Thursday, October 30, 2008

It starts...

Now that the World Series is over (congrats to Philly fans, please don’t destroy Pat’s or Gino’s during your celebratory riots), the real fun for O’s fans begins.

Trade talk, free agent signing rumors, roster speculation... these offseason rituals are often more fun than watching the team actually play in the regular season.

Unfortunately, the 2008-2009 offseason doesn’t look to be as entertaining (or tedious depending on how you look at it) as the 2007-2008 offseason since the O’s don’t have two valuable trading chips on their roster like they did last offseason with Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard.

Aubrey Huff generated about as much interest as Pepsi Clear during the 2008 trade deadline and my gut tells me Brian Roberts will be signed to an extension, leaving Ramon Hernandez as the O’s lone tradable player. Even then, Ramon is owed $9 million in 2009, so if the O’s want any one of value in a trade for Hernandez, they are going to have to cover a large chunk of his salary.

That leaves the O’s offseason moves limited to free agency, something they have pretty much steered clear of since 2004. The big names of Mark Teixiera and A.J. Burnett are at the forefront of free agent talk, and the fact that both players have local ties gives fans an added hope that the O’s will sign them both.

But I don’t see it happening. It’s just not Andy MacPhail’s M.O. He prefered the slow and steady route and during his time as GM in Minnesota and Chicago, and his free agent signings were of the minor variety. MacPhail wants to see more of a homegrown core established in Baltimore before he throws money at big-name free agents like Teixiera or Burnett, and I kind of agree with him.

What if they sign Tex and Burnett and the team fails to develop the young pitching they have in the minors? It’ll be like 2004 all over again, letting Miguel Tejada go to waste in a line-up that has little chance to win.

Now don’t get me wrong. Mark Teixiera would be a great addition to this line-up. He’d fill a gaping hole at 1B and bring a legitimate clean-up hitter’s presence to a line-up that should be pretty solid in 2009 with Roberts, Markakis, Jones, Huff and Matt Wieters in it. As long as he won’t cost the farm, I’d love to bring Mark Teixiera back home to Baltimore.

A.J. Burnett is more of a risk. Burnett has been injury prone his entire career, and as a pitcher, he’ll get a lot of money just for being mediocre. It’s the going market for pitching these days. Burnett’s wife is from Annapolis and he’s hinted about wanting to play for the O’s, so if he opts out of his contract with the Blue Jays, you can bet Burnett is going to be waiting for the O’s to call. But how much will he cost? And can he stay healthy? If healthy, Burnett would take some pressure of Jeremy Guthrie as the ace, and bring another anchor a pitching staff that is in desperate need of someone who can give you 6 innings each night and keep you in the game, taking stress off the over-worked bullpen.

But 2009 should be about staying the course. Make Matt Wieters the starting catcher and continue allowing Markakis and Adam Jones to improve. Keep giving the deep crop of starting pitchers we have scattered throughout the minors a chance and hope that a couple of them can stick in the rotation. Then, in 2010, go all out and sign the guys you believe can get you over the hump.

Either way, it’ll be interesting to see what MacPahil can do. He worked wonders with the Bedard and Tejada trades, so maybe he can squeeze another team for Huff or Hernandez. I just hope the O’s can continue to improve the future of this team, whether that is by signing free agents or making some trades.

After watching the Tampa Bay Rays make it to the World Series after 10 years of misery, it gives me hope that the Orioles can somehow do the same.

And it should start with this offseason.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Williams on IR, McAllister headed there too

The Ravens placed WR Demetrius Williams on the IR today, ending his season.

Remember that 70 yard catch for a touchdown last week against the Raiders? The one where he was wide open? It could be your last memory of Williams in a Ravens uniform. Throughout his career, Williams has battled injuries, and there’s a good chance the Ravens will part ways with Williams in the offseason and try to find a healthier alternative.

They may have found a candidate in Terrance Copper, whom the Ravens sighed to replace Williams on the roster. Copper played two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and three seasons with the New Orleans Saints and did well for a few weeks filling in for an injured Marques Colston in 2006.

While Copper isn’t exactly going to open up our passing game, it’s nice to replace a Williams with a WR who has a similar skill set. In other words, we shouldn’t expect much of a drop off from Williams to Copper.

In other Ravens news, it appears that cornerback Chris McAllister is headed for the IR as well. He’s been bothered by a knee since training camp.

