Every once in a while I like to do something very fun and very unscientific. This is one of those instances. I give you the inaugural edition of the Baltimore-D.C. Top XXV. This is essentially a power ranking of every pro athlete in the area. Powerful in what area you ask? Well, I’m not totally sure. This is sort of a combination of on-field performance, fan appeal, contribution to local sports history, off-field profile, general “relevance,” etc. The criteria is spotty at best. I do not deny this.
I will also not apologize for it, because it was way too much fun. Basically, I took the active rosters of the 7 major pro teams in the Baltimore-D.C. Metro Area (Orioles, Ravens, Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, Redskins, D.C. United) and tried to pull out the Top 25 (or XXV, because it seems to carry more weight, also “V” rhymes with “D.C.”). I tried to do this on a weighted scale, otherwise, with the popularity of the NFL, this list would probably by 18 Ravens, 5 Redskins and 2 Orioles. Please be coherent in the comments in providing your arguments for or against rankings or inclusion. I understand not everyone loves soccer, hockey, the NBA, or was aware of the existence of the Washington Nationals. Jayson Werth can’t just pick up and play QB for the Redskins (or could he?!), so let’s try and judge players within their own sport (understanding that the area and its fans will always care about some sports and teams more than others). The reason I am spending words here on soliciting good feedback is that I’d love to include your passion and guidance in updating this for volume two (probably some time in the fall).
On to the Top XXV, volume one!
25. Dwayne De Rosario – M, D.C. United
I decided to lead off the inaugural version of the rankings with some controversy. DeRo hasn’t played a match for United yet, after being acquired in a trade yesterday for United captain and noted ginger Dax McCarty. Still, this is the highest-profile acquisition for the Black and Red in some time, adding a perennial all-star, two-time MVP, and prolific goalscorer to the team.
24. J.J. Hardy – SS, Orioles
23. Brian Orakpo – OLB, Redskins
22. JaVale McGee, C – Wizards
21. Michal Neuvirth, G – Capitals
After a very respectable first NHL playoffs, and Semyon Varlamov seemingly on his way out the door, Neuvy is poised to join Jan Vesely as two Czech guys taking the District by storm. I smell a sitcom.
20. Jeremy Guthrie, SP – Orioles
19. Anquan Boldin, WR – Ravens
This was a tough one. For being a skill position player who’s a big name within the NFL, Boldin’s been sort of low-key since arriving in Baltimore. If I’ve over-rated him here, it’s only because I love how he plays. If I’ve under-rated him, especially compared to his teammates, please correct me.
18. Andy Najar, M – D.C. United
17. Jayson Werth, RF – Nationals
16. Vladimir Guerrero, DH – Orioles
15. Chris Cooley , TE – Redskins
The Redskins have a historically rich football tradition, a massive fanbase that cares about the team regardless of how bad they are, and Chris Cooley is currently their most “high profile” player. McNabb? All but out. Haynesworth? Out. Portis? Out. How is this possible? Again, much like Boldin, there are guys on the team like LaRon Landry, Orakpo, and Santana Moss who are good enough players, but nobody who rates on this list as high as Cooley. Partly because of his skill within his position, and partly because of his media savvy, until the free agency period can start and the ‘Skins can begin burning money, CC47 is top dog.
13. Adam Jones, CF – Orioles
12. Nicklas Backstrom, C – Capitals
11. Charlie Davies, ST – D.C. United
10. Jan Vesely, SF – Wizards
Jan Vesely has a factor, at least for the moment, that marketing execs might refer to as “YouTubability.” After mixtapes of his thunderous dunks made the internet rounds leading up to the NBA draft, it would seem Vesely was just another foreign prospect that doesn’t make anyone any more excited about the Wiz. Then he drove hard to the rim on his first NBA possession. Jan gets into my initial top 10 for this fact alone: before draft night, I didn’t particularly care if there was an ’11-’12 NBA season and would’ve been fine with them taking the year off to restructure the league. Now, I’ll be bummed if I don’t get to see “The Dunking Ninja” catching ‘oops from John Wall this season.
9. Haloti Ngata, DT – Ravens
8. Ray Rice, RB – Ravens
7. Nick Markakis, RF – Orioles
6. Matt Wieters, C – Orioles
Comparing Markakis to Wieters is very tough. Markakis is obviously the more established talent, but Wieters is only a year into his major league career and has made as big a splash in the local sports scene as Nick. Also, to my knowledge, there is no web site called “Nick Markakis Facts.”
5. Ed Reed, SS – Ravens
4. John Wall, PG – Wizards
3. Joe Flacco, QB – Ravens
Joe Flacco has the essential quality that every big-name starting quarterback has. I’m not talking about arm strength, pocket presence, or team leadership. People care what he does. Anyone who’s ever attended a high school that has football knows this is the most crucial piece of the quarterback’s makeup. People care when Joe says anything. People care when anyone says anything about Joe. People care when Joe gets married. Those of you who are not hockey-minded will surely take issue with Flacco being behind Ovi. Here’s the difference: Ovechkin is top 1 or 2 in his entire sport. Not just at his position. Until Flacco sets himself apart from the other 31 QBs in the league, or alternatively, wins The Big One, here he sits.
2. Alex Ovechkin, LW – Capitals
1. Ray Lewis, LB – Ravens
C’mon son! Until 52 hangs ‘em up, is there even a point in putting a number one spot on this list? No matter how much his skill diminishes, as long as Ray is taking the field, he’ll be the area’s biggest name in the biggest sport.
Honorable mention (in no particular order): Mike Green – D, Capitals (injury, inconsistency), Brian Roberts – 2B, Orioles (injury), Stephen Strasburg, – SP, Nationals (injury), John Beck – QB, Redskins (media blitz), Alexander Semin – F, Capitals (Bad Sasha), Andray Blatche – PF, Wizards (generally not well-liked), Jake Arrieta, SP – Orioles (getting there), Ryan Zimmerman – 3B, Nationals (apparently not good anymore), Zach Britton, SP – Orioles (trending upward), Michael Phelps, Swimmer – USA (impending video game, douchiness)
Dave Gilmore lives in Baltimore, works for a sports-oriented non-profit, and writes “The Win Column” for BaltimoreSportsReport. He is currently working on a novel about college football. Find him on Twitter @dave_gilmore.