Monday, July 26, 2010

2010 Season - Stick a Fork in It -- For Baltimore Baseball -- It's Done

More than a new look needed...

The Orioles are 2-8 since the All-Star Break. Deja Vu?  They were 2-11 to start the season. At their current pace, they'll finish at 51-111. How embarrassing can it get?

No more MASN, no more Orioles. Okay, Brian Roberts is back, that's good. Matt Wieters just got the call. Jake Arrieta is the only young player developed through the system who hasn't became overwhelmed. Chris Tilman and Norm Reimold are in Norfolk. Brad Bergesen and Brian Matusz are floundering seldom showing the promise that looked so apparent a year ago. Of the young Orioles, Adam Jones, appeared closest to being a break through player having represented the team in the 2009 All-Star game and showed tremendous improvement from early May to the All-Star break despite a horrendous start. His batting average for the season is .272 with 15 homers, but since July 11 is only batting .222. Since returning from a long stay on the disabled list, Felix Pie is only batting .237 in his last ten games.

The Orioles only have reliever, Jim Johnson, and outfielder, Lou Montenez on the disabled list. What we see is what we get. 

The horrible reality is with just a few prospects that haven't surfaced on the major league roster yet, the team on the field today with a few possibilities in Norfolk, are the team of the future the big rebuilding plan gave us. Unlike prospects in the past aside from Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Erik Beddard who the Orioles under previous leadership hyped as marvels only to fizzle out often before ever reaching Baltimore, the Orioles now have talent that baseball observers felt deserved high ratings seeing strong major league potential. Matt Wieters, for instance, was compared to Twins switch hitting catcher, Joe Mauer. This cadre of players appeared to be well-prepared through the minors further validating their potential, but when they arrive at Baltimore, they show flashes of what they can do early on and then fall back. Sure, players don't continue to progress upward at a steady pace. There are setbacks and slumps, but in the young Orioles' situation, they start to look overwhelmed and lose their grip on the fundamentals, the basic discipline they mastered all the way up to the majors.

It seems like talk of winning is like talking of fighting a war on terror in the current White House. Listen to the better teams talk or the Washington Nationals and hear, "win, win, win, won, winning."  Listen to the Orioles and hear, "Well........" 

The final game against the Twins was the last official home game played at Orioles Park for the 2010 season. Whatever happens there between now and the first weekend in October will hardly be a rumor. All eyes now turn to birds of a different color, opening camp at McDaniel College, about a 40 mile drive to the northwest of town. The Ravens look like a good bet to advance in the playoffs this year. They win. They talk winning. New players arrive, taste the winning culture, and join right in. Imagine one of the young Orioles mentioned catching on like Ray Rice. The Ravens were destitute when they arrived in Baltimore in 2006. After three losing seasons, in 1999 they had one of the most feared defenses in the game. The next year, they won it all. This is the third year of Andy McPhail's attempt to rebuild the Orioles. We should expect .500 ball next year, but that doesn't look likely now. 2012 should have been the year to become a contender -- that's so far away right now it's hard to imagine.

The honest truth right now is that the Orioles are the worst team in baseball. That's what the standings say. Any claim to the contrary would involve tremendous speculation. How does a team such as that command TV viewers?  Why would a local sports fan want to talk about the Orioles with the Ravens now getting ready to go?

They are over the border in Canada poised to play the Blue Jays. They are 0-9 against Toronto so far. They finish the month and begin August against Kansas City.  The Angels, White Sox, Mariners, and Rangers come to Baltimore while the Birds travel to Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The Mariners are miserable, right?  Not playing the O's. They're 4-2. Cleveland is struggling but 2-1 against Baltimore. The ingenious schedule has the Orioles playing the Royals but six games, two at home where they've split. The Orioles have not played the Angels or White Sox yet. Both teams are in contention and the Angels have clobbered the Orioles in recent years.

In September, the Ravens season starts for real. The Orioles sure would like to finish on a positive and not completely collapse in September. In September, they face the four teams in their division at home and away and also the Detroit Tigers. All of those teams spare the Blue Jays should be in contention, but as reported, the Orioles haven't won against Toronto yet.

When a team is playing as poorly as the Orioles, it would be hard to describe anything that might happen as a collapse but what will be hard to take would be flirting with records for the worst team ever in the modern era rivalling the 1962 Mets and 2003 Tigers. Perhaps that's the one goal they can set, not to be in that group.  It will take playing better ball than they've shown so fr to even equal their horrible record of 1988 when they lost 108 games.

We wish the young men in black and orange well and hope much future success. Let's close the book and get ready for the Ravens. Is there anything that could possibly happen between now and October 3rd that would prevent 2010 from being the worst performance in team history and one of the worst seasons in American League history?

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