C-Mac’s squabbles with head coach John Harbaugh are well known by now, and if McAllister is in deed placed on the IR, the Colts game could be your last memories of Chris, as well.

Don’t expect me to shed any tears. For years McAllister has been a solid, if not slightly overhyped (by himself) CB on the field and a nightmare off of it, mouthing off and causing trouble in the locker room. He may not be Pacman Jones, but McAllister has clearly worn out his welcome in Baltimore. His latest brush with the Ravens rules of conduct involved marching through a hotel lobby in shorts, violating the Ravens team dress code. He also had three women with him. When Harbaugh benched McAllister in the Miami game, Chris apparently butted heads with Harbaugh over the decision. So his knee may not be the only reason McAllister is heading to the IR.

I’ll always remember McAllister for being a part of the Ravens 2000 Championship team, but it’s time to move on. The Ravens need to clean up their image on defense and perhaps McAllister just needs a chance of scenery.

Although something tells me he needs more than just that.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dissention in the ranks?

Sailor Jerry over at Orioles Hangout apparently has some inside connections with the team and has posted some disheartening information about Peter Angelos and his involvement with the operations of the Orioles.

According to Jerry’s sources, Andy MacPhail wanted minor league director Dave Stockstill fired, but Angelos stepped in and overruled MacPhail’s decision.

Uh oh.

The past year and a half has done a lot to quell our fears that Angelos was still the meddlesome megalomaniac owner he’s been since the late 90’s. He’s seemingly turned over the baseball operations to MacPhail and stayed out of the way. But if this insider information is true, it could prove to be yet another roadblock in getting the Orioles back to respectability.

Jerry says:

“My sources say Stocky makes little in the way of contributions. When he can't even get into the computer system to give reports on his players... dude has to go.”

“But it almost cost them [scouting director Joe] Jordan, since the minor league side gets along with the scouting side about as well as pink jerseys and diehard fans. The disfunction remains!”

“And if you still don't think Stocky is rubbing people the wrong way, ask yourself why a top prospect like Rowell isn't playing winter ball while a bunch of non-prospects who won't get past Frederick are in Hawaii. Hawaii being the same league guys like Wieters and Snyder and Arrietta played in last year.”

These quotes are not very promising, and when looking at the results the Orioles have gotten from their minor league players recently, the writing is on the wall.

The minor-league system is rife with pitchers who can’t throw strikes and/or injury setbacks. Finding O’s hitters in the farm system who can take walks are like finding a needle in a haystack. In short, the fundamentals in the MiL system are severely lacking.

And now that there are some legitimate rumors about Angelos overruling MacPhail’s decision to fire Stockstill, excuse me if I’m not all warm and fuzzy about the Orioles right now, even on the eve of their new uniform unveiling.

The Orioles have been mired in 11 years of losing for a reason. Mostly because Angelos has made too many important decisions himself or hired incompetent people to make them for him. He’s ignored the importance of the MiL, and even after it appears that he’s started to change his ways, it still sounds like he’s not fully understanding the importance of key organizational building blocks like trusting your employees to make decisions right on down to MiL player development.

And it doesn’t end there.

MacPhail’s M.O. in Minnesota and Chicago was to build winners through the minor leagues and keep the payroll at a manageable level. So far, MacPhail has shown this to be the case in Baltimore too.

Think again.

Angelos has apparently made it known that he intends to go after big-name free agents Mark Teixiera and AJ Burnett.

On the surface, these would both be solid signings. Teixiera is a local product and could bring back some of the hometown heroism that’s been missing since Cal Ripken retired. AJ Burnett’s wife is from Maryland and Burnett has dropped subtle hints time and time again about playing for the O’s.

Now, it’ll cost the O’s an arm and a leg to sign either one of these players. And if the O’s throw their hat into the ring for either of them, it’ll more than likely be an Angelos decision than a MacPhail decision.

And as much as I’d like to see Teixiera and Burnett wearing orange and black next year, I’d like to know that Andy MacPhail is running the organization more. We know where Angelos-as-decision-maker takes us.

Actually, we’re still there.

Man... what a week for the Orioles. First they lose Adam Loewen to the Toronto Blue Jays and now this?

Just another day at the warehouse, I guess.

