For the first time in years, the Baltimore Orioles are playing a new role in the American League East: the spoiler. 

Now, as a team that was hoping to win 80 games this year, being the spoiler for other teams’ playoff hopes is still a disappointment no matter how you want to word it.

However, the fact that the O’s have been competitive against the likes of the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays is a very positive thing for a team that was beyond terrible for most of this season.

Baltimore came into 2010 with a great amount of hope for what it thought could be the beginnings of a playoff contender in the near future.

Unfortunately, that “could be,” didn’t seem to translate into anything other than a doormat, as the Orioles ended July with a 32-72 record, which was by far the worst in baseball.

All of a sudden, that Orioles fan from Spring Training who would have been disappointed about “playing the spoiler,” becomes ecstatic at the prospect of ruining someone’s playoff hopes.

The O’s being out of the playoff talks is nothing new (the organization hasn’t played in the postseason since 1997) but being able to successfully ruin another team’s pennant run late in the year is.

This is because the team has made a reputation of imploding in the months of August and September.

In the month of August, the Orioles finished with a record of 17-11 (17-10 under manager Buck Showalter). That was the first time the O’s have had a winning record in the month of August since 2003.

Think that’s bad? It gets worst.

The drop in win percentage during the months of September and October is almost comical. It is a plunge so bad, that it makes the drop in the price of BP stock seem tame (zing!).

In the last two seasons, the Orioles have had a win percentage of .451 from April to August.

It is nothing other than mediocre when compared to the other teams in the AL East, but when compared to the organizations win percentage of .250 in September and October, life in the Spring and Summer doesn’t seem all that bad.

The biggest reason for the late season woes is the schedule the team is forced to play. While most of the season is spent playing teams from all over the league, September schedules feature divisional foes almost exclusively.

That means series after series against the Yankees, Rays, and Boston Red Sox.

This is indeed a valid excuse, but if the team ever wants to be more than a joke, the excuses should stop.

Fortunately for the few fans that haven’t turned their backs on the team just yet, the annual September free-fall might not peak its ugly head out this year.

Instead of giving up, the Orioles are playing the best baseball they have in years and can actually hold their own against the big boys.

So far this month, the O’s have had series against the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees.

After going through that daunting nine-day span, the Orioles are 5-4 and had it not been for a Nick Swisher walk-off home run yesterday, they would have swept the Yankees in New York for the first time since the 1980s.

No longer the doormat, the Orioles and their play in the last month will be a crucial factor in who will win the AL East.

With three-game series against each of the three teams still in the hunt, how the clubs play Baltimore could be the surprising x-factor in the race.

Can you imagine someone saying that seriously in July? Not quite.

At the end of the day, Showalter couldn’t care less about who he can knock out of a divisional race; all he cares about is winning and putting his team in the best possible position going into 2011.

It is just a coincidence that his goals coincide with the idea of “spoiling” someone else’s season.

That being said, what the Orioles have done, and who they have been able to beat these past few weeks, has made the team relevant for the first time in a decade.

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