Ravens fever everywhere; Astros under attack; Last season for Frederick? - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Ravens fever everywhere; Astros under attack; Last season for Frederick?

Everywhere you go in Baltimore, the talk is about Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. Orioles talk is muted, and besides, it’s more fun to talk about a winner.

Since the 1999 season, the Ravens’ fourth in Baltimore, they’ve had just four losing seasons. During that time, the Orioles have had just four winning ones.

Jackson is by far the most popular athlete in town, and if he continues his brilliant play, he could be one of the most acclaimed Baltimore sports figures in history.

The Orioles have a long way to go to catch up.

As much as fun as the Ravens’ season has been, having a successful Orioles season would make life more enjoyable for Baltimore sports fans.

It’s actually possible to have two winning teams concurrently. In 2012, the Orioles broke their string of 14 losing seasons with a win in the American League wild-card game and a narrow loss in five games to the New York Yankees in the Division Series.

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That year, the Ravens went on a late-season roll, beating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game and the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.

As well as the Ravens are playing, it seems entirely possible, and perhaps likely, that they’ll play in the Super Bowl for the third time, on February 2 in Miami.

For many Oriole fans, who were pained when the Nationals won their first World Series last month, a Ravens Super Bowl win would take away that pain, especially since the Redskins are having as difficult a season as the Orioles had.

There’ll be plenty of time to fantasize about the Super Bowl over the next two months, but Oriole fans can hope that in a few years their team will have its turn.

The Ravens have played in four AFC Championship Games, all on the road, and their Super Bowls have been in Tampa and New Orleans. Many season ticket-holders eager to attend the game aren’t fortunate to be chosen in a lottery and others find the trip on short notice to be pricey.

Baseball’s postseason is played at home and not at neutral sites as the Super Bowl is. While a third Ravens Super Bowl win would be great for Baltimore’s wounded psyche, an Orioles World Series would be better because more fans could enjoy the games at the ballpark as Nationals fans recently did.

Astroball under attack: After the Houston Astros won the World Series in 2017, their management style was widely copied, and the Orioles, who hired Mike Elias to be their general manager a year later, followed the plan in many ways.

Now, the Astros are under suspicion. Former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers charged that the team electronically stole signs in 2017.

Major League Baseball is investigating, and former Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman thinks the practice continued.

“This Astros thing is bad!!! Guys lost jobs, got sent down, missed service time bc of how they were hit in HOU. Does anyone really think they only did this in 17? #getreal,” Gausman tweeted.

Many in baseball have been suspicious of the Astros since their World Series win. They developed a cult following and an excellent book, Astroball, was written by Sports Illustrated’s Ben Reiter, chronicling their worst-to-first rise.

After assistant general manager, Brandon Taubman, taunted Reiter’s colleague, Stephanie Apstein, and other female reporters after Houston’s ALCS win over the Yankees, with cries celebrating the teams’ acquisition of reliever Roberto Osuna, MLB has watched Houston more carefully.

Osuna was acquired by the Astros after he was suspended for 75 games for domestic abuse.

Houston was incredibly slow to acknowledge Taubman’s wrongdoing, which eventually ended with his dismissal. Since then, whistleblowers have been emboldened to come forward with suspicions of Astros wrongdoing.

Sign stealing done with your own eyes or binoculars is an accepted art in baseball. Electronic sign stealing is a heinous baseball crime, and those responsible should pay heavily.

Losing your Keys?: Last month when a report surfaced about MLB’s plan to downsize minor league baseball, the identities of the teams they wanted contracted were unknown.

Now, they’ve become clear. There’s a list of 42 minor league teams MLB would like to eliminate as part of their plan to control minor league costs.

The list includes the Frederick Keys, the Orioles’ longest-running affiliate.

That news is puzzling because the Keys are one of the most economically successful teams in the Carolina League, and the atmosphere at their games is a lively one.

MLB believes that many leagues are too spread out, and they’d like to eliminate Short-Season leagues and others who play in unsuitable ballparks.

The Aberdeen IronBirds, who play at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium, the nicest facility in the Orioles’ minor league chain, would presumably replace Frederick in the Carolina League, but that’s not been definitively decided.

Another team on the chopping block is the Hagerstown Suns, the Nationals’ Low-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League.

While Frederick is a viable franchise playing in a relatively modern park, Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown is a relic.

Losing both Frederick and Hagerstown would cut the number of affiliated minor league teams in Maryland from five to three.

Aberdeen, Bowie and Delmarva would remain, but there no longer would be professional baseball in Western Maryland.

Frederick is a growing and prosperous area, home to many who work in both Baltimore and Washington. Eliminating pro ball from there is downright silly and short-sighted.

Negotiations between MLB and MILB will continue. While the minor leagues seem to have little leverage, legal and legislative remedies could be the result.

While it’s inevitable that some teams will be lost for 2021, it would be sad if Frederick is no longer part of the Orioles’ or minor league landscapes.

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