This night had been coming for a long time, so nobody in the locker room could be surprised when the number in the loss column reached the point where no other team in the history of this Orioles franchise had ever experienced one bigger.
Yes, loss No. 107, 5-0 against the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night, has been considered inevitable for months and loss No. 108 is just around the corner, so surprise was not the prevailing emotion when the Orioles finally made it official.
“It’s embarrassing,’’ veteran catcher Caleb Joseph said before the game. “It’s shameful, especially for somebody who was on a 97-win team just a few years ago. It’s ridiculous. We’ve lost so many games and it seems like losing is the new winning. It’s unacceptable.”
Well, it’s hard to argue with the guy when he’s right. The Orioles came into this season considered at least a nominal wild-card contender, especially after signing two veteran pitchers to stabilize the starting rotation. They also appeared to have enough offensive punch to be competitive on a daily basis.
“The driving force that made me want to sign here was looking at the roster that we had and how good of a roster it was,’’ right-hander Alex Cobb said. “The fact that I had faced this team over the years with all the names on that roster, I very much expected us to be competitive for the majority of the season and be a postseason contender.”
Of course, that never materialized and there are plenty of reasons the Orioles never got their footing this season. The high-water mark was Opening Day, and the rest turned out to be the wrong kind of history.
Nobody saw this coming. There were plenty of reasons to wonder whether the O’s would be able to stand up to the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, but nobody could have foreseen such a complete and utter collapse.
“No, especially to start the season and during spring training,’’ Dylan Bundy said before the game. “You look at the people we had on our team you wouldn’t imagine the season we’re having. It definitely came as a surprise to everyone in this locker room.”
The season has been a fail on virtually every level. The defense has been among the worst in the majors all year, which isn’t usually emblematic of a Buck Showalter team. The offense — with two former major league home run champions, one of the best all-around players in the game, last year’s breakout team MVP and a returning Rookie of the Year candidate — simply never showed up. The pitching staff looked better on paper than last year’s but apparently wasn’t.
Still, even that doesn’t explain it. There was something else that didn’t measure up to the earlier years of the Showalter/Dan Duquette era.
“The culture needs to be mixed up and baked again,’’ Joseph said. “The culture needs some work. It needs some adjusting. It needs some additions. It needs some subtractions. It needs some work. ...
“Quite honestly, I don’t see that many folks that are actually ticked off about it.”
Well, it’s pretty tough to generate that kind of emotion at this late stage of the season, especially when so many of the original cornerstones of the team are off playing for contenders. The locker room is full of young, unproven guys who probably are just happy to be getting major league money and service time.
Joseph, who spent what must have seemed like a lifetime in the minor leagues, doesn’t see that as a legitimate excuse.
“I don’t care if you’re just excited to be here … just excited to get a major league call-up,’’ he said. “OK, that’s fine. If it’s your first day in the big leagues, enjoy it. After that, it’s business and there are people’s jobs and careers that are on the line. It’s not, ‘Who cares. We’re not in the race. Just go out and have fun and try your best.’ Not good enough. NOT good enough.”
Bundy wasn’t quite so animated, but he said Monday that it’s important for everyone in the clubhouse to treat final two weeks of the season as if they mean something.
“We are what we are, but at the same time we are and we’ve got to fix it,’’ Bundy said. “We’re trying to do that and we’ve still got two weeks left that we can hopefully use to build for next year and build toward something in the future.
“You never want to get this low in a season, but we’ve got to get out of it and it’s going to take time. It isn’t going to happen overnight.”
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
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