We’re not a full week into baseball season here in Baltimore, and already the fans in Baltimore are somewhere between restless and disengaged.
With a full day and an empty stomach, I set out today for a game of baseball “on the town.” Unfortunately, with The Birds already reeling, there was little baseball buzz to be had in my part of Baltimore on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
At the first establishment I ventured into, the bartender and a few regulars were cranking music and sipping bloody marys instead of going for the Bohs and O’s. They were nice enough to turn down the music when they noticed I was watching the game, but they couldn’t bring themselves to care about the game or the club, exchanging a few casual mentions of the “stinkin’ team” before moving on to happier subjects.
Can you blame them?
At the second place I stopped, a few fans were actually invested in the game. But there was little surprise when everything fell apart for the club in the eighth inning. The guy sitting next to me leaned over at one point after the Jays went ahead for what would be the Orioles fifth loss in six games and casually asked, “When does football season start?”
Later, I heard two fans chattering about the club while standing in line at the grocery store. Only in Baltimore will you regularly hear the words “good for nothing closer” and “freaking asbestos law” together.
April in Baltimore is starting to feel like July. The team is in the cellar, the fans are either booing or moving on with their lives, and the thirteenth year of losing baseball seems, at least at the moment, inevitable.
Ironically, the club has actually had a pretty good week from their starting pitchers. With the exception of Brad Bergesen’s 8 hit, 5 run performance, each of the club’s starting pitchers has given the team a chance to win. There are two schools of thought about this. It is possible that the starting pitchers fared better in their first outing than they will on average in the future. If this is the case, the club really missed a few choice opportunities this week.
Another school of thought says that the team truly has a better pitching staff than they have had in years. If this is the case, it’s entirely possible that the team will turn it around and at least find their way to respectability by mid-summer.
But right now, it’s hard to see that happening. Right now, fans around town are cynical and unconvinced that the Orioles will be worth rooting for even casually this season.
And these are fans that care. These are fans who have followed the team through a lot of losing, fans who tracked the team’s minor league system and read up on their hot stove moves. These are fans who know that the club’s leadoff man is heading to the DL and that their $12 million closer is taking some time to work on his form. These are the fans who waited in earnest for Opening Day and jump through hoops to get tickets and take off early from work, only to watch The Birds get swept in the first series…to the only club picked to finish below them in the division.
There’s nothing but West Coast games and tough divisional matchups between now and mid May. By that time, will anyone even care enough to boo?