So it turns out the Orioles are in a white-knuckle race this season, just not for the pennant or Wild Card.
It's a race for the #1 pick in the 2010 draft.
Here's how the race for the #1 overall pick is breaking down:
Team / W-L / Games Back
Washington / 43-76 / 0.0
Kansas City / 47-72 / 4.0
Baltimore / 48-71 / 5.0
Pittsburgh / 48-70 / 5.5
Despite Washington having the worst record in baseball, they have been playing much better since firing manager Manny Acta, and have won 11 of their last 15 games.
In the the race for the #1 overall pick, we call this "choking".
Kansas City has played almost as bad as the Orioles since the All Star Break (10-21), but they still have a somewhat decent team ERA of 4.74 with Zach Greinke and his 2.33 ERA leading the way. They'll probably choke down the stretch too as Greinke gives the Royals a chance to win every 5th day.
Then there are the Orioles. They are 8-23 since the All Start Break with a 5.15 team ERA and the 10th best offense in the AL. Their best pitcher, Brad Bergesen, is on the DL. The Oriole seem poised to make a move in the standings, as their patented second half collapse continues.
I am feeling good about the Orioles' chances.
However, getting the #1 pick is not always what it's made out to be. The Nationals went through harsh negotiations this week with their #1 overall pick Steven Strasburg. Strasburg's agent is the infamous shark, Scott Boras, and the Nationals ended up handing Strasburg $15 million dollars without him having thrown a pitch in pro-baseball. Considering Boras was opening the negotiations at a whopping $50 million, maybe the Nationals got Strasburg for a steal.
But would the conservative Andy MacPhail make such a signing? When the Orioles signed Matt Wieters in 2007, another Scott Boras client, it went down to the 11th hour. And in this year's draft, the Orioles drafted Matt Hobgood, who was ranked lower than where he was drafted at #4, because of his "signability".
If the Orioles get the #1 overall draft pick, will they pass on the unanimous 2010 #1 pick Bryce Harper to draft a more signable player? And one less talented?
I am thinking "yes".
The Nationals had their back against the wall with Strasburg. They'd failed to sign their first round pick in 2008 and had they lost out on Strasburg, perhaps the most hyped player in draft history, they wouldn't have been able to recover from fan backlash. They had no choice but to give Strasburg and Boras what they wanted.
So maybe it's better that the Orioles remain in the #3 or #4 spot in the 2010 draft. I just don't think they will be able to do it. They are in the middle of "Operation Shutdown 2009". They probably won't win more than 60 games.
So there it is. The Great Race of 2009. The Orioles have 5 games to make up on the Nationals for the #1 overall pick in the 2010 draft.
That's what it's come down to, folks. Enjoy it.