Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Free Kicks: Entirely Out of Place Wednesday Edition

When I sat down to write my piece for the middle of this week (Windsor had to cover for me yesterday), I couldn’t help but notice that I hadn’t written a true Free Kicks in a while. Additionally, with all the focus on the NFL Draft there were a host of stories that begged our attention. So, if you are not to aghast at moving things around, there were some thoughts I simply had to share. Let’s line up for the kick…

Freeling Unwanted
Sorry folks, I had to make that pun. When Ryan Freel was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in the Ramon Hernandez trade, I was just as excited as anyone to get Freel. His demeanor was supposed to maintain levity in the clubhouse a la Kevin Millar, provide a great utility option at a variety of positions, and give some veteran leadership to a young group. However, less than a month into the regular season, none of that has come to pass. Moreover, Freel is asking to get out of dodge, explaining that he doesn’t fit into the Orioles organization and isn’t happy with his role off the bench. Frankly, I don’t blame him for seeing it that way. Baltimore is stacked in the outfield, with Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Felix Pie as starters and Lou Montanez and Nolan Reimold tearing up the minors ready to take over for Pie at any point the young boom-bust project falters.

In that scenario, there is no room for Freel except as a utility guy, something he is suddenly unhappy with (compared to when he arrived here). I am not bitter, but I am a disappointed that Freel would do this so publicly after starting the season 2-15 and doing little to merit additional playing time. The O’s should try to work out a deal to get something for the versatile right-hander, but it won’t be much in this climate.

Grieving Vasquez
Most Terps fans met the news of Greivis Vasquez entering the NBA Draft with a shrug, and perhaps for good reason. Vasquez did not hire an agent, and may soon discover that he is not worth quite as much to the NBA as he would like, and would be very wise to stay another year with Maryland and make a run next season. He needs work on his ball distribution in running the point and generally needs to tighten up his game at the pro level- he won’t get away with a lot of his shots against professionals who won’t be duped by a simple step back jumper. To an NBA team, he is an incredible talent who needs time to develop- might as well do that development in the ACC.

And then there is the Lance Stevenson saga. Stevenson has been strongly linked with the Kansas Jayhawks over the last month or so, but that could change with CJ Henry bolting the Calipari-less Memphis squad for Lawrence. Lance wants to go one-and-done, and battling another (higher rated) top recruit for playing time can’t be that appealing. However, Stevenson has not expressed any additional interest in Maryland since Henry’s commitment to Kansas, so it is unlikely he will wind up a Terp. But if I had to choose between one year with Vasquez and one year with Stevenson, I will take the known commodity.

Was it a Balk? Does it Matter?
I don’t know if Jamie Walker’s pickoff throw to first was a balk or not- I have been traveling since Sunday and didn’t get to see it live. But honestly, it doesn’t make a difference to me whether it was or wasn’t. What was important was the reaction. Trembley’s emphatic defense of his pitcher was inspiring, and Walker’s defiance (and possible suspension) could help bring this team together. Sometimes in a season a team needs moments like these to rally around one another, get fired up, and take on that “us against the world” mentality. Seeing the manager get ejected always brings back memories of Earl Weaver for Orioles fans, but this move wasn’t just about the call. It was about giving a boost to a team whose energy was flagging after their hot start. I am a big fan of Dave Trembley, and he knows when to get upset. This was one of those times, and it could help jumpstart the club over the next few series.

No comments: