O, say can you see relief (pitchers) in the future of professional baseball in Maryland?

The losing team's fan's simultaneous lament and cry of hope that there's always next season has grown a little more poignant as the years have gone by. The Baltimore Orioles have been in a slump that will soon be measurable in decades rather than years.

The bright star of Cal Ripken Jr. and his exemplary work ethic kept fans interested locally even as the Orioles organization closed up shop before the start of the postseason year after year.

Then Aberdeen's most famous son retired from the diamond and got behind a minor league team for his boyhood home, and the IronBirds were hatched. That winning next season seemed plenty far off for the O's, but maybe Ripken's IronBirds would be a different story in the short season New York-Penn League. But it wasn't to be. Aberdeen's Orioles affiliate minor league team has mirrored the downtown ballclub in its performance, finishing at or near the bottom of the barrel for the 10 years it has been in existence.


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And just when it looked like things couldn't get any worse, they did: the IronBirds finished this season with a loss, 3-2, to the Hudson Valley Renegades, and racked up the worst record in team history. Aberdeen finished the season with a record of 24-51. The next winning season looks a long way off, even for the most hopeful of fans.

Maybe this is what it used to feel like to root for the Cubs.