I read an article in USA Today last week about the Pittsburgh Pirates and how they clinched their first non-losing season in 20 years. For beginners, hats off to them. That’s a feeling with which Orioles fans can certainly identify after last year, although the Orioles’ streak was halted before it reached 20 - or 15 for that matter. For the most part, I feel that the players and coaches have taken this somewhat in stride.
However there was one quote in the article that stood out to me.
“We are America’s new team,” Pirates outfielder Marlon Byrd said.
I’ll be honest, I’m not big on self-promotion or self-recognition. What that franchise has accomplished, and what the Orioles accomplished last year speaks for itself in my mind. Having said that, I have to wonder if perhaps I myself am a bit misguided. Furthermore, I have to wonder if the Orioles have been a bit misguided. Work with me here for a while folks; more realistically, humor me.
A quote as such from a veteran journeyman such as Byrd indicates a certain embracing of the success of the franchise. Speaking for myself, I’ll never forget the game in which the Orioles hit 81 wins last year. It was a matinee, won by a walk-off RBI-single in extra innings by Manny Machado. For the most part, I call these games down the middle in print (for Birds Watcher) as well as on Twitter. But I’m not going to lie. I cried that day. For the first time since I was in high school, the Orioles would not finish with a losing record, and that’s not a moment that will ever be lost on me.
That might have been a rare moment of “weakness” for a guy who’s pretty stoic for the most part. However, the team seemed to handle it in stride, and if I recall, there were barely any comments made about reaching a minimum of 81 wins for the first time since 1997. So here’s the rhetorical question I’m now bringing up: has that been part of the problem with the 2013 Orioles?
I recall at FanFest when Buck Showalter remarked that he and the team really didn’t enjoy watching the video they released about last year’s team because “we knew how it ended.” That’s exactly the type of mentality that I love in sports figures. Basically, it’s another way of saying that you’ll celebrate when you’re the champions. However again, is that type of thinking flawed?
I look at teams such as the Tampa Rays, and even the Boston Red Sox, and it seems that they aren’t shy about the fact that they’re good. In a certain manner, they “embrace” winning. I’m not exactly sure how much of it one needs to embrace, because regardless of what line of work you’re in it’s nice to be one of the best. And in no way am I saying that Byrd’s comment was wrong or arrogant.
I wouldn’t even know what embracing or not embracing winning would look like. You might even interpret this as saying that the team should enjoy the journey as much as the goal. If Showalter’s “we know how it ended” comment is to be dissected, it’s all about the destination. And speaking for myself I would agree with that. At the end of the season, there’s really only one team that’s happy.
And believe me, I’m a destination guy myself. I truly believe that the ends justify the means to a certain point. However again, I don’t discount that there’s a chance I could be wrong. In this case, is it not possible that teams such as Tampa Bay, Boston, and Pittsburgh could have a psychological leg up on a team such as the Orioles? In saying that, I mean that when those teams win, they probably take pause to enjoy winning that game, whereas Showalter’s already thinking about the next day’s game.
This isn’t an exact science by any means. I’m not suggesting that the Orioles play tight or anything along those lines. We’ve all seen the footage of the guys playing billiards and ping pong in the clubhouse. However, while I might not necessarily want to hear comments such as, “We are America’s new team,” perhaps that shows a willingness to embrace winning. Does that on its own put you over the top? I would say not, but perhaps all things being equal it does give someone a mental edge. I’m not sure I believe that myself, but I certainly don’t know it all.
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.