Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
But the question of who will hire this new GM is tricky. One would hope that it is Buck Showalter who is involved in the process, and that he hires the best candidate based on their vision and determination to put a winning team on the field. Peter Angelos is proved time and time again that he cannot make the important decisions that result in the Orioles improving their record. He hires "yes men". And in Andy MacPhail, Angelos hired a GM who was not going to spend a lot of money on free agents, international signings or draft picks.
But therein lies the rub. If you look at a baseball front office as a hierarchy, and you should, since that is how they usually exist, the GM is the second most powerful person in the front office. So why would Showalter, a manager, be involved in the decision to hire his boss?
I believe that a GM and a manager should be equals in most ways, the same way an accounting manager and a sales manager would be viewed as equals in a company. They represent two different departments. But baseball is baseball and the Orioles are the Orioles, and GM's are the ones who make most of the decisions about baseball operations -- including who the manager should be.
So why would a GM want to come to Baltimore when he is hired by one of his subordinates? Why would a GM want to come to Baltimore where he's forced to keep Showalter on as manager? Why would a GM want to come to Baltimore when the word on the street is that Showalter is Angelos' favorite and have to contend with that preexisting relationship?
These are the confusing and cumbersome situations that have been created time and time against under Angelos. In the past, he's muddied the chain of command, hiring several people to do a similar job, which has only resulted in backstabbing and general chaos in the front office. At least under MacPhail, there was one person who was the lightning rod for the organization. MacPhail had his flaws, no doubt, but at least the Orioles appeared to be a little more well run while he was the GM. Especially when it came to trades. MacPhail was able to pull the trigger quickly, whereas previous GM's had to get Angelos' approval, which could take days, killing most deals.
But as the Orioles start to interview GM candidates, we're left to hope that the unorthodox process of a manager hiring a GM can work. Because from a fan's perspective, Peter Angelos is the last person who should be hiring people.
And that's what Orioles fans are left with -- hoping against hope that something positive can still come out of an Orioles organization that still has Peter Angelos as its owner.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
It wasn’t pretty, but the Ravens trampled over the Jets last Sunday night to the tune of 34-17. It was a game marked by defensive touchdowns for both teams, with both QB’s turning in similar crappy performances.
Joe Flacco turned in one of the worst statistical performances of his career, going 10-32 for 168 yards and an interception. Similarly, Mark Sanchez went 11-35 with 119 yards and an interception.
Thankfully, the Ravens defense rose to the occasion, holding the Jets to 150 total yards, forcing four turnovers and scoring three defensive touchdowns.
However, it’s a win that doesn’t sit well with fans. The Ravens had 267 yards of total offense. Flacco played poorly. And the offensive play calling was suspect with the Ravens holding such a big lead.
But you know what? You have to take these kinds of wins. An offense, no matter how good it may be, is going to have off days. And the Jets have a stout defense. Granted, the Ravens need to take the bye week to figure out their offensive game plan for the rest of the season, but they found a way to win a game in which the offense wasn’t clicking, and still managed to win big.
And when the Ravens saw that the passing game just wasn’t there, they pulled a 180 and started running the ball down the throat of the Jets defense. That’s called an “adjustment”, folks. Even though it was such a drastic adjustment, how many times have we seen the Ravens stick with something even though it’s painfully obvious that it’s not working? Ravens fans need to look no further than the Lions/Cowboys game this past weekend to see why teams should commit to the run when they take a big lead. Throwing interceptions and giving a team life in a blowout is a colossal mistake.
The Ravens have an elite defense still capable of taking over games. And when that happens, the offense just needs to control the clock and protect the ball, much like what the Ravens did in the second half. If you have Ravens players on your fantasy team, too bad.
I guess that’s just the era of the NFL that we live in. Lots of scoring. And as much as we may wish the Ravens can become the next high-powered offense, they don’t necessarily need to be, especially on a night where the defense is bringing the pain. Yes, the Ravens need to get better on offense. Yes, they need to find an identity. There’s no arguing that.
The Ravens just trounced the Jets 34-17, folks. We embarrassed those loudmouth players, coaches and fans.
Friday, September 30, 2011
A night removed from what many are calling the best day of MLB baseball, ever, which featured the Orioles knocking the Red Sox out of the wild card in dramatic fashion, I’m looking back at the entire 2011 season and being reminded of one of the most brilliant masterpieces in the history of cinema.
I am of course talking about the 1987 film, Predator.
In that film, a team of commandos gets picked off one by one in the Central American jungle by an alien who can turn himself invisible. In the end, Dutch, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, goes toe-to-toe with the beast and eventually forces it to commit suicide. After the dust has settled, Dutch is rescued and a somber trumpet plays on the soundtrack. Ducth is alive, but all the members of his team are dead. It was a pyrrhic victory.
And in many ways, the O’s win over the Red Sox on Wednesday night was also pyrrhic, in that they finished their sixth consecutive season with at least 90 losses and fourteenth overall losing season. Yes, they went 15-13 in September. And yes, they stopped the Red Sox from advancing to the postseason, but like Arnold in Predator, they gained nothing.
It was a great night of baseball, however, and the lone accomplishment of the night was that the Orioles played a major part in it and will likely go down as a major villain in Red Sox lore. But now that the night is over, it’s time to look ahead to the future, and the changes that will spread the magic of Wednesday night across an entire 162-game season.
The first step, of course, is finding out what’s going to happen with Andy MacPhail and Buck Showalter. Word is that MacPhail, whose contract ends this year, will not return as GM and most people think that Showalter will move into the front office and take over the GM role while someone like Willie Randolph becomes the new manager or the Orioles hire someone from outside the organization.
Last month reports stated that MacPhail and Angelos were “fed up with one another”, so unless a major bridge-building effort has taken place between the two men since then, I doubt that MacPhail will be back as GM. There is the possibility that he takes another role within the organization, an Angelos specialty, who rarely makes clean breaks with people he’s hired. Personally, I think MacPhail shouldn’t be involved with the Orioles moving forward, but if he’s kept on as a “Trade Adviser”, I wouldn’t complain, since trades were the one area that MacPhail was excellent.
