Orioles might be missing a 'face of the franchise' in 2019 - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Orioles might be missing a ‘face of the franchise’ in 2019

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

For nearly all of their history, the Orioles have had a player who could be identified by one name. There was Brooks. Then there was Eddie, and Cal, and in recent years, it’s been Adam.

In this new, uncertain Orioles environment, at least one thing seems certain:  There’s not a recognizable symbolic player on the club.

After Cal Ripken Jr.’s retirement in October 2001, the Orioles had a similar hole. For a few years as the Orioles continued their streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons, there wasn’t what we like to call a “Face of the Franchise.”

Then, there was Brian Roberts. While the team lost, Roberts symbolized hope, and for a certain segment of young Orioles fans, good looks and charisma. He became heavily involved in community affairs, regularly visiting young patients at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital.

As Roberts’ star waned, and the Orioles began to play better, it was Adam Jones who took Roberts’ activities several steps farther.

Like Roberts, Jones owned a home in the area, which few contemporary Orioles have. Many of his charitable activities were publicized, but sometimes he didn’t want to talk about them. However, there was never any doubt how deep his commitment to the community was.

There’s a possibility Jones will return to the 2019 team, but it seems to be a long shot because of the Orioles’ desire to get younger.

Excellent pitchers are admired, but they don’t qualify for this role. While Jim Palmer is the only player who was a member of the Orioles three championship teams in 1966, 1970 and 1983 and lived in Baltimore, he never was considered the symbolic leader Brooks Robinson, Eddie Murray or Cal Ripken were.

A manager can’t be, even though Earl Weaver and Buck Showalter were admired greatly by the fan base.

It will be interesting to see what kind of public persona Showalter’s replacement will have. Showalter was the ultimate media-friendly manager and had a strong community presence.

Had Chris Davis’ numbers not slipped so badly, it’s possible he could have slipped into Jones’ role. Davis has assumed Roberts’ role at Maryland’s Children’s Hospital and become involved in “Casey Cares,” a program that provides enjoyable experiences for critically ill children.

But Davis has become a polarizing figure because of his performance.

The franchise’s face is often the player the press goes to when things are going well and when they aren’t. If there is anyone on the team who can grow into that, it might be Trey Mancini.

He’s easily identified by his first name. He’s smart, a political science graduate of Notre Dame, well-spoken and had a good first year, finishing third in Rookie of the Year balloting in 2017.

Mancini slumped badly in the first half of the year, but hit much better in the second half. However, a .242 hitter probably isn’t going to make it as the Orioles’ most recognizable player.

When asked about the possibility of being the franchise’s face late in the season, Mancini chuckled and adroitly said he didn’t envision himself replacing Jones. He did emphasize how much he enjoys Baltimore and playing for the Orioles.

Perhaps, the franchise player isn’t with the team now. Or it could be something that just occurs organically. I don’t think anyone ever thought Jones would become so identified with the team and city.

Today is the 35th anniversary of the Orioles capturing their final World Series championship, and as fans wonder how long it will be until there is another, they can also imagine who will be the team’s stars when they do.

Arizona Fall League Update

Six members of the Orioles’ organization are playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League.

Steve Wilkerson, is batting .308 (4-for-13) in five games with an RBI. Wilkerson concluded the 2018 season with the Orioles. Outfielder Ryan McKenna, who split the season with Double-A Bowie and High-A Frederick, is 3-for 9 (.333) with three RBIs. McKenna has struck out five times.

Martin Cervenka, who caught for Bowie, is hitless in four at-bats.

Right-hander Tanner Chleborad has allowed a run on three hits in two innings. Chleborad’s Baysox teammate, left-hander Jay Flaa, has thrown 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Another left-hander, Chris Lee, has thrown two shutout innings, allowing a hit. Lee pitched for both Triple-A Norfolk and Bowie.

Frederick left-hander Tyler Erwin has given up a run on two hits in three innings.

The Desert Dogs, managed by Orioles minor league infield coordinator Dave Anderson, are 0-5.

