Matthew Taylor: Orioles are what their record says they are

It’s dangerous to apply football wisdom to baseball. Nevertheless, with the Baltimore Ravens having played their first preseason game on Thursday night in this, ahem, football town, now is as good a time as any to do so. Finish ordering that Bryn Renner jersey at NFL.com, and let’s talk some baseball.

NFL Hall of Fame Coach Bill Parcells famously said, “You are what your record says you are.” That quote came to mind repeatedly this week as I watched the Orioles struggle through a 4-5 West Coast swing, losing three of their final four games on the trip and being no-hit Wednesday afternoon. This all came during a stretch that many observers had deemed critical to the O’s season.

How good are the Orioles? That’s the question I’ve struggled to answer throughout the 2015 season. Now, with the team’s probability of making the postseason at 17 percent following that disappointing West Coast trip, I’m left to conclude what Parcells’ football wisdom tells me: The Orioles are what their 57-56 record says they are - a middle-of-the-road team.

Last year the O’s got my full buy-in as a likely division winner shortly after the All-Star break. My belief was fostered in part by a 6-4 run against a decidedly more potent American League West division during a post-All Star Game swing through Oakland, Los Angeles, and Seattle. It was mostly about feeling - more heart than head - but my emotion was supported by logic.

The team’s postseason probabilities soon skyrocketed to territory that made even a long-suffering baseball pessimist like myself ready to crack open a local favorite and Boh-lieve.

It seems there’s always a series or a road trip that defines a season for me, even if it’s realized in hindsight.

Back in 1997, the buy-in came early. A June sweep of the then-mighty Atlanta Braves on the road during interleague play had me giddy about the Orioles. Forget the division, I was thinking World Series.

This year, it has taken me longer to develop a feeling for the O’s. Perhaps it’s that the Orioles haven’t trended too far in either direction - neither really good, nor really bad for more than brief stretches - to provide a proper sense of what their fortunes might be. Equally as important, the presence of the second wild card proves distracting to an honest assessment of the team.

Even now, after missing a golden opportunity to improve their postseason standing, the O’s are still only two games back of the second wild card. We can continue to believe, against the odds, that the breakthrough we’ve been hoping for all season might finally arrive if we look at the games back column rather than wins and losses.

Up until 1969, only two teams made it to baseball’s postseason. The lone American League representative squared off with the lone National League representative in the World Series. Were that system currently in place, we would be headed toward another World Series appearance by the St. Louis Cardinals. Their opponent, if things held as they are today, would be the Kansas City Royals. We’d have a 30th anniversary rematch of the 1985 World Series.

The Orioles, meanwhile, would find themselves in seventh place in the 15-team American League, 11 games out of the division and the lone playoff spot. In other words, they would be right in the middle of the pack. The standings would reflect their record. Cue Bill Parcells.

Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. Follow him on Twitter: @RoarFrom34. 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.

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