If I have a “brand” as a talk show host/commentator/columnist/whatever the hell I’ve been for a decade and a half in Baltimore sports media, that brand is probably “pragmatism.”
When Baltimore sports fans are unreasonably losing their collective minds about an offensive coordinator or, like, all of them, my role has typically been to step in and say, “What the hell is wrong with you?” And when Baltimore sports fans start thinking a couple of basketball transfers suddenly makes Maryland a national title contender or that signing a wide receiver another NFL team cut in June suddenly makes the Ravens the team to beat in the AFC, my role has similarly been to step in and say, “No, seriously, what the hell is wrong with you?”
With the story of the moment in Baltimore sports being the Orioles’ thrilling season-opening sweep of the Red Sox, I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to step in. It’s not like anyone is seriously now predicting a World Series run, but some fans are starting to get a little froggy and someone needs to remind everyone that this team isn’t likely as good as they looked for the first three days.
So here goes. “What the hell is wrong with … just sitting back and enjoying this for a bit?”
Look, the Orioles probably aren’t going to be the fourth-best hitting team in baseball for the entire season even if we think there are promising pieces throughout the lineup. And there is roughly as good a chance that I, Glenn Clark, win the 2021 Masters as there is that the Birds will pitch to a sub-0.80 WHIP for the entirety of a 162-game season.
And if we’re being honest, it’s not just that the Orioles aren’t likely to keep up the ridiculous pace over the course of 162 games. It’s that they’re still not likely to even be, you know, GOOD for an entire year. One weekend does not a year’s worth of starting pitching make. And it would be a mistake to assume consistency from this intriguing but still incomplete lineup. And we’re hard pressed to fathom this team having anything close to enough depth to absorb many more injury issues, even if Austin Hays’ issue proves not to be so serious.
But we can revisit these things and how they fit within the reality of the Orioles’ rebuild at any point. For now, yes, joy is appropriate. And there’s nothing wrong with hope. There’s a massive difference between “maybe the Orioles could shock the world” and “I’m so convinced that the Orioles are going to shock the world that I’m going to bet my kids’ college fund on them making the playoffs!”
There are legitimately reasons to believe that what we saw in Boston this weekend wasn’t just utterly dismissable. John Means will probably give up a run at some point, but there’s no reason to think it’s impossible that he could be among the better starters in the American League. Anthony Santander was one of the best hitters in baseball before getting hurt last season, and it is totally possible he could replicate that over a larger sample size.
Matt Harvey, Bruce Zimmermann (Loyola Blakefield) and Cedric Mullins are among the players whose first weekend seems more difficult to replicate. But you never know. Zimmermann in particular made some exceptional pitches (albeit in low leverage situations due to a massive lead) April 4. Hell, even Rio Ruiz: Second Baseman seems destined to be a thing. 2021 is wild!
Perhaps there are a few of you who are thinking the quiet part out loud. The Orioles won a few extra games at the begging of 2020 and at the end of the year, that proved to likely be the difference in their chance of landing one of Vanderbilt’s rock star pitchers (Jack Leiter and his 0.62 WHIP this season and Kumar Rocker and his “pedestrian-in-comparison” 0.74 WHIP).
That was a bit more relevant last year because the season was so truncated and every result was more like 2.5 results in a non-COVID season. But that doesn’t mean something similar couldn’t play out this year. As fun as a sweep of the Red Sox is, it does not help the Orioles in any way if that proves to be the difference in them winning 73 games instead of 70 this year.
But there will be time to deal with that down the road. Right now, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a fast start and dreaming of a rebuild project that is drastically ahead of schedule. It’s not necessarily practical. But come on. We’re not even 2 percent of the way through the season. Let’s have some damn fun. The Red Sox stink and Boston fans are miserable. Today is a glorious day! Candy is 50 percent off at grocery stores! Duke hasn’t won a basketball game in a month!
Have fun. Enjoy. We’ll have plenty of time to consider everything else as the season unfolds.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox