Neal Shaffer: Don't look now, but O's are redefining what's possible

If you've read me over the course of the season either here or at The Loss Column, you've probably noticed a pattern: I'm excited by the results, but hesitant to draw big conclusions. Baseball's a superstitious game and I'm somewhat the same myself. I wouldn't want a selfish declaration to jinx things for everyone. Nobody ever said "fan" and "logic" always went together.

So today I'm still hesitant to say anything like "the Orioles have finally turned a corner" or "this group is for real." These statements and others like them still feel premature. That's what losing does to the mind.

This week, though, I realized something. I may be - we all may be - hesitant to make declarations based on analysis, but the team has already made a statement.

They're in a playoff race.

It's there in pixels and ink, no interpretation necessary. Couple the existence of a second wild card with the fact that the O's are 10 games above .500 in mid-August and you can't deny it. This team is actually in a playoff race. In fact, they're technically in a pennant race, although catching the Yankees seems unlikely.

With six or so weeks to go in the season, it's not yet time to make predictions. Plenty can still go wrong and I'm not even prepared yet to confidently predict a finish on the plus side of .500. Disastrous final months have happened to better teams than this one and given their history, it'd be foolish to ignore the possibility. We must remain vigilantly realistic in our expectations.

There is, however, a difference between what we expect and what we allow ourselves to imagine.

I do not imagine that the Orioles might win the World Series this year. I don't imagine that they might win the American League. But they might make the playoffs. They really might finish above .500, and they have a damn good shot of finishing with a better record than the hated Red Sox.

These are new things. Heady things, and wonderful. Impossible to imagine as recently as April.

Just think about that for a moment and let it sink in. It's crazy and gets crazier the more thought you apply. And it makes being an Orioles fan right now a hell of a thing.

Especially if you didn't abandon them over the last 14 years.

You didn't do that, did you?

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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