Thursday, November 30, 2006

Huge Ravens Game Tonight

The Ravens can clinch the AFC North title with four weeks left in the regular season by beating the Bengals tonight.

The Ravens are 9-2 and the second place Bengals are 6-5. Baltimore won the previous meeting, so if the Ravens win the best the Bengals can do is finish with an equal record, in which case the Ravens would win the tiebreaker.

The Brian Billick-run offense is now 5-0 since Billick fired offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, and Baltimore hasn't been held under 24 points in any of those wins.

Each team is just four days removed from blowout wins over AFC North opponents: The Ravens crushed any thoughts the Steelers might have had about playoffs with a 27-0 embarrassment, and the Bengals stomped on the hapless browns, 30-0.

The Ravens will try to slow Chad Johnson, who has amassed 573 yards in the last three games after an unimpressive start to his season.

Despite Jamal Lewis scoring more as of late (five touchdowns in the last four games), he hasn't put up the kind of yards that you'd like to see from a feature back. He's averaging 66.8 on the year, and even despite the touchdowns in the last four games he's only at 68.5 yards a game in that span.

The game is at 8:00 on ABC 2 in Baltimore and the NFL Network everywhere else where premium cable packages are installed.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Terps 8-0, Caps and Wizards End Skids

I don't know what happened last night, but all the planets must have aligned just right because all three local teams playing won their games!

The Maryland Terrapins men's basketball team held off Illinois for a 72-66 win in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, despite being without surprise senior standout Ikene Ibekwe. The Terps led by as much as 15 in the first half but watched their lead dwindle while they couldn't get anything going for much of the latter three-fourths of the game on offense.

Freshman guard Greivis Vasquez provided the spark for the Terps, who are now 8-0 and will get another test when they face Notre Dame at the Verizon Center in the BB&T Classic on Sunday.

The Capitals snapped their six game slide with a 5-2 win over Tampa Bay. The Lightning chucked 50 shots on Olie Kolzig, but he stopped 48 of them and the Caps took the win.

Alexander Semin scored a goal and added an assist in his first game back after missing four games with a shoulder injury. Alex Ovechkin scored an empty netter for his 16th goal of the season.

The Caps host the Dallas Stars tomorrow in a game that will feature the return of native son and former Caps captain Jeff Halpern. Elliot of Elliot in the Morning says the fans should boo Halpern to acknowledge him, but I think the fans will give him a nice round of applause.

The Wizards managed to snap their four game skid with a 96-95 win over the Atlanta Hawks. The Wizards were tied with just over a minute left in the game, but they managed to pull out the victory despite Gilbert Arenas getting called for charging twice in the last 90 seconds.

Caron Butler went 15-for-15 from the free throw line, including the conversion of a three-point play to put the Wizards up 96-93, which was enough for the win.

The Wizards hope to build on the victory on Friday when they host Charlotte.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Orioles Get Serious About Fixing The Bullpen

If you're big starting pitching acquisition is going to be five-inning-Jaret Wright, you're bullpen needs to be better than the 5.25 ERA and 21 blown leads that the O's 'pen posted in 2006. Toward that end, the O's are apparently on the verge of signing their third and fourth veteran relievers of the offseason, Chad Bradford and Scott Williamson, according to

While the Orioles front office has admitted a need to focus on the holes in left field and at first base/designated hitter, so far the offseason has brought nothing but pitching ... not to say that's a bad thing.

The O's bullpen ranked next to last in the majors last year, and adding Bradford (2.90 ERA, 1.16 WHIP in 62 innings with the Mets last year), Jamie Walker (2.81, 1.15 in 48 innings with Detroit in '06), Williamson (3.32 ERA in six big league seasons) and Danys Baez (2005 All-Star with the Devil Rays) should be an improvement over the retreads and call-ups that the Orioles cycled through the bullpen last year.

Before the Williamson/Bradford double-signing, The Baltimore Sun's Roch Kubatko, purely speculating, projected the 2007 Orioles bullpen to be:

Chris Ray
Jamie Walker
Danys Baez
"Another new guy (Dustin Hermanson? Joe Borowski? Chad Bradford?)"
John Parrish
Kurt Birkins
Hayden Penn

Well now it's clear that there are TWO new guys, which means Parrish, Birkins or Penn is likely out, barring a trade.

I'd like to see Aaron Rakers get a shot, but it would probably be better for him to start out in AAA Norfolk after missing all of last season with a torn labrum.

After the Baez signing, some -- and by some I mean one -- is speculating that the Orioles may now look to shop young stud closer Chris Ray for a power bat.

The good thing about adding a bunch of relievers, besides immediately helping the bullpen, is that relievers are relatively unheralded in the offseason but when the trade deadline rolls around contending teams suddenly find themselves in desperate need of the bullpen help that will nudge them into the postseason (see the Reds sending Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez to the Nationals this past season for Gary Majewski and Bill Bray). If the O's find themselves out of it in July, guys like Williamson could fetch a high price.

On the other hand, Bradford, Baez and Walker are all looking at three-year deals, which would make them more difficult to trade at the deadline to a team looking for a rental.

Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal says the O's are close to re-upping with Kevin Millahhhh and that he could find himself as part of a platoon with Aubrey Huff or some other lefty batter. I'd like that idea if Millar hit lefties (.244 AVG, .722 OPS last year) better than righties (.283 AVG, .845 OPS). But he doesn't. So that idea is stupid.

The Orioles were also linked to the Manny Ramirez conversation, but apparently those talks never really got anywhere.

The real question is can the Orioles pry a power hitter (of course I'd love Manny being Manny, but for the sake of sanity let's say Adam Dunn) away from someone without parting with Erik Bedard?

The bullpen help is nice and all, and will probably be worth a solid 5-10 wins next season, but the O's need a real power bat and Aubrey Huff is not the answer.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Long Weekend: Good For Pro Football, Bad For Everything Else


Wednesday night the Capitals got beat, 4-2, by the Atlanta Thrashers who I am gaining a solid hatred for. The Caps got into a couple fights with less than five minutes remaining and in the new NHL that means suspensions. Donald Brashear got three games and Brian Sutherby got one.

Later that night, the Wizards lost a decently close game in Houston, 86-82, their second loss in a row.

Thursday there was turkey and stuffing and Miami beating Boston College in football, meaning the Terps could win the ACC Atlantic Division with a win over Wake Forest at home on Saturday.

Friday the Maryland basketball team came out sloppy against High Point (isn't that a high school?), but won by 18 anyway. Then the Caps and Wizards played that night and it was bad.

I went to the Caps game and watched as they were completely dismantled by the Maple Leafs, 7-1. The Caps were without Brashear and Sutherby, but still, 7-1?

Meanwhile, the Wiz were in Memphis getting their asses handed to them by the Grizz, 95-80, and it wasn't even that close. It was the Wizards seventh straight loss on the road to open the season.

Saturday brought opportunities for redemption and celebration, but there would be none. The Caps went to Long Island and got beat, 4-1, by the Islanders. It was the Capitals' sixth straight loss, dropping them to 8-9-6.

The Wizards were at home against Detroit hoping to shake off the terrible road trip but it was not to be, and they lost 115-111 to fall to 4-9.

Maryland's football team couldn't stop the Fake Worest running game, and the Deacons ran for 296 yards in a 38-24 win that gets them into the ACC Championship. The Terps now get to sit and wait to see what bowl game they're headed to.

On Sunday the pro football teams managed to salvage some good in the weekend. The Redskins beat the Panthers, 17-13, with Jason Campbell earning his first NFL win. Chris Cooley showed why it's a tough game if you can't tackle, scoring the winning touchdown on a 66-yard passing play that saw Cooley break two tackles before heading in for the score. The 'Skins are now 4-7 and face struggling Atlanta at home on Sunday.

The Ravens absolutely crushed the hated Steelers, 27-0, embarrassing Ben Roethlisberger (I'm not looking up how to spell that so if it's wrong that's too bad) and the Steelers' O-line to the tune of nine sacks. The Burgh only managed 36 yards in the first half. It was so bad, Ravens coach Brian Billick actually replaced Steve McNair with Kyle Boller with more than 10 minutes left in the game. Take that, Steel town!

In other competitive and athletic sporting competition, I dominated my brother in Wii Sports bowling but we kept playing until my leg got tired and he beat me.

Question: Should I be embarrassed that I got tired playing a video game?

