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Jim Henneman's New Year's Leftovers: Baseball Hall Of Fame, Orioles, Football And More

January 16, 2019
Nothing better than tasty leftovers to start the New Year, so here's a few to digest while saying goodbye to '18 and hello to '19….

For the (fill in the blank) straight year, the worst hangover came from the horrendous parade of bowl games, a great majority of which are scheduled for little reason other than to fill dead air spots on ESPN during the holidays. 

The margin of victory for the first 25 postseason games was more than 20 points per game, and the worst of the bunch was one of the closest -- TCU's 10-7 overtime win against Cal, highlighted by the teams combining for nine interceptions. 

And it really didn't get any better with three beatdowns and a walkover in the "Final Four" games. Still, there are coaches who are still clamoring for expansion from four to eight, no doubt to better prepare the athlete-students (why don't they say that alphabetically?) for the 16-game schedules they'll face in the Sunday league.

* * *

Not to beat up on football, but the early rounds of the professional playoffs weren't exactly textbook stuff.

* * *

I understand that Harold Baines' election to baseball's Hall of Fame was more than a little controversial given the tepid support he received in his five years on the BBWAA ballot, but to label it a "farce" or a "disgrace" as some have done is a great injustice for a player who at the very least was deserving of a second look. 

It's a subject we'll deal with later, after the results of this year's ballot are announced -- yes, Mariano Rivera will make it, and no, it's not likely to be unanimous. Early indications, from those who have already publicly revealed their vote (I always wait until after the fact because I hate election polls) indicate that Mike Mussina is above the 75 percent bubble, but late results generally drop the numbers.

* * *

It had been awhile since I took in a basketball game at what we used to lovingly call the Civic Center before it became First Mariner and eventually Royal Farms Arena, so it was a flashback of sorts hooking up with longtime area golf pro Hank Majeski for the holiday doubleheader featuring Towson, Morgan State, Maryland and Loyola-Chicago Dec. 8. 

Though attendance was disappointing, it was refreshing to see Division I college hoops in a major downtown setting. The quality of play was entertaining, and one thing Hank and I had to remind ourselves of was that as much as this building has been trashed throughout the years, it really was a pretty good place to watch basketball. 

And for a building that's almost 60 years old, the place has cleaned up rather nicely. It's too bad some ill-advised folks insisted on a stage that is wasted space, and it's probably a little outdated by now, but basically the joint has help up pretty good.

* * *

Not sure how long the makeover of the Baltimore Orioles' management team is going to take, but it looks like the first staff meeting came before there was a complete staff. But this is not the time to worry about trivial matters -- there really is no rush.

There is no truth to the rumors, however, that name tags will be worn for the first two weeks of spring training. Come to think of it, though ...

* * *

Brandon Hyde may be regarded by many as a "caretaker" as the manager in charge of the Orioles' rebuild -- but, if so, he apparently is way overqualified for the job. I haven't spoken to one baseball person, uniformed or front office, who didn't give him an unqualified endorsement. It will be interesting to see how much patience that earns him with a fan base that has dwindled to a hard core.

Speaking of Hyde, who wears a well-manicured beard, I have to admit my first thought when he was introduced as manager was that the Orioles' policy of no facial hair was out the window -- soon to be followed, as it developed, by no concerts in the outfield.

* * *

Kyler Murray may become the first player ever to be taken in the first round in the baseball and football drafts, but even at 5-foot-9 he won't be the shortest quarterback in NFL history if he decides to forego his career with the Oakland Athletics.

Eddie LeBaron, who played seven years with the Washington Redskins and four with the Dallas Cowboys, played much bigger than his 5-foot-7 stature would suggest. He led the College of Pacific to an undefeated season in 1949 and the College All-Stars to a 17-7 win against the defending NFL Philadelphia Eagles on Aug. 11, 1950 -- one day before leaving to join the Marine Corps to fight in the Korean War, during which he won a Bronze Star.

I'm having a little trouble believing an NFL team is going to gamble a first-round pick on Murray given the risks involved, and I'm certain he won't play both sports simultaneously, as Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan have done. But if he gets first-round money, then baseball could be the fallback option, with the A's using a spring training invite and major league contract as a counter offer. 

Let's not forget that Murray is agent Scott Boras' first two-way client. I can't wait for those negotiations to start ... or continue ... or start again. 

Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles