Losing streak now at 8, Orioles in need of wins and a leader

April 18, 2011 | Drew Forrester

It’s gut check time at the baseball stadium.

Too early in the season to have a “must-win series”? Maybe. After all, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

But even the most ardent supporter of the Orioles can’t help but recall that it was roughly this time last year when the Birds were in the beginning stages of throwing-in-the-towel en-route to a woeful 3-16 start to the 2010 campaign.

From the call-it-like-it-was file: Last year’s edition gave up under former manager Dave Trembley. I know professional athletes don’t like the use of the “Q word”, but the truth is that last year’s club called-it-quits 19 games into the season.

I assume this year’s team isn’t going to pull off the same stunt.

But it’s up to them to prove it.

I also assumed they weren’t going to get swept in Cleveland.

Wondering whether or not the Orioles might be on the verge of one of those memorable months of losing where they drop something like 13 of 14 isn’t a crazy consideration. Especially if you’ve watched the team over the last, say, 10, 12 or 13 years.

Anyone who has heard me on the radio over the last 8 years knows my #1 sports axiom: “The toughest thing to do in sports is to stop losing.” That’s why they need to get out of this funk quickly.

And they get their chance starting tonight when the Twins visit Baltimore for a 4-game series. After that, it’s the Yankees and Red Sox in town for a little American League East test. This 10-game homestand will go a long way in proving whether or not our orange feathered friends really ARE better than they were a season ago.

The O’s are 6-8 after a horrific offensive weekend in Cleveland that saw them lose three straight to the team most folks in baseball figured would be the worst team in the American League in 2011.

In fairness, 6-8 is about what I figured the Birds would be through the first 2-plus weeks of the season. But they started 6-1, of course, and that led many of us – *ahem*, including me – to wonder if this first month of the season might be one in which the O’s jump out to a nice start and send shockwaves across the American League.

Evidently not.

But a 6-8 start could quickly become 9-9 if the Birds take 3 of 4 from the offensively-challenged Twins. And 9-9 with the Yankees and Red Sox coming to town would be interesting enough to keep our attention intact over the weekend.

But what if they throw in the towel again? Do they have it in them to give up again?

What if, somehow, the Twins win 3 of 4? (and do NOT say “oh, that can’t happen”, because I’ll remind you they just got b-slapped by the freakin’ Indians of all teams three straight times). What if the Twins win 3 of 4 and then the Yankees come buzzing in over the weekend with Sabathia and Burnett both scheduled to face the Birds in Baltimore?

Last year’s team was as soft as a 4-year old girl’s Easter dress because they didn’t really have a leader, no one respected the manager and, naturally, they lacked good, quality players.

This year, the manager has most, if not everyone’s respect. The off-season additions cost the team $20 million more than they spent in 2010 and were at least good enough to warrant winter enthusiasm with the fan base.

But who leads this bunch?

That element of the 2011 team is nearly identical to last year’s club.

Who leads?

It might be a tad too early to have a “players only” meeting on the heels of the weekend sweep in Cleveland, but what if (continued)