I always try to take each baseball season for what it is: A marathon and not a sprint.
So, when the Orioles are doing well early, I try not to make too much of it. And when they struggle, I tell Orioles’ fans that are on the ledge to relax and let the season play out.
To quote the esteemed baseball philosopher William Nathaniel Showalter, every team will seek its level during the season.
I’ll be honest, though. I was firmly in the “Orioles need to sell” camp after the first three games of the second half – all losses to the Chicago Cubs at home. That series dropped the Orioles to 42-49 for the season and put five teams in between them and the second Wild Card spot. And even though there were more than 70 games left to play, my mind was made up: The Orioles needed to be sellers in 2017.
It’s not that the Orioles lost their first three games after the break, but how they lost them. In each game, the club’s beleaguered rotation dug a deep hole before the offense had a chance to breathe. The Orioles were down 8-0, 7-0 and 6-0 in those three games against the Cubs.
And the lesson of that series – and most of the first half – is that this rotation simply isn’t good enough for the Orioles to make the postseason or go deep into it if the offense and bullpen somehow could again make up for the rotation’s deficiencies. The second lesson of 2017 is that the farm system is devoid of providing any significant rotation help in the next year or so, and that needs to be changed.
So, by last Sunday, I was ready to make a call on a season not quite half over: Become sellers.
Honestly, I’m still there. But this game has a way of making you second guess yourself.
After the Cubs left town, another supposedly struggling club with plenty of talent came in: The Texas Rangers, whom the Orioles promptly swept in four games.
Now, the Orioles are 46-49 and have narrowed the gap and reduced the teams in front of them for the second Wild Card. They would get back to .500 if they could somehow sweep another team from Texas this week, the AL-best Houston Astros.
I don’t see a sweep, even with the Astros at partial strength due to injuries. It’ll be difficult to win two of three against such a talented squad.
However, let’s assume the Orioles do. Let’s assume the Orioles at least win the series with the Astros, go 6-4 on the homestand and advance to 48-50 before they embark on a road trip to Tampa Bay and Texas that finishes right before July 31’s nonwaiver trade deadline.
At two games under .500 and winners of six of their last seven, do you still think the Orioles should be sellers?
I’m sticking with yes, simply because I don’t trust this rotation to suddenly – and consistently — flourish. It had a full half to do that and demonstrated few encouraging signs.
But I do get the argument that the goal of a season is to get into the playoffs. And if the Orioles capture a Wild Card spot, the slate is wiped clean again, with a chance for a hot club to emerge. And, because they started this season 22-10, we know the Orioles have the ability to catch fire quickly.
This is where I’m the curmudgeon bartender, though.
Given the lack of starting pitching depth in the system, and the Orioles’ possession of quality, coveted relievers, I still feel the need to build for the future now. And you can’t really do that by selling off minor pieces such as Seth Smith only. A Zach Britton, Brad Brach or Manny Machado – or, really, all three – must be moved in order to receive top quality prospects.
I jumped the gun after the Cubs’ series, an unusual move for me. But I’m sticking with it, no matter what the Orioles do against the Astros this weekend. Are you with me?
Tap-In Question: Should the Orioles be sellers no matter how they fare against the Astros?