Baltimore Orioles: The brightest spot in 2014


Photo: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
It was a pretty anticlimactic way for such an exciting season to end. Building off the trend that started with their improbable 2012 playoff run, the Orioles saw an incredible swell in exhilaration around a team that looked destined for greatness. In Baltimore, seemingly every restaurant or bar, every building, even every bus had some recognition to the team they watched gather implausible momentum through September and into early October.

However, the Birds hit a brick wall against Kansas City, and everyone is still trying to shake off the confusion. Even down to their last out there was still some glimmering hope that this team could find some way, but they didn’t. That’s baseball, nobody’s unbeatable. And if you could somehow will your team to win, nobody would lose all season. So on the 31st anniversary of Baltimore’s last World Series title, Orioles’ fans can only look back at a magnificent season and forward to an exciting offseason.

Although the disappointment is seemingly unbearable at the moment, the Birds gave fans plenty to be proud of. The biggest enjoyment of the season may have been watching Nelson Cruz, a last minute and almost unimpressive spring training signing, becoming the Orioles’ MVP. Not only did Cruz lead the league in homers, but he always seemed to be at the plate when the Orioles needed a big hit, and he always seemed to deliver. However, it was what he did off the field that taught Orioles’ fans a lesson.

Nelson Cruz did PEDs. He got caught, admitted it and it cost him 50 games last season. But he wasn’t a bad guy. In fact, nearly the opposite. He was charismatic and engaging in interviews, and always seemed the most excited Oriole in the dugout. It was clear from day one he was accepted by his teammates, and as the season went on, it was impossible for fans not to love him.

He cheated, it was stupid, and it may follow him around the rest of his career. However, at least in Baltimore, that’s not what he’ll be remembered for. In fact, he may have forced us to look at other players around the league in similar situations a little differently than we did last season.

It’s hard to tell whether the Orioles will be able to resign Nelson Cruz. Unfortunately, as the days go by and the euphoria of the season wears off, the business of baseball begins to set in, and there are lots of other teams that will be willing to pay top dollar for his services. However, whether he’s an Oriole next season or not, he helped give Baltimore their first division title in 17 years, and personally, no matter what team he’s on it’ll be hard to root against him.