Last Friday was the 37th anniversary of the Orioles’ last World Series win. Since then, 26 of the 30 major league teams have played in the World Series. Only the Milwaukee Brewers (1982), Pittsburgh Pirates (1979) and Seattle Mariners, who’ve never appeared in a Series since their founding in 1977, have waited longer than the Orioles.
It’s been so long since the Orioles played in the World Series that executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias was 9 months old on October 16, 1983, the day the Series ended.
As a boy, Elias’ father took him to Orioles games at Camden Yards. Years later, he’s hoping to see some meaningful ones in the not-too-distant future.
Obviously, there’s no way to predict how far away the Orioles are from serious contention, perhaps two or three years if everything works well.
They’d love to be in the position of the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers, who will play in the first neutral-site World Series beginning Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas’ Globe Life Park.
In Elias’ two years in charge, he’s seen the Orioles go 11-18 against the Rays. Tampa Bay was the Orioles’ final home opponent this season, and the Rays won four in the five-game series.
Tampa Bay and Los Angeles are a fascinating contrast. The Dodgers have baseball’s second-highest payroll, and the Rays, the third lowest.
Los Angeles did the Orioles a favor this year when they traded for superstar outfielder Mookie Betts, who signed a record 12-year, $365 million contract extension.
Betts destroyed the Orioles in 2016 with the Red Sox when he had a 1.293 OPS, 9 homers, 21 RBIs and a .408 average against them. Two years later, he had a 1.221 OPS, 5 home runs, 13 RBIs and a .385 average in games against the Orioles.
The Orioles can’t hope to be the Dodgers. They couldn’t afford a contract like Betts’ nor the three-year, $93 million extension paid to star pitcher Clayton Kershaw that runs through next season.
But there are some things Los Angeles does well that the Orioles are trying to do. The Dodgers draft well, even when they don’t have high picks.
Los Angeles has made the postseason eight straight years and haven’t had a first-round pick above No. 20, but still managed to draft starting pitcher Walker Buehler with the 24th selection in 2015, one slot ahead of DJ Stewart.
The Dodgers also grabbed catcher Will Smith (32nd pick in 2016) and promising infielder Gavin Lux (20th pick in 2016). In lower rounds, pitchers Tony Gonsolin (ninth round in 2016), Dustin May (third round in 2016) and infielder Edwin Rios (sixth round in 2015).
They’ve drafted well enough so that they were able to send the Orioles pitchers Dean Kremer (14th round in 2016), Zach Pop (seventh round in 2017) and infielder Rylan Bannon (eighth round in 2017) for Manny Machado in 2018.
The Rays have drafted and traded well, too. Outfielder Randy Arozarena was considered a throw-in when Tampa Bay acquired José Santiago from the St. Louis Cardinals in January.
Santiago fizzled with the Rays and was sent to the Chicago Cubs in August while Arozarena has starred in the postseason. Arozarena has 21 hits, including seven home runs, in 14 postseason games for Tampa Bay and, like the Orioles’ Ryan Mountcastle, remains a rookie for the 2021 season.
Pete Fairbanks, who has struck out 13 batters in 8 1/3 postseason innings, was acquired by the Rays in July 2019 from Texas for utilityman Nick Solak.
Trading for under-the-radar players such as Arozarena and Fairbanks are the kind of trades that Elias must make to get the Orioles into the postseason.
Andrew Friedman, who worked miracles in Tampa Bay’s front office, runs the Los Angeles Dodgers, and should Elias’ plan work as well in Baltimore as Friedman’s did with the Rays, it would be quite a coup.
World Series thoughts: The Dodgers-Rays matchup is an excellent one for fans. Many observers hadn’t made World Series predictions when training camps closed on March 12, but if someone made an early pick, this would have seemed entirely plausible.
A Braves-Dodgers NLCS and Astros-Rays ALCS would have been equally plausible predictions seven months ago.
In 2019, each of those teams played in the postseason, and while Houston qualified this year only because of the expanded field, the Astros’ narrow seven-game loss showed they were better than their 29-31 regular-season record.
MLB may be relieved that the Astros aren’t returning to the World Series, but a rematch of the 2017 World Series with the Dodgers might have been more appealing from a viewer’s standpoint.
During TBS’ telecasts of the ALCS, the electronic sign-stealing scandal got scant attention, but another Astros-Dodgers Series would have been can’t-miss TV.
This should be a competitive World Series, and I’d be surprised if it ended in fewer than six games.