Meanwhile, Showalter as GM creates some interesting possibilities, both positive and negative. Apparently, Showalter is currently Angelos’ favorite pet, which may have come at the expense of MacPhail. It was, after all, Angelos who wanted to hire Showalter, with MacPhail wanting to hire Eric Wedge. So with Showalter as GM, he will at least have total control over the organization – at least for the time being. We all know that MacPhail apparently had total control when he was first hired too, but somewhere along the way, Angelos soured on MacPhail, which lead us to where we are now.
On the other hand, Showalter has no GM experience, and while his connections through baseball are no doubt solid due to his past managerial experience and time spent on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, one has to wonder if he is familiar with many of the other GM’s in baseball, with whom he will have to deal with while making trades and other moves required of a GM.
I’d say that Showalter as GM is probably the best move for the Orioles under the circumstances of Angelos being a finicky owner who grows tired of people at the drop of a hat. Showalter currently has his respect, and any outside GM candidate wouldn’t. Then there is the whole superiority problem that would exist if another GM is hired. Who works for whom? The Orioles might as well ride the wave of Angelos’ respect for Showalter and hope that he is able to turn the franchise around before the expiration date on Showalter arrives.
Outside of the GM position, changeover should occur in the front office on down to minor league coaches and scouts. The Orioles are in desperate need of a house cleaning and even MacPhail in his honeymoon phase with Angelos was unable to make these moves, as evidenced by the blocked firing of John Stockstill by Angelos. Stockstill was reassigned to Director of International Scouting. So it’s unclear whether Buck will have the authority to make these kinds of moves on his own.
It’s also unclear what approach Showalter would take to turning the franchise around. Showalter has always been a manager who prefers veteran players to unproven prospects, so if he becomes the GM, look for the Orioles to be busy in the free agent market this offseason, and potentially trade a young player or two for a more proven commodity. Hopefully, however, the veteran approach doesn’t come at the expense of the minor league system, which is in desperate need of improvement. The Orioles have an awful track record at developing players, and there doesn’t seem to be a streamlined approach to bringing players through the system. Showalter needs to implement a single philosophy to player development as well as hiring in the best coaches and scouts that money can buy.
To his credit, Showalter has a solid track record with his previous teams. Both the Yankees and Diamondbacks won the World Series a year after Showalter left, and in Texas, he took the Rangers to a winning record in his second season. All of this came as manager of those teams, so who knows if he’d be able to do similar things as GM.
No matter what happens, decisions should be made quickly. The Baltimore Sun reported that Angelos, MacPhail and Showalter met yesterday afternoon so an announcement on the front office could come as early as today. The Orioles have a lot of work to do this offseason, so there is no time to waste. And they might as well take advantage of the buzz they created on Wednesday night and force fans to take notice of the moves they make this offseason to gain momentum going into 2012.
The age-old question still remains, however. Can the Orioles win with Angelos as the owner? We have fourteen years of proof saying they can’t. But maybe, just maybe, Showalter can be the one who changes all that.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
In case you haven’t heard, the Orioles have the chance to knock the Boston Red Sox out of playoff contention tonight. Most Oriole fans, for lack of important games in September, are treating this as if it’s a playoff game. And while the game probably is more important than any other game they’ve played this late in the season in the last ten years, let’s not go overboard here. If the Orioles win, they don’t move onto the “next round”, unless that “next round” is a round of golf. No, the only thing at stake is a chance to twist the dagger into the backs of the Red Sox nation. Misery loves company, after all.
Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see the O’s knock the Red Sox out of the wild card. This was the same Red Sox team that the Boston media was predicting could be “the best team ever” back in April after the Red Sox had signed Carl Crawford to a 7-year deal that will pay him $20 million for the next 6 years in addition to the $14 million they gave him this year to post the lowest OPS (.694) since 2003. They also traded for Padres 1B slugger, Adrian Gonzalez, who unlike Crawford, has had an excellent season. And don’t even get me started on Red Sox fans.
But while others are ready to treat this as a real playoff game, I can’t buy in completely. The Orioles are headed for their 6th consecutive losing season of 90 or more losses. The future is as muddled as a puddle, now that GM Andy MacPhail is not coming back and word on the street is that a career manager, Buck Showalter, is about to become the GM. Whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen. But last time I checked, Peter Angelos is still the owner, so any moves they make this offseason are moot in my eyes as long as Angelos still owns the team. Professional sports organizations, like dead fish, rot from the head on down.
Back to tonight’s game. Jon Lester, he of a 14-0 career record against the Orioles, takes the mound tonight for the Red Sox. He’s pitching on 3 days rest, and the last time he did that, he was shelled. I’d love for his first loss to the O’s also be the game that keeps them from advancing to the playoffs.
So can the O’s do it? Can they play spoiler to the Red Sox? Can the Rays cap off a sweep of the Yankees tonight to win the wild card?
I will be watching tonight. There’s no denying that. I just can’t get too excited about it. I prefer my playoff games to actually have something at stake other than spite.
The Ravens took out their frustrations on the Rams after losing to the Titans a week ago, winning 37-7.
It was a game the Ravens needed to take control of early after looking so flat against Tennessee, and thankfully the opponent was the lowly Rams who are 0-3 so far in 2011. Joe Flacco, frustrated after Cam Cameron’s play-calling in Tennessee, took over more control of the offense, resulting in what was a career day for the fourth-year QB. Flacco threw 48 times, compared to just 26 rushes and the Ravens never looked back after taking a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.
Rookie WR Torrey Smith caught 3 touchdowns in his first 3 NFL receptions, totaling 158 receiving yards and QB Joe Flacco threw for 389 yards in addition to those 3 touchdowns to Smith. With Lee Evans out nursing a leg injury, rookie WR’s Smith, Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams needed to step up, and Smith answered the call in a big way.
Defensively, the Ravens punished second-year QB Sam Bradford and the Rams offense, holding them to just 244 total yards. Bradford was picked off once and fumbled, which resulted in a defensive touchdown.
So now that Flacco has more control in the offense, how will the Ravens fare moving forward? They face a test in the New York Jets this Sunday night at home, in a game that should test their new high-powered offense against a stout defense, including the complex blitz-schemes of Rex Ryan. The Jets are licking their wounds after getting beaten soundly by the Raiders, and are 2-1 on the young season.
Last year, the Ravens dominated the Jets in the opening game of the season, despite the deceiving 10-9 score. The Ravens held the Jets to just 176 yards of total offense while the Ravens racked up 282 yards. The Ravens also turned the ball over 3 times in that game, so as long as the Ravens protect the ball this Sunday, they should come out with a win and head into the bye at 3-1.
