Thursday, December 27, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard

I don't know why, but I have a strange obsession with this movie.

It's kind of like the strange obsession I have with the quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens, Kyle Boller.

I shouldn't have such an unhealthy obsession on something so crappy as Kyle Boller, but I do. I root for the kid every week, hoping that this is the week he suddenly turns into John Elway or at least Jay Cutler.

After all, Boller was a high draft pick, so there were high expectations when the Ravens selected him in the first round. But since he was drafted, Boller has been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs.

The same can be said of Live Free or Die Hard.

When the film was finally announced (it had been rumored for years), I was excited to see John McClane back on the big screen. Yet when I saw the film, I couldn't help but be let down, like I was watching Kyle Boller play.

For one, the theatrical release of the film was PG-13. It was a slap in the face of Die Hard fans. The first three films had been prototypical R-rated action films made for adults but aimed directly at the G.I. Joe generation. And I grew up on these films, watching them back to back late one night while the parents were asleep. So when I heard about the PG-13 rating, I was instantly let down, the same way I was when I heard that Aliens Vs. Predator was going to be PG-13.

And as I walked out of the theater upon first viewing the film, I came to the following conclusions:

1. This wasn't a Die Hard film. First, it wasn't rated R and second, McClane had been turned into an invincible action hero. He threw cars at helicopters, jumped off spiraling-out-of-control F-35 fighter jets, and even worse, became CGI likeness of Bruce Willis at one point in the film. I felt like I was playing the old PlayStation game Apocalypse again. If ever there was a flesh and blood action hero that could be killed, it was John McClane. But not here. It was like he grabbed the star from Super Mario Bros. and ran with it for the entire movie.

2. The plot was lame because computers aren't scary. If my Mac freezes up (which it does all the time), it's a pain in the ass. I reboot. If my bank's computers went crazy and I lost all my money, I'd expect it to be fixed in a reasonable amount of time. So when LFODH is about computer hackers trying to bring down America's computerized infrastructure, excuse me if I'm not thrilled. Handled differently, I think it could have been effective, but as it was, it sounded like a lot of techno-babble and nothing as immediately dangerous as any of the threats in the first three films.

3. Too much time was spent on characters who are useless. Cliff Curtis is an excellent actor. He's been great in more movies than you probably realize. But here, he is wasted as some government suit, barking orders at his subordinates. If he ever joined in the action the way that Al Powell did in the original film, his character may have become something other than a way for the writers to explain what was going on to the viewer. Instead, he came off like an unwanted Greek chorus .

4. The villain sucked. Timothy Olyphant, like Curtis, is a solid actor. He's got a great deadpan delivery that makes you wonder if he is joking or serious. But as Thomas Gabriel, he comes across as a stubborn geek who doesn't like it when McClane messes with his plans. And we know, right off the bat, that McClane can kick his ass mano y mano.

That said, LFODH still manages to be a fun ride. And it has a lot of good things going for it.

Justin Long is serviceable, if not likable, as McClane's techno-wiz sidekick, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead manages to inject that McClane moxy into her character in limited screen time. Her character should have been expanded. The movie also looks, and sounds great. And despite being a PG-13 film, the body count is high and there are still some good one-liners.

But it all still managed to come up short in the end.

So did the Unrated version of the film help things? Yes and no.

For one, there is a lot more language in the unrated version. I counted about a dozen and a half F-bombs. And while that might sound trivial, cussing is what made John McClane who he is -- someone who would rather be anywhere else than where he is, and he'd let you know it with a well-placed blue streak. Thankfully, this comes across better in the unrated version.

Second, there is more violence, but it's mostly CGI blood bursts when someone is shot. In my opinion, this was added after the original release was completed to satisfy the fans who complained upon hearing of a PG-13 rating. And after seeing I Am Legend, where all the zombies were needlessly computer generated, I can't help but look back on the good old days when blood squibs were used for gunshot wounds and make-up artists earned their paychecks instead of opting for cheap and easy CGI.

But in the end, all the extra violence and cussing in the world can't save a Die Hard film that was flawed from the beginning. Even though Len Wiseman tries to inject some old flourishes of the series into this new installment, LFODH just comes across as a modern-age action movie with the Die Hard stamp affixed on it's movie poster and a few references tossed into the script to keep fans loyal.

Is it a fun film? Hell yeah. And the DVD is put together nicely. The sconces on my wall sounded like they were going to shatter or break off the wall when the action began.

But in the end, it just doesn't feel like a Die Hard film the same way that Kyle Boller doesn't feel like an NFL quarterback.

And I'm still disappointed even thought it could be worse.

FILM SCORE (out of ****): Theatrical Version **1/2, Unrated Version ***
BEST SCENE: Apartment shoot-out.
FILM STATUS: Die Hard film in name only, but still worth a watch.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Year of Lows

I don't normally write about the Ravens on this blog, but after today's embarrassing loss to the winless Miami Dolphins, I can't help myself.

So here goes...

A Year of Lows - My Experience of a Baltimore Sports Fan in 2007

2007 was a year full of promise for Baltimore sports fans.

It started off with the 2006 Ravens finishing up at 13-3, and clinching a first round bye in the playoffs. The “no-defense” Indianapolis Colts were coming to town in such a fitting twist of fate, since the Colts left Baltimore for Indianapolis 23 long years ago, and Baltimore fans were still bitter. Ravens fans turned out like never before, wearing “Beat Indy” shirts with Johnny Unitas’ number 19 emblazoned on the back. I even dropped $15 to own of these shirts myself.

But the January playoff game was a massive let-down to say the least.

Steve McNair, the Ravens QB, who played so well over the course of the season, played like crap, throwing two costly interceptions. Combine that with head coach Brian Billick’s “play not to lose” gameplan, and you have a recipe for a Titanic-sized letdown.

End result, Indianapolis 15, Baltimore 6 and my "Beat Indy" shirt in the trash can as soon as I got home from the game.

To add insult to injury, the Chargers, the top-seeded team in the AFC, lost the day after the Ravens lost, which would have guaranteed Baltimore the AFC Championship game had the Ravens beaten the Colts.

But from there on out, Baltimore fans could do nothing but root against the Colts as they hosted the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. And when the Patriots got out to a large first-half lead, Baltimore fans could at least rest assured that the Colts would continue their Super Bowl drought after moving to Indianapolis.

But the impossible happened. The Colts mounted a huge second half comeback and beat the Patriots.

And the nightmare for Baltimore fans became a reality: the Indianapolis Colts were going to the Super Bowl after all. And for the next two weeks, Baltimore fans cried into their Natty Boh’s as Peyton Manning’s mug was plastered all over the TV, and not just on commercials.

The Colts rolled over the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl and once more, salt was poured into the collective wound of Baltimore fans everywhere as Jim Irsay hoisted the Lombardi trophy above his head and thanked the fans of Indianapolis, 23 years after his father moved the team.

Next up were the Orioles, hardly a beacon for hope in Baltimore, having undergone nine consecutive losing seasons. And after those nine long losing seasons, Orioles fans were looking forward to a .500 season. After so much ugliness, even mediocrity started to look good.

The Orioles made the requisite mediocre signings in Aubrey Huff and Jay Payton. And when Kris Benson went down with an injury, the Orioles signed his clone, Steve Trachsel.

The Orioles got off to their usual teasing start in April, actually resembling something that looked like a major league baseball team. But then the bottom fell out as usual. Sam Perlozzo mis-managed the Orioles night in and night out, the starting rotation started to drop like flies, and the Orioles sunk back into their old losing ways.

Perlozzo was later dismissed and interim manager Dave Trembley immediately breathed some life back into the team. Meanwhile, Peter Angelos turned over what looked like a new leaf by handing over the team to esteemed GM Andy MacPhail who had success as GM in Minnesota and Chicago. One of MacPhail’s first moves as GM was rewarding Trembley’s instant success with a contract to be the full-time manager for the remainder of 2007 and 2008.

And what did the Orioles do that very night, before the ink on Trembley’s freshly signed contract had time to dry?

They went out in the first game of a double header against the Texas Rangers, a team as bad, if not worse, than the Orioles, and lost 30-3. That’s right. 30-3. They allowed the most runs in the history of modern day baseball against a weak-hitting line-up that resembled their own.

The Orioles followed up that terrible loss with massive losing streaks (yes, that's plural, as in more than one) that placed them in their old familiar sport – fourth place – with a 69-73 record, cementing their 10th consecutive losing season in a row.

