The 2018 Orioles are not a good baseball team. You can point to any number of things that illustrate this point clearly, starting with their 8-23 record through 31 games. Their last-in-the-AL offense is another obvious sign, as is their once again having the worst starting rotation, by ERA, in the entirety of MLB. There is just no way to put a positive spin on this situation. It is a mess made worse with every loss.
There may be no way to make light of all of this, but since it’s still just early May, Dan Duquette, being the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations who presided over the construction of this team, cannot throw in the towel just yet. He might not be far off, though, telling FanRag’s Jon Heyman, “We’ve got to get to Memorial Day to see if we have any sort of (competitive) team.”
The Orioles do not have any sort of competitive team, a fact they make apparent nearly every night this season. There are at most six players who are meeting or exceeding expectations. Everyone else on the roster ranges from a mild disappointment to a depressing source of frustration.
I am certain that Duquette is as aware of this reality as you and I are. The team’s collective .224/.292/.370 batting line - worst in the AL in all three of those categories - is something that probably pains him even more than it pains the most ardent Orioles fan.
Knowing a thing and publicly admitting it are different steps, and it seems that Duquette feels that he has to wait until Memorial Day to acknowledge what is plain to everyone else: That the Orioles aren’t good and any good soon-to-be free agents must be traded by July 31.
There are 22 more games to play between now and Memorial Day for the Orioles. Until they have lost three of those next 22 games, the remote possibility exists that they could go 19-3 in that stretch to get themselves back to .500. We all know that this is not going to happen, if for no other reason than that a stretch of 22 games means four more times where Chris Tillman’s turn comes up in the rotation, if the Orioles don’t boot him from the team sooner.
A more honest answer from Duquette might be to say that his plan where everything good about last year’s Orioles team would remain good, while everything bad about last year’s Orioles team would stop being bad, with no injuries happening to anyone who matters, was a bad plan. It is a plan that he had no choice but to attempt due to the accumulated negative effects of poor O’s decisions over the past three seasons. I do not expect him to say any such thing, nor will I fault him for not doing so.
The bigger question for the future of the Orioles is what will start happening when that apparent Memorial Day decision time rolls around. Will the kind of front office dysfunction that afflicted them this past offseason return? I’m talking about the kind of thing where they apparently were unable to secure “club-wide approval” about signing Ryan Flaherty.
Forget about whether or not re-signing Flaherty would have made any kind of positive difference on the team’s fortunes to date. What’s depressing is what that process suggests about the way decisions are made by the team.
Paralysis struck over re-signing a utility infielder with whom the team had six years of familiarity, and now I’m supposed to sit here and feel confident that whoever is at the helm of this ship is going to be able to evaluate a complex trade landscape for Manny Machado and others in order to maximize the future value that the Orioles can get out of this situation? No, that doesn’t leave me feeling very confident at all.
Given that Duquette is in the final year of his contract, it may be that he should not even be allowed to continue in his duties through his self-imposed Memorial Day deadline. The next GM of the Orioles, whoever that may be, should have the opportunity to implement his or her philosophy as the O’s deal players before the July 31 deadline and even before next month’s draft.
The new person should not have to pick up the pieces left by a lame duck GM and his regime, not if the Orioles can avoid that happening. If they are going to get a new GM, they need to start searching for a new GM. That means firing the existing GM, even if he doesn’t deserve to be fired. As was memorably said by Snoop on The Wire, “Deserve got nothing to do with it. It was his time, is all.”
The Orioles are probably seven months late in reaching this conclusion. They could have been searching for a new GM while last year’s postseason was going on, so that a new GM could have started in on a new plan over the offseason. There’s no use in crying over that spilled milk now. The only thing to do is hope they clean up the mess. I don’t know if they will do so in a timely fashion.
There will not be any miracle turnaround between now and Memorial Day. Duquette and the Orioles must surely know this, though of course they can’t admit it quite yet. Even if a couple of their problems get fixed, there’s still everything else that’s wrong with the team. The idea that they could get everything working in order to go something like 81-50 from here on ranks among the wildest of dreams.
Once that conclusion is reached, only one course of action presents itself. Perhaps in three weeks, things will start to get very interesting. Until then, it seems like there will continue to be a lot of losing with no bright future anywhere in sight.