Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Boller & Cody News...

Although the news that Dan Cody has officially been cut from the Ravens may not surface for a few hours, a little birdy has said that the announcement is only a matter of time.

That same birdy also said that Kyle Boller has a torn labrum and is out for the year, which means that Boller has likely played his last game as a Raven, if not, his last game in the NFL. Apparently he is going to get a second opinion, and he should since this is such a serious injury. But it doesn't look good.

And that depends on how you felt about Kyle.

Me? I liked him. He always played hard and gave his best even though a lot of times it simply wasn't good enough. He never threw teammates or coaches under the bus when he had a legit reason to and he never took credit for any success he may have had. He had a ton of heart and took a beating in Baltimore, both on the field and off.

Boller has basically been the poster boy for what we don't want to do with Joe Flacco.

Now the Ravens appear to be in the hunt for another QB. The birdy said that the Ravens were in talks with the 49ers, which leads me to believe that the Ravens were looking to bring former Terrapin QB Shaun Hill back to Maryland. Hill played well in 4 games last year with the Niners and would be a decent option backing up Smith or Flacco.

Then there is the obvious Miami connection with Cam Cameron, who was the head coach there last year when the Dolphins took John Beck in the second round. Beck looks to be the odd man out in Miami with Henne, Pennington and McCown currently looking like the QB's who will make their roster, so the Ravens may not even have to trade for Beck.

As for Dan Cody, he was a rare early round draft pick disappointment. In 3 years he's played in 2 games and looks like he'll miss more time in '08. The Ravens also traded for former Raven Marques Douglass today, which makes Cody even more expendable.

So there you have it. The Ravens may not be that good this year but they are making some eye-opening moves and things are getting interesting. And as we've seen in the past, things usually are interesting, regardless if the Ravens are winning or losing.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Preseason Game #3

Well, that was interesting.

Minutes before the game started, rookie QB Joe Flacco was named the starter and played the entire game. Turns out Troy Smith has tonsillitis and Kyle Boller has a sore shoulder. Both are not expected to be back at full strength by the opener, so it looks like Flacco could be the starting QB by default after all.

This leaves me to wonder if the Ravens will attempt to sign another QB, one who is healthy, and part ways with Kyle Boller. Healthy, Boller isn't of much use to the team any more.

At any rate, we got to see a lot of Joe Flacco in this game, and after a first half where he struggled to complete passes and maintain drives, he turned in a decent if not solid second half complete with a touchdown. His final line was 18-37, 152 yards, 1 TD and 0 INT with most of the yards coming in the second half.

Derrick Mason proved that he still has a little something left in the tank at age 34, catching 6 passes for 85 yards and the only Ravens TD of the game. It looks like Mason will again be the #1 WR as third-year WR Mark Clayton continues to find his way in Cam Cameron's offense after an impressive rookie season.

As for the running game, fullback Laron McClain had the most carries (8) and yards (41) while rookie Ray Rice only managed 20 yards on 5 carries after an impressive game 2 as the starting RB in Willis McGahee's absence from an injured knee. The Ravens haven't run very much this preseason, which is something Cam Cameron usually accounts for by designing a lot of screen passes.

It's also unknown how much of Cameron's playbook was used during the preseason. By the looks of it, hopefully the Ravens didn't get past page 1. The offense, as always, has looked sluggish and uninspired through 3 preseason games.

The defense looked the same. The Rams moved the ball on the Ravens defense at will, though granted, a handful of regulars including Chris McAllister, Ed Reed and Kelly Gregg were no-shows.

The third preseason game is usually the game that is the most like the regular season as starters play longer and game plans are drawn up and executed. The fourth game doesn't look like it'll offer much of anything except more Flacco as Boller and Smith get healthy.

From the looks of it, this is going to be a long season, but one of development if the Ravens can get Flacco in as the starting QB around the mid-way point.

Until then, it's Troy Smith's show.

I also just did a game-by-game look at the Ravens schedule and my most conservative approach had them going 2-14.


Monday, August 18, 2008

That's A-Mora!

Melvin Mora had plenty to hug and smile about yesterday, as he went 5-6 with 2 doubles and 2 home runs totaling 6 RBI in the O's rout of the Detroit Tigers, 16-8.

I've been openly critical of Mora in the past and his usual mid-.700 OPS and base-running blunders. But I have to give the father of quintuplets credit. He's en fuego right now.

Since the All Star Break, Mora is hitting .432 with 9 HR and 43 RBI. That's a 1.241 OPS, folks. Mora has single-handedly raised his OPS from .690 at the break to the current .834 OPS he has now in just one month.

