My father always told me, "Never wish your life away."
Yet here it is, another mid-summer, and I'm longing for mid-February. That's when spring training starts. That's when hope springs eternal. That's when my beloved Baltimore Orioles are still in the pennant race.
I'm an Angeleno, have been since 2006. But I grew up in Baltimore, where my childhood baseball heroes were Brooks and Frank Robinson, then later, Cal Ripken. Hall of Famers. Giants of the game. We made it to the World Series in 1966, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1979 and 1983, winning three of them, including a sweep of the Dodgers in 1966.
Since our last playoff appearance, in 1997, we've had no such star power, luck or prominence, and that anything's-possible feeling of spring training has started fading about two weeks into every season. This year was no exception. While it wasn't so bad as the 0-21 start of 1988, 2-16 is nothing to brag about. On most days this season, the Orioles have been further behind the fourth-place team in the American League East than the other five last-place teams have been from the leaders of their divisions.
Think about that. It's as if we were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs before Memorial Day. We are now in contention for finishing with the major leagues' worst record in 50 years, surpassing the inaugural Mets of 1962, who were 40-120.
I only bring all this up because I find it kind of pathetic that Dodger fans worry about modest losing streaks, Manny's loss of power and the impact the McCourts' divorce settlement on free agent signings.
Let me tell you, to an Orioles fan, these would be minor irritants, welcome irritants. In Baltimore, fans not only wish for the Orioles owner to sell the team but to disappear, if you catch my drift. Home games against the division powers Yankees and Red Sox have effectively become road games because New York and Boston fans buy up the unsold tickets. And there are plenty. In any given game this year, the starting lineup includes a converted shortstop at third, a Triple A caliber second baseman, a utility player at first, a leftfielder who wouldn't start on any other team and a young pitcher who should be honing his skills in the minors. Four of the five most frequent starting pitchers have records of 4-10, 3-11, 3-8 and 2-9. Our current manager is the sixth in 14 years, and he's "interim," after No. 5 was canned in June.
As a sad but suitable metaphor for the season, the team's designated hitter pulled a hamstring muscle rounding first base on his own home run. He was out nearly a month.
True, Dodger fans have legitimate gripes: Concession stand food gets worse the higher the deck in Dodger Stadium, parking prices are obscene and Joe Torre probably won't come back for another season.
But the Dodgers are a quality team that can still win a division with a little luck. Alas, we Oriole fans haven't seen such possibilities since the Clinton Administration.
Maybe next year.