At Fangraphs — aren't they supposed to be the best at this sort of thing? — just one of its 26 staff members predicted the Orioles to reach the playoffs, and its formula handed the team an expected record of 75-87.
But me? I believed.
My only regret is that I didn’t go far enough. I merely said the O’s would be in the thick of the postseason race. What I should have said is that the team would win more than 100 games for the first time since 1980 and take the American League East division crown, because that’s exactly what happened. If you followed the team throughout the season, as I suggested you do after the team left behind Sarasota, Ed Smith Stadium and spring training, you likely got a thrill out of watching this talented, young bunch.
But nothing gold can stay. The Orioles got swept 3-0 in the American League Division Series falling to the Texas Rangers, after losing the first two games in Baltimore.
It is no doubt a disappointing end to the season for the Orioles.
Any team that wins 100 or more games should reasonably be expected to reach the American League (or National League) Championship Series at the least.
The O’s had chances to win the games they lost against the Rangers. Down 3-2 in the eighth inning of Game 1, Baltimore had two runners on base and no outs against Rangers pitcher Aroldis Chapman before slugger Anthony Santander grounded into a double play, all but killing the rally before it had a chance to begin. Ryan Mountcastle then struck out, ending the threat for good.
In Game 2, the O’s scored eight runs — a number that should win a team most games. Unfortunately, the O’s pitching staff gave up 11 runs, including a grand slam by Mitch Garver.
It has been painful for fans to watch. At the same time, this ending is also, in some ways, a beginning.
When the club returns to Sarasota in February to begin spring training workouts, the players will carry with them the postseason experience they are getting right now.
Starting pitcher Grayson Rodriguez, 23, who got tagged for five runs in 1.2 innings in Game 2, will have the taste of the playoffs stuck in his craw. Catcher Adley Rutschman, 25, in many ways the soul of the O’s, had just one hit and one walk against the Rangers; he’ll remember this feeling and seek redemption.
They’re not alone. When third baseman Gunnar Henderson comes back to Sarasota, he will likely be bringing an AL Rookie of the Year trophy with him after hitting .255 with 28 home runs and an .814 OPS, plus playing stellar defense at the hot corner. (Something else I predicted, by the way.)
If Baltimore General Manager Mike Elias sees his plan come to fruition, the 2023 postseason will be the first of many the team will see in the coming years.
Even with all the additions of young players the Orioles have made via their farm system in the last two seasons — Rodriguez, Rutschman and Henderson among them — the club has more on the way, including infielder Jackson Holliday, widely considered to be the best prospect in baseball, a player so talented he advanced from low-A ball to AAA-ball in one season despite being 19 years old.
There’s a good chance he makes the big-league club out of spring training next season; fans won’t want to miss catching a glimpse of him.
I take sports hard. I pace my apartment during big moments. When a team I follow closely gets eliminated from the postseason, it often feels like a part of me has been ripped from my chest. Watching the Washington Capitals blow playoff chances for years before finally winning the NHL’s Stanley Cup in 2018 was borderline cruel and unusual punishment. (Happy puck drop on the 2023-2024 season to all my hockey fans out there, by the way.)
When watching these Orioles, I don’t feel any of that. I wish they would have advanced in the playoffs, of course. But also I feel hope. I feel excitement for the future. This season wasn’t their time; 2024 might be. So might 2025 and 2026.
This season, if anything, was a proof of concept. Baltimore showed it could win with this collection of talent. With another offseason to fill holes and perhaps snag a superstar, the Orioles are only going to improve. If 2023 was the launching pad, 2024 is the year the O’s will reach their destination. I hope Sarasota fans come along for the ride.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.