Allegany Communications Sports

Watching the Baltimore Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, one can experience many similar feelings about both clubs that at once can provide hope, but at once can temper any real enthusiasm because of the messed-up (a nice way of putting it) cases of ownership that exist for both franchises.

First of all, both teams have been a floundering mess, and both teams have their inadequate ownerships to thank for that. Second of all, neither team is really very good yet, yet both teams continue to show flashes during their respective rebuilds to enable their fans to experience a feel and a sense of hope.

Thirdly, both teams currently put promising young players on the field at the Major League level to provide a daily glimpse of what might become, and both franchises reportedly are extremely well stocked in their respective farm systems to tempt one to peak a little further into their semi-immediate futures.

Yet this temptation, despite the progress that is clearly visible each night on the big-league level, is tempered by the inherent reminder of Point 1: For different reasons, both teams have been a floundering mess, and both teams have their inadequate ownerships to thank for that.

Take yesterday’s very weird Pirates game: Center fielder Bryan Reynolds hit three home runs and drove in six runs to lead the Bucs to a come-from-behind 8-7 win over the Nationals in Washington to end a five-game losing streak.

Three homers in one game is nothing to sneeze at. But Reynolds’ teammate, leftfielder Jack Suwinski had already done it this year. Ke’Bryan Hayes is a sold, timely hitter as well, and is playing some of the best third base in baseball. In fact, Hayes could just as easily play shortstop and second base and be just as good as he is at third.

And shortstop Oneil Cruz? Oh, Lordy. That young man is a freak – 6-foot-7, can run like the wind and can throw the ball as hard as it comes off his bat, which is oftentimes well over 100 miles per hour.

The Bucs are also solid at second base and behind the plate. There is a lot to like here, and a lot to watch as it all, hopefully, begins to come to fruition.

Now take the Orioles: They haven’t reached the postseason since 2016 and have finished last in their division four times since Buck Showalter’s meltdown in Toronto (and I absolutely love Buck). After yesterday’s 9-3 loss at Seattle (thanks to meltdowns in the second and third innings), they stand at 35-41, the best winning percentage of any last-place team (though the O’s are in the AL East) in MLB. Yet regardless of what happens tomorrow in Minnesota, the Orioles will finish June with their first winning full-calendar month since August 2017.

Kind of like being the tallest midget? Okay, but when you hit the lowest points that the Orioles have made a home in for the past five years, you’re happy to take anything. You know, first step of a thousand-mile journey, and all that?

The Orioles’ best starting pitcher in the big leagues, John Means, is out for the season, as is their best minor-league pitcher, Grayson Rodriguez, the top pitching prospect in baseball, but, with yesterday being one of the few exceptions, the Orioles keep pitching pretty darn well each night to stay alive in nearly every game.

Like the Pirates, the Orioles do not quit. They play good defense, particularly in the outfield. They battle to the final out of each game and have been a very enjoyable watch this season. What’s not to like? A bunch of young guys trying to make their mark in the big leagues and taking on all comers while trying to get by in one of the two most powerful divisions (NL West being the other one) in baseball?

Neither the Pirates nor the Orioles entered the season with delusions of grandeur. They both knew the score coming in, and that score was to scrap, to battle, try to win every game possible and take the opportunities when they come to show the baseball world what you’ve got.

So the win-loss records aren’t what they once were for these storied franchises in years gone by, particularly in the ‘70s. At least not yet. But they’re surely a heckuva lot better than they’ve been in the past five seasons.

Even better than that, until both rebuilds go full throttle (and we’re getting closer) and the onus is on competing for division titles, both the Orioles and the Pirates make you believe when you watch them play each night that they truly believe they’re going to win this and any game, and have no intention of losing it.

I’ll watch and enjoy that every day and every night of the week. Which is what I have been doing.

Just don’t tell the owners.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT