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Keith Law rips the Orioles’ offseason moves

Feb 10, 2011, 10:42 AM EDT

Mark Reynolds, Chris Iannetta

I’ve been asked about the Orioles offseason a lot.  My standard answer is that while I still have a hard time seeing them finish in anything but last place due to how brutal the division is, I do think they have improved themselves and will be a better team this year. They could win 80 games, which is pretty spiffy compared to what happened last year.  As Steve Melewski reports, my friend Keith Law isn’t as ho-hum about it as I am:

There is clearly a lot of excitement and anticipation for the 2011 Orioles season. Some of the national media has given the team some props lately.

But ESPN.com’s Keith Law won’t make that list.

In a phone conversation yesterday afternoon, Law told me he felt certain the O’s had little chance to even be a .500 team this year. He also was very critical of Vlad Guerrero and Mark Reynolds and of many of the moves the club has made this offseason.

What follows are a lot of very Keith Law quotes about the state of the O’s.  And I agree with Law on the 85 wins thing — the math just doesn’t work in that division — but Keith is way way more critical of the O’s moves than I am.  Specifically the signing of Vlad Guerrero and Mark Reynolds.

I get where he’s coming from, but from where I’m sitting I don’t agree that his chief complaint regarding the Vlad signing — that it takes away from Nolan Reimold and Felix Pie‘s development — is that critical.  Neither of them are spring chickens.  If they rake in AAA, it’s not like Guerrero is so immovable on his one-year deal that a place can’t be made for them or that they can’t be traded for something worth a damn.  I feel the same way about the money spent on Guerrero, which Keith says should be reserved for a loaded 2011 draft.  Yes, the draft is way more important than Vlad, but it may not be an either/or situation. They could still pay what is necessary to get the best talent possible in the draft with Guerrero in the fold. It depends on how they budget. Maybe they are poised to spend a bit more now than they did in years past.

I would agree with Keith that the incremental improvements the O’s made this winter aren’t the things long-term plans are made of.  But that’s only bad if the moves foreclose the possibility of making the sorts of changes that do fit in a sound long term plan.  In the meantime, there is some value to making the team into one that fans who watch 100 games a year can better stomach than the version they’ve watched the past few years.  Derrek Lee, Vlad Guerrero and Mark Reynolds aren’t going to be a part of the next contending Orioles team, but they are far more easy to stomach than the guys they’ve trotted out recently.

And more importantly, they aren’t preventing that next contending Orioles team from coming together.

  1. BC - Feb 10, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    Who’s going to pitch for them? 70 wins, tops.

    • randomdigits - Feb 10, 2011 at 12:04 PM

      So the 2010 O’s go 66-96, they replace below replacement production at ss and 1b, upgrade 3rd and lf while the Jays and Rays both shed salary and you see, at most, four more wins?

      • Panda Claus - Feb 10, 2011 at 12:55 PM

        That’s the problem. You’re using logic and reasoning, while much of the baseball world overlooks the upgrades and just sees many successive years of losing 90+ games. Nothing against BC here, he’s entitled to his opinion, but you’d think a few people other than O’s fans would figure this out.

      • BC - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:32 PM

        They still need someone to pitch for them. Unless they plan to convert Vlad or something.

      • randomdigits - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:42 PM

        BC, how is the pitching worse then last season? You that big a Millwood fan? You think Simon was a difference maker? You a member of the Albers fan club?

    • watermelon1 - Feb 10, 2011 at 3:11 PM

      Who’s going to pitch for them? Ummm… who is going to pitch for the Red Sox? Rays? Blue Jays?

      Seriously… I’d take Brian Matusz, Guthrie, and gamble on Duchsherer staying healthy…. over umm, Beckett, Wakefield, and Bucholz.

      Tampa just lost Garza and their entire bullpen.

      Yankees… after Sabbathia, what do they have?

      And after Mariano Rivera, I think the Orioles easily have the best bullpen in the division. Koji Uehara, and then a mix of former closers such as Kevin Gregg and Mike Gonzalez.

      The Orioles didn’t add the BIG names like Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford… but compared to what they had on the field last year:

      JJ Hardy(and a healthy Brian Roberts) will GREATLY improve their interior defense, making all the double-plays that Cesar Izturis was incapable of turning. Derek Lee can actually play 1st base… something Luke Scott and Ty Wiggington just weren’t built for.

      Then Nick Markakis gets something he’s NEVER had… lineup security. With any combination of Vlad, Reynolds, or Lee hitting behind him… Markakis isn’t going to get pitched around anymore. Adam Jones will have no reason to swing for the fences, and can now just use his speed to get on base and steal bases. Brian Roberts won’t have the pressure of doing EVERYTHING for this club, and probably increases his numbers across the board because of it.

      If this team hits like it’s capable of, it can play with any team in the division.

