I’ve used this term a bunch, however most people were at the very least underwhelmed by the Orioles’ off season moves. Going into spring training I think that many fans were expecting the usual embarrassments that seem to come to this franchise year-over-year. Over time the Orioles would seemingly invent new ways to lose that none of us thought possible; guys tripping over third base and turning the winning run into an out at the plate, dropping the ball, and even Brian Roberts starting this business of concussions by bopping himself on the head with his bat in anger after striking out. However through all of that, was this still not the team of Eddie Murray, Brooks & Frank, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, and of course Cal Ripken Jr? Was this not still the great city of Baltimore, the home of the best crabs on earth, National Bohemian beer, and a healthy slice of attitude?
People like to point to a certain fall from grace on the part of the Orioles. So I think that going into this season there’s a school of thought out there which says that 2012 will be no different (if not worse) than the past 14. The O’s will probably invent newer and “worser” ways to lose. Maybe someone will be trying to catch a ball and go flying right out of their shoe, maybe a relay throw will hit a teammate in the head, or maybe – as always – ol’ blue will decide to give the benefit of the doubt to the other team. In 162 games there will be some weird things that will happen folks, it’s almost a given. I think it’s best put that sometimes the difference between winning and losing might lie with how those things are dealt with.
However…what if all of what I said above just doesn’t happen? Oriole fans might well have good reason to carry that feeling of impending doom based squarely on the past. But is it possible that those demons have been exorcised? I guess that’s a matter of opinion, but anything is possible. What would make an unbiased person think that? People will point to the underwhelming nature of the off season moves as evidence that they aren’t trying to do anything more than the status quo. However there’s one thing to me that stands above all as my reasoning for thinking that things might be better: the events of September 28, 2011. I don’t have to remind Oriole fans of the fact that this was the night that the Birds knocked the Red Sox out of the playoffs. We all know what the stakes were, we all know what happened, and we all know the history behind it.
Why would this make a difference? For starters, the O’s actually played pretty well down the stretch in the second half of last season. Many players, including Robert Andino and Mark Reynolds seemed to really come into their own. Furthermore, at the time the Orioles had a pitching staff that was put together with mud and spit due to injuries. Hitting fast-forward to now for just a moment, there are still some injuries however the five guys that end up in the rotation will all be healthy and they’ll have been the five most consistent pitchers throughout spring training. However going back to that magical night in September again, the Orioles seemed to get back something that had been the staple of the great Oriole teams of the past and something that had been missing for quite awhile: heart. In many cases the Orioles of yesteryear did have the best players at their various positions. However anyone that played for Earl Weaver and put on the orange and black did so with pride and they played hard. That in itself can sometimes make a difference in the fine line between winning and losing.
So I suppose my point is that with many of those same players in place and their newfound moxie, they can build on their last game. It seems that there was a certain pride in the franchise and even the city that was missing over time with the Orioles. Over the course of the end of last season, I saw that start to come back. The key to 2012 is still the pitching staff and injuries, however at the very least I think that Buck Showalter has instilled a certain amount of pride in the team again that hasn’t been seen since the days of Earl Weaver and Oriole Magic (save for Davey Johnson’s two years as manager). That by itself might will them onto winning a few games. This doesn’t mean that the O’s will shock the world and win the division, although again anything is possible. However I don’t think we’ll see the same lackadaisical attitude that’s manifested itself in this franchise over the past 14 years in 2012. That itself might not win a pennant, however it will probably net more wins than what the status quo has been.
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