Now that it’s over, thanks to Nate McLouth and his walk-off 10th-inning heroics, I feel comfortable stating the less-than-obvious: Thank goodness for that six-game losing streak.
Perhaps that sounds odd at best, a little stupid at worst. It should. But dig a little deeper with me and I think you’ll see what I mean.
It was just a week ago in this space that I declared the O’s a good team and talked about how strange it was to adjust to the idea that they’re no longer a band of losers. So, of course, they went out and spent the intervening days doing nothing but just that - losing. Back up the truck, right? I spoke too soon?
Not at all.
What the Orioles just experienced - and for all we know may still be experiencing, since one game is just one game - was a slump. What is a slump? It’s a period of time when the moving pieces of effort and success fail to sync. It’s a downturn in the cycle. It’s a bout with frustration.
It’s also a necessary thing.
Slumps, though it’s hard to imagine this when you or your team are in the midst of one, are deceptively productive. Not so much while they’re happening, but on the long timeline, they’re essential ingredients of success. They represent opportunities to reset and reassess, to measure effort against goals, and to understand what’s good and what’s bad way down at the core.
Now, ideally, the successful team or individual has such processes baked into his/her/their regular routine. Truth is, though, that there’s no worse time to assess progress and address weaknesses than when things are going well.
Assessment requires failure. Not epic meltdown failure, but something more than an occasional miss. Six games might be a little long for our liking but it’s perfectly functional in that regard.
What the Orioles should understand now is that Jim Johnson is not invincible. They should understand that there’s a need to reinforce the overall strength of the pitching staff, most likely through a midseason trade but possibly through the addition of Kevin Gausman. They should understand that it might not be a bad idea to bring in a true DH.
On the flip side, they should understand, as well, that they’re a team capable of weathering adversity. That they’re not the same dowdy bunch of three or four years ago that would fold up the sails at the first sign of rough seas. That they are, in fact, talented and positioned to contend.
These are a handful of the things visible to outsiders. In the clubhouse, the assessments no doubt run much deeper and serve even more purpose. That’s the nature of a slump when you do it right. And make no mistake: a team managed by Buck Showalter will do it right.
In other words, expect this slump to pay dividends. The next one will, too. Because there’s always a next one.
Neal Shaffer regularly blogs about the Orioles at The Loss Column, and his work appears here as part of MASNsports.com’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 MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.