Everything seems to have gone wrong for the Baltimore Orioles.
The young Os are without their leading lefty starter, Rudy May (18-14), traded to Montreal.
The Os are without their best joker - Tony Muser - and their best audience for jokes - Ross Grimstley, the 14-game winner with the compulsive, hysterical laugh. Both became free agents.
The Os are without their best grandfatherly coaches - George Bamberger and Billy Hunter, both rival AL managers now. Who can the baby birds turn to for feather-smoothing when skipper Earl Weaver gets a periodic case of the grumps?
Top hitter Ken Singleton has recovered from (elbow surgery. A poor start crippled his 1976 campaign.
The two kid pitchers who absolutely must replace May and Grimsley in the rotation if the Os are to approach 97 wins again - Dennis Martinez and Scott McGregor - were both shellacked by the Yankees last weekend in the first two grapefruit league games.
McGregor gave up eight more runs in three innings against Los Angeles yesterday.
Something mysterious called "The Curse of Brooks" has hung over third base in blue Miami Stadium.
For the first time in a quarter-century, Brooks Robinson is not at the hot corner in this tepid spring season. Five Orioles have tried to play the position and all five have been injured.
"The position belongs to Brooks," shortstop Mark Belanger joked. "All he's got to do is come back from vacation in Hawaii and take it. Nobody wants to get near it."
Doug DeCinces just took the bandages off Monday after getting his fourth broken nose on a bad hop.
"I don't like what I see," says DeCinces. "I want my old nose back."
Rich Dauer, Kiko Garcia, and even outfielders Carlos Lopez and Andres Mora have taken grounders at third. Everyone has been sidelined at least a few days. Dauer scalded himself making popcorn.
Mora, in his first play at third on Monday night, got hit in the groin by a bad hop, then threw a one-hopper to first for an error.
"I'm glad I got to check this out," giggled Singleton. "We may never get to see Andres at third no Mora."
In March even misery and broken nose are funny.
"Wait and see . . . it's too early to tell . . . depends on how things go," said Weaver, and he half means it.
"Why be ready and raring to go for the first exhibition?" he asks. "Who cares?
"The trick," he says, "is to keep yourself from worrying. If we lost 10 in a row down here, I'd worry. But the Yanks beat us two. So what."
Singleton thumbed through a stack of baseball cards and said, "Good Lord, is Gaylord Perry still pitching? When I was a kid playing my brother in the back yard I'd pretend to be Gaylord Perry."
Then he rubbed his elbow and said, "It's not ready yet? But it will be." He hopes.
Weaver's pride and joy is the Orioles' artistic new media guide with two superimposed color paintings of Manager of the Year Weaver on the cover. In 11 seasons it's his first time as solo cover boy.
But then he talks about how the shifted the Orioles' spring regimen this year - more batting practice, fewer intrasquad games, less game-condition pitching. The hitters look healthy and plentiful, but he won't use this method again. McGregor and Martinez didn't look the way he wanted them to, even if it was the first outing.
"The ump squeezed (the strike zone on) Scott awful," grumped Weaver, who knows that trading an 18-game winner (May) so you can put all your betson a 24-year-old with three big-league wins is the most reckless trading imaginable.
"We expected to lose Ross," said Mike Flanagan (15-10), who moves up to No. 2 starter behind Jim Palmer. "He was a free agent and had problems with the front office.
The Orioles of '78 have the same bond as the Baby Birds of '77: they feel that they have been sold short.
"A lot of guys are really still annoyed at the pathetic crowds we drew in Baltimore the last month for four games with Toronto," said DeCinces. "Sure, the Blue Jays are bad, but we were still in the pennant race and were getting 3,000 to 5,000 people a night.
"That's awful. That shows how much Baltimore is behind us. We're still not taken seriously."
"If Denver doesn't get the Oakland A's franchise, maybe they'd take us next year," said an Oriole starter. "You wouldn't see many tears shed if that happened."
"We're not worried," said Belanger. "The Yankees have a big problem - too much talent."
The Orioles know they can't say the same.
"But," said Belanger, looking over the one-man, one-position Orioles, "we might have just enough."