*This was typed on 9/17/2014
The Orioles are AL East champs! Tuesday night in front of its home crowd, Baltimore claimed the toughest division in baseball for the first time in 17 years.
The last time they were kings of the East was in 1997. Players like Cal Ripken, Jr., Brady Anderson, Mike Mussina, and Scott Erickson donned the orange and black uniforms. Nick Markakis was 14 years old, still six years away from joining the club and becoming the face of the franchise. A model of consistency for Baltimore.
Since then, all the Orioles have seemed to do is lose. Managers have come and gone. But things started to turn around in 2010 with the hiring of Buck Showalter. The O’s started winning. Baltimore fans started returning to the beautiful Camden Yards in great numbers.
Fans got a glimpse of the playoffs in 2012, watching the Orioles play their way to a Wild Card birth and ending 14 long, consecutive seasons of losing. The club beat the Rangers in Wild Card round of the playoffs. Baltimore was onto the Divisional Series. But that’s where the season ended – in the Bronx.
The 2012 team was a good one. It was an exciting team to watch. Chris Davis and Matt Wieters began showing their potential. McLouth was solid in the outfield and you could see Adam Jones molding into a star right before your eyes. Manny Machado showed that he is one of the best young players in baseball.
Jim Johnson and the bullpen made up for the starting rotation, which since Mussina left the club after the 2000 season, has seemed sub-par compared to the rest of the league. But in 2012 it showed strength and good signs that a good rotation was on the way.
The 2013 season was exciting, too, but less successful than the year before. Davis cranked out 53 home runs and drove in 138 runs, falling one category short of a triple crown. Johnson had his second consecutive season of 50-plus saves. Chris Tillman emerged as the ace of the staff.
However, even though the O’s finished eight games above .500, they finished tied for third in the East and missed out on the playoffs. A bit of a let down compared to the season before.
2014 has been a different season in Baltimore. Davis has been in a season-long slump compared to last year and is now suspended 25 games due to his use of Adderall. Wieters has been injured since May with an elbow injury, Machado has battled multiple injuries this season and has been sidelined since the middle of August with
another knee injury.
However, the signing of Nelson Cruz paid off in huge dividends as he has picked up much of the slack offensively. Steve Pearce stepped up countless times this season and has become a very important player on the team. Jones and Markakis stay consistent.
Offensively, Baltimore is on par or better than where it was last year, including hitting more home runs than any other team in baseball again this season.
The starting rotation is led by Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and Tillman who have 16, 13, and 12 wins, respectively and boast respectable ERAs. The bullpen has been as solid as it has been in the past few years after getting off to a rocky start due to some uncertainty of roles early on this season.
Zach Britton and Brian Matusz have been good this year. For the most part, they have come through this year. More times than not, they have sent O’s fans home happy with a victory instead of mourning another defeat as they have in years past. Andrew Miller has been another big accusation for the club, pitching very well since he changed teams in the division.
Baltimore has also played well on the road, including on the west coast, which hasn’t been the story for the team in a while.
The Orioles have had at least a share of the division since July 5th. So what does this mean?
It means that Baltimore has a good chance this post season of being successful, something O’s fans haven’t been able to say for a while.