The Baltimore Orioles weren't supposed to be here, on Memorial Day. They weren't supposed to be in first place, and they certainly weren't supposed to lead the Red Sox by three games and the Yankees by three-and-a-half. Yet here they are, sitting there with a 30-19 record. But does it mean anything? Or is this just a decent team that's happened to play well for a couple of months?
The Orioles finished in third place last season, but that doesn't necessarily tell us a whole lot about them; over the years some damn good teams have finished third. What's more telling is their wins and their losses; the O's finished 78-84, their seventh straight losing record. So when looking for comparable surprise teams, it's probably more useful to look for other teams that finished below .500 in each of the previous three seasons.
That's what I did. From 1995 through 2004, there were 77 teams that entered the season with a sub-.500 streak of at least three seasons. As you might guess, the great majority of those teams kept their streaks intact; 63 of the 77 again lost more than they won. Only seven of them were in first place through May 29, and only two of those teams enjoyed bigger leads than the Orioles enjoy this morning.
Here are those seven first-place teams -- surprising first-place teams -- and how they fared the rest of the season ...