We aren’t even to the offseason yet and stories of negativity, turmoil, and dysfunction about the Baltimore Orioles organization are already being written. Jerry Cransick got the ball rolling last week. Ken Rosenthal joined in last night with an article that referenced the usual vague “internal and external sources” (while quoting only one anonymous team official) stating that there is significant tension between Showalter and Duquette that is reaching a boiling point. The story also featured several quotes from Duquette and Showalter denying the existence of these significant issues.
As always, it is not a matter of believing that Ken Rosenthal is making any of this up or that he has a personal vendetta against the Oriole organization. The issue at hand is whether the subject matter constitutes the printing of an actual story.
The Oriole organization – rightfully so – had high expectations for the 2015 season. Things did not quite work out as hoped as evidenced by a lot of things, but mainly the fact that the team sits at 76 wins with ten games left to play and faces a 3 ½ game deficit for the second American League Wild Card spot. The disappointing nature of the season is also evident in the player turnover that occurred over the summer. Everth Cabrera, Tommy Hunter, Travis Snider, Delmon Young, and Bud Norris all departed the organization over the past few months after failing to the contribute to the level the organization had hoped for. Still, with a .500 record going into play on Friday night and an expected (pythagorean) record of 79-73, it would be a stretch to call the season a disaster. Baseball is a game where randomness is a feature, not a bug. Even the best laid and executed plans – not that the Orioles’ 2015 plan was necessarily that – can lead to less-than-desirable outcomes.
The bottom line is the organization did not land where they wanted to land in 2015. When an organization fails to meet its goals, the key players – particularly when those people are as ambitious and conscientious as Duquette and Showlater appear to be – are going to be frustrated and in search of answers. Every company I have ever been around has had a similar dynamic when operating under similar circumstances. When goals are not achieved, the guys most responsible are not going to be happy. The fact that Showalter might be second guessing Duquette and possibly vice-a-versa is hardly unexpected. It is also hardly a story. Given the circumstances it is business as usual.
Rosenthal uses some provocative language (“tension”, “disaster”, “unrest”, ect.) to paint a dire picture. The implication of the article from the headline on down is that this is a major issue and that Duquette and Showalter are not being forthright when they state that there is not major rift between them. While I would not expect them to say anything different even if there is significant tension, I question why I should place my full trust into third party interpretations of their relationship made by anonymous sources. How do these onlookers know there is such great tension? What is the basis for their views on this situation? How do we know these sources are not misinterpreting understandable disappointment and the search for answers as unrepairable tension?
It all comes back to the point that without more concrete information, none of what Rosenthal reported seems out of the ordinary or unexpected given the team’s performance this season. Disappointment and second guessing happen in these situations, not just in baseball but in any organization that underperforms. That hardly seems worthy of a story but unfortunately, we will probably get a lot of these over the next four or five months. At least right now there are games to enjoy and to distract. The winter months are going to be dreadful.