Baseball fans, rejoice. The work stoppage ended Thursday, and Major League Baseball Opening Day is now set for April 7. The forecast calls for blue skies, peanuts and sunshine.
The conversation can now shift from chatter about negotiations on the international draft and competitive balance tax (boring!) to fastballs and home runs (hooray!).
But forgive baseball fans in the DMV if they greeted the news with tepid excitement.
The Baltimore Orioles haven’t had a winning season since 2016. And in the years since winning the World Series in 2019, the Washington Nationals have shifted to full-on rebuild mode.
There are still plenty of reasons to head out to Oriole Park at Camden Yards or Nationals Park – hey, you’re a loyal fan, you stick by your team through thick and thin – but this year looks pretty thin on the field.
Work stoppage over, but long, hot summer – and long odds – await
Over at BetMGM Sportsbook, the Orioles are +15000 (150-to-1) to win the American League East.
And that’s just the division! A World Series win for the Birds is an astronomical +50000 (500-to-1).
The Nationals aren’t beloved by the oddsmakers either. The National League East is loaded with the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves, and the Philadelphia Phillies might even contend.
The Nats are +5000 to win the National League and +10000 to win the World Series.
Looking for the good news? Nationals rookie catcher Keibert Ruiz, part of the big trade last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers, is one of the favorites to win NL Rookie of the Year at +500. So that’s at least one reason to see the Nats in 2022.
Nuts to the Nats: Injuries galore
The Nationals had an incredible run to the World Series in 2019, winning Washington’s first title in 95 years.
Let’s hope it’s not another 95 years for the next one.
After a rough 2020 season shortened by COVID-19, injuries decimated the Nationals in 2021. As a result, they finished last in the division with a 65-97 record.
There is some young talent here. Remember: Juan Soto is one of the best hitters in baseball. But star pitcher Stephen Strasburg got hurt again in 2021, and the rest of the pitching staff is questionable.
Hail to the Nationals: Presidents Day Race
The Nationals have one of the best in-game promotions of any team in Major League Baseball: the fourth-inning Presidents Race.
If you’ve never seen it – well, where have you been? Picture giant foam-headed characters representing each of America’s greatest presidents in a race around the warning track.
On Sundays, the presidents run in special costumes. And if a game goes extra innings, like to the 13th inning (because that’s the fourth inning over again, natch) they race a second time.
Teddy Roosevelt used to never win, but he’s a contender now. This year George Washington has 9-5 odds to win the most races (OK, we made that up).
Nationals Park also has unique food offerings. Have you ever had a pupusa? La Casita Pupuseria opened in Nationals Park in 2018. It’s a stuffed thick corn tortilla. There are also gourmet tater tots and the Banh Mi Dog – a twist on a traditional dog, this one topped with pickled carrots and sriracha mayo.
Woe is O: Orioles return from disaster season
The Orioles are coming off a year in which total attendance at Camden Yards was less than 1 million for the first time. Granted, there were COVID restrictions in place for the early part of the season, but the Orioles still averaged fewer than 11,000 a game.
Baltimore manager Brandon Hoyle, um, led the team to a 52-110 finish in 2021, just 48 games back of the division winning Tampa Bay Rays. They lost 19 straight in August. Ouch.
The biggest bright spot for Baltimore last year was the play of rookie Ryan Mountcastle, who set an Orioles record for home runs by a rookie with 33. He also finished with 89 RBIs.
Still, though, it’s Camden Yards
All right, so while the Orioles are still putting things together, there are still plenty of things to see and do at Camden Yards.
This is the 30th anniversary of the ballpark, and hey, if you can’t celebrate the team, celebrate the stadium and that’s what the Orioles plan to do.
This might be the best time ever to get to Camden Yards. There’s still Boog’s BBQ with the best sandwich in Major League Baseball (no replies please).
There are also $10 tickets available in the Eutaw Street bleachers for home games Monday through Thursday.
Camden Yards has pinch dumplings on sale, plus the Corona Street Taco stand.
Make sure you see the home run markings on Eutaw Street. And win or lose, you still yell O! during the national anthem.
There’s nothing better than baseball
What’s the old line? No, not the betting line.
The only thing better than bad baseball is good baseball. You can’t help but have a good time at either Camden Yards or Nationals Park this summer.
Maybe don’t look at the scoreboard that much and instead soak in a piece of America’s pastime.