NORFOLK, Va. – These are bad days in Birdland.
Wednesday’s loss at Detroit was the Orioles’ fifth in a row. They’ve dropped eight of their last 10, and – less than three weeks into the season, Baltimore is buried 10 games behind first-place Boston.
2018, billed as a do-or-die season: appears to be on life support. Three of Baltimore’s best players: outfielder Adam Jones, shortstop Manny Machado and closer Zach Britton are not under contract next season. Neither is manager Buck Showalter or executive vice president or baseball operations, Dan Duquette.
We could be mere months (if not weeks) away from Baltimore blowing-up its current roster and front office to being a rebuilding project. What does that mean for the guys next in line? The Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate is the Norfolk Tides and it considered by many, including Showalter, to be one of the best MLB-AAA partnerships in baseball.
“I’ve done this long enough now – I control what I can control,” Tides manager Ron Johnson explained. “I don’t worry about things above my pay grade. As far as looking down the line with contracts running out and free agency around the corner: I’m not stupid. I’m a baseball fan. But from my job purpose: I’m here to get these guys developed and prepared so they can help us win games in Baltimore. The rest is out of my hands so I don’t worry about it.”
Norfolk outfielder DJ Stewart is the 11th-rated prospect in the Orioles organization.
“That’s for the front office and those players to decide,” Stewart explained. “For me: I’m going to play every day like it’s my last day, like my hair is on fire. I want to let them know whenever they need somebody: I’m ready to go and help that team win games. You have guys who have been a part of our organization for a long time and hopefully we continue to have those guys, but whenever my name is called: I’ll be ready.”
The Orioles are 5-and-13 on the season. Norfolk, 5-and-5 in 2018, enters Wednesday night with a half-game lead over Gwinnett in the International League’s South division.