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…or what happens when family meets work meets severe weather meets baseball…

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First Takes and Second Helpings: April 2015

042815 baltimore

As you can see, this post will cover a gamut of topics…some serious, some not.

The serious first: Baltimore blew up the past two days after the death and subsequent funeral of Freddie Gray.

This tears me up because Baltimore has been a city I’ve wanted to explore more since I was a child. We didn’t travel much to Baltimore during our two years living in Bel Air, Md., about 35 miles northeast of downtown Baltimore, and when we did we never made it to an Orioles game (something that still eats at me). But what I saw as a five-year-old I liked. I have no idea whether the Baltimore of 2015 mirrors the Baltimore of 1975. All I know is people are destroying anything they can get their hands on.

I understand the anguish and anger over alleged police issues, but there’s no excuse for what we’re seeing. It’s humanity at its worst. It’s now happening with less provocation. I’m not sure which of those last two sentences is scarier.

To the silly: Weird work-related things.

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News is not always hard-core, and I’m grateful we’re not always talking about riots or shootings or fatal accidents or fires or budget shortfalls. Thankfully, we started our Feel Good Friday segment a few years ago to balance out all the nasty or the mundane we report on daily. And sometimes, that balance is totally unintentional or unexpected. Couple cases in point:

Earlier this month, I’m searching through district court documents to see what court cases of note are coming up. I didn’t see anything pertaining to my newscasts, but I did see this:

weird

That’s right. Officially, the state of Kansas is in trial proceedings against a car (a luxury car, mind you, although the status of rich Corinthian leather is to be debated). Not sure if this is a regular occurrence. Also not sure how John Stewart hasn’t picked up on this yet.

Yesterday, I’m typing up a story on court proceedings stemming from a combination battery and shooting incident early in April. Instead of typing “aggravated battery,” I punch up “aggravated batter.” Talk of deep-fried food crimes and misdemeanors follows. Insert your own joke here.

Now to the sad:

042815 fiala

Broadcasters outside the state of Nebraska may not have known Adrian Fiala, and that’s a shame.

Fiala passed away recently after a lengthy respiratory illness. He was a legend in Nebraska sports as a football and baseball player, and he then made his mark as a color commentator for several Big Red sports.

He was well-respected, even revered, for several reasons. Being a player, he brought a locker-room perspective to his broadcasts, and he did so realizing most of his audience weren’t former players so he educated without being pushy or overbearing. He was thoroughly prepared for his assignments and studied game trends. And, what I found most important, he was himself behind the mike.

I first met Adrian Fiala as a rather fresh part-timer assigned to run the board for SportsNightly, the Pinnacle Sports Network’s signature weekday talk show. He gave me a warm smile and a firm (very firm) handshake. Just that made me feel like I was part of the team — no small amount of welcome and assurance for somebody struggling to prove I belonged with some very polished broadcasters. On top of that, though, Fiala never — and I mean never — big-timed anybody on his broadcasts, either on or off mike.

This is a business filled with massive egos and a tendency for those egos to get loose, trampling anybody and everybody either lower on the totem pole or outside the field, treating those individuals as if they are less important or not important at all because they don’t have a four- or five-hour air shift to spew opinions couched as facts.

Adrian Fiala was a rare individual in this field. I’d like to be part of his broadcast crew at that next level.

And finishing up with the superlative.

Alex Gordon, Play of the Year candidate. Do I need to say anything else?

NFL Certainly Fumbled on Ray Rice. Did Ravens Also Drop Ball?

ray-rice-arrest-football

Just a few hours after TMZ released video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice cold-cocking his fiancee, dragging her out of an elevator and then plopping her on the ground face-first, the NFL team summarily released Rice.

Good for the Ravens, I guess.

A few observations:

1. The NFL was roundly criticized for giving Rice a two-game suspension following the incident right after Valentine’s Day, no less. It really looks stupid now. The policy has since changed to a six-game suspension for a first offense and a potential lifetime ban for the second. Those are good changes, but they come after the horse left the barn and galloped away. The league already had a major public relations problem with its handling of concussions, but this is an issue dealing with society as a whole — not just a barometer of the football culture.

2. The chances of this kind of incident coming to light in this manner just a few years ago — say, 10 or 15 years — are extremely remote. You would likely have rumors and allegations, but the prospects of having something of substance like the TMZ video would have been few and far between. Which makes you wonder how many other athletes and entertainers (I choose them because they are in the public eye and most of the rest of us aren’t) got away with similar behavior.

3. The NFL says it didn’t receive the video until today. Did the Ravens have a copy? If not, releasing Rice now makes all the sense in the world. If they did…this is the cynic in me talking, but to wait this long before any action and to wait for the video to show before making a decision is flat-out appalling. Knowing the NFL’s reputation, it would come as little surprise of Roger Goodell or one of his high-ranking administrators “urged” the Ravens to drop Rice once the video went viral. Here’s hoping that urging wasn’t needed.

4. Rice stated after the incident came to light it was the worst mistake of his life and he wanted to “own it.” He’s doing exactly that without his NFL income, and he’ll be doing so with a whole lot of endorsements knocked out as well.

Arguments happen, but there is no place in humanity for what TMZ showed in that Atlantic City elevator on Feb. 15.

Encouragement for One Alex Rodriguez

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Dear Mr. Rodriguez:

Thank you.

First, thank you for your resolve to return to the New York Yankees. Such an effort would be considered inspiring under normal circumstances. Given the trying times you have dealt with the past few years, the inspiration factor has increased exponentially.

Also, thank you for diligently keeping us baseball fans informed of your progress before taking the field for the first time in months last night. Don’t let your initial night deter you from your rehab work. Good things are coming soon for you.

I must admit it does not appear like you have many people in your corner these days, so I am here to encourage you to stay true, stay strong.

By all means, keep working hard in rehab. Do your level-headed best to return to the big league club, as I know you are capable of doing. Your Yankees need you. I mean, look at how your replacement is doing. You’re needed, and the sooner the better. It must feel rewarding to know you’re on your way again to truly earning some of that $114 million left over the last five years of your contract. The best way to do so, as you know, is in the big leagues and not on the bench.

arod 3

I understand there are all sorts of rumblings about your alleged steroid use and you might be fearful you may not receive your just recompense for your efforts — or be paid as your contract delineates — and that’s why you want to get back to playing so soon. First and foremost, your physical health should be your guide. If you can’t give it the old college try anymore, perhaps it’s best that you retire. The Physically Unable to Perform option is there, I guess, if you absolutely need to take that route.

As mentioned, I certainly appreciate your candor about your on-field progress, and I encourage you to keep us updated. I assume you and General Manager Brian Cashman are now on the same page when it comes to your progress and eventual return.

cashman

In addition, your presence and repeated appearances before TV cameras and radio/newspaper microphones should only serve to distract casual baseball fans and hardcore Yankee supporters from the fact the Yanks are leaking oil and in a need of much newer models rather than increasingly expensive repairs, to use an automotive analogy. If Mr. Cashman or your teammates resent all the attention you are receiving, it’s their fault. They should know you automatically attract attention just because…well, just because it finds you.

Oh, and speaking of those annoying steroid allegations for most of the past decade, nothing has been proven, right? There’s nothing to the Biogenesis leaks that have your name written all over it, right? You can still lay claim to a spot in the Hall of Fame, based on your sparkling career numbers.

Right?

Alex Rodriguez

Bottom line, Mr. Rodriguez? You should do what’s best for you. You have earned that right because of your lengthy career and all your, um, contributions to baseball.

Very truly yours,

Chuck Samples
Proud fan of the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals

O’s Improvements

omazing

The move may not look like much, but today’s trade bringing Chicago pitcher Scott Feldman to Baltimore at the expense of pitchers Jake Arrietta and Pedro Strop is a good indicator of where O’s management believes the team is and where is should end the year.

Feldman comes to the Orioles with an OK record (7-6) but close to a standout ERA (3.46) when you consider where his home park has been. He has also pitched well at Camden Yards, with an ERA under 3 in his starts there, and according to the Baltimore Sun he has been on the O’s radar for some time.

Meanwhile, Arrietta and Strop leave a team increasingly looking like a World Series contender…for the Cubs. Oy. Both pitchers could benefit from a change in scenery, but for different reasons.

Arrietta never could harness his top-of-the-rotation stuff. Never could, at least for significant stretches. The team’s opening day starter last year, Arrietta had a plus-7 ERA with the big-league club and couldn’t avoid getting shuffled back to Triple-A. Strop, meanwhile, simply wasn’t the same pitcher he was during the 2012 magic — and fans were letting him know all about it.

This is a move that strengthens the Orioles’ rotation for this year, this playoff season and beyond. As far as the Cubs go, well, good luck this year. Next year, too.

Loving Every Minute Of It…For Now

royals 85

I know we haven’t closed out the first month of the major league baseball season, but right now I can look at the standings…close my eyes…and envision the early 1980s.

And you run….you run so far away…

Seriously, though, for Orioles and Royals fans (and I’m an unabashed if frustrated fan of both), this is heady stuff. The O’s, like everybody else in the AL East, are chasing the resurgent Red Sox, but they enter play today at a very respectable 13-9 through the first seven percent of regular-season games.

And the Royals? My goodness. Alex Gordon’s grand slam yesterday put the Royals atop the AL Central — atop the Central! — at 11-8.

How are they doing it? Well, for the Royals, it’s as expected. Bringing in James Shields has gone as expected as the innings-eater has gone deep in all his scheduled starts, but Wade Davis has been a pleasant shock as he returned to the starting rotation after serving as a reliever in Tampa. People keep waiting for the Jeremy Guthrie wheels to fall off, but he’s been solid. And even though Shields has been tough and Davis has surprised, the biggest rotation shocker has been Ervin Santana, who has looked mahvelous in all his starts save for the home opener.

Aside from a few hiccups, the bullpen has been strong, and now with Greg Holland stabilizing after a rocky beginning, things look pretty settled on the pitching front.

greg holland

Actually, the Royals’ pitching has offset virtually all the offensive woes. Virtually, because despite a slow start from Billy Butler and an atrocious opening three weeks from Mike Moustakas, KC has done a better-than-average job of doing enough offensively to get wins.

Baltimore? The offense has come and gone, but one constant is a holdover from last year — and that’s the penchant to get extra-inning wins. Process this: the O’s won 16 straight extra-inning affairs last year until they ran into the hated, despised, loathed Yankees in the playoffs last year. The regular-season streak officially extended to 17 this year before a 6-5 loss to Toronto this week.

That’s not supposed to happen.

BBA RAYS ORIOLES

And the same could be said of Baltimore in general. Everybody said the O’s were a smoke-and-mirrors team last year. Run production wasn’t where it needed to be. Starting pitching was an issue. Guess what? Those concerns were valid then, and now that they seem to be in play this year, they are valid this season as well. But sometimes you just have to ride the storm out.

Fans of these franchises are understandably happy, but they aren’t giddy just yet. First, there are enough holes with both squads where things could go south in a hurry. It’s not just the nature of the baseball beast, though. It’s both the luck and, to a degree, the mojo or karma which has followed both franchises for close to 30 years.

But dude, when it’s going good, it’s good. And who knows? Maybe O’s and Royals fans can be turned loose this postseason.

I wanna flyyyyy, baby. Turn me loose.

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