My personal opinion is that the Baltimore Orioles had a season of which to be proud in 2016. They went to the post-season, and played Toronto to an effective draw until extra innings in the American League Wild Card game. Yet due to the abrupt manner in which it ended, many fans were unsatisfied.
However people should keep in mind that this Orioles’ team was picked by many to finish last in their division. Yeah you read that right – dead last. As much as Tampa (who did finish in the cellar) struggled and as far behind everyone else as they were, many of the so-called experts picked them to finish ahead of the Orioles. Makes no sense at the end of the day, right?
So regardless of how it ended, put into that context the season as a whole comes off as a success. Heck, last year they finished exactly at .500. So whether they went to the post-season or not, the Orioles had a much better season year-over-year. But the fact is that they did go to the post-season, regardless of how one looks at it.
However here’s an interesting point; did the Birds’ season end before the post-season even began? If you remember, the Birds at one point had the lead for the first wild card spot over the course of the final weekend of the regular season. That would have meant that they would have played host to the AL Wild Card game at Camden Yards. This of course as opposed to having to travel to Toronto and play it as the visitor at Rogers Centre.
The Orioles had a 3-0 lead on New York on the second-to-last day of the regular season. Had they gone onto win that day, all things being the same they would have ended up one game ahead of Toronto in the standings. The phrase that pays is all things being the same. That’s always a tough argument to make because it’s basically saying what if? But work with me here…
…because you all see where I’m going with this I’m sure. Instead, a four-run eighth inning by New York turned that into a loss for the O’s. Of course they later clinched a playoff spot the next day with a win, however they slid in as the second wild card team as opposed to the first.
If that game is played at Camden Yards, it’s throngs of screaming Orioles fans making it an obscene place to play for Toronto – instead of the reverse. (Not to mention that we probably aren’t having the conversation about someone throwing beer at Hyun-Soo Kim.) Furthermore, the Orioles have their last at-bat. Perhaps the game would have played out strikingly similarly to how it did in real life in this “alternate reality.” But at the very least the O’s would have had another shot at bat as opposed to being walked off.
My impression was that the Birds felt that New York was defeated in that game in the Bronx. They didn’t see them coming back, and they went into cruise control. Instead they clawed their way back into the game, and ended up winning it. That’s to their credit. It also may have indirectly ended the Orioles’ season.
This is all a tough argument to make given the nature of the whole all things being the same argument. But whereas in football or basketball home field advantage means something in terms of fans getting into the heads of opponents, in baseball it means something for teams having their last at-bat. And ultimately, that luxury being afforded to the home team is part of the game.