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It’s closing time in Birdland. Drink up.

That's When You'll Know It's Over

Nothing dies on the Internet. This is both one of the medium’s greatest assets and one of its most pressing drawbacks. Permanence is a lure as well as a drag. And, ultimately, a hard thing to reconcile.

It creates a sense that things must always continue. But work is projects and projects have to end. At some point you must stop editing the novel, stop putting paint on the canvas, stop adding salt to the soup. Knowing when to say when is the hardest thing about creativity but I’ve always felt I was good at it.

So, The Loss Column is heading into retirement.

This comes, I’m sure, as no great surprise to anyone left to hear about it. I may even be a few months late but I wanted to let the Orioles season play out.

We had an awesome run.

This site started in 2006, the result of a bit of inspiration from my friend Chris. We had that conversation on a landline phone. Today I don’t even have a landline phone.

At the time, the Orioles were closing out their ninth straight losing season. The day the first post went live, August 15 of ’06, they played the Tigers and (what else?) lost. 17-2. Hayden Penn started the game and gave up seven hits and seven runs in 3.2 innings. The guys who replaced him were named Ortiz, Abreu, Rleal, and Manon. Every one of them gave up at least a run.

There were few Orioles and/or Baltimore Sports-focused sites then. It took me some time to find my voice here but when I did we went on a 4-5 year run that I’ll stack up against anybody in terms of how we did things and the quality of the conversations.

Today the Orioles are winners two years running and they made the playoffs. The landscape is full of sites devoted to covering the team and Baltimore sports as a whole. I’d be lying if I said I felt there was no place anymore for TLC but, at the same time, I don’t feel like there’s a whole lot left to prove.

I never thought we’d last seven years but, looking back, I’m pretty proud.

So here’s where I pause and thank the folks without whom none of it would have happened:

Thanks first and foremost to the regular commenters. Dan the Man, sci, Big Ben’s Motorcycle, Andrew (formerly of Rochester), Ryan, Dan H, Ryan97ou, and Miles chief among them. You guys had as much of a hand in all of this as I did. Props as well to our old friend Drew Forrester (df1570), who while he hasn’t been around in awhile (and whose stock-in-trade was mind-numbing frustration) was nevertheless an interesting part of our salad days.

Thanks as well to Baltimore Magazine for the “Best Of” recognition a couple of years ago, and to anyone and everyone who ever linked to us (Camden Chat, Baltimore Sports Report, a host of others). There was never a moment when I didn’t appreciate that sort of thing.

Much love to everyone who contributed front-page content. The aforementioned Chris (who called Joe Flacco to the Ravens in his 2008 mock draft), Staci, the aforementioned Dan the Man and Andrew and Ryan, the Baltimore Chop. I hope I did you all right.

Ultimately, thanks to everyone who ever read the site. Plain and simple, I appreciate it. Means more than you know. If I could buy each of you a beer, I would.

So, now? Retirement, in this case, means just that. Slowing down here and moving into another phase.

The Loss Column isn’t dead — it isn’t shutting down — but posting will officially be sporadic (as opposed to being unofficially sporadic). I also reserve the right to pull a Jay-Z if the mood strikes but, for now, this space needs to rest in favor of other things.

One of them is work, of course. The day-to-day. Another is a cool project that I’ll be talking a lot about when the time is right. I’m going to start ramping up to regular posting on Medium, where you can currently read one post but where you’ll soon find a lot more. I hope to continue my posts for MASN. And, well, I’ve got a few more ideas.

You’ll hear from me. Especially if you follow me on Twitter — please do so if you haven’t already.

So this isn’t goodbye, but it’s something. Thanks again.

If you’re so inclined, raise a glass.

How Time Flies…

Yeah, it’s been awhile. So it goes and on to the next.

Last year on this date the Orioles were 70-57. At that point we were just beginning to believe that perhaps the team was for real and would, somehow, make a playoff run.

Today they are 70-59 — equal to last year’s pace in the win column and only slightly behind overall.

Yet it feels so…different.

Part of me wishes I still had the bandwidth to cover the O’s day-by-day the way I did four or five years ago. Then again, part of me is glad I don’t. It was simple back then. Today I have a hunch I’d drive myself crazy trying to reconcile the difference between how August 26th feels in 2013 versus how the same date felt last year.

I have this thing I like to do, personally, where I look at what I call “resetting normal.” What I mean there is that at any given moment we have what we understand and then we have the world as we would like it.

