The Orioles “REAL” Problem …..

March 12, 2009 |

Before you go any further, please know this is an accompanying piece to Bob Haynie’s blog, from yesterday.  For me, it’s a worthwhile and revealing subject.  Perhaps, it really sheds light into the true problems that have crippled the Orioles for over a decade.


Yesterday, I was driving along route 795 and minding my own business when I nearly crashed my car at the Owings Mills exit.  There weren’t any road hazards or unsafe conditions.  Nope ….. no visual distractions.


In fact, the cause of my near Talladega-like pileup came directly from my radio and the content of what I was hearing.  I was tuned into WNST-1570am – as all informed sports fans should be doing during their daily trek around town.


As Bob Haynie interviewed former Orioles big-wig, Jim Duquette, from Florida, I was astounded to learn a tidbit of information regarding past Orioles draft selections.  For those who might have missed the conversation (hey, you could’ve been in a meeting or on a sales call), I’ll recount the highlights and implore you to check the Audio-Vault at – trust me, you don’t want to miss that conversation.


The topic regarded Orioles prospect, Billy Rowell.  Recently, the Orioles switched Rowell from 3rd base to right field.  Rowell has labored through the O’s minor league system, and with due respect to Les Nesman (an actual Haynie reference), there must be an organizational hope Rowell can find “himself” in the position change.


Jim Duquette elaborated on his familiarity and experiences with Billy Rowell.  This included Duquette recounting the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft. While there was agreement and consensus on Rowell’s offensive potential, he was not unanimously endorsed by the entire Orioles braintrust, as the 9th overall selection.


In fact, according to Duquette, he and a few others preferred a slight statured, right handed pitcher from the University of Washington.  That pitcher’s name was Tim Lincecum.  Uh-huh, you got it ….. the defending National League Cy Young Award winner.


For those who love baseball, you know Tim Lincecum is the hottest commodity among young, flamethrowing hurlers.  He’s gracing the covers of magazines, fantasy guides and video games.  He’s what some folks would call a ROCKSTAR.


At 24 years old, Lincecum appears primed for a nice career and years of contribution to the San Fransisco Giants.  Yep, the Giants selected Lincecum on the heels of Billy Rowell, with the 10th overall pick.  Hurts huh?


In truth, Billy Rowell is just another player in a line of Orioles draft picks who’ve underachieved and failed to merit their high selection.  And, Tim Lincecum is another player the Orioles PASSED when blessed with a chance to nab ‘em.


Yeah, I’ve heard the excuses ….. “Draft picks are just a gamble” ….. “There are no sure things” ….. “All these kids are a risk” and many, many more.  I’m sorry, but the Orioles MUST do better or they will not dig out of this gigantic hole – that took a decade to create.


The Billy Rowell/Tim Lincecum debacle is just one of many “misses” the Orioles have committed on draft day.  Here’s a few more, in succession …..


1999    :  Orioles selected Mike Paradis/Larry Bigbie/Keith Reed/Richard Stahl (13th, 18th, 21st, 23rd overall)  Players skipped – Jason Jennings, Alex Rios, Carl Crawford, Brandon Phillips, Ryan Ludwick, John Lackey, Justin Morneau, Hank Blalock, JJ Putz, Shane Victorino, Aaron Harang, Coco Crisp, Jake Peavy


2000    :  Orioles selected – Beau Hale (14th overall)  Players skipped – Chase Utley, Adam Wainwright, Xavier Nady, Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Aaron Hill, Dontrelle Willis, Brandon Webb, Rich Harden, James Shields, Jason Bay, Ryan Church


2001    :  Orioles selected – Chris Smith/Mike Fontenot (7th & 19th overall)  Players skipped – Casey Kotchman, Noah Lowery, Jeremy Bonderman, JJ Hardy, Dan Haren, Ryan Howard, David Wright


2002    :  Orioles selected – Adam Loewen (4th overall)  Players skipped – Prince Fielder, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher, James Loney, Jeremy Guthrie, Matt Cain, John Lester, Brian McCann, Cole Hamels


2003    :  Orioles selected – Nick Markakis (7th overall)  No Complaints Here !!!!


2004    :  Orioles selected – Wade Townsend (8th overall/was not signed)  Players skipped – Jered Weaver, Steven Drew, Josh Fields, Hunter Pence, Dustin Pedroia


2005    :  Orioles selected – Brandon Snyder (13th overall)  Players skipped – Matt Garza, Jacoby Ellsbury, Craig Hansen, Kevin Slowey, Micah Owings, Clay Buchholz


2006    :  Orioles selected – Billy Rowell (9th overall)  Players skipped – Tim Lincecum, Ian Kennedy, Max Scherzer, Joba Chamberlain


2007    :  Orioles selected – Matt Wieters (5th overall)  No Complaints Here !!!!


 I’m not suggesting, nor expecting the Orioles to hit a “homerun” in the high rounds of every draft.  However, their recent record and resulting selections are EVIDENCE that someone or a group of “someones” are failing this organization in the crucial process of draft and development.


It’s so easy to knock Andy MacPhail for not opening the bank vault to Mark Teixeira, Manny Ramirez or AJ Burnett.   But, a conservative budget and stance on free agent talent is not the problem.  Poor drafts and development are the problem.  And, these problems have translated into the Orioles team we see today.


If you listen to Tom Davis or one of his cronies, they’ll say “drafts are luck.”  That’s bunk.  Just look at the successes of a few other MLB teams, over the last decade …..


Boston Red Sox – Jon Lester, John Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Craig Hansen, Clay Buchholz, Hanley Ramirez, Jed Lowrie, Kevin Youkilis, Justin Masterson


Tampa Bay Rays – Rocco Baldelli, Josh Hamilton, Carl Crawford, BJ Upton, Elijah Dukes, Delmon Young, David Price, Evan Longoria, James Shields, Andy Sonnanstine


Oakland A’s – Barry Zito, Bobby Crosby, Jeremy Bonderman, Nick Swisher, Joe Blanton, Kurt Suzuki, Rich Harden, Huston Street


Why do you think the Tampa Bay Rays are so good?  In fact, they’re damned good, and it’s a result of strong drafts and great selections.  They have succeeded where the Orioles have failed – period.


The Orioles have NAILED the draft twice, over the past decade.  This is inexcusable, especially when they’ve had prime selections.  And, this is the very reason the franchise wallows below mediocrity.


Until the Orioles have better drafts and select true talent, things will not change.  Maybe it’s already turning around.  I certainly hope so.  Oh, and I wonder WHO overruled Jim Duquette on the Lincecum/Rowell decision ……