I have just returned from a 17-day trip to Europe. It is nice to go away to a truly incredible place, but better yet to come home — especially during baseball season. There was no way to watch any games, as I was constantly on the move and only occasionally connected to online resources. So most days I got my Orioles thrill of victory or the agony of defeat all in one instant.
When I originally compared my travel dates to the Orioles’ schedule, I was pleased to see that the bulk of games I would miss would be the dreadful west coast trip of late nights and lousy losses — especially in that terrible Oakland ballpark. My memory is full of pain from these trips, so to see the Orioles go 7-4 on the western swing is very cool. Birds fans everywhere can thank me for making this possible by being gone and not watching. (Do any of the rest of you have the common experience of turning on the game after it has started, and at that very moment everything seems to fall apart for the Orioles?)
In an article about a month ago, I previewed the schedule for the season by noting three major segments: an opening 1/5th of the season with 20 of 32 games on the road including the 11 out west, a final 1/5th of the season with 19 of 30 on the road, and a middle 3/5ths of 100 games with 58 of them at home. Of that first 20% of 32 games, I was hoping for 17-15 at the worst. But to actually finish this difficult stretch at 19-13 is truly excellent. To put it into a larger perspective, this is a pace to win 96 games.
This has to be heartening for Orioles fans. Though there is much to commend about the way the team has opened this season, there remain areas for expected improvement – particularly with the starting pitching. And it is reasonable to expect that Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, Nick Markakis, and J.J. Hardy will produce at a higher level as the year progresses. Perhaps we may also see the return of Brian Roberts and a settling of a more determined pitching staff of starters.
As a final note, after 17 days of walking past hundreds of thousands of people in places like Rome, Florence, Paris, Dresden, and Prague, I never once passed an Orioles cap or shirt. I saw probably about 20 Yankees hats, though I presume most of those folks were wearing something with the “NY” for New York, probably not actually knowing it was baseball related. Europeans are fascinated with New York City, and also with southern California — and I saw a smattering of Dodgers caps. But I have no explanation for seeing one each of the Pirates, Brewers, and Marlins.
But whatever, it is good to be back in America where is played the world’s greatest sport of baseball.