Reasonable end-of-season reactions for every AL team
Nothing will stop baseball fans from overreacting after Game No. 1 of 162. However, when the season ends - mercifully for many fan bases and triumphantly for a single lucky one - the time is right to look back and make honest assessments.
Here's a reasonable reaction for every American League team.
Baltimore Orioles: Open that wallet, John Angelos. We are eight months removed from the Orioles CEO saying his team overachieved and overperformed as a way to justify a sleepy offseason. Despite a lack of genuine reinforcements, the upstart O's dominated the regular season with 101 wins. There's no excuse, now. The young core has gotten a taste of the postseason and the team needs investment - particularly in the rotation. The free-agent market isn't especially inspiring this winter, but this is the corner Angelos has painted himself into.
Boston Red Sox: Craig Breslow has his work cut out for him. It's pretty damning that the search for the next executive to run baseball operations for the Red Sox included so many people declining an interview, and that might indicate some issues with ownership. However, it's Breslow's burden now, and the pitching staff is the biggest issue in an ultra-competitive AL East. The rotation ranked 22nd in ERA last year and collectively threw 774 1/3 innings - more than only the Rockies, Athletics, and Giants.
Chicago White Sox: At least they've got Luis Robert Jr. to build around. The White Sox endured an incredibly disappointing season relative to expectations. Perhaps it was partially foreseeable after ownership didn't invest in a rebuilt roster that seemed to be just a few pieces away from legitimate contention. Some of the hard work has already been done, kicking Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn to the curb and promoting Chris Getz. How long until he can build around Robert, though?
Cleveland Guardians: Tito deserved a better send-off. Terry Francona, one of the greatest managers ever, opted to quietly retire in lieu of what would've certainly been a very grand final tour. That's his prerogative. But the AL Central was very winnable this past year, and the Guardians finished under .490 for the first time since 2012, not coincidentally the year before Tito took the post. Whether the results can be pinned on the players underperforming or on ownership not spending is largely moot; Francona deserved better.
Detroit Tigers: This was a promising step in the right direction. The pitching will need a lot of help, especially with Eduardo Rodriguez opting out and likely not returning. But Riley Greene, Kerry Carpenter, and Spencer Torkelson all seem like bats worth building around. With Miguel Cabrera off the books, the future is now.
Houston Astros: So this is what it's like to not make the World Series? It's hard to call a season a failure when your team makes the ALCS, so we won't. This is an incredible run from these dynastic Astros who continue finding ways to win, extending their streak of advancing beyond the divisional round to seven consecutive years. If that - in tandem with two championships - isn't a dynasty, you don't know ball.
Kansas City Royals: Bobby Witt Jr. is the real deal. After a merely decent rookie campaign, Witt took a leap forward in his sophomore season, hitting 30 homers, stealing 49 bases, and saving nearly 15 runs at shortstop, according to FanGraphs Def. Of course, there's still the small matter of figuring out the entire remainder of the roster.
Los Angeles Angels: Building a winner around Mike Trout is starting to seem impossible. You've heard the story already many times: The Angels had the best player since Barry Bonds and weren't good enough, then they added the best player since Babe Ruth and still weren't good enough. Now, Shohei Ohtani is presumably leaving. Sports are all about hope - any team can pull off the impossible in any given year. But is there any reason for hope in Anaheim?
Minnesota Twins: Winning playoff rounds is possible! Detractors may point out that it was just a best-of-three wild-card round, but facts are facts: The Twins snapped a truly dire slump of losing nine straight postseason rounds dating back to 2003, which included 18 consecutive losses. Maybe the Twins are now ready to make some real noise in October, though losing Sonny Gray in free agency would certainly sting. But they're a force in the AL Central - and maybe contention isn't far away.
New York Yankees: Are we witnessing the demise of Brian Cashman? Maybe this teeters on overreaction, but the Yankees' longtime general manager has been afforded ample wiggle room for roster construction that just frankly isn't working. Most recently, the investment into Carlos Rodón has blown up in rather epic fashion. If the Yankees push their streak without an AL pennant to 14 years, it's hard to imagine Cashman keeping his job. It could be a busy winter in the Bronx.
Oakland Athletics: Athletics fans deserve better. There's very little to add here, but no fan base should be put through the mess that John Fisher has orchestrated. To focus more on the baseball here, though, which was nearly impossible to do in Oakland all year, Zack Gelof looks like he could be a future star second baseman after hitting 14 homers over 69 games in an abbreviated rookie campaign.
Seattle Mariners: The Mariners remain a bit of an enigma. They were one of two teams this past season to rank in the top six by pitcher and hitter WAR, according to FanGraphs, and the only other team was the 99-win Rays. Every team that was better by position-player WAR made the postseason. The two teams better by pitcher WAR won at least 90 games. And then there's Seattle, finishing one game back of the final AL wild-card spot despite a better run differential than the Blue Jays.
Tampa Bay Rays: Maybe it'll be a historically hot end to the season next time instead. The Rays won 13 straight games to start the 2023 campaign, tying a record set by the 1982 Braves and equaled later by the 1987 Brewers. Unfortunately for the Rays, the comparisons don't end there, as none of these teams won a playoff game. (The Braves got eliminated in three straight and the Brewers missed the postseason by seven games.) At 99 wins, the Rays still seemed like a powerhouse and arguably deserved a first-round bye over the 90-win Astros who won their division. But, as the Rangers showed, all that matters is getting hot at the right time.
Texas Rangers: There's no such thing as buying a World Series. Some casuals will point to the team making Texas-sized additions in free agency, signing Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi, and others for a combined $719 million. However, the Rangers still had an Opening Day payroll lower than the Mets, Yankees, Padres, Phillies, Dodgers, Angels, Blue Jays, and Braves. Plus, deGrom made just six starts before requiring season-ending Tommy John surgery. This team built a winning culture quickly, and kudos to ownership for bringing in players who bought in.
Toronto Blue Jays: Daulton Varsho needs to be a full-time center fielder. The entire baseball world got to watch both Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. carry the Cinderella Diamondbacks to the World Series, and that really stings for the Jays. Varsho underperformed in his first year, but part of that is because he was confined primarily to left field, where his defensive metrics just don't play as well. Credit to Kevin Kiermaier for carrying the load in center, but it'll be best for the Jays if Varsho takes that role next year and they focus on getting a better hitter to stick in left.