23 May 2018

The State Of Orioles Fandom: Hoping For The Best

It is indisputable that the Orioles are staring into the abyss. Hopefully you enjoyed and appreciated the team's recent return to relevancy, but those times are over. Nothing was hidden about the cliff coming after the 2018 season. Unfortunately, the O's took an early wrong turn and disaster has already struck.

At 15-32, with a run differential of -67, and with a farm system that's rated somewhere in the bottom third in the majors, the O's are headed nowhere fast. The best course of action would be to not only trade Manny Machado, but nearly anyone else who could garner a decent return, in order to add young talent to a system that's desperate for it and regroup for a run in a couple years.

And yet... how can fans have much confidence that those in charge will get the necessary, upcoming moves right? According to recent reporting by multiple national outlets, Brady Anderson has leapfrogged Dan Duquette in terms of decision-making power. It wouldn't be surprising at all to see Anderson as the team's next general manager. While Anderson seems like a smart guy and is sabermetrically inclined, he might not even want to be the general manager. Would he prefer to keep his rover role where he has ownership's ear on certain matters, but can also feel free to get his hands dirty and work with certain players in the organization? Is that what a team should even want from its GM? Fans, fairly, might not even have that much confidence in Anderson considering his role in both keeping and bringing in some of the O's current veteran players.

While Duquette seems to be on his way out, Buck Showalter is also in the last year of his deal. Like Anderson, he has a lot of sway in the organization, but it's also unclear what he wants next. Does he want to stay in the dugout, is he after a front office job, or neither? Because the Orioles frequently punt on major decisions, there's a lot of uncertainty -- not exactly the best way to lead a rebuilding effort. Unless, of course, the Orioles don't plan on rebuilding at all, and will try to target major league ready players and yet again ignore the need to fix major organizational problems.

Orioles fans are used to turmoil, and none of this is really surprising. The real surprise was when the O's started winning games again in 2012. What do you do when the people in charge hold on to trade assets longer than they should? How should you feel when a team almost entirely ignores spending on international prospects to add talent to the organization? Isn't it a problem when a "reloading" team trots out three Rule 5 players and expects to compete for a playoff spot? The O's have tried a number of things over the years in an effort to gain advantages (some of which worked), but plenty of them just don't make sense.

There's no hiding the Orioles' dysfunction. And as I was working on this post, baseball analyst and former general manager Jim Bowden said this on a local radio show:
While I have no idea what to actually make of that, that last sentence is horrifying. The power structure in the O's organization is confusing, and it's hard to know who is making which decisions.

But even when things seem like they couldn't be any worse, there's always room for hope. Before the O's ended up with Duquette, they were the laughingstock of the league. They were turned down by multiple candidates who were qualified to become the team's next GM, and for a stretch, it seemed like no one would ever take the job. The O's success under the Showalter/Duquette pairing couldn't have been more unlikely, and yet somehow it happened. No one would have predicted it.

The best Orioles fans can do -- besides things like simply enjoying the remaining games of Machado wearing an Orioles uniform and the quirks and funny moments that happen throughout a 162-game season -- is hope that the people in charge occasionally make smart decisions and get lucky. How sad is that?

A complete teardown is improbable, but perhaps those in charge will ship off some of the team's valuable and spare parts and rebuild this team's core. It's embarrassing that this is the current situation, but that's what happens when an organization is this inept. Against all odds, you have to hope things work out. Weird things happen, and the Orioles are definitely weird.

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