Orioles today: One half down, one to go

July 04, 2010 | Drew Forrester

Hard to believe, and somewhat interestingly, the 4th of July holiday marks the end of the first half of the 2010 baseball season.

In a weird twist, I guess you could say the O’s are celebrating their independence from the rest of the American League East today.

The Birds face off with the Red Sox this afternoon, owners of 24 wins on the season.

24.

Total.

They’ll end the first half on that number, or one better if Brian Matusz can outduel John Lackey today.

Either way, it’s been tough.

The team entered the season with huge expectations.  OK, maybe not HUGE…those are saved for this year’s edition of the Super-Bowl-or-Bust edition of the Ravens.  But a lot of folks – including this author – all but handed the Birds 4th place in the A.L. East and a number of followers felt like there was a reasonable chance for the Orioles to threaten the .500 mark.

They actually did threaten .500 once.  It was in Game 3 at Tampa Bay when they won to improve to 1-2 on the year.

Since then, it’s been a disaster.

I’d like to list the high points and dwell on those and talk about all the “what if’s” and “if only’s” but the standings are the only thing that speaks volumes about this team — 24-56 on the morning of July 4.

Ty Wigginton got off to a great start.  That’s a positive.  But over the last month, he’s become Julio Lugo.  Not even, perhaps.

None of the starting pitchers have been any good, on the whole, although Kevin Millwood was terrific in the first month before he realized This is Birdland and started a downward spiral of his own.

Nick Markakis has four home runs this year.  Yep, THIS YEAR.  J.D. Drew has that many against the Orioles alone, it seems.  But Markakis continues to work hard at his craft and will likely be the club’s All-Star representative by virtue of his .300 average and outstanding play in the field.  In fairness, Markakis probably deserves the nod more for standing up and blasting his teammates a few weeks back in The Sun, since no one else on the team has cared enough to say “WTF?” publicly over the last couple of years.

Jason Berken has been outstanding all season long.  Honestly, he should be the team’s All-Star Game participant, but middle relief pitchers don’t get much credit these days.

Just about everyone else on the club has holes in their game, be it at the plate or in the field.  And those holes – and you can point to just about every starter and blame at least one or two losses on them, directly – are one of the reasons why the club is 32 games below .500 today.

I won’t address the bad that’s happened.  You know the names and the reasons:  Roberts, Gonzalez, Atkins, Pie, Reimold, Johnson…if those six were healthy and/or effective and had been available for duty all season, the club wouldn’t be 24-36.  What would they be?  That, I don’t know.  But they’d be better than 24-56, for sure.

So we all know this season is over.  It was over when the club stumbled out of the gate 3-16.

But there’s a still a second half to play and after today, the Birds can put this ugly 81-game catasrophe behind them and work on trying to regain some small measure of respect.

We bought Ethan the Junior Orioles Dugout Club package, so I’ll be going to a bunch of games between now and the end of the season.  And I’ll pick some nice summer nights and head down to the stadium with a friend or two and watch baseball, but I’ll do so with little regard for the score or who wins or how it happens.

For the most part, I already know what’s going to happen.  The Orioles are going to lose.  So I no longer worry about that.

I remain extremely jealous of the fans in New York and Boston and Philadelphia, who are starting to circle September dates on their team’s baseball schedule and say, “I need to get tickets to THAT game”.

And I’m hoping like hell this is the last July 4th – for a long time – that we have to look at the standings and see “BALTIMORE” in 5th place.

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