I look forward to baseball season all year long. The NFL draft is today and I’m really not phased by it. The Capitals are playing the Penguins in the playoffs for what feels like the 493rd year in a row and I’m looking forward to it, but not as much as I look forward to Opening Day. I’m just a baseball guy. I live and breath it. When it goes away, I can’t wait for it to return.
And that’s why this month has been truly devastating. In the span of 24 games, I went from 100 percent psyched about the Orioles chances in 2018, to dreading what the next few days, weeks, months, and years will bring for this club. I haven’t seen many signs that the O’s can climb out of the deep hole they’ve buried themselves in and I’m expecting that the “rebuild” (or explosion) is about the begin.
So how did they get here? What went wrong? Several decisions have culminated in a perfect storm.
When your GM, manager, veteran clubhouse leader, and best player (Dan Duquette, Buck Showalter, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado) are all in contract years, it’s tough to have any true leadership. How can Duquette make any important decision without being criticized since he “might not be back next season”? How strong is Buck’s message in the clubhouse when the 25 guys he’s talking to are wondering if he will still be the skipper next season. You can apply the same logic to Jones’ leadership.
The entire situation set Machado up for a monster season and he’s expected to be paid a record deal this winter and the club has shown no indications of trying to hold on to him.
Who does the team turn to in a situation like this? There’s too much uncertainty and instability to overcome the adversity that they’ve had to face in the first month of 2018.
The Mighty Strikeout
You can blame the weather, the starters that the Orioles have faced, or their schedule in April, but the fact is that their offense just strikes out too much. Their 27.1 strikeout percentage is the highest in the American League and .215 batting average is the lowest in baseball. They’ve always been a home run or bust team and it’s worked for them in the past, but when they go cold, they go ice cold.
The fact is the Orioles don’t make enough contact to withstand the type of slow offensive streaks that they deal with throughout a season. You can pray to the BABIP gods all you want, they’re going to tell you the same thing I will — put the ball in play!
Zach Britton is out while Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, and Mychal Givens have struggled. The O’s have been successful in the past with mediocre starting pitching because their bullpen would shutdown opponents. Not this season.
The O’s pen has totaled a 4.85 ERA and is walking over four per nine. They can’t keep guys off the bases and haven’t been able to escape jams like they could in the past.
Even with the improved rotation, Baltimore’s weak offense and struggles in the bullpen have cost them wins this season.
Yesterday, FanGraphs proclaimed that a Manny Machado trade was inevitable. It’s hard to see a situation where that isn’t the case. I see no signs that the Orioles turn things around and if they don’t, the best thing to do is start to tear down.
I just hope that they commit to a direction. Come up with a long-term plan and let me root for it. Avoid the middle ground, that’s where teams go to die.