Neal Shaffer: A dream of 2005 all over again

The Orioles’ hot start here in 2012 should not give rise to indulgent thoughts of a winning season. That much has to be said up front. It’s true that there’s plenty to enjoy so far, but let’s take it game by game. Odds are, this team will still eventually lose more than they win.

Let’s say for the sake of argument, however, that they keep this up. Let’s say that April turns into May and the win total is still in the black. Would then it be wise to dream of 82 wins, or more?

Alas, no. But that might be the time to start thinking about 2005.

For those who don’t remember (and you’d be forgiven), 2005 was the year the Orioles went 43-35 over the first three months of the season. They spent 62 glorious days in first place before a disastrous 8-18 July sent them into an all-too-familiar tailspin en route to a fourth-place 74-88 finish.

It must be noted that 2005 is also a year of infamy in O’s history. It’s the season Rafael Palmeiro joined the 3,000-hit club before turning around and testing positive for steroids. On top of that, Lee Mazzilli was the manager and the roster wasn’t particularly strong. It is, on the whole, nothing to yearn for.

Still, there’s something I’d like back about what that sustained streak of early winning did for the fan base. There were moments that year - I witnessed some of them - when the atmosphere at Camden Yards became electric.

In particular I recall a game in early May against the Blue Jays. The O’s opened that series at 17-8 and optimism reigned supreme. There was a real sense that they were turning a corner, and the crowd this night reflected it. Chanting, cheering, sign-carrying, the high-fiving of strangers - it was all there and it was all amplified.

I remember poor Eric Hinske falling victim to sustained and widespread taunts of “Hinnnnnnskeeeeee” for no reason other than the crowd was just that enthusiastic. The target wasn’t the point. We were on top, for once, and somebody needed to hear about it.

Looking back, it’s no surprise that those Orioles stumbled to a sub-.500 finish. They were overachieving and the ingredients for sustained success weren’t in place. I fear the same is probably true for this year’s group. But maybe on the way from here to there we can have ourselves a few more games like that one against Toronto. Lord knows we could use them.

Neal Shaffer regularly blogs about the Orioles at The Loss Column, and his work appears here as part of’s initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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