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Goodbye, Camden Yards (6 To Go)

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Last night's 6-3 loss to Minnesota was the final game for the O's at Camden Yards in 2006. The O's finished the year 40-41 at home, and now we close out in stinkhole Yankee Stadium and then up at Fenway with the Red Sox.

The Tigers clinched themselves a playoff spot, and the Twins are very close to it, so the AL playoff teams are almost certainly going to be Detroit, New York, Oakland and Minnesota. The matchups are still a toss-up, but it's either Minnesota at Oakland or Minnesota at New York for one of them.

Over in the NL, St. Louis is close to clinching, and then it comes down to San Diego, Los Angeles and Philly. I could see any of those teams in either league winning a pennant this season, because nobody is a juggernaut or even close to it. Everyone's got problems. Oakland can't hit, Detroit is seriously the Tigers, the Yankees are old farts and choke artists, the Cardinals kind of stink to be honest, the Mets are just weird, the Padres cannot be taken seriously, the Dodgers are relying on Nomar to not shatter his kneecap when he's eating Jell-o, and the Phillies don't have a third baseman. Conine has an .820 OPS over there, though. Hey, good for him.

Minnesota? I don't see much terribly wrong with them if Liriano gets healthy. If he doesn't, there are obvious problems, like Boof Bonser potentially starting a playoff game. Then again, Derek Lowe. (Derek Lowe is having a really good season, by the way.)

But back to us. What do we have to show for this season? Um, Miguel Tejada is pretty good. Markakis is a stud. Bedard had a nice season. Kris Benson was pretty cool, really. Brian Roberts is having a nice second half that makes me think he's going to jump right back into the elite second basemen ranks next season. There was that brief period where Corey Patterson was pretty awesome, and overall he proved to be entirely worthwhile. He's never living up to his early hype.

Razor Ramon is cool. Fahey's got moxie and gumption. Chris Ray - my man. Chris Britton. Believe it.

And yet, here we are barreling toward 90 losses and a ninth straight losing season. That just makes me think of what else we have to show for this season.

Three-fifths of the opening day rotation (Lopez, Chen, Cabrera, Bedard and Benson) shit the bed. We seriously are employing Julio Manon and Fernando Tatis. Fahey may have moxie and gumption but he sucks.

Jim Brower. Oh, God.

Even worse: Russ Ortiz. Oh, God.

In fact, every member of the bullpen not named Chris was just super into letting the opposition reach first base or perhaps even more. Our bullpen is filled with sluts, is what I'm saying. LaTroy Hawkins was the best of the bunch, and he was no peach. Leo Mazzone could not save the trainwreck that Flanagan and Duquette and Beattie and Elroy Jetson and the Fonz called a pitching staff.

1,000 fans attended a game in order to leave, and Peter Angelos still failed to address the fact that he has willingly put a losing product on the field for almost a decade now, dismissing others' success as luck because actually owning up to much of anything has never been his strong suit. Sure glad he got rid of Wren and Davey. What the hell did those guys know, anyway?

Melvin Mora. Man, I don't wanna talk about Mel's decline. Maybe we'll get lucky and it was just a Lowell-type deal where he sucked for a season but next year he's BACK, baby, yeah!

When you follow a losing team, the end of the season is both bitter and sweet. In some lands, they call it "bittersweet." Part of you is all, "Oh, man, I love baseball, even with this crappy team. I'm gonna miss the ball games." And then part of you is just like, "I'm sick of watching these bums bum around. You're all garbage. Back up the truck! Back it up!"

So now we get to hunker down for the cold months and watch as the Orioles attempt to deliver on their promises of a big offseason and some serious team improvement once again. That's great, man. I'm psyched. The O's spent some money in 2003/04 and that blew up with Old Man River and his boner pills and oh, yes, also, the steroids, plus Ponson's galling on- and off-field performances, plus Javy Lopez ending up a real wein when all was said and done, but sometimes you make mistakes. It doesn't mean you don't damn try again, you know? Miggy worked out! He was a good one!

So do I think the O's really come out loaded to compete with New York, Boston and Toronto next season? Pffft, yeah, I just don't see that happening, really. Not to be a downer or anything. And frankly at this point, a lot of it is simply damage done that cannot be reversed. The franchise's reputation is in the turlet, not just from the losing, but from Angelos in general, and the fact that every couple of months or so, someone on the team remarks how bad it sucks to be on the team.

It's counter-productive of guys like Tejada and Mora to basically sabotage the team's chances of improving themselves by going public with the fact that they aren't really havin' a good time here at the Oriole party, but what can you do? I'm not them, so I don't know how it really is, but shit, how much fun would YOU be having if you were in their shoes? And I halfway feel like it's a good thing, because at least it shows me that those guys want to win. I'm sure everyone else does, too, except Rodrigo or Russ Ortiz or Chen, who clearly desire losing above everything else.

So how to spend the money? Need a real first baseman. I love Millar, we've been over it, but I wouldn't play him every day either. He's a great guy to have around to spell at first, pinch-hit, spot someone in left or right, and be a team leader type of guy, but I don't want him at first base every day. He probably knows that's no good for any team, too. He'd probably tell you that. Actually, I might think more of Millar as a player than Millar does.

I'd say the bullpen, but I don't believe spending money on relievers is a great option. There are ways to piece together a bullpen on the cheap. We just happened to piece ours together with mostly God awful pitchers, many of whom have no business even being in the major leagues.

Gotta upgrade on two spots in the rotation. Penn isn't gonna be ready to go every fifth day. Bedard is obvious, Benson's probably not going anywhere although I don't see him as a priority, and I believe Cabrera deserves another shot (and a lot of work over the winter). Zito's gonna be out there, but the Boras thing ain't happening, and I actually agree that he's not a guy you break the bank for. Jason Schmidt will probably be available. It's a thin market for starting pitching.

But, that's all in the future. We've got six left on the schedule, against the two teams I hate the most, and I'd like to win all six of them. Just for kicks, you know? A little bit of fun. Probably won't happen, but I rooted for these guys 156 other times this season, and I'm not stopping now.