Purple and Black Hole

The Ravens turned in another dominating performance yesterday, beating the Oakland Raiders 29-10 to improve to 4-3, only 1 game back of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost at home to the Giants last night.

For the Ravens, it was all about keeping the momentum they established last week in the win at Miami, and boy did they ever.

Terrell Suggs has to be pleased now that Head Coach John Harbaugh listened to Suggs’ remarks about Troy Smith getting playing time, working Smith into the offense with much success. Smith lined up at QB with Flacco lined up as wide-receiver several times yesterday, and Smith did it all. He ran, he optioned and he completed a 43-yard pass to Joe Flacco, who would have had a touchdown if not for stumbling after the catch.

After the game, Harbaugh playfully dubbed it the “Suggs Package”. I find that funny and a relief, since Suggs was about to derail the season with his controversial remarks, compounded with the on-going McAllister-Harbaugh feud. But Harbaugh kept it light in the post-game interview and Suggs can’t do anything but smile after seeing his boy Troy worked into the offense.

In the standard offense, Joe Flacco turned in another solid game, and has put together two great weeks of QB play after turning in the dud at Indianapolis. Despite his slow start, he went 12-24 for 140 yards and a TD. The TD pass accounted for half of his yards when Flacco found Demetrius Williams wide open for 70 yards and the score. It was the first time I’ve seen a Ravens WR that open since Shannon Sharpe was waving his hand above his head downfield in Tennessee in 2000. More importantly, however, Flacco didn’t turn the ball over all day.

The running attack was on point as well, and everyone got involved. Rookie Ray Rice was the most impressive, gaining 64 yards on 8 carries while McGahee had trouble finding holes. He gathered just 58 yards on 23 carries, but found the endzone once. McClain got the ball 7 times and rushed for 32 while Flacco pounded out 23 yards, including a TD to close out the game late. Rounding out the rushing attack was Troy Smith in the “Suggs Package” with 3 rushes for 13 yards.

The defense came to play, and put a lot of pressure on JaMarcus Russell, sacking him 4 times, including once for a safety. Russell was very erratic, completing only 45% of his passes, but did complete a 60-yard bomb, and racked up a somewhat impressive 228 yards against the stout Ravens D. The defense bottled up the running game, holding the Ravens to just 47 yards.

Special Teams also contributed nicely, with Ray Rice gaining 54 yards on 2 kick returns and Jim Leonard getting 1 return for 16 yards. The Special Teams also pinned Oakland deep in their own territory on several occasions, but it didn’t help that an Oakland KR ran a kickoff out of bounds at the 4-yard line, a reminder that the Oakland Raiders are a team mired in turmoil.

The bottom line yesterday was that the Ravens dominated a team they should have dominated, and made the day very enjoyable for the fans in the stands. But the next few weeks shouldn’t be as easy. They start a 3-game road trip next week in Cleveland, who after a bad 0-3 start have gone 3-1. The Browns offense has woken up, but Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards have yet to re-establish their rapport from a year ago when Anderson passed for 29 TD’s, 16 of which went to Edwards. The Ravens have also lost 3 of their last 4 games in Cleveland.

For the Ravens to win, they need to establish the run early and wear down the defense like they did in Baltimore in week 3. I would also like to see the Ravens continue to work the “Suggs Package” into the mix a little more, keeping the Cleveland defense guessing. It would also help if the defense pressured Derek Anderson early and often, forcing him to throw some of his patented interceptions. The Cleveland running game looks to be a non-factor with the way the Ravens shut down the run, but never overlook a passionate Jamal Lewis when he plays his former team.

It’s going to be a hard-fought game, much like the game in Pittsburgh earlier this season, against a division rival on the road. But I do expect the Ravens to come out a winner. And it would be nice to steal this game before traveling on to Houston and then New York (Giants) in the following weeks.

But for now, the Ravens sit at 4-3, a game back of the Steelers, confident in knowing that they could easily be 6-1, but smart enough to know they can’t overlook anyone.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Loewen Blow

Adam Loewen pulled a fast one on the Orioles today, signing a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Loewen, a former first round pick (#4 overall in 2002), decided to quit pitching when he couldn’t stay healthy and started a comeback as a positional player. And when the Orioles released Loewen earlier this week, they had the intention to re-sign him to a minor league contract, and believed that they had Loewen’s word that he would accept such a deal.

Enter Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Remember Gaston? He was Baltimore’s public enemy #1 in 1993 when he failed to get then-Oriole pitcher Mike Mussina into the All Star Game, which was being played at Camden Yards. It prompted the city to don “Cito Sucks” shirts at O’s games.

Expect those shirts to be making a comeback.

Once Loewen was released, Gaston got on the horn, and sold him on the Blue Jays organization. It worked. Loewen is a native Canadian and apparently rooted for the Blue Jays as a kid growing up in British Columbia. And in the end, Loewen went back on whatever word he’d given the Orioles to sign with the Blue Jays.

I don’t begrudge Loewen’s decision to make a little more scratch, and go home to play for the team he grew up rooting for. But, after the Orioles stood by him and supported his decision to make a comeback as a positional player, despite the overwhelming odds, this does sour the Loewen legacy in Baltimore.

In the end, this is likely to be much ado about nothing. There is a minimal chance Loewen makes it back to the majors as a hitter, despite almost being drafted as one back when the O’s selected him #4 overall in 2002. Loewen hasn’t consistently swung a bat since he was in college. And as much as people want to bring up Rick Ankiel, the odds are against Loewen. Ankiel’s success story is the exception, not the rule.

Well, we can only hope.

And after he turned his back on an organization that stood by him since day one, and paid him handsomely for only 164 innings pitched in the majors, don’t expect me – or many Orioles fans – to be rooting for Loewen.

You do know what this means though, don’t you? Loewen’s going to be the next Rick Ankiel. Hell, maybe he’ll challenge the most famous ex-pitching slugger of all time.

Remember him? He has Baltimore ties too. He was born here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Shut the Suggs Up

One has to wonder what Ravens LB Terrell Suggs is thinking sometimes. Especially after making the following comment which was reported on

“I think [Flacco] should get some playing time, but I think Troy should be the starter,” Suggs said. “[Flacco] started out hot, [but] I mean we played two teams [Cincinnati and Cleveland] at the bottom of the league in defense, so everybody was going all crazy about him.”

Terrell, for one, needs to keep his mouth shut when it comes to this kind of stuff. What he thinks about who should be starting over who means about as much as what he thinks about the sagging economy, the war in Iraq and whether or not Britney Spears looks hot in her new music video.


Secondly, Suggs should use some common sense and take a look at both QB’s. Both are inexperienced players, but now that Flacco has started in 6 NFL games, he has 3 times as much experience as Troy Smith, who only started 2 games at the end of 2007.

Thirdly, Flacco has been entrenched as the starting QB since the third week of pre-season and has practiced with the first team offense since that time. Smith, meanwhile, was busy losing 30 pounds while suffering through a nasty bout with tonsillitis.

Yeah, it’s unfortunate that Terrell’s boy Troy lost his job to a freak virus, but it is what it is. Flacco gives the Ravens the best chance to win based on experience and overall talent.

And it doesn’t end there.

Suggs had Joe Flacco on his weekly radio show and what did he break out with? You guessed it, the Shane Falco references from The Replacements. Remember that movie? The one where Keanu Reeves plays a washed-up college QB who crosses the picket lines to play football during a strike and Baltimore stands in for Washington, DC?

The Falco reference may not be a direct insult to Flacco. After all, Shane Falco eventually does become the QB he knew he could be. We only hope that Flacco can turn out the same way. But come on Terrell, show some respect for your QB. Call him by his real name. Especially on the radio, and especially after the defense has suffered through the likes of Kyle Boller, Anthony Wright and a decimated Steve McNair who couldn’t throw the ball longer than 10 yards. Joe Flacco has kept the defense rested by maintaining drives and has showed promise on several occasions by standing tall in the pocket and completing 64.1% of his passes thus far.

Meanwhile, Smith has completed 52% of his passes.

My question to Terrell Suggs: What game are you watching?

In my opinion, this kind of crap can’t go undisciplined. For too long the defense has been the aggressors in the locker room, bullying the offense left and right. Suggs is just another loud-talking ego, and that is something the Ravens need less of.

Take Chris McAllister for instance. Wondering why he sat out the Dolphins game last weekend? Turns out he violated the team’s dress code, wearing shorts through the hotel lobby while 3 women were hanging from his arms. There are also some rumors floating around that McAllister dared Harbaugh to sit him out of the Miami game. You can read McAllister's comments on the benching here. He doesn't sound too happy.

