Bethany Beach, DE - I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re not buying into the 2012 Orioles by now, you’ll never do it. Sure if they make the playoffs there’ll be a great number of people jumping back onto the bandwagon as if they never left, or worse yet claiming that it was all a fluke if they get bounced before winning or reaching the World Series. However the fact is that these guys are finding ways to win, whereas many Oriole teams over the past 14 years would find ways to lose. That’s the mark of a good team; finding a way to lose is the mark of a poor one.
The Orioles certainly found a way to win yesterday, and in surprising fashion at that. Wei-Yin Chen was far from on his game in the first inning. Omar Infante and Jhonny Peralta both hit homers, and when the smoke cleared the Orioles trailed 5-0 under Motown’s blonde afternoon sunshine. In monitoring my twitter feed a few people were sarcastically saying that perhaps Chris Davis would hit another grand slam the way he did a few weeks ago in New York when the O’s trailed 5-0 early. Davis couldn’t produce a salami, however that was only due to the fact that he led off the second inning. Davis promptly sent one over the wall, and the comeback was suddenly on.
To re-use a term above, when the smoke cleared the O’s had put four runs on the board in the second. Nick Markakis doubled home Omar Quintanilla, and later scored on J.J. Hardy’s two-RBI double. (This on Hardy’s 30th birthday, so I’ll wish him a very hardy welcome to the 30′s!) We’ve said this so many times: the Orioles quite simply don’t give up. This is a lesson that was hammered home to them last September as you might recall, and it’s a good life lesson for the record. Markakis and Hardy scored once again in the fourth on Nate McClouth’s two-RBI triple as the Orioles seized the lead. When all was said and done, the Birds put up seven unanswered runs on the home standing Detroit Tigers, winning the game and the series.
I mentioned the five-run comeback in NY above; Wei-Yin Chen had a similar day to Chris Tillman in that game. Chen’s final line: 5 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 4 K. He was able to settled down after his team put him back into the game. In that first inning if you had told me that Chen would have outlasted Detroit starter Doug Fister, I would have probably been surprised. However I’m not sure why I would have been surprised, given this team’s propensity for coming back and fighting to the end. We all seem to need a reminder every now and again that we’re talking about the Fighting Showalters.
The comparisons between this team and the 1989 Orioles are obviously front and center; that version of the Orioles was titled the “Why Not Orioles.” They had low expectations, and they contended for the playoffs into the final weekend before falling just short. Why Not is a popular phrase around Baltimore again in 2012, however I don’t think it should be. In 1989 the Orioles weren’t that far removed from the franchise’s glory years; after all, they had just won the World Series six years prior in 1983, and they had been in the World Series ten years prior in 1979. All of that was still fresh in the minds of Oriole fans.
Incidentally, the Orioles need 15 wins to reach 81 for the season. If they only won 15 more games, they would finish the season at .500 which would at the very least snap the 14 straight years of losing seasons. That’s a pretty big deal for a franchise that’s trying to re-establish itself as “good.” In the middle of the 2007 campaign owner Peter Angelos hired Andy MacPhail to be the President of Baseball Operations for the franchise. At that time I said that we’d look back at that season as the time when the winds of change began to blow through the yard. MacPhail aquired Adam Jones and Chris Tillman via trade, and made numerous other moves that have had positive ripple effects in the present day.
MacPhail is now gone, however it appears that the two-headed attack of Showalter and Dan Duquette has taken what MacPhail left and almost perfected it. That’s not to say that this team is perfect, because we all know that’s not the case. However it seems that everything they’ve done has turned to gold, whereas the moves of past incarnations of the Orioles have all turned to stone. Duquette and Showalter have created a competitive atmosphere that holds players accountable if they don’t produce, but also a team atmosphere where guys feel comfortable with each other. That’s making a world of difference.
I feel that this season could in a way be more special to Oriole fans than the ’89 campaign because of the struggles over the past 14 years. For the purposes of this piece, it’s really irrelevant whether or not the Birds make the playoffs. Certainly that’s the goal and that’s what the players, coaches, and fans (not to mention a certain writer!) are focusing on, however I suppose what I’m saying is that the Orioles are proving a point this year regardless of the standings.
This franchise is paying homage to the roots of the orange and black, and proving that the old Oriole Way isn’t quite as dead as teams such as Boston and New York want people to believe. Therefore I submit that the 2012 Orioles should not be known as a “second incarnaton” of the why not team. This is much different from that campaign, and in my view much more important. So let them be known forever in history as the Return to Glory Orioles. While we don’t know what the future holds, if 2007 brought the winds of change, we’ll look back at 2012 as the year that a great franchise returned to it’s former glory.
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala