manager likes to lose at record proportions. There's losing the normal way in baseball, like going 70-92, and then there's having 38 wins on August 28. The two aren't connected.

Yet, Showalter has hung in there, never once throwing anyone under the bus. Heck, Chris Davis is enduring one of the worst seasons in baseball history and Showalter has kept the faith, publicly lauding the first baseman for his efforts on several occasions.

Some would say that's a Showalter fault, by the way, but I'm not in that camp. A manager shouldn't ever criticize his players in the media.

Likewise, I'm hoping once he's gone that no players take that opportunity to criticize Showalter. He doesn't deserve it.

And he doesn't deserve 46-116 or whatever record the O's are going to deliver to him at the end of September. But he's getting it.

We're going to miss Buck Showalter next season and in the years to come.

With all due respect to Jones, Machado and others, Showalter was the best thing about Orioles baseball since 2010.

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newman left his mark -- in bold


Ron Newman passed away yesterday at the age of 82.

He was the Vince Lombardi of indoor soccer back in the 1980's when the sport was drawing 15,000 and 20,000 fans a night in many cities.

Newman coached the San Diego Sockers in their heyday, which is where I first met him. The Blast faced Newman's team four times in the MISL championship series, with San Diego winning on all four occasions.

The longtime head coach of the Dallas team in the NASL was actually responsible for bringing former Blast coach Kenny Cooper to the United States. Cooper was a goalkeeper for the Blackburn Rovers in the English soccer ranks when Newman summoned him to play in the NASL.

Newman was known as an outside-the-box strategist and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants decision maker during his days as a coach.

A member of the Sockers once told me a hilarious story about Newman. San Diego was playing in Cleveland in a late-season game. With 30 seconds remaining and the Sockers down by a goal, Cleveland knocked the ball out of play and Newman called time out.

Ron Newman won indoor soccer titles in San Diego in 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992.

The players gathered around him near the bench, waiting for their coach to draw up a set play near the corner kick spot.

Newman didn't say a word. The players shuffled their feet and looked at one another while Newman stood there sipping Gatorade out of a sports bottle.

Finally someone said, "Coach, do you have a play?"

Newman said, "You guys haven't done what I've asked you to do on a set piece for the last three months. Just do what you always do. Figure it out when you get out there."

That was Ron Newman. He knew when to push the right buttons.

Newman was a master button-pusher when it came to Cooper, who wanted to beat the Sockers the way the Ravens strive to beat the Steelers.

After the Sockers won the first two games of the 1983 championship series by scores of 6-0 and 7-0, Newman shook Cooper's hand afterwards and said, "Don't worry, Coops, you guys will definitely score a goal back in Baltimore."

Two years later, San Diego and Baltimore met again in the finals, with San Diego winning the first two games easily in their building. In Game 2, with a comfortable lead late in the game and with San Diego on the power play, Newman called a last minute time-out just to prolong the agony for the Blast.

Cooper didn't take to it well. Newman tried to explain afterwards that his team had been struggling in extra man situations and he was trying to get his team to "work on things" in that final minute. The truth, of course, was that he was just rubbing it in on the Blast and Cooper.

Newman didn't do those things to be mean. He did those things to maintain a constant sense of the unknown. "What's Newman going to do next?", he wanted opposing coaches and players to wonder at all times.

One of my favorite coaching stories involves Ron Newman. He told this to me once while we were at an All-Star Game dinner in Dallas.

"You know how I got fired in Dallas?" Newman asked me.

He then told me the story of how it happened.

Newman had led the Dallas Tornado to a league title in 1971 and was the NASL's coach of the year in 1971 and 1977.

After a particularly rough start in 1979, where the Tornado dropped a half dozen games in the first month of the season, Newman returned from a road trip where the team went 0-3, losing all three games by one goal.

Former Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt owned the Dallas NASL team. He called Newman's secretary on the day they were scheduled to return from their winless road trip and asked her to have Newman stop by his office once the flight landed.

Newman got there at 5 pm. Hunt invited him in and, as was his usual tradition, asked the Englishman if he wanted a drink.

The head coach assumed everything was OK.

"Ron, I'm making a change at head coach," said the owner. "You've had a great run here with us, but I don't see the team getting any better."

Newman said he got up and walked to the back of the room. "I knew I had one minute to think up something to say that might convince him to change his mind," the coach told me.

"Mr. Hunt, you can't fire me," Newman said. "I line all the fields for practice and games. Olive (his wife) does the team's laundry. She stitches up the shorts and shirts if they get a tear in them. We use my son as a ballboy so we don't have to pay someone $5.00 per-game to do it."

"I get my neighbors to work the ticket windows at the home games so we don't have to pay people to do that," Newman continued. "I pick up a couple of the players at the hotel and take them to practice and games because they don't drive."

"Mr. Hunt, I do a lot more than you know," Ron pleaded.

There was a moment of silence in the room. Newman recalled to me that he thought his explanation might have earned him an extra life.

"I could tell he was thinking about something," Newman said.

Finally, the owner spoke.

"Ron, I appreciate all that you've done. But I never asked you to do any of that stuff. You did it all on your own. The only thing I ever asked you to do was win soccer games. I'm sorry, but this is the end," Hunt said.

And that's how Ron Newman's tenure in Dallas ended. It also set the stage for his days in San Diego.

"That experience in Dallas taught me a lesson," Newman said to me. "In San Diego, you know what 'extra stuff' I do? Nothing. Not a thing. I just win soccer games. That's what I'm there to do."

And win he did. More than any other indoor soccer coach ever, in fact.

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Monday
August 27
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issue 27
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four years and counting...


This past Saturday marked the 4th birthday of Drew's Morning Dish. I referenced it on Friday and mentioned I'd have something a little more substantial today.

David Rosenfeld did a nice job in his piece today of summarizing some of the things that happened back in 2014 when this site was kicked off. We have certainly seen and reported on a lot of sports moments over the last four years.

My number one goal back on August 25, 2014 was to create a website that allowed readers to chime in with their own thoughts, opinions and insights.

That's still the main intent of the website today.

When I was on the radio, the thing I probably believed in more than anything else was the listener's option to call in and talk, if he or she felt the urge to do so.

I can remember someone at the station once saying to me, "Why do you take so many calls? Those people have no idea what they're talking about. You're the expert."

That philosophy was out of touch then and it's still out of touch now.

Charley Eckman used to say, "An expert is someone from out of town." I suppose that meant that someone who comes in and sees the story without a biased opinion is more likely to be respected than someone who has a dog in the hunt.

This site wasn't designed to illuminate anyone in particular as as expert. It was developed to give everyone the opportunity to add their opinion.

It's 2018. Everyone has a voice, or at the very least, an avenue to broadcast their voice. And no matter if we agree on the subject or disagree on it, the option to allow anyone and everyone to be part of the discourse hasn't changed at all.

Everyone is welcomed here.

Sure, I've had to install a few fairly easy-to-follow rules over the years. Yes, there have been folks I've either chased away or happily dismissed after one-too-many violations of our simple guidelines.

But by and large, the community here is a genuine one, which is really all I wanted in the first place.

A week or two ago, someone asked me if #DMD had become what I thought it would when I started it.

That one stumped me. I didn't know the answer then...and I still don't know the answer now.

Truth of the matter, I'm not sure this place could ever become exactly what I wanted it to become. And that's OK. The growth of the website speaks for itself. It's evolved into its own being, so to speak.

The older I get, the more I realize how much misguided importance we put on sports, games, athletes, coaches and seasons.

Unless you're employed by the team or the league, your life -- the true meaning and quality of it -- doesn't change for better or worse because your favorite team won or lost or your favorite athlete made the winning shot or failed under the gun.

And, yet, the older I get, the more I realize how critical it is that we use sports to grow.

Part of that growth is born from the idea that communication is the key to any successful coach/player relationship.

The same goes for people who discuss sports.

We should be able to communicate about the players, games, coaches and teams without violating standard protocols of decency.

I've been opposed to NFL players -- or any athlete, for that matter -- kneeling during the national anthem. I haven't changed my tune since it all started two years ago. I wouldn't employ someone who refused to stand for the national anthem.

But I also understand there are others with an opinion that's different than mine. I don't squelch those opinions. I just don't agree with them. We should be able to do that and still treat one another with decency.

This past Saturday, I saw a number of people on social media criticize Senator John McCain no more than three hours after his death. That general lack of empathy was considerably disappointing, no matter if you agreed with his politics or didn't agree with them. It speaks volumes about the deterioration of your heart when you can't allow a nation and/or a family the opportunity to mourn the passing of someone who was important to our country.

Common decency. It should be at the core of what we do as people. And it should be at the core of what we do here at #DMD.

The problem in sports is that we're often forced to involve ourselves in stories that aren't positive.

We've seen it recently down at College Park with the University of Maryland.

We've dealt with it since late April with the Orioles, who are on the verge of producing the worst record in the history of the franchise.

The Ravens haven't made the playoffs since 2014. In each of the last two seasons, it's all come down to a series of plays in late December games that have made the difference between successful and unsuccessful campaigns.

We can't ignore the negative stories. They're around us all the time.

But we can report on them with civility. And, yet, we can still have intense, deep, personal opinions on those stories.

This website was built to give everyone the opportunity to speak their mind and do so in a way that's generally respectful and absent of malice.

I think we've succeeded in that endeavor, even if we're not perfect.

That we've published new content every day since August 25, 2014 is something I'm particularly proud of, if for no other reason than it shows consistency. I'm sure there will come a day when the streak ends, just like Cal's did after 2,632 games, but there's no sense in worrying about it.

We're here today, we'll be here tomorrow and, God willing, we'll be here this time next year doing the same thing we do every day.

I'd be remiss if I didn't thank all of our corporate partners who have been part of the site over the last four years. I've reached out to all of them with a personal note today just to make sure they know how important they've been to this project of mine.

If you ever get the opportunity, please patronize those businesses who align themselves with #DMD and thank them if you get the chance to do so. Without the corporate partners, the website wouldn't publish every day.

The writers who have contributed here have been vitally important as well. I appreciate all of the time and effort they've put in over the last four years.

It's not easy to write and put yourself "out there". The people who have contributed content here are important members of the team.

And George McDowell and Tony Young deserve special thanks. Without those two, this site wouldn't be anything like it is. Frankly, without those two, the site might not even exist.

On a personal note, I owe my wife and two children an immense amount of gratitude. I've worked every day since August 25, 2014. I took a computer to London for five days, to the beach for a week, and to more family-weekends-away than I care to admit.

And to all of you, I say, again, "thank you".

#DMD is really for you. I own it, but it's your forum.

It's your forum today, tomorrow and for as long as we keep doing this.

Thanks for letting me part of it.

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dechambeau, tiger paired together in ryder cup?


In the last 13 months, Bryson DeChambeau has more wins -- 3 -- than Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler -- combined.

DeChambeau claimed his second significant title of the 2018 calendar year yesterday by capturing the Fed Ex Cup opener at Ridgewood CC in New Jersey. He also won The Memorial back in June, beating one of the best non-major fields of the year at Muirfield Village.

Yesterday's win cemented DeChambeau's selection as a captain's pick by Jim Furyk. The official announcement comes on September 4th, but the eccentric former U.S. Amateur champion is sure to garner one of the four selections.

Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau appear to be on the fast track to a Ryder Cup pairing when the U.S. team travels to France at the end of September.

With Tiger Woods a lock and Phil Mickelson a near-lock, DeChambeau's addition likely only leaves one final pick by Furyk. Expect that one to go to Tony Finau, who hasn't yet won in 2018, but has three runner-up finishes, including a second place showing this past weekend at Ridgewood CC.

Not only is DeChambeau going to make the team, there are already stories starting to circulate that Woods wants to play with him in the better ball and alternate shot formats in Paris at the end of September.

And what Tiger wants...he usually gets.

It's highly unlikely Woods will play in all four of the team competitions that are spread out over Friday and Saturday. At age 42, the bet here is Tiger plays both matches on Friday and then sits out the Saturday morning contest, returning for the Saturday afternoon event.

DeChambeau might be in a similar position, but not because of his age (25 when the matches take place), but because of his status. It's rare that a Ryder Cup rookie plays in all four of the team competitions.

Only 8 of the 12 players on the squad play in the team events. All 12 players see action in the Sunday singles matches.

But Tiger and Bryson do have the makings for a tasty pairing. Woods is playing as well as anyone on TOUR from tee-to-green right now, but his putting has held him back over the last three tournaments. DeChambeau's iron play and short game were nothing short of spectacular in his FedEx Cup playoff win this past weekend.

And, maybe most importantly, the two are craving a Ryder Cup pairing. Woods wants to play with DeChambeau and vice versa.

Furyk will have a variety of pairings to consider, that's for certain. It seems inevitable he'll go with Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth at least twice in the team portion of the competition. Mickelson and Rickie Fowler seem like an obvious match-up, as does the high-powered duo of Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka.

The U.S. will have no shortage of quality in Paris. The only question left, of course, is who gets that fourth and final spot on the team? The smart money right now goes on Finau, with Xander Schauffele and Billy Horschel still having a chance, particularly if one of those two were to win next weekend's playoff event outside of Boston.

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"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

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


#DMD edition

Who?

The Orioles

Back on August 25, 2014, #DMD published its first edition.

On that Monday night at Camden Yards, a rather small crowd watched the Orioles beat the Rays 9-1 to break a three-game losing streak. The Birds maintained a six-game lead in the standings thanks to the victory; that lead would eventually grow to as many as 14.5 games by mid-September.

On the day #DMD launched, Chris Tillman pitched the Orioles to a 9-1 home win over Tampa Bay.

The highlight that night was a six-run fifth-inning that featured back-to-back-to-back Oriole home runs, from Delmon Young, J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis. Chris Tillman allowed just three hits in seven innings while throwing just 84 pitches, which was very un-Tillman-like.

Young never played again after the Orioles released him in July of the next year. Hardy’s career came to an injury-plagued end with the team in 2017, while Tillman’s career is most likely finished after his unsuccessful comeback attempt this season.

A little more than four years sure is a long time, isn’t it?

#DMD had a lot of fun talking about the Orioles in 2014, I bet. The team won the AL East title for the first time in 17 years. With young and/or in-their-prime players like Machado, Schoop, Davis, Tillman, and Jones, it seemed like there’d be a lot more fun for at least a few more years.

Has Zach Britton come out of the Rogers Centre bullpen yet?


What?

The playoffs

Back on August 25, 2014, #DMD published its first edition.

Two days earlier, the Ravens battled the Redskins in what was surely an epic preseason game. The Ravens won 23-17, by the way. As we know, John Harbaugh’s team is a preseason juggernaut.

It being the third preseason game, the starters played a significant amount of time. Joe Flacco played long enough to complete 16 of his 23 pass attempts, including a 24-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith right before halftime to finish a perfect two-minute drill.

The 2014 preseason was a different one for Harbaugh’s Ravens. For the first time in his tenure as head coach, the team was coming off a season where it didn’t make the playoffs.

The big news that offseason on the coaching front was the hiring of Gary Kubiak as the team’s offensive coordinator. He replaced Jim Caldwell, who had been hired as the head coach of the Detroit Lions, and that change sure seemed to make a big difference.

The Ravens had their most successful offensive season, and Kubiak was soon out the door to the Broncos. But not before he helped Flacco and company back to the playoffs after that one-year hiatus. Unfortunately, Harbaugh’s team hasn’t made the playoffs since then. Something about an outstretched Pittsburgh wide receiver and the Bengals scoring a touchdown on fourth-and-12, from what I remember.


Where?

College Park

Back on August 25, 2014, #DMD published its first edition.

Five days later, the Maryland football team began its first season as a member of the Big Ten with an easy win against James Madison from the FCS.

Thanks to the fact that it came against Indiana, Randy Edsall’s Terps also won their first-ever Big Ten game a month later, though props to the Terps for winning that game on the road.

There was a certain semblance of hope as that season moved on. In November, as you may remember, Maryland beat both Penn State and Michigan on the road. Even with those programs way “down” from what they could be, it meant something.

An appearance in the Foster Farms Bowl at the end of the year made it two straight bowl games for the Terps, who had played locally in the Military Bowl the year before.

On June 30, 2015, Edsall signed a three-year extension to his contract that had originally ended after the 2016 season. Apparently, that contract was signed in invisible ink, since Edsall was fired from his job a little more than three months later.

With the current Terrapin coach almost certainly losing his job too, it’s back to the drawing board. I was hoping that maybe Urban Meyer would be available after Ohio State decided to let him go. Oh well…


When?

November

Back on August 25, 2014, #DMD published its first edition.

Exactly three months to the day after that, Maryland beat No. 13 Iowa State 72-63 in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City. Not long after that, the Terps were in the Top 25; they reached a season-best ranking of No. 8 late in the season.

That kind of season was certainly not expected. Mark Turgeon’s first recruiting class—Charles Mitchell, Seth Allen, Shaq Cleare—among others, all transferred. Dez Wells remained, but nobody was quite sure what to expect.

That was before anybody really knew about Melo Trimble. After seeing him play a few games, well then it made more sense.

Trimble was maybe the breakout star of the early #DMD era. He didn’t look like a great player, and he didn’t seem incredibly fast or athletic. But man, could he play, especially when he was contested by bigger players near the basket. He got to the free throw line a lot, and he made nearly 90 percent of his shots when he got there.

Melo ended the year named first-team All-Big Ten by the media and second-team by the coaches. The Terps finished 14-4 in the Big Ten and began a three-year stretch of relatively high seeds in the NCAA tournament.

Not surprisingly, Maryland couldn’t maintain that level of play once Trimble left the team. And now, four years later, we’re right back at that point of uncertainty.


Why?

Because it’s sports

Back on August 25, 2014, #DMD published its first edition.

Four years later the site is still around, publishing every day. As noted above, very little seems to be the same in the world of sports as it was back then.

#DMD keeps on going, though, because there’s always something to debate, smartly no doubt. Actually, more losing by the local teams leads to a little more debate. What is there to talk about when you win every game, and every decision by the coaching staff and front office turns out to be a good one?

How do we talk about sports 365 days a year? Mostly, it’s because we pick a wide variety of things to discuss. Yes, the Ravens and the Orioles dominate, but there are plenty of places on the web dedicated to them. There’s more out there that’s interesting to our readers.

Frankly, I think the commenters are the most important part of #DMD. They are readers, and what they think is important.

Of course, they’re just a fraction of the folks that read regularly, or at least somewhat regularly. Most people who read on the web don’t feel the need to comment. We like you too, whether you always like us or not.

We appreciate the opportunity to tell you how we feel or what we think, even if you disagree. Only the world of sports would make what we do possible.

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Sunday
August 26
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issue 26
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the right thing for maryland to do...


With the latest news story about DJ Durkin and the University of Maryland, the time has come for a serious, drastic step.

It won't happen, of course. I'm howling at the moon on this one.

But Maryland should suspend their football program, immediately.

I know. There's no way it can happen.

The NCAA would step in.

The Big Ten wouldn't allow for it.

Maryland's non-conference opponents would blow a gasket.

Would Maryland president Wallace Loh consider suspending football for the 2018 season while the schools continues to sift through the wreckage?

Who cares?

Maryland has zero business fielding a football team in 2018. It seems like every week now we're learning something new about DJ Durkin and the well-kept secrets that helped create the toxic culture in College Park.

The objections to suspending Maryland's football program are obvious.

"It's unfair to the kids on the team," someone will say.

That's correct. It probably is unfair to them.

"It would create too much of a black mark against Maryland's athletic department," another would offer.

You mean more than Jordan McNair's death did?

Please...

That black mark isn't going away anytime soon. And it shouldn't.

It might be as simple as just firing DJ Durkin. Get that done and roll on into the season, right?

Eh, not really.

The scene down there is nowhere near "cleaned up" enough. The athletic director might have to go. The president of the school looks like he might lose his job, too.

This isn't about a football coach who lost his mind. This is about a school with no integrity when it comes to football, coaching and managing the care of their young student-athletes.

The latest story involving Durkin and the two football players accused of sexual assault should be the final straw. And I mean the final straw.

I realize it's easier said than done to just blow up a football program two weeks before their season starts.

But that doesn't change the notion that the right thing to do is to eliminate Maryland football for 2018.

Major mistakes and major program blunders require major consequences.

This isn't about kids not going to class. Or kids selling sneakers.

This is about a death, a cover-up and a completely diseased program that has no business moving forward until some serious resolutions are created and put into place.

It's hard to believe this has all happened at Maryland. It's football, after all. Football at College Park hasn't really mattered in 15 years or more.

But it has happened.

And it's awful.

And if Maryland wants to handle this whole thing the right way, they won't play football this year.

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dechambeau just 18 holes away


Bryson DeChambeau might have already done enough to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

For all we know, his 9th place finish on the U.S. points list -- coupled with that victory at The Memorial in June -- might have been all he needed to earn one of captain Jim Furyk's four add-on selections.

Bryson DeChambeau owns a 4-shot lead heading into today's final round of the FedEx Cup playoff opener.

But if DeChambeau wasn't on the team before this week, he most certainly will be if he wins The Northern Trust today in Paramus, New Jersey. DeChambeau owns a four-shot lead heading into the final round at 16-under par.

The only intrigue remaining at all on the U.S. side are the final two captain's picks. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are locks, although Woods might want to tell his putter it didn't make the final roster and go back to something a little more trustworthy. Woods' tee-to-green game this week has been extraordinary. His putting has been awful.

But with Tiger and Phil "in", that leaves only two picks.

DeChambeau, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Kevin Kisner, Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson are thought to be the others drawing Furyk's interest. With Woods and Mickelson owning oodles of Ryder Cup experience, the prevailing thought is that Furyk will go with a couple of rookies to finish out the roster.

Finau has had an outstanding season, making the cut in all four majors and playing well in each, but he hasn't won anything.

Schauffele hasn't won this year either -- he did win twice in 2017 -- but he finished 12th in the Ryder Cup standings.

It would seem like DeChambeau's chance to slam the door shut on his case comes today in the final round of the first PGA Tour FedEx Cup playoff event. He might already be in...but a win this afternoon would send him to Paris in late September.

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forget winning 50...how about getting to 41 first?


The Orioles are now 37-93 after losing both ends of a doubleheader to the Yankees on Saturday at Camden Yards.

That's 130 games in the books so far in 2018.

32 games remain. In order to reach the coveted 50-win mark, the Birds have to go 13-19 from here to the finish line.

It doesn't seem possible at this point, right?

Andrew Cashner fell to 4-12 with the loss in Saturday's doubleheader nightcap.

I guess it's probably smart to tackle the smaller goals first. Like, say, reaching 41 wins, which would be one more than the 1962 New York Mets attained when they went 40-160. That's the modern day record for futility in a 162-game season, although New York obviously didn't play all 162 games.

The 2003 Detroit Tigers own the worst record for a team that played all 162 games at 43-119.

I don't know much. But I know the Orioles are winning at least seven more games between now and the end of the season. Right? Play along with me. They're going to finish with at least seven more wins to get to 44 for the season.

But the quest to reach at least 50 victories is starting to look rather bleak.

Yes, they have the Royals and White Sox in September. The O's should be able to win a handful of games against those two lousy teams. But they still have Boston, Seattle, Oakland, the Yankees and Houston on the schedule. And when the O's meet those teams, each might still be in need of wins to keep their post-season hopes alive.

It's getting so sticky at Camden Yards that Adam Jones got aggravated with a local media member yesterday, sniping at him on Twitter after the writer -- Dan Connolly of The Athletic -- made note that Jones wasn't in the starting lineup of the doubleheader nightcap.

Connolly was just doing his job, mentioning that Jones wasn't starting...

And Jones made a federal case out of it.

The losing has taken its toll, for sure.

Only 32 games remain. Winning 13 of them is going to be a major challenge.

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Saturday
August 25
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issue 25
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cross that one off the list


I can now say I've seen them all.

Last night's ELO show in Philadelphia completed my personal music bucket list. When the great Jeff Lynne strolled out on stage just after 9:00 pm, that ended a 40-year quest of mine. I hadn't seen him perform live until last night.

And I can say this, too. I've been to a hundred concerts in my lifetime. I've seen Springsteen 27 times. Last night was the best live show I've ever seen, by anyone.

I now have an answer to a personal question: "What's the best concert you've seen?"

"Jeff Lynne and ELO, in Philadelphia, August 24, 2018."

The whole night was a blast, from the time our group departed Towson just before 5 pm until we arrived back in town just after 1:00 am. We set up a tailgate in the Wells Fargo Center parking lot, with food compliments of Palmisano's of Baldwin and beer from our friends at DuClaw Brewing Company.

The great Jeff Lynne and ELO delighted a sold out crowd in Philadelphia last night.

It was such a great night out, I even struck up a conversation with a Flyers fan in the parking lot and -- wait for it -- things went quite well.

"When's the last time you guys won anything?" I asked "Chris", who was sporting a Flyers hat and sitting with three other friends.

I figured it's not often you can trash talk a Flyers fan in the arena parking lot, so I kept rolling.

"My team will roll in here this season as the defending Stanley Cup champs," I bragged.

"Oh, you're a Caps fan?" Chris asked. "About time you guys won..."

We had a fun ten minute conversation. Chris said, "There are several Caps I respect. Ovechkin, Backstrom, Carlson...I'm happy for them."

There was silence for a few seconds. It dawned on me Chris was looking for some reciprocal Flyers respect.

"I don't like anyone on the Flyers," I deadpanned. "Not one player."

I also launched into a C-A-P-S, CAPS!, CAPS!, CAPS! chant inside the arena as we were walking through the concourse. That didn't go over very well.

Back to Jeff Lynne...

The 13-member band tore through 100 minutes of music like it was 1983. They played all of the great ELO hits including Evil Woman, Mr. Blue Sky, Telephone Line and Sweet Talkin' Woman.

Lynne even tossed in a Traveling Wilburys song, complete with portraits of the band members on a backdrop. He was a member of that super group, along with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison and Roy Orbison.

When it all ended around 10:45 pm, I was stunned in amazement. It's not often you hear and see people around you and on social media all say basically the same thing: "That was the best concert I've ever seen!" Yet, that's what lots and lots of people were proclaiming last night.

It was that freakin' good.

You know it had to be a pretty special occasion if I shared an adult beverage with a Flyers fan.

Oh, and in case you don't remember, the Flyers haven't won anything of note since 1975.

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tiger, phil shouldn't expect much from #dmd


I might have screwed up yesterday's poll question, but the results are in and they are quite overwhelming.

90% of you who replied to Friday's question about purchasing the Tiger vs. Phil match on pay-per-view indicated you are NOT purchasing it.

6% of you said you'd spend $19.99 and 4% said you'd pay $9.99.

I'm no expert in poll questioning and positioning, so it dawns on me I could have damaged the whole thing by not being clear about one issue. The question should have only been answered by #DMD readers who play golf or watch golf on TV.

That was the condition I failed to stipulate.

Speaking of that, I saw something on a golf website yesterday that indicated 7-out-of-10 people at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey (where they're playing the PGA Tour event this week) indicated they were planning on purchasing the made-for-TV event on November 23.

There you have it. At a golf tournament, where those in attendance are almost always golf enthusiasts, 7-out-of-10 folks say they'll buy it.

No one knows the price, yet, so that 7-of-10 number is still somewhat murky. If it's $49.99, I don't think 7-of-10 are paying that kind of freight. But I could be wrong.

Here at #DMD, it was basically 1-out-of-10.

And, no, I wasn't the "1". I voted that I wouldn't buy the show.

In fairness, if the price is $9.99, I'd probably go ahead and buy it. But I don't see any way at all it's going to sell for $9.99.

Where I fouled up yesterday was allowing non-golfers to answer the question. If you're not a golfer, you're not buying the pay-per-view. So your data shouldn't be included in the results.

Anyway...

The event apparently has some early legs and will probably only draw more interest as details emerge over the next two months or so. The biggest question still on the table is this: How much will it cost?

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four years later...


I wavered for a few days this week on how I wanted to treat today's 4-year "birthday" of Drew's Morning Dish.

And here's what I decided.

I'll acknowledge it today and write a little more about it on Monday.

So there.

Consider it acknowledged.

#DMD's first publication came on August 25, 2014. Three days prior, a group of us were dismissed from a local radio station. I launched Drew's Morning Dish on the morning of August 25 with absolutely no idea what I was doing. This is the point where you can ask, "What's changed about that?" if you want.

I'll get a little more into it on Monday. It's been a great four years, to say the least.

Friday
August 24
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issue 24
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not sure i'll watch, but i'm definitely interested


Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson announced details of "The Match" on Wednesday. As expected, it will take place just after Thanksgiving on Friday, November 23rd, in Las Vegas.

The rumored winner-take-all prize fund of $10 million was reduced to $9 million. More on that in a second.

The event will feature all of the common bells-and-whistles of the old "Skins Game" that was aired for two decades on Thanksgiving weekend, but with several other added twists along the way.

The primary difference between "The Match" and the Skins Game? You will have to pay to watch Tiger and Phil duke it out. Although the price hasn't been announced yet, the one-on-one duel will be seen only via pay-per-view.

This, naturally, led to lots of whining on Wednesday and Thursday. Folks all over the country bellyached about the whole concept of having to pay to watch two guys play golf for a few hours.

Really? You can't possibly be that naive. It's 2018, not 1988. The consumer ALWAYS pays the freight, somehow.

You either pay for it by giving the network your credit card or you pay for it by being inundated with ads, commercial breaks and so on.

I'm not 100% certain I'll even watch the event, truth of the matter. I love golf. I'm just not sure I'll be a motivated buyer when the time arrives to pay the freight.

But I certainly understand why it's being offered on pay-per-view.

"Can't believe we pulled this one off, huh? We play for $9 million and the winner gives the loser $4 million in the parking lot afterwards."

Someone has to pay the $9 million to the winner. Those guys aren't reaching into their own pockets, that's for certain. And the folks at Turner Brodcasting would much prefer to find a million people at $19.99 a piece than to go out and try and sell $20 million worth of ads in such a short time span, especially in the middle of football season.

"The Match" is only appealing to golfers. The market, then, becomes a little thin. Make golfers pay to watch it. That's what the folks at Turner are thinking, I'm sure.

I get it. I'm just not sure I'll be one of their customers.

I've never watched anything on pay-per-view. Nothing. Never. Not one boxing match. Not any kind of professional wrestling event. I've just never done it.

But that's how big time boxing has rolled for a decade or more now. Nothing's televised free of charged in that sport any longer. The same goes for wrestling. The major events on their calendar are all on pay-per-view.

It's not at all a surprise that Woods and Mickelson are following the same format. Truthfully, it should be on pay-per-view.

My guess is the Super Bowl will move to pay-per-view at some point within the next 25 years.

I wrote here a few weeks back that the way to make "The Match" super-interesting would be to have each player put up their own $10 million, which was the original rumored prize money.

Now that, I'd watch.

If Tiger had to take out his check book behind the 18th green and write Phil a check for $10 million? I'm in...get me the pay-per-view order number.

Those two guys slugging it out for 18 holes playing for $9 million of someone else's money? Eh.....just not that appealing to me.

And speaking of the $9 million instead of $10 million, the PGA Tour stepped in and asked them to reduce the prize purse by one million so it didn't conflict with their $10 million first-place check for the FedEx Cup, a season-long points chase that culminates in late September.

That's understandable. PGA Tour players start their season in November and end it in September. One guy winds up winning the $10 million first place check. It takes a lot of work, a lot of winning and adds a lot of intrigue to the final month of the professional golf season.

Two guys playing 18 holes for $10 million -- even if they are the two most successful players of the last twenty years -- just doesn't seem right.

And in traditional Phil Mickelson fashion, he announced the $10 million prize back in July before ever consulting with TOUR officials.

So now they'll play for $9 million, which has an awkward ring to it, but they'll each have the ability to float another $500,000 out there in "side bets" and "challenge games" during their 18 hole match. Those monies will go to their designated charity, should they win $100,000 here or there for longest drive, closest to the pin, etc.

Professional golfers have long been accused of being bland. The sport itself is often called "boring", particularly the televised product.

One thing is certain about Tiger vs. Phil. It will be anything but boring. They'll be miked up, as will their caddies, and the ribbing and needling that will start on the first tee might be worth the price of the pay-per-view product all by itself.

If you were to take two guys who need the money and gave them the chance to play for $9 million, winner-take-all, they'd probably never crack a smile until the winning putt was sunk.

$9 million is funny-money to Tiger and Phil. Will they grind over a three footer? You bet. But neither of those guys will have to sell their beach house if they lose. So with that comfort level comes a relaxed environment that is sure to make the whole thing more fun than a traditional Sunday at Bay Hill, Pebble Beach or Colonial CC.

All you have to do is go back and watch reruns of the old Skins Game competition. Those guys had a blast back then. Even a stick-in-the-mud like Nicklaus yucked it up with Trevino and Palmer when it wasn't his money on the line. They were playing for someone else's $100,000. It was easy peasy.

One thing you can say for sure: Woods and Mickelson will give you your money's worth. That's a guarantee.

I'll probably wait to see what the pay-per-view fee is before I make a final decision, but I'd say the betting odds of me buying "The Match" are pretty lopsided. You'd get +260 that says I buy it, -120 that says I don't.

I love the idea of those two going head-to-head. I think the whole concept has legs. I just don't know that I'm all that movitated to watch them play a $9 million match that doesn't impact their pocket in some way.

And you know this: There's zero chance either of them are doing this completely free of charge. Those two don't do anything free. They have to quietly be getting something just for showing up, even if it's "only" $100,000 or $200,000.

So, I'll probably pass on watching it. But I'll take Tiger to win if anyone wants a side bet.

How much are you willing to spend to watch "The Match"? Please take part in our reader's poll below.


 Drew's Morning Dish

#DMD Poll

Question: What happens with the Ravens over their last seven games?
6-1, finish 10-6
5-2, finish 9-7
4-3, finish 8-8
3-4, finish 7-9
2-5, finish 6-10
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birds are now 21 games out


On an almost daily basis now, I find something about this Orioles season that stuns me.

I know, I know, I need a new hobby or two.

Here's what I discovered yesterday while I perused the baseball standings.

Hang in there, Buck. It's almost over...

The Orioles are 21 games out of fourth place.

You read that right. Fourth place.

Toronto is 58-69. They're terrible. The Blue Jays are a whopping 31 games behind Boston in the A.L. East.

The Orioles are 37-90. They're 21 games behind Toronto and 52 games in back of the Red Sox.

I kept looking at the standings yesterday as if somehow they were going to magically change to something a tad more respectable.

21 games out of fourth place. With a month left in the season.

If you don't laugh about it, you'd cry.

The only thing even remotely interesting about the season now is the chase for 50 wins. The Birds have to go 13-22 from here to the finish line to end the campaign at 50-112.

I keep thinking they'll win 7 of 10 at some point and put a big dent in that quest, but it never happens. They keep losing 7 of 10, actually.

Not that losing Mark Trumbo is going to crush them -- they've been awful with him in the lineup -- but with Trumbo apparently headed for season-ending knee injury, there's another occasionally-productive-bat that won't be available in September.

Have you looked at the lineup recently? It's minor league'ish, basically. How are they going to win 13 of 35 games?

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five nfl bets for 2018


I'll be publishing my full NFL preview sometime later next week and into the following week, but I thought I'd throw five "prop bets" out there today and see which, if any, you'd find compelling enough to wager on yourself.

No, before you ask, I'm not interested in actually wagering on these examples. Not publicly, anyway.

I say the Browns are going to win at least six games.

What do you say? Six or more? Less than six? Would you put up $100 to win $200?

Can Blake Bortles and Jaguars return to the AFC Championship game after losing a heartbreaker at New England last January?

I'll take the 49'ers to finish with a better record than the Cowboys

I think San Francisco has the makings of a nine win team. I think Dallas wins eight, nothing more.

Jacksonville won't win the AFC South outright.

I'm not calling last season a "fluke" for the Jaguars, but if they were playing "horse", they'd have F-L-U. I don't see it happening again. They might win the division at 9-7, but they'll do so via a tiebreaker with Houston, Tennessee or Indy.

The Vikings will win at least eleven games.

Speaking of Jacksonville, I think Minnesota could be this year's version of last year's Jaguars team. Watch out for Minnesota. They might play deep into January.

The Ravens will have to win their last two games of the season to make the playoffs.

Sound familiar? It's the same scenario they've faced in each of the last two seasons. Let's hope this time, they go 2-0 instead of 1-1.

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Thursday
August 23
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issue 23
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winning comes first at ohio state


I understand that people like to vent. That's 80% of what social media is used for these days. Snark, humiliate, bash, accuse, bloviate -- you can add as many other descriptive words as you choose.

The amount of people who were outraged at the decision handed down by Ohio State last night was almost as laughable as the 3-game suspension of Urban Meyer.

I mean that.

You're angry at the OSU Board of Trustees? C'mon man. You knew what was coming down the whole time.

Truth of the matter, I'm surprised they suspended Urban Meyer at all.

Ohio State's football team is the most important entity at the school.

That's not me telling you that. It's a fact. Without their football program, Ohio State is.......well......just a college where kids learn stuff.

Without football, Ohio State is Dickinson College, just bigger.

Still employed...because he wins football games.

So you can't possibly be surprised at Meyer's slap-on-the-wrist suspension, his vapid apology, and the overall tenor of the message distributed by OSU's Board of Trustees.

"We're sorry, Buckeye Nation."

I had to LOL at that one last night.

You're apologizing to Buckeye Nation because you had to suspend your football coach?

And the coach apologized to Buckeye Nation because he got suspended?

Buckeye Nation?

I feel like I'm hallucinating.

But then I remember. Ohio State plays football for a living. It's what the school does.

And Buckeye Nation, whatever the hell that really is, remains interested mainly in winning games, beating Michigan, and going to the most lucrative post-season game they can.

Buckeye Nation doesn't care who graduates from the school.

They just want football glory.

And that's why Meyer is still coaching after his little 3-game sabbatical.

Oh, and here's the thing. You might not like this, but it's the truth. Meyer should be the coach, still. Because that's what he is. A football coach.

Urban Meyer, along with people like our embattled pigskin hero, DJ Durkin, is at Ohio State to win football games.

Don't let any fancy pictures with motivational sayings on his office wall tell you differently. Don't listen to any of his players who spout off stories about how much Meyer cares about them "as a human being".

Don't buy any of that rhetoric. Urban Meyer is just a football coach. And, apparently, a very good one.

No one in Columbus really cares about the domestic violence case involving his former assistant coach, Zack Smith. I mean, they'll say they care, and they'll act nervous and concerned, but what they really want is for Ohio State to beat Michigan this season.

Still employed, because Maryland doesn't want to fire him AND pay him.

If you don't believe that, I don't have anything else for you.

Maryland is somehow still employing DJ Durkin as of today. Nearly two weeks ago, the crap hit the fan down at College Park. The coach still has a job. For now...

The difference between Ohio State and Maryland is simple. At Ohio State, all they're worried about is winning football games. At Maryland, all they're worried about is trying to come up with a bonafide way to fire Durkin and not have to pay him.

Both schools are scandalous in their own way. It's an embarrassment in Columbus and it's an embarrassment at College Park.

You're either OK with the man representing your institution of higher learning or you're not.

End of the story.

If you're not comfortable with Meyer representing the school's football team, you fire him. If you're OK with him representing the school, he stays employed.

It's a simple game. If Maryland is hanging on to DJ Durkin for the time being because they'd rather not pay him, shame on them. Either fire the guy because he was part of a horrendous culture at your school or let him flap in the breeze while the attorneys giggle at their $225 hourly rate and fart around for three weeks.

If Maryland had a morsel of integrity, they'd fire Durkin first and fight about the legality of it second. Instead, they're fighting about the legality of it first.

They'd rather save money than do the right thing.

It's all patently offensive to anyone with a brain.

Speaking of offensive, Urban Meyer apologized to Buckeye Nation long before he apologized to Courtney Smith, the ex-wife of his ex-assistant coach. Meyer might have eventually apologized to Smith during his Wednesday night press conference. I watched eight minutes of it before I had to rummage through the medicine cabinet for a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.

What a bunch of creeps they are in Columbus. And in College Park.

Or, maybe they're not creeps. I might be off base. They're football coaches, I have to keep reminding myself.

Urban Meyer is at Ohio State to win football games. He does a good job of it, too.

DJ Durkin is at Maryland to win football games. He's not doing such a great job, but he's trying hard.

I still contend Durkin's eventually getting canned at Maryland, but by the time it happens, the cat will be out of the bag. It was all about money...nothing else.

And we all know why Meyer is still employed at Ohio State, right?

Because Buckeye Nation loves him, that's why. And they love winning football games more than anything else.

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mr. eyes sees lots of good things


Our football friend and Baltimore media "professional", Mr. Eyes, checks in from Owings Mills with a handful of thoughts on the Ravens. As always, we're doing our best to shield Mr. Eyes' identity, at his request, because his boss still doesn't know about this #DMD moonlighting gig.

I gave Mr. Eyes five topics and asked him to connect a player with each word.

Most Surprising rookie thus far in camp -- "Anthony Averett, the 4th round pick (#118) from Alabama. The Ravens are well stocked in the secondary and Averett will be challenged to see the field a lot in 2018, but he has really been impressive throughout camp. His Alabama pedigree doesn't hurt, even though he only started two years for Nick Saban. The thing that stands out most about his is his speed. When the Ravens match up with a team that has a go-route burner, Averett could wind up being the guy assigned to slow him down. It might take a season or two for him to carve out his niche, but I think that young man is going to be around for a long time."

John Brown has been impressive in camp thus far and hauled in a nifty TD pass on Monday night in Indianapolis as well.

Most Surprising veteran thus far in camp -- "I expected Flacco to bounce back and steady himself, so I'm not surprised by how solid he's looked thus far. I'll go with John Brown, the free agent pick up from the Cardinals. For a team desperate for a receiver or two to connect well with Joe, Brown has been a huge sigh of relief. It's very obvious, even with the limited amount of actual play we get to watch in camp, that Flacco and Brown have quickly developed a great rapport. I think Brown could be an 8-10 TD guy in 2018."

Best Thing about the Ravens he's seen thus far -- "Nothing in camp has been more eye opening than the overall speed of the defense. The word "swarm" is used a lot in football, and that's really what the defense is doing under Wink Martindale. I'm not sure they'll be able to get to the quarterback as much as they might like, but once a running back or receiver gets the ball in his hand, he won't have long to stay upright. This defense is really, really fast, across the board."

Most Concerning thing about the Ravens he's seen thus far -- "Probably the edge pressure on the defensive side. I'm not saying they won't have games where they'll pick up three or four sacks, but I think those days are going to be few and far between. Their speed is more east to west than north to south. I don't see anyone, other than Suggs, who will be a constant threat to rattle the quarterback coming off the edge."

First Bold Prediction of the season -- "Flacco will have a career year, as long as he stays healthy."

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"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

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


In the comments the other day, somebody said that Drew sounded a little bit like Andy Rooney. That reminded me of something I wrote a few years ago, which I present here. With football season on the horizon, I thought it made sense.

I read a shortened version of this in front of about 250 people at my graduate school thesis reading, which was a much scarier experience than dealing with #DMD commenters…


grandma and andy rooney


I

My grandparents used to come by every Sunday in the fall, without fail, around the hour that nightfall and the autumn chill began to creep in.

They lived no more than 15 minutes away, but the trip probably seemed longer to Grandma Sadye than it did to Grandpa Ruby. In retirement, he had a second career as a driver; more than once, when I was a pre-teen and he was my babysitter, I sat in the back seat while he drove an elderly passenger to the airport.

Grandma Sadye, on the other hand, spent far less time away from their two-bedroom apartment. Her last car was a 1973 AMC Gremlin, lime-colored, which met its death as soon as she quit driving and gave it to my brother.

Much to Grandma Sadye’s dismay, after the short trip, the television in the house was usually tuned to a football game. We watched football all day; she was happier to spend time with her newest and last grandchild, my sister, who came a full seven years after I did.

“Is the game gonna be over soon?” Grandma would bark eventually, while finishing her takeout dinner.

“There’s still five minutes left,” my grandfather would bark back, knowing that those five minutes could take more like, well, 25 minutes. He neglected to tell her that, of course, and she never seemed to figure it out.

The clock would go on ticking — on the game and on the weekend. We knew both were over when we finally heard the ticking out loud.

That stopwatch; even then, in the 1980s, it had largely been replaced by electronic versions. But Grandma was finally happy when 60 Minutes came on the air, even if she had to wait a few extra moments.

You had to wait until the end of the show for his wisdom, but Andy Rooney always delivered something worth hearing.

She relaxed in the beat-up recliner while the rest of us busied ourselves with homework, phone calls, or paying the bills.

She stayed until the bitter end, her favorite part, when Andy Rooney gave his three-minute commentary on whatever happened to be on his mind.

Grandma died a while back, but I thought about her when Rooney, he of the many bitter endings, died just a few weeks after his last 60 Minutes broadcast. Rooney probably didn’t care whether football delayed the airing of one of his famous television essays, which were broadcast weekly for thirty-three years. He was a long-time New York Giants season ticket holder who attended nearly every Super Bowl.

Frankly, Rooney never made for exciting TV. His 60 Minutes colleagues exposed frauds, chased after criminals, and interviewed presidents, dictators, and movie stars; Rooney sat in his office and talked about the tools he had on his desk or his latest vacation. “When I went on television it was as a writer,” he said, in his final appearance in October 2011. “I don't think of myself as a television personality.”

Rooney occupied a distinctive space in modern American television. Actors mostly read lines others have written. News anchors often write their own copy, but their words match video that already tells the story. Rooney couldn’t be separated from the things he said, which were also the thousands upon thousands of words that he’d written.

Step away from the television image of Andy Rooney that you can’t possibly forget — the comical eyebrows, the whiny voice, the hunched posture — and you’re left with no more than four hundred words every Sunday. That’s all television had time for. The question is: why did my grandmother think they were worth a listen?

II

Grandma used to say exactly what was on her mind, and she never tried to correct what she said, no matter who was listening. There were anachronisms, of course — African-Americans were “colored,” and I never heard her call the refrigerator anything but the “Frigidaire.” But there also were arguments, the emotional, moody kind about subjects long since forgotten.

Grandpa was an overly trusting sort, the kind who would buy the coin collection from the television commercial with the sure-to-be unfulfilled promise of great worth. She was far more practical and serious, more prone to anger, yet completely devoted to him, even more so as they grew older. Their conversations in our house revolved around those differences.

“How could you be so stupid, Ruby?” she’d yell at him, exasperated at money squandered, or his forgetfulness, or letting a health issue go too far before visiting the doctor.

“I’m not being stupid, Sadye. I’m telling you the truth,” he’d yell back. “Just be quiet.”

“You’re ridiculous,” she’d say. “Let’s go home already.” Of course, it was because of her, waiting for Rooney to come on, that they were still there.

Rooney’s rants reflected his moods. He could be mean-spirited. As the country headed into recession in 2008, for instance, Rooney went after the unemployed. “The fact is,” he wrote, “there’s a lot more work that needs to be done than there are people who want to do it.”

The next fall, he mused on the process of becoming an American citizen, saying his requirements would be to “first, recite the Pledge of Allegiance; second, promise to pay your taxes; third, sing the Star-Spangled Banner; and fourth, name the winner of the last Super Bowl. If you can’t do all four, pack your bags and get out.”

If he was being serious, he missed badly, belittling the many sacrifices of new citizens. The fact that there was no fallout from his comments shows the humor behind them, but they still display a narrow view of what it means to be American.

Rooney was once suspended by CBS, in 1990, after comments he made in one of his essays in late 1989. He listed homosexual unions among a group of ills that he said “led to premature death,” a list that also included alcohol, gluttony, and cigarettes.

The suspension was to last for three months, but Rooney returned to 60 Minutes after only one month. The show, the most-watched television program in America every week, had lost nearly 20 percent of its audience according to the Nielsen ratings. CBS News had also received 5,133 phone calls during that month concerning the suspension, 5,061 of which supported Rooney.

Perhaps my grandmother sent a letter or made a call to New York; she certainly wasn’t shy about calling my parents more than once per day. “Just checking in, seeing what you’re doing,” she’d say, only to make the same query a few hours later. I’m not sure what year my father bought the family’s first answering machine, but I know that he got it so he could screen her calls, if that’s what they called it back then.

If my grandmother did call CBS in support of Rooney, he knew the reason why, even if he couldn’t pretend to know her opinion among the varied sentiments of millions of viewers. He even mentioned it in his final broadcast, when he said goodbye in 2011. “I probably haven’t said anything here,” he admitted sheepishly, “that you haven’t already thought.”

III

Rooney became famous, or infamous, for his “lighter” and humorous pieces. He spent three minutes on fruit in 2009, for instance, telling viewers that he “doesn’t like green fruit; green is for vegetables.” A year earlier, he felt obligated to write about state slogans on license plates (“Rhode Island doesn’t even look like an island to me,” he said.)

Though he was a sit-down curmudgeon, he was in some ways his generation’s Jerry Seinfeld, a master of observational humor. “I can’t make out what it is with people and watches,” he said in 2008. “No one needs more than one to find out what time it is, but most of us have a half a dozen watches in drawers around the house that we never use.”

I think my grandmother liked Rooney because, like the other men and women on 60 Minutes, he was actually a serious journalist. Forced to leave Colgate University to join the Army during World War II, he found a job working for the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes. For four years, he was allowed to get as close to the front lines as he wished, “embedded” in the field well before the term existed.

In the last interview Rooney ever did, on 60 Minutes just four weeks before his death, he said softly that he’d lost many friends in the war. When he wrote about Christmas or New Year’s Day or Thanksgiving, Rooney was often whimsical, sarcastic, or nostalgic. He had an entirely different tone when writing about Memorial Day in 2010.

“I wish we could dedicate Memorial Day,” he said, “not to the memory of those who have died at war, but to the idea of saving the lives of young people who are going to die in the future if we don’t find some new way, some new religion maybe, that takes war out of our lives.”

There’s a photo of my grandfather in his Army uniform, circa 1943, standing to the left of my grandmother and their young son. My mother was born two years later. His smile shows that he was fortunate; his time in the military was brief, and he never traveled overseas. He had no war stories, really, and he would raise his kids during the 1950s and early 1960s, sending them out into the world as adults just before another tumultuous time in America.

He died fifty years after the photo, in 1993, suffering a heart attack while driving an elderly woman. There was no accident; his car simply slid to the side of the road and stopped. There was a certain amount of peace to his final moments, I suppose, and he had not been sick before the heart attack. He was lucky, as he had been in the war.

Still, on his funeral day, a cold and snowy February morning, a representative from the Veterans of Foreign Wars walked into the chapel, dressed in uniform. He braved the weather to attend, though he had never met my grandfather. I remember thinking then how little I knew about Grandpa Ruby, about the choices and sacrifices he had made many years before I was born.

When Andy Rooney died, I returned to that thought. My grandfather’s generation would always listen most closely to each other, the only ones who really knew what to say.

IV

Andy Rooney died from complications after minor surgery, though I wonder whether his life quickly wasn’t the same after his career ended. My grandmother was never the same after Grandpa’s unexpected death, and she spent much of her final three years in a nursing home and hospitals.

Sometime during the week of her death, Andy Rooney put the finishing touches on an essay he titled “A Wealth of Information.” Grandma would have laughed at the piece, which dealt with older people and forgetfulness, since being forgetful was nothing compared to the physical ailments that eventually took her life.

The essay was inane; old people forgot, Rooney said, not because of Father Time but because “their brains are full.” The piece was prophetic, and maybe a bit naïve. “We’re all getting more information than we can handle,” he said, well before smartphones proved him right — and wrong.

By then, it had been years since my grandparents had been to the house on Sunday evenings; my parents no longer lived there. I felt sad, of course, sitting in a different house in the days surrounding Grandma’s death, but also nostalgic, for memories of my childhood and my grandparents that existed in another place. That place seemed far away, though it wasn’t, a short trip that felt like thousands of miles.

These were complicated feelings, I suppose, the kind that come with adulthood and mortality. And there lies Andy Rooney’s gift, to my grandmother and to me: simplicity, in the best sense of the word, the ability to put all of those feelings together in less than three minutes.

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in a corner


Let's get a few pieces of needed housekeeping out of the way with regard to Jimmy Smith's suspension.

The Ravens have known about the possibility of this happening for quite some time. There are a couple of reports out there that state they were first made aware of it back in February.

Word started to trickle out in early August that Smith might be in "trouble" with the league. No one was saying much, other than a few free agent tryouts at the cornerback position led some nosey media types to do some snooping and foggy details started to surface that Smith might not be "available" for the first month of the season.

As it turns out, those whispers and rumors were true. Smith will miss the first four games after the league deemed that he violated their personal conduct policy.

For the Ravens, Smith's ouster creates an interesting situation.

He will now have been suspended for eight games in the last calendar year.

When is enough, enough?

When does it become apparent that the player, for reasons perhaps only he or a clinical professional can figure out, is simply not able to conduct himself appropriately?

And, more importantly, what does it say about the Ravens when Smith is welcomed back in week five?

Antonio Brown and the Steelers have to be thrilled with Tuesday's news about Jimmy Smith. Smith's suspension will force him to miss the September 30th game in Pittsburgh.

These are questions that unfortunately have become part of the everyday life in sports, not just here in Baltimore with the Ravens.

When is enough, enough?

What would happen at your place of employment if you were a multiple-time violator of a critical company rule that led to you being suspended from work?

What would it say about your boss or executive administration if 90% of the employees were able to follow the rules and guidelines while others weren't able to do so......yet they were always brought back and conveniently placed right back in the office as if nothing ever happened?

The Ravens, sadly, have a history with issues such as the one Smith was just suspended for on Tuesday.

Terrell Suggs.

Ray Rice.

Those two come to mind right away.

Suggs survived his "bleach incident" without the spotlight shining on him.

Rice, of course, never played again in the NFL after the infamous video tape was produced.

Jimmy Smith came to the Ravens with enough baggage that the airline would have maxed out his credit card if he would have tried to check it all at the counter.

There for a while, the former first round draft pick seemed to have put that line of bad behavior in college behind him.

Then there was a drug "incident" at a Towson bar a couple of years back, where Smith was apparently in the company of a female who had drugs in her possession. The "other side" of that story is a little different, but Smith wiggled out of that dilemma unscathed.

He ran afoul of the league's Drug and Alcohol policy last season and was suspended for the final four games of the campaign. He was already out with an injury, so that suspension didn't impact the Ravens at all.

And now.......this latest suspension.

When is enough, enough?

There are circumstances to be considered, of course.

You can't just cut players in the NFL without some sort of salary cap ramification. The cap makes the league great in a lot of ways. It also hamstrings organizations -- like the Ravens in this case -- who would probably like to jettison a non-comformist.

I wonder how John Harbaugh feels about all of this? He needs to win this year, plain and simple.

I'm sure he's not thrilled about losing Smith over what essentially is a "character issue." Harbaugh has to be fed up with facing reporters and discussing the negligent behavior of his players.

I'm sure he'd be even less thrilled if the Ravens canned Jimmy Smith two weeks before the season starts and Harbaugh had to go the entire season without his number one cornerback.

These kinds of predicaments put people in positions they'd prefer to not encounter.

Steve Bisciotti once said, in the aftermath of the Ray Rice saga, "We'll no longer sign players with a domestic violence history."

OK, so we're splitting hairs here. The Ravens don't have to "sign" Smith...they already have him on their team. But is that how Bisciotti will navigate his way around the issue of the Ravens keeping Smith employed?

Smith distributed a smart, thoughtful apology on Tuesday after the news of his suspension officially broke just after 5 pm.

If apologizing is a critical first-step in regaining the public's trust, Smith returned Tuesday's mea culpa 99 yards for a touchdown.

The Ravens addressed it all, too, essentially saying they were confident that Smith is going to walk the straight and narrow from here on out.

Forgiving sin is noble. It's rooted in The Lord's Prayer, of course. "Forgive us our trespasses...as we forgive those who trespass against us."

But "forgiving" and "continuing to employ" could be considered distinctly different from one another.

Right?

Ray Rice, apparently, was forgiven. He has been back at 1 Winning Drive on numerous occasions since his "departure". But he wasn't welcomed back to work.

Why is Jimmy Smith different?

Sure, his incident wasn't on video tape. And he apparently didn't strike his then-girlfriend. The league characterized it as "emotional abuse and threatening behavior".

But when is enough, enough?

Are the Ravens that over-saturated with the need to win that they can't part company with Smith, a multiple-time offender?

If the answer to that is, "Yes, we're over-saturated with the need to win," they should probably just say that.

"We're here to win football games...plain and simple."

If they'd say that, publicly, perhaps some of this other garbage associated with the NFL wouldn't be so damning.

These goofy "protests" during the national anthem...the silly, impossible-to-officiate "helmet" rule...if the only thing that mattered was winning, we might be able to overlook the other nonsense.

But I don't know that winning is the only thing that matters.

It's nice, don't get me wrong. And to some fans, winning is all that matters. I get it. As someone who has seen the Orioles lose 89 games in five months, I know winning is way better than losing.

I guess what I'd like to know is how does an organization keep employing someone like Jimmy Smith when folks like Brandon Williams, Ronnie Stanley, Joe Flacco and Marshal Yanda have followed the rules set forth by the club...along with dozens of other guys who haven't had multiple brushes with the law and/or the league's various conduct policies?

Right now, this is still somewhat of a local story. The Ravens can survive that kind of situation. Half the fan base in town probably just wants the team to go 12-4 and couldn't care less what kind of people the team uses to achieve that record.

But the franchise will have to figure out how to handle the national pressure that will likely come in the next few days.

They've become adept at dealing with this kind of stuff, but at some point I'm sure they're even worn out having to defend some of these miscreants year after year.

Nick Boyle: "We're disappointed in Nick. We expect he'll make better choices in the future."

Darren Waller: "We're obviously not happy with Darren's decisions. We hope he's learned his lesson."

This isn't high school, either. These are grown men. They know the rules from jump street. But they can't abide by them, for some reason.

And now, again, Jimmy Smith has to be defended.

I don't know how the Ravens do it anymore...

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from the desk of
brien jackson

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



Following baseball on an everyday basis can be really weird.

It's certainly unique anyway. Baseball is the only game that's played every single day of the week. There's no real time to overanalyze particular plays or game results like there are in football, nor is everyone just sitting around waiting for the top half of the league to start the real season like in the NBA.

There are a few overarching themes to a given season, some memorable highlights, but for the most part things just march on abruptly and before you know it the minor roster moves, occasional injury news, and short lived debates over pitching changes gives way to the trade deadline and pennant races.

And mixed in to that annual routine is a few hundred columns and articles from baseball writers about how awful the game is.

The genre has taken on many forms over the years, but it's always present. For a while it was a rash of "baseball is dying" stories centered on their television ratings compared to the NFL, but then baseball cashed in with mammoth cable deals and record revenues kept growing and those articles just sort of disappeared.

Off and on there have been clashes over sabermetrics, or "analytics" as we're calling them today because we've gone from "you stat nerds know nothing about baseball and this stuff will never work" to "your stats worked too well and you've ruined baseball."

That's the big one, really, that baseball has been ruined and the game is something of a broken shell of itself. I must see three of those columns a week come across my social media feeds, and from actual BBWAA members at that (as an aside, I've often thought that baseball seems to be the only sport covered primarily by people who don't much care for it or, at least, haven't liked it since their favorite childhood player retired).

Old players are quoted, of course, because old players are always available to complain about the players who came after them. In an age obsessed with creating content, it's an easy space filler I suppose: There's no easier way to create a column than to put a tape recorder in front of Goose Gossage's face and ask him what he thinks about, well, anything that's happened in baseball since 1983.

Even if you aren't the type to read a lot of these things, just turn on any game John Smoltz broadcasts and prepare to sit through a three hour long rant about how awful what you're trying to enjoy is.

