Orioles owe Jeremy Guthrie the ultimate reward: a new team

July 25, 2011 | Drew Forrester

Rarely, if ever, does a professional athlete actually DESERVE to be traded.

Most times when a player is dealt, particularly in-season, it’s met with bitterness and frustration at the turn of events that led up to the deal.

In the case of Jeremy Guthrie, the Orioles owe it to him to move him on this week as the trade deadline fast approaches.  I’ve been around long enough to know the basic concepts of pro sports – the players are the employees and the team employs them, so in that regard the team doesn’t have any moral obligation to do anything except pay the man every other Friday.

I get it.

But this is a special circumstance, because the Birds have – as has become their summer custom – flatlined and wilted just as the race in the AL East started to heat up.  They’re not going anywhere.  And with their farm system relatively bare and devoid of any true major-league-ready talent, now is the time to take advantage of someone else’s desire to upgrade their team for the stretch run.

That means now is the best time to move Jeremy Guthrie to a new team and actually get something decent in return.

Depending on which national talking head you believe (and, frankly, they ALL could be wrong), as many as six teams are reportedly interested in Guthrie — Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, Reds, Cardinals and Tigers.

I don’t know the merits of what each team is offering in exchange for the right handed pitcher, but I do know this:  Guthrie deserves a fresh start somewhere.

As the late, great Lowell George of Little Feat sings in “Mercenary Territory” – “I did my time in your rodeo, it’s been so long and I’ve got nothing to show…”

Jeremy Guthrie has been here since 2007.  And he has nothing to show for it.

Guthrie has been one of the team’s most reliable performers over the last five years, which probably doesn’t say a whole lot when you consider the Orioles have stunk in each of those seasons.  With the exception of the 2009 campaign, when he staggered through a dismal 10-17 campaign with a 5.04 ERA and 1.420 WHIP, Guthrie hasn’t ever embarrassed himself.   That was also the occasion that Andy MacPhail provided Guthrie with an interesting gift just prior to the start of the season: MacPhail cut the pitcher’s salary by $120k.  Yep, two weeks before the season started, MacPhail trimmed Guthrie’s pay by $120k after a pro-rated signing bonus from Guthrie’s days in Cleveland expired and MacPhail took advantage of a clause in the contract that enabled him to reduce Guthrie’s salary by 15%.

Yes, the same guy – MacPhail – who gave Justin Duchscherer $700k just for showing up in Sarasota this past February and letting the team doctor feel his jewels was responsible for telling Guthrie he was going to reduce his salary by $120k.

In 2007, 2008 and 2010, Jeremy Guthrie posted a sub 4.00 ERA.  Check the records to see how many starters in the AL East have posted sub 4.00 ERAs three times in the last five years.  It’s a fairly short list.

Yes, Guthrie gives up a lot of home runs.  Yes, he’s lost more games in his career than he’s won.  But he’s also never pitched AGAINST the Orioles, either.  Unlike the Sabathia’s, Burnett’s, Price’s, Beckett’s, Shields’ and Halladay’s (when he was with Toronto) who have feasted on the Orioles over the years and beefed up their stats at the expense of our orange feathered friends, Guthrie hasn’t ever had that luxury.  Instead, he’s made 12 starts a year, at least, against the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Rays.  And in 3 of the last 5 years, his ERA has always been a half-run or so below the league average.

That brings us to the now.

Rumors are swirling that a bunch of teams are hot and heavy for Guthrie.

The ball is in Andy MacPhail’s court.

What should he do?

Well, if he has any heart at all, even a morsel of appreciation for what Guthrie has done in Baltimore, MacPhail will move him on this week and let him experience a pennant race for the first time in his career.

The club owes that much to him.

Along with Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis, Guthrie has sewn himself into the fabric of the Baltimore community, all the while waiting for the club to do him a solid by actually trying to win.

As we’ve seen over the last 40 games, there’s not going to be any winnin’ in Baltimore this season…that is, unless you’re the Yankees or Red Sox, who routinely win here when they make Camden Yards their home-away-from-home.

Guthrie has seen it all in Baltimore.

He watched Freddie Bynum try to play shortstop.

He was here while Ramon Hernandez was going through the motions behind the plate.

He watched the Yankees get Mark Teixeira.

He saw the ever-so-brief Garrett Atkins era up close and personal.

Like most of us, he’s marveled at the five tools of Felix Pie.

Perlozzo, Trembley, Samuel, Showalter.

He’s played for all of them.

Since 2007, Guthrie has hung around and fought like a champion, even though he knew in his heart-of-hearts it was a losing battle.  And when the Orioles cut his salary in 2009, he also figured out they weren’t good people too.

Jeremy Guthrie deserves better.

He deserves to go to a winning organization.

He’s not going to be anyone’s #1 or #2 starter, mind you.  He’s a decent pitcher, but certainly not a Cy Young candidate.   Sometimes he borders on being very good, in fact.  And in the right situation, with a team trying to win and a team that can spot him 3-4 runs, Guthrie could turn out to be a valuable asset for someone.

For sure, though, Guthrie’s no longer all that valuable here in Baltimore.  With him, the team stinks.  Without him?  They’ll probably still stink, I assume.

As I watch and listen to him after games, it seems like Guthrie is ripe for a trade.

He’s tired of the losing.

He’s sick of seeing pitchers forget to cover first base, balls squeeze through the 3rd baseman’s glove and hitter after hitter ground into a double play when just a seeing-eye single would change the whole game.

It’s the Oriole way…and, as Guthrie knows, the Orioles aren’t very good.

And Jeremy Guthrie has been part of “not very good” since 2007.

Yet he’s never really griped or bitched or stormed the office of the GM and demanded a trade, even though he had every right to do that on numerous occasions.

Guthrie is a class act.

Honestly?

He dresses too nice and smells too good to be in Baltimore anymore.

He’s better than this.

He’s better than what the Orioles have done for him.

He deserves to be traded this week.

For once, Jeremy  Guthrie would be happy.

And after five years in Baltimore, one moment of happiness is a fair trade, isn’t it?

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