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Playing the Sox With Nothing to Spoil?

What an odd circumstance, no? The Orioles square off against the Red Sox for a late-season series and…virtually nothing is on the line.

Monday’s win evened the season series at 8-8 (which is kind of amazing) and it’s one more step towards a very satisfying finish. But I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that these games actually mean more to the O’s than they do to the Sox.

At 83-67 the Sox have had their share of success. Any O’s fan would take that record in a heartbeat, right? Yet it doesn’t count for much because whichever team between the Rays and Yankees fails to win the division will almost certainly take the wild card. The Sox hold the fourth or fifth best record in the AL, depending on the day, but remain longshots to make the playoffs. Not that anyone needed more proof that this is the toughest division in baseball, but there you go.

We can look at this two ways.

On one hand, it speaks to the daunting task facing Showalter and MacPhail as they attempt to build a winner. Boston’s always a benchmark, but getting to their level might not be enough to contend. Kind of depressing.

On the other, the Rays have consistently proven over the past few years that it’s doable. And by “doable” I mean “the Orioles can do it, too.”

We could get into talk about returning to a balanced schedule (which I support) or doing away with the idea of divisions altogether (which I might support). Until either happens we’re stuck with what we’ve got. The O’s need to compete for the division title.

Early returns on the Buck Showalter Era suggest that perhaps we’re close. We’ll see — we certainly could be. Of this much, however, I’m confident: everyone knows where we stand. Buck and Andy know. The current players know. The players who arrive in the offseason will know. And to a man I believe they will all take the task quite seriously.

I’m not sure we could have said the same last year at this time. Or two years ago. Etc. At least not with any degree of certainty.

(photo via Keith Allison)

25 comments to Playing the Sox With Nothing to Spoil?

  • dan the man

    On tonight’s game specifically, I particularly was impressed with the fact that Matusz having an off-night (efficiency-wise, at least) didn’t automatically spell bullpen doom. Going into this game, it was the first time in awhile that I was extremely confident in an Orioles win over the Red Sox. The O’s want it more right now, and Matsuzaka isn’t scary.

    When Koji is on, he’s dominant. The only question is if someone manages to time him up every once in awhile. But I’d take his efficient saves the other 90% of the time over a flame-throwing, heart attack closer like Simon.

    As far as the whole thing about being an 80+ win team and not contending… I say we worry about that when we get there. First thing’s first, and that’s playing over .500 ball for a full year. Baby steps.

  • neal s

    @ dan the man: Good point — let’s get there first. I only brought it up because the numbers seemed to shine a light on just how tough the task is.

    Of course, the recent numbers — the successful ones — also shine a light on the fact that it’s not an impossible task by any means.

    Overall, I’ll say this: I’m stoked. And it feels different this time.

  • Andrew

    Eh, we’re always saying it feels different. I for one think that Buck coming in and doing whatever it is he’s doing (besides benefiting from some good timing by the rotation) is a very, very different thing from Buck being the guy from the open of Spring Training. And I have to restrict myself to modest hopes for next year, so we’ll see where we stand in a year (lame).

    I’d say it was a solid victory tonight, but the game was lulling me to sleep so I watched Boardwalk Empire. I was not displeased with my decision at all.

  • dan the man

    We do tend to say “this time it’s different” a good bit, but I think you can break it down into different areas. Like…

    1) This time it’s different, we have a real GM.
    2) This time it’s different, we have actual minor league depth and talent in organization.
    3) This time it’s different, our pitching rotation isn’t full of 3 Adam Eatons.
    4) This time it’s different, we have a real manager.

    They all add up to, in general, this whole rebuilding project may just be finally taking shape. It looked like it was back to square 1 earlier in the season. Now the thing has some legs again and you have to hope that a decent (if likely unspectacular) offseason and continued Buckyball brings about The End Of The Streak.

  • Mike R

    I started this year more excited then ever. I promised myself early in the year after the debacle that was april-july that I wasn’t going to get excited about the Orioles ever again, until they proved it on the diamond. Something along the lines of like not getting my hopes up until were in a playoff chase come August.

    But I can’t help myself. I’m stoked, and can’t wait for next year. I’m a Baltimore/Maryland sports fan meaning I’m a glutton for punishment.

  • Dan H

    I haven’t heard any talk about changing the divisions or the schedule from anyone other than me and my friends until you just mentioned it, Neal. I always figured it would never happen for whatever reason (money).

    Just me speaking, but:

    1) I hate small divisions. I would rather see division-less leagues like EPL soccer than these small divisions. In the NFL, they work perfectly as far as scheduling goes so I can’t argue them there. But that goes out the window if they go to 18 games. In Baseball, I never understood why no one got upset that the Angels play with 4 teams and the Cardinals play with 6 teams. All things being equal that’s fucking rediculous that 4 teams have a 1 in 4 shot at the playoffs and 6 teams have a 1 in 6??? How did that pass in the first place? If I’m commish I go back to 2 divisions that are equal size other than the leagues being different sizes. Have 2 wild cards and it’s all gravy. Best records make the playoffs problem solved.

    2) Unbalanced schedules I mean really the deck is stacked against us and we all know it. Money did this. Yankees and Red Sox play each other 19 times a year you say?? Signed sealed and delivered that minute. Fuck every other team they don’t matter. I don’t think anything else needs to be said because I really don’t see them changing that. Which would also preclude changing the divisions which is probably why no one ever talks about it.

  • Mike R

    @ Dan H:
    Completely agree that baseball, frankly all sports are driven by money. It’s gonna cause another shitstorm if they wanna let more teams in the playoffs. Scenario’s thrown around are adding 1 more wild card team, and the 2 wild cards would play a 3 game series.

    Lets look at this season for example. You know who the 5th wild card team would be this year? The Boston fucking Red Sox. Meaning they would A) play the Yankees in a 3 game set. B) play the Rays, and if they win, play the Yankees in the ALDS. If this was the O’s, or Blue Jays being the 5th team, no one would give a damn.

    Regardless of the teams, you have the issue of the team winning the “wild card round” not having their ace available for the first 2 or 3 games of the division round. Assuming they would pitch. Then the issue of the teams not in that wild card round having anywhere from 5-8 days off before their series would start. That kind of layoff might not be beneficial. It seems to have been that way with the first round bye in football.

    162 games, I dont think we need 3 more to find out who should be in the playoffs.

    The unbalanced schedule sucks dick, but the playoff format is fine. 16 NFL games is fine. 64 team NCAA tourney was fine. The most fucked up one in sports is the BCS system, but no one wants to fix that one. WTF.

    If it aint broke, dont fix it.

  • Kevin

    Love the bunt by AJ to get Wieters from second to third. Unfortunately, Pie can’t get him over. Even if we don’t score, I still like the way we’re playing like a legit baseball team

  • Andrew

    @ Kevin:
    that’s funny because I fucking hated that bunt. It made me angry enough that I went and did something else for 40 minutes. I came back though.

  • Tom├ís

    so nice to see (OK Gamecast, but it’s better than nothing) an Orioles game with the wheels coming off at the end…and have it happening to the other team.

    only thing that would make this sweeter is if this were happening to the Spankees.

  • neal s

    So we’ve got to go back to ’04 to find the last series the O’s won at Fenway. Crazy.

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    even though i don’t care about baseball etc i still find baseball history pretty neat.

    therefore i’d be remiss if i didn’t mention that it’s cool for nick markakis and tris speaker to be mentioned in the same sentence.

    also 40+ doubles four years in a row is pretty good.

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    *43+

    (not a maris asterisk)

  • Greg

    My guess is at the pace we’re going, we wind up picking 6th overall and go 68-94.

    The best we could possibly do if all other teams lose and we win out is 72-90, picking 9th.

  • Mike R

    @ Big Ben’s Motorcycle:
    If Markakis averages 45 doubles a year for the next 13 years, he’ll break the all-time record of 792. He would be 39 years young. Not likely, he probably cannot afford to miss a chunk of any season, but still pretty cool.

  • dan the man

    First 3-game series win at Fenway since 2004. That’s ridiculous. It’s nice to beat up on the Sox for once, especially after grinding out Clay Buchholz for like two hours.

    This is a pretty prolonged run here by our starting pitchers against really good teams and it’s getting hard to say it’s flukey. Then again, Bergesen lit it up last year and then couldn’t get anybody out early this year, so who knows. Glad he seems to be back, though.

  • dan the man

    On Markakis, he’s already killing Cal Ripken Jr. in terms of consistently good numbers. Career batting average of .298 or some shit. The kid is good, home run totals be damned.

  • Andrew

    @ dan the man:
    it really isn’t hard to label it a fluke. Guys and teams can have fluke years – it happens all the time. We were banking on Garret F’Atkins having had a flukey bad year and a half in Colorado. Guthrie had a fluke year last year. Huff had that fluke year in ’08. The Twins in 2007 were flukey bad, the Rockies that year flukey good. IIRC (and I spologize if I don’t) you yourself were quick to label the 2010 Blue Jays as flukes. And you (or whoever) might not be wrong about that.

    Flukes happen all the time over the course of a year. The Orioles have had fantastic pitching for a third of a season (or so). That could really, really easily be a total fluke thing. Or it might be The Beginning. Who knows? But let’s not be hasty to call it one thing or t’other. Or, as my dad used to say: Don’t hatchet your Counts before they chicken.

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    neal i know you’ll love this. check out the “story highlights” from this article at si.com. i pasted them down below in case an editor ever gets to it.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/steve_rushin/09/22/nfl/index.html?eref=sihp

    Story Highlights

    For years I’ve suffered as people refer to NFL as “The National Football League”

    It’s futile attempt attempt to lend drama or profundity to banal statement

    It urks me when TV folks try to ignore what’s happening, like fans running on field,/i>

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    fucked up the html but you get the picture.

  • dan the man

    Kevin Millwood is a buzzkill. I feel no excitement watching him pitch whatsoever.

  • @ dan the man: My sentiments exactly. It just seems like no matter how well the team is clicking, that energy just disappears when he’s out there. Sure, Lackey was on his game, but whether he’s pitching well or not-so-well, Millwood is a guaranteed loss.

  • Andrew

    @ dan the man:
    Double agree. It’s not even just a win or loss, but Millwood games just feel like a wasted opportunity. They aren’t particularly entertaining, it’s just some old balding dude playing out the schedule so he can get released in two weeks, and then go and find immense success in the NL West.

    I was finished with the game by the 3rd inning and went and read some Sam Shepard.

  • Mike R

    Just 3 series left. Does it really have to end? I really would like to see how long we can ride this train of winning baseall. This will for sure be Andy MacPhails make or break offseason. Expectations of him, and the team are rising fast. We’re on the cusp of something great, and if the FO cuts corners again this year with more Atkins/Lugo type signings…well, it’s gonna suck.

  • Mike R

    Shocker there. Tillman gives up another homer.