The Orioles’ Decade ’00-’09 (2 and 1)

Here we are readers.  The two most important events of the last ten years of Oriole baseball.  We can argue all we want about the position of the last 8 things, and you can argue that Wieters should be on this list, but I don’t think that anyone can argue about these next two events.

2) Andy MacPhail Hired

The Orioles have a General Manager, ONE GM. Gone are the two-headed monsters of Duquette and Beattie and Flanagan. Andrew MacPhail grandson of glory-days Oriole GM Lee MacPhail, Andy MacPahil was brought into the troubled Orioles inner-circle during the tumultuous 2007 season.

Manager Sam Perlozzo was fired on June 18 and, then bullpen coach, Dave Trembley was installed as interim manager. Two days later, Andy MacPhail was installed as “President of Baseball Operations” Jim Duquette was let go and Mike Flanagan has been lost in the either of the Warehouse ever since.

The question that dogged Andy MacPhail from day one was about his level of autonomy in hos job; would he have any? Orioles owner Peter Angelos has been a notorious meddler since he took over the team in 1993; he had famously killed major trades of the Jim Duquette era (most notably the deal that would have sent Brian Roberts to the Braves for Andy LaRoche) would Andy be any different?

When asked that question MacPhail came right out and blatantly said: “If that were the case I would not have taken the job.” And you know what, I truly believe that. Andy MacPhail did not need this job, he did not need this headache. MacPhail is a guy on the short-list to be Commissioner of Major League Baseball when Selig finally retires, and he was on that list prior to taking the Baltimore job, why would he go anywhere where he did not have all the autonomy he wanted?

Still, the proof is in the pudding – so why is the hiring of MacPhail number 2 on this list? Because it signaled a change. It has signaled a change in direction of the Baltimore Orioles franchise. Finally we have a GM allowed to do his job, moreover a smart GM with ties to the glory days of the organization as well as the community (there is a reason why there is a MacPhail road in Harford County, Maryland). MacPhail is a proven commodity and a respected name in baseball. He understands the fanbase and he understands the situation the Orioles are in as a mid-market team playing in the same division as the behemoth AL East. He simply gets it. He knows that the way to contention for a team like the Orioles is not by playing Yankee-ball, they needed to rebuild the farm system, long-neglected, and focus on young pitching.

Which brings us to number 1

The Erik Bedard Trade

This is the trade. Now, you can argue that this trade would have never happened if MacPhail had not been hired and, therefore, the hiring of MacPhail is the most important thing that has happened the last ten years. And you have a point there “Captain Semantics” but this trade takes the cake for this reason:

This trade was promise made real. This trade was the manifestation of Andy MacPhail’s effect on this team. This trade took “What MacPhail could do” to “Look what MacPhail did”.

In the Winter of 2007 there were rumors and innuendo. The Orioles and Mariners went back and forth over the deal. Rumors that got published as fact more than a couple times signaled the deal was done. The internet and blogosphere was on fire with the amount of information on this trade that was being passed around. But finally, on Februrary 8, 2008 Bedard was sent to Seattle for five players, FIVE!, in one of the biggest deals in recent baseball history.

Erik Bedard was shipped out for center fielder Adam Jones and pitching prospects Chris Tillman, Troy Patton, Kam Mickolio and George Sherrill. Jones and Sherrill automatically became the Orioles starting center fielder and closer respectively the rest were stowed away in the minors for future use, that would come shortly for most.

With one move MacPhail had done more to restock the orioles minor league system than any GM in the last decade. Some saw the move as raising the white flag in the AL east for the next two years, but others saw it for what it was – a complete steal.

Seriously, the Orioles robbed the Mariners here. Sure it is not Robinson for Papas level, but still it turned out to be highway robbery.

Bedard’s fragile shoulder sidelined his career in Seattle playing in two injury plagued seasons. The now depleted Mariners farm system had no one who could really come in and take his place so they struggled. Meanwhile, Adam Jones found a nice home in Baltimore, he has become one of the premiere center fielders in the game, George Sherrill was the Orioles lone representative in the 2008 All Star Game as he proved his prowess as a closer.

Andy wasn’t done yet – in 2009 MacPhail moved Sherrill to the Los Angeles Dodgers for third base prospect Josh Bell and pitching prospect Steve Johnson (son of former Oriole pitcher and MASN commentator Dave Johnson). So, in essence, MacPhail turned one Erik Bedard into six players three of whom are either on the team currently or have a chance to make the team easily in 2010.

Meanwhile, in Seattle, the trade was considered one of the worst deals in team history and GM Bill Bavasi was fired.

And to add insult to injury, Erik Bedard is a free agent that no one is very interested in due to his injury history and current health. The Orioles could pick him up at a huge discount thus completing one of the greatest fleecings in the history of the game.

This single move is the best event of the Orioles’ decade because of one thing – its symbolic of competent leadership moving forward. Since this deal we have seen MacPhail demonstrate reasoned and fair leadership, we have not heard a peep from owner Peter Angelos and we have seen a plan laid bare for all the fans to see. Some fans don’t like the plan and that is fine because the key difference here is that there IS a plan not to like. There is a goal, there are steps to this goal, that sort is a kind of reason and effectiveness that we have not seen in Baltimore in a long LONG time. And it is all wrapped up in this one move that sent a pitcher to Seattle in exchange for a farm system. The best trade of the decade and the most important event of the Orioles’ decade.