O’s whiffing again

December 03, 2008 | Drew Forrester

Believe me, I had ZERO intention of writing about Nick Markakis today.

We’re knee-deep in “Put Art Modell in the Hall of Fame” week at WNST/WNST.net and we’re preparing to host “WNST Night” at the RAC Arena this evening when UMBC hosts Towson University in college basketball.

And the Ravens are playing the Redskins this Sunday in Baltimore.

Nick Markakis was the last thing on my mind when I got into the studio this morning at 5:45am.

Then, during his morning “free agency update”, Glenn Clark wound me up a notch when he mentioned the O’s and Markakis are taking a six-week break from negotiating, having once again failed to reach a serious point in the discussions that might lead to a new deal for the talented right fielder.

Later, some text messages buzzed in via the SunTrust text service and e-mailer Chris chastised me for “going soft on the Orioles” (his words).  “I knew as soon as Baltimore went back on that road jersey that you’d ease up on them and I was right”, wrote Chris.

Wrong.  I’m not easing up on them.  I (we) just have too much other important stuff going on this week to worry about the baseball team once again sticking it to one of the only guys on the club who has actually come through for them over the last three years.

That said, I will take a few minutes now to address the Markakis situation.  Chris, you’re about to see how wrong you are, my friend.

Because the Orioles have black-balled me from asking any real questions, I’m not in position to provide you with THEIR side of the issue.  So, I’ll just assume their position as best I know it and point out why, again, they’ve done themselves harm by not treating their best players the right way.

The only two proven veteran players on their current roster who are legitimate home-grown talents are Markakis and Brian Roberts.  Markakis was selected in the 2003 draft and Roberts came via the ’99 draft. 

In his major league career, Roberts has played 976 games.  All in Baltimore.

Markakis has played 465 games.  All in Baltimore.

Neither of those guys has EVER played a game that mattered in their respective careers.

And yet, amazingly, both of them want to stay here and play for the Orioles.

Even more puzzling?  The team won’t pay them.

Hey, like I said on the show this morning, if they don’t want to shell out $180 million for Mark Teixeira, I’ll listen to their logic on that one (if I were allowed in the Warehouse to listen, that is).  If they think there are too many inherent risks with giving a pitcher $80 million for 5 years, I’ll listen to that argument too.  If the club’s philosophy is moving towards establishing a foundation of drafted talent rather than chasing free agents for short-term fixes, there are many who would say that’s the right way to proceed.

That’s even more of a reason why you sign Markakis and Roberts.

From the team’s standpoint, they’ll point out that this period in Nick’s career is the only time THEY (the club) gets the edge.  Well, if you call under-compensating someone and failing to reward an employee for their outstanding work “getting the edge”, then the O’s have indeed won on this one.

Markakis has done EVERYTHING asked of him since bursting onto the scene in 2006.  He owns a home here, he’s a fan favorite and, without question, he’s delivered on the playing field.  Why toy with him?  Is the club just “following the book” on how to deal with your young players?  Probably.  Therein lies the problem.  The Orioles need to put that book away.  The way OTHER teams function should no longer be the trail followed by the O’s.  Just because other teams take wait and see attitudes on their young players shouldn’t make it policy for the O’s to do so.

Do you know why?

Because the Orioles have lost for 12 straight years and the fans have stopped coming.

It’s time for the team to start doing things differently.  The way they’ve been doing it hasn’t worked.

They have an opportunity right now to step up and do the right thing with Markakis and Roberts.

But they’re too busy playing “Fantasy GM” to understand that.  “Maybe, if we’re lucky, Nicky will slip in ’09 and hit .264 with 14 homers and 67 runs batted in…then we can get him a little cheaper down the road” – can’t you just hear that talk over off of 395? 

They have the money, of course.  Their cash-cow TV network has afforded them the luxury of paying (and overpaying, perhaps) for an improved roster in an effort to rebuild the franchise from what is now a laughingstock of the league to a once again proud organization that competes with the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox.

The great mystery of 2008 (and, likely, 2009, 2010 and so on) is this:  Why are they holding on to their money?  In all fairness to the O’s, I could fully understand their miser-like stance if they hadn’t have started the TV network in ’06.  If they were losing and drawing 14,000 fans a game and revenues were down dramatically, I could buy doing things on the cheap.  But, that’s not the case these days.  They’re well over $100 million in revenue for the TV network and their reasons for starting MASN have been totally justified over the last three years.  TV money is where it’s at.  They were right about that.

That said, wasn’t MASN kick-started with Nick Markakis in mind?  Isn’t it reasonable to think that Markakis and his play on the field are reasons WHY people have watched Orioles baseball over the last three summers on MASN?  We know it hasn’t been “to see winning”, that’s for sure.  The organization cried about being “out-revenued” by the Yankees and Red Sox and demanded this regional sports network so that they would be able to afford quality players.

Isn’t Nick Markakis quality?

Isn’t Brian Roberts quality?

Yes.  And yes.

So, pay them.

And stop making excuses about “industry standards” and “going at a comfortable pace” and all that other baloney that goes with Orioles off-season signing efforts.

Andy MacPhail hasn’t spent a dime on a legitimate free agent since he got here in June of 2007.  He’s had the chance to re-sign two of the team’s best players and most valuable assets in Markakis and Roberts and guess what’s he’s done?  He gave one of them an insulting “take this and leave us alone” $55,000 raise last January (Markakis) and tried all last winter to ship the other guy out of town after years of commendable, quality service to the organization (Roberts).

At this stage, all MacPhail has done is this: trimmed the payroll, made a couple of decent trades with Seattle and Houston and, overall, served as the captain on a ship that sunk lower in the depths of the American League East last year. 

In the meantime, his two best employees are being ignored.

This is precisely the kind of treatment that fans see and wonder, “are they ever going to start doing the right thing again?”

And, most nights, they wonder that while they’re NOT at the stadium watching the team play.

That’s not a low blow…it’s just a fact.

(Note: How’s that for wetwork, Chris?)