James Baker: Playing the spoiler

Ross Perot, Teddy Roosevelt, Ralph Nader - all spoilers.

Now the Orioles have the opportunity to ruin another team's hard-fought season and crush the spirits of one of their hated rivals. I have stated in private company that I like this prospect. I have been known to say, "The tears of Red Sox fans sustain me" Or something along the same lines.

I have been seen in public, reveling in the crowd shots of dejected Bostonians, clutching their pre-worn faux-vintage Red Sox hats in their hands as they simultaneously try to swear and hold back tears.

I don't deny these facts.

But, honestly, I don't like playing the spoiler. Who are the Orioles to bring down a team like the Red Sox? The Sox are well-run, they draft, hit, pitch, run and field a lot better than the Orioles. They have played fantastic baseball for three-fifths of the season. They have a rabid fanbase and a Yankees-Red Sox American League Championship Series will generate a lot more interest than, say, the possibility of a Rays-Tigers matchup.

Perhaps it's not that I don't like playing the spoiler and I'm just tired of that being the team's only role at this time of year. Fourteen years ago, I was freshman in high school. In that time I have graduated from that school and a college, started my career, moved out on my own, gotten engaged, adopted a dog, traveled the country and built a nice little life for myself. I have seen the downs and slightly lesser-downs of this team over the years. I have taken abuse from out-of-town fans for having the audacity for rooting for my team. After 14 years of near medically obsessive devotion, is it too much to ask that I get a team that is playing for more than schadenfreude in September?

Say the Orioles knock the Red Sox out of the playoffs - OK,then what? Is that going to be the new taunt that the fives of Orioles fans will hurl and the hundreds of Red Sox fans that invade the green seats of Camden Yards? It may be the best the fans have, but they will fall on deaf ears. Let's face it, we might take some solace in it but it is not like the team is going to get any credit for their surprisingly good play these last few weeks. The headline is not: "Plucky Orioles upend Red Sox," rather it's more like "Red Sox collapse after loss to perennial doormat."

Still, I do love watching the mighty fall and it is always entertaining to see a team that many picked to have more than 100 wins collapse in an almost Orioles-like fashion in September. The fact that the AL wild card race is populated by two 85-win teams does make one salivate at the prospect of a huge turnaround year for the Birds. Sign C.J. Wilson, sign Prince Fielder (one can dream, right?), have a bounceback season from Brian Matusz and continued production from the offense (which has actually shown a lot of improvement over 2010) and we might be on the periphery of a race in 2012.

We may knock the Sox into an early vacation and while fun it would be a Pyrrhic victory at best. This team should not have any illusions that it can contend next year in its current state without massive improvements from key people and some very important additions. But with all this being said, even I will admit schadenfreude is fun.

James Baker blogs about the Orioles at Oriole Post. His observations about the O's appear as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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