Hooray!  We're Screwed!

Way to go! We're all fired!

The closer we get to Spring Training, the more puzzled I am by what the Baltimore Orioles attempting accomplishing between the final day last season and Opening Day 2011. Scroll back through the Getting Banked archives and you see me, on December 10th, wondering aloud what the Orioles were up to in 2011, after a series of curious moves to revamp the infield with veteran offensive performers.

Fast forward nearly two months and nothing changed. I’m still puzzled, more so after the O’s signed aging designated hitter Vlad Guerrero to a one year deal. The terms aren’t pretty though the Orioles likely overpaid for one year consciously, rather than going the multi-year route. Vlad had a huge bounce back year in a cushy offensive park though the World Series exposed him as a full-time DH.

If the Orioles plan to pay Vlad to hit every day, they must move incumbent DH Luke Scott to left field to accommodate new every day first baseman Derrek Lee. The roster machinations aren’t pretty, especially if you are Nolan Reimold or Felix Pie, now relegated to 4th outfielder or minor league wheel-spinning.

In other words, the Orioles are a better team but not by much. Better to what end, is the important question. MASN sports Orioles dude Steve Melewski posed that very question to everyone’s favorite hater Keith Law. The KLaw dismissed the gains as marginal in no time flat:

The Orioles are not adding young talent; they added a bushel veteran players to the roster. I don’t get it, they are not winning 85 games this year and even if they did, what is that going to buy them? A couple extra fans in the seats? It won’t put them in the playoffs

To me it is just that simple. I really hope Orioles fans don’t actually believe the team can compete for a playoff spot. These moves smack of desperation by ownership and a lame duck GM in the last year of his deal, don’t they?

I feel like this is an offseason that may be coming from ownership or marketing, saying ‘we can’t lose 100 games again.’ In that situation the baseball operations department should say ‘do you want to win in the long term? Or do you want to just stink less in the short term?

Adding Guerrero, Reynolds and other veterans might add five or six wins, but it’s not going to get them to 90 wins or an inch closer to the playoffs.

That line “we can’t lose 100 games again” is really the beginning and the end of this entire offseason. That seems to be the sole motivating factor. Poor loyal Orioles fans are so shell shocked, they actually believe getting the team over .500, even just once, is important to making Baltimore more attractive to potential free agent signings in the future. Law doesn’t agree with that asinine suggestion and neither do I. The Orioles seemed to be on the right track, improving and stockpiling talented young players. Until this winter, when it all went out the window.

Do the Orioles, or their fans, think this team is now better than the Yankees? The Rays? The Red Sox??? The 2011 O’s could well surge past the retooling Blue Jays, but the Jays are much, much better situated for the future with a stronger farm system and extensive scouting. Not to mention the bulk of the Jays’ core are approaching their peaks, rather than admiring them in the rear-view mirror. The same old O’s in another package. More Angelos insanity but on a smaller scale. No huge overpayments but a total lack of patience with focus on the result rather than the process.

Sorry O’s fans, the margin for error is too small with a barrier for entry too high for hoping every, single, solitary thing goes right for one magical season. The 2006 & 2008 Blue Jays tried that in a Rays-free division and it didn’t work then (and those two teams were light years better than the 2011 Orioles project)and it ain’t working now. Too bad, a Nick Markakis is a terrible thing to waste.

Comments (25)

  1. I think this is a classic case of doing something to make it look like they are improving, when in reality they are not. Sure maybe some of these players can be flipped at the deadline but they’ve spent a lot of money on a team that will be lucky to finish in 4th. Seems pretty silly to outspend 12 other teams in the majors to likely finish last in your division. Baseball reference estimates their 2011 payroll to be $79.7 million.

  2. I totally agree… It just doesn’t make sense. If they win more than 75 games this year I would be shocked, then all this dealing for aging or stop-gap players has been a complete waste.

    • I think the key, as Drew, but not many others have brought up, is the lame duck GM. Remember what Ricciardi used to do just to get to the point where the Jays finish above .500 this season, just so he could point to the fact that the AL East is hard to compete with NYY and BOS, but they still managed to put together a winning record?

  3. @JTor: With the addition of Vladdy their payroll will likely be between $90-93M. That’s insane considering how bad this team is.

  4. I think in a way the myriad of offseason signings and trades by the O’s mimics what the Blue Jays did following the 2005 season. The Orioles endgame may be to avoid losing 100 games, but watch them still lose 90 games.

  5. I am not so sure that they were heading in the right direction before, really. Didn’t they do some similarly ridiculous things last year, like sign Miguel Tejada and trade for some terrible third baseman? This kind of “improvement” is standard for the Orioles, I think.

