As another lost season in Birdland mercifully comes to a close, O’s fans are left yet again waiting for a future that we’re promised will be better. With several publications recently ranking the Baltimore farm system as either #1 or #2 in baseball, a perch never before seen from the minor leagues in these parts, the sense of optimism is certainly palpable. However, it bubbles underneath a surface that sees the major league squad continue to be a borderline embarrassment to the professional game. They have multiple losing streaks in the teens in 2021, including 19 straight from August 3-24. The Orioles’ 19th straight losses, one of the longest losing streak in franchise history, left them with no chance for this season, which you can verify in this list of sports betting sites which already took off the odds for Baltimore’s season.
The silver lining is that the O’s have yet again positioned themselves with a good chance for the first overall selection in 2022 MLB entry draft. Their only real competition, barring a surprisingly competent final few weeks from the orange and black, are the Arizona Diamondbacks, who also have 97 losses as of September 13. Yet this doesn’t tell the whole story, as only one other team in baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates, has been outscored by 200 or more runs. The Pirates are at -209, while the O’s dwarf them at -257. It’s possible for fans to both appreciate the patience needed to endure a true tear-down and rebuild under new management, but also be frustrated at the absolute levels of incompetence trotted out onto the field on a nightly basis.
Mike Elias cannot send Brandon Hyde and his staff into spring training in Sarasota next spring with such a pathetically bare cupboard of proven major league talent on the roster. With the improvements shown by young players in 2021, including Cedric Mullins (.300/.367/.539, 29 HR 28 SB), Ryan Mountcastle (.264/.316/.498, 21 HR), and Austin Hays (.258/.293/.453), and with Adley Rutschman continuing to impress in both AA and AAA, the goal for 2022 needs to be a return to competitive baseball. Not necessarily to being .500 or better, but to being respectable night in and night out. To not being outscored, by say, over 250 runs through 150 games. These young players can’t become accustomed to losing, to accepting having their brains beaten in on a nightly basis.
Signing competent, proven pitchers is imperative for Elias. This applies to both starters and relievers. While it’s nice to have a couple lottery tickets who could potentially be flipped at the deadline, as we saw in 2021, this plan can easily be thwarted by injury (Felix Hernandez) or ineffectiveness (Matt Harvey). Players like Marcus Stroman, Carlos Rodon, Danny Duffy, and perhaps even old friend Kevin Gausman need to be on the GM’s radar this winter.
In addition, these arms need to be identified and brought in for the bullpen. We saw previously reliable relievers like Paul Fry and Tanner Scott fall off a cliff this year, which could be attributed, in part, to overuse and increased pressure of being the only guys the manager thinks he can trust even a little. Relievers are volatile in MLB and it isn’t wise to throw too much money at them, but signing bullpen arms for one-two year deals offers little risk and much reward, especially if the O’s improved analytics department can identify the correct targets.
Bringing in the correct pitchers this winter will be the most important move Mike Elias can make to start to turn around this supertanker that is the current awful iteration of the Baltimore Orioles. The fan base has, generally, remained patient, satisfying ourselves with following the progress of the prospects at the various levels of the minor leagues while watching the MLB product askance out of the corner of our eyes.
But the patience is beginning to run thin, exacerbated by things like losing 18 of 19 to division rival Tampa Bay, or having their brains beat in by Toronto to the tune of 44-19 over the last three games.
It’s time for Elias to show us some dividends for our patience.