My past souring on Mora has more to do with the front office signing and re-signing aging veterans when the team should be placing an emphasis on getting younger, but I think Melvin Mora is the exception to that rule.

Mora has been an Oriole for 9 years and barring an unlikely trade, it'll be 10 years. He's the longest tenured Oriole on the team. I'd be willing to call him the second-best third-baseman in Orioles history, behind you-know-who. Let's face it, after Brooks, there's not much to pull from. Mora's closest competition is Doug DeCinces.

But that's not taking anything away from Mora. It's time to anoint Mora with the second-tier "Great Oriole" moniker that Brady Anderson, Boog Powell and Paul Blair currently have. Mora is a shoe-in for the Oriole Hall of Fame and more importantly, he's is a good guy.

Other than a few out-of-context quotes where Mora can sound like a "me first" kinda guy, Mora has been the ultimate team player, and his occasional bunting proves it. He loves Baltimore, and he loves the Orioles, hence his demand for a no-trade clause when he last re-signed with the O's. And I'll always be grateful that he was the only active Oriole who was respectful enough to show up for Elrod Hendricks' funeral. Why every player who ever came into contact with Elrod didn't show up for the funeral, we'll never know.

Now, Mora may not equal his insane 2004 season this year, but he could come close. And what makes that really cool is that he's done it after 2 mediocre seasons that caused many fans to say he was on a decline and on his way out of baseball.

That still may be true, but not before he proves a lot of fans wrong for at least one year.

Me included.

Preseason Game #2

The Ravens lost to the Vikings 26-15 last Saturday night, and while most people say preseason games are useless, I think we came away with a better impression, good or bad, of what this team is going to look like come week 1.

The most impressive thing about the game was rookie RB Ray Rice. He improved from a disappointing game last week and turned in a really solid performance as the starting RB with Willis McGahee out with a knee injury. He ran 8 times for 77 yards and a TD. He also caught 3 passes for 17 yards.

I must admit, after the first preseason game, I was a little worried about Rice not hitting holes hard and breaking tackles. Those doubts have been erased when I saw Rice explode through holes and barrel through defenders. I still wish the Ravens had more at the RB position than just McGahee and Rice, and wouldn't be against them signing a Cedric Benson (as mentioned in an earlier post), but it does at least look like Rice can handle the load in McGahee's absence.

The QB battle hasn't really shaped up to be much of anything, with both Troy Smith and Kyle Boller struggling to find consistency in Cam Cameron's new offense.

On the bright side, Troy Smith did show some flash, eluding a sack and then scrambling for 17 yards on one play. He had 35 rushing yards on the night. Kyle Boller was his usual self, starting off well before spiraling down into terribleness. He completed his first 8 passes before 4 straight incompletions and the INT. Rookie Joe Flacco actually had some time to throw this game and fared the best out of the Ravens QB's. He went 10-15 for 75 yards, and put the team in position to tie the game late in the 4th quarter.

It does look like Smith is the guy at this point, due to his mobility behind an inexperienced (ie, weak) line, but he still needs to work on timing and accuracy. And that may have more to do with the WR's at this point. None of the WR's slated to make the team, outside of KR Yamon Figures, had a catch.

On the other side of the ball, The Defense was pushed around all night. They made Tavaris Jackson look like Fran Tarkenton, especially on Jackson's 23-yard TD pass in the first quarter. Granted, most of the first string wasn't starting, or didn't play for long, but it would have been nice to see even the non-starters on defense stop the weak-passing Vikings.

Overall it was a disappointing night. The Ravens were never really in the game beyond the first quarter and the highly-touted QB "battle" has become more of a ear-flicking contest.

From the looks of it, the 2008 season is going to be a long one.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Orange & Black Nostalgia

While the current Orioles slide slowly into their late-season funk, with the team seeming to win only games when Jeremy Guthrie starts, I got nostalgic for the early 90's O's teams while scanning the O's Franchise Encyclopedia over at, which is quite possibly the second-best web site of all time, behind Wikipedia of course.

Not that I didn't know it already, because these O's teams were essentially the teams I grew up on, but I'll be damned if the O's of that era weren't a competitive bunch from the "Why Not" year of 1989 right up until their last winning season of 1997.

After the 1983 World Series, it is widely regarded that the Orioles failed to produce quality players and their farm system became a barren wasteland. It may be accurate but not entirely true. How else do you explain 6 winning seasons in a 9 year span before Peter Angelos opened up his wallet in the late 90's?

