Take Note, O's Fans: Detroit, Tampa and Milwaukee had Winning Season Hangovers
Two teams that embody what the Orioles are hoping to do in the near future are the Detroit Tigers and the Tampa Bay Rays. Both teams suffered 10, or more consecutive losing seasons before reaching the World Series in the years they broke their respective streaks—the Tigers in 2006, and the Rays in 2008.
Dare to dream, O's fans.
Each team's turnaround was remarkable; to have it happen twice in the span of three years provides reason for hope. But beware of the Winning Season Hangover—a team's "morning after" season can give headaches to fans with suddenly elevated expectations.
After 12 losing seasons, the Tigers won 95 games, and the American League pennant in 2006. The following year they won 88, a seven win drop-off that left the defending ALCS Champions on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Detroit hasn't returned to the postseason since its World Series appearance. The team suffered an excruciating collapse this year, and came up short in their 163rd game, a winner-take-the-playoff-berth contest with the Twins.
Meanwhile, the Rays are observing the postseason from home this year after ending a run of 10 straight losing seasons in 2008 by posting 97 wins, and winning the American League pennant. The team's drop-off during their hangover season was nearly twice as steep as that of Detroit: Tampa Bay went from 97 wins to 84 wins.
Milwaukee produced a less-celebrated turnaround than either the Tigers or the Rays; however, their encore performance was much the same as those two teams. Though their fans were less drunk with victory, the Brewers still fell victim to the Winning Season Hangover.
In 2005, the Brew Crew ended a streak of 12 consecutive losing seasons with an 81-81 record (okay, it's technically not a winning season, but it still counts). A six-game drop-off in wins in 2006 left the team with a 75-87 record, and their 13th losing season in 14 years.
Milwaukee has posted winning records in two of the past three seasons, but has only one playoff appearance to show for its efforts, a 3-1 Division Series loss to the Phillies in 2008.
Together, the Brewers, Tigers, and Rays averaged 91 wins in their turnaround season, and 82 wins the following year. In other words, all three teams regressed to the mean after ending double-digit streaks of consecutive losing seasons.
So heed this advice, Birds watchers, should the O's turn it around soon: Enjoy the trip, and be sure to pack some aspirin.
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