All winter, the game of baseball took a backseat to economic discussions—both the fun kind (the two free agent bonanzas that bookended the offseason) and the not-so-fun kind (the lockout). And yet, like a brumating tortoise startled back to activity by an early heat wave, this year’s truncated spring training gives way to meaningful baseball on Thursday. What wonders await this season that could rival the Ohtanimania, surprising Giants, and numerous fun playoff series of 2021? And what will the competitive order be?
1. Toronto Blue Jays
Last year’s Blue Jays won 91 games, second most by a non-playoff team in the two-wild-card era. They got only half a season from star center fielder George Springer (injury) and from two starters: the bearlike former West Virginia Mountaineer Alek Manoah, and veteran right-hander José Berríos. They lost Marcus Semien but replaced him with Matt Chapman this offseason. They lost Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and not only replaced him with Kevin Gausman—whom I might actually consider a slight upgrade—but also bagged free agent lefty Yusei Kikuchi, who could be a Robbie Ray starter set.
Toronto’s franchise players—Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette—are only just entering their primes. And it bears repeating that the 2021 Blue Jays played 116 road games, while the 2022 edition will have an ironclad vaccination requirement for visiting players, the competitive effects of which are probably overstated but not zero. The AL East is the only division with four playoff-quality teams, so the schedule could still work against Toronto. But this club has so much upside and so few obvious weaknesses that it’s hard not to get carried away.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
I’ve been doing these power rankings for several years now, and the blurb for the Dodgers is always the same: big payroll, Clayton Kershaw, one or more Turners, top prospects near the majors, between 95 and 105 wins, see you in the playoffs. And so it is again in April 2022. The biggest question mark is how long it’ll take to get used to seeing Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel in Dodgers colors, and Kenley Jansen in Braves colors—sort of like seeing Cole Trickle driving Rowdy’s car at the end of Days of Thunder.
Anyway, seems like business as usual here. We’ll check back in for the Dodgers’ customary blockbuster trade deadline acquisition, and then again to see what banana peels they have to navigate in October.
3. New York Mets
Turns out $250 million can buy a hell of a baseball team—and not just in terms of superstars like Max Scherzer and Francisco Lindor, but quality supporting players as well. Adding Starling Marte and Mark Canha to a lineup that already had Lindor and Brandon Nimmo at the top is quite a luxury. Pete Alonso might drive in 150 runs this year.
And the pitching! Carlos Carrasco barely featured in 2021 but is back in action after having a bone spur removed from his elbow. Chris Bassitt was severely underrated in Oakland but won’t be for much longer. And then there are two of the best pitchers in the world: Jacob deGr—oh dear. Needing four weeks off the mound following a shoulder injury doesn’t sound good. “Stress reaction” is not only what happened to deGrom’s scapula, it’s also what Buck Showalter and everyone in the Mets organization is probably having right now.
Still, this is why Steve Cohen shelled out for Max Scherzer … who just missed a spring training start with a hamstring injury. That probably sounds worse than it is just because it followed deGrom’s injury so closely. Scherzer is 37, with a lot of miles on his arm—he’s thrown at least 170 innings in every non-pandemic season since 2009—so he’s right to avoid pitching through even mild discomfort with nothing on the line.
Only, these are the Mets, so when Scherzer says his issue is just a “hiccup,” I think of Charles Osborne, who started hiccupping in 1922 and didn’t stop until February 1990. Can a team as well-resourced as the Mets stand to lose deGrom for a couple months? Absolutely. But few teams can keep on trucking without the best pitcher in the world long term, particularly if its co-ace is fighting the hiccups in the meantime. Never a dull moment with this team.
4. Atlanta Braves
The Braves just won the World Series without the help of their best player. Their core is not only young, it’s almost all back in 2022; the only exception, Freeman, has been replaced in kind by Matt Olson. They have offensive depth, athleticism, and a pitching staff that’s deep with trustworthy arms. And yet ranking them no. 4 on this list might be a little aggressive, because the Braves have plenty of nagging questions. How much of the postseason magic—the Eddie Rosario breakout, the bullpen—is repeatable in 2022? How much will they get from Ronald Acuña Jr., who’s playing his way back into shape after tearing his ACL 10 months ago? Or from Mike Soroka, who’s had so many Achilles injuries MLB ought to rule the Braves out of the exhibition game in Paris? (I know it’s a stretch, but you’ll get it if you try hard enough.)
