Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pinstripes are Slimming

Maybe Mark Teixeira just likes the way he looks in pinstripes and navy blue better than he does in orange and black.

Peter Schmuck sums up the reaction from much of the fanbase, and puts it all in perspective:
That level of frustration is understandable at a time like this, but if
you're a baseball fan, you're not going to stop being a baseball fan because
Boras acted like Boras, the Yankees acted like the Yankees and the Orioles acted
like the Orioles. I expect you to take a couple of days to cool off and then be
back here first thing Friday morning.

I understand and share the frustration with rebuilding. Since previous administrations were so inept, Orioles fans have been given a three-year time horizon for more than a decade and have nothing (well, except a few Jay Gibbons, Rodrigo Lopez, Daniel Cabrera and Luis Matos memories) to show for it. This time it really is different, though. Joe Sheehan wrote last week, and I agree, that Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters are the types of players that form the core of a championship club. He also wrote that the Orioles should sign Teixeira, but the point remains: the Orioles actually have talent. Couple those guys with all the young pitching on the way (with the obvious caveat about the difficulty of developing young pitching), and this legitimately is a team that can compete in the very near future. Not in 2009, but maybe we can dream a little in 2010.

Clearly, as a baseball player, Teixeira would have been a perfect fit for the Orioles, a switch-hitting slugger to hit in the middle of the lineup and play excellent defense at first base. Economically, it's not quite as clear he was a great fit. In 2008, the Orioles had a team payroll of $67 million. In 2007, that number was $93 million. Assuming that the Orioles were willing to go back to or a little above 2007 levels, commiting roughly 23% of your payroll to one player is typically not a formula for success. Couple that with the uncertainty surrounding today's economy, and pulling out of the bidding may turn out to be a very wise decision.

So how do the Orioles move forward? Very clearly, they need to develop some of that young pitching in the minor leagues. Finding five (heck, two) competent starters is priority 1A, B, C and D. After that, they need long-term solutions for the middle infield, first base, third base (OK, the whole infield) and left field. Is Brian Roberts here for the long-term? Can the club live with a great-field, no-hit shortstop? What can Nolan Reimold provide in left? Can Aubrey Huff return some value? Where is the middle-of-the-lineup power production going to come from? Not all of those questions can be answered in 2009, but not all of them need to be; complementary players can fill many of those roles, and MacPhail has proven adept at returning value in trades. It may not feel this way while watching Sportscenter this morning, but the future is bright.

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