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Birds, Elias shrink from playoff push

Clock at Orioles Park at Camden Yards.
Michelle via Flickr
Clock at Orioles Park at Camden Yards

Just like the former butler Coleman at the end of the movie “Trading Places,” Mike Elias was given the option of lobster or cracked crab.

Unlike Coleman, who opted for both, Elias settled for one. And, as a result, Orioles fans took an unnecessary punch to the gut while the players saw their nascent playoff chances take an unwarranted hit.

Elias, whose anonymity as Orioles general manager was noted here recently, made himself known to one and all at last week’s trading deadline, as he traded fan favorite Trey Mancini and closer Jorge Lopez for a passel of prospects.

Mancini, who hit 56 home runs in his last two full seasons, and Lopez, the lone Baltimore representative at last month’s All-Star Game, were the team’s best tradeable commodities.

Elias got six pitching prospects from Houston, where he sent Mancini, and from Minnesota, where he dispatched Lopez, five under the age of 24,

Elias is following the same blueprint he was a part of while he was an assistant with the Astros, That is, to build the minor league system while fielding a major league roster at bargain-basement prices.

And, dating back to 2018, the Orioles have gotten what they paid for – three seasons with 108 losses or more in them.

If you didn’t know better, and maybe you do, you’d think Elias was producing a 2022 version of another movie of the 80s, Major League, where the front office attempts to field the worst team in baseball. Unlike the plot of Major League, which saw an owner try to move the Indians out of Cleveland, no one is trying to relocate the Orioles.

But Elias has presented the outline of baseball on the cheap to the perfect front office audience, namely the Angelos family.

From patriarch Peter to his son John, the team’s CEO, the Angeloses have consistently pleaded poverty in declining to sign high priced talent that might make the team more competitive and more attractive.

The exception was a seven-year $160 million deal to first baseman Chris Davis that was loaded with deferred money, so as to offset the impact of a big expenditure.

Flash forward to the present, where the Orioles are surprisingly in contention for a wild card playoff spot, which would mark the first postseason appearance in six years.

Some general managers, with the recent track record of misery, might have tried to add talent to the roster for a playoff run, or at least hold on to what they had. But not Elias. He dealt off Mancini, a cancer survivor who has bonded with Baltimore fans and Lopez, a pitcher who had struggled early in his career but seemed to find his way this year.

The deals struck many as a slap in the face to the notion that you always try hard to win now. Indeed, Elias had to fly to Texas to assure the players in the midst of a road trip that the team wasn’t just trying to build for the future, but to be successful in the present.

After years of gruel around here, Orioles players and fans deserve cracked crab and lobster. Mike Elias should be smart enough to know that.

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com. And follow me on Twitter at Sports at Large.

Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.

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.