When taking my little stroll down memory lane, I was more interested in the pre-playoff seasons of the early 90's, because '96 and '97 have been dissected and debated for the last 11 years, in absence of a winning season since. But more importantly, '96 and '97 are still too painful to bring up. Mention Jeffrey Maier or Tony Fernandez too loudly in Baltimore and you're taking your life into your own hands.

Anyway, I was the ripe old age of 10 years old during the 1989 season, and I remember bits and pieces of it like it was yesterday. Time has dimmed the glory of the rest that season, but images of Olson buckling the knees of Dave Parker, Dave Henderson and Mark McGwire are still fresh, as well as Mike Devereaux's home run bending around -- or over -- the foul pole against the California Angels (remember when their name was that easy to say?) and then back to Olson again, this time throwing consecutive wild-pitches at the SkyDome in the final series of that year, the series that decided the division winner.

Needless to say, 1989 is a combination of sweet and sour memories.

As a matter of fact, all of the Orioles' winning seasons have tasted like a Chinese dinner course, because I was only 4 when the O's won their last World Series in 1983. So pretty much every good memory I have of the Orioles ends badly.

But 1989 was special. Coming off a 107-loss season in 1988, the Orioles were expected to be terrible once more. But they... weren't. They were anything but.

Perhaps the fondest memory of that season is going to Memorial Stadium with about 13 or 14 people made up of friends and family. In around the third inning, most of us saw that the Brewers had beaten the Blue Jays who were running neck and neck with the Orioles for most of the season. But my dad, who is prone to be off in his own world (he fell asleep at a 1996 playoff game), stood up at around the eight inning and announced very loudly what the rest of the stadium already knew.

Early on in 2008, some overly optimistic fans compared the season to the '89 season, what with the mixture of young players and veterans comprising both rosters. But take another look at that '89 roster. There aren't as many veterans as some might remember. Out of their regular starters, Phil Bradley was the oldest at 30. Compare that to this year's O's team and you'll see that 6 of the 9 regular starters are over 30 (7, if you include Juan Castro).

However, both teams had a better-than-expected offenses, with the '89 team ranking 5th in runs scored and the current O's team at 6th on August 14th.

But the difference lies in the pitching. The '89 squad benefited from fluke year from 18-game winner Jeff Ballard and a respectable season from Bob Milacki. But the one strength of that team was the bullpen. Mark Williamson earned 10 wins in relief with a 2.93 ERA while Kevin Hickey, Brian Holton and Mark Thurmond also contributed nicely in the later innings. Then there was 22-year-old closer sensation Gregg Olson, with a 12-6, knee-buckling curve ball, who racked up 27 saves with a 1.69 ERA.

Early on in '08, it looked like the bullpen of the Orioles was going to be a strength, with Jim Johnson, Matt Albers and George Sherrill all going strong, but Albers went down with an injury and Sherrill has started to falter in the closer's role. Johnson looks like the real deal, but even he is starting to resemble a human being after all.

The rotation hasn't fared any better, with only Jeremy Guthrie as the stabilizing force. Daniel Cabrera is mediocre-at-best with a 4.78 ERA, but no other Oriole starter thus far has an ERA below 6.00.

So I think it's safe to say that any comparisons between the '89 team and the current one were premature.

After eventually losing the pennant to the Blue Jays in the last series of the season, the 1990 team failed to continue the momentum of the '89 season, and the team finished with a 76-85 record. However, #1 overall pick (a gift from the 54-107 1988 season) Ben McDonald broke onto the scene with a 8-5 record and 2.43 ERA. But things only got worse from there as the 1991 team came within 5 games of losing 100 and made what was the worst trade in the history of the franchise, sending Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling to the Astros for 1B Glenn Davis, who was out of baseball by the end of the 1993 season. Cal Ripken's MVP-winning season was perhaps the season's only bright spot of the '91 season. But as they changed stadiums, moving from Memorial Stadium to Camden Yards, the Orioles also changed gears.

The new look Orioles won 89 games their first year in Camden Yards behind Mike Mussina's 18-win season and Mike Devereaux's 24 HR and 104 RBI. The O's finished 7 games out of first place, but at least they were winning again.

In 1993, they went 85-77, good for third place yet again. Looking back, I envy these competitive teams, but back then, O's fans were frustrated that their Birds were good, but not good enough. As 1993 came to a close, O's fans were wondering if #1 pick Ben McDonald would ever live up to the massive hype that surrounded him, and wondering what happened to Mussina, who after a great '92 season, struggled with a 4.46 ERA. But on the offensive side of things, catcher Chris Hoiles bopped 29 HR and finished the year with a 1.001 OPS while Cal hit 24 dingers himself.

