The Baltimore Orioles were forced to wait an extra day to open the 2021 season at Fenway Park due to early spring weather in Boston. But it was worth the wait; John Means pitched what was at the time his best outing as a pro, and the Orioles defeated Boston. They would go on to sweep the series. Unfortunately, that was probably the pinnacle of the season. In terms of a team effort, that is.
Not much was expected of this 2021 Orioles team. However their valleys were probably far deeper than anyone expected. Yet, their peaks were often pretty high as well. That’s often the trade-off you get when you rebuild. One week after that opening series they’d be swept by that same Boston team in their home-opening series.
This season was always going to be strange. The O’s were only allowed to sell 11K seats per game due to social distancing regulations at first. That changed on June 1st. But the Orioles struggled along to that point. They often looked somewhat respectable against some teams, but within their division, they struggled. They were swept by Boston twice in the first two months. They also struggled against New York and Tampa. They lost 15 straight games to close out May – a harbinger of things to come.
But May provided one unbelievable moment, that will be cherished by Orioles fans for generations. The Birds were in Seattle for a Wednesday afternoon matinee on May 5th, closing out a west coast road trip. John Means was on the mound, and low and behold…we saw the first Orioles’ no-hitter since the 1960’s. Throngs of Orioles fans had seen fanbase after fanbase celebrate their guys throwing no-no’s. Finally it was Birdland’s turn!
There were never too many wins built into this team. Pitching was shaky at best, be it starting or in relief. But the Orioles never gave up in games. And that speaks to their character. And at times, they seemed to learn from their mistakes. After being swept by Washington in late May, the Birds returned the favor in late July. Then they turned around and lost 21 consecutive games, two shy of the franchise record. But end of the day, they may have been bad, but they never quit.
One would think that in finishing the season 52-110, it would be tough to find bright spots (aside from the aforementioned John Means no-hitter). But the year was full of outstanding individual performances. Orioles fans got a good look at the future, starting with Cedric Mullins becoming the first 30-30 guy in Orioles’ history. That’s incredibly meaningful.
There’s also a lot of hope instilled in the likes of Ryan Mountcastle, who set a franchise record with 33 home runs as a rookie. When you look back at the players this franchise has had and you think that Mullins is the only 30-30 guy among them, and Mountcastle set a franchise record for a rookie, it would appear that there are some special guys in this current mix of Orioles. And let’s not forget Trey Mancini, who’s all but a shoo-in to be Comeback Player of the Year after returning from cancer last year.
However now the 2021 season fades to black. It’s all but a mere memory, as we watch the 2021 Postseason unfold before us. This while the Birds build towards Sarasota and spring training next February. And remember, hope ALWAYS springs eternal every season!