What the hell is wrong with Jake Arrieta? It's easy to believe in his arm, but impossible to believe in his head. On Sunday his curveball had bite, his slider was wicked, and he started the game striking out Carl Crawford on three pitches, finishing with a 95-mph four-seamer that looked like it could have punched through a steel plate. In the fifth, Arrieta walked Crawford on four, and that sums up life with Jake Arrieta.
I'm pulling for Jake as much as anybody. He had a great spring and earned the home opener start for the third year in a row. Last year also started with promise but ended in Norfolk. I think it's time to send him back again. The rotation of a team looking to win a pennant is not the place to find your groove.
On the flip side, the Orioles' stars have been shining. Chris "Crush" Davis has been otherworldly. His bat packs the punch of the mystic mallet Mjiolnir. It's a shame they don't give a triple crown for the first tenth of the season, because at press time, Davis was leading the AL in batting with a .403 average, in home runs with seven, and RBI with 21. The guy is unbelievable, and he's not doing it alone. Arguably the O's two biggest stars, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, are off to blazing starts: Jones is hitting .365 with 15 RBI, and Markakis is at .311 with 18 runs scored. The Orioles starting pitching has been spotty (see above), with a lot of early exits, and the bullpen hasn't been the immovable object it was last year, but the O's have a strong nucleus and have won four of six series on the season. I still don't think the Orioles are a World Series club-they've just got too many holes in the staff and no production from the DH or second-but their core is so good that when they plug those spots, we'll be talking dynasty.
Now across the lot and onto the Ravens. The Purple Birds were looking like they could do no wrong this offseason, with Ozzie Newsome recovering deftly from each seemingly devastating personnel loss, but it looks like one of Ozzie's masterstrokes may have bit the Ravens on the ass. The Ravens had seemed to score another coup in signing former Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain to a low-risk contract. Just three years ago, McClain was the eighth overall pick in the NFL draft. He's got all the talent in the world but, unfortunately, none of the brains. Frequent trouble with the law lost him a job, but the Ravens thought they had the locker room to turn him around. Well, that may be true, but McClain didn't even make it to the locker room to find out. He was arrested in Alabama on Sunday, just weeks after signing with Baltimore and before his first practice. It's a black eye the Ravens won't appreciate, and my guess is he'll be looking for work by the time you're reading this.
On the flip side, if the new guy is going to be a knucklehead, he picked the right time. If this had happened a week later, the draft would have come and gone, and the Ravens would have been left in the lurch. As it is, Ozzie and the Ravens go into this week's draft with 12 picks and perhaps the best record of success in the NFL. And as always, Ozzie shocked the world in addressing the team's holes at safety, the defensive line, and with the pass rush through the phenomenal Elvis Dumervil pickup since the end of the season. It would have been nice to still have McClain to count on at middle linebacker, which would have given the team a bit more flexibility, but I doubt they were counting on the mercurial McClain to completely fill the void. As it is, linebacker, receiver, and left tackle remain needs, but the Ravens will be able to pursue the best-player-available strategy that's won them a pair of Super Bowls. I'm crossing my fingers for LSU linebacker Kevin Minter. An undersized middle linebacker with brains. Huh? Wonder who that reminds me of?
And finally, I know I'm a little late to the party on the Ravens-Orioles scheduling controversy, but it is a real bummer all around. The NFL has a new tradition (bit of an oxymoron, there) of starting the season on a Thursday night with the Super Bowl champs at home. It would have been nice, but the Orioles are scheduled to play the White Sox at home that night. The Orioles and MLB were under no obligation to move their home game to accommodate the NFL, and I don't blame them for not doing so. It could have been done, but it would have been a royal pain, and why rock the boat when the O's hope to be competing for a pennant? The NFL could have moved the game to Wednesday and kept it in Baltimore, but the league says they didn't want to schedule a game on Rosh Hashanah. I think we can all admit that's a load of crap. They've played on the Jewish holiday before. The real issue is that the ratings sucked last year when they tried to play on Wednesday. It's a drag to lose the game and a bummer the Orioles took a PR black eye when they seem to be doing everything right.
On the flip side, the Ravens' schedule looks to be a good one. We don't get the opener, but Baltimore gets some phenomenal home games. There's the Packers and what could be an epic shootout between Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers, a late-season rematch with Tom Brady and the Pats in what is always a great game, and Ed Reed coming back to town with the Texans in what will be the first time in history I won't be calling for Reed to run one back. Top it off with a prime-time Thanksgiving home game against the Steelers and season-ticket holders are making out like bandits this year. All in all, the beer is pretty cold on the flip side.
Come see Jim Meyer at Magooby's Joke House this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, or follow him on Twitter @Jimmy2bad; firstname.lastname@example.org.