Matthew Taylor: Postseason probably means an improbable hero or two

The 2012 Orioles, a roster filled with odds-defying heroes, are a perfect match for postseason baseball, which rewards unlikely stars by elevating their clutch performances from enjoyable to unforgettable. Player names that, years later, you can’t remember become ones you’ll never forget.

Taylor Teagarden has recorded three walk-off hits this season, including a game-winning, two-run homer in his second at-bat with the Orioles. I can envision O’s fans years from now talking about “that back-up catcher” who came through in the clutch during the 2012 regular season. Were Teagarden to have one of those hits in the playoffs, “that back-up catcher” would be known on a first- and last-name basis. I know this because the name Francisco Cabrera still rolls off my tongue with great ease.

Thanks to one clutch hit in the 1992 National League Championship Series, Cabrera’s five-year career is not defined by his .254/.294/.453 slash line, but rather his dramatic role as a last-resort pinch-hitter (there were no other position players available) who sent David Justice and Sid Bream motoring - OK, sputtering in the latter case - around third base with the runs that propelled the Atlanta Braves to a 3-2 victory and their second consecutive World Series appearance. FOX Sports ranked Cabrera first in its list of Top 10 unlikely Major League Baseball playoff stars.

On a local level there was the Orioles’ player to be named in the Floyd Rayford deal, Tito Landrum, whose 10th-inning home run versus the White Sox in Game 4 of the 1983 American League Championship Series made him a household name in Baltimore following a regular season when he had some 40 plate appearances with the team.

Using a more recent time frame, there’s Cody Ross, a late-season waiver wire claim by the Giants in 2010, who experienced an unlikely power surge in that year’s playoffs. Unfortunately for Ross, who once aspired to be a rodeo clown, he later became part of Bobby Valentine’s three-ring circus in Boston.

It would be fitting for a team like the Orioles, who have done more shuffling than the 1983 Chicago Bears, to provide the baseball world with one of these postseason heroes. After all, this has been a season when Nate McLouth and Lew Ford homered on the same day in Norfolk one month only to do the same in Baltimore the next. I could picture a guy like Omar Quintanilla - provided he makes the postseason roster - pulling a Cabrera and getting the “Cheers” treatment (“Everybody knows your name”) forever after.

Aside from a couple of traditional - and, some would argue, limited - categories like home runs and bullpen ERA, the Orioles’ success has defied most statistical measures, which suggested the team should never have been operating at a 93-win level. They now enter baseball’s second season, which is inherently a small sample size. Statistics explain. They predict. But they have trouble doing either one successfully at a time when players and teams are judged, in a best-case scenario, over the course of roughly a dozen wins.

The probability that informs a 162-game season yields to a postseason that regularly produces improbable moments. Here’s hoping a season in Baltimore that was filled with a collection of these very types of moments gives us more of them in the playoffs.

Which improbable postseason moment sticks out in your mind? Share your favorite - or at least most memorable if you were cheering for the opponent - in the comments section.

Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of’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 but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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