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ALDS 2014: Orioles' Nick Markakis finally gets to play in a postseason game

One cool thing about the Orioles ALDS Game 1 victory over the Tigers is that Nick Markakis finally got to play in a postseason game.

Mitchell Layton

For Major League Baseball players, it's usually a good thing if you find yourself on the career leaderboard for a certain statistic. The career hits list, the home run list, these are where the game's greats are ensconced. Some statistics are ignominious to lead rather than glorious, such as the list of players who have grounded into the most double plays. That one is in the Orioles franchise, as Cal Ripken Jr. heads up the pack.

Another list of shame is the list of players who have played the most games without appearing in the postseason. Until Thursday, one long-time Oriole found himself high up on this list. That's Nick Markakis, who had played in 1,365 career games but never one in the playoffs. Markakis racked up a lot of those games on some desperately hopeless O's teams. The O's never topped 70 wins in any of the first six seasons of Markakis' career.

He missed out on his chance to come off the list during the 2012 postseason run due to an injury suffered when he was hit by a CC Sabathia pitch.

Markakis came off the list in style, recording a hit in his first-ever postseason at-bat as he led off Thursday's game for the Orioles, scoring on a Nelson Cruz home run. He collected his first postseason RBI the very next time up to the plate, dunking a ball into the outfield to score Jonathan Schoop. Later in the game, Markakis walked and then scored on Alejandro De Aza's second eighth-inning double.

Asked by a reporter about playing in his first postseason game, Markakis replied, according to MASN's Steve Melewski, "Awesome. Everything you want it to be." That pretty much describes the entirety of ALDS Game 1 for the Orioles, come to think of it.

Little milestones like this add to the feeling that perhaps the franchise has turned things around from the darkest days. A lot of people who were either Orioles lifers through the losing seasons, or even just those who passed through for a few years, never got themselves off of the list of shame. It was a sign of a franchise that was going nowhere for so long.

"Awesome. Everything you want it to be."-Nick Markakis, on finally playing in the playoffs

First among these is Brian Roberts, who also sadly missed out on that 2012 postseason run. Roberts is on the list with 1,418 career games and no postseason appearances. He gave everything he had to the bad 2000s Orioles teams and had nothing left when they were good again. It's too bad for him that he never made it. The O's have moved on.

Maybe Roberts can catch on with a team that will surprise next year. Maybe he'll be another Adam Dunn type story. Dunn, another member of this list, was on the roster of the Oakland Athletics at season's end, but when the A's lost shockingly to the Royals in the AL Wild Card Game just earlier in the week, Dunn never made it into the game even though it went into extra innings. He has played in 2,001 career games and plans to retire. He was there and still never got a taste. He remains on the list.

For a while there, it almost seemed like the Orioles might be collecting these players. Roberts and Markakis were veteran and playoff-less for long enough to be high up the list of active players without postseason appearances. Aubrey Huff ranked high while he was in Baltimore, only coming off when he brought his rally thong to San Francisco in time to win a World Series title.

The list of shame includes some other players who were here at one time or another: David Segui, Ty Wigginton, Tony Batista, Deivi Cruz, and Corey Patterson. You don't want the team to be so bad for so long that the franchise lifers are on the list, nor do you want to be the team that attracts these players who just aren't good enough to be on teams that have real postseason aspirations.

Of course, long-time Oriole Melvin Mora was never on the list despite playing on so many losing O's teams. He had all of that postseason experience with the 1999 Mets. Some say that's why the Orioles traded for him in the first place.

It's a good postseason for players to come off of the list of shame. While Dunn was tantalizingly close, two players on the team that beat him came off of the list: Alex Gordon, who toiled on some bad Kansas City teams, and Josh Willingham, who'd spent 10 years on a variety of bad teams before being traded to the Royals in August. Fortunate for Willingham that he was traded, as he, too, plans to retire at season's end.

With Dunn retiring, the mantle of the active leader in games played without a postseason appearance falls on Alex Rios, who came up into and signed an extension with the Blue Jays, the team that now sports the longest playoff drought in MLB. Rios disappointed there, was traded to the White Sox, who were not good, then received a 2013 stretch run trade to the Rangers, who went 12-16 in September and lost a one-game play-in to the Rays.

Roberts sits in second, with only the Jays pair of Jose Bautista (1,250 games) and Edwin Encarnacion (1,207 games) remaining as active players with over 1,000 career games played and no postseason appearance. The active leader for pitchers is Scott Downs (619 games), who finished the season with Kansas City but was not placed on the ALDS roster. With the Royals' Kelvin Herrera suffering an apparent serious injury during their own win on Thursday, maybe Downs will get his chance as a replacement.

All players play in hopes of getting a shot at postseason glory. Some never quite get there. Markakis no longer has to wonder if he will be one of these. When the O's clinched the division, you could see that meant something to him - in the MLB.com video of the clinching moment, he cracked one of his rare smiles.

Now that he's made it this far, you can be sure he'd like to make it farther. The O's commanding victory on Thursday night makes it that much more likely that they can all get to experience a little bit more of October.

Markakis did his part to get things started, and if the O's are going to advance, they'll probably need to do so with more help from him. If he produces like he did against the reigning AL Cy Young winner on Thursday, I like their chances to do so.