O’s Today: Caveat Emptor, baseball fans — Caveat Emptor…

March 24, 2009 | Drew Forrester

As opening day draws closer, it’s time for Baltimore baseball fans to make a decision on what to do in 2009.

The smell of the grass…the crack of the ball…the crowd rising as the home team wins in the bottom of the 9th.

It doesn’t get much better than that when the team you root for is on the good end of things during those hot summer months.

That’s NOT going to be the case in Baltimore this summer.

The grass will smell the same when you get to the ballpark.  But this Orioles team is most likely not going to be on the good end of things very often.

The question, then, is this:  ”Are you going to go to the ballpark and root for the team this year, with the up-front knowledge that the team is going to stink?”

Are you going to spend your money on tickets to watch a team play when they’ve all but admitted in advance that “we’re not going to win anyway”?

Caveat Emptor.  In Latin, it means — “Let the buyer beware”.

The team’s owner was quoted earlier this week saying this:  ”When we’re good enough to contend, we plan on making a big splash in free agency to upgrade the team and put us over the top.”

That’s a great idea.  On second thought, maybe it’s not.  Explain the theory of not trying to improve the team when you’re not good — but improving the team once you GET good.  I’m listening.

It would seem – based on that logic – that the fans would also have permission to employ the same theory when making a decision about going to the games, right?

“When the team is good enough to contend again, we’ll spend OUR money to go watch them play.”

Fair’s fair.

While the team awaits the arrival of their rock-star trio of young pitchers — Matusz, Arrieta and Tillman — the rest of the club will mope their way to the ballpark surrounded by the fact that the club really ISN’T trying to put their best team on the field right now.

Since when is THAT fair to the players — or the fans?

Does anyone else find it baffling that the team’s ENTIRE rebuilding project is being developed and carried out on the hopes of three players who are all – to this point – nothing but career minor leaguers with a rising star?

We’re going to wait around until 2011 for these three pitchers to show up and rescue us?  Gilligan and The Professor didn’t have to wait that long.

You’re going to ask the fans to “be patient” because of those three young pitchers?  The team can’t be improved — pitching wise, that is — because we’re hanging on for dear life and hoping beyond hope that Arrieta, Tillman and Matusz pan out?

What if — and this COULD happen, as it does all the time in baseball — Chris Tillman feels something pop in his elbow next week?  What happens in June if Jake Arrieta feels something weird in his shoulder while on the bus to Kinston, NC?

Are you really going to put the entire organization and the fan base ON HOLD for three young pitchers?

You’re not going to add players, sign some relatively decent pitchers and at least APPEAR like you’re trying to win a few games here and there all because you’re putting the entire team on three guys who have no major league strikeouts between them?

And, you want the fans to buy that?

Maybe they will.

Some already have.  There are bands of fans out there who have bought into the “plan” — hook, line and sinker.  ”This is how you rebuild,” they’ll say.  ”You have to break it down and tear it apart.”

On the flip side, about 35,000 fans per-game aren’t buying into it anymore.

So, while this rebuilding continues — and it’s apparently going to get worse before it gets better — what do we all do in the meantime?

Since the club has admitted to not wanting to spend any money until they get competitive again, is it fair for the fan base to adopt the same stance?

The other apparent rock-star savior is Matt Wieters.  You’ve heard of him, right?  He’s one of the young guns who did more than enough in spring training to warrant a trip north to Baltimore with the big-league club, but we’re so worried about losing him in 6 years that we’re afraid to promote him and treat him right in 2009.

That reminds me of a story:  A friend of mine saw a hot looking girl at a bar and went up to talk with her.  He came back later on and said, “She was really into me but I think I’ll pass.”  I said, “Dude, are you nuts, she’s a stunner.”  He explained it like this:  ”Yeah, but she admitted to me that both of her sisters were married once for six years and then both wound up getting bored with their husbands and each of them got divorced.”  And your point?  ”I figured it like this…why would I want to meet up with her, enjoy the hell out of her, get married — and then have her divorce me after six years?”

“Have you thought about treating her right during the six years of marriage and making it enjoyable enough for her so you two don’t get divorced?”

That’s the Orioles-Matt Wieters story in a nutshell.  We’re so afraid of the guy divorcing us six years from now that we’re afraid to ask him to marry us.

Only in Baltimore.

Only with the Orioles.

Only here — right now — would a franchise do EVERYTHING in their power to inform the fans they’re not going to be any good and still, somehow, have the follow-up thought that people are still going to buy tickets to the games.

Caveat Emptor.

Will they buy the tickets?

That’s the big question.

We’ll know over the next six months.

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