The Baltimore Orioles had one magical year in 2012. For a team that had a negative run differential for most of the year, injuries to key players, a pieced together starting staff, and next to no previous playoff experience; nobody expected anything from Orioles this year. The majority of fans; myself included, had no lofty expectations for this year. It was thought that it would just be another year spent in the cellar of the powerhouse AL East division. Much to everyone’s surprise–that all changed!
Throughout the year, baseball pundits suspected the “lucky” Orioles season that saw them in 2nd or 3rd place for much of the year would eventually end. There were questions like, are the Orioles for real? Radio shows in Baltimore were buzzing with interest as the Orioles finally were beginning to gain the spotlight and notoriety. As the season wore on, the team stayed in contention, eventually jumping the Tampa Bay Rays, with the division title and New York Yankees in their sights. It was an extremely hard fought battle that came down to the last day of the season; which saw the Orioles win the newly created 2nd Wild Card spot. Baltimore was brimming with excitement as the orange and black made the postseason for the FIRST time since 1997!!! This was also the Birds first winning season since that year.
Even with football and the Baltimore Ravens being underway, Orioles baseball was still in the conversation come October. It is a GREAT time to be a Baltimore sports fan. The city was flooded with Orioles logos, postseason shirts were sold, and a city basically fed up with its baseball franchise now came out and supported it like no other! The stage was set; Orioles vs. Rangers at The Ballpark in Arlington. A loser goes home one game Wild Card Round matchup to see who moves on the face the “Evil Empire” New York Yankees. New acquisition, Joe Saunders, took the mound and kept the potent Rangers offense in check. After he exited, the Orioles went to the bullpen–the MVPs of the team in 2012. As the 9th inning came, closer Jim Johnson came in and shut the door! At that moment, I was speechless. For the first time in my post adolescent life, the Orioles WON a playoff game. I couldn’t believe it. Moreover, we now got HOME playoff games at Camden Yards. How fitting that the next series was against AL East rival New York.
Orioles fans PACKED Camden Yards for those two home games. It was beyond electric; something I had NEVER witnessed. Even with the threat of rain, the fans did not disappoint. It was an extremely competitive ALDS series, which the Bronx Bombers escaped by the skin of their teeth. It went to an elimination game 5 in New York, where C.C. Sabathia proved why he is one of the few true aces in the game. The Orioles bats didn’t come alive and runs were at a premium. Would the fans have loved the Orioles beat the Yanks and move on to the ALCS? Of course! Even so, 2012 was a season I will never forget.
No one in their wildest dreams would have even thought the Orioles would be anywhere near a winning record, let alone getting to the ALDS. Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette were magicians. Most buttons Showalter pushed worked and Duquette surrounded him with a group of talent to thrive when it needed to. I may be a bit biased, but Showalter hands down deserves to win the AL Manager of the Year award. Hats off to Duquette as well, especially after being out of the game as long as he was. Looking back, I wish two things would have been different. Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis have both been drafted by and spent their whole careers with the O’s. It’s unfortunate that they didn’t get to play and be a part of the playoffs being brought back in Baltimore. Those two have been consummate professionals; they’ve been here through all the losing seasons. Neither has asked for a trade and both have played hard when healthy. Hopefully they get to be a part of the next Orioles playoff run as players instead of fans on the bench.
I cannot speak for the rest of the fans, but I am damn proud of my Orioles. The fire is back in me. In 2011, for the first year in my life, I did not go to a game. In 2012, and now for beyond, I am reinvigorated. The Orioles ARE capable of playing with the big boys. They CAN battle until the very end. The talent IS there. I have never been more excited for an upcoming season in my life. This is the start of something great–not only for the fans, but for the state of MD. Let the countdown begin until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training! I hope everyone enjoyed the 2012 season as much as I did. While it was a roller coaster ride at times, it was worth it. SO worth it. For the few fans that are upset about the Yankees beating us, as of yesterday, you can kiss their chance at a World Series ring goodbye! Thanks Detroit! Until next time, let’s watch our offseason unfold! GO ORIOLES!!!