Apologists are taking gas, but Orioles swoon still isn’t funny

July 12, 2011 | Drew Forrester

It seems like we’ve been down this road before.

The Orioles stumble through a woeful first half and then, following an embarrassing loss or series – or perhaps a lengthy losing streak – the usually-apologetic fan base goes into meltdown mode.

It would be funny if not for the fact that the meltdown is always connected to a woeful period of Orioles baseball.

This week, following a horrible 1-9 road trip that saw them get b-slapped three straight in Texas and four more times in Boston, the orange kool aid drinkers have spiraled out of control.

Some of the media have finally figured it out — they’ve finally discovered that it’s actually OK to question the team’s inability to win and their methods of operation that have contributed to this 14-years of suffering.  A few folks in town still won’t opine critically on the team, but they’re now being exposed for what they are:  afraid to speak the truth.  I stumbled upon a “baseball pre-game show” on Tuesday night and one of the experts offered this outstanding analysis about Derrek Lee:  “He might not be doing it on the field, but he’s SUCH a good guy.  You have no idea how good of a guy he is.  I mean, the players in that locker room just love him.  That means something.  It really does.”

What it means is that he’s not playing well enough to help the team win.

Nothing else about Derrek Lee really matters, no matter what that “expert” offered as analysis.

So there are still some folks in town afraid to speak the truth.  Or, perhaps, they just haven’t been around long enough to actually know the truth.  Either way, they’re not worth listening to, reading or watching.

Even Steve Melewski over at MASN.com – which makes him an employee-in-law of the Orioles, frankly – has been forced to face reality and question Andy MacPhail recently.  The area’s number one source for orange apology, the Oriole Hangout, has gone hogwild this week as well, spewing criticism and angry messages about MacPhail and the players who aren’t doing the job on the field.  Talk about a reversal in theory…it’s akin to cross dressing, I suppose, when the Hangouters are forced to swallow the vitamin-of-reality and question the very man and the very team they’ve spent so much time defending over the last 13 years.

I’ve received a bunch of emails from people this week practically begging me to LOL (laugh out loud) at the apologists in town, since they’re the ones for years who have painted WNST in a bad light as “haters” of the team.

I’m not going to laugh at the people at Orioles Hangout who have chastised me over the years for being “too negative”.  I’m not going to laugh for a couple of reasons, but the main one is simple enough:  Because it’s not funny.

None of it.

The 14 years of this junk isn’t funny.

The team’s June Swoon, which carried over into July just long enough to saddle the team with a 7-game losing skid heading to the All-Star break, is simply NOT a laughing matter.

I know the players are trying.  I’m certainly not questioning their professional and ethical approach to the games.  I can’t say I’ve seen anyone give up, per-se, although some of the stupid stuff last weekend, like throwing baseballs at players on the other team because they’re beating you, smells of disguised give-up.  You throw at guys and create controversy like that when you’re trying to take the spotlight off the real issue – and the real issue is LOSING.

A caller chimed in on Monday and said, “Even if we blow it up – again – where do we start?”

That was the question of the day.

I don’t know where you would start.  The farm system isn’t good enough to just “go young” and take our lumps for a year or two until everyone is game ready.  The O’s tried that with their young pitching – the so called “cavalry” – and look what that got them so far.  Maybe those arms came up too early, maybe they weren’t quite ready for prime time, maybe they’d be better if the team around them were better…maybe, maybe, maybe.  The only real, quality players under contract past this year worthy of trading — Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis to name the only three, are guys you’d rather hang on to if possible. But how do you “blow it up” and stand pat at the same time?  You don’t.

I look at the Phillies pitching and it strikes me they have a unique blend of guys who were acquired in various forms. Halladay was a winter trade acquisition two years ago, Cliff Lee was signed as a free agent in the 2010-2011 off-season, Roy Oswalt was a trade deadline pick-up last July and Cole Hamels was the team’s first pick in the 2002 draft.

The Phillies grew ONE arm.  They went about getting the other ones in whatever way they could.  They did that for one reason:  They wanted to win.

As Malcom X said:  “By any means necessary”.

While the Phillies were busy complementing their staff by adding Cliff Lee last winter, the Orioles were busy filling their need for a veteran starting pitcher by inking Justin Duchscherer to a contract.

Enough said about who wants to win and who just wants to fill out the roster.

For the Orioles to turn this around – and that means, most likely, NEXT season (and we’ve heard that over and over for the last 13 years) – they MUST be free-spenders in the off-season this winter.  That will certainly go against the grain of everything the organization has stood for over the last decade, but it’s the ONLY way the team will have a chance at some sort of semi-massive improvement in 2012.  You’ve seen the minor league call-ups who have played this season, the likes of Blake Davis and Ryan Adams, and you’re probably aware of the young players waiting in the wings at Frederick and Bowie and even Norfolk.  Do you think this team can throw 4-5 of them to the wolves in 2012 and compete?  Right, I agree with you on that.  They can’t.

Spending money is so foreign to the Orioles, they have to look up the exchange rate to see what it all adds up to.

But that’s what they’re faced with this winter.

That is, if they want to try and win.

Prince Fielder, Michael Cuddyer…those are two names you’ll be hearing a lot about in November.  There are others, but one of those two would fill the Orioles need for a first baseman who can both field the position and offer production at the plate.

They won’t be cheap.

But they’re both better than any other option we currently have on the radar.

In the meantime, the malady lingers on, as Morrissey once sang, and the dog days of July, August and September will once again remind all of us – even the apologists who hate to admit it – that this losing will only stop when the organization makes that it’s NUMBER ONE priority.

When winning is all that matters, and I mean ALL that matters, the Orioles will start to see a change in their fortune.

In the past few years, the number one priority has ranged from stuff like “fiscal responsibility” to “growing the arms” to “buying the bats” (which still hasn’t happened) to “stocking the farm system” to “remaining patient”…but none of that has added up to a deep, soul-searching commitment to winning from the Orioles organization.

Last year when the Ravens gagged away a 3rd quarter two touchdown lead in Pittsburgh and once again became the Steelers au pair for the AFC Championship Game, I offered THIS opinion about our football team:  “The only thing they should concern themselves with in 2011 is this:  How do we beat the Steelers?  Every player signing, draft pick and personnel decision has to be made with that question in mind.”

As for the Orioles, the ONLY question they should entertain going forward is this:  What can we do to win?  What players can we sign that will help us win now?  What can we do to get better than the Red Sox and the Yankees? (You’ll notice there wasn’t any mention of money in there…)

No more garbage from guys like Kevin Gregg about the Red Sox and their $180 million payroll.  Let’s get rid of the TV commercials with Buck in the spotlight where he basically tries to make fun of the Yankees.

Let’s just focus on one thing:  winning.

It’s all that should matter.

And that’s the summary of this whole missive.  The losing isn’t funny.

No matter what the cost, it’s time to win.

By any means necessary.