I’ll be amazed if Terrell Suggs and Chris McAllister are on the Ravens next year. Yes, both are amazing talents, but at some point, this thug-mentality that has plagued the Ravens defense for so long has to come to an end. And losing these two players after the season is over is a good place to start.

And if you can trade Terrell Suggs to the Arizona Cardinals for say, Anquan Boldin, I would make that deal in a heartbeat.

In the meantime, just shut up and play.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fish in a Barrel

The Ravens broke out of their three game losing streak yesterday, in a game that purged most of the negatives from the Ravens massive 31-3 loss to the Colts a week ago, beating the Miami Dolphins 27-13 to improve to 3-3.

Rookie QB Joe Flacco played his best game as a pro yesterday, going 17-23 for 232 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t turn the ball over, stood tall and confident in the pocket and didn’t force passes into coverage like he had done in Indianapolis and two weeks ago in the loss to the Tennessee Titans.

If I was doubting head coach John Harbaugh’s decision to name Flacco the starter for the season, I was proven wrong by Flacco’s performance yesterday. For the first time this season, Flacco used several targets. Derrick Mason (6 rec, 87 yds, 1 TD) was again Flacco’s #1 target, but Flacco spread the ball around nicely, finding Todd Heap 3 times for 29 yards and even the ghost of Mark Clayton once for 13 yards. The screen pass also returned in a big way yesterday, and it helped the offense maintain drives and control the time of possession (31:43 to 28:17). Willis McGahee had 47 yards receiving and Ray Rice 46.

Another pleasant surprise was McGahee’s running game. McGahee had been chided for coming into the season out of shape, and it showed during the first few weeks of the season as McGahee appeared out of breath and nicked-up on several plays. However, against the Dolphins defense, McGahee hit holes hard and showed determination, breaking tackles and fighting for the extra yard instead of going down after the first hit. He finished the day with 105 rush yards and a TD. The only blemish on McGahee, and the Ravens day, was McGahee’s fumble deep in Miami territory. The fumbled was rendered moot, and McGahee’s improved play meant less time for Le’Ron McClain, who just rushed 6 times for 17 yards.

The defense was ready to get the sour taste out of their mouths from a week ago, and they did just that. They declawed Miami’s wildcat offense, stuffing the Dolphins run game (71 total rush yards) and keeping QB Chad Pennington off balance all day. Despite his 295 passing yards, the normally accurate Pennington had to hurry several passes, which meant a lot of them were way off target. It would have been nice to see the Ravens get after Pennington a little more, and the Ravens’ pass rush is something that needs to be improved going forward. In the last 3 games, the Ravens have recorded only 3 sacks.

The Ravens host the Oakland Raiders next week, and this game represents a great opportunity for the Ravens to get above .500 as they then hit the road for three consecutive weeks. Oakland is coming off a big team win against Brett Favre and the Jets, but have played poorly on the road, especially when coming to the East Coast, where they are 0-3 lifetime against the Ravens in Baltimore.

In today’s NFL, fans are usually of the mentality that a team is as good as their latest game. If that has any truth to it, the Ravens have proven that they are better than the team that was dominated a week ago. The Dolphins may not be a powerhouse in the AFC, but they are a team on the rise, but the Ravens bumped them back down, at least for one week.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Off to the races

While most of the 1 p.m. games around the NFL ended with some last minute fireworks, the Ravens/Colts game was over about 6 minutes into the first quarter when Peyton Manning connected with Marvin Harrison for the first of his 3 passing TD's in the Colts win over the Ravens, 31-3.

For the Ravens it was the same old story when playing the Colts. In the last 4 games versus the Colts, the Ravens have been outscored 114-36.

Today it was no different. The Ravens came out on offense looking like they'd spent all of last night getting drunk at Indy's finest strip club. Joe Flacco threw 3 INT's, Le'Ron McClain fumbled and the Ravens couldn't run the ball despite the Colts defense ranking last against the run.

It wouldn't have mattered if the Ravens had gone to bed early and were 100% healthy. The Colts are just a million times better than the Ravens, always have been, and as long as Manning is the QB, always will be.

I am really glad the Colts missed the playoffs in 2000 because I am starting to wonder what Manning could have done against the Ravens Super Bowl winning defense.

Probably shredded them like he has done to pretty much every other Ravens defensive unit.

