Slightly different tactic this time around, folks. This week there were a number of stories that maybe got a small post here or there, but never rose to the level of really getting fleshed out over the course of the week. It could be a comment made here or there, speculation over a signing, or a firing of an assistant coach. So I decided to double back to some interesting headlines in Maryland sports over the week to give another take as we straddle the period between the end of the Ravens season (man, that still stings to write it) and the opening of Spring Training for a year of modestly raised expectations with the Orioles. Let’s line up for that meaningless Pro Bowl kick…
Gary Williams Calls for Terrapin Unity
At certain times in a university’s history, factions start to form that all believe that they are in the best interest of the university’s athletics but often their in-fighting hurts the program more than any one group ever could if it had control. Gary Williams recognizes this and is asking the Maryland faithful to “unite” behind their Athletic Director Kevin Anderson. Coming from a fan base with its own factions, I understand where Coach Williams is coming from. For Michigan, the factions were deepened with the death of Bo Schembechler in 2007. When Coach Schembechler was alive no one (including most of the media) dared to criticize the Athletic Department or especially the football coach. With his death, criticism ratcheted up against Coach Carr and by the time Rich Rodriguez came on board, decades of alumni and ex-players practicing discretion had gone out the window. It was open season on all things Michigan. Only the completion of Rodriguez’s doomed tenure and the hiring of the safest, most harmless candidate has gotten the natives to quiet down, and accept it for the most part.
I imagine it will be the same with Maryland. There are always factions around Maryland athletics, and the significant base of leftover Friedgen supporters will start to dwindle when Randy Edsall starts winning and people realize that Friedgen isn’t coming back. Kevin Anderson is being roasted right now for his decisions because he has no track record at Maryland to fall back on. If his hires turn out well, then the factions won’t have much to stand on. Winning doesn’t always cure all, but in the case of a new AD trying to make his mark, it will probably work better than anything else. It also can’t hurt to have the one legendary coach at Maryland in your corner.
Zorn Out as Quarterback’s Coach
When a quarterback improves one season over another, it is rather difficult to assign credit. Do you give it to the head coach for creating a good situation for the player? Maybe the offensive coordinator for installing the right offense? Maybe in Baltimore’s case the general manager for bringing in improved talent around him? Sometimes the quarterback’s coach gets credit for helping a young quarterback develop. It is hard to think of Joe Flacco as a young quarterback anymore, but I suppose he still is. While he did improve significantly over the past few years, I think it is safe to say that if Flacco and Harbaugh were not comfortable around him and his “unorthodox” training regimen, it was safe to see him go. Flacco’s problems are not difficult to identify- holding onto the ball too long, sailing the ball over his receivers, etc. The thing is they are exactly the kind of problems that a quarterback’s coach is there to solve. He can adjust his mechanics, get into his thought process, and understand his decision-making better than any other coach, including the offensive coordinator. While the offensive coordinator can design a game plan to avoid a player’s faults and emphasize his strengths, the QB coach can actually try to correct the faults.
Giving Cam Cameron both roles seems to indicate the Coach Harbaugh thinks his OC can do both, though I am personally skeptical. The more likely reason is that Zorn was fired too late to get an elite QB coach (though Scott Loeffler from Florida would be a great project guy to bring in if he is interested) and it makes more sense to simply redistribute those responsibilities. Redistributing those responsibilities also says that Harbaugh thought Zorn was doing more harm than good, as apparently having no set QB coach is better than having Zorn as QB coach. Bringing in Zorn made sense from a resume standpoint last year, but the fit just wasn’t there.
Vlad Guerrero? Really?
Okay, so I understand why a team in need of a DH would bring in someone who hit .300 with over 100 RBI last season on an affordable, 1 year deal. But not for a team that is already trying to fit in at-bats for a number of developing players. There is Luke Scott, who got out of his streaky ways and can play left field in a pinch and first base in an emergency situation. There is Felix Pie, who had a solid season last year despite tailing off a bit as the year wore on and missing significant time early. Nolan Reimold is now fully recovered and looking forward to a return to his breakout rookie season. The Orioles are already trying to figure out how to get them all at-bats in the majors and to then add a bat who cannot play the field and whose numbers collapsed at the end of last season, speaking to an endurance issue that is certainly an issue with any 36 year old slugger.
If the Orioles can’t find at-bats for major league prospects and young talent like Pie and Reimold, why bring in Guerrero for a couple extra wins? The Orioles are not going to the World Series this year, I think we can all agree on that. So therefore it doesn’t make sense to bring in Guerrero for one year and trade a promising player like Pie or Reimold (neither will be superstars, but they could turn out to be solid major leaguers for a long time) just so fans can pretend they have a formidable lineup. I would rather have a 75 win season with breakout performances from Reimold or Pie and solid defense in left field for the long term than an 81 win season with below average defense in left and minus yet another Oriole who becomes very good after he leaves the organization. I won’t hate it if they make the move, I just wonder if it is worth it.