The Orioles are once again in a state of flux. After a trainwreck of a GM search they finally have their man in Dan Duquette. Duquette seems to be as fine a choice as any, given the circumstances. We shall see what Duke, or Deaux-k if you must, will do in the first of his three years with the team and he has a lot to do. The one thing this team needs more than anything else is just for something – anything to go right.
Call it planning, development or luck last year the Orioles saw key players inexplicably under-perform. Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman were just the two most visable examples. Brian Roberts lost virtually all season to a head injury. Nick Markakis seemingly forgot how to take a walk and his OBP plummeted. Matt Wieters turned it on late, but was mediocre for most of the summer. Adam Jones had a break out year, but he is still not considered to be the elite player we hoped he would be. The only true bright spots to last year’s team was the remarkable season of JJ Hardy. It was something that just worked, and worked better than anyone could have expected.
Andy MacPhail’s tenure was marked by the mantra: “Grow the arms, buy the bats.” That was the plan, it has failed thus far. Was it a bad plan – no. Why hasn’t it worked is a matter open to debate. Even notable curmudgen Keith Law admitted that he is rather baffled how everything could go as poorly as it has.
That is what the Orioles are in drastic shortage of, something just working for a change. The virtual entirety of Andy MacPhail’s reign as GM is littered with the failed execution of a good idea and the only person that should be rooting for this more than the legions of Orioles fans in the greater Baltimore area is the owner himself, Peter Angelos.
Duquette is signed on for three years, this hire and the moves made over this offseason and the next two are it; they are Peter Angelos’ endgame. At the end of Duquette’s contract Angelos will be on the wrong side of 85. One has to assume that there is little chance of him operating the team in the same capacity as he is approaching 90 so this tells me that Angelos has to be looking at the next three years as his legacy. Right now his legacy is being the on the short list titled, “The worst owners in the history of sport.”
Angelos has owned the team since 1994 and the last 17 years have been marred with meddling, petty decisions, meddling, disastrous PR debacles, attacking the press, clearly low-balling bigtime free agents, the evisceration of the farm system through bad drafts and moves and meddling. The funny thing is you rarely hear Angelos in the media, he is not as visible as say George Steinbrenner was. Somehow Mr. Angelos has mastered the ability to be hands-off while being a constant negative presence in the front office. He has created a culture of cronyism and those cronies have worked non-stop to undermine the organization at every turn.
Their goal was never to hurt the team. Far from it. The sad thing about Angelos’ reign is that you know every single thing he has done he believes has helped the team, city and baseball in general.
He has three years. If the Orioles can become competitive in those three years he will have saved a bit of his legacy and maybe the history books will look at him without so much disdain. As of right now, that is not the case.
So what does that mean for this offseason? One would assume you would see the Orioles be more aggressive. Be it through trades, international scouting, free agency or wholesale changes throughout the organization the Orioles (and Angelos) can not afford to doddle. As I write this the Warehouse seems pretty quiet. Dan Duquette has not had the job for a week and he was already starting late, but the lack of any buzz is a bit disturbing. Meanwhile the Florida Marlins are courting Albert Pujols. I don’t necessarily think the Orioles should be going after Pujols, but the point remains – the Orioles need to strike this offseason. They need to find a way to make this team relevant in 2012 and beyond. Maybe that means trading Adam Jones or even Nick Markakis, maybe that means giving stupid money to Prince Fielder and dealing with the end of the contract when it happens. Maybe it means making a splash in the Japanese market.
Whichever way the Orioles choose to make their mark this winter, they need to do it. But most importantly whatever they do let’s hope for a change it actually works.