Next up were the Ravens again.

After an off-season of licking their wounds, the Ravens let RB Jamal Lewis go to the AFC North perennial cellar-dwelling Cleveland Browns, who had a knack for picking up the Ravens’ leftover scraps. To replace Jamal Lewis, the Ravens traded for a stud in Willis McGahee from the Buffalo Bills. The stabilizing veteran QB presence of Steve McNair was back as well, ready to lead his team to the playoffs and beyond, having spent a year learning the Ravens playbook.

But the Ravens came out in their first game against the Cincinnati Bengals and laid an egg on national TV that would foreshadow the rest of the season.

The Ravens turned the ball over half a dozen times and Brian Billick decided to abandon his running game when he needed only one yard late in the game. End results, Benagls 22, Ravens 20.

However, the Ravens bounced back in the following five weeks, managing to end up at a respectable 4-2 record after six games, all without showing much on offense as usual. Fans thought that they would eventually start to gel, but then the worst happened.

And it has yet to end.

A massive eight game losing streak, the longest in franchise history, that continues to this very day. The losing streak is made up of spare parts injuries, bad play-calling, poor execution, and a tough schedule.

The losing streak contained heart-breaking losses, such as the close loss to the currently undefeated New England Patriots, and a blow-out loss to the Colts that forced fans to leave before the first quarter was even over.

But the game that sticks out the most in this losing streak was the overtime loss at home to the Cleveland Browns. The Browns and their high-powered offense had gotten off to a big lead early in the game, but the Ravens rallied back in the second half, tying the game and eventually taking the lead.

But in the closing seconds, the Browns drove down to their end of the field and kicked a field goal. Initially, it was ruled no good by the referees, as it looked like the ball had hit the goal post and fell to the ground. The officials even officially ended the game, which sent 70,000+ fans happily headed towards the exit, myself included, thinking that the Ravens had won the game.

But some ten minutes later, after the referees discussed the field goal and ruled that it was good, the game was sent into overtime. The referees called the teams back on the field, and the Ravens, having thought they won the game, came out flat as the Browns won the coin toss and drove down the field with ease to kick another field goal which would win them the game.

Had the Ravens won that game, they would have been sitting nicely at 5-5. Not exactly playoff contenders, but a team that still had something to play for. Instead, the loss sent them spiraling into the ground.

But the icing on the cake has to be the loss to the winless Miami Dolphins this afternoon. When the losing started, the one thing Ravens fan could say was “at least we have Miami”. Well, the ironic thing was that Dolphins fans were saying the same thing about Baltimore.

And they were right.

The Ravens lost another close one in overtime, and again, Brian Billick’s play-calling cost the Ravens the game. With twelve seconds left in regulation and the ball on the one yard line, Billick decided to tie the game by kicking a field goal instead of pounding the ball into the endzone for the win. The field goal instead forced the game into overtime, where Matt Stover missed a long field goal and the Dolphins scored on a long TD pass in the following drive to win the game and end their winless season.

Meanwhile, the Ravens are sure to turn into the butt of national jokes, and most of them will be well-deserved. Fans are calling for Billick to be fired, which owner Steve Biscotti has said won’t happen, and the several veterans on the team are looking their age. It’s a crossroads for the Ravens, who were pre-season favorites to win the division and now sit at the bottom, looking up at everyone else.

My, how the mighty have fallen.

As the year comes to a close, I am thankful. From a sports fan perspective, 2007 has been a disaster from start to finish. Us Baltimore fans are usually hard on ourselves, and we are surely wallowing in despair today, waiting to see what people will have to say about the lowly Ravens losing to the winless Dolphins.

But as sports fans, no matter what city we’re from, we have to remember, “there’s always next year”, and thankfully, New Year’s Day is only sixteen days away.

Maybe I'm being too optimistic. Maybe it's the eggnog. But no matter how jaded a fan I may be, I wouldn't be a fan if I didn't think it were true.

There is always next year. There is always next year. There is always next year.


And don't forget to breathe.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mitchell Report

As expected, the Mitchell Report (released today and available for download here) hit the Orioles hard, linking many Orioles from the past and present with steroids.

Even the Bad Oriole himself, Manny Alexander, was named in the report.

