It is on one hand hard to complain about the Orioles post-Winter Meetings activity because there hasn’t been any.  We know/think offers are out to Kevin Gregg and Adam LaRoche, the latter as been reputed to be a 3-year, $21 million deal.  If that’s the case, I am wondering whether LaRoche is truly hung up about playing for a losing organization like the Orioles at this point.  I doubt anyone else would give LaRoche a three-year deal, especially considering that he has bounced around to 5 teams in as many seasons, including playing with the Pirates, Braves, and Red Sox in 2009.  Until he decides whether to settle down, let’s line up for the kick…

Pryor, 4 Others Suspended for Accepting Improper Benefits

Never mind the sportsmanship of a player who sells his Sportsmanship Award, or the loyalty to his school of a player who sells his reward for beating the hated rival, but let me try to take a different tack on the 5-game suspensions of Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, and others.  Ohio State was completely forthright in admitting that they did not provide adequate education to their players to tell them whether it was alright to sell their memorabilia.  They should be applauded for being honest.  But can someone explain to me why the University shouldn’t be held accountable for not properly educating their players?  That would seem to fit the definition of “not promoting an atmosphere of compliance.”  If, as the University claims, the players had no idea they were breaking rules and it was the University who was at fault for not educating them, then shouldn’t the penalties hit Ohio State as well?  When USC made the same argument about Reggie Bush’s violations (“we didn’t know” and “we didn’t properly educate players”), the school was hit hard.  I am not putting Ohio State’s violations on the same level as USC, but a year of probation would at least serve as a warning to the school and an acknowledgement that they were at least partially at fault.

Steelers Crush Panthers, Close in on AFC North Title

How big does the Ravens’ loss to the Steelers earlier this month look now?  For that matter, how big is the Ravens’ loss to the Bengals early in the season?  Either one of those game could have put Baltimore in the driver’s seat for the #2 seed in the AFC rather than climbing back through the Wild Card route.  If chalk holds for the final two weeks of the season, the Ravens will be staring at an opening round matchup with the Indianapolis Colts, another 1983 reunion, and we know how those tend to end up.  While it’s true that Peyton hasn’t had the same supporting cast as usual, I will not see any game against the Colts as anything more than an excruciating loss until this team is able to prove otherwise.  Baltimore looked great against the Saints, but you never know when this team will come out completely flat.  Maybe if they hadn’t come out flat against the Bengals in Week 2, they would be talking about hosting a playoff game, and not traveling to Indy.

2010-11 Shaping Up as One Hell of an NBA Season

This year I am starting to love the NBA.  Not the ridiculous faux salary cap or luxury tax, not the over-coverage of the Miami Heat or David Stern’s epic hypocrisy.  There are so many legitimate contenders and storylines throughout the NBA- from San Antonio’s resurgence for another title run to Orlando’s shakeup that appears to be showing dividends offensively.  The Celtics are still the Celtics, but now the Knicks are starting to make a statement behind Amar’e Stoudemire.  The Bulls are quietly progressing with a healthy Carlos Boozer, and yes, the Miami Heat are really fun to watch.  I cannot recall a more interesting race this early on in the Eastern Conference since the early 2000’s, and in the West the Lakers are far from a sure thing.  There is still time for Oklahoma City to start coming together, and if Carmelo winds up moving East it could complete a major shift in the NBA landscape that has for so long been dominated by the West.  All of this is why I will be tuning in tomorrow for Christmas basketball, and into 2011 long before the playoffs tip off.