The Orioles! Band of Misfits

You’ve been waiting for this — meaningful baseball, exciting baseball — forever. You’re like someone who’s been locked in a cellar for years and they just threw open the storm doors and you’re gulping the fresh air.

But you’re wary, too. Wary of giving your heart totally to this team lest you get burned again. Fine, I get it. Let’s face it, you’ve been emotionally scarred. Fourteen straight seasons of losing baseball — bad baseball — would do that to any fan.

So even a thrilling win like Sunday’s and two series sweeps of the hated Yankees and Red Sox hasn’t won you over completely.

You’re jaded, cynical, skeptical, pick whatever word you want.

In the back of your mind, you’re thinking: will there be another mid-season collapse?

Kevin Cowherd, Baltimore Sun

Darnell McDonald pitched the 17th inning for the Red Sox and gave up the game-winning home run to Orioles outfielder Adam Jones. Jones belted a three-run blast into the Monster seats at Fenway Park. McDonald was the losing pitcher. (Photo: Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe Staff)

There was a point today when I simply ignored the movie theater’s plea to ignore the smart phone while out with my little girl today, and I just used my Oriole cap to cover up the light so I could check for updates on today’s 6+ hour, 17-inning game, a 9-6 win punctuating a sweep of  Boston in Fenway Park.  As luck would have it, even the hapless Kevin Gregg (2 IP, 4 Ks, 0 BBs) was able to keep the Bosox in check long enough for Adam Jones to win it in the 17th.

This season is moving beyond the cuteness of hearing Katelyn ask to watch an occasional Oriole highlight on my iPad. “I want to watch my favorite bird, with the black head and orange beak!”  Now the damn team is demanding that I start to believe again.  “Why not?” is no longer starting to sound so 1989…  

This was the slogan for the overachieving 1989 team. (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam / September 15, 2009)

It would be so easy, but not quite yet.

Still, on this 6th day of May 2012, a 19-9 record, 1st place in the AL East, and the best record in baseball.  Naturally, those of us with long enough memories, recall the 19-9 start of 2005.  We also recall the 55-79 finish to that year.  Still, 74 wins would be an improvement over recent years for the franchise.  But now, in the midst of this past week and a half, the expectations have been bumped up a bit.  However, as David Schoenfield notes:

Look, playing in the AL East, it’s not going to get easier for the Orioles, so they’ll need this pen to continue pitching lights-out baseball. Their next 32 games: Four against the Rangers, three against the Rays, two against the Yankees, two at the Royals, three at the Nationals, three against the Red Sox, three against the Royals, three at the Blue Jays, three at the Rays, three at the Red Sox, three against the Phillies. Whew.

What is apparent about this year’s Orioles however, is how each team member is working to pick each other up.  Past teams would have collapsed when the Red Sox came back to tie the score today, after the Orioles had been up 5-0.  Past teams would have collapsed the way in which in the team stumbled around Friday night in the series opener, itself also an extra-inning win.  Yet the Orioles continue to find ways to win, and even the decision to put Chris Davis into the game to pitch was evidently planned by Buck Showalter ahead of time.  

Nevertheless, the Texas Rangers come into Baltimore tomorrow.  And the weirdness might have reached its apex today.  Worse, the Orioles might be preparing to bring back Miguel Tejada, mainstay of that failed 2005 team, reminders of the bad old days of vitamin/steroid shots gone wrong, not to mention teams that just didn’t sit well within themselves.

This team, right now, doesn’t feel that way.  In fact, right now, it’s hard to feel anything at all, except, maybe, shock.  Questioning it is just too hard;  it’s much easier to just sit back and enjoy it, no?  And enjoy it for as long as it might last, because two weeks from now, I might be preparing to get ready for the return of college football.