In just 24 months, the York County baseball world has been flipped upside down.

County fans have long had divided loyalties when it comes to their favorite big league team.

The majority give their hearts to the Orioles. That is completely logical. After all, Baltimore is an easy 50-mile drive down Route 83, has a beautiful ballpark and plays in the high-profile American League East.

A sizable minority, however, live and die with the Phillies. The 100-mile drive to Philadelphia is considerably more difficult, but many Yorkers still make that journey each and every summer to take in National League games in another state-of-the-art facility.

There are, of course, many local fans who follow other teams, especially the Yankees and Pirates, but there is little doubt that the Orioles and Phillies are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in these parts. That's why they are the only two major league teams that have nearly all of their games broadcast on York County radio stations, as well as on local cable television outlets.

Just two years ago, in February of 2012, it appeared that the Phillies were making major inroads on the Orioles among York County fans.

The Phillies were riding high, having won five straight NL East titles, including two World Series appearances and one World Series title. Every game at Citizens Bank Park was packed and the team annually drew more than 3.7 million fans.


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The Orioles, meanwhile, entered the 2012 season having suffered through 14 straight losing seasons — the most prolonged period of failure in franchise history. The only sellouts at Camden Yards normally came when the Yankees or Red Sox visited, and annual attendance dropped to about 1.7 million.

It's no secret that fans love a winner. That's why there are so many Yankee fans.

So it was to be expected that York County Phillies fans would come out of the woodwork during their team's five-year championship run. It was also to be expected that York County Orioles' fans would lose some interest during their 14-year losing drought.

Before the 2012 season, there was even some talk locally (including by this columnist) that Phillies fans could soon outnumber Orioles fans in York County.

That talk seems silly now.

In 2012, the Orioles stunned the baseball world by winning the AL East with a 93-69 record. The Phillies, meanwhile, stumbled to an 81-81 mark and finished 17 games out of first place. In 2013, the Orioles slipped a bit, but still finished a very respectable 85-77, while the Phils' slide worsened with a 73-89 record.

Now, entering the 2014 season, it looks like the gap may have widened even more.

The Orioles boast one of the best managers in baseball (Buck Showalter) and a general manager (Dan Duquette) who patiently makes one smart move after another despite a relatively modest budget.

The Phillies, meanwhile, will try to turn things around with an untested rookie manager (Ryne Sandberg) and a general manager (Ruben Amaro) who has orchestrated the decline of a franchise with one of the largest payrolls in the game.

This spring, for instance, Duquette waited out the market and recently picked up Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz. Both players are in their primes — Jimenez is 30 and Cruz is 33. Jimenez received a four-year, $50 million pact and could be the ace the Orioles have long needed. Cruz got a one-year, $8 million pact and could easily hit 30 homers and drive in 100 runs in the intimate confines of Camden Yards. And on Tuesday, Duquette took a flyer on two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana, giving him a minor-league deal. It's the kind of low-risk, high-reward move that could produce big results.

Amaro's big offseason move was handing 37-year-old A.J. Burnett a one-year, $16 million contract. Burnett makes an old team even older and comes to Philadelphia with a reputation for being a clubhouse problem.

It just reinforces the perception that the Orioles are a young team on the rise, while the Phillies look like an old team on the decline.

York County fans, not surprisingly, have taken notice. You can't walk down the street without seeing someone in an Orioles hat or shirt. Phillies apparel, meanwhile, is much less noticeable than it was just a few short years ago.

Yes, there is no doubt.

In just 24 months, the York County baseball world has been flipped upside down.

— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.