Make it count

Wednesday night was simply the best night of regular season baseball I have ever experienced. My fiancee, friends and local bar-flies huddled in Fraziers on the Avenue heads ping-ponging back and forth between the two televisions. One was set to the Rays’ game, the other on the Orioles.

When Davis doubled we cheered; when Reimold doubled the place went nuts; when Andino slapped a soft single and Reimold crossed the plate the entire bar erupted in an exultation of sheer joy that spilled out onto the sidewalk as the Orioles spilled out of the dugout. From the sidewalk we saw Evan Longoria’s game-winner and we cheered again.It truly was an amazing night.

Do I feel bad? On a certain level I do, I mean the Orioles destroyed the Red Sox season and likely cost Terry Francona his job. But then I remember the countless times that I have been intimidated, heckled and nearly assaulted by the various members of Red Sox-nation and I feel OK again. Personal feelings aside it was an amazing night of baseball in general, the sheer odds of a night like that happening are astronomical. If the Yankees had won, it would have not been as magical; if the Sox had won it would not have been as special; if the Orioles had won in a total blowout it wouldn’t have meant as much. Now the Orioles need to make it count.

In 2012 the Orioles need to ensure that Wednesday the 28th of September was the start of something and not just another game. Because if the Orioles come out next year and run out another 70-win team then the magic of that night will have been all for nothing. It would be a fun night, but nothing more. Even the most cynical among us can feel it, you just get the feeling that the video of that night should end up as the beginning of a DVD. You can almost hear the baritone of the announcer’s voice explaining how the scrappy Orioles, in dead last, never gave up and knocked out the predicted class of the division: “And thus, two teams diverged – Boston was unable to get away from giant, under-performing contracts while the Orioles ascended finally after 14 years of waiting.”

How do the Orioles rise in 2012? First thing’s first they need to get the front office straight, and fast. Andy MacPhail seems to be out as GM, or so everyone thinks. As of 11pm on October 1st there has been no official word. The Orioles can not drag their feet on this issue. Moreover, MacPhail needs to be either IN or OUT. He should not be some sort of “special assistant” or “consultant” or any other quasi-official position. The Orioles don’t need anymore confusion in the FO so either keep Andy or cut him loose and bring in someone else. While we are on that topic it should be SOMEONE ELSE. Keep Buck Showalter in the dugout as the manager. The only reason to move a manager like Showalter is if he has trouble getting his players to play and the last month or so of Orioles baseball pretty much proves that he doesn’t have that issue.

Moving Showalter out of the dugout would send the wrong message to the players. We have already seen what constant fluctuation in the coaching staff can do to pitching staffs why would we want more potential turnover while taking a chance on a completely untested man in the GM’s chair. Showalter is a fine manager, and he should manage – the end.

Watching the Orioles celebrate an amazing win to end a long, hard season was great. It gave one hope, it gave one something to look forward to next year. It gave one just enough to keep your interest up for another winter. But the Orioles now need to do their part.

Sign a pitcher

Sign a legit bat

Straighten out Brian Matusz

Remind Nick Markakis how to take a walk again

Sign a second-baseman and gently start shifting Brian Roberts out (this is going to be a big thing this winter. There is just no way you can expect Roberts, as of right now, to be your starting second baseman)

and lastly, simply play better baseball. Take walks, get the team OBP up and craft a starting rotation that can get the bullpen a rest once and awhile.

It was an amazing way to end a horrendous 2011, but if the Orioles can’t improve in 2012 it won’t mean much of anything. It is up to the Orioles to make it count.