Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Saddest State of Affairs

OK, I'm going to be way out on an island, all by myself, with this opinion. I'm going to be far more alone than any of my opinions on Vladimir Guerrero.

I am not happy that the Orioles knocked the Red Sox from the playoffs last night.

Hear me out...

Firstly, last night was an incredible night of baseball. Putting on my MLB fan and amateur baseball analyst hats, it was amazing to behold. But as an Oriole fan, I couldn't get caught up in the big game atmosphere.

What was in it for the Orioles exactly? They were essentially deciding which of our AL East rivals made the playoffs. And we all got excited about that? Again, as a baseball fan, amazing stuff. As an Oriole fan...what do we take away from that? It's like sitting on the floor and begging for the scraps of Boston and Tampa's big game moment. This was not a big game for the Orioles. The difference between 68 and 69 wins is absolutely nothing. We were just living vicariously through good teams. And I couldn't help but being a little depressed by that state of affairs.

This is all we got out of it: Boston fans are obnoxious and we got to send them home with their tails between their legs. A short term thrill, I'm sure. "Yeah, Boston! This is our house! We ended your season! We get the last word for a change!" Awesome.

But even if you cared one way or another how the Rays/Sox playoff race turned out, I would make the argument that Oriole fans should have preferred Boston in the playoffs.

The knee-jerk reaction to the Red Sox collapse is that this will be a devastating blow to the organization. A death blow. A failure that will result in a changing of the guard and a decline of the team into mediocrity. I would love for that to be the case but that's probably not going to happen.

Boston fans are not clamoring for the heads of Terry Francona and Theo Epstein. Nor is the Boston press. While acknowledging that this collapse was really, really horrible, measured responses are being seen in most corners. No one in the Red Sox management seems to be in danger of being forced out.

Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, John Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Clay Bucholz and Jacoby Ellsbury are all coming back. They have prospects popping up all over the end of year Top 20 lists over at Baseball America. This is not the end of the Boston Red Sox. Win or lose, they will fill some holes, resign some guys, heal their injured and be right back among the favorites to take the division in 2012.

Tampa is a formidable organization but they have an Achilles Heel...they have no fans.

Even as dreadful as the Orioles have been, they have outdrawn the Rays 3 of the last 4 years. If the Rays start going to the playoffs on a regular basis...could the fan base start to gel? If you think battling the Yankees and Red Sox is tough, imagine the Rays with a decent source of cash flow. One of the best farm systems in baseball coupled with the cash to keep some of it? Scary.

If we had done this to the Yanks, I could see it being a bigger blow. With the new ownership, heads may have rolled in the Bronx. And they are an aging team with a fair, but not great, farm system. The Sox aren't going anywhere, not yet. The Orioles have enough hurdles to surmount without the Rays being perennial contenders too.

So I don't see the Rays as a fell good story. They aren't cute and cuddly to me. They are a threat. A sleeping giant. They are like Gremlins before they get wet. And I want to crush them like a bug before they become dangerous.

Perhaps I'm wrong about all this. Maybe this will hurt the Sox more than I realize. Maybe the Rays will always have cash flow challenges, no matter how much they win.

But I don't want to look back years from now and realize this game was the turning point that opened the door to a decade long Tampa Bay baseball dynasty. So I hope the Ranger sweep them, in humiliating fashion, right back to the Gulf Coast where they belong.

10 comments:

James said...

Interesting that you say that nothing will change in Boston. Francona (sp?) is on his way out in Boston. I have a feeling that Boston will start to fall down after this loss. And Tampa is Tampa, sure they made it this year and that should be incentive for the O's to see a team that doesn't spend as much as the Yanks and Soxs make it.

At the end of the day, forget about the other teams in the AL East. This is about the O's - who need to get a new owner and obviously need to spend more money in the right places (starting pitching being the #1 priority). Give us some good starting pitching and we will compete soon.

Anonymous said...

Tampa, a sleeping giant? I'd say that giant's been awake for several years now. Toronto — now there's a sleeping giant.

(Just for some perspective, no less of an expert than Billy Beane called the O's a "sleeping giant" 5-6 years ago. Sometimes the giant rolls over and goes into deep hibernation mode.)

What transpired on the field Wednesday night only broke the back of RedSox nation in the minds of the most blinkered Sox haters. What it was in reality was a joyous and long-overdue "Fuck You" to an organization and a frontrunning fanbase that has subjected our team, our stadium and the city of Baltimore itself to all manner of mockery and indignity over the past decade or more.

The Orioles' endless cycle of incompetence has beaten me down, too, but not far enough to not be able to take pleasure in how we manhandled the Sox down the stretch.

Heath said...

