With a 7-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday at Camden Yards extending their latest skid to six games at the halfway point of the schedule — their fifth losing streak of at least six games this year — the Orioles’ losing season continues to reach historic proportions.
At 23-58 entering the second half of the season, the Orioles have the worst start to a season of any big league team since the 2003 Detroit Tigers, who ended that year with 119 losses. They were 20-61 through 81 games.
Since 1900, considered the demarcation line for modern baseball, just 26 teams have lost 58 or more of their first 81 games. Only the Orioles and those 2003 Tigers have done it this century. Just seven have since World War II.
Not every loss is as decisive as Friday’s, which was fated two batters in on a Mike Trout home run. Others are more painful. But added together, there are enough to put the Orioles on an ignominious pace.
"It doesn't feel like that until you look at the record, but our fan reaction is telling us how we're playing," center fielder Adam Jones said. "To put it easily, they're not happy with how we're playing. And that's who we play for. We play for the fans.
"We play for ourselves, we play for our families, but right now, we're not playing good baseball. Spin it however you want to, but right now, we're not playing good baseball. And it sucks, because you put so much time and effort into it when it comes to the offseason, spring training and when you don't get the results — just like any other field — it's frustrating."
Finding parallels for this Orioles season requires a lot of digging — and a long memory. Before those Tigers, the 1962 New York Mets set the modern-day record for futility with 120 losses — just four more than the 116 losses the Orioles are on pace for. They, too, were 23-58 through 81 games.
Between then and now, spanning 46 years of baseball, just three teams outside the 2003 Tigers have lost 58 of their first 81 games — the 1979 Oakland Athletics, the 1996 Detroit Tigers and the 1997 Philadelphia Phillies. Together with the 1952 Pittsburgh Pirates, they’re the only teams to lose at least 58 of their first 81 games since World War II.
In the modern era, only the 1917 Philadelphia Athletics, the 1962 Mets and the 2003 Tigers have lost more than the 116 games the Orioles are on pace to lose.
And this is before the Orioles' expected sell-off of valuable pieces such as Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Jones — all in their final year of club control. They will, at least by talent, not be able to field a team with as much individual talent as they have for much longer, with those spots instead filled by role players or prospects getting a taste of the majors.
Manager Buck Showalter sees the fact that some faces might change, combined with the simple law of averages bringing some of their strugglers back from the abyss, as a reason to look forward with hope for improvement.
"We're going to have some opportunities for some people who didn't [have them]," Showalter said. "I just think those people have a track record that at some point [will show]. I know everybody might get tired of hearing it. Sometimes, you don't play to your track record the whole season. Teams, individuals — that's realistic. But usually history tells you people seek it a little bit more over the long haul. I'm ready for that. I think we all are."
Considering what has passed for progress both individually and as a team as they look for encouragement this season, it's clear the hope internally is that something like that is around the corner.
Left fielder Trey Mancini says "it's kind of hard" to look at the big picture with a game every day, but that's what they have to do to knock themselves off track for one of the worst seasons in baseball history.
"You just kind of try to take it day to day and work on little things and just play as a team, kind of like that Atlanta series,” Mancini said. “Like I said down there, there was kind of a different energy about us. Hopefully, we can get back to that here and play better in the second half."