The Orioles won yesterday to get a split of a four game home series against the Tampa Rays. The split salvaged what could have been a disaster of series, but merely ended up as a disappointment as the Orioles’ chances of winning the AL East grow dimmer each day. The loss Saturday night, 5-2 to those same Rays, particularly rankled some fans—including myself—as opportunities and a solid start from Chris Tillman were wasted.
During the game, I noticed a particular line of criticism of the team that has popped up during some of the Orioles’ more frustrating losses in 2016. The criticism is that team is simply not trying enough to win the game. That they lack the effort needed to succeed. This criticism is misguided.
It is very easy to become frustrated watching games, especially in the middle of a playoff chase, that are as futile as Saturday night’s affair. The offense only managed seven hits and they went 0-3 with runners in scoring position. The team wasted the few opportunities they had.
The Orioles left another win out on the field. Something that has quite honestly become a problem this year as the room for error grows ever slimmer in the playoff hunt. Futility is frustrating. However, the problem is not a lack of effort.
You can find lots of people that would say otherwise. They are on Twitter, on Facebook, in the game threads, and around on the internet to question whether the Orioles are even trying to win the game on a given night. I am not going to single anyone out, but if you pay attention enough you have certainly seen something along the lines of this critique. The critique is BS.
Baseball is a hard sport to figure out. It’s also an incredibly hard sport to play. Players and teams go on roller coaster rides throughout the 162 game season. Being the ardent Orioles observer that you most assuredly are, you also ride this roller coaster. I have certainly woken up after a tough loss and carried that with me throughout the next day. It can be hard to see the forest for the trees when you hang on each and every pitch.
Matt Andriese, the Rays’ starting pitcher Saturday night, is not a great pitcher at the moment. He currently sits at a 4.41 ERA for 2016. Andriese shut out the Orioles over five and third innings on Saturday night giving up only six hits. The Rays’ bullpen finished the game and only allowed one hit over the next 11 outs.
That is a pitiful performance for an Orioles offense that this team depends on to win games. That is inherently frustrating. Yet, the Orioles tried to win that game just as much as they tried to win the game on Sunday.
On June 16th of this year, Tyler Wilson shut out the Boston Red Sox over eight innings giving up only three hits. Tyler Wilson has a 5.42 ERA in 2016 and is only on the Orioles’ current roster because it is September.
The Red Sox have one of the best offenses in baseball. The Red Sox most assuredly tried to win that night. But, baseball can be random. Baseball can be frustrating. Sometimes it goes for your team and sometimes it goes against your team.
The effort is there. They won yesterday. It was not because they tried harder. They only scored two runs, but I did not see the same venting frustration. They scored six runs on Thursday and still lost, they did not try harder then to score runs. The effort is always there.
No matter how good or bad this collection of Orioles is at major league baseball, they definitely arrived at the height of their profession because they always give the best they have. Otherwise, there is some other player out there willing to give his 100 percent effort day in and day out.
There are legitimate criticisms of this team. You can go after the roster construction, the managerial moves, the team approach, even criticize the quality and talent of the players. But, once one tries to enter into their minds and accuse them of not trying, a line is crossed. One cannot conflate poor results with effort. There is no try harder and win formula.
If the Orioles end up winning the AL East it will because some combination of good fortune, better players, and better coaching got them there. If the Orioles end up missing the playoffs entirely it will be some combination of their opponent’s good fortune, better players, and better coaching. It will not be because the Orioles did not try hard enough to win the games.
To criticize the player's effort based on their results disrespects both your team and their opponent. Baseball is a fluky hard sport. Sometimes players and teams have bad nights. Sometimes the opponent is simply better than you. These games matter more and more each day as the season winds down and I can assure you that the Orioles players are trying their hardest each and everyday to win. Sometimes though, it just doesn’t happen.