Answer: Not when it's Wii Sports.

Monday the Orioles signed former all-star but currently mediocre reliever Danys Baez to a 3-year, $19 million deal that could only possibly make sense to a team with a bullpen as bad as the Orioles.

The big news around the globe today, of course, is that Busted Tees, a site I visit semi-frequently, stole my brilliant shirt idea and is undoubtedly profiting from it an immeasurable number of times more than I could ever hope to.

In local sports tonight it's Ball State vs. No. 14 Georgetown at Verizon Center. The big story in this game is that G'Town coach John Thompson III will be taking on his brother, Ball State coach Ronny Thompson. The game starts at 7:30 and you can catch in on TV on MASN.

Busted Tees Blatantly Plagiarizes My T-Shirt

Since the start of this football season, I've had this beautiful shirt available in the Beltway Sports Beat store:

Well I went on Busted Tees today only to find that they are selling a ripoff version of my shirt ... except ... you know ... with an infinitely higher budget, professional graphic designers and a gigantic following on a hugely popular Web site. Oh, and don't forget the scruffy male T-shirt models. I don't have those either.


Anyone want to give me some pro bono legal advice about what my options are here (if any)?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

University of Maryland Basketball Rolling

Coming off of consecutive 19-win seasons that led to NIT trips, the Terps men's basketball team came into this season needing to shed their underachieving image to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

Six games into the season, the Terps are undefeated and looking strong. The Terps' 71-60 (it was never that close) win over Winthrop last night was another step toward a return to prominence for the program that won a national championship just five seasons ago.

The run has brought the Terps to rankings of 25 in the AP Poll and 24 in the Coaches.

Ikene Ibekwe, always one to throw down the ferocious dunk but also a horrible liability shooting in any sort of manner that required the ball to travel more than six inches between hand and basket, has worked to improve his shooting and was the catalyst in wins over St. John's and Winthrop.

Freshman Eric Hayes can't help but be compared to Steve Blake, which is a refreshing thought after a year without a natural point guard.

The Terps wins haven't come against cupcake opponents, either.

Maryland beat Vermont by 18 points in the second game of the season. Five days later the Catamounts walked all over No. 14-at-the-time Boston College, beating them by 14.

The Terps destroyed St. John's by 32 in the fourth game of the season and the next day the Johnnies took then-No. 18 Texas down to the wire, losing by a point.

In game five, the Terps handed Michigan State its only loss of the season thus far.

And then there was last night against Winthrop, one of those scary mid-major opponents that top-tier conference coaches hate to face in the regular season -- You beat them and it's "yeah you were supposed to beat them"; but if you lose everyone says, "See how good those mid-major teams are!?"

Winthrop, no stranger to big opponents, had already crushed fellow giant-killing mid-major Iona, upset Mississippi State and played a down-to-the-final-minutes contest against No. 2 North Carolina, but Maryland would have none of it.

Ibekwe made his presence felt with back-to-back rim-rattling dunks in the early minutes and by halftime the Terps led by 16.

The Terps led by as much as 26 in the second half and Ibekwe finished with 18 points and six rebounds.

One thing that seems to be true for the Terps thus far is that when they get on a roll they're hard to stop.

Gary Williams' team takes on High Point on Friday at 1:30 at the Comcast Center, then travels to Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill. to take on the Fighting Illini in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Capitals + Shootouts = Bad Combination

The Caps earned a point in tonight's (I guess last night's, technically) shootout loss to the Boston Bruins. It's nice to get the point, but it was the fourth time that the Caps have gone to the shootout and the fourth time they've failed to come away with the extra point.

Not only that, but they haven't scored in the shootout yet this season. According to Joe Beninati on tonight's telecast, that's 11 shots without a goal.

These are breakaways, people!

This is one of those things that has to swing the other way over the course of the season, but at this point when the Caps are counting points in five-game segments it's hard not to get frustrated when these chances go wasted.

Anyways, that's all the complaining I can do about the Caps at this point in the season. They have 21 points through 18 games and they're in 7th place in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Caps play next on Friday at home against the Carolina Panthers.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Weekend Stuff

MARYLAND TERRAPINS FOOTBALL: After going to the game against Florida International that required a last-second defensive stop to preserve a win over an unknown opponent, I thought it would be tough for the Terps to get the six wins they'd need this season to go .500 and be bowl eligible. Six games later, the Terps are 8-2, ranked, and seriously contending for a spot in the ACC title game.

