2018 Baltimore Orioles
2018 Baltimore Orioles / Franchise: Baltimore Orioles / BR Team Page
Managed by Buck Showalter
History, Comments, Contributions
No one was really sure what to make of the 2018 Baltimore Orioles when the season began. For one thing, they had finished last in the AL East in 2017, but only after getting off to a great start, and they still had together all of their core players, so they could not be placed in the categories of teams that were deliberately "tanking" the season. But there had been serious concerns about the pitching staff, particularly the starting pitchers during the second half of the previous season, and the team had done little to address those. It did not take long to get a sense of how the season would go however: after the O's won on Opening Day, March 29th, by defeating the Minnesota Twins, 3-2, in 11 innings, they reeled off 5 straight losses. They then went through a 3-14 stretch and finished April at 8-20, already 12.5 games out of first and for all practical purposes, out of the playoff picture. It was clear to everyone that this was going to be a long season.
One of the few bright lights was SS Manny Machado, who got off to a roaring start and was in the top 5 in the American League in most hitting categories by mid-May. Of course, Machado was in his walk year, and everyone expected that he would be gone by the trading deadline, so his performance could only put so much balm on the fan base's wounds. One of the games that epitomized the team's struggles came on May 8th, when starting pitcher Dylan Bundy allowed 4 home runs and 7 runs against the Kansas City Royals without recording an out in the 1st inning. Another came on May 17th against the Boston Red Sox, when manager Buck Showalter was so eager to remove pitcher Kevin Gausman after he had surrendered a 5th-inning homer to Xander Bogaerts that he crossed the foul line on his way to the mound even before Bogaerts had completed his trot around the bases! The 6-2 loss that day was the 13th straight road loss by the Birds, tying the record set by the infamous 1988 edition of the team that had lost its first 21 games to start the season.
By early June, the Orioles were taking on water from all sides. They were swept in a four-game series at the Rogers Centre on June 7-10 to fall to 19-45 and 24.5 games out of first. Coming into those games against the Toronto Blue Jays, it was Toronto who was reeling, not having won two consecutive games since the start of May while the O's had taken two straight from the New York Mets, but after Brad Brach blew a 9th-inning lead in the opener, nothing seemed to go right. The sweep gave them a record of 9-27 on the road, which was the worst in the majors, just as their overall record was. In fact, their winning percentage was lower at that point than any put up by an Orioles team in a full season - including 1988! They had a pitiful 29-69 record at the All-Star break, and the day after the 2018 All-Star Game, on July 18th, pulled the trigger on the long-rumored trade for their lone All-Star, Machado. At least, the return seemed impressive on paper: five solid prospects, including OF Yusniel Díaz, coming off a great performance in the 2018 Futures Game, and IF Breyvic Valera, who had some major league experience and could be immediately inserted in the line-up. The other three - Ps Dean Kremer and Zach Pop and 3B Rylan Bannon - were in Class A Advanced but all had put up impressive numbers in their first couple of years as professionals. After hesitating at the start of the season over whether the team was ready for a rebuild, the trade made it clear that the process had now begun in earnest. It did not take long for the next trade to happen, as on July 24th, the O's sent former closer Zach Britton to the New York Yankees in return for three prospects: Cody Carroll, Josh Rogers and Dillon Tate, with Tate being the highest-rated of the three. This opened the floodgates for a veritable fire sale, as Ps Brach, Kevin Gausman and Darren O'Day and 2B Jonathan Schoop were all also sent away for prospects before July 31st. They also attempted to trade CF Adam Jones, but he vetoed a potential deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, as was his right as a ten-year veteran having played for the same team for the previous five seasons.
On August 10th, they set a new record when a 19-12 loss to the Red Sox meant that they were mathematically eliminated from winning a division title. They were 46 1/2 games back of Boston with 46 games left to play after that loss. That was the most games remaining for a team being eliminated, and the earliest date this had happened, matching two other notoriously awful teams, the 1932 Boston Red Sox and 1962 New York Mets, who have come to define futility in the modern era. They reached another unpleasant milestone on August 17th when they fell 50 games below .500 with a 2-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians. That put them 50 1/2 games behind the Red Sox; as a point of comparison, only three teams had ever finished 50 or more games out of first place in the divisional era, with the 1998 Florida Marlins holding the record with 52 games back over a full season, a record certain to be shattered. They suffered their 100th loss on September 7th, a ghastly 14-2 beating at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, to have them reach the total for the first time since 1988; they were also the fastest team to hit that mark since the 2003 Detroit Tigers, who had done so in 134 games (the O's had 41 wins at that point). On September 17th, a 5-0 loss to the Blue Jays was their 107th of the season, tying the 1988 team's franchise record for most losses in a season. They set a new record with another loss to the Blue Jays the next day, this one by a 6-4 score. They finished the year at 47-115. Three days after the season ended, Buck Showalter was dismissed as manager in a move that surprised no one.
Awards and Honors
- All-Star: Manny Machado
- Brittany Ghiroli: "O's get Futures Game star in haul for Machado: Diaz highlights package of 5 prospects coming from Dodgers", mlb.com, July 18, 2018. 
- Mike Lupica: "Showalter: O's 'lying in the weeds' in AL East: Skipper not ready to concede division to big spenders". mlb.com, March 15, 2018.