Orioles manager Buck Showalter talks about learning from this season's losing record and building for the future. (Baltimore Sun video)
On Tuesday at approximately 9:55 p.m., it became official. The Baltimore Orioles are having their worst season in franchise history. And there’s still a week and a half of games to go. The good news is that with 44 wins they are not going to earn the title of fewest wins in a season, having not quite achieved the depths of folly that put the 1962 Mets (40 wins) or the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics (36) in Major League Baseball’s history books.
But with games to come against the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros — all teams with playoff ambitions — there’s every reason to believe the bottom has not yet been achieved. That got us to thinking: How can a die-hard Birds fan find comfort at a time like this? Oh, we know it’s a rebuilding year. The team traded most of its stars. And there’s that usual talk of playing young players and patiently watching who develops. Looked at another way, heading down to Camden Yards is like going to watch minor league ball at much higher prices.
Let’s face it. Baltimore’s team has looked hideous at times. Their fielding percentage is 13th among the 15 American League teams — and that’s the good news. Their pitching staff’s earned run average is 15th. Their team batting average is 15th. Chris Davis appears headed for the lowest batting average of a title-qualified hitter in the modern era. And he plays under a $161 million contract.
So desperate times like these require something more than adult beverages and a “wait until next year” attitude. It’s even too late to make a pact with the devil (and get the bench to break out in a rousing chorus of “You Gotta Have Heart” like the Senators in “Damn Yankees”). It’s time to bring out the heavy hitters — the famous quotations from literature and the public square about dealing with adversity. So, Buck Showalter, feel free to steal any of the following for your next locker room chat. Note we have skipped the usual rah-rah Vince Lombardi inspirational quotes on the theory that everyone has heard them before and they don’t seem to be working.
“If you're going to try, go all the way.” (Charles Bukowski in “Factotum”)
“There is nothing in this life that can destroy you but yourself. Bad things happen to everyone, but when they do, you can't just fall apart and die. You have to fight back.” (Alexandra Monir)
“What is joy without sorrow? What is success without failure? What is a win without a loss? What is health without illness? You have to experience each if you are to appreciate the other. There is always going to be suffering. It’s how you look at your suffering, how you deal with it, that will define you.” (Mark Twain)
Win or lose, we go shopping after the election. (Imelda Marcos — not necessarily inspirational, but the woman knew shoes)
Finally, we would just point out that losing big — and there’s really no other way to describe where the Baltimore Orioles are right now — does provide the opportunity to rise again like a phoenix from the ashes. The 1988 team that formerly held the title of the worst in Orioles history? Within eight years, they were in the playoffs. Those 1962 Mets were even better, winning the World Series (against the Orioles) seven years later. Worst-to-first teams happen all the time — the Red Sox between 2015 and 2016, the Rangers between 2014 and 2015, the Diamondbacks, the Rays, the Cubs, all have done it in the last dozen or so years.