Passion and compassion. Passion for one’s team. Compassion for its players, when it’s evident the struggle is real. A Sports Illustrated story about Chris Davis triggered these thoughts as the Orioles come home to play the Houston Astros in their final games of the season. It’s fan appreciation weekend in a season that has tested the passion and patience of those who are most loyal to the team.
But maybe the fans will make it a weekend similar to the homecoming the Orioles received in 1988 when they started 0-21 and returned home 1-23. On Fantastic Fan Night, more than 50,000 fans showed their love for the team. The Orioles rewarded that remarkable display of support with a 9-4 victory over the Texas Rangers.
That could be the approach fans take this weekend for a team that has been even worse than those 1988 Orioles. Worse, in fact, than any team in Orioles history. So, why not a weekend appreciation for the team and the fans in the spirit of unity and understanding. An expression of passion and compassion.
It could be a final chance to thank manager Buck Showalter for leading the team back to the playoffs, and winning baseball, before this year’s collapse that has revealed even more of his character.
It could be a final chance to thank outfielder Adam Jones for being the leader of those teams and for doing even stronger work in the community.
It could be a chance to let Chris Davis know that Baltimore still has his broad back in the worst of seasons and is pulling for a comeback in 2019.
It could be anything fans want to make it after a season that spun out of control early, led to a flurry of trades by the July 31 deadline and took on the form of an outdated building being torn down for something more contemporary.
It could be a weekend-long celebration that allows fans to treat their frustrations as if they were balloons that need to be released at season’s end. And, since the Ravens and Steelers won’t play until Sunday night, it opens up Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon to show Jones, Showalter, Davis and baseball that Baltimore’s fans can still compete with the best.
Postscript: After a season in which the Orioles did so much wrong, they got Adam Jones right. And manager Buck Showalter had a lot to do with that in the final game Sunday. He made sure the focus stayed on Jones, the centerpiece of the winning teams during Showalter’s tenure. The mutual respect, and affection, between Jones and Showalter was evident. Instead of the Orioles taking the field at the game’s start, it was the Oriole — Jones, by himself, to the fans’ delight. In the ninth, Jones was called back to the dugout after taking the field, giving the fans and Jones another chance to express their appreciation for each other. The hug between Jones and Showalter in the dugout was meaningful. After the game, Showalter kept the attention on Jones and the 4-0 win, declining to talk about his future. If it was the final game for both men here, it was a fitting ending.
Jack Gibbons spent 46 years in sports journalism, including a chunk of that time as sports editor of The Baltimore Sun. Now retired from full-time work, Jack serves as the lead editor and writer for BaltimoreBaseball.com’s “Calling the Pen,” a periodic feature that highlights baseball essays written by the community. If you would like to contribute to ‘Calling the Pen,” send a 750-1,200-word, original piece via email to [email protected] for consideration.