This article was originally published in The Sting on February 16, 2021.
I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the obviously fake tweet saying something to the effect of, “I’ve been an Orioles fan all my life, and a season ticket holder since [insert year here]. The Orioles have lost me as a fan.”
Of course it’s just a copy and paste format, meant to aggravate the real fans on Twitter., How is this fooling anyone? A true die-hard would never abandon their team. Even if it is the Orioles.
I’ve been an Orioles fan my entire life, for real. Without holding a season ticket, I’m in the stands for at least five or six games a season. I’m even a fan away from home. I spent part of my 2019 vacation in Phoenix watching the Orioles play the Diamondbacks instead of the plethora of tourist-centric options available on my last night.
The “three strikes rule” applies to a lot more than batting, and the Orioles have finally reached their three stikes and are now out. At least in my book.
Strike One: Chris Davis (no pun intended)
Chris Davis is not only the biggest disappointment in recent Orioles history, but he’s also an expensive one. Not only did hesign a seven-year, $161 million contract going into the 2016 season, he simply has forgotten to deliver.
He led the MLB in Runs Batted In (RBI) in 2013, home-runs in both 2013 and 2015, and strike-outs in 2015 and 2016, it seemed that his talent leaped away during that leap year. By 2018, Davis couldn’t even bat .200, and ended 2020 at an abysmal .115.
For some reason, he’s still in the lineup. He’s a decent first baseman, but it’s almost a sure thing nowadays that when he comes to the plate, you can be confident he will end up striking out or hitting a pop-fly right to an outfielder.
A friend suggested that he should oil mitts since that’s all he’s good for in baseball.
Strike Two: The 2018 Trades and Losses
Without much of a choice, Chris Davis remains on the team but every other core member of the Orioles postseason runs in 2012 and 2014 has either been traded or took better deals with other teams. In most instances, this happened while the Orioles couldn’t even place competitive offers for free agents.
This is with few exceptions. Trading Machado to the Dodgers made sense. There was little chance of making him an offer that he couldn’t refuse in time for his contract’s 2018 expiration date. It was the only trade that season that actually gave the Orioles something to work with. On the bright side, Dean Kremer, who made a few promising starts for the O’s last season, was part of that transaction.
Others made no sense.
Pitchers Brad Brach, Darren O’Day and Kevin Gausman were all traded to the Braves for prospects and international slot money, which is money earmarked for international players.
Although with Dan Duquette in the front office, you can imagine that money was not put to good use.
Zach Britton, a 2016 Cy Young contender, was traded to the Yankees for prospects, all of whom have yet to really pan out.
Jonathan Schoop, who was one of the most vibrant figures on-field, was traded to the Brewers for two prospects and second baseman Jonathan Villar. The prospects didn’t pan out (noticing a pattern here?) but Villar did manage to put up some pretty respectable numbers for the rest of 2018 and again in 2019. He was traded to the Marlins between 2019 and 2020 for pitching prospect Easton Lucas, who has been unable to play with the organization yet because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than a few, in between this time span, simply got away.
The Orioles did not renew catcher Matt Wieters’ contract after he became a free-agent following the 2016 season. It was rumored afterwards that he would’ve stayed in Baltimore had they offered him something, but he ended up signing a deal with the Washington Nationals. Upon his return to Camden Yards in 2017, he was greeted with a standing ovation.
The Orioles also let beloved center fielder Adam Jones get away following the 2018 season. Jones was a fan-favorite in Baltimore and was known for his upbeat personality, Gold-Glove worthy talent, and his pie-slinging prowess. He continued that tradition when he landed in Phoenix for the 2019 season. Jones now plays for the Orix Buffaloes in Osaka, Japan.
Strike Three: The Broadcasters
Scott Garceau and Ben McDonald calling Orioles games had to be one of the worst parts of the 2020 season. Awkward and constantly fumbling player’s names and positions, my girlfriend began to mock my anguished look when Garceau referred to the Philadelphia Phillies as, “The Phils.”
The saving grace, for me, going through 2020 was knowing that the usual crew would be set to return in 2021.
Boy, was I wrong. Dead wrong.
Last week, the Orioles announced their 2021 broadcast team, bringing a long-festering rumor that most of the beloved Orioles broadcast team would be let go, to fruition.
The broadcasters who made me fall in love with Orioles baseball, and baseball broadly, had such a profound impact on my life. We spent numerous milestones together united by our passion for Orioles baseball and losing them feels like losing a part of my childhood.
In the blink of an eye, some of the most dedicated members of the Orioles family were no longer on speaking terms. Family like Gary Thorne, Jim Hunter, Tom Davis and former Orioles players Mike Bordick, Rick Dempsey, Gregg Olson, and Brian Roberts, all gone with no chances to return.
And so was I.
The Orioles organization doesn’t care about the fans, Baltimore, or baseball. They, instead, wander aimlessly in hopes of stumbling into a postseason berth and eventually a World Series title.
Fans are meanwhile caught in the dust of poor, misguided decisions.
Strikes one and two were intertwined. They kept on dismal players like Davis while letting others like Jones go. They squandered their funds and opportunities to grow as an organization and instill that same love of baseball into a new generation of fans. They look the same, year after year, and it really does feel like the people who run the Orioles don’t even care.
The broadcasters were the last thing keeping me invested. Now that they’re gone, it’s strike three. They’re out, and there’s nothing left for me here.
Some will call me a fair-weathered fan. Others will say I was never truly an Orioles fan in the first place.
I don’t really care what anyone says. I loved the Orioles, but the feelings weren’t mutual. It’s just time to cut my losses.
My love for baseball, as the most beautiful game ever created however, remains.
Tony Sheaffer is editor-in-chief for The Sting.