It's been tough being a Baltimore Orioles fan for the last 14 years. Since consecutive playoff appearances in 1996 and 1997, the Orioles have not posted a winning season. The last five years haven't even produced at least 70 wins.
During their streak of non-winning seasons, Ray Miller, Mike Hargrove, Sam Perlozzo and others have managed the team. Javy Lopez, Miguel Tejada and Sammy Sosa were among some of the veterans brought in to restore the Orioles' glory. They all failed.
But now with a team of players still unfamiliar to some fans outside of the Charm City, the Orioles have rocketed to the top of the American League East standings.
Before the season, the A.L. East was expected to be competitive. But who would have expected Baltimore to lead the division at 28-17 on May 24 while the New York Yankees and Boston would occupy fourth and fifth place, respectively?
So what has been the Orioles' secret to success? First, credit needs to go to their manager Buck Showalter. In 1993, he led the Yankees to their first winning season in six years. Two years later, New York was in the postseason for the first time since 1981. Showalter later led the Arizona Diamonbacks to the playoffs in only their second year of existence.
Both New York and Arizona won the World Series the year after Showalter left, but he would like to win a championship with the young Orioles squad.
But a team is only as good as its players. Adam Jones is off to a hot start with a .311 average, 14 home runs and 29 RBI. Meanwhile, J.J. Hardy, who finished with 30 home runs and 80 RBI last season, has nine home runs and 21 RBI.
The most surprising part of Baltimore's early success is the pitching staff. Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen are a combined 9-2 with a 3.23 ERA. In the bullpen, Jim Johnson has 16 saves with a 0.87 ERA. He has only allowed two runs in 20.2 innings.
It will be interesting to see if Baltimore can continue to win and stay at or near the top of the A.L. East standings. If they can continue their winning formula, then the passionate Orioles fans will continue to fill Camden Yards this summer.