I grew up a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, a necessity for a baseball-loving kid in D.C. in the 80’s, a time when the hope of even having a team as perennially awful as the Nationals was barely a dream.
I’ve stayed an O’s fan long after I moved away, lamenting dumbfuck trade after insane managerial decision after horrendously-timed injury. The mention of constantly meddling owner Peter Angelos to this day fills me with rage.
It looked like this season wasn’t going to be any different. If anything, it was going to be worse. The O’s spent the early part of the season fighting to keep their winning percentage over .250, and going back and forth with the pathetic Pittsburgh Pirates for the title of Worst Team in Baseball.
When the O’s finally canned their manager and subsequently took weeks to hire a replacement, I said it was going to take a goddamn miracle for the team not to lose 100 games.
New manager Buck Showalter is apparently a miracle worker, because they finished 66-96. They were 34-23 after he took over.
Consider the math: If the Orioles had played the rest of the season as they did after Showalter took over, they would have had an approximate record of 97-65, tying Philadelphia for the best record in the majors.
If the O’s had stayed on the pace they were on before Showalter showed up, their record would have been a ghastly 49-113, a full eight games behind the Pirates in the race for the title of Worst Team in Baseball.
I’ve never been a huge believer in the idea that a good manager can win with any team – you have to have SOME talent to do it, but the way Showalter turned a flailing team around completely is nothing short of incredible.
Maybe it’s just a fluke, and the O’s were just so grateful for a manager who saw potential in what had, up until then, been an unmitigated disaster of a season, that when he challenged them, they responded.
But I’ll tell you: I’m much more hopeful for next season than I’ve been since before I left for college. If the O’s can keep up anything even resembling the blistering pace they put together after Showalter was hired, they’re going to be a damn dangerous team next year.