Though the calendar may say that it is August 2010, for all intent and purposes, the 2011 season has begun for the Baltimore Orioles.
With the Buck Showalter era beginning on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the new skipper will be spending the next two months looking to determine which current Orioles he believes can be part of the future for the franchise.
For just about every player, the next two months can be considered an audition as very few roster spots seem certain for 2011.
Finishing 2010 with a flourish would be a great boost for the Orioles as Showalter looks to set the tone for the future.
Once among the most successful franchises in baseball, the Orioles have not had a winning season since 1997 and have seen their season victory total decline every year since 2004.
The job for Showalter will not be just to assemble a talented roster, but also to restore a winning culture to a team that has become accustomed to losing.
One component of the losing has been an annual late season meltdown that has turned the final two months of every season into a regular act of torture for both players and fans.
Between 2000 and 2009, the Birds posted an overall record of 218-353 (.382) from August 1st through the end of the season. The only season in which the Orioles finished the last two months with a winning record was during the 2004 campaign when they posted a 32-28 record after August 1st.
Not coincidentally, it was the following season when the Orioles jumped out to a 42-30 record and led the American League East for two months.
Of course, the Orioles suffered a monumental collapse in the final months and finished the 2005 season with a 74-88 record and have not led the division outside the first weeks of the season since.
Unlike past years where the team had nothing to play for in the final two months, hopefully the thought that they are playing for 2011 positions will help light a fire under the Orioles over the final two months.
Because they play in baseball’s toughest division, getting a jump start on 2011 would be a big help for Showalter and the Orioles.
There is no magic bullet that can turn the franchise around overnight, but ending 2010 on a positive note would send a message to Baltimore fans and to the rest of the league that the Orioles are determined to regain relevance in the American League East.
For fans who have spent more than a decade waiting for next year, it would be nice if it came early.