Have We Forgotten? Thoughts of an Eternal Optimist

submitted by Chris Sadowski

To start this off I think it helps to get an understanding of where I come from. A 26-year-old born in ’94, baseball was my first true love. I remember a splash of a game here and there in 1997, but nothing concrete. My true first memories of the Orioles reside in 2001 when my dad and I would go down to the Yard every Sunday to watch them battle at home. I fell in love with Cal Ripken like every other kid and I cried like hell out in left field while he did his victory lap to tell us all good-bye. However, mostly what I remember of my first 18 years of being an O’s fan is losing.

Offseason optimism for me included getting excited annually about guys like David Segui, Marty Cordova, Steve Trachsel, Raffy Palmiero, Sammy Sosa & a never ending list that rolls on leading to the meandering lost seasons of my life. 2005 shot my hopes through the roof with a 47-40 record at the All-Star Break, but when your staff is anchored by “Ace” Rodrigo Lopez perhaps things just are not meant to be. Over the next 6-7 seasons the Orioles entered a special place of baseball purgatory where not only were they never tabbed to compete in a division dominated by the Yankees and Red Sox, but they combined that with a powerful combo punch of not being able to muster much from the farm.

Enter our lives Buck Showalter, who felt like the savior to Orioles baseball, and Dan Duquette. As much as I am partial to say Buck was the reason that Birdland was back, I do believe that he and Duke were the right marriage at the right time.

A night I will truly never forget, September 6, 2012, also known as Cal Ripken Statue night, was the most magical experience I have ever had at OPACY. That is the night baseball was reborn in Baltimore. The game & the pageantry of the night left Camden feeling a way that I imagine it had not felt since that ’97 run. Leading to a run of making the playoffs in three of the next six years felt great. However, this run also felt somewhat left up to chance. A core of great players with a superstar or two mixed in had us right back in the mix for a nice stretch, but when you do not have the infrastructure on the farm or with a pipeline coming from the international market this was never built to last.

Under the new regime of Mike Elias every morning I wake up optimistic that the Orioles Way is one step closer than it has ever been in my lifetime. When you look back on the 60’s & 70’s the absolute talent pipeline that the Orioles had established was incredible. We certainly have not seen that any time recently around this way and if it takes a total slash and burn to get there, I think it is well worth waiting for. I will admit I do feel bad for a guy like Brandon Hyde who must go out there and watch his team get shelled night in and night out. Especially when you must hand the ball to guys like Matt Harvey and Tom Eshelman who have no business taking the mound every fifth day at this juncture of their respective careers.

I completely understand why other Orioles fans are impatient, too. We all want to be winning now, but I do not quite get how folks can already begin to start questioning the process that we are beginning. Three years in and you’ve already to started to see progress even if you are not seeing it in the win column. Who expected a guy like Cedric Mullins to be an All-Star with 16 home runs at the break? The talent of guys like Anthony Santander, Tyler Wells, and Ryan Mountcastle is all being slowly unlocked day-by-day. The current Birds may not have you brimming with excitement, but if you watch every night there is a little more revealed about the blueprint and there are a couple of guys you can start to have faith in for this rebuild.

I know it is hard to have faith, and I know that sometimes it is hard to see the forest through the trees, but how can you not be excited about the talent that is working its way through the pipeline right now? The next generation is working its way to us, and Mike Elias is guiding it with a steady hand. You are not seeing hasty promotions to get a guy a little closer to Baltimore while jeopardizing his developmental path. You are seeing a GM playing the long game knowing that in due time we will have a contender that was well worth waiting for. When the likes of Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez & Gunnar Henderson make it here they will have proven themselves worthy. However, this rebuild is not just predicated on 3-5 prospects that we hope can carry us to a title. Elias has completely reshaped the culture and the infrastructure around this program. Look at the beautiful facility that has been built by the O’s in the Dominican Republic, those are dollars you aren’t seeing right now and honestly, we will not see the fruit of that labor for 5-8 years, but it will be well worth it.

In all honesty, all I want to see out of my fellow O’s fans is a little faith and a little optimism. We have all been through hell together with a 15-year playoff drought. I think this draft weekend & All-Star Break is a nice time to sit back and reflect and to believe that we are closer to sustained success than we have been in ages.

Until then, I will see you all at the yard!

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