The Orioles look to get back on track today as they play a single-admission double header against the Texas Rangers this afternoon at Camden Yards. Fortunately for me, I was already working a half-a-day so we will be at the Yard at 4:00 for both games. I want to touch on a few items and stories that have been making the rounds the past couple of days.
There has been quite a bit of talk about the low attendance numbers for the first two games of the Rangers’ series. Both games did about 11,000 fans in paid attendance. Given the circumstances – Monday and Tuesday games, rainy/cold weather, not a big drawing team in the Rangers – the attendance figures are about what one would expect for early May. Except of course, that the O’s were coming off of a 5-1 road trip through Boston and New York and before Monday’s game, had the best record in all of baseball (not to mention the thrilling 17-inning win the day before). There was an expectation that there would be a noticeable spike in attendance as the fans welcomed the first-place Orioles back home, but no such spike occurred.
This might come off as trying to ride the fence and not take sides, but the issue isn’t as clear cut as some like to make it out to be. Clearly those factors listed above – the weather and the fact it was a week day series – play a big role in the attendance. To act like those factors shouldn’t play a role in attendance is unrealistic. It is also a tad unrealistic to believe that a significant amount of fans – 4,000 or 5,000 fans – could drop what they had previously planned in order to attend the game on a whim.
At the same time, I do agree with what Tim wrote on Orioles Observer the other day. I’ve seen a lot of comments from people stating that they will come to the ball park once the team has proven that they aren’t off to a fluke start and can sustain this sort of success. If that is truly the reason that some people stayed away from the games on Monday and Tuesday, then I do have some issues with it. If someone is only going to return to the Yard once the Orioles are in first place in August, what kind of fan is that person really? That is almost the definition of a fair weather fan. The O’s are playing good baseball now. Yes, you might go to a game where they play terrible and leave disappointed. The O’s could win 110 games and you that could still happen at a game you attend. I don’t see the point in waiting for the team to be a consistent winner to go to more games. What is the point that is being proven? That you will only invest time and money into a proven winner? If some fans are truly taking that attitude and that is a large contributor into the poor attendance, than I have a hard time defending that.
I know nothing is ever that simple, however, and the likely answer is that the disappointing gates can be chalked up to a combination of factors; some of which I mentioned above. I just hope that people aren’t using some asinine “the O’s need to prove to me they are going to win long-term” reasoning as their sole reason for staying away from OPACY even after this hot start.
The Orioles suffered their two toughest losses of the season these past two days to the Rangers. For the most part, I think we’ve all kept a level-head about it. The Orioles are going to lose some games and are going to get blown out a dozen or more times throughout the season. This is true whether they end up with 100 wins or 100 loses. A 19-9 start doesn’t ensure that the O’s are going to play at that level (.679 winning percentage) the entire season and end up with 110 wins. What it does do is the give the team a little breathing room. They can drop two games in a row, four games in a row, or lose 7 out of 10, and still be in decent shape going forward assuming they bounce back and can continue to win at around a .550 clip.
I think of it this way. At this very moment, the O’s are 19-11. If they are to win 90 games – a win total that I think nearly everyone would consider a great success – they have to win 71 more games out of 132 total games. That’s a .538 winning percentage. That’s a lofty goal, but put into those terms, it doesn’t seem all that unattainable. If the O’s are to reach .500 for the first time in 14 seasons, they only need to win 62 more games at a .470 clip to reach that milestone. Both of those scenarios are after the team has lost two straight games. The 2012 Orioles are still well-positioned and a few loses won’t immediately undo the work they have done thus far.
If the Orioles are able to win 3 or 4 games out of the next 7 games on this home stand, they will depart for Kansas City still well over .500 and still with one of the better records in the American League. After facing their toughest extended stretch of the season – at a stretch many predicted would be the team’s undoing – that would be excellent.
As for the scores of those games, the Rangers are the best team in the American League and possibly all of baseball. They had just come off a bit of a rough patch (see, all teams have those) and were no doubt looking to rebound against the O’s. Josh Hamilton had an other-worldly performance on Tuesday that almost single-handily won the game for the Rangers. These are exceptions, not the norm. The O’s won’t play a team as good as the Rangers every time out or face a batter as locked in as Josh Hamilton is right now. Might the starters come crashing back down to earth after a good start? Maybe, but the fact that the Rangers have scored 24 runs against the O’s the past two games is hardly proof that will occur. All teams will suffer their blow outs during the season, regardless of where their final records up at.
The Orioles are pretty beat up right now and the next couple of weeks will be a test of the depth that Dan Duquette sought to establish this offseason. The O’s were forced to option Tommy Hunter to the minors in order to replenish a depleted bullpen on Monday. Jason Hammel will miss a start due to a sore knee, but hopes to avoid a trip to the disabled list. Nolan Reimold is still sidelined and Endy Chavez as just joined him. This has created some issues for the O’s but right now, they seem to be getting through things as well as could be expected. For one, despite being blown out on Monday and Tuesday, the O’s bullpen has gotten some much needed rest. Of the 7 relievers in the opening day bullpen, only two (Darren O’Day and Troy Patton) have pitched since Sunday. Both Patton and O’Day each worked an inning on Tuesday night. That means that Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop, Luis Ayala, Matt Lindstrom, and Kevin Gregg have all gotten a much-needed 3 days of rest. O’Day and Patton each got two compete days off as well after pitching regular over the prior week. Stu Pomeranz also remains on the 25 man roster after pitching 3 scoreless innings in his major league debut Monday night. Hopefully the time off will reenergize an Orioles’ bullpen that has been very good, if not a bit overworked, so far in 2012.
Due to Chavez going on the DL, the O’s were allowed to recall Tommy Hunter even though he didn’t stay in AAA for the required 10 days. Hunter will start on short rest tonight. If he can give the O’s 5 solid innings, I would consider that more than enough with a well-rested bullpen behind him. Reimold is apparently feeling better, but still is feeling a slight tingling in his fingers. It is hard to tell how serious this is. We all know that when you have a neck or back issue like this, it is best to be cautious. We also know that when you become acutely aware of a symptom like numbness in your hands, it is often difficult to accurately judge what the “normal feel” is like since you become so aware of any minor tingle. Hopefully Reimold is getting better and will be ready to come off of the DL on the 14th. The O’s sorely miss him atop the order. Hammel’s knee soreness is hopefully minor, as is being reported, and he will be 100% to make his next start this upcoming week. If all goes right, the O’s could be looking at a completely healthy roster (Chavez aside) come this time next week, which would be a huge boost.