Maybe this is the wrong crowd for this question, but when was the last time that an individual Oriole game really made you live or die? You know, when that key (dare I say "defining") moment comes and you can't breathe and everything hits slow motion and fast forward at the same time and the air is pure electric. When was the last time that happened to you? When was the last time you lived and died with this team?
I think, sadly, that Mark Teixeira killed that emotion for me. That December day I literally could not see straight, and in all the days since then I have not felt the tinge of need with the Orioles. It's not 100% Tex's fault; they've all been lost seasons, and I've found it sadly increasingly easy to roll with the punches. Another loss, a relatively rare win, it's all been increasingly okay with me. I've been deadened. It's not the saddest thing ever, but still: I've lost something in all this losing, and I think it's been since Teixeira signed with the Yankees.
Or, in actuality, it's that I thought it was since that horrible day. But see, there was one day that I remember oh so clearly. I drove around town singing Bob Dylan and felt the rush again. And I was not alone. I think - unless I'm just talking to the wrong crowd - if you're honest with yourselves you know exactly which day I'm talking about because it very well might have been the last day you honest-to-goodness felt something, too.
I know I'm not alone, either: the ballpark sold out, the crowd brought that simple electricity from the very first play of the game (which was a bunt), Luke Scott hit two home runs, a rainbow formed over the warehouse, and somebody had obviously spiked the orange kool-aid. And it was a celebration in Baltimore, mimicking what the nation had celebrated the previous November, though depending on who you ask it was either substantially more or substantially less trivial: we were celebrating Hope.
I went to Boston that weekend to see a Phish concert in Fenway Park and didn't the rest of that series, and when I came back home the feeling was gone gone gone. You just can't recreate that sense of place, and you certainly can't hold on to it (that would defeat the point). But I haven't felt it since then, I haven't felt a lot of Hope. Frustration, sure. Anger? Oh yes. Hopelessness - in spades. Hope, excitement, energy? Not really. Don't get me wrong - I've been into the games, I've felt the losses, but it's not the same.
I thought it went back to Mark Teixeira because he is the epitome of my frustration with the Orioles. The elite guys don't want to be here. Heck, even Bobby Valentine said "Thanks, but I'd rather not manage than manage the Orioles". Our own general manager has made it clear that he'd like for the Orioles to be in a different division away from the big boys, that this mountain just might be too high, that we simply can't bring in talent because the talent doesn't want to waste it in Baltimore. That's so maddening.
Enter Buck Showalter, talented, experienced, wants to be in Baltimore. He isn't saying anything I haven't heard from Mike Hargrove, Lee Mazzilli, Sammy Perzollo, Dave Trembley, or Juan Samuel. He isn't doing much of anything yet except watching and learning and talking. I will hold to my dying day that the Orioles hot streak has been simply a coincidence with Buck's arrival. Is anyone seriously going to tell me Brad Bergesen had an incredibly lucky seven inning masterpiece because Buck gave him a pep talk before the game? 'Cause I ain't buying it.
And yet...I watched his introductory press conference twice, and I've seen and heard about the spikes in interest in the team, and there is something there. Something not tangible, but very real. It feels...familiar, and I feel like I can almost reach out and grab it...