The Orioles are on a massive losing streak that has been compared to the losing streak in 1988. The differences between the two streaks are vast mainly due to the fact that the current crop of O’s are losing by design.
First and foremost, as Ken Rosenthal (an ex-Sun sportswriter) outlined in a recent article in The Athletic, there is little comparison between the 1988 Orioles and the 2021 team. As he states, the 1988 Orioles, including players and management, were “actually trying to win.”
Today’s players on the field may be trying to win but management has decided to lose by design and stacked the deck against the players (and fans). That was not the case in 1988.
Secondly, the magnitude of losing for the Orioles are in the words of Buster Olney at ESPN, “unprecedented in AL (American League) history.”
In the two previous full seasons in 2018 and 2019, the Orioles lost 115 games and 108 games, respectively. Of course, this year will be just as bad if not worse.
Thirdly, one of the most controversial subjects in baseball today focuses on the incentive losing teams are given to lose. Namely, draft picks. The worse the team does on the field, the better draft picks the team receives. Several clubs including the World Series champions Cubs and Astros used years of losing to stockpile draft picks and build their respective farm systems. The rebuilding teams slashed budgets to the bone. The Oriole general manager, Mike Elias, an Astros’ disciple, has installed that program in Baltimore. When the Orioles cut nearly $100 million from their annual payroll compared to 2018, expect losing on a massive scale. The losing has been planned.
Lastly, the entire scheme of tanking-losing on purpose- has become a problem for Major League Baseball. The player’s union, which must finalize a new contract by December 1, is concerned about the non-competitiveness in MLB. Losing by design costs the players appropriate earnings. But it also costs the fans, like those here in Baltimore, who continue to pay major league prices for an inferior team.
As Buster Olney mentioned recently, the player’s union may use the Orioles’ recent history as “Exhibit A” as proof of non-competitive behavior. Tanking, in his words, is “just wrong.”
In sum, the Orioles’ players and fans are at the mercy of a scheme by the owners and management to lose now, win later. This is simply a way to “game” the system that tries to help losing teams by awarding top draft picks.
Losing is not so dreadful if it is honest but it is terrible if by design.
Feature photo by Anthony C. Hayes
Dudley Thompson lives in Girdletree, MD., population 106. He was born, raised, and lived most of his life in Baltimore. He worked for the News-American on the advertising side until it closed in ‘86. His second career was teaching in juvenile jails for the Maryland State Department of Education. He holds a Masters in Liberal Arts from Johns Hopkins University, ‘77, and a B.A from the University of Maryland,’74.