One of the early sessions at the Baltimore Orioles FanFest on Saturday was with Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter, and such a session never lacks for interest – both in what is said and what is not said.
By way of introduction, let me open with a personal life illustration. I have had a past segment of life in the nasty world of politics, and in one particular season found myself as the spokesperson for The Party in the midst of a controversy. The issue itself had very little fire or substance, but, oh my, the smoke it generated through the pressures applied by the press and the opposition Party was rather significant! I knew that I had to clearly have a list of talking points and strong affirmative statements that I desired to be heard and to win the day in the public arena. It was a 1-2-3 list of bullet points in my mind and that were even carefully word-smithed on a page I carried with me.
Showalter and Duquette came out of the chutes like a pair of roping horses at the Mesquite Rodeo. And I felt like I was getting a 1-2-3-4 list of bullet points at a White House Press Corps briefing. Let me say that I don’t mean to be critical, as I see this as good leadership. But in any event, here is what I think I heard:
1. The Orioles farm system is producing and will be the ultimate resource for success. Duquette said in his first set of remarks, “I don’t want you to lose sight of the fact that our best players are going to come from the farm system.” And he later said, “We have really good young players that people are starting to recognize.”
2. We like the team we have right now, and if that is who we take into the season, we can be successful. Showalter said, “I’m tired of coveting other people’s players; I like our guys … We’ve added some people who fit who we are … I like who we are … We need pitchers getting deeper in games, our guys know that; instead of talking about it, how are we gonna do it?”
3. The free agent market may not be all that it is cracked up to be. Duquette said of the slow to develop market, “We are going to try to sign a couple veteran starters, but we have a lot of young guys… We are going to spend some more money between now and when we open.” Of course a skeptic might say that a cheap low-level signing between now and then is spending more money.
4. We have a checking account, but it’s complicated. And it was during the latter part of his remarks that Duquette uttered, almost in passing, the jaw-dropper that has been much talked about already, “We have made a long-term offer to keep Chris Davis in the community for a long time.” Throughout this section, there were several remarks about J.J. Hardy being retained … though I do not recall similar sentiments about Matt Wieters. Maybe I missed it.
Looking at it from a politician’s perch, it was well-done. They went after some of the critical elements before questions could be asked, and they threw out an additional unexpected point that served as a sort of rationalization to negate the issue at the heart of the criticisms – namely that the Orioles ownership is too cheap.
The problem, or the challenge, is that one can successfully and rationally argue from two different ends about the construction of the Baltimore Orioles…
The Positive Pole – Why can’t a number of players make a Chris Tillman-like step forward and sustain repeated success? The LF, DH, and 2B options that have been secured are not categorically worse than what was had in 2013, and the new players’ upside potential is greater. And why grieve over the loss of a “closer” whose blown saves are the first of several major reasons why the Orioles missed the playoffs?
The Negative Pole – The starting rotation contains second- and third-spot pitchers who have never proven able to consistently pitch deep into games, and the fourth guy had a 1.67 WHIP after joining the Orioles. There is no experienced closer, and the primary candidate is known to have dreadful splits against lefties. Beyond that, there is continued uncertainty about LF, DH, and 2B … and who can expect Machado, Jones, and Davis to repeat 2013 production?
Thoughtful baseball people fall out on both sides, and if nothing else, this is the sort of stuff that makes the sport so interesting.
MONDAY NIGHT NEWS – The Orioles are believed to be one of several clubs who have made an offer to Korean pitcher Suk-Min Yoon. And the Birds have been said to be the leading possible location.
Yoon was essentially the second-best pitcher in Korea after the 2012 season, but shoulder issues were a set-back this past year. This injury put him into a closer’s role … hmmm.
Who really knows? But if the injury is not healed, we can be sure the Orioles’ physicians will find it!