Most of all, the Braves got to the playoffs last year not only because they were excellent down the stretch, but also because the Phillies and Mets both completely imploded. That can’t happen every year—OK, it’s the Phillies and Mets, it probably can happen every year. But even the Marlins could be feisty this season. Atlanta can’t just rely on being the least-self-sabotaging team in the division forever.
5. Houston Astros
Oh yeah, Justin Verlander’s still on this team, isn’t he? That’s easy to forget, as the Astros won a third pennant in five years without Verlander or Lance McCullers Jr. (for most of the postseason, at least) at the front of their rotation.
There’s an illusion of consistency with the Astros, who have made the ALCS five years running and made the playoffs six times since 2015. But with Carlos Correa in Minnesota, the only remaining players from the 2015 team are McCullers and Jose Altuve, plus Jason Castro, who left the club after the 2016 season and returned last year. Everything else—even the face of the franchise—gets rolled over incrementally.
So far, it’s working. Even without Correa, the lineup packs an attractive combination of power and contact skills, and even with McCullers on the IL, the rotation goes an easy five deep. I don’t know if this team has another 100-win season in it, but it seems reasonable to expect a comfortable, uneventful run to the division title.
6. Chicago White Sox
There will be a special prayer service in the chapel at 2 p.m. on Friday for Lance Lynn’s knee tendons. Light refreshments will be served afterward. The Cy Young finalist will be out until around Memorial Day while he recovers from surgery. And while the White Sox lineup should keep the team afloat until Lynn returns in all his glory, members of our faith community should look to one another for strength in these trying times.
7. San Francisco Giants
Last year’s Giants made a lot of people—including me—look foolish with an impressive 107-win campaign that should’ve been rewarded with a longer playoff run. Can they repeat it?
Well, on the plus side, this is a legitimately excellent starting rotation even after losing Gausman to free agency. Logan Webb’s NLDS performance was probably my favorite non-Ohtani-based event of the 2021 season. Here, let’s watch it again.
Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood are back, Carlos Rodón might be the bargain of this free agent class, and fellow newcomer Alex Cobb has had an encouraging spring as well. Even Matthew Boyd, the erstwhile no. 6 starter currently recovering from a flexor tendon injury, is just the kind of pitcher who’s found a second life on the Giants in the past few years.
The negatives: They relied a lot on an old lineup last year. And even if Evan Longoria, Tommy La Stella, and the Brandons (Belt and Crawford) basically replicate their 2021 production, the Giants still have to replace Buster Posey. Never mind Posey’s reputation and stature within the team: How many other catchers can give you .304/.390/.499 over 450 plate appearances? Does former no. 2 pick Joey Bart have that kind of season in his toolbox?
So it’s wait and see with this Giants club. The rotation alone makes them a playoff contender and a must-watch MLB.tv team, but nothing beyond that is guaranteed.
8. Tampa Bay Rays
I don’t know through what contrivances the Rays will win 90-something games and make the playoffs, but they will. It could be something obvious like Brandon Lowe and Wander Franco turning into this season’s Bichette and Semien, or we could be sitting here in September watching Ford Proctor, who’s a catcher now apparently, hit his 30th home run to polish off his Rookie of the Year campaign.
9. San Diego Padres
On Sunday, the Padres picked up left-hander Sean Manaea from the consignment store where the Oakland A’s ballpark used to be. This acquisition answers some questions about San Diego’s rotation depth, but raises some new ones. Such as: By adding Manaea to a group that already includes Blake Snell, Mike Clevinger, and Tim Hill, are they building a pitching staff or an Allman Brothers tribute band?
All joking aside, a 79-win season was hardly the intended follow-up to a 2020 campaign in which the Padres became the trendiest team in baseball. But while the plan for 2022 includes a new manager (Bob Melvin), and a few upgrades in supporting roles (Manaea, Luke Voit, a freshly repatriated Nick Martinez), the team’s basic blueprint remains the same. That’s probably the right approach to take; this is still a deep and talented lineup, and it’s unlikely the starting pitching will go sideways quite as catastrophically as it did last year—particularly with Manaea on board and Clevinger back from a torn UCL. And hey, maybe they even fixed MacKenzie Gore!
