You know, since I still am not quite as ready as I thought I’d be to wrap my arms around all 30 teams that make up MLB, I thought I’d talk about something I experienced firsthand for the first time since late September 2019. On April 24, I attended a baseball game.
Fully vaccinated in late February, I admit that I am still so unused to being a part of public gatherings that I didn’t feel warm and fuzzy about going back. But as I started to see more and more of my media brethren back at the park, I decided it was high time for me to get back to a part of work I love so much — being at the park and covering the Orioles.
In 2020, the club set up shop through Zoom calls with manager Brandon Hyde, the players and at times general manager Mike Elias. It wasn’t the same as being there, but it helped give us baseball back with the safety and proximity we needed at the time.
But that was 2020, and now that I have been back, I plan on going to several more games as part of the working press. And, pretty soon, I’ll even sit in the stands, and I admit that after Saturday night’s trip back to Camden Yards, I am more ready than ever to experience something I never thought could be taken away from me — sitting at a baseball game, eating a hot dog and bantering with a buddy or whoever was in earshot.
But I just wanted to send my kudos to the Orioles for how professionally they have set up the protocols to protect me up in the press box and you down in the stands.
Everything that they could have thought of has been thought of, so I urge everyone to take the plunge and go to a game. It’s not exactly as easy as it was in the past, but for now it’s most important we get out and experience some of the new normal.
I never ever thought of a ballpark as a place where something bad could happen to me. I always took for granted that I could go to the park and something magical could, and usually did, happen.
The city, state and the Orioles have agreed on approximately 11,000 fans at Camden Yards. I imagine sometime in late June or July that number might increase to around 20,000. I am sure the goal internally is to do everything within reason to get back to full crowds in the spring, summer and fall of 2022.
But, for now, do your part to make our community safer. Get the shot and mask up, Birdland.
Here are my power rankings, with comments on the top 10:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (15-7, No. 1 last week): Losing after building a 7-1 lead against the Padres April 25 is very unlike this professional team. My guess, they’ll shrug it off and get back to business.
2. Oakland Athletics (14-8, No. 6): Thirteen wins in a row trumps the Padres taking three of four at Dodger Stadium.
3. San Diego Padres (13-11, No. 2): OK, so they have proved they can beat Dodgers, but they got swept by Brewers while looking ahead to the big series in LA. Fernando Tatis Jr. is otherworldly, and did I mention he is the most exciting player in baseball?
4. Chicago White Sox (12-9, No. 4): They’re on a four-game winning streak and have an amazing starting rotation and that secret weapon in Michael Kopech. Oddly, the king of the modern bullpen, Tony La Russa, seems to play it by ear nightly rather than adhere to tried-and-true process he used in Oakland and St. Louis.
5. Boston Red Sox (14-9, No. 5): With Alex Cora back, the offense doing well and decent high-leverage arms, they may be again relevant … but they do have some starting pitching issues.
6. Milwaukee Brewers (13-8, No. 15): The Brewers have an unheralded starting rotation led by Corbin Burnes (four starts, 0.37 ERA, 0.33 WHIP), Brandon Woodruff (five starts, 1.55, 0.72) and Freddy Peralta (four starts, 2.45, 1.18). Adrian Houser and Brett Anderson have not been as brilliant, but they give their team a chance almost every time out. Christian Yelich is out with back issues, and they still don’t miss a beat.
7. Kansas City Royals (13-7, No. 12): Even though supposed No. 1 starter Brad Keller has been way off his game, Danny Duffy, Mike Minor and Brady Singer are giving Mike Matheny’s squad a great chance to win on most nights.
8. St. Louis Cardinals (11-10, No. 13): The Cardinals are in the top 10 due to defaults by a lot of presumed top teams. Jack Flaherty is 4-0 with a 3.18 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, but Carlos Martinez is 0-4 with a 6.00 ERA. Two stars — Nolan Arenado (batting .253 with a .303 OBP) and Paul Goldschmidt (.241/.284) — haven’t gotten going yet.
9. New York Mets (9-8, No. 3): I follow all these teams nightly, but cannot say I have watched a single Mets game. Heard Jim Bowden talk about how much this team needs to clean up their infield defense. That could partially explain why they’re only 9-8.
10. Tampa Bay Rays (11-11, No. 7): So far, whatever buttons Kevin Cash is pushing are not working either in his daily lineup or with the pitching staff. That said, Tyler Glasnow is doing his share of the heavy lifting. Rich Hill (8.82 ERA) has struggled, and former Rays ace Chris Archer is on the injured list. Archer gave up seven hits and four runs in 4.1 innings in his first two outings.
11. Toronto Blue Jays (10-11, No. 14)
12. New York Yankees (9-12, No. 16)
13. Seattle Mariners (13-9, No. 20)
14. San Francisco Giants (14-8, No. 21)
15. Atlanta Braves (9-12, No. 10)
16. Cleveland Indians (9-11, No. 9)
17. Houston Astros (10-11, No. 18)
18. Minnesota Twins (7-13, No. 8)
19. Chicago Cubs (10-11, No. 24)
20. Philadelphia Phillies (10-11, No. 17)
21. Washington Nationals (8-11, No. 22)
22. Los Angeles Angels (10-10, No. 19)
23. Arizona Diamondbacks (11-11, No. 29)
24. Cincinnati Reds (9-12, No. 11)
25. Baltimore Orioles (9-12, No. 25)
26. Miami Marlins (9-12, No. 23)
27. Pittsburgh Pirates (11-11, No. 28)
28. Texas Rangers (9-13, No. 26)
29. Detroit Tigers (7-15, No. 27)
30. Colorado Rockies (8-13, No. 30)