News flash: The Yankees are winning the AL East. That’s a done deal. But the rest of the division? Not as easy to figure out. The Red Sox can’t string together three wins in a row, let alone get themselves back in the AL East race. Toronto’s pitching staff is auditioning for a role in an upcoming M*A*S*H* movie. Tampa Bay seems to be in one of those ruts where they just don’t have what it takes.
In other words — it’s July 8th and the Orioles are firmly alive and well in the American League East. They’re so alive, in fact, that it’s not out of the question that our beloved Birds might be legitimate wild card contenders come Labor Day.
I know, that’s as rare as summer temps in the 100’s in Baltimore. Oh, wait…
Anyway, it’s not a joking matter when the All Star Game approaches and the Orioles aren’t already cooked for the summer.
The next few weeks are going to be very interesting for the Orioles, for they’re about to enter unchartered territory. Since 1997, this team has never headed to the trading deadline with a legitimate chance to be a player in the post-season race. Sure, they got off to a great start in 2005 and were just 2.5 games back at the All-Star Game, but that edition of the Orioles was taking on water by mid-June and lumbered into the All-Star break with a collapse all but guaranteed.
This Orioles team, while also blemished with plenty of pot holes, looks much different to me than the Lee Mazzilli-managed squad of ’05. This team, for what it’s worth, looks like they actually want to win. The ’05 team was winning by accident. This team, even with no real left-fielder, no regular 3rd baseman, a bunch of guys at first base who are there only because they can’t play anywhere else, and a starting rotation in tatters…well…that sure sounds like a last place team — not a team on the verge of competing for a wild card spot in the American League. But that’s your 2012 Orioles. Full of question marks? Absolutely. In the race? You bet.
That’s the question.
Fourteen straight years of losing in Baltimore.
Bill Clinton was the President the last time we saw September baseball that mattered.
Yep, it’s been (such) a long time, as the band “Boston” once said.
The next three weeks will be a great litmus test for the Orioles and their commitment – if it exists – to winning. Will they try and pry Zack Greinke from Milwaukee and bolster a pitching staff that sorely needs a high quality arm? What about Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster in Chicago? Would the Orioles give up whatever is necessary to get one of those two? How about another bat, preferably one that works when runners are on the bases?
Are the Orioles prepared to live life like the Yankees and Red Sox have lived it for the last decade or so? Are they ready to trade away a high-level prospect or two and gamble that such a move helps push them over the top and give their fans playoff baseball for the first time in 15 years? The Yankees and Red Sox are always nibbling at the deadline…mainly because they’re always in the hunt every July. But those two franchises rarely let a chance to improve get away without trying to get better. Lance Berkman didn’t exactly light it up for the Yanks a few years back, but it was a good thought at the time. Sometimes those moves work, sometimes they don’t.
The Orioles are not a gambling franchise. The owner certainly feels much more comfortable holding on to what he has rather than raising the ante and making the game more interesting. And we all know, in Baltimore at least, money is always the final question when any type of move is considered.
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