James Baker: No longer losers

The Orioles have won their 80th game. Let that sink in for a minute.

What else is there to say? With a sweep today, the Orioles will finally end the 14-year losing streak that has plagued this team, its fans and the city of Baltimore. Confederate money, 30-3, Jeff Maier, Raffy -gate, Mazzilli, The Mother’s Day Massacre, Armando Benitez, Omar Dhal, BJ Ryan, Kurt Ainsworth - all will be wiped away. The Orioles can no longer be lumped together with the laughing stocks of sport. No longer can sports writers wax philosophical about how much a “tragedy” the Baltimore Orioles are. With a win today, the Orioles can finally close a deplorable volume in the history of this team and begin to write a new one, most certainly a better one.

There is no real way to describe what I am seeing. It’s been stated a million times before: “This team shouldn’t be here,” “They simply can’t keep doing this,” “They are lucky.” These are still persistently annoying questions asked mostly by those who haven’t watched this team all year. The response I have is simple: No team is this lucky for this long. Yet here they are, the Orioles are one win away from breaking the losing streak.

These Orioles remain tied for first place with their biggest rival, they are locked in a tight race for the AL wild card and they just keep winning series after series. The baseball season is long, and we are told that it is sports’ ultimate crucible. Eventually the wheat is sifted from the chaff and only the strong survive. If any of those clichés are true then the Orioles must be doing something remarkable; there must be a reason for some wonky numbers. Either that or they are the luckiest team in the history of all sport. The former seems much more likely to me than the latter.

Nick Markakis goes down for the rest of the regular season? They overcome. Jason Hammel seems to have suffered another knee injury? They overcome. Yankees? Rays? The best teams in the AL? Every test that has been thrown at this team they have met and passed. It hasn’t always looked pretty, and even I can think of at least four games where luck was definitely on the team’s side, but that is all in the past.

With 20 games left in the 2012 season, the Orioles are poised to leave the baseball world completely amazed. The city of Baltimore is buzzing with excitement. Orange lights are starting to dot the tops of downtown skyscrapers; orange is starting to replace purple on Fridays at the workplace, and people that had written off this team years ago are returning to the fold because we must all stop to look at this special thing that is happening before us.

The job is not complete, yet. The Orioles still have work left to complete as they make a push for the postseason. But as the days tick away and summer slowly begins to recede into fall, the Orioles are still winning ballgames. Today’s game may be just another step on that journey, but a win today means that the Baltimore Orioles are no longer losers and no one will have any excuse to stand in awe as the rest of the season unfolds.

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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