Losing the ALDS doesn't erase the good that came out of the 2023 season

ARLINGTON, Texas – Maybe the wounds are too fresh for players and fans to be reflective.

Time has healing powers.

The disappointment last night was evident along every wall of the visiting clubhouse at Globe Life Field. Total silence except for media interviews in front of lockers. Blank expressions. And then, a lot of hugging.

The Orioles didn’t want to go home unless they were prepping for Game 5 of the Division Series.

They truly believed until the last out that they could become the 11th team to fall behind 2-0 in a best-of-five series and win it. The same mentality that led to those 48 comeback victories that tied the Reds for most in the majors.

A scrappy bunch that also formed one of the tightest bonds that I’ve ever seen in my 27 years on the beat. No division within the clubhouse. No cliques. No jealousy or grumbling.

The 2023 Orioles won’t go down in history as the best team to play in Baltimore, but it ranks highly among the most enjoyable to watch. The youthful energy that penetrated the entire roster. The celebratory water shows.

Spitting has existed in baseball for centuries, but the Orioles put their own fun spin on it.

It would be unfortunate for the playoff ouster to ruin perceptions and suggest that the season was a giant failure. The 100-loss seasons aren’t that far in the rearview. Can’t lose perspective.

“Three teams won 100 games and we’re one of them,” said Dean Kremer. “Won the division. The goal is a World Series, but step by step, we’ll get there.”

The same media that bashed the club daily on social media for tanking and ruining the sport, with calls for Major League Baseball to intervene, suddenly led the parade and touted the Orioles as a wonderful story and a blueprint for other rebuilding clubs. It didn’t go unnoticed inside the organization.

But why dwell on the past?

This is about the present, the first winning season since 2016 and first division title in nine years. And the future, with the No. 1 ranked farm system and a talent pipeline that might burst at the fittings.

The Royals beat the Orioles in the 2014 ALCS and lost in the World Series, then won it the following year. The Mets swept the Cubs in the 2015 NLCS, and Chicago won the World Series the following year. The Astros lost the ALDS in 2015 and were champions two years later.

The 1982 Orioles were eliminated from the pennant race on the final day of the season and won its last World Series in ’83.

Last night’s loss shouldn’t send them into a tailspin. They can fly higher.

Another year of experience for the younger players. A full and healthy season out of John Means, who looked inconsolable last night at his locker. The eventual debut of Jackson Holliday, baseball’s top-rated prospect.

An opportunity to reconsider whether to go bigger for a starting pitcher.

Discussions will be held regarding the 16 players eligible for arbitration, led by outfielder Anthony Santander, projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to earn $12.7 million in 2024. The free-agent market opens five days after the World Series. The Winter Meetings are two months away.

The calendar will fill up, but it’s OK to pause and appreciate what the Orioles did in 2023.

To heal.

“We were supposed to win 76 games. Won 101, won the American League East,” said manager Brandon Hyde.

“Really proud of our group. They defied all the odds. Nobody gave us a chance. These guys played their butts off for six months. We just didn't play well for these last three, unfortunately. And it's definitely a successful season and these guys are going to be really good going forward.”

“It’s not how you want to end the season. I feel like we fought till the end and just didn’t work out in our favor,” said Gunnar Henderson, who’s going to be voted Rookie of the Year in the American League.

“We made a big step in the right direction and definitely going to be a platform for us to continue to play this type of baseball.”

“We did a lot of good things, special things, over the last six months,” said Ryan O’Hearn, who wore his game face an hour after the last out. “The way it shook out in the end wasn’t what we hoped for or expected, but it is what it is. There’s a lot of good players in here that are going to take the O’s to the postseason for years to come.”

Players will scatter for the offseason. A bunch of them won’t return. The rest will fight on, unwilling to accept the ALDS as the final resting place.

"It’s not where we wanted to end up,” Adley Rutschman told the media. “I’m proud of our guys, though. I’m proud of everyone who was a part of this journey. And we’ll be back."

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