The first thing my Dad said to me when I saw him on Sunday night was, ” It’s football season.” While I’m not one to give up on things easily, (After 29 years, I’m still trying to win People Magazine’s sexiest man alive) things clearly aren’t looking so hot for the birds. This past weekends’ drubbing at the hands of the defending world champs was about as enjoyable to watch as a Justin Tucker, Royal Farms commercial. It was painful. If there was any hope of an Orioles’ second half turnaround, this 10 game home stand following the All-Star break was crucial. Starting 0-3 while giving up 27 runs and 41 hits in the process wasn’t exactly inspiring. So, if you are giving up on the O’s season but aren’t quite ready for football, here are some sports viewing options to get you through the next couple months.
Orioles’ 22-year-old, 2016 third-round draft pick, outfielder Austin Hays joined the guys today to talk about his quick rise to Double-A along with some stories about the oddities of minor league baseball including monkeys riding dogs.
Hays started the season in Frederick and after going to town on Single-A pitching he was promoted to Double-A Bowie where he has continued his torrid pace. In 64 games with Frederick, Hays hit .328 with 16 dongs, 41 RBI and a slugging percentage of .592 while hitting mostly in the two hole and occasionally leading off. Since his promotion to Bowie, in 14 games Hays has hit .339 with three homers, 16 RBI and slugging .571. He recently had a season long 17 game hit streak snapped and has hit safely in 20 of his last 22 games hitting .340 with 7 HR, 14 XBH and 20 RBI over that span. Maybe most impressively, Hays is second in all of the minor leagues in total bases with 187 trailing only former Orioles dud Christian Walker (190). Hays has proved to be a versatile outfielder playing center field in Frederick and then moving to the corner outfield positions in Bowie with Cedric Mullins in center.
Screw it. Call him up now.
As I’m writing this the O’s are exactly halfway through the season.While I should be joining the rest of the country getting, ‘ turnt,’ at the beach somewhere forgetting about all my problems and talking about how bad ass the good ole USofA is, I’m instead sitting on a couch in my underwear, soberly dreaming of a magical second half of the season and worrying about my credit card debt and impending loss of health insurance. But whatever, everyone has their problems. Clearly, the Orioles fit right into that category.
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Alright #Orioles fans, it's getting to be that time of year where tough decisions have to be made ahead of the Trade Deadline. What say you?
— BMore Opinionated (@BMOShowPod) June 20, 2017
Over the last month, Jason and Jerry have gone through nearly every single scenario for the Ravens.
Will they finally make a move for a dynamic pass catcher? Are they going to try to get in on a pass rusher? Or will they ultimately trade down and draft an O-lineman, as the Ravens are wont to do?
The situation is obviously very fluid given the amount of possibilities that stand in the way ahead of that 16th overall pick.
Let’s run down some of the possibilities, according to Jason and Jerry:
Wide Receiver/Tight End
It’s pretty safe to say that the vast majority of Ravens fans out there want to see the team finally land on an impact offensive playmaker in the first round. Mike Williams, the Clemson hero who helped deliver a National Championship for his team, has been the name mentioned most among fans and the local punditry.
The Ravens have also been linked to other WR’s such as Washington speedster John Ross and Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, but the appeal of taking a receiver might be overstated. As our own Jason La Canfora mentioned weeks back, the Ravens’ need for a playmaking pass-catcher doesn’t necessarily have to be filled at Wide Receiver. In contrast to more stacked WR draft classes, this year’s offering is much thinner at the top.
According to virtually all mock drafts, it seems Tight End O.J. Howard will be off the board by Baltimore’s #16 pick. However, we were told not to be surprised if the Ravens go with a TE, assuming the pieces fall correctly into place. While the Ravens may have a number of players under contract at that position, they can ill afford passing up the opportunity to add a gamechanging pass-catcher, even if it’s not necessarily at the Wide Receiver position.
