This offseason, the Baltimore Orioles loaded up on the type of baseball players destined to ensure that the team finishes above .500. Where the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays continue to look for new, inventive and outside the box ideas to compete with the free spending New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in the AL East, the Orioles would rather stick to the fool hardy belief that they can miraculously find a measure of success in the toughest division in baseball by being a poor man’s Yankees or Red Sox and spending too much money on the table scraps of other teams.

Surprise! So far this season, it hasn’t worked out. The Orioles sit in last place in their division, having won fewer games than all but six other teams in baseball.

Perhaps the only bright spot on a team that was built to fail has been newly acquired shortstop J.J. Hardy. After back to back 4.4 and 4.7 WAR season in 2007 and 2008, Hardy struggled with injuries and put up 1.4 and 2.5 WAR seasons in 2009 and 2010. Nevertheless, after an oblique injury sidelined him for first month of the year, Hardy has seemingly returned to the type of player he appeared to be three years ago, getting on base more than 36% of the time while having a third of his hits go for extra bases.

Unfortunately for the Orioles, Hardy is scheduled to become a free agent at the conclusion of this season. And so of course, in true Baltimore Orioles fashion, the team has suddenly decided that they want to lock up the shortstop after one good month out of the last three years.

From general manager Andy MacPhail:

There’s no reason why he wouldn’t be an asset here for years to come. I definitely think we’ll have conversations. There’s no question about it. The closer you get for free agency, the more difficult it is for players to want that extension. I think it’s something that we definitely targeted before the All-Star break to talk about.

Hardy avoided his final year of arbitration by signing a $5.85 million with Baltimore this past offseason, and it stands to reason that any multi year contract negotiations start at an annual salary higher than $6 million. But the question for the Orioles, at this stage in the franchise, is to what end. What does the team stand to gain by locking up a shortstop who has failed with his bat for every month but the last one over two plus seasons?

Try to imagine how quickly the Tampa Bay Rays or Toronto Blue Jays would try to turn a somewhat unexpected asset like Hardy into even more assets through trade or free agent compensation. It’s not enough that the Orioles spent too much money on Vladimir Guerrero and Kevin Gregg this winter, or paid too much talent to acquire Mark Reynolds, the team wants to now unnecessarily commit itself to the only deal that has appeared to work out until it too will decidedly go bust.

As a Blue Jays fan, I’m not complaining, but at some point, the Orioles are going to have to take their baseball thinking a little bit more seriously, and maybe, just maybe look at what their competition is doing to become competitive.

On the lighter side, at least Baltimore is keeping their sense of humour through it all. Here is a tweet from starter Jeremy Guthrie about Adam Jones, who was detained by customs on a trip to Toronto last year.

And The Rest

Derek Jeter’s pursuit of 3,000 hits will have to wait after the New York Yankees shortstop strained his calf muscle last night. Now, we’ll get to see what the Yankees look like without their captain: younger, faster and more athletic, according to Wallace Matthews.

A long time fan asks the Pirates if it’s too much just to finish the season at .500.

It’s strange how the Philadelphia Phillies supposedly need to provide protection for Ryan Howard so that he can get more fastballs, because a) pitchers apparently would rather give up hits to Howard when someone good is hitting behind him and b) he had such a rough go in 2009 leading the team in OPS while facing an even lower percentage of fastballs than this year.

Chone Figgins is having an absolutely terrible year. No regular in the entire league has a worst WAR, OBP, SLG and wOBA.

HardBall Talk’s Matthew Pouliot takes a look at at the teams that have shut out their opponents and the teams that have been shut out by their opponents. It’s a shutout frenzy.

Something entirely new that has never been done: a baseball writer giving his opinion on whether or not the Mets should attempt to sign Jose Reyes.

Pete Rose: still keeping illusions and delusions alive.

It’s almost as if the Francisco Liriano who tries to strike guys out is better than the one who pitches to contact. And by almost I mean absolutely is.

Can the type of sleep you get affect your batting numbers?

A tale of mistaken identity and the game of one man’s life.

Tom Tango suggests that television broadcasters are just plain lazy in their approach to analyzing the game. It makes so little sense to include RBIs as a statistic on the screen when a batter is up, and even less to include it when no one is even on base.

While searching for a photograph for today’s link dump, I came across these two: