Last year was a special one for Orioles fans but it’s over now and (hopefully) never to be duplicated. Devoid of any expectations, when the Orioles poked their heads up and into contention it became a season to remember, and for long suffering fans of the franchise it became impossible to not enjoy; it was impossible to not get swept away in the “just happy to be here” mentality.
When things were going well we pinched ourselves trying to make sure it was real. When things went badly we reminded ourselves that our frustration sure beat the indifference we’d grown accustomed to feeling through 14 futile seasons. When the media failed to buy in and attributed the team’s fortunes to luck we stood in defiance. And on top of all of that, we acknowledged that the Orioles appeared to be ahead of their “window”. In addition to the success we were enjoying in 2012, the future, built around names like Machado and Bundy and Schoop and Gausman gave the hint of being even brighter.
What a difference a year can make. As the trade deadline approaches for a team and a fan base now “accustomed” to winning, excitement has turned to expectation, hope has become hype and the future, it seems, is now.
Even however, while enjoying the fruits of this team’s success, it’s tough not to question exactly how they got here. After 14 years has the worm truly turned? Is this franchise now in capable hands to continue this success? Or have they simply stumbled into a window of likely fleeting success?
After all, to say that some of the Orioles’ on hand talent has exceeded reasonable expectations would be a gigantic understatement. The AL East is as eminently winnable is it’s been in recent memory and it won’t likely stay that way for long. And if the 14 years that led us to this point have taught is anything, it’s that once this window is closed, it may not open again for a very long time.
To their credit, the Orioles appear to be close to all in. For those still looking toward the future it may be as close to all in as we’d like to see them get. While we’ve spent the ten years at least clamoring for the team to spend more money, there’s a legitimate case to be made that outspending everyone else is no longer the path to MLB success. Some of baseball’s lowest salaried teams are not only enjoying success, but appear to be poised to sustain it. Meanwhile most of baseball’s upper class may be looking at years of paying out bad contracts with little or nothing to show in return. And, oh by the way, it’s impossible not to notice the number of bright, young MLB stars in the making that are the byproducts of other teams recent forays at going all in and are now playing elsewhere.
So far it seems that the Orioles have shown a willingness to trade away some prospects, as long as they don’t have to pay real money for the players they’re getting in return. It seems like a sound strategy, especially with a roster loaded with young players whom they’ll have to up the ante for this off-season and beyond.
You’d have to guess that if they’re really considering trading Dylan Bundy as some have suggested, it’ll likely to get a highly paid player, while also getting his team to pay a sizable portion of that high salary. Timing alone suggests that it’s not the optimal time to trade Bundy; that time was last year. In fairness, that time might be never; only time will truly tell.
The only thing that’s certain is that as fans we’ll always be able to rely on hindsight; and that any move that doesn’t end in a World Series win will be seen as the wrong one. It’s a tough standard to live up to. It’s the unfortunate part of success. Are the Orioles best served to open the “window” as wide as possible now, or pace themselves in an effort to keep it open for longer? There’s no wrong answer…yet.