It was a disappointing weekend in the Bronx for the Orioles to say the least. They dropped 2 of 3 games to a Yankees team that’s about as bad and undermanned as we can ever expect a Yankees team to be. Without Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, or even Jeter’s backup Eduardo Nunez the Orioles came up on the short end of the stick in 2 of 3 games. They lost on Friday night when Adam Jones lost track of a ball that once again ignited the “hot dog” conversation, and proved themselves not quite ready for primetime on Sunday when they failed again to get Wei-Yin Chen any kind of run support.
The good news is that it’s still early, and way too soon to overreact. It’s also a reminder that last year, devoid of any real expectations but encouraged nonetheless by a hot start, the O’s came crashing back to Earth at the hands of the Yankees in their first trip of the season to the Bronx.
The bad news is, that last year is over, and likely (in fact hopefully for Orioles fans) will never be duplicated. Because of the absence of any real expectations amongst Orioles fans last year, the whole season was seen through the scope of “I’m just happy to be here”, and “I just can’t believe what this team continues to do”. It would take a heck of a lot more losing, over a heck of a lot more years before Orioles fans will again happily embrace the lovable underdogs mentality that served as a constant calming influence throughout last season’s highs and lows.
While we are just 12 games into the season and while it is still anyone’s guess what these Orioles will do in 2013, our overreactions are natural, and to be expected for lots of reasons. Foremost amongst them is the lack of activity by the team this off-season. From the failure to re-sign Mark Reynolds and Joe Saunders, to the farcical “pursuits” of Josh Hamilton and Nick Swisher among others, there seemed to be an underlying belief by the Orioles’ faithful that they wouldn’t simply sit on their hands. This team had come too far too fast, and coincidentally the division as a whole seemed to be coming down to meet them. Surely the AL East wouldn’t remain as winnable as it seems right now for very long; and surely the O’s wouldn’t deprive their long-suffering fan base an opportunity to strike while the iron was hot.
That however is exactly what it seems that they’ve done. The depth that the Orioles were counting on to make up for their lack of activity has already taken a major (but not at all surprising) hit due to injuries. The designated hitter position has accounted for less production than most National League teams have gotten from their pitchers’ bats, and all the while the names that most fans spent the off-season discussing, Mark Reynolds, Michael Morse, Justin Upton, Bill Butler etc. are putting up numbers that would surely look useful to a team that seems to be just a hit or two away from winning night after night.
So far the Orioles have played a brand of baseball that we’d have been thrilled with last season. In fact they’ve played almost exactly the same brand of baseball that we were thrilled with last season. But this year, we wanted more. This year we expected more. This year we deserved more. But what we’ve gotten instead is the same old philosophical approach.
The O’s are willing to offer players just enough money to get a headline or two, but not enough to actually sign one. The Orioles are willing to offer just enough via trade to feign interest in a player, but not enough to land one, especially not one who’s making real money already. And the fans are left to fight amongst themselves; to debate whether every single trade proposal would have required Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman as the chips, or whether Mark Reynolds was worth $6 million or Nick Swisher a first-round pick. It’s divide and conquer marketing at its best, and the Orioles have it down to a science. And once again the forces running the Orioles seem determined to win every battle except the ones on the field.
Ahhh…the burden of high expectations.