I was driving through Lancaster County last night, with the sun setting quietly on the old year, and it was a terrific moment for reflection and resolutions and to witness the daily miracle that is the beauty of our precious world. I, of course, was on the Twitter reading about new Oriole Derrek Lee
I can't and won't deny that signing Lee, to go along with other winter acquisitions J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds, makes me excited for the new season to start. This was the off-season that I wanted the Orioles to have last year: there aren't any game-changing players being brought into the organization, but all three of these new Orioles bring a lot of short-term upside performance with them without mortgaging the draft or the 2012 budget.
I don't know if Andy MacPhail lucked into this preferable situation by having Adam LaRoche be a tremendous ego-jerk and the Rays being greedy in their asking price for Jason Bartlett. Maybe this was the plan all along. Who knows? But it's been a pleasant off-season for the Orioles and their on-field prospects in 2011 (though any projections of win totals should undoubtedly remain modest, I think).
So, my New Years Resolution for the Orioles is something I want to see on Opening Day that has nothing to do at all with the team taking the field, or the decision makers manning the Warehouse, or even the thought process jumping from synapse to synapse in Andy MacPhail's brain. I want to see Mike Mussina come back to Baltimore.
I'm not one for keeping sentimental mementos just for their own sake. Melvin Mora left the team last year, and his t-shirt was gone to Goodwill. Mora was at one point my oddball choice for favorite Oriole (which may or may not have had something to do with batting .340), but why would I want his t-shirt anymore? He's off the team. I had a glass of cognac in salute to the guy and moved on. But even now, at the bottom of my shirt drawer, I still have the Mike Mussina t-shirt that my mom bought for me on the day he signed with the Yankees.
Let's be clear: I was furious at Mike Mussina. I was only fifteen, and I didn't have time for the nuances of free agent negotiation. Sure, I knew that Peter Angelos was ruining the team, but this was Mike Mussina abandoning me for the easiest answer. He was instantly my least favorite player in baseball, and nothing felt as good as watching him fail over the next ten years. Nothing COULD have felt as good. I was the scorned fan, and I was mad, even just a few years ago.
It's seems like a bit much to suggest that I need to forgive Mussina. What I need to do is forgive the phantom image of the guy who personally rejected and abandoned me. What I need to do is get over myself, because the fact is that Mike Mussina will always be an Oriole. He had the best seasons of his Hall of Fame career in black and orange. He pitched in the last playoff game the birds ever had (and dominated). He pitched in the most famous game ever in Camden Yards (and dominated). He is an Oriole legend, whether he left for the Yankees or stayed and endured the misery of Orioles baseball in the 2000s with the rest of us.
When I walk into Camden Yards for Opening Day 2011, there will be all the electricity and crazy-eyed optimism that always comes on Opening Day. It's a year of renewed hope, and the Orioles have enough young and exciting talent, and solid veteran complements, to give the excitement real weight. But what I really want to see, what I have wanted to see for ten long years, is Mike Mussina in his familiar colors, throwing out the first pitch of the season.
It's 2011. Let's bring the Moose back to Baltimore, where he always belonged.