As I write this column, the Baltimore Orioles are 4-0 and on top of the American League East standings.
As you read this column, the Baltimore Orioles could be 4-2 and I might be done looking at the American League East standings for a while.
That’s the fun of being an Orioles fan for the past two, three, 13 years. They tease. They tantalize. They have little spurts of competence surrounded by vast periods of absurdity and helplessness. They sign broken-down ballplayers to try to appease the fan base with name recognition, and they bring up promising prospects before they’re ready to play, only to see them break down due to injury or have their confidence shattered by real big-leaguers who know what they’re doing.
Do I sound cynical? I probably am, to some extent. But I’m not without hope. I go into each season with the feeling that this could indeed be the year to see that “Oriole Magic” be restored. If the young pitchers progress, and the hitters get those important two-out base hits and one of the broken-down old guys can find the Fountain of Youth for one more season in the sun ... and right at about the time my mind hits that last possibility, the Orioles are 6-19 and I’m checking the sports pages to see when the Ravens report to training camp.
But, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, this could be a different year for the Orioles. For the first time since they unceremoniously dumped Davey Johnson, the Orioles have a big-time manager leading the charge, in Buck Showalter. The young pitchers began to look like grownups at the end of last year, and might be able to maintain that success from here on out. They have some scary bats in the middle of the order, which should put their other hitters in more favorable positions.
And they have percentages.
What I mean by that last comment is that you would think that any team in any sport would be able to have that one “miracle” season every so often. That year where everything comes together perfectly and the whole is better than the parts.
I mean, everybody has to get lucky once in a while, right?
You know, you hit that two-outer on the river to win a big pot in poker. You meet that girl who can forgive your bald head and appreciates your warped sense of humor. You get to work for an editor who is not only brilliant, but also incredibly charming and ...
But I digress.
My point is, why not the Orioles for just one season? Why can’t the stars align just so, and the pitching holds up and the hitters get on a roll and the other teams in the division get riddled by injuries or bad seasons by their stars?
Why not us, for once?
When I was a kid, the Orioles were not just a good team, they were great — and for quite a long time. They went from Brooks and Boog and Palmer to Murray and Ripken and Boddicker. Memorial Stadium was the place to be, and Wild Bill Hagy would be leading the fans in cheers while Earl Weaver would be kicking dirt on umpires’ shoes and somebody would nearly always come up with that three-run homer to win the game.
But the past 13 years have not gone like that — not by a long shot.
I was reading an article online the other day about the Orioles’ hot start and how the fans were getting excited about it, and a few of the trolls who left comments under the story suggested that there weren’t any Orioles fans — that there are just some bandwagon jumpers who only care about the team if it’s winning.
I don’t think that’s the case. I think Orioles fans are just frustrated, and desperate for a winning team again. Attendance has been down because people are tired of the losing, but that doesn’t mean they’re not rooting for them to win.
So, why not us? Why not this year?