Austin Hays doesn’t believe that the Orioles spent the entire 2022 season or even the bulk of it sneaking up on opponents. He’s convinced that teams knew much earlier just how good the Orioles had become simply by paying attention. The results were spread out in front of them. Many more wins, much tighter games. The late comebacks, whether completed or missing by inches.
“I don’t think we were sneaking up on teams in July and August of this year,” he said in New York, “after we had already played over 100 games and we were playing a lot of the same teams over again.”
Players headed home after the Oct. 5 doubleheader understanding that expectations will rise in spring training. The national media and parade of prognosticators will cast them in a more favorable light. They aren’t blind to it.
Division winners? An unlikely prediction in the American League East. No matter what they do in the offseason. That’s just a sad reality.
Thinking outside the box still has its boundaries.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias basically issued this warning in his recent media session, saying that the Orioles are “officially in the fight in the American League East,” but adding, “It’s very daunting looking at these other four, not only teams but organizations in our division, picturing having to beat them to make it to the playoffs next year.”
This is the goal, which Elias stressed by saying, “We feel that the organization is in a position now to realistically pursue that goal for next year.” A giant leap from the mindset when Elias and crew arrived in Baltimore.
Hurdling the boundaries set during his introductory news conference, when Elias shared his vision and didn’t try to sugarcoat the sacrifices required to make it work.
The Orioles gained the industry’s respect. The projected number of victories possible next summer will blow past 2022’s predictions, with how far depending on the moves made to address certain deficiencies.
“It’s just a glimpse, really, of what’s to come,” Tyler Nevin said when asked to reflect on the season. “I think brighter days are ahead, and I don’t think that’s a secret anymore.”
Which team not making this year's playoffs had the best record in the American League? The Orioles, of course.
Only the Brewers had a better record among the outsiders.
Another reason why expectations will keep growing, which I thought would seem weird for a team that was beaten down in previous years. That often ignored the offseason chatter, knowing the words about it would be unkind.
Pitcher Tyler Wells offered a different perspective.
“To say that it’s strange, I wouldn’t say that, just because I do think that we believe in ourselves and we know that we’re capable of winning plenty of games. And I think that we all knew that we were capable of doing what we did this year,” Wells said.
“Will it be strange for other people? Absolutely. But for us, I think as Hyder (manager Brandon Hyde) said, and many other guys have said this year, we come to the ballpark and we expect to win, and we know that we’re 100 percent capable. So, I don’t think that our ideas of ourselves and the way that we look at each other is going to change, but I think that the outside world’s definitely going to start to kind of hop back on the bandwagon.”
Watch your step.