Calling the Pen: Oriole fans get cold splash of business, try not to take it personally - BaltimoreBaseball.com

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Calling the Pen: Oriole fans get cold splash of business, try not to take it personally

It was a 30-minute swim, but when it was over, there were ripples throughout the Baltimore baseball community. My wife, Barb, got in the water just before 4 on Tuesday afternoon to do laps while I sat near the pool on my laptop, checking for player movement as the non-waiver trade deadline approached. When Barb finished her swim, I told her the Orioles had traded Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day. “That makes me sad,” she said.

The speed with which those trades were announced reflected the past couple of weeks in the Orioles’ rebuilding project. Gone are Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Schoop, Gausman and O’Day. It’s business, and yet it’s deeply personal.

Adam Jones represents both sides. And Oriole fans can relate. Their team, as bad as it is, has been leveled. In its place might be the building blocks and the money to construct something better. Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette made it clear that this wasn’t a Fixer Upper.

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For now, we’re left with the hope that Duquette and his project managers know what they’re doing with their business. The personal feelings are our own.

When Machado hit a home run in his final at-bat of his first home game as a Dodger, Schoop wasn’t there to greet him for their signature celebration. I missed seeing the two of them together, sharing the joy of playing a kids’ game.

Like Machado and Britton, Schoop acknowledged it was sad to leave the organization in which he’d grown into adulthood and stardom. It’s the business, but it’s personal.

Later, Gausman held back tears while practically apologizing for not being better as an Oriole. “You liked him, didn’t you?” Barb said. I did, but I was critical that his performance was uneven, especially because his talent didn’t match the results. Now, I was discovering he was critical of himself, and probably hard on himself.

In a different position, sat Adam Jones, possessing 10 years in the majors and five with the Orioles. He could say no to a trade, and did, refusing a deal to go to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Among his many fans were those who wanted him to have the opportunity to play for a contender, those who thought they knew what was best for him.

Jones thanked them for wasting their personal time, making it clear that it was a decision that he and his family needed to make. Period.

That’s where the business and personal feeling intersect in a way that’s hard to explain. The Orioles are a big business, but that’s not how most fans think of them. They form bonds with the players, develop favorites, and make a substantial emotional investment. These aren’t simply business transactions but people we think we know and for whom we want the best.

Of course, we also criticize them in ways that might shatter us if we faced that kind of scrutiny on the job. It’s a passion play, and we get to sit in the audience of live theater, cheering or booing the players depending on their performance. It’s a business, but it’s personal.

Now, we’re left with a lot of players to whom we’re not as strongly attached in a season that took a deep dive from the start. As manager Buck Showalter pointed out, it’s an accountability business, and this makeover wouldn’t be taking place if the team had played better.

He also said how difficult it has been to say goodbye to the six players the Orioles have traded. The accountability business is deeply personal, and on Tuesday Oriole fans were drenched by that reality.

Editor’s Note: After observing David Watts, one of Woodcroft Swim Club’s owners, making time to talk with members, I asked if he enjoyed it when the conversations became critiques. “Absolutely,” he said. “If they don’t share, they don’t care. I would never want that.” For some who attend every day, the pool feels like a home away from home — a place where they can suspend reality for a time. They understand that business is personal.

Jack Gibbons spent 46 years in sports journalism, including a chunk of that time as sports editor of The Baltimore Sun. Now retired from full-time work, Jack serves as the lead editor and writer for BaltimoreBaseball.com’s “Calling the Pen,” a periodic feature that highlights baseball essays written by the community. If you would like to contribute to ‘Calling the Pen,” send a 750-1,200-word, original piece via email to [email protected] for consideration.

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