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STRANGE GAME, this baseball.
Most MLB players have been playing the game since they were kids, the cream of the crop emerging over the years to catch the eye of major league scouts who recognize talent and represent teams that can reward talent with a lucrative contract.
So these 30 organizations that make up Major League Baseball strive each year to field the best collection of talent they can muster. Despite these organizations' best efforts, and the great "baseball minds" they have working for them, some teams do well, and others don't.
This season's performance by the Baltimore Orioles could provide a landmark study in what it is that transforms a group of talented young men from losers into winners. If their new manager, veteran baseball skipper Buck Showalter, could bottle it, he'd be a billionaire.
Until Mr. Showalter arrived in early August, the Orioles were a woeful 32-73 under two managers--one who was fired, and his interim replacement. These two also were veteran baseball men, who must have been frustrated to the point of insanity over why this team with a proud history and as much talent as any could suffer through 13 losing seasons in a row.
Enter Mr. Showalter, and the Orioles have gone 29-19 at this writing, which translates to a torrid .604 winning percentage. If the season had started Aug. 1, the Orioles would be in first place in the tough American League East by a few games.
The modest Mr. Showalter shrugs and says things like, "That's baseball."
Indeed that is baseball, where statistics explain all but the unexplainable; where in Baltimore a new leader comes along, flips some imaginary clubhouse switch, and, like magic, a group of losers with potential turns into a team of winners with the numbers to back it up--real-life Bad News Bears.
For a dozen years, "We'll get 'em next year" has been an empty promise for Orioles fans. Now one thing's for sure: Oriole Park at Camden Yards is going to be a much more exciting--and crowded--place to be next spring.
No pressure, Buck, no pressure.