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Cooking up the last of the holiday leftovers

January 08, 2006|By MARK KELLER

I have two reasons for writing this column today.

No. 1 - I need to dispel the rumors that I no longer work at The Herald-Mail. And B - I need to clean the Christmas and New Year's leftovers out of the opinion fridge, as it were.

It did my heart good to see the latest "greatest team ever" lose Wednesday night.

USC's 34-game winning streak certainly puts the Trojans among the best college football teams of all time. And had they beaten Texas in the Rose Bowl and claimed a third straight national title (at least in the eyes of The Associated Press), the Trojans at least could have said they had done something no other team had done.

But I tend to pull for the underdog in most cases, and considering some were saying a Texas win would be the biggest upset in college football history ... suffice it to say I was hoping to see the Longhorns pull off the "unthinkable."

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My only question is this: How can it be the biggest upset in history when the team that won the game has rattled off 20 straight victories of its own?

I'd say you have to be a pretty good team to do that ... maybe even the best ever.

"Respect" is a word that athletes and coaches like to throw around a lot, particularly when they feel they or their team is not getting enough of it.

A number of football players have taken up the battle cry for respect in recent weeks, including two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, who said his New England Patriots are the most disrespected team in the league this season.

I guess it all depends on what your definition of "respect" is. To me:

It's not disrespectful for a team to believe it can beat the defending champs;

It's not disrespectful for fans and/or the media to think a team might lose;

It's not disrespectful to pick against a team, despite what that team has achieved in the past.

And then there's this: Isn't it disrespectful for players to think their team has earned the benefit of the doubt (in other words, you should pick them to win regardless) because of their past successes?

We hear the same kinds of things at the local level and we hear it at the college level, as well.

The Patriots have played well lately, but it's easy to see why some began to count them out when they dropped to 4-4 at midseason.

The Pats won four of their last five games, but beat the Jets twice and the Bills once in that stretch. They were 2-2 against playoff teams this season.

I respect the team. I respect what they've done in the past. I don't think they'll win the Super Bowl this year.

If that's disrespectful, so be it.

Amazingly, the Baltimore Orioles have filled nearly all of their offseason needs.

They signed a 38-year-old outfielder/first baseman in Conine, because you can never have too many outfielder/first basemen.

They signed a catcher - Ramon Hernandez - since all they had was Javy Lopez (and they're looking to play him at first base).

They let their most effective closer in years, B.J. Ryan, leave via free agency, going to division rival Toronto.

They just missed on Jeromy Burnitz, a 36-year-old outfielder (who could probably play some first base if pressed to do so) who's good for 100 strikeouts or more a year.

Hard to understand why superstar shortstop Miguel Tejada was looking for a trade, isn't it?

When are Peter Angelos and company going to realize that this team needs a No. 1 starter, someone to put at the front of the rotation that is going to put a little fear into the hearts of other teams in baseball?

Sidney Ponson wasn't it. Erik Bedard isn't it. Neither is Rodrigo Lopez, Daniel Cabrera or Bruce Chen.

A rotation with Bedard, Lopez, Cabrera and Chen wouldn't be bad at all, as long as none is asked to be the No. 1 guy.

How about working on that before signing another first baseman?




Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears on Sundays. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at keller@herald-mail.com

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