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Just what the world needed -- another sports blog

Good morning, Bal-tee-more, or Bal'mer, or -- simply Baltimore.

And welcome, truly welcome, to your hometown newspaper's latest patch of cyber real estate.

Some of you, I'm figuring most of you, don't know the dopey-lookin' guy with the mustache pictured here from a rock.

A few -- close friends and relatives -- know that I'm a sports writer at your Baltimore Sun. If the mug looks familiar, you may have seen it affixed to a column I used to write on poker in the sports pages. You may also recognize the byline from stories on pro football or sports business.

Beginning today, though, I'll be here most weekdays, several times a day, passing on what we hope will be interesting bits of flotsam and jetsam from the world of sports, and particularly sports as it applies to our city, region and state. The goal here is to keep you up to date with stuff that may be essential or provocative or just quirky. But, bottom line, I hope that you're entertained.

A couple of things I want to get out right away. This sports blog is part of a nascent but ambitious effort on the part of The Sun, a paper born well before the Civil War, to remain relevant in the 21st century. Elsewhere on you'll find other new features, including news updates and videos, helpful lists of events going on in the city and suburbs, blogs on arts and entertainment, dating and food.

And one more thing. It's a big world out there and we, or at least I, don't pretend to know everything going on out there. There's no crystal ball sitting on my desk. So, if you think you know something that other sports fans might also like to hear about, let me know. 

Look, we know this is just a beginning and, quite likely, six months or a year from now, The Sun's presence on the Internet will look much different than it does today. For most of us who came into the news business daubed in ink, it's a journey fraught with both mystery and promise. I -- and all of us at The Sun -- look forward to your company.

And now, for my first trick ... the NFL draft (no, we're not letting it go)

The Monday after the draft sort of feels like the day after Christmas, doesn’t it? There’s all that anticipation, dreaming about the hot new toys, then finally the rush you get from finding out what’s under the tree.

Sometimes, it’s the bike.  And sometimes, it’s the reindeer sweater (recently, that would be Detroit, although the Lions are getting early praise for taking WR Calvin Johnson Saturday).

So, after it’s over you’re left with either a sweet afterglow or a hollow disappointment. But one  thing we can always count on about the draft, as soon as it’s over, there’s no shortage of second-guessers with marginal standing on the subject – and I count myself in that group – ready to opine and attach a letter-grade to the draft.

So as silly and futile as that process is, let’s look at what some other folks are saying about the Ravens’ draft.  First, remember that the Ravens are a gold-standard team in this area. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome is indeed The Wizard, having already drafted at least two likely Hall of Famers and Pro Bowlers galore.

And, for the second year, the Ravens picked an interior lineman with their top pick.  Last year it was defense (DT Haloti Ngata) and this year it’s on offense.  It may not be sexy but when done right, it’s the way to stay competitive in the NFL.

So far, this year’s Baltimore picks are getting decent to good grades.  And they should. Few outsiders handing out these letter grades have any clue about guys like Ben Grubbs and the Ravens’ third-round offensive lineman, Marshal Yanda.  (The Ravens also took WR-return guy Yamon Figurs in the third round and Heisman QB Troy Smith in the fifth.). And who in their right mind would strongly question Newsome and his scouting department at this point.

Opinions elsewhere and annoying pop-ups are not the responsibility of the management.

Baltimore’s own, Mel Kiper Jr., gave the Ravens a B, which for Mel was above average in a narrow range of grading. In his analysis for Insider, Mel said, Ben Grubbs is a great pick and pure guard. Yamon Figurs has speed to burn and will be the returner the Ravens need with B.J. Sams coming off an injury and being a free agent after 2007. Grubbs will start right away, and Marshal Yandapossibly also could start at guard or right tackle.”

AOL calls the Ravens one of the draft winners.

The Dallas Moring News' Rick Gosselin called the Ravens above average.

Three stars from USA Today.

The Chicago Tribune's Don Pierson puts them in the middle of the pack.

So does The Sporting News.

Ditto at CBS SportsLine.'s John Czarnecki gives the Ravens a C-minus.  I like Czar but he's forgetting the Wizard's track record.

The photo illustration of Ozzie Newsome was done by The Sun's Emily Morrow.

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