Honestly though, while I've mostly made fun of previous forms of this zombie column, I have to somewhat concede the point these days. The game really is quite a bit different now than it was even 10 years ago, and not always in ways that make it more fun to watch.

But I'm not going to go overboard the way some of your older pundits inevitably do and, unlike the kind of people who are just looking for another reason to complain about sabermetrics and the fact that guys like Jeff Lunhow and Andrew Friedman are (successfully) running baseball teams now, I've actually got some ideas on how you might fix the problems! So let's go in turn, addressing the most common complaints I see about contemporary baseball, and assessing some ways that we might fix them.

Lack of stolen bases/hit and runs:

We might as well start with the one that a) I actually have no idea what to tell you if you want to see this changed and b) is probably most directly tied to analytics. Although that's oversimplifying things a tad too.

Here's the thing about "sabermetrics:" the metrics we were all talking about 10 years ago fell into two broadly distinct categories. On the one hand, there were the honest to God new statistics that people were creating to reflect new concepts of measuring the game. This category would include things like WAR, wRC+, FIP, etc, and was obviously some pretty controversial stuff.

But the other category, the one that was actually having the bigger impact on the game as you watched it, wasn't based on a bunch of baseball geeks trying to figure out how to calculate a pitcher's fielding independent value. Quite to the contrary, they were just using computers to process the mountain of meticulously maintained records of thousands of thousands of baseball games to answer some basic strategic questions about the game.

This is what I think always enraged sports media and ex-players at the outset, honestly. Because now questions that had once been the province of endless debate were instead matters of settled fact. It didn't matter if you or the former All-Star calling the game believed that sacrificing a runner to second was a good decision that would help your team, being able to actually scour through millions of similar situations in thousands of previous games showed conclusively that it decreased your team's chances of scoring a run.

And this is basically what did in stolen bases, hit and runs, and sacrifices. With stolen bases, for example, we learned that you have to be successful in roughly 70% of your attempts for the extra bases earned to outweigh the extra out run into. And that's kind of a lot!

So I don't really know what more to say about these plays than the data already supports: They're dying out because they're bad strategic decisions that hurt your team more than they help them, and for that reason they're not going to come back on a large scale anytime in the foreseeable future.

Sorry.

Defensive Shifts:

Listening to "purists" try to talk about defensive shifts is, to me, a form of entertainment all in its own. They hate them, of course, they're certain that they're single handedly destroying the game of baseball, and they want them BANNED. Preferably yesterday.

At the same time none of them are remotely sure of how to do it because defensive positioning is one of the first things you learn in Little League, as soon as your coach tells you to back way up in the outfield because the other team's slugger is up. It's like the ultimate old-fart's catch 22!

The upshot of this is that you get lots of silly assertions about how *hitters* should do away with the shift by just hitting the ball the other way or even bunting. If you actually think about that for more than a second you'd see why that won't work either.

First of all, it's not actually that easy! If baseball was just a matter of hitting a pitch wherever you wanted it to go and avoiding the other teams fielders then everyone would hit over .500 every single year, right?

But even to the extent it is doable, there's still very little reason for the defense to adjust strategy. For one thing, they're still going to make putouts on the at bats that end in strikeouts, pop ups, fly balls, or rolled over grounders. And if the rest of the at bats they see end with a power hitter settling for a single by trying to inside-out more pitches or even bunting, then that's a huge win for the defensive team!

Hence why the actual response to the shift has been to attempt to nullify it with more flyballs for extra base hits.

But if you really want to do away with extreme shifting, the ironic thing is that its not hard at all to write such a rule. Drew just did so here at #DMD the other day, and Tom Verducci outlined it in great detail in a column back around the All-Star break: You require the four infielders to have at least one foot on the infield at all times prior to the pitch. That still allows teams to move defenders around, even shift three or four guys to one side if they want. But it also does away with putting an infielder into shallow right field as a backstop against left-handed hitters, which Verducci documented is where the shift's effect is most pronounced, to the tune of roughly 50 points of batting average.

It still impacts right-handed batters, of course, but since shallow left field is too long of a throw to first base for an infielder to be effective there, it's much easier for them to beat the shift by simply hitting a groundball really hard than for their left-handed counterparts. Next!

Strikeouts:

The next time you hear someone complaining about all of the strikeouts today, try to pay close attention to all of the reasons they check off to explain it. They'll no doubt talk about the focus on home runs, the lack of appreciation for singles and sac flies and moving a runner with a grounder. They're also likely to say something along the lines of "batters today aren't embarrassed to strike out," as though a strikeout is some sort of moral failing on the part of the hitter.

You know what you aren't likely to hear them mention? The pitchers.

You'd think that the guys who get credited for those strikeouts might factor into the thought process here a little bit, wouldn't you? But that runs up against one near universal truth about the way we talk about sports: We by and large refuse to acknowledge that athletes get better over time. At least in their physical capabilities anyway.

But they do get better.

The Eutaw Street Report's Twitter account has, on a couple of occasions, tweeted a passage from a book with quotes about how Sammy Stewart forced his way onto the Orioles' roster because he could throw 92 MPH, and guys with that kind of velocity were few and far between. Can you imagine?! Nowadays if a 19 year old in Rookie ball doesn't sit at 94-95 and touch at least 98 with his fastball he's a borderline non-prospect.

The fact of the matter is that pitchers today are physically capable of things, whether it's averaging 96 MPH on their fastball or throwing 90 MPH sliders that look like they defy the laws of physics, that pitchers in the 40's or 50's wouldn't have even imagined were possible to do.

And of course those advancements in what's actually possible are going to have a big impact on the game, and increased velocity from pitchers is going to yield more batters striking out. Not only are the faster fastballs themselves harder to make contact with, but it's harder to adjust to those changeups and ridiculous breaking balls when you have to keep in mind that the pitcher can uncork a 97 MPH fastball at any time.

But if that makes baseball less enjoyable for you, you'll be happy to know that there's an easy solution: Move the pitching mound back! Slide the pitcher's mound back a foot, give or take, and you'll markedly reduce the impact of that velocity and you'll start to see a lot more contact and fewer strikeouts again.

But not only do I think that the people most inclined to complain about strikeouts would think this is crazy, I'm pretty sure Goose would have a full blown stroke, so maybe not.

Starting pitchers pitching fewer innings:

We'll finish with this one because it ties in to many of the the ones before it. Yes, complete game shutouts are cool, as are guys who go 7 or 8 innings regularly. No, that every starter in the big leagues today doesn't do that on a regular basis isn't proof that guys from the 19th century were better or tougher.

If anything, just the opposite is true. Again, today's pitchers throw harder than pitchers as a whole have ever thrown before.

They're throwing more and harder breaking balls to boot, and all of this puts a lot of stress on their arms. What's more, todays pitchers and pitching coaches talk a lot about "executing every pitch," as though they recognize that any single pitch could determine the outcome of the game.

The days of taking it easy and just letting the other team's 8 or 9 hitter put a ball in play for a quick out are well past over. In today's game, groove a fastball or hang a breaking ball to ANY big league hitter and he's liable to park it 6 rows deep in the stands. The sum total of that is a lot more stress per pitch on everyone's arm, and fewer guys who can throw 115-130 pitches regularly.

And then you add in the fact that just about every team has at least one or two random middle relievers who throws 99 MPH with a nasty breaking ball, it's easy to understand why bullpens are taking on an ever larger role in the middle innings.

To sum this all up: No, baseball isn't perfect.

It's great don't get me wrong, but there are always little things here and there that can get annoying.

But what's really annoying is listening to people complain about it all the time, especially when those people are the same ones who rarely have solutions of their own to offer AND complain about how everyone else's ideas would corrupt the purity of the game or some such nonsense.

This stuff doesn't *have* to be hard: All you need to do is accept that baseball is a game whose commercial purpose is to entertain its audience and, as such, it actually needs to be entertaining!

Once you can accept that, all you really have to do think up some ideas, share them, and listen to other people's ideas. Given enough time, we might all come up with some pretty good solutions together!

But then to think is to analyze, and that sounds dangerously close to analytics! Guess we'll just have to keep listening to John Smoltz whine week after week after week after week after....

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it's time to shut down bundy


He might not like it.

Or perhaps he will.

Last night's start by Dylan Bundy should be the final one of his 2018 season.

There's nothing else to gain and plenty for him to lose in the final month of the campaign.

How many more starts can he make? Seven? Eight? Is it really worth it?

Dylan Bundy's record fell to 7-12 on Tuesday night after he was battered for seven runs in Toronto's 8-2 win over the Birds.

With September 1st rapidly approaching, the Orioles can give Bundy the rest of the season off and bring up a young, fresh arm in his place.

He got rocked again last night in Toronto, giving up 7 earned runs for the third consecutive start. In his last 10 starts, he's allowed more than four earned runs on six occasions. In those 10 starts, he's given up 17 home runs.

His ERA is now a whopping 5.31, a full run above the A.L. league average.

I'm not saying he's quit. But I am saying he doesn't really look the part these days.

Maybe all of those early season starts finally caught up with him. You know, the ones where he allowed 6 hits and 2 earned runs only to see the O's lose 3-1.

Despite the modern day agreement that pitching wins don't matter, pitchers like to win games. When you pitch well enough to win and your team's offense is stifled, that sort of thing eventually wears on you.

I'm not making excuses for Bundy, but it's fair to balance out his horrible July and August with the recap of how things started for him back in April.

But the time has come to stop the bleeding.

The numbers don't lie.

Either Bundy isn't giving his all or something's physically wrong. I guess "he could be extremely unlucky" would also qualify as a possible answer, but I've watched the games and there's not much "bad luck" connected with the way he's been pitching.

There's nothing to be gained from pitching in September.

And if he's hurting, as his numbers and in-game-data gently suggest he is, then more pitching definitely isn't a good idea.

Time's up, as Robin Williams told Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting.

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smith news starts unsettling night in indy


The worst news from Monday night's pre-season thriller in Indianapolis didn't even happen during the game.

By the way, the Ravens won the game, 20-19 to improve to 3-0 in the pre-season. So, there's that.

Prior to the game, reports surfaced that cornerback Jimmy Smith would not play on Monday evening after heading to New York earlier in the day to appeal an apparent suspension that's set to be handed down sometime soon.

Details are still murky, which makes it dangerous to write and comment on, but what is known is definitely unsettling. Smith is apparently facing a suspension for some sort of violation of the league's personal conduct policy. It's suspected to be connected to an on-going custody battle, where evidence was presented that showed Smith had been involved in an abusive relationship.

Until we know more details, there's no sense in going any further on the who, what, where, when and why.

Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith missed Monday's game in Indianapolis so he could meet with NFL officials in New York.

But one thing for sure: If Jimmy Smith does get suspended, that leaves a hole in the Baltimore secondary, particularly if he has to miss the second game (at Cincinnati w/A.J. Green) and the fourth game (at Pittsburgh w/Antonio Brown).

Smith was suspended last season, you'll remember, for a violation of the league's drug policy, but he served that suspension while he was out of the lineup with an achilles injury.

Depending on the details of the incident(s) that led to the suspension this time around, the Ravens could be in an interesting position. Shortly after the Ray Rice suspension a few years back, the Ravens essentially said they'd no longer employ players with domestic violence history.

While they certainly didn't make it a formal, published part of their club rules or anything like that, if Smith's suspension is linked to any kind of domestic violence the Ravens will have to work awfully hard to convince everyone they're not looking the other way on this one.

On the field, Joe Flacco looked decent enough to get some bored national media members to surmise that Lamar Jackson's arrival has sparked a new level of enthusiam and productivity from the Ravens' veteran quarterback.

I completely understand we live in the world of "hot takes", where everyone is trying to come up with an opinion on something and then fan the flames of the commentary until it's getting an abundance of attention.

I get it.

But the "Flacco is concerned by the Lamar Jackson pick and he's forced to play well now" thought is the absolute dumbest "take" I've ever come across. Dumb. And more dumb.

If we have to hear that all season I might not be able to watch the games.

Flacco looks to be healthy for the first time in two years. That, more than anything, appears to be what's helping him the most in pre-season. And, let's remember, "it's just pre-season", as I wrote here three weeks ago. Nothing Flacco does in these August games means anything on September 9 when the Bills roll into town.

It might also help that the Ravens went out and added some pass catchers in the off-season. Instead of Flacco throwing to Pig-Pen, Linus and Schroeder, he actually has bonafide NFL wide receivers to work with, as evidenced by the nifty goal line grab-and-toe-drag for a touchdown by John Brown last night.

Flacco's health and legit offensive weapons to help him are the real narrative of the story, but the national folks -- and maybe even some local ones, too -- will latch on to the Lamar Jackson angle because it fans the flames. So dumb...

The punt and kick return jobs are there for the taking. No one on the current roster apparently wants those gigs. Tim White and Jenarion Grant both fumbled punts last night, as the Ravens continue to audition people for the role(s). Grant got an earful from John Harbaugh when he got back to the sideline after his gaffe.

Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley suffered a knee injury early in the game and didn't return. He was seen later on the sidelines with a wrap on his knee. Nothing was formally disclosed by the team about Stanley's injury, so it's probably safe to suspect it's nothing serious.

But lots of folks around here remember Jamal Lewis walking off the field under his own power in Westminster in the 2001 training camp. The next day, the Ravens told everyone he had torn his ACL.

So, while the team won the game on the field, the two biggest stories of the night turned out to involve starters from last year's squad that are vitally important to the 2018 Ravens.

Jimmy Smith faces a suspension and Ronnie Stanley left the game with a knee injury.

If both of those events work out favorably for the Ravens, we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief.

But if they don't...

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gary williams? really?


While the University of Maryland continues to negotiate with football coach DJ Durkin regarding his termination/resignation, another juicy story is making the rounds down in College Park.

And this one apparently has legs.

Maryland is looking into the possibility of bringing on Gary Williams as the school's interim athletic director. This news was first published over the weekend by former Comcast SportsNet host Chick Fernandez, who is as locked into Maryland and Gary as anyone in the market down there.

This isn't the first time Maryland has waved the A.D. job in front of the former Terp basketball coach. They offered him the position last year when Kevin Anderson took his "sabbatical", but Gary turned them down.

Could Maryland be turning to former hoops coach Gary Williams to run their athletic department?

Now, they're back, once again asking Williams to step in and help guide the school and the athletic program through its darkest days.

I'm sure the current athletic director, Damon Evans, loves hearing these stories. He's basically been on the job all of about two months.

Maryland has made a lot of mistakes over the last decade. Randy Edsall was one of them, for sure. Kevin Anderson was, too. There are lots of folks who consider Mark Turgeon a questionable hire. And then there's DJ Durkin and the menacing, negligent staff he put together a couple of years ago.

Mistakes everywhere.

And with all due respect to Gary Williams, hiring him to serve as the athletic director would be a significant mistake as well.

Great basketball coach? Indeed. Gary was one of those.

Valuable marketing asset in the community? No doubt. Gary was Maryland athletics.

But an athletic director he's not.

If the Terps want to have Gary hang around and make a couple of hundred grand shaking hands and urging the Mid-Atlantic business community to rally behind Maryland during these dark days, that certainy might make sense. If they want Williams to serve as a cosmetic figurehead of the program while they sort things out, that's fine.

