Not to get all bent out of shape about a week's worth of spring training games or anything, but it now seems painfully clear that the Orioles right field position has been cursed. Not your dollar store spellbook curse, either. I'm talking dark, eldritch magic. The real stuff, like Spinal Tap's drummer or the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts.
When the events of the last several weeks are combined with the revolving door in the corner outfield last season, there can be no other explanation. Admittedly, left field last year was worse than right field overall. Still, the two players with the most starts in right field were Gerardo Parra (.625 OPS as an Oriole) and Delmon Young (.628 OPS). Add in Travis Snider (.650 OPS with the O's) and that's more than half of the games played last year.
Developments since spring training has begun reveal the true form of the curse. There is no hiding any more. Its false garments have been tossed aside.
The proof of the curse
How else can you explain the close-but-no-cigar pursuit of Dexter Fowler but with the kind of power that can only be called forth by an offering of livestock in front of the oldest oak tree at high noon on the solstice? Fowler was going to be the O's right fielder, all agreed - then the curse took him and back to Chicago he went. That kind of reversal almost never happens, and yet it's exactly what happened to keep the O's from getting their man.
Among those who have tried to wear the mantle in spring training, it has seemingly been one disaster after another. The presumptive favorite to win the job, Nolan Reimold, didn't even make it to the start of spring training games before a "cranky" shoulder limited him to designated hitter to begin the Grapefruit League schedule.
Granted, Reimold suffering another injury is not exactly proof of a curse, but then, even dark magic takes a lay-up when it can get one.
After Reimold, Mark Trumbo took a turn out there. Trumbo blew two plays into triples in the first inning he played in right field - from the same batter! This, too, is no proof of a curse; one might well have anticipated the outcome of Trumbo in the outfield. Yet it's more to make you wonder. He hasn't been back out there since.
Add to that the fate of Jimmy Paredes in the midst of his first game standing out there with a glove. You might know the song - "Right field, it's easy you know; you can be awkward and you can be slow" - and maybe that is the perfect description... except the kid in the song at least gets his triumphant moment at the end, because he knows how to catch and he knows how to throw, way out where the dandelions grow.
If you are about my age, you know this song because it played in a commercial for Pizza Hut before your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles VHS tape.
Sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah, Paredes. Look, I'm sure he tried his best, but what actually happened was he tried to catch a sinking line drive and in the process he injured his wrist. In typical Orioles fashion, this injury was first described as non-serious and definitely not a break of any kind, and now they "have to re-image him" to check for a hairline fracture.
Sounds about right. We know how this will end. Paredes getting hurt was not an expected outcome, but Paredes having a tough time in right field was also predictable.
Any one of these things taken individually is not convincing, but all of them added up together can only mean one thing. The only question is, who has laid this curse on the Orioles?
The originator of the curse
The answer is staring back at us, unsmiling, maybe opening up a beard-obscured mouth long enough to say, "You know." For who else could it be except Nick Markakis, the stalwart presence in right field for nearly a full decade before the O's chose not to re-sign him? There were no problems when he was here. Now he is gone and one full season was a mess and one spring is a display of ever-increasing carnage and mayhem. Hide your kids.
It may not even be a curse that was intentionally laid by Markakis on the Orioles. It's tough to figure that any kind of power could possibly be emanating from Markakis as he has been powerless since 2012.
Yet power of some kind must be buried deep within him, for my extensive research has revealed that the name Markakis is in fact the modern corruption of the True Name of Mar Ka'ye'ka'iss, the demon whom men in ancient days, fearing the True Name, called He After Whom There Is Only Suck. It still sings.
Even that modern rendering has power of its own kind, because the name "Nick Markakis" has anagrams that reveal everything about this curse. Behold:
Karma Kicks In
A vocal contingent of Orioles fans has been irate ever since Markakis' departure, but maybe it turns out their sentimental attachment to Markakis was onto something. One might argue that the O's invited a certain karmic reaction by letting their steady presence walk elsewhere... and now that has kicked in, as the anagram suggests. Or how about this:
A Mac Kink Irks
Who was the GM who signed Markakis to his contract extension with the Orioles, the one that ran out at the end of 2014? Oh, yes. It was Andy MacPhail - A Mac! And as for the kink, that's obviously the $17.5 million club option the O's held on Markakis for the 2015 season that they chose to decline, a decision that clearly irked someone, or something, powerful.
So what can they do to get rid of it?
Breaking the curse
The surest way you know that the Orioles believe in this curse is that they made at least a token inquiry with the Braves about re-acquiring Markakis. They were foiled in that. More's the pity, because having Markakis back in right field would obviously reverse the curse.
Failing that, what else can they do? The "ride it out" option has only gotten us where we are now. More drastic measures may be needed. If the advice of About.com's Paganism/Wicca expert doesn't provide all the guidance we need, well, we are truly lost.
Those remedies include placing a mirror in a bowl of black salt, in front of an object of power representing the curse-caster (perhaps a Markakis jersey?) and smashing that mirror with a hammer while saying their name. They remind you, and so shall I, to wear safety glasses.
Or perhaps a poppet would do the trick? Take a small doll to represent the Oriole Bird, then follow the ritual as prescribed in order to draw the curse into the poppet and away from the Orioles.
Other suggestions include magical bindings, spellbreaking talismans, purifying baths, and calling forth an "uncrossing" spell by reciting the 37th Psalm in its original Hebrew. Well, obviously. Why didn't I think of that?
And just as obviously, all of the above is a whole lot of bunk, but I would rather the Orioles try any of those methods before trading for Jay Bruce and holding him up as any kind of answer in right field. A guy who's batted .222/.288/.406 over the past two seasons is cursed before he ever gets here.
There does not seem to be any help coming, so O's fans can only hope that one way or another, the answer on who will break the curse is already here. Unfortunately, the O's attempts to address this deficiency did not bear any fruit, not for lack of their trying to throw money at it. It's too late for anyone positive to come in from outside the organization.
At least, even if O's right fielders are bad again, this year they've only spent money on those players, instead of spending multiple pitching prospects to end up with a bunch of failures. That is progress in its own depressing way.