Orioles: The amazing non-race
This is going to sound like damning with faint praise, but I've just watched the most amazing two weeks of non-contending baseball in my several decades of writing about the national pastime.
Of course, maybe I'm just still in a euphoric haze after back-to-back nights when the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays were dueling for the final American League playoff spot and each was riding an emotional roller coaster that didn't stop until midnight.
It wasn't really about the Orioles -- at least, not anywhere else in the baseball world -- but it was here, and they did the almost unthinkable when they reeled off three straight hits against Red Sox super-stopper Jonathan Papelbon with two outs in the ninth inning to push the Sox out of playoff contention.
That wasn't official until a couple of minutes after the O's staged a playoff-caliber on-field celebration, when Evan Longoria completed an even more unlikely come-from-behind victory over the Yankees with a walk-off home run in the 12th inning. The Rays trailed 7-0 in the eighth inning before scoring six times to pull within a run and tying the game in the ninth on a two-out, two-strike homer by Dan Johnson.
The past three days at Camden Yards featured a level of intensity not seen here in the past decade, and it was great fun even if it didn't change the fact that the O's finished last again in the AL East. I guess you take your entertainment where you can get it after 14 straight losing seasons.
"I think that our finish overall is encouraging,'' closer Jim Johnson said, "though I know we did this last year. A day like today just shows you how crazy baseball can be. They absolutely dominated us for a long time, so this is a little justification at the end of the year."
Now, stand by for some news Thursday about the future of the front office.