Not that we necessarily needed proof, but last weekend’s series against the Blue Jays served as a stark reminder to O’s fans (and possibly to the Orioles themselves) that the American League East is very, very strong. Strong enough, indeed, that the O’s could finish solidly above .500 - win, say, 90 games - and still miss the playoffs.
What to do?
Truthfully, a case can be made for making a hard push. For cobbling together some kind of trade package and swinging for a win-now move. I have no idea what that package looks like without including Dylan Bundy and/or Kevin Gausman and/or Jonathan Schoop, but there’s got to be a way to get something done. Maybe a guy like Eduardo Rodriguez (currently 6-3, 2.99 ERA, 1.21 WHIP at Frederick, for example) is worth more than we think?
Regardless, it’s important for O’s fans to realize today, with a little over a month left before the non-waiver trade deadline, that we don’t need to swing for the fences. We don’t need a win-now move because the win-now move is staying the course.
There are a lot of reasons why the Orioles aren’t terrible anymore. Buck Showalter is one. Adam Jones is right there, as well. They aren’t the only reasons, but they are the two most important. Why? Because they are the two men who have spearheaded the most important change this organization has seen over the past two years: a change in culture.
I know that’s a dirty word in some circles. Culture. But it’s a real thing. It doesn’t exist independent of skill and talent - only a fool would argue that - but it is very, very important. It doesn’t dictate performance, but it holds significant influence. Anybody who argues otherwise has probably never tried to work in a collaborative setting.
In Jones and Buck, we have two guys who don’t accept a losing culture. No matter the outcome on the field, their orientation is winning. Their purpose, their work and their example sync up in service of success on the field.
That was always the Orioles’ hardest problem to solve. It’s not as if there was never any talent during the losing years. Who knows how many prospects flamed out here but would have found success somewhere else where the day-to-day reality wasn’t a drag? Who knows how many seasons could have been 10, 12 games better with a stronger mindset, not only in the clubhouse but throughout the organization?
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, for now, the Orioles have solved the culture problem. Their challenge is sustainability. Meeting that challenge means not gutting the system (to the extent there’s much there to gut) in service of a high-risk play.
Let the next month come and go without a blockbuster. Hell, let it go without a move, period. If that means the O’s miss the playoffs I think we can all live with it as long as they continue to improve and mature. And, right now, is there any reason to think they won’t?
Neal Shaffer regularly blogs about the Orioles at The Loss Column, and his work appears here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.