Losing is hard on fans. I checked, and even Captain Obvious agrees with me on this point. Whether their team is in first place or last, rebuilding or a World Series contender. The rebuilding Orioles are going to frustrate their fans. They did this just last night.
Leading 3-1 in the eighth after Alex Cobb had pitched a gem at Tampa Bay, it got away from the Orioles pitchers with the help of a crucial error. After such a tough loss, those fans, who invest money and passion and emotion into their team, want to assign blame.
Whose fault was that? Is it Evan Phillips who walked three batters? Or Chris Davis who made a huge error? Or Miguel Castro who threw a pitch that ran right into the barrel of a bat and left the park in a walk-off loss? Or hitters who went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and scored just three runs? Or manager Buck Showalter? Some felt he left in Phillips too long and took out lefty Paul Fry too soon. Fans continue to be frustrated seeing Davis bat fifth just about every night.
Maybe all of the above contributed and that is probably the most accurate statement of all here.
But a rebuilding Orioles team is going to need to learn about some of the new young talent and sometimes you learn the most and players have the best chance for growth when thrown into the deep end of the pool.
Let’s face it, a loss doesn’t mean much right now. Nor does a win either. This team is headed for 100-plus losses no matter what happens it seems.
The Orioles gave Phillips a high-leverage spot last night and he walked three. Davis made a huge error but young pitchers have to deal with errors too. This is not to absolve Davis from any blame whatsoever, but just part of my focus on Phillips here. This time he didn’t come through. So what to do now? Give the ball again in a tough spot, that is what they should do. See how he bounces back. No one knows about any pitcher after a couple of games.
Phillips threw 18 of 25 pitches for strikes on Friday at Texas in two perfect innings. Last night he threw just eight of 20 pitches for strikes. We just need to see more and we will. Nothing to make a long-term judgement yet. Not even close. He seems like a high-character kid with a solid fastball that is going to need to improve his secondaries at this level. Can he do it? Who knows, but they need to find out.
There was angst when the Orioles blew a lead and lost, and that is understandable. Fans care. They give their money, their passion and their hearts to the team. The Orioles’ organization should absolutely consider themselves lucky to have that.
But the process of using young players and learning about them will always have ups and downs. Some players will play their way into what we hope is a better future. Some will play their way out. Each night will provides glimpses and a small window into how some of this will go over months and probably years.
Maybe I’m crazy in saying this, but this process might actually prove to be incredibly interesting to follow. The Orioles may have become the most interesting terrible team in baseball.