Someone asked a question in the Comments section a week ago about the stable of my former "regular" listeners.
I had quite a crew throughout those 12 years.
My buddy Dave Smearman recorded a lot of the shows over the years. A few years ago after a round of golf at Hillendale, he played some of them from his phone. He would start the recording at 6:07 am when I recited the Pledge of Allegiance and let the tape run for at least the first hour, when some of the real crazies of the show would surface.
"The Fem" was one of my regular early morning calls. I met "Bruce" several times over the years, but he saved his best stuff for the air. "The Fem" would call in between 6 and 7 a couple of mornings a week and, well, let's just say he was usually in an interesting state of influence during most of those calls.
"Bob in Hereford" was always one of my favorite callers. He was also an early-morning type and, like me, he would watch every pitch of nearly every Orioles game and would typically be my first sounding board of the morning. He was also keen on the Ravens as well and always offered sound, wise reactions to wins and losses.
"Lou in Phoenix" was also an early-morning visitor several times a week and, like Bob, was an Orioles diehard. I enjoyed our many conversations.
While Lou would typically be active in baseball season and not so much during football season, "Jerry in Timonium" was the opposite. He was a daily caller from September through that last Ravens game and was a constant critic of Brian Billick and any of the many offensive coordinators he hired. During one of our heated on-air conversations, I called Jerry "an armchair quarterback" and he used that moniker from that point on. Jerry and I became friends, had lunches together, and still stay in touch today. He's a good man.
"Pete from Downtown" surfaced in the early stages of John Harbaugh's tenure. I can say, even today, that I never really figured out if Pete was "real" or "shtick". But he sure came across as real. And his big thing was anti-Harbaugh at all times. True story: On the morning after the Ravens won Super Bowl 47, Pete called the morning show and said, "Yeah, we won, but we nearly blew that game because of Harbaugh. He has to go..." And I swear, I think he was serious.
"Stan the O's Fan" was definitely a gimmick caller, but he was funny. I always assumed he was a take-off of Stan "The Fan" Charles, complete with the spot-on Baltimore accent and a proclivity for extolling the virtues of the Orioles, even when they were finishing in last place every year. If they lost 9-3 the night before but Miguel Tejada went 3-for-4, Stan would call in and say, "I hear you been beatin' up on dem O's this morning but you didn't mention that Tejada went 3 for 4 last night."
There was "Bob in Parkville", of course. He was not only a legendary caller on my show, but he was heard on virtually every other call in show throughout Baltimore, sports, news and otherwise. Bob reminded me of my own father; opinionated, stuck in the 50's and 60's, and pretty much unwilling to budge from his "old school" position(s). Bob's calls would usually start out mild and soft, and from there he'd build up to roaring finish where he was usually screaming by the end of the call. His real name is "Roland". He's a good man.
"Rick in Reisterstown" was pretty much the craziest of the group. Like Bob in Parkville, Rick called many of the shows around town. He was a gambler, a horse racing enthusiast and an easy guy to like...when he wasn't driving you crazy. Circa 2008 or so, we brought Rick into the studio to call the Triple Crown races on the Friday before each race. He was typically "off" on his calls, both in time and order of finish, but it was still funny and good radio. Or, at least I thought so.
And then...there was "Merton in Indianapolis". He was the best of them all, from an entertainment standpoint, anyway. He would call in with his anti-Baltimore shtick and praise the Indianapolis Colts to no end. He would routinely call in at 8:30 am every Monday during football season and blast the "Ratbirds" (if they lost) and brag about his Colts if they managed to win the day before. He would end each of his radio appearances with that song. It was hilarious and antagonizing at the same time. And, no, for the 854th time, I have no idea who Merton was or is. I never met him, don't know if he was really from Indianapolis (although I suspect he wasn't) and have no clue if his real name is Merton, even.
There were lots of other regular callers that I valued who didn't bring a gimmick or routine to their calls. They were just sports fans who had an opinion and wanted to chat.
Tony in Owings Mills, Ralph in Towson, Carl in Owings Mills, Mark in Perry Hall, Fergie in White Marsh (who sadly passed away a decade ago), Goomba in Pasadena (Fergie's brother), Bill in Manchester, Greg in Canton, Mike in Rosedale and my good friend Mike (Bowers) in Fallston, who bravely fought cancer a few years ago before passing away.
I wasn't exempt from the occasional prank, either. One morning, "Jack in Parkville" called in to talk Orioles. After a 5-minute conversation, Jack closed the call like this:
Jack: "Hey Drew, my dad is a regular listener and I was hoping to give him a shout out. He's a local business owner, too, so maybe this is a good way for you to break the ice with him as a sponsor of the show.
Drew: "Sure, Jack...shout him out."
Jack: "Well, I work for him, actually. I'm at the Beecher Meat Company. So I'd like to say hi to everyone who's in there this morning...hard at work."
Jack: "Thanks for letting me give them a shout out Drewski. This is Jack Beecher. From the Beecher Meat Company."
Get it? Beecher Meat.
It went over my head at first as well...but once I figured it out, I went to commercial and laughed.
My former boss wasn't big on taking phone calls. He thought the on-air hosts were the experts. I loved taking calls. I thought the people "on the street" were interesting, if nothing else. And if they took time to practice and craft a shtick of some kind, why not give them a few minutes of time when they called in?
But the "real people" were my favorites. The guys (and gals) who called in to talk sports and share their opinion(s) were the main reasons why I enjoyed my 12 years behind the microphone so much.
The NFL -- we assume at the request/approval of Roger Goodell -- distributed a tweet early last night that was authored in response to the death of George Floyd and the weekend of protests and lootings that have taken place in dozens of cities across America.
The NFL is concerned.
They're willing to "embrace their responsibility", the one that comes from their (powerful) platform.
I understand. This is a news story and the NFL wants to be in the news. They want to show they care. They have a platform, apparently, that could be benefical in some way.
My suggestion -- and who am I, I know -- would be for the NFL to stay. in. their. lane.
This situation that's evolving over the weekend is not the $5.00 table. This is the $500 a hand table, with the roped off area, the VIP treatment and the big security guard at the entrance by the steps.
No offense to the NFL, but football is their area of expertise. You can insert your own joke in there about those words -- NFL, football and "area of expertise".
But if we're being fair, the NFL does football better than anyone else in the country. In the world, even.
What they're not very experienced at doing is solving the complex problems that face our nation in 2020. Let's be honest. Our nation isn't even able to solve the complex problems at this point. And we're just out there fighting amongst ourselves, some of it in a way that our laws and government permit and some of it in ways that are harmful and awful.
The NFL is not going to solve these issues. And when they do step foot in that arena, they look more self-serving than they do anything else. I do understand, particularly with a significant portion of the league's playing roster being African American, that the NFL wants and needs to look like they care about the death of George Floyd and the accompanying fallout.
But pandering to the masses at a time like this isn't a good look.
Let the players play. And the coaches coach. And let the NFL do what they do best: run the league.
They're out of their element if they think they can solve the friction in our country. They just can't.
There was a time, mostly during my radio days, when I was a frequent, ardent reader of ESPN's website.
When you needed the scores from the night before, ESPN.com was a one-stop shop. If you wanted to grab a headline or two for some early morning fodder, that website usually had something you could weave into 15 or 20 minutes of the show.
But over the last few years, I haven't been as frequent of a visitor. They didn't do anything wrong, per se, it's just that my daily rituals have changed and I'm not as "in need" of ESPN.com's content as I was in the past.
I do still go there, though. A few times a week, I'd say. And yesterday, I ventured over to see exactly what they are talking about during a pandemic. Since mid-March, as far as I can tell, the only "real" sports we've had in this country have been a handful of stock car races, a few MMA/UFC fights and two made-for-TV golf events. I guess you can count the NFL Draft as "real" and the ongoing labor fight in Major League Baseball is news worthy as well.
But what does the nation's highest-trafficked website write about on May 29 when there's nothing really going on?
Let's scroll through and find out.
The top story -- or the "lede", for you old newspaper folks -- was about the NBA and their rumored 22-team playoff format. Is it the right way to restart the season? What teams benefit from the new concept?
I'm a lukewarm NBA fan so the story didn't exactly grab my interest, but I'm sure it was well written. It seems like the kind of story ESPN.com would push to their readers since they've always been pro-NBA at the network and website.
Scrolling down, the next main story was an aggregate of all 32 NFL teams and how committed each of them are to their starting quarterback. I didn't read that one, either, but if you're ESPN.com, you have to feature some sort of football/NFL story near the top of the website four or five days a week. My guess is Patrick Mahomes was #1 and Lamar Jackson was #2? No, wait, Tampa Bay is pretty committed to Tom Brady. He's in there near the top somewhere. Maybe I should just read the story...
The next story is about this weekend's UFC card. I've never watched one minute of UFC/MMA -- that's true...not one minute of it -- so I skipped right by that piece, but I get it. There aren't any "real" sports being contested on Saturday, May 30, so why not feature the UFC fight card?
Scrolling down, the next four pieces were all related to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the reaction of athletes around the country. Jalen Rose, Stephen Jackson, Devean George, Colin Kapernick and LeBron James were all featured in those four articles.
I haven't written anything about George Floyd here at #DMD because it's a "news story", not a sports story. That doesn't mean I'm not interested in news and it also doesn't mean I wouldn't opine on a news story here, because I mostly certainly have, would and will in the future. But I don't know what to say about the situation in Minneapolis that hasn't already been said. So, I'm just leaving it alone.
Next up was the lengthy story about Roy Halladay and his addiction to pain killers, plus a video summary of the plane crash that took his life. This was the first piece on ESPN.com that I actually read yesterday. It's a terrible story with an even worse ending. But it was very well researched and written.
Under the header of NBA On Hiatus, there were two more stories about the NBA and how they're handling the Covid-19 crisis. Like I said earlier, ESPN loves them some professional basketball.
Next up were two "home video" contributions. One was a kid throwing a football off of a hotel balcony and the other featured two skydivers playing catch with a ball. It wasn't quite Carpool Karaoke, but it was still entertaining "home video" content that is precisely the sort of stuff you run when there aren't baseball, hockey and basketball highlights to run on the website.
Next up was a college football article about life after Burrow and Tua. You can't have an all-sports website and not have at least one college football story, right?
Following that was a promotional piece about a movie -- Cool Runnings -- that was running on ESPN as part of their "Friday Night At The Movies" concept. I haven't watched any of them, but I assume during the pandemic ESPN has been running sports-themed movies. Good idea, if you ask me. Oh, and I've seen the movie before...it's pretty good.
Moving down the page, there are two stories about Mike Tyson, who is apparently planning some kind of comeback or something of that nature. You might have thought Tyson was washed up. If you still think that, you tell him. He looks pretty good to me.
Two baseball stories are next. One about the upcoming draft and the other about minor leaguers who are facing pay cuts or outright releases in the wake of Covid-19.
Hey, would you look at that! A basketball story is next. This one about......Michael Jordan. I didn't even bother reading it, mostly because it was a story connected to Jordan's time with the Wizards and, well, we all know how that went.
E Sports was up next. To be exact, it was an NBA video game. I know you're shocked by that.
And we'll end the play-by-play there. Following the E Sports article, there was more NFL, more NBA, a story about the 1970 World Cup, and stories on the German Bundesliga, college softball, table tennis, boxing and -- I hope you're sitting down -- Tiger Woods. Yes, ESPN.com even managed to squeeze in a story about Tiger. How dare them, right?
There was NASCAR, more baseball and an article about a fight in 2017 between Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland. Hey, we're in a pandemic...old baseball fights are still news worthy.
You know what I discovered? There was something on ESPN.com for everyone. If you like UFC or soccer or college softball, they had content for you. If you like the NBA, you're really in luck. And if you want to watch two guys jump out of a plane and throw a ball to one another, well, you're in for quite a treat.
I understand all about "content challenges" because, like ESPN.com, I find myself wondering on a daily basis, "What can I publish tomorrow?" I'm not as fortunate as are the folks in Bristol, Connecticut. They have virtually unlimited resources and a plethora of talented writers. But we both seem to figure out something new to post every day, even if their platform is a gazillion times more viewed and popular than mine here in little old Baltimore.
Heck, I saw a feature late in the week where they are re-airing (on the website) all of the "This is SportsCenter" commercials from years gone by. They're really working hard to keep you locked in, huh? Speaking of those commercials, we have something planned for later in June that relates to ESPN. You'll have to scroll down to find out. (See what we did there?)
And, finally, I could be wrong on this one, but I don't think I am. If I'm incorrect, please let me know. I searched long and hard for "comments" attached to all ESPN.com articles and I didn't find any. I know there was a time when comments were part of their publication. I wonder what happened?
The Golf Channel website also used to allow comments and they no longer do as well. I'd love to know why.
And speaking of......comments.
I saw some rhetoric in yesterday's #DMD Comments from a few disgruntled folks who were either angry or dismayed about the lack of commentary from readers. I don't know what to tell you. If you read something here that motivates you to comment, please do. If you read the website and you're not engaged enough to comment, you don't need to do it. No hard feelings.
I "rank" #DMD's readership numbers and sell this website to prospective sponsors based on the number of unique readers who visit each day, but in the data I provide I include only your first visit of the day. If you come back five times, that's awesome, but it doesn't help me sell #DMD any more or less. That might not be the way traditional websites work, but it's the way this one has worked from day one. If you visit once, twice or six times a day, I count you as one unique visitor.
Now, if you visit from two separate computers or if you visit from a tablet and then your smart phone, you'd be counted as two unique visitors if the IP addresses from each device are different. So it is possible for you to visit from home and the office and be counted twice. But if you visit from the same computer, I count you one time per day.
I'm pulling back the curtain on that so you don't have to use that tired "I used to come by five or six times a day to read the comments" routine on me and play that off as some sort of crisis for #DMD. I appreciate you whether you come by once or ten times. I want you to stop by every day. But if your main source of #DMD value is coming here to read the comments, I guess I've completely failed you. It's like the guy who says "I only read the stories" in his monthly copy of Playboy. If it's true you're only reading that magazine for the stories, they've really, really failed you.
Comment if you wish. Or just read and lurk. Either way is fine by me. If you comment here and your submission is suitable for the all-ages readers we have, it will have a much better chance of seeing the light of day. If you come by here with the main purpose of saying something dumb or inflammatory, you'll likely not be around long.
And if you post something here and it gets deleted, I fully expect you to be upset and/or "not understand". Someone posted something here last week and twice within the comment used the word d**k, which most certainly isn't the worst of the foul words people use these days, but it's not a word I'd like to see here. So, I deleted it. He reached out and was "shocked" (his word) that I would "disrespect" (his word) a reader like that. I replied and said, "Just use 'jerk' instead of that other word and you'll be fine". He replied -- of course -- and said, "Are you telling me what to write?" and I simply said, "Yes, I am."
As I've learned over the last five-plus years, someone has to arbitrate this place and the only person willing to do it every day is me.
We did a pretty good job around here of not diving right into "lists" when the pandemic hit. Sure, we had our Baltimore Mount Rushmore of Non Hall of Famers, but other than that, we haven't gone down the list trail yet.
That will change starting on Monday.
But it's not because we're bored. We've gone this long without a list, we can keep going if we so choose. No, we're doing a month of lists because we think we have three pretty good ones lined up. If nothing else, we have three lists lined up that we believe we have a certain area of expertise in...so we'll tackle those three and allow you the opportunity participate via the Comments section if you so choose.
From June 1-10, we're going to give you the top 10 sports broadcasters of the last 50 years in Baltimore. We'll more closely define "sports broadcaster" on Monday, but here's what it does not include. TV or radio play-by-play people who didn't also have full-time on-air jobs at a Baltimore radio or TV station. In other words, Jon Miller would not be eligible. Joe Angel would not be eligible. Gerry Sandusky would be eligible. 50 years is a long time, folks. Get your thinking caps on.
From June 11-20, we're listing the top 10 golfers in the world, in honor of the U.S. Open that should have been contested on Father's Day weekend. This list will not just be a cut and paste of the top 10 players in the world via the rankings system. This is our list of who we believe are the ten best players in the world.
From June 21-30, we'll show you our own listing of the top 10 ESPN commercials.
We'll see you on Monday with #10 on our list of the top 10 sports broadcasters of the last 50 years in Baltimore.
I realize there are two distinct elements of the coronavirus. First, it's the actual ailment itself, which is the chief concern of all of us. No matter how much you believe in its legitimacy or don't believe in it, one thing is certain: you don't want the virus and you don't want your family members or friends to get it, either.
So, health is the one element.
The other is the impact Covid-19 has had on our daily lives. Every one of us has been impacted in some way.
We're going to disregard, just for a minute, the very real impact Covid-19 has had on all of us and, for the purposes of this particular piece today, worry about things that really don't matter. Like, sports.
I've said this time and time again. While it's obvious we all miss the sports we've been robbed of since mid-March, it's also fairly clear that our lives aren't all that much different just because we didn't get to see the Caps get eliminated in the first round again or Maryland lose to Seton Hall in the NCAA tournament or Jon Rahm win the Masters in mid-April. If we're being honest, we've missed sports but we've also discovered life simply moves on without them.
But.......there are still some things I've missed along the way that have been tough to take.
Personally, my high school golf team's spring season is the biggest one of them all. The ten guys on my Calvert Hall team had worked hard in January, February and early March to prepare for the MIAA campaign and then, just like that, it was all gone. I felt particularly bad for the five seniors on my team. They deserved better than to have their final three months of high school wrecked.
On a non-personal level, the postponement of The Masters was the biggest disappointment. It's my favorite golf tournament of the year, bar none. That it's going to be played in November is a novelty and it's still "The Masters", but that event is a staple of the April sports calendar. When it's not played in April, it loses its luster. I might feel differently in November.
I realize they're still (apparently) going to run the Belmont next June, but this month hasn't been the same, sports wise, without the Derby and Preakness. Horse racing is pretty much a thing of the past in our country these days, but the Triple Crown races are tough to top in terms of tradition and excitement. On the rare occasion you get a horse that wins the first two, the Belmont becomes the talk of the sporting nation in the days leading up to the third and final leg of the Triple Crown series.
They can run the Kentucky Derby (Sept) and Preakness (Oct) later in the year if they want, but neither race will be remotely close to as meaningful or exciting as it would have been in its proper, original calendar slot.
As much as lacrosse is a niche sport that matters mostly to folks east of the Mississippi, there are still people who are "moderate lacrosse fans" (like me) who missed the Memorial Day "Final Four" of college lax. I know I missed it. I follow the sport just enough to know who is playing well, who isn't, and so on, and I always enjoy the Saturday semifinal doubleheader and the Monday title game. It's a cool format to showcase the best players and teams in the sport.
I'm not sure I miss baseball all that much -- yet -- but that's mainly because I don't start connecting with the sport until the summer months. I'm not a fan of going to games in mid-May when it's 53 degrees at first pitch, but I'll go out to Camden Yards on a sweltering 93 degree July night as much as you like. To me, baseball was meant to be played in June, July, August and September. If I ran the sport, the season would be 100 games and the playoffs would be over the end of September.
I try and recuse myself from any intense discussions about the ongoing labor friction between the players and the owners. By the nature of what I do here at #DMD I'm forced to occasionally comment on it, but truth be told, I'd rather not get involved. Why? Because no matter what side you choose, you get labeled. If you believe the players are whiny, entitled babies, you're someone who doesn't believe in free enterprise and the value of collective bargaining. If you believe the owners are greedy, overbearing tyrants, you're someone who doesn't understand the basic elements of employer/employee relations. Either way, your stance is probably blown out of proportion.
For the record, I side with the owners in this one, but that's because I always side with the owners. Baseball is not "the military". You don't have to play baseball for a living. You choose to play baseball for a living. If you don't like the working conditions that you signed up for, the best part about it is you can simply quit and go find a new job elsewhere. Now, I'll recuse myself...
But wait, here's one other part of the baseball discussion. I had this back-and-forth with a friend the other day. I insisted that baseball fans across the country only know about 30-40 players in the entire league. I'm not talking about the 10% of American sports enthusiasts who know all the players and all the stats. I'm talking about the 90% who know their team fairly well but don't really know much about the other 29 teams.
To those 90%, the games matter. The teams really don't. I'm not saying they could play the 2020 campaign with minor leaguers and that people wouldn't notice the difference, but I am saying that someone in San Diego who buys a ticket to a Tuesday night home game vs. the Braves has no idea who Atlanta's left fielder is, anyway. If the sporting public believes baseball would collapse if minor league players were used, I think they're kidding themselves. The Orioles have had a minor league product for two years now and people still go out to see them both home and away. And that's not a low blow, it's a fact. The O's roster has been littered with minor leaguers and Rule 5 guys who weren't legitimate major leaguers and it hasn't really changed anything.
Again, I'm not saying the owners should just use minor league players in 2020. But what I am saying is that if it somehow came to that, people by and large wouldn't really be all that moved by it. If you've looked at the attendance figures for baseball over the last few years, you know what I'm talking about. People aren't going when the major leaguers are on the field.
Now -- I'm recusing myself.
The one thing that I fear Covid-19 will impact is my favorite "non-major-sports-event" of the year. Now that Memorial Day has come and gone, the next major national holiday is Independence Day. And do you know what happens every year on July 4th?
The Hot Dog Eating Contest.
I haven't heard if they're holding it still this year, but a quick Google check (I assume that's OK to do) doesn't show any stories saying it's been canceled or postponed. But it's almost a definite that 15,000 people can't jam their way onto the streets on Coney Island to see it happen live...and that will certainly take away from the raucous nature of the event.
I've become a junkie for watching the contest on TV every July 4th. Even though you know Joey Chestnut is going to win -- again -- it's still fun to watch. I know what you're thinking: What's so fun about watching a guy eat 70 hot dogs in 10 minutes? It's the same "fun" you might get from watching four guys play poker on television. It's a competition. Someone's going to win. And in the case of the hot dog eating contest, there's always the David vs. Goliath angle. Chestnut is Goliath. No one can seem to beat him.
So, like you are, I assume, I'm missing certain things about the spring sports schedule. I've survived, you've survived, etc., but we're still longing for golf tournaments and baseball games and lacrosse championships and horse races that matter. I would even miss a silly guy eating 70 hot dogs in 10 minutes.
What's the biggest thing you've missed over the last few months? Use the Comments section below and tell the world.
After 27 years at WJZ-TV, Mike Schuh was fired last Friday.
I guess if you're looking for a technicality, the veteran reporter wasn't "fired". His contract simply wasn't renewed at the end of April and after a month of the silent treatment, WJZ's parent company, CBS (about to be Viacom), finally told Schuh his services were no longer needed.
"We're not renewing your contract" sits easier on the stomach than does "You're fired", but the reality in both cases is the person who was employing you no longer wishes to employ you. CBS cites the Covid-19 pandemic as a contributing factor to the numerous personnel changes they've made recently, including Schuh's departure in Baltimore.
Schuh took it well, or least appeared as if he did publicly. "They (WJZ) have treated me well," Schuh told The Baltimore Sun. "It's been a good run."
27 years is a long time. And Schuh was one of the station's most reliable faces and voices. But we all know how it works these days. Employee "A" does the job for $100,000 and "Employee B" can do almost the exact same thing for $65,000. What difference there is in quality gets glossed over by the $35,000 savings to the employer. "B" beats "A" every time when a company is faced with that sort of situation.
At the Baltimore radio station where I worked for 12 years, a one day bloodletting on August 22, 2014 saved the company $200,000 overnight. When it came to a tug-of-war between the quality of work authored by the five who were fired and the payroll savings, we all know who won that battle. There was a lengthy missive published by the station owner on that Friday afternoon and a variety of angles were presented to try and make sense of the firings, but the reality was it was a move designed to reduce payroll and expenses.
WJZ-TV and CBS can produce similarily crafted press releases or public statements that try to disguise the truth, but the reality is a 27-year veteran of the organization is almost always released because his/her salary is out of whack. Anyone who watched WJZ knows it wasn't an issue of work quality that got Schuh dismssed -- err, led to Schuh's contract not being renewed. He was a victim of a growing trend in broadcasting: Find someone who is less experienced and not nearly as expensive.
In the end, businesses and business owners have the right to do as they please, which occasionally means they get to fire people even when it appears there's no logical reason for doing so. And rather than just come out and say it -- "we're trying to spend less money on employee costs" -- company honchos will go to great lengths to try and dart and dance around the truth. In the case of WJZ-TV and CBS, the bet here is they'll pluck a 3-year veteran away from a station in Roanoke, Virginia or Lexington, Kentucky and bring him/her to Baltimore for half of what Mike Schuh was making.
But replacing Mike Schuh is going to be difficult. He was that good. And he will be missed, for sure.
Earlier this week, I wrote something here where I mentioned I thought the Orioles would have gone 61-101 in 2020 had a full season of baseball taken place.
Someone asked me for an explanation on how I thought the O's could improve on last season's 54-108 mark without their best player (Trey Mancini) and no real, obvious improvements in terms of player acquisitions, trades, etc.
"Could you go through the team, position by position?" someone asked.
No, I can't. It's not that I can't, it's that I don't put much stock in those kind of individual predictions as a basis for projecting an improvement.
Stat nerds sit around all winter and predict that kind of stuff and come up with both individual and team projections, most of which are usually as accurate as that 6 to 10 inch snowfall prediction we get every January that inevitably shows itself as a light dusting and nothing else.
I'm not naive. Could the Orioles have wound up going 52-110 and being worse than they were in 2019? Of course.
But the thought here is that the younger players, with another year under their belt(s), would have made more contributions in '20 than they did in '19. Anthony Santander would have been better. There's one guy for you. Austin Hays would have also improved. There's two.
More than anything, I'll go with the easiest answer to the question of "Why do you think the Orioles would be better in 2020?" -- Because they have to be. They simply couldn't be much worse.
It's like that old marketing slogan about the opera: "It's better than you think it is...it has to be!"
The Orioles can only go up at this point. And 54 wins to 61 wins doesn't seem like that ambitious of a jump. Now that there's no 162-game season any longer, all bets are off. But there for a little while, I had the O's battling the Red Sox for 4th place in the A.L. East before being eased in the final quarter mile and finishing 5th...again.
New York and Tampa Bay would have battled for the top spot in the A.L. East and -- spoiler alert -- I had the Blue Jays staying in the division race until the final 15 games and snagging a wild card berth on the last weekend of the regular season.
This was finally the year for the Dodgers, as they were poised to break through with that elusive World Series title, beating the Yankees in a 7-game thriller.
Instead, we're looking at an 82-game season -- maybe -- where anything can happen. I still have the O's finishing in 5th place in the A.L. East no matter what, but don't be shocked if the Red Sox are just as lousy as our young Baby Birds.
So you're probably wondering why on earth I brought up Mike Schuh today. Fair question.
No, I don't know him. Never met the man in my life, actually. Like a lot of you in Baltimore, I've seen his work for almost three decades on Channel 13. That's the extent of my personal "knowledge" of Mike Schuh.
I brought him up today to ask you to do something in his honor.
Sometime in the next day or two, tell someone in your life -- or even someone you don't know, personally -- that they do a good job. Praise their work. Remind them of their value. I'm not talking necessarily about a family member, although you can certainly choose to praise anyone in your family. I'm talking about an employee, a client, a customer or just someone you interact with on a regular basis.
My guess is that CBS/Viacom and WJZ-TV didn't praise Schuh when they gave him the heave-ho, just like most bosses or organizations won't when they swing the axe. If you do a good job, after all, why would you be getting fired?
So today, just pick someone in your life who does a good job and tell them so. Simple enough, really. And do it in small honor for Schuh, who always seemed to me to be on his game at Channel 13 and never really received a lot of fanfare for being that way. He just came in, reported on the story, gave you the facts, and went about his day.
If you've followed the scene in Minneapolis over the last few days and paid attention to the news here in our own city since the holiday weekend, you're not hearing or seeing much "good" in the world.
Take a second or two today and spread some "good" in your life.
1 Timothy 5:1-2 - Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
"The Keen Eye" of
|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.|
I know times are tough. These days, it’s difficult to figure out what day of the week it is. According to Baseball Reference, the Orioles would be 21-35 right now…but at least we’d have something to talk about. Still, I’ve noticed some real head scratchers…
The New York Jets signed 35-year-old Joe Flacco to be their backup quarterback, no doubt allowing Joe to fulfill his dream of playing for a team in New Jersey. Joe wants to play for “years to come,” he says. He just had surgery on his neck in April, so I’m not sure how many years he’s planning for. Hopefully he’s considering how many years he wants in the rest of his life and not just in the NFL.
