Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mad to sad

I’ve run out of energy to hate the Orioles. They are, after all, my hometown team. I grew up listening to most games because I didn’t have HTS. However, as they continue to get their asses handed to them night after night (18-6 last night), I can’t help but feel like the kid who watches the bully beat up the nerd in the schoolyard day after day. After I’ve seen it enough I’m going to start feeling bad for the kid.

Just don’t expect me to jump in and save the nerd just yet.

The Orioles put themselves into this position. They deserve every loss they’re racking up. Whether they did it knowing (cutting back payroll from 1999 – 2003) or unknowingly (trying to revamp the bullpen by throwing $42 million at the problem), they are where they are because of their own actions.

Unlike Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Pittsburgh, Baltimore is a mid-to-large-market city, even with the Nationals 45 miles down the road. There is no excuse to have 10 consecutive losing seasons. They have the fan-base to support a team, as we have seen from 1992 up until a few years ago, despite all the losing. But Peter Angelos ran the team into the ground on purpose in an attempt to keep the Nationals away and that drove fans away. And now he and his people have no clue how to improve things even though they may be trying.

19 teams have a better record than the Orioles, even with a lower payroll. And the Orioles have the worst dollar per win ratio in the major leagues. It currently stands at $1,559,131.10 million per win.

We’ve been over it before, but the Orioles are going to have to spend money a little wiser if they are going to get better.

They spent $32 million on Aubrey Huff when they could have gotten similar production from any number of lesser-known players who would have been paid a minimum salary. As a matter of fact, they passed on Carlos Pena to sign Huff. And Pena is now the second-best player in baseball this season, while Huff is finally earning a paycheck in the last 2 months of the season.

The Orioles fell into the trap of paying a lot for Danys Baez, because he was a former closer with a lot of saves on his resume. They doubled what they needed to pay to get Paul Bako, who shouldn’t have been on the team even if he came for free. And they spent $9 million on Jay Payton, who will be on the books for 2008, whether he is here or not.

There’s a saying around baseball that goes “Most mid-level free agents can be replaced with unknown talent who can put up similar numbers for a fraction of the cost.”

The Orioles need to embrace this theory. All too often they spend money on the name, instead of the actual production, thinking that fans care more about the names on the back of the jersey as opposed to the name on the front.

When the O’s say “We signed Jay Payton!” We know what we’re getting. We can wrap our heads around it immediately. It’s not exciting. But if the Orioles committed to someone like Jon Knott in LF for 2007, it would have been more exciting. There was no built-in ceiling. We didn’t know what to expect. And the potential for reward is much greater.

And even though Knott has been wrongfully DFA’d, he would have been hard-pressed to put up worse numbers than Payton this season. But the Orioles refused to play Knott, instead opting for Payton as the everyday LF, as well as any number of slap-hitting “defensive” players like Brandon Fahey or Luis Hernandez.

It all comes back to Andy MacPhail. He’s either the savior of the O’s or just another name in a long line of GM’s who failed to improve the team’s record.

We know what MacPhail needs to do. But the question is, does he? Will he jump in and save the nerd from the bully?

No comments: