It was shortly after the All-Star break, about the time the California Angels started to leave the rest of the American League West in its wake, that Doug Melvin made an interesting observation.
It is one that Orioles fans might not want to hear, or believe.
"Sometimes I think there are teams that almost have to hit bottom before they start to put things together," said the Orioles' former assistant general manager. "It happened to Cleveland, and I think that's what has happened with the Angels."
Now GM of the Texas Rangers, the team most affected by the Angels' surge (and one that might soon face a similar predicament), Melvin traces the success of the Indians and Angels to their commitment to younger players. And, even though it wasn't noticeable, Melvin is convinced that the Angels' success this season started a year ago.
Remember, that's when the Angels had the worst record (47-68) in the American League, and the second worst in baseball (behind San Diego's 47-70).
"They reached a point where they decided the best thing they could do was stick with their kids," said Melvin. "It has paid off big-time. Their young players, particularly [J. T.] Snow, [Jim] Edmonds and [Gary] DiSarcina, have done a great job."
Snow, who had been a regular on the major league-minor league shuttle for a couple years, hit .220 in 61 games last year. He's hitting .300.
Edmonds was a .273 hitter in 94 games, now he's a Most Valuable Player candidate with overall impressive numbers that include a .306 average and 30 homers. DiSarcina played 112 games a year ago (.260), but became a key figure this year before going on the disabled list at midseason.
And those three weren't alone. Damion Easley, who played 88 games in 1994, has helped cover the loss of DiSarcina, although hitting only .215. Catcher Jorge Fabregas (.251) has emerged as a solid performer after getting 127 at-bats last season.
"I think the Angels had reached the point where they pretty much were forced into going with their young players," said Melvin. "It gave them an idea of what they could expect. It's very similar to what the Indians have done in the last few years with players like [Kenny] Lofton, [Jim] Thome and [Manny] Ramirez.
"I'm not saying every team has to hit rock bottom before you get it turned around, but often you have to go through some tough times. Sometimes you just have to be patient with your kids and not give up on them too soon."
It wasn't planned this way, but the Orioles are going through a similar stage now. They are waiting (hoping would be a better word) for the development of people such as Curtis Goodwin, Manny Alexander, Armando Benitez, Arthur Rhodes and Rick Krivda, who wasn't even in the equation four months ago.
But during the same stretch, they traded Scott Klingenbeck and Damon Buford, who were deemed marginal prospects, and determined they couldn't wait for Alex Ochoa and Kim Bartee (the Bowie outfielder expected to be the player to be named in the Scott Erickson trade).
For the Orioles in 1995, being 18 games out of first place qualifies as being below rock bottom. The unanswered question is, what happens next?