My immediate thought was “this is what teams like the Jets do.” A real head scratcher. Add the fact that the Jets also signed 37-year-old Frank Gore, who trudged his way to a career-low 3.6 yards per carry in Buffalo last season, and all you can do is chuckle a bit, unless you really love the Jets.
The quarterback for Gang Green is Sam Darnold, who will be in his third season in 2020. He was better in his second season than his first, and he has a real chance to be a Pro Bowl-type player with a few more offensive weapons, especially at wide receiver. He could use a guy that can really help him. I don’t think Flacco is that guy.
Sure, New York didn’t really have a competent backup quarterback last season. And Darnold hasn’t played all 16 games in each of his first two seasons, so it’s important for the Jets to have a good fill-in. A 12-year NFL starter with a Super Bowl sounds good. Better than Luke Falk and Trevor Siemian anyway.
Except Flacco hasn’t played in an offense like Gase’s. He isn’t exactly the type who’s going to spend hours tutoring somebody. And he just had neck surgery, which, by the way, means he isn’t going to be ready for the start of the season. I guess it’s possible the Jets’ front office is thinking the season isn’t going to start on time.
If Sam Darnold can play all 16 games in 2020, the Jets can probably win the AFC East. I don’t think the signing of Joe Flacco inspires any sort of confidence that the Jets can do so if Darnold is out for even one game.
Tom Brady hacked it around for a long time at Medalist the other day. This was not surprising or embarrassing. He is a “hack,” like most other people who don’t play golf for a living. I say that with no malicious intent at all.
It got me thinking though. Tom Brady might be one of the worst athletes to be a consistent starting quarterback in modern NFL history. And yet, he is without a doubt the G.O.A.T. Lamar Jackson knows it. I know it. You know it. All these years later, it’s still a head scratcher.
Brady is tall, which is good. He played at Michigan, which back then was a legitimate Division I football program (haha). Maybe those were reasons enough for someone to take a chance on him somewhere in the draft. Otherwise, all that stuff about him was right. You’ve seen the scouting report…
He doesn’t have a great build. He’s skinny, unlike another tall guy, Flacco. Despite the obvious physical training and diet and whatever else that’s kept him playing into his 40s, it’s not really about his “strength” in any way. Brady absolutely does lack mobility and does get knocked down pretty easily. He really did run a 5.23 in the 40-yard dash. I could keep going…
Even with all of that, I suppose it wouldn’t have been surprising if Brady turned out better than his scouting report. People knew he was smart. Coaches noted that he was good at avoiding the rush even if he had no chance of outrunning it. Scouts saw that he tended not to force the ball into bad situations and make poor decisions, which is really important. He showed up big-time in his last college game, the Orange Bowl played on the first day of new millennium, throwing for 369 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Alabama.
So yeah, maybe he was an NFL starting quarterback the whole time. And maybe that would have been the case if he was drafted by someone else but Bill Belichick and the Patriots. But the difference between his perceived athletic ceiling and his career performance is still astonishing even after we’ve gotten used to it.
Been scratching my head at any angst among Maryland basketball fans now that three players have put themselves in the transfer portal—Josh Tomaic, Ricky Lindo and now Serrel Smith, Jr. Tomaic (San Diego State) and Lindo (George Washington) have already found landing places.
As you may remember, the Terps essentially had just a six-man rotation last season. All three of those players above had a great chance to make it a legitimate seven- or eight-man rotation, during games and (I’m quite sure) during practices, which make up 95% of a player’s time. And none of them made it happen.
Those guys probably think they can become a real part of a team’s rotation elsewhere, and I’m guessing they’re right. Lindo is physically imposing, which might be more important in the Atlantic 10 than the Big 10. Tomaic is a graduate transfer and, like many Europeans, is a skill guy more than a power forward. That might be good against Air Force and Boise State. Smith is the opposite, and his defensive activity and athleticism will likely be appreciated more at a lower level.
Frankly, though, those guys weren’t really good enough, and they didn’t get any better over time. Losing them doesn’t hurt Maryland’s prospects one bit.
Now, that doesn’t mean I’m particularly high on Maryland’s prospects for next season. After six years of Melo Trimble followed by Anthony Cowan as floor leader, with one year of overlap, that guy doesn’t seem to be on the next roster.
The Terps got a couple players in the transfer market themselves, but they missed out on some of the real difference-makers for whom they were in the mix. I can’t believe that 7-foot-2 South Sudanian Chol Marial will ever be a legitimate presence. The closest thing to a potential “star” on Maryland’s roster is junior guard Aaron Wiggins, but that still qualifies as a stretch.
And now, there are some real holes. There are three open scholarships on May 28, certainly not ideal. The pressure is there for Mark Turgeon and staff not only to fill those holes, but to do it with players who are better than Tomaic, Lindo and Smith ever could be.
Finally, the lack of sports has many effects, one of them being the lack of anything decent on television. My viewing habits have changed, I suppose, but there’s one thing that still gets me scratching my head. Binge-watching.
Having recently purchased an Amazon Fire TV Stick, my girlfriend was thrilled to learn about the Bosch series, based on many novels she has read by the author and journalist Michael Connelly. It’s been around on Amazon Prime for more than five years, and Season 6 was just released, but this was the first she’d heard about it.
And so we started with Season 1, Episode 1, transitioned seamlessly into Episode 2, and then I was done for the day. She wanted to keep going, and going. And I just don’t get it. Bosch is good. It manages to take the overdone police procedural genre and make it interesting, I suppose. But I can’t watch it for six hours.
I think that binge-watching crosses the line from having something to enjoy, which is important, to being unhealthy, which should be avoided. I think it’s a somewhat-unavoidable way to watch television and consume content in 2020, based simply on how streaming has changed the world, yet it’s not really an interesting way to take in the story.
Believe in research all you want, but recent studies have shown that binge watchers report higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression. There’s some indication that sleep quality isn’t as good among binge watchers. From the standpoint of the content itself, research has shown (not surprisingly) that watching new episodes once a week, or one-at-a-time with some separation, allows viewers to better remember details from each show.
Don’t get me wrong. Watching one football game for three hours and then having to wait a week for another game can lead to plenty of stress and anxiety, not to mention lost sleep. And plenty of baseball games on television, or almost any non-major golf tournament, can be pretty darn boring compared to Bosch. But the whole point is that they end, and you have to wait for the next time that might be a lot different than the day or week before.
This will, if my senses are correct, get ugly rather quickly. Both sides of the baseball argument are short tempered and entitled, which is quite possibly one of the worst human-trait combinations you can own.
The battle between MLB owners and the players got off the ground in earnest yesterday when the players and their representatives saw a proposal that included significant pay cuts for the highest paid major leaguers under the "return to play" plan submitted by the owners. The plan called for pay reductions for all major leaguers for 2020 as part of the 82-game schedule, but the game's top earners would be impacted the most (by percentage) while the lower-tiered salaries wouldn't be hit with as significant of a pay reduction.
Player salaries are already going to be prorated based on the number of games (82). The additional cuts included in the recent proposal are to help owners defray the loss of revenue from spectators not being allowed into stadiums during the 2020 regular season.
The proposal offered only a 20% payment to any player making $20,000,001 or more, meaning they'd essentially be taking an 80% reduction in their prorated salary.
Under the new formula, Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout, who at $37,666,666 has the highest full-season salary in baseball this year and would make $19,065,843 on a prorated basis over 82 games, would have a base salary of $5,748,577 -- though players would be paid for only games played.
It's easy to see why the players read the full proposal yesterday and laughed at it. Trout would have made $37,666,666 originally with no Covid-19 implications on the 2020 season. Under a prorated system, Trout would have stood to make $19,065,843. Then the owners moved the goalposts and offered him $5,748,577.
I know, I know, I know..."I wish I made five point seven million dollars for 82 days of work." That's what we're all thinking, right? And I get it. While others around the country are seeing their businesses closed down, their bank accounts flushed and their lives dramatically impacted, baseball players are still going to make their millions, but not the gazillions they were scheduled to make.
It's hard to side with the players.
But the owners of these organizations are wealthy beyond belief, too. And while there's certainly an argument that says they should pour monies into their business to keep their employees happy, the reality is it's their business. Just like the person who owns a restaurant and decides to shutter the place during Covid-19 and not offer any kind of service, thereby eliminating all wage opportunities for their employees, baseball owners have the same kind of authority with their business. The difference, of course, is that eliminating the chef's $80,000 salary is a lot different than "only" paying Mike Trout $5.7 million as opposed to the $37 million he was originally owed.
Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman wasted no time in firing a shot on Twitter yesterday, saying: This season is not looking promising. Keeping the mind and body ready regardless. Time to dive into some life-after-baseball projects. Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. Brighter times remain ahead!
Looks like Marcus is ready to go get a real job like the rest of the great unwashed. Or so he says.
Brett Anderson of the Brewers got his jab in shortly after he saw the owner's proposal: Interesting strategy of making the best/most marketable players potentially look like the bad guys.
So I say this...sadly.
The best solution for everyone involved is to simply cancel the 2020 baseball season.
No one is going to "win" in this situation.
The players are going to look entitled and selfish when they scoff at their pay reductions. The average fan simply can't relate to a guy who complains about making $500,000, $2 million or $5 million for three months of work. And you just know, particularly given today's use of social media, that major leaguers will be unable to hide their disdain for the way they've been treated by the owners.
And the owners -- most of them entitled beyond belief as it is, anyway -- are going to look even worse when they start furloughing employees, cutting minor league salaries down to the bone, and chopping away at other fringe expenses that will show just how willing they are to cut corners in every imaginable way.
The first time an owner is seen on his yacht or playing at a prestigious golf club somewhere, players will race to Twitter to throw those pictures up and remark about the lifestyle he (or she) is leading while they "suffer" through a baseball season where they might be playing for 80% less than they normall would.
I'm sorry, but there's no winner in this one.
And, to be honest, both sides have a right to stand their ground. It's a weird scene indeed when there's a negotiation of this magnitude and both sides have a point of contention that makes sense, but that's genuinely the way it is in this case.
The players want their prorated salaries for the work they're going to put in and you certainly can't blame them for that.
The owners are losing a massive part of their revenue for an entire season, they've already handed over millions of "free dollars" to the players in an earlier agreement, and now they're trying to hang on and make financial sense of what's left of their 2020 business model.
The fans, of course, are stuck in the middle somewhere, but the players and the owners rarely give them any thought, if we're telling the truth.
I could be wrong here, but it doesn't seem to me like there's a logical way out of this dilemma. No matter what transpires, someone's going to come out looking, smelling and being awful. The players will be raked over the coals if they don't take the proposal and play for less money and the owners are going to be crushed by the players if they stand firm and don't budge on their salary-reduction formula.
Just cancel the season. In the end, it's the easiest way to avoid a massive summer of hostility. And in case you haven't been paying attention to our country over the last four months, hostility is already a massive part of our nation's daily routine. We don't need more of it, that's for sure.
Now we'll see how much pull an international golf star like Rory McIlroy really has.
McIlroy said on Tuesday he believes the 2020 Ryder Cup should be postponed for one year if spectators aren't allowed on the property at Whistling Straits this September when the bi-annual event is played.
"There's just no reason to play this year if the fans can't come out," McIlroy said. "The fans make the event what it is."
Other players have hinted at the same thing over the last month or so, but with all due respect to the likes of Brooks Koepka and Lee Westwood, their cachet doesn't match that of McIlroy or, say, Tiger or Phil.
There aren't many guys in professional golf who "matter", really, but McIlroy does. Other than Woods, he's golf's biggest needle mover.
And the reality is that Rory, Koepka and Westwood are all correct. Without fans, the Ryder Cup most likely can't work. I mean, they can still do it, and the golf will be excellent as it always is when you get 24 of the world's best players together for a three-day competition, but the people on site really do make the event what it is.
It's one thing to hear Koepka and his overly snarky personality. It's another thing to hear McIlroy. Sorry, Brooks.
Golf, of course, isn't the only sport facing this "no fans" dilemma.
How will baseball play out this summer and fall in empty stadiums? Will the NFL product be the same with no one in the building watching and cheering? NBA? NHL? If you're a regular here, you know what I think. I don't believe any of these sports will come close to producing their usual quality without fans on the property to watch the athletes perform. I won't go as far as to say the TV product will "stink", but in a game of horse, they'd have S-T and I already.
And why go through that if you're the PGA of America? Just postpone the Ryder Cup for a year and circle back next September and do it the right way.
FACT: Summer "officially" begins on June 20. For those keeping score, it stays summer until September 22 this year. That's 3 months of summer, although in Baltimore, it can stay warm and/or really warm well into late September or early October.
OPINION: Summer really started this past Friday in my book. It always has, in fact. That Friday of Memorial Day weekend is when we start settling into summer mode. Vacations are right around the corner, the days are long, the sun is scorching and those late afternoon thunderstorms are always lurking. This year, though, feels different, for obvious reasons. I'm not sure we're really going to have a "traditional" summer in 2020. But we'll take whatever we can get and enjoy it.
FACT: The Ravens will enter 2020 as the 2nd favorite in the AFC after the Kansas City Chiefs.
OPINION: It's hard to play the favorite's role in any sport, but it seems like the NFL is perhaps the toughest league to follow through and win after you're picked to do so. That said, the Ravens seem a fairly safe bet to go at least 11-5 and cruise to a 3rd straight division title. If they can go 5-1 in the AFC North, they'll probably produce a 12-4 mark or maybe even 13-3. I can't see another 14-2 record -- "just because" -- but I'd bet 12-4 or 13-3 if I was forced to make a friendly wager.
FACT: Anthony Hopkins is one of the great actors of our time, winning the 1992 Oscar for "Best Actor" after his stunning role of Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of The Lambs. Hopkins is so well thought of in the U.K. that he was knighted.
OPINION: I saw the 2019 movie The Two Popes over the weekend and was blown away. The film depicts the relationship between Pope Benedict XVI (played by Hopkins) and Jorge Mario Bergoglio in the aftermath of the Vatican Leaks scandal and follows the friendship -- contentious at times -- between the two men that eventually leads to Bergoglio becoming Pope (Francis) after Benedict XVI steps down. Hopkins is a remarkable actor. Fracture has always been one of my favorite roles of his, but his portrayal of Pope Benedict XVI in The Two Popes was absolutely superb.
FACT: The Golf Channel aired "Tiger Slam" on Sunday night, a 90-minute documentary on Tiger's epic run in 2000-2001 when he won four consecutive major championships. One of the most amazing golf stats in the history of the sport came from the Tiger Slam. Beginning with the 2000 U.S. Open, where he dusted the field by 15 shots at Pebble Beach, and ending with the 2001 Masters, when he nipped David Duval by two shots, Woods faced 550 different golfers in those four major championships. His record was 550-0. Not one player -- obviously -- beat him in four consecutive major championships, although it's fair to note that Bob May almost beat him in the 2000 PGA at Valhalla.
OPINION: Woods won't match Jack's major record of 18, but he'll probably win one more somewhere along the way to finish with 16. By the way, had Woods and his first wife not had their break-up, he would have won 22 major titles: 8 Masters, 6 British Opens, 4 U.S. Opens and 4 PGA's. The derailment of his personal life was just as damaging to him as his later back issues. By the way, some folks already contend Tiger has 21 majors -- 15 professional and 6 amateur, but I disagree with that. While it's fair to say the U.S. Junior and U.S. Amateur are majors, they're amateur majors and shouldn't be confused with major professional championships.
FACT: It looks like Major League Baseball is going to settle on an 80-game season if the players and owners get their acts together and agree on a return-to-play formula. The Orioles would play a schedule made up almost entirely of games against A.L. East teams, with a handful of games against National League East rivals Philadelphia and Washington mixed in. The guess here is 72 against the A.L. and 8 (2 home, 2 away each) against the N.L. teams.
OPINION: And you thought the Orioles were going to lose 100 games in 2020...not happening, pal. Now that the 162-game season is no longer a reality, I'll let you know that my official prediction for the 2020 Birds would have been 61-101. I know they didn't (don't) have much starting pitching and Mancini being out of the lineup all season would have cost them a few wins, but this year's team would have been better than the 2019 edition. As it stands now, I see them going 24-56 in the modified 2020 schedule. Win totals: 4 against the Yankees, 7 against Boston, 4 against Toronto, 5 against Tampa Bay and 2 each vs. Philly and Washington.
FACT: Both the NHL and NBA are apparently going to re-start their 2019-2020 seasons with a modified playoff format sometime in June, meaning the regular season is over and the post-season is upon us. The NHL is going to take the top 24 teams and seed them according to their regular season marks, while the NBA will admit 16 teams into their playoffs.
OPINION: I understand both leagues want to finish what they started and just returning straight to the playoffs makes sense, but in the end, will the eventual champion in either league really consider themselves a champion if they're the last team standing? I mean, they'll raise a banner and all and I suppose the winning organization(s) will distribute rings, but will the players remember 2019-2020 as the year they won the championship? I don't think so.
FACT: Ohio State is talking about allowing 20,000 fans into the stadium -- per-game -- during their 2020 college football season. The Horseshoe holds 105,000 spectators. The Buckeyes have 7 home games on their upcoming slate, with Michigan serving as the only "marquee" opponent coming to Columbus in 2020.
OPINION: The only game anyone really cares about at Ohio State is the annual regular season tilt vs. Michigan. How are you going to tell 85,000 people they can't come to the game on November 28? I applaud colleges and NFL teams who are trying to figure out a way to get a percentage of the seats filled, but the reality is 20% attendance capacity does far more to aggravate the 80% who don't get to attend. I'd like to be wrong on this one, but I think it's inevitable: 2020 will be the year that no fans were allowed to attend NFL or college football games in the United States.
FACT: Peyton Manning and Tom Brady would have both played above their handicap had "real" scores been kept in Sunday's big match with Tiger and Phil. Manning, a 6 handicap, would have been really hard pressed to post anything under 84 and Brady, an 8 handicap, would have shot something close to 90 (or maybe even 95). Now, it's also fair to note that The Medalist is a very difficult golf course. A scratch player (0 handicap) would have to play very well to shoot anything close to 75 there, and a score of 80 or so would be more likely.
OPINION: A friend who watched all of the golf on Sunday sent me a text and asked if either Manning or Brady could make a cut on the PGA Tour if they just focused on golf for six months. That's an easy answer: No. In fact, if they both entered 10 PGA Tour events, they'd go 10-for-10 in missing the cut. And that's not to demean their abilities at all. Both players are competent players. But in no way could Manning or Brady put together two consecutive rounds of 70-72 on the 7,000-plus yard golf courses the TOUR regularly plays.
FACT: Will Smith was once known as The Fresh Prince in his early days on TV. His real name is actually not "William", but Willard. Smith is a rarity in life. He's one of the few people born in Philadelphia that everyone actually likes. His films have earned over $7.5 billion and he's twice been nominated for an Oscar for best actor; in Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness".
OPINION: Smith's 1991 song "Summertime" remains, to this day, my favorite song actually about -- summertime. The Beach Boys have some great tunes and "California Sun" by The Rivieras has long been a summer staple of mine, but nothing beats Will Smith singing about summertime:
"It's late in the day and I ain't been on the court yet
Hustle to the mall to get me a short set
Yeah I got on sneaks but I need a new pair
'Cause basketball courts in the summer got girls there
The temperature's about 88
Hop in the water plug just for old times sake"
The Bundesliga returned for the second week of post-shutdown action this past weekend.
On Saturday morning second place Borussia Dortmund traveled to Wolsfburg needing a win to put pressure on league leaders Bayern Munich. Dortmund was dominant in a 2-0 win over Wolfsburg, one of the top defensive sides in the Bundesliga.
Julian Brandt and Raphael Guerreiro were the standout performers. Guerreiro scored the first goal and started the counter attack that led to the second. Brandt was the key creative force for Dortmund offensively. His movement and passing opened up the Wolfsburg defense to set up Guerreiro’s goal.
The win temporarily put Dortmund just one point behind Bayern Munich. However, in the afternoon game, Bayern continued their fantastic form, steamrolling Eintract Frankfurt in a 5-2 win in Munich. Canadian left back Alphonso Davies was a consistent threat all day for Bayern down the left side, assisting on the second goal and eventually scoring an impressive goal of his own.
The win moved Bayern back to four points ahead of Borussia Dortmund, setting up the game of the season. On Tuesday Bayern Munich will travel to Borussia Dortmund for Der Klassiker, the showdown of the top two teams in the league. A win by Bayern will effectively seal up their 8th consecutive league title. A win by Dortmund would move them to within one point and create an exciting race to the finish between the two German giants.
Outside of the top two, 20 year old sensation Kai Havertz scored two goals to lead Bayer Leverkusen to a big road win over Borussia Moenchengladbach to leapfrog them into 4th place and the crucial final Champions League spot. On Sunday, RB Leipzig held their spot in 3rd place with an impressive 5-0 win on the road spurred by a hat trick from forward Timo Werner.
The Dortmund-Wolfsburg game featured two American players. John Brooks started and played all 90 minutes for Wolfsburg. Brooks put in a decent performance but was partially responsible for the first Dortmund goal, getting pulled out of position by Julian Brandt’s clever movement. Gio Reyna returned after missing last week with an injury with a short sub appearance for Dortmund after the game was mostly decided.
Josh Sargent started and played 63 minutes for Werder Bremen at striker. It wasn’t a spectacular performance but he provided solid hold up play to help Bremen get a much needed win.
Weston McKennie started and played 74 minutes for Schalke as a defensive midfielder. McKennie again provided solid defensive support, but had trouble making an impact offensively for a Schalke attack severely lacking in creativity. Schalke fell apart defensively as soon as McKennie subbed off, giving up two quick goals to cement their 3-0 loss.
Tyler Adams provided a solid 30 minute sub stint at central midfield for RB Leipzig. Adams came on once the game was already a blowout at 4-0 and helped see out the 5-0 win that solidified Leipzig’s Champions League position. It will be interesting to see if Adams was just getting some rest in order to start Leipzig’s game on Wednesday. Many teams are rotating players to make sure they stay fresh with a compacted schedule to finish out the season.
About the contributor: Randy Morgan was born and raised in the Baltimore area graduating from Dulaney HS and then University of Maryland. His day job is software development. He's an avid sports watcher and recreational participant. A devoted Ravens, Orioles and U.S. soccer supporter. he also follows many soccer leagues around the world as well as the NBA and college basketball. Randy played soccer, basketball, and baseball growing up and still plays soccer and basketball recreationally as well as the occasional round of golf. His commentary on mostly sports, but sometimes music and other miscellany can be found on twitter @jrmorgan16.
Last week here at #DMD, I wrote about the then-upcoming charity match involving Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, which was played yesterday in rainy South Florida.
In that piece, I made mention that I wasn't expecting much from the event. I went as far to say "Hey, I could be wrong on this one. Sunday's golf might wind up being worthwhile and Brady and Manning could add some spice to the whole thing. If I'm wrong, I'll come around on Monday and say so. But I don't think that will be the case."
Well, it's Monday and here I am.
And guess what? I was wrong. Well, I was kind of wrong, if you'll allow me a smidgen of wiggle room.
Let's get the easy stuff out of the way first before we make fun of Tom Brady.
The event raised $20 million for Covid-19 relief. That's a lot of money.
Now, back to how I was wwwrrroonn...
The golf itself wasn't all that great, but they played most of the event in a half-a-monsoon. Tiger looked great, Phil was frustrated, Peyton seemed ultra-focused and poor Tommy was, well, just plain lousy.
Here's where I'll stop for a second and tell you this: I did not watch all of the event yesterday. I got immersed in a great movie, The Two Popes, and basically paid half attention to the golf in the first hour (3 holes) and then didn't really watch any of holes 6 through 9.
So, I wasn't glued to the TV to see every shot from all four players. But I still feel like I'm capable of giving a reasonably accurate report on the proceedings given that I had at least one eye on most of the golf.
Without $9 million on the line, as there was back in November of 2018, Mickelson wasn't all that motivated to perform. And once he saw Brady scraping it around like a 15-handicap, Phil basically lumbered around the front nine and tried to throw out an occasional needle to keep things interesting. His golf got better as the match went on, but these days -- golf wise, anyway -- the only thing that gets Phil's blood going are two things: money and a U.S. Open title. And since neither of those were available to him on Sunday, he was mostly in cruise control.
Brady played like a "15" but handled himself with the class of a major champion. He didn't get overly frustrated or beside himself, despite hitting a number of horrific tee shots. He did hole out a wedge shot from 120 yards on the front nine, but other than that, his golf was mostly lousy. You assumed one of the two NFL'ers would soil their waterproof pants and it turned out to be the 6-time Super Bowl champion who couldn't handle the heat. But the way he carried himself during a front-nine meltdown was very impressive.
Peyton played to his "6" handicap, with several impressive shots from the fairway throughout the round. He's no Tony Romo or John Smoltz, who are two extraordinarily talented athlete-golfers, but Manning is a "nice stick", as they say in golf. Woods and Manning won the event 1-up, thanks in large part to Peyton's help throughout the back nine.
Tiger, playing on his home course, did what he always does on the golf course. He tried to play his best and he tried to win. Woods was remarkably sharp for a guy who hadn't played a competitive golf event since February, splitting fairway after fairway and outplaying Mickelson by a significant margin. It's a shame the U.S. Open isn't next month as originally scheduled. He looked primed to challenge for a 4th U.S. Open title based on yesterday's performance in the slop in Jupiter.
In the end, the golf wasn't great, but the day was entertaining. Without something meaningful on the line, Phil vs. Tiger The Rematch wasn't going to work. And to their credit, after the November 2018 event where the $9 million caused both players to keep the fun to a minimum, event organizers removed the financial windfall and just went for a good time with some good golf sprinkled in.
So, for the most part, it worked. I thought it would be "lame" and I was wrong. It wasn't lame. It was OK. I admittedly didn't find it compelling enough to watch from start to finish -- hey, Anthony Hopkins was great in The Two Popes -- but let's at least admit it was way better than watching Korean baseball or professional wrestling.
And $20 million was raised for charity...
There's nothing lame about that, right?
"The Keen Eye" of
|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.|
The Memorial Day weekend is the traditional conclusion of the NCAA lacrosse season. I think this was going to be the year that Syracuse grabbed the trophy for the first time in 11 years, amazingly enough. I also think this was going to be the year that neither Johns Hopkins nor Loyola would make the NCAA tournament field.
Speaking of Syracuse, 2020 marks 30 years since the team still regarded as the great college team of all-time won its third straight NCAA title*. The Orange(men), led by the famous Gait brothers (Gary and Paul), finished undefeated and scored 20, 21 and 21 goals in their three tournament games, the final one a 12-goal victory over Loyola, whose (unlucky) goalie was the Greyhounds’ now-head coach, Charley Toomey.
*This Syracuse title was later “vacated” by the NCAA Committee on Infractions because the coach’s wife co-signed a car loan for Paul Gait. Seriously. I am not paying attention to that NCAA decision.
If you like lacrosse at all, and are either too young or just don’t know, head to YouTube or elsewhere and watch highlights of those Syracuse teams. They threw 20-yard behind-the-back passes as a matter of habit, not to impress people. Every team should play lacrosse like those guys played, but nobody before or since really could play like that.
As for lacrosse in general, the COVID-19 suspension of college sports, for however long it lasts, might have an interesting effect on the sport. One program — Furman University — which was only in its seventh season, has already been eliminated. Richie Meade, the long-time Navy coach, was Furman’s coach.
Then there are programs that are unlikely to be eliminated—like Penn State, Ohio State, and Notre Dame—who no doubt get a large percentage of their budget (like so many other sports) from football. If football doesn’t happen like it normally does this fall, which seems likely, those programs won’t be able to act like the “Power Five” programs they are. Head coaches and assistant coaches might have to take pay cuts, and saving money at all costs will be a directive.
All the geographic “growth” of the game to places like Utah, Jacksonville and Marquette? If costs must be reduced, those programs are in trouble, even the ones that don’t rely on football revenue.
It goes without saying that football has been the engine driving the growth of non-revenue college sports. The entire conference reorganization of the first 15 years of this century was mostly about football. And it seems like a great model…until it suddenly isn’t, and the entire thing comes crashing down.
As I write this, it’s 4 p.m. on Sunday, and I’m not sure what will happen in “The Match: Champions for Charity” (Tiger and Peyton won, 1-up). I know the world seems to be aching for sports content, and I’m glad that such matches and other events can be arranged for charity. I’m sorry the weather was bad—I really don’t think tour pros or amateurs in their 40s (Mickelson will be 50 next month) would choose to go out and play golf in those conditions if they didn’t have a match scheduled. Tiger definitely wouldn’t, considering his choosiness in playing in general.