The biggest difference, this time around, is that the Jets have Raven-killer Santonio Holmes, who was serving a suspension to begin the 2010 season.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Brian Matusz was given one last chance to end his disastrous 2011 season on a high note, despite the fact that pitching in Fenway Park is not the best environment to nurture success. Matusz's performance last night was to be expected from a pitcher whose struggles are well known by now, as he was unable to get out of the second inning, ending with a line of 1.2 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 2 BB and 0 K.
His 2011 stats look even worse: 1-8 W-L, 10.68 ERA, 44.2 IP, 2.13 WHIP, 16 HR. I don't have the record books close by but I think I recall hearing that Matusz's 2011 season will go down as the worst pitching season of all time for a pitcher with at least 44 IP.
During spring training, Buck Showalter and Mark Connor made it a point to get the O's pitchers faster to the plate to cut down on steals. This caused a large ripple effect throughout the pitching staff this year, causing many pitchers (Matusz, Bergesen, Gregg and Gonzalez) to struggle because of it. Shortly after, Matusz injured his back and missed a majority of the season. A coincidence? We may never know. Just like we may never really know what caused Connor to quit, but I think it's pretty obvious that the Orioles pitchers were not happy with what they were being instructed to do and Connor didn't want any more of it.
Meanwhile, Matusz could be ruined for good. All because they wanted to get a fraction of a second faster to the plate.
What was it that Jim Palmer has always said? The best way to cut down on steals is keep runners off the bases. Words to live by. And Matusz was doing just that. In his last 11 starts of 2010, he finished with WHIP just under 1.00 to go with a 7-1 record and a 2.17 ERA. If anyone deserved immunity from Buck and Connor's change in delivery, it was Matusz.
Brian Matusz's downfall could very well be Buck's legacy in Baltimore...messing up Matusz to the point where he has to go sell insurance to make a living. The shame of it is many scouts said that Brian Matusz was major-league ready on the day he was drafted 4th overall in 2008. The Orioles could have drafted Matusz and not said a word to him and he'd probably be better off for it. I severely doubt that Buck is going to do anything substantial with the Orioles, regardless of the position he's in next year, whether it be GM, manager or some other fancy title. He could have very well destroyed one of the best pitching prospects the Orioles have had in a very long time.
I know Matusz will go back to the minors and work hard to get back to where he was in 2010. Throughout this nightmare of the season, Brian has owned everything this year, accepting blame and saying that he wasn't mentally prepared for this season, which, in my opinion, is a diplomatic way of saying, "I wasn't ready to come into spring training after finishing the 2010 season with a 7-1 record and have my wind-up fucked with".
But Matusz may never make it back. The damage may have been done, and it could very well be irreversible.
Thanks, Buck.I hope you're happy with yourself.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Just a week after they dominated the Steelers in every facet of the game, the Titans (yes, the Titans) did the same to the Ravens in a humbling 26-13 loss.
In a game where the Ravens did little right, they were also outcoached by a coaching staff making their second NFL start. Remember that adage about John Harbaugh not losing to teams with losing records? Well you can throw that out of the window. Especially during week 2, the same week the Ravens dropped a game in Cincinnati.
The Titans (1-1) weren’t on many playoff prediction lists, but they played like defending Super Bowl champions yesterday, taking away the Ravens ground game and putting ample pressure on Joe Flacco all day. All this coming from a team that lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 1 – a team that could contend for the worst record in the NFL when it’s all said and done.
Flacco turned in a stinker of a game, completing just 15 of 32 for 197 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT. His two picks were awful, especially the first one, where he threw the ball right at the numbers of waiting defender. However, receivers were rarely open and Flacco didn’t have much time for check-downs as the pocket collapsed quickly the entire game. It was the kind of game you’d hoped that Flacco had put past him on his way to becoming an elite QB in this league. But yesterday was another painful reminder that he still has a long way to go to reach that elite level.
Ray Rice managed just 43 yards rushing on 14 carries, but did haul in the only Ravens TD of the game on a screen pass he took 31 yards for a touchdown. He wasn’t used enough in the passing game where screens would have taken away the impact of the Titan’s pass rush. Ricky Williams carried the ball only 4 times for 2 yards and a fumble.
The receivers also had a poor game. Anquan Boldin had 46 yards on 3 catches. Lee Evans had 2 catches, one of them for 32 yards and hopefully a sign of things to come once he gets completely healthy. Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta had 49 total yards while failing to have the impact they had against Pittsburgh a week before. Torrey Smith failed to make a catch despite being the Ravens #3 WR. He needs to step up and become a part of this offense, and fast.
On defense, the Ravens didn’t fare any better, failing to pressure Matt Hasselbeck enough. He picked apart the Ravens defense for 358 yards. They did contain Chris Johnson on the ground, which wasn’t very hard since he’s not in game shape just yet. Kenny Britt absolutely scorched a weak Ravens secondary for 135 yards and a TD. Nate Washington also hauled in 7 passes for 99 yards.
All in all, it’s a game the Ravens want to forget, and move on. The Titans clearly treated the game the same way the Ravens treated week 1, wanting to play a physical game against a team that expected to show up and win. Hopefully the Ravens learned a valuable lesson, and can come out a better team for it.
The Ravens travel to St. Louis next week to take on the Rams, who will be coming off a short week.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
On a day where football fans tried to keep things in perspective, being the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2011, it was tough to bottle up the emotions and relief that came along with a 35-6 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Baltimore.
The Ravens hadn't beaten a Ben Roethlisberger-led team since 2006, and since Joe Flacco had been in the league, he'd previously been winless against Roethlisberger in head-to-head match ups. The subject had been the topic of many criticisms against Flacco. But he shed that criticism in a big way, throwing for 224 yards and 3 TD's in the win. In fact, shedding criticism became the theme for the day for the Ravens.
Flacco a slow starter?
He throws for a touchdown on the third play of the game.
Can't run on the Steelers defense?
Ray Rice rushes for 107 yards and a score, and the Ravens rush for 170 total yards.
Can't finish off the Steelers?
The Ravens forced 7 turnovers (a Steelers record) and put the game away in the 3rd quarter.
Will the Ravens be OK without Derrick Mason?
