5 Bad Moves

Over at ESPN, Jonah Keri has an article about baseball’s losing dynasties. Of course, the O’s are one of the teams…as well they should be. What I had an issue with was a few of his Five bad moves of the team.

Five bad moves
1. Firing Davey Johnson. Yes, he has an ego, and there’s a long list of owners and front-office people who’ve struggled to get along with him. But all he’s ever done is win, in New York, in Cincinnati and, yes, in Baltimore. The year before Davey Johnson took over, the Orioles finished two games under .500. The next season, they won 88 games and the wild card, followed by a 98-win season and a division title. The O’s cut him loose, and they haven’t sniffed .500 since. But sure, Peter Angelos, you go right on losing games and watching your attendance dwindle. At least you showed everyone who’s boss.

Agreed. This was a horrible move and there’s nothing to add here.

2. Signing Albert Belle to a five-year, $65 million contract. For all the Orioles’ losing, no one could ever blame Angelos for being cheap, and this contract was Exhibit A of the owner’s largesse. Belle had one of the best career peaks in baseball history, putting up gigantic numbers. But in giving him such a massive deal after the 1998 season, including a no-trade clause for the first three years, the O’s were betting that Belle would stay healthy and hugely productive well into his mid-30s. Instead, Belle played just two more years before a degenerative hip injury forced him to retire.

Everybody loves bringing this up lately. I don’t all the guys at ESPN and SI think this one of the worst deals ever. Albert Belle might not be the nicest guy on Earth, but he wasn’t signed the O’s to be a greeter…he was signed to play baseball. In 1999, he hit 37 Homers and 117  RBI. 2000, He hit 23 HR and 103 RBI. He produced in his ‘just two more years.’ Its not like he hit .200 with 14 HR and 45 RBI. Both of his years in Baltimore were good years. The hip condition was unforunate…but from some of the columns I’ve read over the years, some writers seem to think Belle planned on that happening.

 

3. Hiring Syd Thrift, Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan as GMs. Thrift was years past his prime as a talent evaluator, while Beattie and Flanagan owned lackluster track records and did little to move the team forward during their tenure as co-GMs. Of course in Baltimore, a willingness to say yes to the big boss usually transcends a winning résumé.

Nothing to add here.

4. Trading for Sammy Sosa. In the final, $17 million season of a ginormous contract, Sosa had a .221 batting average, a .295 on-base percentage and .376 slugging. He hit 14 homers and played just 102 games. The trade didn’t cost the Orioles any impact prospects. But it was a classic example of the kind of short-sighted, money-wasting moves that have plagued this team for more than a decade.

I disagreed with this at first, but then I read the last line again and he nailed it. Sosa was 36 when he went to Baltimore. This wasn’t like a contending team picking him up and hoping that he could give them a little pop out of the 4th outfield/DH role. No this was the doomed 2005 that got off to a great start and crashed and burned epically. The trade for Sosa was a noble gamble to get fans re-energized. But for the wrong reasons. We shouldn’t be excited to see a great slugger come to town in the twlight of his career. Developing our own sluggers is something to get excited about. This was when the team wasn’t rebuilding, but thought they could contend. They were wrong. They had Tejeda, Javy Lopez, Raffy Palmerio, and a servicable rotation. It was a doomed blueprint with most of the key players a few years past their prime. Like Wile. E. Coyote, their brilliant plan backfired on them yet again. For Sosa, The O’s gave up Jerry Hairston Jr, Dave Crouthers, and Mike Fotenot. The only three to miss is Fotenot, who’d look a whole better as utility than Fahey, Torres, Hernandez etc. The Cubs ate a big chunk of Sosa’s 17 million price tag to get him out there, so at least helped.

5. Nearly everything else they did in 2005. The O’s jumped out to an early division lead in 2005, holding first place for 62 days. By season’s end they’d lost 60 of their final 92 games, squandered $17 million on Sosa and fired yet another manager. The coup de grace came from Rafael Palmeiro, who started the year by testifying in front of Congress that he’d never used steroids, cracked his 3,000th hit on July 15, then got suspended 15 days later for testing positive for steroids.

Cop out. Again, the Cubs paid a large chunk of Sosa’s money. The team didn’t know about Palmerio’s steroid use. Bringing him back was a move one could question because when he was brought back he was 39. You hate to see a team fool themselves into thinking that a 39 year old player can be a key cog on their team. The losing streak wasn’t a bad move, it was bad play. Canning Mazzilli was a move that had to be made, but it was a bad hire to start with. Replacing him with Perlozzo was a bad move. So yeah, there were plenty of bad moves but I’d rather have one named here.

I would rather say 2004 was a mistake year. Mazilli was hired. Sidney Ponson was brought back. Javy Lopez was signed. Raffy was brought back. Again, Raffy’s performance wasn’t exactly the problem…but if you want to label it a mistake. Label at when it happened. That was the season we last finished it 3rd, but it all crumbled down quite quick.

I can think of a few others.

Trading John Maine and Jorge Julio for Kris Benson.

Benson was average his first year here and missed all the second. Julio bombed out quickly in NY, but Maine has been a key part of their rotation.

Signing Danys Baez

Bidding against themselves and signing Jay Gibbons to horrible contract

Letting BJ Ryan go when they could have locked him up midseason with a fair contract.

 

Hope for the future? The 15-13 start is nice, but the Orioles probably won’t see a winning season for a while. Nick Markakis and Adam Jones are great building blocks in the outfield, Luke Scott is an above-average player as the third outfielder, Brian Roberts and George Sherrill should fetch some interesting loot in a trade, and Matt Wieters is a potential franchise player a year away from taking over at catcher. After that, the closet is nearly bare, with a severe lack of pitching the biggest problem.

I don’t believe the closet is near bare after those players. We do need more positional players with upside in the minors. As for a severe lack of pitching, I disagree. Chris Tillman, Tony Butler, Radhames Liz, Brandon Erbe and Jake Arieta are doing good to quite good in minors. MacPhail wants arms in the minors and I think we’re off to a good start.

ETA for next winning season: 2012

I hope not.

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