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2012: The Year We Must Reconfigure Orioles Fandom (Temporarily)

The Loss Column will turn six years old in 2012. Six fuckin’ years. Kind of blows my mind. I actually thought it was only five years until I looked back and realized we’ve been publishing since ’06. Nuts.

Over that time we have come to be known as a basically optimistic bunch. We focus more on enjoying than hating and that’s by design. It’s an approach that has stilted the site’s potential growth but that, too, is by design. I do this because I want a certain kind of place to talk sports, Orioles in particular, and the traffic numbers don’t mean much in that regard. I lose money on this site every month and that’s OK. As long as we have a good group of commenters offering interesting thoughts on a regular basis I’m happy.

Now. With regard to the aforementioned black-and-orange, this year will test us like no other. “Optimism” is a weird and touchy concept these days. Because even the most dedicated among us must ask, if we are honest, what optimism and hope really mean for the 2012 Orioles.

In past years this hasn’t been the case. I’ve entered every season before this one with justifiable hope for a .500 team. Today, I can’t make that case. I survey the landscape of Orioles baseball and I see…damn it. Another losing season.

Maybe that’s a laugh-out-loud statement for the folks who love to hate but for me it’s a real change. I’ve always been able to see a path to winning. Sure it’d take some luck and sure it’d take some leaps but never would it defy logic. This year, 81 wins or more would defy logic.

So why do we watch? Why do we care? If our team isn’t going to win, why do we invest so much of ourselves in their activity?

This is where being an Orioles fan becomes not only interesting, but fun again.

This is my modus operandi for the season and this is my guiding light: it’s not about wins and losses.

To some extent this is always how I’ve felt. I’ve never watched for the outcome as much as I’ve watched for the process. But that was always kind of my weird thing. This year, it’s bigger than my thing. It’s a survival strategy.

If you go into this season with your enjoyment hinging on the win-loss record, you will be disappointed. If you tie your love of the team to their chances to make the playoffs, you will be disappointed. But you do not have to be disappointed.

This is a season of opportunity. This is our chance to love baseball for baseball, to love guys like Jones and Wieters and Matusz for who they are. And, as importantly, to watch what figures to be an epic amount of weirdness unfold as Dan Duquette‘s mad scientist ways play out.

This is a season to let go. To say “come what may” and really mean it.

Baseball was always meant to be enjoyed in the moment. Not only game-by-game but play-by-play and even pitch-by-pitch. As it happens, the Orioles of 2012 are the perfect vehicle for doing just that.

So I say, let go. Truly and fully. Embrace this ragtag and moribund bunch of misfits. Embrace baseball in Baltimore, played at Camden Yards. Embrace the fact that every single game, regardless of context, represents a chance to be delighted.

Your only other option is to give up and, well, do you really want to do that?

I’m telling you right now, in February, that the 2012 Orioles will not make the playoffs. And that they won’t finish above .500.

In the same breath I’m saying that this knowledge will not in any way hinder my ability to enjoy the season and nor should it hinder yours.

Every Orioles fan faces this choice. To me, it doesn’t seem like a terribly hard one to make. Let’s get after it.

22 comments to 2012: The Year We Must Reconfigure Orioles Fandom (Temporarily)

  • Adam

    Couldn’t agree more. At the same time, did there really have to be actual storm clouds on the horizon in the first team shot of the season?

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/orioles/bal-orioles-spring-training-2012-pg,0,4146334.photogallery

  • sci

    Well said, sir. It’s taken awhile, but I’ve finally reconfigured my expectations, more out of necessity than anything else. Here we are, and it’s a ridiculous place, but this is what we’ve got. Let’s have some fun…

  • Ballmer Bruce

    Very well said. Just watch and enjoy for the inherent beauty of the game. All else is icing on the cake. I would not want to be a Yankee fan when any season not ending in a WS championship is called a failure. I live in Phoenix now so I watch the O’s on MLB.tv and the Dbacks on local TV. Dbacks have put together a nice team with a mid market budget. Hope O’s can do same eventually.

  • ryan97ou

    as my dad always said: “eat what’s in front of you and be thankful you have it, because someday you might not”

    can’t wait to get my chow on.

  • PW

    What’s fun about the Orioles is that they are probably the most relevant losing team in the league (possibly any professional sports league). They play in a division with 3 playoff contenders, which means they get to play in meaningful games. Just look at last September, they were well below .500 but thwarted the Red Sox’s playoff hopes. Plus, lets be honest, regardless of our record its fun when we beat the Yankees and Red Sox.

