As I begin this piece and start to sort out a thousand ideas surrounding the Baltimore Orioles and this last week of the season, I know the most difficult thing over these next several paragraphs will be to not go too deeply into off season analysis.
September’s hunt for an orange October did now go well at all. The statistics I’ll not repeat – they are difficult to view and rehearse, even as they are almost unimaginable not terribly long ago.
So Orioles fans: How you doin’ / how you feeling? Is it disappointment? Frustration? Anger even? I’m just rather sad about it all, as it looked in the first half of the season like enough pieces were around to have made a better run at the playoffs. But I’m not angry, that is for sure. And maybe some of that is due to my renewed perspective that it is just a game at the end of the day – a perspective resultant from being blind-sided with a life-threatening experience with pulmonary emboli last week. (The hospital I was in for five nights did not even get the Orioles on TV, so I missed seeing some of the worst of all that went down!)
Some weeks from now, Orioles fans will look back to the 18-inning loss to Tampa Bay as the critical moment of the season where it was lost (though I’d look back to Arizona). That was a difficult game for sure; and then to see Manny Machado go down the next day … ugh, what next? Well, it would be better that Manny’s knee joint never bent that direction; but, as a long-time track and distance coach, knees are something I know about. And this diagnosis on Manny is far, far from devastating – especially at the end of the season. It’s also great to be only 21 years old! I am actually amazed that there are not more injuries on bases, especially with ankles.
And in a strange way, I’m actually pleased that if the Orioles were not to make the playoffs, the end of the season went down as it did with the loss of offense, even as the pitching improved. Again, trying to not get ahead of myself here, but the Orioles have more items to work on than just getting a couple of starting pitchers. This mantra from Orioles fans of needing more quality starters really wears on me as an over-simplistic analysis. There is no doubt that the Orioles need to have more starters who will be able to go deeper into games. But that is not the whole answer. The failures of clutching hitting and the untimely bullpen meltdowns are, in my opinion and in the final analysis, as much of a factor as starting pitching defects. Only the defense escapes scrutiny, though it raises the question to be discussed later, “How far does the greatest defense EVER take a baseball team?”
All of this is to say that, when trying to analyze the Orioles at this point as they finish the final week and spread out to off season destinations, it is like the Facebook relationship status: “It’s complicated.”
The fact is at this moment that this is not a playoffs caliber team. Maybe with some good fortune and more timely hitting or pitching they could have squeaked in, but I don’t think they should be there. They are a better than average baseball team with a lot of exciting pieces around which to build.
And that is how I’ll end this wee rant. This team has some exciting players and great potential. I would not have expected them to be a playoffs team this year, and I certainly didn’t last year. Next year – yes, I’m expecting it. Stepping back from just two seasons and adding in a couple more, and then a couple more, as you pull back … this team is in such a better place now by any measure.
Anybody heard a date yet for FanFest?
Late news – Jonathan Schoop is starting tonight! The earth continues to spin.