Anyway, after playing both the Steelers and the Titans tough despite losing very winnable games, the Ravens were supposed to be able to maintain drives against the Colts banged-up defense, keeping Manning and company off the field.

That simply didn't happen.

And when the Colts had the ball, Manning picked apart the Ravens defense like he's done for years, passing for 271 yards and 3 TD's. Ravens players and fans alike should start a countdown to the day Manning retires. It's got to happen any year or seven.

Even worse, the Ravens gave the Colts their first home win at their new Lucas Oil Stadium.

As for the Ravens going forward, Coach Billick better rally his troops and... wait, did I say Billick? Oh yeah, I forgot he was fired last year. Silly me! The team looks and plays totally different than they did back when Billick was the coach.

In case you haven't noticed, I am using a little literally tactic called sarcasm.

Despite the change in coaching staff, the Ravens are still their same old boring ball control and dumb-headed selves. It's a wonder why they even bother drafting QB's if they are never going to let them do anything except hand the ball off and throw the ball yards short of the first down marker on 3rd down.

Why don't the Ravens try to stretch the field by throwing deep like they haven't done for two games straight? Flacco's got the arm. Sure, we don't have the receivers to really do it, but why not at least try? It might open up the running game a bit. And who knows, maybe once every season you might actually complete a pass for more than 50 yards!

More about Joe -- I am starting to get worried for the kid. We saw what happened with Boller when he was forced into the starter's position and we're starting to see the same things happen with Flacco. His poise in the pocket is getting worse. I believe I am starting to see some happy feet. And he's still forcing throws. I know this was only his fifth NFL game, but we should at least start to see some improvement by now.

Instead, Joe is getting worse.

This past week Coach Harbaugh came out and named Flacco the starter for the rest of the year, and I have to wonder if it was the right decision. Flacco now has 1 TD to 7 INT's and is starting to cost the team games.

So it basically comes down to this: What is worse? Throwing Flacco to the wolves by forcing him to start games? Or benching him in favor of a healthy Troy Smith so Flacco can stand on the sidelines and become more of a student of the game?

There is no easy answer. But as the season starts to slip away from the Ravens, it'll be hard to bench the future franchise QB.

So, next week the Ravens fly to Miami where they became victim to the Dolphins last year for the Phins only win of the 2007 season. The Dolphins are much better than they were last year, and the Ravens are probably the same.

Yeah... I don't like our chances there either.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Titan-ic Disaster

Just a week after losing a heartbreaker to the Steelers, the Ravens dropped another winnable game to the Tennessee Titans, 13-10.

If the Ravens are going to make this a habit, I may have to call the doctor and get a prescription for some anti-depressants.

Yes, the Ravens lost another game in which they dominated for the better part of 3.5 quarters, only to commit another game-changing penalty (this time it was controversial -- more on that later) which allowed the opposition to take advantage of the costly mistake.

It doesn't end there, either.

Matt Stover missed another field goal, which would have left the game tied after the Titans scored their late touchdown. I think it's safe to say the Stover era is coming to a close in Baltimore. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Add to that some questionable coaching at the end of the first half and you have a recipe for another heart-grueling Ravens loss.

Rookie Joe Flacco turned in his worst performance to date, going 18-27 for 153 yards and 2 interceptions. Both picks were of the rookie-QB-trying-too-hard-to-make-something-out-of-nothing variety, but the second interception came one play after the Titans scored the go-ahead touchdown and ended any hopes of a last-minute comeback.

And that brings me to this. Flacco is not the superhuman savior fans were making him out to be. He's not going to travel down the same career path as Ben Roethlisberger, who in his rookie season went 14-1 as a starter and limited turnovers. Flacco has a steep learning curve, and if the Ravens have any hopes of making the playoffs, they need Flacco to settle down and start throwing the ball away when there is nothing happening downfield.

And while I may be blasted for this, I would even start thinking about whether it is time to start working Troy Smith into the mix. Now, I know Smith would be hard-pressed to do any better than Flacco, but I still do believe that having rookie QB's standing on the sideline is a good thing. Flacco has gotten his taste of NFL action, and hasn't embarrassed himself, but maybe it's time to let him learn by watching, and not by doing.

That said, benching Flacco is still another bad game or two down the road.