In 1994, things were looking up for the O's before the strike ended the hopes of not just the Orioles, but all teams in baseball that year. At the time, the O's were 7 games behind the Yankees, but with a 63-49 record, fans would have loved to see how it would have played out. They never got their chance. McDonald and Mussina led the rotation with 30 wins between them, and the strike cut short Mussina's quest for 20 wins (he had 16 when the work-stoppage took place in August). Mussina still hasn't won 20 games in his career, although he could have a chance to do it in 2008. Just not with the Orioles. As a matter of fact, Mussina's 20th win could come against the Orioles.

1995 saw the Orioles fire Johnny Oates as manager and hire lame-duck Phil Regan, who managed the team miserably to a 71-73 record in the shortened season after work started up again after the strike was resolved. Rafael Palmeiro blasted 39 home runs and Mike Mussina flirted with 20 wins yet again, this time winning 19 in only 144 games. The Orioles also traded for slugger Bobby Bonilla, who eventually helped the Orioles make it to the playoffs in 1996.

So the nostalgia ends here. We all know what happened in 1996 and 1997. Let's not relive the misery. It is better to remember the Orioles teams who played well, but never left us with the aching feeling of "what could have been" had Jeffrey Maier been sitting a few seats over in '96 and Tony Fernandez not done his best Bucky Dent impression in '97.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Guess who's block

The Ravens signed 37-year old fullback Lorenzo Neal yesterday.

You might remember Neal from when he blocked for running backs with the Saints, Jets, Bucs, Titans, Bengals and Chargers.

Neal has blocked for a 1,000 yard rusher each year since 1996. That may speak to the quality of running backs he's blocked for (Corey Dillon, Eddie George, LaDanian Tomlinson, etc.) more than Neal's impact on them, but regardless, Neal has established himself as a premiere FB in the NFL.

At 37, it's unknown if he can still block defensive linemen and linebackers effectively, but I'm willing to bet the veteran still has something left in the tank. Being reunited with Cam Cameron, his former OC from San Diego might energize him too.

Willis McGahee is a top level RB when healthy, and Neal should make him even better, giving him bigger holes to run through, while offering his services to rookie Ray Rice as well.

And while the signing of Lorenzo Neal doesn't exactly make this team a playoff contender, it does bring some stability to an otherwise questionable offense that desperately needed it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

McGahee to have surgery...

RB Willis McGahee is scheduled to have surgery on his left knee today.

In the long-run, this will help McGahee stay healthy as his knee has bothered Willis as far back as last season. He missed the last 2 games of the 2007 because of it.

However, in the short-term, this handcuffs the Ravens at the RB position, as McGahee will probably miss the first few weeks of the season.

Rookie RB Ray Rice has a lot of potential, but based on his performance last Thursday in a preseason game against the Patriots, he has a long way to go to lives up to it. He rushed for only 12 yards on 6 carries.

Now I'm not about to change my opinion on Rice based on one lousy preseason game, but it would be nice if the Ravens' RB options outside of Rice were more than special-team specialists P.J. Daniels and Cory Ross.

Last time I checked, RB's Shaun Alexander, Cedric Benson and Travis Henry were still free agents and all could be had for cheap. They all would offer the Ravens some depth at the RB position to start the season and bring a veteran presence to the Ravens while McGahee gets healthy.

Of the three, I would look to sign Benson, who is still young, and hungry to erase his time in Chicago. A former 4th overall pick in 2005, Benson was a bust with the Bears over the course of 3 years, never topping more than 674 yards in a given season. Benson was so disappointing, that the Bears drafted Tulane RB Matt Forte in the second round and then signed Kevin Jones of the oft-IR ilk to replace Benson.

Despite Benson's troubles living up to his draft pick status, I would still prefer him over Shaun Alexander, who has failed to stay healthy in the last 2 seasons and is clearly on his way out of the league -- and Travis Henry, whose off the field problems caused him to get cut by each of the Bills, Titans and Broncos.

The other option is sticking with Rice, who's been impressive in training camp, but will have to play well against the Vikings come Saturday to ease my doubts about the Ravens current running game situation.

Here's to hoping Rice will perform, and become the answer while McGahee gets healthy.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Moves I'd make today...

With Chad Bradford having been traded to the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday for a player to be named later, it got the Bad Oriole thinking about the other moves I would make to improve this team now and for the future.

1. Trade Jay Payton for PTBNL or release him. Call up Nolan Reimold. Payton could fetch a PTBNL and trading him would be more about freeing up roster space for Reimold than anything else. Reimold is doing well in Bowie, .293/19/67/.870 stat line. Calling up Reimold would weaken Bowie's offense as they fight for first place in their division, but they'd still have the big bats of Matt Wieters and Jeff Nettles. Reimold figures to be the starting LF for the Orioles in 2009 with Luke Scott moving into more of a DH role, so using these last 2 months to get Reimold adjusted to the majors would be a good idea.

