I'm beginning this post before the conclusion of tonight's White Sox @ Orioles game because the result is irrelevant. That is, the positive shift in attitude and ability we have witnessed since Buck Showalter became manager cannot be negated in the remainder of this game.
This good fortune began, in my mind, the day reliever Will Ohman was traded to the Florida Marlins. The laboring, southpaw middle reliever was as effective of a pitcher as Joslyn James is at keeping secrets.
So it came as no surprise, in fact I chuckled heartily, when I watched the SportsCenter highlight of Ohman blowing a save opportunity against the Phillies in a game the Fins would lose in 10 innings.
In return for mediocre Ohman we received Triple-A pitcher Rick Vanden Hurk, who, if nothing else, has a badass name. Assuming his first name is Richard, I'm definitely calling him Dick Vanden Hurk from the moment he makes it to the majors. The not-so-incredible Hurk has an ERA of 4.68 this season. I won't complain though; the Marlins could have traded Baltimore Jim Abbott with no left hand and it would have been a net gain.
Add to that the fact that we dropped Miguel Tejada, opening the door for Josh Bell to prove himself at third, and Brian Roberts is back from the DL, and I think we have a legitimate shot to win more than 50 games.
You may say we're still in the honeymoon stage of the Showalter era, but I like to think of this as more of an affair. I'm not sure we completely deserve Showalter, the Larry Brown of baseball in some ways, so it's safe to say we are not married. We're simply keeping him from his wife on nights and weekends until she becomes suspicious and lures him back to the farmhouse. This way the excitement of getting caught is always there, as opposed to a three- to six-month, more traditional, honeymoon stage.
How else do you explain the hustle of the corner outfielders? Felix Pie's speed in pursuit of fly balls is beginning to resemble Felix the Cat as opposed to an apple pie, while Nick Markakis seems to have lost his fear of running faster than nine miles per hour without a helmet on.
I went to the Blue Jays game on a Sunday with my dad and my friend, Mike, a few weeks ago. It was the game they lost 10-1. (Which one, right?) Anyway, Pie botched multiple balls hit to left that heavily contributed to the embarrassing deficit. And on a semi-routine fly ball that died just to the foul side of the right field line, Markakis ran after the ball like it was laced with malaria, bound to infect him if he was within 30 feet of it when it landed. The ball hung up so long, I think I had a realistic opportunity to make the catch if I would have gotten an early jump from my seat in the 20th row.
So the hustle is back. We haven't seen that consistently since the honeymoon stage of Dave Trembley. (Juan Samuel didn't have that affect.) Plus Pie seems like he actually cares. He was livid tonight when his line drive to right field was trapped, but ruled an out. Showalter spent what seemed like an hour arguing with the first base empire while Pie continued his seizure on his way back to, and within, the dugout. The last time I saw Pie this fired up was when he tripled to complete the cycle against the Angels last season. (I was at that game.)
As for the pitching, what the hell has Showalter done with Brian Matusz, the Mr. Hyde side of Jake Arrieta and the 2010 Brad Bergesen? Suddenly these guys look like the highly-touted prospects we were expecting upon their acquisition. When's the last time that the no-brainer player of the game for the Orioles in back-to-back games was the starter? Arrieta surely was last night, and same for Bergesen this evening.
And timely hitting? I just witnessed a walk-off base hit for the second consecutive night. Who are these guys? They're the Baltimore ****in' Orioles, hon. And Showalter is the exorcist. That's my nickname for him. When he puts that orange and black hat on before a game it's like Jesus hosed down the entire team with Holy Water. They can do little wrong, and when they do screw something up they instantly atone for their sins. Am I calling Buck Showalter, Jesus? No, not in the same post that I compared him to an unfaithful spouse. But whatever he is, it's enough to have scared Satan away from Camden Yards and back into the depths of hell. Or maybe he just moved to Redskins camp.
Don't worry; I have everything in perspective. I don't expect to make the playoffs next year, or even finish above .500. But at least watching Orioles games is no longer a form of self-punishment.