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Orioles' Offseason Crucial To Maintaining Fans' Trust

October 15, 2015

You're not going to boycott the Baltimore Orioles if they don't re-sign first baseman Chris Davis. 

You know who you are, Internet guy. You've said something along those lines during the course of the last month or so, either while Davis was racing to a MLB home run crown for the second time in three years or since. Something like, "If owner Peter Angelos is too cheap to dish out the money for a guy like Davis, then I won't spend a penny on this team next season."

In many ways, it's honorable for fans to feel such an emotional connection to a player. But it's simply not realistic. Come on, man. About a month and a half or so before Opening Day, your friends are going to be talking about their plans for where to go before first pitch, and you're going to sheepishly admit you got a season ticket mini-plan to make sure you got tickets.

Orioles 2015: Orioles Fans (high fives)
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

It is commendable to attempt to hold a professional sports team accountable. My former radio partner (and former Baltimore Blast general manager) Drew Forrester used to have a saying: "The owner of a team only owns the right to profit off the team … while the city itself truly owns the team." While not factually accurate (when was he ever?), the point he was making touched on reality. The fans of a team are shareholders in the organization and need to be able to enter into a public "trust" with the organization to provide the necessary funding. In that way, the thought process makes sense.

The Orioles went through a brutally difficult stretch for years when it came to abusing that public trust. The team's struggles from 1998-2011 did not occur merely in the win-loss department, but in essentially every facet of the franchise. Fortunately, the Orioles have written a new chapter since 2012 and have improved in almost every aspect of what they do. But it still seems like there is a large number of fans who struggle with the concept of "public trust."

I don't know if it is fair that many O's fans are staking their willingness to trust executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and the Orioles' front office on how they handle the upcoming offseason. An outsider might suggest four years without a losing season should be enough for the faith to already be in place. But I guess that's what happens when trust erodes so far during the course of a generation.

This offseason also comes under the scope of reported friction between Duquette and manager Buck Showalter, making for some pretty dramatic hot stove theater. Free agency begins five days after the World Series ends, and the most relevant decisions will be made by New Year's Day. Fair or not, with the futures of Davis, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, right-handed reliever Darren O'Day, outfielder Gerardo Parra and catcher Matt Wieters, among others, hanging in the balance, Duquette may feel like high-wire artist Philippe Petit, with one misstep spelling doom.

This brings me back to the idea of a boycott.

It is particularly silly to think that, even if the O's lose the bulk (if not all) of their key free agents, the team will immediately fall back into the dark ages of the pre-Duquette era. The team will still return its two true "franchise" players, center fielder Adam Jones and third baseman Manny Machado, along with shortstop J.J. Hardy, second baseman Jonathan Schoop, left-handed closer Zach Britton and right-hander Chris Tillman, among others.

The Orioles will presumably add something in free agency (or at least hopefully add something more than a typical Duquette-type "Four-A" player). There's reason to believe young players like right-handers Kevin Gausman, Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright and first basemen Trey Mancini and Christian Walker could help fill the potential holes.

But the concept of the "boycott" cannot be forgotten. If another lost offseason hurts the team on the field next season and things go south during the coming seasons, those trust issues will race right back for this fan base. Whether or not it's a formal boycott, plenty will choose to pass on spending their money on baseball.

So while I'm calling out the "sign Chris Davis or we riot" hyperbole for what it is ("sign Chris Davis or we'll whine on the Internet"), I'm very aware the heart of the commentary cannot be completely dismissed. There is a very loud "please do something to give this team a chance to win a World Series" plea that is emanating from the fan base.

I echo those cries, and I think a Davis return could go a long way in making it possible.

Issue 214: October 2015