Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias was the latest from the organization to pick up an award yesterday. An award that really honors the entire organization for a rebuild that started with 115 losses and ended up this year with an AL East championship, the club’s first playoff berth in seven years and 101 wins.
But Elias is at the head of the club’s baseball operations department, and he put together the front office that yesterday got such deserved recognition.
And he was named MLB's Executive of the Year.
“It’s been just really gratifying seeing Baltimore, the city of Baltimore and Maryland, back as a baseball capital, like it should be,” Elias said Tuesday morning in an interview on MLB Network. “Seeing Camden Yards back alive and our city, they love this group of players. It was a terrific regular season. We came up very short in the playoffs and I think it’s keeping us hungry as we start this offseason. But definitely a season to remember. And the recognition for our front office and our organization is really meaningful to me.”
The first two draft picks made by Elias and his regime in the 2019 MLB Draft were Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson. They were such a huge part of the rebuild. To that he added much more homegrown talent, building what he said he would – an elite talent pipeline. One that now has the No. 1 ranked farm in the sport and a growing international program that this year in catcher Samuel Basallo, produced its first top 100 prospect.
The Orioles will surprise all of baseball if they prove to be a one-hit wonder here. No, on the contrary, they seem set up nicely for long-term success with a strong farm, a great ballpark and fanbase and a low payroll with room to add and sign players. Both free agents and some of their own players.
Elias told those watching yesterday he took some of the best lessons he saw during Houston’s rebuild to help him in Baltimore.
“We just kept kind of pushing in the right direction (in Houston) and all the sudden the door popped open. And that kind of happened in Baltimore. We didn’t script a timetable. We didn’t have specific plans of, we’re going to sign this player in this year. We just kept amassing young talent and making good hires. Equipping people up and down the organization with the most freedom and best information possible to do their jobs well.
“The results were kind of secondary. It’s definitely a process. Adherence to that has been a big advantage in both of the rebuilds I’ve been fortunate to be a part of,” he said.
This award, an official MLB award, is voted on by all 30 clubs, which cast a vote prior to the postseason.
At 101-61 the Orioles tied for their fourth-most wins ever. They won their 10th AL East title and were one of just three MLB teams to win 100 or more games in 2023. They led the AL in wins for the first time since 1997.
Elias, who was also voted the Sporting News 2023 MLB Executive of the Year by fellow AL and NL executives, completed his 17th season in MLB and fifth in Baltimore this year. He was hired by the Orioles on Nov. 16, 2018.
Over the past two years, the Birds (184-140) hold the third-best record in the AL and fifth-best in MLB, behind only the Dodgers (211-113), Braves (205-119), Astros (196-128), and Rays (185-139).
MLB began its official Executive of the Year Award at the conclusion of the 2018 season, with Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics earning the inaugural honors, followed by Erik Neander of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019, Andrew Friedman of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020, Farhan Zaidi of the San Francisco Giants in 2021, and Chris Antonetti of the Cleveland Guardians in 2022.
Now that Elias got the Orioles to the top of the AL East and back to the postseason he and the organization will push to go farther. The club has not recorded a playoff win since the 2014 season or won the World Series since 1983.
The goal for all teams is to win the World Series. It’s hard to do.
Look at the excellence of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have made the playoffs every year since 2013, finishing in first place in 10 of the last 11 seasons. In that span they won 100 games five times. They have one championship in this stretch, and it came during the shortened 2020 Covid season.
The Atlanta Braves have been in the postseason every year since 2018 and nine times since the 2010 season winning one World Series title. That came in 2021, a year the Braves won just 88 games. Since 1996, Atlanta has been to the playoffs 19 times with just that one championship to enjoy. Yep, 1-for-19.
The Texas Rangers had never won the World Series before this year. Heading into this year, Texas had six straight losing seasons. And since their first year in Texas in 1972, they had been to the playoffs just eight times before the 2023 year.
So perennial playoff teams and teams with not much postseason history alike can show us – it’s hard to win the World Series.
But now that the Orioles have gotten this far, they want to take the next steps to be the last team standing. No matter how hard that is do or how elusive that trophy can be.