Taking all of it into account, I can’t get interested in watching Tom Brady and Peyton Manning play golf. And they play well. They are way better at golf than the guy I played with yesterday who hacked it around from the blue tees and, somewhere around the 10th hole, told me he just started playing a year ago. Wants to see the whole course, I guess. Anyway…
I would love to play with both of them, no matter how many times each of them beat the Ravens. In Manning’s case, if I got to play with him, maybe it would be at Augusta National. Thumbs up there.
I just don’t get celebrity golf on television. Is it better when it’s a foursome with Tiger Woods and Mickelson as opposed to the summer tournament in Lake Tahoe with Charles Barkley and some less famous athletes who can really score? I guess. It’s Tiger and Phil.
Golf is a great sport for the relationships that can be established surrounding the game itself. Sure, LeBron James can be friends with lots of people that aren’t professional basketball players, but he can’t actually go out and play basketball with them in any kind of real setting. Tiger and Peyton can go out to Medalist and play on the same course…on some holes, they can even play from about the same spots on the course. That’s great, as is the handicap system, even for people who aren’t famous athletes.
Not sure that really makes for good television, though. The reason that Phil and Tiger play on TV are the same reason Manning and Brady get to play football on TV. They are the superstars of all superstars, and having someone along with them just brings the whole thing down, no matter how successful, rich and famous all of them are.
Have referenced this here before, no pun intended — I depend upon reference websites in order to do my work here, whether it’s my best work or my worst or the usual somewhere in between. Sometimes I even use Google, though it’s not my favorite.
Last week, for instance, I searched former Maryland quarterback Max Bortenschlager, whom I thought I had heard put his name in the NCAA transfer portal. That was confirmed through my search, and then followed by a columnist opinion — he wasn’t very good. My columnist opinion through observation is that he is a pretty good athlete, but not a good enough one to beat the athletes from Ohio State and Penn State.
The Ravens had a ridiculous 2019 season, statistically and otherwise, and I was incredibly dependent upon the Pro Football Reference website almost every week. It was easy to see how good Lamar Jackson played, but bringing some interesting numbers into the equation made it even more evident why he was named league MVP.
Baseball Reference, the original site from the amazing Philadelphia small business that runs the Sports Reference pages, is in my opinion the greatest website known to any person who’s ever blogged or otherwise written about sports. Baseball is the ultimate game of numbers, and the game whose story is told most by numbers, and the ability to go back to single innings in a game 22 years ago to get the proper order of events is important when you’re trying to get it right.
I spend some of the academic year (in the normal world) working alongside college students. One of my favorite old-man things is to tell them about what “research” used to mean. Occasionally I like to bring up microfiche, in case anybody has heard of it, which nobody has up to this point. In days gone by, you might have been able to find the box score of an Orioles’ game from 1988, but it took some work, or maybe some connections.
The world of research is better now, of course. You can still do things that take a long time, and work to find things that only exist in some recess of someone’s basement. And if you want to find out what game that was where Brady Anderson was hit by a pitch twice in the first inning of the game, well that doesn’t take so long anymore.
Since some folks apparently get offended when I use Google, I'm pledging to go this entire piece today without once using the search engine for help.
Now....saying it and doing it are two different things. But I'm willing to give it a whirl.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are playing golf today at 3 pm at Tiger's course in Jupiter, The Medalist. I have no idea why they wound up there other than the fact that Florida has been pretty much "shut-down free" throughout the Covid-19 crisis. Perhaps Tiger felt like the match they played in 2018 was a "home game" for Phil in that it was in Las Vegas and Woods had to travel out there to play.
But Mickelson himself is now a Florida resident, you might have heard. He and his family moved there in February and are having a house built near Hobe Sound, which is fairly close to Jupiter.
Tiger has played The Medalist about 1,000 times more than Phil, though. That's a definite.
Tom Brady, who partners with Mickelson today, also lives in Florida now. No, you don't have to go to Google to see if that's true. It is. He signed with the Tampa Bay Bucs a couple of months ago. Tampa Bay is in Florda.
That leaves Peyton Manning as the only non-Florida-resident in the foursome and I have no idea where he lives and I'm sure as heck not spoiling my perfect game by going to Google to look it up.
Both players have been practicing this week and ramping up the smack talk, although Phil is far better at the needle than Tiger. Woods mostly lets his clubs do the talking. Phil's clubs talk as well, but he chirps a lot longer and louder than Woods does, that's for sure.
I was a guest on Jeremy Conn's show on 105.7 this past Friday night and I said what I'm most anxious to see today is how Manning and Brady handle the pressure of a high-stakes golf match played in front of millions on TV. We know how they handled football in front of millions of viewers, but that's their comfort zone. Golf, at this level, is not their comfort zone. I'm more interested in those two than I am in Tiger and Phil.
Prediction: Tiger and Peyton win today. Phil's not beating the great one on his own golf course. Woods would never live that one down.
I ran a Twitter poll on Saturday that asked people to pick one of four players that they would start a mythical baseball team with. The options were Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Trout, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez.
No one asked me, but over the last 30 years, I'd say those candidates are the four best overall players I've seen. Sure, Bonds and A-Rod were both shrouded in the steroids mystery, but for all we know Griffey Jr. might have dabbled in them as well. In his heyday, remember, they didn't test for steroids, so anything could have happened.
I'm certainly not saying those are the four best all-time baseball players, or at least "modern era" players. Over the last 60 years, you'd have to include Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Roberto Clemente and maybe even Rickey Henderson in the group. Henderson would be the outlier of those four, but that dude could do everything.
I refuse to Google this for fear of being scrutinized, but I know he was in the 2200 hit range and maybe hit somewhere around 300 home runs. He did win one MVP award -- 1990? 1991? -- and was a gazillion time All-Star.
Henderson's mercurial personality overshadowed his remarkable play. He reminds me of baseball's version of Dennis Rodman, if you will. But you could do a lot worse than choosing Henderson to start your team with...he's the best leadoff hitter in the history of baseball, although I've always thought "leadoff hitter" was an overvalued term since you're technically only guaranteed to lead off an inning once per-game.
Anyway...back to the poll.
Of those four I listed, Trout received the most votes at 48.7%.
Griffey Jr. was next with 39.3%. Bonds (7.7%) and Rodriguez (4.3%) were also-rans, which is pretty remarkable given how great both of those players were. They were both incredibly gifted hitters. Steroids? Of course. But those two were both great players.
I also ran a Twitter poll on Saturday asking people to grade Brian Billick on his tenure in Baltimore.
I have no idea what his final record was with the Ravens and that's precisely the kind of thing I would Google if I could, but it's a Sunday and I don't want to ruin someone's day by using the search engine to find out.
But here's what I do know about Coach Billick. He showed up here in '99 and inherited a so-so team with a delapidated offense and a blossoming defense. They went .500 in his first season, then won the Super Bowl in '00, although it's fair to point out -- as his detractors often do -- that the 2000 Super Bowl win was a bit of a fluke. No team with an offense that benign should ever win a championship.
The Ravens made the playoffs in 2001 and again in 2003 with the ever-dangerous QB duo of Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright guiding the team -- somehow -- to a 10-6 record. Frankly, a team with Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright going 10-6 might be more impressive than a Trent-Dilfer-led-offense winning the Super Bowl. But anyway...
After missing the playoffs in '04 and '05, the Ravens returned to the post-season in 2006 and scorched the AFC, going 13-3. Until last season's 14-2 campaign, that 13-3 record was the best in franchise history. We all know what happened in the playoffs in January of 2007 so we won't go there.
But Billick's tenure included four playoff berths in nine seasons, a Super Bowl title, and a 13-3 record.
Billick earned a "B" from the pollsters on Saturday, as 52.3% of those who responded gave him that grade.
Now, it's fair to point out that 34.9% gave him an "A", which means 88% of those folks who paid attention to Ravens football think he was an "A" or "B" level coach in his time here.
By the way, I gave him a "B" as well. I'm a big believer in "culture" as it relates to a coach's influence on his/her team and I think Billick most certainly changed the culture of the organization when he arrived. But he was also the benefactor of three of the best players the franchise will likely ever have -- Ray, J.O. and Reed. I mean, if you can't win with those guys (and Reed wasn't even on the team in 2000), you should go sell clothes at Two Guy's.
Interestingly enough, I wonder how our overall opinion of Billick would have changed with just one of these three things happening: 1) Winning the Super Bowl later, say, in 2005 instead of 2000. 2) Beating the Colts in that playoff game in Baltimore in 2007. 3) Not going 5-11 in 2007...his final season as it turned out.
Billick was a good coach and should be remembered as such. He set the tone for the team John Harbaugh has run so well since 2008.
I asked one other Twitter poll question on Saturday and this one yielded a resounding result.
I wondered if people would be willing to donate $250 each to the Orioles and Ravens in light of the fact that both are likely going to lose an extraordinary amount of revenue in 2020 due to Covid-19 and the expected announcement that all games will be played in front of no live spectators.
You would have thought that I asked people to eat a snail off their sidewalk.
I get it. The thought of giving a billionaire (two of them, actually) $250 while you might be out of work or heading towards being out of work seems outlandish.
It's hard to separate Peter Angelos from the Orioles. I understand that. We see him as them and them as him. But in the same way you'd be giving "him" $250, you give "him" $45 when you buy a ticket. In the end, whatever profit is derived from ticket sales and anything else winds up benefitting the owner, somewhere along the way.
To my shock, 93% of those who responded said "No chance" they'd give both teams $250 as a donation. Maybe the question was fouled up. Perhaps I should have said "either" instead of "both". But since both organizations are going to be impacted by "no fans", I thought it made sense to include both of them in the question.
What I guess I didn't learn from the 93% who said "no" is......why not? I mean, if the team played 10 games in 2020 and you are a ticket holder, you're spending wwwaaaayyyy more than $250 throughout the season. Frankly, you'd probably spend $500 on food and drinks, either through tailgating or in the stadium itself.
I expected "no" to be the answer, by the way, but I thought it might be more like 60-40 or 65-35. Those two franchises are very important to us here in Charm City, and despite the Orioles being pretty lousy for the last 25 years, I "donate" to them every spring by buying tickets. I'm not a Ravens season ticket holder but I go to several games each season and spend money with them as well.
A follow-up question, that I think I'll ask today on Twitter, is this: "If you're not willing to donate $250, what would you be willing to donate? $100? $50? I mean, if you're a regular church goer you donate $5 or $10 a week at church. If you get a call from the State Police and they ask for a pledge to help their retired officer's fund, you're usually in for at least $25 if not $50 or more.
Maybe the issue right now is simply the pandemic and how it has impacted people. If so, I totally understand that. But the question yesterday (and today) relates in some way to Covid-19 because those two organizations are going to lose revenue when fans aren't allowed to attend in 2020.
And there you have it. The proverbial #DMD "Perfect Game". No Google. That's one less thing for you to whine about...
And don't look now, but I've started a new streak.
Someone noted yesterday in the Comments section that Friday's #DMD was the "worst work of my career". I assume he (or she) meant just my #DMD career. I once four-putted the 6th green from 15 feet at Hillendale CC in the Maryland Open. That was the "worst work of my career" if you ask me.
Speaking of four-putts, my friend Billy Bassler, the longtime head golf professional at Rolling Road, once said to me: "You can't four-putt if you're trying on every putt. It's impossible." I was trying on every putt at Hillendale that day, let me assure you. The good news is I didn't have to make a long one for my fourth putt...it was hanging on the edge, for a tidy little double-bogey.
But let's just say yesterday was, in fact, the worst work of #DMD career. If that was the case, that breaks a pretty amazing run of 2,096 consecutive days of "not worst work". And it got me to thinking about streaks...
The NHL record for most consecutive games in a row with a goal is 16, held by someone named Punch Broadbent of the (old) Ottawa Senators back in 1921-1922. I've never heard of him, either, so don't feel bad. The modern day record is 13 straight games, held by sharpshooter Charlie Simmer of the Los Angeles Kings (1979-80). 13 straight games with a goal doesn't seem like all that much to me, but then you have to remember most top line players are getting roughly 20 minutes of ice time per-game, max. When you think of it like that, it's different. 13 straight "60-minute games" with a goal isn't all that much, seemingly. 13 straight games with a goal when you're getting 17-20 minutes of ice time per-game is much more impressive. And remember, in those 17-20 minutes you might only get a half dozen real scoring chances.
How many consecutive birdies have you made? And I mean "real" birdies, not a 2 footer you gave yourself along the way. I'm talking about putts going in the hole for a birdie. The PGA Tour record for most consecutive birdies is NINE (!), held by Mark Calcavecchia, who did it back in 2009. Colin Montgomerie accomplished the same feat on the European Tour four years earlier, at the 2005 Indonesian Open. My record is six, but there are some who would poo-poo that feat because it came at Clifton Park, where I once rattled off six straight birdies to start a round. The longest putt I had was 15 feet at the very first hole. I hit it tight at #2 and #3 (3 footers each), made about a 10-footer at both #4 and #5, then hit the 6th green (short par 5) in two and two-putted from 20-feet. I know what you're dying to ask...what happened at #7? I missed the green right with a 9-iron on the par-3 and made bogey.
The NBA record for consecutive free throws made is -- wait for this one -- 97!!! by Micheal Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves back in 1993. The streak started in March of '93 and carried over into the following season, where it ended in November of '93. What I wonder about Williams' streak is this: When did he realize he had such a lengthy run going? 20? 30? 40? Let's pretend that by his 40th consecutive foul shot made, he knew about the streak. Think about the pressure on those next 53 shots!! Speaking of foul shots: Wilt Chamberlain attemted 11,862 freebies and missed -- you won't believe it -- 5,805 of them!! For those curious about the per-game-points he cost himself, it was 5.5 over his entire career. He finished averaging 30.1 points-per-game but would have averaged 35 points per-game had he made 90% of the ones he missed.
What pitcher holds the most record for consecutive strikeouts in a game? No going to Google. Stay right here and make a guess if you don't already know. Hint: He was a beast in the late 60's and 70's. Give it some thought. No, it's not Bob Gibson, but great guess. Nope, it's not Ferguson Jenkins, either. We'll get back to this one. Don't you dare go to Google.
Adam Vinatieri holds the NFL record for consecutive field goals made at 44. Now, granted, that record could be skewed in terms of difficulty since kicks made from 30 count the same as kicks made from 50, but 44 in a row is 44 in a row. We already know how much the Hall of Fame voters disregard the importance of kickers and punters, but Vinatieri has to make it to Canton someday, right? And if he makes it, that might pave the way for a certain Ravens kicker to make it. No, not Matt Stover...the other guy.
The one baseball streak that will never be broken (presumably) is Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak. It would be virtually impossible for anyone to do it today given the nature of social media and the power of not wanting to be "that pitcher" who gave up the hit in Game 57. If you don't think one pitch can define your career, just ask Al Downing. Everyone knows him for one reason. Anyway...the most recent legitimate chase to DiMaggio's mark was Pete Rose and his 44-game streak back in 1978. In 1987, Paul Molitor hit in 39 consecutive games. The most recent streak was Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies, who hit in 38 straight games over two seasons (2005-2006). By the way, for all his greatness, the best Ty Cobb could ever do was "just" 40 consecutive games with a hit.
They didn't call Richard Petty "The King" for nothin'. Petty is NASCAR's all-time winningest driver with 200 victories. He also holds the record for most consecutive wins on the circuit with TEN !!!. Were the other drivers not even trying back in 1967? How on earth does anyone win ten straight NASCAR races? Petty did it. What's next best? We're here to tell you. Since 1972, eight drivers have been able to win FOUR races in a row, including Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. It's weird that eight guys got to four straight but none of them could win five in a row, huh?
Shockingly, a guy you've never heard of (I'm guessing) has the all-time record for consecutive strikes in bowling. Some dude in Pennsylvania named Tommy Gollick rolled 47 consecutive strikes in 2010. A perfect 300 game in bowling is 12 strikes. A very rare "900 series" in bowling is 36 consecutive strikes (3 x 300). Gollick rolled 47 straight! There's a local connection to the 900 series, by the way. Perry Hall's own Rich Jerome did it back on December 22, 2008. I had him on the radio show the following week once I heard the news. It was, for bowling, anyway, a really big deal back then. By the way, the United States Bowling Congress has on record that only 35 individuals have bowled a certified 900 series, including Jerome. Speaking of bowling, I have a friend who did something that potentially no one else in HISTORY has ever done or will do again. I know, that's a big statement. But it's true. Steve Xintas made a hole-in-one in the morning and bowled a 300-game at night -- on the same day! I'd love to know if any other human has ever done that!
And your baseball answer is...Tom Seaver, with 10 consecutive strike outs. He struck out ten straight against the San Diego Padres back on April 22, 1970. Doug Fister almost caught Seaver. He struck out nine in a row on September 27, 2012. Nolan Ryan (twice) and Roger Clemens both fanned eight straight hitters in their Hall of Fame careers. The record for consecutive strikeouts at the plate is held by the Orioles' Chris Davis with 87.
So, you see, 2,096 consecutive "not worst work of your career" days is actually pretty daggone impressive. I hope today starts a new streak! If not, here's a question. Let's pretend some doofus comes along today and says "no, this is the worst work of your career", wouldn't that mean yesterday wasn't? And wouldn't that mean the record is actually 2,097 instead of 2,096? Hey, I'm into streaks, as you can tell.
Editor's note: Chris Davis didn't really strike out 87 consecutive times. It just felt that way in 2018 and 2019.
With yesterday's news that Joe Flacco has signed a 1-year deal with the New York Jets, I thought it would be a good idea to once again (for, maybe, the 10th time) ask folks to grade Joe's career in Baltimore.
I launched a poll on Twitter that got some real traction, with 303 people responding. The results were just about what I thought they'd be.
30% of those responding gave Flacco an "A" for his tenure (2008-2018).
46.5% gave him a "B", including this author.
14.5% gave him a B-.
And 8.9% of the folks -- who apparently don't have television sets in their homes -- gave Flacco a C+.
I gave Joe a "B" and would have specified a "solid B" if given the chance. I thought Joe was "good" as an overall grade. He obviously had a "great" 2013 playoff run and his 2014 regular season was borderline "great", numbers wise. But for the most part, Joe was just good. Now, we can argue all day about the talent they gave him and all of that other stuff and a lot of it is meaningful dialogue about the supporting cast he was given.
But when you get that $125 million, bigger and better things are expected. And Joe, while decent in the latter half of his career, never quite lived up to that "elite" billing.
Gregory Alan Maddux was one of the best pitchers of his generation. He earned his rightful spot in the Hall of Fame with an amazing 355 wins and is regarded by most people as one of the top 10 right-handed pitchers of all time.
Along with that remarkable career comes a few incredible statistical achievements.
Maddux won four consecutive Cy Young Awards pitching for the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves. FOUR. IN A ROW.
He went 20-11 with the Cubs in 1992, posting a 2.18 ERA and 1.011 WHIP. Really good season, right?
In 1993, he signed with Atlanta, where he won his second straight Cy Young Award with a 20-10 record, 2.36 ERA and 1.049 WHIP. Another good season, you say? He was just getting started.
In '94, Maddux went from really good to just-plain-dominant. In that strike-shortened campaign, he went 16-6 with a 1.56 ERA and 0.896 WHIP. He allowed less than one baserunner per-inning for an entire season. That was three straight CYA's.
And in 1995 -- in a season that was disrupted by a labor strike at the beginning of the campaign -- he went 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA and 0.811 WHIP to win his 4th consecutive Cy Young Award.
In his career, Maddux made 25 or more starts in a season 22 times. In those 22 years, how many times did he walk 100 batters in a season?
Try --- ZERO.
In fact, he walked more than 80 batters in a season two times (81 in '88 and 82 in '89).
Oh, and speaking of walks and Maddux's impeccable control, try this stat on for size.
In his career, he faced 20,421 batters. How many times did he walk a batter on four straight pitches? (Not counting the 153 intentional 4-pitch walks he authored).
Ready? Out of 20,421 batters, Maddux actually threw 140 four-pitch walks.
In his entire career, he walked 140 guys on four pitches.
Sydney Ponson used to do that in one season, I think.
Anthony (Tony) Keith Gwynn Sr. played 20 seasons with the San Diego Padres. He finished his career with 3,141 hits and was a slam-dunk, no doubt-about-it Baseball Hall of Famer.
That man could hit a baseball.
In the final 19 years of his big-league career how many seasons did he hit over .300?
Think about that one for a second. That's 19 years. His first year in the bigs, by the way, he hit .289 in 54 games. Not bad for a rookie.
In Gwynn's final 19 years of Major League Baseball...................
He hit over .300 in all 19 years!
Wait, it gets better.
Out of those 19 straight years, how many times did he over .350 in a season?
.350 is unreal, by the way. If you hit .300 you're a great hitter. But hitting .350 is out-of-this-world good.
He hit .350 or higher in seven seasons.
In his entire 20-year career, Gwynn struck out 434 times -- an average of 21.7 K's per season. In his final year in the majors (2001), 129 players in the big leagues struck out 22 times by the end of April.
Oh, and get this one. Tony Gwynn played in 2,440 games of Major League Baseball. How many 3-strikeout games did he have?
You can insert your Chris Davis joke -- here -- whenever you're ready.
Gwynn struck out three times in a game ONCE. Yes, it's true. Bob Welch of the Dodgers fanned TG three times in a 1986 game.
Wait...we can't mention Tony Gwynn without throwing this incredible stat at you.
What do you think he hit in his career with two strikes in the count?
One pitch away from an out. Two strikes on him. What did Gwynn hit in his career?
I guessed .280, myself.
He hit .302 with two strikes in the count!
Next best, historically, is Wade Boggs, who was a great hitter himself. What did Boggs hit with two strikes in the count? He could "only" muster a .262 average.
And speaking of Greg Maddux...
Gwynn faced Maddux 107 times in his career -- more than any other pitcher. He batted .415/.476/.521 against the four-time Cy Young Award winner and Hall of Famer. That's easily the highest average against Maddux for any player with at least 70 plate appearances.
Eldrick Tont (Tiger) Woods needs just one more win to be the winningest golfer in the history of the sport. He currently has 82 victories, including 15 major championships.
Prior to turning professional in the summer of 1996, Woods accomplished something at the elite amateur level that will almost undoubtedly never be duplicated.
In 1991, 1992 and 1993, he won the U.S. Junior title, an event open to boys who are under 19 on or before the final day of the event. He won those three straight U.S. Junior titles at age 15, 16 and 17.
Why didn't he win a fourth straight U.S. Junior at age 18, you wonder? Because in '94, '95 and '96, he won the U.S. Amateur, the nation's most prestigious amateur golf championship. A week after winning the U.S. Amateur in '96, Woods turned professional.
Tiger won six consecutive USGA titles from '91 through '96. The process of winning those six is arduous. You have to first play 36 holes of stroke play and be one of the low 64 players (out of 312). One or two bad holes and you're out of the event.
You then have to win six matches over a five day period, including a 36-hole final on day five.
Woods went six straight years without losing a match. And he wasn't playing choppers from the local muni courses. He was playing the best juniors in the country/world and the best college and elite amateurs in every match.
Nothing really changed for Woods once he turned professional in '96.
He has won 82 tournaments in 362 starts, winning 22.6% of the events he has entered. If Tiger had as many career starts as Phil Mickelson (622) and won at that 22.6% clip, he would have 141 career wins on the PGA Tour!
In his 82-win career, how many times has Tiger won by 3 or more shots?
Mickelson, by the way, is second to Woods in this category. Phil has 12 wins of 3 or more shots.
Lee Trevino had an amazing career. He won 6 major titles and recorded 29 PGA Tour victories.
Tiger won more tournaments by 3 or more shots (32) than Trevino had wins (29)
Here's a real doozy-of-a-stat. Woods is the only player since PGA Tour records began in 1983 to bogey the first three holes of the week and win the tournament. 810 TOUR players have begun their week with three bogeys and only 16 have gone on to finish inside the top-10.
Oh, and then there's this one. Woods once won 15 times in a 26-event stretch in the mid 2000s. In their entire careers to date, Jason Day and Zach Johnson have 12 wins each. David Duval, David Toms and Craig Stadler won 13 times each. Adam Scott, Kenny Perry and Hal Sutton have 14 wins each.
Tiger won 15 times -- in 26 starts! He eclipsed the career win totals of eight decorated players (all but Perry have at least one major championship) in just 26 starts.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are playing golf this Sunday (3 pm TNT) down in South Florida.
The last time they played one of these 1 vs. 1 events, Phil won $9 million. I have no idea if they're playing for that kind of loot this time around, but my guess is they aren't. I'm honestly not interested enough to even do the minimal amount of research it would take to discover what, exactly, they're playing for.
But my guess is one guy winning $9 million (or, say, even $5 million) during a pandemic where millions of people are out of work and struggling wouldn't be a good look for everyone involved.
This time around, though, Tiger vs. Phil The Replay (that's not the official term of the match, I made it up) has a new twist, as Tom Brady will play with Mickelson and Peyton Manning will team up with Tiger. I have no idea whatsoever why the powers-that-be thought this four-ball pairing would interest us, but I assume it has something to do with the way things panned out a while back when the first Phil vs. Tiger match was played in Las Vegas and it was pretty much a snoozefest.
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are good golfers, but nothing more than that. I can't imagine there's any way that either of them will make Sunday's golfing event any better, just like Bill Murray and the rest of the hacking celebrities don't make the Pebble Beach tournament any better every February. But we're in the middle of a pandemic, there's no live sports at all, and Mickelson vs. Tiger -- while strong for golfing enthusiasts -- doesn't have the overall viewing impact that Brady vs. Manning would if the two were dueling out on the football field. Our country loves watching football more than golf, so perhaps adding the two Hall of Fame quarterbacks will work.
But unless it's raining in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon, I doubt they'll get this golfer to watch the entire thing from start to finish.
Editor's note -- In mid-stream of writing this, I stopped to Google what Tiger and Phil are playing for this Sunday. My interest got the best of me. It's a Covid-19 relief fund-raiser, with at least $10 million going towards the cause. So, other than some sort of (expected) donation to their respective foundations for getting out of bed and playing golf on a Sunday, Phil and Tiger don't stand to make any real money on Sunday. Their sponsors will be happy, though. Now, back to the action...
And while I'm busy being a sour-puss, let me add this.
The Phil vs. Tiger "concept" is kind of lame. It feels not-so-randomly forced, as if Phil was somehow Tiger's only nemesis during the halcyon days of his career. The truth of the matter is Woods smacked Mickelson around the way he smacked everyone around from 1997 through 2013. Woods had no rivals at all for 15 years or so. None. No one beat him with any kind of regularity. It was Tiger and then a huge gap to 2nd place, which was, for that time period, a scrap between Mickelson and Vijay Singh.
Here's the deal, though. These one-off, specialty events, are really hard to pull off, as we saw this past Sunday down at Seminole. For all the talk about golf's "new age" and the young hotshots and all of that other stuff, the reality is that it's hard to find four players and mesh them together for a good TV product. And that's all these events are, really. They're TV shows.
Last Sunday was drab. Dustin Johnson's personality wouldn't be attractive to a toaster. Rickie Fowler is a helluva player and a super nice guy but he's just too "fair haired boy" for the kind of TV they wanted to produce on Sunday. Matthew Wolff might someday turn into a Mickelson'esque player and needler, but for now he's just the guy with the quirky swing who hits it three miles. Rory McIlroy is the most "TV star" of the lot and probably has the personality and sense of humor to be a regular in those kind of events. But one out of four guys ain't cutting it.
In my mind, the best kind of TV show you could produce from golf would be to include some of the TOUR's wacky characters, like Max Homa and Kevin Kisner, just to name two. Those two guys would be a hoot. But here's the problem: No one knows who they are. If you sprinkled in those two and they played against Tiger and Phil, that might bring out the best in all four. It would create a David vs. Goliath theme, for starters, and it might be better to have Phil and Tiger playing with one another instead of playing on opposite sides. Just a thought from a golf guy in Baltimore.
Some might also suggest that guys don't get "lively" until they're playing for money they can keep for themselves, but I don't think that's the case, either. Phil and Tiger were playing for $9 million back in November of 2018 and the whole day felt as exciting as going through jury trial selection. And it wasn't even their $9 million, remember.
Hey, I could be wrong on this one. Sunday's golf might wind up being worthwhile and Brady and Manning could add some spice to the whole thing. If I'm wrong, I'll come around on Monday and say so. But I don't think that will be the case.
If Phil and Tiger somehow sit 1-2 heading into the final round of the U.S. Open in September (assuming Phil makes the all-exempt field), now that would be compelling television because that victory would mean so much to both of them.
