Orioles off to great start, but what if…

April 11, 2009 |

The Orioles are off to a great start taking three out of four from arguably two of the best teams in baseball.  Everyone around town certainly is more upbeat about the team then they have been in recent years.  There’s good reason for that hope, but right now, that’s exactly what it is, hope.  Just imagine the excitement level if the Orioles management were actually trying to win now.  Let me explain.

Since the Orioles last winning season, I have graduated elementary, middle, and high school.  I’ve even obtained a bachelor’s degree and bought a home.  It’s unforgivable that in that time, the birds haven’t been able to post a winning record let alone even sniff the playoffs.  I for one am tired of waiting and constantly hearing “wait ’til next year”, “help is on the way”, etc.  Over a decade of futility is inexcusable.  I’ll never understand the teams’ “we’re not going to win now anyway” mentality.

Let’s rewind the clock to this past off-season and take a look at some of the team’s moves.  The moves made for position players were certainly upgrades.  Just removing Ramon Hernandez was addition by subtraction.  Throw in newcomers Ryan Freel and Ty Wigginton and the Orioles picked up some key role players.  Bringing in Gregg Zaun to mentor the up and coming Matt Wieters was a good move too.  However, the Orioles failed to address the teams biggest need, starting pitching.

The Orioles have placed their hopes for the season on two guys (Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehara) who have combined for just 19 more career wins than I have.  That sounds like a recipe for disaster no matter what their talent level is.  There was plenty of help available this past off-season via trade or free agency.  The Orioles settled for Mark Hendrickson and Adam Eaton, two guys with career ERA’s of 4.80 and 5.07.  Neither of them has ever won more than 11 games in their careers.  Jon Garland was available for a relatively low price and would have instantly been this teams number two starter.  And there was some guy named Jake Peavy who the Padres were looking to trade.  Could the O’s have pulled this one off?  I doubt it, but at the same time, I doubt they even explored the possibility.

Dave Tremblys’ rally cry this spring has been “the calvary is coming”.  My question is why isn’t the calvary here now?  Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, Matt Wieters, and Lou Montanez have all proved they can succeed at the Minor League level.  Each player’s case if unique, but I see no reason for any of these guys not to be in Baltimore right now.

Matt Wieters had what many experts call the best minor league season ever last year in his first season of professional ball (.355, 27, 91).  Even with his lack of experience he is certainly an upgrade over Gregg Zaun.  The only reason Wieters isn’t in Baltimore today is because the team wants to bring him up late so they have him under contractual control for a seventh season.  This just shows the teams pettiness and lack of confidence that he is going to want to stay here when 2015 rolls around.  Worry about his impending free agency when the time comes, not when you’re trying to rebuild your franchise.

Last season, Lou Montanez won the Eastern League Triple Crown (.335, 27, 97).  Something tells me that takes tremendous talent.  With those kind of numbers, why is this guy in Norfolk waiting for the Felix Pie experiment to fail.  Andy MacPhails’ love affair with Chicago Cub castoffs has got to stop.  There is a reason why the folks in Chicago were willing to part with Pie and Rich Hill for a bucket of baseballs and a pack of crackerjacks.

Finally, to the two pitchers mentioned above.  Brad Bergesen Led the Eastern League in wins, shutouts, and complete games last season.  There’s no way you can tell me the O’s have a better chance winning a baseball game with Adam Eaton on the mound instead of Bergesen.  Last year Chris Tillman was second in the Eastern League with 154 strikeouts.  Do the Orioles really think Mark Hendrickson is better than this kid? Throw in options like Troy Patton and Jake Arrieta and there’s no excuse for the Orioles rotation to look the way it does.  We are four games into the season and already the bullpen feels like it is being overworked.

Can you imagine the excitement in Birdland if it were Matt Wieters behind the plate opening day instead of 37 year old Greg Zaun?  Or what if instead of Alfredo Simon the mound Thursday afternoon it was Chris Tillman?  The Orioles faithful would be buzzing on this dreary Saturday morning had it been Brad Bergesen who led the O’s to their fourth victory of the season last night.  Does anyone really care about Felix Pie in left field or would you rather see Triple Crown winner Lou Montanez?  The talent level of these kids gives the Orioles a better chance to win than the experience of the retreads that are taking the field at Camden Yards right now.

Get these kids to Baltimore now! They have proven they can dominate in the Minors; it’s time to see what they can do in the bigs.  The Orioles are off to a great start, but what if all these guys were in Baltimore tonight?