While arguably the most important games of the 2012 Orioles’ regular season are still ahead, at this point I feel it’s worth taking a look back at where we’ve been. It goes without saying that 2012 will go down as the best Orioles season in a generation, especially with a playoff spot in hand. This was a team that was supposed to lose 100 games. Instead, they’re going to win 90+ and go to the postseason. This was a team that supposedly had no chance to do anything more than fail. Instead they’ve been competing for the playoffs literally since Opening Day. This was to be a roster of nobodys; instead the likes of Flaherty, Teagarden, Chen, Gonzalez, and Davis will go down forever in Baltimore lore.
To use one of my favorite plays on words from twitter, this has been the Greatest. Season. Ever. But...how, why, and...what?! Two words with which to start: Buck Showalter. It was him that instilled that “never say die” attitude in this core group of players last September which didn’t allow them to give up. It was he who brought that attitude forward into 2012 and held these guys accountable for their production on the field at all times. And it was he who pushed all of the right buttons at every point along the way to help the team along to win.
However here’s two more words for you: Dan Duquette. Many people felt that he was the Orioles’ fourth or fifth choice for GM, and given that he had been out of the game for so long it was a recepie for failure. Then when Duquette didn’t make any big splashes in the free agent market there was outrage. My take at the time was that their offseason moves were certainly underwhelming, however I would withold judgement until we saw the results on the field. Those results speak for themselves. What Duquette did was bring massive numbers of players into camp and made them compete for jobs. In effect, it was akin to throwing magnets on the fridge and seeing which ones stuck. What entailed was a group that was determined at all points along the way to win and win now.
However Showalter and Duquette were never on the field making plays. This is a group of players that meshes well together, and that furthermore welcomes newcomers into their midst. The Orioles used over 50 players this season, so newbies in the clubhouse wasn’t anything surprising. Yet the core of Jones, Markakis, Wieters, Davis, Hardy, etc. welcomed them as new teammates with open arms. That’s a key point that can’t be made enough. Going back to Duquette for a moment, almost all of the in-season moves that he made in 2012 were pure gold. Aquiring Jim Thome wasn’t seen as bringing in a huge power bat, however it was brining in a guy that could hit with just a bit of power, and more importantly brought experience and a steady hand to the clubhouse.
But the true afterglow of this season is reflected on the fans. In the case of my generation (early 30’s) we remember the last time this franchise competed, and we have fond memories of the likes of Cal Ripken Jr, Eddie Murray, etc. So to us and to those older than us, this return to glory for the Orioles is something that’s been a long time coming. We have to pinch ourselves to believe that it’s really true. However there’s another group out there that I think this season has touched even more so. There are high school and college age kids out there right now that until now had never experienced a winning Orioles’ season or a playoff run, much less a full-fledged pennant race. Now they can say that they have.
In closing, the journey of the 2012 Orioles has been magical, and one that will be remembered in these parts for quite some time. Once it’s over (regardless of how it ends), we’ll probably enter into the most important offseason’s in franchise history, as Duquette and Showalter try to keep this team fresh. However the O’s need to concentrate on the urgency of today for the time being. You have to know that something magic’s happening when I attend a wedding over the weekend and 15 minutes after the Orioles beat Boston the DJ plays “Country Boy!” So let it go said that 2012 will always be the year that Baltimore got it’s Orioles back. BUCKle up!
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.