BALTIMORE (AP)The Baltimore Orioles had enough of their own problems this year without getting too caught up in what the teams around them were doing.
Still, a look at the rest of the AL East reveals the daunting path ahead.
Four teams in the division won at least 91 games this year, and then the Orioles were in the cellar with a record of 52-110. Baltimore had separate losing streaks of 14 and 19 games and finished 39 games out of fourth place. Only one other team in baseball finished that far out of first.
General manager Mike Elias is hoping the Orioles will be able to compete in this division again before too long. Baltimore did win the AL East in 2014, and Tampa Bay’s 100-win season this year makes the Rays a franchise the Orioles can try to emulate.
”I think that within our own division, it wasn’t easy for Tampa, or it wasn’t quick for Tampa to get in that spot,” Elias said recently. ”But they proved that it is possible and they continue to sustain it despite the challenges that their market presents.”
For now, the Orioles can hope the worst is behind them. The team does have two of the game’s top prospects in catcher Adley Rutschman and right-hander Grayson Rodriguez.
”We have a lot of work to do in a lot of areas,” manager Brandon Hyde said. ”I’m excited about some of our young guys I think could be core pieces going forward on a good team, and we’ll have players making debuts next year also, we’ll have some exciting players. We’ll be young, but I think that we’re starting to get more talented.”
Don Long is not returning as the team’s hitting coach next season, according to a person with knowledge of the move, speaking on condition of anonymity because it had not been announced.
The biggest problems the Orioles had were on the pitching side, where they finished with a major league-worst 5.84 ERA. The difference between Baltimore and 29th-place Arizona in that stat was roughly the same as the difference between the Diamondbacks and 19th-place Philadelphia.
The Orioles did have a few nice moments and impressive performances. Outfielder Cedric Mullins hit .291 with 30 home runs and 30 steals, and he finished eighth in the American League in OPS. John Means threw a no-hitter and had a 3.62 ERA in 26 starts.
Trey Mancini made an inspiring return after missing the 2020 season while undergoing colon cancer treatment.
Rutschman is the No. 1-ranked prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline. He posted an OPS of .895 in 43 games at Triple-A Norfolk this year.
Rodriguez is the No. 8-ranked prospect and top-ranked pitcher. He went 6-1 with a 2.60 ERA in 18 starts for Double-A Bowie.
Elias was asked about Mancini, Means and outfielder Anthony Santander, who all made contributions but are at least 26 years old, meaning the team could be better off trading them as opposed to paying them more.
”We like all those players. They’re talented guys. Very many of them have a lot of control left,” Elias said. ”That would make us more apt to kind of put them off limits, but I’ve said a number of times, we’re not doing our job as baseball front offices if we’re not entertaining conversations on our guys by and large.”
The Orioles are in line to pick No. 1 in the draft for the second time in three years. Rutschman was the top selection in 2019.
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