The big question for the Padres now is how long Fernando Tatis Jr.’s wrist injury will keep him out. Ha-seong Kim is a competent replacement at shortstop, but nobody can fill that void. So count me as cautiously optimistic that the Padres can return to their full potential in 2022.
10. Milwaukee Brewers
Last year before the playoffs, I predicted that the Brewers’ pitching staff would carry them to a title. Sure, the offense was uninspiring, but the Corbin Burnes–Brandon Woodruff–Freddy Peralta–Josh Hader many-headed monster proved to be one of the most effective run prevention units ever assembled. The Brewers wouldn’t have to score much because they could win every game 2-1.
Turns out, two runs a game was more than this offense could eke out. The Braves held them to six runs in four NLDS games and shut them out twice. And while Christian Yelich, Willy Adames, and their confreres can beat up on a weak division and make it to October easily, it’s hard to forget how little they accomplished last fall. The pitching staff should be just as good as last year, and maybe even better if you’re high on young left-hander Aaron Ashby. But what did the Brewers add to the offense this winter? Andrew McCutchen’s on-base skills will help, as will swapping Jackie Bradley Jr.’s bat for Hunter Renfroe’s. But unless Yelich rediscovers his MVP form, I don’t see a true impact hitter in this lineup.
11. New York Yankees
I’d like this team better if they wore different uniforms. There’s upside here—even first-place upside, if Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton stay healthy again. I love Joey Gallo’s fit with this team. I think Isiah Kiner-Falefa has more offensive ability than he showed last year, and even if he slugs in the .350s once more, it’ll be worth it to never have to see Gleyber Torres play shortstop again. Gerrit Cole is great, Jordan Montgomery is quietly coming off an excellent year, and getting even 25 starts from Luis Severino would be a game changer.
But on the whole … it’s uninspiring. Like a more expensive version of the Giants with more power but worse starting pitching. And that’s just not what we’ve come to expect from the Yankees for most of the past 100 years. On paper, Toronto’s got a better rotation and better players at more positions. Tampa Bay’s ability to produce more than the sum of its parts has put it ahead of the Yankees in the standings two years in a row. The Yankees will probably make the playoffs, but they could also quite realistically finish fourth in the division. Or, thanks to the new 12-team playoff format, they could do both.
12. Boston Red Sox
This team is quite like the Yankees: Good, maybe very good, but it should be great. It’s hard to top having Trevor Story, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers at three infield positions, but a team with Boston’s resources ought to be able to do better at first base than Bobby Dalbec, who’s … fine. It’s the same story in the outfield: fine. And while I’m bullish on aspects of this rotation, specifically Tanner Houck and Nick Pivetta, the sooner the Sox get Chris Sale and James Paxton off the IL, the better. Boston is a contender, but like most of the teams in this part of the list, it’s still a couple moves from being a playoff lock.
13. Philadelphia Phillies
Good or bad, the 2022 Phillies will be interesting. Their power-above-all-else offseason has generated comparisons to the 2007 edition, which is the highest-scoring NL team of the post-steroid era. (Certainly Phillies fans seem as self-effacingly horny for Nick Castellanos now as they were for Pat Burrell then.) A better optimistic comparison in my mind would be the 1993 team, which had one MVP-caliber outfielder, an elite catcher, a very good starting rotation, and a bunch of scuzzy-looking dudes who got on base. In both cases, the less said about the bullpen the better.
But in contrast to the past five seasons, in which the plan was to let some combination of Bryce Harper, Zack Wheeler, and Aaron Nola carry the team and live with obvious flaws, there does seem to be a coherent vision: We want the ball, and we’re going to score. The top six hitters in the lineup will be some combination of Kyle Schwarber, Jean Segura, Harper, Castellanos, Rhys Hoskins, and J.T. Realmuto. And if Matt Vierling can handle center field, or Alec Bohm gets un-screwed-up, or Bryson Stott can claim either shortstop or third base, or Didi Gregorius isn’t completely washed, that group could become even more dangerous.
