I love it when the Orioles front office speaks. It gives me so much fodder for this blog, as if I needed any more.
Such was the case when Jim Duquette spoke with the Washington Post as the Orioles take on the Nationals this weekend.
The article talks about both teams, shooting for the same thing, improvement, in different ways. The Nationals have made a committment to developing players from the farm system, which is bare since its move from Montreal to D.C., but the Nats have been open about it, telling fans, "Don't get your hopes up anytime soon. This could take a while." Needless to say the Nats won't be making waves in the free agent signing pool this offseason and the fans know what to expect, or not to.
The Orioles are trying to something similar, by focusing more attention on the farm system, mostly pitching, but they are still behind most of the league in terms of international scouting and money allocated to their minor league affiliates.
Though despite this, they tell the fans each season that "things will be different next year, we promise." Matter of fact, Angelos has spewed those words, how many times has it been now? 10? Anyhow, the front office will never come out and say what is what. Each year they enter the same dog and pony show, simply watching from the sides with their hands in their pockets. They talk a big game, but then fall silent when the money starts being thrown around. And each year, as free agents sign with other teams the fans go through the same set of emotions as the Orioles do little to improve last year's team.
The fans have been told there is "a plan." But everything we've seen them do pretty much contradicts "the plan."
The O's came out and said they wanted to develop young pitching, but then traded it away to get mediocre veterans in Kris Benson and Jared Wright, who are both out for the season.
The Orioles always say they want to get more power and speed but then sign slow, aging veterans that don't bring much in the way of either.
But the biggest difference between the O's and Nats is this, the O's have a $95 million payroll, and have only managed 3 more wins than the Nats, even with their payroll of $37 million.
Never has so much bought so little.
And when the front office tries to explain themselves, well, it gets even worse.
From the Washington Post interview...
"From our standpoint, it was always, realize there's a step-by-step process that you have to go through," Duquette said. "You can't consider yourself a contender until you get yourself to .500. And so, we've talked about .500. Once you get to .500, and you're in that range, that's good enough to be in any kind of playoff chase and allows you to do things -- make a trade or another signing of a free agent or two to get you to the next level."
So it's taking a $95 million payroll to get to .500, something that probably won't even be accomplished this year? And on top of that, what will a .500 record get you? Does that automatically mean that you will keep getting better?
The Nationals and Royals, each perennial losers, recently made .500 and above, respectively. Where did that get them? And how did the Detroit Tigers go from 71-91 to the World Series in one year?
As always, the Orioles are putting to many eggs into a basket that has a hole in the bottom. The Orioles shouldn't be shooting for a .500 record, they should adding the pieces that will get them a run at the Wild Card, and *shock* the division.
Instead of signing mediocre veterans, take a chance on a younger player with some upside, trade star players when they appear to be faltering, and most importantly, learn to live on the edge from time to time, instead of being the conservative putz at the auction who watches as the best deals get taken right out from under him.
Duquette appears to believe in this, when talking about trading any player...
"We're constantly trying to get better. [No] player is untouchable. You have to go in with that assumption. Every player is tradeable. But some you're less likely to trade than others. We consider any person, any trade that can improve the team. We're certainly not going to be reckless about it. But who knows? It may require trading one of those that's signed through '09, or two, maybe, for us to get younger. I wouldn't necessarily say we're locked in to every one of those players through 2009."
The front office may believe this, but Peter Angelos clearly doesn't. I also question whether the front office actually has the brains to be able to pull of such moves. And if the O's wanted to get younger they could do it today and not even have to make a trade. They could make room for Jon Knott and J.R. House on the 25 man roster in Baltimore and jettison a useless waste of space in Freddie Bynum and Paul Bako.
In the end, the O's can talk a good game, they have for years, but fans have realized that it's not what you say, it's what you do. And we're still waiting for the Orioles to do.
So as the O's take on the Nats tonight, the Battle of the Beltway commences and you get to watch two teams striving for the same thing, but in very different ways.
But something tells me the $58 million that separates the two team's payrolls won't translate into many more wins for the Orioles.