Baltimore Orioles: Is youthful hunger preferable to veteran leadership?
I maintain what I wrote yesterday in my game recap about the Baltimore Orioles’ 11-5 loss to Tampa. The Birds had the lead, but well after the veterans and “regular players” had departed, Tampa dropped ten runs on the Orioles’ bullpen in the eighth inning. (I use the quotes on regular players because in some instances we don’t know who the regulars are going to be as of yet.) To reiterate that again, it’s just not a big deal. These games don’t count, and again nobody of any consequence for the regular season was in the game.
But is that attitude in and of itself part of the problem? And could it be part of why the Orioles found themselves rushing a rebuild mid-year last season as opposed to playing out the final year of what should have been a window to compete? Interesting question.
Even when the Orioles were in their heyday under the likes of Buck, Jones, Davis, Machado, et al, teams such as Tampa always gave them a run for their money. A big time run for their money, in fact. I’m using Tampa as a specific example, however there are a few other teams in this category. They’ve always remained young, and they’ve always remained hungry. And again, they’ve always been a thorn in the Orioles’ side – no matter what the records.
Young people are always going to be hungry when they’re getting their feet wet in their careers. I suppose exuberance is a fair term to use. Teams such as Tampa have always had that about them. The Orioles…not so much. The Orioles have always been more about veteran leadership and people who already knew what they were doing. As opposed to guys who were learning on the job. Until now, that is.
So again, have the O’s done it all wrong up to this point, and are they thus doing it right now? The answer is no on both points. Young players are exciting, and yes there does usually happen to be a certain never say die attitude about them. How often did we see innings such as what we saw yesterday during the 2018 season? By the end of the inning the veteran Orioles seemed to be all but beaten into submission. Because guys knew that you just don’t come back from a ten-run inning.
Instead, what did we see out of the young O’s yesterday? Ryan Mountcastle extended a single into a double to lead off the last of the eighth, and he was driven home by an RBI-single by Anthony Santander. Because young people haven’t been beaten down a bit yet, their attitudes are still fresh and they’re still thinking you have to start the comeback somewhere. This as opposed to a seasoned veteran, who’s probably going to play it safe and focus more on not getting hurt in a game that’s already out of control. Young people have the audacity to believe anything is possible, whereas veterans know not to hedge their bets.
I suppose I’m not making the case that veterans are better than youth very well, am I? Here’s the difference; it’s all well and good to be stocked full of youth and have guys who are hungry to win. However talent and experience will generally top that at the highest levels. There are exceptions of course, the 2018 Orioles being a glaring one.
Ultimately I think you can win some games if you have the audacity of youth on your side for sure. Not only that, but you can step up and surprise some people – the way that the 2018 Tampa Rays did. But when push comes to shove, is the audacity of youth going to be enough to win you a World Series? Is that going to be enough to defeat a group of wiry veterans who’ve been together since time immemorial in a playoff elimination game?
The other question I posed is whether or not the Orioles are now doing things the right way. I said above that they weren’t – right? In saying that I mean that even though they’re going through all the processes the correct way, they still have to choose the right players. At some point you have to get young and build from the bottom – which is what the Orioles are doing. But if you build with the wrong players, it’s pointless.
It wasn’t so much that the Birds were doing things wrong before, and that they’re now doing them right. A generation of Orioles’ baseball ended last year when the team got broken up. A new generation is beginning now. Ideally your franchise should have peaks and valleys. Hopefully if the Orioles are doing things properly, the valley will be short-lived. Eventually the young players become veterans. And yes while perhaps the audacity of youth is gone, the steady hand of experience takes it’s place.