It’s been a hell of a season for the Orioles. Actual hell, like fire and brimstone, tiny cartoon devils with pitchforks — you get the picture. Sitting at 38-85, Baltimore is the worst team in Major League Baseball, and it’s not even close. Now, in the midst of an 18-game losing streak, it’s tough to know how deep the hole goes, and it’s truly remarkable.
Should the Orioles lose on Tuesday to the Angels they will have tied the longest losing streak since the start of the century, matching the 2005 Royals who lost 19 games. On paper that might not seem too bad, because 16 years isn’t a lifetime — especially in baseball. However, it’s how close an 18 game streak is to immortality that has to be noticed.
The largest losing streak of all time belongs to the 1889 Louisville Colonels, who dropped 26 games before winning. With the 23 straight losses the 1961 Philadelphia Phillies hold the longest losing streak of the modern era. It’s entirely possible with seven games in the next week that the Orioles could break a record dating back to before when Baltimore residents had electricity.
The losses themselves are only part of the story. It goes so much deeper, and gets even more tragic.
It begins with run differential, and I promise it’s so much worse than you can possibly imagine. Ready? The Baltimore Orioles are a -233 differential on the season. Averaged out this means that across their 123 games the Orioles lost by an average of 1.8 runs. To put this in context the next-worst team in differential is the Pirates at -188, and only one team in the last 20 years finished with a differential worse than -300. The Tigers in 2019 with -333 and the 2003 Tigers at -337. If the Orioles keep their season pace up now they would finish at -306.
Hey, at least that’s not historic, right? Wait for it.
Across this current 18 game losing streak the Orioles are, as you’d expect, worse than they’ve been all season. Remember how we said they were losing by an average of 1.8 runs? Well, during this streak they’ve lost by an average of 5.77 runs FOR A TOTAL OF -104 IN THE LAST 18 GAMES. Think about how remarkable that is for a moment. With the vast MLB schedule the Orioles gave up a differential of -129 in 105 games, then another -104 in the next 18 games.
Yes, it’s highly unlikely the Orioles will remain THIS bad for the rest of the 2021 regular season, but imagine for a moment they do. It would mean Baltimore finishes the season with a run differential of -400. They would be the only team in the modern era to eclipse the magic -400 mark.
Thankfully for the Orioles they would still be well away from the all-time worst MLB team: The legendarily awful 1899 Cleveland Spiders. The Spiders finished with a differential of a -723, which will never, ever be broken. They were a team so bad that sportswriter Elmer Bates spit hot fire when he wrote about them in 1899 for The Sporting News.
“You have everything to hope for and nothing to fear. Defeats do not rack your nerves or disturb your sleep. An occasional victory affords both surprise and delight. You are in no danger of being displaced by some team that has been designated by the critics as no good . . . You are not asked fifty times a day: ‘What’s the score?’ People take it for granted that that the club was defeated . .”
However, to Baltimore’s credit, if they performed all season like they have over these last 18 games they would be beyond legendary. Assume for a moment they sucked this bad all season and the 2021 Baltimore Orioles would finish a 162 game MLB season with a differential of -934 — destroying the vaunted, terrible 1899 Spiders for awful baseball supremacy.
Sure, this is decidedly un-fun for Orioles fans. This is the definition of sports pain, but there’s also beauty in it. Being a part of history isn’t simply about embracing the good parts, but the anguish as well. Accepting horror as well as triumph, so future victory can be so much sweeter. Relish this moment, Orioles fans, because you might be seeing something happen that no baseball fans have got to witness before.