The Phillies’ biggest problem last year (apart from the bullpen) was the fact that they wasted Harper’s MVP season by making him take almost 60 percent of his plate appearances with the bases empty. Replacing Odubel Herrera with Schwarber at the top of the order solves that problem. And now, if Harper gets on base at anything like last year’s .429 clip, Castellanos will be able to drive him in.
Optimism! In Philadelphia of all places! What a concept.
14. Minnesota Twins
Love the lineup. Even accounting for the inconsistencies of Miguel Sanó and Max Kepler, the inexperience of Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach, and Byron Buxton’s inability to jog from dugout to center field and back without straining something, this team will score a lot of runs. Gary Sánchez might be the biggest change-of-scenery breakout candidate in a decade. Gio Urshela isn’t Josh Donaldson at the plate, but over the past three years he’s been closer than you might think. Oh, and almost as an afterthought, the Twins picked up Carlos Correa, who for my money was the best position player available on the free agent market. Correa brings instant two-way impact and superstar credibility to a team that needs all the help it can get.
Now, will this team be able to get anyone out? Doesn’t look like it. Sonny Gray is good, if a little short of an ideal no. 1 starter on a playoff team. And after that, the plan seems to be … hope the good versions of Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy show up? Hope rookie Joe Ryan can throw 180 innings? The Twins are probably two or three pitchers short of the playoffs as currently constituted. If there isn’t a trade in the near future, Correa and his buddies had better be comfortable playing a lot of 9-8 games.
15. Seattle Mariners
Seattle had a classic transitional offseason. The much-ballyhooed young core is starting to peek through the soil: Jarred Kelenic, Cal Raleigh, and Logan Gilbert all debuted in 2021, with Julio Rodríguez and George Kirby not far behind. So wheeler-dealer extraordinaire Jerry Dipoto got them some help: Jesse Winker, Adam Frazier, and reigning Cy Young winner Robbie Ray.
This is the most exciting Mariners team in a few years, but, not to continue to beat a dead horse, it’s still roughly one Kris Bryant short of making the Astros sweat.
16. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals—or as those in the know call them, the Old Money Rays—will probably do just fine in a weak division and be in the wild card hunt into September. Dylan Carlson is an exciting talent, and Nolan Arenado is Nolan Arenado, so the floor on this team is relatively high. But they’re old in some uncomfortable places: the Albert Pujols reunion is more of a feel-good story than a competitive statement, and 40-year-old Adam Wainwright and 39-year-old Yadier Molina are still carrying a heavy load on this team. Even Paul Goldschmidt is 34 all of a sudden.
To be honest, I’d feel a lot better about this group—probably “make the playoffs” better—if I knew Jack Flaherty would make 25 or 30 starts. The 26-year-old Flaherty was the best pitcher in the NL for the last two months of 2019, but he hasn’t been quite right since and is currently battling bursitis and something called a SLAP tear in his throwing shoulder. (Chris Rock nods in sympathy, rim shot, please tip your waitresses.) If the Mets can ill afford to lose deGrom long term, the Cardinals can afford to lose Flaherty even less.
17. Los Angeles Angels
Here’s some fun with arbitrary cutoff points: The Angels’ projected Opening Day roster has two players with at least five career pitching appearances and at least 20 appearances at other defensive positions: Jared Walsh and Michael Lorenzen. Not Shohei Ohtani. Getting all the two-way players is a good bit for the Angels—they should trade for Brendan McKay and Jake Cronenworth. Noah Syndergaard was a first base prospect in high school, maybe they should try him there too.
Anyway, if Ohtani, Mike Trout, and Anthony Rendon are all healthy at the same time, and the Angels get anything at all from their pitching staff and homegrown outfielders Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh, they could cause trouble for the Astros. If not, well, finishing precisely in fourth place five seasons in a row is some kind of accomplishment, I guess.
18. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are second, after Seattle, on the list of teams that have been rebuilding for ages but might finally turn the corner this year. Detroit, somewhat quietly, won 77 games in 2021, and when you look up and down the roster, you find yourself thinking “Hey, that guy’s pretty good” an awful lot. Jeimer Candelario? Pretty good. Jonathan Schoop? Pretty good. Robbie Grossman? Pretty good. Also pretty good: top pitching prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, who were bad as rookies in 2020 but much improved in their first full seasons in the majors. Maybe Matt Manning (5.80 ERA in 2021) will make a similar leap in 2022.
