People who know me fairly well know that I am an Orioles fan and writer. And with the good start that the team has had this year, it leads to a lot of conversations. Many of these people are also Orioles fans, though not necessarily with anywhere near the interest that I apply to it.
It is very common for me to hear people say, “The Orioles ALWAYS start every season with a lot of wins, and then they start to lose all the time.” Is that a true statement? I know there have been some decent starts that have turned disappointing, but I sure do remember a lot of April pain!
So I have researched the numbers. As we all know, the Orioles have suffered through 14 consecutive losing seasons from 1998 to 2011. Is the Birds’ current record of 9-7 just like most other seasons over this stretch (16 games, or 10% into the 162 game schedule) – yet another tease with inevitable disappointment just over the horizon?
Well, there is more than a little truth to the skeptical utterance that the Orioles start well relative to their final record. My memory still lingers on the horrible start of two seasons when the Orioles only won two of their first 16 games. And just last year, after a 6-1 start, the team only managed one more win in the next nine games. But the six seasons prior to these two poor starts, the Orioles opened with a .500 or better record. In fact, in 8 of the last 14 losing seasons, the Orioles won as many or more of the first 16 games than they lost … and that is an extraordinary number.
Here is a listing of the past 14 seasons – giving the record each year through 16 games, along with the final win total for that season:
1998 – 11-5 / 79
1999 – 4-12 / 78
2000 – 11-5 / 74
2001 – 6-10 / 63
2002 – 5-11 / 67
2003 – 7-9 / 71
2004 – 10-6 / 78
2005 – 9-7 / 74
2006 – 9-7 / 70
2007 – 9-7 / 69
2008 – 9-7 / 68
2009 – 8-8 / 64
2010 – 2-14 / 66
2011 – 7-9 / 69
As well, the latest dates that any Orioles teams were at .500 during the 14 years of losing records were August 23, 2002 when the record was 63-63 and September 21, 1998 (the first of the 14 years) at 78-78.
Do many of you remember the old sitcom “Sanford and Son?” Fred Sanford (played by Redd Fox) was a widower, and whenever he faced any bad news he would stumble around, put his hand on his chest as if he was suffering a heart attack, would raise his other hand and eyes to the heavens and say, “Oh Elizabeth, this is the big one … I’m coming home now!” But he never really did have a heart attack and die!
So, O Say Orioles fans, “Is this the big one? Is this the year we’re gonna see a change?”
I hope so and believe we have some room for legit optimism, but in the meantime until it happens, I’d advise humility and quiet caution (and hope).