It's a pretty good time to be a Baltimore sports fan.
This is the first time since the Ravens came into existence in 1996 that both the Orioles and Ravens had season records above .500 in the same calendar year.
Both the Orioles and the Ravens made the playoffs in 2012 – something that hasn't happened to Charm City's NFL and MLB teams since 1971 (Orioles lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series in seven games and the Baltimore Colts lost to the Miami Dolphins 21-0 in the AFC title game).
We'll see how the Ravens play this one out, but regardless, 2012 will go down as a great year for Baltimore sports.
And, perhaps it's my imagination or the proliferation of social media, but these two franchises kind of came together in 2012.
It just seemed like in the last decade there was no real connection between the Orioles and Ravens. Simply put, the Orioles were a playoff team and kings of this city in 1996 when the Ravens came to town. And when the Orioles started their 14-year decline, the Ravens surged. The sides co-existed, but it almost seemed like the Orioles organization resented the success of the incredibly consistent Ravens.
Things have been changing slowly over the past couple years. There's been some cross promotions and now it seems like the two franchises are genuinely pulling for each other. Ray Rice sports his cartoon bird hat on occasion, and Adam Jones has become a traveling presence on the Ravens' sidelines.
Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones and Orioles closer Jim Johnson are from the same area in New York state and are good friends. John Harbaugh and Buck Showalter seem very supportive of each other.
And there have been more and more crossover sightings at each other's parks recently – a group of Orioles were shown on the big screen at M&T Bank Stadium earlier in the NFL season, and in the summer Ed Reed took batting and outfield practice and defensive coordinator Dean Pees and Buck Showalter had a powwow when Pees came to a game.
It's cool to see – and read. Jones and Maryland natives Steve Johnson and L.J. Hoes, among others, tweeted out their excitement after the Ravens' amazing win Saturday night.
So, yeah, maybe this doesn't have to be a football or baseball town after all.
Some other quick hits:
** This is the week that Showalter is expected to sign his contract extension. Both sides want it done before Saturday's FanFest and there are no real issues in getting it done. The holdup has been logistical, not contractual.
** The club continues to work on its eight remaining arbitration cases. What I am hearing is a few more will get done before Friday, which is the deadline for both sides to submit a number. Once the numbers are in, a hearing will be set up and an independent arbiter will decide on one figure or the other. The Orioles have been exceptional in winning arbitration cases over the years, and, usually, there is a settlement before a case goes to a hearing. Last year, Brad Bergesen took his to a hearing and lost. Orioles general counsel H. Russell Smouse has yet to lose a case as the lead presenter. Those that have not settled: Chris Davis, Jason Hammel, Tommy Hunter, Jim Johnson, Brian Matusz, Darren O'Day, Troy Patton and Matt Wieters.
** Outfielder Nolan Reimold settled his arbitration case last Friday, agreeing to a one-year, $1 million deal. That more than doubled his salary of 2012, a season in which he played in just 16 games. I heard from a lot of fans that were shocked by that increase. Frankly, I was a little surprised, too.
But the Orioles love Reimold, think he has a great upside and he certainly would have been worth more than $1 million – in the economics of baseball – had he stayed healthy and continued his breakout season.
The club expects Reimold to be a full-go this spring, and it will be an exceptionally important year for the 29-year-old outfielder. If he can't live up to expectations, he could become a non-tender candidate at the end of next season. But if he excels, he'll be in for a real nice payday in year two of arbitration.
Given what they have invested in Reimold over the years – monetarily and in sweat equity – I think the Orioles would love to be in a position where they had to give multiple millions to Reimold. It would be a reward for their patience and his work ethic.
Reimold, by the way, had to be somewhat buoyed by the NFL season as well. Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning had a similar neck surgery as Reimold, and he was plenty OK this season.