Andrew Stetka: Appreciating what we’re seeing with the Orioles

We’ve finally reached that point in the season. It’s the first day of September and there’s only four more weeks of regular season baseball left. It’s been a long road to get to this point and the finish line is in sight. Baseball players, managers and coaches all view the season as a marathon. The fans hanging on to every pitch during the season mostly do the same, though overreactions happen. Take the Orioles’ trip to Wrigley Field two weekends ago as an example. Some fans would have told you the sky was falling and the O’s needed to make moves immediately if they didn’t want to lose the American League East lead. All of that is a thing of the past.

The Birds enter September with a nine-game division lead. Nine games with 27 to play. They own the second-best record in all of baseball and have a magic number of 19. That’s 19, as in less than 20! Simply put, this is something rare for Baltimore’s baseball team, especially in recent memory. I’ve finally reached a point where I can appreciate the fact that I’m seeing what is one of the best Orioles teams of my lifetime. I was around in 1997 when the O’s went wire-to-wire as AL East champs and won 98 games. These current Orioles aren’t likely to reach that mark (though there’s an outside shot with the schedule in front of them), but there’s still something to be said about running away with the division like they are.

Before the clinching scenarios begin to get real over the next few weeks and the playoffs start in a month, I am taking a break. It’s not a break from watching games religiously like I do or a hiatus from reading everything I possibly can about my favorite team. I’m taking a break from worrying. I’m taking a chance to appreciate what I’ve seen so far this season. There’s a chance we could be on the verge of seeing something very special with this organization over the next two months and I want the chance to soak it all in.

The Orioles made two trades this weekend to acquire Alejandro De Aza and Kelly Johnson, but instead of trying to spend time breaking down what this means for the roster going forward and how it might help shape the team we actually see in the playoffs, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy watching it all unfold. This is where it gets fun. It’s where fans are supposed to be able to relax a bit and enjoy what they are seeing. This is what fans of the Yankees, Cardinals, A’s and Giants typically feel like at this time of the year. Those perennial winners are normally able to sit back with a large lead in the playoff chase and enjoy September. The O’s have a chance to do that, and you can bet they’ll take advantage by getting some regulars like Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy some extra rest with expanded rosters. I’m going to join them by relaxing, because there’s no reason to stress.

I know that while reading this, many are going to have that voice in their head saying this is all far from over. No conclusions can be made until the O’s have actually clinched the division. Don’t worry, it’s happening. It’s likely going to take place sometime in the next two or three weeks, and it’s going to be glorious. Until that point, I’m not going to worry about who the Orioles play in the playoffs. I’m going to reflect on how fun it’s been to watch them all season and really soak it in. After 14 straight losing seasons, we’ve now seen three straight winning years. Two of those three are going to come with playoff berths. That’s something to appreciate.

Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. 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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