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Two Ships Passing?

Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken thumbs upIt might be a bit early to pose a hypothetical like this. Nevertheless, consider: are the Ravens and the Orioles headed in opposite directions?

I realize that, on its face, the very notion sounds ridiculous. The Orioles have just completed a solid decade of losing (723-896 during that time, an average of nine games below .500) while the Ravens have been in the upper-third of NFL franchises since their 2000 Super Bowl win. The Ravens are universally recognized as having a strong organization and a good relationship with fans and media. The Orioles represent the opposite of each.

But…

As hard impossible as it may be, try to put your emotions aside for a moment and look at the hard facts.

The Orioles have, for the first time since Pat Gillick, hired a true “baseball guy” and (by all evidence) given him full decision-making authority. Andy MacPhail has done and said all the right things so far, and (as Drew pointed out in the comments on the last post) the fact that he wants to jettison Aubrey Huff speaks volumes about the team’s new direction.

MacPhail’s going to build through the farm system and go young, even if it means more tough years in the interim. Which is to say he’s finally doing what should have been done six years ago. For the first time in years Orioles fans have a reason for real, legitimate optimism.

On the other side, the Ravens are an organization in disarray.

They have a crisis situation at quarterback, the most important position on the field. Hope for resolving it rests either in Kyle Boller (probably not up to the task), Troy Smith (almost certainly not up to the task, though you never know), or a free agent/trade acquisition. If the latter option seems logical, consider your options. Do you really want Donovan McNabb, who at this point is — at best — nothing more than a one or two-year stopgap? Then what? Do you trust their ability to groom a successor?

Their head coach has worn out both his welcome and his abilities. Nobody can argue with his results to this point, but only a fool would claim that he’s likely to rediscover that kind of glory in the years to come.

Their defense remains strong, but its leader (Ray Lewis) is aging. He’s probably got two years left at best, and the days where he was a dominant, sideline-to-sideline player are gone for good.

Worst of all, they have serious depth issues. This year has shown us that they don’t have the kind of young talent that can step in and fill the holes. That’s not a “this year” problem — that’s a serious long-term issue.

I’m no fool. I know that the likely result of all this — based on history — is that the Ravens find a way to figure it out and return to playoff contention before the O’s are anywhere close. Having said that, it’s worthwhile to consider the bigger picture.

With very few exceptions, teams run on cycles. The Orioles have defied the odds by staying down for this long and are well overdue for an upswing. The Ravens have likewise defied the odds by not having more than one bad season at a time since 1998. They’re due for a prolonged period of adjustment, which means missing the playoffs for two, three, four years (probably starting this year).

I’m not suggesting that the O’s are anywhere near staking claim to the #1 spot in this city. It might take a World Series for that. But I do get the sense that both teams might be on the cusp. One good, one bad.

We might be in for an interesting couple of years.

6 comments to Two Ships Passing?

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    two reasons i don’t buy that:

    1. peter angelos.

    2. bisciotti/newsome/decosta

    until something drastically changes on the field and solid evidence of change shows up over the next few years you can’t make that observation. all you can do is go on track record.

    angelos has a distinct record of sucking the soul out of every baseball man who’s made the mistake of coming here.

    the ravens brain-trust has a history of correcting problems as they arise.

    i know that’s black and white and i don’t agree with drew who has said that the ravens could never lose for three or four years in a row because they’d never let that happen. but we can only go on precedent and for the orioles the precedent is abysmal and for the ravens it’s the opposite.

  • neal s

    See, I agree with you. The only thing we have to go on, really, is the record. And the record says the Ravens will be fine and the O’s will continue to struggle. No argument there.

    What I’m getting at is something less tangible. Change does happen. Patterns don’t repeat indefinitely. And I think there’s a chance, however small, that we’re at a turning point with these two franchises.

    I’ll only be proven wrong or right after we’ve had three years to watch it play out. In the meantime, though, it makes for good conversation.

  • dan the man

    “I’m just gonna beat off. And that’s all I do.”

    Well you sure ain’t playin’ baseball…

  • Andrew in Rochester

    I believe, BBM, that this winter is going to have a strong implication in exactly how much Angelos is still involved with MacPhail’s work. We’ve heard that MacPhail didn’t come here to be messed with and told what to do and that he would leave if interfered with, but we haven’t seen any solid proof of that.

    But, what do we think if when Tejada is traded, or Bedard – what if both get traded? Angelos is a bonafide connoisseur of superstars and is on record as “hating to lose at anything ever” . This is the same owner who nixed the Tejada deal for Aybar and Santana (a genuine mistake) and Roberts for Giles and LaRoche (a genuine success), so trading away Bedard and/or Tejada would seem to say that he has, in fact, turned over the reins for real this time. And we are actively shopping at least one of those players for prospects.

    But, I don’t really think the Ravens are going down. They have some veteran players nearing the end of their careers, sure (Mike Flynn, JO, RayRay, McNair) but they’ve got a good cycle of guys coming in – they just haven’t figured out the offense pass stuff yet. But this is a team that has such a good recent track record with its current personnel that it’s real tough to believe they suddenly forget what a football is and go through 3 or so years (if not more) of 5-11.

  • Joe the Guy

    You could be onto something Neal.

    The O’s had a terrible bullpen – they went out and addressed the problem. It didn’t work. But they tried and at least addressed the correct area. This year they have even more holes to fill – but they changed the management, and as they say, “the fish rots from the head down”

    The Ravens meanwhile…it was painfully obvious their problem was offense. I don’t believe that anyone believed McNair and McGahee would be long term solutions. An aging team left unaddressed leads to the injury problems we see this season.

    I think you’re onto something Neal. The “results” may not agree with you, but the “actions”, even over the last couple years certainly do.

  • dan the man

    How about Jake “The Steal” Arrieta? 15 scoreless innings in the AFL. Looks like Reimold, Wieters, Snyder, and Spoon are doing alright as well. Fiorentino is batting like .150, though – I’m selling him. And Penn is a weird case, as always… striking everyone the hell out but still getting scored on like a mofo. At least the k’s likely mean his arm is strong after the bone spur surgery. But damn, Hayden… 8+ ERA?