O's: FanFest in the rear view
Since The Sun had several writers blogging from FanFest yesterday, I thought I'd save my thoughts on the event until today. Of course, that's partly because my fingers were still frozen several hours after I kicked off my day by jumping into the 33-degree water of the Chesapeake Bay at the Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge.
There's proof that I actually went through with it. The WBAL Sportsline Plunge Team -- which also included Jared Ruderman, Brett Hollander and Chris "The Professor" Imms -- skipped into the water hand-in-hand at 7:55 a.m. It wasn't pretty, and I'm pretty sure we temporarily raised the water level in the bay several inches, but we survived.
Quick heads up: Though Chris is called "The Professor" on the Ron Smith Show, you probably don't want him teaching your children to swim. We're just happy he's still with us today.
I wish I could have stayed around for some of the other festivities, or to sit in one of the hot tubs to warm up, but I raced right out of Sandy Point State Park and headed for the Convention Center, where the line to get into FanFest stretched all the way around the facility. Apparently, expectations are a bit higher this year, despite what some of our more critical friends here would like you to believe.
The real proof was at the beginning of the first big Q&A session featuring Andy MacPhail and Buck Showalter. Ever seat in front of the main stage was full and Showalter got a huge ovation when he was introduced. MacPhail was also welcomed warmly, but fans clearly give Buck a ton of credit for the late-season turnaround. As they should.
To keep it in perspective. It is called FanFest, so you have to figure that the people who paid $10 to get in are fans and are more likely to be positive about the team than the fans who no longer go to the games...or spend their time torching the team on the message boards. That doesn't mean there isn't a huge number of disaffected fans who are still frustrated and disbelieving. They've got every right to be.
My colleague Dan Connolly recently put up a blog item asking fans to predict how many games the Orioles are going to win this year. The lowest serious response was 69 wins and the majority of responses was in the 80s.
That's a pretty optimistic response. Dan predicted 75 wins. If you forced me to make a prediction now, instead of in March, I would probably say 78. If everybody stays healthy and the young players continue to evolve, I could see the O's getting into the 80s, but that's asking quite a lot.
The average response at Connolly's Corner Sports Bar was about 83, which I would say is pretty darn optimisitic.
I'm wondering, however, if Dan's blog is just populated by a more positive group of Orioles fans than this one, so I'll throw his question at everybody here. How many games will the O's win this year. Feel free to be witty and sarcastic, but I want the number to be what you really believe the number will be, for better or worse, and I want an exact number. It's hard to get an average when indecisive people say "between 75 and 82."
Go to town.