On Saturday, August 25th, 2012, I went to see the Orioles for the first time while on holiday from the UK. They won. I should have known then that it was too good to last.
There was a lot to admire about the Orioles. Camden Yards was everything I’d imagined a baseball stadium would be, filled with countless touches to give it a warmth and a sense of history while also incorporating the trappings of modernity so often lacking in the soccer stadiums I’d grown up frequenting in the UK. The sounds, the smells, the sights; it was everything I’d dreamed of, made flesh.
On the field, the team I saw romp to an 8-2 victory over the Blue Jays seemed entirely befitting of such a wonderful stadium: slick, powerful, confident. Keeping an eye out for updates on the team throughout the rest of my trip, it was of little surprise to learn they were one of baseball’s best organizations that year.
It wasn’t until I went away and learned more about the Orioles, however, that I truly fell in love. I am a lifelong Bolton Wanderers fan. For those of you not acquainted with middling-to-average English soccer teams, Bolton hold the distinction of having spent the longest time in the top division without ever winning the league championship. In fact, in 73 attempts, they’ve never even finished second. To be so consistently mediocre is a statistically remarkable achievement, one that is as endearing and part of the club’s identity as it is crushingly frustrating.
That’s why I first really connected with the Orioles when I learned that their 2012 season, which ended in glorious defeat in the ALDS, was an exception, not the rule. As sad as it sounds, I felt a much greater affinity with the Orioles of the 14 consecutive years of almost unanimously terrible baseball, the Orioles who contrived to lose 30-3 to the Rangers, the Orioles who haven’t reached a World Series for 34 years.
That isn’t to say I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed the last few years of relative success. I’ve stayed up beyond midnight many dozens of times to see a first inning blowout from one of our venerated starting pitchers, who have done their level best to keep up the proud Birds tradition of being aggravatingly bad, even if our position players apparently didn’t get the memo. Many a night has ended with me doing my best Buck impression, staring with a look of indignance mixed with resignation towards the mound, chewing furiously. I’ve also celebrated walk-offs wildly, breathed sighs of relief at the sight of Zach Britton collecting another improbable save, and have consistently annexed Sunday evenings as prime baseball watching time, much to the annoyance of my girlfriend.
I’m not suggesting that I’m glad of how this season has gone. Nor am I suggesting that the Orioles are returning to their ‘rightful status’ by losing this year. Besides, if we’ve learned anything from the last five years, it’s that being bad – sometimes deliberately so – can reap great rewards; just ask the Cubs. As sad as it has been to watch a potentially promising season flounder, the emotional rollercoaster that can soar one night and plunge the next is what makes baseball so fantastic, and it’s certainly what makes the O’s the O’s.
submitted by Matt Clough