If it's September and the Orioles are in a dicey pennant race, it's almost time for one of the national sports publications or websites to reveal that Orioles manager Buck Showalter and baseball operations chief Dan Duquette are grating on each other and don't always see eye to eye.
Well, here's a news flash: Dan and Buck don't get along sometimes, which is a revelation of the same magnitude as the fact that I sometimes argue with my wife. Married people argue. General managers and their managers disagree on things. And you can save 15 percent by using certain auto insurance company that employs a digitally enhanced lizard.
Why bring this up now? Because the Orioles are in the home stretch of another successful season under those two very different men, and the stress level is rising as it always does when everything is on the line and the clock is running down.
The Orioles are coming into national focus and the media microscope will increasingly focus on them over the next few weeks. They are an imperfect team that somehow has won more games (combined regular and postseason) than anyone else in the American League over the five seasons that Showalter and Duquette have been an item. But their imperfections are sometimes hard to overlook.
So, you're going to hear the usual whispers as the offseason approaches and they're not going to mean much.
The Orioles won their 81st game Friday night, which means they still have not had a losing season since owner Peter Angelos shocked the baseball world by pulling Duquette out of a long involuntary front-office retirement. Duquette invited derision when he said upon his arrival that the Orioles, who had finished below .500 for 14 consecutive seasons, would have a winning season in 2012.
You know the rest.
The franchise appears to be on the way to its third postseason appearance over that stretch, but the second half of the season has been rocky. And the price of remaining competitive in the big-money AL East has left Duquette to explain why his club needs to send struggling Wade Miley to the mound Sunday when some pretty good former Orioles prospects are pitching well in other places.
Miley stands out because he has suffered through a difficult seven weeks as an Oriole and the guy he was traded for — Cuban pitcher Ariel Miranda — is pitching pretty well for the surging Seattle Mariners.
It's an easy second guess and you can bet there are people inside the organization doing some of the second-guessing. But let's be fair here. There was nobody shouting from the roof of the Warehouse in July that Miranda was the answer to the Orioles' fifth-starter problem. The only question circulating around the ballpark about Ariel Miranda at that time was, "Who is Ariel Miranda?"
Sure, the Orioles blew it with Jake Arrieta. Everybody knows that. It's also fair to question why they didn't see more value in 23-year-old right-hander Zach Davies, who entered Saturday 13-9 with a 3.84 in 32 major league starts since he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for Gerardo Parra 13 months ago.
The Orioles have a spotty record when it comes to developing and judging their own pitching talent, but they also have done a better-than-advertised job of building a team with that minor league talent.
Every member of the majors' best up-the-middle defense either came out of the minor league system or was acquired with players drafted by the Orioles. Three-fifths of the current rotation can say the same. The best closer in the game right now — with 44 consecutive successful save conversions to start this season — was a third-round Orioles draft choice.
Player development has never been a perfect science and the Orioles have not been a model player development franchise. But it is well-documented that Showalter and Duquette came here with a mandate to put the team back on the major league map, and they have succeeded beyond the wildest expectations of the fans and media at the time of their arrival.
So, if they grouse about each other behind the scenes once in awhile, get over it. If their names come up in job rumors elsewhere, consider it an endorsement of the job both have done to make the past five years more entertaining for Orioles fans than any five-year period since the early 1980s.