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Baltimore Orioles: Finish .500 & Get To Work At Improving

Yesterday was the 16th Anniversary of 9/11. For those of us old enough to remember, it will forever be a day that where you know where you were. Like anyone else, I have significant reverence for that day, thinking of the thousands of lives lost, and how our world has been profoundly impacted ever since. 

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to put yourself back in the moment, and recall the emotions that horrific event brought. I find that with every 9/11 Anniversary, I’m not only able to easily recall that day; but that the memories of that period of life come flooding back.

A personal immersion back into that day, and that period of life makes me think about the Orioles. The connection being that I was working for the organization at the time, spending the early part of that morning in the Box Office in the Warehouse.

If you put yourself back in 2001, you can recall what a depressing era that was for the franchise. They would finish that season losing 98 games. The late Syd Thrift was the General Manager. Cal Ripken was ending his career.  ’01 was the 4th consecutive season they would finish under .500. That would be followed with additional sub-.500 seasons in ’02, ’03, ’04, ’05, ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’10, and ’11.

Please don’t message me about perspective.

9/11 was a National tragedy where thousands died and the world was changed.  Baseball and sports in-general are a diversion from the things which really matter. I’m not comparing the ineptness of the Orioles organization during that ’98-’11 time-period to the worst event of our lifetime. I’m simply saying that thinking about 9/11 personally takes me back to that period of time.

So, what’s the correlation to today?

A five game losing streak has the 2017 Baltimore Orioles two games under .500 (71-73), with 18 games left to play. If the O’s were able to put up an unlikely 15-3 or so finish, maybe I’ll be forced to eat my words – but it seems safe to say that their last game in this 2017 season will be the regular season final October 1st.

(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)

My minimum goals for every year are A) Finish .500 and above, B) Play games in September which matter.

If the O’s can go 10-8 to close out the year, they will have finished .500 and above for the 6th consecutive season.

That would be an accomplishment to have some pride in. Particularly when you consider the era immediately prior to this.

Ultimately though, it’s not enough.

The goal is to play for Championships and the Orioles as constructed are not good enough. They need to improve this off-season.

Here are some brief takes on what I believe the O’s should be doing this off-season:

Item 1: Don’t Punt On Decisions With Duquette and Showalter

Executive Vice President Dan Duquette and Manager Buck Showalter have expiring contracts after the 2018 season. Do you – Orioles Ownership – want them back? Do they want to be part of the organization past ’18? If the answers to both questions are yes, then work out extensions. If the answers to both questions are not yes, then it’s a disservice to the organization as a whole to not make changes this off-season. Have your leadership in-place, before you do anything else.

The expectation I have is that both will be back for ’18, without resolution about their future. That doesn’t benefit anyone.

Item 2: Machado Isn’t Likely To Sign An Extension At This Point – Make the Offer Anyway

As ’17 ends, Machado is now a year away from Free Agency. It seems unlikely that any offer the O’s could make this off-season would be accepted, with him this close to hitting the open market. The O’s should still try. They didn’t trade last year when he had two years of team control remaining. They didn’t trade him this year at the Non-Waiver Deadline when had a year and half of team control remaining. They kept him to try and again reach the post-season here in ’17, and presumably to make another run at things next year.  The only thing to do at this point is to make your best offer. The wow offer, the highest AAV you are comfortable with, including opt-outs.

If you make your best offer, and he says no – you still have the option of moving him. You won’t get as much as you would have had you moved him last Winter, but you will get talent back under long-term team control. If you were going to move him, you need to know that early in the off-season, for how that would impact every other decision you would make.

The expectation I have is that the O’s will not provide an offer that makes Machado at-least consider avoiding hitting the open market, nor will they trade him. They will let him play out 2018.

Item 3: Commit To The International Market – I Acknowledge This Has 0% Chance Of Happening

What the O’s do on the International market is criminal in my opinion. You can’t say you are committed to building an organization through drafting and scouting, and then do what the O’s do (effectively nothing) Internationally.

There isn’t anything more valuable in baseball than team-controlled talent. If you are able to consistently produce talent internally, not only do you have the ability to use that talent yourself, but you also have the resources necessary to make trades for difference makers that can push you over-the-top today.

Peter Angelos has been the Orioles Majority Owner since 1993. Go back and look at the O’s International philosophy since ’93 – it’s clear. They have no interest. It hasn’t mattered who has been the Orioles GM / Executive Vice President.  The constant is Angelos.

As long as Angelos is the Owner, there is no reason to believe the O’s will do anything different here.

Would love to be prove wrong.

Item 4: If You Are Bringing The Band Back, Get Them Some Help

If you bring everyone back, without outside significant talent added; can you improve? Sure. If the ’17 O’s finish +/- .500, and you bring back essentially the same roster, things could roll right and you could win 90 games.

That isn’t how I’d like to see them operate.

If you are bringing everyone back, and you are going into ’18 with numerous questions (Duquette, Showalter, Machado, Jones, Britton, Brach, etc) about what happens after next year, then actually play for next year.

If you are playing to win next year, go add some difference making talent to the core which exists.

I say that with the acknowledgement that the system is still thin.  Trading from a thin system would be difficult. Other teams can trump your offer. You also would be trading the limited long-term controlled assets you have, for pieces today. Not the greatest strategy when the complexion of the roster could quickly change after ’18. That means I’d rather have Hays, Sisco, Mancini, and Mountcastle on the ’19 O’s vs. trading them.

I’d also rather have Britton extended vs. trading him; but I acknowledge the logic which exists about possibly moving him (though I’d suggest if you were going to trade him, it might make more sense to do so next year if /when he’s performing at a high-level and there are no lingering questions about where he’s at physically). Moving Brach would also be an option, but the return will only be so much.

That leaves Free Agency.  Spending what would be necessary to obtain difference making talent on the FA market carries obvious significant risk…. especially with the starting pitching which would be logical to pursue. I’d still rather see that path vs. adding middling talent.

If you wind-up looking at mediocre options (2017 versions of Jimenez, Gallardo, etc); I’d just assume go to the next level down. Look at the one year options, and bring in several of them. The ceiling might be low, but at-least the risk would also be.

Item 5: Take Care Of Other Extensions

Many would balk at an extension for Britton. I’d be fine with one, but I understand that.

Getting a deal with Schoop should clearly be a priority.  Tacking on two years for Jones would be fine.  

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Chris Stoner

Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director. You can reach him via email at [email protected].

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