Park that karma at Yards

April 07, 2009|By PETER SCHMUCK

There's no point in trying to make sense of it. The Orioles turned conventional wisdom on its head to trounce the New York Yankees on Opening Day at Camden Yards. They beat the most expensive pitcher on the most expensive team in baseball and left us with nothing but John Lennon ringing in our skulls.

Instant karma's gonna get you.

How else do you explain Mark Teixeira's punchless Yankees debut or the strange eighth-inning home run by shortstop Cesar Izturis that had a spooky resemblance to the infamous Jeffrey Maier incident at Yankee Stadium all those years ago?

Maybe that's a stretch, but the Orioles' 10-5 victory had a strange quality that you don't find in a lot of baseball games, especially baseball games between teams on the opposite ends of the competitive spectrum. There was something for everyone - some aspect of the experience that rang true no matter what mind-set you brought to the ballpark with you.

Obviously, if you were disgusted with Teixeira's decision to choose the Yankees instead of his hometown Orioles last winter, he obliged you with an 0-for-4 performance that was satisfying on both an emotional and strategic level. There were a couple of situations in which he could have made Oriole Park his stage on his first real day in pinstripes, but he did nothing to quiet the angry fans who booed him lustily at every turn.

If you are generally upset with baseball's uneven economics, there had to be some satisfaction in watching $341 million worth of free-agent talent - Sabathia and Teixeira - run aground on Day One. No doubt, Sabathia will rise up and compete for the Cy Young Award and Teixeira will deliver his usual 35 home runs and 120 RBIs, but on this particular day in this particular place, they were just a couple of plug nickels. Those who are so inclined could either look at that as an argument for or against some kind of enforced payroll equality.

If you're an Orioles optimist, Jeremy Guthrie's performance proved spring-training statistics don't mean that much and - by extension - neither does all that past-performance information that makes the Orioles' rotation so frightening. Guthrie couldn't get anybody out during the exhibition season or the World Baseball Classic, but he and pitching coach Rick Kranitz insisted all along spring-training stats were meaningless. Now, there's a little more room to hope that applies to Adam Eaton and George Sherrill, though not to spring standouts Koji Uehara and Alfredo Simon.

If you're investing in the Orioles long term, all you had to do was look at the terrific Opening Day performance of center fielder Adam Jones and project forward to the day he and Nick Markakis are joined by Matt Wieters and the club's stable of top minor league pitching prospects. Jones went 3-for-3 with a triple and two big RBIs and figures to display more power and speed this year.

By the same token, if you came into the season doubting the Orioles are on the right road, it wasn't hard to see the cracks that could develop in a hurry. Guthrie pitched better than many anticipated, but the Orioles looked for the longest time as if they were going to blow a 6-1 lead that would have been more comfortable if they had been more resourceful at the plate in the early innings.

Nobody is going to complain about a double-digit offensive performance, but even the Orioles' hitters would probably concede they didn't catch Sabathia on his best day and they needed that strange karmic incident at the left-field wall to keep the Yankees at bay. Izturis had hit just one home run in the previous two seasons before coming up in the eighth and sending the ball to the spot where left fielder Johnny Damon and a fan came together like Maier and Tony Tarasco in the 1996 playoffs.

If you've been waiting a long time for that worm to roll over, maybe that was a sign the Orioles are turning some cosmic corner, that this really is a transitional season that will point them toward a new era of competitiveness.

More likely, it was just a quirky coincidence on a day when a lot of things fell right for the Orioles, but what fun is that?

Listen to Peter Schmuck every weeknight at 6 on WBAL (1090 AM).

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