Something to Root For
Don’t get me wrong, I am a die hard Orioles fan since birth. I have been and always will be; that will never change. I am also one of those Oriole fans that get excited with every 6-2 start this team has at the beginning of the season, at the thought that this year could be different. I know that 11 years of losing should convince me otherwise, but I must say I always enter the season looking at what may go right as opposed to what will go wrong.
With that said, it was a little different this year, or so I thought. As we went through spring training I kept telling everyone that may have been hopeful, that this year would be bad, very bad. In fact I predicted that they would lose over 100 games. Not because I have fallen out love with the team, but rather because I felt like for the first time I was actually in focus and could see what was going on. This team was going to suck this year, maybe next year as well, but with the young talent we were developing, our future is looking bright. I had that to hold on to and it was all I needed.
Well as luck would have it, the Orioles started out the season 6-2 and my theory on this year being different than others went out the window a bit. I started thinking, if this team can hold on and play this well for a couple of months, and the minor leagues develop faster then expected giving us help by the end of June, we may be able to contend. Well a 4-15 record since has dropped me back down again. I will say this year did initiate a different feeling than in years past.
Instead of feeling let down or disappointed, I was still upbeat. As the Orioles continued to lose games I remembered what I was saying in the off-season. This team is not going to be good this year; it is the future we need to believe in. It does not matter how poorly Adam Eaton pitches, or for that matter how good he may pitch for a game, because he is merely keeping a spot in the rotation warm for one of our many good young arms that will be coming soon.
That’s right, after only six games I forgot what I told myself in the off-season and I jumped on the idea that the Orioles may compete this year, despite me knowing and preparing myself for the opposite.
That got me thinking: Why did I do this? Why did I get so hopeful, when I know I should not? I know too much about sports, baseball especially, to think that this would actually happen. When Detroit and Tampa came out of nowhere to win they were built completely differently. They were young teams breaking out. Not old has-beens, or in some cases old, never-have-beens, that were holding a franchise hostage until their youthful talent was ready to play.
I wanted answers. I wanted to know why I got sucked in. I know it was not because of those ridiculous “Bird Land” commercials, because they are awful. What was it? Then it hit me.
I wanted – no wait – I needed something to believe in come July, August, and September. I needed a reason to watch baseball at the end of the summer like I do at the beginning of the spring. The hope. The excitement. That is what I wanted and that is what I needed.
I enjoy watching the young players that come up in September and trying to figure if they are going to be good someday. Watching those youngsters try and get their names out there for next year is fun but I wanted something more. It has been 11 years since I was able to care about a baseball game (after the all-star break) in Baltimore. And I need to care again.
That was it. That was my answer. I was foolishly convincing myself year in and year out that the Orioles would be good because as a life long fan of baseball in general, and more specifically the Orioles, I needed a passionate reason to watch baseball come September. I have watched baseball since I was 5. Not just Oriole baseball either. I have not only been a fan of the Orioles but I have also been a fan of watching baseball and the fun began to fade when the fantasy that Orioles baseball matters for that year faded away. It was just not as much fun to tune into what ever game was on ESPN. There was not as much dedication to turning on Baseball Tonight to see how the teams did because frankly it no longer mattered. Who cares what the Blue Jays are doing if the Orioles aren’t winning.
I realized that is why I need to have something to care about in baseball that will give me reason to turn on Baseball Tonight again because I love baseball and I do not want the fact that the Orioles have been bad for so long, to push me away from the game. I will not let this happen. Now I need to decide what to do to change this pattern.
I watch the Oriole games every night regardless of their records so I know how they did and how their players are doing so there is no reason to watch sporting news shows to see them. (Not that they really highlight them anymore.) So…. I need something else. I have come up with an idea!
Adopt a new team. No, I will not be giving up on the Orioles; but I could adopt a team, or maybe a story, that is in baseball this year that would be worth following. It would give me a reason again to check out the sports shows and see how all the teams are doing. Much like I did when I was 15 and the Orioles were making runs at the playoffs. I tuned in every night because every game counted. I want baseball to matter that much to me again.
