Vensel: No joke -- these O's have potential

We're a week into the 2010 season, and the Orioles have already served up a smorgasbord of soul-crushing setbacks. Blown saves. A slew of stranded runners. That deflating shutout loss Saturday night. Miguel Tejada's untimely error Sunday.

Sure, the result has been the same, but each loss has been unique. If anything, we can applaud the Orioles' creativity out there.

These early hard-luck losses have gotten a few hearty laughs from masochistic fans still capable of feeling emotion. And after 12-plus years of such shenanigans, rolling your eyes at the Orioles' slow start is totally understandable.

But it's way too soon to say that these Orioles will be a joke.

I know what you're thinking: It's never too early to quit on the Orioles. After all, they haven't had a winning season since Clinton was president, "MMMBop" was considered music and you didn't get laughed at for wearing Airwalks.

But this MLB season is still so young. A-Rod has zero home runs so far. We've yet to have a Manny-being-Manny moment. Milton Bradley hasn't even had a meltdown.

What? Bradley flipped off another crowd? OK, maybe the Orioles do need to get going. But trust me, there's still a ton of baseball left to play — 155 games, to be exact.

Honestly, the Orioles haven't been that bad. There have been bright spots in every game, and it's not as if they have been getting blown out. A few hits here, a new closer there (just kidding, Gonzo) and one fewer Tejada fudge-up in the field and the Orioles could be 6-1 instead of 1-6.

"I wish I could catch the ball and he would win the game," Tejada said of his error that cost Kevin Millwood a win against the Blue Jays on Sunday. "But what can I do?"

Execute. That's what he and his teammates need to do.

It's not Miggy's fault the Orioles are in the cellar. It's no one player's fault, not even Mike Gonzalez (left, photo by AP). They've had their opportunities, but collectively they keep finding ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Each game this weekend, when the Orioles got swept by the Blue Jays at Camden Yards, one facet of their game let them down, whether it was pitching, hitting or defense.

Friday, the Orioles swung the bat well and scored six runs in their home opener, but Gonzalez blew his second save of the season. Saturday, fifth starter David Hernandez pitched six strong innings, but the Orioles couldn't score a run against Toronto starter Dana Eveland — who had the best performance by a Dana since "Wayne's World 2." Sunday, Millwood was great but Tejada's error in the top of the eighth inning gave the Blue Jays a fourth out — and unlike the Orioles, they took advantage of the opportunity.

As for Monday, Tampa Bay's Matt Garza simply has the O's number.

While the Orioles' miscues have been pretty laughable, there's no way they can continue at this rate. Maybe I've gotten into the orange Kool-Aid again, but I see signs of life from this team — even if the morale in the clubhouse this weekend suggested otherwise.

The starting pitching has been better than expected. The bullpen has talent, even if it doesn't have a closer. Defensively, they have been solid (Tejada's error Sunday was the team's only one this season). And even though the Orioles leave more guys stranded on third base than my high school girlfriend, hitters such as Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold will heat up eventually.

Of course, there will be more frustrating follies this season. But give these young Orioles some time before you write them off again. Because if they do turn it around, the joke will be on you.


Matt Vensel is a content creator for b. Follow him on Twitter, @mattvensel.