Orioles history can largely be divided into two distinct periods: the Memorial Stadium Era and the Camden Yards Era. When people think of the rich history of the Orioles—the heydays of Jim Palmer, Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr.—that all comes from the Memorial Stadium Era. After all, it was while playing in Memorial Stadium that the O’s made six World Series appearances and captured the franchise’s three World Series titles.
While the Camden Yards Era has blessed Birdland with the best stadium in all of baseball, it’s hardly brought the same level of success. The O’s boast only a .472 winning percentage since they began play at Camden Yards in 1992. They have more last place finishes in the division (eight) than playoff appearances (five). As the quality of the field itself increased, the quality of the on-field product decreased.
While there have been successful seasons in the Camden Yards Era, there are two seasons that stand out above the rest—at least so far. The 1997 season saw the Orioles produce their first truly banner year in Camden Yards. They collected their first 90+-win season in the new stadium, their first AL East title since the move to a five-team division and made a return trip to the ALCS, ending up just two wins shy of the pennant. It remains the closest the O’s have gotten to a World Series berth since their move across the city.
For a younger generation of Birdland members, the 2014 season is when Orioles baseball truly reached its pinnacle. The O’s dominated the Yankees and the rest of the AL East that season, winning the division title by 12 games. Those Orioles then swept their way into the ALCS, with Delmon Young giving us a moment that will be etched in Baltimore playoff lore for eternity. Sure the ALCS didn’t go as planned, but no one could take away the sense of elation that came from the highs of that wonderful season.
Those two seasons are the clear-cut, prime contenders for the title of “Best Season in the Camden Yards Era.” Or at least they were, until the 2023 season came and shattered our collective expectations for what this franchise can achieve. However, the full story of this 2023 is not yet finished. So just like there’s still work to do to clinch the AL East crown, there’s also still work to do to cement this as the best season of the Camden Yards Era. With that in mind, we look at what the Orioles need to do in their 19 games to truly make this season one for the record books.
The Win Total
This is the easiest hurdle to clear when it comes to the 2023 teams distinguishing themselves from other teams in the Camden Yards Era. The Orioles’ current wins records since 1992 is the 98 wins put up by the ‘97 team—with the 2014 team lagging just behind at 96 wins. After last night’s win over the Cardinals, the current Orioles sit at 91 wins with 19 games to play. Getting to 98 feels almost like a foregone conclusion at this point—though even if they were to just tie the ‘97 team’s win total, it would still feel like a special achievement.
The real gold star that this bunch of Baby Birds is looking to add to their record is reaching the 100-win plateau. No Orioles team has broken the century mark since 1980 and, other than the ‘80 squad, every Baltimore team that’s won 100 games also made it to the World Series. While it may seem like a small gap between 98 and 100, crossing into triple-digit wins will surround this team with an enormous sense of achievement. If the O’s keep up their current pace, they’ll end the year with 103 wins—which would be the third highest total in franchise history.
The Division Title
This is much less of a foregone conclusion than reaching the 98-win mark thanks to fierce competition from the Tampa Bay Rays. Just when you think the Orioles look set to completely wrestle control of the AL East from Tampa, the Rays do something like take three out of four against the previously scorching hot Mariners. The win against St. Louis last night kept the Orioles’ division lead at three games and means they’re guaranteed to enter this weekend’s series against Tampa in first place. And yet, with the Rays sporting a .667 winning percentage in August and September, it is far from safe to assume that the Orioles can at least split the four game set with the Rays and maintain the three-game cushion.
The good news is that the Orioles’ margin for error is slightly bigger than a three-game lead taken at face value. If they can win just one of four when Tampa comes to Camden Yards, they’ll clinch the season series over the Rays and earn an ever-important tiebreaker. The Orioles also have a slightly easier schedule once they get done with their epic showdown against their Florida rivals.
Sure, the O’s do have to contend with a road series in Houston right after facing Tampa, and that’ll be another incredibly tough set of games. However, after that trip to Texas, the O’s have a smooth runway into the postseason with series against Cleveland, Washington and Boston—the latter two in Baltimore. Meanwhile, Tampa will finish their season with six games against Toronto sandwiched around a road trip to Fenway Park. With the Blue Jays still fighting for their playoff lives and Boston always being a nightmare to play at home, it’ll certainly be a pressure-packed sprint to the finish for the Rays.
This division title would have the same weight to it as the 1997 title—which the O’s won by two games over the Yankees—and then some. While Birdland may not hold the same level of dislike toward Tampa as they do Boston or New York, winning a division crown over a team that could win 100 games is a rare triumph for any team. Throw in the fact that most prognosticators had the O’s finishing 4th of 5th in the division at beginning of the season, and this division title adds that much more support to this team’s case as the best of the Camden Yards Era.
The Defining Postseason Moment
This goal is at once both the hardest to define and also the most important when it comes to leaving a lasting feeling in the hearts of Birdland. When you think of the 1997 team, you feel the pride of Mike Mussina outdueling Randy Johnson to send the Orioles to the ALCS, and Scott Erickson shutting out the Indians in Game 1. When you think of the 2014 team, you think of the sheer joy that came from J.J. Hardy sliding home to give the O’s the lead on Delmon’s double. There’s no way of knowing when it might come, but if the 2023 team wants to be remembered as one of best ever, they’ll need to deliver that moment.
A successful postseason will also look different depending on who you ask. If the Orioles are going to match the ‘97 and 2014 teams, reaching the ALCS is a must. If they can make it to an ALCS Game 7, they’ll outdo all of their predecessors in the Camden Yards Era. Still, with the O’s the favorites for the best record in the American League, there will be fans that see success as World Series or bust. No matter your perspective on what postseason success looks like, we can all agree that the 2023 Orioles can’t overtake the 1997 or 2014 teams without leaving a lasting impression in October.
There’s times that this season still feels like a dream. That’s how good this 2023 Orioles squad has been. Yet, with 19 games ahead of us—as well as an entire postseason—the O’s can still turn the story of this season from a page-turner to a true epic. If they can make more than a little noise in October, we should be ready to crown them the best team of the Camden Yards Era.
What do the 2023 Orioles need to do to be the best team of the Camden Yards Era?
This poll is closed
Win 100+ games
Make it to the ALCS
Win 2+ games in the ALCS
Make it to the World Series
Win the World Series