To get from one thing to the next means grasping the long game. You can make great leaps here and there — and you should — but real advancement requires sustainability. Sustainability means incremental shifts, such that “normal” changes almost without recognition. This, by nature, should happen slowly.

By this standard, the 2012 Orioles season was a burden of blessings. They reset normal so quickly that now we, as fans, are in danger of losing our memory.

I’d be the first person to register an alarm if the Orioles had taken a step backward this year. But they haven’t done that. Indeed, they’re arguably more impressive this year given the fact that their record in one-run and extra-inning games is no longer historical, and given that Jim Johnson has gone from hero to problem child.

I’m not sure I can bet on a second consecutive playoff berth, but I’m sure I can’t bet against it. And I’m pretty sure that’s enough. At least for now.

Rest In Peace, Art Donovan

Rest In Peace, Baltimore Colts legend Art Donovan

I don’t have an Artie Donovan story, unfortunately. I was never lucky enough to meet him and his playing days were before my time.

But I knew him as a legend. The kind of guy who is thoroughly irreplaceable.

Baltimore lost another great one. Respect.

Duquette is Playing to Win, and I Like It

Orioles pitcher Bud NorrisAfter the Orioles scooped up Scott Feldman a few weeks back I, like most folks, figured that would be the last of stretch-run pitching additions. It is, after all, not common for a team in the depths of a playoff hunt to remake 40% of its pitching rotation at or just before the trade deadline.

With the acquisition of Bud Norris, however, that’s exactly what Dan Duquette did. And I like it.

To be sure, neither Norris nor Feldman represent fully game-changing moves. They will not, by themselves, win the Orioles the division or even the Wild Card. But will they help?

I think so, mostly because they’re better (or should be better) than the guys they replaced. Maybe they only amount to an extra win or two each but in a race as tight as the AL East/Wild Card figures to be those games will matter.

More broadly, what both moves signify is that Duquette isn’t waiting for next year.

To go along with that, he’s also not going for broke. None of the players he gave up figured to be major pieces in the next 2-3 years (save for perhaps Arrieta, who needed a change) and, thus, don’t materially affect the goal of contending with the current core.

This is what I want to see out of my GM. Smart, well-timed acquisitions with an eye on a playoff run when it looks realistic to make one. There is, after all, no time like the present. Not if you think you have the players to make it happen.

The idea is that you do everything you possibly can to make a good team better without sacrificing the future. Duquette’s moves in that regard are textbook. Smart. The O’s still don’t look like world-beaters on paper but he took a contending team and made them a few degrees stronger. And I’m real eager to see how it plays out.

Orioles Food For Thought: Vol. 1

vintage-orioles-logo-with-happy-birdFeeling a regular feature coming on here…

☞ As Dan the Man said, of course Erik Bedard took himself out of a no-hitter.

And I don’t even fault him for it, simply because that’s Bedardism at its most high. He might be the only guy in the game who can get away with something like that.

☞ Miguel Tejada is still playing baseball?

Good for him. At this point he’s got to be doing it for love.

☞ That All-Star game was righteous.

I watched just about the whole thing and I can’t remember the last time that happened. Seeing Manny Machado out there flashing the leather made me feel like a little kid, in awe of the game all over again.

Which is to say…

☞ Not to belabor the point, but I really can’t believe how far these guys have come.

Two years ago, on 07/23/11, the O’s lost 3-2 to the Angels to leave them at 40-57. Let that sink in for a moment.

The craziest part? This organization is still nowhere near as good as it can get. There’s plenty of work left to do to rebuild the farm system and continue developing homegrown talent (pitchers especially). For them to be this good, this soon (relatively speaking), is amazing.

☞ Chris Davis, Manny Machado, JJ Hardy, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters

Name me one team that wouldn’t take that core.

Is Now the Time For an Angelos Renaissance?

Orioles owner Peter AngelosAs of press time for this column the Orioles haven’t been playing well. Losers of five of six before tonight, they’re right on the verge of a bona fide slump. Let me say up front that it’s OK. They’ve slumped once before this season and they’ll slump at least one more time. Overall, there’s no reason to think they won’t be contenders to the end.

Even if they’re not, though, we’ve already seen a playoff season followed by a +.500 first half. We’re way past “fluke” territory.

Where does this leave Peter Angelos?