From what is readily available, many mock drafts forecast the Ravens as very much part of the pass rusher/linebacker party in the first round. With the likes of Derek Barnett (Tennessee), Takkaris McKinley (UCLA), Hasson Reddick (Temple), Reuben Foster (Alabama), and even more projected to be available at or around the middle of the first round, the Ravens have an opportunity to add a significant playmaker on the other side of the ball as well.
According to our Jason La Canfora, the Ravens have been keeping close tabs on Foster despite recent reports of a diluted drug test. Ozzie Newsome’s relationship with Alabama football goes without saying, but it appears every prominent Alabama player may be on the Ravens first round draft board. O.J. Howard was mentioned earlier, and to add on top of Foster, other Crimson Tide defensive standouts remain possibilities — such as Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson.
With Zachary Orr’s sudden retirement and Terrell Suggs’ impending one, inserting a high-upside difference maker next to C.J. Mosely or on the outside would be huge for the legendary defensive culture on the Ravens.
John Harbaugh himself has mentioned the team’s interest in adding a big play running back, but Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette look like longshots to drop to Baltimore at #16.
For the first time in recent memory, the Ravens look like they have a near-totally shored up defensive secondary, so no worries there.
The Ravens are indeed in need of additional help on the offensive line, but as Jason mentioned a few weeks ago, it seems the 2017 NFL Draft is one of the weakest for top-end linemen in recent memory. Look for the birds to draft some big men later in the draft.
And lastly, the annual Ozzie Newsome in-draft trade is always a wild card. Though, as we discussed this week on the podcast, it doesn’t seem as though that’s a likelihood — at least when it comes to the first round.
The Ravens seem to be in one of the least predictable positions of the entire draft with their Round 1, Pick 16 selection. It seems every mock draft you pull up, a different player shows up next to the Ravens. According to SportsBettingDime.com, the Ravens are looking for their next great pass rusher. ESPN NFL Nation says Baltimore will pass up on Mike Williams in favor of guard Forrest Lamp. NFL.com‘s cavalcade of writers unanimously said the birds will go with a pass catcher — but the four scribes chose three different players.
However, when it comes to Birdland and B-More Opinionated, two opinions reign supreme. Our final predictions:
Jerry Coleman – Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)
Jason La Canfora – Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
Tune into next week’s pod for full 20/20 hindsight!
Ed Healy is a friend of Bmore Opinionated who used to intern for the Ravens, and is now working as head basketball coach at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore. We wanted to showcase what Ed and other youth coaches in the area do for the community. You can expect Ed on the podcast in the not-too-distant future. But in the meantime, here are his words talking about some of his experiences as a varsity boys’ basketball coach in this area.
When I applied for the head varsity boys’ basketball coaching position at Cristo Rey Jesuit in Baltimore, I really didn’t know a lot about the school. I knew that my college roommate had previously applied to coach the freshman team there when we were seniors. I knew that my teacher and mentor Fr. Tim Brown at Loyola University Maryland had been a part of the team that established the school – but that was it. I, like many in Baltimore, didn’t know much about what happens on the South Chester Street campus in Fells Point.
Cristo Rey Jesuit opened in Baltimore in 2007. It is a part of the Cristo Rey network, which has 32 Catholic schools nationwide and the first Cristo Rey school was opened in Chicago in 1996. The central piece of the Cristo Rey model is the Corporate Internship Program, which involves students working entry-level jobs at businesses and nonprofits 5 days a month, which contributes to the cost of their education. To attend Cristo Rey in Baltimore, you must live within Baltimore City and the student’s family must demonstrate low to modest income.
From the very first fall practice in 2015, it was clear I would be learning what the phrases “ family of low to modest income” and “Baltimore City resident” meant when blended together. In my time at Cristo Rey, I’ve had players run late or miss practice for reasons I’d never imagined. I once drove the bus off to a summer league game without one of my best players, furious he missed the bus without communicating. The next day, I learned his ride to school had been non-fatally shot in a random drive by. I’ve had a multiple players tell me about being held up at gunpoint. Others have spoken with me at length about the lack of their father in their life. These are just a few of the many situations my players have described to me about their lives that have given me a much clearer sense of the reality of poverty in Baltimore.
