Axes To Grind

June 03, 2010 | Erich Hawbaker

I spent today out on the farm cutting firewood, which is my little side income for my days off. Typically, I will park my truck nearby, roll down the windows, and listen to talk radio all day as I’m sawing and splitting. Then, in the evening, I’ll flip it to the baseball game and leave it there until it gets too dark to work anymore. Tonight I listened to the entire O’s pregame radio show (I usually don’t, even though I really like Dave Johnson and remember him fondly from when I was a kid), and I heard that the Mets are apparently interested in trading for Ty Wigginton and/or Kevin Millwood. I hadn’t thought of it until today, but I guess it is time to start considering what moves the Orioles might make in terms of trades. I know I don’t have to tell anybody this, but our season is over; dead and buried. Despite all the hype about having turned the corner (which I even bought into, regrettably), the Orioles’ stay in the basement of the AL East has been extended to a 13th year.

So, how should they approach this? Wigginton is the easier of the two to analyze. He’s the only pleasant surprise the Orioles have had this year. On the outset, he wasn’t even meant to be a starter, but between Roberts’s injury and Atkins’s ineptitude, he found his way into the lineup every day and wound up being our best hitter. I snagged him for my fantasy team, for that and for the fact that he can be played at 1B, 2B, or 3B. But in the real world, he’s certainly not irreplaceable. His contract is up this year, so he may or may not be here after 2010 anyway. Hot-hitting position players are always being sought after by contending teams, and multi-position players are that much more valuable. He may or may not keep hitting like he is now (in fact, I’d bet that he won’t), but if we trade him, that’s not our problem anymore. The front office needs to shop him; and if they let him go, make sure that buyer is paying full price. There have to be at least two teams out there who’d be interested.

Millwood is a tougher one to decipher. He too is in the final year of the contract he brought with him from Texas, which includes a no-trade clause. I remember at the end of last year, he was one of the durable starters I was hoping the front office had their eye on. With him, we knew exactly what we were getting, and he seemed to be one of those Kevin Millar types who was amenable to being the ‘papa bear’ of the clubhouse and guiding the younger pitchers. He’d certainly be worth hanging on to if we were really on the upswing. But we aren’t, and the poor guy has clearly been pushed to his limit. He’s made 11 starts so far this year. He’s pitched 74.0 innings, struck out 58, walked only 17, and has an ERA of 3.89 (below his career ERA of 4.02). And what does he have to show for it? A record of 0-5. Perhaps he’s been hanging out with Jeremy Guthrie too much, because he too now has the plague that causes his teammates to forget how to hit whenever he’s on the mound.

When I got in this evening, I flipped on the TV and saw that Brad Bergesen only needed the ten minutes it takes me to get back to the house to give up four runs in the second inning. As the game went on and it became clear that we were headed for yet another loss, Gary Thorne and Brady Anderson (Angelos’s new professional buttkisser) started talking about Millwood. Apparently, he’s interested in being dealt to the Mets. And then, one of them said it. “I guess he wants to hit again.” I almost fell out of my chair. Is that what I’m paying extra on my cable bill for?! MASN propaganda?! Does your boss really think that the handful of Orioles fans he hasn’t managed to alienate are that stupid?!

As Judge Judy says, “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” Millwood doesn’t want to hit again, he wants to WIN again. The man has talent and he’s a hard worker. Thusfar, this team has given him zero rewards for his work. He wants to go elsewhere so his talent can go toward something productive. And he probably wouldn’t be so anxious to get out of Dodge if the front office had been serious about rebuilding instead of half-assing it. Instead of expecting Millwood to carry the rest of the inexperienced rotation by himself, they should have brought in at least one other veteran starter to share the load. Instead of gambling on Garrett Atkins to rebound, they should have ponied up for a real firstbaseman.

But that’s the bottom line. The reason Millwood wants to leave is the same reason Mark Teixeira didn’t want to come here in the first place. The Orioles aren’t interested in winning. They haven’t been for quite some time now. But they’ll go so far as to hire Brady Anderson to convince you that they are instead of actually doing it. So… good luck to you, Kevin Millwood. I hope that you get traded to a contender and get the chance to shine. Maybe we’ll put Mike Gonzalez in the rotation to replace you. I seem to remember somebody telling me that we’re not paying him $6 million a year to be a middle reliever…