For baseball fans, there are few things finer in life than getting home from a long day of work, cracking open a cold beer, and turning on the ballgame to relax and have some fun. It’s an escape…a reprieve…part of the fabric of Americana.
The problem in Baltimore is this ideal experience is no more than a distant memory or a faraway dream. The reality is watching the Orioles this year—and for the last 11 seasons—feels more like taking out the trash or doing the laundry. It feels like an obligation to a family member that you cannot avoid. Diehards continue to watch, looking for any glimmer of hope such as the sparkling play of young Adam Jones.
However, for every bright spot like Jones, the continued improvement of Nick Markakis, and the desperate hope for the crop of minor league pitching, there is the horrendous starting pitching, foolish baserunning, and invisible late-inning offense. Quite frankly, it’s not easy—or enjoyable—to watch.
No matter how much MASN tries to brainwash its audience—and believe me, it’s propaganda at its finest—the obvious and painful truth is staring us right in the face.
Orioles Magic energized the Charm City in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and in the exact opposite way, Orioles “Black Magic” continues to suck the very life out of this city every summer, as it has for over a decade. It’s why many Baltimoreans gravitated to the Washington Capitals’ run in the NHL playoffs, and it’s why fans are already seeing purple when we’re still two months away from the first morning practice at McDaniel College. Even MASN’s Amber Theoharis was wearing purple and black tonight!
The “Black Magic” is what has turned Camden Yards—the place to be in the mid-90s when the Orioles were winning—into an empty palace of bad dreams.
We’re desperate for something—anything—to distract us from the harsh reality that is the Orioles’ 2009 season. It isn’t even about the present state of the roster. In fact, there weren’t very many moves I would have made differently to shape the current roster—with the obvious exception of subjecting fans to the pitching of Adam Eaton. It’s the simple reality that this “Black Magic” continues to depress an otherwise rabid sports town for the 12th year in a row.
Think back to January, and the Ravens’ improbable run to the AFC Championship. The town was basking in a purple haze of excitement and pride. The Ravens make us proud to be from Baltimore, and we’d love to feel the same way about the Orioles again—the way Baltimoreans felt in the 60s, 70s, and 80s when the organization was the finest in baseball.
Even while tempering expectations—something we’ve grown quite used to in the last 12 years—hope still springs eternal in April. Maybe—just maybe—the Orioles could have surprised us this year. But only six weeks later, what little optimism was present on Opening Day is long gone with the Orioles at 16-25 and in last place in the American League East.
Yes, the eventual promotion of Matt Wieters and the reports from the minor leagues will stir some interest, but it still figures to be a long summer until the Ravens kick off in September.
As bad as the first two months have been, the future does look brighter than it has in a very long time, but herein lays the problem. The unknown. As promising as Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, and the rest of the farm may be, there is no guarantee these young players will pull the organization out of the abyss.
It’s downright nauseating to consider the possibility that these pitchers won’t fare much better than the many failed prospects of the last 20 years. This 12-year losing streak has to turn at some point, right? We can only hope.
When it inevitably does—and hopefully it’s sooner rather than later for everyone’s sake—it will be important to never forget this miserable stretch of baseball as much as we all will want to.
Much like we treasure the success—and more importantly, the mere presence—of the Ravens after not having NFL football for 12 years, it will be equally important to cherish having meaningful baseball in Baltimore again after having this long era of “Black Magic” suck the passion and energy out of the city.
There is no doubt that Baltimore can be a two-sport town, and there is no better dream than to have the Orioles playing in the World Series the same weekend the Ravens are whipping the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. As silly and impossible as it sounds today, it’s the only way to persevere through the black cloud lurking over Camden Yards for the past 12 years.
But until that day comes, the Orioles “Black Magic” will continue to plague a city that has largely forgotten what winning baseball even looks or feels like. Watching baseball will continue to feel more like a chore than an enjoyable diversion.
One day—and hopefully soon—we’ll see the return of Orioles Magic, but until then, we’ll continue to fight the “Black Magic” of another miserable summer.