There's a lot to long for when Orioles fans watch the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians face off in the World Series, each with major pieces who used to call Baltimore home.
There's Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop and Andrew Miller, but then there's the faceless specter of missed opportunity that sticks out when looking at just how the Cubs got here.
Since 2005, seven teams have had first-round draft picks inside the top 10 in at least four consecutive seasons — the Orioles (2006-12), Kansas City Royals (2005-08, 2010-13), Cubs (2011-2015), Houston Astros (2012-15), Pittsburgh Pirates (2006-12), Minnesota Twins (2012-2015), and Colorado Rockies (2012-16).
The Cubs had their run of top picks more recently, but with Javier Baez (2011), Albert Almora (2012), Kris Bryant (2013) and Kyle Schwarber (2014) all key cogs on the World Series roster, it's as clear a picture as any of what the Orioles missed out on as they picked high so often over the last decade.
Beginning in 2006 with Billy Rowell, the Orioles made seven straight top-10 picks, with their hits as big as their misses. Catcher Matt Wieters (2007) made four All-Star teams, and the trio from 2010-12 — third baseman Manny Machado and pitchers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman — are at various stages of blossoming into stars at the major league level. Machado is already there, Gausman had an outstanding second half this season and Bundy has a full healthy major league season under his belt after three years of injuries.
But the lost potential of Brian Matusz (2008) and the injury problems of Matt Hobgood (2009) contributed to two things. The first and most obvious is that three of those seven picks yielded well below the value they should have, preventing the team from stocking up impact talent. Second, it split up that long run of top-round talent, creating a situation in which Machado, Gausman and Bundy are each coming into their own as Wieters hits free agency and potentially walks.
The Cubs are an outlier in so many ways, with their young players' rises as quick as they are impressive. That they invested so heavily in hitters, who at that stage of the draft can shoot to the majors within a year, goes against the Orioles' philosophy of that high-pick era of developing pitching and paying for bats.
The only other team among that group to have success was the Royals, whose first wave of Alex Gordon, Luke Hochevar, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer all played major roles in their back-to-back World Series appearances in 2014 and 2015.
For the Orioles and the Pirates, the back end of their long run could be their saving grace. The Pirates have two talented young pitchers in Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole, while the Orioles have a few more years with a core of Machado, Gausman and Bundy.
All the rest have time yet for their first-round cores to develop, but the range of possibilities is set. If you hit, you could have a foundation like the Cubs do. If you miss, like the Orioles did in the first half of their long run, you'll probably be watching the teams who were in a similar position win while you wonder where your own picks went wrong.