The two biggest surprises this year in MLB have been the Pirates and the Indians. I traveled to Cleveland when the Orioles were there in April, and believe me when I say that the people there deserve this kind of run from the Indians. Pittsburgh's had their share of winning so nobody's overly happy for the fans in that city per se, however while the Pirates have now slipped under .500 again they're still a great story. Those are two franchises that have seemingly rebuilt themselves, yet the Orioles can't seem to do the same. I say that they've rebuilt themselves; is that really true? One could argue that those teams might have caught lightning in a bottle in a sense given that they're practically devoid of superstar players (aside from maybe Grady Sizemore of the Indians). When I was in Cleveland in April many of the people with whom I spoke seemed to indicate frustration in the fact that the Indians hadn't done anything in the free agent market. In fact, they said that they felt the Orioles were doing it the right way in that they brought along their players through their system and signed guys like Lee and Guerrero as support. Most of those people were convinced that the Indians would eventually fade and the O's would probably return to respectability. Yet at the end of the day, who's going to have egg on their face?
A "friend" of mine who happens to root for the Yankees says that my arguement about injuries is pointless because what that means is that the O's don't have a good minor league system with guys to replace the starters. (My counterpoint to that is when you've syphoned all the way down to someone from double-A or even single-A being your next guy up, what are you supposed to expect? Those guys are at that level for a reason in that they aren't ready to be big league players.) However it's fair to point out that all but one of the Orioles' farm teams (Norfolk) is in first place. If the Orioles have a poor farm system, I'd hate to see what people would say about the rest of the teams' systems! So that has to lead to the question of is there more than meets the eye? I suppose what I'm saying is are there problems in the clubhouse?
It seems to me that there's very little possibility of that at first glance. Yet let's look at the big fact here; the O's can't seem to properly rebuild. If there are problems in the clubhouse, I highly doubt that they're of the nature that guys dislike each other or there's a problem child. The Orioles come across as a very professional group. They go about their business, come to the park each day, play the game, and go home. Yesterday when Mark Reynolds hit a rare homer into the club level of Camden Yards (the sixth-longest in the history of the stadium), he didn't really get overly excited. When asked about it after the game, he said that it really didn't matter because it was still only one run and ultimately the Orioles lost the game. I can't help but think that if a player on two teams to the north of Baltimore had done that, we'd still be hearing about it next spring. That's called professionalism, and I think it's becoming more and more rare in sports these days. However...
...is that in effect the problem in the clubhouse? Last night when I watched the Sunday nighter between Boston and NY, the Red Sox won on a walk off hit in the last of the tenth. They piled on each other as if they had won the penant. Teams like the Indians seem to get genuinely excited when they win. Even the Washington Nationals, who don't really have anymore skill or talent than the Orioles, seem to wear their hearts on their sleeves. So does this give teams an edge over the Orioles who at times seem to have no pizzaz? I'm not a psychologist, and I don't really buy into the whole argument about psychology in sports. However teams like the Red Sox would probably argue that the fact that they're so free with themselves and they throw caution to the wind when it comes to their emotions gives them an added edge. Baseball has always been characterized by professionalism in that celebrations aren't really encouraged. When the Orioles win a game, they tend to just walk off the field after going through the high-five line. Yesterday when Drew Storen of the Nationals made the final out in their victory over Colorado, he pumped his fist. In my view that's busch league; however does it give a team an added edge?
I guess what I'm saying is that I have to wonder if an attitude (hich I personally support I might add) as such is sucking the blood out of the Oriole team. The O's won a big game on Saturday night in grand fashion. Yet they couldn't tap into that momentum and carry it over to yesterday. When I say that I support that attitude, what I mean is that I'm a traditionalist. Baseball's a stoic game, and it used to be said that overexcuberance showed up the opponent. Yet the teams that seem to be throwing that kind of thing to the birds are the ones that are winning. So am I changing my tune towards showing emotion on the field? I'm not sure; it's something I'm struggling with to say the least. However, the O's dealt Derrek Lee before the deadline due in part to the fact that he hadn't produced quite what they thought he would. In his Pirate debut (his first game away from the Orioles), he homered twice.