This might sound crazy, but the case can be made that the Orioles picked the right time for everything to go horribly wrong.
They suffered their 108th loss of the season on Tuesday night, 6-4 to the Toronto Blue Jays, and — with 11 games left to play — figure to build on that total and reign as the losingest team in the history of the Baltimore franchise for a long, long time.
Obviously, that’s not good. This season will leave an ugly and indelible stain on the largely successful Buck Showalter/Dan Duquette era and might lead to a front office overhaul this winter.
To judge it fairly, however, requires an honest look at where the Orioles might be now if they were, say, trying to salvage a respectable record while the service time clock ran out on the nucleus of the team.
If not for the magnitude of the collapse, ownership might have balked at a full rebuild and kicked this can of misfortune another year down the road. The Orioles would likely have traded Manny Machado under any circumstances, but might not have moved decisively to acquire 15 players, conserve a ton of payroll space and make better use of their international slot money.
They also would not be a lock to have the first pick in next June’s amateur draft.
Even Adam Jones, whose season has been disrupted by the new emphasis on unproven players, acknowledged Tuesday that the O’s might be better off suffering all this pain now than inevitably suffering it later.
“I think once the plan failed and the season was not going to be what it was, it allowed another plan to take place and that was to get other prospects,’’ Jones said. “Since you’re not going to win and you have a $150 million payroll, they shed the money going forward and let’s see what we can get back for [Machado and Zach Britton]. Then they incorporated Brach and Schoop and Gausman, so you got a lot of money off the books because the plan changed.
“Obviously, Manny was the biggest [issue] knowing that he wasn’t going to re-sign, as he shouldn’t. You should go and test the waters as one of the most desirable free agents.”
By the time the trade deadline was in sight, there was little doubt what the organization needed to do with all its pending free agents, but — again — it was a matter of scale.
The front office went a couple steps further than most expected by dealing Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman because it made little sense to absorb two large arbitration-fueled salaries with both players eligible for free agency after next season.
That could not have come as great news to the team’s fan base or the remaining players in the clubhouse who showed up this season hoping to compete for a playoff berth, but was clear to everyone that if a rebuild was in the offing, better to get right to it.
“You wouldn’t think it would happen with this many losses, but we did what we had to do at the trade deadline, which was sell off great players,” two-year veteran Trey Mancini said. “You get prospects back and money cleared and cap space. That’s just how the business side of it works. It’s a necessary evil to start a rebuild, and that’s certainly what we’re in now.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean anybody has to like it. Veteran pitcher Alex Cobb understands how this all went down, but he acknowledged earlier this week that he isn’t looking forward to an extended period of non-contention.
“Honestly, no, I’m not,’’ he said. “I don’t think any player wants to go through rebuilding, especially not a veteran player. You’re aware of the fact that you don’t have an unlimited amount of time in this game and the end can come quicker than you ever imagined it would. You never know when that’s going to be.”
Cobb knows that the rebuild was made imperative by the dismal performance of the Orioles during the early months of the season, and just about everyone had a hand in it.
Who could seriously argue that the time wasn’t right for the organization to pull the plug on 2018 and embark in a new — albeit uncertain — direction?
RIght now, there are good 108 reasons for that … and counting.
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
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