2. DFA Lance Cormier, call up Jim Miller. After being a decent mop-up guy for the first three months of the season, Cormier has allowed runs in 8 of his last 10 appearances and watched as his ERA went from 2.08 to 4.97 over that time span. Meanwhile, RHP reliever Jim Miller is coasting at Norfolk, with a 3.18 ERA, 65 K's in 56 IP, and a 1.11 WHIP.

3. DFA Brian Burres, sign LHP Matt Riley. In his last 3 IP, Burres has allowed 9 ER. This comes after Burres was shaky at best as a SP. Burres clearly doesn't have the stuff to get MLB batters out. Former Oriole prospect Matt Riley was released by the Dodgers last week after an impressive 40.2 IP in AAA, where he compiled 55 K and a 2.88 ERA. Converting Riley to a LOOGY would limit his pitching meltdowns, which we should all remember from his time as an Oriole.

4. Give Guillermo Quiroz more starts. Ramon Hernandez is a butcher behind the plate. Plus he could use the rest. Yeah he's still a potential trade piece, but Quiroz has played well in limited time and looks to be the future back-up to Matt Wieters. Reward him with as much playing time as you can before Wieters takes over.

5. Call up Hayden Penn as soon as he's healthy. Penn was supposed to be called up when the O's called up Chris Waters, but Penn was injured by a broken bat to the knee. Penn should be back to normal by this time next week, and as soon as he's healthy, bring him to Baltimore to take over Dennis Sarfate's aborted rotation spot. Penn has struggled at times in Norfolk this season, and is still working on gaining arm strength after dealing with injuries the last 2 years, but we saw that struggling in Norfolk doesn't exactly equal struggling in the majors. Just ask Chris Waters.

6. Get Lou Montanez regular playing time. Montanez was the leader in average, home runs and runs batted in when he was called up from the Baysox earlier this week. He also homered in his first major league at bat on Wednesday. Montanez may never be the slugger he was in Bowie, but he could become a decent 4th OF in 2009 and beyond. He's 26 years old. Get him as much playing time as possible to see how he fits into this team's plans. With Scott dealing with an aching heel, and Payton being traded/released soon, getting Montanez playing time shouldn't be a problem.

7. Extend Nick Markakis. He's the future of this team and the face of the franchise. Keep it that way. A 6 year, 65 million deal sounds fair.

8. Extend Dave Trembley. Trembley has taken a team that was projected to lose 100 games and kept them around .500 for most of the season. Granted, there is still a lot of baseball to be played, but Trembley is the guy to lead the new-look Orioles into the next few years. He's a straight-shooter who tells it like it is and while he does have some managerial flaws (favors veterans and defense a tad too much and has a short leash for starting pitchers), but he's done enough to prove to me that he should be this team's leader for the next 3 years, at least.

That's all I can think of for now. What moves would you make to the Orioles today?

The more things change...

On the surface, the new-era John Harbaugh-led Ravens didn't look much different than the old-era Brian Billck-led Ravens.

Only 204 yards of total offense. A game where the defense dominated the game. Conservative play-calling...

But upon closer look, the Ravens cracked down on false start penalties, and penalties overall, and appeared to be a fresher, more disciplined team.

The Good

1. The Defense looked strong all night, even when it was chock-full of third and fourth string players. They recorded 5 sacks, 3 interceptions and pressured the New England QB's all night.

2. Newly acquired CB Fabian Washington recorded 2 INT's.

3. The Special Teams gave the offense good field position all night, as Yamon Figurs had 100 total return yards.

4. The Offensive Line played surprisingly well, only allowing 3 sacks, and 2 of them came late during garbage time. The pocket collapsed a few times and Smith was able to elude the sack, but overall, this young and inexperienced bunch played decently.

The Bad

1. The QB Position - No one set themselves apart from anyone else. Kyle Boller perhaps had the best night, statistically speaking, completing 11 passes out of 15 attempts for 102 yards. However, he had a fumble and a very ugly INT. Troy Smith looked the best out of all 3, with a more compact throwing motion and putting passes where they needed to be, but some were not caught by the WR's. Smith was only 5-12 for 74 yards but looks like he knows what he's doing. Joe Flacco entered the game too late to do much of anything, and fared pretty badly, getting sacked twice, fumbling and not completing a pass. There's always next time.

2. The Running Game looked tedious all night. Ray Rice led the team with 12 yards on 6 carries as Baltimore only had 35 rushing yards for the entire night.

3. The Wide Receivers had several chances to make big plays but didn't go for the ball or keep feet in bounds. A long Boller-to-Figurs pass was a tad underthrown, but Figurs didn't make a solid attempt to catch the ball, which was batted down by the defender. A long Smith-to -McCarens pass would have put the Ravens close to the goal line, but McCarens didn't keep both feet in bounds.

The Ravens won 16-15. They take on the Minnesota Vikings in preseason game #2 at home on August 16th, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

What to look for tonight...

We all know that the NFL preseason is a necessary evil. It lasts as long as one quarter of the regular season and the ticket prices are the same as regular season games. Players are vulnerable to injury and that doesn't even factor in the meaninglessness of it all.

Like Allen Iverson once said, "We talkin' about practice. Practice."

However, one good thing the preseason does is give fans an excuse to watch football. And as the Ravens take on the Patriots tonight, there are a ton of things to watch for as the starters filter out of the game and we are soon left watching players who will likely be bagging groceries in a month.

The 2008 Ravens are surrounded by question marks, from the rookie head coach, down to the largely untested offensive line. And tonight we get our first chance to see a cloudy situation get a little clear -- or even more cloudy.

1. Offensive Line - when Jonathan Ogden retired, an already weak and inexperienced OL took an immediate hit. Without Ogden leading them into battle, the Ravens' 5 starting offensive linemen have only 7 years of experience between them. However, what this group lacks in experience, they make up for it with potential, with all but Gaither being drafted in the first 4 rounds. Even back-up C Chris Chester was drafted in the second round.

Tonight they will be without LT Jared Gaither and RT Adam Terry, both expected to miss another week, so we will be able to get a good look at Chad Slaughter, who the Ravens recently signed. Slaughter was out of football for all of last year but played with Oakland in the past. Filling in for Terry will be Mike Kracalik, who went undrafted in 2005 before being signed by the Jets. Rounding out the OL will be LG Ben Grubbs, C Jason Brown, and RG Marshal Yanda.

2. Quarterback - with elder statesman Kyle Boller starting, you'd think that the offense would benefit from being led by a veteran, but that probably won't be the case. Not behind this patchwork OL. And let's not forget, Boller has his own problems. However, we could see some flashes of what Cam Cameron can do with an offense led by Boller, and the deep pass is hopefully something that Cameron has added to the playbook. Boller has a huge arm, but Billick never took advantage of it during his time here.

Troy Smith is likely to come in at the end of the first half, and like Boller, he's not going to light up the scoreboard behind this OL, which will probably be made up of second and third stringers by the time Smith gets in the game. Smith can scramble and has that X-factor that Boller sorely lacks, so it may be fun to see Smith running (for his life) and making plays on his own. Remember, Cameron has been designing plays to take advantage of Smith's mobility during the offseason, since Smith is expected to be the starting QB come September 7th, but it's unlikely we see much of that tonight.

By the time Joe Flacco comes into the game, it's likely to be more of a glorified sandlot game than the NFL. But that will be the perfect spot for Flacco to get his feet wet. The Ravens' future hangs on Flacco, so taking time with his development is crucial. And after watching Colt Brennan play extremely well for the Redskins in the Hall of Fame game, it could be equally as exciting to watch Flacco play tonight in garbage time.

3. Defensive Line - after losing Adalius Thomas to the Patriots and Trevor Pryce to injury, the Ravens pass-rushing ability seemed to disappear in 2007. Pryce is back, but no one has filled in for Thomas. Yet. Hopefully the Ravens will be able to pressure the QB in '08 and doing so tonight would ease a lot of fans' minds. Plus knocking Tom Brady down and then watching him yell at his offensive linemen is always fun to watch, preseason or not.

4. Running Back - Willis McGahee will not play tonight due to a bothersome left knee, so it is Ray Rice time, baby! Rice has excited thus far in training camp, and we are sure to see a lot of the former Rutgers star in action tonight along with returning back-up RB's Cory Ross and PJ Daniels.

5. Secondary - Largely due to the non-existent pass rush, the secondary suffered in 2007. Samari Rolle battled epilepsy the entire season, which left fill-in Corey Ivy exposed. So the Ravens traded for former Raider Fabian Washington during the draft, and we should get a look at him tonight. Washington is likely to work wonders for our secondary depth. In the meantime, hopefully Rolle can come back strong to bat down passes along with Chris McAllister.

