Sunday, August 30, 2009

Before You Abandon the Orioles Altogether...

Football season is 2 weeks away. Here in Baltimore, most sports fans can't wait to turn the page from baseball to football, and most -- truth be told -- never paid much attention to the Orioles anyway.

There was a time in my youth when if the Orioles were playing, you'd pull up next to someone on the road and you could hear the game on their radio too. Now? It is not an uncommon occurrence to go to a bar or a restaurant that has TV sets featuring whatever game is on - and they don't even put on the Orioles game while they are playing. Not many people really care. And that's a shame.

But it is reality and it is what happens when you don't put up a winning season in a dozen years. At the beach this weekend with my family, I was talking to my nephew Jordan about this. Jordan is 11 and a good athlete and he likes all kinds of sports, including the Orioles. But since his birth in May 1998, the Orioles have, in a word, stunk. So how can you blame the kid for not being able to name the starting lineup? You can't.

There is, however and at long last, hope. Hope appeared on the mound today in the form of 6-5 lefthander Brian Matusz (Mat-iss, not Mah-tooz), who threw 7 strong innings and got the 3rd win of his MLB career.

Next year, the starting rotation will likely be Jeremy Guthrie and 4 very good second year players: Matusz, David Hernandez, Brad Bergesen, and Chris Tillman. Tillman looks like the real thing, and even Jason Berken has been very solid lately. So, shockingly, the Orioles finally do have what every organization covets - talented young arms in abundance. It has taken a very long time, but they are here.

Problems abound, of course, and anyone thinking playoffs next year for a team that's about to lose 25 or 30 games more than it will win this year should probably have his head examined.

You could say the same thing about someone who still pays close attention to a team that has been a dozen-year disappointment to a town that once lived and breathed with its every pitch and filled its still wonderful stadium. But if you love baseball like I do and you still care like I do, it's worth taking a peak at what's going on at Oriole Park over the final month of a season. The Ravens will soon take over everyone's interest, but the Orioles deserve a look.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Vacate This, NCAA

So this story came out today about Memphis --

That the NCAA might "vacate" its wins during the 2007-2008 season, when Derrick Rose led the team to the Final Four. Apparently there were all sorts of recruiting shenanigans, including payment to Rose's brother and some questionable SAT scores.

What makes me laugh is the idea that you can "vacate" wins. I guess that's NCAA lingo for telling the university, "those wins will be stricken from the record books, as if they never happened."

Which is an appropriate punishment if you are viewing the Memphis basketball program from 200 years in the future and come upon the wikipedia entry on your in-brain computer and note that the team went 0-43 for the season and wonder "what happened to those guys?"

But for people who lived through the season, like Memphis fans and players and everyone else in the country who follows college hoops, those wins certainly did happen and saying that they are now "vacated" no more takes them away than me stomping my feet and saying the 1979 Pirates really didn't come back from down 3-1 to beat the Orioles in the World Series. I was 9. I was heartbroken. I am now vacating the Pirates World Series Championship!

Doesn't work that way, does it? No matter what the NCAA says now, Memphis went to the Final Four and their fans went along for the ride and you can't vacate that, it happened.

Monday, August 03, 2009

New Ad for the Orioles - Bring in the Road Fans

The Orioles right now are reminding me a little bit of the Bullets of the 80s. Back in the day, les Boulez used to advertise the team based on enticing out of towners to come see their team play (most likely beat) the Bullets at the old Cap Center. "See Michael Jordan. See Patrick Ewing. See Charles Barkley." You get the idea. Somehow the idea of coming to see Jeff Malone nail 19 footers off a screen wasn't quite as enticing, much as I did love Jeff Malone and his ability to nail 19 footers.

Anyway, back to the Bird, who are really for the birds right now. Boston just left town after beating the Orioles 3 straight, while entertaining their own fans in our seats. There's something completely humiliating and infuriating about having your team used as live fodder for the enjoyment of the other team's fans, at your place.

I know that help is supposedly on the way in the form of the young arms and young talent. But for now, Oriole Park is a sanctuary for the contending visiting clubs, where a struggling team (like the Sox were...) can come to Baltimore and get themselves right at our expense, figuratively speaking.