  • All is not lost. The Red Sox are in a rebuilding phase. The Rays keep losing good players and if the fans keep not coming out they’ll have to sell more. The Jays have been rebuilding since the Strike of ’94. And the Yankees… they always have injury issues, and Mariano Rivera can’t pitch forever.

    There is a chance for the Orioles to make a move… if they can stabilize the roster, with players who can give them 10 years of service and a few veterans who can guide the preceding players.

    I hate to suggest it, but maybe Angelos’ children (if he has any) could make the difference. There is precedence: Bob Carpenter let his son Ruly run the Phillies, and they reached the postseason 6 times in 8 years, including a World Championship and another Pennant (when the O’s beat them). The Dodgers were in a holding pattern until Walter O’Malley let his son Peter do the actual running of the team, and they got back to winning Pennants. Art Rooney handed the reins to the Pittsburgh Steelers to his son Dan, remained owner in name only, and won 4 Super Bowls. And if Rocky Wirtz could reverse the damage his father did and bring the Chicago Blackhawks a Stanley Cup (and, thus far, one other trip to the Conference Finals), then any team can do it.

  • df1570

    I always love reading Neal’s stuff because for a couple of minutes it makes me forget about the three things that dominate Orioles baseball.

    1. The team losing year after year, mostly on purpose.

    2. The fact that it still costs $20 – at a minimum – to go down there, park, buy a cheap seat, drink something and maybe even have a snack or two. And by all means, don’t just decide to do that on a whim — then it costs you $22.

    If the games were free – like a Little League contest or a Saturday morning soccer game at Herring Run Park – most of what Neal writes would actually be based in reality. It WOULD just be fun to go down there and watch them lose 45 of their 81 home games.

    3. The $37 a year we all pay (if you’re a cable TV subscriber and get MASN) to fund this train wreck. This, of course, is the greatest scandal known to man. We all contribute $3.10 a month (through our bill) to help operate the franchise, yet they never get any better or sign any better players.

    Only in this country could someone get away with this for the better part of a decade and no one has yet figured out a way to put a halt to it.

    For a moment or two, though, Neal makes me forget all about that stuff.

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    all i see is good old fashioned denial. or maybe some kind of fetish but i won’t go there. yet.

  • Mike R

    @ df1570:
    I started to type out a response about how you cant do much these days for less than $20. Movies, night out at the bar, round of golf, etc… Then I thought, why the hell would I try to justify and defend what Angeols does. Im gonna keep going to games cause I love the players, and I love baseball, but the way the brass sticks it to the fans is sad.

    T-shirt night used to be tuesdays, which coinsided with bargain night. Not now. It’s thursday. If you want a free t-shirt your gonna pay full price dammit. An extra fee for gameday ticket sales. At least 75% of the fans go on a whim. Its a way to get season ticket sales to go up I guess.

    I’m curious how the Cubs do it. I know its a larger market, but there are 103 year old men who have never seen the Cubs win a world series. the waiting list for season tickets is somewhere in the 120,000+ range. Their owners cant be very pleasing. They put up those billboards so people couldnt watch from thier windows, they bought up peoples homes and sold the rooftop decks to corporate offices. I’m sure a beer cost $8.50 there too. Hell, theres even another team on the other side of town just 6 years removed from a title, and contends every year.

  • Andrew

    @ Big Ben’s Motorcycle:
    yup. There’s nothing – NOTHING – fun about watching a team that you know is going to play bad baseball and then goes out and does it. Heck, that might have been fun once upon a time, but I’ve seen that show a couple of times now.

  • neal s

    @ Andrew @ Big Ben’s Motorcycle: I’m not convinced that either of you actually read this post.

  • PW

    @ df1570:
    I’m not defending Angelos here, but come on guys, are we seriously going to single out Angelos. He’s doing nothing different from any other professional sports organization. The Orioles’s ticket prices are comparable to those of other crappy baseball teams. You pay more when you buy tickets at the door for a freaking high school play, why not a professional sporting event?

    Is it right that they over price the hell out of everything? No, but its the system as a whole not just Angelos. If you’re really pissed about it then write a letter/email to your local legislators and representatives. Start a petition against price gouging in sports or against media blackouts (more of an NFL thing). Do something, don’t just pile this on to the things that you hate about Angelos (we have enough fodder for that as it is). And don’t hold it against the team.

  • Jack

    Yes, I am going to hold it against Angelos. The O’s are a sick organization from the top down, much like the Redskins. In both cases the owner sets the corporate tone and the organization is expected to follow. Why do we have Duquette? Because no one else wanted the job. Why not? Because of Angelos’s reputation as a meddling spendthrift. In this last regard he is quite different from Snyder, who, of course, loves to spend money and seems genuinely to want the Skins to win. I cannot say the same for Angelos.

