The Orioles began the 2019 season winning two of three against the Toronto Blue Jays. They closed the season winning two of three against the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
In between, they did a whole lot of losing, dropping more than 100 games for a second straight year.
That’s the first time that’s happened in the 65 seasons the club has been here in Baltimore, and there’s precious little we saw this year to suggest that next year won’t be a third.
Yes, the Orioles did win seven more games this year than last, when they dropped a franchise record 115 contests, and there were tiny signs of progress from 2018.
In what amounted to an extended tryout, Austin Hays emerged in September as a ball of enthusiasm and a candidate to man center field next year.
Among a pitching staff that took two collective steps back, lefthander John Means surfaced as a possible ace. He was the only Orioles pitcher to finish the year with a winning record.
Means should be the odds-on favorite to be the Opening Day starter when the 2020 season begins March 26 against the Yankees
Trey Mancini served notice that he could be the face of the franchise, assuming he isn’t dealt away in the offseason. His 35 home runs and 97 RBI led the Birds, and he wants to be in Baltimore for whatever the Birds become.
And that will be a rather sizable question, won’t it? Just what will this team look like? As an addendum, how patient will Orioles fans be with what surfaces for next year?
The club has stressed patience and understanding. First year general manager Mike Elias, who was a part of the Houston Astros’ demolition and renaissance earlier this decade, brings the assumption that he will do the same here, and for little money.
Elias is putting his stamp on the organization, cutting loose 30 scouts and front office and player development staffers, in an attempt to reshape the club into a modestly-priced winner.
Among the most notable front office departures is Brady Anderson, who was an on-field Orioles hero in the ‘90s, and served in the front office prior to Elias’ arrival. Cutting Anderson loose is a definite break from most of the old days.
One consistent is the Orioles’ meager $73 million payroll. That landed them 28th among the 30 Major League clubs, which is about what you would expect from a team so intentionally god-awful.
Except that the Tampa Bay Rays won nearly twice as many games as the Birds and made the playoffs with a payroll $10 million less than the Orioles. The Oakland A’s got into the postseason spending about $20 million more than Baltimore’s.
In other words, club executive John Angelos’ pledge that the Orioles will stay in town as long as Fort McHenry stands watch over the city, will mean little if no one wants to see the product.
And that’s how I see it for this week.
Audio will be posted by the end of the day.