Apr 13, 2009, 09:54AM

Orioles Fans Should Celebrate While They Can

The front office’s refusal to hire legitimate starting pitchers dooms the O’s to the cellar once again.

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The family and I attended our first game of the ’09 season at Camden Yards on Sunday afternoon, and aside from a wind that whipped around our seats near the press box, and the O’s getting slaughtered by the Rays, and the ever-infuriating out-of-town scoreboard that rotates, every five seconds it seems, AL and NL games, it was pretty swell to see live baseball again. The Orioles have surprised everyone in town by taking four of six in the first week—against the Yanks and Rays—and who knows, the team may once again tease the dwindling diehards and stay in the hunt until around Father’s Day, and then utterly collapse for the rest of the year—but I smell real trouble brewing.

First, the inescapable reality of the recession. As I said, it was chilly, but a crowd of just 15,531 for a Sunday day game (Easter notwithstanding) against the reigning American League champs doesn’t bode well for those summer weekday nights when the team has lost eight in a row. The O’s lineup is a lot better with a maturing Adam Jones, bona fide All Star Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts still reaching first base and promptly stealing a bag or two. And the defense is far superior to the sad-sack clubs of the past decade, especially with an outfield that puts the Yanks’ “defenders” (the au courant term now for “fielders”) to shame. But the pitching? Yeesh.

As a friend of mine, and long-suffering Orioles diehard—he’s too young to remember the days of Palmer, Robinsons Brooks and Frank, Cuellar, McNally, Blair and Earl Weaver—said the other day, “I don’t understand what the Orioles did with their pitching this year. It’s fine to worry about rushing the young arms, but it’s malpractice not to break spring training camp with more than two major-league arms.”

That, of course, brings up my current hobbyhorse regarding this team: Would it really shred owner Peter Angelos’ portfolio to splurge on the $5 million that the inexplicably still-unsigned Pedro Martinez is asking? Yes, the broken-down Pedro’s in the last year or two of his Koufaxian career, but even in this economic climate you’d think the $5 mil—and Martinez, although a proud man, would likely retreat to $4 mil—would be worth every penny not only to attract more fans and win maybe eight games, but perhaps more importantly act as a mentor to the young O’s pitchers. It’s a no-lose situation; then again, Angelos and his succession of cautious general managers seem resigned to losing on and off the field. Sure, current GM Andy MacPhail is a smart guy, but he moves about as fast as Boston’s Mike Lowell or the O’s Aubrey Huff do on the base paths.

There have been whispers—and I emphasize “whispers” because it’s no fun being called flat-out nuts—that the O’s could be this year’s Rays. Not a chance, unless they find starting pitchers with a little more on the ball than cast-offs Adam Eaton and Mark Hendrickson.

  • Don't lose hope yet. At the beginning of 2008 we Phillies fans moaned and groaned that we only had one really good pitcher - Cole Hamels - on the entire staff. Moyer ended up being great, and Myers (after an awful first half) really came on in the 2nd half. It's true that pitching wins championships, but it's also true that mediocre pitchers can be great every once in a while. If you're lucky.

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  • Wow, if that idea doesn't spit in the face of everything the Orioles are trying to do. Would adding Pedro bring in $5 million worth of additional revenue? I'm not sure that it would, in which case it's not worth it. I've never heard of Pedro being a particularly good mentor, and the O's don't have the Latin American pitching prospects that could really benefit if he were a mentor. Now, I agree that their pitching staff is an embarrassment. However, this is McPhail's SECOND season as GM. To say that he moves "about as fast as Mike Lowell on the basepaths" is a bit of an exaggeration. In his time he has brought in Adam Jones, Luke Scott, George Sherrill, extended Brian Roberts signed a pitcher from Japan (Uehara) and drafted young arms (including the touted Matusz) in the draft. I agree that washed up veterans are not the answer (as a Tigers fan, I've experienced that more than once), but signing Pedro would be an affront to a rebuilding effort that has already started to show signs of progress. Let him build his team. The O's weren't supposed to be good this year, just putting themselves in position to have a Rays-esque year in the near future.

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  • I disagree. Veteran Troy Percival was important to the Rays last year, even if he was hurt part of the season. As a Sox fan, I can remember that Pedro was not a Manny Ramirez and considered a very good teammate who imparted advice to younger pitchers. Yes, it's good that MacPhail has discovered Japan for Angelos, and Jones is great, but Sherill looks shaky and my bet is that Luke Scott will fade. The point is this: even in a recession, 4 or 5 mil for a presence like Pedro can't hurt, and won't be an affront to MacPhail's plan.

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  • Yes, but Troy Percival was a complement to a young corps of pitchers. I'm sure that Pedro is a good teammate--he is certainly well liked, friendly and excellent at his craft--but the O's don't seem to have a group of budding mentees on the roster. Sherrill is not a long-term solution at closer, but he is at Middle Relief. Scott is also a mid-level talent but may mix with the high-upside Pie (also just added) I guess my point is that you add a Pedro when you're just a few pieces away (Kenny Rogers 2006, Percival 2008) and then need a handful of others to have Career/breakout years. My thought is that the O's are many pieces away, all pitchers, and just need time a year or two to develop what young talent they have and will get before adding a Pedro to the roster. I don't think that he'd have much of an impact on the team in one year and that they're probably 2 years away. There's no reason to throw away the $5 million when it could be better used a year or two from now to get that last piece in place.

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  • I would love for the O's to surprise us all and conquer the AL East. Or even the World Series. Can you imagine that? Baltimore would go nuts. I don't live there anymore but I'd love to see my hometown get its dues, especially after we were blue-balled by the Ravens just a few months ago.

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  • The O's could never be the next Rays, just look at their lineup, the only good hitters are the one's you mentioned, Markakis, Jones, and Roberts. But, if the O's got Pedro, they wouldn't win, but they'd attract fans. I think it's worth it.

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