Despite this, our boys still find a way to show up, attend class, work, and play basketball. Coming into this season, I was pretty excited to get started as we only lost two seniors and our entire rotation returned. However, the product we put out on the court today is not quite what I envisioned last April. The 2016-17 version of the Cristo Rey Hornets only returned 5 of the 9 expected from last season. Zero players from last season’s JV made the varsity. Our roster includes two freshman (one of whom is a starter), 2 sophomores new to our program, a junior who did not play last season, and a senior playing organized basketball for the first time.
Crushing blows to our plans for the season hit our team often throughout the fall. On August 30th, our starting center suffered a knee injury in a freak accident and was lost for his sophomore campaign. In November, one senior was removed from the team for violating a team rule. Weeks later, another student took a leave of absence from the program. To reach the goals our team had talked about on our retreat, we knew we would need to have new guys step up and find a way to contribute.
Now having a better understanding of what my guys go through on a daily basis, I knew I wanted to make this year as special as possible for them. One of the first things I started lining up in the fall were some special speakers. The first of whom I reached out to was best selling author Jon Gordon, who authored “The Hard Hat” which was our team’s summer reading assignment. Two hours after I filled out a general online inquiry, one of his staff members called me and said Jon would like to talk to my team and would be in town for the weekend of the Army – Navy game. I was floored. When Jon spoke to the team, he mentioned that the two previous basketball locker rooms he’d been in were of….the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder! The fact that someone in that kind of demand wanted to spend time with us meant a lot to our kids.
I also wanted to bring in a speaker from my former employer, the Baltimore Ravens. I reached out to former coworkers in public relations, just hoping to get some player who grew up similarly to Cristo Rey Jesuit students. A few months after I reached out, I got an email saying that Steve Smith Sr. wanted to talk to the team. I had to re-read that email a few times before it hit me that a future Hall of Famer wanted to come to our practice. Needless to say, the reaction on some of the kids’ faces when he walked in was priceless.
These special moments were just the beginning of what was to come for this team. After going 2-9 through a brutal non-conference schedule, we’ve jumped out to a 6-1 record and a share of 1st place in our conference. On court moments that bring a smile to my face have started to become a regular occurrence. The first big moment belonged to our new senior to the team. The student body president and fan favorite scored his first career points on a deep three pointer in a front of a Friday-night home crowd that went wild as the ball banked in. A week later, our all- conference center threw down a monstrous dunk, something I’ve never seen him do in practice or a game – prior or since. A buzz is starting to build at a school that has never a varsity championship and a basketball program that has never won a playoff game.
Our motto we’ve adopted for this season is “Find a Way”. To me, it carries deeper meaning than finding a way to win a game. “Find a Way” is about problem solving, mental toughness, and overcoming challenges we were born into. The mentality that motto has built is a major part of how our guys were able to find ways to win close games so far in league play. As far as what’s next for this group, only time will tell. What I do know is that this is a team of which Baltimore can be proud. Our team and this school wouldn’t exist without the generosity of so many from the Baltimore community and we hope the community can rally around these young men down the home stretch. Regardless of the season’s outcome, the 2016-17 Cristo Rey Jesuit boys basketball team has already found a way to push themselves beyond previous levels of success – a skill I hope they carry with them long after they graduate.
Super Bowl week is finally upon us. Every year, we get random gems in the form out-of-context interviews (or non-interviews) and plenty of hot takes ahead of the big game. From the Baltimore perspective, there aren’t many ways to look at an outcome of the game as a pleasing one.
For the entirety of both men’s careers, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan have been compared against each other. The only two quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2008 draft, both entered the league under the dubious circumstances of franchises in free-fall and recently-appointed rookie head coaches.
Thankfully for Ravens fans, Flacco’s birds had instant playoff success. As fans are well aware, Flacco won at least one playoff game in each of his first five seasons in the league — including a trip to the AFC title game in his first season and a legendary Super Bowl run in year five.
