Come to Camden hun

For the first time since I was a student at the University of Maryland @ College Park, the Baltimore Orioles are in the playoffs.  I’ve had friends that I used to talk baseball with back then re-engage in the past six months that haven’t had the opportunity to have some Oriole pride that haven’t had a chance to do so in 15 years.  Well, they had the opportunity to talk baseball, but usually only into June before they were playing out the string.  A few may remember that Lee Mazzilli had the O’s in 1st place at the All Star break a few years back.  Although that preceded a 2nd half of the season so bad that Mazzilli would be looking to get his Yankees bench coach position back and avoid the unemployment line in October of the same year.  It has not been an easy ride for those fans.  As a Jets fan, I know what it’s like to cheer for a a chronically disappointing team, but this was different.

It was different because the Orioles had an owner in place that didn’t seem like he was trying.  Peter Angelos has been the owner of the club dating back to when such greats as Armando Benitez played “the Oriole way” (Benitez beaning the Yankees Tino Martinez set-off one of the best baseball brawls I can remember back in 1998).  That team competed to win.  You better compete to win if you have Cal Ripken Jr. on your roster and you are the owner.  But shortly after Cal retired, or maybe even before depending on who you ask, the Orioles stopped putting a competitive product on the field.  The once vibrant Camden Yards was now a place in the 2000’s that would be quasi-filled for Opening Day, then sporadically for a few more games as the season wore on, often by Yankees and Red Sox fans that were willing to make the drive down I-95 when their team visited the Yard.  The mediocrity (and that is me being nice to bad teams) that followed the late ’90’s squads was abyssmal.  I have known many a hardened fan just give up on the Orioles.  Why shouldn’t they?  Their owner had!  Not only was Angelos not bringing in the right types of front-office baseball personnel, he was not trying to sign free agents.  Shoot, he even ignored his own potential free agents, like Mike Mussina.  This was the final straw for many fans.  Mike Mussina was a staple of the late ’90’s Orioles pitching staffs.  In November of 2000, he took less money to play for the Yankees.  Mussina cited that when Joe Torre and Derek Jeter reached out to him, it showed they WANTED him.  And isn’t that what we all want deep down?  To be wanted?  That and the $88.5 million he got from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.  An owner acused of a lot of things but never of not trying to win.

So now fast-forward to 2012 and here we are.  15 years later and guys I know from UMCP are now again fired-up for baseball in the latter stages of the season.  The connections between then and now still are there.  The manager of the Yankees that resurrected their squad in the mid-90’s, just before their string of 4 World Series victories in 5 years, Buck Showalter, is now the manager of the Orioles.  Showalter, the first MLB manager Derek Jeter knew, is aiming to be the last one Jeter sees in the opposing dugout as the teams square off tomorrow in the playoffs.  I’ve seen fans start cheering for the Indians (you know it is bad when you give up cheering for Baltimore for the Cleveland Indians) instead of the Orioles.  I’ve seen others give up on the O’s to cheer for the Nationals as well.  Those fans that cheer for the Nationals now can thank the Orioles manager from those late ’90’s squads, Davey Johnson, for giving them the opportunity to think about a Beltway Series between the Nats and O’s.  For now though, a playoff series between the Yanks and O’s is on tap.  I’m obviously a Yankees fan, but after all these years, I think it’s great for baseball and my old O’s fan friends to see their team compete.  It should be fun…hun.  Go Yanks.