There has been plenty of criticism to go around for the Orioles’ struggles during the third year of their rebuild. But to Tim Cossins, it’s a sign of how engaged the fanbase is and will be once this yearslong effort produces winning baseball at Camden Yards.
Amid his third season as major league field coordinator and catching coordinator on manager Brandon Hyde’s staff, Cossins said Friday that he understands fans’ frustrations with himself, pitching coach Chris Holt, hitting coach Don Long and Hyde for how the catchers, pitchers, hitters have played as the team (46-94) marches toward a third straight full season of 100 or more losses. But he also believes it indicates their passion for the organization.
“I think that’s the nature of the business, and that’s understandable,” he said. “It’s actually great that people pay attention enough to have an opinion on whether they think certain things are going well or not so well, and that’s certainly everybody’s right to talk about it, and if people aren’t talking about it, we’re going backwards, so we appreciate everything that comes from fans.”
He then put the concept of a rebuild into a literal sense, pointing out that fans are witnessing the foundation being put in place of what is hoped to someday soon be a winning team.
“The hope is that the fans truly get an opportunity to look at this organization at a point where maybe they haven’t seen it before,” he said. “You kind of joke about you get a chance to see the organization with the studs exposed, and in this rebuild, you get a chance to see a club in its essence, and hopefully, people are along for the whole ride and appreciate what’s going on now, so that they can truly appreciate what’s going to happen in the future when all the fixtures are in and everything looks great so we want fans to have an opinion, we want them to get care about this rebuild.
“Nobody wants a free ride. We don’t want them to blindly look away when things aren’t going well, and then to show up. We want everybody. We want them to show up.”
That’s been a problem of late. On Tuesday, the Orioles’ game against the Kansas City Royals drew an announced 4,981 fans to Camden Yards, the lowest full-capacity crowd in the ballpark’s nearly 30-year history. The record stood for a day, with an announced attendance of 16 fewer coming Wednesday. Thursday’s series finale had 5,087, the third time since capacity restrictions were lifted June 1 that attendance was Oriole Park was below 10,000 for three straight games. The Orioles have reported an attendance below 12,000 in nine straight home games, crossing that threshold in four of their past 22 games in Baltimore.
“There’s been these magical instances where this ballpark has been packed,” Cossins said. “Years and years ago, when I was not an Oriole, I would come here and it was packed and loud and that’s what this place is, and we want that to occur again, and everybody’s working as hard as they can to get it to that place. So, the fans, love it, love all of it, the good stuff that’s being said and the instances where maybe they’re not as happy about it or whatever, that’s good, too. That’s part of it. We still want all of it. We want this place to be packed, and we want it to be going the right direction.”
Many of the organizational aspects showing that things are trending up haven’t appeared yet at the major league level, but that could largely change as soon as next season. Adley Rutschman, baseball’s top prospect who hit his 21st home run Friday night, should arrive from Triple-A Norfolk in early 2022, and being a catcher, he’ll work with Cossins often. To this point, most of their time together has come at spring training, and it’s left Cossins impressed.
“I just see a player that has an advanced starting point, who’s really mature and focused on things that he’s going to need to do nightly when he gets here and he’s in a good spot,” Cossins said. “I’m really impressed with what I’ve heard about his work ethic and what I’ve seen in the few times I’ve had him in spring training. I think he’s exactly as advertised, and hopefully, when he’s here, he continues that stuff and things go like everybody hoped they will.”
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That applies to the organization’s future as much as Rutschman’s, whose arrival should be a key part of bringing fans back to Camden Yards. The on-field improvement that ideally comes with him would have the same impact, but for now, the studs are exposed, and the Orioles’ construction project marches on.