Gremlins and Uncle Buck

July 30, 2010 | Erich Hawbaker

I first sat down to write this blog upon hearing that the Orioles had hired Buck Showalter to be the next captain of the Titanic. I then started all over again upon hearing that Miguel Tejada has once again been traded by the Orioles to a contending NL team. I guess I’ll deal with the second one first.

Unlike the last Tejada trade, which netted the O’s five players (including my main man Luke Scott), this time they got only one pitching prospect and are still on the hook for over half of Tejada’s salary. Now I know that Miggy is getting to the end of his career, and that we only had him for one year, but he was still hitting .269 with 7 HR and 39 RBIs. Is one AA pitcher really all that he was worth? And you didn’t even get the Padres to pick up all of his contract? I’m not faulting the front office for trading him if somebody was interested (since 3B was going to Josh Bell next year anyway), but couldn’t they have bargained for a little more in return? Like, maybe, a hitter? ANY hitter? Much like the last deal we made with San Diego, in which we basically gave them Oscar Salazar for a song, this is not a solid prima facie case for the Orioles.

Anyway, new acquisition Wynn Pelzer is high-ranked prospect in the Padres organization. At 24 years old, he’s been both a starter and reliever in his 3-year career in the minors, pitching around 100 innings a year, putting up just over 8 K/9, and maintaining a 3.83 ERA. Decent I guess. But lately, I think we’ve all learned a painful lesson. The dirtiest word in baseball is ‘prospect’. A couple years ago, Brian Matusz was a top prospect. He ended up spending only one year in the minors, and with his abundance of Ks and ERA barely over 2.00, we all expected him to be our new ace. And yet, as of today, his ERA is 5.22 and his record is 3-11. Now, I know that Matusz is still pretty young and that it’s much easier to win games when your team actually scores you some runs on a consistent basis, but at this point it is fair to say that he hasn’t lived up to the hype yet. Will Pelzer? I don’t know. Nobody does. He’s a prospect.

In other news, Buck Showalter is now the manager. I was really pulling for Rick Dempsey, but deep down I knew they’d never give it to him. However, I do think that Showalter will make things better. We all know that he has a reputation for being a hardass and a history of turning losing teams into winners. And while no other team he ever managed was nearly as awful as this one, he seems to think he can do it and I think I believe him. He says we have potential here, and he’s right about that much. I don’t doubt that he can get our guys to the point where they’re playing as well as they could be. But the real question is- even if our engine as currently built is firing on all eight cylinders, will that be enough to challenge the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays? That’s where my doubts come in.

You have to remember something. For the last decade or so, Tampa Bay was in the basement with us (and, like us, they’re a “small market” team *cough cough*). Theoretically both teams should have spent those years drafting high and growing a fresh crop of young players. One could have easily predicted that the Rays and O’s would be steadily rising thru the standings together. The fact that we went absolutely nowhere while Tampa Bay went to the World Series is the most glaring indictment of our clueless front office. They drafted smart, traded smart, and produced a winner while we sat on our hands.

I don’t think Buck Showalter will put up with that. He will do everything he can to win. But, when he gets to the point where he goes upstairs asking for you-know-who to make an investment in winning, will he get what he needs to finish the job? I don’t know. That’s where my skepticism lies. I haven’t forgotten what happened to Davey Johnson.



Some people have told me that they wonder where I get my weird titles for my blogs. In this case, the reference is to two movies from the 1980s that I enjoyed as a kid. Peltzer (very close to Pelzer) was the last name of Billy, the boy who got a pet Mogwai for Christmas in Gremlins. Uncle Buck was an absolutely hilarious comedy starring John Candy, whom my grandma loved and frequently told me I looked like. I sincerely hope you all can forgive my little bit of wackyness. .