A Too-Long Screed on the Trade of Manny Machado
Manny Machado, one of the best players in the game, is gone. Maybe something better will come in return. Photo by Arturo Pardavila III via Flickr
Sometimes, it’s hard to be an Orioles fan. Just like, sometimes, it’s hard to be a Kansas City fan or a San Diego or Milwaukee or Cincinnati or Pittsburgh fan. Not always, but sometimes. This is one of those times.
Bigger-city/bigger-market teams – Yanks, Boston, Cubs and, yes, the Dodgers – have the revenue to correct their organizational mistakes. When Hanley Ramirez underperformed in the first two months of this season, the Red Sox swallowed the remaining $18 million on his contract and sent him packing. It was hailed as a smart move, but it’s a luxury most teams don’t have. Or, at least, they don’t have it every year.
Baltimore was never going to be able to keep Manny Machado. Six big-league seasons were all the O’s were ever going to get from him. They got five-and-a-half mostly great seasons. In exchange for the last half season, the Dodgers gave them five young players that, by all accounts, will strengthen the organization’s core and provide some hope that, one day, the team will again contend.
O’s fans will complain about the Angelos family and yell for them to sell the team, as they have for about a quarter century. That’s fair enough. But no one will buy a team and suddenly change the size of the city or the market. When the Orioles moved here from St. Louis in 1954, Baltimore was the sixth-largest city in America. Today, there are about 2.7 million people in Baltimore and the five counties that surround it, making it the 26th-largest market in the US, behind minor-league towns like Portland, Raleigh, Charlotte and Sacramento.
Sustaining a big-league franchise in those circumstances – particularly now that DC has its own team – presents economic challenges that aren’t going to go away. What keeps Baltimore in the major leagues is history; the history of the team, the history of the city, the history of the ballpark. And history is great, but it doesn’t make money. Each big-league franchise has its own challenges and this is Baltimore’s challenge.
The Orioles are a lot like the city itself. Underfunded, often badly governed, sometimes dysfunctional and broken, full of history, not very glamorous. Baltimore can wear you down.
But when it works, it’s as good as it gets. And so is being O’s fan.
Delmon Young’s bases-clearing double against the Tigers four years ago. The whole month of June two years ago. Bobby Bonilla’s grand slam against Cleveland in ’96. Even Robert Andino’s base hit that knocked Boston out of the playoffs on the last day of the 2011 season. Those are the moments when the pain of losing – losing games and losing beloved players – goes away. There’ll be more of them. Maybe not for a while, but there’ll be more.
It’s hard, I know. Stick with your team. Enjoy the baseball for what it is.
You’ll be rewarded.