By Mary Paoletti
On Monday, I took a breather from my NHL playoffs binge to check the Red Sox schedule.
"Three games with Baltimore," I thought. "Nice."
An 8-2 Boston streak was coinciding perfectly with the Orioles' 2-8 skid.
"How gloriously palindromic."
I didn't really think that. That'd be ridiculous if my inner monologue sounded so pretentious.
My real thought was much different. I let it fly aloud to my editor.
"Do you think it's safe to say, 'Oh, good. It's just the lowly Orioles,' again?"
I was thinking about those first few weeks of this 2011 season. Remember? The "Whipping Boy of the A.L. East" started out on a 4-0 tear and eventually positioned itself atop the division. And they stayed there, moving to 6-4, until the middle of the month. My hometown team was 2-9 through the same stretch.
Those weirdos who don't care about the hockey were in a lazy panic.
"What's going on?! Order was supposed to be restored!" they sobbed for five seconds before sobering up. "Well, it is only April."
"Carl Crawford is a bum! Worst trade in the history of--" they began, before getting distracted by something shiny.
It was half-hearted whining at best.
Not even the most sadistic of Sox fans believed that the division would shake down as it was. I didn't either. If there's one thing I've been able to count on in recent years, it's the Orioles being bad at baseball.
Baltimore's "Glory Years" -- 18 consecutive winning seasons from 1968 to 1985 -- are pretty dusty these days. Cal Ripken Jr. and his Iron Man streak (2,632 consecutive games played) kept people in seats during the 80s and 90s. But the team's last winning season was 1997, the year Ripken set his mark. The O's lost to Cleveland that year in the ALCS. Ripkin retired in 2001. Baltimore has never recovered.
Yet, they're still a pain.
Buck Showalter's club is currently up 2-0 in this three game tilt at Fenway South. Their .455 divisional record is better only than Boston's .435 mark. Be honest: if I asked you which club would break Boston's streak over its knee, would you have said Baltimore? No, you liar, you wouldn't have. This team's biggest push in the last 10 years was giving away the "Mr. Potato Head Sports Spud" at home games or something.
But that plastic potato might get the last laugh. No series with The Birds is "safe."
The Red Sox could get swept tonight. I doubt it would have major implications for the rest of the season. If history means anything, it's going to take more than three April wins against the Sox for Baltimore to prove any more than a nuisance.
But what a damn nuisance it is.