A new Bird will be “in the nest” today by approximately 2:30 p.m. EST. The MLB Draft will be held at Disney World in Florida and telecast for the first time on ESPN2 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Watch it while you listen to Rob Long!
I am linking the Orioles’ first-round picks for the last 40 years. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/alltime/draft?team=bal
Check out some of those names! Some real doozies, such as Drungo Hazewood (easily the coolest name) to Joe Kucharski to Chris Myers (remember him? Didn’t think so). The point is, baseball drafts are so difficult because nobody knows if you’ve got a player who’s truly special at the time he’s picked. There are thousands of Ken Thomas’ (O’s first rounder in 1972 – a catcher, for the record) for each Alex Rodriguez. Nobody is a sure thing. Mike Piazza was picked in something like the 63rd round, as a favor to his godfather, Tommy Lasorda. That worked out pretty well, wouldn’t you say? Just keep in mind that approximately 1,700 players were selected ahead of Piazza that year. I’m just guessing, because I honestly haven’t looked it up, but I’d bet Piazza is the only player taken that year who will have his bust in Cooperstown.
Take a good look at the Orioles’ picks. Of their past 42 first rounders, it would be fair to say that only 7 made a significant contribution at the major league level. Bobby Grich (’67), Rich Dauer (’74), Gregg Olson (’88), Ben McDonald (’89), Mike Mussina (’90), Larry Bigbie (’99), and Nick Markakis (’03). That’s 17%. Which is below the Mendoza Line. Looking at that list again, the stretch from 1988-90 sort of validates Roland Hemond’s abilities as a GM, at least as regards the draft. I’ll bet you forgot all about Roland Hemond until now, didn’t you? I sure did. The Birds have only had about 12 GM’s since then, right?
Of all the ills that plague the Orioles, and there are many, their inability to identify and develop young talent over the past twenty years is the biggest. Consider that back in the franchise’s true “Glory Days”, from 1962-85, they could always seemingly plug in players from the farm system to cover injuries, fill roles (without constantly bitching, may I add) and provide adequate depth. Guys like Lenn Sakata, Kiko Garcia, Jim Traber, Billy Smith and Storm Davis were contributors to winning baseball. They either came up through the minor league system or were acquired in trades by an organization that truly had a plan and a vision for winning baseball games. An organization that trusted its system, its scouts and its methods. An organization that won consistently because it had a plan, it believed whole-heartedly in it, and it stuck to it.
It’s been said that you cannot judge a baseball draft for three years due to players’ adjusting to wood bats, more games, maturity, etc. So for now, as fans, we’ll have to be patient on Billy Rowell, Brandon Snyder and even Adam Loewen. But under the Angelos Regime, only Markakis qualifies as an undisputed gem. This is the 17th draft in this current “reign of error”. If the franchise really wants to win back our hearts (and money) there’s no better place to begin than today, by drafting the best player they believe in, then providing a system that ensures he succeeds at the big league level.
But history tells me there’s a 17% chance, at best, that will happen.