Orioles Fans Expected Too Much Of Red Sox
By Stan "The Fan" Charles
After The Orioles' victory against the Red Sox on Sept. 30, about 35,000 of the Orioles' closest friends stood applauding the team on their great turnaround season while waiting and watching with the players, staring at the DiamondVision screen and looking for help to come by way of the Texas Rangers.
It was an odd moment in Orioles lore. And as the Rangers let the Angels come back and delay the clinching of the O's first playoff spot since 1997, the Orioles would have done well to take it as a teachable moment, with the simple lesson being: take care of your business and if help comes from other teams playing out the string, so be it.
The Orioles got their playoff-clinching help from the Rangers later Sunday night, and the team held a subdued impromptu celebration on the flight from Jacksonville, Fla., to St. Petersburg.
As the Orioles started play Monday evening, they held their destiny in hand. Simply beat the Rays three straight and the least the Orioles would have had was a one-game playoff in Baltimore Thursday against the Yankees. But the Orioles did not hold serve, losing, 5-3, in St. Petersburg. The Red Sox, meanwhile, didn't even put up a modicum of a fight as the Yankees took it to them early and often during a 10-2 victory, which put New York back in control of its destiny. The Orioles let a golden opportunity slip through their hands, and now face a tougher road to trying to win the American League East.
After the action Monday night, I started getting texts and Facebook messages berating Boston manager Bobby Valentine's choice of lineup versus Yankees starter CC Sabathia. Orioles fans are up in arms that Valentine seemed to play less than his best and failed to uphold the unwritten rule of trying one's best in games of this magnitude.
Although I hold no love for Valentine, who is most likely managing the last three games of his one-and-done season in Boston, I held no illusions about what his dead-man-walking team would do playing out the string in the Bronx.
To his credit, Valentine didn't exactly play it to the hilt against the Orioles and then set out to tank in New York. Valentine started Aaron Cook, Felix Doubront and Zach Stewart in Baltimore. Compare that with Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka going against the Yankees. Objectively, looking at those matchups, I'd say Valentine is trying harder to win versus the Yankees than against the Orioles.
Sure, his lineup for the first Yankees game left a lot to be desired, as there was no Jacoby Ellsbury or Dustin Pedroia. But what did the Red Sox in was that Buchholz was bombed early, giving his team little chance to win. That was not Valentine's fault.
What Orioles fans seemed to forget is the 2011 Orioles, who knocked the Red Sox into their most recent offseason of discontent, was a team headed in the right direction. O's manager Buck Showalter came into the press briefing after that final 2011 game and talked as if he hoped his team took that it all in and could gain something from the ruination of the Red Sox' season.
Those of us in the media looked at one another and let it pass as Buck being Buck, pontificating a bit out of his derriere. In other words, those of us who listened that night had no idea how right Showalter was and how wrong the Red Sox had turned.
Now a year later, Showalter and his Birds have shown they meant something with the statement they made at the end of last season. But if Orioles fans held out hope of the Red Sox playing a similar spoiler role this year in New York, they missed the lesson from 2011: Normally, the team headed nowhere is the team that loses its final games.
Posted Oct. 2, 2012