The Orioles enter the weekend with a 21-14 record, in a three-way tie for first place in the American League East with the Red Sox and Yankees. If you’ve followed baseball long enough, you’ve likely developed the reserved reflex that is so common to the sport. It’s the one that produces programmed responses to good news, led by the many variations of “it’s early.” We’re not supposed to get excited about individual efforts yet because of sample size, and as for teams, well, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
By and large, this is good advice, but it can lead to statements like this: “The Orioles are currently in first place. But by the end of a 162-game season they won’t be” ... “It’s never easy to watch the Orioles tumble toward the bottom of the standings as the season progresses.” I wrote those words on April 20 last year and struggled to alter that pessimistic attitude for too long during the season. Thanks in large part to 2005, I had a nagging sense that the bottom would drop out on the Birds at any moment.
If 14 consecutive losing seasons taught me anything, it should have been to enjoy the positive moments whenever they happened and for however how long they lasted. The good times in 2012 lasted right up into October, but there’s no reason to wait that long to appreciate the team’s success.
So here’s why 21 wins and a first-place tie in May are worth celebrating:
* Since the worst start in team history in 1988, the Orioles have had 20 or more wins by May 10 only three times before now: in 1992, 1997 and 2005. This is therefore the fourth time in 25 years that the Orioles have done this well to start a season.
* During that same time period, the Orioles have never had consecutive seasons with 19 or more wins by May 10 before now. This time last year the Orioles were 19-11, tied with Tampa Bay for first place in the AL East. There hasn’t been a two-year run of early-season success like this in the past 25 years.
* Since 1988, the Orioles have had fewer than 10 wins on May 10 on four separate occasions. They were 9-23 in 2010, 5-7 in strike-shortened 1995, 9-16 in 1991 and 4-16 in 1988. Think about that. We’re only three seasons removed from the Orioles having a 9-23 record at this point in the season. It was over before it started.
* The Orioles have had losing records on May 10 13 different times since 1988. A losing record in early May certainly doesn’t doom a season. After all, the “Why Not?” Orioles were 13-17 on May 10, and the wild card Orioles team of 1996 barely had its collective head above water at 17-16. But 21 wins feels a heck of a lot better, doesn’t it?
Toward the end of last season, the Orioles told us to “BUCKle Up.” This year, I’m determined to enjoy the ride from the very start.
Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds 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.