It’s What You Make Of It …..

April 06, 2009 |

Welcome to “Opening Day – 2009”. It’s springtime, temperatures will be hovering in the mid-60’s, baseball fans are burning a vacation day (…. or sick day), and the most hated team in baseball is our guest. It doesn’t get any better than this, huh?

Okay, so it’s supposed to rain AND the Orioles are facing one of baseball’s dominant pitchers AND the Orioles are facing one of baseball’s truly feared lineups AND the Orioles are struggling with pitching woes AND the Orioles are have experienced 11 straight losing seasons AND …..

Should I continue ???

There are certainly more negative aspects, than positive possibilities, as we approach the imminent start of the Major League Baseball season. But, we’ve known this impending problem for months. And, this morning, it’s about to become a reality ….. and that’s hard to swallow.

Along with thousands of Baltimore baseball fans, I have endured the last 11 years of dysfunction and disarray. This period has scorned volumes and jaded just as many – people are tired of the Orioles being a perennial doormat. In fact, a large sect of Baltimore fans have grown indifferent and devoted their love to the Ravens – exclusively.

All BAD NEWS, so far ….. huh?

Well, it’s gonna get worse. But, I honestly think this is the bottom of the barrel. In the dingiest crevices of my brain (yep, I have such nooks and crannies), I’ve reasoned that the “2009 Orioles Season” is the ebb of what must be endured to really progress in a true rebirth of Baltimore baseball.

When Andy MacPhail assumed control, nearly 21 months ago, his strategy was to build a competitive ballclub by 2011. Hmmm ….. 2007 to 2011 – that’s 4 years. Well, we’re halfway into this and I’ve observed an organization that is deeper and stronger in its foundation. And, this is vital …..

Think about it. How do you build a house? That’s right, you start with the foundation and work your way up to a finished product. How do you grow a tree? Yep, you start with a seedling and nurture it along the way. Why should a baseball team be any different?

If a franchise is horrible and dysfunctional in its entirety, where should the renovation begin? Call me crazy, but I’d start with that foundation – or the minor league system. This is where it all really begins, right?

Since the “MacPhail Era” began, this organization has committed to rebuilding and reshaping its foundation. And, many of those seedlings are now growing, in the form of Matt Wieters, Jake Arieta, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, David Hernandez, Nolan Reimold, Troy Pattan, Brandon Erbe and numerous others.

Yeah, I know the impending dilemma – it’s staring us right between the eyes. Who’s gonna pitch? The question should be “does it matter?” The Orioles are on a destined, charted course with 2011 and that bears dealing with a painstaking 2009, and an improved 2010. I’ll guarantee it …..

Now, lets be clear about my assurances. I’m not promising the Orioles will be competing by 2011. But, I do honestly believe that 2009 is the final season in this horrendous chain of losing campaigns. It’s gonna get better and the 2010 pitching staff is bound to include a couple of the above listed names.

Thus, why would the Orioles commit 4 years to a Jon Garland or similar product? And, lets be honest with each other – Garland took a 1 year deal with the Diamondbacks, hoping to contribute to a successful 2009 season and cashing in on a multi-year deal in the next free agent class.

At 29, Jon Garland needed to sign a 1 year deal or a long term deal. With little prospects of anything in the long term, the shorter stint was obviously the choice. And, if this is the case, he couldn’t choose a team like the Orioles, who are bound to offer little hope of winning opportunities.

Those who are thinking “Garland at 2 years” need to reconsider the logic. Jon Garland doesn’t want to enter free agency on the heels of his 31st birthday. Remember – 1 year or 4 years ….. but, nothing in between.

Okay, you wanna talk about Pedro Martinez? That’s easy. Pedro is on record saying that he knows what he’s worth and he’s not signing with a non-contender, and he’s certainly not signing an incentive-laden deal. I saw the interview !!!! From the WBC, Martinez claimed he’d be just as happy to go home and relax.

So, where were the Orioles supposed to turn in the short term? No – don’t even suggest Derek Lowe. I’m a big Drew Forrester guy, but I sincerely and respectfully disagree on this one.

Why?

Would you give a 35 year old pitcher a 4 year, $60 MILLION deal ??? It seems to me the Orioles have made this mistake many times in the past. And, lets be blunt, Derek Lowe isn’t going to Cooperstown. He swindled the Braves out of their money and won’t be earning it on the end of the term.

The Orioles were wise to take a pass on him ….. as were all the other teams with a need for pitching. I won’t argue Derek Lowe has been an effective pitcher – but, his age doesn’t lie and his best days are behind him.

Avoiding Derek Lowe has nothing to do with the promise of young arms in the Orioles system. It has everything to do with giving a guy, beyond his 35th birthday, a 4 year deal, at an average of $15 million, per clip. This is a serious risk and not a risk for a team that is still growing from its foundation.

In truth, the 2009 Baltimore Orioles are going to be a very bad baseball team and there is now way of avoiding it. This is the season that must be absorbed in escaping the HELL we’ve endured for more than a decade. Remember, 2011 !!!!

So, this will be a tough season with very little comfort in the win column. That said, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Brian Roberts and others will provide some excitement on the basepaths. Yes, other facets, to include pitching will not be so bright, and we all know that.

But, help is on the way. In the meantime, it’s really what you make of it …..

Happy Opening Day !!!!!

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