The future looks bright for the O's — but we've been there before

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Tim Rowland

Editor's note: This column was updated at 3:22 p.m. on Feb. 6, 2024, to correct the spelling of Mike Mussina and Glenn Davis.

I’m not real plugged into the upper crust, so the only thing I knew about David Rubenstein was that he had signed The Giving Pledge, in which very very rich people promise to give half their wealth to charity. So I guess the Baltimore Orioles would qualify.

But I think everyone must be thrilled with his announced purchase of the long-beleaguered team. It had been a long, dark nuclear winter for us Orioles fans, which began — oh, who can say? Maybe after the final out of the Orioles’ last World Series title in 1983. Maybe with finishing last in 1986 for the first time ever in their Baltimore existence.

Maybe that 0-21 start in 1988 that unfolded like a slow-motion horror show, or the fools gold of the following year when — what idiots we were — we actually thought that a championship team might be built on the backs of Craig Worthington and Jay Tibbs.

I wouldn’t argue with those who point to Jeffrey Mair interfering with Tony Tarasco in the championship series against the Yankees, or the selection of Ben “Not Sandy Koufax After All” McDonald or the curse of gimpy Glenn Davis, whom we received in trade for future all stars Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch and some stiff named Curt Schilling who only finished as the winningest postseason pitcher in baseball history.

Maybe it was Mike Mussina leaving for the Yankees. Maybe it was losing a skin-tight series to the Indians in ’97 — who could have guessed Jose Mesa, 13-24  as an Oriole  with a 5.70 ERA, would come back to haunt them?

Perhaps it was the 115-loss season in 2018.

Perhaps it was Chris Davis.

I know this is all way too deep in the weeds for non-baseball people who, if they’ve even made it this far, are wondering, who in the world is Steve Finley? And I hear baseball fans saying, what are you hocking, the Orioles won the East last year?

What you don’t understand is that we have had things to hold onto before, not success, but avatars for success, like Cal Ripken’s consecutive games streak, or Buck Showalter or Camden Yards itself where you knew that in a nationally televised game once the O’s had fallen five runs behind the announcers would start waxing poetic about The Warehouse and the Orioles’ “dedicated fan base" — things that were supposed to make us feel good when we didn’t feel good at all.

And then there were no more nationally televised games. And no more fans.

Yes, there was the hiring of baseball wizard Mike Elias and a good coach in Brandon Hyde and the promise of all those top draft picks from eons of losing.

But certainly the Angelos family would find a way to blow it.

I think I speak for all O’s fans when I say we felt it was only a matter of time until we lost star catcher Adley Rutschman in free agency to the Yankees.

So now the sale of the team to a reputable investment group — and not only that, but the signing of an expensive, top-shelf starting pitcher — this blinding sunshine after four decades at the bottom of a mine shaft does not feel real.

We are like Brooks. Not Brooks Robinson, but Brooks Halten, the mild-mannered librarian from “The Shawshank Redemption,” who is released from prison after 50 years and hangs himself from the boarding-room rafters because he can’t make sense of the outside world.

We are trying to deal with words that are common to normal fans, words like trust and hope and faith, which we gave up on so long ago they appear to us as dark shapes in the fog that we can’t quite identify.

How are we supposed to act?

I don’t know. Pitchers and catchers report two weeks.

Yes, fellow O’s fan, I’m scared too.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail: Is it time for the Orioles to emerge from their darkess?