I love the Baltimore Orioles. You’d just never know it because I don’t really love baseball. But I do give the MLB scoreboard and standings more than a passing glance at least weekly. And for the past twenty years those passing glances have created more than their fair share of disappointment. The last three years have been a breath of fresh air in Baltimore, though, and it’s been fun to experience the resurrection of a once-proud franchise whose championship futility was not as long-suffering as Boston’s, but explored depths rivaled by only a handful of franchises.
I came to follow the Birds by way of my grandfather, who watched their games from his Hagerstown, MD home near-religiously. Until this summer, I’d never attended a game at Camden Yards1, but I felt a sense of pride any time I saw the almost 25 year old ballpark show up in ranking after indomitable ranking as one of the best ballparks to catch a baseball game. It goes without saying that Cal Ripken, Jr carries hero status in my realm of influence.
The Orioles aren’t a storied franchise like their division brethren Yankees or Red Sox but they do have some tradition and three World Series Championships. They haven’t really been good since 1997; and while most define their downfall as the post-Ripken era, in my mind it began with the Jeffrey Maier drop-catch in the 1996 ALCS2.
Today, however, they’re on the upswing. Going into the All Star break, they’re at the top of the AL East. Three of their key starters are homegrown talents3 and their common practice of attracting aging talent4 with golden parachutes appears to be a thing of the past. Buck Showalter came in and installed, at the very least, a new culture that, while certainly not earth-shattering, has provided plenty of unfamiliar and noteworthy results.
Who knows where this season will end up, but it’s nice to have the luxury of cautious optimism at the All Star break. If nothing else, it’s at least fun to watch the O’s again and it’s nice when I can raise a glass, take a drink and mean it when I say, “This one’s for the Birds!”.
- I attended a game or two when I was younger and the O’s played in the much less heralded Memorial Stadium.↩
- If Maier doesn’t interfere – and it was interference – I think the O’s win that game and that puts them up 2-0 on the Yankees and going home for the next two games. I still contend they would have won that series if the Maier interference is called differently.↩
- Notably Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, and Manny Machado.↩
- It seems a little unfair to call Tejada aging talent during his first stint as an Oriole. Remember, however, that Tejada was supposedly 27 at the time – he was really 29.↩