Glenn Clark: Sorting Out What’s Fair, Unfair In Your Orioles-Related Conversations

For romantics, Opening Day is far more than the first baseball game a city hosts that season. It is something even more meaningful. It is a tangible celebration of the arrival of spring, yes. But it is also an intangible celebration of the mere concept of hope. Even the most cynical of baseball fan can drink from the fountain of endless hope that exists within the pageantry.

“We KNOW this isn’t our year … but maybe this is our year?”

As baseball is an accompaniment for at least half of the year, that hope might quickly turn to despair. But there was always the hope! We had our day! We had our moment in the sun!

That, umm, that doesn’t appear to be the case in Baltimore this year.

As the Orioles are home for the first time this season, the conversation is … SLIGHTLY different. Even attempts to celebrate local boy made good Bruce Zimmermann (Towson University/Loyola Blakefield) getting to start the home opener have typically turned into fairly unpleasant comment sections.

This has inspired me to try to author some sort of reference for your Orioles-related conversations this week. There will be a lot of criticism thrown around. Some of it will be fair. Some of it will not. Here, I attempt to separate the two.

UNFAIR: “The Orioles represent everything that’s wrong with baseball.”

You know this take. It’s the most hyperbolic of all Orioles takes. It comes from A) someone who isn’t paying that much attention but knows the team is bad and wants attention, or B) someone who is paying very close attention but has no interest in a nuanced discussion and would rather hold up the Orioles a singular reflection of the sport’s woes.

Your Uncle Jim has no real idea of what’s actually going on with the Orioles in regards to the rest of the sport. ESPN’s Buster Olney does. Somehow their opinions might end up sounding exactly alike. They’re loud, they’re not fully incorrect but they fully lack context.

FAIR: “The Orioles are cheap.”

We can’t get around this. The 2022 Orioles have the lowest payroll in baseball by a decent margin. They are, by definition, cheap. There is a fair argument that spending money didn’t make sense for this year’s team because they weren’t likely to be contenders anyway. But that doesn’t change the fact that they didn’t spend the money.

The Orioles aren’t likely to have a top-10 payroll any time soon. But if this “rebuild” is ever going to come to fruition, it will need to be met with spending, both internally on prospects who succeed at the major league level and externally on players to fortify the roster.

UNFAIR: “Did you see what Bobby Witt Jr. did this weekend? Meanwhile the Orioles …”

Bobby Witt Jr. certainly looks like a nice player and Royals fans have every right to be excited about him! We knew all of these things when the Orioles were considering whether to take him or Adley Rutschman with the first overall pick in the 2019 draft!

I get that it’s frustrating that Rutschman got hurt. In the season when we finally saw MLB teams choose to call up their top prospects, we have no shiny new toy to play with just yet. But there is no reason to think that Rutschman won’t prove to be incredibly exciting upon his arrival in Baltimore and there is nothing … AT ALL … to fairly criticize regarding the Orioles’ handling of him to this point.

I know that talking about Orioles first-round picks is a bit more awkward because Heston Kjerstad remains a 1965 Bob Dylan song-level “complete unknown,” but there’s no fair criticism to be had there, either. Even those who point out that Kjerstad was an underslot pick to begin with have no idea where he might be at this point in his developmental process had he remained healthy.

FAIR: “There is absolutely no reason why Matt Harvey should be on this team.”

Those who struggle with addiction should not simply be ostracized from society. Matt Harvey is a tremendously flawed human being, but there is no reason to believe he ever intended to contribute to former teammate Tyler Skaggs’ death. Addiction is a disease, and addicts deserve support in their attempts to improve their lives.

The strongest version of this take paints Harvey as a murderer. That’s not remotely fair. Another version of the take suggests an amount of heroism for the Orioles in giving Harvey a chance when he believed his honest testimony might lead to being blackballed. That’s equally absurd.

There’s nothing about Harvey the baseball player that suggests he is worthy of even another minor league deal (after what will likely be a 60-day suspension). He is an objectively bad baseball player and has been for four years now. He perhaps can soak up some innings for a team that has nothing close to the amount of pitching a major league team needs. And while no minor league deal can be a “bad deal,” necessarily, this isn’t even a lottery ticket. It’s an acknowledgement that Jordan Lyles can’t be the only bad pitcher who at least sucks up innings. They’ll probably need more bad innings to get through 162 games.

I hope Matt Harvey remains on a positive track in his life. It’s important that we continue to say that. It’s all that actually matters. But signing Matt Harvey in any capacity at this point is embarrassing.

UNFAIR (BUT, YEAH, YOU KNOW WHAT? IT’S ALSO FAIR): “It doesn’t matter if any of these guys are good. The Orioles will never sign them anyway.”

The Orioles have given money to players before. Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts are all examples of players who got contracts from the Orioles. Just because they couldn’t keep Manny Machado around doesn’t mean every quality player will end up leaving.

But yeah, seeing Ke’Bryan Hayes agree to an eight-year, $70 million extension with the Pirates before he had reached 162 career MLB games provided quite the reminder that the Orioles have never been so similarly aggressive in keeping internal talent around and that agreeing to a long-term deal with Rutschman to buy out some free agency years would be even more valuable in terms of proving a commitment to this fan base than signing Carlos Correa might have been.

FAIR: “It’s a joke that the broadcasters aren’t on the road.”

Yes. Yes it is.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Glenn Clark

See all posts by Glenn Clark. Follow Glenn Clark on Twitter at @glennclarkradio