BALTIMORE — It was a special weekend at Oriole Park at Camden Yards with plenty of reminders of past glory meshing with the excitement of a first-place club completing a three-game sweep.
On Saturday, the 1983 championship team was celebrated, complete with World Series MVP Rick Dempsey leading a sellout crowd in an Orioles chant that brought goosebumps and memories of those nights on 33rd Street. Forty years later, we forget that Eddie Murray was 27 and Cal Ripken just 23 when the Orioles won their last World Series, a lesson for the current club to seize every opportunity because future team prosperity wasn’t guaranteed for even a pair of Hall of Famers.
Seeing so many members of that 1983 team reminded just how long it’s been since Baltimore experienced a World Series after advancing to six and winning three titles over an 18-year period from 1966-83. Especially with Ripken and Murray in their prime, no one could have anticipated 1983 being the end of the Orioles’ golden era, let alone predicted the four-decade drought to follow.
Buck Showalter also made his return to Baltimore and was greeted warmly by fans before his New York Mets continued their disappointing season. It’s difficult to believe how far the Orioles have come since Showalter was in charge of a horrendous 47-115 club five years ago, but there was much good to remember, including him leading Baltimore to three of its five postseason appearances since 1983.
Even Adam Jones was in the house for a second straight Friday night. Seeing him back at Camden Yards just feels right, and the Orioles would be wise to continue growing a partnership with one of the most popular players in team history and someone who’s given so much to the city.
Such links to the recent past and the franchise’s rich history are great, but their presence coinciding with the excitement surrounding the American League’s top team is what made the weekend truly special. The past is all the Orioles have been able to celebrate for most of the last 40 years, but the likes of Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, and Felix Bautista are trying to change that.
The present and future continue to look so promising as the Orioles outclassed the Mets over the weekend to remain three games up on Tampa Bay in the AL East. That Baltimore won its 70th game of the season on Sunday was remarkable considering it was exactly two years ago that Brandon Hyde’s club was in the midst of a 19-game losing streak and on its way to a league-worst 52-110 finish. The Orioles have failed to win 70 games over a full season 13 times since 1983, reinforcing how impressive the current team is and how forgettable most of the last 40 years of baseball have been.
How likely are the Orioles to be playing in the postseason for the first time since 2016?
At 70-42, they’re on pace to reach triple-digit wins, something Baltimore hasn’t done since 1980. Even a .500 record over the final 50 games would result in a 95-67 finish and all but guarantee a playoff spot. The Orioles have won 95-plus games in a season just twice since 1983 — 1997 and 2014 — with each of those clubs advancing to the AL championship series.
Of course, Baltimore must still navigate eight weeks of regular-season baseball with no shortage of potential pitfalls, especially in the highly competitive AL East. The organization faces the challenge of managing workloads for multiple young starters who have already exceeded or are rapidly approaching career highs for innings pitched. Hyde is also trying to find a couple more trustworthy arms in the bullpen to help bridge the gap to Bautista with Sunday’s 2-0 win offering some promise in that department.
Greater expectations come with a young team’s success, but this group continues to carry the mature mindset of not getting too high over winning or allowing a rough few days to snowball into a rough couple weeks. That the Orioles have only one four-game losing streak all year and haven’t been swept in a series since May of last season should say plenty about their mental makeup. It also helps that they’re an AL-leading 20-10 in one-run games.
From the 1983 World Series team to Showalter and Jones, everyone is taking notice, including more than 100,000 fans who attended the weekend series.
Time will reveal how the 2023 Orioles will be remembered, but they remained the primary source of excitement over a weekend built for nostalgia. That alone reflects how far they’ve come and where they’re going.