But actually allowing him to run the athletic department? No, no, no.

Maryland needs a complete, new, fresh start. It's not going to be an easy gig to fill, granted. Who wants to come to College Park right now and help rebuild an athletic department and football program, all while potentially having to make a tough decision on Mark Turgeon in the next year or two?

In that same light, who wants to be the football coach at Maryland?

Sure, sure, someone will take both gigs because they pay well and they're Big Ten jobs, but who are you going to get? No one worth their salt will take either position right now, I'd assume.

All of that might be why Maryland has gone back to Williams in the first place.

Maybe they just need someone to unlock the office every morning and make sure the employees are all there.

It would help, too, if the new athletic director would do everything in his power to make sure no 19 year old football players are being mistreated and dying on the field.

Either way, though, they need to go in a different direction than Gary Williams. And I suspect Gary knows that, too.

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o's "tragic number" down to one


It's almost official now.

Even the optimist won't be able to hold out much longer.

The Orioles lost to the Blue Jays last night, 5-3. That puts their record at 37-88.

With one more loss -- or a win by Oakland or Houston -- the Birds will officially be eliminated from the 2018 American League playoffs.

Andrew Cashner allowed five earned runs last night and fell to 4-11 on the season as the O's lost in Toronto, 5-3.

I know what you're thinking: "The Orioles have been out of the playoff race since mid-May."

That's correct.

But it was always "unofficially" correct.

With one more loss or win by the A's or Astros, the Birds will be watching October baseball on their couch. Officially.

The real story now, with 37 games remaining, is whether the O's can reach the 50-win mark in 2018.

I know, that's a pretty lame story to follow. But what else is there?

To get to 50 wins, the O's need to go 13-24 from here to the finish line. Seems kind of reasonable, right? I mean, they'll be playing a bunch of uninterested teams in September, won't they?

Oddly, the answer there is "no". Sure, they'll play the Royals, White Sox and Rays in September. None of those three teams will be trying by then. But the O's also play the Mariners, Yankees, A's, Red Sox and Astros in September. All five of those teams might very well need wins in the final weeks of the season.

Maybe I'm the (eternal) optimist I referenced above, but I think the Birds will cobble together at least thirteen wins between now and the end of the season. It might wind up being 50 on the nose, but I think they'll do it.

And then next year, watch out...

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Monday
August 20
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issue 20
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i love baseball, but......


I'm a baseball junkie.

I'm not much for the nerdy stats and all that other computerized stuff that tries to tell everyone what they're watching might not actually be happening the way it appears.

A hitter goes up to the plate to get on base. That's typically done either via a hit or a walk. When you hit a home run, that's even better. You get to touch them all.

A pitcher takes the mound with the initial goal of not allowing any hitters to get on base. If he can pull that off, there's nothing better.

Baseball is pretty simple. If you get three hits every ten times you're up and you play for, say, 15 years, you're likely going to the Hall of Fame.

Likewise, if you make 350 starts in the big leagues and your earned run average is 3.50 or less, you're probably going to the Hall of Fame.

Pitching wins used to matter. Now, they sort of don't anymore. Jacob de Grom might win the Cy Young award this year with 10 or 12 wins. That would have bothered me a decade ago, but it doesn't anymore. If de Grom goes 10-14 this year with a 1.93 ERA in 33 starts, he SHOULD win the award.

But as much as I love baseball and have tried to adjust a bit to some of its quirks, it drives me batty sometimes.

How many home runs would Aaron Judge hit in Fenway Park if he played for the Red Sox?

The episode last week where Miami's Jose Urena threw -- absolutely intentionally -- at Atlanta's Ronald Acuna Jr. and then received a mere SIX game suspension is one of the things that aggravates the snot out of me.

"It's part of the heritage of the game," some nitwit wrote on Twitter last week. "They've been handling their business like that forever in baseball."

Not allowing African Americans to play in the Major Leagues until Jackie Robinson came along was also "part of the heritage of the game". We're not going to try and justify that, too, are we?

Throwing a baseball at an opposing player because he hit a handful of home runs against you isn't "handling business". It's bush league. End of story.

Give that clown a 20-game suspension and let's see how much "business" he handles the next time his teammates can't get a guy out.

The shift bothers me as well.

I'm all for baseball strategy. It gives the manager something to do during the game, if nothing else.

But they're called IN. FIELDERS. As in, they play in the infield. Or they're supposed to, anyway.

I'm not going "full homer" on you here when I talk about what the shift has done to hurt Chris Davis...but it definitely has impacted his production. I suspect there are other contributing factors, but the shift has really gutted him, in my opinion.

And Davis isn't the only one that the shift has semi-wrecked, I'm sure.

To me, it looks too much like beer league softball when you have five or six guys within close proximity to each other out there.

I know MLB has hinted around about refining the "shift rule". I think the easiest way to do it is to say, simply, "All four infielders must have their feet on the infield dirt when the pitch is thrown." If they put me in charge, that's how the rule would read.

For my next beef: What happened in Seattle on Saturday night really teed me off. If the Dodgers wind up missing the post-season by one game, I'm sure they'll look back on the end of that game with the Mariners and be more teed off than me.

The Dodgers lost on a 10th inning, bases loaded balk. With a "b". Not a walk. A balk.

Here's the video, in case you didn't see it.

You probably won't see the balk, either. It's almost impossible to detect.



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Balk-schmalk. Come on man...

You know what else aggravates me about baseball? And for some reason, this really just started bothering me about three or four years ago. I hate that the stadium configurations aren't the same.

No one ever seems to make a big deal about this, which is strange given how the stat nerds dominate the evaluation of players and their performance.

Yes, I know...there ARE stats now that take that stuff into consideration. But the stadium designs being what they are, how accurate can any statistic be when one guy hits a ball to a right field wall in 81 home games that's 349 feet away and someone on another team hits a ball to a right field wall that's 359 feet away?

Some season will roll along where a guy playing at Fenway will obliterate the home run record. He'll hit 81 homers in a season, 54 of them coming at cramped, cozy Fenway.

One of two things will happen. The stat geeks will say, "No, no, no...it doesn't really count." Or, everyone will say, "Well, it's easy to hit 81 home runs when you play half of your games at Fenway." Either way, the stadium size will be the topic of conversation.

How about the Phillies and Mets playing a game that mattered last night at a minor league field in Williamsport? I guess no one barked about it, but that seems kind of weird to me.

Baseball is the only team sport where the playing surface/field configurations aren't identical from stadium to stadium.

It's beyond dumb, if you ask me.

Oh, and speaking of dumb...

The designated hitter itself isn't dumb. But the National League having one set of rules and the American League having another is definitely dumb.

That would be like the AFC having five downs on offense while the NFC only has the traditional four.

Or the Western Conference of the NBA having a 3-point arc and the Eastern Conference not having one.

Pick your poison. Either both leagues have the DH or both don't. Me? I don't mind the DH. And I wouldn't mind if they got rid of it, either. Just make it the same for both leagues.

The last thing that irks me beyond belief are the umpires. It drives me up a wall to see a batter shake his head at a strike call and have the ump take off his mask and admonish the guy for having the audacity to disagree with him.

And whenever there's a mound visit, those clowns have to strut out there after 10 seconds or so to tell everyone to "hurry up". Just once, I wish a manager would turn around and say, "Umm, do you do mind, chief? We're trying to discuss something here."

Umpires. They're on my "s-list".

By the way, the Orioles are now 37-87 after yesterday's 8-0 thrashing in Cleveland.

Maybe that's why I'm so angry...

But I do love baseball.

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"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

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


Preseason Edition


Who?

Hayden Hurst

Nobody really knows if the Ravens made the right move in drafting Lamar Jackson late in the first round back in April. Everybody is pretty sure, however, that the Ravens made a tremendous move by drafting Hayden Hurst a few picks earlier.

It’s not hard to figure out, really. Joe Flacco has always relied on his tight ends for the lion’s share of big plays and touchdowns, whether it be Todd Heap, best friend Dennis Pitta, Benjamin Watson or any number of guys whom you might not even remember.

The Ravens became a “tight end team” intentionally, because they valued the position a lot, and unintentionally, because their receiving corps never quite lived up to potential, particularly from the draft board.

Hurst is the right guy, on the right team, at the right position to make an immediate impact on wins and losses for an NFL team.

Mostly, it’s his athleticism that leaps off the screen. He makes diving grabs look relatively easy and has no problem going up between defenders to make plays, something that Flacco’s tight ends have always been forced to do.

In the NFL, Hurst will be expected to do what he didn’t do a lot at South Carolina—catch balls in traffic in the red zone. Based on training camp and the early preseason, he’s exactly what Flacco and the offense need at just the right time.


What?

Joint practices

The Ravens welcomed Sean McVay’s Rams to the Under Armour Performance Center for a pair of joint practices prior to the preseason game in Baltimore between the teams 11 days ago. In preparation for tonight’s game in Indianapolis, John Harbaugh’s team held two joint practices with the Colts at their new practice facility.

The Ravens might get a look at Andrew Luck tonight in Indianapolis after the former first round pick missed the entire 2017 season with a shoulder injury.

These joint practices seem like a really great idea. They also seem like yet another excuse to eliminate at least one, if not two, preseason games from each team’s schedule.

This year, for the first time, the Ravens had two sets of joint practices in one training camp. That means four more opportunities to evaluate players while they compete against another NFL team.

Considering the five preseason games on the schedule this year, that makes nine head-to-head meetings with outside competition for the Ravens this preseason.

Here’s an idea: every team has two sets of joint practices, even if the head coaches can’t stand each other. Each of those two get-togethers eliminates a preseason game, leaving just two of those for each team. If a team is chosen for the Hall of Fame game, like the Ravens this year, then they’ll have three.

Until the owners are OK with eliminating the revenue from one preseason home game every year, this plan has no chance of happening. But we fans can dream…


Where?

Baltimore and Indianapolis

I’ve written here before that I’m tired of the discussion of the Ravens and the INDIANAPOLIS Colts. When they play, or even practice with each other, it’s just another game.

Still, in reading through some of the material about the Colts’ move to a new training site this season, it was interesting to see the comments from the vice chair/owner of the Colts, a young woman by the name of Carlie Irsay-Gordon.

In talking about the great access to players that fans would have in the new setup, she mentioned how “that’s how it was back then,” referring to her father Jim’s experience at training camp. You know. In Baltimore. Before his idiot drunk father moved the team. Puke.

Carlie, of course, doesn’t know any better. According to her bio, she graduated from college in 2005, meaning she was born in or around 1983. That was the Colts’ last season in Baltimore, of course. By the time she would have been aware of anything surrounding the Colts, it would have had little to do with their former home.

She was thrust into her current role a few years back, when her father’s personal problems caused him to relinquish some of his duties with the team. I can only hope she escapes the issues that have affected both her father and grandfather.

Like I said, Ravens-Colts is just another game. While the person running that team is still named Irsay, though, I can see why certain feelings stay forever.


When?

2014

The Ravens’ last made the playoffs in 2014. Flacco and his offense helped the team score a franchise-record 409 points, and the quarterback passed for almost 4,000 yards and a career-high 27 touchdowns.

Maybe the football gods will declare that it’s time for a similar season in Baltimore. Flacco came into the preseason healthy, the receiving corps and tight ends are much improved and the quarterback has at least the specter of a first-round draftee over his shoulder to push him.

Also, the Ravens play the NFC South this season, as they did in 2014. Besides the playoff win in Pittsburgh, it was those games that really made Baltimore’s season so good.

Baltimore walloped Carolina 38-10 in late September, improving to 3-1 on the season. Two weeks later, Flacco threw five touchdown passes in 16 minutes, an NFL record, in leading the Ravens to a 48-17 laugher in Tampa.

The following week, it was the defense’s chance to shine in a 29-7 win over the Falcons at M&T Bank Stadium. Then, the Monday before Thanksgiving, the Ravens’ running game exploded for 215 yards in a 34-27 win over New Orleans in the Superdome.

In four games against the NFC South, all victories, the Ravens outscored their opponents by a score of 149-61.

For what it’s worth, the Ravens have won 10 of their last 12 games against NFC South competition. They finished 3-1 against that division in both 2010 and 2006.


Why?

Fighting

Every year, it’s the same thing in training camp.

It’s hot, and jobs are on the line, and then the old cliché of guys getting tired of hitting (or is it not hitting?) the same teammates over and over again. Soon there’s some pushing, then a scuffle, then a silly fight with punches that has to be broken up by teammates.

The Ravens and Colts took it one step further in their joint practices last week; there were multiple fights, with plenty of punches thrown.

Here’s the truth about fights in the NFL, at least as I see them: they’re not acceptable.

They result in penalties, possible ejections and potential fines. They show a complete lack of discipline. The show an inability to control aggression, so as to use it in the right ways, and are a complete waste of energy, time and effort.

John Harbaugh and Frank Reich had wildly different reactions to the hijinks at practice. Harbaugh blew it off as “much ado about nothing,” while Reich called it “bush league” and, more importantly, said that “teams that do that, and players that do that, lose.”

Certainly Harbaugh has a point; nobody is going to remember a training camp fight in October. Reich, however, certainly has it right. In a league where very little separates the best teams from the worst teams, unnecessary altercations cause teams to lose games.

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about that "player safety" issue


The Ravens will play the Colts in Indianapolis tonight. It's pre-season game number three for John Harbaugh's team.

This Saturday night, the Ravens will be in Miami for another August tilt.

And then on Thursday, August 30, the Ravens will host the Redskins in their final pre-season contest.

Joe Flacco is expected to see several series' of action tonight in Indianapolis and again on Saturday in Miami.

For those Flyers fans out there who are challenged with addition, that's three games in eleven days.

That would be a light schedule in the NBA or NHL. Most teams play four times in eleven days, sometimes even five.

Football teams don't -- or shouldn't -- play three games in eleven days.

But the Ravens are.

And here's the thing: I can't figure out if it's better or worse that these next three are pre-season games.

It seems almost bizarre to have three games that absolutely don't matter come within eleven days of one another. Right?

All we hear about these days, besides goofy players kneeling during the anthem, is the topic of "player safety" in the NFL. They've reconfigured the tackling rule for 2018 based almost entirely on the issue of concussions, neck/spine injuries and....."player safety".

Three football games in eleven days falls under the guidelines of "safe"? Really?

I understand that pre-season is different in that not everyone is playing all the snaps. I do get that. This isn't a roster of 46 playing tonight. It's more like 70-something. But the fact remains that some guys will play three games in eleven days, not to mention the practice and training that gets stuffed in there between the games.

Some of the things the NFL does are startling.

This pre-season schedule of the Ravens is one of them.

It can't possibly be "safe" to play three games in eleven days.

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Sunday
August 19
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issue 19
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are people still mad at poggi?


I'm not sure what stirred up the masses late in the week and into the weekend, but I've seen lots of Biff Poggi discussion on the internet recently.

I'm having a hard time following along, frankly, and I'm almost bored with the discussion of "why" Biff Poggi does what he does for the young men at St. Frances Academy.

