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Reviewing '07, with regret

If area sports teams could have a 2007 do-over, here are some of the moves, strategies, words, pitches, passes and carries they may have handled differently.

December 28, 2007

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Rangers score 30
Perhaps the Orioles should not have gotten out of bed Aug. 22.

The day bloomed promisingly enough with the announcement of Dave Trembley's permanent hiring as manager and the struggling Texas Rangers in town for a doubleheader. The Orioles even jumped to a 3-0 lead in Game 1.

But a nine-run Rangers sixth wiped the good will away and replaced it with mocking applause from fans who were just happy the inning finally ended.

Little did these bedraggled rooters know that the worst - 16 Rangers runs over the final two innings - was yet to come.

By the end of nine, the Orioles had become the first team since 1897 to allow 30 or more runs in a game. Worse yet, they had to come out for the nightcap (they lost that one, 9-7).

The 30-3 loss marked a historic low point in the club's 10th straight losing season.

- Childs Walker

Point of no return
It's quite likely that the stars that aligned so nicely in 2006 to deliver Maryland its first women's basketball title in school history weren't going to fall in place similarly in 2007, even if coach Brenda Frese had pushed every button correctly again.

But Frese didn't help her cause when, on the eve of last season's tournament, she pulled point guard Kristi Toliver from the starting lineup out of concern that she needed to be a more vocal leader and that Toliver tended to let her occasional shooting woes affect her quarterbacking duties.

Toliver - whose sophomore numbers were slightly better than those of her freshman year, when she hit the three-pointer that forced overtime in the title game - had committed more than five turnovers only twice in the regular season. However, in the season-ending loss to Mississippi, a team the Terps had defeated by 31 in November, Toliver had 10 miscues coming off the bench.

All has been forgiven because the Terps are off to a blazing start this year, but Frese might always wonder what might have been if she had waited until the offseason to have a heart-to-heart with Toliver instead of right before the most important part of the season.

- Milton Kent

Stripped Bear
Morgan State's promising football season still held playoff potential at 3-1 when the Bears traveled to Dover, Del., on Oct. 20 for a key Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game with Delaware State. Then it all unraveled. Leading 17-16, the Bears were poised for a clinching touchdown at the Delaware State goal line. Tailback Courtney Anderson seemingly got that score when he dived over the pile into the end zone.

But somewhere between liftoff and touchdown, Anderson lost the ball. It wound up in the hands of Delaware State's Akeem Green, who ran 100 yards for a go-ahead touchdown as Bears players watched in disbelief. Officials ruled it a fumble and allowed the play to stand. Morgan never recovered from that 25-17 loss.

Several days later, MEAC commissioner Dennis Thomas acknowledged the ruling was in error and said the Bears should have had their touchdown. Delaware State rode the mistake into the playoffs, while Morgan stumbled home to a 5-6 finish.

- Ken Murray

Incomplete pass
After seeing the impact Randy Moss has made in New England with the unbeaten Patriots, it appears Brett Favre had a right to be upset when his Green Bay Packers didn't pull the trigger on a proposed trade for Moss.

That was in the summer, when the Oakland Raiders were trying to dump Moss and found few takers. Most teams were concerned Moss would become a distraction and questioned whether he had anything left, based on how poorly he played in Oakland.

The Packers were the most prominent team to talk about a deal, and Favre campaigned publicly for it. But in the end, it was Patriots coach Bill Belichick who swooped in to acquire Moss, who has been the picture of decorum during New England's perfect season.

- Ken Murray

Swing and miss
All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada first asked the Orioles to trade him after the 2005 season. But they waited, figuring their best player could be soothed.

At the 2006 trade deadline, they had chances to flip him for talent-laden packages from the Houston Astros or Los Angeles Angels. Again, they waited.

Tejada's play remained generally excellent, but the club could never build a winner around him.

When the Orioles finally decided to move their star after the 2007 season, they found that teams wouldn't dangle top-shelf prospects for an expensive veteran with declining range in the field and diminished power at the plate.

So the Orioles made the best deal they could, taking five decent-to-good players from Houston. They had to do it, most fans seemed to think, but the whole saga reeked of missed opportunity.

- Childs Walker

In denial
Orioles and reacted angrily in 2006, when their names were linked to an affidavit in which former teammate Jason Grimsley named steroid and amphetamine users.

It turned out they weren't named in the document.

But a year later, both Gibbons and Roberts admitted they had used performance-enhancing drugs.

Gibbons said he had used human growth hormone and accepted a 15-day suspension.

Roberts, after being named in former Sen. George Mitchell's report on steroids, said he had tried steroids once in 2003.

Both players are well-liked and known for their charitable work in the community. Both said they were human and hoped for forgiveness.

