O’s luck so bad that team seems cursed

Team’s funk approaching 1988 proportions

April 21, 2010|By Peter Schmuck

If you are trying to make sense of the Orioles' early-season collapse, I would suggest that you save your emotional energy.

The O's are in a funk of near-1988 proportion, which is saying quite a lot when you consider that the '88 Orioles pulled off the worst start in the history of major league baseball. There are some message-board geniuses out there who say they knew it all along, but there was no way to predict — and there is no way to adequately explain — what has happened at the outset of the 2010 season.

There's a segment of Orioles fandom that is convinced it's the "Curse of Davey Johnson," which would seem ridiculous if it weren't just as good a theory as any that I can come up with at this point.

The Orioles haven't had a winning season since Johnson's 1997 team went wire-to-wire to win the American League East and he was named AL Manager of the Year on the same day he resigned because of a personality conflict with owner Peter Angelos.

For the record, I don't believe in curses, but this team certainly appears to be under the power of some supernatural negative influence.

How else do you explain the cruel timing of the heartbreaking blown save by new closer Michael Gonzalez on Opening Night or his encore performance on Opening Day at Camden Yards?

How else do you explain one of your starting pitchers getting hurt during an offseason commercial shoot or your $40 million second baseman throwing his back out during a winter workout?

Sure, there is a rational explanation for each individual incident that has contributed to the Orioles' 2-13 start, but there is no rational explanation for the timing, variety and frequency of the setbacks that have come together in this perfect storm of Orioles reverse magic.

For example, when was the last time you saw a player make a throw from left field and tear a back muscle so badly that he will be lost for at least half the season?

The unhappy result of Felix Pie's magnetic resonance imaging was just the latest injury news from a team that is playing without Brian Roberts because of the back injury and Miguel Tejada because of a hip strain.

The other day, a mini-controversy bubbled up over the published report that Cal Ripken Jr. had offered to join the front office and was rebuffed by Angelos. I'm still not sure what actually happened there, but I'm guessing if Cal had offered to step in at third base, the Orioles would have been a little more receptive.

How low can they go?

I don't want to even think about that, but anything is possible at this point. The situation is so critical that they just jettisoned fourth starter Brad Bergesen after only three discouraging starts. The rest of the starting rotation has been fairly solid, so the front office obviously felt a sense of urgency to keep it that way.

Don't misunderstand. I might be cursing the fates here, but I'm not letting the manager, the front office or the players off the hook. The Orioles look as dead as their record, which might be understandable, but it is definitely not acceptable.

The absence of Roberts, which now might stretch well into the season or even through it, deprived the team of its offensive spark and the more recent injuries have cost the Orioles the two players — Pie and Tejada — who have been providing much of the club's on-field intensity.

Utilityman Ty Wigginton has stepped up to lead the team in home runs and RBIs, but it's time for the young nucleus of the lineup to drag the team out of its offensive funk.

That's easy for some columnist to say from his ivory tower, of course, but Nick Markakis and Adam Jones are supposed to be leaders now, and it's time for them to find a way to lead.

I realize it's hard to look alive when you're getting your brains beat out every night. It's even harder when it seems like the baseball gods have taken such a dislike to you that everything that can go wrong finds a way. But that's where character comes into play.

This is the ultimate gut check for this young team.

The schedule is too tough. The hole already is starting to look too deep. The season looks like it's over, and it has barely begun.

This is when you find out if you're just losing, which is temporary, or you're defeated.

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon Fridays and Saturdays and with Brett Hollander on Tuesday and Thursday at six. Also, check out his blog "The Schmuck Stops Here" at http://www.baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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