For those of you who haven’t been paying much attention to the Orioles, and that is probably nearly all of you on this beautiful NFL kickoff weekend, you may not know that Lou Montanez, a former top prospect who homered in his major league debut in ’08, was outrighted to Norfolk. Now a minor league free agent, Montanez’s largely undistinguished career with The Birds is likely over.
That’s not the surprising part. The surprising part is the thoughtful, well-composed, and often humorous email he fired off to MASN correspondent Roch Kubatko. In it, the 28 year-old outfielder thanks the fans for their support, talks optimistically about his future, and, most insightfully, exposes the pitiful conditions of the Orioles Spring Training and minor league facilities.
The full transcript of Montanez’s email is available here, in Roch’s “The Full Montanez” blog entry:
In his 800 word soliloquy, Lou refers to himself as a “FLiP,” a forward looking person, who will take his failure to crack the Orioles roster as reason to train harder and continue to improve. But when he takes the time to look back, Montanez notes that the Orioles organization was, when he arrived, “in a whole as big as lumps in a Maryland crabcake.”
That’s a newly coined phrase and a geographically-pertinent metaphor all in the first couple of paragraphs. Get this guy a blog!
Anyway, Lou’s main point is that recently the Orioles have made strides to compete in the AL East, but that their deficit was and is so large that they still have a long way to go. Perhaps the most insightful comments he makes are in reference to Orioles facilities. He claims that he was in “disbelief” when he first saw the conditions of the club’s old minor league digs. The former prospect paints a vivid picture of a decaying stadium with antihills, seashells, and conditions worse than the nearby high school.
He then chuckles at the excitement over moving to Ed Smith Stadium, “which still ranks at the bottom of current baseball complexes.” Ed Smith is slated for major renovations, but Montanez’s critique covers all of the O’s affiliates, which he says “don’t fare much better” than the past and current Florida facilities. That’s a harsh and sobering analysis from a guy who has spent most of the last four years on an express shuttle from one minor league affiliate to the next.
At the end of his kiss-off, Montanez concludes with “a little hunch” that he “must indulge.” He hopes to one day return to Oriole Park, where he will make Buck Showalter regret that the club let him go. Note to Lou Montanez’s girlfriend: do not dismiss Lou Montanez, for he will quickly and eloquently cut you with his wit.
Here, the minor league veteran does a great job of describing one of the largest, least covered problems that the Orioles have.
Much has been made about some of the recent improvements the facilities are making, but the failures in player development owe a lot to the lack of investment in state-of-the art (or heck, at least modern) facilities. The economics of baseball are such that the team can never spend like Boston or New York, but if they want to be in the same conversation as the Twins, for example, they have to be able to develop from within. That means drafting solid players, and giving them the opportunity to learn how to compete. With some of the consistently worst facilities in all of baseball, the O’s have, not surprisingly, had one of the worst records year in and year out. They are making strides now, but as Lout Montanez suggests, those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.
Lou Montanez did not hit .140 this year because of poor field conditions, but he knows more than most about the internal problems one of one of MLB’s worst organizations. Thanks for your insight, Lou. If baseball doesn’t work out, I hope you find an outlet for your writing.