“Experts” Call Baltimore Orioles “Winter Meetings Losers”


Sep 5, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter

Nelson Cruz

(23) in the dugout against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Baltimore Orioles 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I did something last night that I don’t usually do very often, and that is to look around the Internet at the major network sports sites and see what the big-time “experts” are saying about the Baltimore Orioles after the Winter Meetings. There is no shortage out there of articles on the theme of the “winners and losers” at this year’s annual gathering of baseball executives and agents.

MLB fact of life: Dollars spent does not guarantee success.

These articles are a sort of journey into the homeland of Captain Obvious, whose residence is in the state of Shallow Analysis – waxing eloquently that the most money spent equals the best moves made, with the clear expectation of commensurate victories in 2015.

The problem with this, of course, is that the ash heap of baseball history in the 21st Century is already littered with the debris of unfulfilled free agent expectations and gangrenous, putrescent contracts. If you don’t know what those words mean, they mean it smells like decaying flesh.

Honestly, the majority of sites said relatively little about the Orioles beyond noting that they were rather inactive. But let me just pick out a couple of those who had the most to say about the O’s.

Listing the Baltimore Orioles as a “loser” this past week was ESPN’s Senior Baseball Writer Jayson Stark. While acknowledging that Duquette’s style is to patiently wait for bargains at the end of the offseason and that this has worked in the past, he goes on to say …

"“This team won the American League East by 12 games. Twelve. And all it’s done this winter is wave adios to three huge pieces of that team … while replacing them with, well, nobody. Oh, sure, the Orioles will find a way to add a couple of bats, and a left-handed reliever, eventually. But you know what the odds are of finding a 40-homer guy like Cruz sitting in the free-agent bargain bin again next February? Zero. So boy, does this team have work to do.”"

See what I mean by deep analysis?

So, I can fight shallow with shallow. First, setting aside the fact that Nelson Cruz batted .213 for June, July and August, and discounting also that Manny Machado played half a season and Matt Wieters one-fifth of a season, why do any of Cruz’ 40 homers actually need to be replaced? Let’s say none of them are. The Orioles still had 171 which would be second in the American League.

Call me a “homer” when it comes to the Orioles and analysis, but before the season I picked the Baltimore Orioles to win 92 games. I was wrong; they won 96 instead. Looking back at that article now, I see that I quoted Stark and ESPN who predicted the following as the eventual 2014 standings in the AL East …

  • Tampa 93-69
  • Boston 89-73
  • New York 82-80
  • Toronto 79-83
  • Baltimore 77-85

So what was Tampa Bay’s final record? Yep, 77-85.

Here’s another expert calling the Orioles “losers” this past week. Mike Cardillo of USA Today Sports writes …

"Baltimore’s best window to win a World Series came in October … unfortunately Buck Showalter’s team ran into the Kansas City playoff buzzsaw in the ALCS. Barely two months later Baltimore lost both Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller and watched both Toronto and Boston improve in the division. True, the Orioles in 2014 adopted an NFL-style “next man up” philosophy, but expecting a repeat of last season without making any marked improvements could be a tall order. On the plus side for Baltimore, the AL East looks as wide-open as its ever been, so there’s that."

Cardillo also picked the Rays to win the AL East (and the ALDS and the ALCS and the World Series). His site only picked winners and did not break down the standings – probably a good thing to do, so that a wise guy like me won’t come along later and make fun of you.

I don’t see why a “next man up” philosophy cannot work again if it needs to. The 2014 season was a year of injuries throughout baseball. And this is why the “deep depth” philosophy of Dan Duquette paid off, and it does not seem to me that other execs throughout baseball give anywhere near the attention to this as does the Orioles’ system.

Cardillo uses a phrase that I see over and over when national writers talk about the recent Orioles – and also the 2015 version to come – the phrase being “the window of opportunity.”  Many of them say that the Orioles’ window is now, and that it is closing fast. But here’s the deal on that – none of these guys saying this ever originally acknowledged that the Orioles’ window opened! They never saw that coming, so why should we believe them when they say it is closing?

Shoot me if you must. I’m just a small sports guy out here who writes an article a day on a one-year-old blog. And to be truthful, I picked the Rays as well to win in 2014 – lots of people did. But the annual report of the annual death (yet again) of the Baltimore Orioles is, as it has been since Buck and Dan came to town, greatly exaggerated.

Next: Read more here on Duquette's strategy