There are no consolation prizes in Major League Baseball- there are winners and losers, period. Sadly, the Orioles have, once again, lapsed into becoming habitual losers in a season that’s taken a familiar, nasty nosedive over the last month (21 defeats in the last 27 games heading into the All-Star break).
There is a certain sentiment that the O’s “showed some fight” and “stood up for themselves” while losing four straight games in Boston. Okay- maybe the Birds showed some fight (literally) in Kevin Gregg’s bravado that ignited a brawl Friday night and Michael Gonzalez throwing a pitch behind David Ortiz which led to an immediate ejection on Sunday. And while I have no issue with the O’s doing what they felt they needed to do, the impression they leave while doing so is that they’re not only losers- they’re sore losers.
It’s too bad because the 2011 Orioles are a competitive group of men that cares about what they do and how they do it. Buck Showalter is a proud baseball man with a history of success and he and Andy MacPhail made it a point to bring in proven winners (Vladimir Guerrero, Derek Lee, J.J. Hardy and Kevin Gregg) to boost the ability and morale of a franchise stuck in a 13-year losing streak.
Despite their best efforts (and I have no reason to question the effort of the players or the coaching staff) the Orioles reach the All-Star break in their familiar spot of last place in the American League East and with the fewest wins in the A.L. (only Houston of the N.L. has fewer victories). What stands out most recently is that the O’s have not only lost, but have been non-competitive during their month-long nosedive. They’ve been blown out by good teams (Boston, Texas, St. Louis and Atlanta) and by average teams (Pittsburgh, Toronto and the Nationals). The O’s starting pitching is the biggest and most obvious problem. Promising young starters Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken have all been demoted to the minors this season. The only young gun not yet demoted is Jake Arrieta and his season is looking sketchy because of recurring pain in his right elbow.
For 13 years there’s been discussion and debate about how and why the Orioles lose. The constant in that conversation is the losing itself. The losing is prolific, predictable and even expected by even the most optimistic of a beleaguered fan base. Consider this: if the Pittsburgh Pirates finish with a winning record (something they have at the All-Star break for the first time since 1992) and the O’s don’t: Baltimore will hold dominion over the longest streak of losing seasons (14) in ALL of the major sports. They are poised to take the mantle of “ultimate losers” from the Pirates.
I point that out not to rub it in. I’m a Baltimore resident. And though I have a duty to be non-biased as a credible journalist, I’d prefer for the sake of the citizens of the city in which I reside in that the teams here do well. The Orioles are once again far from doing well. So I have no tolerance for the sense of any consolation prize that they “showed some fight” while being swept four straight in Boston. They lost. They lose allot. And there’s no consolation in that, nor should there ever be.
The Tampa Bay Rays were 10-year losers then they got better- winning 2 of the last 3 division titles, so being in the A.L East with the Yankees and Red Sox (not to mention Rays and Jays) is no excuse for failure. It’s a tough spot the O’s are in. And being tough, like they showed in Boston is fine…but no substitute for winning. Not even close.
Posted by: Mark Viviano