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Andy MacPhail is BSing Orioles fans

Nov 27, 2009, 10:22 AM EDT

The Orioles have a long way to go, but they are actually doing a fairly good job of building their team (I don’t call it “rebuilding” because that would imply that there was anything there in the first place).  They have some good young position players. There are some young arms on the rise. There is reason to hope in Baltimore.

So why, then, does GM Lee Andy MacPhail [hey -- Lee's still alive, but at age 92, I don't think he's the one I meant] come out and talk about the noise they could maybe possibly make on the free agent market?  In the article he talks about the Orioles’ payroll flexibility.  Which is fine, because it’s technically true. But then he goes on and on about how they offered Mark Teixeira $140 million last year, implying that they could make big splashes like that in the future and don’t count the O’s out and all of that kind of stuff.  Which is either (a) dumb; or (b) disingenuous.

It’s dumb if MacPhail really thinks that the Orioles should be out playing in big-money free agent land.  There aren’t any impact free agents out there this year, and certainly not any that will be around long enough to be strong contributors for an Orioles team that likely won’t contend for a while.  Matt Holliday and John Lackey and guys who will eat up big money over multiple years and be on the downside of their careers by the time Matt Weiters is leading the Orioles to winning seasons are not what the Orioles need right now.

But MacPhail is a pretty smart guy, and I think he knows that.  Which is why I think this is mostly disingenuousness at work.  The Orioles aren’t going to play that market, nor should they. They were burned on bad free agent signings for a decade. There was almost zero chance that Mark Teixeira was going to sign with Baltimore for $140 million last year.  MacPhail knows this, and smart, hardcore Orioles fans know this as well.  In suggesting otherwise, MacPhail is likely trying to play to the casual fans, hoping to drum up ticket sales and excitement during a long cold winter.

The Peter Angelos era has been characterized by the Orioles messing with what once was a solid fanbase. Years of trying to put together Frankenteams of veteran castoffs and milking Ripken’s legacy and a nice park rather than building a strong foundation for the future like the Orioles teams of yore used to do.  Now that they’re finally doing that, the Orioles should be straight with their fans. They should tell them “Hey, we’re not there yet, but we’re getting there. We have a lot of exciting young players. There’s no one out in free agent land that’s truly going to help us, so don’t hold your breath for a signing.”

Such a gesture may not seem like much — and talking up the free agent market may not seem all that harmful — but there has been a lot of broken trust in Baltimore over the past fifteen years.  Now would be a great time for the Orioles to fix that, and they can do so by simply shooting straight with their fans and not promising them pie in the sky.

  1. Old Gator - Nov 27, 2009 at 10:29 AM

    Lee McPhail works for a lawyer. What the hell did you expect?

  2. Jon KK - Nov 27, 2009 at 10:38 AM

    Craig, I assume it’s a typo and not intentional — it’s *Andy* McPhail.

  3. Craig Calcaterra - Nov 27, 2009 at 10:55 AM

    Wow, that’s bad even for me. I mean, Lee is still alive, but he’s 92 and I’m assuming that he’s not BSing anyone except his doctors at this point. I’ll fix.

  4. Kanonen - Nov 27, 2009 at 11:33 AM

    I used to be an O’s fan – until Peter Angelos crapped on my hopes and dreams.

  5. Flup - Nov 27, 2009 at 11:45 AM

    Eh… I think you’re being too hard on McPhail here. It’s a condensed interview, and nowhere does he say, “yeah, we’ve got someone big in mind for this year” or anything like that. Among the fans here in Baltimore there’s a fear that Angelos has gotten so burned by the free agent market that he’s never going to pay anything for anyone ever again, that we’re looking at the O’s turning into the Pirates or Marlins. I think mostly McPhail’s just trying to assuage those fears.
    And, really, Craig, do you seriously think that “casual” fans read hot-stove interviews with the GM about payroll flexibility?

