The idea that the Orioles were going to be a bad baseball team this year was so self-evident that it was hardly even worth breaking down into its component parts. Looking at that Opening Day roster, there was no way for most all of us to conceive of the Orioles being good, or even decent. When they opened up strong, I kept waiting for the inevitable return to the Orioles of old, and this never happened. It was a defense mechanism, you know, so I wouldn't be made to be a fool when I believed in them again.
Instead, this reflex of doom became something of a joke at times - Jesus Montero is going to walk off! - and, now that I look back on it all, it is funny to me, too. The Orioles made me wrong about a great many things and I am happy to feel so good about baseball. Lest anyone ever be tempted to take me seriously about anything, I thought it might be fun to share some of the more ridiculous bits of my own writing about the Orioles through this season.
Fortunately, I am in good company about looking ridiculous. As Maggie Smith says in my early offseason obsession, Downton Abbey, "Life is a game in which the player must appear ridiculous." I've definitely got that part down.
The baseball season and the Game of Thrones season were starting near the same time. I took the time to compare a few baseball teams to a few of the noble houses of Westeros.
WHOPPER: The Orioles suck too much to be a noble house. Instead, they are Gared. The character of Gared is noteworthy because he is savagely decapitated by a blue-eyed ice zombie in the first seven minutes of the first episode of last season ... Gared, by virtue of being dead, is out of contention for the throne. The baseball season has yet to start, but the Orioles, by the virtue of being the Orioles, are already out of contention for the World Series.
They ended up nine wins away from winning the World Series. If you added nine wins to their total from last season, they still would not have even reached a .500 record.
ITEM #2: On Jason Hammel
The Orioles took a 4-3 record to Toronto on April 14, and I sounded off in the game thread post about the night's starter, Hammel, an off-season trade acquisition from Colorado.
WHOPPER: The more I think about it, the more I think that the Orioles traded Jeremy Guthrie for a less witty, less Mormon version of Guthrie who throws 30 fewer innings per season. That may very well be wrong, because bloggers exist to be wrong. ... everything about Hammel, except his FIP, is not a compelling stat. So it goes.
Do I get partial credit for immediately noting that I could be wrong? Hammel would end up making 20 starts due to his knee injury costing him time, during which he threw 118 innings, had a 3.43 ERA, an 8.62 K/9, a 2.69 K/BB, and got over 50% ground balls. None of that will get him any Cy Young votes, but I'd say it's plenty compelling.
Many Camden Chat writers enjoyed the Frank Robinson statue game together. One of the things that struck me at the time, and still does in retrospect, was that Frank, all the way back in April, told the crowd that good times were coming in a couple of years. The legends all said this consistently through the year. Did he really believe, or was he just trying to make us feel good? I often wonder.
WHOPPER: Something else cool is that a win guarantees the O's at least a share of first place in the AL East for another day. It won't last, but it's fun when the good month is April instead of August or September. Some day again, every month will be a good month. Not even an optimistic Frank Robinson would say that year is this year.
The Orioles' worst month was July, with a 13-14 record, and it turns out that it's even more fun when August and September are good months: the O's combined to go 37-18. From September 2 to season's end, they were never farther than two games out of the AL East lead, and they spent 10 days tied. That year was this year after all.
INTERLUDE: Chris Davis pitching
As the saying goes, even a broken watch is right twice a day, and I don't know if I could have put it any better when, in my elation over the Chris Davis pitcher win, I concluded the recap with this sentence:
We just might have a real goddamn baseball team on our hands here.
How little I knew, even then!
ITEM #4: The fever dream
The longest losing streak of the season for the Orioles was six games, spanning from May 26 to June 1, including two losses to the Royals and a sweep at the hands of the Blue Jays. In the midst of that, I was feeling a little bit despondent.
WHOPPER: The last few days have felt like the semi-lucid time when you are waking from a particularly vivid fever dream. ... You don't know what day it is. You're fairly sure you know what year it is, but not entirely. You were so immersed in that dream that it was real, man. That world was really happening. "I saw Chris Davis get a win as a relief pitcher!" you exclaim. Everyone laughs nervously. To them, this is a further reminder of how close they came to losing you.
DOUBLE WHOPPER: Twelve games over .500 becomes six games over .500. Now all we have to ask ourselves is whether the Orioles will win again before they reach, and sink below, the .500 mark.
The Orioles stopped that losing streak and then went on to win 10 of their next 14 games. If you look at the 2012 Orioles' Baseball Reference page, you will note that where it says "Most Games Under .500", the answer is never.
ITEM #5: Jamie Moyer
WHOPPER: The entire article is a whopper. I only wrote it because the beat writers on Twitter were making it sound inevitable that he would be called up - because otherwise the Orioles would lose his services. So I had to try to talk myself into the idea of Jamie Moyer. He was released, and I looked ridiculous. Look at that headline! "Get Ready For Jamie Moyer." Neither the first time nor the last that I will look ridiculous. It was a lesson for me in this way: sometimes the professionals don't know any more than you and I.
ITEM #6: The halfway point
As they began their 82nd game on July 5, I looked back a little bit on the first half.
WHOPPER: If the Orioles matched their pace from the first half they would be 88-74 at the conclusion of the season. ... It takes a lot of faith to believe the Orioles will just duplicate their record from the first half in the remainder of the season.
DOUBLE WHOPPER: In this poll at the approximate halfway point, I voted for 74-77 wins. There were 606 total votes, and only 32 people correctly voted that the Orioles would end up in dan o'hare-ville, population 90+ wins.
WHOPPER: You know things are getting bad when people around here are wondering if they will still be above .500 at the conclusion of the eight-game road trip upon which they have now embarked. ... Mostly I just hope that they won't leave me wanting to stab out my own eyes.
They lost that game 19-7.
DOUBLE WHOPPER: I'll forgive you if, after watching last night's game, you were left feeling like the Orioles would never win another game this season. ... What we got was a game I only kept watching because I had to think, what if this ends up being worse than the 30-3 game? That's where the Orioles are right now. We are watching to find out how low they can go. Last night was pretty low, but they could get lower if they tried. 90 wins? Dude, at this point 47 wins would feel akin to a miracle.
Luis Ayala allowed a couple of inherited runners to score in the 5th inning and they lost this game 6-4. They were 46-44. This was rock bottom at this point. Then they started winning, mostly kept on winning, and the rest is history.
I was wrong about most all of it, but it was pretty good to be wrong. If you'll forgive me for quoting Tony Kornheiser, I'll try to do better the next time.