Matt Ryan, on the other hand, didn’t build off of modest regular season success in the same way. The Boston College alum didn’t get his first playoff win until his fourth try, sporting a 1-4 record in the postseason in his first five seasons — and failing to make the playoffs at all since the 2012-13 season.
However in the last year, the narratives of the two quarterbacks have flipped. The Falcons brought in a new head coach, and Matt Ryan shut up just about all of his critics in 2016 with the top-rated QB performance of the season.
If Ryan goes on to win the NFL regular season MVP, and leads his team to a Super Bowl Victory, any lingering doubts over whether Joe Flacco has been overtaken as the top quarterback from the 2008 draft go out the window.
On the other side of the matchup, things don’t get any easier as a Ravens fan. As must be the case with most fans of AFC franchises, I can say with relative confidence that no one outside of “Pats Nation” likes Tom Brady or Bill Belichick. I feel like that’s a given.
I may be committing a cardinal sin according to fellow embattled Ravens fans, but I believe the best story is Tom Brady and the Patriots winning it all. For all the perfectly good reasons to hate Tom Brady as the “Golden Boy” of the National Football League, there should be the same reasons for Roger Goodell and the league office to love the man.
For some reason, though, those looking to “protect the shield” have gone on what has amounted to a full-out conspiracy with the aim of smearing Tom Brady and the Patriots organization. I’ll be the first to hate on the Pats organization for being shady. But beyond being a crybaby on the field when it comes to officiating, Tom Brady has done nothing but be a shining example of everything you’d want out of a starting quarterback.
With that in mind, I am rooting for one outcome and one outcome only: a situation where Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Robert Kraft are on the same stage as Roger Goodell. Unfortunately, the only way this happens is a Patriots victory. As a Ravens fan, I cannot bring myself to go as far to say that I’m rooting for the New England Patriots. However, as a professional wrestling fan, I’m always rooting for the most petty drama.
According to some touts, Tom Brady is currently slated as even money favorite to win the Super Bowl MVP. If that’s the case, we’re going to get the most compelling trophy ceremony in the history of sports. And what’s to hate about that?
I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of us in Baltimore and beyond couldn’t be happier to bid good riddance to 2016. While the year seemed to go out with more of a whimper than a bang, there was never a shortage for storylines surrounding the beloved birds of Baltimore.
Of the narratives that emerged, the marquee has to be that the city’s two once-infallible head coaches exited the year second-guessed and doubted. Between Buck Showalter’s Ubaldo-related decisions and John Harbaugh’s apparent unwavering support of the status quo for the Ravens, fans enter 2017 with plenty of doubts pointed at both clubs.
At John Harbaugh’s end-of-the-season press conference, he shocked many fans and media members alike with the decision to retain all coordinators — namely Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Uninspired play-calling has marred the Ravens since Gary Kubiak’s departure in 2014, and the in-season ouster of Marc Trestman made little difference.
One could argue that the shoddy decision-making on offense in particular undercut some pleasant surprises such as Mike Wallace and Dennis Pitta, who both were on a redemption tour in 2016. However, no unit was stymied more than the running backs, where rookie Kenneth Dixon and local legend Terrence West performed capably all year in frustratingly small bursts.
By the end of the season, Harbaugh’s platitude of “Marty believes in running the football” became a.. running joke. There was puzzling play calling down the entire stretch run, including one dubious fourth quarter pass attempt and interception (on first down, in the red zone) against the Eagles that Harbaugh himself dubbed “the worst play call ever.” The consensus opinion became that a change had to be made at offensive coordinator.
Though the coordinator market looked rich with legendary names like Norv Turner and recent head coaches like Mike McCoy, the selection is thinner than fans may have realized. Developing from within and continuity have been issues for the Harbaugh regime at OC since Cam Cameron’s departure in 2012, and Marty’s experience running the West Coast offense seems good enough for the Ravens brass to stick with him.
