Like two ships passing in the night with their warning lights blinking, the Orioles and Rays caught a glimpse of one another over the weekend as they headed in opposite directions.
The Orioles – for the first time in a long time – are trying to win.
The Rays – having won the division title 2 of the last 3 years – have mysteriously given up on trying to win.
Look no further than the payroll for proof. Baltimore jacked up their team salaries some $20 million this off-season to an almost-respectable total of roughly $92 million.
The Rays didn’t even send Carl Crawford an email saying “we still want you”, let alone offer him any kind of deal. Carlos Pena…gone. Matt Garza…gone. Jason Bartlett…gone. Rafael Soriano…gone. And all five of those guys could play. And they wanted money. So they became expendable, I suppose.
And guess what’s going to happen in Tampa Bay now? They’re going to lose. Watch and see.
Meanwhile, the Orioles are off to a great start and nearly all of their off-season acquisitions have paid early dividends either offensively or defensively.
It’s amazing what happens when you spend a little bit of money on players who can help you win.
Now I’m not naive or orange-kool-aid-intoxicated enough to think this 3-0 start could be the beginning of some kind of special season in Baltimore. I’m excited…but not THAT excited. But I did call an 82-80 record for the team this season and I’m quite certain they’re going to be MUCH better than they were last year.
One of the reasons I figured the Birds would be better is because they added better players to their roster. That’s not hard to comprehend. Anyone who has seen the team over the last few years knew they needed better players.
As for Tampa, they showed this past weekend what happens when you have good players in your stable and then allow them to get away.
I wonder how long it will take Manny Ramirez to start stirring the pot there? May 1st sound about right?
So if you’re one of the lucky ones heading out to the ballpark today, enjoy the moment. Bask in it. Cheer a little louder, a little longer.
This afternoon’s atmosphere is a far cry from the odor that stunk up the joint last season on opening day when a few thousand goofs booed Mike Gonzalez during the pre-game introductions and then again as he left the mound in the 9th inning after he blew a 6-5 lead to the Blue Jays.
Today will be fun, win or lose.
Great weather, a red-hot start and a team people around town are willing to embrace should make for a memorable day at Camden Yards.
And nearly all of this warm-and-fuzzy feeling can be traced back to one thing:
The Orioles are trying to win.
It’s that simple.
We can feel it, as fans.
We felt it in the off-season when they forked over money to a few free agents and even gave J.J. Hardy a raise just weeks after stealing him from the Twins.
It all started last August when MacPhail gave in and brought Buck Showalter to town. That was the first indication that things were starting to change in Baltimore and that the club’s front office was finally going to put winning first and generating a profit second.
We all feel like they’re trying to win.
Do they still need some better players? Sure they do. And even while spending $92 million, they have plenty of money left over to put in the profit-coffers at the Warehouse.
But the organization is trying to win now.
And that’s all we’ve asked of them for — well — for the last 13 years or so.
This past weekend in Tampa Bay, albeit only a 3-game sample size, showed exactly what transpires when you give up on winning. You lose. The Rays are going to lose this year because that’s what they’re willing to accept.
The Orioles accepted losing for a long time.
But it doesn’t look like they’re going to accept it any longer.
Have a great day at the ballpark today. Enjoy this one.
You deserve it.