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MLB hater nation: Battered in Baltimore

Casting a hateful eye on the Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays
Chris Davis didn’t receive any MVP votes in 2019
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

In preparation for the 2020 season that may or may not be played, I’m going around the country and writing some hateful words about each time. Today’s victim: The Baltimore Orioles!

A brief history of the franchise

The Orioles began their existence as the St. Louis Browns. Because the city of Baltimore loves stealing teams named Browns from other cities, the Browns relocated there in 1953 and changed their name to the Orioles.

Since then, they won a few World Series, but have mostly been irrelevant since the early 80’s. The most significant thing they’ve done since then is get owned by a 12-year old boy.

What happened in 2019?

You know that old joke about someone being such a loser they couldn’t even win a “biggest loser” contest? That was the 2019 Orioles. They lost 108 games, and yet thanks to the Tigers out-sucking them, they don’t even get the reward of the top overall pick in this year’s draft. But don’t let that “second worst” status fool you: The Orioles were BAD in 2019.

The key to the team’s awfulness was their pitching staff, as their ERA of 5.59 was the worst mark for a major league team in over ten years. They gave up 10+ runs in 27 games, and in one particularly ugly affair, surrendered 23 runs to the Houston Astros. (The Astros probably didn’t even bother to cheat that night. Why bother to break the rules when you’re facing a pitching staff that’s basically a cheat code to begin with?)

It seemed as if there was a season-long competition between the starters and relievers to see which group could be worse. It was close, but I think the bullpen proved itself to be the worse of the two units. The rotation was undoubtedly bad, but I wouldn’t have blamed Orioles fans if they instinctively vomited every time they saw the manager signal to the bullpen.

The manager

With the team coming off a 115 loss season, expectations weren’t very high in manager Brandon Hyde’s rookie season. All he was expected to do was have the team show a little bit of improvement (check), and not get into public altercations with any of his star players. Uh oh...

Speaking of Davis...

When I wrote about the Detroit Tigers, I discussed the ill-conceived Miguel Cabrera contract. When first baseman Chris Davis reached free agency in 2016, the Orioles looked at the Cabrera deal and said, “Hold my beer.”

Admittedly, the Orioles were in a tough spot, as Davis was the defending American League home run champion, and power is still a hot commodity in baseball. But despite ample evidence that its a bad idea to give big money to large-bodied first basemen in their thirties, the O’s signed Davis to a seven-year $161 million contract. There was about a 0.1% chance that the contract wouldn’t end up on a “Worst contracts in baseball” list someday.

And here we are. At least the Tigers could justify Cabrera’s contract by saying that they wanted to make sure a Hall of Famer played out the rest of his career in Detroit. And while overpaid, he still puts up decent numbers. Davis does not. He’s hit under .200 the past two seasons, hasn’t even managed 20 home runs in either of the past two seasons.

It gets worse. Because the Orioles decided to defer a lot of the money in the deal, they’ll be reminded of their mistake for years to come.

Best wishes for Mancini

The Orioles may be a laughing stock on the field, but what Trey Mancini is going through is not in any way funny. He was diagnosed with colon cancer, and hopefully he will be able to beat the disease and eventually return to the team.

What to expect in 2020

I don’t think we’re going to see another seven-win improvement from the O’s in 2020. Okay, we definitely won’t see that, because we’re not getting a 162-game season, but there’s little reason to think the Orioles will be any better than they were last year.

They replaced a productive infielder in Jonathan Villar (How sad is it when a player actually improves his situation by going to the Marlins) with a slightly less productive Jose Iglesias, and traded away starting pitcher Dylan Bundy. Bundy wasn’t good or anything, but he pitched a lot of innings. That was crucial because very inning consumed by a starter was one less handled by the atrocious bullpen.

The Orioles hope veteran Alex Cobb returns to health and replaced many of those innings. Considering he was 5-15 in 2018 and had a 10.95 ERA in limited action last year, the team might be better off if he isn’t able to pitch.

The hope is that some of their young players take a step forward, or that some of their lottery ticket acquisitions pay off, but that’s the type of thinking that typically results in 100 loss seasons. My guess is that this year, the Orioles go ahead and win that biggest loser contest, finishing with the worst record in the majors.