It's staying light longer, the Leafs are all-but-eliminated ... that can mean only one thing: We'll soon see the first halter top of the season. OK, two things: It's almost baseball season, that mystical, wonderful time of year where you commit to a team for six months, knowing full well they won't win. Here's a starting nine for the Baltimore Orioles.
- Stuff White People Like #93 -- pop-culture references: The Wire, set in Baltimore, recently wrapped up its run, but the Orioles are still around to provide a portrait of hopelessness, despair, decay and ruin.
You'd have a better chance of finding a bullfighter in Nova Scotia than finding anyone who isn't down on the O's.
The glass-half-full take is that GM Andy MacPhail once rejuvenated the Twins, who once upon a time were also mired in mediocrity and hemorrhaging public goodwill due to having a cheapskate owner. The Orioles are pretty much in the same spot.
- Bill of goods: It's pretty clear that Guillermo Quiroz is Spanish for "Sal Fasano," but it's heartwarming to learn that the former Blue Jay has found a home in Baltimore.
Quiroz is pencilled in to be the personal catcher for Canuck lefty Adam Loewen, whose 2007 season was ended by a stress fracture in his elbow. That ought get Quiroz what, 10, maybe 11 starts? Keep your fingers crossed he'll get more.
- When it all goes wrong again: Back in 2006, the Orioles looked like pretty set for starting pitching -- righties Daniel Cabrera and Hayden Penn; left-handers Loewen and Erik Bédard.
One by one: Cabrera has morphed into the second coming of Armando Benitez (wicked fastball. Penn is beginning his third season in Triple-A. Loewen is coming off surgery and Bédard, as you might have heard, is sipping lattes in Seattle.
(Kameron Mickolio, one of the pitchers picked up in the Bedard deal, is a big curiosity -- a 6-foot-9 fireballer but extremely raw, since he didn't start pitching until after he was out of high school.)
- Oh, one game proves nothing: In a space of a few weeks last summer, the Orioles became the first team in 110 years to get lit up for 30 runs in a game and got no-hit, 10-0, by Boston's Clay Buchholz in just his second major-league start.
- The experts speak: "The Orioles are likely as 5 1/4-inch floppy disks to make a comeback in 2008." -- Baseball Prospectus 2008
- Which segues right into: All that living lost to playing Earl Weaver Baseball on the family Tandy between 1988 and '97 has cultivated a lifelong soft spot for the Orioles.
Man oh man, could the game use a manager like Earl Weaver.
- Well, someone has to go first: BP 2008 has Opening Day starter Jeremy Guthrie down for a 6-8 record and a 5.07 earned-run average in 125 innings this season. That's about as close as the Orioles come to having an ace pitcher.
- The Two-Thirds Trio: Nick Markakis in right and Adam Jones in centre will be stars someday.
- Need-to-know: It promises to be a 162-game dirge down in Baltimore. The biggest story around the team might be whether they can get a nice package in return for leadoff man Brian Roberts. It's a long road back to being able to contend to be the best of the second-tier teams in the AL East.
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.