Have The Baltimore Orioles Returned To The Dark Ages?
The Baltimore Orioles are coming off their worst season since 2011. Despite entering the month of September within striking distance of a Wild Card, they won just 7 of their last 28 games; finishing the season with only 75 wins. They finished in last place, 18 games out of first and 10 games behind the Twins for the second Wild Card spot. The Orioles were outscored by 98 runs, a mark that was bested by only 6 teams in all of MLB.
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The 2017 version of the Orioles certainly had their share of bad luck. Between key injuries to guys like Britton and ODay, unexpected poor performances from players like Manny Machado and an incredibly horrible rotation that even in our worst expectations, wouldn’t have performed as bad as they did. The team from last year, with better luck, certainly could have been a Wild Card team, especially when you consider 85 wins got you the second WC spot.
Despite last year not being a good season, it was reasonable to enter the off-season saying if guys could get healthy (particularly Britton) and the Orioles could make some key additions, that this team could be in position to contend for a playoff spot in 2018.
I think that reasonable expectation is gone though. 2018 is over folks. The Orioles still need 2 starters in their rotation (Castro or Cortes will get the other spot). Britton is out until at least June. A pitching staff that was already in shambles is still in bad shape. Meanwhile, the Yankees have had a great off-season capped by the addition of Stanton. We have seen the Angels and Mariners get better. The Red Sox will sign some offensive help. The Orioles are seemingly falling behind the competition every day. As of right now, it is only realistic to believe that the Orioles have a chance at the 2nd Wild Card. A one game playoff that likely ends up putting them on the West Coast or in Boston or NY. The reality is, it’s not reasonable to expect this team to legitimately contend. Sure, they will add a few starters but they won’t be good. They will be guys like Andrew Cashner. That’s not what this team needs but what this team needs, management won’t allow.
It’s frustrating as a fan to come to that realization when you are still a month away from Spring Training. My problem isn’t that though. We all knew the time was going to come when Boston and NY became formidable again. We all knew that the Orioles were going to start losing players, due to free agency, and that they were going to struggle to replicate the production we saw from 2012-2016. No, the frustrating part is that the 2019 and 2020 seasons are probably already over too.
The Orioles saw their MiL system improve this year. We saw some glimpses of Austin Hays and Chance Sisco in the majors. We got encouraging news from Hunter Harvey. Guys like DJ Stewart, Ryan Mountcastle and Keegan Akin made strides. There was a lot of good news and maybe that can carry over but when you have to bank on every one of your better prospects to work out, that’s an issue. The depth just isn’t there and this team won’t spend on international talent and they don’t go as over the top in the draft as they could. They want to develop pitching but haven’t shown they can. They still can’t get Gausman right. They have done a good job nursing guys back to health (like Bundy and Harvey) but can they develop these guys into really good starters? Why should we even think they can?
On top of that, the organization has limits on how they will spend their money. They won’t pay out the mega contract to free agents. For the most part, I do believe that is a sound strategy but there doesn’t even seem to be room for the lesser free agents who are still going to make really good money.
We are also entering a year where 4 key players (Jones, Britton, Manny, Brach) are set to be Free Agents. We also are in limbo with Management, as Showalter and Duquette also become Free Aagents after 2018. The smartest thing the Orioles have done this off-season is shop Machado. Whether they have luck trading him or not remains to be seen but whether they keep him or not, the outlook for 2018 is not good. If you trade him and the players you acquire produce, your outlook for 2019 and especially for 2020 looks a lot better though. But does anyone out there really believe the Orioles are going to do this? And what about the other Free Agents? How do you replace those guys? I think they probably overspend to keep Jones and I do think there are some valid reasons to keep him around but its not likely going to be the best on field decision.
Schoop is a Free Agent in a few years and there have been some rumblings that they will try to extend him but why on earth should we believe they will get it done? They are going to be in the same position next year with Schoop that they are now with Machado. They still haven’t learned. They still haven’t figured out the concept of trading a guy one year too early as opposed to one year too late. The outlook for this team would be so much better had they dealt Machado, Brach and Britton after last year. Britton and Machado had MVP level seasons and Brach was coming off an AS year. The influx of young talent that we could have had by just 3 trades would have been immense. Instead, the Orioles sat on their hands, fielded a mediocre team and hoped for the best. If the Orioles want to extend Schoop, fine. Make him an offer that makes sense. If you do and he turns it down, trade him as well. Entering 2018 with Schoop on the team without an extension, is unacceptable. He is coming off of a career year and his value will never be higher than it is right now. This is yet another thing they will fail at.
From 1998-2011, the Orioles had a losing record every year. I don’t know that this team is destined for a run that long again but I do feel that the “Dark Ages Part 2” are upon us. Right now, I just have no hope for this organization. If Peter Angelos puts the team up for sale tomorrow, I think that’s the only way my hope can be restored. Even if the Orioles trade Machado for a good package, I still won’t have any 2018 hope but there would be a slight increase in hope for the future but as long as we have the management that we do, it will always be tough to have “real” hope.
I would hate to be a fan of the Yankees or the Red Sox but I will say that it must be nice being a fan of a team where the management takes losing personal. The Orioles don’t care about losing. They are being handed a huge check from national TV deals, MASN and the radio. The attendance will be down but they will still draw enough to make good money. The money they are making is what matters to them. I don’t begrudge anyone from making as much money as they can but when you own a sports franchise, you are supposed to want to win. The Orioles only want to win in a way that suits them. Going outside of that doesn’t work for them, so the fans are the ones who get to suffer.
2018 is over folks. Let’s hope for the continued development of the young guys and maybe, just maybe, there will be some hope for 2019 and beyond. I wouldn’t count on it though. Not with this team and not with this owner.