Archive for June, 2008

Not on your life
June 23, 2008

Oh, the temptation is strong.   All the reasons the Ravens drafted Joe Flacco; the rocket arm, the Marino-esque release, the willingness to study and work, they’ve all been on display.  And compared to his competition, there is no question who gives the offense the best chance to score points, or at least who will with a little experience.

John Harbaugh has to want to start him.  How can he not?

Six weeks ago Harbaugh said it was highly unlikely that Flacco would start from week one, that he would have to be so far ahead of the others, that he would have to blow Kyle Boller and Troy Smith away.

Harbaugh’s tune, at least to the media, has not changed.  But watching the workouts and the steady progression of Flacco leaves you knowing the temptation grows. 

Oh dear.

Don’t do it.

Just say no.

No matter how solid Flacco looks the benefits from starting week one against Cincinnati can’t come close to the possible damages inflicted.  An offensive line that will have zero players starting in the position they played last season, a schedule ranked 4th toughest in the NFL, and the last time an NFL team started a rookie in week one was Kyle Boller. 

76 days till the opener with the Bengals.  Here’s to Flacco making enough bad decisions on the field to keep John Harbaugh from making what might be a catastrophic decision for the future of the franchise.

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Introducing Dave Trembley
June 19, 2008

A year and a day to the day from the firing of Orioles Manager Sam Perlozzo and the hiring (interim first) of Dave Trembley, and I feel like we’re finally getting a feel for his true personality.  And that’s a good thing.

At the beginning Trembley was terribly cautious with the media.  He just wouldn’t open up.  Nerves likely played a large role, then all the losing the final two months of the season, and who would open up.

We’d catch glimpses.  You knew he had the fire, watching him get tossed with far more regularity than either Perlozzo or Lee Mazzilli offered.  And his players continued to back him with vigor.  In the past, that group may have paid some lip service, but never passionately argued for their skipper (or against for that matter.  It’s felt like a decade since the Orioles exhibited the passion that defined the franchise).

The beginning to 2008 didn’t show Trembley to be any different.  The front office voiced its collective pleasure about the long time minor league manager, but we still were getting a guy with little visible confidence as the face of the franchise.  During press conferences Trembley appeared afraid he might say something wrong.  And with that reluctance, his power as a leader seemed diminished. 

Behind the scene, the Orioles recognized this too.  A team source told me a media coach was hired and worked with Dave at length about communicating, and that they were concerned with the progress.

But here we are almost half way through the season and the real Dave Trembley has arrived.  His pregame meet with the media today showcased an affable, knowledgeable, likable, and comfortable team leader.

He began with words that seemed out of left field.  As the print reporters all set their voice recorders Trembley said this reminded him of his time in inner city L.A. (he taught for three years at Daniel Murhphy Catholil High School “and has the scar to prove it”), but instead he was collecting contraband.

Trembley used to start out press conferences staring into the room at a spot on the wall hoping nobody would ask a question.

He continued today with a very frank discussion about his team.  He shared, with some apologies, how National League baseball is real baseball and much more enjoyable.  He recounted how the preparation for the nine straight games in which his pitchers will have to hit has been brutal.  “I just can’t watch it”, he said with a laugh.  Shaking his head he said some of the guys know how bad they are with the bat, but worse, how some actually thought they were pretty good. 

He’ll never throw anybody under the bus, but he isn’t afraid to poke some fun.

And that brings us to Kevin Millar.  I asked him had he ever been around a team, since baseball players are so traditionally superstitious, who’s leader would show up to the park when the team is playing well with a freshly dyed mane of platinum hair. 

Trembley responded with what he shared Wednesday with a group of sponsors.  “The first rule about inappropriate behavior is to ignore it.  But Kevin Millar isn’t going away.”

He delivered the line with a gleem in his eye and perfect timing.  This is not the same Dave Trembley we saw introduced 366 days ago.  And not coincidentally, the Orioles look a whole mess better too. 

O-Choke-A no more
June 6, 2008

Choke?  How could someone this smooth, this talented, this confident even know the meaning of the word?  But not even 12 months ago, Lorena Ochoa was known much more for blowing Sunday leads in majors than for anything else.

Watching her this morning in her 2nd round of the LPGA Championship, a round she called “easy”, Ochoa looks every the part of superstar.  She didn’t miss a fairway this morning at Bulle Rock, carding a tournament low 65.  And anyone that’s tackled the high end public course in Harford County knows just how impressive that feat is.

But more than the score, it’s the way she handles herself that makes her look ready to take the torch from Annika Sorenstam and lead the LPGA Tour.  She shrugs off any bad break and never gets too high after a great shot.  She mingles with the galleries, treats her opponents with respect, and plays with humility. 

After her round today, and in perfect contrast to the way Karrie Webb finished up, she showed how she gets it.  Webb walked by the gallery, ignored the fans, and tossed her ball into the water.  Granted, she had just made bogey, but as a former world number one she should be able to handle that and accept responsibility as a face of the game.  Ochoa meanwhile, sought out a little boy in the gallery and handed him her ball (the one she just coaxed into the hole from 20 feet for a birdie at the last).  The kids screamed thank you and then gracias, eliciting a great smile from Ochoa.

That gracious facade though camouflages a visceral, growing, needs to be fed desire to win.  She claimed her first major just last summer at the British Open.  Now it looks like she might never lose again.  She celebrated the start to the 2008 season with a five shot victory at the Kraft Nabisco for her 2nd straight major, and is the only person on the planet other than Trevor Immelman with the chance for a Grand Slam.  Any takers on the favorite between the two to get it done?