For the first time in four years, I decided to take a pause from the boredom of attending baseball's Winter Meetings and stay nice and cozy and awake here in Baltimore. (Next season, though, Las Vegas may just beckon me west.)
But after years of watching Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette try his best to make chicken salad out of a flawed recipe -- one without the chicken, i.e. pitching -- it seems the Orioles have turned on the proverbial dime and realized the need for chicken.
Seriously, watching Duquette try and convince everyone that the Orioles have been contending since the Kansas City Royals swept them in the American League Championship Series in 2014 has grown tired. Part of that push was that fact that the long-suffering fan base was energized in 2012-2014.
Now, for a variety of reasons, some of which are out of the club's control, the fan base is still engaged. But there needs to be a new push to change the conversation from how to hang onto great players, who the team can't and won't afford, to how to start turning those great players into as much young value as the team can get.
That process has begun. Whether third baseman Manny Machado and closer Zach Britton are here in 2018 I can't say for sure right now, but I can see the light beginning to shine through the tunnel. Neither will finish the 2018 season with the team. And it's OK to say that.
The Orioles picked up at least four interesting, albeit young, arms Dec. 14, signing Michael Kelly from the San Diego Padres' organization to a major league deal, and plucking two highly thought of arms from the New York Yankees in the Rule 5 draft -- Nestor Cortes and Jose Mesa (the son of former Orioles pitcher Jose Mesa) -- and yet another from the Chicago Cubs in Pedro Araujo.
But this story isn't really about all these new names; rather it is about how much the organization and the fans need something to believe in during this renovation. And who better to believe in than Duquette and manager Buck Showalter. Just because the team looks to be going young, owner Peter Angelos and his sons Louis and John would do well to send the fans the message that the guys who are going to be in place at the start of this process just may be the guys to finish it off.
These new names the Orioles have acquired are important because they and others will be the ones who can perhaps begin the same journey the Cubs started under Theo Epstein Oct. 12, 2011 and culminated in 2016 with the Cubs' first World Series win in 108 years. And it's the same process the Houston Astros started in December 2011 when they brought in Jeff Luhnow that led to the Astros' first World Series in their 55th year of doing business.
The most important signal Angelos can send to his still suffering but engaged fan base is that he has grown to respect them as adult fans. Fans know you can't win a championship every year. These things are damned hard to win, as evidenced by those two aforementioned teams who between them suffered 162 seasons before winning titles in 2016 and 2017.
But whereas those two teams had to bring in new people, I am saying here and now that while going young is the right move on the field, the two wise, graying guys Angelos has in place in Duquette and Showalter -- whose contract expire after the 2018 season -- deserve extensions now. That way they will know they are thought of highly enough to not only start this process of renovation but to see it through to its logical conclusion -- the O's winning their first World Series since 1983 in, say, 2022.
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