The Baltimore Orioles offseason of relative inactivity (so far) has given Birds fans that Yogi Berra-ish feeling of “it’s like déjà-vu all over again.” The comment boards on all Orioles sites, along with the most creatively snarky Twitter remarks about the #Orioles, are aflame with criticism and impatience.
Is this justified? Well, yes and no. It is “yes” in the sense that Orioles management needs to understand that the fan base has a well-established and justifiable fear of reverting to a previous condition. And it is “no” in the sense that, hey, it is only the middle of December.
The emotion of it all is fueled particularly this year by the sight of early signings of free agents around baseball, and there is a sense of being left behind. It is sort of like this: Even though the Prom is still six weeks away, it seems like everyone around you has a quality date, but you! And you are afraid you’re going to be stuck that night with an awkward arrangement that you’ll regret at dinner, long before the dance even begins.
Maybe this is a better illustration. Fans often see themselves as addicts – with an addiction to a team that causes them to do otherwise unproductive behavior and clinging to emotional bonds of weird dependency. But think of it this way – let’s flip the illustration. For the Orioles fans, it is like living with someone who has had an addiction – an addiction to losing. It has been a long-time pattern, and now, for the past two years, there is hope that the pattern has been broken. But when the addict – in this case Orioles management – appears to be falling back into prior patterns, the old fears resurrect to the surface again.
Addictions Anonymous programs ask these questions: Are you troubled by someone’s addiction? Did you grow up with an addict? Has your life been affected by someone else’s addiction? And many Orioles fans would answer yes, yes, yes. My kids are often Orioles skeptics because, until the past two years, they have no memory of a winning tradition. And those of us old enough to remember 1966 and following … and into the 80s, have endured seeing this team we love take on an alien personality for 13-14 long years.
In any event, the past two years have given hope that the real Baltimore Orioles are back. Yet the hurt of the past is not that far removed, and relatively inactive behavior that appears to be similar to the past – of not making bold moves to better oneself in areas of weakness – are going to dredge up those memories.
The good news in all of this is that the Orioles fans really do care, and they care deeply about the team. They really are fans – fanatics, yes … what this sports network celebrates even with its name and historical origin.
Beyond caring, the fan base really does want to win. And that is the challenge. It is difficult to do. There are 29 other teams attempting to do the same thing, and the Orioles have to do it in the AL East. Winning is hard, which makes it so sweet when you do end on top – as I made a big deal out of winning state championships as a high school coach, because you never know when you will ever get to do it again.
So the Orioles management needs to understand the emotions behind fan base clamoring, and fans do need to understand that today is December 16th, not February 16th. Do Orioles fans really want some of these deals going down out there? A majority of them are totally crazy. And as was written yesterday at BirdsWatcher.com – the official Orioles FanSided Network site – the other AL East opponents have lost far more than they have gained.
Here’s some good news (in my humble opinion) – reports are out there today that John Axford is going to sign with the Cleveland Indians. As I’ve written ad nauseam about this, Axford would be no solution for real or perceived bullpen shortages. His numbers are far, far worse than Kevin Gregg, for example (look back at previous articles for the charts and details). I continue to believe that Grant Balfour would be a good addition, and if not Balfour, then maybe Joaquin Benoit could be considered? Benoit had a 2.01 ERA in 67 innings for the Tigers this past year – with a WHIP of 1.030. That’ll work.
So again, the Prom is not as close as we maybe think. Don’t panic … yet.