Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Perfect 10

You may have missed it, and you probably did since no one seems to care about the Orioles now that football season has begun, but with last night's loss, the Orioles have officially cemented their 10th straight losing season in a row.

I wonder if the Orioles are going to have a night at the Yard to commemorate this great achievement. A decade of losing! What more could you want?

Because let's face it, 10 straight years of losing is hard to do. I feel like Vern from Stand By Me when he couldn't find the jar of pennies he buried beneath his porch... I don't whether to laugh or cry.

I was fresh out of high school the last time the O's were winners, when they were making their wire-to-wire run for the pennant in 1997. I was still playing organized baseball during the summers and I was driving a 1995 Dodge Neon. Bill Clinton was the President but he hadn't put his cigar into Monica's mouth yet. And Titanic, the biggest movie of all time, wouldn't be released for another 6 months.

That feels like a lifetime ago. And that's because, well... it is.

A lot changes in 10 years. I am rapidly approaching 30 and married. I haven't thrown a baseball in years. Clinton has been out of office for 8 years and Bush is about to leave as well. Now Bill's wife, Hillary, may be the next President. The Neon I once drove is now someone's can opener. And the 13 year-old girls who saw Titanic in the movie theaters a million times are now getting married and having children of their own.

A lot changes in 10 years. But not the Orioles.

As you probably guessed, with 10 straight losing seasons, the Orioles are now qualified to rank up there with the teams who have had the longest consecutive losing seasons. Let's take a look at where the Orioles rank with these other perennial losers...

Team                       Years   Start    Finish
Chicago Cubs 16 1947 1962
Philadelphia Phillies 16 1933 1948
Boston Red Sox 15 1919 1933
Philly/KC A's 15 1953 1967
Pittsburgh Pirates 15 1993 present
Milwaukee Brewers 14 1993 2006
Seattle Mariners 14 1977 1990
Philadelphia Phillies 14 1918 1931
Philadelphia A's 13 1934 1946
St. Louis Browns 12 1930 1941
Detroit Tigers 12 1994 2005
Boston Braves 11 1903 1913
Browns/Orioles 11 1946 1956
Chicago Cubs 11 1973 1983
Cincinnati Reds 11 1945 1955
Brooklyn Dodgers 11 1904 1914
Washington Senators 11 1901 1911
Boston Braves 10 1922 1931
Montreal Expos 10 1969 1978
Philadelphia A's 10 1915 1924
Tampa Bay Devil Rays 10 1998 present
Baltimore Orioles 10 1998 present
That's some esteemed company right there. And unfortunately, there is no end in sight.

The Orioles are unable to sign free agents worth a damn, they are still hesitant to make trades (although hopefully that will change this offseason when Tejada, Roberts and perhaps Bedard are dealt) and the minor league system is still too sparse with talent to supplement the Orioles with enough talent to compete.

So how are they going to get better?

That is the $64,000 question.

So next year at this time, it's very likely that we'll be in the same spot, chalking up year number 11 and wondering when it will all end. And if they are going to get to 13, 14... they might as well go for 17. After all they already have the record for consecutive losses (21) and the record for most runs allowed in a modern era game (30).

Why end there?

Hopefully, Andy MacPhail can make some trades, acquire some cast-off talent from other organizations (like Jon Knott and JR House -- but actually play them!) and essentially raise the Titanic that is this organization.

But that is too steep a task to expect one man to do in just one offseason. So the best we can hope for this offseason is a plan -- a real plan -- put in place, which allows the Orioles to actually progress in the standings, instead of regress, as they have done since 2004.

And isn't it sad to see 2004, a year in which the O's finished at 78-84, to be the high-water mark for this on-going stretch of ineptness.

Anyway, I, and many fans like me, can take more losing if there is improvement... if there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But the way the team is run now, the light is only getting smaller.

And just when we thought things would get brighter a few years ago, now we find ourselves shrouded in complete darkness. Just like Leo's character Jack, in Titanic, a movie we used to think was among the best ever a lifetime ago, and now we can't stand.

Yep, things change. But not the Orioles.

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