On the surface, that rationale may be good enough. But in the context of the end-of-the-season presser, it still seemed like an unconvincing argument. Throughout the Q&A, media members peppered Harbaugh with inquiries of how the conclusion to keep Marty was reached. He responded using the same cliches that were used all season. He said a lot of the Ravens shortcomings this season came down to “execution,” and made no real outward criticisms to any schemes or gameplans beyond the desire to run the ball more in the future.
He also went as far to come out and say that Joe Flacco, at least on the financial side, impedes the team’s ability to add the pieces necessary to make Baltimore an 11- or 12-game winner once again.
“We have a quarterback, and he is in that level of compensation, so we need to get him playing at that level,” Harbaugh said.
To me, that’s quite a bit to ask of a quarterback that has proven time and time again over the last decade that he is what he is. You have to question if this means Harbaugh and GM Ozzie Newsome are looking for contract restructuring, or even potential cuts elsewhere at the top of the payroll. Harbaugh wouldn’t deny that possibility, adding “everything is on the table.”
Without a doubt, there will be plenty of narratives worth paying attention to going into the Ravens’ offseason. The biggest culture change Harbaugh could have imposed, an adjustment in offensive scheme, was ultimately decided against. The head coach appears happy to write off much of the season’s struggles as matters of execution, and solutions are going to have to come from the front office side.
Some early mock drafts are implying the Ravens could pick with their receiving corps in mind. But the team will have plenty of areas in need of reinforcements, particularly with pending departures like stud DT Brandon Williams.
Either way, this feels like a pivotal moment in the coaching career of John Harbaugh. Steve Bisciotti has given enough rope for Harbs to hang himself with, and the soon-to-be longest tenured coach in Ravens history faces a tough reality if the issues of 2016 reemerge next season. At least it will be with his old friend Marty by his side.
The Baltimore Orioles and, more specifically, Dan Duquette frustrate me no matter the season. The Ravens are looking at the most important game that they have had in two seasons. The team looked solid in all phases and Flacco looked really sharp, but leave it to DD and baseball free agency to pee on that parade. While the Orioles weren’t expected to make any major moves during the Winter Meetings, it would have been nice to be reassured that Duquette was working on something beneficial for the team. However, Duquette leaves the National Harbor with no positive steps and more roster uncertainty than before. Here is Dan should’ve done.
- Move on from Trumbo.
The fact that the Orioles are actually having serious contractual talks with Mark Trumbo is insane. He had a great year last year, and by all accounts, he’s a good dude. But he turned down a qualifying offer, which would realistically indicate that he expects to make more than 17 mil/year. The Orioles can’t possibly pay a player like Trumbo that money and also extend the dynamic, young players on this team (*cough* Schoop, Manny *cough*). The guy had a fantastic year last season, but it was an anomaly. The O’s could use that pick to fortify their farm system and put someone out there with a better glove.
- Pay the Manny! (or, more realistically Schoop)
You know that theoretical money that is on the table for Trumbo? Let’s give it to Manny. The guy is set for a mega deal, and the team should be (and should have been) having serious contractual talks with their young superstar. With the news about Bryce Harper seeking $400 mil trending this week, I personally don’t see a scenario where Manny would sign an extension before hitting the free market. However, this doesn’t mean that the team shouldn’t be doing everything possible to come to terms though! If the Orioles are engaged in contract talks with the most dynamic player on the team since Ripken, it shows fans that you’re actually interested in maintaining a successful team. The fact that Duquette said this week that the team isn’t even discussing an extension with Manny is maddening.
With all that in mind, Jonathan Schoop should be their focus. Schoop is coming off the best season of his young career. The 25-year-old second baseman is a dynamic, multi-tool player who can be a major piece of a contending team. There is no better time than now to lock him up long term. He has earned it and is a key to this team’s success. He also happens to be Manny’s best friend. I have to imagine that taking care of Schoop would increase the Orioles chances of keeping #13 in the organization.
- Trade Zach Britton.
