The Orioles came to embrace their role as playoff spoilers all September long. Their season full of underachievement and injuries finally came to a close last night, but not without a bang.
Over the course of the last 14 years, Oriole fans have watched their team fall to last place and become the laughing stock of the American League East. Attendance levels have plummeted and local fan support has waned. In that time, Boston fans have invaded Baltimore in such large numbers that a Red Sox Nation blog has designated Camden Yards as “Fenway South.” Following his game winning single and team-wide infield celebration, second baseman Robert Andino echoed the sentiments of all those associated with the O’s by saying, “Go home” to Sox players and fans.
The game was a silver lining on a servely disappointing season and a chance to build optimism. With that being said, the Orioles must address their laundry list of decisions to make this offseason.
The first issue at hand is what will happen in the front office. It is widely expected for President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail to step down. Manager Buck Showalter could take MacPhail’s place. But if he does, then Showalter will exit the dugout, leaving the team to search for a new manager. The other option is that Showalter could continue his managerial duties, while also having a large say in team moves. Both positions will be in flux until a decision is made.
The Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly is reporting that owner Peter Angelos will meet with Showalter and MacPhail today to discuss their futures. Showalter obviously needs to figure out in which role he would best serve the team. Most fans are calling for him to stay in the dugout and for the organization to completely restructure the front office.
Beyond the executive level decisions, the Orioles must move to address their pitching staff. This is a team full of many holes, but first and foremost they need to figure out what direction they want to take their rotation. The Opening Day rotation included Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, and Brad Bergeson. Meanwhile fellow young hurler, Brian Matusz opened the season on the disabled list. Arrieta and Bergeson were the oldest of the bunch at 25 years old.
Britton endured his rookie struggles, but showed a lot promise as well. Arrieta was shutdown at the end of July, to remove a bone spur, and both Tillman and Bergeson spent time in the minors. Matusz, who was expected to have a breakout year, finished with on overall 10.69 ERA and a September ERA of 19.13.
The Orioles certainly need to add a reliable veteran starter, or two to the mix. However–maybe even more importantly–the team must address the future of these young starters. They were a key part of the rebuilding effort, and should continue to be. The Orioles do not need to completely stay the course, but they cannot abandon their young pitchers. They must commit to taking more pressure off of them.
For now, fans can bask in the season’s dramatic conclusion. The wheels will be turning on the O’s off-season perhaps as early as the beginning of next week. Once again all eyes will be on improving the pitching staff and ressurecting the team’s young players.