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Who should Orioles fans root for in the playoffs? A handy guide


Who should Orioles fans root for in the playoffs? A handy guide

The New York Yankees looked lifeless in their three losses to the Orioles this past weekend. So, it wasn’t a surprise that they looked inept in Tuesday’s night’s wild card game.

Orioles fans couldn’t care less about the Houston Astros. They’ve only been in the American League for three seasons and really have no players in common with the Orioles.

But, the Astros were playing the Yankees, and lots of Orioles fans are a bit happier this morning.

Of the four remaining teams in the American League, the Orioles have the least familiarity with the current Astros. They last played them four months ago before, just a few days before possible AL Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa debuted. Carlos Gomez didn’t arrive until the trading deadline.

The only former Oriole on the team was Scott Feldman, who spent the second half of 2013 in Baltimore, and Feldman is currently hurt.

Setup man Pat Neshek was in spring training with the team in 2012, making a good impression and spent several months in Norfolk before exercising an opt-out clause.

And there’s Colby Rasmus, who Buck Showalter personally pursued in January. Showalter decided that Rasmus would fit in with the Orioles, but the enigmatic slugger took a better offer from Houston.

Rasmus had 25 home runs and hit another in the Astros’ 3-0 win.

Houston goes on to play the Kansas City Royals. The Orioles developed a healthy disdain for the Royals last season, and it continued this year.

Kansas City swept the Orioles in four games in last year’s ALCS and took three of four in K.C. in August. The Orioles won two of three from the Royals last month.

Two of the Orioles’ three wins came against Johnny Cueto, who they faced for the first time, and is likely to be a prized free agent this off-season.

Jeremy Guthrie, whom Cueto displaced from the rotation, is a former Oriole, who irked his onetime team by wearing a T-shirt denigrating them to an interview session during last year’s ALCS.

The Royals were last year’s feisty underdog, and were within an eyelash of winning the World Series. This year, last year’s wild-card winners had the best record in the American League.

The Orioles have recent experience with the two other AL playoff teams: the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays.

The Rangers took six of seven between the two teams, including a three-game sweep at the end of August.

The Blue Jays clinched the AL East in Baltimore a week ago with a 15-2 humiliation of the Orioles in the first game of a doubleheader. That loss had manager Buck Showalter seething afterward. It was the Orioles’ final loss of the season. They ended with two wins over Toronto and three against the Yankees.

The AL Division Series begin Thursday. Tonight, it’s the National League wild card game. The matchup between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs, which has been assumed for weeks, has more than a little attraction for Orioles fans.

Jake Arrieta, who the Orioles traded for Feldman, starts for Chicago. Arrieta won 22 games for the Cubs, including a no-hitter against the Dodgers, and a one-hit, seven inning performance at Wrigley Field 10 days ago.

Many Orioles fans have warm feelings for Arrieta, who failed to live up to his promise here, and for lack of a team to root for in the playoffs, will be pulling for him.

Tommy Hunter, a very popular Oriole for four years, is with the Cubs, too. So is Jason Hammel, who was acquired from Colorado for Guthrie. Hammel won key games for the Orioles in 2012.

Pedro Strop, another well-liked reliever, who went to the Cubs along with Arrieta, is there. So is Tsuyoshi Wada, who had Tommy John surgery not long after signing a two-year contract with the Orioles.

Several players who’ve had cameos in recent Orioles history are on the Pirates roster. Travis Ishikawa, who was briefly with the team in 2013, is on hand. So is Michael Morse, who finished up 2013 in Baltimore.

Who can forget Travis Snider, who was supposed to replace Nick Markakis in right field? Snider was a huge disappointment before the Orioles let him go in August. The Pirates picked him up, and he played 18 games.

Pedro Florimon, a once highly touted Orioles prospect who played four games in 2011, played for Pittsburgh this year. So did Steve Lombardozzi, who was on the roster in 2014 while Manny Machado rehabbed. Lombardozzi was hitless in 10 at-bats.

The Orioles see a lot of the Pirates in spring training. The teams’ spring training headquarters are about 20 minutes apart.

MORE ORIOLES: Matusz undergoes successful surgery on shoulder

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Orioles star shortstop Manny Machado traded to Los Angeles Dodgers

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Orioles star shortstop Manny Machado traded to Los Angeles Dodgers

"It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all."

"What we've got here is failure to communicate."

"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."

I can't decide which quote best applies today. No, it didn't take a "Godfather" offer to pry Manny Machado away from the Orioles. Everyone and their mother knew this day was coming. Machado, he of the .315 batting average, 24 home runs and 65 RBIs, was too big a fish to swim in a last-place pond on the final year of his contract.

Still, the front office in Baltimore knew they had to get this one right, so they held out as long as you could. Depending on who you ask, you might hear that they waited this long to allow Machado to represent the O's in the 2018 MLB All-Star Game as their lone player. I'm sure that was a nice bonus, but the truth is that waiting this long allowed them to net the greatest possible return.

With every twist and turn in the story, new leaders in the sweepstakes emerged and more and more (and better) prospects were added to team's offers. The Yankees wanted to create the most fearsome lineup since the '27 Murderer's Row. The Brewers wanted to show they were aggressive, much like their acquisition of CC Sabathia exactly a decade ago. The Phillies needed to replace the struggling J.P. Crawford at short. The Braves wanted to legitimize their division title chances. The Indians wanted to form the greatest infield in recent memory. The Cubs aren't afraid to turn a strength into a super strength.

Philadelphia was the favorite, until they weren't.

In the end, it was the Dodgers, looking to replace their own injured star shortstop, who made the offer which couldn't be refused.

Yusniel Diaz, Dean Kremer, Rylan Bannon Zach Pop and Breyvic Valera are headed to Baltimore in exchange for Machado and no additional cash, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. 

The Dodgers were one of the best matches with the O's in terms of prospects. Los Angeles is adept at identifying and developing talent, meaning their farm system has a wealth of talent to draw from. Their fourth-best prospect would be number one or two on many team's lists, so the Orioles were able to extract more value without the Dodgers feeling like they were giving up too much for a rental.

Many fans who think the O's would have to basically give Machado away want to remind you that he is just that; a rental. This brought his value down, though it's arguable how much. Machado isn't your average three-month player. He is a generational defender at third base and a passable defender at shortstop, all while providing a middle of the order bat. If we were ranking players on pure talent level alone, Machado would likely be in the top three in all of baseball, and at age 26 he's only now entering his prime. This is a quality of "rental" rarely, if ever, seen in baseball history.

The Dodgers didn't make this move for the next three months (though it can't be overstated how important it's become to win your division ever since the advent of the Wild Card Game and they are locked in a tight battle atop the NL West). They made this move for October.

The National League has many quality teams, but with no super teams in the ilk of the Red Sox or Astros, a move like this can serve to separate them from the pack. Los Angeles is now probably, at worst, tied with the Cubs as the prohibitive favorites to return to the Fall Classic.

For better or worse, this trade will likely come to define the next decade of Orioles baseball. They needed to nail the prospects they got back, and if nothing else, they should be commended for handling this professionally over the last few weeks. This is a quality package, representing a much-needed infusion of talent into their barren farm system.

It doesn't excuse the previous three years, in which they bungled the situation so badly they somehow managed to go 1,000 days without even talking to their most accomplished player in a generation about a potential contract extension. It's been a laughable, unacceptable, truly embarrassing failure to communicate between a decision maker and his best player.

The one silver lining to the Orioles finding themselves on a historic pace to have one of the worst seasons in Major League Baseball history is that the decision to trade Machado and officially kick off the long rebuilding process was an easy one. In previous seasons, during which the front office could have received much greater value in return for one of their stars, the team has inexplicably been unable to evaluate their own postseason chances and chosen to be buyers when they should have been sellers. 

69 losses at the All-Star break is a clear message that the roster needs a reboot, and it allowed the team to not hesitate in jettisoning their most talented player in decades. The fact that the team has been bad since Opening Day has given fans plenty of time to resign themselves to this move, and hopefully they can focus on the excitement of adding a fun, talented young core, instead of the sorrow of losing a beloved figure on your favorite team. 

In the coming years, as the team fights for the top spot in the draft and finds themselves looking up at the hated Red Sox and Yankees in the AL East, hopefully they can look back on some of Manny's greatest hits in Baltimore and appreciate what they had in the superstar from Miami.

After all, it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.

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Manny Machado trade rumors are dominating headlines at All-Star Game

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Manny Machado trade rumors are dominating headlines at All-Star Game

Manny Machado could very well be playing in his final game in an Orioles uniform Tuesday night when he takes the field for the 89th Midsummer Classic at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. 

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Dodgers are now in the driver's seat as a favorite to land the All-Star shortstop. 

Machado, 26, has gone back and forth on what he does and does not know as front office deals develop and speculation continues to grow. One thing he has made clear is that the rumors have not detracted from his enjoyment of being an All-Star.

Machado is signed through the end of the season, but the Orioles intend to deal him before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

For the latest news and conversation surrounding Machado's status and the Orioles, follow along on Twitter


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