If the Orioles win the World Series

We all sit and wait impatiently for that moment in the sun.  The day where promise becomes reality and the pain endured is all for the greater good.  Long nights become weeks, weeks become months, and sooner rather than later they become years.  Years of fruitless wonder, years of agonizing futility.  We invest ourselves for decades, and wonder when we will be whole again.  When will it all come to fruition?  When will it be like it was before?  When will the Orioles become World Series Champions?

Now many will take this diatribe so far and to follow as a maligned missive; that it is not.  Many more will take this as the enchanted wonderment of someone who has never seen an Orioles championship, idolizing it all out of proportion and imaging the world brought with it a Camelot, propelling its fan base and the city they call home to the forefront, and creating a metropolis of athletic achievement that’s a front to God.  It’s not that either (though it’s true I was not yet born in 1983).
What I would like to do primarily, at this time between the fourteen painful seasons and the two of a much cheerier vintage is ask a serious hypothetical question…What type of Champion would you like to be?  Yes, I understand the Orioles don’t get anything for stringing two good seasons in a row.  Yes, I understand I shouldn’t get ahead of myself and start saving away for October trips to paradisiacal St. Louis.  What I suggest is we think positive, and imagine the world we wish to inhabit if the impossible dream comes to realization.  No better time in my mind, seeing as currently every team in the majors is winless.

THE BLUE JAYS

The Blue Jays were terrible when they came into the league, simply terrible.  No one was expecting much but those first five years in Canada were like the first five years we got from the Mets.  They built up a farm system, and slowly but surely continued to improve.  They had good teams, but would constantly choke when it came to the playoffs.  They choked in Oakland, they choked in Minnesota, and the opinion in baseball circles were that they were a good team, but not good enough to make it to the next level.  When 1992 rolled around, they were having another good Toronto season, before making a trade for David Cone.  They gave up a talented second baseman by the name of Jeff Kent to get him, but it was felt that a move had to be made to get them over the edge.  They won the World Series that year over Atlanta, and then repeated the very next year over the Phillies.  They haven’t made the playoffs since, despite rosters filled with All Star talent and splashy offseason moves.

THE MARLINS

I was going to try and keep the Championship choices in the AL East, but the Rays have yet to win it all despite having one of baseball’s best managers and incredibly talented teams.  South Florida however has as many championships over the last twenty-one years as Canada had in a combined seventy-three, so that has to count for something.  The Marlin approach was simple:  Load up on young talent, supplement it with big name free agents, win the World Series, sell anything valuable and start over.  If you look at the all-time roster of the Marlins you will see, sometimes it worked out fine (Dontrelle Willis) and sometimes it failed spectacularly (Miguel Cabrera).  Arguments against the Marlins method: when they aren’t winning World Series they are usually terrible.  Also they play in an ugly stadium that will cost the taxpayers THREE BILLION DOLLARS!  Whenever you choose to complain about Orioles ownership by the way, repeat after me:  At least he’s not Loria, at least he’s not Loria.

THE RED SOX

Also, whenever you choose to complain about the fourteen straight losing seasons, or how we haven’t won a World Series since 1983, repeat after me:  At least I wasn’t a Red Sox fan for eighty-six years, at least I wasn’t a Red Sox fan for eighty-six years…Fine, they have turned their fortunes around in recent years, and last year was a great group of gritty ball players who managed to win in a very competitive year.  That is not the point of this article though, it’s about what kind of Champion would you want to be.  Would the sacrifice of the most heartbreaking moments in the history of baseball be worth the trip to the top of the mountain?  We would probably become pretty annoying fans after a while.  Maybe there is another way to go.

Before I go any further, we need to think back to the last contender this team fielded.  We had a lot to be grateful for in 1996 and 1997.  A powerhouse team with a great mixture of players that came up through the organization and lavish free agents made baseball in Baltimore a sight to see.  In the years that followed we tried all sorts of plans to get back on top.  We tried building from within, we tried paying for free agent acquisitions; all for not.  There was Ray Miller, Mike Hargrove, Lee Mazzilli, Sam Perlozzo, Dave Trembley, Juan Samuel and Buck all at the helm during the lean years.  For a franchise that had the best winning percentage of any major sport for the longest period of time (1966-1983) the fourteen straight losing seasons was unacceptable to many older Oriole fans.  The good old days…I digress.

THE YANKEES

Ok, I can hear you booing and hissing from here, but hear me out.  They have been the most successful franchise in the history of baseball, so there has to be something we can learn from them.  For the sake of argument, I am going to eliminate the first twenty World Series they won; there was no more than twenty teams back then and no free agency, hardly the same ball game.  The mid-seventies brought a great new energy to the Bronx.  They took their established home grown stars and supplemented it with the first wave of free agency.  Reggie Jackson joined a squad including Chris Chambliss, Graig Nettles and Thurman Munson and they won the World Series in 1977 and 1978.  Unfortunately they could not find a way to duplicate the winning formula and the Yankees experienced the longest stretch of futility in their history.  You could hardly blame them, they had good teams and they had bad teams, but they had a revolving door of managers.  More importantly, the Owner of the team was killing them, meddling in every single aspect of the organization, and never giving them a chance to succeed (try as he might).  Thirteen years without a trip to the playoffs was killing the Yankee fan base.  Finally, under the helm of Buck Showalter a young team grew up.  After Buck was fired, the Yankees went on to win five World Series Championships, and made it to the playoffs in sixteen of the last eighteen years.  Owner George Steinbrenner went from being public enemy number one, to being one of the most loved owners in sports (for his team’s fans at least).

Here’s the thing.  The first half of the Blue Jays story and the first half of the Yankees story sound like they could be the first part of the Orioles story.  Hopefully the Marlins story is one we can avoid, and I really hope I don’t have to fight the eighty-six years of the Red Sox story.  Could it be like one of those stories?  Possibly.  Could it be something completely and utterly different?  Absolutely.  The most important part is the story, and until it happens we don’t have anything to say.  You don’t know for sure in a moment if it will be one to remember forever until it has already passed.  The only things we ever know are the outliers.  A season starts anew, there will be ups and there will be downs.  We live for the second in history after, “Bottom of the ninth, down by two, runners on the corners, full count to Chris Davis and the pitch.”  Until then it’s only dreams, and imagination, and the hope of a child and of a city.  A parade down Pratt Street, commemorative merchandise and the bragging rights for the year that follows.  Flags fly forever, and the only thing we surely have other than that are the stories we tell predicated on dreams we share.  That and three small words, “Let’s Go O’s.”

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