Editor’s note: McCovey Chronicles will be covering news from around the league all season long with our new daily MLB Chronicles column.
Yesterday, the Orioles opened their 2019 season with a 25-man roster that featured three waiver claims and two Rule 5 draftees. They lost 115 games in 2018, the most in franchise history, so they weren’t expected to do much and they didn’t in their 7-2 loss to the Yankees.
36-year old Mike Elias left a successful Houston Astros organization that had rebuilt itself into an analytics powerhouse to run Baltimore’s front office. The Orioles, previously under the Duquette regime, were well behind the rest of Major League Baseball when it came to analytics and he along with also-former Astros exec Sig Mejdal focused most of their offseason efforts on revamping the baseball operations department to bring it in line with the modern game.
The Orioles play in a division that features last year’s World Champion along with the Yankees and Rays, two teams at either end of the financial spectrum but are equally capable of building teams with cunning and guile. How can they possibly hope to compete in the next few years?
Well, they have one thing thing going for them: Orioles fans are sort of used to this already. They always have to play the Yankees or the Red Sox, and when the Rays are down, the Blue Jays usually aren’t. It’s a tough division — perhaps the toughest division — and that’s just the way it goes. They’ve been there before. In the macro view, yeah, it’s not going to be a great next couple of years. The micro view is where it’s at.
Can Richie Martin, the top Rule 5 pick of the offseason, realize his promise? Can perverse pleasure be found in Chris Davis’s strike out rate (it was 36.7% last season — can he hit 40% this year?)? Trey Mancini has hit 48 home runs the past two seasons and just turned 27 two weeks ago. What kind of players can they get back for him at some point this season or next (if he keeps up his performance) and can those players help the next great Orioles team?
Brandon Hyde was hired to manage a rebuilding franchise and figures to be discarded as soon as management decides it wants to be a competitive franchise, but will Orioles fans see him change and grow into becoming a top tactician and motivator? The only constant for them figures to be change. And losing. Lots and lots of losing.
But losing is a teacher. It reveals all weaknesses and distills everyone and everything to their essence. Players, coaches, and fans will find out what they’re really made of over these next few years. The same thing will happen with the Giants and their fans.
Try to think of losing like a passing storm. While it’s here, it’s chaos. It’ll create a mess. Ruin best laid plans. Maybe we’ll have to huddle together with people just trying to survive the storm and in the process grow closer with neighbors and strangers. And then it’ll pass, we’ll leave the storm shelter or the bathtub or wherever we rode it out and we’ll look up and bright new day.
And, like the relieved Orioles fan would see one hit by the Yankees, we Giants fans will probably see a Dodger home run blighting that clear blue sky. But it will be clear.