O’s Today: Reimold, Montanez and Turner making life tough for MacPhail

March 17, 2009 | Drew Forrester

Most bad teams, I assume, don’t have player personnel issues to deal with in spring training.

The Orioles, however, are much different. 

They’ve worked themselves into a quandry of sorts, although it’s not a surprise to any of us who carefully follow the daily happenings of the local nine.

A handful of young players are tearing the cover off the ball in Ft. Lauderdale — Matt Wieters, Lou Montanez, Nolan Reimold and Justin Turner are all grapefruit-league hot-shots begging for a chance to make the trip north to Baltimore in April.

The problem?  There’s no room for them.  Not with the big league club, anyway.

But…isn’t spring training used to try and identify the best 25 players who are going north for the start of the season?

Occasionally, when the club paints themselves in a corner by adding “out-of-option” guys, the decision to take a player to the big city is made for them.  The O’s have players like that right now, including Rich Hill, Hayden Penn and David Pauley.  They either head up I-95 in April, or they go elsewhere.  In general, though, isn’t the club’s main goal in February and March to put together the best 25-man roster for the start of the season?

I thought so.

In the O’s case, though, it looks like they’re not thinking like that.

Reimold and Montanez are both minor league free swingers who have power. Like most bombers, they strike out a lot.  They don’t walk much.  And they have holes in their offensive game that have kept them in the minor leagues. Montanez nearly had 100 Baltimore-based at-bats last September…he hit .280 and had a few shining moments but didn’t come close to being the wrecking-machine he was in Bowie (AA).  Still, he’s an offensive weapon and he’s enjoyed a tremendous spring training in ’09.

Reimold is a former #1 pick who has been hampered by injuries in his professional career and has yet to eat a post-game meal in a major league locker room.  For whatever reason, the club hadn’t ever even offered him a spring training invite or September call-up…until this spring when he’s showed his worth in Ft. Lauderdale with three home runs and a .385 batting average. 

Neither Reimold or Montanez are going to be confused with Gold Glove candidates.  They’re not known for their defense…never will be, most likely.

But, they can both drive the ball.  They have power.  The O’s need more of that.  

You can’t expect them to tell Felix Pie to take a seat and join the left-field platoon system.  Andy MacPhail took a chance on Pie in the off-season with the deal involving Garrett Olson — and even though it wasn’t a large gamble parting company with Olson…they still can’t give Pie a 3-day-a-week part-time-job with 350-400 at bats at season’s end.  If Pie doesn’t pan out, it shouldn’t be because he never got a fair, full look.  

That said, is Felix Pie starting in left field the best option for the O’s as they get ready to break camp from Ft. Lauderdale?

Maybe not.  Montanez and Reimold have statistical data that would say otherwise.

Justin Turner is a shortstop who was a thrown-in from Cincinnati in the Ramon Hernandez deal.  He’s been perhaps the biggest surprise of spring training to date.  Look, it’s spring training — we all get that — but it should count for SOMETHING, right?  Can Turner field the position well enough to warrant a spot at the major league level as a younger version of Chris Gomez?  That’s a thought.  The only problem?  Who loses their job if Turner makes the trip to Baltimore?  

Speaking of having a job with the big league club, Wieters, apparently, is beyond discussion at this point.  I’ll still contend it’s wrong to leave him back in Florida when he’s without a doubt, one of the best 25 players on the roster.  I know, I know…it’s all about money.  It always is with the Orioles.

That goes back to the initial question I posed above.  Isn’t the goal of spring training to eventually compile and bring forward the best 25 players on the roster? 

Isn’t winning the goal? 

Evidently, in Baltimore, at least — it’s not.

The Orioles have convinced their apologist flock-of-faithful of this:  “We’re not going to win this year anyway…”

And, with that in mind, leaving Pie in left field with no competition except a steaming Luke Scott, who clearly doesn’t understand how he LOST his job after being productive in ’08, and keeping Wieters off the opening day roster because of a stupid “6-year fear” revolving around service-time, are both puzzling moves given the various results of spring training thus far.

If Lou Montanez is the most productive left-fielder — or, if that’s Nolan Reimold, even — let HIM play.  What’s the obsession with Pie, anyway?  The club has far more equity invested in Reimold and Montanez. 

The apologists will say this:  “You can’t have Montanez or Reimold in Baltimore, rotting away on the bench.  They need their minor league at bats.”  Until when? As Morrissey crooned with The Smith’s, “How soon is now?”

Here’s a concept:  Don’t let them rot away on the bench.  Find time for them. Split the duties with Pie and Scott.  Trade Scott, if you have to – since he showed last year he’s a full-time player that’s been shoved to the side because of our team’s new love affair with Windy City cast-offs.  If Ryan Freel doesn’t like it, he, too, can take a hike.  They don’t have an investment in him, anyway.  

I guess it’s OK to have Luke Scott “rot away” while Pie gets his slice of everyday action…but Montanez and/or Reimold don’t deserve their crack at the big league roster?

I realize the O’s have convinced their fan base that “we’re not going to win anyway…” – so, why bring guys up who aren’t ready?  Why sign free agent pitchers in the off-season when we get away with something inferior under the umbrella of “we’re not going to win anyway…”?  

Well, if the team’s not trying to win (anyway), why, then, should we buy tickets to games this year (anyway)?

That’s a question for the O’s to answer.