Carroll County Times

Nick Markakis: Last of the terrible Birds

Baltimore sports fans, I feel your pain. The last few weeks have been rough to say the least, and I'm sure most of you want to crawl under a rock and just wait things out for a little while.

First it was Chris Davis, whose poorly timed decision to pull an all-nighter and study for a college exam causes serious problems for the playoff roster. Then it was the Ravens organization, which doesn't quite have the same pristine reputation some fans with purple-colored glasses may have thought.


If you're like me, you're trying your best to wade through the sports media market without cringing at the rumors, scoffing at the scandal or trying to justify the drama.

And yet, while nearly everyone this side of Russell Street has felt the effects of that dark cloud lingering overhead, there's at least one person who made us all smile when something finally went his way.


It took him nine seasons — the first six of them with a losing record — but Nick Markakis, who might represent the last of this era's terrible Orioles teams, will get his chance to be a part of this town's rich baseball history.

You may have seen the video of the Baltimore right fielder looking up at the crowd and sporting a genuine grin as he heard the words "Orioles" and "AL East Champions" in the same sentence last Tuesday — something that seemed more like a cruel joke than a real possibility when he first made his way to the big leagues in 2006.

While his fellow teammates doused one another in a normally unsavory combination of beer and pie, that moment of reflection, albeit brief, was a glimpse into the mind of someone who fans could sympathize with over the last few seasons.

It wasn't so much of a party. It was a sigh of relief.

When Markakis made his major league debut in 2006, the organization was already working on a streak of losing baseball that spanned the better part of a decade.

Fans didn't have much in the way of hope, as much stock was put into prospects like Hayden Penn and Adam Loewen to bring the team back to prominence.

That Orioles club did feature a few talented players who, like Markakis, never realized much team success in this city. Guys like Melvin Mora, Miguel Tejada, Erik Bedard and, bless his heart, Brian Roberts, who will forever be known for playing during the organization's darkest years.

These players also represented the Orioles on a few league-leading categories, on All-Star teams, and even in MVP voting on a few occasions throughout their careers.


Despite that individual success, none of those Orioles ever clinched a division championship in Baltimore, causing old school baseball fans to groan with every passing year.

Sure, Markakis was a part of that 2012 postseason squad that won the one-game AL wild card playoff against the Texas Rangers before falling to the Yankees in the next series. But, thanks to an inside fastball from CC Sabathia that broke his wrist back in early September of that season, he wasn't healthy enough for the October run.

Maybe Markakis hasn't amounted to the player Baltimore fans thought he would be. In 2007 and 2008 (also meaningless Oriole seasons), he hit over .300 and cracked 23 and 20 home runs respectively. Every other year of his career since then, he's failed to replicate that kind of success.

That being said, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn't heard about the right fielder's arm, which has played its part in 93 outfield assists for his career. He also hasn't made an error since 2012.

This year, Markakis is having another Markakis-type season. He's got 13 home runs, 26 doubles and 173 hits — all within his career averages.

Barring something unforeseen, he'll play in his first postseason game next week for the second-best team in baseball.


Markakis has been patient over these past nine years. So, too, have the fans who followed him along the way.

Reach staff writer Matt Owings at 410-857-7893 or