I think this could work. It worked for me for years when we had no football team. I tuned in to every football show there was because of the love of the game and I did it every week because I did not have a team to follow or hopes to be destroyed. It works for me with basketball. I am not a big Wizards fan but rather a fan of the game. I find good stories and root for them to pan out. For example I am rooting for the Nuggets this year because they have never won a conference title, much less an NBA title, in their club’s history. So I am pulling for them to win this series and then knock off the Lakers. Plus, I am tired of hearing about Kobe and the Lakers. So I have decided that this may work but I still may have a problem.
Is there any merit to me doing this? Am I no longer a loyal fan if I do this? Will I even be able to do this given my love for the Orioles? This may be tougher then I am thinking. If this is going to work, I will need a plan of action and it better be a good.
I also will be calling this team my borrowed team, because they will not be replacing the Orioles in my heart. They will merely be used to get me reenergized in the game I love.
First, I will have to set myself up with some guidelines that may allow this to work.
I will not pick the Yankees because I HATE the Yankees. Always have, always will. I also will not root for a team playing the Orioles. So no matter who I decide on, I will not be rooting for them when they are playing the Orioles. With that said, it is best not to pick a team that they will be playing in September, so that rules out the American League East teams, as well as Texas and Cleveland. I also do not want to root for a bad team because; lets face it, that is what we have here in Baltimore.
Now that I have the criteria in what I do not want in my borrowed team, I will start to breakdown what I think my team should have and see where that gets me. I want my team to be made up of home grown players. I do not want a team that has won recently. I want a feel good story in my new team, one that will help gain an interest in or attract me to them. And I do not want to be a bandwagon fan. With this I was able to remove several more teams, the Angels, the Phillies, the Cardinals, and the White Sox. I have left the Marlins and the Diamondbacks on the list because they are completely different teams and they have rebuilt through their farm system since they last won. I really enjoy that aspect of baseball.
After adding those two qualities to and removing certain teams I just do not care for, I was able to narrow my list down to five teams. First: the Twins. I like that the Twins win the right way. They tend to play good fundamental baseball and they build their team through the draft and the farm system. I have always felt bad every time they lost one of their home grown talents because of the finances of baseball. For some of the same reasons I have also left Florida on my list. They just do not get the support that they need to keep certain players but they always have talent. That makes them very appealing to me. I also have Milwaukee and Kansas City on my lists. These are franchises that have not been good in a long time and it would be refreshing to see one of them make a good run. It was very nice to see Milwaukee get going last year and I like the fact that they were aggressive and went after it when they saw the opportunity even though they knew they would not be able to bring back Sabathia after trading for him. That is admirable. Kansas City has only had one winning year that I actually remember witnessing; remember I am only 27.
My final prospective team is the loveable losers. That’s right, it is the Chicago Cubs. I know they did not build the team from the farm system. Heck their farm system has sucked. We should know. But they have the story. They have the curse. They never win and I feel bad for the owners who try so hard to give the fans their much longed for championship. They just can’t break the curse. That is why they are on my list.
After reviewing the last five teams I have narrowed it down to two. I selected one from each league so that if one does not work out, I am not left with the same summer blues that I have now. From the American League I select the Minnesota Twins. This is an odd pick since they have the second worse run differential in all of baseball. You guessed it, only the Orioles are worse. But they are in that log jam that is the AL Central and they just got Mauer off of the DL. So I am optimistic that they’ll turn it around. Of course my pulling for the Twins will not begin until Friday. They are in Baltimore for a 2 game set starting tonight.
My other team is from the National League and they are none other than the Chicago Cubs. I figure I am use to losing, so why not follow a team for a season that has made an art out of finding ways to lose when everyone thinks it is their year to win. I figure best case scenario: they win and I borrowed a good team. Worse case scenario: the curse bites them again; but that may be just as entertaining. So hurry back, Carlos. Heal that hamstring. My borrowed team really needs you.
So there you have it. I have decided to make baseball more interesting this year by following two additional teams and their runs at hopefully gaining a post season birth. Hopefully this summer will be more exciting.
I want to stress the point that I am not a free-agent baseball fan; I am and forever will be an Orioles fan. I am just looking for a way to keep me interested in baseball during those dog days of summer until the Orioles are back on the radar of Major League Baseball.