Zach Britton was lights out in 2016, and without him, this team does not make the playoffs. With that being said, his value has never been higher, and the cost of closers has never been greater. As it stands right now, the Orioles do not have a roster that can seriously contend in 2017. Their farm system is one of the lowest rated in baseball. Trading Britton to a contender could replenish a depleted prospect pool and provide the Orioles with the players to make a serious charge for a title in the coming years. Moving Britton wouldn’t cause major setbacks for the bullpen either. Michal Givens showed his immense talent throughout last year and truly broke out during the AL Wild Card game. He could be an option to close, plus this move would also provide the O’s an opportunity to get a feel for some other up-and-coming arm (like Tanner Scott and Donnie Hart). If what we’ve seen so far sets a trend, there are teams who would give up a ton for Zach Britton. Duquette should take some calls.
The Orioles need to look to the future, because this team has too many holes to truly compete now. While these moves I’ve outlined wouldn’t necessarily fill the holes in the corner outfield, at catcher, or in the starting rotation, it’s a start that would show fans that the team is dedicated to improving and sustaining success.
I know this is supremely optimistic (and unrealistic) though, considering the team picked up two outfielders in the Rule 5 draft today. Sigh… well at least we have the Ravens.
As Baltimore and beyond recovers from gorging themselves in stuffing, sweet potatoes, and Aretha Franklin’s national anthem, we here at Bmore Opinionated are looking forward to a crucial time in the sports calendar.
The Ravens return home after a tough loss in Dallas to face the division rival Cincinnati Bengals. Baltimore is heading into the game 1-6 in their last seven meetings with Marvin Lewis’ crew, but this brings some slightly different circumstances than in recent matchups.
Cincinnati, who arrive in Baltimore reeling at 3-6-1, seem to be marching towards what could be the end of Lewis’ 14-year stint as head coach. At least for the moment, the Ravens sit a half game behind the Steelers following Antonio Brown carving up the Colts’ secondary like a Thanksgiving turkey. But as John Harbaugh noted in his press conference on Monday, this latter portion of the schedule is ostensibly a season of its own.
“We won the Pittsburgh game to tie the division at 4-4,” Harbaugh said. “Since then, we both beat Cleveland and lost to Dallas, so we’re even, and there’s six games left. The same thing goes for Cincinnati, who is right behind the both of us, and we’re all going to play each other over the course of the next six games. It’s going to come down to that. It’s probably what we knew going into the season that it was going to come down to division games, and that’s what it’s going to come down to. I’m excited about that. Our guys are as well.”
And perhaps most importantly — AJ Green, whose career averages against the Ravens are in a league of their own, was carted off last week with a torn hamstring. If you listen closely, you can hear Shareece Wright and Tavon Young celebrating in the distance. After Dez Bryant embarrassed the the sans-Jimmy Smith cornerback corps for Baltimore last week, it seems as though the defensive secondary may be able to breathe a bit with the hopeful return of Smith and no “Ravens Killer” on the field for Cincy.
On the bright side, I suppose you can make the case that — at least in one measure — Shareece Wright was in the same class as Josh Norman this week.
Meanwhile on the other side of the Camden Yards complex, the team made their official appointment of Roger McDowell as the new pitching coach. Alan Mills, who’s been in the organization as a pitching coach in Bowie, was also added to the coaching staff as bullpen coach. McDowell finished his playing career as an Oriole, and most recently was pitching coach for the Atlanta Braves.
The Hot Stove season has begun to heat up as well. Our guest this past week, the legendary filmmaker and Orioles minority owner Barry Levinson had plenty to say about his hopes for the Orioles’ offseason.
However, it looks like the Orioles will have to wait and see how the market plays out for other AL East free agent sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista before finding out the fate of Mark Trumbo. According to most reports out of the baseball world, it seems the citizens of Birdland can expect a typical quiet, under-the-radar offseason from Dan Duquette and the front office.
While that may be the forecast for now, you can rest assured that every Orioles fan — and minority owner — are anxiously hoping for a Manny Machado or Jonathan Schoop contract extension under their tree this holiday season.
Written by Danny Kiddoo