Like All-Star games, elections tend to leave behind a touch of optimism (and more than a little second-guessing), so it’s probably fortuitous that the Maryland primary fell on the same day as the Major League Baseball’s Midsummer Classic this year. Both events provide an opportunity to take the measure of things.
But while the outcome of the primary vote is critically important to the state, the result of the game at Dodger Stadium isn’t that big a deal to Orioles fans. That’s because the 2022 franchise already made them proud. How? By doing something throughout the season that many of us had not anticipated: They’ve been winning games. Not all of them. Not even most of them. But a whole lot more than they did last season, or most seasons of late.
Even the most casual of sports fans has likely heard about the 10-game winning streak the Birds put together recently, the best such streak by the team this century. But the real marvel is the O’s overall record of 46 wins against 46 losses. What’s so great about playing .500 ball? Last year, the team was 28 and 61 at the break. In fact, the 2021 Orioles didn’t win their 46th game until Sept. 15, en route to a 52-110 season, which was among the franchise’s worst (just behind its dreadful 47-115 finish three years earlier, which was one of the five worst in MLB history and 61 games out of first place). So yes, what an improvement for a team that has been — and we say this with as much affection as possible — stinking up the joint.
There are several lessons here that deserve to be highlighted. First is that the Orioles did not turn the corner (if that’s what they indeed have done) overnight. Under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias, whom the team hired after that miserable 2018 season, they’ve gone about rebuilding in the least flashy way, acquiring young talent, abstaining from costly free agent signings, and assembling a team where the sum may prove greater than its parts. Individually, the players don’t dominate American League stat sheets and subsequently did not rank high in All-Star voting. But collectively they’ve produced a record that puts them legitimately in the running for a wildcard berth.
(All of this made their acquisition of Jackson Holliday, the son of seven-time All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday, the top pick in the MLB draft last Sunday night, some icing on the cake. The shortstop is just out of high school, so it may be a while before his name gets inked on a Camden Yards lineup card, but his achievements to date — and blood line — suggest he’s money in the bank, the next Adley Rutschman.)
The second lesson is in the fact that they stuck to their plan despite all the doubters.
The third is that they seem to have ignored the distractions. The O’s were terrible last year, yet Mr. Elias didn’t swerve. And the team made headlines this summer for the ongoing family feud and lawsuit involving the sons of Peter Angelos over control of the team (and much of the family fortune). Again, it seems to be business as usual in the clubhouse, where hitting a homerun gets you the honor of wearing a giant chain and O’s logo around the neck. The guys seem to be having fun and enjoying each other’s company. That’s a good sign in any organization.
How much better might Baltimore be if those who win at the ballot box could take a cue from the Orioles and in the same workmanlike manner fight gun violence, upgrade schools and provide economic opportunities? Putting leadership on the same page —from prosecutors to mayor and from state legislators to the governor — would surely promote equity and create a better functioning city government. As with the O’sn, progress wouldn’t happen overnight, and actions would likely draw criticism. There would undoubtedly be distractions. But there would certainly be hope for the future.
Meanwhile, all this winning and enthusiasm makes the Orioles just plain fun to watch. They return to action Friday night against the first-place New York Yankees at Camden Yards. An enjoyable night at the ballpark gets our vote every time. And increased home attendance helps the city make some progress with downtown renewal, too.
Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.