Debating William & Mary, sports and culture since 2011. Updated every Wednesday.

Putting out the fire with gasoline

In Baseball on June 20, 2012 at 11:05 am

The Baltimore Orioles were supposed to crash and burn in 2012. Instead, they’re 10 games over .500 and have the third-best record in the American League.

The 2012 Baltimore Orioles are a constant reminder that we are all going to die. And that’s okay. It is death that makes life worth living.

The Orioles have started the season 39-29, the team’s best start since 2005. Many wrote off the Orioles before the season started. Some said they were prepared “to watch one of the most storied franchises in baseball history burn to the ground” in 2012.

Amazingly, that has not been the case. The Orioles have played exciting, above-average baseball to begin the year. There have been pleasant surprises along the way.

Adam Jones has stopped flailing at sliders in the batter’s box and looks like a future building block. Even better, the Orioles doled out the largest contract in team history to keep him around another six years. The bullpen has been, by and large, outstanding. And Brian Matusz no longer looks like Henry Rowengartner before the broken arm. These are all good things.

There have been little moments that have made the 2012 season far better than the ones that preceded it. Chris Davis’s pitching debut, Jones’s walk-off versus the Phillies, Matt Wieters knocking down Darnell McDonald at the plate, Jason Hammel taking a perfect game into the 8th inning and Robert Andino’s continued awesomeness are not franchise-defining moments. They matter far less than the development of Dylan Bundy or the overhaul of the organization’s amateur scouting system. And yet, they are pleasant moments nonetheless, and they will be remembered fondly come the long, cold, lonely months of winter.

Winter is coming sooner rather than later here in Baltimore, as the Orioles appear on the verge of flaming out once again. I hope it doesn’t happen, but the signs are there.

The Orioles rank last in the American League East in run differential with +5. The four other teams in their division have a differential above +21. The Orioles leftfielder is 29 years old and has a total of 505 major league at-bats. Thanks to an injury to Endy Chavez last Tuesday, the team’s starting right fielder might be a Rule 5 draft pick. Only three healthy players have an on-base percentage of .340 or above.

Then there is the pitching. Jason Hamel has been outstanding, and Wei-Yin Chen has been a pleasant surprise. But the Orioles Opening Day starter, Jake Arieta, is now in the bullpen. The No. 2 starter, Tommy Hunter, is back in the rotation after being demoted to Triple-A, and Brian Matusz looks like he may be nothing more than a quality fifth starter.

The cupboard behind him is pretty bare. Zach Britton could help and Chris Tillman is due for his annual three-week appointment in Baltimore sometime later this year. After that, there is walking age-joke Jamie Moyer, standing on a mound in Norfolk screaming “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Make no mistake: Death is coming for the Baltimore Orioles.

That is good, because death brings with it life. Without the knowledge that it will soon all come crashing down, every Steve Tolleson home run off of Cliff Lee would not taste as sweet. Every 1-2-3 inning by Troy Patton would not be nearly as fulfilling. Success sustained is success expected, and rarely are the best things in life those that are expected. Joy is surprising and unexpected. It is an emotion that is as unplanned as it is powerful.

So yes, the 2012 Baltimore Orioles are going to flame out and die. It will most likely happen sometime soon. But knowing that it will happen makes the team’s little triumphs all the more cherished to their fans while they last.

It is death that makes life worth living.

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