Circles of Losing- O’s Style- Part 1

I’m going to preface this post by dropping a little knowledge. In Dante’s Divine Comedy, Hell is composed of 9 circles. The first circle is limbo. Limbo isn’t a painful place….you’re just there and there’s no hope of ever leaving. After limbo, the circles involve some sort of eternal torment that escalate to each progressing circle. The ninth circle involves being encased in ice up to your neck forever. That said, losing has its own type of circles. Each kind of loss levels you with a different kind of disgust.

Circle 1- The Moral Victory

The Moral Victory leaves you feeling slightly upbeat, but the O’s still lost. The team plays a better and gives them a game but ultimately, the flaws of the team dooms them. Example of this one, last season August 13th. The Orioles are playing the Yankees and give them a close a game. Jeremy Guthrie didn’t have a great start. He went 4.2 innings and gave up 6 runs. But the offense and the jokers of the 2007 bullpen kept them in the game. Top of the ninth, Brian Roberts hits an RBI single of Mariano Rivera to tie it. But one of the strongest flaws of the 2007 O’s, there were many yes, was the bullpen. Chad Bradford came in to bring the game into extra innings. He responsed by hitting Melky Cabrera and then Jason Giambi drove in the winning run.

So you have a reassuring conversation with yourself

Me:”Hey, we gave them a good game. They were the better team and we gave them a good run. It wasn’t enough, but man…If only we coulda got out of the ninth inning. What happened to Bradford. Man. At least they played a good game.”

Me:”But we still lost. If only…”

It still hurts, but you reassure yourself that the O’s gave it their best.

Circle 2: Not Enough to Win

I could site a million of these. These are the games that the O’s just don’t do quite enough to win. The final score ends up being 4-2 or 6-3. There’s plenty of chances to win. There’s a bases loaded situation that goes wasted without scoring a single run. A pitcher gives a solid 7 inning performance but gives up that 2 run homer in the 5th inning. The offense gets some hits, but gets outhit by 5 by the other team. On another day, this could be a game they’d win..but not this day.

Circle 3: The Veteran Job

I’m not a Kevin Millar, but he is what he is. He’s an aging ballplayer who can work a count and doesn’t embarrass himself on the field. You could do a lot better, but as a spacefiller on the O’s, you could do worse.

May 7th 2006. It’s Millar’s first series back in Boston as a member of the Orioles. He’s determined to do something big in this series. Kris Benson had a rotten start, 4.1 innings and gave up 9 runs. The game doesn’t look good, but the O’s have their chances. It’s maybe the top of the 2nd or 3rd. Bases loaded and 2 outs. Millars up at bat. The Boston crowd is buzzing. There’s some cheers and there’s some boos mixed in, but the place is a buzz. The mighty Millar proclaimed “I’m Kevin Millar. I swing for the fences. Let me demonstrate the greatnes that you forfeited!” First pitch….WHIFFFFFF. Second pitch…..WHIFFFFFFFF…. maybe at this point he fouls one or two off…..then…..WHIFFFFFF strike three. End of inning, Millar was wanting show Boston he still had it and it didn’t happen that at bat. He would strike out again later in the game, stranding two more. For the game, Millar went 0-3 with 2 K’s and stranding 6. The O’s would lose 10-3, but you pound your head against the wall because of veteran leadership.

Circle 4: Baserunning Follies

Who could forget this http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=270514114 (for some reason I can’t get that righted up…but there’s link) classic.

May 14th 2007. The Jays and the O’s are in a close one. The O’s are down by 2 in the ninth and Melvin Mora is on second. Jay Payton is at bat.

Melvin Mora is a savvy vet. He went to playoffs once with the Mets, so if there’s one thing Melvin knows how to do, its win.
It’s a 1-1 count and Melvin decides to make his own gameplan and steal 3rd. He gets it on defensive indifference and Payton takes a strike as a result on being confused to what happened. Then in typical Jay Payton fashion, he popped out to end the game. Then as they left the field, they traded unhappy words and almost duked it out. Classic Oriole moment.

After a game like this, you want to find Melvin Mora and Jay Payton and have a few words with them and duke it out.

Circle 5: The Big Error

I don’t have a specfic case to site because this happens a lot to Orioles and in baseball in general. I am thinking of one game in general. Last season, the O’s were hosting the Tigers. There’s one out in the 6th or 7th inning. Brian Roberts, normally a top-notch 2nd baseman, blotches a routine double play ball. He gets the out at second but then over throws Millar by 3 feet. A run scores and the runners advance. Before the 3rd out is recorded, several more runs score.

With this one, you’re left shaking your head. If the player is like Roberts, you have to give them the mulligan and deal with it. You’re left wondering ‘If that double play could have been turned…we could have won that gave I bet.”

Circle 6: The Kid from Nowhere

Sunday is a prime example. Jeff Neimann make his major league debut with the Rays. First start ever and makes the O’s look completely stupid. They might get in a jam or two, Neimann had the bases loaded in the first but got out of it. After that, they mow through the lineup a few times and might give a run or two but has the O’s under control the whole day. It usually leads to an exchange in the booth like this:

Gary Thorne: Jeff Neimann (or any other debut starter) has had an exceptional debut for the Rays (or whatever team). He has made the O’s look confused at the plate. You have to like his stuff, Jim.

Jim Palmer: Yeah, For his first start, he’s been very composed on the mound. That’s one of things I learned early when I was pitching back in the day for the Orioles. You have to believe you belong on the mound and today, he doesn’t just believe it…he knows it for a fact.

Gary Thorne: You have to think there are great things down the road for this kid with a great slider.

(Next start, said pitcher who baffled the O’s gets shelled by the opposing team, gets demoted or released and is never heard from again. It happens 9 times out of 10).

Circle 7: Bullpen

The past two years, this has been the norm. Erik Bedard or Jeremy Guthrie would pitch 7 strong innings and then have Danys Baez, Chris Ray, or John Parrish cough up a homer to the other team and the O’s lose. A strong outing rendered worthless at the clueless hands of the bullpen.

Bedard and Guthrie were victims last season. I felt rotten for Kris Benson in 2006. Benson, despite his early billing, was nothing more than an average pitcher who on occassion could be slightly above average. In 2006, the bullpen had to have cost him 5 wins. Benson would leave in the sixth or seventh and then Todd Williams would come in. You see the fear in Benson’s (or another O’s starter’s) eyes. They look like they want to say “Hey Sam, you know what? On second thought…I feel like I can pitch 3 more innings. I’m only at 102 pitches. What’s 40 more?”

Then, almost on cue, the reliever would blow it.

The most comical one: O’s and Marlins are playing. Todd Williams tries to intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera. Todd though, throws ball three over the plate and Cabrera swings. In ball drops into the outfield and drives in the game winner.

It makes you want to cry.

I was going to finish this tonight, but I’m having problems getting pictures up and its getting late. So I’ll have the other 3 up tomorrow.

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