"Wait till next year!"
It's the battle cry for many a sports fan after the inevitable truth, which at the start of every season seems to be a far off possibility, finally comes to be: Only one team can win a championship. In football, that means that every city has a 1-32 shot at the Lombardi trophy. In basketball, those odds become 1-30.
And in baseball, the magic odds are 1-30. But these odds don't stop the most avid of sports fans from believing at the outset that their team will be "the one" this year. All right, so maybe every sports fan except the Cubs fans.
Ultimately, hope and loyalty spring eternal for fans of even continually bottom-feeding teams. Yet, like this year's edition of the Baltimore Orioles, every once in a while, an unexpectedly strong start fuels the creeping thought, just a little bit, that this could be the year that "our team shocks the world."
As a general rule of thumb, if a team wins more series than it loses, then it stands a better than average chance to still be in the hunt at pennant time.
So far in this young season, the Orioles are not only keeping to that rule, but doing so against teams considered by many pundits to be the cream of the division. Two out of three from the Yanks (or, as they say in Baltimore, "the evil empire"). Two out of three from the World Series runner-ups, the Rays. And then there was last night. Refusing to fold and give in after the Rangers crept back into the game. Good stuff.
I know that it's early. I know that the Orioles pitching is not supposed to be good enough to hold up for an entire season. Yes, they are young. The Yanks and the Rays are expected to pull it together and finish strong, while the Orioles should begin (any day now) their annual slide to the bottom. I know. I've heard it all many times now, with each win.
But you know what? I'm reminded of a young Orioles team in '88-89. That team was young, and talented, and they weren't supposed to do much for a while. They were rebuilding. But guess what? Someone forgot to tell the fledgling team that. That team, which contained the likes of Mike Mussina, produced some of the great talent of the '90s.
Maybe I'm reaching here. Maybe, like many sports fans, I am just overly optimistic. Maybe the Orioles' "next year" is now. Who knows? Time will tell. But I do know that there are worse things than beginning a season 5-2 against strong teams.
One series at time. Win more than you lose. See you in September? I'm certainly hopeful!
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