Did O’s Dodge a Bullet in Dipoto?

December 12, 2011 | Thyrl Nelson

Quick Rant:


Hindsight is awesome. Sometimes the best moves that a team can make are the ones that they don’t make. As these moves, or lack thereof, typically take time to prove their worth, the satisfaction of dodging a bullet doesn’t always offset the disappointment felt at the time that the opportunity was missed.


Hindsight for example has many Ravens fans feeling that the team and owner Steve Bisciotti stumbled out of the way of a bullet when Jason Garrett saw fit to turn down the Ravens offer to make him the head coach following the 2007 season. As Garrett and his Cowboys have bumbled their way into and out of big leads all season and have stumbled to mediocrity as a result, Ravens fans can’t help but wonder what might have been and then to quickly thank their lucky stars at what never was.


I’m already starting to feel a similar satisfaction about the Orioles missing out on Jerry Dipoto as their GM this off-season. I’m not yet ready to say that Dan Duquette is or isn’t the right guy to resurrect the Orioles, or even if there is a right guy given the underlying circumstances of warehouse politics; but I am feeling absolutely safe in surmising that Jerry Dipoto wasn’t and isn’t that guy.


As the Angels mounted a furious charge to “win the off-season” late last week (stealing the title from the newly anointed Miami Marlins) it was easy to find $331 million reasons that Jerry Dipoto didn’t want to come to Baltimore. Dipoto was ready to step up to the poker table and push all of his cash immediately to the center of the table, meanwhile the Orioles appear to be looking around for a table with a cheaper buy in.


The fact of the matter is that Jerry Dipoto, through his acquisitions of Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson last week, has already sealed his fate one way or the other. All that’s left now is to wait for the cards to turn and determine whether Dipoto is a legendary architect of champions or a jobless laughing stock. For what it’s worth I’m betting on the latter.


Clearly the Orioles need a dramatic overhaul, and it won’t be sexy…at all. The man for the job will have to do yeoman’s work in a thankless environment with little organizational support and a number of internal hurdles. If the job is going to get done it will take someone thinking creatively and aggressively, willing to take the bumps and bruises inherently along the way without deviating from his plan. Again Dipoto isn’t that guy.


Dipoto instead inherited a team that finished 10 games behind the Rangers in the AL West and 5 games out of the AL Wildcard (and 4 games behind the Red Sox for what would now be the second wildcard). Naturally the only logical way to overcome this deficit was to throw gobs of money at the top bounties available in free agency with no regard for how they actually facilitate team needs. Jerry Dipoto did what any talk radio caller or fantasy baseball player worth his salts would have done too, target the top hitter and top pitcher on the market and force them into their lineup. And that’s why Dipoto gets the big bucks?


Forget that the Angels have bigger needs than at first base or in the starting rotation or that Mark Trumbo will now have to transition to 3rd base and Kendrys Morales (if he can come back) to DH, and forget that the Rangers didn’t even feel like Wilson was worth the money he got to be their 1st starter while the Angels will plug him in at 3rd or even 4th in their rotation. Forget that Pujols will be 42 in the final year of his deal and Vernon Wells still represents a substantial drain on payroll for a few more seasons. This is how the brand new GM sees fit to close a 4-10 game gap in the standings for a team that would have been much better served with some astute fine-tuning?


Given the education that we have all gotten (forcibly) in sports economics through the NFL and NBA lockouts, Dipoto’s spending appears even more reckless than his misguided attempt at adding straws to stir the drink that is Angels baseball.


The Angels also announced late last week that they had worked out the terms of a new local television deal that will pay them $3 billion over the next 20 years. On the surface it’s a ton of money. We’ve learned though that the right revenue formula in professional sports is somewhere around a 50/50 split of revenue with half going toward payroll and the other half at operating expenses and to turn a profit.


While the local TV deal isn’t the Angels’ only revenue stream it’s easily their biggest. That they just committed 11% of their total local TV money over the next 20 years to the contracts of Wilson and Pujols on 5 and 10 year deals respectively doesn’t bode well for future liquidity. Even if the Angels spent 66% of revenue on payroll, that’s 1/6 of the local TV portion of their payroll money over the next 20 years devoted to 2 big splash contracts.


We may not be convinced that Dan Duquette is the right man for the job, but we can surely be hopeful. Even if he doesn’t turn things all the way around, and given the relative state of the Orioles, it’s at least likely that he’ll leave the team in better shape than he inherited them. Dipoto on the other hand will likely be gone from the Angels sooner rather than later leaving a tattered and financially strapped franchise where a perennial contender used to be.


Angels…enjoy the hype and euphoria that you’re sure to feel in the buildup to the season, because it’s likely downhill from here…and Dipoto’s job is already done. He just doesn’t know it yet.