Archive for February, 2008

House Cleaning
February 28, 2008

The Orioles begin the exhibition season today. Can’t watch it though as MASN chooses only to broadcast three games before the season opener on March 31. Didn’t Comcast used to broadcast about half the exhibition games? Nice way to drum up interest for a season that needs as much as possible. I don’t get it.

The Terps haven’t imploded yet. They still have a very good chance to make the NCAA Tourney. Winning two of three and one in Charlotte makes them a lock. That said, they way they’ve lost their last two games, with their seniors shrinking and their point guard combusting at crunch time, the conversation about what went wrong isn’t entirely premature.

College lacrosse puts on its regular season showcase Saturday. Syracuse vs. Virginia at noon followed by Johns Hopkins vs. Princeton at M&T Bank Stadium. Four classic programs on a big stage early on gives the season some buzz. Meanwhile, the team worth maybe the most buzz in state quietly travels to Emmitsburg on Saturday. The Maryland Terrapins opened their season last week with a dominating performance at 4th ranked Georgetown. The Terps got four goals from freshman Greg Catalino. All told, freshmen scored nine of Maryland’s 11 goals. That is scary good for Dave Cottle. Maryland seems to do better when away from the spotlight.

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Roger That (was ridiculous)
February 14, 2008

e-mail Pete

There proved no shortage of reaction pieces to the deliciously distasteful (is that an oxymoron?) debacle on Capitol Hill Wednesday. And if you can’t get enough of wallowing in Roger Clemens misery, take a look here.

Since those that know more than me (and actually watched all of the nearly five hours of testimony) wrote so extensively I won’t offer much in the way of analysis. Although the image of Clemens staring down his accusers as if to say “you aren’t qualified to judge me” has been seared into my memory. There may be no more arrogant person on this planet.

What struck me most about these hearings was the Orioles had nothing to do with them. The last time Congress gathered to talk steroids we saw Rafael Palmeiro infamously waggle his finger and Sammy Sosa claim he knew not how to speak English.

As the Orioles begin their full blown reconstruction, they seem well distanced from the scandal and actually make us feel good in just talking about baseball. Palmeiro and Sosa are out of baseball. Miguel Tejada is traded. Jay Gibbons might disappear from the roster through a shear drop in talent. Brian Roberts might soon be traded and if not, at least he cleanly addressed his role and fans seem willing to believe his steroid chapter is completely written.

Meanwhile, imagine the new tenure for Joe Girardi. He takes over for Joe Torre and his first day of spring training is a deluge of questions about Andy Pettitte admitting not only his own use of HGH (which was more frequent than he admitted shortly after the Mitchell Report came out) but also his affidavit that says Roger Clemens admitted using as well. Pettitte might receive a warmer welcome in Saskatchewan than in the Yankees clubhouse.

So while much of the baseball world still must reconcile (my favorite most used word from Wednesday other than misremembered) with the scandal that won’t go away, the Orioles quietly chart their course towards respectability and contention. We may not see many wins this year, but at least the O’s are on track to regain credibility.

Credibility Conundrum
February 13, 2008

Lots of hard hitting questions at today’s Congressional Hearing on Steroids featuring the Texas Two Stepper Roger Clemens. He continues to answer with passion that he never took steroids or human growth hormone… blah, blah blah…

This ridiculous waste of time lost all credibility when some elected idiot actually had the nerve to ask what uniform Roger was going to wear when entering the Hall of Fame.

And we’re supposed to take this serioulsy?

Baseball, please clean up this mess so our Congressional leaders can return to their daily routines of importance like debating Diff’rent Strokes vs. Webster.

Hope breeds hope
February 11, 2008

e-mail Pete

The collective national assessment of the Orioles trade that sent Erik Bedard to Seattle for five players says Baltimore made a good deal. They not only received value, but value in numbers. Nice to hear given that we haven’t collected much praise about the Orioles for anything in a long time.

But national pundits don’t have to care about and watch a team that offers no number one, or even a number two starter. With Bedard gone who should Oriole fans count on as the guy to stop a losing streak, or match up with the rest of the A.L. East aces?

It’s simple to talk theoretically about blowing things up, and truly rebuilding the right way. But after a decade of losing, knowing that the ability to compete remains years away has to be tough for fans.

Or so I thought.

I spent Sunday afternoon as the emcee for a charity banquet benefiting the Arundel House of Hope in Glen Burnie. Fellowship, great food, thousands raised to help the homeless, and of course sports talk made for a delightful afternoon.

Everyone wanted to talk about the trade, and to a man (woman too) they were happy. Losing so often and so badly has toughened this fan base. A few more years of battling to stay out of the basement instead of contending for a division crown doesn’t bother this group. The dozen or so that I spoke with was happy for a clear path to reconciliation, looking forward to watching players develop. Makes sense the crowd would be hopeful at the “Bid for Hope”.

Will it still sting a little when Bedard tosses one of his complete game gems? Sure. But in three years when all the talent develops and the Orioles are ready to contend, they can then go land that number one starter in free agency. At least that’s what the plan says, and for the first time in a decade, it’s a plan the fans are willing to believe in.

They’re back
February 7, 2008

It wasn’t too long ago that come February, sports fans in Baltimore had spring training previews to ponder and little else.

We always had Maryland basketball, but right here in Charm City, it was kind of bleak. Scratch that. Completely bleak.

Morgan State has collected one winning season since 1980. The Bears went 15-14 in 1989. That’s it since the Division II glory days of the 70’s.

Loyola set all kinds of records for futility during the Greyhounds 1-27 campaign in the 2003-2004 season. In the two seasons prior to the arrival of Jimmy Patsos, Loyola combined for six victories.

UMBC has never made it to the NCAA Tourney and never won more than seven games in the America East Conference (okay, that one sounds worse than reality.. the Retrievers have only been in the AEC for five years.. still it ain’t much)

Now five paragraphs in you might think I’m starting to pile on, treating our local teams with all the charm of a Bill Belichick post game press conference. Not the case at all.

Running through the misery of recent history makes this season all the more special.

All three have a chance to make the NCAA Tourney, collecting wins in bunches like we haven’t seen in years.

Morgan State sits in first place of the MEAC with an 8-1 conference record. Todd Bozeman may have some baggage, but the guy can flat out coach. Eight games left in the regular season and the Bears are five games over .500.

We figured something was up when MSU nearly knocked off Connecticut to open the season. No doubt several factors can point the way towards the resurgence, but one stands out. Todd Bozeman demands defense first, and he gets it. Proof of that comes from Boubacar Coly. Not only has the 6’9″ senior earned defensive player of the week honors six times. He’s done it six times in a row.

The Greyhounds have the toughest road to March Madness, sitting in a tie for 3rd place in the MAAC at 8-4 in conference. But Loyola gets five of the last seven games at Reitz Arena after a stretch that saw the ‘Hounds play eight of ten on the road. And by the way, they won seven of those ten games.

Not long ago, Jimmy Patsos had to encourage students to attend games with tee shirts and personal dorm visits. Now the seats are packed with an atmosphere worthy of being called special.

All this success with admission standards at the highest of levels. It’s so tough, for a recent student athlete, most of his credits wouldn’t transfer from Duke.

Randy Monroe has the lowest profile of the three coaches, but biding his time first as an assistant, and now the head coach in Catonsville has paid off. He demands pride in wearing the Retrievers uniform. He demands the kids care about each other and their school.

The pride shows.

His players don’t feel like they’re part of a satellite campus. This program is no longer Division I in name only. The RAC routinely fills up as the Retrievers pile up points and wins. UMBC enjoys a one game lead over Vermont in America East which really is a two game lead as the Retrievers swept the Catamounts this season (the same Catatamounts that three years ago knocked off Syracuse in the NCAA’s).

Combine all this potential with the Maryland Terrapins resurgence from a lousy pre-conference schedule and we could have four teams to cover in March Madness.

We used to wonder if we’d cover anyone in the Big Dance. Now we might have to answer the question, how do we cover them all?

Tree Tops
February 1, 2008

e-mail Pete

I checked out the Lake Clifton boys basketball team on Thursday as the Lakers visited Poly.

You can take a look at the story on highschoolplaybook.com

Lots to like after watching Herman “Tree” Harried’s kids blister up and down the court. They play with a passion at both ends of the court you just don’t see that often from high school kids.

It’s a tribute to Tree as he demands that from them. He also demands discipline on the court and in the classroom. Not ground breaking stuff, but when you think about where these kids come from, the kind of home life many endure, and it is amazing.

Coach Harried provides the only adult male role model for several of his players. At first, many refused to embrace Tree as a resource. Tough love from a 6’7″ task master, when you’ve never had a male authority figure hold you accountable, that’s a scary prospect.

But watch the kids now. Before they take the court, the demonstrations of family and team blow you over. During the jayvee game, all 14 of the varsity players cheered their younger mates on. And not just lip service. Passionate rooting that the kids on the court couldn’t help but feel.

Same thing then during the varsity game from the players on the bench. There were no discouraging looks or sighs of frustrationg that they weren’t in the game. They were simply into the game cheering and encouraging, waiting their turns.

I know this is an incredibly glowing review from such a small sample. I’m not saying Coach Harried is perfect, that his players are infallible. I don’t have the qualifications. But spending just one hour with his program made it abundantly clear that he is doing good things for his team and school, while his players respond with effort, respect, and passion. That deserves commendation.

It might come in the form of a state championship. Harried led the Lakers to the 4A Title in 1999 and has the depth and talent for a repeat performance.

It should be known though, he took greater pride in talking about how his 26 players (varsity and jayvee) all earned passing grades on their last report cards, than when talking about that ’99 Championship.

Here’s hoping he has bragging rights about both later this spring.