- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 9, 2002

Three professionally undistinguished gentlemen named Paul Wilson, Joe Kennedy and Ryan Rupe must be the happiest pitchers in captivity. They're the Devils Rays who will start against the Orioles emphasis on the "O" the next three nights at Camden Yards.
I know that pro ballplayers are supposed to be cool, calm and collected, except perhaps when depositing their obscenely large paychecks twice each month. But I wouldn't be surprised if Messrs. Wilson, Kennedy and Rupe are exchanging high-fives and congratulating one another before the series starts.
As you know, if you follow rounders at all, the Orioles' bats haven't exactly been blazing over the last five games. In fact, there is some doubt about whether their hitters have even used bats and if so, why they bothered.
Since somehow bludgeoning the Yankees 10-3 on Opening Day, the Orioles have lost five straight. The only reason they haven't lost more, I guess, is that teams don't schedule doubleheaders anymore.
And get a load of the scores: 1-0, 4-1, 3-0, 4-2 and 4-1.
What is this, Major League Soccer?
No, I take that back. D.C. United probably could score more than the Orioles, even with Marco Etcheverry currently indisposed.
Mike Hargrove, the Orioles' presumably pained manager, says not to panic because it's early. Funny, that's what George McGovern said when he ran against incumbent Richard Nixon in 1972. McGovern didn't panic early, late or in between he just lost 48 of the 50 states. All of which proves that when disaster is inevitable, you might as well lay back and take it.
Every fan knows Hargrove doesn't panic quickly. In fact, he doesn't do anything quickly. When he played, Grover wasted so much time between pitches before stepping in that he was known, unaffectionately, as the Human Rain Delay. Maybe that would be good strategy for his little Birds. I mean, the fewer times their guys get into the batter's box, the fewer times they'll fail.
I don't want to get bogged down in numbers here it's too discouraging but the Orioles are batting a collective .167. I'm surprised it's that high. Zero-six-seven seems more like it.
When their hitters come to the plate, enemy infielders come in and outfielders go out for a beer. Any minute now, one of their guys is going to hit a line drive to the catcher.
Don't laugh, because there's nothing funny about this. If the Orioles are swept by the Devil Rays, they'll be a whopping five games behind in their presumptive battle for fourth place in the American League East. That could take all the drama out of the race the only one the O's figure to be in this season before May Day.
I've been thinking about a new nickname for this Punchless-and-Judy gang: The Hitless Wonders. I know that moniker first was applied to the 1906 Chicago White Sox, but nobody's gonna get the teams confused. After all, the Chisox won the World Series.
Folks connected with the Orioles have been dragging out all kinds of tired excuses to explain the collective slump pitchers traditionally are ahead of hitters in the spring, it's hard for batters to get in a groove when it's cold and the O's already have faced such stellar starters as David Wells, Mike Mussina and Pedro Martinez. I don't buy any of the excuses. After all, they inexplicably drubbed a three-time Cy Young Award winner on Opening Day, when Roger Clemens pitched more like Samuel Clemens. When the Rocket gets a chance to study the Orioles' offensive efforts since, the Yankees will be lucky if he doesn't retire.
But all is not lost after all, no team has ever finished 1-161. Hargrove keeps insisting, honest, that the Orioles have some good hitters. Any minute now, I expect the likes of Melvin Mora (.235), Jeff Conine (.182), David Segui (.160), Tony Batista (.150), Geronimo Gil (.143), Chris Singleton (.125), Mike Bordick (.118) and Jerry Hairston (.083) to bust loose. I bet you someday soon the O's will even score four or five runs in a game.
When that happens, of course, their pitchers will give up about 15. That's how it goes with bad teams, and nobody this side of the Angelos family would deny that the Orioles deserve that label right now.
Meanwhile, Paul Wilson, Joe Kennedy and Ryan Rupe must be licking their chops like the actors in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." The trio's career stats show a 39-60 record with a 5.27 ERA, but that doesn't matter. To get the Orioles out these nights, all they might have to do is roll the ball to the plate.
And as I survey this early-spring blight, one thought comes galloping to mind.
Cal, where are youuuuuu


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