The impact this report will have on trading Brian Roberts (who is named in the report) remains to be seen, but with Miguel Tejada having been linked to steroids for years, and getting traded only a day before the report was to be released, one must think that it won't effect Roberts' trade value all that much.

What troubles me, however, is the amount of players from the Orioles named on the list. I don't know if it's because the Orioles are an easy target because of their years of losing and the amount of stars they've had on their rosters over the last few years, or what.

But I can't help but wonder if winning teams have less players mentioned in the report. So I have the call the objectivity of the report into question.

Here's why.

Senator Mitchell is associated with Boston Red Sox ownership, and as fate would have it, no one from the Red Sox current roster is mentioned in the report.

Not one.

I find it hard to believe that man-beasts Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are 100% clean.

Anyway, no one knows what the Mitchell report means for baseball. If suspensions are levied for all players mentioned in the report, April 2008 could look a lot like the 1995 season could have looked like with replacement players filling in for the striking players.

What the report will probably do is force the MLB to ramp up their testing policy, which is still pretty weak.

But overall, the Mitchell report hasn't told us anything we haven't already known. Baseball players take steroids and have taken them for years.

In other breaking news, the North has won the war, man has landed on the moon, and Y2K was a hoax.

Turning a corner?

Last week I speculated that Peter Angelos may have been losing faith in Andy MacPhail after John Heyman of Sports Illustrated reported the rumor.

I think the Tejada trade puts that rumor to rest.

Miguel Tejada was the star of the Orioles, and the most identifiable and marketable player on the team. Over the last 10 years, Angelos has been very hesitant to trade away his most familiar players. And with wins coming at a premium in Baltimore, identifiable players were one of the few reasons to see the team play in person.

But by trading Tejada, it proves to us that Angelos is at least open to a rebuilding process, as Erik Bedard and Brian Roberts have been attached to several trades as well, and will probably be traded this offseason.

That said, it's going to take more than just trading Tejada to make me believe that Angelos has turned over a new leaf. Maybe once Brian Roberts -- the most fan-friendly player, and one of Angelos' favorites -- is traded, I might start to believe. Angelos has done too much damage for me to forget 10 years of constantly overruling his baseball people and running quality baseball people out of town by approving one trade.

But trading Tejada is the best sign to show fans that Angelos finally sees the light. He's tried to do things his way for 10 years, and maybe he's finally admitted that his way was wrong.

Now back to MacPhail.

Since coming to Baltimore in the middle of last season, MacPhail took time to review the organization and evaluate the way things were done. He made moves he thought needed to be made. He extended manager Dave Trembley. He fired pitching coach Leo Mazzone. And hired young-pitcher-friendly pitching coach Rick Kranitz.

He has a vision for the future of the Orioles, and he's making the moves that fit in with that vision. Mike Flanagan, Jim Beattie and Jim Duquette used to say one thing and then do the other. Not MacPhail. Everything he has said since coming to Baltimore has been backed up by his actions.

His trades alone are proof.

When he traded Steve Trachsel last season, many fans just wanted Trachsel gone so youngsters like Garret Olson and Radhames Liz could take his spot in the rotation. But MacPhail traded Trachsel to the Cubs and actually got some value in return in Scott Moore, who projects to be the starting 3B if Melvin Mora is traded or moved to another position, and Rocky Cherry, a decent arm in the bullpen.

His Tejada trade yesterday started out as a decent one, but got even better the more one thought about it. MacPhail traded Tejada, still a great player, but one who is starting to decline in physical skills. His range at SS is now average at best. His power numbers have declined since 2004. There are rumors floating around baseball that he might be older than 32. And he is supposed to be linked to steroids in the Mitchell report, which will be released today.

And MacPhail did all of this without paying any of Tejada's salary, all while getting back 5 talented players who could all become solid MLB players one day. Sure, some are more likely to succeed than others, but each player received in that trade fits into what the Orioles are trying to do:

Get younger and get better.

So while there are still a lot of question marks surrounding the Orioles' future right now, at least some things are starting to become a little clearer. For one, MacPhail looks to be the right guy for the job. And most importantly, it looks like Angelos is letting him do it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tricks of the Trade

An hour or so ago, Orioles traded Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros for 5 players. More on them later.

First, I'd like to celebrate Tejada's time in Baltimore. He was perhaps the greatest free agent signing the Orioles have ever made. In 2004, he arguably had the best offensive season an Oriole player has ever had, knocking in 150 RBI (a club record).

It's a shame the Orioles never followed up Tejada's signing with anything else that helped turn the O's into a contender, because Tejada would have been the perfect centerpiece on a winning team.

He's energetic, passionate, gets along with everyone, and loves the game. He was at one time, one of baseball's on-field ambassadors. However, when the Orioles fell back into their usual ways of losing, Tejada became frustrated and it showed. He failed to run out ground balls and demanded to be traded. His alleged involvement with steroids didn't help either. But in short, Tejada had a very good career in Baltimore, even though it has been short-lived. And for that, I thank Miguel and wish him the best in Houston.

Now, back to the trade.

Andy MacPhail promised changes when he was hired and this is the first hard evidence we have of him following through on his word. On the surface, this trade could be somewhat of a disappointment, as it appears to be quantity over quality. Especially when you consider some of the rumors that had "can't miss" prospects coming back to Baltimore in a Tejada trade.

But we can never really be sure who was on the table in a trade for Tejada. Rumors are what they are, rumors. But what we can look at is who we got back in this trade, which is what we will do right now.

Troy Patton is a 22 year old LHP who dominated in the MiL, but people question his ability to log 180+ innings as he has never pitched more than 151 innings in his career. At any rate, he is the most promising piece of the deal. He is young and MLB ready, as he logged 12 innings in Houston last season.

Dennis Sarfate is a 26 year old RHP bullpen arm. He throws hard and could fill in as closer until Chris Ray is healthy again. He's only logged 17 innings at the MLB level, and walks a lot of people, but his career 3.67 MiL ERA is promising.

Luke Scott is a 29 LH OF. He's essentially Jay Gibbons. He slugged a lot in the MiL, and in his 668 AB at the MLB level (a little more than a 162 game season), he's totaled 28 HR, 105 RBI and an .882 OPS. At 29 (30 next June) Scott doesn't factor into the Orioles rebuilding plans. If the Orioles keep him, Scott could be a stop gap in LF until hot prospect Nolan Reimold arrives, and he is head and shoulders better than Payton, but his best value to the Orioles should be in another trade.

Michael Costanzo is a 24 year old LH 3B. He's a little old for AA ball, which is where he's topped out, but his 27 HR and .858 OPS there in 2007 sounds like he could be ready for the MLB in 2008. At any rate, he'll challenge Mora (if he's still here in '08) and Scott Moore for 3B, but like Moore, Costanzo strikes out a ton.

Rounding out the bunch, Matt Albers is a 25 year old RHP. In 125 IP in Houston over the last 2 years, he's had a scary 5.87 ERA and control problems. In his MiL career, he's been pretty accurate with nearly a 3 to 1 K/BB rate and a decent 3.62 ERA. At present, Albers projects to be a bullpen arm, and if his control improves, perhaps a back end rotation starter.

Patton, Sarfate and Costonzo appear are the best candidates to become key players for the Orioles in the future. None of them are sure things, but their numbers are promising. Scott should be traded to a contender who could use him now, and Albers is an extra arm for the pen.

While some people would have hoped for a better return for Tejada, perhaps just one sure fire prospect (Brandon Wood of the Angels or Felix Pie of the Cubs), at least there are a few players in this bunch who could turn out to be solid MLB players. And that is where quantity over quality helps. If Wood or Pie is a bust, the Tejada trade is a bust. At least we have 5 shots to make this trade mean something other than a salary dump, as Tejada was owed $26 million over the next 2 years.

So at first look, it appears that the Orioles' first trade of the offseason is a success. But as with most trades, time will tell.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


The worst news to come out of the winter meetings so far is not that the Orioles have failed to pull the trigger on any trades. And it's not they have made a bad trade.

No, the worst thing to come out of the winter meetings are the rumors swirling around that Angelos is not happy with Andy MacPhail.

John Heyman of Sports Illustrated wrote this yesterday...

Word among intimates is that Angelos already is questioning MacPhail behind the scenes. Word around the town is that Angelos is upset that MacPhail hasn't kept him in the loop on every detail (if true, I couldn't blame MacPhail for that).

Now, MacPhail hasn't done much since he arrived in Baltimore, but he has said all the right things and has laid a good groundwork for building this team into a contender. He's even gone as far as saying that the Orioles won't be competitive until 2010.

