All of this winning being done by the Orioles is not only welcomed, but potentially as costly as well.
First, and I’ll stress that I know it’s early so no one accuses me of drinking the kool-aid, it’s only fair to mention how pleasing it is to watch the Orioles play winning baseball for the first month of the season. I’m not willing to think ahead and tease myself with thoughts of “what if?” because I’d rather just watch it all play out and follow it without expecations. But from the beginning of the season, when I predicted a 78-84 record, I fully expected this year’s Birds to be much better than the 2011 version. So far, I’m right.
Those of us in the diehard category of Orioles fandom have seen this kind of good start before, followed all to shortly by a May nose-dive or June swoon. This year, though, might be different.
The most interesting part of winning for the Orioles could be the effect it has on the team’s financial picture. It’s not quite “Major League” (the movie) in theory, but it might be close. You’ll recall in that film that once the Indians learned they were being shortchanged on everything from personnel to travel to hot-tubs, the players banded together and decided to win just to spite their cheap owner.
This edition of the 2012 Orioles could make life tough for their owner if the winning continues in Baltimore.
Between now and October, 2013, the Birds need to sign Adam Jones to a long-term contract or risk losing him to free agency. Lots of people – including this writer – believe the club should re-sign Jones now, before his contract expires, the way both Boston (Pedroia) and Tampa Bay (Longoria) did with their young, star players a few years ago. Jones, of course, could simply turn down any offer made by the Orioles and vow to “play out the string” and see what free agency provides him in 18 months.
But if the Orioles want to prove to their fans, and to their players, and to the rest of baseball, that they actually do care about winning, they’ll get a new deal done with Jones sometime soon.
The problem is: How much might it cost the Orioles? And does all of this winning going on actually increase the value of Jones?
It’s anyone’s guess what Jones would be willing to sign for right now, but with one-year left on his deal (which will likely pay him somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million depending on arbitration) in Baltimore, it’s probably going to take a starting offer of $90 million for 6 years just to get his attention.
Think about that, for a second. $15 million a year for a player who still hasn’t played a major league game that matters.
What happens if the Orioles actually continue, somehow, to win?
Pretend for a minute that baseball fairies do exist and that they get together around the 4th of July and decide to make this one of those once-a-decade stories where some team no one expects to win winds up winning the division and capturing the hearts of the baseball world.
Just allow yourself to drift off and dream that 2012 is the Orioles year.
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