Friday, February 20, 2009

Free Kicks

For those of you who missed it (sorry for not posting a reminder), Falco and Windsor had one hell of a show on Tuesday on our Around the Harbor radio show on WMUC (every Tuesday night at 10 PM). Be sure to check out next week’s program, they save some of their best stuff for the show- you simply can’t get the same effect reading Windsor rant as you can hearing it when he just goes off on something. Now let’s line up for the kick…

Tech-nically Unsound
By signing a contract extension for 5 years yesterday, Mike Leach scored a major victory over some highly questionable employment decisions by Texas Tech University. After fighting for months to negotiate a new contract for the successful Red Raiders coach, Leach announced that he was ready to sign a new deal. However, as soon as he made the announcement, Tech went back and changed some of the language of his contract- including guaranteeing only 12% of his contract (most schools have upwards of 40%), mandating that Leach must get permission from the athletic department before he speaks with any other schools, and that all of his money from speaking engagements can be taken by the university. Look, I actually have no problem with these restrictions. I don’t care what it in the contract- but I care how it was done.

Texas Tech waited until Leach committed himself to the contract, and then changed the deal. What is this, Cloud City (sorry, had to make the reference)? After Leach rejected this sudden about-face (understandably), the Board of Regents decided to call an emergency meeting to discuss whether to fire him for not signing the extension. Come again? Who fires someone for not agreeing to extend with you? You keep them for as long as you can and hope you can work something out. Luckily this idiocy was stopped and a new deal was worked out. Don’t these Regents have something better to do? I don’t know, maybe something that has to do with educating students? I wonder how many emergency meetings were called about skyrocketing tuition costs…

So Much for Hometown Discounts
Okay, so forget all the hopeful words I said about Terrell Suggs, Bart Scott, and Ray Lewis coming back to Baltimore on a discounted deal to stay together. Apparently, like so much else said in the offseason, they were just thrown out there to assuage the fan base and earn good-will while the negotiations dragged on. Yahoo Sports is reporting that Terrell Suggs’ agent, Gary Wichard, is looking for the Ravens to pony up a Dwight Freeney-level deal for the DE/OLB, which would demand roughly $12 million a year. It is no surprise then that the Ravens were forced to use the franchise tag. This of course coming on the heels of Ray Lewis’ announcement that he is available to the highest bidder (that bidder will likely be the Ravens, but you would hate to see them put in that situation).

Against this backdrop it feels silly to have ever thought that Baltimore’s stars would take a discount to be in the city. As much as we love our pro athletes in this town, especially the ones who stay for their entire careers, I suppose they just don’t take discounts to stay. Nick Markakis’ deal contained no hometown discount whatsoever, as his deal was entirely in line with comparable players. Likewise, Brian Roberts would have probably gotten even less than he did from the Orioles in this free agent market (if he would even be employed- see Orlando Hudson). Both Baltimore teams have had faces of the franchise on the brink of free agency. Is it possible that the Orioles may do a better job of holding onto their talent this year than the Ravens?

Call Me an Optimist
I may be the only one in the world, but I think the Orioles starting rotation will be better than last year’s. Maybe not by a lot, but it will be. Windsor and Falco are watching for the sky to fall, but I would cite some big differences between last year and this year. First of all, the Orioles have more pitchers who are closer to major league ready (another year in the farm system does that). Last year they did not have Rich Hill, Hayden Penn (injury), or Dave Pauley to cushion the blow between Guthrie and having to call up Radhames Liz. That won’t be as big of a problem. The O’s also return numerous relievers from injury, including former closer Chris Ray, Danys Baez, and Jamie Walker could also return to form after an injury-plagued and ineffective season.

Troy Patton should be available later in the year, and let’s also not forget the acquisition of Koji Uehara who, even if he is not as good as he used to be, should be a serviceable pitcher in the majors for a couple years. No, the Orioles rotation is not good, but it has far more depth than ever. Baltimore won’t be dipping into AA nearly as early or often has they were tempted to last season. Invariably, some of this borderline talent will take strides, and there will be plenty of opportunities (and arms) to do so.

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