Let me be frank; I’ve never liked the Oakland Raiders and I’ve never liked Al Davis. However there are a couple of components of Davis that do appeal to me, one of which is the just win baby mantra. Another is a quote he made when presented with his second Vince Lombardi trophy after winning the Super Bowl in the 1980 season:
“…this was our finest hour, this was the finest hour in the history of the Oakland Raiders…”
Long story short, Davis had tried to sue the NFL in an attempt to try to move to Los Angeles. They were subsequently the first wild card team to win the Super Bowl which of course was a long road. So in saying that he was recognizing some hardships through which the franchise had come to arrive at that point.
I think that the Baltimore Orioles would have preferred to have some sort of dramatic moment at home in front of their fans as they clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 1997. However you take what you can get. Going into league play yesterday the Orioles’ magic number was two. That meant that a win and an Anaheim loss (or a loss and two Anaheim losses – in their doubleheader with Texas) would put them in the playoffs. The O’s certainly did their part in beating Boston 6-3, and Texas led 4-3 in the top of the ninth in game one. The entire Orioles’ team and all of the fans stayed and watched the end of the game on Diamondvision, however to their credit Anaheim’s late game heroics got them a win.
The Orioles got another gritty effort from a starter, this time Joe Saunders. Saunders’ line: 7.1 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 5 K. Saunders did give up two homers, but that’s been his modus operandi for most of his career. The Birds put three quick runs on the board in the first on McLouth’s homer, an RBI-single by Jim Thome, and J.J. Hardy scoring on a double play. You almost felt like the route was on, especially after Hardy homered in the third, and Thome provided another RBI-single which plated Adam Jones. Throw in a solo shot by Chris Davis (his fourth in as many games), and the O’s were cooking in their home finale. However to their credit Boston fought back; a little bit. Daniel Nava’s two-run homer made it just a bit closer.
Saunders appeared to be tiring at that point, however Buck Showalter sent him back out in the eighth to pitch to Jacoby Ellsbury. After he struck Ellsbury out, Showalter popped out of the dugout to remove Saunders from the game, and a standing ovation started to form from the crowd. Saunders tipped his cap to the fans as he walked to the dugout; that had to be a good feeling, as Saunders has said on numerous occasions that he used to attend games at Camden Yards and was an Orioles fan as a kid growing up in Northern Virginia. The Orioles’ bullpen was flawless as usual, and the Birds closed out a 6-3 victory and a sweep of the hapless BoSox to close their home schedule for the regular season.
As the Orioles began their trip to Tampa for the final series of the regular season, Texas and Anaheim began the night cap of their twin bill. Anaheim led early, however Texas mounted a comeback to win the game, and to thrust the Orioles into the playoffs for the first time since 1997. That in itself is such an impressive thing for this franchise that I’m not even sure what to say or where to begin. However, there’s still work to be done before the post season. The Orioles are currently tied with NY for the AL East lead. The O’s of course finish with three in Tampa (who would be eliminated from playoff contention if they lose one game), and NY has three at home with Boston. If they’re tied after Wednesday night, there would be a “regular season game 163″ on Thursday at Camden Yards to decide the AL East crown.
However the big news of the day is that the Orioles have reached the “promised land.” This was a team that was supposed to lose 100 games; boy did they blow that prediction out of the water! I’m not sure that we’ll even be able to grasp the majesty of this season until it’s over and done with. However at the very least we now know that it won’t be over with until sometime after Wednesday night. I’ve said this before, but if Buck Showalter isn’t the Manager of the Year in the American Leauge, I’m not sure there’s any justice in this world. The O’s will send Wei-Yin Chen to the mound in Tampa tonight, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Alex Cobb. Given his recent struggles, one has to wonder if Chen won’t be on a short leash tonight with the immediacy of the division title in the balance.
In clinching a playoff spot and guaranteeing themselves a trip to the “promised land,” the Orioles have paid homage to the franchise’s storied past. The likes of Brooks & Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Earl Weaver, and of course the great Cal Ripken Jr. are all standing and applauding this morning. However we shouldn’t quickly forget the 14 years that preceded today. There were lots of hardships that befell the Orioles, some of which were self-inflicted and some of which were not. I suppose that nothing can top the feeling of a world championship, which the Orioles have celebrated three times in their history. However given the years between then and now along with the hardships of the last 14 years and the expectations for 2012 at the beginning, there’s something that should be said regarding this moment and this team:
This is our finest hour…this is the finest hour in the history of the Baltimore Orioles.