Friday marks Opening Day for the Baltimore Orioles. The game is set to take place at 3:10 p.m. at Tropicana Field in Saint Petersburg, home to the Tampa Bay Rays, the 100-win team that finished on top of the American League East last season. We’re going to go out on a limb here and chalk this game up as a potential loss for the O’s. Not because we want Baltimore’s team to lose. Not because we’ve lost faith in the Birds before the first regular season game even starts. And not because this is the editorial page, and deflating the hopes and dreams of readers is kind of our bag. The reality is that if baseball is a game of numbers, the Orioles are exponentially irrational (or maybe it’s irrationally exponential) or, to simplify to the lowest common denominator, maybe just bad. Last season, the Rays beat the Orioles 18 times. The Orioles beat the Rays once. That was by far the worst record the 110-loss Baltimore team mustered against any franchise, American League, National League, or Out-of-Their League.
But so what? Opening Day is still Opening Day and, dollars to doughnuts, there’s a little extra spring in the steps of Baltimore baseball fans this week. Why? Because we’re gluttons for punishment? Not necessarily. More likely it’s because watching the O’s on TV or their worst day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards is better than a whole lot of other things that could be occupying our time, from stressing about the COVID-19 pandemic to witnessing the suffering in Ukraine to contemplating how inflation has probably already raised the cost of those doughnuts we mentioned three sentences earlier. Yikes.
This season, the Baltimore Orioles are celebrating the 30th anniversary of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. For old-timers, it’s hard to believe that Memorial Stadium is so long gone. Camden Yards remains a source of pride. It is consistently ranked among the top ballparks in the United States, it’s retro approach having sparked a veritable revolution in how such facilities are done. We also like to think of it as our own lottery-enabled ransom demand. It was, after all, former Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams, who threatened to leave town without a new facility. Still, it’s a relative bargain. Plenty of Major League Baseball cities have been forced to pay a whole lot more to keep their franchises. Even monkeying with the left-field fence or expecting the Maryland Stadium Authority to spend tens of millions of dollars more for renovations doesn’t change the fact that it’s a world-class ballpark.
As for wins and losses, here’s our prediction: We’ll witness both. Most sports writers peg the Orioles to be little improved from last year, which means we can probably safely focus on the Ravens this fall without fear of scheduling conflicts with the MLB playoffs. But there is more to baseball than winning (and not just that “Field of Dreams” stuff about how it reminds us of our past despite the “army of steamrollers” and all that yadda, yadda). There is also joy in watching gradual improvement and in outstanding individual performance from notable Birds like starting pitcher John Means, outfielder Cedric Mullins, and first baseman-outfielders Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle. Even more promising, there’s super-prospect Adley Rutschman, a catcher with great defensive skills and long-ball power. All should make their mark, and, ask any veteran Little League parent, it’s always fun to see those little signs of improvement from youngsters. Who knows but they may finish the 2022 without being ranked in the bottom half to the American League in every meaningful offensive statistic except for hit-by-pitch where the team finished 6th best in 2021 with 65 stingers. Ouch.
Character and patience, that’s what being an Orioles fan is all about. But we have broad shoulders here in Charm City. We can deal with those annoying Boston and New York fans who drop in when their teams play here to smash our hopes and dreams. We’ve also been on top. We’ve had our days of the Robinsons (Frank and Brooks), of Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Cal Ripken Jr., Boog Powell, Paul Blair and all the other all-stars and World Series champs. We’ve also seen the lean days like, um, last year. Yes, the former is better but the latter is not so bad. Especially with some good seats, crab cake platters (or Camden Classic Franks, if you prefer) and a few bottles of craft beer from the lower concourse to wash them down.
Play ball! Well, as best you can.
Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.