Time for an inside look at the C.O.R.T. of public opinion for my favorite teams. The current state of the Caps, Orioles, Redskins, and Terrapins looks like a Dow Jones Industrial long run trend line with three of our four equities trending positive, one trending negative, and the overall average moving up. Let’s check the bulls first:
Conventional thinking on the Baltimore Orioles is that the team will regress and finish somewhere in the 75-80 win range after their incredible 93-win campaign in 2012 where they landed a wild-card birth and a trip to the ALDS. I don’t see it. This team is on the rise. I look for improved starting pitching, as the staff has stabilized with Hammel, Chen, Gonzalez, and Tillman and a fifth starter to be named later. This group was fully vetted from last year’s battles and should be primed and ready to go a full season and not just the stretch run. Youngsters Steve Johnson and Dylan Bundy are waiting in the wings and could make a big impact in September. Jim Johnson is back as the closer and nobody expects another 50+ save season or all the late/extra inning heroics that punctuated the outstanding performance from last year, but the back end of the bullpen looks solid. Question mark is Pedro Strop and if he straightened out the mental foibles that caused Buck to lose confidence in him late last year.
Looking for improved team OBP with the full time addition of Nate McLouth in left field and the subtraction of Mark Reynolds. If McLouth, Markakis, and Jones can stay healthy, this will be a very high production outfield offensively and defensively. McLouth was a gold glover but his throwing arm is only average which is a minor concern. Just ridding the group of Reynolds and his maddening 200+ strikeouts will raise team OBP. Brian Roberts‘ health and the status of second base is the only question mark for the starting infield. Team chemistry is awesome with Buck Showalter and EVP Dan Duquette locked up with new five-year contracts, and the basic roster returned in tact. That should carry this team to a 90-win season and contend for the AL East title.
Of the other AL East contenders, Tampa Bay and their stout starting pitching worries me the most. Toronto loaded up on free-agents but chemistry will be an issue. I’m betting R.A. Dicky is one-and-done. Boston is still suffering from years of hyper spending on bad chemistry free agents and the Yanks look like an aging mess who will suffer a serious loss of long ball prowess. Predicted order of finish: 1) Tampa Bay, 2) Baltimore, 3) New York, 4) Toronto, 5) Boston.
The Washington Redskins destroyed everyone’s lowly expectations last year and rookie phenom Robert Griffin III injected some badly needed adrenalin into the sagging hearts and minds of long-suffering Skins fans.
The huge off-season question is the health of RG3 and the knee. The Skins will need to save this young man from himself next season and not push his recovery like they did his comeback after sitting out only one game with the first knee injury. God bless him, but I believe he will lie, cheat, steal, and deceive to the best of his ability to get out on the field, even if he’s not ready. Can’t afford another mistake like the Seattle game debacle.
With no first round picks and a desperate need to retool their secondary, we’ll see how they do in the draft. The NFC East seems weaker across the board and the Skins should contend next season, but another 10-win campaign may be a stretch without a fully recuperated RG3. Other than the knee, my biggest concern is that everyone league-wide is starting to run the pistol formation and when that happens, smart guy D-coordinators usually solve it, and the Skins will have to get more creative with Griffin.
Finally, a big fat NO to the numskulls who are making noise again about changing the team name from the REDSKINS!
Maryland Terrapin basketball is on the rise, no question. They are on the outside of the NCAA bubble this year but still have a chance if they can sweep their remaining ACC games. I feel sorry for second year coach Mark Turgeon because with a decent point guard, this team could seriously contend. Last year, leading scorer and ball hog Terrell Stoglin was kicked off the team and nobody averaged more than four assists per game. Same story this year with a bunch of shooting guards taking the turn at the point. I’d like to see the Terps mix in some zone and more press defenses to allow them to the run the court a little more an not rely on that slow half court setup that requires a non-point point guard to bring the ball up against pressure. Still, they are young and appear hungry against good teams in big games and should be fine next season.
Maryland football has nowhere to go but up. Randy Edsall has recruited well his first two seasons but still needs a quarterback for 2013. Last year’s devastation was not fair. No team should have to play a linebacker as your fifth string quarterback, but Shawn Petty did it and was respectable in the effort. I love Stefone Diggs at wide receiver; he’s going to be an All American by his junior year. This is the last year competing in the ACC and the Terps are going to need to step it up or become a doormat against the B1G in 2014.
The B1G is now the nation’s premier basketball conference and I have plenty of confidence in the Terps ability to go head-to-head with Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, and the like. The thought of playing football against these behemoths, along with Michigan and Penn State is intriguing, but dropping the traditional ACC basketball rivalries is very underwhelming and I’m still disappointed by the move.
The Washington Capitals are trending down and everyone knows it. Ultimately, owner Ted Leonsis is going to have to make a change at general manager and relieve George McPhee of his duties. GMGM had 15 years to get a Cup and it’s not happening anytime soon. Sure they put a couple of games together and occasionally show signs of what could be, and they may yet make the playoffs one more time by squeaking out a division title against the sub-par Southeast, but the effort put forth by this group on a consistent basis and the overall talent level is not there.
The one saving grace is the proposed NHL realignment for 2014 which has me very excited! Returning to the same division with our old Patrick Division foes is awesome but will be a double edge sword. The last five years, the Caps have feasted on their weaker Southeast foes and won the division four times. Not happening once they join the Atlantic Division, assuming the proposed realignment stands.
So the State of the C.O.R.T. is as positive as it’s been around here for a while. What do you see in the cards for these teams?