It is difficult to win. That is true of most sports (other than tee-ball and youth soccer – where everyone gets a trophy for participating). It is true about much of life. For every winner, there is a loser. So to win more than you lose, you really have to work at excellence and sustain it over a long period of time.
On average, a professional baseball team should win it all once every 30 years. It should be in the World Series once every 15 years, and win the division once every five years. That is not a lot of winning. It is hard to do.
Winning is difficult. There is no shortcut. Sometimes you “luck out” more than others when the ball drops between three fielders while the opponent hits five line drives in the game right at someone. But one of the beautiful aspects of baseball is that time tends to even out all anomalies.
This Orioles team is clearly an upgrade; and Showalter, Duquette, the players – everyone involved – deserve accolades for what has been accomplished in 72 games. I certainly don’t think this team “should have” or “deserves to have” more than their current 41 wins. Everyone on this site and other Orioles outlets has commented on the season surely exceeding even optimistic expectations.
Where to go from here …
There is simply no way to the top apart from going through the teams and players at the top. The Orioles have done well against many of the best teams. But the fact is: they have to! And there is no way to really be a champion without the ability to beat current and recent champions, along with beating the best pitchers individually excelling on even mediocre teams.
The Orioles have gone through a recent cycle of running into some of the best arms in the game: Dickey, Santana, Jackson, and a group of lesser-knowns pitching their best. And it does not get easier anytime soon … as the Birds will be running into C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver the next two evenings.
The Orioles have to be able to beat this caliber of opposition. They have to figure out a way to make the offense click and thrive at a higher level. Everyone worries about the Orioles’ starters – and yes, the game of baseball revolves first around the quality of pitching. But the truth is that a lack of consistent offense has cost this team far more than the pitching – in the recent short term, for the bulk of this season, and I would submit – even for much of the past several years. Yes, it is true that in recent years, when things have “fallen over the cliff,” it is the pitching that crashes at that point – compiling ugly numbers. But if you track, as I do and have done in recent years, who is winning or losing games – the pitching or the hitting – the offense is as much to blame as the pitching. I don’t believe this is generally understood around Birdland.
There are 90 games yet to be played in this season … much can happen. But at least for now, the Orioles are in the thick of it … but it is thick! If we assume that the Rangers and Yankees will win their divisions, it would appear that for the Orioles to make one of the two wildcard berths, they will either have to finish 2nd in the division (most likely beating Tampa Bay) or finish third with a better record than the best 2nd place team in the central or west. It could be successfully argued that the Orioles, bottom line, need to have a better record than the Angels.
So these next two games are important games, as will be a series of four games in LA from July 5th through 8th. An odd element of the Orioles schedule this year is that seven of the nine games with the Angels are in California. Ugh!!
So, the time to hit the baseball is … NOW!
While I’m talking a bit about schedules, if you have not noticed something interesting about the Yankees schedule, the Evil Empire has actually only played 21 of their first 72 games against the AL east. By comparison, the Orioles and Tampa Bay have each played 32 in the division.