    It is my opinion that the O’s ownership is the source of most, if not all, of the organizations’ pervasive illnesses and I’m increasingly convinced that we will never see true change until ownership changes.

  • dan the man

    @ Andrew:
    Whatever, man.

    I still get the same joy from looking at the O’s spring training pictures on CC and the Sun, and listening to Jake Arrieta speak in ST videos, and watching the Orioles play baseball, win or lose.

    That’s the whole point. You never know if the O’s are going to play bad baseball. They probably will, but then you know you’re going to follow every game because you love it. Because there’s upside in a ton of players on the roster.

    The only denial I see here is the denial from people saying they get no joy from watching the Orioles and watching baseball.

    “This is a season of opportunity. This is our chance to love baseball for baseball, to love guys like Jones and Wieters and Matusz for who they are. And, as importantly, to watch what figures to be an epic amount of weirdness unfold as Dan Duquette‘s mad scientist ways play out.

    This is a season to let go. To say “come what may” and really mean it.”

    Embrace the circus, gentlemen. I think this season is going to be absolutely fucking bonkers and I’m really excited.

  • Larry

    @ dan the man:

    I’m with you. I still love watching the Orioles, win or lose. I’m fascinated by Showalter, who must see something the rest of us don’t because I’m damn sure he doesn’t see himself as a caretaker. I’m looking forward to watching Reimold get another chance to be the every day left fielder and seeing whether Adam Jones will take his game up a level. It’s always a thrill to watch Wieters gun a runner down at second. I still hold out hope for Matusz, and I like watching Britton and Arietta pitch. I’m curious about Duquette’s foray into the international market. Lots of storylines, which for me means there’s always something to look forward to.

    Sure it would be a helluva lot more fun if the O’s could put together a winning season. But it’s still a joy to get in the car after a long day at work and listen to Joe Angel call the game.

    (On a separate note, I just finished reading a GREAT baseball novel that, like most baseball books, is about a lot of things other than baseball. Chad Harbach’s “The Art of Fielding.” Very highly recommended.)

  • dan the man

    Even though the O’s maybe shoulda traded Jonesy, I’ll still enjoy watching/listening to the guy.

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/videogallery/68277089/Sports/O-s-Adam-Jones-is-optimistic-about-the-coming-season

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    i absolutely read the post. i’ll post more thoughts later.

  • neal s

    @ Big Ben’s Motorcycle: I’m interested in hearing what you’ll say but bottom line from me is there’s no denial going on here. One of the points of this post, in fact, is that I’m not going into 2012 preaching hope or devising wishful roadmaps to a winning season. It’s the opposite of denial. I’m saying right up front that my expectations in terms of wins/losses are low.

    And, sure, that sucks, but I’m not going to let it put me in a position where I don’t enjoy baseball. Or where I don’t enjoy watching some of these players who I’m truly glad are on the Orioles.

  • Andrew

    All I am saying is that while yes, I love watching baseball and can’t wait to get to do that again, I’m not foreseeing a lot of joy coming from watching the O’s. I don’t think I need to really show off my baseball fan credentials, but watching a bad team play the game badly isn’t even remotely fun. I’m sick of it.

  • Blood Sweat and Beers

    My big issue with the watching the Orioles simply for the love of baseball is: We have colleges all around us where you can watch. We have the Iron Birds and the York Revolution not far off with cheaper tickets, parking, beer, etc. If you love baseball and need to get a baseball fix, I’d recommend checking out UMBC baseball or one of your other alternatives. Get your fill of baseball there until the Orioles make a real effort to make this team a watchable professional team. I love the O’s but the issues won’t be fixed if we turn a blind eye to them.

  • Larry

    If I watched only for the love of baseball, yes, I suppose I could blow off the Orioles and watch college games or whatever game is broadcast on ESPN, or the Nat’s games (which are played in the city where I live), or whatever other baseball was on the tube. But it’s not that simple. I’ve been attached to the Orioles since I was 7 or 8. I’m an Orioles fan because I don’t really know how to be anything else.

    I’m not holding my breath for a playoff run, but I’m willing to watch because I still want to see what happens. Because sometimes teams make what seem like unexceptional signings (see SF Giants 2010), and it all falls together, or a couple of players play out of their minds for a season. Because I like Showalter. Because there is a core of talented young pitchers, and Dylan Bundy is on the way. Because I’m not going to see anyone like Matt Wieters playing defense at a UMBC or Iron Birds game. Because they’re the Orioles, and for better or (mostly) worse, they’re my team.