Orioles fans are in a position of privilege. On the surface, that statement may sound blasphemous; the team has been nothing but poor since 2017. The previous front office did several disservices to the player development pipeline, via imprudent trades and anachronistic methods and philosophies. The team refused to engage the international market in a meaningful way.
All of that, though, led to the situation in which the Orioles currently find themselve. In a weird, convoluted way, they HAD to suck for this to happen. A full reset, led by a supportive ownership group led by John Angelos and a proven, forward-thinking front office with Mike Elias & Sig Mejdal among others, finally bringing the team’s infrastructure into the 21st century…leading the team to finally embrace analytics and take the international market seriously. The Birds’ minor league system has gone from one of the league’s worst to arguably top five in the matter of three years. Orioles stock is trending up, dare I say, to the moon.
The most obvious thing fans find most enjoyable about the rebuilding process is the matriculation of top draft picks and eagerly awaiting where they end up on top 100 lists, and we’re very fortunate to have them in abundance (what up Adley Rutschman, DL Hall, Grayson Rodriguez, and Gunnar Henderson). However, I’ve long maintained that for as fun as following progress of elite prospects is, watching the progress of relative unknowns is just as exciting and arguably more rewarding. It’s fun following a guy like Mike Baumann, who found extra velocity and emerged as a legitimate prospect, or Zac Lowther, another low-to-mid tier pitcher who embraced the spin rate revolution and made his way to the MLB roster.
Nobody else, though, typifies this excitement and joy like John Means. A guy drafted in the 11th round. A guy who peaked at #29 on the Orioles Top 30 list in 2017. A guy who considered retirement, but decided to come back and give it one last shot and transformed himself into an all-star who was capable of accomplishing what he did Wednesday afternoon: mowing down Mariners hitters with ease and taunting them with a change-up that Fangraphs measures as the league’s best.
While not a culmination, Means no-hitter (perfect game smh stupid rules) was something of a coronation; an exclamation point at the end of a vociferous declaration to the rest of the baseball world that John Means is a legitimate, front end starter who deserves every ounce of praise he gets, and the fact that he’s an A+ human being who fought like hell to get to this moment makes it all the better.
Tip of the cap to you, sir!