That headline is only half serious. More than anything, it's a shot at the people who've been whining all over social media, at least my social media feeds, about how obsessed everyone else seems to have been about the World Cup. While the U.S. Men's Team was still alive in the tournament, there were a lot of posts and tweets that said, basically, "Everyone becomes a huge soccer fan for two weeks, every four years. How weird."
Then, when the U.S. bowed out on Tuesday with a 2-1, overtime loss to Belgium in the Round of 16, it turned to "can everyone shut up about the World Cup now?" I would expect that kind of thing from those who find sports inane and a waste of time, but a significant number of these people, my friends and contacts on social media, are sports fans, they just don't care for soccer. So, to answer the question, yes, I guess everyone can shut up about the World Cup and go back to their normal lives of athletic fandom without the interference of the biggest sporting event in the world (I think I'm right there, though it might be the Tour de France).
For me, that normal life is the Orioles, because they're my team, and the IronBirds, because, aside from existing in the Orioles' farm system, it's my job to cover them. The Orioles are one game out of first place in the A.L. East, and that's all I'm going to say about them.
The IronBirds, on the other hand, are not one game out of first place. They're 11.5 games out of first place in the New York-Penn League's McNamara Division, and nine games out of third place. That is normally something you would see toward the end of a season, but we're only 19 games into Aberdeen's schedule. That is not good by any stretch, but let's looks a little closer at how the IronBirds have wound up where they are.
Quick aside: The IronBirds had the same 2-17 record after 19 games in the 2011 season, which they finished with a club-worst overall mark of 24-51.
The first thing that stands out is the number of close ballgames Aberdeen has been involved in thus far. That was the first thing IronBirds skipper Matt Merullo brought up when I talked to him after a 2-0 loss to Hudson Valley on Saturday, June 28. To that point, the IronBirds were 1-15, and nine of those losses were beaten by one run. Nine one-run losses in the first two weeks of the season is just insane. The 2011 IronBirds team that I just mentioned, which had the same kind of dismal start, was not losing games by one run. It should also be noted that Aberdeen's two victories this season were of the one-run variety.
The problem then, if you hadn't guessed, is lack of timely hitting, or just a lack of offensive production in general. Aberdeen has been shut out three times, and has been held to one run six times. If you're scoring one or zero runs in almost half of your games, you aren't going to stack up wins, unless you have the best pitching staff in the league.
The IronBirds don't have the best pitching staff in the league, but they're near the top of the pile, which is why they've had so many close games. Aberdeen's team ERA through Wednesday's game was 3.24, fifth best in the 14-team New York-Penn League. The IronBirds staff also had the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio in the league (3.27), and had the second-highest strikeout total (170).
You mix that kind of pitching, which has allowed the fifth fewest runs in the league, with an offense that has scored the fewest runs, 27 less than the next closest team, and you can see what's happening.
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It's going to take the biggest turnaround in club history for the IronBirds to be in playoff contention come the end of August. I hope they can make something happen.