There was a time when Baltimore was just about the happiest place on Earth for the Red Sox.
Aside from Fenway, there wasnt a stadium in the American League more inviting than Camden Yards. There wasnt a team in baseball whether they were managed by Ray Miller, Mike Hargrove, Lee Mazzilli or Dave Trembley; led by Jeff Conine, Melvin Mora, Miguel Tejada or the great Rodrigo Lopez more ready and willing to roll over for the Sox.
For more than a decade, the Orioles were a joke and Boston always had the last laugh.
But now, for the second straight season, the Sox are living their worst nightmare at Fenway South. They're grasping at straws as the walls around their season crumble; meanwhile, you know their former punching bag cant get enough. Theyll never say it publicly (actually, they might), but the Orioles love every second of this Red Sox disaster.
A big reason is Buck Showalter.
From the moment he took the job in the summer of 2010, Showalter set out to instill a culture of Red Sox hatred in that Orioles clubhouse. He took a group of young, impressionable minds (which also happened to possess a ridiculous level of talent) and began molding them into an army of big market assassins.
"Id like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll, Showalter said last spring. You got Carl Crawford cause you paid more than anyone else, and thats what makes you smarter? Thats why I like whipping their butt. Its great, knowing those guys with the 205 million payroll are saying, How the hell are they beating us? "
If thats what he was saying in public, you can only imagine what was flying around behind the scenes. And regardless of what it was, its worked. The Orioles are currently on pace for their first winning season since 1998. Meanwhile, Showalter's in a two-man race with Robin Ventura for A.L. Manager of the Year.
On the other side, the Sox can't keep from repeatedly slipping in the same pile of their own expletive deleted.
Of course, there are more factors in play within both these franchises than merely a focused and inspiring manager. In Baltimore, you have a ton of young, finally-developed talent, but also guys who know their place and are willing to learn, even though there's no question Showalter must rub them the wrong way from time to time. You have a front office willing to let Showalter to do his work; who haven't forgotten why they hired him in the first place and are smart enough to stay out of the way. You have timid expectations; resigned patience within the organization, the media and what's left of their fanbase.
In other words, you have the polar opposite of the Red Sox.
And with all we're going through here, it's no surprise that Baltimore's finding success on the other side of the coin.