I think I’ve said this before, but I try not to make a big deal about any one game, series, or home stand/road trp. The operative word being try. The old cliché says that the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. There’s some truth to that, but baseball doesn’t really operate the same way as a marathon. A baseball season is more like a series of short-distance races. If the baseball season were truly a marathon, then none of us would bother paying attention until the last two weeks of the season. At least, that is how I watch televised marathons. I flip over to the race around the two hour mark when the contenders are starting to cross the finish line. Baseball doesn’t present itself in a “only the outcome matters” fashion and as fans, we don’t follow it that way. We follow every game, every step. Nobody has ever won a marathon because he got out to such a huge lead that it was physically impossible for any runner, even a rested sprinter, to catch him. Teams have won a pennant, however, because they built such an insurmountable lead in April, May and June that even the hottest teams couldn’t catch them down the stretch. That’s the difference. All of that is just my long-winded way of saying that try as I might, I can’t avoid the trap of treating each game and series during the course of a 162-game season with the upmost importance. I know this upcoming six game home stand for the Orioles won’t necessarily make or break the team’s season. I also know that whether they go 0-6 or 6-0, I will be right back here next Monday to proclaim the six-game road trip through New York and Boston as the O’s biggest test so far this season even that though that run won’t necessarily decide the team’s season either. It’s the nature of being a baseball fan. Every game, every series, seems so important even if deep down we know its “just” another series in a long run of them.
Having said all of that, I am still going to fall into the trap, although with a slight caveat. I don’t think the success of the 2012 Orioles will be determined over the next six days. I do believe that the O’s have a real chance to gain a little separation between themselves and the barrier that is .500-baseball before entering a very tough portion of their schedule. I also believe we will learn quite a bit more about what can be expected of the O’s going forward this season from this home stand.
The first is a fairly straight-forward point. The O’s will leave Baltimore on Sunday after playing the Oakland A’s and head up I-95 to New York to take on the Yankees for three games. Starting with that series, over the next three and a half week the O’s will play 3 games at New York, 3 games at Boston, 4 vs. Texas, 3 vs. Tampa, 2 vs. New York, 2 at Kansas City, 3 at Washington, and 3 at Boston. With the possible exception of the Royals (and one would have to believe they will be playing better in three weeks than they are playing now), all of those match ups will be tough. The Blue Jays and A’s are no pushovers, of course, but the O’s have already played solidly against the Jays once this year (taking 2 out of 3 at Rogers’ Centre) and the A’s are no juggernaut. If the O’s can take 4 out of 6 or better from these two teams, they’ll leave for the road 4 games above .500. The benefit of that sort of breathing room should not be underestimated going into a tough stretch of games. There is a huge difference between going to New York and Boston at .500 and going to the cities with a 4 game cushion. It leaves some room for error and takes some pressure off – pressure off the players and off of the fans. I know I’ll feel a lot better about things going to New York 4 games over .500 than I would going there at or under par.
As to the second point, with every passing game and series, every single team in baseball is doing the same thing – they are all building up track records. The sample size goes from 5 games, to 16 games, to 22 games, and all the way up to 162. The larger the sample size, the more we can read into it. So far, we don’t know a whole lot. We know the O’s starters have pitched reasonably well. We know the bullpen has been very good, if not a tad overworked. We know the power has been there on offense, but the plate discipline (both in terms of walks and strikeouts) has been notably absent. We know those things happened, but we don’t know if they will continue to happen. The further we get along into the season, the more historical information we will have in order to draw a more well-informed conclusion on what kind of team the 2012 Orioles really are.
The O’s have played terrible against their AL East bird brethren in recent memory, but took two out of three against the Jays in Toronto two weeks ago. Another series-win this week and we have a little more positive evidence pointing at the fact that the Orioles will probably match up better against the Jays this season than they have in recent memory. Take 2 out of three from the A’s and the O’s notch another series win against a sub. 500 team (ie. teams that “better” teams needs to beat) on the short year. Those things will be more positive evidence that the O’s can continue to play well and win more games than they lose throughout the course of the season. The outcomes of the series won’t definitively tell us anything, but it will provide a bit more evidence in one direction or another.
We will be at OPACY tonight, Thursday, and all three weekend games. The temperatures are a little cooler than I’d like, but maybe the colder air will help keep the homerun-happy Jays in the ballpark. That road trip was so long that Tim and I were saying the other night that it feels like we have yet to even attend a live game so far in 2012. If nothing else, it will nice to be back out at the Yard and learn a little bit more about what the 2012 season has in store for the O’s.