  6. Weren’t the Orioles the best team in baseball for a good stretch towards the end of the 2010 season? It seems they’re missing the boat if they’re forgetting how their season turned around in the final quarter. They just lost so horribly during most of the season that it didn’t matter anymore.

  7. I don’t have much of a problem with it. They added a 27-year-old 3B and a 28-year-old SS, where they replace a 31-year-old and a 36-year-old. Lee is older than Wigginton but had a better career – a bouncebacking Lee is marketable in July and so could (in theory) a Vlad, provided he hits in the first half again. Blocking Reimold is an issue, but didn’t the Pie bubble burst years ago? Can anyone remember another top Cub propsect who was a speedy center fielder that couldn’t take a walk and wound up on the Orioles’ bench? Perhaps one who’s now in a Blue Jays training camp?

  8. It seems ridiculous, to me, that after the Rays showed everyone how to win the AL East without being the Yankees or the Red Sox, and the Jays then jumped on the exact same boat, making no secret of what they’re doing or what their long term goals are, that the Orioles feel this is the way to “build” for the future. Sure, they’ve made some modest improvements, but from 2011, whither? Their improvements are both temporary and irrelevant, as even Reynolds (27), perhaps their best pick up, will be too old to be relevant once they’ve reached a point at which they contend.

  9. You may be underestimating how long it takes to make that jump. Remember: 2007 Rays=66-96; 2008 Rays 97-65. Additions? Dan Johnson, Eric Hinske, Troy Percival, Cliff Floyd and …(anyone else, really?).

    A young and talented team like the Orioles could take a jump – maybe not in 2011, but why not 2012 or 2013? I really think people are selling them short based on a decade of awful.

  10. Also, some chump named Longoria; Bartlett, and Garza.

    I don’t know all that much about the jump the Rays made from ’07 to ’08, but I imagine a lot of the framework for their pitching staff was there, waiting for guys to develop (their staff is young and talented, you may have heard), as well as having guys like Crawford, and, of course, the ridiculously shrewd trade for Garza and Bartlett.

    The thing with the decade of awful is that it doesn’t include any major improvement from the bottom; even Weiters hasn’t figured it out yet. As much as people call them young and talented, I’m not sure how much I buy into that, especially given how young, talented, or both, the rest of the teams in the division are.

    Of course, I could well be completely wrong, but I don’t think I’d be the only one.

  11. Sorry, I completely spaced on the Garza trade. But Longoria didn’t quite come out of nowhere, even if it wasn’t big league ball: if Wieters can turn into the player he was projected to be two years ago, the O’s have their Longoria. And the O’s have Tillman, Matusz, Guthrie (3 good years, one bad) taking up 60% of their rotation. If either Arrieta or Bergeson take a step forward (not likely, but possible), then their pitching starts to look not so dissimilar to Tampa’s three years ago. It’s a lot of ifs, but no one was projecting Tampa to crack .500 that year, either.

  12. Absolutely everything went right for Tampa in ’08; I suppose the same thing could happen in Baltimore, could happen, but it’s never wise to bet on the most extreme possible outcome.

    Unfortunately, even if everything breaks perfectly for them, they still have to go through the Red Sox, the on-paper best team in the AL (maybe baseball); the Yankees, who still have one of the most dynamic offenses in the game and at (absolute) worst roughly average pitching; the Rays, who still have great pitching and a (very?) solid offense; and, of course, a strong and improving Jays team that they could conceivably (but improbably) vault, if all goes well, and still end up in fourth place.

    The Rays had to beat only one of the Yankees and the Red Sox, back in ’08. The Orioles will have to beat both of them, or one of them and that selfsame Rays team. It can happen, but it won’t.

  13. Hello,
    Thought you might be interested in my Q&A with the following National Writers discussing the O’s:

    http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/?p=2032

    Mel Antonen, Sports Illustrated / MLB Network Radio (Sirius-XM Radio)
    Matt Klaassen, FanGraphs / Beyond The Boxscore
    David Pinto, Baseball Musings / Sporting News
    Ed Price, FanHouse
    Danny Knobler, CBSSports.com
    Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus

  14. The last time the Orioles lost 100 games was 23 years ago. Not only is this a hypothetical quote being attributed to the organization, but it’s a silly exaggeration of the truth to say “lose 100 games AGAIN.”

  15. I think its pretty harsh to link to the Camden Chat article as evidence of us Orioles fans being “shell-shocked” since so many people in that very thread agree with Keith Law and are actively advocating for a different approach.

    • You might be right. The Stacey at CC phrased the question in more of a “some people think this” which I perhaps attributed to the blog more than a segment of the fanbase. Apologies.