Might both regret the vehemence of their original denials?

- Childs Walker

Sour note
A week after Morgan State's disheartening loss in Dover, the Bears nearly found an even worse way to lose a game. Playing at home against Florida A&M, they held a tenuous 14-12 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

But an overzealous Morgan State band received a warning from the officials - and then promptly drew a 15-yard penalty for playing after the FAMU huddle broke. With that penalty, FAMU drove to the Morgan 1, where it attempted a 17-yard field goal. Remarkably, the kick was missed and Morgan escaped with a win. Maybe Morgan's team should make a sudden appearance at a band concert and break out into a football game.

- Ken Murray

Error McNair
The Ravens will always look back at Jan. 13 and wonder what might have been. That was the day they kept Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts out of their end zone - and still managed to lose an AFC divisional playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium.

The 15-6 loss turned decisively on a goal line interception by Steve McNair when the Ravens had the Colts on the ropes in the second quarter. It was the closest the Ravens came to scoring a touchdown against the rejuvenated Colts defense.

Indianapolis used that goal-line stand in their advance to the Super Bowl, where the Colts beat the Chicago Bears. After an oh-so-close, 13-4 season, the Ravens awarded Brian Billick a new four-year contract but could not live up to expectations this season. Give McNair another shot on the goal line and history may be completely different.

- Ken Murray

Truth in advertising
There it is, proudly looming above I-95, just a few touchdown throws from M&T Bank Stadium.

"Taking care of business, mostly through the air," says the billboard, at once tying the performance of AirTran Airways to the passing prowess of Ravens quarterback Steve McNair, he of the six games, four interceptions, two touchdowns, 73.9 rating this season.

"Similar to AirTran Airways, Steve McNair is the model of efficiency," airline spokesman Tad Hutcheson said. "Just like us, McNair doesn't need a lot of unnecessary flash or flair. He just gets the job done right by utilizing his leadership and experience."

It could be worse.

Citizen Watch Co. has its advertising fortunes tied to "unstoppable" New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, he of the 19 touchdowns, 19 interceptions, 71.0 rating.

- Candus Thomson

Patriot act
Which moment would the Ravens like back? The timeout? The defensive holding call? Bart Scott's first unsportsmanlike conduct penalty? His subsequent game of flag football? The post-game whining?

When the Ravens melted down like an icy sidewalk treated with rock salt in the final moments of their gritty game Dec. 3 against the New England Patriots, the potential for revisionist history was born.

So many TiVo moments, only one poke of the replay button. Since coach Brian Billick gets to keep his job and cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle and wide receiver Derrick Mason only had to pay a total of $45,000 in fines to the sin bin, it seems only fair that we turn the remote control over to linebacker Scott, who ponied up $25,000 for the honor.

- Candus Thomson

Artificial apology
Soccer superstar David Beckham, about to make his Major League Soccer debut last summer, was talking about the advantages of playing on the grass field at Washington's RFK Stadium.

He said he loathed FieldTurf, a brand of artificial surface that is popular in the United States and is used on the Toronto field where Beckham's Los Angeles Galaxy had played its previous game. He said FieldTurf stresses athletes' bodies.

Oops. It turned out that three fields at Beckham's California youth academy are FieldTurf. He looked sheepish when he apologized the next day.

- Jeff Barker

Ex marks the spot
Don't the Cleveland Indians wish they could turn back the clock on the decision to let country music artist Danielle Peck warble the national anthem at their crucial Game 5 against Josh Beckett and the Boston Red Sox?

Peck and Beckett, once battery mates in the game of love, were on different teams by the time the Sox ace took the mound down three games to one in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

"It's an incredible coincidence. Honestly," Indians spokesman Bob DiBiasio told reporters in October.

Eight innings and 11 strikeouts later, Beckett finished his performance and the Sox sang the final chorus on a 7-1 win in Cleveland that returned the series to Boston. "Thanks for flying one of my friends to the game so she could watch it for free," Beckett crooned afterward.

- Candus Thomson

Caught in a cold draft
It was the fun question of the spring for basketball fans -- Greg Oden or Kevin Durant?

The shot-blocking center from Ohio State and the silky scorer from Texas were two of the most dynamic freshmen that college basketball had seen in a long time.

Both would surely enter the NBA draft, but which would be selected first? The next great center or the next 30-points-a-game scorer? The Portland Trail Blazers went with common wisdom and took the center.

A few months later, they announced he would miss his entire rookie season because of microfracture surgery on his right knee. Some observers wondered if Portland had ignored red flags. Durant, meanwhile, is averaging 20 points a game but shooting and rebounding inconsistently for the Seattle SuperSonics.

If the Blazers got to choose again,would Durant be their man?

- Childs Walker