It would be so easy to talk about Jim Johnson’s struggles, and whether or not he should continually be the closer. That’s what everyone else in the “Orioles’ world” has been talking about for the last 36 hours or so, and it’s been noodled through ad hoc. However I want to take this in a different direction, and one that might get quickly uncomfortable for a lot of people because it does in fact touch on one of my favorite topics that other people hate: unwritten codes. Rest assured that we’re not totally getting into that topic, but it is somewhat relevant!
In baseball you’re kind of supposed to keep your emotions in check. The game does provide for some celebrations such as after a walk off win or something along those lines, however during the games you’re supposed to show little to no emotion for the most part (short of going through the obligatory high fives line after a homer). In that sense, the Baltimore Orioles seem to do everything right in that the way they play the game doesn’t seem to show up the other team. Keep in mind, NOT showing up the other side is a big part of baseball; it always has been.
When the Orioles played Arizona this past week, I noticed an upstart Arizona team that played an exciting brand of baseball. However that was also reflected in their attitudes during the games. On various occasions during the course of the game I saw a lot of emotion, excitement – or whatever you want to all it, from Arizona. When players such as Goldschmidt, Parra, et al would come through with their clutch hits, they’d gesture towards their dugout in a show of celebration and perhaps even solidarity with their teammates. On occasion when the Orioles would do something clutch (which mind you was far less than Arizona), we’d get the same “professional” attitude and stoicism that we’re used to watching the Orioles day in and day out.
Let me be clear; I didn’t feel that anything that the Arizona players did showed up the Orioles. (I will say that their whole “dirt bath” tradition when someone hits a walk off is a nasty one; there’s no way I’d EVER want to be showered with dirt!) However the fact is that shows of emotion or joy during a game is something that goes against the grain of baseball tradition and perhaps even decorum. In that sense, Baltimore fans should be proud that their team doesn’t participate in that type of thing. But is there a method to that type of madness?
While Arizona beat the Orioles in those games because the Orioles’ bullpen failed to deliver against good hitters, there was a certain looseness to their entire team. This is not to say that the Orioles are a tight bunch that plays as if there’s a gun to their heads if they don’t win every game. They loosen up in their own way, such as billiards and ping pong games in the clubhouse. However still, I do think that there’s a certain looseness that needs to be present in order to win games in that fashion. Arizona seemed very willing to throw caution to the wind in terms of “letting it all hang out” on the field. Speaking for myself, I would say that stoicism doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t care. I do believe in professionalism on the field from professional athletes, and I have to say that I’m an admirer of how the Orioles conduct themselves in games. So let me throw this out to the fans; might the Orioles have more of an edge if they hung a bit looser during games?
The O’s open up a huge series with Colorado tonight at the yard, with Wei-Yin Chen on the mound for the Birds. The Orioles will get their DH back starting tonight for the remainder of the regular season, which bodes well for them. Keep in mind that there’s a good chance that game on Wednesday MIGHT have turned out differently had Buck Showalter not had to stagger his pinch hitters the way he did, around the pitcher’s spot in the order. Chen will be opposed by Juan Nicasio of Colorado.