  16. Firstly,
    You have to look no further than the pitching in the AL East. The Yankees have CC and a bunch of picthers with Era’s over 4. The Red Sox have John lester maybe Bucholz and Lackey Beckett and Wakefield. The Rays have had their Bullpen gutted and lost Carl Crawford. The Bluejays are not even making an effort to compete. This is the weakest the AL East has been. Moreover the Redsox are an injured player away from Darnell McDonald in their outfield.
    You writers are missing the point. The Red Sox and Rays have reached their spending limit. Noone wanted the Yankees money and the Bluejays are flying the red flag. You dont have to be a monster team to win this year.
    Bergessen if healthy, Guthrie, Matusz , can be as good as any 1 , 2 and 3 outside Philly and have the upside of duchsherer, tillman arrieta, or Zach Britton at your 4 and 5.
    On the hitting side, we are expecting upturns by Lee and Reynolds, but the real hidden gem is that Markakis, Jones, Weiters, and Scott are all in a position to succeed and reach the elite plateau and there is also depth if any player struggles. Not to mention a bullpen with 4 legitimate closers and Buck Showalter.
    So please excuse me if I think the Orioles are not as hopeless as you experts think. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to know that without having to give away at bats to lugo, izturis, and slumping wiggington the Orioles will be in a lot more ball games. That is the key to competing and if you cant see that then you’ll be eating a whole lot of crow at the end of this season.

  17. fwiw, I’m not calling the Orioles contenders this year. But I think above .500 is a possibility and if they play their cards right, they might blow up on everyone circa 2013 (i.e. with Lee and Vlad long gone, but Reynolds and Hardy still very much factoring in one way or the other).

  18. So what team had the 2nd best record in the AL in the 2nd half of last season when Roberts and Pie returned to the team from injuries? The Os and they upgrade 3rd, 1st, DH, at the cost of some $ and minor league relief prospects that were not making the team with the exception of D. Hernandez and this is bad?

    Yes, they were better than the yankees, the sox, the rays. Only the Twins were better.

    If their pitching continues that trend, they will vie for a playoff spot. If the pitching regresses then doesn’t matter who’s playing on the field.

  19. Beware of the dangers of drawing conclusions from a small sample size PaOsfan, particularly one that involves the second half because of the influx of September callups.

    I think the O’s could finish as high as 2nd and as low as 5th in the East. Same goes for the Rays, Jays, and Yankees.

    The issue is that it appears that they’ve suddenly veered off their path of building from within, which used to be a hallmark of the great O’s teams of the ’60′s, ’70′s, and ’80′s and back towards a focus on the now. If all these vets are merely placeholders and there are stud prospects all the way around the diamond, that’s one thing, but if that’s not the case, they might have a good run in them for a year or two and then be back to square one again. You probably know the farm system better than I do, but I’m pretty sure it’s not better than the Rays’ and Jays’ farm systems and the Red Sox/Yanks arms race will go on until the end of time. That leaves the O’s in a very vulnerable position and this offseason smells like an Angelos intervention to me. Then again, I could be way off base. You know your team better than I do.

  20. @PaOsfan how do you figure their record in the second half was that good.
    They were 37-37 after the all-star game. I haven’t checked every team but I don’t believe that the Twins were the only team in the AL to play 0.500 baseball after the break.

    Are they improved…yes. World Series contenders…no.

  21. Why is everyone complaining? Would you be happier if we kept all our crappy infielders from last year and go 60-100??? I’d rather make some moves and maybe get to 75-80 wins this year and get these young players to learn how to WIN. Yes we’ll lose both Lee and Vlad next year most likely, but who says we can’t bring in replacements? Players will see we are building something and who knows maybe bring in Fielder or someone else and continue to grow. I’m sick of all this whining about not winning and then whining when they make any moves! What do you want?!?! This team isn’t going to turn into a WS contender overnight. It’s going to take years of making the right moves, which obviously haven’t happened yet, but I for one am VERY excited about what Macphail is doing. We are at least heading in the right direction and who knows, if our pitchers every come around we could win 85-90 this year! :)

  22. @James Mayers
    Thank you for having some hope! I’m so tired of all this negativity. I know it’s frustrating being an Oriole fan for the last 15 years, which is why I don’t understand why people are upset that we might actually have a winning season for once. Who cares if it’s only for 1 year or if we have to replace some players next year. You ALWAYS have to replace some players, that’s part of the game! I’m a little skeptical that the end of last year can completely transfer to this year, but even if we can just go .500 that’s an improvement and will allow us to more easily attract players. I think the end of last year has a lot to do with the O’s being highly motivated by Buck and other teams being not so much motivated after they were out of it, but nonetheless we did play very well and some of that should roll over into this year. I’m stoked!!

  23. I wanted to wear my 83 throw back Eddie Murray and Orioles hat but apparently 3xl is what it used to be, but Im still stoked.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *