Happy anniversary, O’s fans…I guess.
Six years ago tonight – behind, of all things, a strong start from Ubaldo Jimenez – the Orioles defeated the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards by a score of 8-2 and clinched the American League East title.
It was the team’s first division championship since 1997 – but will it prove to be the last meaningful division championship the team ever wins?
Because…my how things have changed in the six years that have passed since.
Of course, there are a number of obvious changes – such as the fact that thanks to Covid-19 we can’t even watch the Birds at Camden Yards for the time being.
And now – with the expanded playoffs for 2020 and potentially beyond – Major League Baseball has potentially watered its regular season down to the point where a division championship isn’t nearly as valuable as it once was.
In fact, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts recently admitted that he was spending the final few weeks of the 2020 regular season preparing his team for the postseason rather than worrying about holding off the San Diego Padres for a division title.
But let’s put the changes to the postseason structure – and the debate over whether MLB should make those changes permanent – aside for the time being and take a look back at just how much has changed since Steve Pearce stepped on first base to end that ballgame against the Blue Jays just six years ago.
* The Players – Of the 15 Orioles players appeared in that division-clinching game vs. Toronto, how many do you think are still in the Orioles organization?
The answer is zero. Five pitchers – Jimenez, T.J. McFarland, Darren O’Day, Andrew Miller and Tommy Hunter – have all moved on, as have the ten position players: Nick Markakis (RF), Alejandro De Aza (LF), Adam Jones (CF), Nelson Cruz (DH), Steve Pearce (1B), J.J. Hardy (SS), Jimmy Paredes (3B), Jonathan Schoop (2B), Ryan Flaherty (2B-3B) and Nick Hundley (C).
In fact, of the 44 total players who suited up for the Orioles in 2014, only one still remains on the roster: Chris Davis. But Davis was not on the field the night the Orioles clinched the division in 2014. He had been given a 25-game suspension by MLB just four days earlier for testing positive for the drug Adderall without a therapeutic use exemption.
* The Coaching Staff – Obviously with the firing of Buck Showalter after the 2018 season, the coaching staff has turned over completely. Interestingly enough the only members of Showalter’s 2014 coaching staff who are still in the major leagues are Wayne Kirby and Bobby Dickerson, who are now with Manny Machado and the San Diego Padres.
* Management – Again…the house was cleaned after the 2018 season so no one responsible for the acquisition and development of that division winner – Dan Duquette, John Stockstill, Gary Rajsich, Brady Anderson, Lee Thomas and others – is currently with the Orioles in any capacity.
* Broadcasters – Handling the play-by-play in the MASN booth the night the Orioles clinched was Jim Hunter, alongside Mike Bordick. While both remain with MASN, Bordick has largely been moved to the analyst role on the pre- and post-game shows while Hunter’s contributions are primarily online thanks to a dramatic makeover of the team’s broadcast lineup. And both of the longtime radio broadcasters working that night – Joe Angel and Fred Manfra – have since retired. Manfra retired during the 2017 season and Angel hung up his microphone after the 2018 season.
* What else? – Believe it or not, back in 2014 you could watch a handful of Orioles games on free, over-the-air WJZ Channel 13. But that’s not the case anymore as MASN has a complete monopoly on all local broadcasts. Also back in 2014 you could enjoy an Esskay hotdog while watching the O’s play…but in January 2019 the company stopped making them.
No question about it – our lives have changed dramatically since March 2020.
But a look back to just how different things were with the Orioles six years ago tonight – when we had hopes of a World Series championship – is pretty eye-opening as well.
The Delmon Young Double…the three straight wins over Cy Young winners in the ALDS (Scherzer, Price and Verlander)…and the huge double play turn by Schoop in Detroit to help wrap up the ALDS victory – those great moments were still ahead of us.
But those would prove to be the last great moments for the Orioles in at least six years…and so much has changed both on the field and off since that it seems like even more years have passed.