Tuesday, May 15, 2007

O's Rhymes With "Woes"?... You Don't Say

I'm back from my travels (hooray!). I can post with some regularity again (hooray!). I'll kick off my welcome back tour with a post about the Orioles (booooo!).

The only thing more frustrating than watching the Orioles lose a game is listening to the Orioles lose a game. That was the case for me on Sunday. Somewhere in the foothills of Tennessee, I found myself listening to the O's- Red Sox game on an XM Satellite Radio. Things seemed good. The O's were winning, I wasn't missing a pitch, the mountains were barely interrupting the broadcast. Unfortunately, due to XM's agreement with Major League Baseball, the XM broadcast is the broadcast as told by the hometeam's radio crew. I had to listen to the game from the viewpoint of the Red Sox's (Red Sox'? Red Sock?) radio team.

Before I go bird-bashing, let me say that for a franchise that has had as much success in the past couple of years as the Red Sox, I have never heard a broadcast that has so much self pity and as big an inferiority complex as the Boston broadcast. The announcers would constantly defend their team's lackluster performance of a year ago with the caveat that many players were hurt. "The team had injury problems all last year" they would say. Boo-friggin'-hoo. Every team has injury problems. Perhaps the reason your team missed the playoffs is that they weren't that good. With the Sux down 3-0 for the majority of the game, the announcers would wallow in self pity and say that "the wind just hasn't been helping the team out today". They said the reason the Sux hadn't scored any runs was because the wind was blowing hard toward home plate and knocking down any hard hit balls. Then they played the biased mother nature card and said that the wind only blew had toward home plate when the Sox were batting, and not the Orioles. So here they are, getting beat by an admittedly inferior team, and they blame everything but themselves. And I was happy.

Then the wheels fell off the wagon in so many ways my head hurt. First, the XM Radio stopped working. No warning, no wavering, just a nice POOF, and it was done. Apparently, it knew what was lurking in the ninth inning. Once my broadcast was blacked out (with the O's ahead 3-0, I might add), I figured things would work out. Jeremy Guthrie was pitching nicely, the hitters were holding their own, and the Sox were getting shut out. It wasn't until I caught the final score of the game in a hotel room in Bristol, Virginia that my heart was wrenched.

Those who saw the game or the lowlights or just know how the Orioles operate know the rest of the story. It is too painful for me to repeat. It bummed me put for a little while, and I started thinking "Woe are the Orioles. The baseball gods hate us". And then two things hit me: 1) saying that makes me no better than the Red Sox jabberwocky announcers; 2) the Orioles have brought all of this upon themselves, and the real woe is the Oriole fan.

What happened to a franchise that was once so proud? The team that had Cal Ripken, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, Earl Weaver, Mark Bellanger, the list goes on and on. The team that went wire to wire in 1997 and looked unbeatable in the playoffs. How did things get this bad? Is it too easy to blame a curse?

The answer is yes, it is entirely too easy to say we're cursed. I've heard rumblings about a Camden Curse or a Davey Johnson Curse, but that's too easy. We haven't done anything in the last ten years to prove the existence of a curse. For example, let's pretend like we have a Camden Curse. Did signing Albert Belle, Marty Cordova, David Segui, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, and Jaret Wright whilst jettisoning Gary Matthews, John Maine, and B.J. Ryan do anything to break that curse? Did we even put ourselves in position to break any potential curses? Hell no. It's not a curse at this point, because we haven't done anything to prove that it is. If we had a lineup that looked more like the All-Star team and we still weren't winning, then maybe it could be something supernatural. And don't get me wrong, I'd would love for it to be something supernatural, because life would be easier. But the reality is, it's probably more like a cancer than a curse.

The Orioles managed to kill themselves over the last ten years from the inside. Peter Angelos thinks entirely too much in the short term. He's like a little kid who is offered candy if they clean their room, and accept in order to get the candy right away, without realizing that the consequence of taking the candy is cleaning your room. The O's have jumped at so many "big-name" (read big-money) free agents over the years that haven't panned out that all we can do is point the fingers back at ourselves. The consequences of signing the Belles and Cordovas and Palmeiros has been our inability to have any money left over (in our considerably shallow pockets, I might add) to go after a Vladimir Guererro or Alfonso Soriano.

Yet it all seemed like it would be different this year. We have youth throughout the team, we have a likable, home-grown manager, and we have a star in the making to build the future around. And we still suck. They lack heart. When it comes down to it, they are emotionless, playing like zombies with a leather glove on. They win a game with a walk-off homerun, and everybody crowds the plate and congratulates the hitter because they have to, not because they are genuinely excited about winning. The idea of winning draws little excitement amongst the players, because what's the difference? They've lost games for years and no one has cared. Even when they win, nobody is there to see it. The "franchise" down the road stole half the fans. So why bother trying to win? The manager and coaches seem disinterested, and the owner is too busy paying people to count his money, so why try to win? Any Oriole can simply go through the motions just long enough to draw the attention of a winning team, and request a trade or let their contract expire, and then finally play for a winner. So why try winning for the Orioles?

It's that exact attitude that makes the fans of the Orioles the victim in it all. The players aren't the victim. The emotionless oil painting that manages the team isn't the victim. The owner couldn't care much less. The only people who do care are the fans that continually get shafted. Sunday after the game was the first time any of us have ever seen Sam Perlozzo get mad. He has coached the team for almost two whole years, and never once has shown emotion like he did on Sunday. Sure, Sunday's loss hurt, but every loss hurts, because that's all it takes for the fans to say "here we go again". The Orioles (the whole miserable organization) need to start taking losing seriously in order to take winning seriously. Every fan in Baltimore laughs at the prospect of winning because it's absolutely preposterous. Losing is the way it is here (during the summer, anyway) because winning is a punch line.

The situation has gotten so bad that even non-Oriole fans can't take it anymore. Si.com's John Donovan released his new power rankings, and had the Orioles at #20 (too high, to be sure). The comment: "How can you lose a game like Sunday's? It's sickening. A dropped infield popup. A blown toss play to the pitcher covering first. The decision to pull the starter in the first place. Man, the O's are maddening." A little background on Mr. Donovan: he got his start as a journalist in Phoenix, and has worked prior to Si.com in Guam, Florida, Kentucky, and Ohio. He seemingly has no vested interest in the Orioles, and yet even he is "sickened" and "maddened". It has gotten so bad that people who don't even care about the Orioles care more than the Orioles.

The only comforts for Baltimore nowadays: Raven's minicamp starts in like a month; the Ravens drafted very well, as usual; the Orioles will be mathematically eliminated by the All-Star break, and losses like Sunday's and even Monday's won't matter, yet again. The only comfort for me nowadays? The XM radio stopped working and I didn't have to hear the end of Sunday's debacle through the sounds of Red Sox nation.


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