I know, a 14th straight losing season for the Orioles has been a formality for weeks, if not months.
But the day when it is clinched still usually carries some significance, especially since the Orioles haven't had a winning season since 1997. That day came tonight, when the Orioles dropped their 82nd game, falling, 6-3, to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Starter Alfredo Simon didn't give his team much of a chance, allowing a career-high six earned runs on seven hits and four walks over five innings. All the Rays' runs came with two outs, and five of the six were driven in by B.J. Upton, who hit a two-run double in the first inning and a three-run double in the fifth.
""It's one of the reasons why he's had those inconsistencies in his career," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Simon. "He has a couple of really good outings and then a couple that are just not anything we [need]. We're looking for people that you know what you are going to get, day in, day out. Command of the fastball has to be there to pitch at this level, and tonight wasn't one of those nights."
It was just the Orioles' second loss in eight games here, and it ended their five-game road winning streak. Of greater significance, the franchise streak of losing seasons will extend into 2012, not that there was any lingering doubt that would occur.
"You don't want to continue a trend like that," center fielder Adam Jones said. "Fourteen years is a long time. We got to do something about it, change it up."
The Orioles look down at only the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are working on a 19th consecutive losing campaign, the longest for any professional North American sports team. The Pirates won today, thanks to former Oriole Derrek Lee's ninth-inning grand slam to beat the Chicago Cubs, but they are still 64-75 and in need of an amazing turnaround to avoid extending their dubious streak.
As for the Orioles, they can now focus on trying to avoid a 100-loss season. The Orioles have to go no worse than 8-17 over their final 25 games to avoid what would be just the franchise's second 100-loss campaign since 1954.
Eight wins over the final 3 1/2 weeks of the season doesn't sound too difficult, even for a team that has struggled as much as the Orioles, but consider that they still have four more games against the New York Yankees, seven against the Boston Red Sox, four against the Detroit Tigers and Rays, and three each against the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Angels.
"This last month is where it can really show the [guts] that everybody has, basically," Jones said. "We got the last three weeks ahead of us. We know that there is no playoffs in our future this year, but we still have 20-something games to go out there and prove something to the rest of the league. We need to take it upon ourselves individually and as a team to go out there and play the game as hard as we can until that last out is made of the season."