Orioles building themselves up


In a manner of speaking, Baltimore Orioles fans should be happy that the Orioles didn’t make it past the ALDS in the 2012 Major League Baseball postseason. Work with me here folks; it goes without saying that you want to go as far as you can once you get in the playoffs. Furthermore, the Orioles weren’t supposed to be there anyways…if you believe the national pundits that is. Naturally had the Orioles gone on in the playoffs and/or ultimately won the World Series there’d be a celebration of epic proportions in Baltimore. I called simply making the postseason the “finest hour” in the history in the franchise; I’m not sure how I could have labeled a world title in 2012! However, is it possible to in effect do it all too early or too quick?

The Florida/Miami Marlins are an example of this; they won World Series’ in 1997 and 2003 and blew up the team in the immediate aftermath each time. However let’s compare this to another sports entity that’s near and dear to the hearts of many Orioles fans: Maryland Terrapins’ basketball. Gary Williams inherited a program that ended up on probation in 1989, yet his steady hand brought Maryland to the second round of the NIT (after finishing 9-20 the previous year under Bob Wade). In 1993-94 Williams had Maryland back into the NCAA Tournament, and of course they qualified for the final four in 2001 & 2002. Needless to say, the Terps won the national championship in 2002, and the ACC Tournament championship in 2004. In total, Maryland went to the NCAA Tournament under Williams in all but seven years, and they advanced to five sweeet 16’s, two final fours, and one national title.

Courtesy of Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE

Believe me, I could go on and on singing the praises of Gary Williams. To be blunt…Greatest. Coach. Ever. That aside, from 1989 until 1993 or so, he was getting his sea legs underneath him in College Park. From 1993-2002 he was building towards that national title. Williams always said that one of his signature wins at Maryland was beating Georgetown at the Capital Centre over Thanksgiving 1993. My grandparents in Cecil County didn’t have ESPN, so I huddled around the radio listening to Johnny Holiday call the action from courtside. Georgetown was the “big man on campus” in the region at the time, yet Williams’ gutsy Terps led by Duane Simpkins, Johnny Rhodes, Joe Smith, and Baltimore native Keith Booth, defeated the Hoyas that afternoon on a last minute steal by Curtis Schultz and a buzzer-beater by Simpkins in overtime.

My point here is not to recount the history of Maryland basketball, but I could do that if you wanted! However from that point until the Terps won the national title you could see them building the program in strength. It was an exciting time to be a Terp fan; so…could we potentially draw a parallel with the Orioles? I suppose that future history will tell that tale more so than I can now. I remember that 1993-94 team that muscled into the NCAA tournament very well, and they had a lot of similarities with the 2012 Orioles. They had their struggles in various aspects of their games, however they won a lot of close games due to being scrappy. On the last day of the regular season they beat UVA at Cole Field House which was seen as putting Maryland over the top to clinch an NCAA Tournament berth, and the fans stormed the court. While the O’s weren’t granted a moment like that, you get the idea.

There were some painful moments for Terp fans between 1993-2002 because they never really knew if they’d make it over the top. However looking back the journey itself was almost as fun as the result in April of 2002. It’s tough to compare college and pro sports because the turnover on a yearly basis is so much greater in college. You build your team to compete that year as opposed to the pros where you have to worry about that year and the future. I also think that the window of opportunity in pro sports is much smaller than in college. If you’re a good recruiter and a good coach your window in theory might never close. It’s tougher in pro sports because the better you do the lower you’re drafting year-over-year, and in that sense it gets tougher to replenish your talent.

I suppose my point is that the Orioles now have an opportunity to build something great as opposed to doing it in one fatal swoop. So if that ends up being the case, is there a game in 2012 to which we might look back similar to that Maryland/Georgetown game in 1993? I would submit that the answer to that is no. Keep in mind that baseball and basketball are two different animals, mainly because baseball plays 162 games. So you might be hard-pressed to find one “signature” win in 2012. However in looking back at that Georgetown game, it set the tone for not only Maryland basketball but also for the local college basketball scene over the course of the next 8-12 years. So bearing that in mind, could you not argue that the Orioles beating Boston on the last day of the season in 2011 wouldn’t be a parallel of sorts? While 2012 didn’t have a signature or trend-setter win, it’s possible that 2011 most certainly did.

On a side note, this link will take you to an article that was written in the DC Sports Bog regarding the Maryland/Georgetown game and some of it’s aftermath. Included is a letter to the editor explaining what has been Georgetown’s position as to why they can’t play a home-and-home series with Maryland. Kind of a weak argument in my view, but certainly interesting!