I read some snark on Friday from a Baltimore guy on Twitter who said "My issue is with how he's portrayed as a Saint when maybe he's not one."

Or, maybe he is one.

I'm not sure how we tell.

St. Frances football coach Biff Poggi remains in the national spotlight after St. Frances was recently awarded the 2018 MIAA championship.

But for all the stuff I read from Poggi's critics, the only thing I go back to "knowing" about the whole situation is that he's not spending someone's else money to run the St. Frances football program.

He's the only guy in Baltimore taking money out of his own pocket to help bankroll football at the East Baltimore school. Is he doing it because he's the coach of the team? Most likely, yes. But does that really matter?

As long as he's not paying kids to play -- and no one has ever even hinted at that possibility, so dismiss it immediately -- there doesn't seem to be any reason to discredit Poggi for his role at St. Frances.

The early summer debate about whether MIAA schools had a "right" to take St. Frances off their schedule in 2018 is pretty much chewed to the bone at this point.

The schools who made that decision did so almost entirely with player safety in mind. It's really hard to argue with anyone about that common thread.

And St. Frances was wrong -- and so were several media members in town -- for hijacking the discussion into one about race. The schools didn't pull out of the games because of skin color. They pulled out because it was becoming increasingly more dangerous to play St. Frances.

Forget about what happened last year for just a second and ask yourself this: "Is it going to get easier to play them or more difficult?"

Answer: St. Frances isn't going away. And their player pool is only going to grow over the next few years. If you think they're big and strong now, wait until 2020 or so.

Armed with that conjecture, MIAA schools were smart to remove St. Frances from their schedule.

But there are two different stories here, in my opinion. One is about Biff Poggi and the job he's done at St. Frances. The other is about high school athletes whose safety might be in jeopardy by competing against St. Frances.

The ESPN feature piece on Poggi seems to have frayed some nerves in Charm City. I'm not sure why. Maybe Morrissey -- former lead singer of The Smiths -- said it right: "We hate it when our friends become successful."

I admire what Poggi has done for a rather large group of athletes who almost assuredly would never get the high school experience they've received at St. Frances. He's used football to keep his players engaged which, honestly, isn't that much different any other coach does at high profile MIAA schools.

I don't get all the vitriol surrounding Poggi.

I understand the controversy about the scheduling issue. That's a delicate situation there.

But the folks agitated by the wealth of favorable publicity for Poggi don't make sense. Why does it bother people so much?

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cobb's gem a rare bright spot in 2018


In a season with very few highlights worth remembering, O's right hander Alex Cobb provided one on Saturday. Cobb tossed a complete game 5-hitter as the Birds posted a 4-2 win in Cleveland.

It's been a long year for Cobb. Make that a lllllooooonnnnngggggg year.

With yesterday's win, he's now 4-15 on the season. That's the bad news.

You want the good news? Cobb has thrown at least seven innings in his last three outings. Overall, in his last ten starts (dating back to June 27), he's gone six innings or better six times. In his last seven starts, Cobb has allowed a grand total of eleven earned runs.

He won't be a 2019 pre-season favorite for the Cy Young award or anything like that, but if the Cobb we've seen over the last six weeks is the one we'll see next year, the O's will be extremely happy.

The Orioles starting rotation is basically half-filled for 2019. Barring an off-season trade, there's Dylan Bundy. Andrew Cashner will be back for year #2. And Cobb will return as well.

That leaves the likes of David Hess and Yefrey Ramirez to battle for a starting spot, plus other unknowns and potential off-season signings. Let's face it, though. It's unlikely the O's will be in the market for a legitimate free agent pitcher since, a) they won't be spending a whole lot of money initially during the rebuild and, b) no quality pitcher will sign up to come to Baltimore and be part of two or three years of dismal baseball.

So, the farm system will get a workout next year, as young arms get a chance to prove themselves.

But if -- and this a BIG "if" -- Bundy, Cashner and Cobb can each have improved 2019 campaigns, things might go a bit better than they've gone this season.

Yes, I'm an optimist.

Maybe too much of one.

But the last month or so of Alex Cobb has at least indicated he does know what he's doing. He just needs to do it better -- more often.

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Saturday
August 18
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issue 18
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i wonder what tommy lasorda thinks


"No matter how good you are, you're going to lose a third of your games," former L.A. Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda once said.

He'd go on to sum up the philosophy by saying, "You'll win a third of your games and you'll lose a third of them too. It's what you do in the other third that decides your season."

The Orioles are going to fall short of that "one third" number this year. You can almost guarantee it.

They're now 36-86 after last night's 2-1 loss to the Indians in Cleveland.

36 wins.

86 losses.

I still can't believe the season derailed like this. It's August 18th and I still shake my head when I look at the standings.

At the 122-game mark, a record of 50-72 would be awful. There are a handful of teams hovering around that record right now (Tigers, Marlins, White Sox, Padres) and, yes, they're having terrible seasons.

Chris Davis had one of the four Orioles hits on Friday night in Cleveland to raise his average to .164.

50-72 would be awful.

What, then, is 36-86?

Here's the thing, though. And I'm not just pandering to the few of you who, like me, will still go to the games next season even though the club is clearly not going to contend in 2019.

Next season will be better.

It's like the opera. It's better than you think. It has to be.

The Orioles will be better next season than you think. They have to be.

But seriously...they will be better next year.

The uncertainty about a massive rebuilding project and a handful of key players entering free agency will be gone in 2019. It's clear now, based on hearing and reading commentary from key players from this year's squad, that the whole "who's going to be traded and when?" story was definitely a factor once the losses started to pile up in April.

That wasn't the only reason the team got off to an 8-27 start. They lacked talent in some key areas, obviously. But that scenario won't exist next season, for starters.

There's no way Alex Cobb goes 6-20 or whatever it is he'll finish up with this season.

Andrew Cashner isn't going to go 7-16 next season as well.

In order for the Orioles to be decent in 2018, those two guys had to produce solid campaigns. It never happened. Cobb hardly pitched in spring training and Cashner wasn't at "full speed" until the very last week in Sarasota.

Those two will be better next season. Again, think of the opera. They have to be better, almost by accident.

Dylan Bundy might be better next year, but he might be with another team, too. Don't be surprised if the Orioles package Bundy with Mark Trumbo in the winter and continue the rebuild. Or...would anyone be crazy enough to take a chance on Chris Davis?

The O's would have to eat a significant part of Davis' contract, but they'd surely love to find someone to take him this winter.

Jonathan Villar looks useful at second base. So we have that going for us, which is nice.

I'm not sure how shortstop or third base will pan out in 2019. Tim Beckham is obviously a defensive liability at either spot. Renato Nunez has actually been acceptable at third since Machado left for L.A. a month ago. I haven't seen him be terrible with the glove and his bat has perked up nicely in August. By no means is he the team's third baseman of the future. But he's competent, at least.

Trey Mancini and Cedric Mullins are in left and center next year, respectively. That's a done deal.

It would be awesome to see Adam Jones in right field, but it's looking more and more like the O's are ready to move on from number 10. That's a shame. He would be a great teaching asset for all the kids coming up from the farm system over the next couple of years.

I guess that would make Joey Rickard or Trumbo the incumbent right fielder next year if Jones isn't back. Neither of those guys are everyday players, in my opinion.

I assume Austin Hays will get a chance to win the right field job in spring training.

Austin Wynns or Chance Sisco will catch next season. Both have showed something on occasion in 2018. We'll never mistake one of them for Johnny Bench, but they'll do in a pinch at the very least.

The bullpen needs some refurbishing as well. It feels like we acquired about 54 pitchers in those trade deadline deals. At least three of those have to stick as relief arms, right?

We also don't know who will manage the team next season. I'm not sure Casey Stengel could come back and win 70 games with next year's team, but the manager does matter.

It won't be much fun getting shellacked 100 times again in 2019, but at least there's a plan now. Right?

And, yes, I'm being a smidgen optimistic when I write that next year's team might go 60-102. That's probably unlikely.

But here's what I do know. However many games the Orioles wind up winning this season -- my guess, right now, is they win 48 -- they'll improve on that record in 2019.

Just remember the opera...

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ravens at colts -- is that still a thing?


The Ravens will be in Indianapolis on Monday night for their third (sort of second) pre-season game of 2018.

I've seen a bunch of people sniping about the encounter on social media over the weekend.

Really? We're still doing that?

I realize the Ravens always pay homage in their own special way anytime the Colts play in Baltimore. The scoreboard always reads "INDY" instead of "COLTS". That's kind of cool, in its own grandfatherly way.

But are we, as fans, still doing the "hate everything about Indianapolis" skit in 2018?

I shouldn't write "we" above, because I'm not personally worked up at all about the Colts anymore. It took a while for me to get over it, for sure. I won't fib. But now? I'm well past "over it".

We have the Ravens now. A generation of people know nothing about the Colts in Baltimore. My 11-year old son will only know the Ravens and that's it.

But here we are, in 2018, and there are definitely still people in Charm City who bash the Colts any chance they get.

I thought we were past that by now, but apparently not.

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Friday
August 17
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issue 17
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what's maryland waiting for?


It's Friday. DJ Durkin is still employed.

How is that possible?

It might be as simple as something I suggested earlier this week. Perhaps the attorneys for both sides are just creating Durkin's "resignation" and once everything gets buttoned up, he'll be gone and Maryland football will start over.

But what if it's not that simple?

What if -- humor me for a second -- Maryland doesn't intend to part ways with Durkin?

Is that even possible?

Could DJ Durkin surive this ordeal and remain the football coach at Maryland?

No way, right?

How would he recruit? How would he go into a kid's house and convince the young man's parents that he's going to take care of their son for the next four years?

Maryland President Wallace Loh acted quickly in the wake of last Friday's ESPN story about Maryland football, but the school hasn't yet made a decision on head coach DJ Durkin.

I'm sure he could always get someone to take a full scholarship to play college football, but would any of those players actually be Big Ten caliber athletes?

I doubt it.

And what about the other important factor in this, as far as the school goes: Money. How will Maryland sell its product to the banks, airlines, sports apparel companies and anyone else in the region that wants to connect their marketing efforts with Maryland football?

Seems like a bad time to be a sales rep for Maryland sports, huh?

With Durkin "out", at least the Terps can sell the whole apology-fresh start-we've learned our lesson angle. I'm not certain it will work all that well for them -- Maryland football was probably a lousy sales piece anyway -- but it will give them a better chance than keeping Durkin around and having to drag that story around every time they pitch a company for tickets, suite packages and anything else.

There's just no sense in keeping DJ Durkin around.

And I'm not someone who says asinine stuff like "Durkin helped murder one of his players" or any of that other garbage you're seeing on the internet these days.

We tend to go overboard with stuff like that in 2018. Not sure why, but we do.

DJ Durkin was the football coach at Maryland who oversaw a program that was filled with inappropriate and obviously dangerous training and practice tactics. That one of his players died under his watch is, of course, the most important part of the story. But Durkin isn't a "murderer" or anything close to it.

He's a football coach who fell victim to the same thing dozens and dozens of coaches fall victim to: He made football more important than life itself. He's not the first to do it and won't be the last, either.

Maryland football was in big trouble before this national story broke a week ago. And by big trouble, I'm talking merely wins and losses and program respectability on the field. Sure, they looked as if they might be a tad improved this year, but not nearly enough to scare the folks in Ann Arbor, Columbus or Happy Valley.

And now.......

With the Durkin story tugging at them, how can the Terps possibly maintain enough focus to stay competitive this year?

I'm sure the school understands the situation. This isn't really about football. It's about the death of Jordan McNair and the ugly culture that apparently had suffocated practice, workouts and off-season training.

But, ultimately, Maryland has to decide how their football program is going to proceed.

And I can't see any way possible it can go on with DJ Durkin at the helm.

Wallace Loh and other Maryland administators might see it differently, though. With each passing day, the chances of Durkin staying with the program don't decrease -- they increase.

There's just no way, right?

Maryland isn't going to keep DJ Durkin are they?

Maybe they are...

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from the desk of
brien jackson

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



One of the more memorable moments of my high school football career happened in the very first game of my freshman season.

We were playing a nearby out of conference rival on a humid night where the temperature was still near 90 degrees at the 7:00 kickoff. They had a pretty good senior at running back, and at some point in the first half he got a big hole off tackle and took off untouched through the line.

It was about as easy of a 70 yard touchdown run as you'll ever see, except that around our 20 yard line his legs cramped up, he hobbled maybe 5 yards in pain, and our safety drug him to the ground.

After that they went four and out, and we ended up winning the game by four points. Because they were a division above us the win was worth a lot in Ohio's playoff ranking system, and ended up making the difference in us getting in that year.

All because the other team's running back got a cramp at just the right (or wrong) moment.

That one play has been strangely resonant in my life. Most likely because we didn't stop talking about it for my entire four years.

It was a running joke of sorts, but also the coaches brought it up constantly, especially during the super hot summer practices and workouts.

There was no controversy over water breaks at all, our coaches actively pushed good hydration. That was for safety of course (when I was in middle school a particularly hot summer included 3 local deaths at sports practices, so this was a big focus), but also because once upon a time the difference between winning and losing was an ill-timed cramp. You didn't want to spend the rest of your life thinking about how your team lost because YOU were dehydrated, did you?

I also think about that play a lot whenever people start talking about "toughness" in athletes.

You see that kid came back into the game. He had two more cramping episodes during the game, but came back in after both of those as well. In the handshake line after the game it was obvious he was in a lot of pain still, but he finished the game all the same. I certainly think it's fair to say he was a tough guy, and that was one of the more impressive displays of toughness I ever saw in my playing days.

But it turns out that, if you're trying to outrun your opponent, being tough is a poor substitute for having adequately hydrated muscles.

The fiasco currently unfolding in College Park should give us all a chance to reconsider how we think about "toughness." How we define it, how we "teach" it, and what boundaries are okay to push to get there.

Since the usual pablum about building toughness has been trotted out to explain the action's of Maryland's staff, particularly those of Rick Court, it is worth pointing out that his title was not toughness coach, but strength and conditioning coach. Despite efforts to confuse the two, toughness and conditioning are not the same thing.

Conditioning is about actually expanding the physical capabilities of your muscles, tendons, cardiovascular system, etc. And guess what; denying your body water or pushing yourself to the point of heat exhaustion doesn't help you do that at all! Conditioning is a process of building up your limits over time, like training for a marathon, and it's ok to reach a point where you can't handle any more on a given day.

If you're going to spend a year preparing for a marathon, you don't have to run 26 miles on day one. The important thing is that you are legitimately trying your hardest and getting to that limit.

That's where being tough comes in to play. Toughness is the mental factor that makes you push yourself, to legitimately work your hardest, and to not cheat on your workouts. I'm personally a believer that you can't teach that, it's a trait you either have or you don't. And you know what? I seriously doubt that a college program like Maryland is full of guys who aren't tough.

The Terps might not be national, or conference, title contenders, but they're still a big school, who still plays in the Big Ten. They're bigger than most non-major programs, to say nothing of the schools playing below the FBS level. There are more college teams below Maryland on the pecking order than above them, in other words, and there are thousands and thousands of high schools in this country.