What really makes this loss so tough to swallow, was that despite the penalties, despite the poor play from Flacco, despite the questionable play-calling, the Ravens were in a position to beat the 4-0 Titans, and ended up beating themselves in the 4th quarter.

The refs also played a part. On the eventual game-winning drive, Terrell Suggs went after Titans QB Kerry Collins and while going for the ball, came down on Collins' helmet and shoulder, which the refs called roughing the passer, which was a stretch in and of itself.

However, there was a false start penalty called, meaning that the play was supposed to be whistled dead. The problem? The referee didn't do his part to whistle the play dead. Instead he just kinda waited for the play to keep going before he decided to step in. So how the f--- was Suggs supposed to know the play was over when he went after Collins?

The Ravens have a legit beef with the call, and it only gives the fans more salt to rub in their wounds.

But despite the botched call from the refs, and despite the million of other "what-ifs" fans are carrying on about, the bottom line is that the Ravens simply let this one get away.

The defense, which had been stopping the Titans all game, picked the wrong time to let up, and seemed deflated after the controversial penalty continued the game-winning drive. And where was the pass rush? The Ravens recorded zero sacks and I don't believe they laid a hand on Collins all day.

Hell, he probably didn't even need a shower after the game.

So there you have it. Two tough losses in a row and it still does not get any easier. The Ravens travel to Indianapolis to take on the struggling 2-2 Colts, who are still looking for their first win at their newly opened Lucas Oil Field.

Will the Ravens give it to them? I'm afraid the answer is yes. The Colts have owned the Ravens and after two tough losses, the Ravens look to come out flat against Peyton Manning and the Colts.

So I wouldn't be surprised if the Ravens are 2-3 after next week and the Ravens' once-quick start to the season slows down to a crawl.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Random Bierd

- Anyone else as depressed as I am watching the Brewers and Rays in the playoffs? That's two more teams off the list of teams to have missed the playoffs for at least 11 years. That list now consists of only the O's, Blue Jays, Royals, Nationals, Royals, Reds, and Pirates. Of that list, only the O's and Pirates have not had a non-losing season in the last 11 years. (Nationals finished 2005 at 81-81)

- According to a second opinion, Daniel Cabrera's right elbow is not damaged. Yes, he just sucks that bad. It was nice knowing you, Daniel.

- GM Andy MacPhail is "generally pleased" with the way things went this season, mentioning the team's better-than-expected record through 2/3 of the season. All we need to do now is get Major League Baseball to shorten the season by 54 games and we'll be a mediocre team instead of a horrible one.

- Severna Park native Mark Teixeira is getting his first taste of the post-season with the Angels. A free agent after the season is finished, Teixeira returning home to Baltimore, where he is sure to miss the playoffs for at least the 2009 season, just got less likely.

- San Diego Padres' SS Kahlil Greene looks to be moved in the offseason as the Padres try to lower their payroll. Greene had a down year in 2008, and would be a good "buy low" player to acquire in a trade. I would open trade talks for Greene with Daniel Cabrera, and if that doesn't get the deal done, ask the Padres how much cash it'll take to complete the trade to avoid having to throw another player into the deal. Greene is a free agent after the 2009 season.

- I have a hunch that there will be a Matt Wieters-watch next April when it gets a few weeks into the season and still there are no Wie's available. At this point I am expecting the Orioles to fumble Wieters' transition to the major leagues since he was not brought to Baltimore when the rosters expanded in September.

- A Nick Markakis extension must be completed this offseason. If you read the tea-leaves during the season, Nick didn't appear too happy that the two sides were unable to come to an agreement for an extension. If there is no extension finished by opening day, you won't need tea leaves to tell that Nick Markakis is unhappy with the Orioles.

- If the Orioles are ever going to get better, they have to improve their play against the AL East. They went 22-50 against their division rivals in 2008.

- I'd be surprised if Brian Roberts signs an extension with the Orioles, increasing the probability that he will never play for a post-season team in his career.

- Have the Orioles given up on Nolan Reimold? He repeated this past season at Bowie after having a .930 OPS and 11 HR in 186 AB's in 2007 and hasn't been mentioned in any of the team's future plans. In 2008 he had an impressive season with a .284 AVG, 25 HR, 84 RBI and a .868 OPS.

- If the O's miss out on Teixeira this offseason, Oscar Salazar might not be a bad stop-gap at the position, splitting time with Huff. He had a .878 OPS in 81 AB's in 2008.