One year ago, almost to the day, the Baltimore Orioles had a record of 8-9 and were getting blasted left and right by the media and fans.
They had gotten off to a 6-1 start, as I recall, and a lot of people apparently were thinking they were watching the 2011 World Series champions play.
But then there was a 10-game stretch where the O's only won two games.
The boo-birds kicked into high gear pretty quickly.
I stepped up and urged everyone to be patient with the Birds. It was way too early, I said, to judge the 2011 Orioles.
Give them a little time, I said.
Well, the end of the season couldn't come quickly enough to suit most Orioles fans. They finished the season with the third-worst record in the American League -- 69-93.
It was better than the year before by three games, I think. But it was still ugly.
Then in October, we looked back at the season. This is what we saw: The Orioles of 2011 hit fairly well, scored their share of runs, hit more than their share of home runs and played half-decent defense.
But their pitching stunk to high heaven. Top to bottom and bottom to top.
It was as clear as the nose on anyone's face -- for the Orioles to get better this year, the pitching would have to improve dramatically.
And, of course, they'd still have to score a bunch of runs and play good defense.
So here we are in the early stages of the 2012 season. Twelve games played and the O's are 7-5. And here's the best part: they're sitting in first place in the American League Eastern Division.
They've been hitting home runs by the bunches. They're not scoring huge numbers of runs, but they've been scoring enough to win. They also have five regulars hitting above .300 in the early going.
And the pitching -- surprise, surprise -- has been pretty darned good, overall, despite Wednesday's 8-1 loss to the White Sox.
Five starters. Two of the five have ERAs under 3.00. Another is at 3.27.
But now the defense is shaky as Grandma's orange Jell-O.
Ten errors in the infield. Three more in left field. Brutal.
So it's better overall. Better than we should have expected. Better than last year.
But I'll tell you the same thing now, I told you a year ago. Slightly different circumstances, but the same advice.
Don't pass judgment too quickly. Forget about a World Series. It's not going to happen.
Give the Birds a chance to settle into the team they're going to be. And believe me, the O's are not going to finish this season with 95 wins, which is what will happen if they continue to play as they are right now.
They hit well for most of last season, so it's possible they'll continue to swing hot bats the rest of this season. They'll hit some home runs. They'll score some runs.
But to be honest, it's hard to imagine the pitching will duplicate its early success for an entire season. It'd be too much to expect.
And the defense? Well, it'd better pick up, especially at third base. Or the Orioles are going to be playing behind the 8-ball all season long.
Yes, they've managed to pull a couple games out in extra innings after errors have put them in a hole. But that's not going to happen every night.
Play behind the 8-ball often enough, and eventually it's going to smack you between the eyes.
Hey, I'm leaving the door open to all possibilities because I believe even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut.
So let's leave it this way: If the Orioles are still in first place the last week of the season -- or even close to it -- we'll talk again.
Because that will mean this has been a miracle season.
And we all like to talk about miracle seasons.
But don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen.
That's all I'm saying.
Sports columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Thurs days. E-mail: lhick email@example.com.