O’s Today: When will MacPhail eat humble pie with Felix?

April 20, 2009 | Drew Forrester

How long will the Pie experiment continue in Baltimore?

Handed the left-field job in spring training without even having to do jumping jacks or sit-ups, Felix Pie is enduring a woeful start to the ’09 campaign. 

He’s batting .161 — looks COMPLETELY out of his element at the plate — and is starting to look somewhat like a David Newhan-clone in the outfield. 

You remember Newhan, right?  He was a guy with a decent bat and great speed who couldn’t field a lick…and at times, he looked Bad News Bears’ish in the outfield.

Pie, the off-season acquisition from the Cubs, is a natural center-fielder but can’t play there in Baltimore because of Adam Jones…who CAN field his position well and is entrenched in concrete out there for the next several years.  So, MacPhail and Company gift-wrapped the left-field position and gave it to Pie as a Valentine’s Day present and then threw out those baseball buzz words like “gifted…upside…great range…” when trying to convince the orange faithful that Pie was good enough to be handed the starting job even though his resume and pedigree say otherwise. 

12 games into the season, here’s what Pie has done so far:  Not much.

At the plate, he looks like the kid from little league that never gets to play unless his grandparents are at the game and only then he gets shoved into right field and winds up with one plate appearance where he likely strikes out or pops up meekly to the first baseman. 

Pie’s bat needs some filling, and I’m not talking about blueberry or apple.

He’s overmatched at the plate…but if his defensive prowess is everything it’s been cracked up to be, he’s probably worth sticking out there four times a week because he can field his position.

The only problem?  He hasn’t looked like Roberto Clemente in the outfield — instead, it’s been a hold-your-breath-on-this-one-because-Felix-is-circling-under-it kinda deal where you’re never quite sure if the ball is actually going to end up in his mitt.

The O’s have made a handful of excuses for Pie about his defensive play so far, ranging from “still adjusting to the left field position” to “not familiar with the ballparks” and so on.  

He LOOKS like he can field the position.  He’s quick.  He SHOULD be a quasi-natural.

But looks can be deceiving.

So far, Felix Pie hasn’t been all that great, no matter – *ahem* – which way you slice it.

The big question, then:  How long does the Pie experiment go on before the O’s get a bad taste in their mouth?

I say you have to give the guy at least an equal number of at bats this season than he’s had in his career.  That, roughly, equates to about 250 plate appearances in ’09…or about 60 games or so.  

By then, if he’s still looking perplexed in the outfield and sporting a batting average in the .200-.220 range, it would be fair to say, “this isn’t helping us…”

Pie’s out of options, so cutting him would expose him to waivers and it’s likely another team would pick him up to see if they might have the tonic for what ails him.  

Right now, as unimpressed as I am with him, I say you have to keep trotting him out there for the time being.  I’m a Luke Scott fan and think he should play ahead of Pie on a regular basis, but you’re not going to see what Pie can offer by having him on the bench.  

I didn’t like the acquistion in the spring and I didn’t approve of taking Luke Scott’s job away from him when Pie showed up and said, “ok, the man is here”.

Now, though, the O’s are almost obligated to playing the kid and letting him either make progress or stink it up. 

If he doesn’t get much better, Andy MacPhail will have to scarf down some humble Pie.  

I say give Pie until the end of May to show what he can do.  

It’s not time to panic yet…after all, as the team has convinced us this year:  “We’re not going to win anyway.”