• May

    An Organization in Need of Change: 2007 Version

    When huge, knowledgeable fans like Jon Wilt start to take week long vacations from the Orioles in May, there’s a problem here folks.


    The sad part is even I have to admit to spending more time on our other forums like TV/Movies etc than in the Orioles Talk forum of late. Much of it unfortunately is to painfully true.


    I think I actually watched two innings of Orioles baseball over the weekend. The Orioles exhibition Hall of Fame game against the Blue Jays tonight – who cares?


    The God's honest truth is I've been mulling over the Hangout's future due to this club's continual futility. When it's May and I'm already skipping multiple games because well... it doesn't seem to matter, there's definitely something wrong.


    No hitting, terrible managing, and poor relief work is the Orioles management giving us more of the same.


    Sad, but true!!!


    The fans have been dying for a change. Most people want something to look forward to even if it means blowing it up completely. Instead, we're given the same excuses each off-season why players like Josh Beckett, A.J Burnett or Carlos Delgado are too expensive or the other teams want too many “prospects.” We then get the Kevin Millars or Aubrey Huffs of the world.


    Not only do the Orioles not go after the premier free agents due to price, but this is an organization that doesn’t scout or go after the top Asian players, folded up their tents in an unproductive (for the Orioles) Venezuelan market and only pays $25,000 or less to Dominican players who now have advisors who can get them a million or more in signing bonuses from teams like the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers and Red Sox.


    This team has no vision from the top on down. First the Orioles kept telling us they couldn’t spend the money because they were waiting on the MASN/CSN situation to play out. Once that was done, we got more excuses about how the money made in that deal was covering the startup funds for MASN itself.


    What did that get us? The Orioles are one of only two MLB teams (Royals are the other) without High Definition broadcasts and the network itself has had continual audio issues.


    The Orioles finally spent some of that money this off-season but spent it on middle relievers, including the unheard of salary of over $6 million a year for setup man Danys Baez. Baez has obviously been a disappointment, but the other relievers brought in during the Orioles splurge have not been consistent either. Chad Bradford has a 3.06 ERA but batters are hitting .324 off him including left-handers who are killing him for a .467 mark. Left-hander Jamie Walker has probably been the best so far, but his 3.86 ERA is far from dominate. Scott Williamson has spent most of the year either disabled or not being used by manager Sam Perlozzo even while on the active roster.


    Not only have the relievers Jim Duquette and Mike Flanagan brought in not turned the Orioles fortunes around, they cost the Orioles their 2nd and 3rd round picks in this year’s draft. So not only is the team not improved this year, they mortgaged the future to do it.


    So what’s the plan guys? Duquette and Flanagan seemed to indicate in various fan forums before the season that this team was not built to contend, but rather to reach the .500 mark. Both have been on record saying they are building from within, but how do you do that when you lose your 2nd and 3rd round picks for middle relievers? The same middle relievers that are inherently volatile from year to year and the reason why most teams don’t splurge on them in the off season.


    If D&F knew this team was not really a contender and needed some good leadership and smarts to make this club work, why in the world would they go into the season with Perlozzo as a manager? Perlozzo is a good guy, and a good coach, but he’s never going to go on the speaker circuit as a motivational speaker or be heard giving leadership seminars. On top of it all, he’s certainly not a tactician when it comes to in game moves and it’s painfully obvious that he’s not part of the solution to the Orioles various woes.


    I run a website dedicated to the Baltimore Orioles and their fans so it’s in my best interest to keep people motivated about the Orioles. I’ve tried hard this season, but the overwhelming amount of fan apathy outside of a small core group of fans is eye opening. I love baseball, and I’ll always be an Orioles fan at heart, but what am I supposed to tell people to be excited about?


    Should they be excited about watching our best player Miguel Tejada, a guy who seems to make as many bone-headed plays on the field as he has extra base hits this year? Should they be excited over watching our best young hitter Nick Markakis look a lot more like a solid major leaguer then a budding superstar? Should they be excited about watching our “ace” pitcher Erik Bedard ask out of tight ballgames after seven innings pitched?


    The Orioles are not a team built on now or the future. In our core group of offensive players, only Markakis can be expected to improve over the next few years and guess what folks, there’s no one on the immediate horizon on the farm that will make an impact at the major league level with the bat.


