Don’t look now, but the Orioles have gone from an “interesting” spring team with some exciting evenings to quickly becoming a team on a fast course to nowhere.
That is, if they can’t find a way to start hitting the baseball.
This morning, they wake up on a 80-degree Memorial Day again mired in last place of the AL East in the midst of a five-game losing streak. Worse than that, their weekend hiccup has allowed the Tampa Bay Ray (formerly Devils Rays) to be in FIRST PLACE in the division.
The times they are ‘a changing…
And here come New York and Boston to attempt to kick them while they’re down…
Two weeks ago, I made a bet with Drew Forrester when the Orioles were 16-16 that the team would be hard-pressed to be 32-32 at the same juncture.
Before the inevitable (and foolish) “Nestor hates the Orioles” comments start flooding this blog, remember this: they were picked by Las Vegas to win 65 games! So, knowing that, a .500 ballclub would be a reason for a parade!
Right now, with seven games coming against the Red Sox and Yankees at home – where their talent will be overwhelmed every day – it’s not looking so good for Drew and his Chinese lunch.
The real problem is very clear to anyone who watches the team on a daily basis: the offense is atrocious and there are very few signs of it improving dramatically any time soon.
This is and will probably remain a poor offensive team, and any hopes that both Luke Scott and Adam Jones would be the next coming of last year’s Nick Markakis are starting to dissipate. The new additions, thankfully, don’t look in over their heads, but they’re not going to be All-Star players in 2008. Not yet, anyway.
Sure, you’d like to think that Brian Roberts isn’t going to hit .263 this season. Or that Nick Markakis is better than his current .247.
But the rest of the roster – including a rapidly aging Melvin Mora and a “just glad to be here” Kevin Millar – are what they are: mediocre major league players. And don’t get me started on Aubrey Huff, who’ll make his $8 million this year while hitting his usual .250 with 20 homers.
The situational (and specifically late-inning) hitting was superb during the early-season stretches where they won cardiac ballgames in the late innings. And those were on the nights when the starting pitching was outstanding and the bullpen was even better than that.
Daniel Cabrera is 5-1. I have no reason to believe he’ll be 10-2 and 15-3 before it’s all over with. I’m not convinced that we’ll see the same guy every five days once this team inevitably drops well below .500 and goes through the summer doldrums that teams that hit .240 will struggle with.
It was fun while it lasted – and maybe they’ll go 7-0 this week against the big boys and resurrect their flailing season– but it’s hard watching this team get four and five hits a game and struggle to manufacture runs, especially when Steve Trachsel takes the ball every five days and puts them in a major hole.
If there was ever some time to rekindle that Orioles Magic — the dust we saw in the two-game sweep of the Red Sox 10 days ago — it begins today against the pinstripers.
Maybe Jay Payton has another grand slam in him? Or Freddie Bynum has a late-inning, game-winning double in him? Or Jim Johnson will dice up Derek Jeter and ARod in a tough jam?
I’ll be at Camden Yards today along with the thousands of Yankees fans I saw roaming through downtown all day yesterday.
Maybe they can escape last place before the end of Memorial Day?
Or maybe I’ll just want to vomit at the sea of Yankees fans I’ll inevitably be forced to endure in my own ballpark for the tenth year running…