Monday, October 1, 2007

The Nightmare is over, but I'm still dreaming...

The Orioles finished 2007 the same way they entered it, with a loss.

How fitting?

With a 69-93 record, the Orioles have continually gotten worse since 2004's "high-water mark" of 78-84.

At this rate, the Orioles will be lucky to win 65 games in 2008.

Ironically, 65 games is all we should win in 2008 because it means that we've likely gone through a rebuilding phase where Erik Bedard, Miguel Tejada and Brian Roberts are traded for good young talent.

But this is the Orioles we're talking about. They could increase payroll and win 65 games next year and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised. Not after this season.

OK, let me take a deep breath. The season is over, after all.

Andy MacPhail made the usual "this is what we need to do during the offseason" speech the other day in the Sun and said all the right things, unlike in years past where the front office opened their mouths and we didn't believe a word of what they said.

With MacPhail, it's different. He at least deserves some benefit of the doubt based on his past success in Minnesota and Chicago. That doesn't mean that everything he says is perfect, either.

MacPhail said that he's still in the process of determining what path the team should take in the offseason and that a total rebuilding process is not out of the question.


But how long is it going to take MacPhail to know in which direction this organization needs to go?

MacPhail was hired in what, June? That's been 4 months, more than enough time to be able to see the writing on the wall. This organization needs a shake-up from top to bottom. The "middle ground" way of running the team has gotten the Orioles nowhere. If anything, MacPahil has had the perfect strategy laid at his feet when he was hired: Do the complete opposite of what has been done over the last 10 years.

A drastic path needs to be taken, now more than ever, or else the losing will continue.

And those drastic paths are: Either spend more on quality free agents every year like the Yankees and Red Sox do, or hold a fire sale and start from scratch with the few good young players they currently have.

We all know that the Orioles don't have it in them to hang with the Yankees and Red Sox, nor should they, especially when considering this offseason's lackluster class of free agents.

And singing free agents only cost the Orioles draft picks, something that has become more valuable with Joe Jordan at the helm of the draft. The last few draft classes have been very good, at least on paper, and it's the best way to stock the farm system with promising players.

The challenge, however, is developing them into solid major leaguers, which is something the Orioles have been absolutely horrible at doing. Injuries, lack of control, you name it, the Orioles' younger players continue to run into roadblocks on their way to the majors.

And that is what makes MacPhail's mission even more challenging. Not only does he have to get the team younger, cheaper and better, he needs to address the organizational issue of failing to develop players in the minors.

In my opinion, everyone except for maybe a few coaches here and there need to be sent packing and then implement a new Oriole Way. Something different than what's been done these past 10 years.

So, the only way to make the Orioles any better is by trading away valuable players and going young.

It'll be a big change for the Orioles, since it's something they've never been able to do. But after 10 years, I think the fans will accept losing the likes of Bedard, Tejada and Roberts if it means that they might actually have a chance to root for a winning team. Besides, players like Nick Markakis, Adam Loewen and Jeremy Guthrie are easy to like and cheer for. Definitely easier than Tejada and Bedard.

Roberts will just be collateral damage.

So there it is. The season is over, but the real challenge, begins.

Gotta love hot stove baseball. Only, the pilot light went out years ago.

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