But these artificial, non-organic Phil vs. Tiger set-ups just aren't jazzy enough, even when Covid-19 relief is the winner in the whole thing.
Phil vs. Tiger never was a match. When it mattered, Woods always beat him.
And now, when it doesn't matter, it doesn't seem or feel important, no matter how many rock-star-football-players they add to the mix.
"The Keen Eye" of
|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.|
I heard that Ben Roethlisberger got a haircut and a shave (1) — much to the chagrin of Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf — and that the Steelers posted a video of the now-recovered quarterback tossing offseason dimes to receivers. I noticed that Marshal Yanda retired, and the Ravens didn’t replace the departed Hayden Hurst with a tight end in the draft even though Mark Andrews has proven to be injury-prone. I recall the Ravens laying the proverbial egg (2) in home playoff games in consecutive years. I read somewhere that the immediate future of American professional sports is up in the air due to a global pandemic.
I don’t care about any of that. Well, I do care about the global pandemic, but here’s what I really mean. The Baltimore Ravens are the next NFL dynasty. Mark it down. Clear your schedules. Buy your playoff parking passes now, assuming fans are allowed back in the stadium before 2030.
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs just won the Super Bowl, and they’ve beaten Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in each of the last two seasons. Good for them, and they’ll win the Super Bowl again with Mahomes under center (3). But they are not the next dynasty.
The Chiefs’ Super Bowl LIV opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, got lucky to steal Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots and Kyle Shanahan from the Falcons. They could be good for a while, especially on defense. But they are not the next dynasty.
Any team that needs to replace a Hall of Fame quarterback—whether it’s Tom Brady previously in New England or Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh or Philip Rivers formerly of San Diego/Los Angeles or Drew Brees in New Orleans—isn’t going to be the next dynasty, though until the Patriots actually don’t win a division title (4). I guess their dynasty isn’t really over yet.
Nope. It’s the Ravens, and nobody else.
The best player in the NFL is on the Ravens’ roster, and he plays the most important position on the field in a way that nobody else (besides Mahomes) can because they are not even close to the best player in the NFL. Check.
The Ravens’ head coach may be on a Mt. Rushmore of non-Hall of Famers right now, but another decade (5) of what he’s already done might change that. Check.
The Ravens — because of their best player and their coach — play football in a special way that nobody else can, at least not yet. That means a lot of wins. Check.
When Roethlisberger retires, the Steelers better come up with somebody pretty decent. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be surprised if the AFC North from 2021 on becomes the AFC East from 2001 until now. Ok, maybe not 20 years, which is pretty insane. But I’d take a chance on 10 for sure. The Ravens could really win 10 consecutive division titles.
Of course, the entire nature of the NFL in 2020 seems to be anti-dynasty. The average age of the players is barely-out-of-college (6), and teams turn over by more than half every four years. Sure, the Ravens won 14 games last season, but they could just as easily lose 14 games in 2023.
It’s not going to happen. Lamar Jackson. John Harbaugh. An offense with 1960s principles that scores a 21st century amount of points. The front office, and its ability to draft. Justin Tucker. The AFC North with Big Ben out of the picture.
Sniff at it all you’d like. 14-2, with a 12-game winning streak to end the year, with a litany of explosive performances game after game. That can’t possibly happen again, can it? Maybe not. But the Ravens don’t have to finish 14-2 every season (8) to have a dynasty. They have to win their division pretty much every year, make a bunch of conference championship games and maybe go to the Super Bowl a few times.
I can see the headlines and story leads in five or six years.
“Once again, the AFC North goes through Baltimore. Lamar Jackson’s supporting cast is completely different than when he started, but that hasn’t stopped him from putting up big numbers. Jackson runs less, and doesn’t seem quite as fast, but he’s a better passer and still enough of a threat to break a big play.”
“Like Carson Palmer 15 years earlier (9), Joe Burrow has played like a No. 1 draft pick and brought respectability to the Bengals. But Cincinnati hasn’t surpassed Baltimore, and this doesn’t seem like the season that will happen.”
“The Steelers are still looking for their next legitimate NFL starting quarterback, let alone the next Ben Roethlisberger. Mike Tomlin was let go as head coach, even though he did about as well as he could with the unit at his disposal.”
“The Browns’ season was a disappointment to say the least (10). Cleveland once again believes, however, that it’s a legitimate contender this year.”
So let’s get out there and play, when it’s safe, so the Ravens can prove me right. And if I’m wrong, well, it’s the NFL. There can’t be any more dynasties in the NFL, can there?
(1) - Roethlisberger’s barber is a “friend” who gave Big Ben the haircut for free. If Ben was smart, he’d donate a bunch of free haircuts to people in Western Pennsylvania who might actually have trouble affording a haircut.
(2) - According to research, “laying an egg” dates back to Broadway in the 1920s, when shows that closed quickly were given that moniker. The “egg” is the number “0,” in the same way that “love” in tennis comes from “l’eouf,” the French word for egg. However, at Roland Garros—the French Open—they don’t use “love,” which in French would be “amour,” which would be silly. Instead, they say “zéro,” as in zero, which is what should be used instead of “love” everywhere. But I digress…
(3) - Andy Reid got his Super Bowl last season, finally. I think that’ll be his only one though.
(4) - The Patriots have officially won 11 consecutive AFC East titles. Considering they tied for the division title in both 2008 and 2002, even though they didn’t go to the playoffs, I consider them to have at least shared the title in each of the last 19 seasons. Stunning.
(5) - If Harbaugh would maintain the same winning percentage over the next 10 years, he’d have a regular-season coaching record of 217-135. I think he’ll probably have a higher winning percentage over the next 10 years.
(6) - It’s worth noting that the Ravens’ first-round draft pick, linebacker Patrick Queen, is still only 20 years old, and won’t turn 21 until August.
(7) - I never really liked “Dynasty.” I thought “Dallas” was better. Speaking of that, Dallas under Dak Prescott is definitely not a dynasty.
(8) - The Patriots have won 14 games or more five times in Bill Belichick’s 20 years as head coach (2003, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2016).
(9) - Palmer was selected No. 1 overall by the Bengals in the 2003 NFL Draft. By his second year as a starter, 2005, he led the Bengals to the division title and an 11-5 record, Cincinnati’s first winning season in 15 years.
(10) - Tell me this is not going to be the headline in 2025, 2026, 2027, etc.
ESPN.com released a massive, well researched piece yesterday on the hurdles Major League Baseball faces in starting their season sometime in July.
It is, without any question, a robust undertaking to have 30 teams up and running and ready to roll within the next 60 days, complete with a complex set of rules and guidelines that will all hopefully keep players and associated personnel healthy during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
But baseball seems dedicated to seeing it happen.
And the NFL, of course, is burning the candle at both ends while they try and figure out how to have a season of 16 games per-team without anyone -- potentially -- allowed in the stadiums to watch it all unfold live.
Baseball will be played in front of empty parks this summer and fall. That's a done deal. Football, it appears, is fighting that dilemma still, although it's nearly inevitable they'll be playing without spectactors in their stadiums as well.
And, while baseball might be able to tiptoe themselves around as much "personal contact" as possible, football certainly can't do the same thing. Football is a contact sport, after all. Breathing on a guy in the pile happens on nearly every single play of the game.
Both sports could, I guess, figure out some sort of face shield for players to wear to increase protection from Covid-19, but thus far neither sport has talked openly about that being a useful remedy.
And then we have college football -- and other fall college sports -- flapping in the breeze. They're the ones potentially most impacted by "no fans in the stadium" because the profits they generate from tickets, parking, concessions, etc. go back to actually running their academic institution(s). If Alabama loses out on $75 million of actual in-the-bank profit this fall, where they are finding a replacement for that money? It's unlikely the government will bail out every college in the country. And most schools don't have 75 donors who can each ante up $1 million to help offset the Covid-19 money loss.
As I read through the ESPN.com piece again early this morning, it really got me to thinking about this question: Is this really that important?
I mean, it's May 20 today. Sports in our country came to a screeching halt on March 12 or so. We're two-plus months into a sports lockdown in our country and guess what? We're all still OK. I mean, we miss sports. Some miss sports more than others. Some of us, of course, actually have a business that's directly related to sports, and, therefore, probably "miss" it more than others for differing reasons.
But should baseball and football and college sports really be forcing themselves back into action with a myriad of (silly?) rules and guidelines and weird scheduling and shortened seasons? And here's the bigger question to ask: Who are they doing it for?
The answer to that one is easy. They say they're doing it for us. But we know deep-down they're doing it for themselves. They need to play their games in order to send out those invoices to the TV networks. That's really what this is mostly about. It's about TV money and revenue streams. Let's not kid ourselves. If the games weren't all on TV and if the respective leagues hadn't sold their souls to the networks and cable affiliates, this would all look much, much different.
I've been saying this for a while now. Some people agree and some don't. But I'm going to keep saying it. You can't play these sports without people in the seats. I mean, you can play them, but it's just not going to be the same product. There very well might be an exception or two to that statement I made. Auto racing might be a sport where people don't have to actually be there on the property watching. But I suspect if you asked the drivers from last weekend's NASCAR race in Darlington what it felt like to drive around for four hours without anyone there watching, they'd all confess it felt really weird.
But "feeling weird" to the drivers and still being a decent TV product are two different things. Truth of the matter, auto racing probably is one of the few sports that shows better on TV than it does in person. I've seen it live and seen it on TV and would take a home viewing over a live, in-person viewing, although I'd also say if you've never been to a NASCAR race live, you should put that on your bucket list and check it off. It's an amazing scene to see in person.
Selfishly, I'm excited that golf might also be one of those sports that can carry on without spectators as well, although I still believe the performance of the players will be altered somewhat without anyone there watching it in person. I think it remains to be seen if the PGA Tour is exciting without people there as it is with people there. We'll find that out in June when the TOUR resumes its 2019-2020 schedule.
The other sports, though, are different. They're built to be played in front of people. Baseball and football simply will not be the same being played in empty stadiums. And even if you get to watch the games in the comfort of your own living room, I'm just not sure they're going to have the same impact if people aren't on site watching it live as well.
So I'll go back again and ask: Who are they doing it for?
Their altruistic answer will be, "We're playing football this season for the fans!" or "Baseball is the great American pasttime and it needs to be shared with the people in our country who love it so dearly!" But the reality is.....they're playing for themselves and their product and their revenue streams.
They'll say they're doing it for us, but I'm not feeling that one, friends.
When baseball and football resumed following the 9-11 attacks, there truly was a feeling of sports "bringing us back together again". But one of the reasons why that theme worked in late September, 2001 is because we could actually go to the stadium and be back together. Sports did bring us back together...in the same stadium, the same seats, the same parking lot, and so on. In 2020, we can't be "brought back together" if we're not in one another's company.
So when baseball (or football) throws that line out there about trying hard for "us" and to "bring us back together", I'm not certain I'm buying it.
And we haven't even touched on the subject of what the players -- their employees and/or student athletes -- want and feel comfortable with. As I've noted here before, what happens if Tom Brady stands up and says, "You know what, I'm not good with this...I'd rather not go back to work yet until my safety and health are on more solid footing."? What if Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw and Aaron Judge don't want to risk it?
I just don't know how this is all going to get pulled off and "look right", not cosmetically, but practically. If Covid-19 is still ravaging our country in July and we're well over 100,000 deaths and climbing by then, how on earth do you go back out and play sports?
And if they do go back and play baseball in July, who, really, are they doing it for?
Your answer to that question might vary from mine or others, but in the end, baseball -- and the other sports who start up in the fall -- better have the right answer. And I just don't think "we're doing it for you, the fans" is the right one.
We're smarter than that.
So, based on what you can figure out at this point, what do you think the Ravens 2020 season is going to look like on the field?
They've added a couple of quality free agents in Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe and had, by almost every account, a whopper of a 2020 draft.
This is a team, of course, that went 14-2 last season before laying that egg at home in the playoffs vs. Tennessee. There will be a few "experts" around the country who lay off the Ravens this season in their prediction pieces, but just about everyone who watches the NFL with a discerning eye will have the Ravens winning the AFC North.
The big question, of course, is can they win a playoff game or two and potentially even play in the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay next February?
And that leads us to today's poll question. Very simply: What do you think the Ravens will do in 2020?
It might have gotten lost in the weekend of MLB rumors and a rare foray into live golf and live auto racing, but the world of sports lost a pioneer on Saturday when former CBS sportscaster Phyllis George passed away at age 70.
George won Miss America in 1971, then joined the all-male broadcast team of The NFL Today on CBS television just four years later.
As part of CBS' weekly pre-game football show — which featured the high-profile hosts Brent Musburger and Irv Cross and the gambling commentator Jimmy Snyder, or Jimmy the Greek, as he was known — Ms. George immediately became the most prominent woman in sports broadcasting.
She remained with “The NFL Today” for three seasons before being replaced during the 1978 season by Jayne Kennedy, another former beauty queen.
In an effort to learn more about how much Phyllis George inspired young female sportscasters, #DMD caught up with former Baltimore sportscaster Amber Theoharis, who grew up near Frederick and attended the University of Maryland before embarking on a successful 5-year run with MASN. She left her position with MASN in 2012 and has since worked with the NFL Network, FoxSports 1 and Westwood One Radio.
DMD: How did it come about that you wanted to get into broadcasting? Did you have an athletic background or were your parents involved in the media?
Amber: I don't remember an Ah ha! moment. I just always remember wanting to cover sports on TV. My mom found a 7th grade guidance counselor report where it asked what i wanted to be when I grew up and I wrote "sports reporter". So I guess that's the earliest moment where I started telling people "broadcasting" was what I was going to do. I came from a family where all we did was play sports and all weekends were spent at games. My dad coached Babe Ruth baseball, my mom was very athletic and was always playing sports with us, plus we were die hard pro sports fans. Orioles, Redskins, Capitals and Terps, I have so many wonderful memories rooting for my hometown teams growing up. That's where the passion started.
DMD: Did you look at women like Phyllis George and Lesley Visser , and maybe even Gayle Gardner or Linda Cohn, and get inspiration from them somehow?
Amber: Phyllis was before my time but I remember watching games and Lesley Visser was the ONLY female face I saw. It wasn't until I was a teenager that Linda Cohn became a huge influence for me. Sports Center was everything and I don't remember thinking "she's a woman", I just remember thinking "damn she's a bad ass!" She just knew her stuff and seemed to spit it out so effortlessly. Linda was the first female sportscaster I remember thinking ,"Maybe I can be like her." But truthfully my parents didn't make gender a big deal, so I looked up to guys like Dan Patrick, George Michael, Glenn Brenner, Chuck Thompson, Al Michaels, and even Dick Vitale (I loved ACC hoops) as much as I looked up to Linda.
DMD: Phyllis was really kind of a groundbreaking figure for women in sportscasting. Did you ever get the opportunity to meet her and, if so, did you take a moment to thank her for her trailblazing ways?
Amber: Unfortunately I never had that opportunity, but I learned about her as my career developed. I always felt connected to Phyllis George because I felt it was my responsibility as someone who benefited from her sacrifice to make sure that all that she went through -- and I know it had to be a lot -- wasn't in vain. When she passed I said to myself "God bless you Ms. Phyllis you put up with a lot of crap so that I could have a career I love." I'm forever in her debt and I wish I could have told her that before she died last weekend.
DMD: Did you ever get any kind of advice from Phyllis, Lesley, or any of the women sportscasters who paved the way and if so, can you share it?
Amber: I had the chance to meet Linda Cohn through a mutual producer friend in 2009 and even though I was doing fairly well in my career with MASN at that point, I instantly reverted back to a total dork fan girl. When we were in the same room, I cornered Linda and got teary eyed when I thanked her for all she did paving the way for women like me. I told her she really had a huge influence on me and taught me the value of knowing your stuff when you get up on that set and delivering your knowledge with confidence. She was very gracious and kind. I'll always put Linda on a pedestal and I'll always think she's one of the greatest of all time -- male or female.
DMD: What advice would you give to a college-age female right now who is looking to break into sports broadcasting/journalism?
Amber: I'd say this: Don't waste your energy trying to prove yourself to anyone. There will always be weak men who are threatened by strong women. Work hard, learn something new every day, be kind and believe that nobody on this earth is like you, so you truly have something unique to offer this world. Also, enjoy the ride! If you fall, stay down for a bit, reassess and pivot. Come from a different angle next time, but don't stop coming! And as my good friend Gary Thorne would tell me -- "Give 'em hell girl!"
One of the awesome unintended consequences of Covid-19 has been the outpouring of friendship and good deeds from within our own community.
I've seen it firsthand, obviously, with our "Frank Fund" project, which has now seen 13 delivery runs since late March. Through the generosity of 186 individual donators and local sponsors, we've been blessed to distribute food, fruit, snacks and flowers to local doctors, nurses and emergency responders.
We got to see even more of it yesterday when the Baltimore chapter of the Boy Scouts teamed up with Royal Farms to distribute 1,000 meals/lunches to emergency personnel.
The lunches consisted of freshly made subs, bottled water, and Royal Farms brand chips. The Boy Scouts delivered them to frontline workers at over 18 locations including the following: Carroll Hospital; Savage Fire Station; Howard County Police – Northern District; Northeast Baltimore Police; Northern District Baltimore Police; Essex Station Baltimore County Fire Department; YMCA of Ellicott City; Upper Chesapeake Medial Center; Joppa-Magnolia Fire Department; Level Volunteer Fire Company; Anne Arundel Medical Center; Annapolis Police Department; Annapolis Fire Department; Sykesville Fire Department; Gamber & Community Vol. Fire Department; Carroll Hospital; Winfield Community Vol. Fire Department.
All health and safety precautions and recommendations were followed to keep all those involved safe.
On May 2nd the Baltimore Area Council Boy Scouts held a Virtual 5K to connect the community and raise funds to thank local essential workers. Over 800 participants from 18 states connected virtually to get active and support those keeping our communities safe. Through this grassroots effort coordinated on Facebook the Scouts raised over $3,500, equivalent to 500 boxed lunches from Royal Farms.
Royal Farms heard of the Scouts hard work and decided to match their efforts, providing an additional 500 boxed lunches for a total of 1,000 boxed lunches. The Scouts teamed up with Royal Farms to prepare and deliver the boxed lunches to hospitals, firehouses, police stations and other essential workplaces across Central Maryland.
“Royal Farms is pleased to support the Boy Scouts in this noble cause and is glad to support our health care heroes, first responders, and members of our community that are in need during this trying time.” said Frank Schilling, Royal Farms’ Director of Marketing & Merchandising.
Yesterday's effort wasn't the first time Royal Farms came through to help a local group who needed support of their charitable endeavors. Six of our 13 "Frank Fund" deliveries have included subs and food from Royal Farms. They were DMD's very first marketing partner back on August 25, 2014 and they continue to lead the way as one of Baltimore's most charitable and thoughtful organizations.
The German Bundesliga made its return from the COVID-19 shutdown last Saturday with games played in empty stadiums. It is the first of the major European soccer leagues to return. The action kicked off with second place Borussia Dortmund facing local rival Schalke.
The teams displayed the expected rust early in the game, given the long layoff and lack of warm up games. However, Dortmund came to life around the 30 minute mark with a quick passing sequence that unlocked Schalke’s defense. Erling Haland opened the scoring by redirecting a pinpoint cross from Thorgan Hazard and from there Dortmund never looked back. The second place club hammered their rivals 4-0.
Attacking midfielder Julian Brandt was brilliant throughout the game, playing a part in setting up all four goals. Portuguese left back Raphael Guerreiro led the scoring with two goals as Dortmund kept the title race alive and put pressure on Bayern Munich to win on Sunday.
Later on Saturday, third place RB Leipzig faced mid-table Freiburg. Leipzig had trouble breaking down the defensively oriented Freiburg and finished with a disappointing draw. The draw dashed their title hopes as they will now spend the rest of the season fighting to maintain a spot in the top four to earn a place in next year’s Champions League.
League leaders Bayern Munich returned to action on Sunday against Union Berlin. The reigning champions picked up right where they left off with a dominant 2-0 road win. Bayern midfielders Thiago and Joshua Kimmich dominated the game, helping to set up a penalty kick goal by Robert Lewandowski and a headed goal from right back Benjamin Pavard. With the win Bayern maintained their four point lead on Dortmund and inched one step closer to the title.
It was a rough weekend for Americans in the Bundesliga. Weston McKennie started at defensive midfield for Schalke against Dortmund. McKennie was solid defensively, contributing multiple key tackles and interceptions and was blameless on all of the Dortmund goals. He struggled offensively however, giving away possession too frequently, exemplified
Gio Reyna was listed in the Dortmund starting lineup for what would have been his first career start, only to pick up an injury in warm ups and miss out on the game.
Tyler Adams got the start at right wing back for RB Leipzig. He too was solid defensively but failed to make his mark in the attack as Leipzig struggled to break down a compact Freiburg defense.
John Brooks did not fair any better as the starting center back for Wolfsbug. He was responsible for an own goal on a misplaced header on a free kick. Wolfsburg did manage to win despite the own goal.
Josh Sargent subbed on for the last twenty minutes of Werder Bremen’s 4-1 loss but was unable to make a mark as Bayer Leverkusen thoroughly dominated the game. Bremen are now in great danger of getting relegated at the end of the season.
About the contributor: Randy Morgan was born and raised in the Baltimore area graduating from Dulaney HS and then University of Maryland. His day job is software development. He's an avid sports watcher and recreational participant. A devoted Ravens, Orioles and U.S. soccer supporter. he also follows many soccer leagues around the world as well as the NBA and college basketball. Randy played soccer, basketball, and baseball growing up and still plays soccer and basketball recreationally as well as the occasional round of golf. His commentary on mostly sports, but sometimes music and other miscellany can be found on twitter @jrmorgan16.
I realize it's dangerous to make a definitive observation about sporting events being played without spectators after watching just one 4-man golf match. It's called "rushing to judgment" I believe.
Editor's note: I know what you're thinking. It's spelled "judgement"...not "judgment". That's what I thought, too, but there's no "e" in there.
Anyway, about no-spectator-sporting-events.
Remember I told you this: They're gonna stink.
I understand. We'll take it however we can get it, and if we have to watch the Ravens and Browns play in an empty stadium in September, that's what we'll do. You can still have an adult beverage in your home, throw a stuffed animal at the TV when Harbs goes for it 4th and 2 in the 3rd quarter, and bet on the game, too, if you want.
But I'm telling you, the action on the field isn't going to be as good and the experience of watching it on your TV set isn't going to all that exciting, either.
Yesterday's golf was great to see, but not great to watch. We hadn't really seen any kind of "live sports" since mid-March, so anything, yes, even golf, was a treat for all. But the action was lackluster, Matthew Wolff's 350 yard drives nothwithstanding, and the environment just seemed too....too.....weird?
The four players tried to make it interesting. There were occasional jabs and needling. Rory McIlroy made a snide remark about winning $25 million in his career when Wolff chided him about a 6-foot putt that needed to go in. But all in all, it was pretty basic stuff. Dustin Johnson meandered around the course with the enthusiasm of a wind chime.
And golf is the one sport that's played in front of no one both in college and on the minor league tours. Most players are used to performing in front of no spectators. But once they reach the PGA Tour and are playing in front of thousands of people every weekend, their golf game and spirit plays off of the people in a unique way.
Without anyone there at Seminole Golf Club yesterday, the event was just four guys playing golf. I lost interest by the 6th hole, if I'm drinking the truth serum.
And I think it's going to be same way when baseball starts in July. I want baseball back, of course, as most every sports fan does. But "wanting it" and being entertained night after night by a 9-inning game played in Boresville USA isn't going to ring our bell for long.
I mean, let's be serious about baseball. It's not exactly known for amping up your heart rate on most nights. You have to really love baseball to sit there through nine innings, especially if someone's winning 7-1 in the 6th inning.
So if baseball is interest-challenging when there are 12,000 people in the stadium, imagine what it's going to be like this summer, both for the players and the spectators.
I'm not trying to stab at the O's when I bring this up, but my like my friend Ian Eagle of CBS Sports once said, "It's not a low blow, it's just a fact." If you've been to one of those weeknight O's games in the last 2-3 years when there are 2,000 to 4,000 live, breathing bodies in the stadium, you have a slight feeling of what's to come.
When a baseball game is played in front of 4,000 people, it's awful. If it's a nice summer night and you're with friends and/or family who help make it tolerable, that might help a bit. But if you've been to one of those attendance debacles on a Tuesday night in July when the Tigers are in town, you know precisely what I'm talking about. It's dreadful to sit there and watch it in person or, even worse, on television. There's just no "energy" to the game itself.
Now, go from 4,000 people to no people. And tell me what you think you'll get.
I do believe in the novelty aura and I'd say for a few games, at least, baseball and football might have a different cosmetic appeal. But in the long run, I believe the quality of play is going to suffer -- and potentially suffer dramatically, during this Covid-19 related adjustment period that MLB and the NFL are going to endure.
Hey, look, I'm really hoping I'm wrong here. I don't want the on-field action to stink, just like I didn't want yesterday's golf to be benign. But it was. And I'm afraid baseball and football will be, too.
It's very simple. The games are meant to be played -- at the professional level, at least -- in front of people. When the stands are empty, I think the product will probably look that way as well.
"The Keen Eye" of
Interesting story yesterday from erstwhile Baltimore Sun and now ESPN reporter Jamison Hensley about the great Marshal Yanda, who retired after 13 seasons with the Ravens. Through diet and exercise, the eight-time Pro Bowler has lost nearly 70 pounds since the end of the season in January.
There are all sort of good nuggets in Hensley’s piece (though no Chicken McNuggets). Yanda used to eat 6,000 calories per day, including six eggs and a cup of oatmeal with a banana and brown sugar…just for breakfast. As a mid-morning snack, he would have a shake that included spinach and kale, because “you get tired of eating, and it’s easier to drink things than eat them,”—not sure all of us would agree with that.
These days, Yanda rides at least 45 minutes at a time on a stationary bike, and he sweats so much that he had to buy a hunter’s boot dryer for his cycling shoes. At 6-foot-3 or thereabouts, Yanda weighed in somewhere around 310 lbs. on game day, but now weighs 245 lbs. and doesn’t even look like the same person. He even shaved his beard, since it doesn’t quite fit his persona anymore.
If you think about it, NFL linemen are the only people who play competitive professional sports who are, by any other definition in the world, fat. Yanda says that he used to go down the steps in his house slowly, one at a time, not for fear of injuring himself but because it took so much effort. If his wife would have asked him to go for a coronavirus walk with the family, he would have told her to take a hike, literally, without him. It’s nearly impossible for a 300-lb. man to not have pain in his lower back and his feet, no matter if he’s a Pro Bowler or not.
Yanda, and Matt Birk, who did a similar thing immediately after his retirement in 2013, are really just getting themselves back to what a “big” man should look like…more like a basketball player than a football player. Not every retired lineman has the same discipline, of course, though I’d imagine it’s almost impossible for a person not to lose some weight if he simply stops eating nearly as much as he once did.
When they induct Yanda into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor, nobody in the stadium is going to recognize him.
After three rounds of golf, I’ll make the following observations. One: something about keeping the pin in the cup and not touching it makes the round go faster. Part of it seems to be that rank amateurs such as myself less likely to spend much time looking at a putt from four angles before knocking it six feet past the hole. Maybe some of it is about people just being happy to get out there and not worrying about results.
Two: golf without “frills” is better, and has always been better. It’s great to have a grill that makes a great cheeseburger, or a cool spot to hang out and have a few beers and settle all the little wagers with your buddies in your three groups that started at 8:44, 8:52 and 9:00. I guess there’s something nice about a little special treatment at a “nicer” course every once in a while, or the boutique treatment you get at a nice country club all the time. But nobody needs any of it. In fact, most people would rather be left alone to enjoy themselves.
Three—and this is temporary—having fewer players on the course is just a better experience. There’s a reason the most exclusive clubs in the world have maybe 1,000 rounds per year. Never (or almost never) waiting to hit a shot, off the tee or anywhere else, is a big help to anyone’s game, I think. I’ll take it while it lasts.
A reminder: American professional golf at the highest level is set to return in just a few weeks, with the annual tournament at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, June 11-14. The PGA Tour says that it will do everything with the goal of minimizing risk, and they’re planning on doing it without taking any important resources away from the local community in which the tournament is being played.
I am on record that golf on the PGA Tour is the one sport that really could go off without a hitch without spectators. Yes, the Rorys and Dustins of the world are entertainers, and the people who get entertained help pay them exorbitant amounts of money. At the same time, no golf course was ever meant to be turned into the setting for fans and sponsors that a tour event has become. Play the course as it was meant to be played.
