Neal Shaffer: Embracing a dilemma at the season’s quarter-pole

The 40-game mark, the quarter pole, has traditionally been one of the first real mile markers of the baseball season. It’s the point at which we can no longer say, “Yeah, but it’s early.” By 40 games in, there’s a sense of things. A lot will still happen, but the season is no longer a series of maybes.

As the Orioles close in on that mark for 2013, it’s safe to say they’re off to a hell of a start.

Here they stand at 23-16 with a 14-9 mark away from Camden Yards. They’ve scored 192 runs and allowed only 162. They’ve weathered some adversity and remained solidly in contention. Perhaps even more important than the stats, they pass the eyeball test. This doesn’t - so far at least - appear to be a team with another shoe hanging over their heads, waiting to drop. It seems like they belong.

And it feels a little weird.

Another way to put it would be to say that I’m starting to realize just how comfortable I had become with losing.

There’s that scene in “Road House” - I reference this a lot - when Dalton calls Wade Garrett to ask if he knows a guy named Brad Wesley. Sensing the real issue at hand, Garrett asks Dalton if he’s in trouble. “Nothing I’m not used to,” Dalton replies, “but it’s amazing what you can get used to.”

No truer words.

We humans are a surprisingly adaptable lot. We have all sorts of biological protection mechanisms baked into our lizard brains. That kind of thing was necessary in the days before we managed to build something resembling civilization. We now live, thankfully, in a somewhat more elegant age. Yet the basic impulses remain.

I’d reached a point - as I suspect many of you had - where I was resigned to possibly never seeing the Orioles succeed again. And I was OK with it. I didn’t like it, but I accepted it. When last season went the way it went, I was stoked, but it still felt otherworldly. I knew on an intellectual level that the foundations for continued success were in place. but deep down I was also prepared for the possibility that the whole thing was nothing more than a blip. Habits like that die hard because, well, it’s amazing what you can get used to.

This season presents an altogether different challenge: how to get used to them not only not being bad, but actually claiming a seat among the good?

That’s harder than it sounds.

When you go a long time without having something good, you start to feel not only like you’ll never have it but also like you maybe don’t deserve it. It’s not a conscious thought, but it happens. Worst part is you only realize it after the fact - after the good comes busting in.

Where it gets dicey is in how you react. If you let that impulse of disbelief remain, you’ll never enjoy the good. You’ll skip straight to waiting for bad times to return.

The Orioles are good. Legitimately good. I don’t know how long they’ll stay that way but that’s what they are now.

And so, a friendly reminder: given everything we, as fans, went through to get here it would be a crying shame, indeed, to not embrace it.

Neal Shaffer regularly blogs about the Orioles at The Loss Column, and his work appears here as part of’s season-long 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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