I'm never a fan of the so-called "sure thing" game in pro football.
The NFL doesn't work that way. Too much parity. Too many times a really good team gets beaten by a bad team. That Cowboys-Giants game last week was a perfect example.
So looking at the Ravens' contest Sunday in Carolina, it appears to be a perfect trap game. Except that the Ravens were already tripped on the road last Thursday at Atlanta. They've had a couple extra days to prepare for the Panthers.
Oh, and there's that little other matter: The Panthers are awful. Absolutely terrible. Probably the worst team in the NFL. And right now their starting quarterback is, wait for it, Brian St. Pierre. I don't think the Panthers could win this one if they had St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, under center.
Ravens win 31-3. This is finally Ray Rice's big day. Three TDs and 150 yards rushing.
Now it's your turn on Prediction Friday. Predict Sunday's winner, final score and the player of the game tiebreaker. I'll shower the winner with fake gifts next week at the fake bar.
We're also continuing the 2-for-1 theme at this joint on Fridays. We'll switch to baseball.
My Sun baseball partner, Jeff Zrebiec, had a story in Friday editions saying the Orioles have talked to the Tampa Bay Rays about shortstop Jason Bartlett and the Minnesota Twins about shortstop J.J. Hardy. Jeff reports that the Rays have, in turn, asked about reliever David Hernandez.
Considering Minnesota needs bullpen help with half their relievers heading to free agency, the Twins might be eyeing Hernandez, too, though that hasn't been confirmed.
I want to know if you would give up Hernandez for either Bartlett, who is 31, a good fielder and a career .281 hitter who struggled at the plate last season; or for Hardy, who is 28, has a cannon arm and enough pop to hit 20 homers per season but was slowed by injuries in 2010?
I am not sure I would.
Listen, I'd take either shortstop on my team; they are both an upgrade offensively over Cesar Izturis and both are more than solid defensively. But each is a free agent after next season.
And I am a big believer in Hernandez's upside. I think he really enjoyed the switch to the bullpen last year, and it showed in his numbers: He was 1-5 with a 5.31 ERA in eight starts last year. He was 7-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 33 relief appearances. He struck out 45 batters and walked just 14 in 37 innings as a reliever. In 42 1/3 innings as a starter he walked 28 and fanned 27.
Hernandez is 25, and he has that quiet confidence possessed by a lot of excellent relievers. I think he can be an effective set-up guy at the least and a quality closer if he reaches his potential.
So I wouldn't deal him, even to fill an offensive hole like shortstop with a solid player such as Bartlett or Hardy. For the record, just so you know I am not playing the homer card here, I would trade any other reliever in the Orioles' organization for either one of those two, even knowing Bartlett/Hardy may walk after 2011. Just not Hernandez.
Perhaps the equation involving Hernandez changes if Bartlett or Hardy would agree to a contract extension with the Orioles. But you can't count on that. So you have to assume it's a one-year rental
Maybe I am crazy here. Maybe I am overvaluing Hernandez. You tell me. Would you trade Hernandez for either Bartlett or Hardy?
Daily Think Special: Prediction Friday: Ravens-Panthers
Bonus Think Special: Would you trade David Hernandez for either Jason Bartlett or J.J. Hardy?