As spring training approaches, the natives are very restless

It strikes me that the MASNsports.com message boards were buzzing with a lot more positive talk this time last year. I remember the many, many fans that insisted the Orioles could be a playoff team last year, coming off their 34-23 finish in 2010.

The fans were also overwhelmingly in favor of bringing Vlad Guerrero in to serve as the DH, even at a $8 million price tag. The young pitchers finished real strong in 2010 and were ready to take the next step and the future was bright, many felt then. Andy MacPhail's plan was working.

Then the Orioles started 6-1. The Orioles had Buck, Vlad, young pitching and it was all onward and upward. On my radio show, there was more excitement and playoff talk. Then Brian Matusz got hurt, and some others did too, Vlad and Markakis were not hitting for power, and the rest of the season happened.

In case you haven't noticed, some of those fans are no longer predicting playoffs. In fact, it has gotten quite negative around here with some fans expressing they may jump ship and support the Nationals.

Nothing wrong with that, it is your right to root for and spend money on tickets watching any team you want. But I still insist that any fan that roots for another team, even after 14 losing seasons, was not much of a fan to start with.

I get all the frustration and the venting that happens on these and other message boards. I understand that the team should get criticized after 14 straight losing seasons. That is a terrible run of losing baseball. We are all tired of it.

What I don't get is the fans that express the same criticisms about the same people at about the same time every day. What do those fans get out of that? On every blog. Every day. On and on and on and on. I am not asking them to be positive, but some days it would be nice to actually talk baseball and see them bring something to the table and not just have another rant or vent session.

I love the people who say, "The Orioles? Who cares?' Maybe they haven't noticed the thousands upon thousands of fan comments on this and other Web sites. Maybe they haven't noticed the dozens of Web sites devoted to the team. If you want to say the Orioles are a bad team, go ahead. But to say no one cares is just wrong.

I guess some fans just feel a need to vent and want to be heard. While some of our posters here are just looking for attention and get a kick out of us responding back to them, so many of you truly do care about the team. I guess that is something we should never forget.

I try to respond with patience to fans when they ask me questions and make comments. I like to read your opinions. Sometimes fans rip me for my blogs and/or opinions, but that's OK, too. Just keep in mind, I'm the middle man and I don't make the decisions, the team does.

Anyway, I guess after all the losing, dwindling attendance and interest in the team, and all the angst and frustration, many fans are still out there.

Fans don't want to hear anyone with the team or media preach patience anymore. But I don't know what else to say, especially since a new GM (OK, executive vice president) is in place and he is trying to rebuild player development and scouting and it will take time to see that bear fruit.

The Orioles didn't get Prince Fielder, exactly as the Baltimore media kept suggesting. Fans either are totally OK with that or totally ticked off by that. I don't hear much middle ground there.

Like some fans, at this point, I almost would like to see the team drop some dollars into a player, even if I am not sure it is the right move. Maybe they should spend some bucks on pitcher Edwin Jackson. I am not in favor of giving him a four-year deal, and everything tells me that would be a bad move, but it would show some fans they are doing something, I guess.

I think what Duquette is trying to build is more along the lines of a three- to five-year plan, but I don't expect him to portray it that way.

As someone who reads every post sent here and tries to keep up with hundreds daily on Roch's blog, too, some days you are ready to beat your head into the wall after reading some of the comments. That is just me being honest. Yet it is part of the job and I am not complaining.

I remember what former University of Virginia basketball coach Jeff Jones told me once when I worked on the Cavalier radio network and they were going through a brutally tough season. The fans on his call-in show each week were blasting away at him, right to his face, so to speak, or at least over a phone line. But he always seemed to keep his poise and patience and understanding with them.

"How do you do it, Jeff?" I asked.

"Steve, I just remember this," he told me. "They are calling and angry because they care."

Hot stove tonight: If you are going to be anywhere around Salisbury tonight, come join us at the Delmarva Shorebirds' Hot Stove Banquet.

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