For those fans still holding on in Baltimore, tonight will be the beginning of yet another “new era” for the organization, as the team plays its first game under manager Buck Showalter.
While the looming hire of Showalter was perhaps the worst kept secret in all of sports over the last month, the fact that the deal is finally done now means that the (re)rebuilding process can begin now rather than come spring training.
This difference is rarely felt in other sports, but baseball is one sport where it isn’t just helpful, it is vital.
The reason that baseball is unique in this way is that baseball teams get to expand their rosters every Sept. 1 to basically call up anyone in they like on 40-man rosters.
The ability to call these players up and see how they do against top-level competition can give managers an insight into their potential before next year’s Spring Training.
For Showalter, this opportunity to see what he has in his farm system could possibly shave off a year in his rebuilding plan.
Although there is certainly no doubt that Showalter will want to use the rest of the season to assess talent, there is one thing that could prevent a blown up roster – Is Andy MacPhail really willing to have the 2010 Orioles to go down as one of the worst teams in baseball history?
At 32-73, the Orioles are on pace to lose 111 games. To put that in perspective -- only four teams since 1940 have tallied that many.
Accumulating that many losses in a season would be an even bigger shot to the reputation of MacPhail and his so-called “plan.” The question now becomes, “Will the Orioles risk entering that realm in order to try and better their future?”
Either way, guys like Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Matt Weiters will all stay staples of the rest of the Orioles’ season. The people whose playing time could be sacrificed will be the veterans like Kevin Millwood, Ty Wigginton, and even Luke Scott.
If the Orioles are smart, they will give this season to the dogs in order to look at younger guys. If it works, then the season will be forgotten (the Detroit Tigers 119-loss 2003 season was quickly forgotten when they made it to the World Series three years later).
In this scenario, don’t be surprised to see guys like Brandon Snyder, Chorye Spoone, Chris Tillman and even recent acquisition Rick VandenHurk getting some time in Baltimore for strictly scouting purposes. Even Zach Britton (who is not currently on the 40-man roster) could get brought up from triple-A – he is certainly deserving of it.
Those names are all in addition to Josh Bell and Troy Patton, who were both called up as a result of the Miguel Tejada and Will Ohman trades.
However, in an age where records rule everything, the Orioles could very well decide to play the older vets and try to scrape one or two more wins out of the season. If they do, they could manage to sacrifice the 2011 season before it even starts.