      Not to mention, Millwoods horrible attitude is gone. That guy gave up so many 1st inning leads it was disgusting. He looked like he was not phased at all, never got angry. No spirit. Hard for a young pitching staff to have THAT as their leader(and “ace”).

      Do I expect the Orioles to win the division? No. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they are in the thick of the 2nd place race midway through the season. Injuries determine a lot, but I like the Orioles chances.

      • paintan8 - Feb 11, 2011 at 8:20 PM

        You forgot Jake Arrieta and the soon to be promoted Chris Tillman and Zach Britton.

    • paintan8 - Feb 11, 2011 at 8:18 PM

      Obviously you don’t pay much attention to baseball.

  2. yankeesfanlen - Feb 10, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    What seemed to make the O’s come together later last year was Buck Showalter. As long as the extra wins come against the Jays, Sox and Rays, let’s just see what happens, it’s OK by me.

  3. vader000 - Feb 10, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    I still have trouble understanding how Keith Law is considered such an authority. I know sabermetrics are all the rage and I agree they reveal a lot of information. But the guy never played, was a scout and an assistant GM for Toronto when they were pretty bad and thats all his baseball background. I’m sure he’s been right on some things but for instance last year he said Ryan Howard’s contract was a horrible move and they would regret it. What was their alternative? Let him walk and then have to rebuild the entire team when they could be competing for championships? I know that they will be owing a lot of money to a lot of old players in a few years but it just seems like he never looks at the big picture. This is another example of that, I like your take on it Craig.

    • thehollar - Feb 10, 2011 at 11:21 AM

      We’re going to start whaling on this horse again, are we? The easy answer is that they could have waited for the two remaining seasons that they had him under contract for before offering him all that money.

    • paperlions - Feb 10, 2011 at 12:40 PM

      Actually, Keith’s comments are almost always based on the big picture, when the moves (and comments about those moves) are focused on the short term. The Howard signing was horrible for multiple reasons.

    • bobbcronin - Feb 10, 2011 at 12:56 PM

      ummm… Ryan Howard’s contract was a horrible move. No player is worth $25 million per year, especially one who strikes out as much as he does. Why do you think a player like Adam Dunn had to take half that amount? Why do you think players like Jermaine Dye aren’t even playing now? It is because those type of statistics do not equal $25 million per year.

      There were plenty players avialable last offseason that could have contributed to the Phillies immediately. One move would have been to put another Right Handed bat in the line-up.

    • genericcommenter - Feb 10, 2011 at 3:12 PM

      You lost me at the Howard deal. Howard deal was horrible any way you look at it. Indefensible.

    • Maxa - Feb 10, 2011 at 3:22 PM

      I don’t think that you need much “baseball background” to be a great analyst. The belief that one must have actually played the game in order to be insightful explains why we get commentators like Joe Morgan. Also, it seems to me that we (quite rightly) don’t hold analysts or critics in other fields to this same standard. Do we think that film critics must also be film makers? Or that political commentators must have experience running for office?

  4. BC - Feb 10, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    If the O’s get any pitching at all, they’ll beat out the Jays for 4th. I have this sense that the Jays are going to crater this year.

    • Panda Claus - Feb 10, 2011 at 11:28 AM

      Aha. So this theory and the fact that Law has Toronto roots suggests that he has an axe to grind. He’s simply bitter because his former team may be in last place again. Probably brings back vivid memories.

  5. Panda Claus - Feb 10, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    What would Law have preferred the O’s do? Sit around, offer a couple of manageable contracts to some short-term bit players and continue to hope the still mediocre farm system finds some hidden gems they can promote to Baltimore?

    That strategy, or less, is primarily what this team has done for years. Time to try something different. Even if middle-of-the-pack is the best they do, that’s better than the past 13 years.

    If most of the moves fail or fall short of expectations, that’s the time to criticize. A down-trodden team trying to right itself should be commended for at least trying.

  6. icanspeel - Feb 10, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    I’m not an Orioles fan, but at least they are trying to put a competitive team out there unlike some teams such as the Cleveland Indians.

    • watermelon1 - Feb 10, 2011 at 3:16 PM

      Exactly! This is the first year in over a decade Orioles fans can actually say the owner is trying to win.

      And one fact I think everyone overlooks… if the Orioles DO start winning, Camden Yards is going to FILL UP FAST.

      When that happens, it’s safe to assume the Orioles start playing even better, especially at home. They’ve been in front of a ghosttown the last few years because the fans just couldn’t take anymore. A fast start to the season will give them the kind of energy no player on the roster has experienced in that stadium yet.

