Amazingly enough, a few years ago, the team seemed to be going in the right direction.
Here's a chart of the last few years, with the O's record and Tampa Bay's:
From the depths of 01 they improved steadily until 04 when they were darn close to .500. They actually finished third and Tampa Bay 4th, with Toronto last. That's probably why the big start in 05 was such a fooler -- it really seemed to make sense at the time. 04 was, I think (the years seem to merge into mush) the year they signed Tejada, Lopez and Palmiero. The Oriole line shows steady improvement and then steady decline -- we're all vividly aware of the latter! One interesting thing is how, for the most part the O's and Tampa Bay's record move in tandem. Another is that this year there seems to be remarkable competitive balance this year. There's not a single team below .400 -- Orioles and Tampa are the two lowest. Only 4 other teams are below .450 and two of those are at .445. And there's only one team above .600 -- Boston at .605.
(I previously posted this on a gameday thread & sombody correctly pointed out that was not the right place for it so I put it here, too.)
Here's a hopeful afterthought -- The Orioles are likely to improve next year. I remember years ago Bill James did an analysis showing that teams rarely either improve or get worse for several years in row -- teams which get worse one year tend to get better the next. Of course, the Orioles of the 80's actually got worse for 5 years in a row, starting with '84 (the year after the last championship) and ending in '88 (when they started with a gazillion losses). I think James said that was one of the very few times in baseball history that that had happened, maybe the only.