It is a fact: There is luck in the game of baseball. There is the stupid little bloop off the fists of a batter completely fooled by a pitch that lands behind the first baseman. Likewise, there are swinging bunts that go for a hit. There is the ground ball that hits the edge of the infield cut and takes a bad hop. And especially of late, there are the awful missed calls of umpires that can change a game’s outcome. Can you feel a big “but” coming?
Speaking of butts, there is one Bobby Valentine who said at the end of August that the Orioles had been a lucky team. The best luck that the Orioles had was earlier than 2012 when Sir Butt passed on the Orioles to take the Red Sox job instead. How’d that work out for ya sAin’t Valentine?
But it wasn’t just one foolish mouth saying the Orioles were lucky in 2012. There was a large contingent, most notably the followers from two particular AL East franchises, who – like the pigs in Orwell’s Animal Farm – took up the chant of “lucky, lucky, lucky.” Aw, shut up!
But what of this alleged Orioles luck of 2012? It was said that: 1. The Orioles were fortunate to have the extraordinary good luck to win an unusual number of one-run and extra-innings games, 2. The Birds were lucky to put some things together during a year when there were a number of prominent injuries to players from AL East contenders (e.g. Longoria, Ellsbury, Rivera, etc., etc.), and 3. The Orioles were lucky to have their first good season in recent memory during the year that the playoffs were expanded, or else they would not have made it. Aw, shut up!
Regarding the first point, it has been well-chronicled on this site and many others that the Orioles “luck” in close games accrued to the excellence of the bullpen and the performance of role-players skillfully obtained by Duquette and deployed by Showalter. Regarding the second point, it has also been well-chronicled here and on other sites that the Orioles had as many or more injuries of critical players as anyone – evidenced by the unprecedented number of roster moves necessitated throughout the season.
But did the Orioles back into the playoffs? Hardly! With a total of 93 wins, it was but two short of the best record in the league. Though it is true in the old system that they would have been bumped by having a losing record against Oakland – who also had 93 wins – there was nothing cheap about the Orioles’ record or season. Luck did not factor into the Orioles having a 46-35 road record – two games better than any other AL team.
The Birds made their own luck, if not by their play throughout the season, then by being a catalyst in the MLB decision to add an extra team and one-game wildcard playoff. By this I am of course referencing the dramatic end of the 2011 season, with a final game win over Boston to eliminate the Red Sox, coupled with the near simultaneous Longoria walk-off homer to vault the Rays.
But beyond that, though I admit to a certain amount of luck in the game of baseball, here is my major premise – 162 games eliminates luck from the final equation and standing. Whereas luck can be sustained for a time in a short season (one of my gripes about football), merely fortunate circumstances and fortuitous breaks cannot be realized for six months and 162 contests. This is why baseball is the most fair of the major sports. Of course, this logically raises the protest that a single game playoff is therefore insufficient for determining a better team. I grant the legitimacy of the complaint, but with six other teams waiting around, I do not have a better suggestion.
So… 2012 was legit! Hopes for 2013 are legit … and that’s where my focus truly shifts from this point forward. Thank you for reading BirdsWatcher in 2012. Now let’s go have an even better year ahead!