The 2012 Baltimore Orioles baseball season officially came to an end last night in the Bronx. Once again the Yankees proved to be one mountain that was just too tall to climb for this improbable team. For the better part of a month the Orioles were staring down their well-heeled rivals from the Big Apple. For the better part of a month they were chasing them, hounding them, breathing down their necks but just always a step behind.
The Orioles season can be characterized in one simple word: Bumblebee. The Bumblebee is a completely un-aerodynamic creature, it should not fly. It is not sleek, it is not balanced, it should not fly. Yet the bumblebee does fly. For most of the season I, and every other blogger on the internet, has discussed how the Orioles should not have been where they are. Every mathematical conceit of baseball stood against this team from Baltimore – yet there they were, hanging tough with the Yankees until the very end.
But the Orioles should take little consolation in the fact that they “hung with” the Yankees. That is what you tell the Division Three college football team that loses to Alabama by only 21 points. “Well they should have lost by 60, but they really hung with’em.” It implies that the Orioles had no business beating the Yankees or that the New York Yankees were somehow just so much better than the Orioles that the Birds should just be grateful for the experience of playing them.
The Orioles played the Yankees tough because, despite what the numbers and popular baseball opinion might have been, the 2012 Orioles were a good team. This team, together, was greater than the sum of its parts. Everyone was a contributor and while not as beefy or gaudy as some of the Yankees’ players (stat-wise) there was very little dead-weight on this roster. Even the most under-utilized bench player had a role and usually found a way to make a significant contribution.
For all the talk that was wasted on the Orioles’ run differential, the Birds did finish with a positive number and they actually held a +56 run differential since August first. But all of that is a consolation prize because, once again, the Orioles are watching the remained of the playoffs rather than playing in them.
This was still a magical year. No one, including this humble blogger, in their wildest dreams thought that the Orioles would’ve gotten where they were. No one thought that they would be a win away from first place in the last week of the season let alone a win away from the ALCS on October 12. It was a magical season with an all too realistic ending. And while that is a shame it will not tarnish this fact: The 2012 Orioles made Baltimore a baseball city again.
This morning I was driving through the city, my Orioles hat on. At a stop light a man with a small child pulls up next to me. As I was absentmindedly looking around, as everyone does at a stoplight, I noticed the man next to me has rolled down his window, I rolled down mine.
“Next year,” he said.
“Next year.” I replied.
We drove off most likely never to see each other again.
Thank you Orioles.