There’s something different in the air as the Orioles start a new baseball season. It’s not the smell of fresh cut grass or Boog’s BBQ; those are the mainstays in Birdland. It’s not even all that obvious to many. It’s something that has happened over time, slowly but surely. There’s an atmosphere that’s been created by the current Orioles regime of expectation, and it’s one that fans are hanging on to entering 2017.
Being a writer for EutawStreetReport.com, I’m familiar with the pulse of the fanbase. I read the comments sections in blogs, I keep up on social media and usually try to have a nose for what the feeling is among O’s fans. It’s been a while since there was this type of vibe surrounding this organization. After reaching the postseason in three of the last five seasons and posting half a decade worth of non-losing campaigns, fans are growing used to the idea of rooting for a winner. It was something the fanbase had lost after nearly a decade and a half of losing.
In my mind, this is the first season winning has simply become commonplace. In 2012, there was no expectation of success among fans. The wild card run was a complete shock to just about everyone. No one really thought that scrappy bunch would be playing in October. Once 2013 rolled around, some believed the previous season was a fluke and weren’t prepared for even more success. Then even after a magical 2014 that saw the Birds capture their first division title since 1997, there were still doubters. Naysayers who were too plugged in to PECOTA projections or the belief that the Orioles were doing it mostly on luck.
The 2015 season was where the worm appeared to be turning, as the O’s required a five-game winning streak in the final week just to finish 81-81. That was until they turned around and made the postseason again last year, continuing the trend of bucking expectations and proving doubters dead wrong. Perhaps for some, the heavy weight of expectations has already been in place for some time. Maybe there is a group that thought after two winning seasons that the Orioles were back. The losing had subsided and everything was right in the world again. But 14 years is a long time, and it takes more than that to wash the stink of losing out of the mouth.
The Orioles once again enter this season with low expectations among the experts, but I think there’s a different feeling among the faithful. Fans are finally to the point where expectations have been risen and the O’s are expected to be winners. It’s not like there have been championships, but this new wave of Orioles baseball has had enough time to set in now. I’ve heard enough talk of championship windows opening and closing. This aura created by the current regime is impressive, and it’s had an impact on the franchise and the city.
As the Birds embark on the 2017 crusade, there’s little doubt in my mind that they will be competitive and exciting. Gone are the days of knowing they’ll be out of contention by June. These last five years have imprinted on a fanbase and provided raised expectations. No matter if the Orioles make the postseason this year or not, the bar is raised to that point. Fans expect them to be in the hunt now, for better or worse. I’ve written a lot about expectations over the years, but we’ve finally reached a point with this team where no expectation is too small.
It’s fair to have your doubts about this version of the Orioles. Everyone else sure does, but hasn’t that been the case over the last few years? Whenever a new season arrives, everyone is full of hopes and dreams. Orioles fans have had a real reason for that over the past few years, but this year they can add expectation to that list. No matter what the experts say, these Birds expect to compete.
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.