Let's talk about criticism of the Orioles

We are at a point and time in sports cyberspace where fans on message boards can be nastier than ever.

Sometimes when the home team loses they want to extract a pound or two of flesh. Some just need to vent and bash and the message boards are there for them.

If you are part of the Orioles organization, it should come as no surprise that your team is getting crushed on those boards and on our own MASNsports.com blogs as well.

No one should be surprised. At 14-31, the Orioles have baseball's worst record and there is a lot of criticism to go around. Much of the fan criticism is deserved and expected.

Some nights I see some nasty responses on my blog and I check to make sure there is no foul language in there and then I hit publish. Some of the responses can be harsh and I just let the fans vent and figure why bother responding at all. Let them have their say.

Let me repeat: this team and this organization deserve to get a lot of criticism right now.

But I also think this: Not every Orioles loss or poor play within a game calls for a referendum on the team's plan to build with young players or its past losing record.

Guess what, building through youth is still the plan. It's the best way to try and get better. When Corey Patterson fails to tag up, or Adam Jones can't hang on to the ball near the wall, or Cla Meredith serves up a fat pitch in the tenth inning, maybe that happened because the players just didn't get the job done and has nothing to do with Andy MacPhail's plan or the club's 12 straight losing seasons.

Maybe MacPhail blew it on the acquisition of Garrett Atkins. But he also acquired Kevin Millwood. He's going to miss some, and he doesn't hit or miss because someone calls the O's a loser organization or because they signed Albert Belle once but didn't resign Mike Mussina another time.

What does Garrett Atkins' play have to do with anything other than how he plays? The O's thought they could get something out of his bat. So far, it's only splinters.

The Yankees thought Curtis Granderson would be a rock star in their band box park and he hit just two homers in his first 80 at bats.

The Red Sox gave John Lackey $80 million and his ERA is 5.07. It doesn't always work out the way you think.

Heck I got ripped this winter for daring to say that, at his best in 2007 and 2008, Jeremy Guthrie was in Lackey's league. Now Guthrie is getting deserved props for his "bounceback season."

Everything changed with the 2-16 start. You can't dig out of a hole like that. But you don't quit on the season or stop doing things to get better and find out about your players for the future.

The national media, more so than any local media types, gave this team props over the winter as a team on the rise.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman called the Orioles a "sleeping giant."

Then it all fell apart amidst injuries, bullpen meltdowns, a total lack of clutch hitting and a brutal schedule.

Since 2-16, they have a three-game sweep of Boston and four-game split at Minnesota. That doesn't prove anything and neither did losing two of three to the Nats.

There are 117 games left. It's time to find out if Nolan Reimold can hit Major League pitching; can Brad Bergesen get his sinker back; will Matt Wieters show more power; and can Alfredo Simon really pitch in late relief one year after Tommy John surgery.

There are plenty of other questions to get answers for, like seeing if Josh Bell and Brandon Snyder will hit at Triple-A. How will pitchers like Zach Britton, Steve Johnson, Brandon Erbe and Ryan Berry do?

Xavier Avery and L.J. Hoes look like solid prospects at Frederick. Will they continue to play well?

The 2-16 start took the life out of this season and deflated the balloon before it ever took flight.

But it didn't totally ruin everything about the Orioles' future or show that everything they've done the last few years was wrong because of 18 games.

I'll say this: There is passion out there about this baseball team. Because someone criticizes the club doesn't make them less of a fan. Some of the most die hard fans sometimes vent the most.

I've been in the media hosting talk shows and on this blog long enough to know what's coming when the team loses. It's not surprising when it comes.

Some of it, a lot of it, is very justified. Some of it, a lot of it, is about fans venting. They need some outlet when the record of the team they care about is so bad.

I have seen a lot of players, coaches and managers criticized in my time. I also realize that inside of that uniform resides a human being who has loved ones, friends and a family like the rest of us.

Sometimes, often times, I feel bad when they are ripped so badly by some. These players and others with the club are not beyond anyone's criticism. I have written some of my own - you know that if you read here daily.

Some of it is so nasty, though, it crosses a line I wish some would not cross. But I guess in this day and time of sports cyberspace, some have no problem gleefully crossing that line.

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