If there were ever a time for Baltimore’s Orioles to prove an enduring gleam in its fans' eyes and not just a teasing wink of hope, that time is now. For during the next three weeks, this team’s skill and fortitude will be challenged in the sharp teeth of a whizzing band saw of a big league schedule.
Beginning with the Yankees for a three-game set in the Big Apple, the Orioles play five series against ball clubs that boast a 67-42 combined record. After finishing up in New York, Baltimore will travel to Boston for three ballgames versus the Red Sox. The Orioles will then return home to play four games versus the scalding hot Texas Rangers, three versus the first place Tampa Bay Rays and three more versus the Yankees. Then, following a two game reprieve against the struggling Kansas City Royals, the Orioles will journey to Washington D.C. to play three games against a vastly improved Nationals club. This, prior to coming home again to play Boston in a three game set.
If there were ever a time for Oriole fans to don the orange and black and get behind this team, the time is now as well. There is nothing more inspiring to a club that has struggled for decades than to see fans coming in droves to see them play against some of the best baseball teams the game has to offer. There is nothing more motivating than hearing the roar of the home crowd in appreciation of gritty, blue collar-play. There is nothing more fun than to watch happy crowds perform "The Wave" during games that mean something in one of the most beautiful ballparks in baseball.
Some fans may point to this point in the season and say not to panic because it is still early. To this I will say these fans are right.
At the end of May, Oriole fans will say:
They are right to some degree.
For experienced high-octane clubs like those on Baltimore’s early May schedule, plenty of time exists to right distressed ships. These teams can afford to trade hot prospects that help them acquire key missing pieces for the stretch run.
Yet, the Orioles do not have this luxury. Sure they have prospects in shortstop Manny Machado, pitcher Dylan Bundy and centerfield speedster Xavier Avery. But dealing these future Orioles will almost surely deplete an already thin minor league system.
For the Orioles, playing a tough schedule like this so early can make the difference between stockpiling momentum towards hope and change or enduring yet another depressing summer.
As a Baltroiter (my definition of a Detroiter whose second home has become Baltimore), it has been tough watching this historically great baseball club struggle so mightily the past decade.
Bottom line, the same town where legendary men named Boogs, Brooks, Frank, Cal and Eddie once roamed deserves better.
But as I said in a recent article, something about this year’s team seems different. If the Orioles can get through this tough part of the schedule with its faculties intact, baseball may see the beginnings of one of the most intriguing pennant races in years.