I’m guessing most Oriole fans are pretty happy with the way things went this season, but there still has been a lot of social media chatter about the way the Texas Rangers moved much more aggressively to upgrade their roster over the past year and swept the O’s right out of the playoffs.
Can’t argue with that, but you can’t play the “if only” game without recognizing that the Rangers live in a different economic world than the Orioles and play in a more forgiving division. So it’s unfair to discount the O’s 101-win season because they fell flat for three games in the playoffs.
Lest we forget, the Dodgers and Braves also ended up face down in the Division Series round and they both had payrolls above $200 million. The Rangers spent $251 million on player salaries, and they had good reason to pull out all the economic stops to get to the playoffs in 2023.
For one, they’ve still got to justify the new $1.1 billion stadium they moved into three years ago, especially when you consider that they had a perfectly good ballpark just across the street that was built after Oriole Park.
I’m still scratching my head over that. Obviously, they needed a new retractable-roof stadium because they only recently figured out that it gets pretty hot in the Metroplex during the summer. They could have had a roof when they built the beautiful Ballpark in Arlington in the 1990s, but it apparently was much cooler in Texas back then, so I guess they can just chalk that billion dollars up to global warming.
I continue to digress. The old Rangers ballpark was one of my favorites from the Camden Yards architectural era and Rangers fans seemed to like it just fine before the team fell on hard times from 2018 thru last year.
The Rangers drew an average of 3.1 million sweaty, smelly fans from 2012 thru 2014 and averaged more than 2.8 million squirming, dehydrated customers from 2010 to 2017 (when they broke ground on the new, climate controlled stadium). Since moving into Globe Life Field, they have averaged 2.2 million fans, including about 2.5 million for this year’s expensively upgraded team.
The Orioles, by comparison, did not reach 2 million this year, their winningest regular season since Jimmy Carter was president and Earl Weaver was allowed to kick dirt on umpires with impunity. They, like the Rangers, recently recovered from a lengthy rebuilding period, and they have another major league team playing just down the street (literally, since I-295 is really just Russell Street without the squeegee kids).
The Orioles are also haunted by the millionaire ghosts of Albert Belle and Chris Davis, which has made them wary of signing any player who can’t live on less than $10 million a year.
It really came down to this: The Rangers got hot at the right time and the Orioles got cold at the wrong time and, yes, the Rangers picked up two very strong starting pitchers who have carried them through the postseason. They also picked up two superstar pitchers – Jacob DeGrom and Max Scherzer — who made a total of 14 starts for them and won six games.
The Orioles could have used a Jordan Montgomery or Nathan Eovaldi during the ALDS, but emerging ace Kyle Bradish had a better regular season than either one of them. Inexperience may have been a factor, but the talented young Orioles rotation, which should be bolstered by a healthy John Means, is just getting started.
Pitchers and catchers report in 3 ½ months. Mark your calendars.