Big news. If college football gets played again any time soon, Maryland might have Tua Tagovailoa…’s brother playing quarterback. His name is Taulia, and he played high school football in Alabama after his family moved there to be near his brother, and then went to Alabama himself, where he threw 12 passes last season and completed nine.
For Taulia to be eligible for the 2020 season, if there is one, he’d have to ask for an NCAA waiver. He played in five games for the Crimson Tide in 2019 and can’t be a “redshirt,” so he only has three years of eligibility remaining, and might have to sit out the usual transfer year before getting to play in a Maryland uniform.
Unlike new Philadelphia Eagle Jalen Hurts, who considered transferring to Maryland because of his relationship with former Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, the Terps’ head coach, Taulia never played under Locksley. The Maryland coach was pleasantly surprised, and he says that Taulia has “outstanding field vision and excellent pocket awareness.”
The Terps’ recent issues at quarterback are well documented. You may remember that, in the recent past, they had to play a linebacker at the position. And when players seemed on the rise to stardom at the position, they immediately got seriously injured and were lost for the season in the blink of an eye.
One of those players, Tyrrell Pigrome, put his name in the transfer portal back in February. Another experienced (if pretty terrible) player, Max Bortenschlager, did the same in January. According to ESPN, Maryland quarterbacks combined for a QBR of 32.9 last season, which ranked second-worst in the country. The Terps need someone to play quarterback at a half-decent level at the very least, and maybe Taulia is that guy.
Whether that’s the case is definitely up in the air. He was a highly-rated prospect coming out of high school, but not so high that a program like Maryland never gets his type of athlete. If he has anywhere close to the touch and accuracy of Tua, the first-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins, than he might be a steal. If they ever play college football again, of course.
Now, whether or not Mike Locksley can be a successful head coach isn’t up in the air. I’d say the answer is a firm “no,” whether Taulia Tagovailoa wants to play for him or not.
Major League Baseball's manual for a safe, healthy return to the field was somehow scooped up by ESPN. They didn't get all of it, as several sections of the 67-page document were removed for whatever reason, but ESPN got enough of it to give us all a glimpse into what's going to happen -- hopefully -- when the 2020 season starts in early/mid July.
Some of the stuff is ------ well, I'll hold off on making any further comment until I've given you a chance to hear the details for yourself.
Teams will be allowed to have 50 players each under the plan, with the number active for each game still being negotiated. Players and other team personnel not participating in the game would sit in the stands, separated by at least 6 feet. They would apply the same distancing standards to the national anthem.
One of the early thoughts about the roster is that teams can move players up and down on the active roster as often as they want, but once you're "up" you have to be on the game scorecard for two consecutive games. You don't have to play in either game but you must part of the game's active lineup. This will allow teams to address the doubleheader issue with greater ease, since it's expected teams might play as many as 9 doubleheaders in 3 months.
Because the players want to play as few games as possible and are adamantly against playing twice in one day, doubleheaders are still part of the negotiating process that's ongoing between the owners and MLB player's association.
High-fives, fist bumps and hugs would be prohibited under the plan, as would spitting, tobacco use and chewing sunflower seeds.
It will be interesting to understand what "prohibited" means in the rules. Do you get ejected from the game if you give a teammate a fist bump in the 5th inning after his 3-run homer? What if he hits a walk-off double in the bottom of the 10th and you dog pile him at home plate? Do all 18 players get ejected from the next game?
Fielders would be "encouraged to retreat several steps away from the baserunner" between pitches. First-base and third-base coaches are not to approach baserunners or umpires, and players should not socialize with opponents.
A ball will be thrown away after it is touched by multiple players, and throwing the ball around the infield will be discouraged. Pitchers would have their own set of balls to throw during bullpen sessions, and personnel who rub baseballs with mud for the umpires must use gloves.
Players would be required to wear masks everywhere except on the field and during strenuous activities. Their activities outside the stadium would change, too, particularly on the road, where they would not be allowed to leave the hotel to eat at restaurants.
Teams have been asked to respond with their suggested input by May 22.
I'll save them five days and offer mine now.
That's my input.
The whole thing is just awful. If every player is going to be Covid-19 tested regularly, why all the other rules and nitpicky guidelines? You really have to step six feet away from a baserunner between pitches? You mean to tell me he might get the virus in the 3rd inning if I walk up and chat between pitches but he won't get the virus if I have to tag him out on a pick-off attempt a moment or two later?
Look, I'm all for safety, baseball players and otherwise. I'm completely for it.
This, though, is overkill. Massive overkill.
The games are already going to look weird when they're played in empty stadiums. You'll have 30-50 players and team staffers sitting in the stands -- six feet apart, folks! -- too, and that's it. Everything already looks strange enough without the silly no-fist-bump rule or the third base coach having to stand there like a statue and not get close to his base runner.
I'm completely all for sports coming back. Believe me I am.
But you might as well just wait until August or September and play a 40-game "sprint season" or something else. The current plan is dumb.
You wanted input by May 22. You got mine early.
It's not the Masters or the U.S. Open, but today's "live golf event" (NBC, 2-6 pm) from famed Seminole Golf Club in Florida provides everyone with something new to watch before we settle in for the final two episodes of The Last Dance tonight at 9 pm.
Real, live PGA Tour golf returns today in the form of the Taylor Made Driving Relief event, a 4-player competition that has Rickie Fowler and Matt Wolff going up against Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy. As you could likely surmise, all four players use Taylor Made products, although Fowler, truth be told, is barely a Taylor Made guy. He uses their glove and golf ball. Johnson, Wolff and McIlroy use their clubs and golf ball.
Wolff and Fowler are a team because they both went to Oklahoma State. McIlroy and Johnson are together because they've forged a bit of a personal friendship in recent years and have talked about playing together in one of the TOUR's annual "2-man" events...so this one makes sense for them.
All four players hit the ball a long way, and it's likely NBC will spend much of today focusing on the driving distances of each of them. Wolff is one of the new young hotshots on the PGA Tour, winning an event in his 4th professional tournament last July. The other three are, of course, among the most well-known golfers in the world.
When most of us normal folk stride up to the tee on a Saturday morning, someone inevitably says, "So, what's the game today?". Handicap numbers are tossed around, the money value of the match is discussed and teams are picked.
"We'll play a $10.00 nassau, 2-down automatic presses," someone will say. That's a $60 day -- win or lose -- max, unless something really wacky happens.
Today, the game is a wee bit different.
With all money going to charity, both teams will start with $500,000 in the bank. They're playing a better-ball match, so if Fowler makes a "3" on the first hole and Wolff makes a "4", their team score for that hole is "3". If McIlroy and Johnson both make "4" on #1, Fowler's team wins the hole with a "3".
Hole values will increase as the match continues: Nos. 1-6 will be worth $50,000 each, while Nos. 7-16 will be worth $100,000. The 17th hole will be worth $200,000 while No. 18 will feature a $500,000 skin.
In the event of any ties, the dollar values will carry over from hole to hole. If the 18th hole is tied and play concludes before 5:45 p.m. ET, players will head to the par-3 17th and play it from approximately 125 yards. If the teams are still tied, they would return to the 17th tee and decide the remaining skins and money by a closest-to-the-pin contest.
If play concludes after 5:45 p.m. ET and the teams remain tied, only the closest-to-the-pin option on No. 17 will be used.
Additional bonus money will be awarded for low scores, with players earning an extra $25,000 per birdie, $50,000 per eagle and $150,000 per hole-in-one or double eagle. All putts for birdies or better must be holed and won’t subject to concession, even if the putt doesn’t affect the team score.
The other big treat from today's televised action is a rare public glimpse at famed Seminole Golf Club. The ultra-private facility has never been involved in a televised event. Players and golfing enthusiasts who have been fortunate enough to play there have raved about the oceanside layout, but TV cameras have never captured any of the property or course.
Today was going to be the day. And I mean the day.
This afternoon at roughly 1:30 pm, the Calvert Hall Golf team was going to tee it up in the championship match of the MIAA A-Conference at Caves Valley.
Our opponent? Who knows? The conference had plenty of quality in 2020 and someone would have worked their way through the playoff bracket to meet up with us at Caves Valley.
But we believed we would be one of the two teams competing for the title today. And we had good reason to feel that way after a 9-3 record last season and an appearance at Caves Valley in the final, where we lost to an outstanding Loyola team, 14-7 on that third Saturday in May, which is when the championship is annually decided.
After that loss, players, parents and supporters consoled one another with a common and understandable theme: Just wait until next year!
Our 2020 team returned three All-Conference players and the #1 ranked junior in the state in his class (2022). Four of our six starters will be playing college golf this time next year, God and Covid-19 both willing.
In other words, our returning lineup was very strong and we were primed to have a great season. Granted, we still had to play quality golf in March, April and May and there would be -- as I reminded the team routinely -- plenty of ups and downs, as there were a year ago despite our outstanding campaign.
But we were going to be tough to beat in 2020. If someone beat us, they would have had to beat us. We weren't going to play soft or anything like that.
We won our first match -- a non-conference encounter vs. St. John's of D.C. -- and played very well in doing so. Then Covid-19 hit and that was the end of our season.
And in the end, guess what happened?
Next year never came around.
I mean, 2020 certainly showed up back on January 1 and a new year did indeed arrive, but the "next year" we anticipated got chopped off by the coronavirus. For us, now, next year is 2021.
We thought we'd be playing golf today at Caves Valley and instead we're wearing masks in grocery stores and praying that our family friends remain safe and healthy during this pandemic.
Over the last six weeks, we've held team ZOOM calls with the varsity golf roster and there's typically some sort of discussion point or topic that I address and ask the players in involve themselves in. We've had special guests join us as well, including 1996 British Open champion Tom Lehman, who spoke about both his golf and Christian journey with our team this past Thursday night.
Two weeks ago, I brought up the "next year" subject with the team.
"We all learned a valuable lesson in 2020," I said to them. "We had ourselves down as the team to beat this year and this year never came to fruition. And I wonder? Would we all have done anything differently last year had we known this year wasn't going to happen as we anticipated it would?"
I wanted them to seriously consider that question. Would they, as competitors and high school athletes, have prepared and/or performed any differently in 2019 if they would have known about the issues in 2020 ahead of time? I certainly gave that question a lot of thought as it related to my own coaching and decision making.
We soothed ourselves last May 18th with the knowledge that 2020 would indeed be our time to shine. We a chance to do that against Loyola and didn't play nearly well enough to win. So we looked ahead to 2020 with great enthusiasm and prepared like the dickens in January and February.
And then next year never arrived.
That's the theme of the story. This isn't really about Calvert Hall Golf. It's about doing something today. It's about seizing the moment now instead of next spring. The story is a reminder that your best intentions might in fact be good ones, but that doesn't always mean they're going to work out favorably for you.
Don't wait until next year. Get it done now.
NOTES & COMMENT
George McDowell is #DMD's foreign correspondent. His international reports are filed from a hardened outpost just across the U.S. / North Carolina border. He writes on sports topics that interest him that he feels might also interest some segment of the wildly esoteric #DMD readership. George has been a big fan of DF and his various enterprises since the last century, and for several seasons appeared as a weekly guest on his Monday evening radio show, Maryland Golf Live, delivering commentary as The Eccentric Starter. George also donates his time and talents to the less fortunate, and currently volunteers as secretary of the Rickie Fowler Fan Club.
If it’s not cloudy, the space station can be seen from Baltimore on Saturday evening (May 16). The flyover will begin at 9:38 pm EST. The station will be visible for six minutes.
To see it, find an open area and face South (compass heading 180°). Then turn right 45° (compass heading 225°). Extend your arm, make a fist, and hold it so the bottom of your fist is on the horizon, directly in front of you. The top of your fist is where the station will become visible at 9:38 pm.
If buildings or trees obstruct your vision near the horizon, you can still see the station as it appears to rise in the sky above the obstructions. Plot the course of the station: Face due North (compass heading 0°/360°). Turn right 45° (heading 045°). Sight the bottom of your fist on the horizon directly in front of you. At the top of your fist is where the station will disappear from view at 9:44 pm.
Imagine a straight line across the sky between the two points you’ve identified, and that will be the track of the station. The station will reach an altitude of 81° (an altitude of 90° is directly overhead).
Saturday’s flyover will be one of the longest times the station is visible (six minutes) and will also be one of the flyovers that appear near the highest altitude.
Today there are three people on the space station: American astronaut Christopher J. Cassidy, the aircraft commander, and Russian cosmonauts Anotoli Akelseievich Ivanishin and Ivan Viktorovich Vagner, flight engineers. They've been in space since April 9th.
You can see the feed from the station's earth-facing camera here, and listen to any communications between the station and Mission Control.
It's not often that you get reminded of how right you were...ten years later.
But this isn't about me, it's about former Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga.
I was right back on June 3, 2010, mind you. But we'll get back to that in a jiffy.
Galarraga is the guy who threw the perfect game on June 2, 2010, except first base umpire Jim Joyce blew the 27th out in the top of the 9th, calling Cleveland's Jason Donald safe at first base when it was clear he was out by a step and a half.
"Biggest call of my career and I kicked the s**t out of it," Joyce said after the game when he saw a replay of the blown call and was asked for a comment by a media pool reporter.
Even the ump couldn't hide the fact he blew the call, plain and simple.
Galarraga made a plea this week to have Major League Baseball turn back the clock and award him a perfect game for his performance on June 2, 2010. He wants, essentially, for baseball to act like the Joyce bad-call never happened. He'd like credit for the perfect game because, he believes, he earned it.
Here's the deal. Galarraga is right. He's not sort-of right or "right, but you know...". He's right. Period. All the way right.
And here's what makes his case open and shut easy. The very next batter made the 27th and final out. It wasn't like the blown call happened in the 4th inning. It happened in the top of the 9th, with two outs. Granted, the circumstances were eerily unique. But they were so unique that MLB should do the right thing and recognize Galarraga for his perfect game.
Now here's where we get to the point of my reward, ten years later.
I went on the air the very next morning -- a Thursday, it was -- and howled at the moon about the blown call that robbed Galarraga of the perfect game. And I gave a solution, all the way back on June 3, 2010.
"This is so easy a Flyers fan could think it up," I said that morning. "Major League Baseball should recognize last night's performance as a perfect game, because it was. Just give the guy his perfect game. Send his hat, glove and shoes to Cooperstown or whatever it is that they do when a guy throws a perfect game and put him in the record books for a perfect game. Easy enough."
It wasn't that easy then, sadly, and it's still not. Baseball nerds scream "you can't rewrite history" even though they turn around in the next breath and act like Roger Clemens, A-Rod and Barry Bonds didn't exist.
"If you do that for Galarraga, you have to go back and look at other perfect games that were lost in the ----"
Just stop, please. Shut up. You do not have to go back and look at any other games. You have this very specific event that happened with these unique circumstances where the last out of the game was goofed up by the first base umpire and his mistake -- by his own admission -- cost a pitcher a perfect game.
And perhaps the best reason of all to award Galarraga his perfect place in baseball history lies in this question: What's it going to hurt if you do it?
Seriously...what's it going to hurt if MLB makes a decision to honor Galarraga's request? Please don't say "It sets a precedent" and act like that really matters. This is baseball, not criminal reform, anti-trust or something else that impacts our country. It's just baseball.
So just correct the error and give the guy his perfect game.
It was the right thing to do ten years ago and it's still the right thing to do now.
A dummy could figure it out.
You just knew someone was going to say it.
There was just no way an athlete couldn't put his or her foot in their mouth during this Covid-19 crisis. Predictably, it was a baseball player, he of the multi-year guaranteed salary that's paid out no matter the performance or accomplishments.
Earlier this week as word leaked out that Major League Baseball owners were set to put a proposal in front of the players for a shortened 2020 season, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell reacted to the prospect of the players being asked to take a paycut due in part to teams not being able to host fans in the stadium(s) later this summer and fall.
"Y'all gotta understand, man, for me to go -- for me to take a pay cut is not happening, because the risk is through the roof," Snell said while answering questions on his Twitch channel. "It's a shorter season, less pay."
Snell was set to make $7 million in 2020.
"No, I gotta get my money. I'm not playing unless I get mine, OK? And that's just the way it is for me. Like, I'm sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way the hell higher and the amount of money I'm making is way lower. Why would I think about doing that?"
He kept going. "Bro, I'm risking my life," Snell said. "What do you mean it should not be a thing? It should 100% be a thing. If I'm gonna play, I should be getting the money I signed to be getting paid. I should not be getting half of what I'm getting paid because the season's cut in half, on top of a 33% cut of the half that's already there -- so I'm really getting, like, 25%. On top of that, it's getting taxed. So imagine how much I'm actually making to play, you know what I'm saying?"
Now we know why Blake Snell became a baseball player and not a doctor, nurse or police officer. Risk is not something he'd do well dealing with on a regular basis, it seems.
Snell later came back a couple of days later and tried to soften his stance, presumably after being told by people smarter than him how terrible his position looked. His follow-up stance was that it was more about the dangers of Covid-19 and being away from his family and less about the actual concept of taking less money.
That, of course, just made it all worse and really did nothing except strengthen the thought that Snell's original commentary was what was really in his heart.
If, in a perfect world, baseball players wouldn't have had to take a salary reduction in 2020 and Snell could have pitched in a Covid-19 environment, he apparently would have been doing it as long as he got his $7 million (taxed and all, poor soul).
But what he won't do is take a paycut to pitch in a Covid-19 environment.
So it very much is about the money.
That is, unless Blake Snell has somehow figured out that his life and health are worth, say, roughly $3 million or so.
At $7 million, he'd pitch in Covid-19 conditions.
But not at half that he won't.
You see how it all pans out?
Snell will take the risk for $7 million. Suddenly, he's not all that worried about the dangers of the coronavirus. But he starts to get nervous about Covid-19 if he has to take a paycut.
Either pitch in Covid-19 conditions or don't. And, it's important to note -- at least to me -- that it would be perfectly understandable if a player comes along and just says, "Hey, look, I know this might not be a great thing in a team sport, but I'm not playing this summer (fall) while Covid-19 is still out there and still a health risk. Once there's a vaccine, I'll jump back in and play again."
What's not understandable is........Blake Snell.
There's a real, live sporting competition going on this week in the United States.
It's so real, you can even bet on it. No, I honestly didn't. But I could have gone to Draft Kings and selected a 6-man team and won or lost money based on golfers like Carson Roberts, Brad Hopfinger, Dylan Wu and John Greco.
I know what you're thinking. "Who the heck are those guys?"
They're part of the 162-man field at the Scottsdale Open, which is not a fly-by-night even taking (loosely) advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic. It's now in its 4th year, routinely drawing some of Arizona's best young professionals, mini-tour players and veteran scrappers who want to see how their game stacks up under the gun.
This year's event is a little different, though. A handful of PGA Tour regulars showed up for the 54-hole event, lured by both the smell of competition and the $20,000 first-place check.
Through the world of Twitter, I came in contact with a guy out of Chicago who focuses solely on Monday qualifiers and mini-tour golfers. His Twitter account -- Monday Q Info -- is a favorite of golf junkies like me who are (strangely?) interested to know what happened on the final day of the Dakotas Tour event. Anyone can write about the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head. But Monday Q Info (Twitter handle: acaseofthegolf1) tells you what happened at the qualifying event where four guys beat a supremely talented field just to make the actual tournament itself.
Anyway, Monday Q Info came along last Friday and posted a note on Twitter asking for help. He was interested in live-streaming this week's Scottsdale Open and was putting the pieces together. He was purchasing equipment to video the action and was working hard behind the scenes to create a format on the streaming platform Twitch so that he could "air" this week's tournament to all of those golf-starved crazies out there.
What he also needed were sponsors.
It's not a $100,000 undertaking or anything like that. Heck, half of our kids are "streaming" live content these days (scary, I know) and we're probably not even aware of how they go about doing it.
But there was still a financial component to the whole process and @acaseofthegolf1 wanted some help making ends meet.
And since I'm a sucker for those dreamers who play the mini-tours and I love seeing no-names go up against the big boys, I reached out to the man behind Monday Q Info and struck a deal.
So, for the last two days, and again today, Drew's Morning Dish, all the way on the East Coast in Baltimore, is a proud sponsor of the live stream of the 2020 Scottsdale Open.
And wouldn't you just know it, we have ourselves an awesome final day leaderboard later this afternoon, with PGA Tour regular and pre-tournament favorite Joel Dahmen one shot out of the lead at 12-under par. Carson Roberts, who shot a course-record 61 on Wednesday, is the 36-hole leader at 13-under.
Roberts is the perfect dreamer for this kind of mini-tour spectacle. He missed the cut in all six starts last year on the Canadian Tour, but he has stayed busy during the coronavirus pandemic by playing in Arizona on the Outlaw Tour, including a six-shot win in early April when he shot 23 under for 54 holes.
And Carson Roberts is the very reason why I plunked down some money to sponsor the live stream of this week's Scottsdale Open. His parents, friends and golfing companions can sit by their computer or television today and watch him play golf, sans Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo calling the action, of course.
If Joel Dahmen wins today, good for him and ho-hum indeed. He's on the PGA Tour and he's made roughly $5.5 million out there. $20,000 to him is like $200 to you and I. But Carson Roberts? $20,000 would go a long way for a grinding dreamer who thinks he has the game but needs to beat quality players to prove it. $20k won't change his life, but it sure will change his summer of 2020. And a win at the Scottsdale Open likely won't change his career, but it will change the way he thinks about himself tomorrow morning.
At various stages of my golfing life, I've been prone to dreaming and teeing it up in events where I got to compete against PGA Tour players to see how my game stacked up. I found out, like a lot of people do, that it doesn't stack up quite as well as I would have liked.
Over the years, I've lost to obscure TOUR players like Jeff Brehaut, Brian Claar, John "Jumbo" Elliott, Dave Rummells and Greg Lesher, the pride of Lancaster, PA. Losing to them wasn't a big deal but competing against them sure was. As Springsteen says in his song The River, "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?"
But you never know how good you are at anything, golf included, if you don't measure yourself against those of higher quality. And that's why a lot of those guys in the 162-player field plunked down $895 to enter this week's event. (Yes, you read it right. $895. And that's if you got the early bird special.) They wanted to see how they measured up.
Oh, and the other thing that attracted me to sponsoring the live-stream? The guy doing it, the man behind the Twitter handle @acaseofthegolf1 -- he's a dreamer, too. He thought this up. He put it out there as something worthwhile, not knowing if anyone would care enough to watch the Scottsdale Open, let alone sponsor his live stream idea. I've always loved dreamers.
So if you're looking for live golf to watch today, you will find it starting at 12:42 pm EDT right here: Twitch.TV/MondayQInfo
"The Keen Eye" of
Eddie Murray, a switch hitter who is one of only six players in Major League history to record 3,000 hits and 500 home runs (and without steroids, I’d say), is the best player to have worn an Oriole uniform during my lifetime.
Cal Ripken was not only a great player but also the baseball hero of my generation, a local boy turned international legend who made us proud to be fans of the Orioles.
Mike Mussina had a bit of genius in him, and not just because he went to Stanford. Even now, after a Hall of Fame induction, I still think he’s underrated. The young Manny Machado was, in my opinion, the most talented player I’ve seen in an Orioles uniform—though if he joins those others in the Hall of Fame, he’ll do it while playing the prime of his career somewhere else.
I appreciate all of them, and certainly wish that the others could have joined Ripken as lifetime Orioles. I think any grand criticism of them—whether contemporaneous or in retrospect—is sort of silly.
None of them is my favorite Oriole, though. Adam Jones is.
It’s been noted here recently from the “contest” on these pages that Jones isn’t making the Hall of Fame, as his star quality ranks a few rungs below that. I’ll note here now that Jones is hardly an “unsung” player either. He started almost every game in centerfield when healthy for 11 seasons and earned five trips to the All-Star Game.
Usually our favorites fall into one of those two categories, right? The best of the best, and the ones that sneak under the radar. Jones was neither. And yet, he had something different…
He really, truly gave a sh**.
I know what you’re saying. Didn’t J.J. Hardy really care, too? How about Zach(k) Britton and Matt Wieters, Jonathan Schoop and Nick Markakis? Heck, what about Hanser Alberto and Renato Nuñez and whatever questionable Major League talent resides on this year’s team. Sure, all of them want to win, and I’m sure all of them didn’t make it to the Majors on their talent alone.
I’m not casting aspersions on any of them. I’m not even casting aspersions on players who probably deserve the criticism. I’m just saying that Jones was different. You could tell just by watching, or you could just listen to people talk about him.
Like Buck Showalter, for instance, when he remembered Nelson Cruz’s (very important) arrival in Baltimore for the 2014 season. “Nelson had figured out some shortcuts when he got to us,” said Showalter, “but the first day, we did some serious drills. He kind of asked, ‘We do this on the first day? Don’t we get some time to ease into it?’ Adam said, “we don’t do things that way here.”
Cruz, unfortunately, played only one year in Baltimore. Before he signed that one-year deal here, he had success with Texas teams that reached the World Series in consecutive years. Since he’s been gone, he’s played at an even higher level than before, an All-Star level. At the age of 39, playing for the Twins last season, he had 41 home runs in only 120 games.
He doesn’t need to be around Adam Jones to be successful, but I’d bet that the one season he played with Jones gave him a push to become the player he is. Cruz was at a career crossroads, and the Orioles, led by Jones, gave him a chance to show who he could be as a player.
Was Adam Jones always that much of a pain in the ass to other players? Of course not. He was just different than they were, and he knew it. In 2015, Jones said that “I’m not real vocal in the clubhouse because everyone is having fun in there, but no one is ever going to come to me and say ‘hey, you don’t hustle,” because I know I did.”
It’s true. Who knows how many times Adam Jones grounded out to the shortstop in his 11 seasons as an Oriole, but I do know that Jones ran hard to first base on 100 percent of those easy three-hoppers. Did Jones swing at way too many balls in the dirt? Absolutely. Did he ever stand there in frustration at the plate on a third strike when the pitch got away from the catcher? I doubt it.
Now…if you’ve read this space before, in particular on the subject of Machado, you know that not running hard all the time doesn’t mean you should be taken back into the clubhouse and given a daily flogging. As I’ve noted, there’s more to being a hard worker and a good teammate than the result of any one play on the field.
But I’ll tell you what…it sure doesn’t hurt, especially when it’s the real kind of hustle…not the kind that has you diving into the stands for balls that are clearly 30 rows into the seats. Adam Jones played that way because he didn’t know any different, not because he was looking to impress you or give off some kind of image. He was too honest to be that way.
And then there was the end of Jones’ time as an Oriole, when he was playing out the final year of his big contract on a team that finished with one of the worst records in Major League history. People—including plenty of fans who loved him—didn’t quite understand his motivation in refusing a trade to the Phillies. They felt that he was slowing the rebuilding process, or maybe didn’t quite understand why a player who’d had plenty of recent playoff experience wasn’t interested in another shot at the postseason.
In retrospect, it made more sense to me. Yes, Adam Jones cared about making the playoffs. He did it three times in a five-year span in Baltimore, helping to end a 14-year string of futility for team. But there was more to it for him than that.
He cared about the players who came before him—in some cases many years before him—who walked picket lines so he could have options as a veteran player with so much service time. He was clearly at peace with his decision, which is all anyone can ask of a player. When a host of his teammates were traded, he never wavered in his preparation for that day’s game. “Just because you don’t get the necessary results,” he said after a July game in New York, “doesn’t mean you’re not trying.”
Adam Jones is a terribly imperfect player, isn’t he? He’s had more than 7,500 plate appearances in the Major Leagues and has a grand total of 340 walks, a number that’s almost comically low. The end-all and be-all of this era is on-base percentage, and Jones has a .317 career OBP, about the same as Chris Davis, who has twice had more than 200 strikeouts in a season. His defensive abilities were simply above average as opposed to spectacular, Gold Gloves or not. And his 2018 decision wasn’t necessarily in his best interest.
What he was, however, was the real thing. The Orioles have been lucky to have better players than Adam Jones, but I’d take him over anybody in that way.
I always wondered why Adam Jones used Tupac's "California Love" for his walk-up music at Camden Yards. How much more appropriate could "Mr. Jones" by the Counting Crows be, after all?
In any case, our battle for the 4th and final spot on Baltimore's Mount Rushmore of Non-Hall-of-Famers came down to the final 15 minutes yesterday. After six hours of voting, nothing was decided at 5:45 pm. Jones and Art Modell both had 50% of the tally.
But in those final 15 minutes, the bottom of the 9th inning, if you will, Jones pulled away and was able to win the voting, 51% to 49%.