At safety, Ed Reed needs to check his ego at the door and get back to his dominant self, and hopefully a change in coaching style will help. Dawan Landry was also a disappointment last season, and the Ravens responded by drafting former Golden Domer Tom Zbikowski in the third round to sure up the position. He's sure to get a lot of looks tonight.

So there, you have it. Five huge things to watch for tonight as you fall asleep on your couch with the game on. And that doesn't even factor in the special teams, which will benefit from Yamon Figurs coming back from injury and the overall feel of the team under rookie head coach John Harbaugh. Will there be the usual dozen false start penalties under Harbaugh?

Let's hope not.

Just another thing to watch for.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Calm Waters

It's hard to have a blog named "The Bad Oriole" and have to write about the performance of Chris Waters last night in his major league debut.

Waters went 8.0 IP, allowed 1 hit, walked 3, struck out 3 and recorded his first major league win as the O's blanked the Angels 3-0.

It was only the 6th best debut performance by a major leaguer in the modern era, ever.

I was expecting a middling to awful performance from Waters last night. After all he was 3-6 in Norfolk with a 5.70 ERA. His 64/40 K/BB rate doesn't exactly suggest he's a control pitcher either.

But Waters was masterful last night, plain and simple. And the Orioles needed it.

After having to force shaky reliever Dennis Sarfate into the rotation twice and watching him to fail to get out of the 4th inning twice, Waters was a breath of fresh air. Whether or not he'll be able to do it again is anybody's guess, but you can't take what Waters did last night away from him. It's been written in the record books and that's where it'll stay.

However, if Waters can pitch to a 5.00 ERA or under for the remainder of the season, he might actually serve a role on this team. The O's are always in need of good arms and Waters could potentially become a lefty-specialist out of the bullpen if his gig in the rotation doesn't work out.

In short, what Waters did was kick down the door of possibilities after being just another name on the Norfolk Tides pitching statistics page.

The Bad Oriole salutes you, Chris. If you keep it up I may be forced to change my name to the Good Oriole.

But I have a feeling I won't have to worry about that.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fear of the Unknown

Since we've basically got 2 QB's in Troy Smith and Joe Flacco that we know very little about, I figured I'd post some videos of Smith and Flacco in action.


Unfortunately, we know all to well what Kyle Boller can and can't do.

Mostly what he can't do.


Keep it on the DL

Adam Jones could potentially have a lot of time for sleep if he is sent to the disabled list after injuring his foot with a foul ball.

Jones underwent a CT scan on Monday and the Orioles are still waiting for the results. However, it doesn't sound good.

As a precaution, the Orioles sent Brandon Fahey down to Norfolk and called up OF Lou Montanez from AA-Bowie to fill in for Jones if he does miss an extended period of time.

In case you didn't know, Montanez is not your average Keith Reed or Darnell McDonald warm body. He's currently leading the AA-level Eastern League in average (.335), home runs (26) and runs batted in (97).

They also call that the Triple Crown.

Montanez is a 26-year old career minor leaguer who's bounced around a bit before catching fire this year. He's been to the AAA level twice and has failed to impress there. Maybe the third time will be a charm, by skipping it all together.

However, Montanez will probably take a backseat to Jay Payton, who will play CF in Jones' absence. Dave Trembley loves them veterans, but hopefully GM Andy MacPhail will press Trembley to play Montanez more in order to find out if he has a future with this team.

Montanez was also chosen above 24 year-old prospect Nolan Reimold, who is repeating his second year in Bowie. Reimold has also put together a solid season, with a .286/18/59/.854 stat line. But the Orioles have proven time and time again that they are willing to take their time with their #1A prospects, and this pretty much cements that theory.

As for Jones, it's a shame if he misses an extended period of time because he caught fire during the last few months after a frustratingly slow start to the season. He also represents one of the few reasons to watch the Orioles as they finish another likely losing season. Without Jones, the Orioles become much less interesting.

However, Montanez's minor league success should be reason enough to keep watching, because if he impresses in the majors, he could potentially become a long-term part of the Orioles, whether it's a 4th or 5th outfielder, or batting 4th or 5th in the lineup.

At least the O's are keeping it interesting as they begin their late season slide toward September. Couldn't say that in the past.

Boller named starting QB. Kind of...

The Ravens' first preseason game just got a little more interesting. Kyle Boller has been announced as the starting QB.

Boller and second-year QB Troy Smith have battled it out thus far in camp, and reports are that neither have exactly established a firm grasp on the starting job. Meanwhile, first-round draft pick Joe Flacco has demonstrated poise and polish that have put Boller and Smith to shame.

However, chances are the Ravens won't repeat the same mistake twice, and name Flacco the starting QB when the regular season begins. They did the same thing with Kyle Boller in his rookie season and some may say that Boller never recovered from the shock of being thrown to the proverbial wolves.

