Friday, July 01, 2011

Baltimore Orioles Fans Are Mad As Hell And They're Not Going To Take It Anymore: 2011 Not Quite All-Star Break Edition

I started out preparing a list of fan reactions from articles and blog posts in the area after the Orioles were swept by the St. Louis Cardinals while on their way to a season worst 8 games under .500 record. I figured with the last 10 games of the season until the All-Star break on the road and against the Atlanta Braves, the Texas Rangers, and the Boston Red Sox, this might just be the beginning of the Big Boil Over (hell, my post yesterday wasn't exactly all beer and Skittles).

But about 10 or 12 copy / pastes into the article, I realized that it is futile. It is tough to see it through all of the doom and gloom of the last 13 years, but this is a team that has made progress and still can. The thing about all of that losing is, as soon as things go a little south it is too easy for fans to go "there they go again" and start beating down on the team and not look at the fact that there HAVE been strides taken.

This is not to say that the team, the front office, and the ownership are not deserving of some browbeating. But to focus solely on that while ignoring all of the steps forward is doing a disservice to the team AND to the fans.

Two things that I read jumped out at me to the point that I had to change my entire post on here. The first was seeing that someone was calling for Buck Showalter to be fired. I cannot even begin to understand the reasoning behind anyone calling for this. The facts of the matter are this, as of July 1st, the Orioles are 69-66. That is a total of 135 games, or 27 short of a full season. The Baltimore Orioles need an influx of talent in a number of positions, including (but not limited to) first and third base, starting and relief pitching, and if the mounting injuries are any indication, second base (and that is just for the big league team). Buck Showalter has done more with less than can reasonably be expected. He is not the problem.

The second thing that made me shake my head was someone who posted an angry diatribe about how the Orioles had no picks in the 2011 Draft in between their 1st pick (when they drafted Dylan Bundy, RHP, 4th overall) and their 2nd pick (Jason Esposito, 3B, 64th pick), while the Boston Red Sox had 4 picks (19, 25, 36, 40) and the Tampa Bay Rays had 8 (24, 31, 32, 38, 41, 42, 56, 59). The poster went so far as to blame Andy MacPhail for this. For all of MacPhail's faults and mistakes during his tenure as the President of Baseball Operations for the Orioles, deciding which teams get to draft when is not one of them. The reason those teams had all of those draft picks is because they had free agents that they lost that netted them compensatory picks. The Orioles have not had that luxury, mainly because MacPhail has traded away players before they became free agents if they had any value (free agent compensatory picks are decided by how they are ranked by the Elias Sports Bureau over the previous two years of playing, and those stats are weighted against others playing the same positions as them in the field). This is done to reward teams that do a good job of scouting and developing players in order to give them a better chance to compete against the teams that are signing these developed and now free to sign anywhere players.

The Orioles have been hit hard by injuries but they are not using that as an excuse, and they should not try to do so. All teams are hit by injuries, it is the nature of the game. The problem is that the Baltimore Orioles do not have the replacement players in the minors ready to step in for injured players, and they cannot get those players overnight, and most of the players they received in the Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada trades are either in the majors or have been dealt for other players. The Orioles ARE trying to build through the draft, but more so than any other sport the draft for baseball is a complete crap shoot. There is a reason that the MLB draft is 50 rounds and no other league's draft is more than 7 rounds long.

As far as signing a free agent (and yes, people are STILL bringing up Mark Teixeira as well as Victor Martinez and a dozen other players that the Orioles have not signed), it is a simple concept that too many people are not wrapping their heads around, namely that a marquee free agent is not going to choose to sign in Baltimore if other teams that have a better chance of at least making the playoffs if not winning the World Series outright are also in the picture. We can't even offer the no state income tax that Texas and Florida can offer the players. I actually applaud Andy MacPhail for not letting agents use the Orioles to raise the bids for their star players from other teams (which is what really happened in the Teixeira negotiations).

So what can we blame them for? First and foremost, for not being a lot more aggressive in the Latin American and Far East regions. Teams like the Orioles (namely teams that don't have the unlimited cash or cache that the megawatt teams like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, or Los Angeles Angels have) need to be bigger in places like Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, and they need to be the ones wining and dining and schmoozing the teams and players and agents in Japan and Korea. They need to be bold like the Tampa Bay Rays and look for places that could be the next hotbed of talent like Brazil (this article is over 2 years old, but it gives you an idea of what the Rays are doing. There was an article in ESPN Magazine recently that expanded on this and gave some new information). This is a huge failing on the part of MacPhail, Angelos, and the entire organization.

The only other thing that they could do that they have not done enough of is to take more of their later round draft picks and go after some of those really high ceiling kids that probably won't sign, and then offer them big bucks to sign anyway. If you can get one or two of those players to sign every couple of years, in a few years time you might have a top flight minor league system, and then you have the ammunition needed to trade for that big bat corner infielder and that starting pitcher that will fill in when one of the young stud arms is injured in the middle of the season.

If you look at it critically, but without the emotion that comes from not having a winning season since 1997, you can see that there are positive steps being taken. But if you need to vent, go ahead. I can't blame you for being frustrated.

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