  6. Craig Calcaterra - Nov 27, 2009 at 11:48 AM

    I don’t think they read the interviews, but I certainly think they read headlines, and when they see one that says “MacPhail: the Orioles have payroll flexibility” they’d not unreasonably conclude that the Orioles are wanting to be active in the free agent market.
    But yes, I’ll grant you that I’m probably overreacting here. I just think that the O’s have burned their fans more than most teams in recent history, and that they more than any other team need to be straight with them.

  7. Grant - Nov 27, 2009 at 12:10 PM

    Well, obviously they’re pretty set at outfield and have a third base and a first base prospect coming. So, yeah, I doubt it’ll be much more than one or two years deals on stopgap guys. But I think signing John Lackey would be fine. It won’t happen, but it would be a perfectly acceptable move.
    But yeah, mostly, I’d like to see them just plow a ton of money into the draft and international signings rather than going for Chone Figgins or something.

  8. Jon - Nov 27, 2009 at 12:49 PM

    Lackey would be a great signing if he’s up for about 75 quality starts next year.

  9. Dave Besecker - Nov 27, 2009 at 1:42 PM

    I don’t think they need a Lackey – type starter. It’s not the right time to sign that kind of pitcher. Wait until your on the brink of making the post-season to do that. If anyone, take a roll of the dice with Ben Sheets (or similar type). They need to trust that the young pitchers will succeed and Guthrie will bounce back. They should sign Glaus, Beltre or Dye (B-list free agents that can have an A-list type year). to fill thrid or first and hit RH. They also need to sign a solid closer. Ray and Johnson are not good bets to be the shut down closer.

  10. Dave Besecker - Nov 27, 2009 at 1:45 PM

    I do agree aboutht eh outfield. A possibility of being very dominant, defensively and offernsively. Catcher, short and 2B are some of the best in BB. Good core or quality guys.

  11. Dave Besecker - Nov 27, 2009 at 4:39 PM

    I mean good core “of” quality guys

  12. MBK - Nov 28, 2009 at 2:07 AM

    I’m not really sure what the point of this article is, other than attempting to create controversy and poo-pooing the O’s and their ownership. Anyone who follows the team knows where we are now, what our short- and long-term needs are, and realizes what the free-agent market is this year. A vet SP who can eat innings at the right price for a year, two max (Doug Davis?) and a righty vet who can play 1st base for a year or two (ironically, Aubrey Huff fits the mold) are where the smart money’s at. What’s being ignored, however, is that the bullpen needs an overhaul, and with the expiring contracts and a buyers market of quality arms available, THAT’S where the team needs to focus this season. Signing Billy Wagner would be fantastic, but Gonzalez, Soriano, Rodney, Lyon, etc. would be a nice complemtent to Koji, a healthy Ray, etc, in the ‘pen.
    To see McPhail’s actual quotes in context, see: http://masnsports.com/2009/11/os-have-payroll-flexibility.html

  13. Jeremy - Dec 3, 2009 at 10:08 AM

    I’m late to the party here, but I wanted to point something out. I consider myself to be one of those intelligent O’s fans who recognize it’s not in our best interest to do anything but continue to build for the future at this point. And I think Craig is onto something.
    I keep being surprised by the columns in the Sun complaining about MacPhail and the comments on the Suns blogs echoing those complaints. When MacPhail dealt Sherill for two decent prospects, people were complaining the whole rest of the season when the bullpen was terrible that we should have kept him. Sorry, but not only did we need to trade Sherill for those prospects (including Josh Bell) but we were better off losing those games and getting a better draft pick. There’s no point in wasting money and roster spots on players who have trade value if they are not going to be around to help us make the playoffs in a couple years.
    But, unfortunately, many O’s fans don’t recognize this. While the Sun has largely given MacPhail the benefit of the doubt, they need to sell papers and so they manufacture some controversy that appeals to those casual fans. Or the Sun columnists are just as stupid as those fans. Or both.
    And so, yes, MacPhail is playing to them. And I can’t say I don’t blame him.

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