You can probably make a lot of different analogies, but for the time being let’s just say that Buck Showalter is to Oriole fans what Optimus Prime must be to the Autobots in Transformers. Last season the Orioles finished 64-98, and most people (myself included) felt that the record would improve come 2010. When the O’s hit 2-16 in April, not only did that appear to be improbable, but the Orioles hitting 100 losses appeared to be money in the bank. Let’s be clear, there’s very little difference between losing 100 or 95 games; you still finish in last place. However I suppose that its one thing to have a bad year, but not hitting triple-digit losses is a standard by which most teams can still hold their heads up. Count the Orioles in that group.
Not only have the O’s guaranteed that they wouldn’t lose 100 games, but with yesterday’s sweep of the Tigers in a double-header, the O’s also clinched a better record than 2009. For this, most of the credit should fall onto Buck Showalter. Having said that, he’s not out on the field playing in the games, just as Dave Trembley wasn’t out there playing when the team was losing. However perhaps this group of guys needed a manager to kick them in the rear. This is not necessarily a poor reflection opon Dave Trembley, as there are plenty of teams that need a nurturing influence such as what Trembley tried to provide. However this group of guys weren’t cut out for that; Buck came in and provided instant results. Since he took over on August 3rd, the Orioles’ record translates to between 90-100 wins over a 162-game schedule. While I don’t want to come across as prematurely confident going into next year, perhaps it might be wise to not make any plans for next October.
After a monsoon canceled Thursday’s game, the O’s and Tigers played an old-fashioned single-admission doubleheader on Friday. Long story short, the Orioles swept both games. In game one Detroit led 1-0 against Chris Tillman before the O’s put across six runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth. There’s your ballgame. In game two we saw Jeremy Guthrie shut down the Tigers on the heels of a Nick Markakis homer. Markakis would later hit an Julio Lugo RBI-single in the seventh. Again, ballgame.
The scores and even the methods aren’t necessarily as important now, however to see this team playing the way they are is extremely refreshing. Whereas in the past few years the O’s have gone home in October coming off of a lousy second half, this year it’s the exact opposite. While the win total is still in the same vicinity, the means by which it was achieved was starkly different. This team will now storm into 2011 with momentum as opposed to limping into April. When I said that I expected this team to be improved in 2010, I figured it would be by more than a couple of games above last year’s margin. However, the fact remains that they’re improved.