O’s vs. Yanks: No Heart, No Hope, No Surprise

May 20, 2011 | Thyrl Nelson

One of the funny things about being a sports fan is the opportunity to check your perspective at the door. At the beginnings and endings of every season it seems that we are able to see things mostly logically, and are able to understand that you simply can’t win them all and that the teams who find success may not always be the most talented but in the end prove themselves to be up to the task when it counts most. None of that historical perspective though is likely to keep fans from jubilation over every good win and outright panic when things go badly. It’s an exercise in madness.

In baseball for example, there’s a long standing and tried and true theory that with few historical exceptions every team can be expected to win and lose at least 50 games, and what teams do in the other 62 games will ultimately decide their fates. Given the ease with which that philosophy has been universally accepted; maybe it’s time, for the sake of our mental health as fans, to expand on those expectations.


Within those 50 anticipated wins and losses surely it’d be wise to expect a few to come in the very late stages of games; ones that were all but won only to unravel or all but lost only to see an improbable victory somehow come to pass dramatically. We should expect (even hope) for the closer to blow a few saves along the way, if for no other reason simply to get them out of the way. After all who wants to go into the postseason with a closer who has YET to blow a save? Sooner or later these things are bound to happen, and in some cases maybe it’s best to get them out of the way early.


In every season though, we as fans should learn to expect a couple of specific types of disappointments without resorting to outright panic. Maybe 5 games given away over the season by your closer should be seen as an acceptable number. While your at it, throw in 5-7 more games where the offense never gets going and maybe 10 or more where the pitcher throws well and gets no support, or where the offense explodes but the pitching allows the opposition to do the same. Maybe, again for the sake of maintaining our sanity, we should establish acceptable benchmarks for these types of anomalies so that we don’t spin into full-fledged panic with each and every instance.


Additionally we should expect to rain on a couple of other teams bullpens along the way, or spoil great efforts from their pitchers without expecting that these instances in any way signal a reversal of fortune or provide an indication of the talent at hand. Maybe we have to learn to simply accept a shutout performance from a guy like Brad Bergeson without proclaiming his spot in the rotation saved or expecting him to come back with a similar level of effectiveness the next time out.


That said, the Orioles’ efforts in both Monday and Wednesday nights’ games were frustrating but my no means an indication that the sky is falling around this team. Thursday’s effort (or lack thereof) however might be another story altogether. If adversity is an expectation at some point during a 26-week season, than dealing with that adversity would seemingly become essential to teams maintaining their own sanity and trying to stay on course for a successful season.


For all of the reasons over which to be concerned with this Orioles team, their apparent inability to bounce back from adversity may be the most glaring, and also the most difficult to overcome.


There were plenty of reasons to be encouraged over Monday’s loss to the Red Sox, end result notwithstanding. The 5-run meltdown that set the stage for the Red Sox’ comeback was glaring, but if not for Chris Tillman’s ability to pitch himself out of  trouble, and some flashy early leather in support of his efforts, the O’s would have likely seen that one out of hand early, leaving them safe at least from the dramatic 9th inning heartbreak they ultimately were subjected to.


On Wednesday the O’s limited one of the best offensive teams in baseball to a single (unearned) run over 14 innings. Zach Britton appeared no worse for the wear despite the disappointing wasted effort that came before it; he’ll need a similar resolve going forward it appears safe to concede at this point. The O’s offense was summarily stifled by Bartolo Colon who may have been considered washed up prior to this season, but based on his stat lines so far, the O’s are clearly not the only team that has been befuddled by the renewed version of Colon. If not for an improbable run against the game’s best ever closer, it simply would have been a disappointing 1-0 loss against a hot pitcher in a game without their 1st and 3rd hitters. Instead it was a stinging heartbreak that O’s fans won’t likely be able to let go of anytime soon.


For all of the frustration that the O’s have managed to heap on themselves and their fans this week, the most disappointing outcome so far was their 13-2 trouncing by the Yankees on Thursday. After calling out the Yankees to begin the season Buck and his O’s stand at 0-6 against the team from the Bronx so far, with a pair of blowouts and a pair of late inning heartbreaks to show for their efforts. By virtue of their 2 cancellations against New York so far, Mother Nature seems to be the only “player” offering any encouragement to the O’s against the Yanks.


On Thursday, amidst a myriad of interesting and arguably “cute” roster machinations the O’s needed something from Brad Bergeson. They didn’t need him to back up his best performance in recent memory, although they surely would have taken it. What they did need though were innings. They needed Bergeson to go out and gut through 6 innings or more no matter what kind of “stuff” he took to the mound. They needed badly to rest a bullpen that had been called on 13 times (14 if you count Guthrie) in the previous 2 games. They got none of that.


What the Orioles got on Thursday was a gutless and apparently (outside of possibly Adam Jones) disinterested effort against team that they thought they had no reasonable chance at beating anyway. What the Orioles got was an effort similar to the way that they meandered through their early 8-game losing streak, and an outcome similar to every other Yankees outcome this season.


The Orioles and success will somehow (improbable as it may seem now) cross paths again this season. History not only suggests it, history outright declares it. Unfortunately history also mandates more hardships on the horizon for the O’s and every other team in baseball, maybe more for the O’s than most…but nevertheless, struggles lie ahead for everyone at some point. If these O’s really hope to turn any sort of proverbial page this season, they’d better start dealing with such adversity better than early indicators seem to suggest that they have and will. If indeed the O’s expect us to take an interest in their efforts, it surely won’t happen until they show some interest in their own efforts.