Javier Báez and Eduardo Rodríguez aren’t superstars, but they’ll be valuable parts of the next good Tigers team. And like the Mariners, Detroit has a top-five prospect to bring up in 2020 no. 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson. Outfielder Riley Greene will likely make his debut when his foot heals, and perhaps catcher Dillon Dingler as well. This isn’t a playoff team yet—unless Tork comes up and hits 50 bombs as a rookie—but it will be soon.
19. Chicago Cubs
Chicago’s full-scale teardown last July left a few good players behind: Kyle Hendricks, Willson Contreras, and Ian Happ. The young double-play combination of Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal should be interesting, and adding Seiya Suzuki and Marcus Stroman in free agency is more than a lot of erstwhile contenders did this offseason. This is still a real estate development company first and a baseball team second—but if the Brewers have a couple awkward pitching injuries, the Cubs could fight for a playoff spot.
20. Miami Marlins
Here’s a proposal: About half the NL Central doesn’t seem interested in contending anytime soon. So until the Reds and Pirates have loftier ambitions than collecting revenue-sharing checks in front of an empty ballpark, I say we float the Marlins off the tip of Florida, across the Gulf of Mexico, and over to New Orleans and let them play in the Central.
It’s not like the Marlins have been a bastion of competitive interest; their own reluctance to spend as recently as this winter may have played a role in Derek Jeter’s departure. But somehow they’ve assembled one of the most exciting pitching staffs in the league, and that’s even with Sixto Sánchez on the IL and Max Meyer in the minors. Their lineup won’t score much—here, the spare cash to pick up even a Canha or a Suzuki would’ve gone a long way—but with Trevor Rogers, Sandy Alcantara, and Pablo López in the rotation, it won’t have to.
In the NL East, Miami is probably doomed to be an exciting and annoying fourth-place team—maybe a third-place team if one of the Mets or Phillies goes belly-up again. Move them to the NL Central and give them a real shot at winning something.
21. Kansas City Royals
Bobby Witt is coming to the big leagues! Woooo! [Puts underpants on head, runs around house blowing a vuvuzela until the neighbors call the cops.]
Hear that crack of the bat? That was loud. Sounded like a hawser snapping in rough seas. And that’s a 21-year-old shortstop. Witt’s arrival in the majors coincides with the return of a transcendent Royals prospect of old, Zack Greinke. The 38-year-old Greinke is presumably back in Kansas City to play out the string, and/or serve as an extremely weird mentor to the Royals’ crop of talented young pitchers. And while I’m sure the Royals’ eventual hope is to become more than a fourth-place team with a few fun story lines, a Greinke-and-the-kids reality show might be more fun to watch than another World Series run.
22. Washington Nationals
The Nats’ rebuild needs to be a quick one, because the one thing they cannot do is let Juan Soto walk as a free agent at the end of the 2024 season. In order to get good again that soon, they have to answer a few questions by the end of this season: Are Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg cooked? Can they build around their young catching tandem of Keibert Ruiz and Riley Adams? Will Carter Kieboom ever figure out big league pitching? If enough of those come up affirmative, they could dive back into the free agent market next winter and contend again in 2023.
23. Texas Rangers
The Rangers, after sneaking Semien and Corey Seager through the lines just before the lockout, have one of the best middle infields in the league—but maybe only one or two other above-average MLB players. Still, super-prospects Josh Jung and Jack Leiter aren’t too far off. The team’s years of fire sales have brought back a couple interesting young pitchers like Dane Dunning and Spencer Howard. And one nice thing about trotting out a stars-and-scrubs roster like this: It’s very easy to upgrade weak spots when they’re this weak. Texas is still a long way from being competitive, but it’s definitely on an upward trajectory.
24. Colorado Rockies
I don’t understand the past eight months or so of Rockies roster construction. Colorado not only didn’t trade Trevor Story and Jon Gray at the deadline, it basically chased those players out the door when they hit free agency. Then instead of completing the teardown by offloading the likes of Germán Márquez, the Rockies signed Kris Bryant to a $182 million contract. Three days later, they signed third baseman Ryan McMahon to a six-year contract extension, moving Bryant off the position where his bat would be most valuable.
