It’s awfully easy, and too easy, to point at an up-and-coming team like the Rangers that spent a lot of money to augment the players they developed from within and say that’s the reason they clobbered an up-and-coming team like the Orioles that did the exact opposite, basically only adding the decrepit Jack Flaherty to their phalanx of hot young things.
In the end that doesn’t really matter, because the Rangers lineup is so locked in at the moment they probably would have fustigated anyone 60 feet and six inches from them. The Orioles threw their two best starters at them in Baltimore and they got less than seven innings of work between them. Even if the O’s had a third starter worth a damn, they were up against it. Sometimes an opposing lineup just goes nuclear. Ask Atlanta and San Diego about the Phillies last year.
And the O’s won 100 games, which doesn’t justify whatever dickhead Angelos son is running the team now doing his best Scrooge impression, but probably puts a cap on what adding to the rotation last winter might have done. Would they really have won 110 games or something? It still would have netted them the No. 1 seed in the AL, where they still would have run into the Rangers and, well, it likely ends the same. Still, most O’s fans would have liked to have seen how that would have worked out anyway.
But now the Orioles ownership can’t hide behind being a surprise or ahead of schedule. They can’t “54 percent it” like the Mariners are being directed to either by the front office or ownership (guess which is more likely). The O’s will walk into the 2024 season as the AL East favorite, perhaps overwhelmingly so. To boot, development is not linear, and Kyle Braddish and Grayson Rodriguez will be coming off seasons when they’ve thrown far more innings than they ever have. That doesn’t always result in bouncing up from said season. They’ll need help in the rotation and the pen, as Felix Bautista won’t be around either.
It certainly is a sobering reality that last year the O’s refused to add at the deadline, and they fell short of a playoff spot that they could have nabbed. They refused to make the big move at this year’s deadline, or in the offseason, though one wonders if Justin Verlander would have picked them over the Astros and he was just about the only pitcher going to make a real difference, and didn’t net a playoff win.
The O’s can’t count on simply being a year older to fix all the problems, even if it feels like they got a harsh lesson in lack of ambition in these three games. It’s certainly a good thing for baseball, even if there is little to no connection, that the team with the most ambition the past two offseasons is now rampaging through the playoffs. Just as the Phillies did last year and may again this year. Especially if MLB is going to weigh everything toward October and away from the season. It’s hardly a guarantee because the defending champs are still the Astros whose biggest free-agent signing of recent vintage was…Jose Abreu? Michael Brantley? Going back to get Verlander with the Mets picking up a good portion of that check?
We all want to believe the Orioles are at the beginning of something. They have behaved like that the previous two seasons. But the end of the beginning is now here, and they’ll need to act like it.
What happens in Vegas . . .
You can’t accuse Vegas of not knowing how to slant their celebrations to be very on-brand for setting:
I refuse to believe, however, that Mark Stone doesn’t know how to pull a slot machine lever. You gotta showcase showdown that bitch, Stoner!
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky @felsgate.bsky.social