That’s what Orioles general manager Mike Elias wants fans to take from the 2019 season.
Sure, the Orioles lost 100-plus games for the second consecutive year and attendance fell almost 19 percent, but this was expected when the club embarked on a massive rebuilding project.
Elias has seen the franchise edge forward in the proper direction. The plan is slowly coming together.
“We’ve got a lot of areas to improve,” Elias said during the team’s final home series against the Seattle Mariners. “I think that’s no secret, but overall when we sit back and look at what happened around the organization this year, it was a very positive year, a lot accomplished across the organization.”
Another buzzword used often this season is opportunity.
Some of the players, most notably Anthony Santander, John Means, Pedro Severino and Hanser Alberto, have put themselves in position to play a vital role with the cub in 2020. Trey Mancini has established himself as the face of the franchise and was the Orioles’ MVP this season.
“Here at the big-league level, we’re still losing games, way more than we want to,” Elias said. “This is not fun. It’s not easy to crawl out of. Almost all the players that were on the team last year got better this year. I think this team has played its butt off all year.
“It’s battled and I think we can all go with the individual success stories, but Means, Santander, Severino, Mancini having a huge year. There are too many to go through right now … Alberto. I think the positives this year way outweigh the negatives and our organization is positioned so much better for the future than it was at this time last year.”
The losing, though, has been tough on the players and fans. Attendance fell from 1.6 million in 2018 to 1.3 million this year. Other factors may have contributed to fewer fans visiting Camden Yards, such as crime, a massive sinkhole a block from the stadium and a controversy with “squeegee kids.”
Elias is hopeful more fans will return as the Orioles build their way back into playoff contention.
“I can’t ask anyone to embrace losing the way we have been,” he said. “Our record last year was historically bad. This year it’s not going to be a ton better. Nobody wants to do this. We never want this to happen again, but this is where we started from.
“The people coming out here, they love this team, the people in this city love this team. They know that this needs to be done. I’m confident that they’re going to come back, and they’re going to come back in a big way.”
One area clearly improved is with the minor-league affiliates. Double-A Bowie and Low-A Delmarva each qualified for the postseason. The rookie-level Gulf Coast League team also made the playoffs before the season was cut short because of Hurricane Dorian.
In July, the Orioles added 27 new players from Dominican and Venezuela on international signing day (July 2). Twenty-four of the 27 players are age 16, which is the minimum age to get signed.
Baltimore also picked up Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft.
“When we came in here, the big-league team had the worst record in the league last year,” Elias said. “The farm system was ranked in the 20s, the low 20s, depending on where you were reading. We had no real international scouting function, a minimalist analytics group. All of that’s changed. We’ve got our program going internationally. We’re signing players, we’re competing for players out there.
“We’re building toward a bigger analytics staff. The farm system’s taking a huge jump this year. Some of that was the draft with the No. 1 pick. Most of it was what happened with players already in the system, the player development improvements that we made, the changes that the step forward we continue to take.”
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