Go back a few years as an Orioles fan and the Angelos name hovered above everything that happened on the field. The team was bad (or, at best, “not good”) and Angelos was the biggest and most convenient boogeyman most folks could find to help explain why. He was an easy demon.

The truth was always more complicated. Angelos’ track record as an owner isn’t exactly free from demerits but those who suggested that he didn’t care or didn’t want to win were peddling nonsense. Peter Angelos was never the sole reason for the team’s failure, and the list of his shortcomings as an owner never included a bullet point for apathy. The business just doesn’t work that way.

But what of Angelos now? With the team playing well I find I rarely hear his name.

This, then, is the place where it would seem to make sense to say that Angelos deserves to be back in the discussion. Doesn’t he now warrant praise from those who previously authored scorn?

In some specific instances, sure. But on the whole? Not really.

In much the same way that Angelos was never the sole reason for failure he is not now the sole reason for success. As frustrating as it was to hear his name dredged up every time something went wrong it would be nearly as frustrating to hear his name every time something goes right.

Instead, Angelos, whether he meant to or not, has found his level. He’s in the background, where he (and every other sports team owner) belongs. To the extent that we should be thinking about him it’s to say, “I hope he’s enjoying this. It’s been a long time coming.”

I can’t say for sure, but something tells me that’s exactly how the man himself likes it.

(hat tip to Big Ben’s Motorcycle, whose comment a couple weeks back got me thinking about this)

This Orioles-Yankees Series Was a Turning Point

camden_yards_sea_of_orangeLogic would suggest that there’s nothing remarkable about a home team enjoying majority support from the fans in its own ballpark. That’s sort of the way it works…usually. Thus, “home” team. But as we know, such has not regularly been the case in Birdland.

Until this past weekend.

For the first time since probably ’97 the Orioles played the Yankees at Camden Yards — on a weekend — and the crowd was solidly, impressively, and noticeably orange.

It was damn enjoyable. I didn’t make it out to any of the games but I watched a grip of innings on TV and I loved it. Playoff (or at least late-season) type atmosphere and no sense anywhere that the venue had morphed into Bronx South. If you don’t love that then you’re not an O’s fan.

Somewhere during Saturday’s game it struck me how there was no point at which I thought, “this must mean that most of the Yankees fans are going to tomorrow’s game.”

Back when the O’s were losing I said many times that the people who bitched and moaned about the state of the team then would not be welcome when things finally turned. Philosophically, I stand by that. In reality, though, something more important is going on: Baltimore is becoming a baseball town again.

Sure, the Ravens still rule. That might never change. But the Orioles don’t appear to be playing second fiddle anymore. This might — might — be a true two-sport town again, with civic passion flowing year-round for two beloved franchises.

It’s hard to play Scrooge on that. And, honestly, I don’t want to. It took about a half-decade longer than I wanted it to but we finally “took back the Yard.”

Well done, Baltimore. Now don’t screw it up.

(photo via Flickr user Keith Allison)

Dylan Bundy: Panic, or Not?

Dylan_BundyFor the most part, I greeted the news that Dylan Bundy would need Tommy John surgery with something of a shrug.

For one thing, I predicted as much back on May 1st over at MASN — admittedly not a difficult thing to do. For another, though, it kind of hit me like the arrival of the cops hit Alan Rickman in Die Hard:

Police action was inevitable, and, as it happens, necessary, so just relax.

Bundy’s surgery is, if not quite inevitable, close to it. Like I said in the MASN piece, this is becoming fairly common among young guys who throw like he throws. And, while “necessary” is a stretch, if it had to happen then for it to happen now was indeed necessary as opposed to later. Time to get it out of the way and get him back stronger. He’ll still only be 22 in the spring of 2015. Long-term, this should hopefully be just a speed bump.

Where it concerns me, though, is: what if he doesn’t come back stronger? Or what if he’s plenty strong but for one reason or another just can’t put things together?

Do you remember Dan Klein? He was pretty highly touted coming out of college and was dominant in the time he spent in our system. Now, though, he’s retired. His problems weren’t elbow-related but the point remains. Injuries can neither be predicted nor fully managed.

Dan Duquette has done an admirable job building a deep team but he’s done it mostly through acquiring warm bodies. Truly sustainable success still hinges on a deep farm system. In that regard, losing Bundy for even a year hurts badly.

This setback is not cause for panic but it’s not exactly good news. The margin for error is now a little bit smaller than it was. Here’s hoping Kevin Gausman is paying attention.