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Let’s start with the truth: the Baltimore Orioles have had a putrid year. They’re 60 games out of first place in the American League East, they have the worst record in baseball, they were the first team to be eliminated from playoff contention and on Monday they tied a franchise record with their 107th loss of the season.
It can’t be easy playing for a team that loses so much and with such ease. Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph confirmed that on Monday when he spoke to Dan Connolly of The Athletic. Joseph didn’t mince words — he had harsh ones not just for his team, but for the front office that put it together.
Joseph spoke to The Athletic before Monday’s franchise record-setting loss, and he was brutally honest about both the team and the front office.
“I’ll tell you this. I’ve never seen sports teams survive seasons like this without people losing jobs, period. Players, you name it,” Joseph said. “It’s a privilege to be here, but you don’t lose a record number of games and not expect some retribution. Everybody. Every single locker in here should be thinking, ‘You know, I should be fired because I sucked. Period.’”
And because the team is so bad, he doesn’t blame fans for not showing up.
“I don’t blame (the fans) at all. I’ve been through really bad seasons in professional sports as a fan in Nashville. It’s not motivating. Of course, I don’t blame them at all (for not attending games). We suck.”
Joseph also expressed concern for how the excessive losing was affecting the development of the many young players on the team. Would experiencing a season like this make them accustomed to losing?
“Losing absolutely wears on you and when you’ve done it as often as we have, sadly, it almost becomes the norm. And that’s absolutely unacceptable,” Joseph said. “And that’s what scares me about these youngsters. And the team is full of youngsters. This is not OK. And we can talk about it as much as we want and say in meetings that it’s not OK. It’s just not. On winning teams, they replace people (who don’t produce and want to win).”
One of the worst seasons in baseball history
The Orioles are already having a historically terrible season, but just how bad is it? With 12 games to go, they’re already having one of the worst baseball seasons in the last 75 years. If the season ended today, they would have a .287 win percentage. Since 1943, only three teams have done worse: the 1952 Pittsburgh Pirates (.273), the 2003 Detroit Tigers (.265), and the 1962 New York Mets (.250, woof).
How did they get here? It’s a combination of factors. Bad drafting, bad signings and little-to-no participation in the international free agent market has certainly led them to where they are now, on the edge of the worst kind of baseball history. And when all of those bad decisions converge, you get a team that can’t find a win with a map, a flashlight, a GPS tracker and a dude yelling and pointing “The wins are over here!”
Chris Davis, who was once MLB’s home run king, is having one of the worst single seasons in baseball history. There are only two everyday players hitting above .260, Adam Jones and Jonathan Villar — and Villar has only been with the team since the trade deadline! Not a single pitcher in their starting rotation has an ERA below 4.50, and most of their top line relievers don’t have an ERA under 4.00. It’s hard to win games if both the offense and the pitching are terrible.
There is a little good news, though. Even if the Orioles lose every single game they have left, they won’t surpass the 1962 Mets; they’d tie the 2003 Tigers with a win percentage of .265. Small victories, right?
Hope for the future?
Considering how bad things are in Baltimore, there can only be hope for the future — how much worse could it get? (That’s a trick question, because it could absolutely get worse — the Orioles could win even fewer games next year.) And Joseph thinks he knows what the team needs to recapture in order to move in a different direction.
“There’s a number of aspects that have to get back to what this organization is known for to then begin to start hoping again,” Joseph said. “There are certain elements that this club, when going well, was known for. Good solid defense, a never-give-up attitude, hustle approach. It may not be flashy, but it’s gritty, it embraces the type of style I think the city is. Very blue-collar mentality, and I’m not seeing a lot of that. If you can get those elements back, where you are playing good, clean, solid baseball games, yeah, maybe start the hope.”
Joseph has been with the Orioles since he was drafted in 2008, and he gave a good blueprint for the kind of players that usually thrive with the team. But looking at where that has led them, it may be time to reevaluate that blueprint. Or at least the men who drew it, and that’s GM Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter. Duquette has been with Baltimore since 2011, and Showalter since 2010. With them, the Orioles have reached the playoffs three times. But in the years they didn’t, they ended up with double-digit deficits in the AL East.
The Orioles have a tremendous number of problems to address in their rebuild. And with the contracts of Showalter and Duquette set to expire at the end of the season, owner Peter Angelos and his sons need to ask themselves if those two are the right people to address them.
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