The first thing to address in part two of the BYE week blog is the Orioles’ apparent hiring of Mike Elias as the person to make baseball decisions. A former member of two World Series-winning front offices, including the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals and the 2017 Houston Astros, Elias – in my opinion – is a tremendous get by the Angelos brothers. With experience in both analytics and scouting, Elias has the mind to oversee each aspect of the Orioles rebuild, especially in facets that the team has failed to find success in for the past two decades.
As many seem to believe, it appears that Sig Mejdal will join Elias in Baltimore, providing another strong mind to the front office staff. This is an equally important hire, as Mejdal will likely head an analytics department that the Orioles basically didn’t even have before his arrival. That signals a step in the right direction, as well as a commitment to the plan outlined by former GM Dan Duquette after the trade deadline.
Like many others, I was extremely excited about the way the O’s were taking on this rebuild – until they lost out on the three Cuban super-kids in October. I honestly believed that they were a toxic organization unable to rebuild, like the MLB version of the Cleveland Browns. But, bringing Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal bring two minds to the warehouse that I think are perfect for the spot. In my opinion, if they can’t straighten this thing out in the next 5 years, nobody can.
Of course, it’s going to be a work in progress, evident in the fact that I’m giving them the next 5 years to work things out. The Orioles have just two potential stars – D.L. Hall and Yusniel Diaz – and even they are arguably just guys. While the trade deadline deals certainly added much-needed depth to the minor league system, there is a ton of work to be done before fans can get excited about the future. The first piece of that puzzle is the O’s draft selections this year. If their first overall pick, presumably Bobby Witt Jr., is a home run, the rebuild will be kicked off in a big way. Additionally, the O’s should have multiple top picks over the next three years or so, giving them a surplus of top-notch prospects to turn this thing around. The beginning of this offseason has certainly been a roller coaster ride, but things seem to be swinging back in the right direction for our birds.
As for the Ravens, they are about to play in the biggest regular season game in John Harbaugh’s tenure. The team is 4-5 and barely holding onto a hope for the postseason; A win would put them right in the thick of contention, while a loss would effectively eliminate them.
What makes this week especially interesting, however, is the situation at the quarterback position. As I mentioned in last week’s blog, Harbaugh expressed interest in playing Lamar Jackson more frequently and for longer while he waited for his “eventual” start. Since that news came out, Joe Flacco has been dealing with a hip injury that might just open the door for Jackson to make his first career start. What a day it would be if that happened! Now, there’s still a decent chance that Flacco will play, and it seems the Ravens are relishing an uncertainty that forces the Bengals to prepare for two very different quarterbacks, but a Lamar Jackson start would be the most exciting thing for Baltimore football all year.
Personally, I think Lamar Jackson is going to start. In my past two or three blogs, I noted my inclination that something was about to change in Baltimore, whether that was along the coaching staff, at the quarterback position, or both. Flacco’s injury seems like a terrific opportunity for the Ravens to see what they have in Lamar, especially given the fact that it’s off a BYE week. To me, starting Jackson makes perfect sense.
The question I think would be very interesting to ask, however, is what happens if Jackson leads the Ravens to a win? The team would be at 5-5, very much in the race for the second wild card, and fresh off a big victory against a divisional opponent that brings the two teams level. In that situation, things would start to be looking up, but that might lead the coaching staff to question whether or not entrusting Jackson with the starting role is the right decision. After all, he is a raw rookie who is sure to make mistakes. Flacco, on the other hand, is an experienced veteran who can lead a team if he catches fire and though he isn’t as explosive, might be better trusted to win close and important games at this point.
If it were me, I would give Lamar Jackson the chance to start until he loses. Jackson is the future of this team, whether fans want to admit that or not, and all the Ravens lose by starting him is a season that – if we’re being honest – doesn’t seem poised to amount to much more than a playoff birth, anyways. I say give the kid a chance to show us what he can do. Who knows, maybe the former Heisman Trophy winner will come out firing.