  7. kojisakata - Feb 10, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    Keith Law comments have no credability. The O’s upgrade three positions defensively and offensively. How many games the O’s implode cause of bad plays and lack of offense to even keep them in the games, don’t bother counting your’ll want to kill yourself. The additions are not going to make them contenders by any imagination. But he states if they add Crawford it would make a difference What the ? !!! Anyhow the new professional approach by the players also a new found an ounce of excitement plus a prepare and skillful manager. A winning season is guarantee even if it is only one game. If Kieth Law has any respect for himself when the time comes and he is approach on this subject will he swallow his pride and admit he was wrong, but he won’t cause he has an EGO
    all praises to Godzilla and sushi

    • bobbcronin - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:01 PM

      Was this translated from another language because this comment does not make sense. If you are a person attempting another language, I praise you for your attempts. If you are a natural English speaker, then this post is very questionable. I would not trust a credibility determination from a person who types “credability” instead of “credibility”.

      • kojisakata - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:27 PM

        oh thank you so much, for the compliment. I see your just a spelling nazi with nothing else to add. It was very simple process to understand but a guess not for an anti-foreigner like yourself. Keith was criticizing the O’s offseason moves but turnaround and said if they added Crawford or Pujols it would be another story instead of VLad and Reynolds. Meanwhile the O’s last year, I should not have to get into how bad they played we all watch and saw it. Not you, cause your can not understand why certain players are making the money they do. They address alot of holes that costed us alot of games by having upgrades in those positions and game situations. With the new attitude and professionalism plus a thorough prepared manager. the 25 to 30 games we gave away last season will not happen this year. it is a guarantee winning season barring injuries or trading for Ryan Howard.
        again all praises to Godzilla and sushi

  8. lessick - Feb 10, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    Lee and Guerrero are only signed to one-year deals. If the team disappoints, they’re very tradeable for minor league talent precisely because there is no long term commitment for a contending team to take on. The Orioles gave up no draft picks to fill some big holes.
    Reynolds and Hardy are significant upgrades at their positions and still relatively young.
    I understand that mediocrity is not something a team should usually shoot for, however after 13 straight losing seasons, that team needs to show improvement to be able to attract any free agent talent.

    • Panda Claus - Feb 10, 2011 at 2:51 PM

      Thank you for pretty much hitting all the key points in just a few sentences. I wish I could have said it so easily.

  9. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    2011 O’s > 2010 O’s…I think this is as much as we can say at this point. I believe they’ll beat out the BJs though. Beat out the BJs sounds dirty doesn’t it?

  10. fellspointbird - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    Rays are probably an 80-win team
    Yankees might be an 80-win team
    Jays might be a 70-win team
    Sox could be a 100-win team

    Orioles… keep getting kicked while they are down. They could win 80, and it’s not a huge stretch.

    • Ari Collins - Feb 10, 2011 at 3:08 PM

      Wow. Where are you getting those win estimates? How did the Rays lose 17 wins, and the Yankees and Jays 15?

      • thinman61 - Feb 10, 2011 at 3:48 PM

        I’m pretty sure those win estimates were rectally extracted. ;-)

  11. spudchukar - Feb 10, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    No doubt Law has an ego, but he does yeoman like research, and deserves to be listened to if not believed. Sometimes his vast knowledge tilts into the righteous/authority arena, but his academic credentials, work ethic, and enlightened calculations make for intelligent contrarian positions. As was stated above, his criticism of the O’s moves are most likely geared towards the future, but like Craig I don’t have a lot of faith in Pie or Reimold so I’m not sure who the new additions are blocking. Never forget the band box Camden Yards is, so Hardy, Reynolds and Vlad should all generate good power numbers. With Showalter at the helm all season long, an 80 win season should be within their grasp, but probably still only good for last. Maybe they are just biding their time until Pujols arrives, the place I have always feared he would end up. Either there or Toronto.

  12. rockiesmagicnumber - Feb 10, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    What’s this? Keith Law said something?! RAHHHHHH I SUDDENLY HAVE STRONG OPINIONS ABOUT TORONTO AND ST. LOUIS!!!

  13. apbaguy - Feb 10, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    Keith Law doesn’t need me to defend him. And he is an equal opportunity critic. What we all know from years of fandom is that Spring is for hope. Hope that the beloved A’s can win the West, and hope that the formerly beloved O’s won’t finish last. August is about reality. I watched Vlad run out of gas completely in August last year. He’s not younger and he’s not slimmer, and the heat and humidity in the mid-Atlantic is not what he needs. Brian Roberts has played how many games the last two year? More than Duchscherer is the answer.
    The point is, any prediction based on the rosiest of scenarios (if everyone stays healthy) is doomed to fail. I don’t pretend to know what the O’s will actually do this year. Maybe 70 wins, maybe 80. Buck is a great baseball guy. And in any team sport “belief” is a huge part of winning.
    But. In the East, it’s all about the starting pitching, and anyone who thinks Boston’s pitching is going backward is not paying attention. Baltimore pitching is a huge question mark. The Yankees have one guy they can take to the bank, the Jays pitching is iffy, and Tampa has young, very talented guys who may or may not step up. It will be fun to watch, but I don’t get too excited about the Birds or Keith’s comments. But he is right-a lot.

  14. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Feb 10, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    Based on Keith Law’s track record, the Os will probably win the East this year.

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