The Orioles have largely been the laughing stock of the American League for the last decade. Sure the Royals might have been worse, even though they did scrape together a winning season in the last ten years, and the Pirates and Nationals may have been more embarrassing but the Orioles have been larger jokes. Why? Well the Orioles have been like the untalented little cousin that wants to play basketball with you and your brother at Thanksgiving. He can't really run, shoot or jump but you have to let him play because he is family. Maybe if he were playing with kids his own age and height he would be fine but as it stands it is just embarrassing.
The Orioles struggles, much like little cousin's struggles, have always been thrown into stark relief because of the division they play in. Having to play the two most popular, richest and media-visible teams as many times as the Orioles do a year makes you look bad. Having those team's fans invade your home-park 18 times a year makes you look really bad. Getting completely walloped 30 out of 36 times a year makes you look clueless.
And really who can blame them. The rest of the league does not have to play these juggernauts nearly as many times. Hell the AL Central is nearly homongenous when it comes to market-size and talent level (outside of Kansas City anyway). So, over the last decade the Orioles have enjoyed a very public beat-down year-in-year-out at the hands of their rich relatives from the north.
It has been embarrassing.
But the Orioles have largely deserved it as well. Mismanagement, poor meddling ownership, horrible trades and signings, a minor league system devoid of any meaningful talent despite drafting so highly year after year after year. Between Cal Ripken Jr. and Brian Roberts the Orioles did not produce a single homegrown everyday posistional player. That is about two decades of minor league busts.
New General Manager Andy MacPhail has begun to right the ship however, and national baseball press is beginning to take notice. Most recently from Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan. Passan heaps praise on the Orioles and MacPhail praise that I have not seen coming from a national sportswriter in quite some time.
"The praise, almost universal.... Scouts love the Baltimore Orioles. They want to peg them as baseball’s great darkhorse of 2010, the latest team that can turn homegrown talent into long-term success."
Of course Passan points out what most Oriole fans already know. As he calls it that pesky "seven-word postscript"
"if only they weren't in that division"
According to Passan, and believe me this is not the first place I have heard this, baseball loves what the Orioles have done and are doing. The fact that in a relative short amount of time the Orioles have completely recharged their minor league system and stocked their major league roster with a lot of really talented young players that they control for years. It should be the beginning of the great Oriole renaissance. Hail the coming of the second great Oriole Empire, long may it reign. But - if it weren't for our division.