The Orioles' 60-game season dreamers; Canceling the minor leagues - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

The Orioles’ 60-game season dreamers; Canceling the minor leagues

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

A 60-game season has some Oriole fans dreaming sweetly. They shouldn’t be.

Yes, it’s certainly easier to exceed expectations in 60 games than it is in 162, but the Orioles are still painfully thin in starting pitching. And, as executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias pointed out on Monday, they’ll be playing 2020 without their best player, Trey Mancini, who had surgery for colon cancer in March.

Then there is the fact that just two of the Orioles’ nine opponents in 2020 finished below .500 last season, the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins.

When Elias was asked about the Orioles’ exceeding expectations, he played along, pointing out that would “be a lot of fun,” but cautioned that the rebuild is a multiyear process, and that the addition of the NL East makes their schedule harder.

Last season, the eventual World Series champion Washington Nationals were 27-33 after 60 games and wouldn’t have made the postseason even if the playoffs had been expanded to eight teams per league, which was what the owners proposed for this season.

There’s talk that it could still happen, but the players and Major League Baseball have had a hard time agreeing on anything.

A 60-game season with eight postseason teams per league could mean a .500 team qualifies, and if someone gets hot in October like the Nats did last year, well, you never know.

In the Orioles’ case, you should know.

Last year, the Orioles’ 60-game record was 19-41. They finished 54-108, not much better than their 60-game mark.

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The guess here is that they’ll probably win about 20 games. A 20-40 record would equal the .333 winning percentage from 2019.

But if you want to dream, I’ll take you back 15 years. In 2005, the Orioles’ 60-game record was 36-24, the third best record in the majors at that time.

That dysfunctional team, featuring a soon-to-be suspended Rafael Palmeiro, a misbehaving Sidney Ponson and an out-of-place Sammy Sosa, quickly went south.

Less than two months after the strong early record, Palmeiro had been suspended for a positive steroids test and manager Lee Mazzilli was fired.

The Orioles finished 74-88 with a 38-64 record in the final 102 games.

Sad day for the minors: The long expected cancellation of the 2020 minor league season was announced on Tuesday. Though it wasn’t a surprise, it’s still sad.

It’s particularly difficult for Orioles fans, who in search of an inexpensive day or evening out with the family, flock to Aberdeen, Bowie, Delmarva or Frederick.

Now, without the possibility of watching a major league game in person, they’ll be missing minor league ball, too.

Many fans bring their small children to the minor leagues to introduce them to baseball. Because admission is inexpensive, concessions are reasonable, and parking is often free, it makes for a low-cost alternative to the majors, especially for the very small ones.

Kids can run around at minor league parks, which they can’t do at Camden Yards, and if they don’t pay attention, there’s not much of an investment lost.

It’s a way for many parents to teach the kids about baseball in an intimate setting, and adults can watch the future Orioles mature as they climb the affiliate ladder.

A number of fans didn’t get to see catcher Adley Rutschman in the limited games he played in Aberdeen and Delmarva last year, and they were looking forward to seeing him in Frederick and perhaps Bowie this year.

Now, they won’t, and it’s a lost opportunity for adults to bond with their children at the ballpark.

Next year, the minor leagues are bound to look different. It’s likely that an Orioles affiliate might vanish. For other teams who have affiliates in faraway locales, that won’t be a big deal, but it will pain some Oriole fans.

Many of the teams targeted for extinction in the reorganization plan, which will be discussed in the coming weeks, are located hundreds of miles away from major league cities.

Of course, that’s not the case with the Orioles, whose affiliate setup is ideal. But for fans in the Appalachian and Pioneer Leagues, their days of watching future big leaguers might be at an end, and that can’t help grow the game in non-metropolitan areas.

Some of those cities’ whose teams are to be contracted could host independent baseball, but you can’t market seeing the future major leaguers there.

