One thing that will always stand out to me with regard to the 2012 Baltimore Orioles will be their ability to overcome pretty much everything that was thrown in their path. There were so many instances over the course of the season whereby they would have had every right to fold and to simply start “playing out a string,” however that never happened. Nick Markakis was injured twice, including for the final month of the regular season and the playoffs. Nolan Reimold, Brian Roberts, Jason Hammel, Wilson Betemit, and Endy Chavez all missed significant time (if not most of the season). Heck, even Jim Thome, for whom the Birds traded in July, saw a stint on the DL! Yet the Orioles seemed to have a “next man up” mentality, and whomever filled in seemed to do so with a lot of success.
As I made my rounds around the college football circuit yesterday, I ended up logging a lot of time with the South Carolina vs. Arkansas game. South Carolina of course lost their star running back, Marcus Lattimore, to a gruesome-looking leg injury two weeks ago. After a bye week, yesterday was their first game after losing Lattimore, and they beat Arkansas 38-20. I saw the same kind of fight in that South Carolina team that saw in the 2012 Orioles in terms of compensating for a major injury. (For the record I would have loved to prop up Maryland for this example, however the fact is that they haven’t been able to overcome injuries to four different quarterbacks.)
It was also brought to my attention that if the Gamecocks ran the football as a team for over 100 yards, the students all got a free hamburger. Head coach Steve Spurrier ran the ball twice at the very end as opposed to kneeling down so as to put them over 100 yards. (I wonder if Maryland would consider doing something like that…HELLO RJ Bentley’s or Cornerstone Loft, time to step up to the plate!) One might look at those statistics and say that they really didn’t compensate for the absence of Lattimore since they barely made it over 100 rushing yards (104). But they compensated for that with 279 yards through the air, and even a defensive touchdown.
When you have injuries on that level to star players “compensating” doesn’t mean you have someone of equal stature just step in and do the same job the other guy was doing. The idea is that the team itself adapts to the loss of the first player as well as to the skill set of the new player to gain the same net result. The Orioles did that all season in 2012. Coming out of spring training Buck Showalter indicated that we might see various different lineups on different days; did we ever! Right after the O’s lost Brian Roberts for the second time, Nick Markakis came back from injury. Markakis was not a lead off hitter per se, but he took on the characteristics of one for sure. The team compensated. Then in September Markakis himself went to the DL for the second time, and Nate McLouth became one of the primary lead off guys. The team compensated. Chris Davis was called upon to play right field in Markakis’ absence, and for crying out loud he had to pitch in a game in May! Again, the team compensated.
These are all just a few examples, however you can also point to Jason Hammel’s injury as an area where guys such as Steve Johnson and of course Miguel Gonzalez stepped in and compensated. This is the mark of a winning team, and one with amazing chemistry at that. The South Carolina Gamecocks started finding that out yesterday afternoon with their win over Arkansas. And in doing so they gave me a stark reminder of the 2012 Orioles. When you sustain injuries to major parts of your team there’s no way it can ever be the same moving forward. However that in itself doesn’t have to be the end of the world; just ask Steve Johnson, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Davis, Nate McLouth, et al, as well as Steve Spurrier, his team, and their fans.