When I was in high school in the mid/late-1990’s it appeared that the Orioles were poised to be perennial contenders for quite some time. Even further back than that in the early 1980’s, a young Cal Ripken Jr. thought that the team would always be playoff and World Series contenders. That illustrates that in fact being in contention for a playoff spot is truly a special thing, and not something to be taken for granted.
I try my best to remain as unbiased as possible while penning this column, because that’s what responsible writers do. (Granted at the very least if you read this column regularly or follow my in-game tweets I would hope that you can see that I’m objectively on the Orioles’ side.) So let’s put that aside for just one moment; could you imagine what a playoff berth would “look like?” It goes without saying that the players would spill out of the dugout and pile on each other in celebration. But what about the fans? With a few exceptions such as Brian Roberts (who’s on the DL), most of these players have not been around for the majority of the 14 years of losing. The fans on the other hand have been here.
I’m not talking about simply being excited at the idea of participating in the post season. At that very moment, what would we see? I’m reminded of the final scene of Major League I when the fictional version of the Cleveland Indians clinched a playoff appearance after overcoming huge odds and a tradition of losing. Sound familiar? The fans all rushed the field and celebrated with the players. In no way am I suggesting that people cause any amount of civil disobedience. In fact, I’m a proponent of the whole act like you’ve been there before argument. However…there’s always more than meets the eye! In effect, something along those lines would be a pretty cool moment in Oriole history to say the least (assuming they clinched a playoff spot at home).
Again, I’m not advocating any civil disobedience or anything that resembles what the English call hooliganism. However in using the above example…could you imagine how it would be walking out of Camden Yards?! Needless to say it would be a pretty big crowd for a “clincher” type of game. As much as the city of Baltimore truly does love it’s Orioles, and as down as the franchise has been over so many years, I think it would be an afternoon/evening of epic proportions. Pratt St would be an absolute madhouse given the scenario above. Even if the actual “clincher” was on the road (as the O’s do finish the season with a three-game set at Tampa), could you imagine how jam packed city bars and taverns would be? The Orioles ask their fans to “paint the park orange” over the course of the season when teams such as NY come to town; but I think the entire city would be painted orange if the O’s went to the playoffs.
There’s still a lot of baseball between now and when this might be settled. However I’m not sure that the World Series parades of 1966, ’70, and ’83 combined would live up to the celebration that we might see if this team goes to the playoffs. The reason is simple: absence makes the heart grow fonder. I can remember the Orioles losing in the ALDS in 1997 and figuring that the O’s would be right back in contention the next year. 14 years later it might finally be happening. Sports can often mirror life, right? In life the context of a situation can mean a world of difference. The 1969 Orioles are considered a disappointment because they were one of the favorites to win it all and they lost the World Series to an upstart NY Mets team. However if the 2012 Orioles just go to the playoffs given the expectations of 100 losses at the start of the season and based on 14 consecutive losing years, it would go down as one of the best seasons in franchise history.
The Orioles themselves cannot allow this kind of talk to seep into the clubhouse, and for the most part it won’t. As I said, to most of the players it would only be going to the playoffs; for the fans it would mean the world. Many times I’ve run the above-mentioned scenarios through my head, and thought of how amazing of a moment that would be. NY Yankee fans go through this every year; to Baltimore fans it would be a new feeling, yet eerily familiar. When people talk of “The Oriole Way,” it was more than just a method of bringing players up through the minors in the same manner. It was more about winning consistently year after year. That’s what made the franchise great, and if the Fighting Showalters have anything to say about it that’s what will make them great once again moving forward. Whether or not 2012 is the year still remains to be seen. However file this under the category of just sayin’: needless to say, it would be a moment to remember for all time.
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