I was sitting at Love Field Airport in Dallas when I got the news.
Like so many stories in these past 18 months, I got the news from Twitter. Enrique Rojas from ESPNDeportes.com Tweeted that the Baltimore Orioles had finally signed free agent Designated Hitter/Outfielder Vladimir Guerrero to a one year deal worth eight million dollars.
I smiled when I saw the news.
As an O’s fan-particularly an O’s fan who has seen my favorite team reach the playoffs only three times during the 27+ years I’ve been on this planet-one of which was a World Series win when I was only a month old-it’s easy to get carried away by any good news at all.
We just haven’t gotten much of it in Charm City during the regime of owner Peter Angelos, especially since 1998.
I will admit that after the Guerrero rumors didn’t produce a deal by the team’s annual Fanfest celebration January 29th at the Baltimore Convention Center-I had a bad feeling this was going to be another swing and miss for the organization and Birds fans alike.
That’s why the news of the deal was most exciting.
Not only did President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail come through to add a nine time All-Star and borderline Hall or Famer we’ve all enjoyed watching for years as a Major League Baseball fan, but he did it at a price some five million dollars more than we were told the team had originally offered.
In a few moments, it felt as though the organization had gone through a complete change. If felt as though we could finally mark the turning point in what I heard MASN’s Tom Davis call “The Rise of the Orioles” over the weekend.
Hell of a lede, huh?
Reality set in for me sometime around 2pm Saturday as I was sitting at Comcast Center in College Park watching Maryland blow out Wake Forest.
The reality in the acquisition of Guerrero is that the Orioles are a better team today than they were a week ago-but that nothing has REALLY changed organizationally.
The Birds invested $8 million dollars in their current and future on-field product Friday.
The $8 million they invested might well solidify them as a favorite to finish third in the American League East; and will lead to more MLB talking heads picking them to finish at or slightly above .500 this season.
Despite his age (35) and having missed nearly half the 2009 season with a torn pec (he played in just 100 games); there’s fair reason to expect Guerrero to equal his 2010 production (.300, 29 HR’s, 115 RBI) at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 2011.
For those reasons, there is an understandable excitement surrounding the acquisition of Guerrero-myself included.
But the Orioles didn’t change the course of their organization by signing Guerrero.
They signed a player for ONE season and gave him $8 million.
They didn’t make an annual investment of $8 million in a player in his prime who will be around for five seasons.
They made a one time investment of $8 million in a player who is nearing the end of his career.
They DIDN’T spend $56 million over four seasons to acquire Adam Dunn-which is what the Chicago White Sox did this offseason.
They DIDN’T spend $96 million over six seasons to acquire Adrian Beltre-which is what the Texas Rangers did this offseason.
Some folks will say the Orioles exercised fiscal responsibility. Unfortunately, fiscal responsibility still hasn’t replaced “wins” in determining who wins the AL East and AL Wild Card.
The Orioles gave Vlad Guerrero $3 million more this season than they gave P Koji Uehara a season ago. (The team actually made more of an “investment” in Uehara than they did Guerrero-as he was originally given 2 years, $10 million.)
As CBS’ Ian Eagle would say, “that’s not a low blow…”
Guerrero makes the Orioles better, but most folks willing to take an impartial look at the general scope of the American League would agree that they’re still not approaching a place where they can legitimately compete with the likes of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have added Guerrero. They ABSOLUTELY did the right thing in making the addition. They should be commended for the decision to upgrade their team this way.
But as fans, we should have a little more IQ than to respond by saying things like “the confederate money era is over” or “they’ve finally decided to change their financial ways” or the one a caller named Aaron dropped on Drew Forrester and I Monday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST…
“Now the Orioles are set up to go out and get Prince Fielder this offseason.”
None of those things have changed.
For whatever reason, the team decided to make an $8 million upgrade that will help them win a handful of additional games this season. On paper, they will send a lineup to the plate that might end being in the top third of the league after finishing 13th in runs scored a year ago.
But adding Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero in an offseason puts them in good shape to win the 2005 NL East, not the 2011 AL East.
And it certainly doesn’t show that they’ve suddenly changed their ways in terms of spending money.
One eight million dollar payment does not suddenly enter them in the Albert Pujols discussion.
Hopefully things will go well for the Orioles in 2011.
Hopefully Guerrero will match his 2010 output.
Hopefully Lee and SS JJ Hardy will stay healthy and return to their 2009 productivity.
Hopefully 3B Mark Reynolds will keep his power numbers up even if his batting average and strikeout numbers are less than desirable.
Hopefully C Matt Wieters will reach the levels we thought he would reach a season ago.
Hopefully RF Nick Markakis and 2B Brian Roberts will be Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts.
Hopefully CF Adam Jones will look like the 2nd half of 2010 Adam Jones and not the 1st half of 2010 Adam Jones.
Hopefully the starting pitching will continue to develop.
If those things happen, the Orioles could be interesting to watch this season. It could be especially important to sports fans in the state of Maryland as we have no guarantee the Ravens will be reporting to McDaniel College in Westminster for Training Camp in July-or at all.
But can we all agree to not get carried away? Can we all agree to be able to react at an appropriate level?
The Orioles aren’t suddenly an expected contender because Guerrero is in tow. And they’re certainly not a team that has suddenly changed their business model in a way that will allow them to add players and compete on an annual basis.
They’re simply a little bit better than they were a week ago.
There’s nothing wrong with that.