No, we’re not talking about Jay Gibbons’ batting average
By Christopher Heun
The Orioles have never been lower as an organization than they are right now.
That might seem like hyperbole, since the roster probably has more talent than five or six years ago and the farm system has improved since then.
But the results on the field haven’t changed in a decade. And the people making the decisions (or is it just one person, Uncle Peter?) haven’t learned from their mistakes.
They’ve fired their manager (for the third time in four seasons) but couldn’t convince the only guy they wanted as a replacement, Joe Girardi, to accept the job.
Just the thought of changing the manager proves that The Warehouse doesn’t get it: even with Earl Weaver at the helm, the Orioles are a bad ball club. They’re not a little luck and one big free agent signing away from contention. Not even close. Not when they can’t play .500 ball.
The only player on the roster who sensibly could be traded for meaningful prospects, Miguel Tejada, broke his wrist and won’t play again until after the July 31 trade deadline has passed.
If Peter Angelos really has accepted the need for a single person to be in charge of all baseball decisions, then he could have picked someone with success building a team from within. The man he named president of baseball operations, Andy MacPhail, has admitted he couldn’t develop position players in his 12 years in Chicago.
Breaking up the roster and acquiring as much young talent as possible is the only way the Birds will become contenders. But no one in The Warehouse seems to realize that. Otherwise, Tejada would have been traded long ago.
On top of that, two young pitching prospects who were supposed to blossom this season have spent most of their time on the disabled list. Adam Loewen is done for the year and Hayden Penn is turning into the second coming of Carl Pavano.
Daniel Cabrera, the third young arm always mentioned in the same breath as Loewen and Penn as the rotation of the future, has an ERA over 5.00. He's fully embraced his fate as the reincarnation of Bobby Witt.
In mid June, before Perlozzo was sent packing, I thought it couldn’t get any worse after the Birds were swept at home by the supposedly inferior Nats. Then they lost three more games, pushing their losing streak to eight. Then they fell into last place and 12 games under .500. Then Perlozzo was fired and the star player broke his wrist.
To be fair, newcomers Jeremy Guthrie and Brian Burres have stepped into the starting rotation and performed well, though much of their work has been wasted because of poor run support. Only two teams in the American League have scored fewer runs; only three have a lower slugging percentage.
No one should expect that to change anytime soon (Who’s excited about two more years of Aubrey Huff?) The only hitting prospect playing above Single A, outfielder Nolan Reimold, hasn’t played in nearly two months because of a strained oblique muscle. Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters, whom the Orioles drafted earlier this summer, will instantly become the club’s best minor league hitter once his agent, Scott Boras, allows him to sign a contract.
Some fans are holding their breath for Mark Texiera, a free agent after next season. Rather than meet the Rangers’ asking price in a trade, the Orioles would be wise to save their prospects and hope for the best once the first baseman hits the open market.
The good thing about hitting rock bottom is there’s no way to go but up. Now that the Birds have nestled into familiar territory, 10 games under .500, the bullpen will get better and some one-run games may go their way for a change. Even during their losing streak last month, they weren’t getting blown out.
The harder trick will be getting anything more valuable than AA relievers in return for mediocre veterans that predominate the Orioles roster. That’s a topic better left for another day.