I have a confession to make: I got pretty low during that first two games of the Boston series. The starting pitching – the acknowledged Achilles heel of this team – was reaching a new low. The offense was out of sorts… and the Red Sox were surging past the Birds in the standings. Things looked bleak. Baseball was no fun to watch.
But as so often happens in a baseball season, I waited long enough for the Orioles’ fortunes to change, and the long look of the 162 game marathon took over for the agony I had experienced during those few games.
Looking at this team now, I have to remind myself: the Magic is back. Seriously. The Orioles are turning into a mini-version of the Giants, with their even-year success. The formula is the same: tremendous power and dominating relief pitching is covering for a woeful starting rotation, and the Orioles are defying the odds to rise to the top of the American League East.
And nobody likes it. It’s not pretty. It defies reason. I listened to Steve Phillips of MLB Network Radio tell his listening audience this week that the Orioles wouldn’t win the division because their starters don’t have enough wins. The Orioles, Phillips reasoned, are winning games in a way that is unsustainable. The sequencing of the runs being scored puts Baltimore behind the eight-ball too often, and eventually the offense won’t come to the rescue in late-innings. Phillips’ on-air partner Todd Hollinsworth chimed in that the stress the Orioles’ players must be feeling is sure to take a toll, and would rear its ugly head sooner or later.
That’s right. Pitcher wins and stress. That’s why the Orioles can’t win the East.
OK, fine – I’ll be fair. Phillips has a point (but the stress thing is stupid). The Orioles’ starting pitching is a concern. And regardless of who picks up the meaningless stat that is the win, he’s correct when he says that it is improbable that the Orioles can continue to win on this formula.
But we heard that an awful lot in 2012 and 2014, didn’t we?
I’m not writing to tell you that the Orioles are going to storm into the ALCS. I’m not telling you that they are a flawed team that will win in spite of themselves, and we should ignore their warts. I’m not saying that at all. But I’m saying there’s a chance. And that we all need to enjoy that a little bit.
Prior to the 2012 campaign, I expected this club to lose 100+ games. And who could blame me? It looked like the 15th consecutive losing season – one in which the club had failed to do enough to compete for relevance, much less the post season. I spent the whole season waiting for the other foot to drop. Man, Bird’s Eye View must have been such a drag that season. No, like way worse than whatever sourpuss stuff we put out now, after a rough week.
That’s no way to live, Birdland. I implore you: embrace the Magic, because it is back. Don’t believe me? Explain J.J. Hardy hitting two Pesky Pole home runs in the same game. Explain to me why Matt Wieters keeps hitting game winnings hits against the likes of Aroldis Chapman. Explain why guys like Hyun Soo Kim and Joey Rickard have captured our imagination. Explain to me why the O’s have captured lightning in a bottle again, having acquired the MLB home run leader on a one-year deal. Again. Explain how Brad Brach is so freaking good in 2016.
Explain to me why I should spend my time worrying about the horrors that might be. There is a difference between putting your head in the sand and drinking the Orange Kool Aid, and simply enjoying the moments a season like 2016 brings you. Sure, this is a team that is going to lose frustrating games. They are going to Ubaldo their way into your dog house from time to time. But they are also going to remind you exactly how fun it is to have a good, unconventional team. They are going to win in extra innings. They are going to pound out seven homers in a game. They are going to dazzle you in the field. And there will be enough Machado/Schoop man-love to fill a library full of bromance novels.
Buckle Up, Birdland. Orioles Magic is back, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll take the time to enjoy it.