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April 8, 2012 at 10:14 pm ET
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Smitty’s Theory of Relativity

Throughout high school and college – 11 years I’ll cherish forever – I had one goal: avoid being the worst student in any class I took. Next-to-worst? Fine. But the despair that accompanied the very bottom was too much to bear. I spent a few weeks a year last in many of my classes, but was usually able to scramble and rally those last weeks of any school year or semester and claw ahead of some spiraling doofus. “See you in hell,” I’d say to him through gritted teeth on my way past. “See you in summer school,” he’d reply.

Which reminds me: the Orioles swept the Twins over Easter weekend.

Sunday, Jason Hammel took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of his Orioles debut. The starting pitching was lights out. All three starters of the Twins series went at least seven scoreless innings. There was lots for Baltimore fans to be encouraged about.

  • Nick Markakis homered twice in the series, once to the opposite field – his first other-way bomb in years. That suggests his off-season abdominal surgery might have repaired something that was hindering his power.
  • Matt Wieters homered batting lefthanded Saturday, pulling a fastball to right field. While I love that he’s strong enough to homer to the opposite field, it’s great to see his bat quickening.
  • Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter and Hammel looked confident, competitive and in-control. Maybe Dan Duquette’s invitation of 39 starters to spring training wasn’t a dumb idea after all.

But the most encouraging thing? To me, anyway? The Twins proved that, no matter how awful the Orioles turn out to be this year, they won’t be as bad as the Minnesota Twins. Wooo-wee, that’s a bad team. While Josh Willingham homered in the ninth Friday to get the Twins back in the game, he committed two of the worst-looking errors I can remember on Saturday. I remembered him as a pretty good fielder with the Nationals. But he had the kind of lapses in concentration Saturday that are hard to forget.

The Twins have some talent. But do you think they’re terrified? Because I do. Joe Mauer? $23 million a year through 2018 (!!) and he missed half the season last year with “bilateral leg weakness.” Justin Morneau ($14 million a year, through next year) has been hurt, off and on, for a year and a half. Number one starter Carl Pavano’s 36 and won nine games last year. Francisco Liriano looked lost on Saturday.

The O’s are 3 and 0 and I’m trying to be sensible about celebrating too much. The newly swept Yankees visit Camden Yards tomorrow and the O’s could turn into pumpkins at any moment.

If they do, they do. But if so, they’ll spend a lot of 2012 looking across the room at the Twins. Because there’s bad. And there’s the worst.

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