Iwant to be enthusiastic about the upcoming Major League baseball season, especially the Phillies and the Orioles, but something tells me not to get too excited, too soon.
Because baseball has a way of slapping you down when you least expect it, killing your dreams when you're least prepared for it.
The Phils, as you're aware, had an awful season last year. Well below expectations based on winning five consecutive East Division titles from 2007 to 2011, including a World Series win in 2008.
And they had a veteran team back last season, a team that led the majors in wins the season before with 102. They had what was probably (on paper, at least) the best pitching staff in the bigs.
Then they sank like a rock in the ocean, sitting in last place in their division by mid-year. They did rally late in the season, but too little, too late. When it was all said and done, they were 81-81, 21 wins shy of their 2011 record for wins.
During the season, they traded away two veteran outfielders -- Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence -- and a starting pitcher, Vance Worley. Worse, star players -- Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Placido Polanco -- spent time on the DL. Utley and Howard missed huge chunks of playing time.
It was a disaster season, which makes getting too excited for this year an iffy proposition. Age is a factor on this team because most of the stars are older and have shown a propensity for hurting one thing or another.
I do like Ben Revere, the winter pickup from Minnesota, in centerfield. Good defense and runs like a deer, which is sorely needed on this team.
And I'm really enthusiastic about the addition of Michael Young to the lineup, especially at third base. Yes, he's older, but he's a gamer, and the Phils could use a couple more of them.
Otherwise, this is a team with a huge question mark hanging over its head. If no one gets hurt and they play up to their previous levels, this is a team that could win the National League pennant.
If not, it'll be a very long year for Phils fans.
And the truth is, the Washington Nationals could easily be the best team in the National League no matter what the Phils do.
On the flip side, you have the Orioles, a team scratching near the bottom of its division for the best part of 15 years.
Then last season, they finished second in their division, good enough to earn a wild card spot in the playoffs. And let's not forget those 93 wins, which almost takes the shape of a miracle if you consider the roster that started the season.
But the O's persevered. Good pitching from a staff nobody had a clue about. Clutch hitting, especially in extra innings. Solid defense. And a bunch of nobodies taking turns being the hero.
And the same team -- more or less -- is back for another try. That is both soothing and worrying, depending on how one looks at it. The O's did nothing to improve themselves over the winter, but it is another year older, more mature, more experienced. And that's a good thing for this club.
To be honest, I look around the American League and I see the Detroit Tigers as being the best team on paper. And the O's are well down the list.
But I would have said the same thing last year, or worse, and look what happened.
So I'll take my own advice and take a chill pill.
No sense getting too excited, too soon.
Better to just enjoy the fact that baseball is upon us again in spring training and just around the corner for league play.
It means warmer days are almost upon us.
For now, that's good enough for me.
Sports columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Thursdays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.