    On top of it all, the team is not really marketable. The team’s best two young players (Markakis and Bedard) have the personalities of tree slugs with the media and the fans. Its best player has openly criticized the management of the team in years past and certainly appears to be either on the downside of his career or going through the motions that constant losing creates.


    The team is lucky to have Brian Roberts, who’s very personable and seems to enjoy his interaction with the city and fans, but even Roberts didn’t want to commit to a long-term deal with the Orioles until he sees what direction they are going. And who’s to blame him?


    This organization needs change, and it needs it now. A new vision is needed and even more importantly, new leadership. I don’t know whether it’s the top down attitude that permeates throughout the entire organization due to Peter Angelos or whether the right people have not been found who can work in an Angelos-dominated work environment, but what’s painfully obvious is this organization is spinning it’s dysfunctional wheels.


    The sad truth is the Orioles are not very good, and the prospects of getting better don’t look good in the near future. The Orioles farm system is improved somewhat, but I certainly wouldn’t be pinning any hopes that it will start delivering impact major leaguers on any kind of basis in the near future.


    With leadership that trades draft picks for mediocre middle relievers so they can approach .500, it’s no wonder they’re staring at their tenth consecutive losing season with a little hope for improvement in the near future.


    Add to all of this the current state of Camden Yards. Once the prize jewel of ball parks, the facilities antiquated video board and displays are downright embarrassing in the year 2007. Instead of ensuring the fans have a first class experience while at the park, the Orioles remain in a disagreement over who’s to pay for the video upgrades. Meanwhile, while fans at other parks around the league have access to multiple stats, scoreboards and lineup information on state of the art displays, Orioles fans get to watch the Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish race on a patchwork faded display.


    I know there are good hard working people working for the Orioles and it’s ashamed they sometimes get wrapped into this mess. The Orioles have done a great job in providing multiple promotion nights and discounted tickets in order to try and get people out to the ballpark. However, their job is akin to guy trying to sell tickets to the ballroom show on the Titanic as it sinks.


    A new vision and leadership is needed immediately. The days of talking about the process should be over, because no one believes it anymore. For years I bought into the concept there was a master plan that I just wasn’t privy too. There were forces I couldn’t see that constantly made the Orioles leadership make head scratching personnel moves and roster decisions. I just knew I had to be missing something, so with that I took the wait and see attitude.


    After ten years of losing, I’m following my own tag line: Actions speak louder than words.


    I don’t want to hear any more spin from anyone associated with the Orioles. I want the team to make true changes and get on the same master plan.

    Here’s a simple plan that just might get us back on track.


    This current core group of players needs to be broken up. Realistically, everyone on the roster should be available for the right price. This team needs to go for a full out youth movement. Fill in the rest with role players and know we’re going to stink for a few more years. Do not sign any player that will cost us a draft pick.


    Next, invest heavily in the Dominican market by actually building that “dream” complex that seems to be on the drawing board for years now. Put the money saved by not signing the big free agents over the next few years into some hot Dominican prospects and make the Orioles the kind of organization that these young players want to sign with.


    Become a player in the Asian markets. Not only in Japan, but also in China/Taiwan where baseball is taking off and the talent will continue to improve.


    Hire a manager that is innovative, a bit fiery, but who knows how to work with young players. A guy who can kick a butt when he needs to but also knows how to work with each player as an individual. Hire a leader!!!!


    Allow Joe Jordan and his staff the opportunity to sign any player they believe in, regardless of price.


    The cost of giving Jordan free reign, upgrading our Dominican and Asian scouting/bonuses will pay off in spades in my opinion instead of signing middle relievers to $42 million of guaranteed salaries.


    The Orioles may be terrible over the next few years with this plan, but within 3-5 years we’ll have an organization that’s strong and even better, built to be strong for the long haul. The Orioles are never going to have the revenue to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox dollar for dollar so it’s going to take some investment in the US based and overseas scouting in order to have the ability to truly build that strength from within.


    No more process, no more band aids, no more fluff and spin. It’s time for the Orioles to make real change or face the continual apathy of their fan base to the point they become irrelevant.


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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.