one of the most negative, fatalistic blog entries that I've ever published on this site. When I wrote that post, the Orioles were 46-44, ten games out of first place, and losers of six out of their last seven. You know the rest of the story - they went 47-25 from that point forward to win an unfathomable 93 games and finish in a dead heat with the Rangers in the wild card standings. They then beat Texas in a thrilling single-elimination playoff game and took the Yankees to the limit in a tense, low-scoring Division Series before bowing out of the postseason.
I looked back at that post today as a reminder of how long the baseball season truly is, and how fortunate we are as fans to experience the highs of winning, no matter what the end result of the season may be. The O's are in better shape now than they were 90 games into the 2012 season, but there are reasons to doubt their bonafides all the same. The bullpen, the primary strength of last year's team, is no sure thing, with Jim Johnson sitting on a frustrating league lead in blown saves. The offense is inconsistent, often scraping across a few meager early runs and hoping that the pitching staff can make a narrow lead hold. Most of all, the competition seems fiercer than ever. Boston is back in charge, the Rays are doing their usual pitching-and-defense thing, the Tigers are the class of the Central, Oakland and Texas are duking it out again out West, and the Royals and Indians (of all teams) have made a fight of it lately. Even the Yankees, reduced to using scrap-heap veterans and minor-league nobodies to fill out their injury-depleted roster, refuse to sink below .500. So often in the past I would have killed to see my team 11 games in the black in mid-August, but ultimately I want to see them in the postseason, and it seems like they're just not going to make it in 2013. While everybody else has gone on white-hot streaks, the Birds peaked at five wins in a row last month. Too many losses are agonizing, razor-thin defeats with missed opportunities by the handful. Every blown lead and blunted rally is a crucial bit of lost playoff equity that can't be regained.
I'm going to try to look at the last 43 games of the regular season with a bit of a wider perspective. If the Orioles catch fire and make another surprising charge into October, all the better. But if not, it's not for a lack of effort and they've done plenty to entertain me and the rest of their fans since April. This is not the rudderless, faceless team of my twenties. Manny Machado and Adam Jones and Chris Davis are legitimate major leaguers who will be around for a while. There aren't gaping holes to be patched with Band-Aids, as was so often the case for 15 years in the wilderness. It's not bad to be an O's fan.