On Wednesday, October 15, 2014, the Kansas City Royals eliminated the Baltimore Orioles, ending the O’s best season since 1997. It was a gut-wrenching loss and one that I did not get to watch live as I was at working during the game.
After this, the Orioles only sniffed the postseason one more time with an appearance in the 2016 AL Wild Card Game against the Toronto Blue Jays and we all know how that game ended up going.
I would hyperlink to it but I’m not that much of a sadist. Google it if you are not familiar.
Ever since then, the Orioles have had a collective record of 95-138, a .408 winning percentage. That is not good.
What has led to this disastrous period of Orioles baseball following several promising seasons? Let us take a look into some of the moves, or lack there of, that caused this current debacle.
The first place we can look is the offseason following the 2014 season. Dealing with the fallout of rumors circling that Dan Duquette wanted to leave the Orioles for a job in the Blue Jays front office, the O’s seemed to forgo any plan to put players on the field sans the Rule 5 Draft. In this offseason, we saw the departure of Andrew Miller, Nelson Cruz, and fan favorite Nick Markakis. Unlike with Cruz and Markakis, I never expected Miller to return especially with the high price tag he set for himself.
However, I was not expecting the departure of Nick Markakis. I tried to talk myself into the idea of life after Markakis in right field but it has been a disaster, in my opinion, since he left for the Braves. 25 other players have tried their hand at right field from 2015 to now with nobody standing out in the mix to take the spot. Despite getting over 700 innings defensively from Mark Trumbo in 2016 and over 500 innings from Seth Smith in 2017, it just never felt that they filled the void left by Markakis.
With Markakis potentially on his way to his first All-Star Game appearance, it leaves me wondering what the Orioles would have looked like the past few seasons if the team had held onto Markakis.
Following up on that, the Orioles have not had a sufficient enough replacement for Nelson Cruz either. Following a 2013 season that saw Cruz get suspended for performance enhancing drugs, there was not much of a market for him despite being a solid hitter who could give you 25-30 home runs a season. The Orioles took a chance on him and it paid off amazingly.
Cruz had his best season since 2010, posting a 3.9 WAR while slashing .271/.333/.525 and hitting 40 home runs which led all of the Major Leagues that season. The worry going into the offseason was that this kind of production would not be sustainable considering Cruz’s age and a lack of defensive prowess would limit his value to the team. He has proved many wrong in his time with the Mariners.
In his four seasons so far (this year being the fourth), Cruz has posted a 14.1 WAR in that span while slashing .287/.365/.554 and hitting 144 home runs in 522 games. To put that in perspective, he had 157 home runs in 796 games with the Rangers. If he keeps up his pace, he will no doubt blow past that amount with the Mariners.
This is where the downfall starts to take affect for the Orioles. If they had ponied up the money for these two, you would have kept two familiar faces in the clubhouse, stability in a corner outfield spot and DH, and kept a waning fanbase appeased.
Now, let’s say everything stayed the same into the 2015 season; what could have been done differently that season? You can look no further than the trade deadline.
That year, the Orioles sent Zach Davies to the Brewers for Gerardo Parra, a 2 month rental who came here to sure up right field; a void we just discussed. Many saw this as a desperation move and one that made no sense considering the Orioles were 52-50. Now, there was an argument to be made that things could have turned around from there and Parra was the missing piece on a team with many other flaws. However, by September 1st, the O’s had a 63-69 record and were 12 games out of first place in the AL East and 6.5 GB of the 2nd Wild Card spot.
In hindsight, and I even thought a little bit of it back then, I would have sold at the 2015 deadline. You had pieces due to hit free agency such as Chris Davis, Wei-Yin Chen, Darren O’Day, Matt Wieters, and Steve Pearce. You could have gotten some talent back for these players and kept Zach Davies in the process and been able to successfully retool for the 2016 season with the core of Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, and Kevin Gausman still in tact.
That may not have been the best look for a team coming off an ALCS appearance but it could have help prevent this free fall we are experiencing with the team currently.
Obviously, these moves would not have been the end all, be all we can hope for in regards to this team. As much as we think we can pin point one singular moment, or even a handful of moments, so much has led to this season being a complete failure so far.
I’m a big apologist when it comes to the Orioles and it hurts to type these words. I have been a life long fan and have seen the good times and the bad. After experiencing the good, I never wanted to go back to the dark ages of the 2000’s. With the current situation in regards to the front office, I honestly fear we are heading back to years of frustration and bad baseball and I do not know how I or the fanbase at large will be able to handle that. Things need to change and fast — for everybody.
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