It’s nearing the end of August, so that can only mean one thing: the Baltimore Orioles are way under .500, last in the AL East, and just going through the motions to finish out the season. You know it’s been another awesome year of Orioles baseball when the highlight of the summer is former second baseman Roberto Alomar getting inducted into the Hall of Fame wearing…a Blue Jays cap. Sigh.
In honor of another dreadful Orioles season, let’s count down the five lowest moments the Orioles have had since their last winning season, in 1997.
5: Yankees score a franchise-record 12 first-inning runs, July 30, 2011
Fact: Bad things happen to the Orioles when they play doubleheaders. For further proof, see number 2 below.
Maybe this is on the list because it happened so recently but it’s no doubt another embarrassing moment on a long list of terrible Orioles pitching over the past decade or so. Promising Orioles starter Zach Britton was on the mound and actually got the first batter for the Yankees, Derek Jeter, to strikeout looking. It was the lone out Britton would get all night as he allowed nine runs, only six of which were earned. (And, yes, I just used the word “only” to describe an opponent scoring six runs. Thus, you know it was bad.)
Anyways, anytime you help a storied franchise such as the New York Yankees set a team record, it has to be included on the list.
4: Rafael Palmeiro busted for steroids, August 1, 2005
It seemed like this was the year the O’s tradition of acquiring past-their-prime veterans was finally paying off: the O’s added Sammy Sosa in addition to veterans Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez, and Palmeiro, who had been acquired before the 2004 season. Things were looking promising for the O’s as they actually spent a majority of the first half of the 2005 season in first place in the AL East (peaking with a 42-28 record), and entered the All-Star break at 47-40. Heck, Miguel Tejada even won All-Star game MVP, continuing a strong tradition of Orioles infielders to win the mid-summer award. (Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Cal Ripken, and Roberto Alomar were the others.)
The end of July proved that the O’s were a fluke, as they sputtered to a 51-53 record by the end of the month. The next day, August 1, pretty much cemented another disheartening year for the O’s, as Palmeiro was suspended for 10 games for steroid use. This was all the more embarrassing once you consider that Palmeiro gave us this gem of a quote at a Congressional hearing five months prior: “Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.”
Sure, Raffy, you may never have used steroids before March of 2005, but that didn’t stop you from using them after that. Period. The O’s went on to fire manager Lee Mazzilli a few days later and finished the season 74-88, good enough for fourth in the AL East.
3: Cal Ripken sits out game, September 20, 1998
On September 20, 1998, Ripken decided to end his consecutive games played streak at 2,632. This was not only an MLB record but also a world record, as Ripken had passed Japanese legend Sachio Kinugasa’s 2,215 straight games played on June 14, 1996. Unfortunately for O’s fans, Ripken sitting out a game meant that the end of his career was in sight. Although he would play three more seasons, it was clear that the glory days of the Ripken era would soon become a distant memory.
In a sign of things to come, rookie Ryan Minor started at third base in Ripken’s place that night. Unbelievably, Minor’s tenure as an O was not as historic as Ripken’s.
2: Rangers 30, Orioles 3, August 22, 2007
This was a memorable day for me: I was throwing my things into boxes the day before moving to Boulder to start my sophomore year at the University of Colorado. In the mean time, I was keeping an eye on the O’s score; actually, it was more like keeping an eye on the Rangers score. The Rangers dropped 30 (30!) runs on the Orioles in one game, which just so happened to be manager Dave Trembley’s first game as Orioles manager without the interim tag. Talk about not giving your employers reason to have any faith in you.
The 30 runs by the Rangers were the most scored by an AL team in baseball history, and the most runs scored in either league in the modern era. The Rangers belted 6 homers and collected a total of 29 hits. The Orioles bullpen gave up 24 runs in four innings. (I’m chuckling to myself just typing that…24 runs!...in four innings! It’s like Little League all over again.) I knew the O’s pen was bad, but sheesh, I didn’t know it was that bad.
A couple oddities from the game: the O’s were up 3-0 through three innings before the Rangers rattled off 30 straight runs and Texas reliever Wes Littleton got the save with three innings of scoreless ball. Congratulations, Wes, you held an 11 run lead that then grew to 27 by the time the game was over. Actually, maybe I shouldn’t be that sarcastic as I’m sure the O’s bullpen would have found a way to blow that kind of lead.
There was more baseball played in the nightcap of the doubleheader, and the O’s lost that one, too, although they did keep it to a more respectable 9-7 score. The nine runs gave Texas the AL record for most runs scored in a doubleheader.
1: Jeffrey Maier, October 9, 1996
Okay, I know this list was only supposed to encompass the years from 1998 to the present, but I just couldn’t help myself. One could argue that not only is Jeff Maier a four letter word to Orioles fans (along the lines of Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone for Red Sox fans), but he started the O’s downward spiral. Sure, the O’s still made the ALCS the following year, but Maier had already done his damage.
To recap: in the bottom of the eighth of Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, with the Yankees down one, Derek Jeter hit a long fly ball to right field that O’s RF Tony Tarasco was camped under for an easy put out. Then Jeff Maier opted to change the course of baseball history and reach out and steal the ball from Tarasco. Despite arguments from Tarasco and O’s manager Davey Johnson, right field ump Richie Garcia ruled it a homer, the game was tied, and the Yankees went on to win the game in the eleventh, and the series in five games.
I specifically remember watching SportsCenter a couple years later, and either Karl Ravech or Steve Levy did a report on how if that had been ruled an out, the O’s would have gone on to win the game, the ALCS, and the World Series. Obviously, no one knows this for sure (it’s called the Chaos Theory…look it up) but, as an Orioles fan, it’s hard not to imagine what could have been if Jeff Maier had been using the toilet in the bottom of the eighth, instead of robbing Tony Tarasco and the Orioles of a sure out and Game 1 of the American League Championship.
Also, I’m pretty sure if Maier hadn’t intervened, the O’s would be working on their sixteenth straight World Series appearance this year.Back to the Baltimore Orioles Newsfeed