Neal Shaffer: What if the Orioles miss the playoffs?

Today I come to raise a spectre. Not because I want to. Certainly not because anyone else wants me to (you surely don't). I do so, simply, because I must.

To wit: What if the Orioles miss the playoffs?

With seven games left the black and orange remain in a strong position. Despite two consecutive losses to the Blue Jays, they're still in this thing. The division title might be slipping away but the wild card is very much an option. The numbers, however, are not comfortable. A lot can and will happen in seven games, especially considering the competition.

This is the point where we owe it to ourselves to remember how magical this run has been. Which means we must also remember that magic is fickle. The Orioles have had a lot of things go their way. Most of that - the vast majority, to be clear - is of their own making. I'd point to hard work, preparation and the right outlook in that regard. Some of it, though, is luck. You need that to win consistently.

What concerns me, then, is the possibility that luck will run dry over the next seven games and this group might be too overextended to cover the difference.

There's no margin for error. Every team within striking distance of the playoffs deserves to be there and no quarter will be given. The Orioles can't back in. They have to take it.

Can they do that? I don't know. They've played a lot of baseball and they've exceeded expectations at almost every turn. It seems vaguely unfair, in a cosmic sense, that all of the good they've done might prove insufficient in a week's worth of games. But that's exactly as it should be, fair or not. It's how the game determines who belongs.

So despite everything, we might wake up on October 4 and find that there's no more baseball left to be played.

Is that OK? My goodness, yes.

It's not preferable, obviously. It wouldn't be fun. It would hurt, and it would take some time to get over. But it would absolutely be OK.

This is an amazing team, full stop. I've written in the past of how they've reconfigured our notions of what is possible and that remains true whether they make the playoffs or not. This has been an outstanding season.

The fact that we're even talking about playoffs is insane when you think about it. And I kind of still think they'll find a way in. But it's important that we focus as much on how they've gotten here as we do on what happens next.

Again, not because we want to. Because we must. To look at things any other way would be to cheat both ourselves and this team out of the full measure of an awesome season.

Neal Shaffer regularly blogs about the Orioles at The Loss Column, and his work appears here as part of MASNsports.com's 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.

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