There's meaningful baseball being played at Camden Yards in September.
Whether it's meaningful to Orioles fans is up for debate, but surely the games played during the O's current homestand are meaningful to baseball.
Of the Birds' 16 remaining games, all are against teams fighting for a postseason berth. They face the Rays (two games), Red Sox (seven games), Angels (three games), and Tigers (four games). The Tigers are pretty much a lock for first in the American League Central. The Angels trail the Rangers by just three games in the AL West. The Red Sox have their sights set on the AL wild card, but the red-hot Rays now trail them by just three games.
How the Orioles play over the next 16 games will have a huge impact on who makes the playoffs and who doesn't. Opposing teams don't necessarily believe the Orioles are an easy win either. Johnny Damon told me he remembers earlier in the season when the Birds swept them in Tampa Bay.
"They've beaten us up pretty good this year," Damon said. "They always play us tough and we can't afford to lose any games to anybody. We dug ourselves this big hole and now we have a second life."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said there's no way his team is overlooking the Orioles with the all-important Red Sox series looming.
"We have to beat the Red Sox, but we also have to beat everybody else. We can't overlook anybody under these circumstances. It's a playoff atmosphere. If we play a three-game series, we have to win all three," Maddon said.
Nobody likes being reduced to the role of spoiler in September, but it gives the Orioles a purpose in an otherwise insignificant time of the season for a last-place team. We've all heard the clichÃ© - you still play for pride. Not letting a team walk over you onto its way to the playoffs is something to be proud of.
What happens these last two weeks can help Buck Showalter realize, not only what kind of talent he has for next year but also who rises to the occasion. This organization has been looking to rediscover that winning mentality that was lost 14 years ago. What better way to do that than to keep players on the roster who want to win even when their team is 27 games back.