Let Baltimore's New Sports Era Begin!

Bleacher Report Senior Writer IDecember 12, 2008

In Baltimore, it's out with the old, in with the new.

Out with Kyle Boller, in with Joe Flacco.

Out with Jamal Lewis, in with Ray Rice.

Out with Ramon Hernandez, in with Matt Wieters.

The youngsters are taking over.

Flacco has led the Ravens to a 9-4 record and second place in the AFC North. Last year, the Ravens went just 5-11 under Steve McNair, Kyle Boller and Troy Smith. Fellow rookie Ray Rice has run for 454 yards on 107 carries.

The youngsters are leading the Ravens on offense, including linemen Jared Gaither (22), Ben Grubbs (24), Jason Brown (25), and Chris Chester (25). Willie Anderson, 33 (the only one on the line over 30), was picked up by the Ravens days before the first game.

The Ravens defense has a reputation for being experienced despite its youth.  Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, 24, (and possibly the best at that position) has 45 tackles and one sack. Jarret Johnson, 27, has 49 tackles and four sacks. 

Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott, also under 30, are key to the Ravens' success. Corner Fabian Washington, 25, has one interception and did a phenomenal job covering Santana Moss last week.

Along with Reed, Jim Leonhard, 26, is doing a phenomenal job of stepping up for Dawan Landry. Leonhard has 53 tackles and one pick.

The Ravens aren't the only Baltimore team experiencing a youth movement.

For the Orioles, the Matt Wieters era is beginning.  Last year, the catcher hit 27 home runs, drove in 91 RBI and had a .355 batting average. It was his first season in professional baseball—much less high single-A and double-A.

The O's wisely find themselves in rebuilding mode. Days ago, they traded catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Cincinnati Reds for Ryan Freel, Brandon Waring and Justin Turner. O's president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail admitted the trade was done for Wieters.

"This trade was more about Matt Wieters, frankly," MacPhail said. "It had been our goal to make sure we could introduce Matt into the major league scene somewhere over the course of the '09 season, not necessarily to start right away, but we thought he could handle it eventually after a little time in Triple-A possibly under his belt. We knew that would create a situation where we were going to have to split some playing time with him and Ramon, and we knew Ramon wouldn't be happy about that."

Along with Wieters, the Orioles have a very young outfield, with LF Lou Montanez, CF Adam Jones and RF Nick Markakis.

Montanez won the Triple Crown for the double-A Eastern League last year with 26 home runs, 97 RBI and a .335 batting average. He even did well with the Orioles, hitting .295 with 14 RBI and three home runs.

Jones excited the O's all year, hitting .270 with nine home runs and 57 RBI.

Markakis, arguably the face of the team, led the AL in outfield assists last season while hitting .306 with 20 home runs and 87 runs batted in.

The O's rotation is also very young. Jeremy Guthrie, the ace of the staff at 29, was 10-12 with a 3.63 ERA. If you know anything about baseball, you know Guthrie deserved WAY more wins.

The rotation also consists of a trio of 25-year-olds: Matt Albers (3-3, 3.49 ERA), Radhames Liz (6-6, 6.72 ERA) and Garrett Olson (9-10, 6.65 ERA), along with 28-year-old Chris Waters (3-5, 5.01 ERA). They also have some youngsters in the bullpen with Dennis Sarfate, Kam Mickolio and Jim Johnson.

Whether it's Joe Flacco or Kam Mickolio, Baltimore sports fans have a right to be excited about all these youngsters.

The new era of Baltimore sports is coming.