Hey, he's just stating the obvious. And could you imagine former GM's Mike Flanagan or Jim Duquette uttering those words?

At any rate, MacPhail has been a good fit for the Orioles, who were desperately in need of someone who could tell it like it is, and not simply tow the company line. But now it looks like even MacPhail could be ruffling some feathers in the warehouse.

And the most troubling thing is that we were told all along that Angelos and MacPhail worked well together, and that Angelos had given the team over to MacPhail.

But now comes this rumor. And if it's true, it does not bode well for the Orioles.

It would just prove that no matter how "comfortable" Angelos is with anyone, he's still going to be the same old meddling owner he's always been.

I would cast this rumor off as heresay, but then think of this. The Cubs reportedly had an offer on the table that would send 2 LHP SP's (Rich Hill and Sean Marshall) to Baltimore in exchange for Brian Roberts. The pitchers aren't clones of Erik Bedard (who is), but they both had sub-4 ERA's last year, and are both still highly touted even though they are 26 and 28 years old. It's a deal that should/could have been done.

But we all know Angelos' feelings on Roberts. He vetoed a deal that would have sent Roberts to Atlanta last offseason in exchange for 1B Adam LaRoche and 2B Marcus Giles. At the time, it felt like a fair deal. LaRoche was an up-and-coming slugging 1B and Giles would have been a slight drop-off from Roberts. But Angelos stepped in and said "no." Since then, it has looked like Angelos made the right decision, but for all the wrong reasons.

So it would come as no surprise to hear that Angelos vetoed yet another deal involving Roberts, this time to the Cubs. And in the era of MacPhail, a man who had supposedly been given free reign within the Orioles organization, this is the worst news that could come out of the winter meetings, or any meeting..

It's sketchy, yes, and one must make a few jumps in logic to make the connection, but we know Angelos. We know his past.

Would this really surprise you if it turned out to be true?

Let's pray it's not.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Winter Warz

And so it begins, the most nerve-wracking part of the Orioles offseason.

The Winter Meetings.

This week, O's fans usually have their sights set high, hoping for that one blockbuster trade that can hold them off until spring training. But most times, it's a week of never-ending frustration where a lot gets discussed, and nothing gets done.

These meetings are mostly a hype machine to get fans thinking about baseball again, a little more than a month after the end of the World Series as the NFL season heats up. There have been some big-name trades and signings made at these meetings in the past, but those have been few and far between.

Usually our perception of what goes on at these meetings aren't far from the truth. Baseball GM's get together, talk, drink coffee, play some golf, and then go home. It's likely no different than a vacuum cleaner sales convention. I wouldn't even be surprised if strippers were somehow involved. Maybe it gets the ball rolling for trades and signings later in the offseason, but overall, the meetings are nothing more than a hot-air balloon. Full of hot air.

OK, the bad puns end there.

Most GM's are content to play the waiting game at the winter meetings, and Andy MacPhail, in his first winter meetings as VPOBO of the Orioles, is no different. The are rumors flying around cyberspace as fast as you can type "LOL". But less than 1% of those rumors are bound to become reality. The same can be said of all other teams in the MLB too, so paranoid O's fans can rest assured and say "it's not just us" this time.

The one sliver of believable news that has been reported is that MacPhail has been aggressive in his trade offers, and at the same time is asking for too much in return, especially for Miguel Tejada.

I don't know if I am supposed to be happy or worried about this. On one hand, MacPhail is setting the bidding high, and can still come down from his mountain to get a valuable return -- but on the other hand -- he could be scaring potential suitors away with his high demands. The Orioles history of incompetence when it comes to trades surely doesn't help either.

But at least MacPhail sounds like he knows what he wants, which is more than we could ever say about the Flanagan/Beattie/Duquette regime. And when they did know what they wanted it usually ended with .500 baseball as the goal. Laughing that notion off was one of the first things MacPhail did when he came to Baltimore, and it instantly made me respect him. More props for AM when he said that the O's were far away from competing. Burnt you, Flanagan! But even more important, MacPhail apparently has the full trust of Peter Angelos.

So I do believe that O's fans can have some faith in Andy MacPhail, where we've had none before. But the winter meetings are nothing more than the device that is used most during the winter season. Heaters. They blow out a lot of hot air.

OK, so I lied.