When Manny Machado was traded two weeks ago, it hurt like hell, but at least we knew it was coming. And I remember, after I shed a few grown-woman tears, that my next thought was: Poor Jonathan Schoop. It never occurred to me that Schoop—our young, talented second baseman and last year’s Orioles MVP—would be leaving the team, I just thought he’d have to soldier on without his best friend and baseball brother.
When ace closer Zach Britton was traded a few days later, that was pretty bracing, too. But again, we had been warned. This is what rebuilding teams do, we reminded ourselves. They trade some of their best players to get prospects and build with the young guys they already have.
And then yesterday happened. The Orioles traded starting pitcher Kevin Gausman (our 2017 Opening Day starter) and sidearm set-up man Darren O’Day to the Braves (reliever Brad Brach had been sent there two days prior). And then—gulp—they sent Jonathan Schoop to the Brewers. It was a veritable bloodbath.
On Twitter, there have been different names for it. I called it the Red Wedding, after the infamously deadly wedding on Game of Thrones. My friend Anjie Taylor countered with “Orange Wedding,” which seemed fitting. Another friend likened it to the final scene of The Godfather. One wag quipped that the Atlanta Braves would now need to be nicknamed the Baltimore Braves.
The Baltimore Sun ran with the headline, “Bye, Bye Birdies.” Sniff.
Whatever it was, it was bad. Disorienting. So, over Facebook and email, I turned to the experts for some calm and measured perspective. Mostly, I got it.
“The new direction the Orioles are taking, is like a Brave New World,” said Stan “the Fan” Charles of Pressbox. “There are no guarantees they’ll get it right, but as painful as this dismantling of a team that reminded us how much fun it was to win, it’s totally necessary. The new plan has got to address the issue of sustainability. In order to sustain success without the gigantic dollars used by Boston, LA and NY, you have to be smart enough to have a farm system rife with real prospects, that is how you sustain success.”
Brittany Ghoroli, of MLB.com largely agreed. “If you’re an Oriole fan, I think you’re understandably upset that they couldn’t keep or sign a guy like Gausman or Schoop long term and make them part of the rebuild,” she admitted. “But, like [general manager Dan] Duquette said, if you’re going to rebuild, it’s better to tear down the house than go room by room. And that’s what they did. First blush, I’m not overly impressed with what they got for Gausman. I think they sold low there. Schoop’s returns looks better but only time will tell. I applaud the O’s for burning this thing down to the studs because I think it’s needed. . . .What’s going to be imperative and fascinating to watch is how they spend this $35 million they’ve saved. Do they go big on the international market and actually invest in better scouting and analytics? They can’t afford to screw this thing up. And, on another note, does Duquette save his job here? There are so many fascinating variables at play.”
Jerry Coleman, of Entercom Communications, called for patience and perspective: “It had to be done and signals a much needed change in direction with consecutive last place seasons looming,” he said. “I applaud Adam for wanting to stay, how many players have been so dedicated to Baltimore? It’s the start of a new era. They have a lot of talent coming up. Fans need to be patient, that’s all.”
WJZ’s Mark Viviano echoed his sentiments. “The O’s 2018 fire sale is a surest sign yet of a new era for the franchise,” he said. “The team has put its words to action, not just declaring a rebuild but actually tearing down the building to start a rebuild. The process requires commitment and it’s painful but necessary. Five of the six O’s traded were All-Stars and the one who wasn’t (Kevin Gausman) was a first-round draft pick and an Opening Day starter. It remains to be seen just how good the 15 players are that the O’s got in return. If five or six of them are contributors at the Major League level, then they’ve done well. Just as big a part of the rebuild (if not bigger) is the O’s commitment to the international player market, which they’ve neglected (by choice) for several years. A re-stocked minor league system, making good on high draft picks and an influx of international talent is the proven recipe for a successful rebuild.”
Only perennial Orioles gadfly “Nasty” Nestor Aparicio of WNST had a few words of real criticism: “First, you have to be terribly mismanaged to get into this position," he noted. "Machado should’ve been dealt long ago if they weren’t going to sign him. That’s standard operating procedure for MLB 2018. If Schoop wasn’t going to sign and they didn’t want him long term, then trading him was proper. Same with Gausman. They know the team is going to stink for a few years. They’ve opted [to be] really horrible in 2019 and 2020 to try to be better in 2021. The real story is WHO is making these trades? If it’s Duquette, that’s absurd if HE doesn’t have a deal after October. In the end, there’s no accountability, no transparency, and no leadership.”
On a somewhat brighter note, beloved O’s centerfielder Adam Jones vetoed a trade to Phillies (under something called the 10 and 5 rule—10 years in the majors; at least 5 with the same team—which gives him that option) and elected to stay in Baltimore. For now. “Adam Jones has loyalty to the city,” Apiricio said. “His wife is from here; he never wanted to leave. I bet that changed [yesterday.]”