The 2018 Orioles are not a good baseball team. This fact is made freshly apparent almost on a daily basis, with poor offense regularly combined with bad pitching and sub-par defense. No team in MLB has lost more games than the Orioles so far. No AL team has a worse on-base percentage and their starting pitchers are collectively one of the AL’s worst. They are bad at just about everything, except for losing.
This realization is an important one for the Orioles to reach as soon as possible. With so many key players, including Manny Machado, set to become free agents after this season, the Orioles must get the maximum future value that they can for as many of these departing players as they possibly can, in order to make the next good Orioles team arrive soon rather than have them bumble through another 12 years of a second dark era.
Has this fact penetrated the Orioles front office yet? They have not acted like it publicly. Two weeks ago, GM Dan Duquette was making the media rounds telling people “We’ve got to get to Memorial Day” before they decide what they’re going to do. At the time, I made the assumption that Duquette did not actually believe this and he just felt like Memorial Day was the time where it would be socially acceptable for him to admit the season is lost.
Two weeks have passed. It is still not Memorial Day, of course. That’s another ten days away. I think that we all know that nothing is going to change between now and then. The Orioles are currently mired in a road losing streak that’s tied with the one the Orioles racked up during their 0-21 start in 1988. If they lose in Boston tonight, they will be worse than the 1988 Orioles in this respect.
What’s not encouraging to see is Duquette going out and giving radio interviews that hint that he may still be in denial about what must be done. He appeared on MLB Network Radio on Thursday afternoon and mixed in with his interview was this quote:
The other consideration is: What if Manny Machado is having an MVP season and he’s on his way to the Triple Crown? Is that a player that a club wants to trade? Even though their season may not be a championship season this year?
If there is even a 1% chance that Duquette might actually let this fact of an MVP-through-mid-May season influence a possible decision not to trade Machado, he must be fired promptly. His office should be packed before the team returns from this road trip. That’s all there is to it.
As fun as it might be if the Orioles franchise had its first MVP award since 1991, it would be more fun if the franchise could eventually win its first World Series of my lifetime. Machado is not going to be on the 2019 Orioles, or the 2020 Orioles, or beyond. If they squander the opportunity to fortify those O’s teams by not trading him, that will be a major setback from which it will be tough to immediately recover.
The above Duquette quote, which is the one that is really circulating from the interview, is concerning in a vacuum. In the context of the remarks that bookend the above, he seems more reasonable about the topic:
If you’re going to revamp your club and get better for the future, as an organization, you might want to take a look at all the options and players that are valuable to you who might be more valuable in the trade market,” Duquette said. “I don’t know. We haven’t really made that determination. That’s another consideration.
”The other consideration is: What if Manny Machado is having an MVP season and he’s on his way to the Triple Crown? Is that a player that a club wants to trade? Even though their season may not be a championship season this year? So, there’s a lot of different questions for the organization to answer, but it’s really about timing. How many good players can you have together at the same time? And can you keep them together for a period of time to give yourself a chance to go again for the playoffs?
I don’t know why he decided to pop off about the Triple Crown. No one involved in baseball decisionmaking in 2018 should care for even a fraction of a second about the Triple Crown. Of course, depending on what you believe about the state of Orioles front office dysfunction, he may not even be responsible for much decisionmaking any more, but that’s another story entirely.
Why does Duquette say anything? Sometimes it seems like he just says things because he feels that’s what he’s expected to say. How many times does he say “We think he will contribute to our ball club” about some fringe acquisition who sits in Norfolk for three weeks before getting outrighted off the 40-man roster?
The GM must say something, and he cannot say, “This talentless scrub is nonetheless better than the scrubs we already employ in the minor leagues, so we have picked him up just in case someone shatters an ankle, although if that happens, we’re still screwed.”
In a similar vein, he cannot, in mid-May, pronounce, “Well, the collection of disappointing losers we have unfortunately assembled after several years worth of regrettable decisions is going nowhere except for maybe the worst record in franchise history, even with Machado being one of the best players in the league, so, we’ve got to trade everything that’s not nailed down.”
Duquette is unlikely to say this after his Memorial Day deadline either, but maybe he will stop pretending publicly that this season is going anywhere other than a fire sale. I don’t think he actually believes this stuff, but I wish he would stop saying it anyway. If another ten days go by and he’s still going on about Machado and the Triple Crown, then we’ll know it’s time to panic that the Orioles actually might screw this whole thing up.