4 Advantages the Baltimore Orioles Have over the New York Yankees
Over the last 14 seasons, the Baltimore Orioles have spent pretty much all of their time looking up at their division rivals in the AL East standings.
Entering Wednesday's action, however, the Orioles and New York Yankees are tied atop their division. For the first time in over a decade, the Yankees are worrying about the O's in September.
Now of course, with just under a month left of the baseball season, anything can happen. Any one team can still jump up and take their division, or a Wild Card slot.
But right now, the O's have a few advantages over the Yankees. And with those advantages, the Orioles hope to catapult themselves into the division lead over the course of the rest of the week.
Let's take a look.
Over the last two or three weeks, the Orioles have been one of the hottest teams in baseball.
In contrast, the Yankees have been one of the coldest, and have watched their fairly large division lead slowly dwindle.
Mentality is a huge thing in sports—especially baseball. If a team feels good about themselves, they can win. And the Orioles most certainly feel like world-beaters right now.
On the flip side, one can only imagine how demoralized the Yankees are, after having spent over half the season alone on top of the AL East and now share the lead with an old rival.
Momentum can carry a team to a win, the playoffs, and even a title.
Only Getting Better
I chose to use a picture of young lefty Zach Britton on this slide because he's been doing just what this slide's title says.
Over his last four or five starts, he's been unbeatable. And that's after having been lit up in his first couple of starts this season.
The O's are getting tighter as a team, and are growing into better players individually as well.
That can only be a good thing as the team looks to make its first playoff appearance since 1997. And now that they have an even bigger picture in mind—the division title—they're seeing this growth come at the most opportune time.
A team that's only getting better is a scary team. Especially if some key players on your team seem to be in the decline, such as the Yankees' situation.
As a team, the Birds have been more healthy than the Yankees for much of the year.
The Yanks lost their closer Mariano Rivera for the year early on. Starting pitcher Andy Pettitte and third baseman Alex Rodriguez have been on and off the DL. First baseman Mark Teixeira is on the DL right now. Injuries to key cogs can be killer.
The Orioles, however, haven't had an easy road. Right fielder Nick Markakis missed over a month with his first career trip to the DL. The team has been without starter Jason Hammel, the team's best starter this year, since the first game after the All-Star break.
Coincidentally enough, Hammel is due back to pitch the first game of a four-game set in Baltimore against the Yankees beginning on Thursday.
Japanese starter Tsuyoshi Wada had Tommy John surgery before he could even throw his first pitch in American baseball.
Not to mention, utility men Wilson Betemit, Ryan Flaherty, and Robert Andino have all spent time on the DL this season.
Few things irk me more than Yankee fans claiming the team's recent run of poor play is due to all the injuries, because with the way that team is built, the depth, and its payroll, the team is more than capable of holding its own when facing injuries.
Neither team has had it easy, though, and I would say the O's are a healthier team at the moment than the Yankees are.
Nothing to Lose
Entering this season, I think it would be safe to say that most people predicted 100 losses for this Orioles team.
That's why they have nothing to lose in the coming month of play.
See, if they miss the postseason, then they've already far and away exceeded expectations. Missing the playoffs this season would simply result in a "Good job" from the front office and fans alike, and it will be great momentum for picking up additions to the team in the offseason. That would allow them to go into 2013 with a new world-beater mentality.
The Yankees, however, are the Yankees. They're expected to win the World Series every year. When they don't, their season is a failure. When they miss the playoffs, New York City is in a panic.
That's what will make this September a much more laid-back month for the Birds.
I'm not saying that the team should take it easy and hit the metaphorical cruise-control all the way to the end of the year. No, they still need to play hard and make the people of Baltimore proud in the postseason.
But with that low-pressure environment, it will be much easier for the Orioles to do just that.
The Yankees have all sorts of pressure on them right now. The O's... well...their fans are already thrilled with this season.
A postseason appearance would be icing on the cake.