Futility comes in cycles

July 14, 2009 | Keith Melchior

Since 1997,  Oriole fans have been waiting for the team to play a meaningful game after the All-Star break and make the playoffs. Lately, we have been wondering if  the Orioles will ever reach the .500 plateau. Most of us were running out of patience until Andy McPhail took over as the VP/GM and started his rebuilding plan. After all, it HAS been twelve years since the Orioles had a winning record.  Things have to change for the better. With emerging prospects working hard in the minors, there is hope for the near future. The nucleus of the team is close to being solidified and with the development of all the hot prospects, it might put the Orioles into contention once again.

This run of futility has  really taken its toll on the fans. Frustration builds with every loss, every unsigned free agent, and, lately, every pitching change. With the evolution of the Internet and vast television coverage and sports shows, fans no longer rely solely on the newspaper to give them information on their favorite team. You feel more frustration than ever before when your team isn’t winning  because stations like ESPN  remind you of that over and over and over by showing more highlights from teams atop the divisions. Even when the sports flashes and updates are heard on the radio, the final scores of teams with losing records and at the bottom of the divisions are always heard last, unless of course they happen to be playing one of those top teams. Thanks to the internet, I did some research in futility. Thinking about our run of eleven and possibly twelve straight losing seasons in a row here in Baltimore, I decided to look at the other teams in the AL East and compare the Orioles records to theirs since the Orioles first trip to the post season in 1966.

— The Orioles finished above .500 in 24 seasons and made the playoffs 10 times. Their best run was from 1966 to 1974 when they made the playoffs 6 times in 9 years.  When the league was realigned into 3 divisions in 1994,  the Orioles have only finished above .500  a total of 3 times and made the playoffs twice.

— The Red Sox have 36 seasons above .500 and made the playoffs 13 times. The Sox worst years were from 1968 to 1974. They never really went into a prolonged tailspin and have only lost more than 81 games 5 times. Since 1994 they have finished above .500 13 times and made the playoffs 8 times.

— Toronto Blue Jays, who entered the league in 1977, have 18 winning seasons. Their best run was from 1985 to 1993 when they made 5 total playoff trips.  The Jays finished above .500  7 times but haven’t made the playoffs since the divisions were realigned.

— The New York Yankees have had 34 winning seasons since 1966. They didn’t make the playoffs for 12 straight seasons from 1982 to 1993 (there were no playoffs in 1994) They also had a drought of not being in the post season from 1966 to 1976. When the divisions were realigned in 1994, the Yankees ran off 13 consecutive post season appearances until that streak was stopped last year.

— The Tampa Bay Rays  joined the AL East in 1998 and never got close to having a winning season until last year. Prior to 2008 the Rays best season was 2004 when they won 70 games. They went the first 10 years in franchise history without making the playoffs. They are considered to be the model team in developing minor league prospects into major league players. One winning season doesn’t exactly make them a model in my mind. Let’s see how they do over the next 5 years before we use them as the blueprint team to copy from.

Looking at those stats, I can understand my frustration as well as the frustration of many other Oriole fans. But the streak of futility  really isn’t as bad as a few of the other teams in the AL East division. What’s more important right now, making the playoffs or finishing above .500?  If you say making the playoffs, then remember that Toronto has gone 15 years without playing post season baseball. Imagine how Jays fans feel. They have played winning baseball, but they are not winning enough to make it count.  If you say winning 81+ games is more important, then the Orioles have an uphill climb as they now have the longest stretch in the AL East of sub .500 seasons with 11 straight.

Since 1966, the Boston Red Sox have been the most consistent team in the American League finishing below .500 only 7  times since 1966. As much as I dislike the Red Sox, I found that to be incredible and have a newly found respect for that franchise. They kind of snuck up on the Orioles and Yankees with their consistent winning.

For the last 11 years OPACY has been taken over by both Red Sox and Yankee fans. No wonder. Winning makes people feel good about themselves. That is a very positive thing. Losing is an extremely negative thing and makes people feel frustrated and angry. The longer a team loses, the more negative it gets. People associate themselves with, and want to root for teams that are winners, and obviously the Red Sox and Yankees have been winners for quite a long time.

 Oriole fans have high hopes for the team’s success in the near future, but with the Red Sox being a model of consistency and the class of the AL East nowadays,  it may be a pretty difficult  for the Orioles to catch the Sox and Yanks in a downward spiral and once again ride atop the AL East.

One can only hope.