BY BRIAN PINTER
On a muggy, late-September night in Baltimore, the Orioles were finishing another sub-.500 season with a game against the Boston Red Sox; a game that meant absolutely nothing to the Buck Showalter led Orioles, but meant everything to the Red Sox. For the boys from Beantown, it was do-or-die. The Red Sox had the opportunity to seal their own fate by beating the Orioles and clinching a Wild Card playoff berth. The Orioles, and more specifically Robert Andino, had other plans. We know how the story goes: Andino hits a liner to left, the ball is trapped by Carl Crawford, and Nolan Reimold scores the winning run. The crowd, and the Orioles, celebrate as if they had won the division. That moment on September 28, 2011 was the end to the darkest era in Orioles history.
The projections for the 2012 season were no better than the previous (near) decade and a half. The O’s were predicted to finish at the bottom of the AL East, with a 67-95 record. Yet again, continuing their streak of losing seasons. However, on Friday, the 13th of April, the Orioles picked up their 4th win, moving a game over .500, and not falling under for the remainder of the season. For the first time since 1997, the Orioles hadn’t fallen under that .500 mark all year, and were 23 games over to close out the year. Again, we know the story here; the O’s travel to Texas, Saunders pitches a gem, and the birds come back home victorious in MLB’s first ever Wild Card round. A week later, however, that season ended in the divisional playoff round with a game 5 defeat at the hands of Raul Ibanez, and the New York Yankees.
The Orioles missed the playoffs in 2013, but still maintained a winning record, closing out that season 8 games over .500, with a record of 85-77.
When the Orioles won the AL East title in 2014, their first division championship in 17 years, they had the right pieces in place to make a deep run into the playoffs. An offense that led the league in homers with 211, a pitching staff with four 10-game winners, and two 15-game winners, and a defense that finished first in fielding percentage, and third in errors committed. That postseason run was snuffed out in the ALCS, due to some small ball, some bad luck breaks, and a good Kansas City Royals team that knew how to capitalize on mistakes. The O’s went home that year with a sour taste in their mouths, and a desire to want to continue to play good baseball.
That’s just it though, is good baseball really enough anymore?
For a team that has a combined record since Buck Showalter took over of 498-439, they have no pennants to show for it, and are still picked to finish last in the standings. The Orioles can play good baseball all year long, but good just isn’t good enough anymore.
The fans that fill those seats at Oriole Park at Camden Yards are no longer satisfied with being 10 games over .500. The diehard fans that spend their hard earned money on season tickets aren’t pleased by just being able to lead the division by a game or two. No, this fan base is itching for a headline at the end of the season that reads no less than “WORLD CHAMPIONS.” Are we wrong in feeling this way, Birdland? We sat through 14 years of people laughing at us, and telling us how badly we suck. We endured some of the worst games ever imagined, including a major league record 30-3 defeat in 2007. No, we’re not wrong in craving for a world championship to be paraded down Lombard and Pratt.
When we were above .500 in 2012, and made the playoffs, that was great. When we won the division, and advanced to the ALCS in 2014, that was incredible. Now it’s time to push that bar higher. It’s time to get over that hump, and bring a championship back home to Baltimore. For us fans, some who weren’t even born when the Orioles hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy last, we would love nothing more than to see this 2016 ball club go all the way. We would love to call out of work just to attend the victory parade, and we’d love to have Adam Jones pie all of us in the face. It would be a dream come true.
It’s ok for us to get angry, and it’s okay for us to get emotional. Heck, some of us downright turn our backs on the team during a frustrating loss. We believe in this team, though, and we have a right to show that emotion. We’ve been through a horrific dark era, and we can feel a championship is right around the corner, we’re just tired of being “good enough”.
So when you get that crazy look for wanting more out of a team that’s 10 games over .500, don’t fret. Just know that you’re not alone in thinking, “I’m sick of us being just good enough.” That’s the calling of a dedicated and devoted fanbase that wants nothing less than a World Series Championship back home in Baltimore.