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Orioles front office pleased with progress, fan support during trying season

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Orioles front office pleased with progress, fan support during trying season

It’s been a long and trying season at Camden Yards, a fact not lost on Orioles leadership. 

Prior to the home finale Sunday afternoon, manager Brandon Hyde met with the media for his usual pregame availability. He answered each question, explained a few decisions he had been made, and sprinkled in a few jokes. It was a typical press conference.

Then, when all the questions were done, Hyde stopped everyone getting up to leave, asking to say a few words.

“The energy in the ballpark last night was fantastic,” Hyde began. “I’m looking forward to the day when it’s like that all the time. I appreciate the way the fans showed up.”

Of course, that fan support came in what was ultimately a losing effort for the Orioles. It’s a pattern that’s been prevalent all season long in Baltimore.

“It’s been hard,” the manager continued. “Been a trying process, I totally understand the frustrations. But it will get better.”

It did get better, at least for a day, as the Orioles held off the Mariners 2-1 in a breezy Sunday afternoon affair.

Most of the players impacting Sunday’s win may not be around the next time the Orioles are competitive, but the starting pitcher certainly caught the eye of Mike Elias this season.

“I think the team has played its butt off all year,” the general manager praised before the game. “It’s battled, and I think we can all go with the individual success stories. You know, Means, Santander, Severino, Mancini having a huge year. I mean, there’s too many to go through right now. Not everything goes perfectly in a baseball season, but I think the positives this year far outweigh the negatives, and our organization is positioned so much better for the future than it was this time last year.”

The general praise continued from the man leading the Orioles' rebuild, though he is quick to recognize the reality of the franchise’s situation.

“We’ve got a lot of areas to get better in, I think that’s no secret,” Elias admitted. “But overall we sit back and look around at what’s happened in the organization and it was just a very positive year. Got a lot accomplished across the organization...The farm system’s taken a huge jump this year. Some of that, obviously, is the draft with the number one pick. But I would argue most of it is what happened with the players that were already in the system. Some player development improvements that we made, the changes and the steps forward the group took. Here at the big league level, look. I mean we’re still losing games way more than we want to. This is not fun, it’s not easy to crawl out of.”

Elias is right. The Orioles finished 61 games out of first place in 2018. Even with Sunday’s win, they are currently 50 games behind the Yankees in the AL East in 2019. 

This is a huge hole, and a better year than last doesn’t mean the Orioles are close to competing. Yet.

While Elias and the rest of the front office appreciate the fan support the team has received in 2019, he knows it’s all relative to the on-field success of the organization.

“I can’t ask anyone to embrace losing the way we have. Our record last year was historically bad, this year it’s not going to be a ton better. Nobody wants to do this. We never want this to happen again,” Elias told reporters emphatically. “There’s a long way to go, a lot to be done. I think the support has been tremendous. The people coming out here, they love this team. The people of the city love this team, they know that this needs to be done. And I’m confident that they’re going to come back, and they’re gonna come back in a big way.”

At least one pregame request from Hyde came true Sunday, as he hoped fans would show appreciation for both Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, two Orioles who have experienced rough years for different reasons.

The Camden Yards faithful responded, showering Davis with thunderous applause after his home run in the seventh inning gave the O’s their 2-1 lead. Of course, any player homering in that scenario would receive an ovation. But that doesn’t make it any less nice to see it come Davis’ way.

Hyde also put out a second plea to Orioles fans pregame. 

“I’m asking for everybody’s patience. I want fans to feel good about the start of the process, and trust that it’s going to get better.”

The confidence from management has not wavered, and for now, it hasn’t wavered from most fans either. If Hyde and Elias are to be believed, even a 100-loss season can signal a positive step forward, and the Orioles firmly believe they’re on the right track.

This time in 2018, the Orioles were a franchise in disarray, with a lame-duck leadership team and a bleak future. 

It’s hard to believe what a difference a season can make.

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Orioles announce family-friendly time changes to their regular season schedule

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Orioles announce family-friendly time changes to their regular season schedule

The Orioles announced significant changes to their regular-season schedule Thursday, making it more family-friendly during non-summer months. 

According to Joe Trezza, the Orioles will start at 6:35 p.m. ET for games that occur before Memorial Day and after Labor Day. Home games during the summer will retain their 7:05 p.m. ET start time.

Major League Baseball saw a record 3:05:35 average run time for games in 2019 despite changes made before 2018 to cut mound visits without pitching changes. 

With the average length of a game longer than ever and the fact that the Orioles have finished last in the AL East in three consecutive seasons, this is seemingly a smart move to get more fans out to Camden Yards. 

John Means finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting after a surprising season, so the Orioles days as the butt of most baseball-related jokes could be nearing an end. 

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Orioles' John Means falls short in AL Rookie of the Year voting

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Orioles' John Means falls short in AL Rookie of the Year voting

It was always going to be an uphill climb. Now? It’s reality.

John Means did not become the first Oriole to win the AL Rookie of the Year award in 20 years.

The surprising ace finished second behind Yordan Alvarez in this year’s voting. The result is less of a surprise, as Alvarez utterly dominated opponents at the plate all year long. From the moment he was promoted in June, Alvarez was one of the best hitters in baseball. 

By wRC+, an all-encompassing offensive metric, he was actually the second-best hitter in baseball behind only Mike Trout. And he owned the best OPS for a rookie in MLB history.

He accomplished all this while hitting in the middle of the most formidable lineup in baseball, a Houston unit that carried them to the American League pennant.

Alvarez didn’t enjoy the most prolific postseason of all-time, but he still pitched in with a few big hits against the Nationals in the World Series. His hot streak in the Fall Classic actually allowed him to lead the Astros in both batting average and OPS against the Nats.

For so many reasons, Alvarez earned his unanimous first-place finish. But don’t let that diminish Means’ year.

A non-prospect who was made the Orioles roster out of Spring Training, Means was the team’s lone All-Star representative this season. He held his own in the vaunted AL East, and was the clear-cut second-best rookie in the AL in 2019.

Means’ great season helped him receive 16 second-place votes, while no other candidate received more than six.

In a long, trying season, Means stood out as one of the most pleasant surprises for the Orioles in recent memory. The organization has long struggled to develop starting pitching, which has constantly placed them behind the 8-ball in their division. If the front office can unearth a few more hidden gems in the coming seasons, the rebuild may just work out after all.

Brandon Lowe of the Rays rounded out the top three finishers, while Eloy Jimenez finished fourth.

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