Last night MASN replayed the game between the Baltimore Orioles and New York that took place on September 6, 2012. You might remember that game, as the O’s blew a 6-1 lead in the top of the 8th when New York put five runs on the board against the Orioles’ pen to tie the game. However on the same night that the O’s unveiled the bronze statue of Cal Ripken Jr., Adam Jones did his best Ripken impression in the last of that same eighth inning and homered to left field putting the Orioles ahead to stay. (Mark Reynolds would follow with a two-run shot, and Chris Davis added a solo homer for good measure.)
Let’s face it; had this game been played somewhere between 1998-2011, odds are the O’s wouldn’t even have had a 6-1 lead to blow in the 8th inning. However if they had and they would have had any team (but especially New York – or Boston for that matter) come back on them in that manner, it would have “game over.” I remember a game in 2007 against the Washington Nationals in which the game seemed to go back and forth time and time again. However each time the Orioles (led at the time by Sam Perlozzo) got the lead, you could almost see on their faces that they were wondering how Washington would get the lead back. Sure enough after a bad hop here and an error or two there, the Orioles trailed again.
A lot of people like to pun some of the Showalterisms such as “I saw that look in his eye,” but sometimes that makes a difference. The 2012 Orioles were noted for many things, perhaps most pertinently the whole play ’till the last out idea. They never gave in, and that definitely stands for something. In watching the film of that game last night, I never saw the look of defeat, self-doubt, or the deer-in-the-headlights look on any of the Orioles’ faces after New York came back. Instead I saw looks of resolve, which was exactly what was missing in the aforementioned game in 2007. (It’s also worth mentioning that there’s a big difference in the quality of the players and the leadership between 2007 and 2012.)
Unfortunately it’s too early to say whether or not what we witnessed on September 6th of last year was a true paradigm shift. If the Orioles struggle in 2013 and beyond, it might just have been a flash in the pan so to speak. It seems that most of the national media and many members of the fan base are resigned to that fact. However…what if that doesn’t happen? There were a lot of big wins in 2012, many of which came in dramatic fashion. Wilson’s Betemit’s walk off homer against Oakland last April comes to mind, as does Nick Markakis‘ go-ahead homer last May in Washington, and Taylor Teagarden‘s heroics in July against Detroit. However if the O’s continue the trend of playing competitive baseball beyond 2012, that September 6th game would be the representative moment of a paradigm shift (More realistically you might look back to the 9/28/11 walk off win against Boston, however you get my point.) The stakes in that game were so high, and obviously it was done under the backdrop of the Cal Ripken statue. It’s tough to get much better than that.
That moment was a poignant one in Orioles’ history, and the Birds now have to find a way to ensure that writers such as myself will always point back to it as proof of a turning point. That’s a task that will not begin or end in 2013. Instead it’s an ongoing geometric ray, which moves forward from that moment in time. We know that the 2012 Orioles answered the bell. It’s now up to current and future incarnations of the club to continually do the same, proving that moment as a true paradigm shift.