Two of the worst things in sports are Yankees homerism and New York Times writers who want to impress people. Put them together, and you get the Times's Mark Viera, coming off the sports department bench to gloat in yesterday's paper about the Yankees' 2-1 win over the Orioles the night before. His opener:
The Yankees have played 2,116 games against the Baltimore franchise, and it almost seems as if all of those meetings were losses for the Orioles, the doormat of the American League East for the past 15 years.
The Yankees have beaten the Orioles, lopsidedly and consistently, for a long time now. The numbers are grim and impressive. So it's pretty remarkable that Viera got every single fact in that paragraph wrong.
• "the past 15 years": Fifteen years ago, in 1997, the Orioles went 8-4 against the Yankees and won the East wire to wire.
• "the doormat of the American League East for the past 15 years": The Tampa Bay Devil Rays joined the East 14 years ago, and spent 9 of their first 10 years in last place, only once managing as many as 70 wins. The Orioles were a punching bag, but for a decade, Tampa Bay was the unquestioned doormat.
• "The Yankees have played 2,116 games against the Baltimore franchise": No, they haven't. That 2,116 number included games played by the current Yankees franchise before it moved to become the New York Highlanders in 1903—that is, when that team was the Baltimore Orioles. The 1901 Orioles (featuring John McGraw, Bill Keister, and Chappie Snodgrass) went 12-7 against the Milwaukee Brewers, before the Brewers moved to become the St. Louis Browns, who would half a century later move to Baltimore. According to Viera, that gives the Yankees bragging rights.
Overall, the Highlanders/Yankees played 1,121 games against the St. Louis Browns, going 711-399, a .641 winning percentage. Against the actual contemporary Baltimore Orioles, starting in 1954, the Yankees have played 955 games, and won 527.
That may not look great, but the Yankees beat everybody. At .446, the Orioles have the American League's fourth-best winning percentage against the Yankees.
And that winning percentage went up a tick last night. Because Brian Matusz—the guy who'd lost 12 decisions in a row, the weakest link in the Orioles' rotation—is a better pitcher right now than the Yankees' Phil Hughes. An ambitious sportswriter might want to write about that.
Photo of John McGraw via AP.