The more I hear about Oriole fans jumping ship the less I understand about what exactly it is that they expected in 2021. A roster with less professional experience than the abbreviated 2020 group seems like it would lose at a higher rate, and the team is quite obviously committed to a complete rebuild. If these fans flipped on an Aberdeen Ironbirds game they’d be pleasantly surprised. The talent acquired since Mike Elias took over has the farm system ranks in the top handful of clubs overall. They should be even higher next year.
We here at Eutaw Street Report have penned pieces on what is happening in the minors. It’s overwhelmingly positive for long-suffering supporters, but still there is a contingent of fans who basically exist to complain and unfortunately the improving Orioles are their target. People who have access to an opinion, a keyboard, or both have every right to express how they feel. Whether it’s about a losing streak, an underperforming player or a prospect who lost their shine seasons ago, there’s nothing wrong with airing it out.
But at some point you have to look at the forest and see that your issues with the team begin with your expectations and how unreasonable they are. This season should sting. Looking at the Orioles roster for 2021, they had lost pros who contributed and some who stood out statistically. Renato Nunez and Hanser Alberto were not franchise cornerstones, but you could depend on them on some level so fans started to trust them. This year, on another rebuilding club, the Tigers, half of Nunez’ hits have cleared the fence, but he’s four-for-27 with eight strikeouts. Alberto, on KC, is contributing more on a slightly better team and he’s batting .258 in 85 ABs but with no home runs or walks. I miss Jose Iglesias’ defense a great deal and enjoyed watching him work on that serious major league skill day in and day out. Replacing him with Freddy Galvis didn’t seem an even exchange, and we have the rest of the season to measure that – if we care (have to be honest: I don’t).
Adding in Maikel Franco to any situation in 2021 baseball doesn’t seem like a solution no matter the cost or rationale behind acquiring him. Watching that play out is less than pleasing, nobody will deny that.
Anyone who is paying attention should have started the season thinking “this is going to be the worst MLB year for the rebuild,” and I’m having trouble seeing how anyone at all sees it differently.
There are better storylines to follow in the Delmarva dugout and that’s where my focus lies. The thinking behind that is pretty much that, although the big club is learning on the fly against the best players in the world (Dean Kremer comes immediately to mind), the best players in my colors happen to be playing on the Eastern shore or in Bowie.
I absolutely shudder to think about who would be leading these efforts had Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter not exited when they did. Do complaining fans really want it like it was back then? Because the O’s developed nobody, couldn’t retain any semblance of talent even in situations like Manny Machado‘s, and laid the groundwork to succeed for short windows at a time if at all. If that was the case today like some are pining for, well then the team would be in last, among the worst in the sport and there would be nobody behind them at all from AAA down.
Sure, 2017 was bad after the little 2012-2016 lift, but the drafts were empty, the players not developed and the international market avoided entirely! If you want it that way, then complain away and prove that you simply can’t focus on the good. Because it’s improving each and every day, like you’d want in a rebuild.
The Orioles’ catchers are a topic of consistent complaint. Understood. I’m happy to remind you that Adley Rutschman exists. The bridge to him might be paved with an offensively advanced Brett Cumberland too. Behind them, Maverick Handley, Jordan Cannon, and Chris Burgess. Maybe they’ll draft one this year as well. There’s a great hitter at Louisville, Henry Davis. He may be there at pick #5. Be excited over that instead of griping over Chance Sisco. Does anyone with any semblance of logic think that because Sisco is playing on a last place team in May of 2021 that he’ll be there in 2022 or beyond? Or do they think that calling up Austin Wynns from Norfolk puts the Orioles on the same level as the league’s championship contenders?
Winning trades and acquisitions for the most part since he entered his role as chief rebuilder, Elias has focused on regional scouting and the recent draft looks to be an absolute and convincing victory. Hudson Haskin hustles his butt off, Jordan Westburg is a mature and experienced OPS machine in the box, and Anthony Servideo has refined plate and glove skills that shine through nightly. The stats portend future contributors…but there’s more. Intelligence, good decisions, hustle and lots of defense happen all up and down the lineup at Perdue Stadium. Watch them and be very happy about their soon to come ascension.
The team also drafted Coby Mayo, a defensive lineman-dsized teenager who plays corner and will be hitting in a prime spot on a championship defending Rookie level affiliate. More big positives. Sure, the only pitcher they drafted, Carter Baumler, had his development sidetracked by Tommy John surgery, but Baumler is young and will have the benefits of a healthier and repaired elbow going forward.
Also, the minor league pitching doesn’t exactly need Baumler today, as lots of guys are showing that the year off from games did not take away from their skills. Notably, Grayson Rodriguez has been bumped up to Bowie from Aberdeen and has been discussed as the top prospect arm in the entire sport after carving up high-A hitters for a handful of starts.
Please focus some of your baseball attention to that elite Baysox team! The nucleus of Grayson, elite lefty DL Hall, Rutschman mixed with righty Mike Baumann is as thrilling a group as you can watch play night in and night out. Why wouldn’t you, because you want to watch the O’s?Well guess what. You ARE watching the O’s, they’re just a few years away!
And as the season goes on, even that is changing. Zac Lowther, Bruce Zimmermann, Ryan McKenna, and others have all made their debuts in 2021. More are coming. The contributors whose skills are shining through like John Means, Cedric Mullins and Trey Mancini in addition to Austin Hays (when healthy) are all products of the Orioles player development system. Realize this. There are success stories being written. They are not adding up to first place, or even fourth. This is getting to be a theme with me, but this year was coming and the fact that it’s happening and hurts today shouldn’t change anyone’s focus. The future is going to include a lot of winning baseball, the exact way that you and I want it.
Not me. I’m turning on the Tides game and you can too. In fact I recommend it.
Something I Noticed And Had To Include
Living in Florida and loving baseball, I go to lots of minor league games. This past week a foul ball was hit and landed at my feet where I was seated at the front of my section. I picked it up and turned around to find a kid to give it to and couldn’t find one. Turned over the other shoulder and again, nobody under 35-40. Eventually one found me and I happily handed over the freebie.
Please, please take your kids to lots of games. The minors costs you about 15-20 dollars per child or less and the experience is worth so much more than money. It really bothered me that nobody young was there watching the home runs, strikeouts and diving catches that I was. Zimmermann was one of those kids. You could be shaping the beginning of the next Orioles superstar or fan so start the journey young and do it often. They’re not all going to remember that Greg Leg knocked in Gary Trembley at that Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons game they saw at age 11 on a camp trip in the Poconos but they might turn out to be a fan on a normal, socially acceptable level and that’s a wonderful quality in any person.
If you’re even considering a trip to a minor league game stop thinking and go. The music, the food, the mascots and the environment will make a great memory for your future baseball lover even if the score is ‘unfamiliar’. I watched an 18-11 game with my dog Scooter sleeping at my side front row center as the future of the Cardinals lost to a few of the Pirates top prospects a few nights ago. If baseball is going to stay great, young fans loving the game will make that happen. I encourage you to play your part. Get those kids to the games!