The charm of minor league baseball is its accessibility, and as another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s disappointing that fans of those teams never got a last look at the major leaguers of the future.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. ClayDal

    July 1, 2020 at 8:19 am

    The Orioles have 26 pitchers on the original 44 man “Spring” Training roster. 9 non roster. Looking back at 2019 in Baseball Reference, the Orioles used 23 pitchers in their first 30 games. Actual pitchers, I didn’t include Chris Davis or Stevie Wilkerson. With only 3 weeks to get ready, they will probably end up having to use all 26 pitchers, plus bring up a few extras. Probably explains why they only submitted 44 names to the original list. Still expect them to add Rutschman and Kjerstad. But like Torkelson in Detroit, none will be added to the 40 man roster and play in any games this year. So unless MASN starts showing batting practice, have to wait until next year to see them play

  2. Rmays

    July 1, 2020 at 8:48 am

    Rich; Although it certainly should not be underestimated, I am not sure that we should give the Corona Virus more credit than it deserves. They may want us to think that is the reason, but MLB was talking about eliminating several minor league teams last Summer weren’t they?

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 1, 2020 at 9:36 am

      Yes, they were, but prior to the virus, there was some Congressional pushback, which has disappeared, Randy.

      My point was that the virus killed off a farewell season for many teams.

  3. willmiranda

    July 1, 2020 at 10:05 am

    You’re right about the shrinking of minor league baseball, Rich, but it’s even sadder that only Federal intervention might have saved some franchises. At least Maryland fans will still have a minor league team
    at Camden Yards, albeit with major league prices. While noting the absence of Mancini, the GM might have mentioned that last year’s second-best player, Villar, was let go over the winter.

  4. Boog Robinson Robinson

    July 1, 2020 at 10:52 am

    Well, it’s a sad state that baseball, not to mention the country or even the entire globe is currently in. Credit the Covid, and the political climate.

    I know I’ll take some flack for this, but IMO, what would probably have been best for all involved, were for MLB to just forget this season altogether.

    Frankly, the idea that some owners in the league are intent on putting fans in the stands THIS YEAR is simply irresponsible. Part of the blame for that needs to be placed on the greed of the players and it’s union.

    • CalsPals

      July 1, 2020 at 11:08 am

      Totally agree, as much as I’d like to see games, I can’t see ANY professional/college games before January 1, then re-evaluate…go O’s…

  5. Tzuk

    July 1, 2020 at 11:33 am

    Rich, is it still likely that the Keys will be the team on the chopping block? Seems like the Orioles could “give” Norfolk to the Nats as part of MASN negotiations – their AAA team is Fresno – and then make Bowie AAA. This could keep all of the O’s investment in Maryland stable.

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 1, 2020 at 11:38 am

      Josh, I don’t know if Frederick will be the team to go. Prince George’s Stadium isn’t up to Triple-A standards, so that scenario won’t work. It’s obvious that Orioles minor league fans will be hurt worse than fans of other teams because of the affiliates’ proximity.

  6. Shamus

    July 1, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    35-25 gets them in…. Go Os

  7. dlgruber1

    July 1, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    Minor league baseball will be sorely missed wherever they choose to eliminate it. I’m a 15 minute drive from the Nats AA affiliate, on beautiful City Island in Hbg, Pa. Over the years I’ve seen Vladimir Guerrero-Sr. not Jr., Strasburg and Rendon just to name a few. When Bowie comes to town the O’s fans show up ( tho not like Yanks and Red Sox fans do at OPACY) and root for future O’s players. I’ve been to hundreds of O’s games and never really got close to getting a foul ball. My son, who was 8 years old at the time, got one in his first trip to City Island. I told him I was so happy for him, all the while thinking “you gotta be kidding me!”

  8. BirdsCaps

    July 1, 2020 at 2:51 pm

    The minors are great for families, but their laid back atmosphere is also perfect for burning off steam when you get home from work without the hassle of parking etc. While it is likely that the .333 winning pct is what the birds will have, it is 2020 the year of the lockdowns, riots, and the government telling us that there have been ufos (not little green men, just unexplained phenomenon), so anything can and will happen. So, this gives us at least an outside shot at the playoffs. P.S. I could have sworn the hot start was in 2004, not 2005. Even though they were awful, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Miggy, Javy, Palmeiro, BROB, and company since I was just really starting to become a baseball nut at the time and was completely obsessed.

  9. mmi16

    July 7, 2020 at 12:11 am

    Canceling the Minor Leagues is a double edged sword to the detriment of baseball. The new talent is not getting any work to permit them to polish their skills to a Major League level – and the smaller towns where Minor League teams play will take a heavy economic hit, to the extent that the Minor Leagues may flat out die. Baseball wants to be like the NFL where colleges do most of the player development on the colleges dime – baseball talent, to date, is not structured that way.

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