Baltimore Orioles: What do division rivals have that the Birds do not?
The Baltimore Orioles welcome in the New York Yankees tonight for a four-game set at Camden Yards. Ironically that’s a longer series than normal, but it amounts to the shortest home stand of the year. Once everyone gets settled in at home, it’ll be back out on the road after Thursday’s matinee game – to Denver, for a three-game road swing before coming home again!
Everyone knows that the Orioles are rebuilding. That’s why their record overall isn’t as big of an issue as it was last year at this time. Nobody expects them to be good. Not now at least. However, they’re playing a team that had a similar moment a few years ago when they were about the rebuild. However New York not only tore down, retooled, and rebuilt in seemingly one fatal swoop, they thrived while doing it.
Heck, in 2016 when they traded for the likes of guys like Aaron Judge, they actually improved after knocking down what was in place previously. Consider that for a moment; the season was going south (by New York standards), they sold, and they actually improved. They made an outside run at the post season that year, but fell short (they fell short to the Orioles, who won the second Wild Card in the American League).
This year however, they have the biggest single excuse NOT to be good: injuries. Yet they still are. Regardless of who they plug into the lineup, he seems to produce. They signed Kendrys Morales last week, of course who’s an aging slugger. Granted he’s only had 13 plate appearances, but he’s hitting .300. This as opposed to .200 to that point with Oakland. Heck most recently, they took first place from Tampa over the weekend, in a series that featured New York with a seven-run inning in yesterday’s game. A seven-run inning from a group of guys put together with mud and spit?
Speaking of Tampa, they have something similar going on. Last year I all but scoffed at them trading literally everyone of note who had been on their team away. In doing so, they acquired what rightfully should have been single-A talent. That team of single-A talent finished with 90 wins last year, and is probably on it’s way to doing something similar this season. With guys of whom nobody’s ever heard.
So what do those teams have that the Orioles do not? I think that a certain small percentage of the fan base expected something similar to occur in Baltimore this season. That the team would show up and just blow everyone away. And for a week or so in the very beginning, they were raking in the wins. So again, what gives?
It’s well-known that the Orioles over a long period of time have made mistakes in their scouting – both of players for their own organization, and for players in other organizations. Both New York and Tampa have made it their business to know their competitors as well as they know themselves. That’s a tough thing to do. But you see the results, against of course what the Orioles’ results have been to this point.
This is not to say that the current crop of Orioles are simply a band of misfits thrown together by chance or as a matter of convenience. Most of the guys earned their roster spots in spring training. And we’ve already seen a few diamonds in the rough, such as Dwight Smith Jr., and Richie Martin.
The Orioles are just going about their rebuild differently, basically because they have to. They’re building the organization back up in a brick and mortar type of manner – similar to how the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs did a few years ago. And go figure, current Orioles’ GM Mike Elias was a part of that organization, and current manager Brandon Hyde was a part of the Chicago Cubs’ organization.
So if I were Orioles fans, I wouldn’t put too much stock in why New York or even Tampa was immediately good again, and the O’s aren’t. As I said, the organization is building up in a different manner. Neither way is right or wrong, although New York/Tampa’s way does actually yield to instant gratification. But the goal is to have sustained success as an organization, which is what the Orioles are building towards doing. If that happens in the next few years, the process will have been a success. The ends justify the means.