The Fan has watched several games this year between the Yankees and the Orioles. Monday's Labor Day matinee was just the latest this year. It was like watching a completely different team than earlier contests between these two teams. The Orioles are no longer an easy roll over for good teams. They have beat the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Bay Rays among others since Buck Showalter took over the team. It's been an amazing turnaround.
Earlier in the year, if the Orioles jumped out to a quick lead and the Yankees came back late in the game to tie things up, the game was over. The Orioles simply folded like kids who know they can't climb the rope in gym class. (Do they still do that?) On Monday, the same thing happened except the Orioles didn't quit. They came right back and scored a go ahead run and then held the Yankees from scoring further. This isn't the same Orioles team of April through July.
The easy thing is to give Buck Showalter credit and he deserves a lot of it. But credit also goes to Brian Roberts, who finally has a reason to play each day. Monday was a perfect example. The Orioles were terrible in driving in runs with runners in scoring position except for the two times Roberts delivered two singles with two outs to get runs home. To say that Roberts increased his leverage score would be an understatement. But credit also has to go to the entire team that is playing hard and is starting to believe they have every chance to win each day.
The Fan has been studying body language for a lifetime and a perfect example of the difference in the Orioles is Matt Wieters. Every time the Fan saw Wieters, he seemed like he was playing small. That's pretty difficult to do when you are six foot, five. Now he looks like a ballplayer. He stands more erect. He doesn't have a deer-in-the-headlights look to him. Michael Kay, the Yankees' excellent play-by-play guy talked about how Showalter saw that Wieters was still getting hazed like a rookie. Showalter made it stop and told the team that Wieters was the leader of the pitching staff and should be treated like one. How cool is that? All that is great, but the team has to allow itself to respond and they are.
Remember that the Orioles were 32-73 before Showalter and the fighting Showalters are now 20-13. Matusz is better. Wieters is better. Bergesen is better. Guthrie is better. All of these guys obviously have talent or they wouldn't have been prized prospects to begin with. Showalter has found a way to tap into the talent and make it believe that, on any given day, it can shine.
What is going on in Baltimore and really, in Houston too, is that it shows that a team can be turned around. No situation is so bad that any team that takes it a day at a time and works together toward the goal of winning each day can be successful. Obviously, the Orioles have lost 13 games since Showalter too over. But the difference is that they are competitive. That's all a team's fans can ask for. All a fan needs is to know that on this given day, my team can win the game. They may not, but at least the odds are 50/50 and not much lower than that.
Teams like the Pirates and the Brewers and the Royals should take note that only top notch leadership is acceptable. Any of those teams could have had Showalter, right? The Orioles are still a few players short of being successful long term, but any team that finds them on their schedule better take those games seriously now because they won't be easy wins. And if they aren't careful, they may be losses.