A few days after the end of the 2019 season, I wrote about the fan reaction to rebuilding and the Orioles season that had just ended. It was a season of a lot of interaction with fans here on this blog, on Twitter and on my postgame radio show. Around the area, anywhere and everywhere, fans seem to like to tell me their opinions and I really like that.
My take then was basically that I was suprised that a large majority of fans I interacted with understood the club’s rebuilding efforts and were generally supportive of the team and those efforts. They found some things to like about a team that lost 108 games.
Did some of that change in the last few days?
Fans were not as supportive and/or understanding of the club’s decision to part ways with infielder Jonathan Villar. He had a very strong year, a 4.0 WAR season, and most of you wanted him back in 2020. Even if you also realized he was likely not going to be here on the next good Orioles team.
I would guess uncertainty with a rebuilding effort has to be trying for fans. The questions are many. How long will it take before they can win? Is this the best course of action? Can the O’s farm be productive enough for sustained winning? Will this even work? Can the Orioles actually catch the Yankees and Red Sox?
Yep, plenty of questions and few actual answers.
The word hope is big in a rebuild. The fans have to find hope somewhere. This year they found some of it on the farm, where the Orioles sent two teams to the playoffs and it would have been three if the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League postseason didn’t get cancelled. They found some hope watching Single-A Delmarva set records. Watching Double-A Bowie’s strong pitching staff. Following the draft and the selection of No. 1 pick Adley Rutschman in June.
The rebuilding process really kicks in when the club starts flooding its major league roster with homegrown talent. There was a slow trickle in that regard in 2019, but players like Hunter Harvey and Austin Hays flashed some real talent.
This flood may not arrive truly until 2021. By then, Hays and Ryan Mountcastle should be there and pitchers like Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann may have arrived. The 2019 Bowie pitchers could begin to impact the roster some next season with 2021 a safer bet. How will Alex Wells, Zac Lowther, Michael Baumann and Cody Sedlock fare? Will top pitching prospects like Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall live up to expectations? What about Drew Rom and Gray Fenter?
Who will be the next John Means, someone that flies under the radar and then becomes one of the American League’s top rookies? Could it be Brenan Hanifee, Blaine Knight, Cristian Alvarado, Ofelky Peralta, Hector Guance or Ryan Wilson?
There should be reasons to follow the team next year - both the big league club and the minor league teams. We didn’t even mention the largest class of international amateurs that the club announced in July.
But if it hasn’t before the daunting task of rebuilding and immediate future of more losses seems to have worn on some fans during this offseason. The Villar situation didn’t sit well with some of you.
Is the strong support for the rebuilding still out there?