Perspective Matters in Birdland

The perspective from which we view a situation can directly impact our assessment of it. In baseball, our opinions on gameplay could be influenced just by where were sitting.  Bang-bang plays, sweep tags, and the like; that blatantly missed third strike from the first base side could appear juuust-a-bit outside from behind home plate.

Depending on the seat, things can look different.

Orioles fans are pretty spread out these days, even with the recent return to full capacity at the Yard. Some prefer the nose bleeds, others the field level. The same can be said of their overall perspective. There’s coverage from all angles and the opinions reflect it. As the Birds rebound to open June coming off an utterly embarrassing back half of May, many fans on social media have begun to seriously debate how the team is being ran; with specific focus on the performance of Oriole’s current GM, Mike Elias.

In general, the overall attitude towards Elias and his moves since taking the job in 2018 have been fairly optimistic. When it comes to player transactions and organizational moves nothing will ever be universal within a fan base, but the “in Elias we trust” mantra has so far drowned out most criticisms.

But certain critiques are beginning to surge harder towards the surface, and they’re not exactly unfair. At what point does optimism turn into naiveté? Doesn’t the Major League product still matter, even during a prospect-based rebuild? Wouldn’t maximizing revenue (especially a year after no fans) be just as important as maintaining a high draft pick?

There’s a wide range of outcomes between World Series and laughingstock. It’s a fundamental responsibility of a team’s general manager, every year, to take actions that increase his or her team’s probability of landing up the desirable end of that range. There’s plenty of nuance to factor in here but honestly any real signs of full blown tanking, neglect, apathy, or let’s say a 0.0% chance of making the playoffs, should generally never be acceptable from a front office.

It’s also fair to say that it is far too early in the process to truly judge the outcome of anything Elias has done. But most fans armed with this defense aren’t really living by it. It’s the overly optimistic hero-worship Elias has received in some circles that’s actually most deserving of criticism. You can’t claim it’s too early to judge Elias’ work when you have a million tweets crowning him the GOAT and condemning any questioning of the rookie GM as heresy. 

Most fans guilty of this hypocrisy are most likely just dramatically hopeful, and others are simply playing the numbers. If you align yourself with every move the guy makes, you can then reference your loyalty (not to mention your genius) when he hits. It’s a mostly harmless yet widespread condition among sports fans.

As misused as the phrase is, it remains completely true that it’s unfair to judge any future success of this franchise by the current state of on-field talent at the Major League level. The O’s farm system and international programs have both taken tremendous leaps of progress and are recognized league wide as beyond promising, both much to the credit of Elias.

It’s also equally true that prioritizing the future doesn’t demand you crap on the present. Those that would hold Elias accountable for any half-ass strategies such as his approach to 2021’s starting rotation have plenty of runway here. A rebuild environment can never operate as vindication for sloppiness. It’s okay to have standards.   

I’ve heard the sentiment that nothing really matters because it’s the Orioles more this season than ever before. I hate that. I hate it for the players and the staff but especially for the fan base. There’s barely even a baseline of pride anymore and certainly no sign of dignity. The task of reinstatement ultimately starts and stops at the desk of one man.

Whether or not you think he’s executing that task effectively could depend entirely on where you’re sitting.

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