After a staggering 23-2 loss to the Astros on Saturday, the Orioles have officially devolved from "quite, quite bad" to "devastatingly pathetic." They're not the worst team in baseball (the Tigers are holding them off, just barely), but they are the saddest.
Look at this stat, for instance: The Yankees just set an MLB record for the most home runs hit in a single season at an opponent's stadium, with a ridiculous 43 dingers in ten games in Baltimore. What's even crazier is that they set the record after just eight games, with 32 home runs! They went on to hit 11 more in the final two games, finishing the season undefeated at Camden Yards. And yes, the Yankees have already set the record for most home runs against one team irrespective of venue, with 52 against the Orioles...and that's with four games in Yankee Stadium still remaining.
Worse, the Orioles aren't spending any money (they're 28th in payroll), the fans have no hope since they play in the best division in baseball, and the team's most expensive player by far, Chris Davis, is basically a tragic figure who can't hit and is now openly fighting with his manager.
But let's take this argument historical. Since 2000, the Orioles have made the playoffs just three times. In 2016, they lost the Wild Card game, so it was one-and-done. In 2012, they lost a divisional series to the Yankees. In 2014, they got swept in the ALCS by the Royals, but that was actually their best year since it was the only time they've won a playoff series in the past 20 years. There are teams with fewer postseason appearances since 2000 (Mariners, Royals, Marlins, Padres, Blue Jays), but none with Baltimore's long history.
It's gotten so bad that as team owner Peter Angelos' health declines, nobody even seems to know who's running the ship anymore. All this comes, cruelly, after a short period of improvement from 2012 to 2016 that seemed to give fans some hope after 20 years of baseball dreck. Now, things look more hopeless than ever.
The O's have even managed to turn their excellent announcer, Gary Thorne, into a vehicle for existential hopelessness. If you could reduce the essence of the Baltimore Orioles into one sound byte, this would be it:
This is the most depressing sports franchise of the millennium, and in a world that includes the New York Knicks, that's quite a distinction. You hate to write them off totally, but when it comes to their prospects for improvement, Baltimore's foremost fictional state senator, Clay Davis, probably said it best.
The Breaking Sports News of the Week: Soccer is (Kinda) Good (Maybe)
Last week, I told you that I've decided to become a Liverpool fan. It's mostly because I want to try to get into European soccer once and for all, and partly because I'm a terrible frontfrunner with no sports principles.
Well, I watched their season-opening match on Friday, and I'm here to tell you: I had fun. But more importantly, striker Mo Salah had fun, and I'm already starting to get addicted to the casual way he scores brilliant goals, like he's running drills by himself on an empty field:
And look at this pass, which unfortunately didn't end up in a goal, but is still pretty stunning:
In short, if you're like me and want to dip your toes into the soccer water after years of living behind the curve, be advised that you may enjoy the first match.
The "Well, This Isn't Great" Preseason Omen of the Week: Antonio Brown, Raiders
Here are two bits of news you don't want to hear about your star receiver:
1. He has frostbite in his feet from a "cryptotherapy mishap."
2. He refuses to play unless he can use an old helmet that is now illegal, and is rumored to be threatening retirement.
If you're keeping track at home, his contract is for three years, $50.125 million. Jon Gruden is defending him, but it's vaguely reminiscent of a Soviet official at Chernobyl insisting that everything is fine. If you're a Raiders fan, the only way you're not adopting the surrender cobra pose right now is if you were already there to begin with. (Which, let's be honest, you probably were.)
The "Speaking of Chernobyl" Baseball Meltdown of the Week: Sean Newcomb, Braves
Read this description of what happened in the Braves' locker room after Newcomb blew a 6-2 lead against the Marlins:
"After the Braves’ cringe-inducing loss Saturday in Miami, the basement level of Marlins Park was shrouded in dust. A Braves player, in his frustration, kicked a trash can that slammed into a fire extinguisher, popping it open and clouding the team’s clubhouse and entire downstairs."
"So Braves players sat in the hallways, their clothes covered as the powder material kept spreading. The jerseys, hats, everybody – from players to coaches to reporters to organization employees – was masked after the explosion."
We desperately need an HBO miniseries on this incident, and we need it now.
The Happiest Un-Retirement of the Week: Andy Murray
Earlier this year, Andy Murray was done—the pain he was experiencing was too much, and he decided to call it quits after Wimbledon. Now, after playing a few doubles tournaments without pain, he's announced plans to return to singles in China in September. It's a massive reversal, and while sometimes false retirements can be annoying, this one is nothing but great. Cheers to Andy, one of the few men who managed to force his name into the conversation for greatest tennis player alive in the era of the Big Three, and who now holds the record for the shortest retirement in history.
The Laugh-Out-Loud Sports Headline of the Week: Bowling
Prepare yourself for this gem from ESPN:
"Pan Am bowling gold medalist caught doping"
I refuse to even read that story. It simply can't get better than the headline. But I did run a quick Google search, and you're not going to believe this, but...we have an epidemic on our hands. I have no idea why anyone would want to dope in bowling, or how it would help, but I am saddened and disheartened to learn that even this, our most noble sport, is no longer pure. I'm gutt(er)ed.