Orioles today: The “bad fan debate” ignites when you’ve won 8 of 9

August 12, 2010 | Drew Forrester

Over the last few days, as the Orioles surge continues and folks start sniffing what it’s really like to have a decent team play baseball in August, you’re starting to hear THIS theme a lot more:  “Oh yeah, now that the team is winning again, people are suddenly back on board.”

First of all, don’t confuse winning 8 of 9 with “winning again”.  The Reds are “winning again”.  The Padres are “winning again”.  The Rangers are “winning again”.

What the Orioles are doing right now is making good use of a rabbit’s foot.  They’re not “winning again”.  They’re “finally on a hot streak”.

When the Birds play a meaningful game in September – one that impacts their position in the American League East standings – that’s when you’ll be able to say “the Orioles are winning again”.  When’s that going to happen?  Hell, I don’t know.  Probably around the same time I qualify for The Masters.  Or Pete Yorn puts out a bad album.  Or Towson football has a winning season.

I know this:  I’d love to see it – the Orioles playing a meaningful game – happen soon.  Next year would be great.  That’s not soon enough for me, but if it happens in 2011, I’ll be satisfied.

So, after four months of having their jaws wired shut, the Apologists are now back in full force.  You remember those folks, right?  They were the collective group of Fantasyland inhabitants who spouted off three years ago about how Andy was going to fix the franchise (evidently with magic, not money) and have watched in horror this season as the club has spiraled down the American League ladder.

Earlier in the year, Steve Melewski, an Employee-in-Law of the Orioles via his work at MASN, authored a piece in which he divided the (diminishing) Orioles fan base by basically saying, “you’re either with the team – and a fan – or you’re not with the team and you’re not a fan.”

Recently, a local blogger – Neal Shaffer – whom I respect as a writer and a diehard baseball enthusiast, tried taking a similar tact by writing his own piece in which he said, “those of you who have abandoned the team need to get back on right now…in the infancy of this re-birth…don’t wait around until the team gets REALLY good again or you’ll be considered a front-runner.”

Pardon my French, but what a bunch of bullsh*t that is.

Anyone in Baltimore who has abandoned the Orioles has done so with good reason.

They’ve done so not only because the O’s have lost for 13 straight years, but because the team has aggravated, alienated and almost intentionally disconnected with the fanbase that supported the team since the 1950’s.  They’ve done so because, while the on-field product has gone DOWN since 1998, prices and the expense of “supporting the team” has gone UP.  They’ve done so because the fans want the team to win more than the team itself wants to win.

The folks who really follow the club and have a keen eye for things like whether or not the organization is trying to win – and Neal Shaffer falls in that category – have figured out the game.  And they don’t want to play along anymore.

I don’t think it makes you a bad fan if you look at the landscape of baseball in Baltimore and say, “You know, I don’t think it’s worth giving them $24 to watch the game tonight at Camden Yards.”

The subject of “what makes you a bad fan?” is as controversial as asking folks who voted for Barrack Obama if they feel like they’ve contributed to the downfall of the country.  Lots of folks have a definition for “what makes a bad fan”.  Lots of people think they know what’s ruined the country. Everyone has their own idea(s).

Bad. Fan.

If you don’t sign off on 13 years of losing…and years and years of failing to spend money on quality free agents…and doing stupid stuff like charging people (who already AREN’T going) more money for tickets on the day of the game…that somehow makes you a BAD FAN.

No, it doesn’t.

In fact, I’d argue the exact opposite.

If you’re one of the last 3,300 in town who still fork over your money for tickets and applaud the team’s decision to NOT try and sign Mark Teixeira or Matt Holliday or A.J. Burnett — then I’d have to consider calling YOU a bad fan, for it’s people like you who have continued to keep the flame lit for the Orioles during this period of time where they’ve crawled into the fetal position and allowed the American League to force them into submission.

Maybe those who HAVEN’T stopped going to the games are the real people to blame.  Maybe those of you who give the team a free pass every off-season when they write themselves a big check instead of writing one to 3 or 4 good players are the ones to blame.  Maybe those of you who don’t have the balls to say, “this is crazy…you guys have to start running the team better or I’m not coming anymore” are to blame.

In fact, that argument is as silly as the one being made by the Apologists who say “you better get on board now or you’re a BAD FAN.”