My girlfriend goes to grad school, and is gunning for a Ph. D in the chemistry field. My job isn't quite so demanding, and is seldom accompanied by the same level of stress, but it does require that I spend most of my time at or near a computer, since the timing of news is usually hard to predict.
As you can imagine, we don't get a lot of free time. It's hard enough for one of us to find the time to go do something, let alone both of us, simultaneously. Sometimes people will ask us if we want to go hang our or play pool or whatever, and we usually say we're too busy, and maybe next time. After a while, though, people get tired of hearing this excuse, and feel like they're being blown off. "Busy"? "Busy" isn't good enough.
Andy MacPhail's excuse is good enough.
"We’re going to start a mid-Atlantic Division," he joked. "Frankly in our view, Boston was a powerhouse and a force going into 2010 and suffered injuries that are almost inconceivable, and still had a pretty good year. Now, when they get Pedroia healthy and they get Youkilis healthy, they add Gonzalez and they add Crawford … ooof. Oooof."
… ooof. Oooof. "Oof" is the noise of the beaten and defeated. The hopeful man caught off guard doesn't say "oof". The man whose sad and doomed reality has just begun to dawn on him doesn't say "oof". The man who says "oof" is the man who's long since come to grips with his sad and doomed reality, the man who's resigned to facing a challenge so great it makes little difference should the challenge be made more difficult still.
Buddy 1: There's no way I'm going to be able to read 400 pages by tomorrow.
Buddy 2: 450 pages.
Buddy 1: oof
MacPhail'sdon't stand a chance. Mathematically, they do stand a chance, in that there is some combination of events that could take place and wrap up with the Orioles having won the division, but realistically, it's hopeless. It's hopeless now, it's been hopeless for years, and it will remain hopeless into the future. That's awful, and it's unfair, but I have to wonder if it isn't in some way liberating as well. There's no pressure. Where's the pressure? Pressure stems from expectations, and the Orioles don't have high expectations, because they can't have high expectations.
So, in a sense, MacPhail gets to go around and do whatever he wants. Sure, he has to make some effort to build an actual team, hence the trades for Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy, but in the end, it doesn't matter. He's protected by the fact that the Orioles are totally screwed, and he's further protected by the fact that the Orioles are so totally screwed that they end up on partial no-trade lists, and that high-profile free agents don't pay them attention. So what if Kevin Millwood struggles? So what if Cesar Izturis starts 142 games? "It's the best we could do," MacPhail can argue. And it might be true. And it doesn't matter.
Eventually, after the Orioles have finished in last place for enough years in a row, Andy MacPhail will be fired, citing disappointment and tradition and a need to shake things up. And MacPhail, I'm sure, is well aware of his inevitable fate. Until that day comes, I hope he's able to enjoy himself. Work doesn't get much harder, and work doesn't get much easier.