Baltimore Orioles: No Chris Davis? No Season Tickets


This is a very important offseason for Peter Angelos and the Baltimore Orioles that could redefine the future of this franchise for years to come. And how my future Sunday’s will be spent during baseball season.

There is a generation of Baltimoreans who are just now seeing the club as winners. However, many O’s fans suffered through almost two decades of losing seasons and an owner that seemed more concerned about making money than winning games.

Under the guidance of Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette, the Orioles have gone from a ball club struggling for wins to two playoff berths and an American League Championship Series appearance. Now the future of the franchise might come down to one critical offseason.

The Orioles constructed the core of this team brilliantly. Adam Jones is the perfect example of a player you want leading your franchise. They got Chris Davis and Darren O’Day in Baltimore for almost nothing after failed stints in Texas. They have terrific young pieces to build around in Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop and Zach Britton. They took a chance on Nelson Cruz and it worked out beautifully that season.

The Orioles were able to build this team in large part because the salaries worked out perfectly. Most of the key pieces were playing at discounted prices, but they are now set for their pay day after turning the O’s from perennial basement dwellers to a relevant franchise once again.

I have watched the turnaround from the friendly confines of Section 82 at The Yard since the 2011 season in which they finished with just 69 wins. Many people wondered why we were sweating out those August days to watch a team that did not have a winning season dating back to 1997. We believed in Buck, and our loyalty was rewarded.

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One year later, Baltimore was back in the playoffs. They became the first AL Wild Card winner by defeating the Texas Rangers on the road. Sitting just a few rows back from the New York Yankees dugout during the ALDS, we made sure Alex Rodriguez heard our two cents about his steroid use. They failed to take down the Yankees in that series, but you could sense that the turnaround was legit.

The Orioles’ run in 2014 was one that I and many others will never forget. The sound of that roar inside Camden Yards when Delmon Young hit that bases-loaded triple in the eighth inning to give Baltimore the lead. That is the loudest I have ever heard a stadium in 30 years of attending sporting events.

When the Orioles made the push that new season ticket holders would be eligible to buy postseason tickets during the 2014 run, our group grew. Our crew of six season ticket holders has now grown to as many as 11 guys on Sunday afternoons. Sure, that’s not millions of dollars for the team to use, but between the tickets and amount of alcohol that can flow on a few of those warm Sunday afternoons, I would like to think that’s a good chunk of change the Orioles are getting from us.

The O’s lured in a new generation of fans that committed to season tickets in return for playoff baseball. They managed to finish this season at .500, but now the future is in the hands of Angelos as almost all of us will decide whether or not we renew our season ticket packages based on the moves that Peter makes this offseason.

Jones, J.J. Hardy and Ubaldo Jimenez are the only two players on the roster who know what the future holds for them. The rest of this team are in limbo for the next few seasons. One of the best first basemen in baseball might be on the way out. The same for a dominant setup man who revived his career here. Then there is left-handed pitcher that’s performed admirably while in Baltimore. There is a likelihood that not one of those free agents is back next season.

So I ask: why should us fans invest our time and money on a team when the owner won’t do the same?

The Orioles are expected to have roughly $50 million to spend on free agents, yet it’s already sounding like Davis and O’Day have one foot out the door because they know Peter won’t pay up. That’s exactly why Baltimore fans have had little faith in Angelos since he has taken over this franchise. He doesn’t make keeping his own a priority.

The Orioles will never have the resources to spend with the Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers. They also don’t have the same market as the Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers or Chicago Cubs. And despite the recent ruling on the MASN ordeal, the O’s don’t have the same payroll as the Washington Nationals either. No one is expecting Angelos to try to get into a bidding war with these teams.

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What Peter can do is move the Orioles payroll into the top half of the league. There is no reason that the O’s should be behind the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds in spending. They are in a better financial situation than the Pittsburgh Pirates and Minnesota Twins, but looking at the current payroll, you wouldn’t know it. How does Angelos prove to the Baltimore faithful that he is committed to winning, not only making money?

He starts by making the biggest splash of the offseason by keeping Davis in an Orioles uniform, regardless of the numbers. If the rumblings are true that Peter wants to increase the payroll by $20 million, that money alone should go to a player that has thrived under Showalter with two seasons of 45-plus home runs. Then the O’s fill the rest of the roster with the remaining $30 million that they remaining.

Davis is more than just a hell of a ball player. He’s the kind of guy you want on your team. Hard-working. Humble. A leader. Great with the media. He did slip up with the 25-game suspension for Adderall, but otherwise has been a fantastic fit with the Orioles.

Jones needs Davis and vice versa. The two bats are the catalyst for the Orioles offense and the makeup of this team would have to change without Davis. The O’s live and die by the home run, but it will not work without Davis’ production.

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Davis and the rest of the free agents have all said they would like to stay in Baltimore. The harsh reality is that the Orioles cannot keep them all, but they can keep the key cog of this offense. You cannot let someone who has hit 161 home runs in his time here just walk away. The front office is not going to find another player capable of posting those kinds of numbers for a lesser price.

So Peter, if you’re serious about making this franchise a championship team for the years to come, Chris Davis needs to continue wearing an Orioles uniform. Otherwise, you have a group of season ticket holders that have no desire to spend their money either.