Troy Smith, who is a former Heisman Award winner when he played at Ohio State, is the hands-on favorite to win the starting job, only because Boller has played himself out of the starting job and Flacco will likely carry a clipboard during most of, if not all of, his rookie year.

Smith played well in limited time last year, and looked night and day better than Boller, despite not exactly lighting up the scoreboard. However, his poise in the pocket and smooth delivery when throwing the ball impressed the organization. He can also move very well out of the pocket and word is offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has been designing plays this offseason to take advantage of Smith's mobility.

Boller being named the starting QB of the first preseason game is probably more of a strategy than anything else. Rather than toss a relatively inexperienced Smith out there against the Patriots first team defense, Boller will be asked to jump on a live grenade. Plus, he played one of his best career games last year versus the Patriots. So at least there's that.

In 2008, Boller will likely be taking his farewell tour, and I am sure that stadiums across America will be packed to see the living legend one last time as a Raven. Unless Boller grows a huge birthmark on the side of his face and starts playing like Drew Brees, Cameron's former success story, Boller will be playing football in either a different uniform, or a different country, in 2009. It's likely that as the preseason progresses, Troy Smith will be given more and more snaps with the first team. Hell, maybe even Flacco will get a start too.

But starting Boller in the first preseason game means little other than using him as a human shield for Smith and Flacco.

Good luck Kyle. I'll always be rooting for you while wearing this shirt (it's made for men too).

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Penn is mightier?

Like clockwork, as soon as Hayden Penn was ready to get called up to the major leagues, he went and had a freak accident that will delay his promotion for the time being.

With the need for an extra starting pitcher, the Orioles have called up AAA pitcher Chris Waters to start against the Angels on Tuesday. Penn would have likely been the team's first choice, but he was hit on the knee with the sharp end of a broken bat and needed stitches to close up the wound.

You have to feel for Penn. Last year it was appendicitis, and the year before that it was an arm injury that prevented him from getting his shot in the majors. Pretty soon you have to wonder if Hayden will be able to step outside of his house without a meteorite falling on him.

Granted, Penn hasn't been pitching very well in Norfolk this year, but he did manage to string together a few solid starts before being impaled.

In his stead, Waters is a career minor leaguer who currently has a 5.70 ERA in Norfolk this year (yikes!) but he has started to improve after being called up from Bowie, where he had a 1.69 ERA in 6 starts. Waters seems to be able to throw strikes, as his 691/392 K/BB ratio would suggest, but as Waters has risen in the minors, his K/BB ratio has gotten worse.

If anything, Waters is a warm body until Penn gets healthy. If Waters pitches to anything below a 5.00 ERA during his time in Baltimore it'll be a miracle. I expect him to be the next Travis Driskill or John Stephens.

Just another guy you bring up when playing the "name an obscure Oriole" game with friends.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Dead Line

The Orioles did as expected yesterday and watched as other teams made moves to gear themselves up for a playoff run.

Manny to the Dodgers. Pudge to the Yankees. Jason Bay to the Red Sox.

The O's may be to blame for not being aggressive at the deadline, but reports were that not many teams were interested in any of the team's goods.

When Aubrey Huff, who is having what could be a career year, isn't drumming up any interest at all, then you know something strange is afoot at the Circle K. Remember all that demand for Roberts during the offseason? Nary an offer that Andy MacPhail could get excited about.

George Sherrill was being heavily scouted, but no one was willing to cough up a MLB-ready SS prospect for the left-handed closer.

Credit MacPhail for knowing the value for his players and sticking to them. The last thing we need is another 2000 when Sid Thrift traded away half the team for a bunch of players, among which, Chris Richard was the one who worked out the best.

As it looks now, MacPhail could make some smaller trades in August, moving Jay Payton, Ramon Hernandez and maybe a Jamie Walker or Chad Bradford for some Scott Moore and Rocky Cherry type players. Nothing to get excited about, but still better than watching the likes of these veterans play out another losing season.

Then in the offseason, I do expect the Orioles to be movers and shakers, making trades and signing free agents. They have the players and the money to do both and it would be a tragedy if the Orioles failed to make serious runs at least one of Mark Teixiera, Ben Sheets or CC Sabathia.

MacPhail has a plan and by the time the offseason rolls around he will have had a full year and a half to get a feel for this organization and what it needs to continue to get better. There are no more excuses. It's time to take the next step toward making the Baltimore Orioles a competitive team again.

So the writing is on the wall. This offseason should get exciting. But don't hold your breath.