Everybody likes a winner: Successful 2012 pays O’s dividends

In 2012, the Orioles had their highest attendance per game in five seasons, due in large part to their position in the standings (Baltimore Sun Photo).

Before the 2012 season, the attendance at Oriole Park at Camden Yards was on a steady decline. Attendance had decreased 11 out of the last 15 seasons for the Baltimore Orioles.

According to Baseball-reference.com, the Orioles drew 2,102,240 fans in 2012, an increase of more than 350,000 fans from 2011. Granted when you divide it up, that’s an increase of just more than 4,600 fans a game.

Kevin Cowherd of the Baltimore Sun criticized the attendance on the night of Aug. 27. In a game where the Orioles trailed the New York Yankees by 3 1/2 games in the AL East — the announced crowd was 10,995.

It’s understandable that after a few years of unexpected success through May, only to collapse in June or July, that O’s fans may have been hesitant to fully invest in the 2012 birds.

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Revisiting: 2012 Orioles magic

“Something magic happens every time you go…”

The opening lyric of “Orioles Magic,” what has been the Orioles’ anthem for over 40 years, definitely applied to the 2012 Baltimore Orioles. Last season’s Orioles team defied all odds by staying competitive in, what is usually deemed Major League Baseball’s toughest division, the American League East, with a negative run differential for most of the season, a 20th ranked team batting average, and an 14th ranked team ERA.

In the March 2012 edition of ESPN the Magazine’s MLB preview, Buster Olney wrote that the best-case scenario for the 2012 O’s was:

“Left-handers Brian Matsuz and Zach Britton make major strides before the team is crushed under the weight of a powerful division. For the sixth straight year, Baltimore fails to win 70 games; for the 15th straight year, the team has a losing record. Yes, this is the best-case scenario.”

That wasn’t the case.

The Orioles stayed competitive by winning close games. The team posted a 29-9 record in one-run games. The .763 win percentage to go along with it was the third best in MLB history, trailing only teams from the late-1800’s.  Baltimore was 16-2 in extra-inning games, all of those wins were consecutive. The MLB record for such a streak — the 1949 Cleveland Indians won 17.

Baltimore finished second in the AL East, trailing the New York Yankees by just 2 games. Their team record of 93-69 was the best record posted by the franchise since their last playoff appearance in 1997. The O’s were participants in MLB’s newly-expanded playoffs. In the first wild card playoff, the Orioles traveled to Arlington, Texas to face the back-to-back defending American League champion Texas Rangers.

Behind a gutsy pitching performance by Joe Saunders and the Oriole bullpen, the O’s defeated the Rangers 5-1 and advanced to the American League Division Series for the first time since that ’97 playoff run. In the ALDS, the Orioles met the Bronx Bombers and eventually bowed out after a five-game series.

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