How can you not be romantic about baseball?
I know it might be a corny question to ask, seeing as it is used all the time whenever anything slightly emotional happens in the sport. The line, while its definitive origin is unknown, was made popular in the 2011 hit film Moneyball. Brad Pitt – playing legendary general manager Billy Beane – poses the question to his assistant GM during a meeting. While there’s a good chance it’s a fictional question (though I like to believe that it came from something that wasn’t a Hollywood writer), it’s still a really, really good question.
In an attempt to adequately answer this question, I had to go back quite some time. All the way back to 2009 when I watched on with my Dad as the New York Yankees, led by the likes of Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, C.C. Sabathia and countless other legendary Bronx Bombers, won the World Series. The run itself was magical: it was the Yankees’ first season in their new stadium and they had captured the top seed in the American League. They torched through the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels before sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies (probably the most recent memory of a New York team besting a Philadelphia rival) in the World Series.
I watched in awe, not at the sport of baseball, necessarily, but at the way my father seemingly lived and died by the team. It was something special, and that’s when the love probably began, at just six years old.
Then that love started to fade. Things stalled for about a decade (which freaks me out to even think of) as football and basketball – both of the professional and collegiate variety – held the majority of my attention. Between the sports themselves, both fantasy and video games, survival pools and an uncomfortable amount of media consumed, there just wasn’t enough time for much else.
Then the country shut down because of COVID-19, and I downloaded EA’s top baseball video game, MLB The Show. I started to get back into things a little bit. My problem? I couldn’t STAND the New York Yankees.
Even though I’m from New York and have every right to root for the team, the Yankees stood for everything I was against in sports. Riding the glory days of the pre-2000s era (at least for the most part), spending copious amounts on players that don’t pan out, and struggling to find the success that once was. The Yankees had the pay-roll – along with a willingness to pay the fines and exceed the Luxury Tax – to bury small market teams. And often, they did. I fiddled around with a few teams before deciding I couldn’t decide who to root for.
Because why, as an already miserable sports fan (shout-out to the New York Knicks), would I be a Mets fan? That’s a cruel life to live.
I started to expand my general knowledge of the sport and learn about the game itself. I think the biggest qualm against baseball is its slow pace, and for a while, I couldn’t be less interested for that very reason. But then, I started to appreciate the nuances. The little things.
The way a splitter looks as it takes a dive right before reaching home plate. The crack of the bat on a 450-foot home run to dead center. The challenges of hitting a fastball (which, by the way, is the hardest thing to do in sports). So on, and so forth, the little things outweighed the pace by more and more and I fell back in love with baseball.
And then I found my team.
For reference, two of the people I talk sports with are my camp friends Jared and Jacob. Jared’s a Yankees fan and Jacob a Red Sox fan, and they bicker constantly. Naturally, I decided that out of spite to both of them and their (respectfully) horrible franchises, I would pick a team that could cheer adamantly against both. I quickly ruled out the Blue Jays and Rays because both were good at the time, and the last thing I wanted to do was bandwagon. That left me with just one team:
The Baltimore Orioles.
I was quite literally inheriting the worst team in all of Major League Baseball. They proceeded to go 52-110, good for the worst record in the league. Then, an upstart 2022 saw them go 83-79 and shock a lot of people. It wasn’t quite good enough for a playoff berth, as they finished fourth in their division (ahead of the Red Sox, which I was sure to gloat about). There was hope for the Orioles with young prospects in Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson contributing to the team later in the season and Grayson Rodriguez looming in the minors. Still, they were not a projected playoff team in the pre-season and many thought that the O’s would return to their 50-win ways.
Well, not everyone.
Now, we’re caught up. Make your way to the Orioles official Instagram page to see reels-on-reels of the Orioles celebrating with champagne and beers. The celebration came after a 2-0 home victory against the Red Sox, as the Orioles clinched their first American League East title since 2014 and their first 100-win season since 1980. I’d be lying if I said I never doubted it – I had my skepticisms and I still do – but that’s for me to reflect on another time. While I haven’t necessarily been in the trenches with the Orioles the way that many Baltimore natives have been (it’s only been three years that I’ve rooted for them), I’m proud of the team and the resilience they have shown.
It isn’t easy winning 100 games, for any team. Add in the fact that they are a small market team, and their current roster is actually composed of the third-lowest payroll in MLB, and it’s a damn-near miracle that we’re here right now. It speaks volumes to the importance of developing prospects, as the O’s entered the season with the No. 1 ranked farm in the league – and are somehow still number one with Jackson Holliday on a blazing pace to the majors.
The American League Playoffs will go through Baltimore, and the Orioles will get a chance to contend for their first World Series since their franchise’s last championship in 1983. With an overall young roster lacking significant playoff experience, things won’t be easy for the Orioles, but they’ll have the state of Maryland behind them.
If you had the pleasure of watching a game this season, you’ve seen the way that the team interacted not only in-game but also before and after. If you haven’t, you are truly missing out. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team in my nearly 20 years of sports-watching with the chemistry of the 2023 Baltimore Orioles. They have fun in the dugout, in the locker room and on the field. They play hard for themselves, for each other, and for their loyal fans.
So, I’ll pose the question again.
How can you not be romantic about baseball?