Andrew Stetka: O’s gave it a run, but never had horses for postseason

For all intents and purposes, the 2017 Orioles season is over. We’re probably a week or two late on declaring this. Some would say we are a month or two late. Sure, there are still games left on the schedule and baseball will be played over the final few weeks, but the Orioles as a team for this year are done.

They were “done” multiple times since early July, when fans and media alike started to proclaim that it wasn’t in the cards. This time, they finally are done. And if by some miracle, the Orioles basically win each one of their remaining 12 games and get some help in the process to sneak into the postseason, I’ll wear the egg on my face. It’ll be the most glorious egg ever. But it ain’t happening.

The truth is, this team was never set up to be in the postseason. This could’ve been said (and was said) about just about any of the three teams in the last handful of seasons that actually did make the playoffs. But this team was especially doomed to fall short. There was a lack of pitching from the start, which was only exacerbated by the early-season injury to Chris Tillman. The former All-Star never seemed right all season, and was eventually demoted to bullpen duties. Frankly, outside of Dylan Bundy, each of the Orioles starters could’ve been relegated to relief work at some point this season. Kevin Gausman certainly improved from his early struggles, but those struggles were so dire that he still only became mostly mediocre as the season wore on. Starting pitching for this team has been and will continue to be the story until something is done about it. It will especially be the story this offseason, when only two of the regular starters are secured of a roster spot entering next season. There will be talk about bringing back Tillman or Jeremy Hellickson. There likely won’t be any talk of a return for Ubaldo JimĂ©nez. There’s also bound to be speculation surrounding Miguel Castro and Richard Bleier, among others, and their potential future in the rotation. The starting rotation remains the top issue for Baltimore entering 2018 (and I’ll remind you, it’s not only okay but now appropriate to start thinking about 2018).

The other real questions the Orioles will face this winter surround their young players and whether or not they are ready for the jump. The O’s could continue a bit of a youth movement that was started this season with the emergence of Trey Mancini. If Austin Hays and Chance Sisco enter next season as regulars and do half of what Mancini did this year, the Birds would be ecstatic. Those are two big question marks, however. Both have seen limited time here in September, and should see more over the final few weeks. It’s not that the O’s will be able to learn a ton from the final stretch from those two players, but they can at least help to get their feet wet.

Other storylines will encapsulate you, the Orioles fan, over the next few months. We’re likely seeing the last of J.J. Hardy in an Orioles uniform. There will also be plenty of speculation about a trade of Zach Britton this offseason. The closer has struggled in comparison to his historic 2016 season, but has also been riddled with injury all year. Then there’s the elephant in the room that the O’s are unlikely to address. Manny Machado is entering his contract year in 2018. That’s going to be a big deal. You’re going to get sick of hearing about it. You’re probably already sick of hearing about it. I’m not only sick of hearing about it, but also about how little discussion there’s been surrounding the fact that Adam Jones is also entering a contract year. They are different players at different points in their career, but Jones’ status is still a big deal.

I know many are enjoying football season, which is already in full swing. But take the time to enjoy some baseball over the next two weeks as well. You won’t see the Orioles playing beyond that, and you’ll be sure to clamor for it by the time mid-November rolls around. Unfortunately, the wait for postseason baseball in Baltimore is going to be longer.

Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. 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.

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