Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Decade Later, ALCS Looks Very Familiar

Orioles played the role of the Red Sox 10 years ago

By Matthew Taylor

Cleveland established a direct connection to the Orioles’ franchise in Game 4 of the 2007 ALCS. The Indians
became the second team to score seven runs in one inning twice in a series, matching the 1970 Baltimore Orioles, who did it against Minnesota.

The Indians put up seven runs in fifth inning of Game 4, a 7-3 victory, and the 11th inning of Game 2, a 13-6 victory. The 1970 O’s, winners of 108 regular season games and the World Series, put up seven runs in the fourth inning of Game 1 of the ALCS, a 10-6 victory, and again in the ninth inning of Game 2, an 11-3 victory. The Birds also took Game 3, 6-1, for a sweep in what was then a best-of-five format.

However, reminders of the Orange and Black aren't limited to one statistical oddity from more than three decades ago. In fact, this year’s ALCS features multiple parallels to the
1997 playoffs, when the O’s, Wire-to-Wire winners in the East with a 98-64 record, played the role of the Red Sox vis-à-vis the Indians.

The Birds most recent playoff appearance happened to be the Indians most recent appearance prior to this season. And that’s where the déjà vu begins all over again.

-These AL Central-winning Indians, like the 1997 AL Central-winning edition, took down the Wild Card Yankees in the Division Series to reach the ALCS.

-The 1997 Birds, like the 2007 Red Sox, won Game 1 of the ALCS at home and then dropped the next three games, two of which were played at Jacobs Field and one of which was an extra-inning affair.

(With no apologies to Red Sox fans, our losses in ‘97 – all by one run, one in extra innings, and one in the bottom of the ninth – were much more heartbreaking than Boston’s losses have been in ’07.)

-Manny Ramirez – now a Red Sox slugger, then an Indians slugger – went deep in Games 2 and 4 of the 1997 ALCS and the 2007 ALCS.

-On Tuesday, the Indians gave up back-to-back-to-back home runs for the first time in LCS history. It happened only once before in the postseason when, you guessed it, the Indians served up three straight dingers to the Yankees in the 1997 playoffs.

-Should the Indians win the pennant this year they’ll face a 1993 expansion franchise from the National League, just as the ’97 Indians did when they squared off with the Florida Marlins in the World Series.

What remains to be seen is if the 2007 Red Sox can match the Orioles’1997 Game 5 performance, a 4-2 victory, to send the ALCS back home.

Extra Bases: The 1997 Indians featured six players who would wear an Orioles uniform at some point during their career: Jose Mesa, Tony Fernandez, Jeff Manto, Paul Shuey, Steve Kline, and Jaret Wright.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

It’s Finally Over … And It Could Have Been Worse

We could be fans of the Mets. Or Brewers. Or Padres.

By Christopher Heun

Now that a tenth consecutive losing season has met its merciful end, Orioles fans have plenty of reasons to feel sorry for themselves. But here’s something to cheer us up: at least we’re not Mets fans.

Determining which group of fans is cursed with the worse fate really boils down to a question of whether it’s better to have loved and lost (the Mets, Brewers and Padres) than never to have loved at all (the Devil Rays, Royals, Pirates – and the Orioles.)

Or, in the case of our Lovable Losers, it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all.

This year, the Mets were in first place for 159 days of the 183-day season. Murray Chass writes in The New York Times that no team had ever failed to finish first after leading its division that long.

Meanwhile, the Brewers were on top of the National League Central for 133 days but like the Mets failed to reach the postseason. And Padres fans couldn’t be blamed for taking the NL Wild Card for granted, only to see it slip away on the final weekend of the season.

As I have written previously, I live and work in New York City. Last week I assured Mets fans that their team would manage to hold on to the division; this week I’ve been expressing my condolences along with my disbelief.

Their response usually went something like this: “Thanks, but at least Orioles fans knew their season was over back in June.” Then a Yankee fan would interrupt and say it was over back in March.