May 23, 2005
David Steele: It won't be easy, because there will be demand for both of them, and there will be teams with more money to spend on them that could conceivable price the Wizards right out of the market for them. They're not going to put any current player ahead of Larry Hughes on their free-agent priority list.
Dixon has the track record that could attract a suitor looking for a role player who can be explosive off the bench, the way he was this past year. Blake, however, is very intriguing to a lot of teams who think he could be the kind of true pass-first point guard most NBA teams lack. There was buzz about him throughout the playoffs, with observers wondering why Eddie Jordan didn't play him more often, or longer when he did play. Teams figure he can learn how to shoot and defend better, but he already has that innate playmaking ability. Too bad, because the Wizards can't afford to lose what backcourt depth they have; Hughes and Gilbert Arenas can't go 40-45 minutes a night again next season.
Chris, Baltimore: Have the Yankees finally screwed up enough that they won't make the playoffs, or were the early indications only a fluke? Is the opposite true for the Orioles?
David Steele: The good news is, the Orioles' start wasn't a fluke. The bad news, it looks like the Yankees' start was. You should be very worried that Jason Giambi, who looked as if he already had retired up until a week ago, suddenly is hitting again. And that Tino Martinez, of all people, found his stroke. And that Ruben Sierra is coming off the DL. Next thing you know, Bernie Williams will come out of his coma and start hitting again. It's one of those Yankee things that's annoying every year. When there's that much talent around, it can only flop so much.
OK, good news time. The Yankees still have major pitching problems, and that doesn't look as if it will get better (unless they make some kind of move, which they always can do, just to get on everyone's nerves). The Orioles, though, look deep enough in the rotation and the bullpen, and you have to figure they're positioning themselves to make a move by the end of June to beat the Yankees to the punch and get one more starter if they need one. You'd figure that, at least. They haven't been in this position lately, so you hope they remember what to do when the time comes.
Some have said this will eventually evolve into a two-team race: O's and Red Sox. Some think it'll be four teams, including the Blue Jays (!). Split the difference and figure on the O's, Sox and Yankees going into September with a chance. It was fun counting the Yankees out for a while, but I think fun-time is over.
Ron, Clatsankie, Ore.: How did Derek Anderson perfom during the Ravens rookie camp? I've watched him play in both high school and college and am curious about his chances of sticking in the NFL. He is an excellent role model when he goes back to visit his old high school, so we hope he makes the Ravens roster.
David Steele: Derek will appreciate having his fans follow him from back home. There's not a lot to report on what Anderson's done so far. He didn't do anything to disappoint anyone in rookie camp, but it's almost impossible to make judgments based on those anyway, even on the marquee draft picks. He was not allowed to participate in the passing camp that went on last week and resumes this week; an NFL rule bars rookies from full team camps until their class officially graduates.
How he arrives at next month's minicamp and then training camp will tell more of the story. He has a real chance to get the No. 3 quarterback job, but so does free agent Darian Durant. Derek would have to impress quickly to make an impact and give himself an edge. You can say this, though: it's rare for an NFL team to carry three quarterbacks as young as the three the Ravens will carry (if either Anderson or Durant pan out), so it tells you they consider Kyle Boller a veteran, and expect him to play that way. There won't be a grizzled veteran safety net this year; Anthony Wright is the graybeard at 29, and he's started 12 career games.