Friday, July 24, 2009

Free Kicks

Yea, no particular edition today, but I am on a half-day at work so I need to catch up before the day even starts. With AC Milan and Chelsea FC ready to do battle in Baltimore, let's celebrate by lining up for the kick...

Perfection for Mark Buehrle
Rarely do we get to see the magic of a perfect game. It requires precision not only by the pitcher but by the defense, who have to cleanly field every ball even as the pressure mounts and the possibility of a perfect game becomes more and more definite. Buehrle can thank Dewayne Wise for making that play in the top of the 9th, making a leaping grab at the wall and recovering the ball as it slipped out of his glove to preserve the no-no. Heck, I get nerves when my softball game is close, I can only imagine the poise Wise must have had as he went up to make the catch. This is actually Buehrle’s second no-hitter of his career, the first coming in 2007 when he narrowly missed a perfect game due to a walk drawn by Sammy Sosa in the fifth inning of a 6-0 win by the Sox. I guess I can’t blame the Orioles for losing to Buehrle last week if he was warming up for this outing.

Perhaps the White Sox pitcher will begin to receive credit as one of the better pitchers in the majors. His accelerated pace on the mound, mowing through batters and getting crowds home in time for primetime TV, certainly helps him keep the opposition off balance, but it is a skill that he is able to work his pitches so quickly without minutes of preparation before each one. He has also been the hallmark of consistency, his ERA never exceeding 4.99 en route to a career mark of 3.73. No, it isn’t in Randy Johnson or Tom Glavine territory, but he ranks annually among the tops in the majors in quality starts, showing that he rarely has an outing where he comes completely unraveled. If he made his starts with the Yankees, Red Sox, or Cubs we would surely hear more about this All-Star pitcher. In the meantime we will have to appreciate this unique athlete on another team that is oft-overshadowed by neighboring markets.

At Least One Place is Still Hiring
The Ravens were greatly in need of receiver help before Derrick Mason retired, but with his return still greatly in doubt the need has become dire. This very well could be the position that prevents Baltimore from returning to the playoffs, and certainly will likely end any hope of a title if 2nd year quarterback lacks a reliable set of receivers. Opposing secondaries will be able to rely on man-to-man coverage or a very broad zone defense if Flacco can’t make them pay deep. The same argument that can be made about the inability to stretch a defense without a quality quarterback can be repeated when the quarterback is lacking targets.

Ozzie Newsome did bring in a group of 4 wideouts to try out for the team, a move the front office claims they decided on before Mason’s sudden retirement (which shows you how dire they see the situation to be). Drew Bennett seems to be leading the group, but it isn’t as though the ravens have a whole lot of options. Bennett served as a solid 2nd receiver earlier in his career, but faded when he was asked to be the leading man. In Baltimore he wouldn’t have that role by a long shot, and his speed (if he can stay healthy) would make him a valuable deep option if Demetrius Williams is hurt or simply doesn’t have the ability we have all been waiting for. I am lukewarm on DJ Hackett, who was made to look halfway decent by a resourceful Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle and struggled in Carolina. The other two receiver’s names aren’t known at this point, but there is a reason these guys are unemployed on the eve of training camp. Either of these players could have a resurgence, but neither of them will make the Ravens much better.

Deadline Dealings for O’s?
I am not sure how I feel about trade deadline deals. They rarely work out for the contending team that picks up the player- his impact that season is generally minimal compared to the high-end prospect(s) they give up in return- and the value the struggling team gets is not usually has high as it could be when the bidders feel like the team has to move the player somehow. Luckily for the Orioles, they have Andy MacPhail, which means that every other General Manager in the majors knows that no decision will be made quickly or without more than adequate compensation.

Which is why, when I look Baltimore’s current trade chips, I doubt any of them will be moved in any sort of blockbuster deal. Sure a Gregg Zaun or a mid-level prospect might be shuttled around at the deadline, but I doubt that the big deal that is built up to every season will actually take place this year. The asking price for Sherrill has always been based on closer-value while bidders are offering set-up man value, and the value of players like Aubrey Huff and Danys Baez have been watered down by recent struggles. At the end of the day I just don’t see MacPhail getting what he wants, and I don’t see any big names on this team getting moved in the next week.

Now watch Sherrill get moved for 2 top level prospects and make me eat crow… I’ll take it if it makes the Orioles that much deeper in the minors.

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