2016 Orioles: MLB's version of learning to drive stick shift - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

2016 Orioles: MLB’s version of learning to drive stick shift

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

If you’ve read my previous work, here or at The Baltimore Sun, over the years, you know I’m very clear that there is a very distinct line between being a fan and a being a writer who covers a pro team.

I grew up an Orioles fan, and that experience allows me to have some historical perspective.

But now I am a sportswriter, and I’m charged to look at the Orioles without any emotion. I try to look at all situations and figure out why and what’s next instead of lamenting what just happened.

All that mumbo jumbo aside, let me just say to the fans of the 2016 Orioles: I feel for ya, people.

This isn’t a buckle-up rollercoaster, it’s a free-falling, bungee-cord-may-or-may-not-work season. Seatbelts aren’t necessary. Everyone already has whiplash.

Let’s just do a quick recap. I’ll wait until you get your Dramamine. Make it a double dose.

OK, so the Orioles started this year 7-0. They won seven straight in May and seven straight in June, too. And followed that last burst by losing five consecutive.

From that point, July 5, forward, the Orioles – get ready for this – won six of seven, lost four in a row, won five, lost five, won five of seven, lost three consecutive, won three of four, lost five of six, won three straight and have now lost their last three.

It’s the baseball equivalent of a 16-year-old learning to drive stick shift.

They start, they stop. They cruise, they idle. They have it figured out, stall at a light and then get it going just as the season is about to turn red.

Here we are, it’s Aug. 28 and the Orioles are 70-59. They are still very much in the playoff hunt. They control their own destiny. Maybe. Sort of. I don’t know.

It’s hard to imagine this team, with its shaky starting pitching, key injuries, all-or-nothing offense and oil-leaking bullpen, is going to trip through the finish line ahead of the needed number of squads to make the postseason.

And if they do, somehow, make the playoffs, they surely can’t go very far with all their flaws. Unless, of course, they just outslug everyone and string together a few quality starts handed to a healthy trio of Brad Brach, Darren O’Day and Zach Britton.

After these last two weeks, losing series to Oakland, Boston, Houston and the New York Yankees, it’s hard to imagine that these Orioles are good enough to beat quality teams.

That is, of course, if you forget that this month they’ve also won series against the Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox and San Francisco Giants, and taken three of four from the Washington Nationals. Three of those four teams were in first place when the Orioles beat them.

Yeah, it can’t be easy being an Orioles’ fan these days.

But, man, it’s no bed of roses trying to make sense of it all as a sportswriter, either.




  1. Mau

    August 28, 2016 at 7:57 am

    Too many holes to fix this year. Duquette’s Toronto club is the class of the AL East. As always, my heart hopes the O’s chug into the playoffs but my head tells me 4th place finish in the AL East. The bullpen is paying the price for the many short outings by the starters this year, Bundy is leveling out, Yovani is average at best while Ubaldo currently is pitching better than Tillman who isn’t pitching at all. Gausman is now the ace.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 28, 2016 at 8:57 pm

      I suppose fourth place is still a reality. And the team is definitely flawed, but so is every other club in the AL.

  2. claudecat

    August 28, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Anyone without bias and an understanding of the rules of baseball could see even before the O’s broke camp this year that it might eventually get very ugly. The winter brought us little to nothing to address need one (starting pitching), and we gathered up as many Chris Davis types as we could on the offensive side. That we kept our heads above water for as long as we did, even thrived, was the real surprise – not this current stretch of chickens (and Tommy Hunter!) coming home to roost. The writing has been on the wall for so long that archaeologists are awaiting carbon-dating results.

    Look, I’m as fanatical as any O’s fan. I’m at every single home game! But, barring a miracle or three, I can’t see any path forward that doesn’t lead to disappointment, even if we should hold on and land a wildcard slot. Does anyone think we’d be able to hack our way through a postseason series with anyone aside from perhaps Detroit? This team was built to do one thing well, and that one thing tends to get slowed down considerably in the face of cold weather and ace pitchers. The chances of us homering our way into or especially through the playoffs are slim to none.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 28, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      I can’t really argue with your second paragraph. I don’t see the Orioles winning it all, so I guess any alternative is the season ending in disappointment. But I don’t get the sentiment that is attached to the first paragraph — and it’s not just you Claude. “Anyone … could see … it might get very ugly.” Claude, this team is 71-59. If it goes 10-22 — and it won’t — it gets to .500 and matches last year’s team. If it goes .500 for rest of year, this club wins 87 games. And that’s respectable. Not ideal, probably not playoff worthy, but far from “very ugly.” Yeah, glad I’m not a fan. Would be exhausting.

  3. ubetonit

    August 28, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    It’s arguable whether our black&orange brethren SFGiants are a “quality team”.

    It’s been 6 wks since the All-Star break & the SFG have stiil not won 3 gms in a row. As a matter-of-fact, they have only won b2b TWICE in these past 6 wks.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 28, 2016 at 9:06 pm

      You guys are making my head hurt. The Giants are 71-59, too. They are tied with O’s for ninth best record in the majors — better than 20 other clubs. One hot run and they are Top 5. You have to take the season as a whole. As it currently stands, both are playoff teams. So, yeah, they are quality clubs. I’m not sure what you people want.

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