Friday, August 7, 2009

Free Kicks: The Fan's Late-Season Swoon Survival Guide (Edition)

This team is an astonishingly bad 6-15 since the All-Star Break, and they are losing all types of games. Pitching duels, blowouts, late-inning collapses, etc. Peter Schmuck had a wonderful piece on his blog (and you know how critical I am of him lately) that was quite passionate about fans criticizing this team for its record and the free-fall that is happening all too early this season. I know most of these games have been against the Red Sox, Yankees, and AL Central-leading Tigers, but 6-15 speaks for itself. I won’t argue whether this team is in complete late-season disintegration mode; it would be a wasteful exercise that will be borne out by the record anyway. What I will do is provide some tips I have learned to avoid the malaise that occurs when the team is 25 games under .500 and 4 months of losing starts to get to you. Let’s line up for the kick…

Follow the Young Guns
Take a bit of joy in zoning out for Melvin Mora’s at-bat and pay close attention to Nolan Reimold’s and Matt Wieters’ at-bats. Break it down, from how they handle that slider to how hard they run to first. Since one-at-bat rarely matters in the grand scheme of a player’s development, it will be easy to shrug it off if they pop out or strike out, but you can take a great deal of joy in the small victory when they get on base. Same with the pitchers, and there will be an abundance of opportunities for this in the last month and a half- chalk up a 3 inning, 6 earned runs performance to jitters or playing in a new ballpark or adjusting to major league hitters while proclaiming a quality start to be the turning point for next year’s Cy Young candidacy. It may be disingenuous, but rose-colored glasses and selective attention can really make watching a losing team a lot easier.

Blame the Veterans
They won’t be around for the O’s turnaround, so who cares about them? Blame the loss on Wiggington’s boneheaded attempt at a double, or complain about how overpaid Danys Baez is when he gives up the go-ahead run in the 8th. To O’s fans, the team we care about is the team in 2010 or 2011- if the player isn’t going to be on that team, it makes it a lot easier to not be emotionally invested in their success. Does that loss really count if you can blame it on the gus who won’t be here? That’s up to you.

Minor League Successes
The Delmarva Shorebirds, Norfolk Tides, and Bowie Baysox are all in a playoff hunt in their respective leagues. Sure most of the talented players who started with Bowie or Norfolk are gone now, but there is never a bad time to root for a winning team. Head over to one of their stadiums to get the feel for what a pennant hunt feels like- the atmosphere can truly be incredibly exciting as you watch the O’s of tomorrow try to win one at the minor league level. Plus, it’ll prepare you as a fan for when the major league club is making a run in a year or two.

There is Always Football Season
Yes, it was bound to come up eventually. The presence of football season in August (and seemingly year round) can come as a respite to the beleaguered fan who has just had enough of watching Jeremy Guthrie give up a 3 run shot or watching Aubrey Huff ground slowly into an inning-ending double play. That isn’t to say it’s a cop-out, there are plenty of great stories going on at training camp- the development of Joe Flacco, the dearth of wide receivers (what need is bigger: the O’s for a quality starter or the Ravens for a quality receiver?), the reinvention of the defense, etc. Walking away from the O’s in September may not be classy, but for personal sanity it may be a fan’s last option.

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