Anquan Boldin, 4 catches, 74 yards, 1 TD.
Will the Ravens miss Todd Heap?
Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta combined for 7 catches and 104 yards receiving.
The offensive line played great, giving Flacco all kinds of time to throw and opening running lanes for Rice. Flacco was sacked only once. Vonta Leach punished Steelers defenders, paving the way for the running game.
Meanwhile, the defense was on the prowl, delivering blows left and right. It didn't matter who they hit, as long as they were wearing black and gold. Haloti Ngata flatted Rashard Mendenhall and forced a fumble, which Hgata recovered. Jarret Johnson upended Hines Ward, wiping that perma-smirk off of his face. And Ben Roethlisberger was cut down several times. It's a wonder he was able to continue playing after taking some of the hits he received. I'm sure the talk of nagging injury will begin with Roethisberger now.
The biggest noticeable thing, though, was the Ravens aggressiveness. They attacked the Steelers secondary on the first drive. They went for a two-point conversion early in the 3rd quarter to go up 29-7. They went for it on 4th and 1 on the Pittsburgh 8 yard line shortly after the two pointer coversion, but were unable to move the chains. But much of the aggressiveness came with the execution of Cam Cameron's playcalling. Gone were the horrible end-arounds, but Cameron stuck with the run and it worked. Just goes to show you how much better play-calling cam look when players execute.
In short, the experience at the stadium yesterday was amazing. To get the monkey off their backs, the Ravens have to be feeling good moving forward. They just humiliated their most hated rival to start the season. Steeler fans were fleeing the stadium en masse during the 3rd and 4th quarters, their yellow rags between their legs. The tribute to the 9/11 victims and soldiers was heartfelt. And the "Seven Nation Army" chant taught on and people were still chanting it on the way out of the stadium after the game was in the books.
It doesn't get much better than that. We're alive, the Ravens won, and they beat the Steelers.
Next week the Ravens play the Titans in Tennessee.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Surprisingly, the Orioles offense has been mediocre in 2011. And amongst Baltimore baseball fans, mediocrity is reason enough to throw a ticker-tape parade down Pratt Street. The O's are 8th out of 14 teams in runs scored and have hit the 5th most home runs in the AL.
With just a mediocre pitching staff the Orioles could have actually had a shot at breaking .500 for the first time in 14 years. But as you know, the Orioles pitching has been downright atrocious this year...historically, epically, universally bad.
Consider this. Last year the Orioles ERA was 4.85, which was good for 13th in the AL. The league average was 4.14. So the Orioles were just a measly -0.71 below mediocre.
Well, this year, the AL average is 4.04, so you'd think that the Orioles ERA in relation to the league average would have lowered along with it, right?
The O's ERA this year sits at 4.92, good for last in the MLB. A difference of -0.88 points from mediocrity. So whereas the league average ERA has gone down, the Orioles ERA has headed in the other direction.
It's nothing earth shattering, of course, but just another snapshot of how bad the Orioles pitching has been this season.
So I'll leave you with this. Remember Brian Matusz, the pitcher we'd pinned a lion's share of our hopes on? The guy who went 7-1 down the stretch last season and we all thought he'd lead the rotation in 2011?
Well his 9.84 ERA puts him right there in the discussion for the "worst season of all time" by a pitcher who has pitched more than 40 innings. That's right. The guy we pegged as our ace going forward has just had one of the worst seasons in baseball history.
Now you know why this blog is called "the Bad Oriole".
I was a game off last year, predicting a 13-3 record with the Ravens finishing 12-4. And this year I'll go in reverse, predicting a 12-4 record while expecting a 13-3 season.
After the brutal loss to the Steelers in the playoffs, in addition to the regular season loss at home to Pittsburgh, I think this is the year the Ravens finally get over the Pittsburgh hump. I've got nothing riding on that other than the laws of probability, since the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger starting under center are 7-2 against the Ravens. It's time the Ravens started to even out that record on statistical averages alone. And adding a deep threat in Lee Evans, shoring up the offensive line and a better pass rush should go a long way in bringing down the Steelers.
And that's really what the 2011 season comes down to: beating Pittsburgh. With the Ravens and Steelers each having an easy schedule on paper, the games between these two teams will likely be what determines the AFC North.
So what better way to start the season than with the Ravens hosting the Steelers in week 1?
Having said all that, I do wonder if the Ravens can beat the Steelers. It's gotten to the point in this rivalry where Ravens fan just have to expect something to go wrong. And how could I not feel that way after the playoff loss in Pittsburgh last January, where everything did go wrong? So while I am excited for the season, I am reserved in my excitement, because until the Ravens actually prove that they can beat Roethlisberger and the Steelers, I don't believe they can.
So instead of going through each game, I'll say this. The Ravens will split with the Steelers this year and drop three out of four games against the Texans, Jets, Colts and Chargers. They usually have trouble beating better teams -- and those five teams are easily the best teams they'll face this year. That said, I do hope they can surpass my expectations because I believe the Ravens are better than the Texans, Jets, Colts and Chargers. It's time we started beating the better teams in the NFL instead of feasting off the also-rans and losing close games to elite teams. The Ravens should be an elite tam this year, so they better play like one.
So while I am predicting another 12-4 year that could likely see us getting the wild card and going on the road....again...deep down I am hoping for more. If this team plays to its ability, two losses starts to sound pretty realistic.
Until then, I'll see you on Sunday. Go Ravens.
By now we've heard all the theories about Flanagan's death and the role Angelos may or may not have had in pushing Flanagan to commit suicide. But the more damning news is that MacPhail doesn't want to come back and continue what he called his "dream job" upon being hired. Until recently, it seemed like all was kosher between MacPhail and Angelos, with Big Pete dropping sound-bytes like "Andy isn't going anywhere". But it seems that a wedge has been driven between then, and not Eric Wedge, the manager that MacPhail wanted to take over for Juan Samuel last season. Angelos wanted Showalter, and as you can see, Showalter is the current manager of the team and confidant to Angelos.
Jordan on the other hand is a more curious situation. He's had some questionable drafts (Matt Hobgood) and some first round draft picks that didn't pan out (Billy Rowell) but one has to wonder the role that the Player Development John Stockstill has played in Jordan's resignation. After all, Jordan can only select players in the draft. After that, it's up to Stockstill to harvest the juice from the fruit, and the Orioles are notorious for their spotty player development.
