Don’t blink Andy…at least not yet

January 20, 2008 | Drew Forrester

I realize no one in town REALLY cares that much about baseball anymore.  And, despite the fact that our football team isn’t playing today or, on February 3rd in Arizona, pigskin talk still rules in these parts for another few weeks.

But, Andy MacPhail and the Orioles are nearing the 11th hour of their ’07-08 off-season and two key components of the team, Erik Bedard and Brian Roberts, are still on the club’s payroll, with about a month remaining until pitchers and catchers report.

I’ve been on record since he started last June that I think MacPhail has done a good job so far.  His critics will say:  “What’s he done so far that’s so great?”  Well, aside from the Tejada deal, he’s done nothing, really.  But, by doing nothing, he’s shown that he’s NOT going to give guys away for free, and that’s actually an accomplishment…as far as O’s management goes, that is.

Actually, MacPhail’s deal with the Astros has to go down as one of the best moves ANY General Manager has made in baseball over the last couple of years.  Tejada was dealt to Houston and the very next day, he’s in the Mitchell Report and is now the subject of some kind of multi-jurisdictional task force review (OK, I borrowed that “Beverly Hills Cop”, but it worked) on whether or not he lied about previously using steroids.  Memo to the United States Government:  “Yes, Tejada lied.  Yes, he used steroids.”  Now, can we save that $1 million you were going to spend on attorney fees researching Tejada’s case and use that money to lower the price of gasoline in our country?  

So, with the Tejada deal in the books, MacPhail has two remaining pieces to deal, both of whom have great value.  

Roberts is the trickiest of the two, because the 2,302 people left in Baltimore who still actually follow the team like B-Rob.  He is, without fail, the team’s “fan favorite”.  That said, and I’m repeating myself now because I’ve talked about and written about this several times in the last few months…the Orioles OWE it to Brian Roberts to make a deal for him prior to the ’08 season.  Here’s a guy who has played 7 seasons in the big league and has NEVER, EVER – not one time – played in a major league game that really mattered.  Can you imagine that?  He’s been around – give or take a few games in the early part of his career when he wasn’t “full-time” with the club – for the better part of 1,000 major league baseball games and he has yet to pull his jersey over his head with his heart beating fast with anticipation. 

Talk about being “a good soldier”…Roberts has been all that and more over the last 7 seasons and, until last year when it finally started to get the best of him, he’s put up with a lot of losing, a lot of controversy and a lot of July Tuesday nights with 11,000 people at Camden Yards watching the O’s lose to (insert team here), 6-2, 5-4 or 9-3.

Shipping Brian Roberts out is the right thing to do for HIM. 

In Bedard’s case, he’s clearly one of the best lefthanded pitchers in the game right now, even if he’s never thrown 200 innings in a season and WISHES he was a durable as Mark Buerhle, for example.  From a locker room standpoint, Bedard is an easy guy to jettison – his curt, stand-offish attitude with people, including his own O’s family, makes it a simple sell to executives at Camden Yards.

If MacPhail is smart, and it’s looking more and more like he is (to me, anyway), he’ll just abide by the Billy Beane philosophy in Oakland.  “You’re either on the verge of contending for the title or on the verge of contending for last place.  There’s no in between.”

In the O’s case, we know what they’re “on the verge of” and it’s most certainly NOT anything remotely close to a championship. 

MacPhail sees this for what it is:  An organization that was in complete disarray when he took it over last summer. 

Keeping Brian Roberts and Erik Bedard around might get the O’s somewhere close to 70 wins.  Maybe. 

Moving them on might put the team closer to the 60 win mark. 

So what?

Last time I checked, winning 55 games and finishing in last place is the same as winning 67 games and finishing in last place. 

MacPhail has stood firm on his beliefs that Roberts and Bedard should net the club a “premium price” and I like that. 

Don’t blink, Andy.  Hang in there.  One of these teams that are “on the verge of contending for a championship” will blink in the next couple of weeks and you’ll cash in. 

No sense in changing your course now.  You’ve given the die-hards – diminishing in numbers as they are – reason to believe that you’re going to fix this wreck of a franchise.  If no one gives you what you want for Bedard or Roberts by early February, maybe you’ll have to come down in price.  But, for now, keep on staring straight ahead and make THEM blink.  Someone will give in soon enough.  They almost always do.

And, who knows, in a few years, maybe the O’s will be “on the verge” at the other end of Billy Beane’s philosophy.

If that’s the case, people might look back on MacPhail’s unwillingness to give away Roberts and Bedard as a big reason why.