There is absolutely nothing wrong with focusing on the present. The Orioles are flying high for the first time in a long time and that should be celebrated. Do yourself a favor and take a moment to think about the joy this team has provided you and so many others over the last two weeks. Allow yourself to enjoy that moment.
I made the trip to Camden Yards on Saturday. My friends and I laughed at Pickles about missing Baltimore’s walkoff thriller by just one day. I was envious of the group sporting orange bucket hats—Friday’s giveaway—at the table next to ours. We should have came the night before.
A few hours later I stood in my Hawaiian shirt cheering as the Birds bested Los Angeles in a pitcher’s duel. I may have missed Trey Mancini’s walkoff, but I watched Félix Bautista retire Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Taylor Ward in the eighth inning. I watched Jorge López get his mojo back. I watched another game that sent fans home glad that they came to the ballpark.
There is a buzz in Baltimore right now. But that momentum has been paired with a sense of uneasiness regarding the upcoming trade deadline. Winning baseball feels good. Nobody should take that away from us. Not so soon.
Good vibes, like win streaks, always (allegedly) come to an end. However, there is no rule for how long they must stay away. Mike Elias didn’t put this team together for a strong June and July. He wanted to see progress, but things are set to get a lot better than this.
Certain outlets will scoff at Baltimore selling at the deadline but laugh at the thought of calling it a contender. How dare they deprive their fans a slim chance at finishing third in the division?
The 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates were 42-49 on July 10. The fourth-place club then rattled off 11 straight victories that catapulted the Buccos to four games above .500. The Pirates, reeling from consecutive losing seasons, elected to buy at the deadline.
The Pirates sent Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow and Shane Baz to Tampa for Chris Archer. The move is widely considered the worst baseball trade in the last decade.
The Pirates felt the move represented more than just throwing their hat into the wild card chase that year. Pittsburgh hoped Archer would help them in the present and the future. The Pirates gained multiple years of control with Archer but eventually moved on after the 2019 season. The Pirates have not made the playoffs since making that deal.
It’s never fair to focus on just one outcome, but the Pirates provided another learning opportunity after the 2017 season. Few players have been embraced by a fan base like Trey Mancini, but Andrew McCutchen came reasonably close in Pittsburgh. McCutchen led the organization out of the dark years and flipped the script after 20 consecutive losing seasons.
The Pirates received plenty of criticism when they dealt their leader to San Francisco, but they also received Bryan Reynolds. Reynolds was named an All Star last season and the club appears set to keep building around him.
It was always going to hurt if the Orioles moved away from Mancini and it still will if/when the day comes. The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli recently advocated for the Orioles to keep Mancini at the deadline but never suggested the club extend him beyond this season. Baltimore does not appear to have a place for Mancini long term.
The Orioles’ recent success indicates that the plan is working. The club believes in its pitching methods and deserves credit for the success. They’ve hit enough times when rolling the waiver wire dice on a routine basis. The farm system ranks among the best in baseball.
There’s an argument to be made that veteran players like Mancini and Rougned Odor provide more value to the Orioles than any other team. This could be true if the Orioles were above or below .500 on August 2. Elias has consistently shown that he will only make a deal if he feels it the Orioles benefit. That’s why Anthony Santander is still with the club after a year of rumors.
Things could be different if the Orioles did not dig a hole with losses in 14 of their first 20 games, or they could be exactly the same. Baltimore probably expected to be playing decent ball by this point in the season. They likely anticipated John Means and Grayson Rodriguez to be playing a part, but the Birds have found another way. Still, the master plan remains the same.
The Orioles are not tanking. They’re playing to win every night and continuing to build for the future. Neither of those things are going to change for the remainder of the season.
Baltimore’s recent success should provide confidence, not skepticism, in management’s approach to the future.