BALTIMORE — Prior to the start of the second of a three-game between the Orioles and Cincinnati Reds, president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and manager Buck Showalter addressed season ticket holders in a question and answer forum on the state of the organization.
While many questions were of the run-of-the-mill variety on topics such as the Yankees and the health of Brian Roberts, MacPhail addressed his overall assessment of the Orioles since taking charge of the front office in the summer of 2007.
“We’re better. We’re gradually getting better, better, better,” said MacPhail. “We’re not where we want to be yet. It’s coming in some respects, truthfully, not as quickly as I hoped it would, but we’re trying to build this thing from within with an emphasis on young arms. But we’re better.
“We’re literally months ahead of the curve of where we were a year ago, and we’ve done that despite some setbacks in terms of health that really every team has to endure. We’re no different than them.”
MacPhail quipped that the Orioles could lose their next 33 games and still be ahead of where the team was last season at that same point (a hypothetical 34-72 compared to 2010’s 33-73 record through 106 games). However, he emphasized the astonishing factoid was not something in which to take any real sense of pride.
The architect discussed how the Orioles held a .500-or-better record against the AL Central (11-9), AL West (8-7), and National League during interleague play (5-5), but needed to improve their 10-18 mark against the American League East.
He was also asked about the Orioles’ hesitancy to spend on international talent and reiterated the position he gave this past off-season:
“Part of this is my philosophy. We did spend more last year [internationally] than we did the year before, and we’ll probably spend more this year than we did last year. We’re actually making progress in that market based on what Buck and I see in terms of velocities coming out of our Dominican Summer League, our Gulf Coast League. We’re actually having some success developing some arms there.
“I am not a big believer in spending a huge amount on a signing bonus on a player that’s only worked out in a not-a-game-type environment. First, to commit millions of dollars, which some teams are willing to do and frankly I’m not, on just workouts and tryouts in a complex-type environment, I’m not there. The guy has to play. There are a lot of guys that come out here at 5:30 [for batting practice] and a lot of guys hitting home runs that don’t hit them during the game.
“To me, it’s a different thing. If I’m going to put my money down on a player and bet on his future, I want to see him in a competitive environment. Like Buck was saying, it’s those that can compete at the end. It’s not who just can run the fastest time and who can hit the ball the furthest in batting practice. A lot of the signing bonuses that you’re reading about — no doubt talented players — that are signing with these other clubs for millions out of the Dominican, they’re doing that without the benefit of playing in games. And that’s not a risk I’m willing to go ahead and take.”
Unsurprisingly, MacPhail was asked to address his expiring contract and where his future lies with the club. He restated his preference to address his status at the end of the season with majority owner Peter Angelos.
“I’ve always just taken the position — unlike one of my good friends in the game Jim Riggleman – let’s just see how we do. Let’s get to the end of the year, see how we do, see how we feel, and take it from there.
“A lot of places I’ve worked, I haven’t had a contract. I’m not a big contract guy. Let’s just see how we feel, see whether we’re helping move the ball forward and take it from there. I’m very fortunate; the owner has done everything he said he was going to do with me. We have a good relationship and we’ll just see how we feel and see how the record is at the end.”