How about this for irony? In the year of The Streak, the Orioles can't put one of their own together.
Cal Ripken Jr. is the talk of baseball for having played in 2,098 consecutive games, but the Orioles haven't won more than four in a row this season.
In fact, they haven't won more than four in a row since early September 1993 -- a span of 225 games over three seasons.
Incredibly, they have had 10 four-game winning streaks in that span (six last year, four this year) and failed to win the next game all 10 times.
Zero-for-10 -- enough to get a hitter benched, enough to banish a team to the middle of the pack.
What does it say about the Orioles that they can't sustain a streak of any length? Depends on whom you talk to in the clubhouse.
One view is that it is just a coincidence, a random spin of baseball's unpredictable fates. "It's just something unusual for the media to talk about," Mike Mussina said. "We could win eight in a row and still have the same kind of club."
But Rafael Palmeiro disagrees. "You have to be a good team playing consistent ball to put together a winning streak of five games or more," he said, "and we haven't done that. We haven't been good enough or played consistently enough."
There is merit to both theories, contradictory though they may be.
The inability to put together a streak can indeed be meaningless; such a streak constitutes just a few games out of a long season, and the foundation of any successful season is long-haul consistency, winning two of three in a series more often than not. The Orioles proved that theorem last year: They were 14 games over .500 despite never winning more than four in a row.
"You can win a division without winning more than four in a row," Mussina said, "as long as you're consistent."
True. But that's precisely the problem with this year's Orioles. They aren't consistent enough to run off a long streak. At least, they haven't been so far.
Manager Phil Regan says his club rebounds well from tough losses such as Tuesday night's and last night's, often winning the next game. Yet the converse also is true. Just when you think these Orioles are going to take off and put together a long streak, they lose a few.
They're never too bad, never too good -- and, not coincidentally, they were 44-44 before last night's loss. The definition of average.
They walk like contenders, talk like contenders and act like contenders when they make pennant-drive trades for stars such as Bobby Bonilla, but they're 116-109 since their last long winning streak.
If they're going to be the big-shouldered team that their payroll suggests they should be, they had better win a bunch in a row.
The three first-place teams in the American League -- the Red Sox, Angels and Indians -- have all had long streaks this year, winning seven, eight, and seven in a row, respectively. The Yankees won seven in a row recently to get back into contention in the AL East. The Royals, Brewers and Rangers have won seven, seven and six in a row, respectively.
In all, nine of the 13 other teams in the league have had longer streaks than the Orioles this year. The four others are the last-place teams -- the Twins, Blue Jays and A's -- and the Mariners. Hardly the company Peter Angelos envisioned for his big-bucks ballclub.
Mussina is right that the Orioles aren't automatically a softee just because they can't put together a long streak. They recently won 14 of 21, a rate of success that, expanded over a full season, would be more than sufficient to deliver a pennant.
But let's face it, this four-game limit speaks volumes about Regan's underachieving club. Just when it seems on the verge of a big run, one component always fails. If it isn't the hitting, it's the bullpen. If it isn't the bullpen, it's the starters. If it isn't the starters, it's the hitting. Last night, it was the winning run stealing third when no one was looking in the 10th inning. It's always something.
"We're like a slow-moving turtle," Palmeiro said. "People are getting frustrated with us because we're moving so slow. They want the rabbit in us to come out."
No, the Orioles don't have to have a long winning streak to catch the Red Sox; winning 14 of 21 is preferable to winning eight in a row and then losing a bunch. "We just need to try to win every series," Mussina said.
Yet, clearly, a long winning streak would be the foundation of one of those 18 of 20 runs that most division winners point to as the key to their season. Palmeiro sees such a run as a must.
"Every good team has a long winning streak during the season," he said. "Our team certainly is good enough. I expect it to happen. With all the talent on this club, I expect us to get things together and win a bunch in a row before the season is over."
But they haven't done it in 225 games.
Hey, only 1,873 behind Ripken.