Penton: Breakthrough season for Orioles
Fans of the Toronto Blue Jays look to the Baltimore Orioles and say, “Why can’t we do that?”
The Orioles, whipping boys for at least the last 10 years in the American League East, are suddenly threatening to win baseball’s toughest division, sending a message to big-spending division rivals New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox that money might be able to buy you love, but it doesn’t always produce a championship baseball team.
The Orioles, about the only team the Blue Jays could regularly finish ahead of in the A.L. East, seem to have been living on a diet of Five-Month Energy drinks.
After posting a dismal 69-93 record last year (and a standard 28 games behind the pennant-winning Yankees), the Orioles went into September this year neck and neck with the Yanks.
On Sept. 9, the Birds were sitting a non-Baltimore-like 17 games above .500.
It’s not necessarily that manager of the year candidate Buck Showalter is smarter this year than he was in 2011.
It’s just that a good crop of Oriole young players have matured together.
Outfielders Nick Markakis and Adam Jones, third baseman Mark Reynolds and first baseman Chris Davis are leading the offensive charge and are four of Baltimore’s seven players with double-digit home-run totals.
(The Jays, by comparison, have five.)
Barring a complete September collapse, the Orioles are almost assured of at least a wildcard playoff berth, making the post-season for the first time in 15 years.
It could be the first of a few, because the Orioles’ future is brightened by the arrival next year of super-duper phenom pitcher Dylan Bundy, who’s 19 but is already receiving Stephen Strasburg-like comparisons.
Meanwhile, the Jays stumble along to a last-place finish, suffering through an injury-plagued season and hoping that perhaps 2013 will be the season they end their 21-year playoff drought.
The Orioles have proven that worst to first is more than just an optimistic phrase.
• Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “Astros owner Jim Crane said he was “open” to signing (Roger) Clemens. Baseball analysts speculated that Crane might have been drunk at the time.”
• Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, on Allen, Texas building a $60 million high-school football stadium: “Because it’s Texas, this could be the practice field.”
• Comedy writer Argus Hamilton, on the scheduling breakdown at the new $60 million high-school stadium in football-crazed Allen, Texas: “Half the time it will have football games, and the other half it will have non-religious events.”
• Norman Chad of the Washington Post, about the NFL’s two Mannings: “Peyton operates with the precision of a heart surgeon; Eli is more of a traffic cop wandering around looking for expired meters.”
• Chad again, suggesting that ‘suspended’ New Orleans coach Sean Payton will nonetheless have coaching influence this season: “With today’s technology, Payton could be calling plays from the Curiosity rover on Mars.”
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The NFL ruled that Denver linebacker D.J. Williams tried to manipulate a drug test, possibly with non-human urine. So, in addition to his six-game NFL ban he’s been declared ineligible for next year’s Kentucky Derby.”
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