So with these two job openings needing to be filled this offseason, it could be a busy winter in Baltimore, especially if these two major departures lead to an organization-wide overhaul of personnel.
But does anyone care?
Last time I checked, Peter Angelos still owns the team. He'll likely hire one of his good ol boy friends like John Hart or promote someone within the organization like Matt Klentak, current Director of Baseball Operations. From what I have heard of Klentak, he would be a good candidate for the job. However, as long as Angelos is the owner, one has to assume that Klentak (as well as any GM) would have to maneuver through Angelos' mine field of restrictions. Case in point: Angelos' refusal to allow MacPhail fire Dave Stockstill (John's brother) when MacPhail took over as GM in 2007. Instead, Stockstill was exiled to International Scouting. Maybe that is a less than desirable position in Baltimore, but the rest of baseball hires intelligent and forward-thinking people for that position, not people who are about to be fired.
What's even worse, is the thought of one of Angelos' confidants like Dave or John Stockstill being promoted to GM, or someone like Rick Dempsey. Angelos has a fondness for these people, so nothing would surprise me at this point.
So as this season winds down, and GM candidates are discussed for the Orioles, I don't think you'll find many Orioles fans who give a shit. We've been through this song and dance before, several times, and it always ends the same way.
Remember the feeling you have right now, O's fans. Because in a few years, you'll likely feel it again.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
According to this article, MacPhail will walk away from his job as GM of the Orioles at the end of the season. That's when his contract expires, but reports are that MacPhail will not seek to re-sign with the team.
The most interesting line in the article is that "MacPhail and Angelos were fed up with each other". Hmmm...really? Could there really be in-fighting in the front office of the Baltimore Orioles? Could someone really be fed up with Peter Angelos?
The most shocking revelation is that Angelos was "fed up" with MacPhail, who was hired in 2007 to take over for Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette. Oriole fans and media alike thought it was a good fit, for better or worse. During his time with the Cubs, MacPhail never spent a lot of money on free agents, made some conservative trades while occasionally making a "risky" move. So it was clear that MacPhail would work within Angelos' comfort zone when he was hired by the Orioles. But right off the bat, MacPhail opened eyes by trading away the O's two best players: Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard.
The trades were universally praised by O's fans and the baseball world even though the returns on those trades have diminished somewhat since. But since those trades took place during the offseason before the 2008 season, MacPhail has been on cruise control for the most part -- acquiring former Cubs reclamation projects like Felix Pie, Jake Fox and Rich Hill and signing expensive bullpen pitchers like Mike Gonzalez and Kevin Gregg, guys who weren't worth their contracts. He made the occasional good move, trading bullpen arms in David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio for Mark Reynolds, who leads the Orioles with 31 home runs and trading JJ Hardy for Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson, who MacPhail signed to a three-year extension.
But Angelos being "fed up" with MacPhail can only mean one thing: and that's probably proof that MacPhail wanted to do more. The one knock against MacPhail was that he was too slow, too methodical. And that may still be true. But if Angelos is "fed up" with you, that probably means you wanted to do too much: Make a risky move, trade away a fan favorite or invest a lot of money in the minor leagues or internationally. This was, after all, MacPhail's self-admitted "dream job". You have to think that someone who felt that way wanted to do more than what MacPhail did as GM.
Within the last few months or year, MacPhail seemed defensive when he was questioned about his moves by the media. He basically admitted that the modern state of baseball had passed him by when he went on a rant about spending big money on international prospects such as Miguel Sano. And those were probably MacPhail's words, which is why I am somewhat relieved that MacPhail will not be coming back. But his defensiveness probably reflects some of the stress he was under from Angelos. We'll only be left to wonder what really happened. But we do know that MacPhail wanted to hire former Indians manager Eric Wedge, and Angelos wanted Showalter. We know who won that battle. And this past offseason, reports are that it was Angelos who pushed to sign former slugger Vladimir Guerrero, ponying up $8 million to sign the future Hall of Famer who has struggled mightily in Baltimore.
But one thing is for sure. And that is Angelos is still the #1 problem in Baltimore. In Flanagan and MacPhail he had two men for whom being GM of the Baltimore Orioles was a dream job. And what are we left with? One of those men just took his life and the other is willing to walk away from his job.
The circus in Baltimore will never leave town as long as Peter Angelos is the owner. So while people will be interested to see who takes over for MacPhail as GM, it won't matter one bit. They won't be allowed to execute their vision and in three or four years, we'll be right back where we are now.
It's actually ironic when you think about it. The Orioles. The O's. The letter "O" is a circle. The number zero is close. The vicious circle continues.
Round and round we go.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Having missed preseason game #2, I entered the third game of this pre-season excited to get my best look at the Ravens before the start of the season since the third pre-season game is the closest it gets to the real thing. And since it was against the our neighbors to the south, the Washington Redskins, it made it a little more exciting than your standard pre-season game
What I saw was a mixed bag of positives and negatives that left me both excited and anxious about the 2011 season.
To start, Joe Flacco threw a boneheaded interception on a stop route that was picked off and returned for a touchdown by DeAngelo Hall. When he wasn't throwing interceptions, Flacco was under pressure as the offensive line collapsed regularly. But once the first quarter was over, and the Ravens were down 14-0, Flacco and the offense got going, and the positives started flowing.
Flacco hooked up with Anquan Boldin for gains of 18 and 30 yards on a drive that ended with a Ray Rice 1-yard TD run. On the next drive, Flacco connected with Ed Dickson for a 33 yard gain and scored on a perfectly thrown 35-yard bomb to newly acquired WR Lee Evans. After halftime, Flacco led the Ravens on their third scoring drive of the night, hooking up again with Boldin in the middle of the endzone.
Flacco ended his night on a high-note, 17-27, 219 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT.
Tyrod Taylor came in and played well for the second game in a row, further cementing the belief that Taylor can enter the season as Flacco's understudy. He finished 11-18 with 125 yards and a touchdown pass that won the game with just a few seconds left. RB Anthony Allen impressed yet again, exploding through holes with speed and power.
