At times, watching the Orioles play defense is like watching nine guys play egg-toss wearing oven mitts.
Oh, can they be brutal.
They drop easy fly balls. They let routine one-hoppers clank off their gloves. They skip throws in the dirt at first base. Or they sail them into the dugout or the stands or the rest rooms on the mezzanine level.
When they take the field, I can feel myself automatically start to wince.
"I've seen worse teams defensively, but not Orioles teams," says Rick Dempsey, the long-time O's catcher and now a MASN broadcaster. "I'm not saying this Orioles team is the worst I've ever seen. They go through stretches where they play very good defense. And they go through stretches where they make senseless mistakes."
Unfortunately, those bad stretches seem to last longer than the Peloponnesian War.
Going into Monday night's game against Seattle, the Orioles led the major leagues with 69 errors while somehow clinging to second place in the American League East.
But here's some good news: as bad as the O's have been defensively, they're not quite on pace to be historically awful from a franchise perspective.
That's because the 1955 Orioles committed an incredible 167 errors. Yes, you read that right: 167. Which leads you to believe they either played with defective gloves that season or played a lot of night games with the lights off.
How else could a team be that spectacularly terrible in the field?
Speaking of terrible, it'll surprise absolutely no one who's followed the Orioles that third base has become their Bermuda Triangle. It's where mysterious and frightening things happen to otherwise routine bunts, ground balls and cut-off throws.
Wilson Betemit has been tough to watch over there: 10 errors in 44 games. Mark Reynolds has been even worse: six errors in only 15 games. (This after his 31 errors last season. I'm sorry. But someone needs to hide this man's glove for the rest of his career.)
Steve Tolleson also has four errors in 10 games at third, proving you can be called up from the minors and immediately be affected by whatever horrible curse has befallen your brothers at the Hot Corner.
On the other side of the diamond, Chris Davis (4 errors in 37 games) and Reynolds (three errors in 28 games) have also reminded no one of Gold Glovers at first base - even though Davis was considered a solid glove there before the season started.
Then there's poor Betemit.
Fine, he's played 11 games at first and committed only one error. But watching Betemit take a wide throw from Brian Roberts and feel for the bag with his foot in a game last week was like watching a blind man trying to find the bathtub with his toe to see if the water was hot.
Have we mentioned Robert Andino yet? We should probably do that.
He's committed 10 errors in 57 games at second base - this after just 10 errors all last season. And now that his playing time has been reduced with the return of Brian Roberts from the DL, Andino's fielding could get even shakier down the stretch.
So can anything be done at this point to help the Orioles' gloves? Or are they doomed to another three months of kicking the ball around while their fans howl in frustration and Buck Showalter bangs his head against the dugout wall?
"I think the biggest thing for us is to go out there and take advantage of the early work," says Davis. "When you're struggling on defense, the one thing you can do is get as many reps as possible, take as many ground balls."
Except, as Davis points out, when there's a heat wave blasting through the region and temperatures are soaring into the high 90's, taking a lot of ground balls before a game could also, you know, kill you. At the very least, it'll wear you out before you play nine innings.
"You can go out, you can take early work, you can do all that stuff," says J.J. Hardy, one of the best-fielding shortstops in the game. ". . . (But) I think that's more of a spring training, off-season thing to work on."
At this point of the season, Hardy says, poor fielding "might be a lack of focus."
If that's the case, I suggest the Orioles start focusing real quickly. Because if they keep playing this ugly in the field, they can forget about a pennant race.
And the rest of us will keep wincing.