Archive for April, 2007

Moss + Patriots = Disaster
April 30, 2007

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The Ravens completed their draft weekend in typical fashion. A collection of solid, if unspectacular picks that should strengthen the foundation for years to come. It’s what they do. But even grabbing the Heisman Trophy winner at the end of the 5th round failed to cause as big a stir as the Patriots draft weekend shocker; trading for Randy Moss.

Despite a recent history of quitting on his team, and a long term history of me-first behavior, many seem to think this is a good move for the Patriots. That New England immediately becomes the front runner to win the Super Bowl.

What…???!!!!

If not for Terrell Owens, Moss would easily go down as the greatest talent – slash – worst teammate in the NFL. Moss to the Patriots is like Rush Limbaugh joining up with Air America Radio.

No team, in any major team sport, has better exemplified unselfishness, sacrifice, and humility than the Patriots this decade. They came up with the idea to run out of the tunnel collectively instead of individual introductions at the Super Bowl. They each gave up that, albeit small but, priceless lifetime memory in sake of the team. Randy Moss’ idea of behavior on the big stage, pantomiming mooning the fans in the playoffs.

Moss will likely start out toeing the line. He’s already saying all the right things and will probably catch a pair of touchdowns in week one. But by the time the Patriots come to M&T Bank Stadium in December, the marriage will have ended in some manner of disgrace. There’s no way after 30 years of being Randy Moss he’ll morph into his college teammate Troy Brown.

And the best part of the deal for Ravens fans and fans all across the league. No matter what, the Patriots can now send that holier than thou attitude to the bottom of the Boston Harbor. The image of purity and righteousness is gone. They’re dancing with the devil to win game just like the rest of the NFL. Next step for Bob Kraft, the courting of Pacman Jones.

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Orioles’ New Owners
April 27, 2007

It’s not quite Notre Dame vs. Navy (42 straight Irish wins in football), but it’s impressive. The Red Sox ownership of the Orioles continues in devastating fashion. The 22nd win in 25 tries against the Birds arrived with another late inning lead smashed away and everyone in Fenway South
(even the outnumbered Orioles fans) knew it was coming.

It didn’t matter that Wily Mo Pena was 1-20 this season against right handers. It didn’t matter that Chris Ray was more rested than Rip Van Winkle. It didn’t matter that Boston was distracted by Thorne-Gate, or that they might look ahead to the weekend series with the Yankees.

Sam Perlozzo, who has thoroughly enjoyed his revamped bullpen, saw for a 2nd straight night every decision turn out wrong.

The good news about the loss, they’re used to it, therefore regrouping on the road tonight against the Indians should prove simple. But even if simple, it’s crucial to bounce back.

Should the two game sweep, and overall four game skid really swell into something larger you can pencil in losing season number 10. They lack the overall talent and depth to handle a lengthy, messy stretch of misery.

Thorne-Gate
April 27, 2007

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Big noise, little bang. Orioles 1st year broadcaster Gary Thorne made what he now calls a mistake on Wednesday night’s telecast of the Red Sox and O’s game.

To sum up, Thorne said that Curt Schilling’s famous bloody sock from the 2004 ALCS was a fake. That it was painted. And that Red Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli was the one that told him.

Thorne took time to answer questions about his statements from the night before, and about his conversation on Thursday with Mirabelli. He and Mirabelli agreed that Thorne misinterpreted or misheard Mirabelli’s comments and that Thorne was sorry for all the hullabaloo caused. End of story. Bomb diffused and onward we go.

The thing is, if MASN had its way, the story would have continued with questions unanswered and doubts lingering.

Backtrack to Wednesday night. The Red Sox were livid with Thorne over his comments and by Thursday morning the national media were killing the broadcaster. After the game, Mirabelli called the story “a *&&% lie!” I asked him Thursday if Thorne had thrown him under the bus and he said “you can’t help but believe that”.

So everyone wants to talk to Thorne about his comments that came out of the blue and had Red Sox Nation, up in arms. The first thought was to check with the Orioles P.R. and see if Thorne would be made available. They quickly and correctly (and with some measure of relief) pointed out that Thorne is a MASN employee. Jay Moskowitz with the Orioles was ready for the inquiries, equipped with the name and number we needed. That belonged to Todd Webster, head of MASN P.R.

I made the call at 3:00 PM, but could not get through to Mr. Webster. I left a message stating that I was at Camden Yards and sought an interview with Thorne before the game. I wouldn’t hear from MASN again for several hours.

It wasn’t just me. I talked with several other reporters and we were all left hanging in the wind. We talked with Mirabelli, Boston skipper Terry Francona, former Sox Kevin Millar, and even O’s manager Sam Perlozzo about what Thorne said, but the person from whom everyone wanted to hear was not available.

(Side note here; the most interesting part of the day was during out wait for Mirabelli in the Red Sox clubhouse. Wily Mo Pena was studying video of Daniel Cabrera striking him out from the night before. Curt Schilling, who wouldn’t talk the media about Thorne’s comments on Thursday ((he doesn’t really like us and uses his own blog instead. Schill’s self importance and victimization aside, it’s a good read.)) sat down next to Pena for a video session of his own. Quickly he turned his attention to Pena’s flailing at the Cabrera breaking ball. Schilling pointed out that Cabrera was tipping his pitches. A slight wiggle of the glove right before the pitch had Schilling jumping out of his seat saying

“You’ve got to see that and know it’s a breaking ball!”

Pena had the look of a scolded school child, but a defiant one. He argued a bit but Schilling would have none of it.

