Neal Shaffer: A tale of coming close

If given the choice, how would you want to fail?

Failing miserably - which is to say not even being in the mix for whatever you're after - sucks. On balance, though, it's better than coming up just short.

Failure itself is absolute. The final marker is always either "you did" or "you didn't." Within that construct, however, there exists a hierarchy. One that has little bearing on the end results but plays a major role in how we feel about them.

Coming close hurts because it teases possibility. It amplifies expectations and makes for a harder fall. Coming in less than close hurts only for what it is: not getting the job done. Nothing else enters the equation, at least not until it's time to pick up the pieces and figure out what to do next.

The tale of the Orioles' 2013 season so far is one of coming close. At no point have they been out of the race. At the same time, they've never really run from a dominant position. This remains the case today, as they still stand 10 games above .500 despite an ugly loss to Boston. Alive, but not at all comfortably. Far from it.

There's no reason for anger with a winning team. Not after what we went through for 14 years. The time, however, may have arrived for a dose of hard realism. Which is to say I've got a hunch these guys, as much as I love them, only have enough to get where they are right now.

According to Baseball Prospectus via mlb.com - take this only for what it's worth - the Orioles have an 18% percent chance of earning a postseason berth. That feels a little low but who can argue with it? And even if we could argue with it, what number would we get to? Twenty-five percent? Thirty percent? We'd just be tweaking in the margins.

I like the moves Dan Duquette has made. I actually think Bud Norris could prove to be a steal. Nothing, however, has changed the fundamental nature of this team.

They're good. Possibly even very good. The teams around them seem to simply be better.

There's no shame in this. And regardless of how it plays out, I expect the O's to play hard through their final inning, whenever it comes. This is a solid group of guys. An easy bunch to root for.

As a fan I'm not giving up hope. I can't give up hope. But I'd be lying if I said I haven't started thinking about 2014.

It hurts to say that but, well, aren't you thinking the same thing?

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.

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