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

A Very Orioles Christmas

In Baseball on December 26, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Life, change and the Baltimore Orioles. What a difference a year makes.

I’ve been thinking about the Baltimore Orioles a lot lately.

Maybe I’ve been thinking about the Orioles because it’s the holidays. Most of my Christmas gifts for my dad are Orioles-related. My dad and mom bought season tickets to Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first time in 2012. Because I live a half mile away from the stadium, and because my dad had a built-in excuse to come to Baltimore, we saw more Orioles games together in the last nine months than we did throughout my four years of high school. For the first time as an adult, I am looking for season recap DVDs or team pictures for end-of-the year gifts. It’s an unusual feeling, but it’s one I could learn to like.

Or maybe I’m thinking about the Orioles a lot lately because of the baseball hot stove season. Winters for baseball fans in Baltimore have usually been spent one of two ways — bemoaning the players the Orioles never got (Billy Butler. Gavin Floyd. Jair Jurrjens? Jair Jurrjens!) or bemoaning the players the Orioles did sign (Garrett Atkins? Vladimir Guerrero? Jamie Walker? Jamie Walker!). Now there’s a third feeling: nostalgia for members of the 2012 squad who won’t, — and shouldn’t — be back next season.

Mark Reynolds was an abomination at third base, and a slightly more mobile abomination at first. He finished second on the Orioles in on-base percentage, but 23 home runs are not good enough for an all-bat, no-glove  first baseman. And yet, I will miss him. He is now a relic of a season that once was and will never be again.

The same is true for Robert Andino. Andino was not a competent major-league second baseman last year. He had a .588 OPS with a .283 On-Base Percentage while playing league-average defense with consistent lapses in the field and at the plate due to a lack of discipline. In the Orioles’ final series of the year, he was benched twice for a Rule 5 pickup that played a total of 77 games all year.

And yet, Andino will always be remembered for one of the greatest moments in Orioles history. He was always ready to pick a fight with another team – whether it was the fourth game of the season on a sleepy spring night in Baltimore, or in the middle of Fenway Park in the second-to-last week of and a playoff on the line. Andino always seemed to be an unashamed member of the Orioles, even when that membership only carried negative connotations everywhere but Baltimore. The Orioles will likely find a better second baseman in 2012 and fans will fall in love with that player the way we always fall in love with success. But Robert Andino, Baltimore’s symbol of speaking truth to power, will be forever missed.

Maybe I’m thinking about the Baltimore Orioles a lot lately because I always think about the Orioles. Most of my writing on this site is about the Orioles. I wrote over 2,000 words from a pressbox in Norfolk about how the Orioles offered little relief from post-college loneliness.  I wrote even more words about Chris Tillman and the unfulfilled promise of youth, not thinking for a second Tillman would ever earn his way back into the Orioles starting rotation. I wrote an embarrassingly wrong season preview last year, only to double down on my stupidity later in the season.

Or maybe, just maybe, I’m spending a lot more time thinking about the Orioles lately because I don’t write about the Orioles for this site anymore. Either because of work or boredom, laziness or loneliness, I haven’t written here in a while.

But life is constantly changing. We started this blog mostly as an exercise to stave off boredom and frustration. My first posts are from when I was alone and unpaid in a city I did not know doing a job I did not like. In the 18 months since then, I have changed jobs, been promoted, seen old friends exit my life and watched new friends become a greater part of it. I saw a relationship almost crumble before my eyes, only to be built back up, brick by brick, into something really promising.

I’ve been awed by a city I loved and repulsed by the way it treats people. I’ve been accepted by a community and rejected by an institution. I’ve had days where I’ve felt young and glittering and vibrating with the raw force of an entire city behind me. And I’ve spent nights so lonesome I could cry.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Baltimore Orioles a lot lately because I know I will miss last year’s team. To see a perpetually losing franchise finally make the playoffs after 14 years was amazing. But to be young and untethered and living five blocks from the stadium was heaven.

However, like the 2012 Orioles, it is impossible to go back. That team is gone, just like the four guys who created this blog are now gone, hopefully replaced by better versions of ourselves. The future will only tell if that is true or not. But that is the hope for tomorrow.

I’ve been thinking about the Baltimore Orioles a lot lately because I’ve been thinking a lot about what tomorrow might bring. I have been thinking what the future will look like, both for my friends and my baseball team.

Ultimately, I have no idea what the future holds. But I know I want to start writing about it again.

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