The Art of Losing to Win

Sports as a collective is summed up in two words; winning and losing.

Yes, there are individual accolades and adoration for certain players, but the cold hard truth is that it all comes down to whether you win or lose.

Recently, the Baltimore Orioles found out that winning was a lot harder than losing, and in a fashionable way for the most recent stretch, a stretch that included 19 consecutive losses. The Orioles weren’t just bad, they were almost unwatchable.

During their losing streak, the Orioles were losing by an average of four or more runs a game. Not that it’s all on the defense, but the offense was barely hitting or scoring any runs.

The Orioles managed to go 16 straight games losing by multiple runs, before a 5-4 loss to the Angels on August 21, four days before their second win in the month of August.

So why do I mention and bring forth this abysmal time for our beloved Birds? The answer is where this is all is leading.

Yes, we have had to sit through two losing streaks of 14+ consecutive losses, a consecutive road loss streak of 20 games, a 16-game losing streak by more than one run, and an outside chance of being the worst team in baseball history. But will it all be worth the pain in the end?

On August 25, 2021, Oriole Park at Camden Yards had a paltry 15,000 fans show up to cheer our Orioles on. They were welcomed to a show, as not only did Baltimore win, they won scoring 10 runs.

The team, the coaches, and the fans celebrated like it was a playoff victory. There was passion from everyone, as the taste of victory filled the air. It was something that had been taken for granted before it was gone. It was that one moment where everything just felt right with the world again.

As a fan, it is always easy to cheer and get excited when your team is putting one in the win column. We feel a sense of pride and joy, we stick our chest out a little more knowing we can brag, even if it’s for a day. We feel like us, as fans, have accomplished something just as important as the team.

When our team loses, we seem a little more down, reserved to talk of our team, and angry that our team failed to do us proud. That same energy is felt by the team, and in return, the players can feel it and begin to press and force plays or opportunities.

The Orioles were an exciting team from 2012-2017. We might not have made the playoffs each year, but we competed and were right there until the very end of the season. Baseball was fun in the Charm City, and Camden Yards was packed, as our team made the city proud.

When the end of 2018 came, we all knew what was coming; years of losing and rebuilding. Finding ways to rebuild, so we could win once again, would be no small task. But we would have to lose and learn to accept that, whether we liked it or not.

We see it in football and basketball all the time. Gut a team, bring in top picks, and lose for a few years, before the rewards start to show through. Unfortunately for baseball, it has become a heart-breaking experience.

Mike Elias came from the Houston Astros, who experienced the same sort of rebuild. For three straight years, they lost 100+ games and were the butt of more jokes than the glory of headlines.

In the situation of the Orioles, our farm system was weak, consistently ranking in the bottom three for the best system in the league. We had no presence in the international market, and our team was signing “Plan B” free agents to fill holes. It’s no surprise we have ended up where we have today.

We have rebuilt our entire minor league and international system to keep a steady flow of talent pushing through from the bottom to the top. They are learning and growing, so when they arrive on the big stage, they will be crucial to the turn around that follows.

The Orioles currently have the top player (Adley Rutschman) and pitcher (Grayson Rodriguez) in baseball, currently the third team to ever have two of the top-10 players in baseball prospect rankings.

This crop of youngsters have learned the art of winning, as they have taken each step up the ladder of our system. They have grown together, learned together, and have become key figures for our future. That doesn’t mean we can guarantee winning immediately as they arrive, but it gives our team the opportunity to improve and become a team to turn it around.

Currently, our big league club consists of Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, and Trey Mancini as the core to lead our club. John Means has become a big name pitcher, after going undrafted out of college. These are players other teams passed on and are suddenly key pieces other teams called for at the trade deadline. They have all put forth strong seasons, carrying our team and providing much of the highlights in a season full of lows.

Due to our struggles and lack of wins, our minor league system will be able to start contributing by next season, possibly making the Orioles one of the most surprising and dangerous teams to watch very soon.

Today, victories seem so seldom that each one is magnified to excitement deeper than before. Each loss is a reminder of how far we have fallen from grace, as well as unwillingness to partake in games or watching them as a fan.

Our team has perfected the art of losing, but does that mean we have found the solution to win? Time can only tell, but the biggest question left belongs to us, the fans.

Do we stand true and proud through the losing, as we build toward a consistent winning team that fights for a chance to make the big show, or do we only return when glory finds Birdland again?

We might not be able to answer this on such a difficult season, but one thing we have found out is this; the art of losing can only be perfected when winning shows in the results.

What do you think of the current state and future of our Birds? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to follow The Baltimore Battery on Facebook and Twitter and our podcast “The Walk-Off” on YouTube and Spotify! And, make sure to use the hashtag #baltimorebattery when sharing our content to show your Birdland swag!

Like Stephen’s content? Follow him on Twitter, @SrHeckman!

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