There’s too much talent here, with the aforementioned players plus Brendan Rodgers and Charlie Blackmon—remember him?—for the Rockies to be truly awful. But the path to the playoffs, particularly in a division with the Dodgers, Giants, and Padres, is unclear.
25. Cincinnati Reds
Joey Votto has won an MVP award, made six All-Star teams, and led the NL in on-base percentage seven times. I think he’s a slam-dunk Hall of Fame player. And yet the most impressive thing about his career is looking at home on TikTok at age 38.
+ + + ♂️♬ My Name Is - D Billions
26. Cleveland Guardians
Of all the teams around the bottom of the league that just don’t try—and there are several to choose from—I think this is the one I find most viscerally upsetting. Last year was their first losing season since 2012; along the way they had three division titles, a thrilling run to the World Series in 2016, and a 102-win season with a 22-game winning streak in 2017. They developed, as if from nowhere, multiple MVP contenders and multiple Cy Young winners, and did it all in a small market for not that much money. As much as the Dolan family could’ve gone the extra mile to win a ring, Cleveland was an example of how to win on brains and guile.
In 2022, they’re running a rock-bottom payroll. Their greatest influence on the playoff race will probably depend on whether and where they trade Shane Bieber and José Ramírez. Even the long-overdue and necessary name change feels low-effort: “Guardians” might fit with a local landmark, but they only have to swap out half the letters on the marquee this way. What a shame.
27. Arizona Diamondbacks
The worst part of a rebuild is coming off a 110-loss season without much hope for the immediate future. And I’m not sure whether it’s better or worse that the D-backs haven’t gutted the team to the foundations the way the Orioles did. Zac Gallen and Madison Bumgarner are still around, Ketel Marte and Merrill Kelly just got extensions. They brought in a couple veteran relievers—Mark Melancon and Ian Kennedy—who can be flipped at the deadline for prospects and keep things from getting too ugly in the meantime. But there will probably be a lot of pain between now and the next playoff run.
28. Oakland A’s
This is one of the most storied franchises in the league, situated in one of the richest markets in the country, coming off playoff appearances in three of the past four years. So what’d they do this offseason? Gut the team.
Gone are Olson, Bassitt, Chapman, and Manaea—four of the top five players on the 2021 team in bWAR—plus Canha, Marte, and Yan Gomes. The player who finished fifth in bWAR last season, Frankie Montas, is probably headed out the door as well. The A’s are in the process of trying to finagle a free ballpark and/or real estate development out of local government, under the pretense that the team’s current stadium is unfit for purpose and drives away fans. Whether gutting the team every few years has any impact on attendance, well, who’s to say?
29. Pittsburgh Pirates
Hey, that whole Cole Tucker–and–Vanessa Hudgens thing still seems to be going strong. Good for them.
30. Baltimore Orioles
In 2016, the Baltimore Orioles made the playoffs for the third time in five years in an extremely tough division. The next year, they finished below .500. The year after that, they lost 115 games and hired Mike Elias as GM. Elias was a longtime protégé of former Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, who famously resurrected Houston from similar—I’d argue worse—circumstances in the early 2010s.
Luhnow took over a 106-loss Astros team after the 2011 season. They lost at least 107 games in each of his first two seasons in charge. In year three, they called up George Springer, picked up Collin McHugh off waivers, traded for Dexter Fowler, and had Dallas Keuchel, Marwin Gonzalez, and Jose Altuve take big leaps forward. In year four, they made the playoffs, and in year six of Luhnow’s tenure, they won the World Series.
This is Elias’s fourth season in charge. In two of his first three seasons, the Orioles lost at least 108 games; in the other, they finished 25-35 in a pandemic-shortened campaign and probably would’ve lost 100 games that year too if it had been a normal year.
There’s an argument to be made that Cedric Mullins is Elias’s Altuve, and John Means is his Keuchel. Grayson Rodriguez and Adley Rutschman (if the Orioles ever stop treating his service time the way Charlie Bucket treats a candy bar) can be their equivalent to Springer and Correa. But those are big assumptions. And as bad as Luhnow’s Astros were—and at the time, his tanking project was seen as scandalous, cynical, garment-rending, and unprecedented—they were already making obvious progress by this point in their rebuild cycle. Where, then, are the Orioles?