Breaking Balls: Orioles shacking up with Lady Luck
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Last year around this time, I had the brilliant idea to spice up the last month of the season by recklessly predicting which teams — that seemed certain to make the playoffs — would collapse in a fiery mess and make the rest of the season interesting for baseball fans everywhere. This has been scientifically proven to be the cause of the historic collapses by Boston and Atlanta last September, which did, in fact, make the rest of the season more interesting.
This year, I have learned my lesson and I wouldn’t even consider such a thing as wishing disaster upon the teams of others as I have realized that the only person I’m really hurting is myself. (Though the truth is I enjoy watching the Yankees do a Red Sox impression the last few weeks, losing what was once an insurmountable division lead.)
Another reason I won’t be partaking in such mean-spiritedness this season is because the “playoff teams” aren’t even remotely as certain as they seemed last year – so the circumstances don’t really allow for me to prove whether or not I’m a changed person with a new, fresh outlook on life.
[Editor’s Note: Or we could just browse through any of your recent columns and see that you are clearly still the person responsible for most of our hate mail.] [Note to Editor: How dare you, sir?! You know what? I’m going to prove you wrong. Get ready for some full-blown positivity.]
The playoff race is completely up in the air with 14 teams with a realistic shot at the 10 available spots in the postseason. But, of all of these teams, the real surprise has been the Baltimore Orioles. They are one game back in the American League East division – the one with the Yankees and the Rays and the Red Sox. The Orioles have exceeded all expectations by everyone everywhere.
Baltimore started off pretty well this season, however, they looked like one of those teams that would eventually just fade away into mediocrity over the long haul of a 162-game season – like the Pittsburgh Pirates did this year (and last year). Now, here we are with just a few weeks left to go and the Orioles aren’t fading one bit.
When you review the components of the team, it’s not really quite clear what actually makes it a winning team. Looking at them statistically, the offense is mediocre, the pitching is mediocre and the defense is mediocre. That many “mediocres” usually that means the team is mediocre, so there must be something else.
Do remember a decade ago, in April 2002, when My Big Fat Greek Wedding came out in the theaters and made over $200 million dollars at the box office? It did that well without ever being the top movie in any given week. People just kept going to see it. And telling all their friends to go see it. [Note to Readers: If you are reading this right now and you are also my mother, it would be better for you to skip ahead a couple paragraphs.] Here’s the thing about the movie: If you watch it now, it’s a bit odd how ordinary most of the film is and how actually terrible some of it is. The acting, the writing and the overall filmmaking are all just kind of mediocre.
So, what was it about this film that made it such a huge success? Luck. They say “timing is everything” and even though “they” are sometimes full of “poop,” sometimes “they” are “right.” The timing on that movie couldn’t have been better. The United States was just starting to come out of the haze of the previous September’s horrible terrorist attacks and people needed something to make them feel better about themselves and the world around them. A silly romantic comedy wedding film was the perfect antidote. If the movie had been released six months earlier or six months later, it just wouldn’t have done as well. Six months earlier and people wouldn’t have been ready to let go and laugh. Six months later and people would have been more cynical about the flaws in the film.
And so we now have the Baltimore Orioles – mediocre in almost all aspects of the game and tied for first place. Maybe mediocre is the wrong word. I’m trying to show off some positivity here, and I don’t want you to think that I’m saying mediocre in a bad way. How about “adequate”? “Sufficient”? “Passable”? “Moderate”? Any one of those would do. So, then, here is where the luck comes in. The team is doing just enough of the right things at the right time and just few enough of the wrong things at the wrong times to get them where they are. Timing is everything.
This shouldn’t be taken as a negative. Luck is your friend. In baseball, in Vegas, in love and in life, sometimes it’s nice to benefit from the universe aligning in just the perfect way for things to work out where otherwise they probably wouldn’t have.
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