Manny Machado's injury and the crushing disappointment of the 2013 Orioles

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

You don't need to see a GIF or video of Manny Machado's knee injury. You've seen it before. The foot hits the base at the wrong angle, and everything becomes a wrong angle. Nothing is going the direction it should be going. You know instantly that it's going to be a long time before you see Machado play baseball again.

If you just can't go on without any sort of visual confirmation, this will tell the story in two pictures:



I'm not a doctor, and even if I had x-rays of Machado's knee, I wouldn't know what to do with them. But I'm guessing that if we see Machado before next year's All-Star Break, it will be something of a medical coup.

An inning later, Alexi Casilla went from this ...

Screen_shot_2013-09-23_at_3

... to this ...

Screen_shot_2013-09-23_at_3

... and the ball would roll out of Casilla's glove, allowing the tying runs to score. The Rays would later walk off to complete the four-game sweep.

The Orioles went into St. Petersburg looking to gain ground in the wild-card standings. They leave completely out of the race, with one of the brightest young stars in the game likely to miss a chunk of 2014.

For 15 years, the Orioles were dreadful. Take a look at the franchise history. They finished with more than 90 losses in every year from 2006 through 2011, and before last season, they hadn't finished above .500 since winning the division in 1997.

That was a dull ache. I can't speak to exactly how Orioles fans felt, but I've been a Warriors fan for the last two decades, so I'm pretty sure I have the basic particulars down. There's no rage with a team like that. There's a feeling of inevitability. The good young pitchers are going to get hurt. The good young hitters are going to slump. Trades aren't going to work out, and the players who get away from the organization will thrive elsewhere. There's no fist-through-the-drywall moment. The bad news is just a running ticker of "here we go again."

This season is so much worse.

This series against the Rays -- a set of games featuring an 18-inning loss, a franchise cornerstone suffering a brutal injury, and the ball bouncing every which way except the right way -- is baseball laying it on too thick. If you're a fan of a bad team, you might think it's better to watch a team contend for most of the season and have it all collapse at the end. 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, and such.

Usually, that's a fair point. A 90-win team that just misses the playoffs is more entertaining than a 90-loss team whose best individual performance came from Brad Bergesen, even if the disappointment is concentrated toward the end of the season. That's hard to argue. It usually takes a little distance and hindsight to see it, maybe, but it's almost always true.

The Machado injury, though, changes that whole dynamic. It sucks the remaining life out of the 2013 team, and it sucks a bunch of wait-'til-next-year out of the 2014 team. The best comparison would be Ryan Howard tearing his Achilles on the final play of the NLCS in 2011. Season over. Player in question for next year. What just happened?

Except Howard and the Phillies had already been to the top. They were trying to get there again. They didn't have the string of 90-loss seasons so close in their rear-view. Howard had already moved from phenom to veteran. That's not to say that one injury had a higher park-adjusted discouragement, but that they're different. The two teams and players were in different spots. And considering the spot of the young phenom and the downtrodden team on the rise, I'll just say that the Machado injury was one of the worst things I've seen on a baseball field in years.

Give me the dull ache over something like that. The familiarity of the 90-loss season couldn't possibly be worse than to have everything yanked from you with that kind of violence. The Orioles went from a possible playoff run to becoming the most depressing team of 2013 in a split-second. Even Clint Eastwood's character in Unforgiven would say, jeez, they didn't deserve that. It doesn't make sense if you believe that the good things in baseball are distributed equally over time.

They aren't. They never will be. And sometimes baseball is just a real jerk. Usually, baseball is a real jerk, even. But baseball's outdone itself this time.

Just look at Machado's expression up there. He knows.

Dammit.

It was much easier for everyone when we could just laugh at the Orioles. The expectations, the lofty hopes, are usually a good thing. Until they set up a fall like this, that is. I prefer the dull ache. Maybe I'd change my mind after going through the five stages of grief, but right now, it's hard to imagine anything more discouraging than what just happened to the Baltimore Orioles.

For more on Machado and the Orioles, please visit Camden Chat


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