The Terps beat Miami yesterday, 14-13, for their fifth straight win. The team travels to Boston College next Saturday for a clash of 8-2, ranked teams before coming back to College Park to face currently 9-1 Wake Forest to close out the regular season.

MARYLAND TERRAPINS BASKETBALL: The Terps basketball team kicked off its season this week with a wins over Hampton and Vermont at the Comcast Center in the 2K Sports Hoops Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer (formally just the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic). They take on Florida A&M tonight at 7 before heading to New York on Thursday to take on St. John's in the semi-finals of the 2K Sports Hoops Classic.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS: The Caps had their 15th game of the season this week, and even though it was a blowout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Caps managed to take three wins in games 11 to 15, meaning they reached their goal of 6 points in that segment.

With a 3-1 win over the Rangers on Saturday, the Caps now have 18 points in 16 games, which is only good enough for 9th place in the Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile the Penguins, who started the season red hot, are mired in a five-game losing streak and have only managed to get two points in that span by sending games to overtime. The Pens are in 10th, right behind the Caps in the standings.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS: The Wiz have shown that they can score, but for another season it appears defense is going to be a struggle. The Wizards are now 3-2 and leading the NBA in offense, but they're 25th in defense.

Sunday, November 05, 2006's Bill Simmons: Insufferable

Bill Simmons,'s "The Sports Guy," used to be funny. Used to be.

But recently -- really ever since the Red Sox won the World Series -- he's just been insufferable.

It seems his sole purpose on this planet is to advance his ideals of how every New England sports hero trumps all others, while still lamenting how one can face no greater ordeal than cheering for professional sports teams from Boston.

At the same time, he mentions the Yankees in EVERY article, so much so that it makes the rest of us Yankee-haters look bad. Don't you think if Ahab had killed Moby Dick he'd be talking more about his triumph than about how much he still detests the whale? You can't have it both ways, Bill.

That, friends, is why Red Sox fans have become worse than Yankees fans. And it's not even close anymore.

In this decade alone, his teams have won three Super Bowls and a World Series, and he still whines more than all the democrats in his stupid state did after W. beat John Kerry (for the record, I'm a lousy bleeding heart myself).

This blog covers 6 major sports teams from two cities, and his three teams (he stopped following the Bruins in the '90s, according to his latest column) are leading our six in league titles this decade, 4-1.

His most recent whinefest/New England sports propaganda piece, I Really Hate the Colts, continues down this path.

Looking past the overall tone of bitterness, one thing that he says is, "Getting constantly bombarded by those insufferable Manning commercials makes me want to throw my remote against the wall."

Look, Bill. You're lying. I know you're lying. You laughed at the "CUT THAT MEAT!" commercial and chuckled to yourself when a faux-mustachioed Peyton referred to his "laser, rocket arm." How can I be so sure?

Because I'm a Baltimore football fan, and even I laughed at those commercials.

You want Colts hate? Come down here where it really means something.

So for now why don't you stay up there with your stupid rivalry with the Jets (come on ... this one is like Hulk Hogan in his steroid prime vs. Estelle Getty in her Golden Girls get-up ... The Jets? Really?), sit back and enjoy your championships rather than looking for new things to bitch about.

But then again, asking a Boston sports fan to kick himself out of his Sam Adams-enhanced, sports-related depression is like reasoning with a 2-year-old ... pointless.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wizards Open Season Tonight

Last minute post!

Washington Wizards at Cleveland Cavaliers, tonight, 8 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet and ESPN.

The Wizards will be starting Etan Thomas at center instead of Brendan Haywood, which should be an improvement if Thomas can stay healthy.


(Get it? That's a big 'if'... Ha!)

The Wizards also look for improved defense with DeShawn Stevenson replacing departed Jared Jeffries, who may have been a decent player, was certainly funny looking, and definitely wasn't worth the 5-year, $30 million deal the Knicks gave him.

It's a rematch of last year's first round playoff match-up, which has been said over and over again, so enjoy that talk all night.

Go all in.