|Bricks from the Warehouse|
On the one hand, the Orioles are playing much better than we thought they would. (Of course, that has something to do with Josh Towers, rather than Chuck McElroy, being in the rotation, which we couldn't have predicted. But it also has to do with Jason Johnson finally having a good year, which we didn't foresee.) They're solidly ahead of Tampa at 40-47, which projects to 74 wins, and we would have pegged them for 64.
On the other hand, they're 40-47, which projects to 74 wins. We're not talking about a major accomplishment, here. They're also 12 1/2 games out, in 4th place, their lowest point of the season. And they're 11 games out of the Wild Card slot, in 7th place for the wild card.
Now, you and we know that their chances of winning the wild card are the same as Albert Belle winning Ms. Congeniality, but do the Orioles realize it? Before this past week, they were only 3 games under, at 39-42, 8 1/2 games out, and they were talking contention. IMO, no team under .500 has any business thinking about contending, no matter how close in the standings. Hopefully, the sweep by the Yankees and the rather pathetic showing against the Phillies will disabuse them of the notion that all they need to do is get Pat Hentgen and Mike Bordick back and pick up one other Conine-like player, and they'll be instant contenders. (Hopefully, a look at the Red Sox this year will clue the brainrust in to the difference beetween a good and bad team. Bad teams have injuries and pretend that the injuries are the difference between contending and losing. Good teams have injuries and win anyway.)
July is the ultimate crossroads for them. Before the trading deadline, they play against Atlanta (3 road games), Florida (3 road games), Texas (5 games - 2H/3A), Anaheim (7 games - 4H/3A), and Tampa (one home game). That's one strong team (3 games), two average teams (10 games), and 2 bad teams (6 games). In other words, they should be able to tread water in July, in terms of their record (though they'll probably fall 3-4 games further in the GB column). Do they look at that and say "Hey, we're not that bad. One more big bat and another reliever, and we're in this"? Or do they say, "Hey, veterans are playing over their heads, Towers, Johnson, and Ponson have been great, and we're still *not* in this. We need to cash in Conine while we can, before he performs Coninely. We've seen how helpful young players can be; we need to get a few more."?
Unfortunately, we fear it may be closer to the former. The Washington Post reports that the Orioles may want to trade Mercedes and Mora for a closer -- and when they say "closer," we'll bet that they don't mean "A hard throwing young guy who may one day be a closer." We'll bet that they mean A Proven Veteran 33 Year Old Closer. (As usual, when a management team doesn't know what it's doing, it focuses on the bullpen -- an easy target, since a bullpen *always* blows saves, and a team can always sit around imagining What Might Have Been if only they hadn't ever done that.)
But we shall see.