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Ravens' Offseason Additions Haven't Lived Up To Hype

November 15, 2013

A little football and a lot of baseball:

So much for the "Next man up" rallying cry.

Although it's probably a little unfair to expect the Ravens to somehow replace all the bodies that left from the Super Bowl XLVII champions, at the same time, the team's indications that it had a roster full of potential All-Pro substitutes have proved faulty. 

Sure, the team has gotten its share of good players out of the last several collegiate drafts, but claims that some of its lower-round picks and free-agent signings unearthed some gems have been vastly overstated. 

Some of these guys have proven to be stiffs, and the team has kept around some second-, third- and fourth-round picks even when it was painfully apparent they weren't going to prove out. Thing is, every team is guilty of it in order to save face, so it probably all evens out in the end.

Understandably, John Harbaugh praised his rookie and free-agent crop.

"They've done well," Harbaugh said at a late-October press conference. "I don't have a grade. We'll see, but we're pleased with those guys. Most of those guys are playing, and playing well. Some guys are starting. It's a heck of a group. We thought it was in the beginning, and that's proven out to be true."

It's called damning with faint praise. Still, the rebuilding was a much better job than the team was willing to admit, at least outwardly, and a couple of big injuries early didn't help matters, either.

***

National elections should be this tough. Each year, before the Baseball Writers' Association of America members receive their ballots from the Hall of Fame, the BBWAA sends out a ballot to ascertain which of three nominees should be included in the writers' section of the Hall.

Usually, it's cut and dry, or fairly easy for a voter to pick out one of the writers worthy of enshrinement in Cooperstown, N.Y. This time around, it was impossible. The people up for the spot are Roger Angell, Melvin Durslag and Furman Bisher.

I should have done the noble thing and left the ballot blank. These three shouldn't be involved in a contest determining who is/was better. Tell you why:

Angell is undoubtedly the greatest baseball essayist of all time. Recall any of his season and World Series wrap-ups in The New Yorker magazine or read any of his books (Late Innings; Season Ticket; or the greatest baseball book of all time, Five Seasons), and you know why. 

Durslag created a problem when in Los Angeles: whom to read first, Durslag or the legendary Jim Murray? You usually ended up flipping a coin.

You want a classic day-in, day-out columnist, Bisher was as good as anyone on all sports, and about two miles ahead when it came to college football. Furman, who worked out of Atlanta for about 60 years, once said during the glory days of the Orioles -- from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s -- that if he had known he would have been spending every fall in Baltimore for the playoffs and World Series, he would have bought a condo downtown.

***

Then there's the Expansion Era Veterans Committee, which considers people, any and all types, from the Expansion Era (1961 forward). Boy, am I glad I'm not on that baby.

It's sort of a second chance for those who have been considered before, but for some reason didn't make it. Six players who didn't make it though the regular process of 15 years, and probably were considered by the regular Veterans Committee, are on the ballot.

Through the years, I voted a few times for five of them (Steve Garvey, Dave Parker, Dan Quisenberry, Dave Concepcion and Ted Simmons). Tommy John was consistently on my ballot, and it's not because they named a popular arm surgery after him, either. 

This committee is made up of 16 members, and to make it into the Hall, a nominee has to accrue 12 votes, the ever-popular 75 percent.

But for some strange reason, voters can vote for only four guys, not the customary 10, as a voter can on the regular Hall ballot. Maybe it's one of those insane rules MLB commissioner Bud Selig made up -- such as the one that awards home-field advantage for the World Series to the team from the league that won that year's All-Star Game. Imagine having that as your legacy. 

Meanwhile, three former managers -- Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa -- appear to be shoo-ins. The late Marvin Miller, former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, should get all 16 votes, but he won't, which is no credit to the committee, unfortunately.

Issue 191: November 2013