Just before the end of Wednesday morning’s show, my pal Mickey from Union Square chimed in to instigate a 10-minute on-air tete-a-tete during which he defended the Orioles and their rebuilding while chastising me for my decision to root for the Yankees when the baseball playoffs start in October.
He called me “a front-runner.”
What I have said over the last month or so is that come playoff time this Fall, I’m going to pull for the Yankees. It’s probably the first time in my life I’ve ever actually done that and frankly, it seems quite odd to even *think* about doing it, let alone proclaim it on the air.
That said, I AM going to do it in October. I’m going to hope the Yankees win.
But that doesn’t make me a front-runner. I’m not choosing the Yankees OVER my hometown team because the New York club wins and my hometown team doesn’t.
I’m rooting for the Yankees to win because it will keep the Orioles honest. I’ve written this before, so I don’t feel like going into a full-blow re-cap of why I feel the way I do. It’s just easy enough to say it like this: As long as New York and Boston continue to produce outstanding teams, their success alone will keep the bar high enough that the Orioles will be forced to go above and beyond the call of duty to improve their franchise — or they’ll fall by the wayside.
I know what you’re thinking. How can a team that’s in last place (again) fall by the wayside? Trust me, the last 12 years officially qualify as “the wayside”. When you haven’t played a game that matters in a dozen years, you own a penthouse overlooking Wayside City.
As long as New York continues to win, the heat remains on the O’s to catch them. And, I think, to catch them, the Birds will have to spend some of that cash they’ve been bilking from me, you and everyone else who has cable or satellite TV over the last few years since we were “blessed” with the debut of MASN.
“We’re gonna grow the arms and buy the bats,” is the famous quote from Andy MacPhail, when talking about his plan for re-tooling the club.
Well, they’ve grown the arms.
This off-season, they’ll need to find some bats. And those bats don’t grow on trees or hang upside down. The bats MacPhail wants will either have to be purchased or traded for — and either way, it will be on MacPhail’s watch this winter.
Or, they can just start next season with Michael Aubrey at first base and Ty Wigginton at third base.
That’s a theory Mickey (MacPhail) from Union Square floated today. “We’ve seen some really good stuff from Aubrey, he had 3 runs batted in last night,” Mickey said. Evidently, he said that with a straight face.
Mickey also pointed out this morning that the concept of “spending money” is useless. He pointed to how the Mets and Cubs have both spent tons of money and – quote from Mickey – “they have nothing to show for it.”
The Mets and the Cubs have both played in the post-season this decade. They’ve been to the brink of advancing to the World Series, in fact. In any given year, they both arrive at their respective spring training sites with legitimate hopes of chasing after the title. Injuries have wrecked the Mets this year — and the Cubs remain in the NL Central fight although it looks like Albert Puljos is going to reject their efforts this season. The point, of course, is that the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs both TRY to win every year and have actually done so throughout this decade. The Orioles haven’t tried to win since Clinton was President and haven’t tasted a post-season game since 1997.
Mickey and the rest of the apologists in town continue to revel in this current rebuilding effort of the O’s. It’s been an interesting year to watch baseball in Baltimore, what with the unveiling of the young pitching staff and the (somewhat disappointing) emergence of Matt Wieters behind the plate. But “interesting” is a far cry from “successful”.
Yes, it’s a marathon. Yes, MacPhail has put some new faces in place who appear to be building blocks for the future. Yes, the stability of the club right now appears more solid than when MacPhail took over in 2007.
That said, a realist (I belong to that party) would note that the O’s are faced with an off-season managerial decision and holes at the corner infield spots that can only be adequately filled by either spending a lot of money (on QUALITY players, not inexpensive re-treads like we saw last winter) or making shrewd trades and dangling some of those fresh faces and arms to willing trade partners. The realist would also note that it’s exceedingly difficult to get a quality player to join a franchise that hasn’t won in 12 years. Therein, as Clive Owen whispered in the opening moments of Inside Man, lies the rub. You need good players to come to your team because you’ve been losing for so long. But good players are rarely interested in joining teams that have been losing for so long.
The remedy? Pay. Them. Money.
And this off-season, the O’s will either pony up big bucks or sit on the sidelines and watch teams like the Yankees sign the best players…sort of like they did last winter.
In other words, the apologists in town — the likes of the Mickey’s, Stoner’s, Shaffer’s et al — won’t take time to actually look at the work that MUST be done in the future. They’d rather sit back and say, “look what we DID last off-season…” They forget that this great group that’s been assembled is perched in last place and remains in danger of a 95-100 loss campaign.
The work to be done this off-season includes spending money. MacPhail told us the club was going to spend money on free agents. So did Peter Angelos back in 2005 when he first floated the idea of developing a TV network that all of us would eventually (foolishly) pay for in our cable/satellite bill every month. “The best teams use their TV revenue to improve their playing roster by being able to compete in the free agent market,” Angelos said back then.
As Ted Knight said in Caddyshack — “Welllllllllllllllll…we’re waiiiiiiiiiiiiiting.”
Let’s see what the off-season brings. Maybe the O’s will dish out a bunch of money for a couple of quality free agents and maybe even a veteran pitcher to guide the youngsters through the rocky waters of their first few years in the big-leagues.
If that happens, I’ll be thrilled.
If not, I’ll chew them a new one, like I’ve done for the better part of the last 3-4 years because of the way they’ve scammed the baseball fans in Baltimore.
One of Mickey’s parting shots this morning was THIS question. “Would you root for the Steelers if the Ravens weren’t any good?” The answer has already been given to that question. By the Ravens themselves. I’ve heard both Steve Bisciotti and John Harbaugh – on the record – say their goal is for the Ravens to be as consistent and well-run as the Pittsburgh club. They get it. You take the team or organization that’s the model franchise and you do your best to copy what they do and, hopefully, maybe figure out the formula to do it just a tad better. Let me think about this for a second. Since 2004, Pittsburgh has been to 3 AFC title games and won a pair of Super Bowls. The Ravens have been to one AFC title game in that same time span. Would I like the Ravens to be just like Pittsburgh? You’re damn right.
But to answer Mickey’s question. If the Ravens were 3-13 every single year and didn’t really sign any quality free agents and basically just half-mailed-it-in while banking a bunch of money at season’s end, would I root for Pittsburgh to continue to excel with the hope that it might make the Baltimore club get with the program and raise the bar on their own performance expectations and demands for success? Yes, frigging, sir, I would.
There’s no sense in fearing the Yankees or the Steelers. Just because they do it right doesn’t mean we can’t do it right too. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty proud of that football franchise in Baltimore. And if they can equal what Pittsburgh’s accomplished over the last few years, I think we’d all be dancing in the streets.
Following Mickey’s tirade, an e-mail came in from Joe — “Are you EVER going to get off the baseball team’s back?” he asked.
I responded like this: “Sure, I’ll get off the team’s back when they draw fans to the ballpark again, spend the money they make off of the TV network funded ENTIRELY by the fans — and, field a competitive team.”
When those three things happen in Baltimore, I’ll be off their back. Until then, I’ll remain a skeptic. I’ll remain a skeptic mainly because I’ve been fooled more times than Charlie Brown trying to kick a field goal with Lucy as the holder. I own the right to remain a skeptic based on the number of times I’ve had the wool pulled over my eyes as a fan. Being an O’s fan in 2009 means owning a PSL to Skeptic Stadium. When you’re an Orioles follower, your zodiac sign isn’t Aquarius or Libra or Capricorn: it’s Skeptical.
Fans in the stands, spending money on quality players, becoming competitive on the field. That’s what the O’s need to do to convince me they’ve changed their ways.
Those three things are already happening in New York, which is why I’ll root for them when they start playing for real in October.
In the meantime, the apologists in town can bellow on about how “that station no one listens to treats the Orioles so poorly”.
Mickey in Union Square got his two cents in today.
It was a good phone call, actually.
“You’re a front runner,” Mickey said to me.
Really? How can you be a front runner when you’re team’s never in front?
Oh…to be a front runner.
Wouldn’t that be fun?