If Maryland is recruiting a large share of guys who dog their workouts, that says at least as much about the recruiter as it does the recruit. Maybe the real question ought to be whether or not they're cut out for big time college coaching.

Then again, that should be the question anyway, shouldn't it? Putting aside the question of appropriateness for a second, how many of you read the ESPN account of Court's "coaching" tactics and honestly thought "he seems like he's really top notch at his job and Maryland is going to be winning 9-10 games a year in no time!"?

If you coach or train athletes, would you copy the behavior described in the article? Would you actually think it would help them?

Because once we get past our obligatory hosannas to "toughness," I think most of us know that this line is a bunch of crap.

Yes we know that jackwagon coaches are out there, but are they really that prevalent? Maybe I'm atypical here but none of my football coaches were like that, and it certainly wasn't an ethos guiding our program. We did tons of conditioning, don't get me wrong, and I spent plenty of days puking after pushing a wooden sled. Some days you needed to sit out a rep to get yourself together, and none of the coaches gave anyone any gruff over it.

Because really, they knew who was digging it and who was doing their best. I mean us players all knew it, so I'm positive the coaches were aware. And you know what, the guys who were dogging it mostly just got ignored. If they didn't quit eventually they were just going to sit on the bench forever and if that's what they wanted than good for them.

As for the fat lineman giving it his best to finish the 100 yard sprints at the end of practice but barely more than walking the last 30 yards? No insults, threats, or humiliation; but encouragement to finish, from the coaches AND other players. That's what we were taught a team did. We were pretty good, too. Not state championship or anything, but we almost always finished ahead of 3 or 4 bigger schools in the conference and usually beat at least one school from a division higher than us.

My head coach may legitimately end up in the state Hall of Fame one day, and all without ever once belittling, degrading, or humiliating a player. To say nothing of killing one.

Finally, it's really hard not to notice that for all of the talk of "toughness" and "changing the culture..." it doesn't seemed to have worked! I mean Maryland still isn't very good, and when you hear about someone who let a coach throw a weight at them and does nothing about it is "tough" the word you think of to describe them?

I don't mean to deploy stereotypical bravado but if anyone ever did that to me there's a 50-50 chance I would have thrown it right back. At the VERY least I'm walking out of there and never coming back, because strong people don't let other people treat them that way.

Or rather, people in strong positions don't put up with that, but college football players are not in strong positions vis a vis their jackwagon coaches. Walking away from the team means losing a free ride scholarship. Punching Rick Court in the mouth, as he so clearly deserved, would mean getting kicked off the team and.... losing your scholarship (and one angle of the ESPN story I haven't seen talked about much is the implied accusation that Durkin, through Court, was explicitly trying to get scholarship players he inherited and didn't want to quit).

The players have no leverage or ability to fight back, and like a classic abuser Court exploited that fact to do pretty much whatever he wanted to them with relative impunity. That's not teaching players to be tough; it's reminding them that they're weak, that Court is powerful, and that there's nothing that the weak can do to stop the powerful from doing whatever they want to them. Even killing them.

And that's what needs to not be forgotten here. Maybe you are a genuine believer in the Durkin/Court model of coaching and player motivation, but in this case a 19 year old kid is dead as a direct result of that attitude.

Ironically, Jordan McNair might represent the ultimate success of the attitude Maryland's coaches wanted to instill. If Durkin and Court were out to get players to push their limits well, they certainly succeeded with McNair, didn't they? He pushed himself all the way to the ultimate limit, the one none of us can get past.

And though I can't speak from personal experience, I imagine that a person had to be pretty damn tough to push their body all th the way to the point of death. So congratulations are in order for Court, I guess, who can at least head into his post-coaching (one hopes) career with the knowledge that he inspired Jordan McNair to never give up, even if it killed him.

As it stands now, Court is done at Maryland, and Durkin is likely to follow. That will probably close the book on the scandal as far as most people are concerned, but it shouldn't.

There are more Rick Courts out there coaching at every level of every sport, including youth leagues. Now would be a good time to say that men like this have no business being put in these positions of responsibility for the development and safety of young people, before someone else dies, or more young men learn how to be "tough" from a glorified bully.

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sned's 59 overshadows ryder cup talk


For one day at least, Brandt Snedeker took over as "the story" on the PGA Tour.

Snedeker rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on his final hole yesterday to become the 9th player in TOUR history to shoot 59. His -11 score leads the Wyndham Championship by four shots.

Jim Furyk's probably pleased. For a day, at least, no one's going to pester him about his Ryder Cup captain's picks that are due in on September 3rd.

A 59 on Thursday gave Brandt Snedeker the first-round lead in Greensboro, but it didn't help his Ryder Cup chances.

And, no, Snedeker's not one of those being considered.

Furyk's playing in the event in Greensboro, NC, but he's not seeing many of those he'd consider for one of the four picks.

Billy Horschel, who shot 4-under par on Thursday, is probably on Furyk's short list of eight potential add-ons, but he's the only one of those playing in this week's event.

Tiger and Phil are going to be captain's picks. That's about as much of a done deal as Chris Davis striking out at some point tonight.

The other two spots are up for grabs, still.

Now, if Tony Finau or Kevin Kisner would have authored a 59 yesterday...

But instead it went to Snedeker, who has battled injuries all season but still remains one of the game's best putters.

Snedeker's only hope for catching Furyk's eye -- and it's a real longshot -- would be for him to win this week and then win next week's FedEx Cup opener. Two wins in two weeks, with one coming against a strong field, might be enough to get Furyk's attention.



Thursday
August 16
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issue 16
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as if flacco needed any more motivation


Like most NFL teams, the Ravens are going to go as far as their quarterback will take them in 2018.

Joe Flacco's play will make or break them this season.

That doesn't mean others can just lollygag around and only have a handful of good weeks over the 16-game schedule. Virtually every starter has to turn in representative performances in order for the Ravens to have a shot at returning to the post-season. But that's the way it is for every team.

Aside from the constant scrutiny in his own town that constantly follows Flacco around, he casts a pretty big shadow with the national media as well. The Ravens' quarterback is very polarizing and, at some point if you cover football for a living, you either have to position yourself as "pro Flacco" or "anti Flacco".

We found out yesterday that Jalen Ramsey of the Jacksonville Jaguars is anti Flacco. When asked about various NFL quarterbacks in an article for GQ Magazine, Ramsey tore through the league's signal callers like a 4-year old looking for a teddy bear after his room had just been cleaned up.

It was a mess.

Ramsey said "And just being honest about it, [Joe] Flacco sucks. I played him two years in a row. He sucks."

"I might suck but my bank account sure doesn't..."

Flacco wasn't the only one who got battered by Ramsey. He called Matt Ryan "overrated" and claims Buffalo rookie QB Josh Allen is "trash". He also went out of his way to praise Tyrod Taylor, so perhaps there's an issue with Taylor's departure from Buffalo that didn't sit well with Ramsey.

But Flacco got the "he sucks" assessment from Ramsey, who butters his bread with both ends of the knife with comments like the one he issued about 49'ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo.

"I don't know yet," Ramsey said. "Just cause when they beat us, his hype picked up. They were like, "He beat the number one defense." It was all schemes. He didn't beat us. It wasn't like he diced us up. It was literally all schemes. They were doing flat routes to the wide open fullback, and he's running for 20 yards down the field four times during the game... So he didn't really dice us up. It was their fullback and their tight end on over routes. But if you know how to work within your scheme then it means you're good. I guess you could say he's good."

Ramsey initially appears unsold on Garoppolo, then by the end of the thought, claims the former New England QB is "good".

Oh, Jalen Ramsey is currently suspended by the Jaguars for a social media outburst directed a local Jacksonville media member. I thought you might want to know. I'm sure you're shocked.

So, will Flacco pay heed to Ramsey's magazine commentary?

Should it bother a Super Bowl MVP starting his 12th year in the league that a greenhorn defensive back who hasn't won anything in his career takes a pretty massive shot at him?

It would probably be different if the Ravens and Jaguars faced one another twice a year as division foes. Staring across the line of scrimmage and seeing the guy who said "you suck" might serve as motivation, particularly in those two annual encounters.

But the Ravens and Jaguars don't meet this season. Unless they're fortunate enough to do so in the playoffs.

By nearly every account, Flacco has stepped up his game in training camp. Most followers believe that's more about the QB's health than anything else, but he also has a new group of receivers to throw to and unbridled confidence from his coordinator and the coaching staff.

Joe doesn't have to wake up every morning with a poster of Jalen Ramsey on his wall the way Tiger Woods had one of Jack Nicklaus on his, but it would be interesting to know if Ramsey's dagger does motivate Flacco in any way, big or small.

My guess?

Probably not.

Joe no doubt has already heard about the article and Ramsey's assessment of his skills, but Flacco doesn't get worked up about much. A defensive back in Jacksonville probably isn't enough to get Joe stirred up.

I'll admit, though, I'd love to hear Flacco fire something back when asked about it this week.

"Did he play for Jacksonville last year in New England when they squandered that 4th quarter lead in the AFC title game?" or something of that nature...now that would be great to hear from Flacco.

I don't see it happening, though.

Someone will ask Joe about it, undoubtedly, and he'll probably offer one of his patented, token replies.

"Yeah, I heard about it," Joe will probably say. "I don't know him all that well, I'm not sure why he's picking on me," he'll add with a smile.

I'd love for Joe to toss a dagger or two at Ramsey, but I doubt it happens. That's just not his style.

I'd also enjoy watching Flacco prove Ramsey wrong this season. That, of course, is ultimately the best form of rebuttal.

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"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

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


flying solo…


They say golf is a social game.

Your weekend foursome, the member-guest, that charity tournament you and your buddy pay for so you can see that exclusive country club you’ve never played before. A lifelong connection, perhaps, between fathers and children.

Dan Jenkins, perhaps the greatest golf writer of his time, tells a great tale of the gambling games he used to play at an old Texas course he called “Goat Hills” — Worth Hills was the actual name. Sometimes the group numbered fifteen, all playing together, changing bets on the fly. As Jenkins wrote, “the game was not the kind that Gene Sarazen would have approved of.”

When Patrick Reed won The Masters this year, out came the stories about his unusual life on and off the course. Among the strangest—even after six or seven years on Tour, and a couple of Ryder Cup appearances, Reed usually plays practice rounds by himself.

Even for the most impassioned loners, playing golf by yourself brings with it certain challenges. It’s no fun waiting for so long on every shot. You can’t tend your own pin. Of course, the greatest tragedy comes if you honestly make a hole-in-one when nobody else is watching.

I’m like most people, Reed and a few others excluded. I care about my own game, but enjoy the experience a lot more if a couple others are around to experience the game with me.

Golf at the beach...

This week is one of my favorites when it comes to golf, though it’s a different week on the calendar every year. Sometime in June, July or August, I visit Ocean City with 10 other people, none of whom plays golf.

At the beach, at restaurants and even at the miniature golf course, I’m constantly surrounded by those 10 people, not to mention so many hundreds of others. Plenty of togetherness.

When I go to the course, however, I’m by myself, and I get paired with strangers. And quite often, those rounds end up being the best of the season — not necessarily by score, but almost always because of the company.

There isn’t the usual pressure or expectation to play or even act in a certain way, yet the presence of unfamiliar partners makes you think about how you present yourself. After weeks of seeing the same tops and chunks and blades and, yes, even good shots, there’s something great about watching new golfers you’ll probably never see again. There’s no expectations of them either.

You meet people from everywhere, each with different stories of how they ended up on their beach vacation. You see interesting relationships — between fathers and sons, husbands and wives, and friends who’ve been playing golf together forever.

Sometimes, you even learn a few things.

Three days ago, it was a husband and wife from North Jersey. We played three separate tees — the regular men’s, the seniors, and the “recreational” ones, yet finished in less than four hours on a busy morning.

Peter was 60 years old with a great sense of humor. He laughed at my occasional Spieth-like conversations with the ball — such as when I yelled “wuss” after bailing too far to the right on a hard dogleg left with water all the way down the left side.

After a few holes, I realized that he’s exactly the guy they talk about in the golf magazines. He wasn’t who he used to be, and constantly hit the ball well short of his targets. He made up for it, however, with the best 50-yards-and-in game I’ve seen in a long time.

He consistently pitched the ball high and soft, from tight lies and fluffy ones, within 10 feet of the pin. He made pars to my bogeys after I’d hit what I thought were decent shots, For three hours, I made sure to watch every short shot he hit.

Nancy hit her driver well, but experienced the inability to hit the ball high enough off the turf that many women suffer. Still, I was thrilled to see how well she tried to “chase” the ball down the line on all her shots, and how much she was enjoying the game no matter what happened.

The greens seemed to break the opposite of what I was thinking, and I developed a mid-round hook that wasn’t helping. Still, when Peter shook my hand afterwards and said “I enjoyed playing with you, young man,” I realized that it really had been enjoyable, even if I’m not nearly as young as he thought I was.

Yesterday, it was Bob and Rhoda, also from New Jersey but a few years older. Bob had me on the first tee when he said “I can’t see or hear very well, so if I ignore you I’m not being rude.”

Bob didn’t have a game that required you to look in too many unfamiliar places for his ball; he was usually on the fairway, or close to it. I wondered to myself whether I’m still going to be out playing golf on hot summer mornings when I can’t see or hear well. Maybe not, or maybe I will after seeing that someone can still enjoy the game.

Rhoda was an excellent putter, sinking several putts from at least 15 feet for pars and bogeys. She was apologetic when I hit a shot from the 16th fairway that felt solid but disappeared to parts unknown around the green. She should have been watching, she said, which would have been nearly impossible from almost 100 yards away.

As we finished, Bob mentioned that today was their wedding anniversary, and the trip to the beach was a celebration of that milestone. I thought back to Tuesday, which would have been my parents’ 50th anniversary, and I felt a connection to them that went beyond our time together on the course.

Being with family and friends at the beach is a blessing, one that I look forward to as soon as I know the dates for the following summer. I hope these trips continue for many years, so that my niece and nephews and cousins can do for their children what’s been done for them.

Being at the golf course while at the beach has also been a blessing for me, allowing me to enjoy the game with a clear mind in the company of interesting people.

I hope I can continue to make those days happen for many years, maybe even until I can tell the middle-aged guy I’m paired with that I don’t see or hear nearly as well as I once did.

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"SHOW ME THE MONEY!" for October 28. Drew makes his week 8 NFL picks right here.





O's SCOREBOARD
Sunday, September 30
Orioles
4

Astros
0
WP: P. Fry (1-2)

LP: B. Peacock (3-5)

HR: none

RECORD/PLACE: 47-115, 5th (of course)

breakfast bytes

Orioles make it official, hire Mike Elias as the team's new general manager (press conference set for this Monday).

NHL: Backstrom's game-winner in OT lifts shorthanded Capitals to 3-2 win at Colorado.

College hoops: Terps recover from 6-point halftime deficit, turn back pesky Hofstra at College Park, 80-69.

UMBC improves to 3-1 with 77-72 win over Air Force; Towson falls to 1-2 with 74-65 loss to Pepperdine.

PGA Tour: Charles Howell III (-14) leads RSM Classic by three shots over Cameron Champ and Jason Gore.