Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Okay So... Orioles Now, Huh?

It seems like Maryland sports did us good these last few months, which if you had asked me in December I thought we would have the most active spring training analysis out there. The lack of which was a result of all the other great achievements that pushed the upcoming 60-70 win season to the backburner. While we are all in mourning over the Lady Terps’ fall in the Elite Eight, let’s appreciate the run that they made and the excitement that the men’s team gave us in miraculously making the tournament and upsetting Cal in the first round.

However, I have to say a bit about the Louisville game last night. When a team gets accustomed to coming from behind like Maryland had this NCAA tournament, fans will wait and wait for that big run to come. A few times I thought it was there- when Krisit Toliver made a three pointer followed up by the supporting cast putting together a nifty layup. At the end of the day, a team’s stars have to come through and make the plays to create momentum and take the game over. The Cardinals did an excellent job of stifling Toliver and Coleman for the most part and forcing the other role players to keep the Terps in the game. And they did, for the most part. The intensity however was clearly on the side of the Cardinals and every time Maryland looked to make a run Louisville didn’t flinch. I don’t know how much the variety of defenses Louisville threw at Maryland was the result of their Coach Jeff Walz’s tutelage at the hands of Brenda Frese, but it was effective. This was a terrible way for Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver to end their careers at Maryland, that is all I can say.

Now I suppose, with about a week left until Opening Day, we are finally compelled to turn our eyes to the Orioles and the disastrous starting rotation, the Matt Wieters-watch, and look once again for improvement. It seemed like last year we entered the season with the same sort of patience, but fans quickly grew restless when the expected outcome actually came to pass. Fans said before the season that they knew the Orioles would be awful but were happy with the direction it was going; they were essentially told it would get worse before it got better. And yet as the trade deadline approached there were many Baltimore fans who wanted the Orioles to make a move; to add a bat to strengthen the middle of the lineup or make a push for a high quality shortstop. This year could even be worse than last year if the pitching staff plays to most people’s (not mine) expectations. Let’s hope that patience keeps up this time around.

The most exciting and most hyped part of this season (both locally and nationally) is the arrival of Matt Wieters in Baltimore sometime this summer. He is being hailed as the next Longoria, or even more incredible- the best catcher in the American League (yes, including Joe Mauer)! We often forget how young Wieters is and how much development he may need- hitting against real major leaguers is much different than spring training or AA work, and catching against some of the smartest hitters in the game is a tremendous challenge for a rookie catcher. Look, I am certain he will do well in the long run, but how will fans react if he is hitting .220 a month into his time with the O’s? I don’t think it will happen, but if he does struggle the fan base will have to restrain themselves and keep up the patience a bit longer.

Since the last baseball season ended for the Orioles, we have seen Joe Flacco lead last year’s 6-10 club to the AFC Championship game. We have also seen the Maryland football team play erratically game to game en route to a Boise, Idaho bowl win. The Men’s basketball team disappointed then massively improved to squeak into the NCAA tournament, and the Women’s team played out of their minds until coughing it up in the Elite Eight. And of course along the way Maryland soccer picked up a national championship. All of the teams we closely follow here on ATH made the postseason, something rather incredible considering how negative the news seems at the time. Now we enter a season that seems slated to test our resolve for rebuilding. Whether we like it or not it’s Orioles time, brace yourself.

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