Waiting on deck: more doom and gloom for Orioles fans

April 03, 2006|By KEVIN COWHERD

Let's begin with full disclosure: I'll be out at Camden Yards this afternoon, in Section 324, swilling a $7 beer and stuffing a $4.50 hot dog into my big fat face when the Orioles open the season against Tampa Bay.

More disclosure: I have no hope for this team.

Neither, it seems, do the so-called experts.

Sports Illustrated picks the O's to finish last in the American League East.

Sporting News lists them among eight teams in the major leagues with no chance to contend.

ESPN.com picks them to finish behind Dulaney High School.

And The Sun picks them for the middle of the pack in the slow-pitch softball league that meets Wednesdays in Patterson Park.

(OK, fine, those were a couple of cheap shots. But when you're doing gloom and doom, you might as well go all the way.)

The point is this: Unless the moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars, it'll be another long, frustrating season for the Orioles.

As for their long-suffering fans, they may need to swill even more of those $7 beers to get through the next six months.

If you're big on reading the tea leaves, the signs coming out of the O's spring training camp weren't encouraging.

Their star player, shortstop Miguel Tejada, seemed listless at bat and in the field, suddenly not getting to ground balls that a guy in a wheelchair would gobble up.

As of this writing, their third baseman, Melvin Mora, is upset the team hasn't offered him a new contract, and the fear is he could soon lapse into a world-class sulk.

The guy they hoped would play first base, Javy Lopez, has taken to the position like a giraffe riding a unicycle. (Since his glove is still the baseball equivalent of a roadside bomb, he'll be the designated hitter for a while.)

And their manager, Sam Perlozzo, was forced to give the players a pep talk about jacking up the intensity, which at the time was at the Sitting-Around-the-Pool-With-a-Pina-Colada level.

(There was no consensus on whether the pep talk worked, although at least the players got up from their lawn chairs to listen to him.)

None of this is what Orioles fans want to hear, of course, not after eight losing seasons in a row and the team's Hindenburg-like blow-up the second half of last season.

But this is what it's like to be an O's fan these days.

To be an Orioles fan, you have to accept this cold, cruel fact: Your team will not be very good.

Oh, who are we kidding? Let's tell it like it is: The odds are your team will stink.

Your team will be hard to watch, and there will be much pain and suffering when you do. The experience will tear at your soul.

And to deal with it at Camden Yards, you may find yourself shooting your hand in the air every few innings and yelling: "Beer man!"

Sure, that can get a little pricey.

But what's 7 bucks a pop for that kind of emotional relief?

Is this too much doom and gloom for you on Opening Day?

Sorry.

Believe me, it gives me no great pleasure to write it.

Someday, of course, life will get better for O's fans.

Someday, the Orioles will be good again.

Someday, they'll be fun to watch. The hitting will be consistent. The pitching will be overpowering. The defense will be fun to watch.

Someday the manager won't have to deliver pep talks to millionaire ballplayers about playing hard.

But that day isn't here just yet.

No, the way it looks now, watching this team in 2006 will be like opening your Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. bill: It'll leave you shaking your head and muttering, "What the hell are they doing?"

Still, for some of us who follow this team, it's time to block out all the negative stuff and look forward to the new season, anyway.

For one thing, we get to watch the great game of baseball again. (Hey, no cracks - yes, that is what the O's play.)

We also know this: There's still no better place on earth to watch a ballgame than at Camden Yards.

It might help to have a good beer man working your section, though.

Otherwise, it could be a long, long season.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

To listen to podcasts featuring Kevin Cowherd, go to baltimoresun.com/cowherd.

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