One of the things I try to do as a baseball writer is provide a little historical perspective when possible.
You don’t want to read a fan’s point of view from me. And, in turn, I take the emotion out of what I’m writing. I try to present the facts or my fact-based opinion. And you, the fan, can provide the emotion.
So it amuses me when fans keep crushing this 2016 club any time it struggles, criticizing its commitment to winning, its passion, its talent.
I understand these Orioles, with their continually fluctuating play, can be frustrating to watch. And I understand the ultimate goal is to win a championship, and this group seems too flawed to make that happen – or make it happen easily, anyway.
But the bottom line is that this is a good team. And one that has had a really good season so far.
How good? That’s where the whole perspective thing comes in to play. I wanted to see if my hunch was right. It is.
For all the grumbling about this current club, its 65-50 record and .565 winning percentage through 115 games is tied for the third best mark in the Orioles’ past 35 years.
Yes, there have been plenty of lean years during that time – but some good seasons, too.
And only twice have the Orioles fared better at the 115-game mark in that 35-year span: In 2014 when they were just one game better, 66-49, and ultimately won the American League East title; and in 1997, when Davey Johnson’s club went wire-to-wire to win the division and were 73-41 at Game No 115.
At this point in the season, the current Orioles have a better mark than the 2012 team that made the playoffs (62-53), the 1996 team that made the playoffs (60-55) and that 1989 ‘Why Not?’ club that Baltimore loved so much (59-56).
The 1983 version that captured the World Series, and a solid 1992 team under Johnny Oates that won 89 games and finished third, also were 65-50. You have to go back to the 1980 club that won 100 and finished in second, three games behind the New York Yankees, to find the next group of Orioles that had more than 65 wins with 115 played. They were 67-48.
There should be an asterisk here, I suppose. The 1994 and 1981 teams, because of work stoppages, didn’t get to 115 games – and both were good. The 1994 team was 63-49 (.563) in 112 games and the 1981 squad was 59-46 (.562) in 105 games. But both had winning percentages slightly below these Orioles at 115.
Want another headscratcher that doesn’t seem to fit with the 2016 Orioles?
With Friday’s victory at San Francisco coupled with a Toronto loss, the Orioles are back in first place for the 110th day this season, including off days, according to baseball-reference.com. The 2014 team spent 114 days in first for the entire season, so this group is close to catching that one with 47 games left to play. You have to go back to 1997 for more time in first place by an Orioles club in the last 20 years — and being in first all 181 days of the baseball calendar is tough to beat.
Those 1983 World Series champions were in first for 118 days in the regular season, so this one is closing in on them, too. At the 115-game mark in 1983, the Orioles were tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for first place in the division. The Toronto Blue Jays and Detroit Tigers were just one game out of first.
Sound vaguely familiar?
Of course, that was a veteran group with great pitching and two Hall of Famers in the middle of the lineup. Under manager Joe Altobelli, those Orioles won 33 of their final 47 contests to capture the East by six games.
I’m not suggesting the Orioles are going to win 98 this year – they are on pace for 91½ – or win their first World Series in 33 years.
But I’m saying that this club, as flawed as it may be, has given you more highs so far than nearly any Orioles team in 20 seasons. And, therefore, is in a pretty good position to make the postseason – historically speaking – and maybe forge beyond. We all know anything can happen in the playoffs.
Here are the Orioles’ records through 115 games in various key years of their existence, including each season Buck Showalter has managed. And how each club finished. Pay particular attention to that 1969 version – 80-35 through 115 games. Wow.
2016: 65-50; ??-??
2015: 59-56; 81-81
2014: 66-49; 96-66
2013: 64-51; 85-77
2012: 62-53; 93-69
2011: 45-70; 69-93
2010: 40-75; 66-96
2005: 56-59; 74-88
1997: 73-42; 98-64
1996: 60-55; 88-74
1989: 59-56; 87-75
1983: 65-50; 98-64
1979: 76-39; 102-57
1971: 71-44; 101-57
1970: 73-42; 108-54
1969: 80-35; 109-53
1966: 74-41; 97-63
1954: 39-76; 54-100