The Orioles have ignored the disasters piled on top of their inadequacies all season. But these are surely the last straws. Aren’t they? Former Orioles star Brady Anderson, who’s been retired for 10 years but is still a fitness fanatic, walks past General Manager Dan Duquette. Anderson, who does some coaching, is in uniform.
“You should sign me,” Anderson says. “Put me in right field until Nick’s back.”
Duquette knows that decades of old Orioles wish they could come back for three weeks to try to make this pennant race dream come true. Ex-Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson’s doing the best job of it — his son, rookie pitcher Steve, is 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA.
“We have a much better ballclub now than we did earlier in the year,” Duquette said. Then, the scholarly type, he assigns a research project. Everybody talks about the Orioles’ run differential — they’ve been outscored by 22 — as proof that they are playing over their heads, that they are lucky, that their 26-7 record in one-run games is a once-every-20-year fluke and that every injury or loss is a harbinger of collapse.
“See what we’ve done the last month or so,” says Duquette, aware that this time frame coincides with the arrival of Machado, who is hitting .272 and has improved the Birds’ entire infield defense, allowing Mark Reynolds to go from bad third baseman to good-fielding and now hot-slugging first baseman.
And Duquette, of course, is correct. In their last 29 games, including seven against the Yankees and 11 more against the contending Rangers, Tigers and White Sox and Rays, the Orioles have outscored their high-quality foes by 31 runs, a rate you’d expect of a 100-win team. Maybe Baltimore isn’t that good. But those who think they’ll inevitably collapse may not realize that in a league full of flawed teams the Orioles, even injured, are among the least shaky clubs left standing.
Still, the O’s are a team held together at times with spit and string.
“My mother used to say to me, ‘The good Lord won’t give you more than he thinks you can handle. But I wish he didn’t have so much confidence in you,’ ” Showalter said.
“What are you going to do?” he says, shrugging.
Can the Orioles win enough of their last 20 games, perhaps 11 of them, to make the playoffs, beating (gulp) the Yanks in the AL East or edging the Athletics, Rays and Angels in a fight for two wild cards?
Each of these crisp September nights the standings will shuffle. The Orioles’ fate will seam to soar or sink. Please, sir, can we have just a few more one-run wins?
In three brief weeks, the pennant race will be over. But, until then, it will inch along, like an interminable, marvelous marathon.
For Thomas Boswell’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/