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Last year's rank: 64
Title track: 68
Fan Relations: 50
Stadium experience: 22
Bang for the buck: 27
How did the Birds score their best finish in Ultimate Standings history? Bucks. First there's beloved manager Buck Showalter, who gets higher marks than any other bench boss in baseball (coaching, 5) for guiding "dem O's" to the playoffs last year -- just his second full season with the club -- for the first time since 1997. Then there are all the bucks that Baltimoreans save (affordability, 28) thanks to slashed concession prices (hot dogs down a dollar, sodas down 50 cents), a cooler-friendly policy that lets fans bring food and (nonalcoholic) drinks into Camden Yards and wallet-welcoming promotions like the Junior Oriole Dugout Club ($20 for 10 games, a cinch bag and a cap).
Last but not least is a sure-handed roster (players, 29) that's using five former Gold Glovers (Nate McLouth, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, Matt Wieters) and a future one (Manny Machado) to buck an alarming trend in the field: Through August, the Orioles, who averaged 100-plus errors over the previous five seasons, had committed just 39 miscues, were on pace to shatter the record for fewest errors in a season (65, by the '03 Mariners) and had opposing hitters muttering something that sounded a lot like "Buck."