In 1997, the Baltimore Orioles were the class of the American League East going wire-to-wire and amassing over 100 wins in the regular season. The Birds lost in the ALCS for a second year in a row (the Yankees in 1996 and the Indians in 1997) and Davey Johnson resigned as the manager.
1998 was nothing like ’97. Not only did the Orioles fail to win the AL East, they failed to make the playoffs with a record of 79 wins to 83 losses. This was the beginning of what is still the end.
Big name free agents like Albert Belle and Will Clark were added to bolster the roster. It wasn’t enough, as the Orioles finished the 1999 campaign fourth in the AL with a 78-84 record.
The 2000 season was more of the same as the Orioles clinched fourth place in the division and secured a third straight losing record, going 74-88. By the way, Cal Ripken, Jr. got hit No. 3000.
2001 (63-98), 2002 (67-95), and 2003 (71-91) completed six consecutive fourth place finishes in the division. Thank God for the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays or I’d be writing about last place finishes.
There were some bright spots along the way. Rodrigo Lopez, Erik Bedard, and BJ Ryan, to name a few. But, where has the mission gone? Where is the solidarity? What happened to “The Oriole Way”?
I guess I could tell you now (if you don’t already know) that the 2005-2008 campaigns all ended in losing records and hurt feelings. It would appear the only consistency Orioles fans have enjoyed is inconsistency. That is to say the Birds never fail to disappoint.
Baltimore fans have suffered through 11 consecutive sub-500 seasons since 1997. And now, the O’s are poised to make it 12. To be fair, I should mention that prior to the 1996 campaign, the Orioles were backing up 11 consecutive losing seasons as well.
At the beginning of this week, the Orioles are 16-22 (nine games behind Toronto). They don’t have a true “Ace” in the starting rotation and the bullpen operates much like assisted suicide. Not even closer George Sherrill is reliable, unless given a three-run lead.
And though I appreciate this (too little, too late) youth movement, the young hitters are far exceeding the young pitching staff. And, if these junior starters are going to develop with any kind of confidence, they need an established bullpen. One that’s not going to blow hard-challenged leads when called upon in the sixth.
It’s like Russian roulette with a completely loaded gun.
These hitters are averaging five runs a game and that’s still not enough firepower to contend with a pitching staff that allows an average of six runs per outing.
Adam Jones is fourth in the AL with a .370 batting average. Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff are amongst the league leaders in RBI (34 and 33 respectively). Yet the Orioles wins leader (Jeremy Guthrie, 3-3) posts an ERA of 5.21.
When do the Orioles hope to amend the problems with this pitching staff? How long can Peter Angelos continue to hire and fire managers and GMs before these issues are addressed (though I feel Johnson, Hargrove, Mazzilli, and Trembley are all fine managers).
And in that respect, isn’t Angelos the biggest contributor to the losing tradition?
I fear that at this pace, it may be some time before we see another season like 1983 or 1966. So brace yourselves, Orioles fans. I think we’ve been down this road before.
Retrieved May 18, 2009, from MLB.com
Retrieved May 18, 2009, from the Baltimore Orioles team site.