Aug. 12, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis (19) is congratulated by teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles and the Money Spending Issue


 

I have been slow to be critical of the Baltimore Orioles about the offseason and the lack of spending on free agents to help the team. Having spent a lifetime as a leader of organizations of varied sorts, I know that there is always a story on the inside that cannot be told, that, if it could be revealed to the outside, would make a substantial difference in common perception. But I have to say it is getting more and more difficult to justify or explain the current situation.

The fan impatience and skepticism is mounting to a feverish pitch, that, if I were the Executive Vice President, I’d almost be expecting a torch and pitchfork brigade to greet my question and answer session at FanFest. Even the beat writers are struggling to carry on day after day without having to, in some measure, face the music with fan base impatience. Certainly the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger” has to go through their minds.

Speaking of the beat writers, two of them from the Baltimore Sun took up this salary budget theme on consecutive days this week. Articles by Peter Schmuck and Dan Connolly can be seen HERE and HERE. Some pretty bold statements are made that are beyond the normal tone, particularly by Peter Schmuck, such as “… the fans keep wondering if all they rate from this ownership are minor league hand-me-downs and small-market excuses” … and “Certainly, there’s enough money parked somewhere to sign more than this week’s best available fourth outfielder.”

So what is the complete story? I don’t think we can know the entire matter, but to bring it into a few sentences it is this:

-        The Orioles are increasing payroll year to year.

-        It was about $92 million for 2013, and Duquette has several times spoken of up to about $100 million being a reasonable target for 2014.

-        At this moment, with only Matt Wieters yet to be determined in the arbitration process, commitments are at about $83 million.

-        All of this together would suggest there is up to another $17 million that could be spent in 2014.

-        $17 million should be sufficient to land one of the remaining quality starters and perhaps an additional bullpen arm.

-        Orioles fans must understand that keeping pace with Yankee spending is never going to happen … not when their new FA’s from this year – Tanaka, McCann, Ellsbury, Beltran, and the re-signed Kuroda – together account for $91 million.

-        Spending does not necessarily equal winning – see “Toronto Blue Jays 2013,” and recall as well that all that Yankee spending over 2012 and 2013 bought them two more wins than the Birds.

-        Logical Conclusion = If the Orioles use their $17 million to yet acquire another quality pitcher or two, and do so in a way that gains the most bang for the buck, fans are not justified in criticizing the efforts made … recognizing that the core of the team is as good as anyone else out there. BUT, if nothing more is done, after all the talk of a reasonable $100 million target as the “reallocation of resources,” then the fan base has a justifiable right to feel blown off.

I suppose the argument could be made that management is reserving resources in an effort to retain Chris Davis and Matt Wieters after the next two seasons, so that they remain in Baltimore for the arrival and peak performance of the young pitchers rising just over the horizon. The problem with that (slow-moving freight) train of thought is that, even if you save the dollars, they may still not be anywhere near enough when the crazy spenders around the league get involved.

It certainly seems better to try to win now, rather than sort of compete now and hope to win later. Relative to the two Scott Boras clients, the old hunting adage comes to mind that, “a bird in hand is better than two in the bush.”  Yep, and two BIRDS in hand are better than two in the Boras bush.

Duquette is correct however when he says that “the only way we are really going to be able to compete is if we bring up a steady stream of players through our farm system.”  Right. True. We just need a short bridge to get there … a $17 million one … something like that.

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