Life at the top

The Orioles and Royals have a 4:05 p.m. start today, so the lineup will be coming your way earlier than usual on a Saturday.

Perhaps it will be joined by the announcement that Adam Jones has signed a six-year extension.

It didn't happen last night, and executive vice president Dan Duquette refused to confirm whether it would get done before the homestand ends. He hates talking about it. We hate the secrecy. It's an interesting relationship.

So when's the last time you felt this good about the direction of the team?

The Orioles have the best record in the American League. Jones is making a long-term commitment to the organization. Brian Roberts is playing again. Save situations no longer are accompanied by a sour stomach. Dylan Bundy has moved up to Single-A Frederick and appears to be on the fast track to the majors. Manny Machado ranks near the top on every list of elite prospects. The crowds are loud, and they're actually cheering for the home team. The Orioles look like buyers instead of sellers, as evidenced by their interest in free-agent pitcher Roy Oswalt.

"I keep in mind why it's happening," manager Buck Showalter said. "The better baseball you play, the more these things have a chance to happen. Keep in mind the crux of why. We have a great ballpark. We have a lot of things in our favor. But the bottom line is doing something on the field that everybody including fans wants to be part of. All the other stuff doesn't really matter. You basically try to have a grasp on keeping that going. That's the challenge."

Showalter deflects the credit, growing uncomfortable when it's suggested that he's a big reason for the turnaround.

"It's about the players, it's about the fans, it's about them taking ownership and it being good enough, holding themselves to a high standard," he said. "It's not near the brain surgery that everybody makes it out to be. Play better. It's like the guy who gets on the first tee and wants strokes. Play better. Nobody's giving you strokes. There's no handicap in this thing."

There's still a long way to go. Showalter likes to point that out. We haven't completed two full months of the schedule. To borrow one of his favorite phrases: So far, so good.

Here's another one: It beats the alternative. The standings look nice upside down.

"This is a long test. This isn't a one pager," he said.

"You get that test handed out and you keep flipping over. Instead of just getting to work on the first page, you keep flipping over to see how much you've got to work on. You try not to do that. You work on that page. You try not to flip to something else."

But it's so tempting.

I'm dying to know how it ends.

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