So our week-long project concludes by placing these four men up on our Mount Rushmore -- Joe Flacco, John Harbaugh, Brian Billick and Adam Jones.
Modell, sadly, fails yet again to earn a spot in a place where he would be recognized for his contributions.
That he came close to losing a couple of times in the preliminary rounds -- including once to Juan Dixon -- showed just how much Modell remains a polarizing figure in Baltimore (unless a bunch of people in Cleveland suddenly found #DMD and started voting against him and my quick check of our geographic data showed that didn't happen).
For the record, Modell was one of my personal final four picks. He would have joined Harbaugh, Billick and ------- Adam Jones.
So, yes, Joe Flacco would have been the odd guy out in my personal Mount Rushmore of Non-Hall-of-Famers. Allow me to explain.
I'm a big believer in "culture" when it comes to sports. I believe teams, programs and organizations with the best culture are the ones who are most successful in the long run.
Art Modell didn't just change the Ravens' culture. He brought the team here in 1996. He made it possible for Baltimore to have football, let alone a football "culture". I can't think of anything more important than that when it comes to Baltimore sports in the last 25 years. If Art Modell would have moved the Browns to, say, San Antonio, we might still be watching the Redskins, Dolphins and Steelers on Sunday afternoons here in Baltimore.
To that end, I believe both coaches -- Billick and Harbaugh -- changed the culture of the on-field product when they arrived. Yes, both coaches had Ray Lewis. But both of those men inherited a team that was floating along without much direction and quickly turned them into championship contenders.
And Jones became a central figure in the on-field turnaround of the Orioles, who were among the most miserable teams in all of sports -- not just baseball -- throughout the decade of 2000-2010. Buck Showalter's arrival might have been the final piece of the puzzle for the O's, but it was Jones who was the leader and the driving force behind a massive culture change at Camden Yards.
The voters in our project obviously thought differently, as Flacco cruised through the preliminary rounds with no losses while Jones had to beat Modell in a tight playoff battle to earn his spot among the final four.
I didn't go with Flacco because I thought his full body of work was somewhat exaggerated by his performance in the 2013 playoffs. And I'm not sure Joe was ever the real "leader" we expect most championship quarterbacks to be or become.
And remember, by and large I'm a Joe Flacco fan. I'm just a bigger fan of Adam Jones.
Oh, and it's also very fair to note that I'm pro-coach, pro-owner and very much pro-Adam Jones. As it turned out, that's ultimately where my four votes went.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to participate in the voting process. It was an interesting week of sports reflection in these parts.
This was not the news sports fans wanted to hear and read on Tuesday.
While the state of California gently unveils its re-opening plan, Los Angeles County announced yesterday they will not be lifting restrictions anytime soon, indicating it could be "well into the summer" before they lift the stay-at-home order that's currently in place.
Additionally, California State University - with 23 campuses in and around L.A. and throughout the state - announced yesterday they will not offer on-campus classes in the fall due to Covid-19.
That naturally left people wondering about fall sports at Cal State University Los Angeles. "How can you play sports when the kids aren't allowed on campus?" is an obvious question.
So, while California State University isn't the University of Alabama or Michigan or Florida State, there are some fairly big schools in Los Angeles, you might remember. What if Southern California and UCLA both decide to follow Cal State and not offer on-campus learning in September? What happens to football and other fall sports at those two schools?
It only takes one college to get the ball rolling and California State University rolled it out there yesterday.
Stories are already circulating about Southern Cal and UCLA looking at a spring football schedule, with the Trojans -- rumor has it -- already informing Alabama they will not be able to make the trip to Dallas for the September 5th game witht the Crimson Tide.
And if the Trojans and Bruins decide to try and play a spring schedule, what happens to the PAC-12 in 2020? Would they forge ahead without their two most prominent members or would they move their entire football schedule to spring 2021?
You know where this is heading...
If the PAC-12 moves their schedule, won't the Big 12 consider the same thing? And if the PAC-12 and Big 12 shift to a spring schedule, would the SEC and Big 10 follow suit? There's no telling, of course. Perhaps it's just the PAC 12 who shifts and the others try and make a go of it in the fall. But what happens if August rolls around and another burst of Covid-19 comes along in the United States?
Or, even worse from a college sports standpoint, what if your school and/or conference cobbles together a fall schedule and then the second wave of Covid-19 disables the country in, say, October?
Sure, it's only May 13, but colleges have to be ready to take student-athletes in three months from now. Really, it's more like 10 weeks away. Are schools really going to be fully comfortable having hundreds of kids in tightly-packed dorms and on-campus apartments on August 1st? It sure doesn't feel like it.
Major League Baseball and the NFL are fighting the same fight, of course. Baseball wants to start playing games on July 1st or thereabouts. That's not 10 weeks away...it's roughly six. And while the NFL just assumes they can play games in September without much lead-time or training camp, what happened to all of that discussion about "player safety" and making sure players are fully prepared for the rigors of the 16-game NFL schedule?
The guess here is that colleges are going to largely dictate how fall sports are handled. If Southern Cal and UCLA can't play college football in Los Angeles because of Covid-19 concerns, how are the Chargers and Rams going to play at the same time, in virtually the same neighborhoods?
And if the Rams, Chargers and L.A. based colleges can't play, how can the Dodgers and Angels play?
It only takes one to get the ball rolling...
With most of the US and Europe in various stages of lockdown for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, professional sports have been virtually non-existent.
The major American sports leagues are still assessing the best options for returning in the coming months with no definitive timetable yet. For those of us sorely missing live sports, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Last Saturday the UFC returned with a pay-per-view event.
This weekend brings the return of one of the first major sports leagues in Europe as the German Bundesliga resumes matches. Whether you are a fan of European soccer or just a sports fan craving some live games, the Bundesliga will provide an outlet this weekend. Here is a review of the state of the Bundesliga upon its return as well as some American players to watch.
The Bundesliga title race was one of the closest of all the European leagues this season with three teams still in the hunt when the league shut down. Bayern Munich hold a four point advantage over 2nd place Borussia Dortmund and five point advantage over 3rd place RB Leipzig.
Bayern got off to a slow start in the fall but was playing as well as any team in Europe before the shutdown. They will be hard to catch, but with nine matches remaining, including one head to head matchup between Bayern and Dortmund, the title is still up for grabs.
Ever since Christian Pulisic became a sensation for Borussia Dortmund a few years back, the Bundesliga has become a destination for top American players in Europe.
Three of the most important current USMNT starters play in the German league. Tyler Adams is a key player in the midfield for RB Leipzig. When healthy, Adams has been a regular starter for the 3rd place side and should see plenty of minutes to close out the season.
Weston McKennie has been at Schalke for several seasons and has earned a regular starting spot. His athleticism and hustle have enabled him to play all over the field wherever Schalke has needed him.
John Brooks has been an anchor in the center of defense for several years for both the USMNT and his club Wolfsburg.
Perhaps the most exciting American in the Bundesliga is Giovanni Reyna. The 17 year old wunderkind was on a meteoric rise for Borussia Dortmund before the league shut down. Earning consistent sub appearances in both the Bundesliga and Champions League and even providing an assist against Paris St. Germain in one of the last Champions League games played. Reyna seems poised to earn his first career start for Dortmund as they try to catch Bayern in the title race.
Among the other Americans to keep an eye out for, 20 year old Josh Sargent will continue to try to earn a consistent starting spot for Werder Bremen, 19 year old Ulysses Llanez is close to a call up to the first team for Wolfsburg, and Zack Steffen is a mainstay at GK for Fortuna Dusseldorf along with veteran CM Alfredo Morales. All of these players will likely be important contributors for the USMNT when 2020 World Cup qualifying begins this fall or winter.
The Bundesliga return this weekend kicks off with a bang.
The first game back will feature one of the biggest rivalries in the league with Borussia Dortmund hosting Schalke in the Ruhr derby. They will kick off at 9:30am Saturday on FS1 and this game will feature Weston McKennie and Giovanni Reyna as Dortmund tries to beat their rival and keep Bayern Munich within arms length for the title.
In addition to the USMNT stars, Dortmund features two of the best young players in the world in Jadon Sancho and Erling Haland..
The other notable games this weekend are RB Leipzig (Tyler Adams) vs SC Freiburg at 9:30am Saturday on FS2 and Union Berlin vs Bayern Munich at 12:00pm Sunday on FS1. RB Leipzig, lead by one of the top young coaches in Europe, Julian Nagelsmann, feature a high energy pressing strategy that can suffocate opponents.
Bayern Munich has an embarrassing wealth of talent headlined by one of the top strikers in Europe, Robert Lewandowski.
Both Leipzig and Bayern will be heavy favorites but the unprecedented nature of the return from a midseason shutdown could make the games a bit more unpredictable. It may not be the NBA, MLB, or PGA, but with a close title race and bounty of American talent the Bundesliga is worth tuning into for a live sports fix.
About the contributor: Randy Morgan was born and raised in the Baltimore area graduating from Dulaney HS and then University of Maryland. His day job is software development. He's an avid sports watcher and recreational participant. A devoted Ravens, Orioles and U.S. soccer supporter. he also follows many soccer leagues around the world as well as the NBA and college basketball. Randy played soccer, basketball, and baseball growing up and still plays soccer and basketball recreationally as well as the occasional round of golf. His commentary on mostly sports, but sometimes music and other miscellany can be found on twitter @jrmorgan16.
We're down to the final spot.
Our Baltimore Sports Mount Rushmore of Non-Hall-of-Famers has three of its four selections in the books. Two of them are no surprise at all; John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco. Brian Billick might be the only mild surprise, but the coach cruised through the four qualifying rounds without a blemish on his record. Harbaugh, Flacco and Billick were the only contestants to not lose one time throughout the competition.
And when the dust settled yesterday and everyone else had been eliminated, the two guys left standing were original Ravens owner Art Modell and former Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones.
So they'll face one another today in a playoff to determine who gets the fourth and final spot on our Mount Rushmore.
A victory for Modell would make it a clean Ravens sweep, which seems almost unfair. But then you remember two important parts about the competition; the Orioles have more Hall of Famers, so by that fact alone they figured to have fewer viable candidates for the final four. And over the last 25 years, the Ravens have won two Super Bowls and been, for the most part, one of the NFL's most consistent on-field teams while the Orioles haven't been to a World Series in that time and made only three playoff appearances overall since 1995.
In other words, there are far more Ravens available than Orioles.
I'd like to tell you what my personal final four is, but I vowed to hold off on that until the project is complete, which will be later today. We'll close the voting at 6 pm.
Modell is, as I noted yesterday, the most polarizing figure remaining. There are people who see him as a savior of sorts in Baltimore, the man who gave us football again back in 1995 after a decade-plus without it. In some ways, he could never do wrong again in our town. But others look at him as a man who seized a charitable opportunity after Baltimore lost out on expansion efforts, with some backroom rumors having Modell as a main character in a complicated plot to keep expansion away from Charm City so he could swoop in later and snag a sweetheart deal for himself.
Jones came to Baltimore in the 2008 trade that sent Eric Bedard to the Mariners in exchange for five prospects. One of those prospects was a young major leaguer named Adam Jones, who stepped into center field shortly thereafter and never looked back. He spent 11 seasons in Baltimore, playing in five All-Star Games and helping the Orioles to playoff appearances in 2012, 2014 and 2016. In addition to his on-field play, Jones became a valuable member of the community and will go down as one of Charm City's most popular athletes in part because of his relationship with the fans.
So here we go. Three men are in and one spot remains.
Who gets that final position on our Mount Rushmore?
You can vote below in the Comments section or via Twitter today. My Twitter handle is: @itsahooded4iron
Sometime today, I'm sure we'll hear some early, first-blush reaction from Major League Baseball players once they see the owner-approved proposal for a truncated 2020 baseball season.
Here's what has been leaked thus far: The season will be 82 games. Teams will play only their divisional rivals plus a handful of games against teams within their geographic location from the other league. It's anticipated, for example, that the Orioles will also play the Nationals and Phillies in addition to the four other A.L. East teams.
There will be "expanded" playoffs, whatever that means. One thought is the team with the best record in each league receives a first-round bye and then eight other teams make the playoffs, with teams #8 and #9 (record wise) playing a one-game wild card contest to establish the eight "full" teams who make the post-season. Heck, if they'd just allow 15 teams from each league to qualify for the post-season, the O's might actually make it, even.
The earlier rumors about teams choosing their first-round playoff opponent seems to have been cast aside, at least for now.
Reports also say teams will have more "off" days in the 3-month schedule that begins around July 4th, but they'll also play two or three doubleheaders per-month.
And, last but not least, here's the big news. The owners want the players to take a "reduction in salary" based on the fact that the games are likely to be played in empty stadiums. If you're looking for the lingo we're more used to hearing, "reduction in salary" is also commonly referred to as "pay cut".
Yep...the owners want the players to take a pay cut.
But wait, didn't the players already do that once? Well, yes, sort of.
Back in March, after spring training was canceled and the regular season was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Major League Baseball and the MLBPA reached an agreement over pay for the 2020 season. The specifics:
The league would advance the players a lump sum payment of $170 million which players would divide amongst themselves via means they determine appropriate;
If there is no season, the players get to keep that money but do not get any more; but
If the season is played, players will receive their salaries on a pro-rata basis based on the number of games played. Presumably, whatever the player got out of that $170 million will be backed out of that since it was characterized as an “advance.”
Now that it's apparent there will be no fans in the seats (presumably for the entire season), the owners are offering a new, scaled-down proposal in order to move forward. They're asking the players to take a percentage of whatever revenues there are in 2020.
Apparently, the 30 teams can't stay alive just on their television money. That's what they're saying to the players, anyway. And they're asking the players to pick up the slack to the tune, potentially, of 33% or so in the 2020 campaign.
If your team's payroll is $100 million and it suddenly becomes $66 million, that $33 million windfall makes up for the fact that the team couldn't host 25,000 fans per-game, 81 times, at $25.00 average ticket price. For the Flyers fans out there who are calculator-challenged, that's roughly $50 million in ticket revenue.
So, you can see where a team like the Orioles would be nervous about playing in front of no fans. (Insert your joke here -- "they should be used to that in Baltimore").
Even with an average attendance of only 16,347 in 2019, the team still generated nearly $40 million in ticket revenue (81 games x $29.00 avg price x 16,347 per-game). If they don't play home games with fans in the seats in 2020, where are the Orioles going to make up that $40 million shortfall? Answer: from the players.
The MLB Player's Association is likely to say "no" to the proposal. Why? Because that's just what they do in times like this. There's no sense in saying "yes" right away. It's May 12. The season is projected to start in roughly 7 weeks. There's plenty of time to bargain and negotiate.
The owners are going to remind the players they already gave them $170 million back in March to divide amongst themselves. And that was a kind gesture, for certain.
But the question isn't "What's the final agreement going to look like?". The question is "Should the players take a paycut to go back to work and possibly put themselves at risk, health wise?"
Despite what we all think about baseball and sports in general, they are not "essential". Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw and Christian Yelich don't have to report back to work in July and they're going to be just fine. What's more important to them? Playing baseball or surviving Covid-19?
This is a case where, oddly enough, baseball would almost have to lure the players back with something better than they already have in order to have it make sense for them.
"Let me think about this...you're asking me to go back to work and into a potentially dangerous health situation AND you're cutting my salary? Gee, that seems so fair..."
Maybe I'm wrong here, but if I'm the MLBPA, I'm asking for 10% hazard pay bonus across the board instead of a 33% paycut. Now we're talking...
We're now down to the final 7 candidates in our-made-for-TV project, the Baltimore Sports Mount Rushmore of Non-Hall-of-Famers.
ESPN has The Last Dance and #DMD has this contest...we all have ratings to keep, ya know?
You could say we're now down to the nitty gritty. There have been a few upsets -- you might call them "head scratchers" -- along the way. How Mike Curtis is out and Bert Jones is still in is a little strange. Juan Dixon is still "in" but Todd Heap and Matt Stover are both "out". I say that's also kind of odd.
But here we are, working our way through the initial list of 12 finalists, en route to the prestigious final four.
For the record, here's who we've eliminated thus far in the voting that has taken place over the last four days: Curtis, McNally, Heap, Stover and Rick Dempsey.
In order to be fully eliminated, you must lose two voting rounds. By "lose", we mean you have to receive the highest number of votes from people who want you eliminated.
Our list of final seven remaining candidates is below, along with the number of voting rounds they've lost.
John Harbaugh (0), Brian Billick (0), Art Modell (1), Joe Flacco (0), Adam Jones (1), Bert Jones (1), Juan Dixon (1).
By the end of today, we'll hopefully be down to the final five.
The most interesting dilemma of all appears to be Arthur B. Modell, who has already lost once and came narrowly close to losing a second time before escaping with a TWO-VOTE win (in a 155-vote count) over Juan Dixon in yesterday's Round 10. Oddly, Modell then stayed alive last night in Round 14 when Adam Jones suffered his first loss of the contest.
Weird...Modell almost lost to Juan Dixon, then beat Adam Jones.
Understanding that the voting process is not an exact science might very well be the best explanation for some of the voting oddities. I'm good with that. I'm not an expert at this, by any means.
But there's no doubt that the former Ravens owner is the most polarizing figure still left in the competition. Some people love him for bringing the Browns to Baltimore, yet others vilify him for what they perceive his role to have been in denying Charm City an expansion team in the early 1990s.
Here's one note on Modell I'll share just because...
If you would have ever met him, there's almost no way you would vote against him in this competition. I've met a lot of people in my 57 years, but few have been as warm and knock-your-socks-off-with-their-congeniality as Modell was on the three or four times I happened to be in close company with him.
I'm not campaigning for Art here in any way. By the grace of God I've met six of the seven men who remain alive in the competition, Bert Jones being the only exception. I've had very limited interaction with Juan Dixon, moderate interaction with Adam Jones and extensive opportunities to interact with Flacco, Harbaugh and Billick.
I pretty much don't have a bad story or bad thought about any of them. Even during my days on the radio when the station was at odds with the Orioles, Jones was always professional with me.
But this isn't about "personality". It's about what they did for Baltimore sports. And all seven of the remaining people made indelible impacts on Baltimore and Maryland while they rose to their respective heights.
Modell, though, definitely has the most baggage.
And it's been interesting to read the Comments, both here and on Twitter, from folks who believe he doesn't belong on the list. You would think the guy who brought football back to Baltimore would be revered in a way that would make him a slam-dunk in something like this project we're overseeing.
Modell's anything but a slam dunk.
Here are today's "early rounds". For those who want to vote via Twitter in every round, follow me here: @itsahooded4iron
Round 15 -- Juan Dixon, Adam Jones, Brian Billick
Round 16 -- Art Modell, Joe Flacco, Bert Jones
By virtue of a blind draw of those with zero losses thus far, John Harbaugh received a "bye" in these two rounds. He'll be first-up in Round 17 against the low-vote-getter from the first two rounds.
"The Keen Eye" of
We did it, Maryland. We heard Gov. Larry Hogan’s words last Wednesday, and for a second we didn’t believe they were true. But golf courses really were going to be open the next day, and I finally saw it with my own eyes and clubs on Sunday. I’ll have you know I made an easy par on the opening par-4, a 360-yard hole that has to be the easiest first hole in the world. A par is a par, I say.
I’m not even sure how I got on the club’s email list, but I actually received an interesting email from Worthington Manor Golf Club out in Urbana, Frederick County. It came maybe four hours before Hogan’s Wednesday announcement, and it was quite the statement, signed by the course’s owner.
I’ll paraphrase the message. We’re opening tomorrow (Thursday), no matter what the Governor says. We’ve called his office. We’ve emailed his office. We’ve stood outside the State House practicing chipping six feet apart. We’ve sent old-school smoke signals. We’ve gotten nothing, we aren’t getting any guidance, and we’re gonna do what we want. See you tomorrow.
In retrospect, the club must have known that Hogan would “open up” certain outdoor recreational activities when he stood at the podium several hours later, as if they had some inside information, no matter what the sternly-worded email said. And while it may have been true that Worthington Manor hadn’t gotten a call back from anyone, the golf industry itself had been heavily lobbying Hogan for a reopening “ok,” according to news reports.
It wouldn’t be out of the question that a small businessman would use the few hours he had before the announcement to make a bold statement that HE is there for his customers, no matter what other course operators and local governments are saying. He doesn’t care what The Man is doing to keep he and his golfers down, and he’s for freedom and the American way.
Anyway, I really do think that golf is a safe activity with proper distancing between players. COVID-19 isn’t airborne following the wind through the trees at your local course, and there’s evidence the virus does poorly in direct sunlight. I wouldn’t be surprised if the restrictions and policy changes we’re seeing now last a little longer than course operators would like, but changes to the normal will take a while all over the place.
Much was made last year of the Ravens’ “alternating” schedule that lasted all 16 games. Away then home, away then home, repeated six more times through Week 17. Little did we know that the NFL would do it again for the first half of the Ravens’ 2020 season, though this time starting at home against the Browns Sept. 13 (maybe).
When the Ravens visit Foxboro to play the Brady-less New England Patriots on the night of Nov. 15, it’ll mark their first two-game road swing since early December 2018, when they visited Atlanta and Kansas City in consecutive weeks. And when John Harbaugh’s team plays host to the New York (football) Giants two days after Christmas, it’ll be the team’s first two-game home swing in regular-season games since November 2018.
Much has already been made about the fact that the Ravens have the “easiest” schedule in the league in 2020, based on the average 2019 winning percentage of their opponents. I don’t put too much stock in that; NFL rosters turn over quite a bit even from year-to-year, and the Ravens (as well as the Browns and Steelers) happen to be playing two games next year against the only NFL squad to win only two games last season. You could also argue that playing the “mediocre” NFC East won’t be that easy, because both the Cowboys and Eagles have the talent to be great teams even if their 2019 records didn’t show that.
On the Lamar Jackson front, there are 24 games on film now, including two playoff losses, so there aren’t any secrets. Still, those NFC East teams will be facing the 2019 MVP for the first time. The same can be said for both Jacksonville and Indianapolis. So you heard it here first—the Ravens will win at least six games next year.
On a more personal front, I don’t like primetime games, and the Ravens have five of them on the schedule, which was to be expected. Three will occur consecutively late in the season—at Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving, at home against Dallas a week later and on the road against the Browns on Monday Night Football 11 days later. The Pittsburgh game, though it’s being played on Thursday, is a part of the NBC “Sunday Night Football” package, but there’s no chance it will be moved with the Ravens also scheduled for Thursday the following week.
This columnist doesn’t miss baseball stadiums with 30,000 people (insert Orioles joke here) as much as he does family dinners with 12 people. This columnist wouldn’t miss that Ravens’ Thanksgiving night game at Heinz Field as much as he would his family’s Thanksgiving feast earlier that day. And this columnist wouldn’t miss his time at college athletic events in the fall as much as he’d feel bad for the athletes who aren’t getting to play, especially the ones in their last year.
Those small-ish family get-togethers for things like birthdays are more important than the Orioles’ game, despite all the time my late father used to spend at them wondering what was happening in the Orioles’ game. Those bigger parties with a larger group for holidays are more important than the football games that are showing on television in the background. And those college events ranging from football to volleyball to cross country aren’t as important as the health and welfare of the young men and women who get to play them.
That’s what makes the lack of big-time spectator sports, or even those games that count as big-time in smaller towns across America, not that big of a deal for me. The more important events are going to come back first, and those are the ones we need.
I get it…the Orioles…yes even the Orioles, are really important to people in ways that aren’t necessarily shown by attendance at the ballpark or even television ratings, which are still pretty good. The simple fact that they exist as an option for entertainment, and were such a part of so many childhood memories, makes the team a crucial part of Baltimore for so many people, even ones that don’t live here anymore.
And the Ravens, despite the noticeable drop in overall interest toward the NFL in the last several years, are still a weekly part of life that plenty of people aren’t interested in leaving behind, even for one season. I can state for a fact that #DMD is not interested in a fall without Ravens’ football, but maybe the Washington, D.C., version might be if it exists.
In the meantime, let’s keep working on a vaccine and other treatments, not to mention that testing and contact tracing that’s so important. If we’re gonna get those Orioles and Ravens games back, we’d like to have them be as safe as possible.
I won't bore you with the minutiae, but a few years ago there was a self-ordered internal audit of best practices of a 110-year old company that a friend of mine owns through family inheritance.
He and his brother run the company, and although the business was successful and profitable throughout the 110 years, they had seen profits stabilize over the last decade despite a blossoming time for their industry in general.
So, in 2017 they took the advice of a consultant and hired a strategic group to come in and do a deep dive on their business. They opened their books, allowed for the 5-person team to interview every employee and even monitored their sales executives on calls and meetings.
The study cost them $85,000.
Five months later, the strategic group came back to the two brothers with a 140-page report on their business. Everything was researched and outlined, including small things like better, warmer lighting, the need for a better company fitness center, and a more robust, sales-friendly commission structure.
But the first order of business with the strategic group was their employee review.
"It's our strong recommendation that you offer buy-outs and severance packages to Tom, Elizabeth, Alan and Daniel," the leader of the strategy group said. "They can't remain with the company moving forward."
The two brothers were stunned. Tom had been with them for 27 years, their 2nd longest serving employee. Elizabeth was a 22-year staffer, while Alan and Daniel were both just completing their 17th years with the company.
"Are they stealing from us?" my friend, a co-owner, asked.
"No, they're not stealing," the strategy group leader said. "But they're doing something far worse. They violated the one non-negotiable tenet of our deep dive."
He paused for a second...
"When we questioned them on a practice or standard of their department, all four of them said they'd be unwilling to change because, "We've always done it this way."
Another member of the strategy review team chimed in. "We've discovered over the years that anyone using that phrase as the backbone of their argument is a lost case. You can try and fix them or you can move on without them. We believe it's far less damaging in the long run to just let them go."
"We've always done it this way...is worse than stealing," the leader of the strategy group said.
College football is facing a massive dilemma this fall. If you read between the lines or, better yet, know anyone involved with college football, you know the powers-that-be are discussing a move to the spring of 2021 in hopes of having a vaccine created for Covid-19 that will make it more reasonable for big crowds to gather for sporting events.
While the NFL could survive for a year or two -- probably more like three or four years -- without fans in the stands, many of the nation's colleges and universities rely on sports attendance to help them generate a profit.
It's no secret, as we heard the President of Texas A&M say last week. "We can't play football and basketball in empty buildings for very long. Without making significant changes to the number of sports we offer, we'll be wiped out."
Barring a vaccine for Covid-19, it's nearly a certainty filling 60,000 and 80,000 stadiums this September will be problematic, if not impossible. That's why the NCAA is strongly considering moving the season away from fall 2020.
Fast forward to next spring. The college football season starts the second or third week of January. Teams play from mid-January though mid-April. The bowl games run though mid-May.
With that idea in mind, college football no longer competes with the NFL regular season. College football no longer has to worry about butting heads with high school football. And college football in the spring would almost guarantee that no rival spring league would pop up to try and grab a piece of the NFL pie.
Moving to the spring, college football can play Friday, Saturday and Sunday, if they so choose.
We all know the fans will go in February, March and April the same they'd go in September, October and November.
And the student-athletes are playing in whatever months you tell them they're playing. No offense to them, but they're hired guns. If you told the players the games are at 3 a.m., they'd play.
So the real question isn't "Will college football play its 2020 season in the spring of 2021?" It seems about 80% certain they will, barring a vaccine between now and August.
The real question is this: "Once they move to the spring of 2021, why would they ever move back to a fall schedule?"
And just remember this: You can't say "Because they've always played in the fall."
If you say that, we have to let you go as a fan.
Thus far, we've lost two football players in our Baltimore Sports Mount Rushmore of Non-Hall-of-Famers. We started with 12 candidates and we're down to 10 now after former Colts great Mike Curtis was eliminated on Saturday.
Todd Heap was the first to go on Friday.
Several people will enter Sunday's rounds with only one elimination remaining (you must be the high-vote-getter in two rounds to be fully eliminated).
Art Modell (loser in round 5 on Saturday), Rick Dempsey (round 6 loser) and Bert Jones (round 9 loser) are all one loss away from being removed from consideration for the final four...or the Mount Rushmore of Baltimore Sports Non-Hall-of-Famers.
Matt Stover and Dave McNally are also one loss away from being removed as well, as they both lost on Friday, but survived on Saturday.
Here are today's first three match-ups.
Round 10 -- Joe Flacco, Juan Dixon, Art Modell
Round 11 -- Adam Jones, Dave McNally, Bert Jones
Round 12 -- John Harbaugh, Matt Stover, Brian Billick
By virtue of a blind draw of all one-time losers, Rick Dempsey will receive a "bye" in rounds 10-12 and be first up in round 13 against two other first-time losers.
