MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

As we alluded to last week, with the coming of Labor Day comes an anticipation of melancholy, and as Labor Day has come and gone (dreary and rainy an omen?), so, too, has the summer of 2022. Though, technically, that will not occur calendar-wise until Thursday, Sept. 22.

In this regard, we still have awhile before we go full Giamatti with the annual observance of “The Green Fields of the Mind,” because everybody knows the end of summer isn’t really here until the final out of any Major League Baseball season has been recorded, which this season is scheduled to occur on Wednesday, Oct. 5.

For the sports fan, other than March, there is no more exciting time than the first week of September. High school football season is under way, college football has started (much more on that tomorrow), #NFLTheTVShow launches Thursday night, the U.S. Open has entered its second week with the rounds of 16 and Major League Baseball enters its homestretch with exciting postseason chases in both leagues.

First thing there is how that will affect the New York Yankees, because every city and every town, every area and every sector of this country has Yankees fans in its midst; it’s just a sad and unfortunate truth of life.

Currently, things seem to be on shaky ground for the Yanks, despite the fact they entered Labor Day atop the American League East standings with a nice-looking record of 80-54, five games (four in the loss column) ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The problem there is just a month or so ago, aside from Aaron Judge’s chase for 60-plus home runs, the only issue concerning the Yankees was how many wins over 100 they would finish with. Well, unless somebody other than Judge begins hitting, with 28 games remaining entering Monday, the Yankees will consider themselves quite lucky to win at least 100 games, because they have been in freefall for quite some time now.

Over a month ago, every other team in the AL East was playing for the three wild-card berths, because there was no way the loaded Yankees would ever come back to the pack. Now, both the Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays (five out in the loss column) believe they have a shot at winning the East.

As delicious as it would be, I don’t see the Yankees bottoming all the way out. They may have some more rocky times, but it just seems to me they have built enough equity with their early and mid-season winning (proof that they count just as much in April as they do in September) and are still too talented to fall out of first place, much less the entire postseason picture.

If you’re a Yankees hater, I would suggest you not hold your breath.

Meanwhile, closer to home in Baltimore, the Orioles find themselves in the postseason hunt for the first time since 2016, having entered Labor Day and a crucial four-game home series with Toronto 2-1/2 games behind the Blue Jays for the third and final wild-card slot, with Seattle two games ahead of second-place Tampa.

Unfortunately, the Orioles walked away from Monday’s doubleheader 4-1/2 games behind the Jays in the wild-card hunt, with their lack of organizational starting pitching depth being the overriding factor of the doubleheader sweep.

And though it remains a wonderful position for the Orioles to be in, particularly given all that’s taken place through this rebuild, it is a position that could have been even more enhanced had the Yankees not belly-upped the way they have, as the teams in front of the O’s have not been losing very often, with the chief reason being they have been playing the Yankees.

All of which reminds us, there truly are the baseball gods, and the baseball gods have a tried and true way of reminding one and all that it’s not nice to go against the natural balance of baseball, and Baltimore rooting for the Yankees for any reason goes against the natural order like nothing else.

That said, while I wouldn’t bet on the Orioles being able to leapfrog so many good teams to reach the postseason, I certainly wouldn’t bet against them – not this team. From the very start of the season, this team has shown, no matter the odds, no matter the circumstance, it is intent to play to the final out of every game, and if that means the final out of the entire season, you can rest assured that is what the Orioles will do.

It has been a remarkable turnaround and, so far, a remarkable landing, though you get the feeling the organization is still far from landing where it intends to land in the not-so-distant future.

It’s been a splendid summer of 2022 for the Baltimore Orioles and is still positioned to rival those splendid summers of 1977, ’80, ‘82, ’89, ’92 and 2012 when Orioles teams expected to be looking up at the rest of the league in the standings stormed through the summer to play meaningful post-season race games through the very final weekends and days of the seasons.

So hold the melancholy until it’s asked for. We still have meaningful games to play here. This summer’s not over; this season’s not over.

Not in the splendid old baseball city of Bawlmer, hon.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT