A month or so ago, I was playing a casual but competitive Saturday afternoon round of golf with my friends at Mountain Branch. As is almost always the case, the needle was sharp and the digs were being thrown out more than once per-hole. It’s a tough crew up there. You give, you take and you settle up in the bar.
After this particular round, the four of us settled in to have a refreshment and figure out the financial end of the afternoon. My partner and I lost $14.00 each on the day. Not bad, by any means. There have been plenty of days I’ve lost a lot more than that and plenty of days I’ve won more, although you always remember the losses more than the wins, it seems.
As we handed over the money, I looked at the scorecard and scoffed, “The amazing thing about the whole day is that you guys beat us, and won $14.00 from us, but we hit way more quality shots than you guys.”
I said it with a straight face. I believed it to be true. It was true, in fact. Of course, it was also merely a way for me to jab them a little bit about their less than stellar play — one more time — even though they made out on top that afternoon.
The two guys who were busy counting OUR money nearly spit their Bud Light Lime all over the bar.
“Quality shots? Who the hell ever heard of that mattering?” one of them said while laughing.
“Yeah,” the other chimed in. ”Quality shots. Who cares? You guys lost. Period. Thanks for coming.”
I wasn’t going to give in that easy.
“Over the course of the 18 holes, you guys hit about 5 or 6 really good shots,” I reasoned. I even stopped for a minute and counted a few of them out loud. ”Solid approach at #3. Great shots – both of you – at #6. Really good tee-ball into #9. My partner and I hit 16 quality shots. I just counted them all.”
“And what’s your point again?” one of them asked.
“My point? My point is that we both hit a lot more quality shots than you did.”
Do you see what happened there?
I had substituted winning for something else. I substituted winning for some other game only I was playing called “quality shots”.
And because “quality shots” don’t have a place on the scorecard for notation — and because they don’t really mean anything along the way over 18 holes, my whining was only met with laughter.
It’s now become a staple of the post-round analysis at Mountain Branch. ”Yeah, but how many quality shots did you guys hit?” It’s usually followed by a bunch of giggling, snickering and high-fiving.
Quality shots. Winning the match? Not important. It’s all about “quality shots”. Of course, that’s not true. Not true at all. Anytime you play golf, the ONLY thing that matters is the score you shoot. Nothing else matters. I’ve shot 68 before when I deserved to shoot 76 and I’ve shot 76 plenty of times when I deserved to shoot 70. Score. How many times you hit the ball. That’s all that counts in golf.
And that now brings us to what is happening these days in Baltimore…with the Orioles…as the team’s legion of Apologists sit around and figure out how to spin the current day-to-day doings of the baseball team.
It’s not about winning and losing, again, this season. No, no, no.
It would ONLY be about winning and losing if, in fact, the team happened to be winning. If that were the case and the O’s were winning, it would be ALL ABOUT WINNING.
But since the team is losing, it’s no longer about winning and losing.
It’s about other stuff. Numbers, statistics, “what if’s”, “what could be’s” and “wait and see’s”.
For a moment, now, I’m actually going to defend The Apologists. Yes, you read it right. I’ll come to their defense for a second.
Most of the people apologizing for the club’s woeful on-field performance and unprofessional treatment of the fans have probably never really experienced true winning baseball in town. They MIGHT have been around for the quick, sudden burst of success in ’96 and ’97, but both of those seasons resulted in playoff ousters that kept the team from reaching the World Series for the first time since 1983.
As a city, we’re insanely jealous of what they’ve done in Philadelphia, New York and Boston over the last decade. And there’s nothing wrong with that, actually. We’d all give our left nipple to be like the Phillies, Yankees or Red Sox — winners and/or contenders just about every year. Alas, our front office and organization in general haven’t done enough to warrant that kind of competitiveness, so we’re stuck being the Royals of the East Coast.
So…because we haven’t won in forever…and because everyone else around us appears to be swallowing the winning vitamin on a yearly basis, some of the fans are left to make up some other game.
And I sort of almost understand why.
The Apologists have never been around winning, here.
If the Yankees or Red Sox suddenly stopped winning, would fans in those two cities replace the need for winning baseball with sabermetrics and math, and statistics about things like how many fly balls the pitcher allows — vs. ground outs — or all of these other brainy arithmetic equations that NEVER tells us who wins or loses?
There’s so much high-level math going on, I almost think you should require everyone in the room to bring their own bong. There’s no other way to understand it all, is there?
Over the last month or so, we’ve taken to nominating an “Apologist of the Morning” on The Morning Reaction because it’s become an almost comical way to get the day started. Sift through the internet and media efforts from the night before (about 70% of the time, they lost the night before) and pick out one or two or three people who conveniently FORGET THAT THE TEAM LOST and instead, point to some other element of the game that is more rewarding for the fans who follow the team.
Ever heard of the “quality shots” stat in golf? It’s sort of like that.
Winning no longer matters — when the team ISN’T winning, of course.
And losing doesn’t matter, either, because…well…just you wait and see…we’ll be winning soon enough. And when we DO start winning, then winning will matter again.
Like I said, though, I can sympathize with The Plight of The Apologists in 2010. A lot of them — most of them, probably — have never seen winning baseball in Baltimore.
And they’re tired of seeing the Yankees hop up and down every October after advancing to the post-season or they’re sick of watching the Red Sox distribute championship rings on a cold April afternoon at Fenway or, like me, they can’t stomach the thought of Philadelphia going BACK to the World Series again…for the third straight year.
So, I get it.
The Apologists can’t hold the team accountable for winning because it’s not something they’ve ever seen the team do.
And to hold the team accountable would be, to some, a means of “giving up on them”. I haven’t given up on the Orioles and I’ve been going to baseball games in Baltimore since I went to my first one in 1967 at Memorial Stadium. But I’m not going to give them a free pass either, because I know they’re not REALLY trying to win the way they try in New York, Boston or Philadelphia.
If we’re all lucky, someday soon they’ll play a meaningful baseball game in Baltimore.
I can’t wait for that to happen.
In the meantime, we can at least all sit back and listen and read the work of The Apologists, who go out of their way to make us all remember that winning and losing really doesn’t matter anymore.
Well, it matters in New York, Boston and Philadelphia.
Just not in Baltimore.
In Baltimore, we’ve replaced winning with “this MIGHT happen” or “let’s be patient” and “the statistics say THIS is going to occur soon”.
It’s sort of like bringing up “quality shots” after a round of golf.
The only thing that matters in golf is the score.
Come to think of it, that’s the only thing that really matters in baseball.
But you just can’t make some people understand that, I suppose.