MacPhail makes Orioles better, but does that reward fans?

January 01, 2011 | Drew Forrester

the best you can do when the top 3rd baseman available (Adrian Beltre) wants “too much money” and you rely on a bunch of pot-smokers to come up with statistics that would have stumped Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting.  Those numbers supposedly tell everyone who the best player is, for the money, but fail to take into account that the players they’re rating are human beings and not robots or computers.

3rd place is what you settle for when the gamble to finish first isn’t worth taking, which is precisely how the Orioles wound up with Lee, Reynolds and Hardy.  RUSH is a better trio, in all fairness.

3rd place is what the majority of your fan base is willing to accept as a “reasonable effort” because it’s much easier to blame the Yankees and Red Sox for trying so hard to win than it is to call out your favorite team for their annual winter-walk through Mediocre Park.

The Orioles did exactly what I figured they’d do.

They signed a few players and those players were upgrades.

But they didn’t sign the best players that were available.

They never do.

And they always fall back on a plethora of excuses.  Settle in and listen closely, you’ll hear or read all of these in the next 30 days, either from MacPhail or the core of Kool Aid drinkers who applaud the team’s off-season endeavors:

“(insert name here) wasn’t coming here anyway”  (Code word=”we didn’t make an offer that was even close to what the guy wound up getting (see Exhibit A, aka “Mark Teixeira) so we just say “he wasn’t coming here anyway”.  They used that one with Dunn.  They offered $40 million.  He got $56 million.  What WOULD have happened if the O’s would have offered $60 million?  Or $63.5 million?  We’ll never know.  But it never gets to that because “he’s not coming anyway.”)

“(insert name here) wanted too much money and the sabermetrics say he’s not good value” (Code word=when WE don’t sign the player and someone else does, it’s always TOO much money.  But if we sign a guy, it’s always ‘Look, Andy fleeced ’em again, what a deal we got!’)

“(insert name here) would have blocked us from going after you-know-who, who will be a free agent NEXT off-season.” (Code word=let’s put off signing anyone of REAL value for another year…it saves us money. Remember when the Orioles were gonna sign Kevin Millar as the bridge to Teixeira?…this excuse will be used a lot now, as fans will predict the O’s will be “big players” for Prince Fielder next winter.)

None of what happened over the last month is a surprise.  The Orioles HAD to sign someone.  They couldn’t play Josh Bell at third base and Luke Scott isn’t REALLY a first baseman.

But as soon as they choked during the Adam Dunn negotiation (if you want to call making a half-assed offer a “negotiation”) I knew they weren’t going to do anything of real substance in the off-season.

I knew when I heard MacPhail offered a highly sought-after free agent (Dunn) a pay-cut from a year ago that they weren’t serious.

I’m glad they got Reynolds.  He’s better than Bell.

I’m glad they got Hardy.  He’s better than Izturis.

I’m glad they got Lee.  He’s better than Scott or Wigginton.

But it’s another off-season of spending little money…another off-season of watching other teams fatten up…and another off-season of being reminded, once again, that the teams who try to win usually do and that the teams that try to save money usually do.