How long can the Orioles stay relevant in 2011?

June 16, 2011 | Peter Dilutis

Heading into the 2011 season, many people asked me for predictions regarding the Orioles. How many games would they win? Would attendance go up or down? Could they contend?

While I feel that making an exact win prediction in March for a 162 game baseball season is a bit worthless, I did have a reasonable goal in mind that I felt the Orioles and their fans should expect out of the team this season.

I thought the Orioles should be able to play relevant baseball throughout the summer months into August and September.

Think about it. When is the last time fans went to Camden Yards in July or August with their main interest being the actual game being played on the field, rather than a giveaway, free seats, or simply “something to do” on a nice summer night in a cool stadium? I go back to the June 2005 series against the Colorado Rockies as the last time fans were legitimately excited about the Orioles this late into the summer.

I felt that the O’s could get back to that point this summer. I didn’t expect them to be 42-28 through their first 70 games as they were back in 2005, but after 13 losing seasons, fans don’t need to see that kind of winning percentage to start caring more about the Orioles. It has been so long for the diehard baseball fans in Baltimore that I felt even a little tease of competitive baseball would bring them back in significant droves.

If the O’s are hovering around .500 come July 31st, they might find themselves closer than 10 games out of first place. Take out 2005, and when is the last time the O’s even approached that type of territory at the trade deadline?

I wasn’t asking for much here. I’m still not. I just want to see competitive, fun baseball in this city late into the summer.

Will that happen? Thus far in 2011, the O’s have stayed pretty relevant. They’ve fallen five games below .500 a few times, but they’ve always managed to pick up the pieces and go on a modest win streak.

Once again, the Birds are now five games under, and they are entering their historic “June swoon” period. Interleague play has been a nemesis of the Orioles for years, as they are the worst team in baseball (108-139) against the opposing league since the inception of interleague play in 1997.

This is a crucial period for the Orioles. Historically, four consecutive series’ against the National League, which the O’s will kick off Friday in Washington, would spell trouble for the Birds. If they go on a slide over these next 17 games, what little relevance the O’s have left at this point may disappear for the rest of the 2011 season.

Hopefully for O’s fans, Buck Showalter will be able to keep this team from going into a tailspin. Hovering around .500 for a while will keep fans interested, and it would keep the door open for the Orioles to get back into contention with a long winning streak, which at this point is years overdue.

However, another 3-14 type slide, which O’s fans have become way too familiar with over the past 13 seasons, could really do damage not only to the organization, but to the city of Baltimore as well. When the Orioles are successful, the city is successful.

The Orioles need to stay relevant and keep their fans interested in what they are doing on the field. Their fans that have stuck with them for the past 13 long, losing seasons deserve the chance to go to Camden Yards in August and watch their team compete for something, even if that something is simply a winning season.

Most of all, the city of Baltimore deserves it. This city deserves a relevant baseball team.

Can the Birds come through for their city?

How long can the Orioles stay relevant in 2011?