Ah, early April—the one time of year when Baltimore Orioles fans can (usually) say the team is in the hunt.
For at least the past 15 years, the promise of spring and the results of "winter rebuilding" are all we Bird fans have had to hang our baseball caps on.
We've heard it all before—the stories about rebuilding, about rosters filled with "youngsters," and about how, this year, things really will be different.
I half-listened to the opening day game on Friday, but made it a point to get up from my desk and watch as the team was called out onto the field.
Without exaggeration, I recognized about five names—among them Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters.
I sadly thought back to Baltimore's baseball glory days—actually more like glory years or even decades—and remembered a time when, before the likes of Cher, Madonna or Adele, Baltimore was on a first-name basis with its beloved Orioles.
At the risk of dating myself, there were guys like Brooks, Boog, Davey, Mark, Andy, Paul and Frank in the field, and Jim, Dave, Mike and Tom on the mound.
Even though those guys were a couple of baseball generations ago, they were replaced by players who also only needed one name for recognition — Doug, Cal, Eddie, Brady, "Moose," Rick and Chris come immediately to mind.
We've cried when players who were coming along in their abilities and who were developing deep relationships with the community were traded away and did great things for their new teams, and we've collectively groaned when the team spent millions to sign has-beens who produced little to nothing in their Orioles gravy years (Albert Belle and Sammy Sosa come immediately to mind).
I hear people say that, in this day and age of high salaries and free agency, the concept of franchise players who stay with one team is long gone.
But other teams, with owners willing to shell out the paychecks and treat players like family members, manage to keep their star players for all, if not most, of their careers.
I'd like to see that tradition return to Baltimore.
So here it is, on April 10, with the Orioles 3-1 after opening the season with a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins, one of the few teams to finish 2011 with a worse record (63-99) than the locals (69-93).
The Yankess—perennial playoff contenders— rolled into Camden Yards on Monday, and the Birds have their first notch in the loss column.
I haven't completely given up on the team (though I have given up on going to games at the stadium) and I start every season with the best of hopes as a fresh team with a clean slate takes the field at the beginning of a new season of promise.
It just gets really old when the home team is out of the running by the first of June and the only realistic goals for the remainder of the year are to not finish in last place and to not lose 100 games.
Even I'm not crazy enough to spend $20 for parking, $25 for a not-so-great seat and $8 for a beer to watch that play out.