As the Orioles' brutal August wages on, their losing streak was extended to 18 games Sunday with a loss to the Braves.
Baltimore is now three losses away from tying the franchise record for most consecutive losses originally set by the 1988 Orioles. The reality of its roster construction with a low payroll and few reliable veterans has made the team a national storyline, but for all the worst reasons.
Rival executives around the league have described the Orioles as an "embarrassment," per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, and an example of tanking gone "haywire."
Tanking, or keeping your payroll as close as possible to the league's salary floor so your team can lose as many games as possible, accumulate high draft picks and larger bonus pools for additions from the amateur ranks, is not new in Major League Baseball.
The Cubs did it before winning a World Series in 2016, the Astros operated similarly and ultimately won it all in 2017 and it now appears the Orioles are giving it a shot as a team in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox and Rays. Even the fourth-place Blue Jays are well over .500 at 64-58.
However, the Orioles are drawing more criticism with each passing loss, with calls for the league to crack down on teams who consciously don't do everything they can to win.
The NBA and NHL use a lottery system to determine the draft order as a way to keep teams from tanking so openly. The NBA also began a play-in tournament last summer at the end of its season to keep more teams in the playoff hunt through the second half. Still, there's always a handful of teams who sell off their talent for future assets and coast down the stretch to improve their lottery odds.
The Orioles are 38-85 with the worst record in the majors. They're 38 games behind the Rays for first place in the AL East and have a clear path to the No. 1 pick in the draft. The only question left for this season is how far behind they fall and if they can avoid the franchise record of 21 losses in a row or - even worse - the 1961 Phillies for the modern record of 23 in a row.
Baltimore will have a chance to end the losing streak Tuesday night against Shohei Ohtani and the Angels when former Orioles top-five draft pick Dylan Bundy pitches for Los Angeles.
Bundy is a good example that tanking doesn't guarantee anything. Baltimore took him No. 4 overall in the 2012 draft thanks to a 69-93 last-place finish in 2011. But Bundy was a bust, a high-school kid who finally reached the majors for good in 2016 but didn't post an ERA below 4.02 before the Orioles traded him to Los Angeles after the 2019 season.
If the O's can't win that one against their old teammate Tuesday, they will face Ohtani and his 2.79 ERA on the mound Wednesday with No. 20 looming.