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24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 16, 2018 at 7:39 am

    Really it’s been 35 years? Jeepers how depressing a thought is that?

    Go ‘Stros!!

  2. Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

    October 16, 2018 at 7:59 am

    35 years since the last championship, and only 12 winning seasons in that span.

    This franchise has failed its fan base multiple times over, and should count itself lucky that there are still 1.6 million fans left to show up at O’s games at all.

    The start of this “rebuild” is beginning to look more like a sell-off to me. I find it very curious that the narrative regarding this summers trades over on the MASN blogs is “it was always more about payroll reduction than players received”.

    I fear we’re looking at another extended down cycle for the Orioles.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 16, 2018 at 8:44 am

      Zoey, any rebuild starts with selling off assets. The money is being diverted from paying major league players into other areas. That was explained then and has been repeated.

      • VICTORTEE

        October 16, 2018 at 9:13 am

        Do you REALLY think ALL the payroll savings ($50 million+) are going to be reinvested?
        Peter for all his faults was willing to pay competitive salaries. We have no idea what the “boys” will do. Maybe they want the O’s to be like some other small market teams which had bad attendance but were profitable because of low payroll and revenue sharing. We just don’t know at this point.

        • Bancells Moustache

          October 16, 2018 at 9:41 am

          I still think the team is going on the block. The old man will almost assuredly be litigating before St Peter when the team is good again, and the boys will be crushed with estate taxes when that happens. They still need to keep the firm, the families true crown jewel, rolling along. It’s just a matter of time. So reducing payroll obligations to make the property (which does not come with a stadium asset) more attractive to buyers makes sense.

        • [email protected]

          October 16, 2018 at 2:27 pm

          They were middle of the pack in Revenue until this past season, they’re not a small-market team. If you don’t put a winner on the field you’re a small-market team. Angelo’s could keep the prices down as low as you wanted to, but no one will waste their time on a team that can’t win. There’s been rumors floating around that the Orioles are going to be up for sale. If they don’t have a proper structure and place, they won’t get the money they’re looking for

          • Rich Dubroff

            October 16, 2018 at 4:39 pm

            There have been rumors that the team was going to be sold for many years, cdgosnell. I would ignore them. The Orioles are in one of the smallest markets in baseball,. Only g with Kansas City, San Diego, Milwaukee and Cincinnati. are smaller.

  3. boss61

    October 16, 2018 at 8:09 am

    Recently I was retelling the story of my personal experience of improbably attending Games 4 and 5 in Philadelphia. I truly thought we would continue the dynasty we seemed to have all my life til that point.

    As for the Face of the Franchise – the seat remains vacant for now. It’s been vacant before. It’s the least of the worries.

    • VICTORTEE

      October 16, 2018 at 9:20 am

      It is not the least of the O’s worries. If a team is terrible, which the O’s almost certainly will be for the next several years, it is important that there is someone for the fans to like. With Adam and Buck both gone, who will it be. Right now I really don’t care about 2019. That will only change when we have some real prospects in the lineup. I’m afraid we will have a number of AAAA guys or mediocre vets on the team next year since most of the prospects aren’t ready yet.

      • Rich Dubroff

        October 16, 2018 at 4:40 pm

        Victor, you make some excellent points here.

  4. DevoTion

    October 16, 2018 at 8:31 am

    It will probably be a while before there will be another face of the franchise, but the Orioles can promote some of these new young players as the future of the franchise. Seems pretty simple to me and what other choice is there

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 16, 2018 at 8:46 am

      I’m sure that will happen, Devo.

    • VICTORTEE

      October 16, 2018 at 9:22 am

      The problem is that most of the guys who are “ready”, like Mullins and Stewart, aren’t really highly rated prospects. I hope they do well, but….

