There are so many different angles at which we can look at these 2012 Orioles. However, needless to say 2012 will always represent a return to glory of a once-great franchise. Ironically - and who among us ever thought we’d hear this - I’ve seen some blabber on message boards to the effect that people are getting tired of hearing so much about the Orioles on national outlets. Feels strange not to be talking about Boston or New York, doesn’t it?
When Manny Machado’s blooper hit the ground last week against Tampa Bay, what we’ve all known for quite some time was officially announced to the rest of the world: The Orioles were back. We have to remember that from the mid-1960s until 1983 (and again in 1996-97), the Orioles were considered a model organization. Back then, clinching a .500 season would have barely been a benchmark. As much as we talk about starting pitching today, the O’s are an organization that had four 20-game winners in 1971.
Earlier this year, the Orioles had Mark Reynolds at third base, with less-than-desirable results. From 1955-1977, the Orioles had Brooks Robinson, the greatest third baseman of all time, manning the hot corner. (Many people offer Mike Schmidt for that honor, however as great as Schmidt was, he doesn’t have 16 consecutive Gold Gloves - end of discussion.) Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken Jr., et al, all left their marks on this franchise and made it great.
We all know the story from 1998 until now. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong, such as players tripping as they rounded third base and being tagged out, balkiing in runs to lose games and the coup de grace in my opinion: blowing a 5-1 lead in the last of the ninth to lose to the Red Sox at Fenway. Going into 2012, most people were expecting more of the same. New general manager Dan Duquette’s tactics of stockpiling much talent as he could was under attack and then some. On Birds Watcher, I predicted 74 wins, which would have been a five-game improvement over last year. At the time, that was considered optimistic.
However we also know the story of 2012 to this point. Even in dropping two of three in Oakland, the O’s did manage to hit win No. 82, guaranteeing them a winning record for the first time since 1997. What we’ve seen is a rebirth of a franchise that was left in the dustbin years ago. Suddenly, we see a series last weekend against the hated New York Yankees that featured more Orioles fans than New York supporters. On Thursday, Buck Showalter was interviewed on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning” and given a whole lot of respect in terms of what he’s done with the O’s. People are taking notice, and whether or not this campaign ends in a postseason berth, the franchise appears to be headed in the right direction under the stewardship of Showalter and Duquette.
Part of why the 2004 Boston Red Sox were such a great story (and still are, I might add) was due to the 86-year championship drought, headlined by the “Curse of the Bambino.” We love those kinds of stories in America, whether we choose to admit it or not. Would Harry S. Truman’s victory in the 1948 presidential election be so noteworth if not for the Chicago paper that prematurely ran the headline “Dewey defeats Truman”?
That may not be an apples-to-apples comparison, but the point is that Truman was written off. Look at the story behind our national anthem, written by Francis Scott Key in our very own Baltimore Harbor. He was so moved that America had apparently withstood such a huge Brittish offensive that he wrote a poem which later became our anthem. While the 2012 Orioles aren’t quite that dramatic of a story, they are a story of losing your way and defying the odds to come back.
So if people are tired are hearing about the Orioles, they also need to realize that time loves a hero. I always said that the faithful who remained faithful would enjoy it more when the franchise got things turned around. I know I am, to say the least. Speaking of ESPN, my favorite of the “30 for 30” programs is “The Band that Wouldn’t Die,” which is about the Baltimore Colts band. Might they consider doing a program about the 2012 Orioles and how they turned around a once-forgotten franchise? That may be premature, but as I said, time loves a hero.
Domenic Vadala blogs about the Orioles at Birds Watcher, and his opinions appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. 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.