Neal Shaffer: Sky isn't falling, but O's need to step it up a notch

Anyone who has read even a handful of my work here or over at The Loss Column (where I'm not posting as much as I want to), knows that I'm bullish on the Orioles. Not optimistic per se, but certainly inclined to point out when the sky is not falling.

I also do my best to be honest. Just because the sky's not falling doesn't mean all is well.

Right now, all is not well.

There comes a point toward the end of every season - usually around now - when you get a feeling about things. The present feeling for the Orioles is, "Nice run, but it won't be enough."

Last night's loss against the Rays tells the whole story. It's not that the Orioles aren't, or weren't, competitive; it's that at any given moment, they seem to need one or two more bullets for the clip.

One night it's the pitching, the next the hitting, the next it's a questionable decision. It could be anything.

Last year, the breaks went their way. This year, they're in the top half of the league, again, but it feels like a ceiling instead of a floor.

So what now?

One could opt to throw in the towel, declare the season over and get a head start on complaining about the offseason.

Or one could recognize that 36 games (roughly 20 percent of the season) remain. This is so far from over that to declare otherwise betrays a terminal lack of perspective.

Things look and feel pretty rough right now. About this there can be no debate. But baseball is still baseball, and four games out of the wild card is not a bad place with a month-plus to play.

I'm not betting on these Orioles to make the playoffs. Not today. But I'm damn sure not betting against them, either. Why would I?

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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