So here we are again, O's fans, staring down the double-barrel shotgun of another 162 games. There are, as usual, hopeful noises coming from Florida, but there's a lot to be skeptical of as well. I absolutely refuse to get my hopes up this year, only to have them come crashing down under the weight of another futile season. The good news, however, is that we won't have long to wait before finding out what the Baltimore Orioles are made of.
If you haven't looked at our first month's schedule, be prepared. April is going to kick us square in the crotch, and how the team responds is going to be very telling. We start Tuesday with three games in Tampa, including a Thursday night getaway game before a 3:05 home opener. Even if that third Rays game is a quick one, I can't see the guys getting more than six hours sleep. Our first home stand gives us three against the Blue Jays and three more against the Rays before a west coast swing to Oakland and Seattle. Then the team flies to Boston, comes home to play the Yankees, Boston again, and then it's back on the road to New York.
I don't care who you are, that's brutal. For my money, there's no tougher division in all of sports than the American League East, and I've often wondered how our rebuilding would have gone somewhere else. But wishes aren't fishes, and we've got to jump into the shark tank with a bucket of chum around our necks. Over the long haul, though, this first month could be a good thing. There's no easy buildup this year, and no chance to get ourselves some comfortable wins. Likewise, the fans won't be subjected to false expectations. If we're all doomed to another losing season, we're going to know it pretty fast. Then again, if this really is our year to see the happy side of .500, April's going to prove that too.
If the much touted promise of Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, and company is real, we'll know. If Jeremy Guthrie can quit losing games, we'll know. If Adam Jones can build on his Gold Glove and if Matt Wieters really can walk on water, we'll know. If guys like Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Kevin Millwood, and now Julio Lugo can step up and be the veteran leaders these youngsters need, we'll know it. April is going to test the mettle of the entire squad, and by this time in May, we should have a pretty good idea of what we're in for in 2010.
Despite all my doubts and fears and frustrations, despite the bitterness of a dozen years, I know just what I'll be doing this week. I'll go into my closet and find that T-shirt with the cartoon bird. I'll dust off my black and orange hat and wear it while I read The Thrill of the Grass by W.P. Kinsella, because it's the greatest baseball story ever written. And each night in the coming week, I'll click on that TV, ignore the MASN smokescreen, and settle in for another Baltimore baseball season. The bad days can't last forever, and maybe this year we'll start to make that true.