Tuesday, June 5, 2007

O's Bullpen Blows Another Late Lead

Few teams in Major League Baseball frequently disappoint their fans on a nightly basis like the Baltimore Orioles do. For the second night in a row, the Orioles' bullpen managed to blow a late one run lead. This time the blame falls upon John Parrish and somewhat on Chad Bradford. In the bottom of the eighth inning with a 4-3 lead, Bradford quickly retired the Mariners' first two batters. He then allowed two consecutive singles to put runners on 1st and 3rd with two outs. John Parrish relieved Bradford, which is when the meltdown occurred. Parrish allowed a Jose Vidro single, an Ichiro Suzuki double, and a Jose Lopez double to completely damage the Orioles and their attempt to win the game. While two of the runs were charged to Bradford that inning, Parrish managed to allow four runs and ruined Erik Bedard's chance at gaining another win. Just another day at the office for the Orioles, I guess.

For some reason, whenever I watch the Orioles play, I usually expect something to go wrong. That may be the wrong type of attitude to have, but the fact remains that the Orioles seem to blow more chances at winning than any other team I've ever seen. The Orioles routinely put themselves in horrible situations, just like the game yesterday, and even if they escape a few times, a huge inning always seems to loom in the distance. For this team, something bad or a late game blow-up is always looming in the near future, and fans know it.

After the Orioles lost their fourth game in a row yesterday, I started thinking about something they reminded me of. The Orioles provide fans with glimpses of hope for short stretches during the season, but sure enough, they manage to put all the positive notes behind them and continue to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. They'll be reliable for short periods of time, but fans know that it's only a matter of time before things fall back into place and problems start occurring again.

And then I remembered -- the Orioles remind me of my dad's old piece of crap van that he drove basically until it completely died. The van would run well occasionally, but I always knew that within a week or so there would be problems with it. But my dad was always hopeful that the car would somehow pull through, and he never wanted to go buy another car. After running well for a week or two, the van would again show why it was such a hassle. There would be transmission problems, or the AC would shut off and not work, or the paint would start peeling -- no matter what, the car always disappointed my father with a new problem after a while.

The Orioles are exactly the same way. For a while, the Orioles will seem to be on the right track, and fans will be thinking, "Hey, they're playing great right now. Maybe they can hold this together and actually go somewhere this year!" And sure enough, within a few weeks, the Orioles have a few meltdowns, usually late in the game, and continue to torture their own fans with agonizing losses. Either an important player will get hurt, or the offense will sputter, or the coach will make a bonehead decision, or the bullpen (usually the case) gives up a late lead in a very winnable game.

There is always hope for the Orioles, however, and that makes the team very dangerous to keep rooting for. The Orioles never completely shut the door on their fans because they always seem to have a few pieces that make fans believe they'll eventually compete in the AL East. The Orioles' starting pitching has been absolutely phenomenal lately. Somehow five names have managed to keep the Orioles ONLY four games under .500 despite a very underachieving bullpen and an offense that seems to settle down once they manage to grab the lead. Those names are Bedard, Guthrie, Trachsel, Cabrera, and Burres. I'm not sure how much longer these guys can keep the Orioles in games, but their pitching has really been a welcome sight for, quite frankly, a team that hasn't had solid starting pitching in many years. Led by these five starters, the Orioles have somehow managed a 4.09 team ERA, landing the team fourth in the AL in that category. The defense has been excellent as well, and the Orioles are tied for first in the AL with a .989 fielding percentage and are second in fewest errors committed with only 25.

But no matter how many positives there seem to be, there's always something bad looming in the distance for the Orioles. Maybe that's because of the coaching, or maybe that's because of the front office personnel. Either way, everyone involved with the Orioles is to blame at least somewhat, and the atmosphere for losing has been around for quite some time now. Some people call it bad luck, some might just call it not having a good team.

I just call the Orioles a losing team, and it's always disappointing when they ruin so many great opportunities to win.

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