Driving up I-395 north into downtown, I noticed the huge billboard with Buck Showalter's mug on it, looking as serious as a heart attack. That's when I decided I'm on it - the Buck train, the Showalter bandwagon, whatever you want to call it.
I don't easily buy into the "this season it's going to be different" clichÃ© we've heard too many times here in Baltimore. I've held the microphone in too many players' faces after 10-game losing streaks over the years to be naÃ¯ve. Save the 2008 Rays, it takes more than one managerial change to bring a club from the basement of the division to the World Series in just one year.
I do believe the Orioles could go .500 this season because, under Buck, they'll finally have some (for lack of a better term) cojones, and that's a start.
Sure the O's may not win the pennant, but the "they're better than us" mentality will die a quick death under Showalter - and it's about time.
Do you really think as a team, the Orioles believed last year they were on the same level as the Red Sox and Yankees? The answer is no. Under Dave Trembley, there was almost a minor league mentality. Player development was the priority. Each series, the hope was to take two out of three games if they were lucky.
That mentality drove me nuts. Major leaguers should go into every series looking for a sweep, regardless of who they are playing. This is where Showalter comes in. This year, the biggest change we'll see is the addition of swagger.
I think a strong veteran presence, with the addition of players like Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee, will help.
I personally loved Buck's quotes in this month's Men's Journal (even though he says they were taken out of context). I love the fact that he's in the Orioles dugout last season screaming across the plate to Derek Jeter about backing off inside pitches.
"Our guys are thinking, 'Wow, he's screaming at Derek Jeter,' " Showalter told the magazine. "Well, he's always jumping back from balls just off the plate. I know how many calls that team gets - and yes, he (ticks) me off."
Whether Showalter meant what he said or not, it's healthy for his players to see their manager telling the golden boy of the Yankees to keep his backside in the box. It shows the younger players to stop being scared. They are big leaguers, just like Jeter.
To me, the start of this season is exciting because it could be the beginning of the Orioles rediscovering something they lost after the 1997 playoffs: Pride.
Side note: It's good to be back on the blog! I know I sort of disappeared Sept. 1 last season. For the record, it wasn't a silent protest to Zach Britton not being called up. Nor was it MASN's attempt to "cover up" my out-of-wedlock pregnancy. My husband definitely objected to that theory, and I must give props to the ever-so-credible message board contributors who came up with that one.
I know there have been some questions as to my whereabouts, and I thank everybody for their concern. I especially thank MASN and the Orioles for protecting my family's privacy during what has been a long fall and winter.
My beautiful daughter, Dylan Mattea, who is now a thriving 6-month-old, decided to come into the world 12 weeks early back in October. After a long hospital stay, both before and after her birth, I'm happy to say she is healthy and truly a miracle.
That being said, I'm very excited to remain part of the MASN family this season. I will be contributing exclusive interviews with players from all over Major League Baseball and features to "The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report," which will air weekdays at 5:30 p.m. on MASN. Also, you'll catch me filling in for Jim Hunter on the "O's Xtra" pregame show. Plus, I'm always happy to chat it up with you guys here on my blog.
See you at the Yard!