The Baltimore Orioles opened up 2010 by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, as has pretty much been their staple over the past decade-plus.
The O’s had plenty of chances to seal this game before Mike Gonzalez ever even took off his jacket in the bullpen. They were an abysmal 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, and, despite putting up 9 hits, the Orioles’ only three runs came on solo home runs – one each by Adam Jones, Luke Scott, and Matt Wieters.
All of that was a moot point by the time the bottom of the ninth rolled around though. The Orioles debuted their new $12 million closer, who started off strong by whiffing Pat Burrell, but would fail to record another out. Carl Crawford’s bases loaded single scored the tying and winning runs, and just like that, the O’s were in the loss column despite never having trailed in the game.
After the game, in the Facebook and Twitter universes, O’s fans were going at each others’ throats in quite a disturbing manner. Cries of the “ugh, we’re terrible again!” sky-is-falling variety were met with “it’s only one game you fairweather fans!” replies from the orange kool-aid brigade.
If nothing else, it’s at least good to know that a team that has become so irrelevant to the rest of the baseball world can still elicit such emotions from the home town faithful. When (and I do mean when) the O’s return to relevance, you can rest assured that the stands at Camden Yards will again be full night after night – of that I am reasonably certain.
However, I find myself somewhere in the middle of the two fanatical extremes pointed out above. Both sides have very valid points, to my mind.
Yes, this is simply one of 162 games. It is equally true, though, that losses DO count in April. As Rob Long pointed out on his show on FOX1370 today, “the Orioles are not 0-0*. They are 0-1.”
Yes, there were plenty of good signs – Matt Wieters picked up right where he finished 2009, stroking a home run and barely missing another; Adam Jones hit the ball hard several times; Luke Scott launched one that might have just landed; Nick Markakis had a typical Nicky Mark game: walk, outfield assist, opposite-field double; Kevin Millwood, while unspectacular, was solid; The bullpen, right up until Gonzalez, was near perfect. These are all obviously good things. But they do nothing to alleviate the fact that the team lost the game in the end. You don’t have to be an eternal pessimist to say that the “culture of losing” in Baltimore is still alive and well after last night.
The ones that will accuse critics of being fair-weather fans, well…I just have to laugh. The term “fair weather fan” in itself implies that there are periods of, you know…FAIR WEATHER. Here in Birdland, we have been mired in a mix of “steady drizzle” and “torrential downpour” for the extent of recent memory. The clouds may be clearing on the horizon, but it’s still raining buckets on our heads. Indeed, the Baltimore baseball climate is one in which Al Gore would have trouble selling nary a single book – it hasn’t changed much.
To quote a guy from the other local team (you know, the one that wins): Bottom line, yes it was only one game. But, bottom line, every loss counts, and losing like that makes last year’s 98-loss season seem too close for comfort in that rear view mirror.