Stop me if you heard this one before.
If Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training but no one has ever heard of them before, did it actually happen?
To at least some extent, that was the case in Sarasota this weekend. Baltimore Orioles pitchers and catchers reported to Ed Smith Stadium for an opportunity to
prepare for a run towards the AL East crown introduce themselves to the men they now call teammates.
A year ago, there was a level of false hope about what a full season under manager Buck Showalter and the arrivals of veteran MLB players like Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds could do for baseball in Charm City. There is of course none of that in 2012, but you already knew that.
To be fair, I’m as surprised as you that Endy Chavez fever simply hasn’t spread throughout the Mid-Atlantic.
The start of Spring Training (most O’s pitchers had actually arrived in Sarasota in advance of this weekend’s report date) produced neither excitement nor as much as a batted eye to baseball fans in Baltimore this year. I will admit that I did not miss the insufferable “Happy New Year” updates on Facebook and Twitter from snobby baseball fans who are unaware their favorite sport is no longer our national pastime, but that’s the only good thing to be said.
It strikes me on this Monday that I honestly find myself pining for a year in which expectations (or at least hopes) for mediocrity fizzled into just another miserable summer at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I’m not pining over memories of a World Series run or even a relevant game on Labor Day. I’m pining for a team that mattered…at least a little bit…on St. Patrick’s Day.
It’s that bad.
Some of you will likely use the comments section here to accuse me of wasting hundreds of words on taking a shot at the Orioles. I don’t know that I’ll really bother to argue much with you.
There will be plenty of storylines between now and Opening Day, it’s just that none of them will be interesting.
Someone will have to start against the Minnesota Twins on April 6. Zach Britton is the easy fan favorite, but will have to show his shoulder is 100 percent to even get into the competition. The team will reportedly have to line up four more starters behind whoever goes out for Game 1, despite the fact that you’d be hard pressed to name three quality pitchers in the group of 30 that showed up this weekend.
They also need one of those pitchers to finish games. Jim Johnson is the guy fans most want to see get the role. Fans’ second choice? Anyone not named Kevin Gregg.
Brian Roberts’ health will be the closest we come to seeing something compelling in March. A healthy Roberts would by no means guide the team towards contention, but it would be nice to see the veteran second baseman return to the field instead of being ushered into retirement. Barring injury all other starting positions on the field are set. That’s of course part of the problem, as even with talented players like JJ Hardy, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones suiting up there’s little hope of producing enough against the staffs in Boston, New York and Tampa Bay.
There will be some competition for bench jobs, but that excitement will wear off before I can finish typing the names Matt Antonelli and Jai Miller. But hey! Look over there! It’s Nick Johnson! I’ve heard of him!
We’re going to attempt to have some relevant baseball conversation over the course of the next few weeks. All of it will involve the phrase “not like it really matters, but…” at some point. If it doesn’t, the conversation will probably be started by someone asking “have you heard anything more about those rumors that Peter Angelos is thinking about selling the team?”.
We can only pray that at some point Dan Duquette makes an off-color comment about Brian Cashman’s off-field exploits to momentarily make the Birds interesting. If you’re not, rest easy knowing I certainly am. I’d settle for a rumor that Oil Can Boyd was going to get coked up and make a start at OPACY to promote his new book.
(Now that I’ve typed those words, I actually think it’s a hell of an idea. Please pass it along to someone.)
Yes, it’s baseball season again in Baltimore. Anyone wanna talk about Justin Boren’s future in purple?