Mark Reynolds of the Baltimore Orioles rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the New York Yankees during the eighth inning of the Orioles' 10-6 win at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
It's been a long time since a Yankees-Orioles series seemed important, and now this one seems like maybe the most important series of them all.
For some of us, a big series between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles doesn't feel all that strange. After all, they played plenty of important games in the 1970s, and in the 1980s, and in the 1990s. In 1996, the Yankees and Orioles faced off in American League Championship Series for a shot at the World's Championship. In 1997, both teams qualified for the postseason; this time the Yankees got knocked out in the first round by the Indians, who then topped the Orioles in the A.L.C.S.
But for some of us, it's impossible to remember an important set of games between these two storied franchises. Because since 1997, the relationship between the Yanks and O's has been completely one-sided.
How one-sided? Let us count a few of the ways ...
Winning Seasons (1998-2011)
Yankees - 14
Orioles - 0
Maybe I should have saved this one, but now you can skip ahead if you like. Because the contrast will not look more stark than this. The Yankees were winners for 14 straight seasons, and the Orioles were losers for 14 straight seasons. The closest the Yankees came to losing was 87-75 (in 2000); the closest the Orioles came to winning was 79-83 (1998). The O's were actually respectable for a while, but beginning in 2006 they lost at least 92 games in six straight seasons.
Yankees - 1,369
Orioles - 990
That's a lot of wins, even over the course of 14 seasons. That's 27 wins per season. That's 27 more times per season when Yankees fans went to sleep happy, and Orioles fans went to sleep sad.
World Series Championships
Yankees - 4
Orioles - 0
Until 2009, Orioles fans might perhaps have taken some small solace in the Yankees' long (for them) championship drought, which began in 2001. But then came 2009, when the Yankees won 103 games in the regular season, then dispatched the Twins, Angels, and Phillies en route to their 27th championship. Meanwhile, it's now been nearly three full decades since the Orioles last sat atop the baseball world.
Yankees - 13
Orioles - 0
The Yankees have missed once. The Orioles have missed every time. Every. Time.
Yankees - 51.3 million
Orioles - 35.7 million
What makes this all the more striking is that the Orioles used to out-draw the Yankees. Easily. For some years after Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened, Baltimore's attendance was the envy of the American League. Even from 1998 through 2000, with the Orioles losing and the Yankees winning World Series every year, the O's out-drew the Yankees every year. But the Yankees passed the Orioles in 2001, and since then they've been destroying them ... in fact, they've routinely doubled the Orioles' attendance since 2006.
But those seasons before 2001 tell us it doesn't have to be that way. Of course, the arrival of the Washington Nationals hasn't helped the Orioles in this regard.
Yankees - 75
Orioles - 26
Cal Ripken was an All-Star four times after 1997; Miguel Tejada, three times. They lead the way amongst Baltimore's post-'97 All-Stars. And the Yankees? Well, they boasted eight All-Stars in 2011 alone. Oh, and also in 2010. And 2004. Granted, some of those Yankees were All-Stars due to reputation rather than performance. But in nine seasons, just one Oriole was an All-Star; how many of them were All-Stars only because the rules demanded it?
Thursday night, the Yankees and the Orioles opened a four-game series at Oriole Park. The Orioles beat the Yankees. Which resulted in this, on the morning of the 7th of September:
Nothing, it seems, lasts forever. Even if it seems like forever, because you can't remember 1997.