Kevin Millar brought up an interesting point before last night's game against the White Sox.
He and I were talking about the difference between being a last place team [as the Orioles are], and being an easy team to beat; which the Orioles are not.
Millar said his team has played hard all year, and there isn't a team out there that sees the Orioles as a guaranteed win regardless of the standings.
Millar pointed to the series against the Yankees as an example. The Orioles battled back and had a chance to win two of three against the Bronx Bombers. It didn't happen. A few mistakes and an overall lack of starting pitching resulted in close losses. The Birds were swept for the fifth time this season.
The schedule isn't getting easier for the Orioles. Their next three series are against the White Sox, Rays and Red Sox. All three teams are in the playoff hunt, and Millar said the Orioles have to find a way to get in the 'W' column if for no one else but themselves.
Good finishes resonate into the offseason and can give a team momentum going into Sring Training. Plus, playing spoiler boosts team morale and gains respect around the league.
It's not a role any team wants to fill at the end of the season. Obviously, they'd rather be the ones making a push for the postseason, but now that the Orioles are out of the race, they have to find motivation somewhere.
The Orioles' desire to finish strong this year is a big change from years past when September was the time to pack it in. It shows that the organization's biggest accomplishment this year has been changing the losing culture of the club. It's clear these Orioles want to win, and will have a good foundation to build on in 2009.
Ironically, the one veteran rallying the troops for the strong finish is Kevin Millar. There's a decent chance he might not be on the Orioles roster in 2009 to enjoy the fruit of his labor.
Millar is a free agent after 2008.