Opening Day dawned a bright one for Buck Showalter and his Baltimore Orioles. It was a beautiful day, and Oriole Park at Camden Yards was expected to be full. Come the end of the day, the team had done it’s part – with Adam Jones smacking a walk off homer in extra innings to start the season off right with an Opening Day win against Minnesota.
Fast-forward to the middle of July, and the Orioles were quickly looking to sell off the likes of Manny Machado and any other pieces for which they could get a positive return. That Opening Day win ended up being the highlight of the season. A season in which the Orioles hoped they would contend. But one in which everything came crashing to a halt at once.
They say that you can’t win a pennant in April, but you sure can lose one. I’m not sure when it became evident that the 2018 Orioles weren’t going to make it over the finish line. Admittedly I personally believed that the skill on the team would progress back to the players’ mean numbers. In the case of Adam Jones, they somewhat did. But then you have Chris Davis, who at .168, finished with the worst average in major league history.
With the exception of an early season series win in the Bronx, anything that could go wrong for the 2018 Orioles did go wrong. Again, I personally believed that it was nary impossible for the mental errors and overall bad luck of this team to continue. But I was wrong. The Orioles’ two big spring signings, pitchers Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb, started slow. Part of that was due to little to no time in spring training. Part of it was also due to the fact that when they (and numerous other starters) finally did have good outings, the bats were quiet.
If the Orioles weren’t swept in a series they would perhaps salvage a win in the final game. That seemed to be the pattern up until the end, and including the final series against Houston. So the O’s made the tough decision to be sellers at the trade deadline, trading the likes of Manny Machado and others. The O’s got 15 prospects back, and very much dedicated themselves to a full re-build.
And that’s perhaps the silver lining of this season, as the franchise was newly dedicated to the future. However the path to get to that point was difficult. And once they had re-tooled the roster a bit, it certainly didn’t get any easier. There was seemingly no mercy wherever the Orioles turned over the course of the season.
However the hope coming out of 2018 was the fact that if the organization plays its cards right, there could be sunnier days on the horizon. The Orioles appear firmly planted in attempting to build the team from the ground up, in the manner that Houston and the Chicago Cubs did. Can that be done successfully in the AL East? Beats the heck out of me.
Again, the highlight of the year was Adam Jones’ walk off homer on Opening Day. But it was Jones who also gave us an additional moment to remember on the season’s penultimate day. Many fans had looked forward to that day since perhaps April or May – as the misery would end. However the entire final weekend turned into a love fest between Adam Jones and the city of Baltimore (with Jones’ contract expiring and him appearing set on becoming a free agent). And perhaps…
…the fans themselves were reminded of why they loved this team so much. Win or lose, the Orioles are special. And that’s partly because the fans are special. While there was a lot of grousing (and justifiably so) from the fan base over the course of the summer, the scene this past Sunday at Camden Yards involving Adam Jones left Orioles fans wanting more. Begging for summer to extend even just one more day. That’s obviously not possible. However it shouldn’t go unsaid that when this team heads to Sarasota in February, hope will spring eternal.