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The Wingspan

The Wingspan

After seven long years of rebuilding, the Orioles are back in the playoffs

Image via The Athletic
Image via The Athletic

Before the start of the 2023 MLB season, FanGraphs gave the Orioles a 10.4% chance to make the playoffs, and a 1.3% chance to win the division. With less than two weeks left in the regular season, the O’s have clinched the playoffs, and now have an 89.4% chance to win the division. 

The Orioles have trusted the process heavily. In 2018, they put up the second-worst record of the 21st century, going a pitiful 47-115. A firesale was held at the trade deadline, sending former key contributors like Manny Machado, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day, Jonathan Schoop, and Zach Britton all elsewhere. Adam Jones signed with Arizona. Manager Buck Showalter and general manager Dan Duquette were fired. This was the start of a treacherous period in time for baseball in Baltimore. The hype for the Orioles from just a few years prior had vanished entirely, and a franchise cornerstone was needed to get excitement back to Birdland.

In comes Adley Rutschman.

The Orioles used the first overall pick earned by their dreadful 2018 season to draft the generational switch-hitting Catcher, and he excelled throughout the minor leagues, which earned his call-up in the spring of the 2022-23 season. 16-24 at the time, the Orioles were ready to make the jump back into winning. In his first game in the majors, Rutschman tripled and the energy at Camden Yards was at the highest level since the playoffs in 2014. The future was looking bright, and Rutschman was a key contributor. After the call-up, the O’s finished the 2022 season with Rutschman going 67-54 and making a late push at the wild card, that fell short in the end. They also saw contributions from highly touted 21-year-old infielder Gunnar Henderson, who was called up in late August. If the Orioles wanted to make noise in 2023 though, they’d need the young guys to step up, and that they did.

Adley Rustchman taking in Camden Yards before his major league debut (image via Gail Burton/AP Photo)

Predictions for the O’s were a bit all over the place. Analysts were split on whether they’d excel or bust, but that doubt was silenced quickly after a 19-9 first month. The young guys were stepping up. The veteran outfielders continued their stellar defense, while also consistently hitting. And the game was essentially over after the 8th inning, with set-up man Yennier Canó and closer Félix Bautista being practically unhittable.

Since then, The birds have just kept winning, in incredible fashion. From walk-offs to comebacks, they just keep finding ways to win and the city has hopped back in support of them. They entered their mid-September series with American East rival Tampa Bay with a two-game series lead and split the series keeping the lead at two, but most importantly, clinching the playoffs. They had done the unthinkable, but the job was not done. A bye through the wild card round is much in reach, they just need to stick to consistently winning like they’ve done since the start of the year.

The Orioles clinching the playoffs is long overdue. The fanbase has waited patiently through many dreadful years of losing. This year is refreshing. The team is fun to watch and plays with a lot of energy, and the city deserves it. Having a baseball team still in the mix once football season arrives is not a normal feeling. Even though they’re young, they’ve proven that they can win, so why not keep winning? As September winds down and playoffs arrive, watch out for the Orioles as they look to stay in stride and add some more hardware to their trophy case. 

Image via Patrick Smith/Getty Images


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About the Contributor
Jackson Palich, Sports Editor