Orioles: No Comfort In the “Spoiler” Role
Once again — as has so often occurred — the Orioles‘ late-season games against division opponents are “spoiler” games. As in, there is supposed (or imagined) comfort for both players and fans in rising up to defeat a contender, thereby making a dent in that team’s playoff hopes. In the past I have, along with many, indulged this narrative. No more. There is nothing to it, and I refuse to take anything from it.
There’s surely something compelling about rooting for the O’s to play spoiler against a division opponent. “If we can’t have it,” the thinking goes, “at least maybe we can keep them from having it.” What I’ve come to realize of late is that this thinking only carries weight if at some point there was a reasonable expectation that we might also have it. That, after all, is where the fun comes in. If your team is five or six games out after a hard-fought year and their playoff chances are fading there’s something to the idea of taking another team down along the way. It could salvage an “almost” year.
I can’t get on that train for a “never was” year. I could take pride in being an also-ran that made a difference, but taking pride in being a never-ran seems foolish. Desperate, even. I want the Orioles to get their house in order and actually be there at the end. Failing that, I’m not stoked on any effect they might or might not have on the playoff fortunes of other teams. It’s a consolation prize. I don’t want it, at least not until the promise of a real prize becomes legitimate.
To be clear, I still take joy in the wins. I’m glad when they beat the Rays, as they just did. That’s great. Alfredo Simon pitching well is a good thing. Wieters hitting a homer is a good thing. I’ll take it game-by-game. I still care.
What I won’t do is care what effect such wins have on the playoff picture because the playoffs go like this: the Orioles never had a chance. That needs to be fixed. To hell with the Rays, Sox, and Yankees. A pox on all their houses.
There’s a part of me that wants the Rays to make it over the Sox, sure. And I’ll always root against the Yankees no matter who they’re playing. But we have bigger issues that truly cannot be ignored. Spoilers or not, we’re not in the playoff conversation and getting there is, from this point forward, the only goal with which I’m concerned. I have a hunch I might not be alone in that.