James - When I wrote that post, all signs pointed to Francona staying. The effect of a manager on a team is mostly neutral, unless he's completely incompetent. But if that's all that happens, I don't think that changes things in Boston much. They still have Theo and the key parts of the front office in place and ownership who is willing to spend on the farm system and in free agency. To think that this loss means much long term to the Sox is just wishful thinking.

Anon - Tampa is a fine organization. but they are cash poor and have a small fan base. You build that up and watch what they will become.

Yeah, it's a big "fuck you". But that is fleeting and already over. I think O's fans have grossly overestimated the importance of those victories. Fun, sure. But I don't care which of our division rivals makes the playoffs. Still ain't us.

Jeff said...

Heath, nice to see you back. Sorry I never got around to that guest post, I too became extraordinarily busy :\.

That said, I wore my Longoria jersey to match my O's hat and shorts at the game. What the O's need (beyond Angelos) is a fan-base that demands excellence again. For a long time we've expected mediocrity and gotten it. Here, we demanded the O's beat the Sox, and they did. I have no problem with Tampa winning the right way. I would rather lose to Tampa ten times than NYY or BOS twice.

Hopefully they dont ruin everything and interview some young GM candidates like Dipoto or Cherington. I'm demanding excellence these days. Are you?

Zachary said...

When I wrote that post, all signs pointed to Francona staying

Mid-day Thursday, all signs pointed to Francona staying? That is some serious revisionist history. The speculation on his departure began earlier that morning: nearly every Boston outlet that recapped the game speculated on Francona's departure.

And now it seems likely that Theo will head to the Cubs.

The O's shutting the door on the Dead Sox is not the only reason for all of this, but it certainly contributed.

And to presume that they will be successful because a bunch of their players are returning is naive. They have some gaping problems, beginning with their starting pitching.

I think you need to get the stars out of your eyes.

Anonymous said...

Heath, when is this Great Leap Forward in Tampa going to take place exactly? Even with all their recent success, they're still the second worst draw in MLB, and with the lowest median income and the highest unemployment rates (12.7%) of any market in the AL East, it's not like people could afford to go to the games even if they were inclined to, which they manifestly are not. If this giant wakes as you suggest, there are better odds of it happening in Charlotte, NC or (best case scenario for all of MLB) some place like Stamford, CT.

Listen, there are plenty of good, concrete reasons to take the dim view of the O's future. Ownership is horrible. The men tasked with running the team are woefully behind the times. Player development is suspect at best. Inventing unlikely nuclear scenarios for an organization already running circles around us just seems like an exercise in self-flagellation at best.

Anonymous said...

Wrong on Theo also, what is next Nostradamus?

Andrew said...

Heath,

I'm not going to get on you 20 days after the fact and point out how differently things ended up working out in Boston than you expected. That would just be revisionist cherry picking. You went out on a limb, and no one can predict the future.

But I still think you're off base here, and the reason is pretty simple.

You've overthought things.

The 162nd game wasn't exciting because it irrevocably changed the makeup of the AL East. It didn't set the Orioles and Red Sox down significantly different paths. None of that is the case.

It was exciting because... IT WAS EXCITING. I realize that's a Yogi Bera-esque sentiment, but it's also an important note.

Ultimately, 29 teams don't win the world series each year. In this town, it's likely that we'll never win a world series in my lifetime. If you don't accept small pleasures-- like an exciting night of baseball-- then life as an Orioles fan is nothing more than nihilism dyed orange and black.

The reasons it was exciting for you as a mere baseball fan are the same reasons it should have been exciting for you as an Orioles fan. Shit doesn't need historical implications to be exciting. It's enough that this was a remarkably unlikely scenario, and the team we spend 162 spring-summer-fall nights with each year was a part of it. That's all. That's it. That's all it needs to be. That night was more compelling than any other night of Orioles baseball in more than a decade. Why complicate things by deciding whether or not it shifted the earth's access as well. Isn't a night of compelling baseball enough? If not, we might as well all go home, because it's plain as day that we'll never win 100 games as long as the current ownership group is in place.

Anonymous said...

This column is a joke, Francona and Theo not going anywhere... oh wait!

Heath said...

James - I demand excellence from this organization, I just don't think 1 win that sent 1 division rival to the playoffs at the expense of another is worth me getting excited about. Still not sure now that win changes anything for the team long term.

Zach - According the all the major papers in Boston, the day after that loss, all signs pointed to Francona staying. Didn't work out that way but that's what I read. Boston is still a formidable organization and if they are not favorites to win the division in 2012, they will certainly be considered strong contenders. Maybe I will be wrong again. But I don't think so.

Andrew - it was an exciting game. But you are naive if you think the extra hype surrounding it had nothing to do with people attaching more signifigance than it really had. There were plenty of compelling wins for the O's in 2011. Why did that one matter more? I just don't get it, man. It was a good win. But it was just one of 69.