Please vote for the person you'd eliminate in Rounds 10, 11 and 12 in the Comments section below. We use your votes plus our Twitter poll tallies to determine the winners and losers.
We'll be down to the final 7 after today, hopefully.
NBA teams are gathering in preparation for their season re-starting and yet, meanwhile, a fighter in the UFC just tested positive for Covid-19 and has been removed from tonight's fight card. I get it. The NBA clearly wants to be "first one back" to maximize the attention they'll receive, but doesn't it seem like they're rushing things a bit?
I don't know if the Ravens are experiencing buyer's remorse with Earl Thomas as the recent story in the Baltimore Sun indicated they might, but surely they had to know about the safety's mercurial personality before they signed him last year. There aren't many secrets in the NFL, particularly with veteran players. I'm not doubting the story, by the way. Just find it odd that the Ravens didn't know about Earl's flaws before they signed him.
The story about Vijay Singh wanting to play an event on the Korn Ferry Tour next month has been blown way out of proportion. A few guys on the KFT (which is, basically, the Triple-A tour for the PGA Tour) are upset that Singh, a 3-time major champion and mostly Champions Tour (senior) regular these days, is teeing it up with them. The fear, of course, is that Singh is going to win a bunch of prize money that a struggling KFT player could really use. Maybe he will. Maybe he won't. In golf, the only way to keep a guy from winning more money than you is to.....wait for it.......beat that guy by shooting a lower score. No story here. Singh has every right to play in that event.
The folks in Vegas have put the Patriots win total for 2020 at 8.5. As of now, Brian Hoyer is their starting quarterback. How on earth is Brian Hoyer going to win 9 games in the NFL? Now, we know Bill Belichick always has his next move planned out far in advance. Maybe he goes with Hoyer for a few games and then Joe Flacco shows up in Foxborough once he's cleared from his recent neck surgery. I don't know. What I do know is this: Get your money together now and bet the "under 8.5" win total for New England in 2020. Brian Hoyer isn't winning 9 games in the NFL.
Mount Saint Joseph made a nice hire yesterday when they tabbed Dom Damico as their new varsity football coach. Dom was the golf coach at McDonogh for a couple of years recently and I got to know him a bit. He's a good man who cares a lot about the young men he's coaching. I know he's well respected by local football people and I imagine he'll go over there to Irvington and have the Gaels playing good football.
The rumors are still swirling about Major League Baseball starting its 2020 season on/about July 1 and there are still some "adjustments" being bandied about for the season. One story has each team playing 9 doubleheaders (3 per month) in the three-month schedule. They're also talking about starting the 11th inning with a runner on 2nd base (I hate that, by the way). And each team would have a "taxi squad" of players from which they can pull up, providing that player stays up with the team for at least two games.
Golf in Maryland was re-opened this past Thursday, two weeks later than it should have been, mind you, but re-opened nonetheless. Two stipulations at every course, everywhere are one rider per-cart (unless it's a family member, then you can both ride together) and the flag stays in the hole the entire time. I've now played three rounds of golf in the last 7 days. Last Saturday in Virginia, they allowed two riders in the cart. It took us 4 hours and 10 minutes to play 18 holes. Last Sunday up in PA, we rode in our own cart and it took 3 hours and 30 minutes to play. This past Thursday at Eagle's Nest, four of us walked 18 holes and it took 3 hours and 45 minutes. Moral of the story? Leaving the flag in at all times must quicken the pace of the game.
My prediction: There will be no fans in NFL stadiums through at least October. Perhaps after November they'll figure out a way to do it so the teams don't face a negative economic impact. One idea I heard through the grapevine is that everyone sits in the lower deck of the stadium(s) and roughly 15% of your stadium's capacity sits there. So, for the Ravens, that would put about 10,000 people in the facility but they only have to open the lower deck food, bathroom and merchandise locations. One thing I'd say that's almost a 100% certainty right now. There will not be full stadiums in the NFL for the rest of the 2020 campaign -- unless a Covid-19 vaccine gets magically put on the market sometime soon.
Former Ravens tight end Todd Heap became our first casualty in Baltimore's Sports Mount Rushmore of Non-Hall-of-Famers when he was eliminated last night in a battle involving Dave McNally, Matt Stover and Rick Dempsey.
Heap was pretty much a landslide loser, garnering 43% of the vote.
One of the rules of the competition, to make it fair across the board since the groupings you're placed in sometimes do impact voting, is that a player must be eliminated TWICE in voting in order to be fully eliminated from the field. Heap was eliminated earlier on Friday when he was grouped with Mike Curtis, John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco. And then last night, he was eliminated in the McNally, Stover and Dempsey grouping.
Earlier on Friday, Juan Dixon easily beat out Carmelo Anthony, Muggsy Bogues and Sam Cassell for the basketball representative in our 12-man field.
Here are today's groupings. Please feel free to vote in the Comments section below. Remember, you're telling us which player/person you would ELIMINATE from the group:
Round 5 -- Adam Jones, Art Modell, Joe Flacco
Round 6 -- Mike Curtis, Bert Jones, Brian Billick
Round 7 -- Juan Dixon, Rick Dempsey, Matt Stover
By virtue of a blind draw, that gives John Harbaugh and Dave McNally a "bye". They will be placed in Round 8 with the person who received the fewest votes from Round 5-6-7.
We hope to have it narrowed down to the final 8 by Monday, the final 6 by Tuesday and then have the four-person Mount Rushmore of Non-Hall-of-Famers announced on Wednesday, May 13.
Yesterday was a very special day for our "Frank Fund" project. With my friend Brian Hubbard doing a lot of the heavy lifting, we were able to deliver 60 flowers and 10 large fruit baskets to seven hospitals in the Baltimore area, all of which were designated for Moms who are working on this Mother's Day weekend.
We were the benefactors of some incredible generosity from a longtime friend of mine, going all the way back to my days on the radio. Dennis Zorn and Eddie's of Mount Vernon teamed up with The Sieck Floral Group to provide us with 60 beautifully wrapped and decorate flower bouquets. Together with some outstanding fresh fruit from Fava Fruit, we put together a great combination of flowers and fruit and dropped them off at Mercy, Johns Hopkins, Bayview, Sinai, GBMC, Franklin Square and the Kesick Multi-Care facility in Hampden.
In many cases, we had specific names of doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, etc., and left the flower/fruit combo for them, personally. In many other cases, though, we went to the emergency room and were able to meet and greet nurses and other hospital personnel who are Moms and hand deliver it right to them as a surprise!
We are now over the $10,000 mark in monies raised for the "Frank Fund". If you are one of those who have donated thus far, please know how much of an impact your money has made in brightening the lives of our local medical professionals who are on the front line fighting Covid-19 and other serious illnesses.
We had no idea when this first started that Brian and I would make 12 delivery runs -- plus more to come -- and would have over 180 individuals and businesses donate to the cause.
Big thanks to the businesses who have supported this mission; Royal Farms, Glory Days Grill, Chick fil-A Nottingham Square, Bagel Works of Hunt Valley, Fava Fruit, Eddie's of Mount Vernon and Miss Shirley's.
Brian and I will be heading back out next week at some point. If you're interested in donating -- any amount, small, medium or large -- please email me directly for information: firstname.lastname@example.org
The NFL schedule was released on Thursday night and the Ravens -- much to John Harbaugh's chagrin, I'm sure -- will play the maximum number of prime time games allowed, five, in the 2020 campaign.
Curiously, only two of those five will be in Baltimore and the Ravens even get a special treat that I'm sure Harbs doesn't like but the rest of the fan base will love. The Ravens get to go to Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving night and ruin the turkey for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In an odd scheduling quirk, Baltimore will then host Cowboys the following Thursday night.
At first blush, there's not much to be concerned about, schedule wise for the Ravens. Their travel for 2020 is laughably low, as they'll venture out for roughly 6,500 miles compared to 14,000 in the 2019 season. Travel in the NFL and the wear and tear it takes on a roster over 17 weeks is a legitimate concern. In 2020, the Ravens get the benefit of two bus trips (Washington DC and Philly) and short one-hour flights to Cleveland, Boston and Pittsburgh. They'll be in the air roughly 90 minutes to get to Cincinnati, 2 hours to Indianapolis and the longest flight, to Houston, will be roughly 3.5 hours.
While I guess it's fair to say every game in the NFL is tough and no one's schedule is easy -- particularly since there are always teams you think are going to be lousy who wind up being good -- the Ravens, on paper, have a favorable schedule in 2020. They get several teams who are clearly in rebuilding mode still, including Jacksonville (home), the Giants (home) and Cincinnati (twice). They get to see the Tom-Brady-less Patriots as well, and it's hard to see Houston being any good with the moves they've made this off-season, including losing perhaps the best receiver in the game.
It's hard to imagine a scenario in which the Ravens aren't easy, runaway winners with the AFC North. I'm clearly putting the cart before the horse here, but this Ravens team -- barring a significant injury to Lamar Jackson -- has a better chance of going 16-0 than they do 11-5. Read that again so you don't go ballistic and say "Drew's predicting a 16-0 season." They have a better chance of going 16-0 than they do 11-5. I just don't see five losses on the schedule, unless something happens to Lamar.
As for the NFL, it's very clear if you dig a little into the schedule that they're at least thinking about the idea of the season being delayed for two weeks.
Every team's week #2 opponent shares the same bye week. And the Chiefs play at the Ravens in week #3. If the season does get delayed by two weeks, the first week would be moved to the last week of the schedule, where there are already nine divisional games planned. And the second week would then just become everyone's bye week and you would play the team during your bye week that you were originally playing in week #2.
Also important to note: If they do delay the schedule by two weeks, there are a number of significant games on tap in week #3, including the aforementioned Monday night Ravens-Chiefs clash and a Sunday night contest between Green Bay and New Orleans.
The thought here is if the league decides to move the start of the season back two weeks, the Ravens and Chiefs would move to the Thursday, September 24 to serve as the "kick-off game" of the campaign, thereby giving Kansas City the honor they deserve, and the Miami-Jacksonville game would move from Thursday to the Monday night spot currently occupied by the Ravens and Chiefs.
Either way, the Ravens and Chiefs would be a showcase game for an adjusted schedule.
It looks like the NFL went to great lengths to prepare the schedule with the thought in mind that the season might not start on September 13 as originally planned.
One other note worth chewing on: In another odd scheduling oddity, the NFL's 2020 schedule is now published before the Major League Baseball schedule. It's usually the other way around, as the baseball season for the following campaign typically comes out in mid-September and the NFL has to work its schedule around baseball. In 2020, with the baseball season not yet commenced and the schedule unknown, it's Major League Baseball who has to work around the NFL.
And, of course, the strangest part of all of this? The entire schedule may very well be played out in empty stadiums. Several sources connected to the league/Ravens tell me that the more teams study the 25% capacity idea for home games, the more they're realizing it's a bad move. They would still have to fully stock the stadium in order to comply with social distancing standards, meaning every restroom, every concession stand and every merchandise shop would still have to be open. But you'd be opening those spaces for 20,000 instead of 70,000 (in Baltimore, at least).
There's also the inherent issue of dealing with fans who sit next to each other instead of six feet apart. Teams are concerned about dealing with that in the middle of the game. And the added health and safety measures that will be required -- with 5,000 or 10,000 or 20,000 in the stadium -- simply aren't worth the added expense of cleaning and maintaining the stadium during the game.
It's still only early May and there's no telling where we'll be in July or August, but it's looking more and more like no fans in the seats at least through October, if not the entire season. Teams, I've been told, are assuming playoff games and the Super Bowl will have fans in the seats.
Donald Davis announced yesterday that he's leaving his position as the head football coach at Calvert Hall after an outstanding 13-year run.
He will be sorely missed.
Davis has been a remarkable representative of the school, both as a football coach and teacher. If there was ever a "player's coach", he's it. But Davis, as I've seen him, is far more than just a coach. He's a builder of men, both in the classroom and on the field of play.
“It has been one of the great honors of my life to shepherd the Calvert Hall Football program over the last 13 years. I want to express gratitude to the entire Calvert Hall community for supporting our student-athletes every step of the way,” Davis, a 1996 Calvert Hall grad, told Varsity Sports Network on Thursday.
Davis continued: “To my players, both past and present: I love you. I am humbled by the work, belief, and diversity of talents you’ve brought to Calvert Hall and to my life. I am better for having coached each of you. My family and I will be forever grateful to my coaching staff for their dedication to our players over the past 13 years. Nothing we have accomplished happens without their hard work. While I am leaving the day-to-day of the Calvert Hall community, I will remain a Cardinal for life.”
He went 97-56 at The Hall, including a current 6-game winning streak in the Turkey Bowl and a 10-3 overall record vs. Loyola in his 13 seasons as the head coach of the Cardinals.
Among his many talented players, Davis coached future NFL players Pat Boyle ’08 (played for Detroit and Washington), Adrian Amos ’11 (currently playing for Green Bay), Trevor Williams ’12 (currently playing for Philadelphia) and Lawrence Cager ’15 (recently signed with New York Jets as an undrafted free agent).
I'm sure he'll be announcing his future plans soon, but one thing is certain about Donald Davis. He leaves a wonderful legacy at Calvert Hall and the man who replaces him will have big, big shoes to fill moving forward.
We're starting to make some progress now.
I think we have a final list of 12 people for our Baltimore Sports Mount Rushmore of Non-Hall-of-Famers. Through the comments section here and poll voting on my Twitter account, we've been able to put together an initial list of candidates, eliminated some of them, and are now left with the following names to consider:
Joe Flacco, Art Modell, Matt Stover, John Harbaugh, Brian Billick, Adam Jones, Rick Dempsey, Mike Curtis, Bert Jones, Dave McNally, Todd Heap and one additional pick that we'll determine today from Muggsy Bogues, Juan Dixon, Carmelo Anthony and Sam Cassell.
Official voting will start here tomorrow and run through early next week. We'll combine the votes here with the ones we collect from Twitter and hope to have the Mount Rushmore of Non-Hall-of-Famers announced next Tuesday.
I'm still holding out on giving you my four, just because I don't want anyone to think I'd influence the voting in any way to tilt the final four to mirror mine. I can just say this: My four are still part of the remaining 12.
Feel free to give us your final four right now from that list above, including any of the four basketball players we'll be voting on later today. Use the Comments section below to provide your list of four who make the Baltimore Sports Mount Rushmore of Non-Hall-of-Famers.
The story that blew up late Wednesday night about Ravens safety Earl Thomas is certainly one that apparently casts more of a bad light on his wife, Nina, than on Earl himself. She was the one arrested, after all.
But that doesn't mean the Ravens should carry on without being concerned about Thomas, who was involved in an incident a few weeks ago in Austin, Texas in which his wife apparently caught him in bed with another woman -- along with his brother and another woman -- and then held a loaded pistol to his head during a heated dispute.
TMZ broke the story Wednesday evening. Thomas took to his Instagram page a half-hour before the story hit the social media pipeline and admitted there was an issue between the two of them and asked that followers and fans pray for the two of them as they continue to work things out.
"Instead of talking about us, just keep us in y'all prayers," Thomas said. "Stuff like this happens. We try to live the best lives we possibly can. Sometimes it doesn't go as planned."
If there's nothing more to the story and no other prior acts of domestic violence initiated by Thomas, he appears to have not violated any part of the league's personal conduct policy. That's the good news as far as the Ravens are concerned.
But that doesn't mean the organization doesn't have the right to address the situation with Thomas. It's always their right to keep tabs on an employee and to show concern when it's necessary. When one of your players is involved in an incident where the police are called and a handgun is involved, it's more than fair to follow up with him.
This does not appear to be a situation that would call for the Ravens to release Thomas. Was he involved in a messy personal situation? Obviously. Would you prefer that your players not wind up on the front page of TMZ in the middle of a sexually-charged story where one slip of his wife's finger could have ended his life? Of course. But none of that means the Ravens should consider parting ways with their employee.
Now, if there's more to this story and other incidents are discovered, those can be unpacked and reviewed. But at this stage, the Ravens have a player whose marriage appears to be on rocky ground and nothing more, really.
Still...they should remain concerned about the well being of Earl Thomas.
So we got started with eliminating some people last night during two Twitter polls. Based on some of the candidates you all suggested, I put eight players out and eliminated two of them from consideration.
The first poll contained Bert Jones, Nick Markakis, Boog Powell and Todd Heap.
In what I considered a surprise, personally, Nick Markakis was eliminated by a narrow margin over Todd Heap.
So Jones, Powell and Heap move on.
Later, I put the following four players up for vote: Adam Jones, Jamal Lewis, Dave McNally and Mike Curtis.
And it was Jamal Lewis who was eliminated, with Mike Curtis finishing 2nd in that set of voting.
Later on today, I'll put the following two groups of four up for voting. Likewise, you can eliminate people as well by simply noting it in the Comments section below. Just let us know who you would eliminate from these groups:
Joe Flacco, Melvin Mora, Matt Stover, Rick Dempsey.
Earl Weaver, John Harbaugh, Brian Billick, Buck Showalter
By the way, I already have my "final four" but would rather not publish it until this project concludes. I'll say this: It's much more difficult than establishing the "regular" Baltimore Sports Mount Rushmore.
"The Keen Eye" of
My research shows that Don Shula, who died Monday at the age of 90, retired from coaching on Jan. 5, 1996. The Dolphins’ then-owner, Wayne Huizenga, told the legendary coach he wanted widespread changes on Shula’s staff after a bad playoff loss in Buffalo, and Shula wasn’t having it.
I found that date interesting, and not just because there was a terrible East Coast blizzard that began the next night. Shula, who coached both the Baltimore Colts and the Miami Dolphins against both the Baltimore Colts and the Indianapolis Colts, never coached against the Baltimore Ravens.
He left, and the Ravens came. It only took a few years for the new team to make its mark, while the Dolphins have been awful since Baltimore’s 2000 Super Bowl season, which also happened to be the first after Dan Marino’s retirement.
All of this reminded me that, when I sat in Memorial Stadium on Sept. 1, 1996, the Ravens immediately became the team of my adulthood. And if I were to pick a football team of my childhood, it would probably be Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins.
This was sad, of course, for obvious reasons not worth discussing. But it also made total sense. When the people here were left without a team, many of them wanted to watch Don Shula’s team. They loved Shula here, big upset by the Jets in Super Bowl III or not. He was a winner—the NFL’s greatest single-season winner, still. He reminded them of Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts, not Art Schlichter, Mike Pagel and the Baltimore Colts.
They called the local station and told the management they wanted the Dolphins’ game on Sunday. If they could have given a beating to the programmer who figured the folks here might want to watch the Indianapolis Colts for a while, they would have done so with relish.
Years later—even after Shula retired, and Art Modell showed up in Baltimore with his team—they came to sports bars around here wearing nautical aqua and orange. Some of that had to do with Don Shula, even when another future Hall of Famer, Jimmy Johnson, took his place on the sidelines.
Shula was a coach’s coach. He looked like a coach—square-jawed, stern, taciturn—though his demeanor tended much more toward calm than crazy. He had great success in four decades—with the league’s first great “gunslinger” in Unitas, with the power-running teams of Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick, the Miami “No-Name Defense,” and with Marino, maybe still the best pure passer to play the position.
It’s true that his partnership with Marino, one that lasted 13 seasons, is often seen as a disappointment There was only one Super Bowl trip, a blowout loss to Joe Montana’s 49ers in Marino’s second season, and Shula and his staff never seemed to develop a complete team around the Hall of Fame quarterback. Perhaps Marino had too much power, as a quarterback still could then. Many of those teams also fell victim to Marv Levy’s Buffalo Bills, their division rival whose “K-Gun” offense under Jim Kelly never ceased to give generally unspectacular Miami defenses headaches.
Though he has more wins than any other NFL coach, there was nothing particularly genius about Shula. He was surely a great football mind, though not considered a mastermind in the vein of Bill Belichick. His teams were always competitive, even when they shouldn’t have been, such as when Marino went down with a season-ending injury early in the 1993 season. In a time when special teams was looked at differently, Shula’s teams always had great specialists.
I was thinking…there’s a coach a lot like him right now, though he certainly won’t get to 347 wins because of how late he started as a head coach. He was also born in Ohio, like Shula, and played college football in Ohio like Shula.
John Harbaugh reminds me a lot of Don Shula, actually. He’s 12 years in now, and I’m struggling to figure out a way he doesn’t get to 20 years here. He’s a guy who sees himself as a leader of men instead of a guy who coaches football, whatever you think of that. He is not an offensive specialist or defensive guru or whatever makes owners and general managers salivate when their coaching positions come open these days.
Harbaugh noted in a statement after Shula’s passing that the retired coach had visited the Eagles and served as a mentor coach for Andy Reid’s staff in the early 2000s, and that he’d “hung around Shula the entire week” looking for inspiration. Whether it was that, or something else, Harbaugh has some of that tendency toward encouragement and positivity that Shula always seemed to possess. Not all NFL coaches have it, even really successful ones.
Shula made lots of contributions to the game besides putting himself in the pantheon. For the last 20 years of his career, he served on the NFL’s Competition Committee, perhaps the most important behind-the-scenes group in making the game what it is on the field. Shula, in fact, was a key influence in making the game more friendly for offensive players; he believed it would be more exciting with more freedom of movement, and he was right. When he left that committee, it was the end of an era, one where collegiality had more of a place between coaches and teams than it does now.
Something else about Shula I didn’t remember…he almost came back to Baltimore that year the Ravens hit the field. He didn’t want to coach a team after leaving the Dolphins, but Modell offered Shula the chance to run the football operations for the “new” team, one that wasn’t an expansion team of course. At 66 years old, however, Shula decided he didn’t want the grand responsibility. I wonder what the early course of the Ravens would have been had Shula joined the front office.
Shula was a head coach in the NFL for 33 consecutive years—four years longer than Tom Landry, by the way—and had only two losing seasons—a 6-8 year in 1976 with the Dolphins and another six-win season 12 years later in Miami. Think about that. He became head coach of the Colts in 1963, at age 33, and had 13 consecutive winning seasons to start his career. Then, after one losing year, his teams finished above .500 nine times in the next 11 years, and then won 10 or more games three times in his final seven seasons on the sideline.
At this point, you can argue that Belichick has become the best coach in NFL history; the sheer number of wins over the past 20 years is astonishing, let alone the six Super Bowl titles. You can argue that lots of coaches brought innovations and personality to the game that Don Shula didn’t possess. What can’t be argued is that Don Shula did it well for longer than anyone has, and probably ever will.
College football in the spring?
That's the rumor.
Along with a handful of other college sports that typically play a fall or early winter schedule, college football is talking about a scenario where their 2020 season is actually commenced in late January of 2021 and ends in April, with bowl games and the playoffs rolling into early May.
Sounds crazy to me, but I get it.
It's not a done deal yet, of course. The powers-that-be are hoping for a fall slate of football games, but they're faced with a daunting question to answer.
Play games in the fall without fans in the seats or play games in the spring with fans in the seats?
The NFL can survive a season without fans in the stadiums watching the games live. And it's looking more and more like that's what they'll be dealing with in 2020. But the TV money they'll rake in will help keep the league and teams afloat, so no long term worries are present as far as the NFL is concerned.
But the same can't be said for Alabama football. Or Michigan. Or Tennessee. Or Georgia. Or any of the other prominent football schools across the country, of which there are many.
How does Tennessee replace seven home games with crowds of 90,000 each? That's roughly $75 million in ticket revenue alone, along with whatever parking, food and merchandise sales they can rack up in eight games. It's probably a $100 million money scoop when all is said and done. How do they replace it? Answer: They don't.
And we wonder why these big time schools -- football, basketball, etc. -- go to such great extremes to "lure" the best high school players to their campus to play college sports?
So the college scenario is different than the one facing the NFL.
College football won't capsize without fans for one year, but it would most certainly take on water. There are already rumors floating around that schools are looking to rework their 2020 schedule and play teams more geographically sensible. Why would Georgia fly to Oregon (example only) when they can just play Duke instead and save a bunch of money on travel?
We all know if college football moves to a spring schedule that we'll still watch. That goes without saying. We're used to "weird" by now, so seeing Maryland play Penn State on February 6 might not be that strange after all.
But there are two immediate issues with spring college football.
If basketball maintains its normal schedule or even begins in early January, as some are saying it might, colleges are going to have a mammoth task on their hands scheduling football against basketball on the weekends. Can, as an example, Maryland play Michigan at 12 noon in college hoops and then host Minnesota in football at 7:00 pm that night? And even if the Maryland athletic department and event services folks at College Park can pull that off, what would the Big Ten Network think about that? They run the Big Ten, remember.
The easy answer there, obviously, is to not co-schedule home games on a weekend date. I'm assuming that can be done, but it will require some long nights, lots of coffee, and some very diligent planning from everyone involved.
And here's the other thing. If college football plays a February, March, April schedule in 2021, that means players are due back at training camp just three months later. They'll have off May, June and July, basically. Maybe not even that long, actually. Is it reasonable to expect college football players -- "student-athletes", remember -- to play a full season and return just 10-12 weeks later and reboot for another full season?
Oh, and keep in mind we haven't even yet broached the most important subject of all: The health and safety of the players, coaches, and game staff personnel.
This is the same issue being considered in the NFL as well. They're releasing the "full schedule" tomorrow night, but that's just bravado on the NFL's part and nothing more. They're as convinced that they're going to have a season starting in September as you and I are that we're going to be able to walk around without masks by Labor Day.
Until the players say they're going to play, there are no games. And all it will take are two or three prominent players to say "I'm not playing until I know I'm safe from Covid-19" to create league-wide unrest. The player's association hasn't even started to raise a fuss yet. And maybe they won't. But if they do...if they do...it could get ugly.
So consider the same thing in college football, but remember those kids have no collective bargaining power. If Nick Saban says the first game is (example only) August 28 and training camp begins on July 24, those kids will be lined up to collect their gear on August 28. But what if Covid-19 is still lingering? What if, God forbid, a player from (insert school here) comes down with it and dies? Colleges can plan fall schedules, spring schedules and so on, but until they can guarantee the health and safety of their players and coaches, who in their right mind will sign up for a season?
I hate to be the one putting a damper on September football, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how it's going to get pulled off. At the very best, the NFL and NCAA will be forced to play their 2020 schedule without fans in the stadiums watching it live. At worst, they can't play at all in the fall and have to reshuffle for a post-January start that would create an extraordinary set of issues for both parties.
In either scenario, we know this. 2020 will be remembered as the strangest of years, indeed.
We've all done the Baltimore sports Mount Rushmore thing. Your mileage may vary on the final four who make it, but it's generally Johnny U., Ray, Brooks, Cal, Phelps, Frank and another one or two of personal preference (Reed, Palmer, etc.). Pick your four from that short list and start chiseling.
All of those guys have one thing in common, besides being associated with Baltimore teams. They are all Hall of Famers.
Which leads me to ask this one...
What would Baltimore's Mount Rushmore look like of athletes who are not in the Hall of Fame?
Who are the best four our city has ever had who didn't make it to Cooperstown or Canton? And, no, you can't put Machado or Yanda in there because they're both likely Hall of Famers.
You could, though, put Flacco on this particular Mount Rushmore. He's not going to Canton and his career in Baltimore is over. He's eligible.
This effort, to me, is much harder than the "real" Baltimore sports Mount Rushmore. That one's easy. Pick four from a list of six. This one might actually have a list of 20 to consider.
Here are some names. Consider them worthy if you like. These are just first-blush names I'm throwing out. You will have others, I'm sure.
Haloti Ngata, Jarrett Johnson, Adam Jones, Mugsy Bogues, Juan Dixon, Todd Heap, Matt Stover, Jamal Lewis, Rick Dempsey, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar.
There's your starter kit.
Comment on those, if you like, and add some of your own for consideration. I'll run this by my Twitter world over the next day or two and try and come up with our "Mount Rushmore of Non-Hall-of-Famers" by Friday.
"Overrated and Underrated" has always been one of my favorites. I'm not sure why, other than for a simple fact: Everyone and everything fits the content. You are either overrated or underrated. There is no "in between".
So today's theme is, you guessed it, "Overrated and Underrated". And there's a slight theme, as you'll see. We'll hit four of my favorite topics; music, golf, media and James Corden's Carpool Karaoke.
Music -- In honor of the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch, who passed away eight years ago yesterday, I bring you a musical version of "Overrated and Underrated". The Beasties were, in my opinion, one of the most underrated bands/artists of my lifetime. Here are some others:
Kings of Leon -- Underrated. Incredibly gifted lead singer, Caleb Followill.
