Thursday, May 3, 2007

The tunnel is only getting darker

For years, optimistic O's fans have said that they see "light at the end of the tunnel."

Players like Larry Bigbie, Luis Matos, Matt Riley, Brian Roberts, Adam Loewen, Erik Bedard, Nick Markakis and Daniel Cabrera were going to change the course of the Orioles' losing ways.

And as you can see from that list, half of those players are not with the team anymore, some are out of baseball, some are with the team, and some are actually doing pretty well.

But the outcome hasn't changed one bit. The Orioles are still losing.

Those same optimistic O's fans will say it's only May 3rd, but all one needs to do is take a look back throughout the 9 years of losing to see that the Orioles have struggled to make it back to .500 after falling below it. And when they do reach it, like they did on August 23rd, 2002, a massive losing streak usually follows (4-32) to erase any good they did in getting back to even.

And with the recent rash of injuries and poor hitting, to be combined with the failure to manage their roster properly, the Orioles are heading nowhere again in 2007.

Normally, fans in the middle of a losing season at least have the minor league system to give them hope for the future.

But not with the O's.

As usual, the O's AAA system is filled with minor league veterans. Some do deserve a shot to play in Baltimore (Jon Knott, J.R. House, Jason DuBois) but even they are only former can't-miss prospects who, well... missed. But in a season going nowhere, this is the time to give these guys one more look to see if they can fill any needs the team currently has.

But even the Orioles are incapable of doing this. As the Orioles were headed for a 90-loss season last year, they failed to give Luis Tererro, a Jon Knott-like career minor leaguer, a decent look in the OF. Instead, the O’s opted for a 120 lbs. soaking wet Brandon Fahey and his equally lightweight .614 OPS. So for those hoping that House and Knott will be called up to the Orioles and receive decent playing time in a season going nowhere, don't get your hopes up.

Then there are the injuries. Jared Wright and Hayden Penn both can't be counted on to start games for the Orioles this season. Adam Loewen looks like he could possibly be out for an extended period of time. And while Jeremy Guthrie and Brian Burress both deserve shots to start in their absence, both are just pitching versions of Jon Knott and J.R. House, one time can't miss prospects who, well... missed.

In the minor leagues, only Garret Olson deserves a shot to crack the rotation if Guthrie and Burress falter in Loewen and Wright’s absence, but he currently has an ERA above 5.00 in AAA Norfolk. Any other talent the O's have at the minor league level is currently stuck in high-A level Frederick, a good 1-3 years away from Baltimore. And as we have seen time and time again, anything can happen in those 1-3 years. Injuries, poor play, meteors falling out of the sky and crushing prospects, you name it. Some of these guys might as well be in tee-ball they feel so far away from contributing to the Orioles.

Then there is the management. There is nothing that hasn't already been said about Peter Angelos, so there is really nothing new to add there. One can only hope that he sees the errors of his ways this season and trades away all the valuable talent on the team for prospects and gives rebuilding a legitimate shot for the first time in his 15-year reign as owner of the team. But for an owner who loves “names,” rebuilding seems unattractive, and in his eyes, could only further hurt attendance that has already been at a flatline for years.

And if Angelos did approve a firesale and subsequent rebuilding process, do you actually trust the O's current front office of Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette to oversee such a complicated thing? There are already too many examples to list that prove the front office doesn't understand the day to day operations of running a team (funny, didn't Angelos say that about the fans after WNST's protest last season?) so what would they do in a rebuilding process, that will determine the outcome of the team for years to come? Done poorly, a rebuilding process can ruin a team for 3-5 years and set this organization back even further.

The bottom line is this, the Orioles are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. There is no simple answer for them. They’ve been wandering around in that tunnel for years, and when they thought they saw the light at the end, it was only their minds playing tricks on them.

There is no light. There never was.

But even after all that is said, the Orioles need to do something. Because whatever they've been doing for the last 9 years, it's obviously not working. Not even close.

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