Observing The O's By Way Of Rays And A's
By Stan "The Fan" Charles
The only real way to measure yourself, either individually or collectively as a team, is to take stock of what you are in the here and now. These past six home games against the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics allowed the Baltimore Orioles to do just that.
Right now, the O's are far better than they have been at almost any time during the past 14 years. Yet, if orange-colored glasses are taken off, it's clear that the Birds are fighting the good fight, but it is an uphill battle all the time.
What has been the most interesting thing to observe is the work of the general manager, Dan Duquette. After years of watching Syd Thrift, Jim Beattie, Mike Flanagan and -- to a lesser extent -- Andy MacPhail, Orioles fans have someone grinding to make their home team capable of winning. It's important to remember that as good as 2012 has been, chances are Duquette will be more capable of layering the organization from every angle possible -- trades, free agents, international players and even players other organizations release -- in the future.
Rays GM Andrew Friedman's work in Tampa has been the genesis of the book The Extra 2%, written by Jonah Keri. Keri's goal was to piggyback on the amazing success and interest in Michael Lewis' book Moneyball about the work of Billy Beane in Oakland. (No word on who would play Friedman if and when a movie got made.)
Yet, as another point of emphasis, Friedman has held that position in Tampa since November 2005 and Beane has gotten comfy in Oakland for 14 years. It takes much longer to be able to use every nuance of an organization to its fullest, like an orchestra leader uses the full range of his instruments.
That said, Duquette and manager Buck Showalter have to do a much better job of digging down deep on roster construction. Teams such as the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers have proven they'll spend huge dollars in order to be able to erase mistakes.
What you end up with when you are in the first year back, and have an owner that has been sold a bad bill of goods for years, are Lew Ford, Jamie Moyer, Joel Pineiro, Miguel Gonzalez, and players with expiring contracts, such as Mark Reynolds and Kevin Gregg.
There is nothing wrong with some of those players and situations, but when you have a tiny eraser, you have to limit key roster decisions to having players you want, not ones you have to keep.
A case in point is the Athletics' uber-talented Cuban defector, center fielder Yoenis Cespedes. The Orioles and Duquette ventured lightly where they should have been able to blow the A's away. Yes, lose in free agency to the previously mentioned big-market spenders. But when a player such as a Cespedes comes along, with all five tools, the Orioles can't lose out to the A's, who will almost always spend far less than the Orioles.
Finishing 2-4 versus the teams you are measuring up against in the brave new world of two wild cards is going to make for quite a roller-coaster ride in both the National League and American League.
What remains to be seen is whether Duquette can make a couple of significant additions at the trade deadline, which might paint the Orioles firmly in the playoff picture.
Posted July 30, 2012