“And you have to know it a breaking ball starts in the middle of the plate, it’s un-hittable. Un-hittable!”

It imagine it would be like watching Robert De Niro drill Luke Wilson on a specific blocking technique. But I digress)

At 5:06 PM a MASN spokesperson called me back to say that the company would issue a statement from Thorne. I asked again about interviewing him before the game and again was given no answer. Here is the text of the statement:

Statement by MASN Announcer Gary Thorne on his Conversation with Doug Mirabelli

During last night’s game broadcast I made reference to a years-old conversation with Red Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli. In the aftermath of Doug’s post-game comments, I felt it was important to talk to him directly and called him this afternoon.

Doug and I discussed the fact that we had spoken some time after the 2004 World Series while I was covering a game in Boston. We recalled at the end of that conversation, I asked Doug a question about media speculation regarding the appearance of the sock. Doug’s response – about the significant publicity the matter had generated – led me to believe he was saying it had been painted for public relations purposes.

After speaking with Doug this afternoon, it is apparent that what he intended to say to me and what I inferred from that conversation were honestly different. He said, in the jocular and often sarcastic atmosphere of a clubhouse, where players needle one another routinely, this may be understandable.

In deference to Doug, I certainly accept his position. Doug and I have clarified our misunderstanding, and we feel that there is nothing more to add to this matter.

Other Oriole broadcasters Jim Palmer and Buck Martinez made their way to the field around 5:15 as they normally do to watch batting practice and chat. Still no sign of Thorne and we suspected he would remain hidden.

To his credit, around 5:40 Thorne arrived on the field but went straight to the batting cage, begging off any interviews. The cameras, video and still, followed his every move.

Thorne then sought out Terry Francona and they shared a brief moment. As Thorne then went back to the cage, Dan Connolly of the Sun went where reporters are not supposed to go, off the rubber tarmac and onto the grass. With recorder thrust forward he started asking questions. Thorne paused to contemplate answering, and I jumped in too. Within seconds Thorne was surrounded by microphones and questions (it is quite a study in pack mentality).

He answered them all and the story ended right there. Was that so hard?? I suspect that Thorne would have rather met with the media in a structured format to answer the questions and avoid the appearance that he was ducking reporters. But MASN’s handling of this situation left little doubt that all they wanted was to pretend that Thorne never said anything about the bloody sock.

The network even deleted the bottom of the 5th inning from the re-broadcast of the game Thursday morning. I was told from Orioles P.R. Director Bill Stetka that MASN said it was done simply for time restraints, and it was a coincidence that Thorne’s story about Schilling and Mirabelli was left out. Okay, glad to hear the home of the O’s believes we’re all some of the dumbest humans in history. Nice to get off to a good start in the neighborhood.

It’s just so hard to believe that recognizing the best way to deal with a problem is through confronting the issue quickly and thoroughly. But after nine years of losing at Camden Yards, we should be ready to believe anything.

Parrish the thought
April 20, 2007

e-mail Pete

Is it ironic that the Orioles spent 42.4 million dollars in the off season to bolster a heavily beleaguered bullpen, and the best reliever so far this season is a guy they already had on staff and earns the veteran minimum? You bet. But it’s the kind they don’t mind a bit either.

John Parrish missed half of the 2005 season and all of the 2006 campaign following reconstructive elbow surgery. He also missed the 2002 season with a knee injury. So expecting Parrish to take the title of bullpen boss would be akin to expecting Sanjaya Malakar to shave his head. Not the O’s fault. The talent though has always been there.

I talked with John in the clubhouse today about his resurgence. About his 13 strikeouts in 7.2 innings. About his zero earned runs in nine appearances. About food poisoning (yeah, Thursday was rough for John. A lousy bout had him throwing up all day but the color has returned to his scruffy face and he’ll pitch tonight if needed.)

I asked him if he was surprised at how well he’s pitched.

“No.”

If he ever though about giving it up with so many major injuries.

“Never”

Like Harry Doyle’s color man in the movie Major League, John’s a man of few words. He’s just having a blast and can’t wait to pitch again, and again, and again. The difference in his outstanding performance from some wild times in mound history comes from maturity. He’s not afraid to throw strikes anymore, believing his stuff is that good. And with no question, he’s right.

What does 6-6 really mean?
April 16, 2007

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The Orioles rainout on Sunday gave me the chance to examine their brief season so far. You see, regardless of the rainout we needed an O’s story for the show and that seemed the logical direction.

What have we learned so far?

Clearly the pitching has improved. 12 games hardly makes for an adequate sample, but a staff E.R.A. of nearly two runs less per game doesn’t feel like a fluke. Young guns Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera, and Adam Loewen have lived up to expectations, in some cases exceeding them. And the 42 million dollars spent on the bullpen has just one blown save in two weeks.

Somewhat muted bats leave the record at just 6-6. Studying the lineup the other day, Sam Perlozzo sent out a nine hitters, none of which were hitting .300. Cold, windy weather doesn’t help, but it also doesn’t explain the three straight losses in the Metrodome.

So yeah, they seem improved over 2006 but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Whoops, too late. This article in the Examiner has the Orioles 6-6 record somehow proving the team is well on its way to.. I don’t know.. something much better than we’ve seen since 1997. But remember, in 2004 Baltimore actually climbed to 14 games above .500 before plummeting like Enron stock.

I don’t want to harp on the “How did they get to .500” article, but the much shorter answer is that they played the Kansas City Royals the last three games. Prior to that, against playoff teams from 2006 they posted a .333 winning percentage. Wait till July before clamoring about