A compromised, lockout-influenced season ends today for the Orioles

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The 2022 season is coming to an end for teams outside of the playoff arena. The doors will be locked after today.

You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

The last call for the Orioles is a traditional doubleheader against the Blue Jays at Camden Yards, which draws rain like a picnic draws ants. It’s an open marmalade jar.

(We’ll…wait…toast the season later.)

A “traditional” doubleheader for me always conjures up images of carrying a cooler of beer through Memorial Stadium. Or screwdrivers for the Colts’ last game before their move to Indianapolis, which wasn’t a doubleheader but fits the theme.

But I digress…

Why on earth are the Jays forced to play a doubleheader before Friday’s first wild card game? OK, I digress again.

There’s a collective sense of accomplishment that Major League Baseball has played a full schedule. The expiry of the old collective agreement, the lockout and the frustrating minute-by-minute updates from the media seem to have happened years ago.

We didn’t know if or when spring training camps would open. If or when opening day would be. If we could trust the deadlines imposed, since they moved like on wheels.

Somehow, commissioner Rob Manfred scored 162 games in the season. Some have been rearranged like furniture. The Orioles finish at home against the Blue Jays instead of hosting them in the opening series.

Nothing in March led anyone to believe the Orioles would be arguing until past midnight on October 1. That their record would climb above 0.500 and stay there.

The bullpen was supposed to crumble, and it didn’t look so solid before Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott’s trades. Fans viewed the deal with the Marlins as a surrender. I remember the hostility on social media.

John Means had Tommy John surgery after two departures. Death to the rotation, which then lost Tyler Wells to injuries and Bruce Zimmermann to demotions.

No. 1 prospect receiver Adley Rutschman strained his right triceps in March and all hope of breaking camp with the team was lost. He was only promoted on May 21. We’ll always wonder if nearly two more months of Rutschman, or certainly more than the 112 games he played, would have gotten the Orioles into the playoffs.

Grayson Rodriguez never made it after stretching his lat in what appeared to be his last start with Triple-A Norfolk. He’s back home. He won’t walk through that door.

Take out Trey Mancini, take out Jorge López, and the Orioles went on to win and shock the industry.

Maybe it makes sense that such an unpredictable, unsettling and explosive offseason would lead to the Orioles blasting the projections on them.

PECOTA has helped the Orioles win 61 games. They reached that total on August 16 in Toronto.

Players will appreciate the achievements more after settling into their homes, many with families, and shaking off the disappointment of having failed in the pursuit of wildcards. Hopes were raised. They really wanted it. Being close for so long only fed the beast.

“I would say at first it’s a tough thing,” pitcher Tyler Wells said. “The pain hurts at first, but eventually it’s like, as everything starts to calm down, you finally come home and you can actually take that break from the end-of-season moves and trips. I think that it’ll be a good time to look back and really show how many young guys have come and how they’ve stepped up, how we reacted every time they traded Trey, and understand that not only did we lose a great guy and a teammate, but how we responded to that.

“It felt like we didn’t really miss a beat. And on top of that too, just with the way people looked at us in pre-season and then how we came out and just shocked the world. For me, I think it’s something quite special.

Center fielder Cedric Mullins leaves hurt feelings behind as he heads south for the winter, making various stops along the way to catch up with his family.

“I think the disappointment has already come and gone, just in terms of how we have attacked this season and our expectations for the season,” he said.

“We knew we had high expectations to come in and be competitive, give the teams a hard time every day. That’s exactly what we did. We have done an amazing job this year. New guys are coming in and are very helpful on both sides of the ball. Throwing, hitting, defending, all that is important, and for us next year. Of course, none of us really know what the roster will look like, but the expectation of what we hope to do is there and it matters to us.

Starter Jordan Lyles completes his 12e year in the majors – he won’t get a 33rd start in the doubleheader – and 2022 will stand out for being so unique. Maybe not the most unusual, but damn close.

Lyles lost his sense of normalcy as he reverted to his contract deal just on the deadline to do business before the sport shut down on Dec. 2.

“Other than COVID spring training where the whole world was upside down, it’s right behind. So many unknowns at the time. So many unknowns this offseason with the new ABC,” he said.

“And me personally, I was between waiting for the CBA or jumping on board with Baltimore on some sort of handshake deal, which added to a few questions in itself. And shortened spring training. And then the guys in some eyes surpassing some predictions and projections. To be so young with a smaller payroll, just to have so many talented young guys stepping up and debuting and contributing in that way, that was special for me.

“I really felt like I made the right decision this offseason, to be in touch with Baltimore and end up signing with them.”

Lyles may have set the record for the longest wait between a deal and a physical, signed contract. The lockout lasted 99 days. The Orioles couldn’t comment on him until the deal became official. Very strange.

“Just the human aspect,” Lyles said. “Family and friends, ‘Hey, are you with Baltimore or aren’t you with them?’ ‘Yes, almost.’ I didn’t know what to answer to that.

“It was a bit weird just from the personal side. But everyone was shaken up by the shortened spring training and tried to develop really quickly. We came out of it pretty well. Not a lot of injuries in spring training for us, so that was definitely a positive.

Eighteen more innings, if they don’t play extras, and the Orioles can close the book in 2022. It might sound like fiction, but it really happened.

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