The pluses and minuses existed on defense as well, with DE Pernell McPhee recording a sack and fighting for a spot not only on the team, but as a possible impact player. The defensive line kept constant pressure on QB's Rex Gressoman and John Beck, but when they had time to throw, they exposed the Ravens secondary, namely Ladarius Webb and Jimmy Smith. Since Smith is a rookie, it's to be expected, but Webb hasn't looked the same since his injury. Although Webb ended the night good on paper -- recording a sack and an interception -- he was abused all night. The same can be said of Dominique Foxworth, who is also coming back from injury and looks less than ready.
In the end, the game was exciting for a pre-season game and the Ravens won 34-31 with seconds left on the clock. But the win was somewhat hollow since there were as many negatives as their were positives and when the hated Pittsburgh Steelers are looming on the horizon as your opponent in week 1, you want to be running on all cylinders. There's one more preseason game to go, but don't expect to see the starters much, if at all, as the coaches use the game to evaluate players on the bubble.
What you saw last night may look a lot like the team we see in 2011. And that can be a good thing, or a bad thing.
We'll just have to wait and see.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
I woke up this morning and got on-line to see how the Orioles did in their game against the Twins and was shocked to find out that Mike Flanagan, former Cy Young pitcher for the Orioles (and Blue Jays), had been discovered dead near his home in Sparks, MD.
No reports are official, but word on the street is that Flanagan committed suicide and WBAL reporter Gerry Sandusky had linked Flanagan's apparent suicide to Flanagan's "despondent" feelings about the current state of the Orioles. Flanagan was the team's GM from 2003-2007, and his contract was not renewed after the 2008 season. One has to wonder if Flanagan never recovered after being let go or felt guilt over his perceived failings as a GM.
While those reports are still forthcoming, no one can deny Flanagan's love for the Baltimore Orioles. Reading some of the recollections of Flanagan from several writers this morning has reminded me how great a guy he was and how much he meant to this team and the city. One story recalled how Flanagan, 39 at the time and at the end of his career, begged not to be traded from the Orioles during the 1991 season, the final season in Memorial Stadium. He wanted to pitch in the final game, and he did, recording the game's final two outs in a loss to the Detroit Tigers. That's awesome. Had he been traded, Flanagan likely would have been dealt to a playoff team. He was having a good year that year. But no, he wanted to be a part of the stadium's farewell ceremony. That meant more to him.
I have some hazy memories of Mike Flanagan the player, and that last game at Memorial Stadium. And Flanagan, along with Cal Ripken, are some of the earliest memories I have as an Orioles fan. That makes it that much sad to learn that Flanagan is gone.
As a broadcaster, he wasn't the best. His monotone voice (combined with the quality of most Orioles teams) lent to uninspired TV, but his humor was always there. It was dry, and always lighthearted. He never made fun of someone in a mean-spirited way and was never afraid to make fun of himself. And no one can deny Flanagan's baseball smarts in the booth and in the clubhouse, where he was a pitching coach with the Orioles, two different times. His mantra: work fast and throw strikes. That was it.
His tenure as a GM was not great by any means, but you could not deny the desire to make the Orioles better. Following the dark ages of the Syd Thrift era, Flanagan and co-GM Jim Beattie attempted to breathe life back into the Orioles by signing Miguel Tejada, Javy Loopez and Rafael Palmeiro in the offseason before 2004. They missed on signing Vlad Guerrero that year, despite having the best offer on the table. They hired rookie manager, Lee Mazzilli, a former Yankee, in a brave move that suggested at a new era of Orioles baseball. The following year, they traded for slugger Sammy Sosa. And even though that trade bombed, it was a decent move at the time. No one could have predicted Sosa's rapid decline from 35 home runs in 2004, to the 14 he hit as an Oriole in 2005.
The 2004 Orioles came close to breaking the .500 mark, but fell short. The next year saw the Orioles in first place for the first two months of the season before injuries and off-the-field problems took their toll and the Orioles collapsed during the second half. But it can be said that Flanagan was the only GM to have put together a winning team over 162 games, when you combine the second half of 2004 and the first half of 2005.
As more and more answers come into the light as to why Flanagan died, nothing will lessen the tragedy of a life cut short. Either way, Flanagan, who was 59, leaves behind a family. One has to wonder why, if the suicide reports are true, a man would do this...especially a man who according to former players and friends, was always cracking jokes and having a good time.
If it is true that Flanagan's death was somehow linked to his feelings about the current state of the Orioles -- and his perceived failings at making them better, the best thing the Orioles can do to honor his death is to put together a competitive team.
Rest in peace, Flanny. You will be missed.
Friday, August 12, 2011
The Ravens solidified their WR corps by trading a fourth round draft pick for Bills WR Lee Evans today.
You may remember Evans from the 2010 game against the Ravens where he torched the Ravens secondary to the tune of 105 receiving and 3 touchdowns. What he did in that game was probably fresh in the minds of the Ravens when Evans went up on the trade block.
Evans, 30, has had some big seasons for Buffalo in 2006 and 2008, but his stats dropped off since '08 due to some poor production at QB and the acquisition of Terrel Owens in 2009 and the emergency of Steve Johnson as a weapon in 2010.
That said, Evans is a speedster and a deep threat, something the Ravens currently lacked at WR unless Torrey Smith became that guy.
And after yesterday's game in which Tandon Doss was impressive, it's looking like a receiving corps of Boldin, Evans and Doss may be potentially dangerous.
The first team offense only managed to score 3 points in about two drives, but Dennis Pitta was the bright spot, looking every bit like Todd Heap as he hauled in a 27 yard pass from Joe Flacco over the shoulder of his defender on the first play of the game. Pitta finished with 4 catches and 47 yards. WR Tandon Doss (3 rec. for 26 yards) also impressed, showing good route running skills and solid hands.
On the ground, Ray Rice only managed 7 total yards but looked good on a couple of runs. Jalen Parmalee owned the team's best drive that resulted in a turnover at the goal line. He rushed for 35 yards on 7 carries. But QB Tyrod Taylor gained the most yardage, 59 yards on 6 carries. The OL looked weak and couldn't open many holes for Rice and Flacco didn't have much time to check down on passing plays.
As for Taylor, he showed signs of promise, especially when running the ball, and completed 67% of his passes for 179 yards. His two interceptions were disappointing, especially one at the goal line, but Taylor is a work in progress and it's unrealistic to ask a 6th round pick to look polished. But you could see why people compare him to fellow VT alumni, Michael Vick.
The defense was a mixed bag as well. Paul Kruger was the unit's standout, recording a sack and putting good pressure on the Eagle's QB's. But starters Chris Carr and even Ed Reed were burned on a big play in a drive that resulted in an Eagles TD. Thank God the Ravens signed Bernard Pollard, who played well, recording an INT and making some big tackles. But when the first stringers were on the field, Eagles QB Michael Vick was running the offense like a well-oiled machine and the Ravens had no answer to stopping them. The defense as a whole allowed too many big plays and even Eagles third string QB, Mike Kafka, was able to throw the ball in the middle of the field all night.
On special teams...well, the special teams didn't get a chance to play much due to the new kick-off rules that moved the ball up five yards which allowed for tons of touchbacks. Over the course of the season, the amount of touchbacks is going to get ridiculous.
As I said, the new faces and lack of depth on offense provided some interesting plot lines, but most of the results weren't pretty. Moving forward, the Ravens have a lot to work on if they consider themselves Super Bowl contenders, and last night proved the need to get a veteran presence at WR and back-up QB.
This is nothing we already didn't know, so the Ravens need to get busy filling some holes.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Anyway, tonight is the first preseason game for the Ravens as they travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles.
Much has been made of the Ravens offseason and their inability to make any impact signings, especially at the wide-receiver position, after losing Derrick Mason to the Jets and being left with Anquan Boldin and a bunch of rookies or unknowns.
But the crisis at WR will at least give fans something to look out for tonight. The first preseason game usually features 3.5 quarters of second, third and fourth string players eating up minutes. So players like Torrey Smith, Tandon Doss, James Hardy and Brandon Jones will get plenty of chances to show the coaching staff -- as well as Ozzie Newsome -- that the Ravens needs at WR aren't that desperate.
It'll also be interesting to see Tyrod Taylor play at QB for much of the game, since Joe Flacco will probably only play in a series or two. Taylor, who like Eagles QB Michael Vick, went to Virginia Tech and is a mirror image of Vick. And with the Ravens having lost last year's back-up, Marc Bulger, to retirement, Taylor will also be able to show the Ravens that they may not need to go out and sign a veteran QB to hold a clipboard all season.
On defense, Sergio Kindle will see his first live action. Kindle was the Ravens first draft pick in 2010, taken in the second round. However, he missed the entire season after falling down two flights of steps just weeks before training camp was to begin and suffering a fractured skull. The Ravens sorely lacked a pass rush in 2010, and if 100%, Kindle could help improve the pass rush and take some pressure of Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs who are routinely double-teamed. Also keep an eye our for DE Paul Kruger, who is probably down to his last chance to make an impact on this team after getting drafted in the second round in 2009 and being left inactive for most of his career.
On the other side of the field, you'll have your first chance to see the Eagles, who were the big movers and shakers this offseason, acquiring the likes of Nnamdi Asomugha and Ronnie Brown. They're the hands on favorite to come out of the NFC, so they should give the Ravens a tough time, even though it's just glorified practice.
So enjoy! At least football is back!
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
At 44-69 the Orioles have themselves the worst record in the AL. An 18-31 record in the next month and a half will get them 100 losses.
Why does it matter? Why should we root for it to happen?
There is the draft pick reason. Right now the O's trail the Astros by 6 games for the #1 overall pick. But maybe, just maybe, 100 losses will sound off some alarms down at the warehouse. I know we've come close to 100 losses in the past, but there is something special about a three-digit number in the loss column.
Maybe Angelos will get mad and start firing people and actually hiring some competent people. I know it's a long shot, but that's all we O's fans can hope for.
In a season this bad, it's all we have.
Monday, July 25, 2011
That would be 58.
58 losses on July 25th.
Do you know what the average number of losses the AL East Champs have had over the last 13 years?
The Orioles will have that many within a week's time. They're on pace for a 64-98 record, worse than last year's record, which at one point was on pace to set a record for futility in the modern area. I also doubt there will be another Late Season Buck Miracle in August and September. Whatever magic Buck had when he took over the team last year as run out.
I know it's not rocket science we're talking here, or any analytical stats that provide a wealth of information. But it's just another reminder of how bad the Orioles are -- and how far they have to go to contend in the AL East.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Fast-forward some fifteen-odd years later. The Browns moved to Baltimore, became the Ravens and won a Super Bowl a few years later. The Orioles, meanwhile, fell into the abyss of horrible sports franchises sometime around 1998 and they've yet to crawl out. Actually, they're only sinking deeper and deeper into it.
So here we are, back in that same place, living in a one sports team city.
Let's face it, the Orioles might as well join the ranks of the Blast, the Bayrunners, Mariners and any other minor-league cut-rate sports team that plays its home games in Baltimore. The O's should move to the Baltimore Arena and play the games there, inside that old, decrepit monstrosity of terribleness. The Orioles don't deserve Camden Yards.
Even die-hard Oriole fans are starting to turn in their fan cards. And why shouldn't they? The Orioles have turned their back on fans for years. It's time the remaining fans do the same to them. Sports fans around Baltimore are praying that the labor dispute that has the NFL on hold gets resolved soon so we can forget about the Orioles and focus all our attention on the Ravens.
It happens every year.
This year was supposed to be different. But shame on us for thinking that could ever happen.
So here we are again, folks.
We might as well join the ranks of Buffalo, Tennessee, Green Bay and Jacksonville as one-team football cities. Because let's face it, the Orioles don't play Major League quality baseball.
Friday, July 15, 2011
Ryan Clark is either not very bright or he's just trying to get under the skin of Ravens players and fans. He recently said:
"People try to make this game between the Ravens and the Steelers like so much of a rivalry, of a fight, you know," Clark told KDKA-FM in Pittsburgh. "You can say it's a rivalry if you like, but for something to be a rivalry, I think both teams have to win equally. The hate between the fans doesn't make it a rivalry. Teams have to win equally, and that really hasn't been the case in our situation."
Yes, it's true that the Steelers have a better record against the Ravens. That record soars to dominate levels when Ben Roethlisberger is playing. But to say that the Ravens/Steelers is not a rivalry is completely outlandish.
Most of the games are decided in the 4th quarter, usually by a single play. Both teams were 12-4 last year and 9-7 the year before. They've played 3 times in 2 of the last 3 seasons. At least one of the games between these two teams is a nationally televised game.
