It is a hypothetical conversation that could have happened in any number of places in or around Baltimore this week. Or anywhere where O’s fans reside or hang out.
One fan might have asked another if he thought the surprising 2022 Orioles could keep winning and stay in playoff contention deep into this season or maybe even until the very end of it?
“Why not?” the other fan might have said.
That short phrase means something to long-time fans in Birdland.
The 1989 “Why Not” Orioles were a team that came out of nowhere to not only contend, but lead the American League East for much of that summer. They won 33 games more than the 1988 Orioles and ended the year in a showdown series at Toronto for a division championship. They won 87 games and came up short in that final series, but they captured the hearts of O’s fans forever. They have a special place in club history.
Like the current team, that edition had young outfielders that could run down baseballs, and like the current team, that edition had unheralded players come through. Remember Mickey Tettleton and his Fruit Loops or how Dave Johnson pitched in a must-win Saturday game at Toronto after Pete Harnisch stepped on a nail walking back to the hotel Friday night? If you are a 20-something or younger O’s fan, you surely didn’t live that, but your older family members or friends have no doubt mentioned the Why Not O’s at some point.
Why Not the 2022 Orioles?
Through Sunday’s games, the Orioles, at 43-44, were on a pace to finish 80-82 and they were two games out of the sixth and final AL playoff spot. If they win 80, that will be a 28-win improvement after going 52-110 last year. As we mentioned, the 1989 O’s improved by 33 wins over the 1988 club that started 0-21 and finished 54-107.
We have also seen the Orioles make a big improvement and have a season where they returned to the playoffs after a 14-year absence in 2012. The team went 69-93 in 2011 and then 93-69 in 2012, gaining 24 wins.
So there is history in Birdland of the Orioles producing teams that came out of nowhere to win many more games than the previous year and make the postseason.
The current team has won eight in a row and will be at the .500 mark if they win tonight at Wrigley Field. Will they still be a playoff contender in a month or longer?
Closer look at a streak: The Orioles have outscored their opposition by 14 runs during their eight-game win streak, 41 to 27. They have five wins by one run, one by two runs, one by three and one by four runs. They have three walk-off wins and two in extra innings. Their pitching allowed one run or less in half the victories.
They started the streak on the road on Sunday July 3 at Minnesota and they are 1-0 on the road and 7-0 at home.
Their offense has a team batting line of .259/.330/.404/.734 during the streak, scoring those 41 runs with in part 16 doubles, one triple and seven homers, and they stole five bases during the run.
The team ERA is 3.28 during the eight games with 22 walks and 77 strikeouts. The starting rotation has an ERA of 3.46 with three quality starts and the bullpen has an ERA of 3.06 during this span.
The Orioles have five games remaining before the All-Star break with two against the Cubs in Chicago and three with the Rays at Tropicana Field.
New top 100: Maybe it's not exactly new, but it is updated, and that is the Baseball America top 100 prospects list. The mid-season updated list was released yesterday. With Adley Rutschman now no longer eligible for the list, the O's still have two top 10 players, and four total, on this list.
No. 4 - Grayson Rodriguez
No. 7 - Gunnar Henderson
No. 51 - DL Hall
No. 97 - Jordan Westburg
And for a trip down memory lane, here is a look back at the original Why Not Orioles.
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