Four Sons, Orioles Style
The Passover tale involving the four sons probably has been interpreted in a million different ways. Well, here’s No. 1,000,001.
The haggadah describes the four sons as four different people, each with his own personality: the wise son, the wicked son, the simple son and the son who does not know how to ask. However, many interpret these brothers actually to be four aspects of a single entity — sort of like … a team.
With baseball season right around the corner, what better way to analyze the four sons than through the Orioles, who proved in 2012 that a team is only as strong as the sum of its parts. Taking a close look, you’ll find the Passover story evident in our beloved Birds. Starting with …
The Wise Son
Manager Buck Showalter
You don’t transform a perennial loser into a playoff team in a two-year span without some inkling of intelligence.
In Showalter’s first full season with the Orioles, the team finished 69-93. In 2012, they flipped the script, going 93-69 and defeating the Rangers in the wild-card play-in game before taking the Yankees to the limit in the American League Division Series.
It took one of the smartest manager’s in baseball to do just that.
The wise son is characterized as being very detail oriented. He wants to learn from his own experiences rather than call on others for assistance. This encapsulates Showalter.
The Orioles’ manager possesses a certain feel for the game. He’ll leave his starting pitcher in to face another batter when conventional wisdom would call for going to the bullpen for a better matchup. He’ll let his hitter swing away in a situation when most managers would demand a bunt.
Wanting to know how to carry out the Seder, the wise son asks a thought-provoking question in hopes of getting the most out of the answer he receives, just as Showalter prepares every day so he can get the most out of each of his players.
The Wicked Son
Owner Peter Angelos
Each season, from 1998 to 2011, the Orioles lost more games than they won. Many fans pointed to Angelos — who purchased the team in 1993 — as the common denominator.
However, being a loser doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person, and this connection isn’t being made because Angelos is “wicked” in nature. In fact, wicked is merely the word we arrive at when translating from Hebrew.
What makes Angelos fit this comparison is that the wicked son is described as isolating himself from the Jewish people, opting to stand by and observe rather than participate. In the public eye, this is Angelos.
Unlike many baseball owners, rarely if ever does the Orioles’ owner hold news conferences or speak publicly about the team. Angelos seemingly prefers to stay in the background and let his general manager or manager speak on his behalf.
In 2012, he solidified this management style when he hired longtime baseball executive Dan Duquette. With this, he further faded into the background to let Duquette (and Showalter) shape the Orioles’ roster. Like the wicked son, Angelos detached himself from the day-to-day operations and let others take the reins.
The Simple Son
Third Baseman Manny Machado
On Aug. 9, in the thick of their postseason chase, the Orioles called up Manny Machado from the minor leagues. The team, in dire need of defensive help, moved the 20-year-old from shortstop — his natural position, which he had played his whole life — to third base.
Machado didn’t gripe. In fact, he came to treasure the position and would go on to make countless run-saving plays from “the hot corner.” In his second major-league game, he smacked two home runs in a win over the Royals, becoming the youngest player in Orioles history to record a mutli-homer game.
It is the simple son who asks, “What is this?”
Turning to veteran players for advice, a wide-eyed Machado also asked basic questions: How to prepare; what to look for when facing certain pitchers; and where to position himself defensively against particular hitters. The big-league game was so new to him.
In Hebrew, the simple son is referred to as tam, which can be translated as sincere or pure. Thrust into the Orioles’ first playoff race in 14 years, Machado had no choice but to sit back and enjoy the ride, picking up elementary aspects of the game along the way.
The Son Who Does Not Know How To Ask
For more than a decade, many Orioles fans could be categorized as “the ones who do not know how to ask” because they simply didn’t care. Constant losing created apathy, which many peg as the emotional factor that influences the fourth son, who is afraid to even conceive a question.
In 2012, O’s fans were afraid to ask for an entirely different reason.
With the team showing signs of life for the first time in years, many in Birdland were hesitant to get excited, even as reality set in that this team could be good enough to advance into the postseason.
Fans had such low expectations that they did not know how to ask for a winning ball club. Instead, they waited and waited for an epic collapse that never came. That mindset, many fans said, detracted from their ability to appreciate the magical season taking place in front of them.
There is no doubt that in 2013 expectations are higher. O’s fans are ready to ask for a winner. A year earlier, however, this fan base was weary to even consider the notion that the Orioles would be anything but a last-place team.
David Snyder is a JT staff reporter — firstname.lastname@example.org