In 1997, Bill Clinton was president, Ryne Sandberg and Eddie Murray still played baseball and most of us connected to the internet using dial-up modems. And the Baltimore Orioles had a winning record. The O's may not match the futility streak that the Pittsburgh Pirates have going, but the last decade-and-a-half has been a sorry period for a franchise that once finished above .500 for 18 straight years and was willing to open its wallet for top free agents.
The Orioles, once a team with a reputation for being well-run, fumbled that away in recent years. After the team dropped to 79 wins in 1998, owner Peter Angelos and a succession of less-than-stellar general managers made the wrong diagnosis, thinking that the team was just a few decent players away from respectability. In the end, it took the franchise an entire decade to start to take seriously the task of rebuilding. Andy MacPhail was brought in to be the team president, and since then Baltimore has undergone its most vigorous rebuilding period since Paul Richards ran the team in the late 1950s.
This winter, buoyed by a 34-23 record to finish the season after the hiring of Buck Showalter, the O's have aggressively tried to improve the team in the short-term. With the acquisitions of Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy and the signings of Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee and Justin Duchscherer, can the Orioles make a serious run at respectability?