Neal Shaffer: Do think twice, it's still all right

At the moment, all is not well in Birdland. Four straight losses, seven losses in 10, three straight dropped series. Starting pitching - the bedrock of early success - suddenly seems quite vulnerable. The great unmeasurable of clutch performance feels measurable in the wrong way.

And yet, all is good. I promise it is.

Cast your memory to the preseason and recall that most analysts predicted a dismal campaign. Some even went so far as to say that the Orioles would lose 100 games. Even the optimistic among us (full disclosure: myself included) predicted more losses than wins. I think I called for something like 74 wins and at least a few people said I was crazy at that.

These are the roots of the "No Expectations, Just Baseball" mantra I've espoused here and over at The Loss Column. There was never any reason to truly believe that this season would be exceptional. The point of 2012 is to enjoy it on the fan side and to see growth and development on the team side. The win/loss record has always been irrelevant. It was irrelevant when folks made their predictions, it was irrelevant when they jumped out to a hot start and it's irrelevant now that they're struggling.

In fact, remember this: It will remain irrelevant when - not if, when - they go on another hot streak.

These Orioles are not making the playoffs. They were never going to make the playoffs. I love this team and these guys, but I'm honest enough to admit that this, 2012, is not their year. Not yet.

Progress is all that matters, and we've already seen it. Signing Adam Jones was huge. A club that seems to no longer just accept losing is huge. On a lesser level Wei-Yin Chen and Jason Hammel have been nice surprises and it was great to see Xavier Avery show signs of what he might someday be able to do. Then, of course, there is the not-too-distant hope represented by Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado.

The trend lines point clearly in the right direction. Finally. And that, beyond how many wins we eventually end up with, is a great thing.

As for the rest of it, enjoy the ride. Wherever the hell it takes us. Because, no matter what, it's already better than it has been for quite some time.

While we're at it: .500 isn't out of reach. Not at all.

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

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