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It's Going To Be Tough Watching Mancini In An Astros Jersey...

I had been looking forward to Monday night for weeks. It was Aug. 1, which meant one of my favorite bands, a Scottish group called CHVRCHES, was coming to The NorVa on their most recent American tour.

I left my apartment and started towards my friend’s place, as we were carpooling. And it was at that moment that I checked a notification on my phone that immediately dampened my mood.

Trey Mancini had been traded to the Houston Astros.

I spent the remainder of the drive trying to exorcise my feelings of disappointment and frustration, hoping to get rid of them all before arriving at the 7:30 p.m. concert. The performance was spectacular and I had an amazing time, but the following day forced me to fully confront my displeasure with the Mancini trade head-on.

Sure, the Orioles received a couple of pitching prospects, and those prospects have names and abilities that may one day help Baltimore win their first World Series since 1983. But it’s hard to comprehend that at the moment.

Whether it be his infectious smile and energy, his willingness to endear himself to the fanbase or his incredible comeback story, Trey Mancini had become the new Mr. Oriole. That role shifts ever so often — it’s been held by the likes of Brooks and Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Cal Ripken Jr., Nick Markakis and Adam Jones.

There’s always that one special player that embodies what it means to be an Oriole.

Mancini embraced that role as a rookie and ran with it. Even as he missed the entirety of the 2020 season, everyone knew who the face of the franchise was. Cedric Mullins had one of the best seasons in Orioles history in 2021, and still we knew that Mancini was the man in the clubhouse.

Mancini has been Mr. Oriole for nearly four years now. Watching him play for another franchise stinks.

From a sanitized point of view, Mancini’s trade makes sense. The Orioles were unlikely to pick up their end of Mancini’s mutual option for $10 million next season. He’s more than likely headed to free agency after the year, and it is doubtful that a rebuilding club like the Orioles will want to expend money on a 32-year-old that is mostly a first baseman and designated hitter now.

Moving Mancini opens up the designated hitter slot, allowing manager Brandon Hyde to rotate players into that spot and give them some easier days while keeping them in the lineup. Adley Rutschman will certainly see some time at designated hitter, as will Mullins, Austin Hays and others.

But fans don’t view things from sanitized points of view and nor should they. Part of being a fan is creating that emotional bond with a team and its players. It allows you to take part in the regular ups and downs of a season. It’s the beauty of sports. Fans have to have a connection with their team.

General managers are different. They have to view things objectively. Age, salary, projected value, and potential replacements are all key components in roster management. Mike Elias has to look at this roster without bias or emotional connection. His job is to make the Orioles better, regardless of what it means.

Yes, it’s still possible that Mancini returns in free agency on a smaller deal. And yes, it is also possible that either or both of Seth Johnson and Chayce McDermott will become stud pitchers that make this trade easier to swallow.

But until then, Mancini’s absence conjures mixed emotions that are hard to handle in the baseball realm. And I’m not the only one who thinks that way — so does Ryan Mountcastle.

The only way to handle it is to focus on the future, which may include a scenario in which the Baltimore Orioles don’t almost ruin my concert plans. Maybe then, the Orioles will brighten my day.

Until then, I’ll keep banking on a CHVRCHES return to The NorVa.

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Friday, 30 September 2022

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