Well, Baltimore, that day has arrived. It’s really the day. The Orioles’ future era is meeting head-on with as terrible a spate of baseball as you can imagine. The friction couldn’t be more palpable.
Since the club got off to a 22-10 start at the beginning of 2017 — Buck Showalter’s second-to-last season managing the Orioles — the club has gone 247-469. Folks, that is a .345 winning percentage.
Since the midseason moment back in 2018 when former executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette embarked upon the sell-off of Zack Britton, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day and Brad Brach, the club has shaved and pruned salary and endeavored for the first time in club history to do a complete rebuild from top to bottom.
Millions of dollars have been spent signing just about every draft pick made. The club also won a couple key gambles on a strategy of paying high school players with strong college commitments over-slot bonuses. Three players — infielder Gunnar Henderson, third baseman Coby Mayo and pitcher Carter Baumler — could be key pieces of future years of contention.
But, make no mistake about it, catcher Adley Rutschman now becomes the new face of the Baltimore Orioles. PressBox’s April/May cover story details how Rutschman’s offense will be solid in time but that his biggest plus immediately will be helping make this pitching staff better.
He’ll do that because of the passion he brings behind the plate each and every day he suits up.
Look, a lot of pieces have gone into this season’s tremendous pitching turnaround in spite of the loss of John Means to Tommy John surgery. The club identified an affordable veteran innings eater in Jordan Lyles, who sets an example for a bunch of young starting pitchers. Pitching coaches Chris Holt and Darren Holmes have developed mindsets in which each and every pitcher on this staff is attacking the strike zone.
I am sure the new dimensions in left field have given hometown pitchers more confidence that they no longer are working in a bandbox.
But, just as high up the ladder as any of those things, the catching of Robinson Chirinos and Anthony Bemboom and their ability to handle the staff has played a huge role in the Orioles’ staff no longer being the laughingstock of baseball.
In fact, even in a season when offense has been hard to come by, the Orioles have gone from 15th in the AL in ERA (5.84) to 11th (3.82).
There has been plenty of whining and complaining about why Rutschman hadn’t been brought up to the big leagues sooner. You know, in Baltimore for the longest time we Ravens fans had a saying “In Ozzie We Trust.” Yet, GM Mike Elias and his slow, patient approach, with an analytical bent sprinkled in, has been railed against.
Anybody who objectively looks at this timing knows that if we never had a pandemic Rutschman would have most likely — barring injury — been up in an Orioles uniform by late May or early June a year ago. But we did have a pandemic and Rutschman also had a triceps strain that robbed him of his 2022 spring training and gave us 40 games with Bemboom on the roster.
But Adley Rutschman is here now and the Orioles just got a lot more interesting. And as they get more and more interesting when Grayson Rodriguez gets to the big leagues, maybe Orioles fans might learn a new mantra — “In Mike We Trust.”
Photo Credit: Eric Nalpas/Baltimore Orioles