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Birds' 2019 Woes Look Unsurprisingly Familiar

There’s nothing about what we’ve seen so far this season from Camden Yards that should come as a surprise.

Anyone who watched the 2018 Orioles devolve into the team that lost a franchise record 115 games could not have imagined a significantly better 2019.

Once Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day were dealt at roughly around this time last year, Orioles management effectively hung out the “Gone Fishin” sign for the foreseeable future.

Letting Adam Jones, Buck Showalterand general manager Dan Duquette go in the offseason only further cemented the idea that the Birds had moved into the dreaded rebuilding stage.

And this year’s performance to date, which puts the club on track to just barely eke ahead of last season, confirms that this club will be bad for some time to come.

We’re talking bad of epic proportions, which could be tolerated under two circumstances.

One is that the team is fascinatingly putrid, as in the 1962 New York Mets, a club in its first season of existence with a collection of castoffs and ne’er-do-wells, a real life, grown-up version of the Bad News Bears.

Or is dreadful on the order of the 1988 Orioles, who dropped the first 21 games of that season, even with two future Hall of Famers, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken, on the roster, a mere five years after they had won the World Series. You had to see that team to believe how bad they could be.

The other variation of acceptably bad is if there is a perceptible plan afoot to assemble young, talented players who need time to grow and learn to be winners.

Birds fans may hope to identify with a recent baseball example of option two. The Houston Astros opened this decade with clubs that dropped 324 games over three seasons.

But those teams had budding homegrown stars like pitcher Dallas Keuchel, outfielder George Springer and infielders Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve, who formed the nucleus of the roster that made the playoffs in three of the last four years and won the franchise’s first World Series in 2017.

Oriole fans are taking heart that one of the architects of Houston’s turnaround, assistant general manager Mike Elias, is now running things here in Baltimore as head of baseball operations.

Elias tapped Brandon Hyde, another veteran of miraculous turnarounds, to be manager here. Hyde, who was first base coach in Chicago as the Cubs ended a century of failure with a title three years ago, will have to do some serious work to spin baseball straw into gold in Baltimore.

So far, there are no apparent Hall of Famers or Most Valuable Players on this Birds roster. And the losses aren’t all that interesting or spectacular, at least not to this point.

Fans are noticing, witness that attendanceis down nearly 3,000 per game from last year, which was the lowest in Camden Yards history. Even if people have had time to plan for bad, it has to tickle their fancy.

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

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.