Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 10/25/11

Many Baltimore Oriole fans point to the 1997 playoffs when a 12-year old Yankee fan named Jeffrey Maier reached over the Yankee Stadium wall robbing Oriole right fielder Tony Tarasco of the ball as the moment when the losing started. We all remember the incident (those of us who lived through it), so I’m not going to go over it in great detail. Needless to say, it was a dramatic moment whereby it seemed that the Orioles haven’t been able to reverse their direction ever since. Certainly they’ve made mistakes in terms of front office moves, managerial decisions on the field and so forth, however the fact is that the Birds have never truly been able to successfully rebuild. So what gives?
Let’s not limit this to baseball; plenty of teams have rebuilt, worn down, and rebuilt again all while the Orioles have seemingly flailed in the wind. The Cleveland Indians seemed to start to turn the corner this season after a few seasons of not fairing so well, and only a few short seasons ago the MIlwaukee Brewers were pretty bad as well; they made it to the NLCS this year. Again, the same can be said of franchises in other sports. Where were the NY Jets a few years ago? Or look just down the road at the Washington Capitals (“Baltimore’s hockey team”) of the NHL. After the hockey lockout a few years ago, the owner all but punted the subsequent seasons in order to build a winner from the ground up. While the Caps have yet to quite make it over the hump (in terms of winning a title), they’ve certainly built a winner. So what do those franchises have that the Orioles don’t?
Most people don’t want to hear this, but I’m going to say it anyways; luck. For the most part if you chalk losing up to bad luck people are going to tell you to “man up.” However the Orioles have had some misfortune over time. How often have key players on the Capitals been injured? How often have players on any of those teams had their skills literally atrophize as a result of said injuries? Having said that, sometimes you have to make your own luck. I liked Rex Ryan when he was with the Ravens, but now I think he puts his foot way too far down his gullet. I can’t stand arrogance in sports, and he doesn’t seem to know when to be quit. However the fact is that his team seems to respond to that kind of thing. The same can be said of the Brewers, who like the Boston Red Sox seem to be very up front about their joy in winning games. Does that kind of thing rub people the wrong way at times? Survey says: absolutely; I’m one of the people who are rubbed the wrong way by it. But they really don’t care.
So what am I saying? Do the Orioles need to be more free with themselves in terms of positive emotions? They certainly seem to be good at getting into doldrums don’t they. However I think that attitude has more to do with it than anything else. For years the O’s would fein like they were actually trying to build a winner with stopgap moves designed to hold the fanbase over until the real fun began. This in effect began when Davey Johnson was shown the door (or was forced to resign) and they replaced him with Ray Miller? Then they brought in an aging and rickety Albert Belle, who only served two of his five years due to injuries. Remember the offseason where they lost Rafael Palmeiro (the first time around) and sold the fans on replacing his bat with that of Delino DeShields? Going back to the managers for a moment, Mike Hargrove didn’t work out, so they replaced him with Lee Mazzilli…and Sam Perlozzo…and Dave Trembley. All stopgap moves, just as were the signings of Derrek Lee and Vlad Guerrero last year.
So with Andy MacPhail gone and a new GM now coming in (whenever that is), the O’s have an opprotunity to right this course moreso than they already have. I’m not a MacPhail hater by any means, and I do feel that the franchise is in a better position than it was when he arrived. (For those who disagree with that assessment, I have two words for you: Adam Jones.) One lasting intangible that MacPhail might have left is that super-agent Scott Boras now seems to be warming up to the Orioles. However the new GM will want to be aggressive in obtaining new talent, either by trade or by free agency, and the new relationship which exists with Boras will be valuable to that angle.
So if the Maier incident was the bookend catalyst of these problems, is there a moment or an incident which potentially could end it with an equal amount of drama? None of us really knows until that “moment” has passed and a new course has been implemented, however with all of the changes in the organization which are now coming I suppose I think back to that magical moment when the Orioles dramatically ended the season of a team that had been their nightmare for quite some time.

Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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