Tool -- Overrated. I don't get it.
Pearl Jam -- Underrated. Despite his onstage politics, Eddie Vedder is a remarkable performer.
Van Morrison -- Overrated. If there was an "Overrated Hall of Fame", he'd get in on the first ballot.
Beck -- Underrated. And if there was an "Underrated Hall of Fame", he'd also get in on the first try.
Golf -- I don't really miss baseball that much. I certainly don't miss the NBA. And while I miss the NHL, that's only because I was eager to see how the Caps were going to squander another opportunity in the playoffs. But I really, really miss the PGA Tour. Big time. In a few weeks, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Matthew Wolff and Rickie Fowler will play a charity match for Covid-19 at famed Seminole Golf Club in Florida. So, you want to know about those four players? Glad you asked.
Dustin Johnson -- Overrated. Could have won 6 majors, fairly easily, with solid play on Sunday. Only has 1 major. Enough said.
Rory McIlroy -- Underrated. Despite his recent "slump" (if you call winning $10 million and the FedEx Cup in 2019 a "slump"), McIlroy remains one of the game's best players. It's amazing how people poo-poo this kid's game. He's the best player of the last decade and it's probably not that close.
Rickie Fowler -- Overrated. Not sure an explanation is needed here. He's a terrific player, obviously, but his impact on the game is far greater than his performance.
Matthew Wolff -- Underrated. He'll win more majors than Dustin Johnson. Watch and see. This kid is the real deal.
Jason Day -- Overrated. Really not much to see here. Gets it going 3-4 weeks a year and that's about it. He's not a closer.
Media -- Like most of you, I've spent a lot of time over the last seven weeks watching television. A lot of it. Too much of it, actually. But as someone who didn't watch much TV before mid-March, it's given me the chance to form opinions on people I otherwise wouldn't have.
CNN -- Overrated. They should be ashamed of themselves and their obvious agenda. The country needs better than they're giving.
Erin Burnett -- Underrated. OK, I admit it. I watch her two hour show just for the comfort of seeing her. I don't listen much to what she says, which is probably a good thing. She's probably overrated and I just don't want to say it.
Chris Cuomo -- Overrated. He's awful. I'm sure his $20 million home makes it easier to be awful, but he's one of the worst.
John King -- Overrated. Another reporter who can't hide his disdain and agenda. He could be much better, sadly.
Anderson Cooper -- Overrated. First ballot "Overrated Hall of Fame" member as well.
James Corden's Carpool Karaoke -- If you're bored (wait...that should be "When you're bored") later this week and need an hour or so of entertainment, go to YouTube and watch all of the James Corden Carpool Karaoke episodes. Well, not all of them, but you can pick and choose your favorites and watch those. Here are three to watch and two to bypass.
Steve Wonder -- Underrated. This one is most certainly a "Top Five" contender for JCCK. Stevie is so good.
Sia -- Overrated. She's just too weird. Great voice, but the look and get-up doesn't give her a fair chance.
Katy Perry -- Underrated. Her voice in the JCCK episode is absolutely flawless. She's that cool younger sister I didn't have.
Red Hot Chili Peppers -- Overrated. I wanted to give this one its fair due, since RHCP are one of music's all-time most unknown bands (are they overrated or underrated?), but this one was terrible. Corden's clearly a fan of them, but they spent too much time goofing off and showing how strange they are.
Chris Martin -- Underrated. The theme of this one was cool and anytime Chris Martin gets to sing, it's a win. He's that cool younger brother I never had.
My friend Paul Bernstorf threw this one at me yesterday and we agreed on most of the nine positions that would make up the Orioles all-time best team, position-by-position.
We had four "issues" that needed to be ironed out, though.
Maybe you can help.
As for the O's all-time top team, these are the obvious guys. Eddie at first, Cal at short, Brooks at third, Frank Robby in right, Palmer and Mussina the RHPs and McNally and Cuellar the LHPs.
Those are easy, right?
But what about second base? Robby Alomar? Bobby Grich? Davey Johnson? Alomar was obviously the best player of those three, but in terms of Orioles play, is he a slam dunk over the other two?
And what about centerfield? My person recency bias favors Adam Jones, but there will be sentiment for Paul Blair. Jones or Blair? Which way do you go?
And who is the left fielder? Seriously? Who is the best Orioles left fielder of all time? I'm stumped. Help!!
And the catcher...Etchebarren? Elrod? Wieters? I think this one is really interesting. One thing for sure. It's not Javy Lopez.
Throw some names in below and help Paul and I complete the team.
We didn't even talk about the manager yesterday but we all know that's Earl Weaver. Buck was awesome, but Earl he wasn't.
Back in 2005, I organized a charity golf outing and felt like I needed a "special twist" to help differentiate mine from the countless others that are held in the Baltimore area every summer.
In 2004, The Golf Channel aired its 2nd edition of The Big Break, an interesting mix of realty-TV-meets-excellent-golfers-looking-for-their-breakthrough-moment.
It was in that show that I found my "special twist" that set my charity golf outing apart from the rest.
I brought in Don Donatello.
Now, to you, Don Donatello might not mean anything. If you weren't a golfer in 2004 and if you didn't watch The Golf Channel in 2004, you most certainly have no idea who he is.
But Donatello was the absolute star of that edition of The Big Break. As fate would have it, he stayed around until the very end, losing in the championship match to a guy named Kip Henley.
Through a mix of golfing skills challenges and what not, one player was eliminated per-show in that series. The producers were thrilled to keep "Double-D" around until the end, I'm sure.
Donatello made the show, plain and simple.
I didn't stop with Donatello, though. I brought in three other members of the show. "Barefoot" Dave Gunas -- who, in The Big Break, played in bare feet -- Mike Foster and Bart Lower all came to town to participate in a Thursday pro-am that I hosted, followed by the charity event on Friday.
I paid for all of their travel and gave each of them a $500 appearance fee.
As soon as word spread that Donatello was involved in the charity event and playing in the pro-am, both events quickly sold out. I was seeing first-hand the impact of the "special twist".
In the show, Donatello was portrayed as a competitive jerk, to put it nicely. Some of that he brought on his own, for sure. Some of it was heightened by the cut-throat nature of the show itself, where players were often put into a situation of choosing one or more players to team up with for challenges.
But Donatello was, by far, the one player out of the ten who started that was "showcased" more than any other. Drama always surrounded him. He never got a good break. In the championship match, he threw a fit when his ball landed underneath a tractor and he didn't agree with the decision of a rules official.
I didn't know what to expect when I met him on that Thursday at Mountain Branch. We were warming up for the pro-am when he walked over to me.
"Hey Drew, do you know what the course record is here?" he asked.
"Oh, here we go," said Gunas. "Double-D is getting amped up."
"I think it's 67," I replied. The club had only been open a few years at that point and there hadn't yet been any high level amateur (or professional) events where low scores would be shot.
"OK, thanks," Donatello said.
Five hours later, the pro-am field wheeled its way back to the area near the clubhouse. Donatello arrived, got out of the cart, and handed me his scorecard. "There's a new course record here, my friend."
Donatello made birdie at the last hole to shot 66, establishing a new course record.
The following day at the charity event, Don's demeanor changed. He went from ultra-competitive to ultra-sincere. He went from abrasive and irritating to friendly and genuine.
I had a number of people come up to me and say, "Man, that Donatello guy is awesome. What a nice man. I can't believe how much different he is in person than we saw during The Big Break."
At that dinner that night, Don came up to me with an envelope. Inside was $250. "I want you to keep half of my fee for the charity," he said to me.
This wasn't Ray Lewis giving back half of a $50,000 speaking fee because he doesn't really need $25,000. This was a regular, hard working early 30's aspiring golfer giving back half of a $500 appearance fee that, frankly, was already not a fair amount for his time.
I learned something in those two days that not a lot of other people in the country ever got to figure out. I learned that Don Donatello was (is) a good man, with a good heart.
He was competitive, yes indeed. Sometimes that competitive nature led him to do things and say things that, in hindsight, he might later regret. Occasionally he'd push the envelope a hair too far, even.
But that was the part they showed the most on television, I discovered.
What they didn't show was Donatello spending time with the kids at the charity event who were there through the Casey Cares Foundation. They didn't show Donatello giving a putting lesson with a young boy. And they didn't show him giving back half of his appearance fee.
And let's be honest. The TV show producers wouldn't have wanted to show that stuff during The Big Break. Doing so would have watered down the "Double-D" character they helped create.
The producers didn't want you to know Donatello had a soft side. They didn't want you to know he was nice. They wanted you to think he was a jerk, the villain of the show. They wanted you to either root wildy for him or wildly against him.
When the event was over and things were back to normal, a friend at Mountain Branch was talking to me about Donatello. "That guy was so cool," my friend said. "When I told him how much different he was in person, you know what he said? 'The Big Break wasn't a golf event. It's a TV show. It just happens to have golf as the theme.'"
I thought of Don Donatello last night while I watched Episode 5 of The Last Dance.
If you're not familiar with it, The Last Dance is a documentary about the '97-98 Chicago Bulls team and largely focuses on the life and career of Michael Jordan.
It's a TV show.
Every year on this date, I do my best to remember to write something about the great Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys, who died of cancer on May 4, 2012.
Yauch was, by any standards, a musical pioneer. Not only were the Beastie's one-of-a-kind, but so, too, was Yauch.
When he died, the band ended. There was no attempt to rebirth the band with someone else. There weren't any "final tours" with guest rappers filling in for Yauch. When he passed away, The Beastie Boys ceased as well.
There was no replacing Adam Yauch.
David Letterman, like a lot of us, was a huge fan of the trio. The video below showcases the band's talents in a big way, with New York City providing a fitting backdrop. For those who don't know, Yauch is the guy you see coming up first out of the subway tunnel.
"The Keen Eye" of
I just want to do some math. I think it’s simple, and I hope you’ll feel the same way.
The average public golf course runs eight minutes between tee times. For the sake of argument, let’s say the first tee time is 7 a.m. When the group at 7:56 scatters from the tee, that makes eight groups on the course—32 players if they’re all foursomes.
Eventually, there will be an 11 a.m. tee time. Before that 30 groups would have teed off, or 120 people in total if they’re all full. On a normal day, that would make 60 golf carts in use.
Let’s say that, as a “Phase 1” COVID-19 thing, the course goes to 15 minutes between tee times instead. The first tee time is still 7 a.m. By the time the 11 a.m. tee time stands on the tee, 16 groups would have teed off, or 64 people if they’re all full. It’s not a normal day, of course, so everyone gets his or her own cart, and maybe some people use it a chance to walk. In any event, at the most there are 64 carts in use.
If a course can have 60 carts out by 11 a.m. on a normal day, it should be able to have 64 carts out on an abnormal one, and it’ll probably be fewer than 64.
It seems to me that this would be the best strategy for a course when it reopens, if it’s looking to best follow some kind of distancing policy. Now—there’s a reason Local Muny has eight-minute tee times to begin with—it’s looking for as much revenue as possible. And there hasn’t been any revenue for seven weeks. But isn’t 100 people better than zero, even if it normally would be 200?
Plus, until “Phase 1” is over, you’ll be in luck if you manage a tee time, which might be a challenge like it used to be. With 15 minutes between times, you’ll play faster, and who wouldn’t want their own golf cart every time if it was promised to them?
Got a text the other day that threw me for a loop. At the very least, it made me think about what’s happened to sports since mid-March.
“Supposed to be the Kentucky Derby/MAC men’s lacrosse final in the press box tonight,” it said.
Yes, pretty much everyone knows that the Run for the Roses takes place on the first Saturday in May. Only a few of us know that the race typically ends about three minutes before the starting lineups are announced for the Middle Atlantic Conference championship game, where Stevenson typically blows out Messiah or Widener or Lebanon Valley for the second time that season.
Glenn Clark knows. He’s one of a group of us that’s done the same thing each of the last six years prior to this one, urging the race to finally start so that it’ll be done before we have to start working. For Clark, this usually involves bolting from the main press box down the hall to the broadcast booth, making the beginning of the broadcast with seconds to spare.
But not this year. And I have to be honest…I hadn’t even thought that this would be the day of the MAC championship game, or the weekend of the Patriot League lacrosse tournament, or the third or fourth Sunday I’d be out for the usual morning game. Saturday and Sunday were just two more days of the same…though based on how many people were in Target on Saturday afternoon, they didn’t necessarily agree with me.
Many of us really do mark the time by sporting events, not just those of us who spend time in the same press boxes every year. The Triple Crown exists in five-week window…you get a real sense of baseball’s contenders and pretenders by Memorial Day, which also marks the end of the lacrosse season.
We don’t have any of that this year. Maybe it’s sad, or maybe it’s just unusual. The calendar will repeat again, and surely everything will be back where it’s supposed to be. Hopefully we’ll all remember the things we used to do on those days.
The NFL said it Saturday: the league is going to release its 2020 schedule late this week with no changes to what it would have been had it been released prior to the draft.
17 weeks, the opening game on Thurs, Sept. 10, the Super Bowl on Sun., Feb. 7, and I suppose the belief that the stands will be full, or whatever passes for full in Miami.
The quote from the league’s spokesman was simple. “We plan to start on time.”
Now…there has been no decision made as to when teams can reenter their facilities; the only decision made there so far has been an agreement between the league and the players’ association that those buildings won’t open until the Governor of every state in which a team is headquartered lifts the state’s stay-at-home mandate. By my count, that’s 23 states—there are three teams in both California and Florida, and two in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas.
Those facilities are glorified office buildings, of course. Considering that most office buildings have gone at least 90 percent remote, and won’t be looking to immediately transition to 100 percent non-remote, it’ll be interesting to see what the NFL asks its teams to do. Even though teams have office buildings, they’re not exactly run like your building is.
Training camp could be interesting. Usually, the early days of camp are pretty crowded, with all the rookies and free-agent invitees vying for spots. Will there be limits on the number of players a team can have in camp? Certainly, if training camp goes on in some kind of normal fashion, there won’t be any practices open to fans this summer.
Interestingly, the NFL says that its schedule won’t have any more Saturday games than it normally would, even though the college football season is a real question mark at this point.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the NFL season is delayed until the fall, though at the same time the late fall could be when a contagious virus begins to rear its head again. But the schedule will be released now.
Anybody else catch the replay the other day? It was the “Snow Game,” the Orioles’ Opening Day victory against the Cleveland Indians on March 31, 2003.
Frankly, it was pretty forgettable besides the snow squall, which forced a delay and featured a very strange play in which Cleveland’s Ellis Burks hit a ball that was surely foul, but nobody (including umpire Chuck Meriwether) could see it and it landed in the outfield for a hit, likely after it hit a wall first. The game went almost four hours and 13 innings.
The Indians finished 68-94 that season, which amazingly made them worse than a lousy Orioles team, which finished 71-91 in its final season under Mike Hargrove, who had both played for and managed the Indians at one time.
Delving into the Orioles’ Opening Day lineup, the first two batters were Jerry Hairston and Gary Matthews, each of whom was the son of a former Major Leaguer. Here’s something I never would have thought—the younger Hairston played in the majors for 16 seasons, and the younger Matthews had a 12-year career. Matthews was an All-Star three years later for the Rangers, with 44 doubles and 19 home runs.
The third and fourth hitters in the lineup were 38-year-old B.J. Surhoff and 37-year-old Jeff Conine, which is about all you need to know about the Orioles that season. Conine was traded late in the season (back) to the Marlins, who won the World Series in six games against the Yankees, whose third and fourth hitters were Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui.
The O’s opening day starter was Rodrigo Lopez, who had finished second in the American League’s Rookie of the Year voting the previous year. In an 11-year career, Lopez would twice lead his league in losses in a season, though he somehow finished his Orioles’ career with more wins than losses despite an ERA near five.
The Orioles actually were above .500 that year after 55 games, on June 1. They were only two games under .500, 57-59, on August 10…after which they lost eight games in a row.
I ran a Twitter poll for two hours last night that received a lot of attention. 179 people responded to a question about, you guessed it, Antonio Brown.
In case you missed it yesterday, Brown and his crafty P.R. team turned up the heat on the Ravens by posting a photoshopped picture of Brown wearing a purple Ravens uniform, complete with his number 84 jersey and all.
So, Brown naturally become a topic of discussion amongst Ravens fans throughout the day.
My reader's poll had three options to the question: "How would you feel if the Ravens sign Antonio Brown?" -- A) Thrilled B) Not happy C) Somewhere in the middle
The results were fairly predictable.
23% of those who responded selected "thrilled to have him".
31.5% picked "Not happy at all".
45.5% said they would be "Somewhere in the middle".
"Somewhere in the middle" is a pretty generic term, obviously, and it indicates both disappointment and approval, but it's the one I figured would garner the most voting support.
For those who care, I voted for "Not happy at all". If the Ravens sign Antonio Brown -- which a team source reiterated to me yesterday is "not going to happen" -- I'd be very disappointed with the organization.
As for that team source, it's fair to note they haven't changed their tune since the first time I asked the question. "We're not interested. It's not going to happen," was what I was told the first time and again yesterday.
Episodes 5 and 6 of "The Last Dance" run tonight on ESPN. I've seen some light bellyaching from people here who have this strange idea that the 10-part documentary about the Chicago Bulls was somehow produced for them.
The show was promoted in February and March with one thing in mind: Revealing previously unseen footage from the '97-98 season.
In fact, here's the official promotional paragraph from ESPN:
The 10-part documentary series takes an in-depth look at the the Chicago Bulls' dynasty through the lens of the final championship season in 1997-98. The Bulls allowed an NBA Entertainment crew to follow the team around for that entire season, and some of that never-before-seen footage will be featured in the documentary.
I see people -- not just here, but in other places -- whining about the lack of new information or new storylines. Those folks seem to forget this Last Dance season happened 22 years ago.
Flyers fans should hang with me for the math part: If you were 10 years old back then, you likely didn't follow the Jordan-Bulls dynasty all that much. Now that you're going on 32 years old, that sort of thing might interest you.
It would be akin to someone like me watching a documentary on Jack Nicklaus. I didn't follow/play golf until the late 1980's, so I don't really know all that much about him.
If, in 15 years, the NFL ran a documentary on the Ravens "Last Ride" of 2013, we'd still tune in, even though we know the ending, we know about Ray's locker room preachings, we know about Reed's brooding, mercurial personality and we know that Flacco threatened to leap off the sideline (jokingly?) and tackle Ted Ginn Jr. if he broke free on the final punt return.
In other words, we'd watch even though we know most of what we'd be seeing. But newbies would learn something new about Ray Lewis and the Ravens in 2035.
I watched Episodes 1 and 2 of The Last Dance, then got involved in something else last Sunday night and didn't really catch the 3rd and 4th shows. It's not overly appealing to me as a must-see-program because I do know the cast of characters and the ending, but the show wasn't made for me. It was made for people who don't know the details of Jordan's greatness and the battles within the organization throughout the dynasty.
Baseball seems pretty set on the 3-division lineup for their truncated 2020 season. They haven't officially announced it yet, but the writing is on the wall and schedules are being drawn up behind closed doors.
In case you missed it, the Orioles will play in the East with the Yankees, Mets, Marlins, Rays, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Pirates, Nationals and Phillies.
One rumor has a playoff setting of four teams per-division. The top seed plays the 4 seed and the 2 plays the 3 in a best-of-5 series. The division "championship" would then be a best-of-5 as well.
Here's where it gets tricky. What do you do from there, once you have three division winners?
One idea would then be to play a round-robin until two teams lose four games each. Once two teams have lost four times, the team left standing is the "World Series champion" for 2020.
Baseball's quandry is obvious. With an already shortened season artificially watering down the 2020 campaign, how does MLB keep the games interesting well into October and, possibly, November?
Should the playoffs be short and sweet or should they give as many as 12 teams the chance for post-season glory, thereby rewarding more fans and organizations?
One rumor is that the 3-team round robin World Series might be played in Arizona, in a climate-controlled facility where they could easily play games in November if necessary.
Here's what I think: Baseball is in dire need of some changes. In some cases, perhaps even big ones. The attendance figures have been showing that for a decade now. Sure, TV money is pouring in and all, but people aren't as interested as they once were. And, yes, that might be true for all sports, not just baseball.
But it might be time for baseball to rise up and do something really different.
Perhaps the 3-division format is the way to go long term.
Maybe 120 game seasons should be the new normal going forward.
Bring all the outfield walls in 10 feet or so and try and make the scores 11-8 every night. Pitchers would complain, but so what? The world needs ditch diggers, too.
Get rid of that asinine infield shift.
Start the season on May 1 when the weather is decent in almost all parts of the country. This going to the games when it's 36 and party cloudy at first pitch is dumb.
Play more doubleheaders. Expand the rosters to 35 players for all games.
This one's been floating around for a while now and the more I think about it, the more I love it. In the 9th inning, managers can send up whomever they want to the plate. There is no more batting order in the 9th inning.
Think about it...every other sport allows your best players to be involved in every moment, why shouldn't baseball?
Why shouldn't the Angels be able to use Mike Trout in the 9th inning of a one-run game?
Baseball has a great opportunity to change things up for the better. Sure, the player's association would cry about some of those changes, but they just need to keep those ditches in mind.
How's that for a headline?
Remember, it's not click-bait if you're already here in the first place.
I have to say, I can't quite figure this one out. I thought I knew. But now, I'm not so sure.
I don't have to introduce Brown. Anyone who follows the NFL knows who he is and knows he's trouble. You also know he's currently looking for a job, having been dismissed by the Raiders and Patriots in 2019 before the Commissioner finally put him on the shelf due, let's say, to some "behavorial issues" last winter.
As it stands right now, Brown isn't even eligible to play in the NFL. But when he's finally allowed to do so again, the mercurial wide receiver will peddling himself --- to anyone, anywhere.
Enter, the Ravens.
Months ago when Brown was running routes on a high school field and catching passes from a family member, people around Baltimore started wondering if the Ravens might take a chance on him given their needs at the wide receiver position.
"No chance," I said back then. My reason? Very simple. In the wake of the Ray Rice saga, owner Steve Bisciotti and the organization in general had pledged to steer clear of players with domestic violence in their past.
Brown was like a hot stove to the Ravens. DO NOT TOUCH.
The wide receiver dropped a couple of not-so-cryptic hints on social media that he would love to play in Baltimore. Who wouldn't, right? His cousin, Hollywood Brown, plays for the Ravens and the quarterback is pretty good, you might have heard.
Even still, I assumed the Ravens were still a big, fat "no".
In the days leading up to the draft, the two Browns and Lamar Jackson were seen on video playing pitch and catch near Delray Beach, Florida. Those social media posts quickly led to Ravens fans speculating that Antonio Brown might be "auditioning" for a roster spot in Baltimore.
In a bit of a surprise move, the Ravens didn't publicly downplay the possibility of Antonio Brown eventually joining the team.
I chalked that one up to some pre-draft posturing by Eric DeCosta and the Ravens. It might have hurt their first-round leverage to come right out and say, "We are not interested in signing Antonio Brown."
Leaving the door open -- at that point -- was smart by DeCosta.
By now you know the Ravens took two wide receivers in last week's draft. So the the team's current need for another receiver isn't as pressing as it might have been two weeks ago. That said, neither Devin Duvernay or James Proche are likely ever going to be confused with Antonio Brown. Brown, had he stayed on the straight and narrow was a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Duvernay and Proche aren't a guarantee to be playing in the NFL in three years.
But then something new happened this past Wednesday. The Ravens GM was on a national radio show hosted by Adam Schein, who asked DeCosta directly about the Ravens potential interest in Antonio Brown.
Surely this was going to be the occasion when DeCosta finally nailed the coffin shut. This would be the moment, once and for all, where the Ravens say to everyone willing to listen, "We are not going to sign Antonio Brown."
Instead, DeCosta went the other way.
“We’re always assessing the players out there on the streets,” DeCosta said. “We’re looking at guys, we’re making decisions that we think are best for the clubs. If we think there’s a guy out there who fits us, who’s got the skill set to provide value, we’ll certainly pounce on that kind of guy. As Ozzie always used to tell me, we don’t play games until September. So, we’ve got a lot of time to build the best team we can build and we’ll continue to do that. I look at this time period right here after the draft as a great opportunity to get better as a football team and we will look to do that.”
There's a lot to unpack there, obviously, and it's fair to point out that the Ravens GM didn't really say anything all that earth shattering.
But it's what he didn't say that stands out.
He didn't say, "We're not interested in Antonio Brown."
It could still be posturing, of course. Perhaps DeCosta is trying to drive up the price for a rival team that actually is interested in Brown.
Or could it be?...........
No way, right?
I'm still of the mindset that there's virtually no way the Ravens would go against their pledge of five years ago.
I don't see them ever signing Antonio Brown.
But until I hear Eric DeCosta or Steve Bisciotti say that, specifically, the possibility remains that they might just do it.
And if they do...wouldn't that be something?
In what is likely to be a trend around all of sports, the Orioles announced they wouldn't be returning the money you spent on March, April and May tickets for the still-unplayed 2020 season.
Wait...wait...wait. Read on before you get mad.
You can get your money back. You just have to ask for it.
The Orioles (and other MLB teams) are not automatically refunding you for unplayed games due to Covid-19. Instead, they're offering you a deal. Let them keep the money and you can exchange those unused tickets for 125% credit to games in 2020, 2021 or 2022.
If you don't want the 125% credit, ask the O's for a refund and you'll get it.
There were a few people howling at the moon on Twitter late Wednesday and again on Thursday. They want their money back, now, and they don't feel like they should have to ask for it. The Orioles, after all, have your method of payment on file, and since nearly every seat these days is purchased with a credit/debit card, it should be ultra-easy to issue refunds.
That might be true, but there's no telling how many front office staffers are still working, for starters. Many may have been furloughed. In other words, the mere task of issuing refunds to thousands and thousands of people might not be as easy as it appears.
But it's also fair to remember these are tough, challenging times. And if someone plunked down $4,000 for two season tickets and they need that money back pronto, the Orioles should be able to return it in a matter of minutes.
The 125% credit gesture is, obviously, the organization's way of trying to get you to say "just keep the money". It's certainly a trade-off worth considering. Get your money back now or use it for games later this season or 2021 or 2022 and get 25% more to use when you choose that option. Personally? I'd take the 125%, but my $600 mini-plan payment (had I bought it this year) isn't a big hit to me financially. I suppose if I would have purchased two season tickets, I'd consider having my $4,000 returned immediately.
Someone brought up a reasonable question on Twitter yesterday. What if their current $24.00 seat goes up to $30.00 in 2022? Would they essentially be allowing the O's to keep their money now only to have the seat value increase to the point where the 125% credit basically got them the same seat in return two years later?
I didn't get involved in the Twitter thread, but you're nitpicking a little bit if you're thinking that far ahead and trying to figure out if the O's are beating you out of $1.00 or you're beating them out of $1.00 -- two years from now.
Anyway, I like the policy. I think it's the fairest way to handle unused tickets unless you plan on just offering blanket refunds to everyone.
The NHL and NBA will have similar ticketing policies to announce once it's confirmed that those two leagues will not complete their respective 2019-2020 seasons. Both leagues had between 10-20 regular season games remaining, which means each franchise has roughly half that many home games worth of season ticket money in the bank. Now what? Refund the money or try and "credit" people for seats to 2020-2021 games?
The NFL has a massive ticketing issue on their hands. They still don't know if they're even playing this season. And if they do play but fans aren't allowed into the stadium to watch, what will the teams do for their PSL holders?
Giving way to a boring, rainy Thursday, I ran a "what if?" Twitter poll yesterday that yielded a shocking result.
I asked this question: The medical fairy discovers a Covid-19 *cure* but says in order to release it to the public immediately all of Baltimore must sign a decree that mandates the #Ravens go 0-16 for the next 2 seasons. You can save the summer of '20, baseball, football, etc. by agreeing to it. What would you do?
This is an easy answer, right?
You sign the decree, help cure Covid-19, and endure a couple of winless football seasons.
Please tell me that's what you would do also. Please...
Only 60% of those who responded said they would sign the decree.
40% said "no way".
I joked with one Twitter follower of mine that I'd sign off on three 0-16 Ravens seasons if you throw in one round at Augusta National for me.
I'm not sure I was joking...
But the voting results really did stun me. I assumed it would be something like 90-10 in favor of signing it. I assumed there would be a few knuckleheads out there who said, "I don't care about a Covid-19 cure, I'm not suffering through two 0-16 football seasons."
Instead of 90-10, it was 60-40.
So I'll ask you the same question now and see what you'd do.
Cure Covid-19 and watch the Ravens go 0-16 for each of the next two seasons...would you sign the decree? Please use the Comments section below.