In my last blog, I wrote about the Orioles’ pursuit of Mark Teixeira, and I placed much of the blame at the feet of Andy MacPhail.
However, looking back since June 2007, a day that MacPhail promised change in Birdland, it is hard not to be extremely impressed at the improvements made by the MacPhail led Orioles.
The previous regimes of the Orioles, whether it be Syd Thrift, or some combination (pick 2) of Jim Beattie, Jim Duquette, and Mike Flanagan, while solid baseball people, did not really have a clue as to how to build a successful franchise in the AL East. Year after year, they low-balled big time free agents, and settled for stop-gaps, or band aids, hoping year after year that the O’s would reach their potential and maybe win 80-82 games. Problem is, whether a team wins 60 or 80 games, in the AL East, that will get you a one way ticket to your couch once October rolls around. This mindset was supported by the singings of Payton, Baez, Walker, Bradford, Conine, Millar, Benson, Palmerio, Ponson, David Segui, and Javy Lopez, among others. These guys were aging, past their prime, and offered no long-term solutions.
Andy MacPhail has been a complete 180 from the gentlemen that I previously listed. MacPhail has made numerous improvements and advancements, and has established a strategy that he feels, and I agree, will get the Orioles back on top of the AL East. MacPhail recognized that the organization needed to be rebuilt from the ground up, and has followed through. Let’s take a look at some of the strides that have been made under the leadership of Andy MacPhail.
MacPhail has established the precedent, with Matt Wieters and Jake Arrieta, of offering high-priced deals to draft picks, as well as going “over slot” to secure these draftees. The Orioles selected Jake Arrieta in the 5th round, and paid him 2nd round money to get him to sign. MacPhail realizes it is much wiser to invest money in young, cheap, talented players as opposed to middling, journeyman veterans. In less than 2 years, these 2 players represent key pieces of our promising future.
MacPhail has advanced scouting in the Dominican and Pacific Rim, putting John Stockstill in charge of the operation. Players such as Vladimir Guerrero, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, and Pedro Martinez were discovered overseas by scouts who put in long hours over there trying to find the next superstar. The Orioles hope to in the future, be able to use that area to their advantage as they search for a competitive edge in any way possible.
Also, the greatest international move that MacPhail has made was the singing of Koji Uehara. Uehara was widely considered one of the best pitchers in Japan. Having a country that has produced Ichiro Suzuki, Dice-K Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima, among others, become familiar with the Orioles can only be a positive. The Uehara signing represents much more than simply on field production. Uehara officially opens the Japanese door to the Orioles, and allows them a better opportunity to compete for the services of future Japanese players.
MacPhail has established the precedent of shipping off players a year too early rather than a year too late. MacPhail pulled the trigger on the Tejada and Bedard deals prior to the 2008 seasons. In less than a year, Bedard was hurt yet again, and Tejada was named in the Mitchell Report, placed on probation, all while going from age 32 to age 34.
MacPhail keeps an eye on the waiver wire, and other teams blocked prospects. MacPhail has made deals for Rich Hill, Brian Bass, Fernando Cabrera, and Felix Pie, recognizing that the Orioles present an opportunity for these guys to grow, as opposed to contending teams that need to win now.
Furthermore, other things that have less on-field importance but are significant nonetheless, include putting Baltimore back on the road jerseys, putting in new video boards, scoreboards, and a new sound system. Promotions have also evolved under MacPhail, which can only help in attracting people back to the Yard.
Bottom line, MacPhail gets things done.
MacPhail recognizes that the Orioles need to take full advantage of every resource. Let’s give credit where credit is due.
So far, (other than the Teixeira negotiations) so good.