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Orioles' Rebuilding Tries Limits Of Fans' Patience

Sign reading "WATCH OUT FOR BATTED BALLS" at Oriole Park at Camden Yards
shootingsawk via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Oriole Park at Camden Yards

One of the staples of Black church life is the existence of the building fund, where members pay into an account that, theoretically, goes towards construction of a project or series of projects.

Often, said project becomes a moving target, or morphs into something else, but church members continue to make the contribution because, well, faith, as defined in Hebrews is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Local baseball fans are to be forgiven for thinking of the Orioles and their success like a church’s building fund. There’s been a ton of pay-in and a lot of faith, but not much in the way of actual product.

Since John Means twirled the first complete game no-hitter in franchise history in over 50 years on May 5, things in Birdland have gone decidedly south, what with a 14-game losing streak that plummeted the team to the basement of the American League East.

The losing ended at the start of June, but only for a couple days, only to be resumed Saturday, and with a loss of Means to what’s being called left shoulder fatigue.

While one player isn’t the be all/end all of any club, John Means’ presence on the Orioles may be the difference between a bad club which they currently are, and an epically bad club, which they were in 2018 and 2019.

The glimmer of hope of last year, where they only finished 15 games out of first place, albeit in a 60-game pandemic-limited schedule, has been quickly replaced with the current edition.

The 2021 Birds are already 16 games out of the division lead, the only club in the East with a losing record, the worst mark in the American League and the second worst in all of baseball.

And it’s only early June.

When general manager Mike Elias was brought in in the wake of the horrific 2018 campaign, the theory was that Elias’ experience in the Houston organization, where he helped rebuild the Astros from the pits of baseball hell, would make the difference in molding the Orioles from a similar sad condition.

Elias, theoretically, would bring in new, young and, yes, cheaper talent, which, when added to a new manager, Brandon Hyde, who was a part of the Chicago Cubs’ transformation, would produce a winner.

All of this assumed that Orioles fans, who have been waiting since 1983 to hang the franchise’s fourth World Series banner, would be willing to patiently wait a bit longer.

Bird backers, who are among the most cheerful and understanding in all of sports, have 38 long, desolate years of frustration where each of their AL East opponents have made multiple World Series appearances since their team has, so what are a few more?

But you do have to see some level of success to keep on believing.

Well, the success is coming in the minor leagues, where three of the Orioles’ top four affiliates are off to great starts, fueling hope that that young cheap talent will eventually find its way to Baltimore.

For Hyde and Elias, that hope had better pay off and soon before new ministers come in to reap the benefits of the building fund.

And that’s how I see it for this week.

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Twitter: @SportsAtLarge

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.