Money Not The Only Factor In AL EAST

May 29, 2008 |

So we have heard this line for about the last 10 years – How are we supposed to compete in the American League East with the Yankees and Red Sox?  They are the ones with 200 million dollar payrolls, dedicated television networks, and high ticket prices. 
Well gee, I opened up my paper on May 29th, and lo and behold what do I see but the low budget Tampa Bay Rays in first place currently with a 32-21 record.  That is .604 baseball for all of those who can’t do percentages. 
How can this be?   The Rays don’t have a television network like, YES, NESN or MASN.  They play in a god-awful stadium.  They rank 27th in baseball with an average attendance of 18,686 per game.  According to USA Today, they had a payroll on opening day of just over $43 million, dead last in the AL East.  For the record,  the Orioles are at $67 million, the Blue Jays at $97 million, the Red Sox come in at  $133 million (not  200M), and the Yankees at $209 million.
So, how can the “Ollie’s Bargain Basement” of professional sports be leading a division with the vaunted Red Sox and Yankees?  Simple, they have done a phenomenal job of scouting, developing and coaching young talent.  Give new owner Stuart Sternberg, General Manger Andrew Friedman and Manger Joe Maddon credit; they have resurrected a franchise many of us thought was headed for either a move or contraction and turned it into one of the brightest and most exciting young teams in sports. 
Some would have us believe that is because of revenue shortfall that our club (the Orioles) can’t compete in the money-laden AL East.  That, sports fans, is flat out wrong!  We haven’t been able to compete because we have made bad baseball decisions.  We did a horrible job of scouting players, drafted duds for most of the last quarter century, and failed miserably at developing them.  Why?  Because we had bad baseball people making bad baseball decisions.  
Either because they were hamstrung by management or by their own lack of talent, the Orioles failed to do their job in all facets of player development.  The result–quick fix band aids that didn’t work with players that should have never worn the black and orange.   And, most of all 10 years of losing baseball and a diminishing fan base.
The Rays did things smart; forced by anemic revenues, they put the emphasis where it should have been here:  on scouting, player development and waiting patiently.  The result?  Carl Crawford, BJ Upton, James Shields, and Evan Longoria.  Their system is now stocked with quality young pitchers just waiting to join the good young staff they have. 
Thankfully, the Orioles may have seen the light.  Andy MacPhail is too smart of a baseball man not be able to see this equation.  He gets it!  So far he seems to have the full trust of the ownership group, and most of all he is patient.  Better times are hopefully coming.  He realizes this is a major system overhaul, not just a quick tune up.  
If he ever needs a reminder, he just needs to look up in the standings at Tampa Bay.