Tuesday, September 2, 2008

September Skies look Bleak for O's, but Season has Silver Lining

The August and September swoon is as reliable as the changing of the seasons. As sure as it seems as a losing season for the Baltimore Orioles. I know I sound defeatist, but in a season of surprises I hoped that this team would go down slowly, not with a thud. For the longest time we hovered above .500. Then we lingered just below it. Then 5 or 6 games back. Now the bottom may have dropped out on this team. The O’s have lost 11 of their last 13 games, and have fallen to 63-74 with no hope of reaching .500 by the end of the season.

We have predicted it for quite a while on this blog without ever really wanting to go out and say anything for certain. We have seen the bullpen tire and get hurt, the starters fail to go more than 5 innings. We have seen an offense that is spectacular some nights but not reliable enough to carry the team. Even an offense like the Rangers can’t overcome terrible pitching. Andy MacPhail is right- this is a game won by pitching. The fact is that at least this year, we don’t have it.

But before we go running for the hills, or drop our heads and sigh in disgust, or start our tailgate party for the Bengals game, let’s consider how far this team has come and whether this September swoon is something that is here to stay. While this team may finish with almost as bad a record as last year’s 69-93 mark, there is no denying that Orioles fans have a lot to be grateful for. The very fact that we are disappointed at this late season collapse should be a testament to how incredibly this team has exceeded all expectations this year.

Remember back to March 30th, if you can change your mindset so much. Your mind was on the NFL Draft, how you would fill the time during this waste of a season for the O’s faithful. We all signed up for a 4 or 5 year transition, a rebuilding from the ground up, from rookie league to the major league club, getting young players and bringing them slowly up through the minors. Oh how quickly we gave up on that patience when the team opened up on fire in April and part of May. How we patted ourselves on the back and some argued that we were “one or two players away from contending.” We forgot that it was an attitude like that that created the Angelos recipe for losing baseball.

Dave Trembley has gotten his players to buy in to his system, to his emphasis on fundamental baseball. He has a fun team, an energetic locker room, a proud squad that leaves everything on the field- that is more than the Orioles have had in a long time. The pieces from the Bedard and Tejada trades should be considered the tip of the iceberg of what should be a wave of trades and otherwise overlooked free agent signings that will usher in a new era of Orioles baseball in, yes, 3 or 4 more years.

We have been lucky this year, blessed in fact to have a team worth watching. This blog would not have half the positive material to write about without the impressive work that the Orioles team and front office have done this season. Who would read Windsor’s Prospect Reports if there wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel (sorry, not me)? This tunnel is a lot longer than it looked in May, but the light is still there.

With the end of the Boston series coming up and series with the Rays, Yankees, Blue Jays, and Twins this month the late season free fall should get a bit of a push. But excuse me if I don’t shrug and say “So how about those Ravens?” Things aren’t much prettier over there…

Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun via Getty Images

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