Monday, March 31, 2008

It is Opening Day (I am pretty sure that has been trademarked by someone, I am just too lazy to acknowledge them), and I am excited. Yes I am aware that the Orioles are probably going to be a giant vortex of suck this year. Of course, last year they lost 93 games, and over the last 10 years they have averaged 89.6, or as I like to say, 90 losses per year. So from that standpoint how much worse can it be?

Don't answer that.

Be that as it may, for the first time in years the team has an actual plan other than "Let's throw some money at some borderline talented players and if EVERYTHING possible breaks in our favor (and all the other AL East teams suffer total roster failure) we could win 85-90 games and make the playoffs". That was not working. Instead Orioles owner Peter Angelos brought in one of the best baseball minds in the business in Andy MacPhail, and told him "do what you have to do". And so far he is. He traded Miguel Tejada (making my Orioles jersey moot, but I will forgive him that) and Erik Bedard for 10 prospects. The odds are that Brian Roberts will be gone no later than the trading deadline (and he will probably be joined by a few more players if MacPhail thinks he can get something for them). All of this has been well documented and talked about by many people (including me). So what else could be filling me with such excitement?

There are a few things that are not talked about, like MacPhail establishing an international scouting department, with a focus on Asian and Latin players. And along that same line, his building academies in Latin American baseball hot spots, and committing the resources necessary to make them viable pipelines of talent (the Orioles are woefully behind these trends, but at least they are finally making the attempt to rectify that). But there are two other things that really have me excited for the future.

1. The signing of first round pick Matt Wieters. I like this because the Orioles signed a Scott Boras client (something they have been loathe to do in the past), and they went after a player that they knew would cost them. It is a fact that in baseball probably more than any other sport the draft is a risky proposition. The sheer number of minor league teams (the Orioles alone have 7 minor league teams, there are 30 teams in MLB, some teams have more than 7 minor league teams, very few have less, and there are independent league teams too. Average roster is 25 players. Do the math) means that there are a lot of players in any organization at any time. The odds are against most of these players. That the Orioles spent $6 million just on his signing bonus is a sign that they are omitted to using their resources on the future instead of blowing it on a Jay Payton or an Aubrey Huff , who have already proven out as mid range ability players at best. Angelos signing off on a move like this is very encouraging. But not nearly as encouraging as my second point.

2. The cutting of Jay Gibbons. Look HERE, HERE, and HERE for 3 reports of the release of Jay Gibbons. All of them say pretty much the same thing, but all are worth looking at if for no other reason than what MacPhail says. In particular, when he says

"I gave him the ramifications and what my thinking was," MacPhail said. "I hadn't really reached any conclusions myself. I was wrestling with this one. I was really, to be honest with you, looking for some advice. His advice was, 'You gotta do what you gotta do.' Those were the last words that he left me with, and I took the position of, 'Well, this is what we have to do.' "

The thing that really strikes me is that Angelos, known for meddling in the day to day baseball operations (much to the overall detriment of both the team and the team's reputation) told MacPhail to do whatever he felt was best for the team. The Orioles owe Gibbons just shy of $12 million over the next two years. For ANY team that is a lot of money to eat in order to (probably) lose 90+ games while giving his roster spot to an unproven young player, even if that player had a better spring training than the veteran player. If this does not prove to people that Angelos is serious about rebuilding from the ground up and that he has promised to allow MacPhail to do his job and not get in the way I don't know what will. And to anyone who has a problem with MacPhail going to Angelos about it, the man is the owner of the team and has a right to be involved in the financial decisions. Don't think that the Steinbrenners and John Henry, as well as every other owner, aren't asked for their opinions before their money is spent. The important thing is that Angelos listened to MacPhail and basically said "do what you have to do, I've got your back". They cut a major league player that is owed a good bit of money for an unproven player with minor league options. It is possibly the most encouraging thing that I have seen or heard about this team in years.
I am going to enjoy this team this year. I think that they are going to play hard, play fundamentally sound, and "leave it all on the field". Also, to use another cliche, "this year it is about the name on the front of the uniform, not the one on the back of the uniform". And until they put "Baltimore" back on the road jerseys, "Orioles" will do just fine by me.
4 1/2 hours until Opening Day. I'm ready. Are you?

No comments:

Post a Comment