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September 5, 2012

Direct Kick: Time to give the Orioles the respect they deserve

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — I was watching Baltimore take on New York on TBS Sunday. It was one of the few times this season that I’ve actually gotten to see the Orioles play. Something one of the announcers said struck me as kind of strange.

I think it was Dennis Eckersley. I’m pretty sure that’s who it was. Anyway, he said that Baltimore was “playing over their heads.” Of course he was referring to the Orioles being in the thick of the pennant race this season.

Now, if this were May or June, I might have to agree with that statement. But come on, this is the last month of the season and the O’s are 75-59 and just one game back of the Yankees in the AL East, and they are tied with Oakland for the top spot in the Wild Card race. I think that it’s time to give this team some credit. They are better than most people want to admit.

Sure, their payroll isn’t astronomical like say the Yankees, but there are some really solid players on the roster. Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, J.J Hardy, Mark Reynolds and Matt Wieters are as good as they come. Throw in the outstanding play of rookie Manny Macahdo and you have a pretty solid line up. Since being called up less than two weeks ago, Machado is hitting .269 with three doubles, two triples, three homers and 11 RBIs.

The only thing I’m worried about is their pitching. There’s no real ace on this staff. Wei-Yin Chen is 12-8 with an ERA of 3.79. He is the only Oriole in double digits in wins. Their main strength is in closer Jim Johnson, who has 41 saves in 44 opportunities.

The amazing thing about this team is that they are winning while being outscored, 600--569. But they are winning the one run games and the extra inning games. I think it is about time to give this team its due.

Back before the All-Star break I wrote a column hoping the O’s wouldn’t collapse in the second half of the season. I tell you, I was worried about this team not being built for the long haul. But they are.

Even if they don’t make the playoffs this season, they have given this old orange and black fan something to cheer about. It’s been a long time since I could do that.

I know this might come as a shock, but I’m not getting any younger. With each passing year, when one of my favorite teams doesn’t win, I get one year closer to never seeing them claim a championship again.

Not that I’m complaining. Since becoming a sports fan, I have cheered several of my favs onto victory. The Orioles captured two World Series titles and appeared in five. The Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts both won Super Bowls. The New Orleans Saints won a Super Bowl. The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks have won Stanley Cups. Kentucky and Maryland have won NCAA men’s basketball titles. So I’ve been pretty lucky.

If the good Lord is willing and the creeks don’t rise, I figure I might have another 25 to 30 years, give or take a few. That’s a long time for any of those teams to again capture a title.

The only one I’m worried about is Germany in men’s soccer. The Germans have won two World Cups since I fell in love with the sport. But you see, the World Cup is held once every four years, and that cuts down on my chances to see another Germany victory.

But I try not to think about that.

No, right now I will just bask in the orange and black glow.

sports@sentinel-echo.com

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