When I was a kid, I remember spending Sundays on the front porch of a friend of my older sisters, listening to old school R&B on their 45s and LPs. That sound nourished my young soul and left impressions and memories that live with me still today 50 years later.
I was especially struck by an album from the Temptations, called “In a Mellow Mood,” a collection of covers of showtunes and standards. I’ve subsequently heard dozens of adaptations of “The Impossible Dream,” but David Ruffin’s delivery of the line “to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause,” makes the Temptations’ version the definitive one for me.
Like a lot of Orioles fans, I have been thinking of their last three years as something less than a glorious quest and more like that march into hell. A pair of 100-loss seasons in 2018 and 2019 went a long way toward bringing on that kind of thinking.
But, the now-completed 2020 season may provide hope that good things may be on the horizon.
True, the Orioles finished in fourth in the American League East, more than 10 games off the lead. And they did only win 40 percent of their games in a drastically shortened season, meaning it’s a small sample size with which to make definitive pronouncements.
And yet, this year did feel different, even if we couldn’t get into Camden Yards to see it.
For one thing, the Birds improved on the mound, albeit incrementally. Though he cooled in his final two starts, right hander Jorge Lopez performed well throughout the season, going 2-2, with an impressive mid-September start against Atlanta.
Lopez, who struggled to find a Major League home before this season, may have found one in Baltimore in 2021. He may join staff ace John Means, who started slowly but finished impressively.
Baltimore’s hitters also showed signs of maturity and advancement. Despite missing much of September with injuries, Anthony Santander took up a lot of the slack left when Trey Mancini missed the season battling cancer.
If those two can return healthy next season, their addition, along with returnees Austin Hays and Jose Iglesias and promising rookie Ryan Mountcastle, should give the Birds the nucleus of a solid attack.
Of course, amid all the potential comes a gigantic question, the same one that has confronted the Orioles for five years now, namely, what to do with Chris Davis.
Once again, Davis has struggled to hit .200 since receiving a massive contract five years ago.
He has two more years and over $40 million left on his deal and with ownership unwilling to cut their losses, Davis’ presence may haunt the 2021 Orioles’ roster as it has the last four.
But, for the first time in a long time, the future for the Birds seems a lot less hellish than before, as if that march may at least see heaven in 2021, if not fully reach it.
And that’s how I see it for this week. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.