NEW YORK – The Orioles keep trying to win games while hoping that perspective isn’t lost on their 2022 season.
They were supposed to lose 100 games again. At least. They were supposed to curse the new lottery system for the right to pick first in the 2023 draft.
To be in contention for a wild card on the last day of September was a monumental achievement. The final record can’t chop it down.
The Orioles could hit a wall instead of running the table and they’d still be worthy of gushing praise.
The Mariners’ win over the Athletics, past midnight and about 30 minutes into October, eliminated the Orioles from the wild card race. It finally happened, with only five games left.
A pin stuck in inflated hopes is bound to sadden some fans. They aren't alone. Players wanted to stay active beyond Wednesday, to experience postseason baseball. Don’t just shock the world. Lay it out flat.
But it would be a crime to rip up the pages of a wonderful success story because of the ending.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a disappointing year,” second baseman Rougned Odor said yesterday afternoon. “We’ve been doing so many good things this year. In spring training nobody believed in this team. Nobody talked about this team. But I always said we were going to have a good season. We had a really good group of young guys.
“It’s going to be a good season even if we don’t make the playoffs.”
Outfielder Ryan McKenna agreed.
“We’ve been exceeding expectations all year, and I think that’s been the memo for us,” McKenna said. “We look to keep that going on a daily basis and next year and the years to come. It’s going to be exciting to watch us in the future.”
Just be sure to take time to savor the present, the odds that they beat into submission.
“Yeah, absolutely,” McKenna said. “We have accomplished a lot, there’s a lot of good to take away from, but there’s also stuff to work on and, hopefully, give us a bigger differential next year, even win the division. Have something meaningful to play for every game.
“We know we’re going to be here at the end of September, so try to give us as much buffer as possible. I think that’s something that we’re going to reflect on.”
Center fielder Cedric Mullins believes the Orioles made their point months ago. Perhaps they’ve been playing with house money for that long.
“I’d say that aspect of it might have already taken place, it’s hard to say, just because of where we were at even halfway through,” he said.
“I think it’s going to hit us, even as players, a little bit if we don’t make it. It’s just one of those things where we worked really hard, and sometimes you can have the best team out there and it still might not work out. But for us to come in at the deficit and really make something out of the season is huge for our confidence and everything moving forward.”
Manager Brandon Hyde also wants the season to be remembered only in positive terms.
“I hope so,” he said. “I don’t think about it like that at this point because I’m trying to win as many games as possible, and the losses hurt. But yeah, from industry-wide or media-wide, there were no expectations on this club. We lost some players at the deadline, we’re rolling out a lot of players there that make the minimum. The majority of our players make the minimum.
“You look at us compared to Houston, there’s a salary difference. You look at us compared to Boston, there’s a salary difference because those teams have expectations to win. So, I give our guys a ton of credit for hanging in there and being a good story this year.”
No matter how it final pages read.