Put the solace the Orioles will take in the Rangers team that swept them out of the playoffs winning the World Series and the lessons they learned from how Texas achieved it into a cup, and what will you have?
Probably a pretty empty cup.
The first part is simple. They lost to a team that was hot when it mattered most, and largely stayed hot, defeating the defending World Series champion Houston Astros on their way to winning a title of their own. If anything, the Orioles will probably rue their inability to push the tying run across at any point in Game 1 — thus allowing the series to spiral out of control — even more now that they’ve seen the path Texas had to the championship.
With the second, Texas was never meant to be an inspiration to the Orioles. The Rangers spent nearly $900 million on deals over the last two years, likely more than the total the Orioles will pay players for this entire decade. The Orioles won’t be persuaded to spend by the success of another team’s spending; the whole point of building the way they have is that it avoids that obvious approach. In all likelihood, Texas winning serves as validation of their belief that they need to be the best at identifying and developing talent internally to keep up with teams that spend more.
It’s been how they justified their approach in competition to the Yankees and the Red Sox for years, and it isn’t going to change just because it’s Texas.
This isn’t to say members of the brain trust are so set in their ways that they can’t change anything. Mike Elias and Sig Megjdal have developed their thinking over the course of their front office careers.
The draft model they use now, for example, has significantly evolved from the one left behind in St. Louis a decade ago. As different measurables and data points become available, the club and its decision-makers find different ways to weight and quantify what they value.
That’s trickled into this front office’s decision-making in terms of acquiring players in trades and building the roster at the margin, to an extent, but there comes a time when core beliefs such as the desire for elite swing decisions, hard elevated contact or attractive fastball shapes get lost in the wash where established major leaguers are concerned.
The Orioles seek the qualities they do in hitters and pitchers because they believe they often create successful big leaguers. Naturally, players with those qualities who thrive in the majors end up earning market-rate contracts in free agency and have every right to earn as much money as a team is willing to pay them. And for a variety of reasons, some of which are within the Orioles’ control and some not, other teams often are willing to pay more than Baltimore.
So while the Orioles can look at how many major league-caliber pitchers Texas has and the depth of its rotation, they won’t think of spending hundreds of millions of dollars to replicate it. They’ll probably just be motivated to develop pitchers at a rate that can support that need, something they feel they’re on their way to.
When they look at Corey Seager in the heart of Texas’ lineup being an absolute menace, they won’t think about a $325 million investment of their own. They’ll think about how Gunnar Henderson is on his way to becoming that.
There are other ways to build a team than the Orioles have. But to expect a front office that — with the blessing of ownership — has built a team that’s seeking to compete with big-spending teams through its own development prowess in lieu of big spending themselves seems counter to everything Elias has said about the team’s goals over the last five years.
Texas picked at the top of last year’s draft with the Orioles, yes. It is also far more likely to be back up there before the Orioles are, based on the track record of teams put together the way Texas is. That won’t matter a lick to anyone wearing a World Series ring from this year. This was their goal: to win as fast as possible.
The Orioles’ goal, as we’ve heard often in recent years, has been to get good and create an organization and infrastructure that prevent things from ever getting as bad as they were again. Mission accomplished there, so far.
That, too, is no great solace when the goal is to win a World Series. In coming Octobers, we’ll see if the Orioles’ approach can break through for the real prize. We just know they won’t be taking a page from Texas’ book to do it.