      • DevoTion

        October 16, 2018 at 11:14 am

        It doesn’t really matter if they are highly rated, they will have to find some way to promote the team. And yes I hope they do well also

  5. Bancells Moustache

    October 16, 2018 at 9:35 am

    Don’t kid yourselves people, whenever anyone with even a passing interest in baseball thinks of the Baltimore Orioles, the image of Chris Davis walking back to the dugout is the first thing that comes to mind. Crush is the face of this current iteration of the franchise, whether we like it or not. I myself am a sucker for a good comeback story, and while his performance has been beyond atrocious, Davis seems for all intents and purposes to be a good man. Family oriented, God fearing, good looking country boy who hits the ball a mile, it’s like they picked him out of a 1962 catalog of baseball heroes.

    And yet, he sucks.

    I hate it. So, would it not be a glorious thing and a great national and local story if he somehow righted the ship and started parking them on Eutaw again? 2019 Comeback Player of the Year, blah blah blah?

    I should note, I don’t think this is going to happen, but it wouldn’t it be something if it did?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 16, 2018 at 10:33 am

      Bancells, many more unlikely things have happened than a Chris Davis comeback. It would be fun.

  6. chrisaking1

    October 16, 2018 at 10:51 am

    Rich, although a comprehensive list of past “faces” isn’t the main point of your piece, I don’t think we should forget Melvin Mora. He played here during some of the team’s darkest years, played wherever he was asked, might have been the only player at the time to make his year-round home in the community, and he (and his large family) were hardly invisible around town. Publicly, he always seemed to have a great attitude, always seemed to wear the uniform with pride. At the time, I thought of him as the “face of the franchise” as much as any Oriole. I don’t know if he and his family still reside in the area, but regardless, I hope they are doing well, and I remember his positive contributions to what was mostly a very negative situation fondly.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 16, 2018 at 11:38 am

      Chris, Melvin’s years coincided with Brian Roberts’. While Mora was a fine player, he wasn’t nearly as popular as Roberts.

      Yes, he and his family still reside in the area, and I caught up with them when I covered his swearing-in as an American citizen last year.

  7. Dominate The State

    October 16, 2018 at 11:29 am

    I’m not trying to be a wise guy,but a team that just lost 115 games could not & should not have a “Face Of The Franchise”.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 16, 2018 at 11:39 am

      Dominate, you’re not being a wise guy. You’re reiterating the point I was making.

  8. bv22

    October 16, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    I have to disagree with your point about the manager not being the face of the franchise- the O’s sure made Buck a face of the franchise during the 2011 season and used him for promotional purposes at times after that (think “BUCKle Up” during the 2012 post season, the unwavering popularity of the Buck Garden Gnome, Buck Snowalter snow globes this year, etc.). I would say Buck held the same status here that Jones did. Also, Earl Weaver is constantly used to promote the O’s history. When one thinks of the O’s glory years, Earl, Brooks, and Frank are the ones most closely associated with those teams even though they also had Palmer and many other truly great players.

    As for current face of the franchise, it probably is unfortunately, Davis. Basically personifying the team/organization, a former all star that has fallen from the top of the game to the bottom and is a shell of his former self…..

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 16, 2018 at 4:44 pm

      bv, Showalter was never willingly the face of the franchise as Jones was. He disliked being the center of attention and was annoyed by, but played along with some of the promotions. However, you make good points about the history, But, the Orioles need to promote to the fans who are under 35, who don’t remember these great figures from the past. As much as I love baseball history, you need to be contemporary. One former Orioles manager complained to me that all they seemed to promote here was the history instead of the current players.

      • Os_fan

        October 16, 2018 at 9:39 pm

        Rich, the problem with Trembley’s or Hargrove’s, or Perlozzo’s complaint is that there was nothing else for them to promote but that history. You get a better fan response promoting the glory days than you do 14 straight losing years and the players responsible for that. Besides, they tried promoting some players then — remember “come watch the kids play in the yard” pushing Chris Richard and the like as stars? How about “Maximum Jake?”

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 16, 2018 at 9:45 pm

      Os_Fan, you’ve made some salient points. I hadn’t thought about maximum Jake for years.

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