But yes, it would be nice if the Ravens could level out the record some more, but that doesn't mean that this isn't a rivalry.
It's the best damn rivalry going on in the NFL right now, and will be for the foreseeable future.
So sorry, Ryan. You're absolutely wrong.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Well, today's stroke of Orioles genius comes via Brittany Ghiroli, the Orioles beat reporter for MLB.com. Ghiroli does a great job following the team and always has her finger on the pulse of what fans want to know. After the hapless writing of Spencer Fordin, Ghiroli is a breath of fresh air.
Anyway, today Ghiroli wrote about Jim Johnson and the Orioles' stance that he's "untouchable".
Relievers Koji Uehara and Jim Johnson are both having excellent seasons in the later innings, but Uehara has drawn tepid interest given his age and injury-prone status. Johnson has established himself as one of the best setup men in the American League, and the organization -- which has told several teams it's unwilling to discuss offers for the reliever -- continues to have internal discussions about moving Johnson into a starting role next season.
There's no denying that outside of a few bad outings, Johnson has had a terrific year. He's also on pace to throw over 100 innings as a relief pitcher and will be 29 next year. He's not some young buck who the Orioles are hoping will be a part of their next winning team. He's a prime trade candidate.
You know the saying, "sell high"? Well the Orioles clearly don't.
And the talk of converting Johnson to a starting pitcher? There's been rumblings about Johnson wanting to be a starter (like he was in the minors) but as the other saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Even if the Orioles were to keep Johnson (and they shouldn't), making him a starting pitcher would be a colossal mistake. Johnson excels where he is. Leave him there.
No, actually trade him, so his new team can leave him there.
Hopefully Andy MacPhail is simply posturing here, but really, would you be surprised if everything Ghiroli wrote was true?
I wouldn't. And I expect the Orioles to say and do a lot of dumb things for the remainder of the season.
The Bad Oriole is about to really live up to its name.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
My usual answer was, "why not?"
I'm lucky enough to have already visited some of the bigger, cultural cities in Europe: Athens, Rome, Florence, Venice, Prague, Vienna and Budapest. And since my wife and I are saving France for our 10th Anniversary, we settled on Portugal since it's relatively cheap compared to other European countries such as Spain, Germany and Belgium, and can be reached by a direct flight.
And I'll be honest. We picked Portugal for superficial reasons. It's not like we were really interested in the country's culture or history ahead of time. For us, the price sounded good and the country has a good mix of geographical landscapes, meaning we could visit Porto, the home of Port wine, the coastal town of Lagos, and the bustling metropolis of Lisbon all within a week.
Our first stop was Porto, which is located in the northern part of the country. The people who didn't ask "why Portugal?" because they had some previous experience with the country, highly recommended Porto, even saying that we should skip Lisbon if we had to, as long as we made it to Porto.
So did my experience in Porto meet their praise?
Yes, it did. And then some.
Porto has been called "Europe's hidden gem" and I can see why. It's a small city when compared to some of Europe's giants, and very picturesque due to its waterfront, which gives it a cozy feeling. It's cheap -- cheaper than the rest of Portugal -- and the access to wine, especially Port wine, is not to be missed.
1. Arts & Culture -- 7 -- Porto has a very interesting history, having once been settled by the Romans and occupied by the Moors, making for some impressive architecture that was spared by the 1755 earthquake that decimated much of central Portugal. But for me, Porto offered up a jarring contrast of the past in its architecture and the present when the Porto F.C. won the Portuguese Cup our second day there and the town literally exploded into honking car horns and people chanting the fight song through the streets of the city. I listened to Antena 3, an indie rock station, whenever I could. I basically pay Sirius $12 a month to get the same station. I also attended a concert by the American band, The National, while in Porto and it also reminded me how modern this city really is. The crowd was so into the show -- more into any show I have ever attended in the states -- and the band fed off of that energy turning in an awesome live performance. I left Porto impressed for several reasons, key among them being the energy that the city has for the now.
2. Food -- 8 -- Porto's cuisine -- and Portugal's to a larger extent, especially so close to the coast -- predominantly featured pork and seafood. Sometimes the seafood was wrapped in pork. The offerings in Porto were good, but they didn't blow me away, even when we dined at the #1 Trip Advisor rated restaurant. OK, I was blown away by the sandwich in that picture, but I didn't come to Porto to do a "Man Vs. Food" episode. I wanted some really good food. And what I found was solid, but failed to leave a lasting impression. Thankfully, there didn't seem to be many tourist traps in Porto due to the city being a minor tourist city in Europe, so it was a relief to know you could walk into almost any restaurant and get decent food at decent prices. There is something to be said for that. But what earns Porto its score is the Port wine. We made a day out of touring the different port cellars and met a really cool British couple who traveled to Porto for the weekend. Each port cellar offers a tour, which we never took. Just the port, please! And each place we visited was generous with the tastings. So generous, that my wife got drunk and I caught a solid buzz. And if Anton and Sarah are out there, cheers!
3. Mass Transit -- 8 -- For a city its size, Porto has an impressive mass transit system comprised of a light rail "metro", buses and a funicular. The metro got us from the train station to our condo, and to and from dinner one night but Porto has a very walkable city center and after a while, we realized that the bus better served us if we needed to take mass transit at all. The zone system in Porto is confusing, which made purchasing tickets a chore. But the system is very clean, efficient and laid out well.
4. Look & Feel -- 10 -- The feeling you get when you first arrive in a European city can't be matched in America except for maybe New York City. You rise out of the subway and boom -- you're in the middle of all the action. This feeling never ended for me in Porto. I could have wandered around the city for weeks, just taking in the city views, the architecture and the churches covered in azulejos. Down by the river is where one can just sit and take it all in. On one side you have dozens of Port wine cellars seemingly stacked on top of each other, and on the other side, you have restaurants, cafes, shops and the historical center rising above it. Both sides of the river are connected by an iron bridge that gives off a Paris meets Pittsburgh vibe. Up close, the city can be dirty and run down: abandoned houses are next door to brilliantly restored ones. But when viewed from afar, all of that grime disappears.
5. Overall -- 8 -- Porto is a European city you can explore at your own speed. There were no famous landmarks to see, no famous museums to slog through to see that one famous painting by that one painter. All there was in Porto was a ton of great Port wine, wonderful views of the city, and all the time in the world.
Total -- 41/50