My neighbor is a perpetual optimist. During the bleakest, hottest off-days of summer, he suits up in orange and khaki and heads down to the Inner Harbor to lead tours through the empty Orioles ballpark. Before the 2011 season began, he handed my one-year-old son his first Orioles uniform, wrapped in black and orange gift paper. For my wife and myself, he had a word of advice: this could be the year. They had just started farming a new pitching staff.
I was a little skeptical. I don’t know much about farming and I don’t know much about pitching. My wife and I hadn’t devoted ourselves financially to an O’s season since 2005. 2005 was the season of Sammy Sosa bobbleheads, Raphael Palmiero’s 3000th hit, and Mr. Sidney Ponson. The Orioles spent 62 days in first place. Then the bottom fell out. Sammy Sosa’s steroid-enhanced batting average deflated. Ponson was let go after his second DUI. One day after hitting 3000, the world learned that Palmiero had failed his urine test. And the Orioles finished fourth in their division, with 88 losses.
But 2011, my neighbor said, would be different. My son was wandering around wearing Oriole colors. People were whispering about the new ace, Brian Matusz. Besides, my neighbor is usually right about everything. His garden is perfect. He’s got a gas-fueled grill.