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July 8, 2011

Orioles' news, notes and opinions: Rotation, Matusz, staff struggles, Guerrero/Lee, Hardy

I have a real scary and disturbing thought to start your morning and I apologize in advance but here goes: As bad as the Orioles pitching has been lately, I can’t help but think that it could get a whole lot worse. What happens when Zach Britton, who hasn’t gotten many wins lately but still gives the Orioles a chance to win most times out, is officially shut down at some point in late August or early September? The Orioles don’t want the rookie lefty accruing over 175 innings this season and he’s already at 103 2/3 heading into tonight’s start. What happens if the Orioles decide to shut Jake Arrieta down early to get the bone spur in his right elbow removed? What happens if the club decides to trade Jeremy Guthrie, who is really only one of two legit trade chips (J.J. Hardy is the other) that the Orioles have right now? All three are realistic possibilities though I’ve said several times that I don’t expect Guthrie to be moved until this offseason, or next trade deadline. I guess the possibility exists that Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman could string together some solid outings for Triple-A Norfolk and enter the conversation again, or current relievers Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken or Alfredo Simon could pitch well enough to get the ball every five days, but in watching this club this year, it’s probably better to work off the worst-case scenario. You almost come to fully expect the next installment of Victor Zambrano or Victor Santos or Chris Waters to be on the mound in September with the Orioles facing all their divisional foes who need wins to get to the playoffs. It’s not a pretty picture.

Speaking of Matusz and not great news, I was told that his fastball velocity during his start for Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday was even lower than it had been while he was pitching in the big leagues this season. Just for comparison sake, in his six starts for the Orioles, Matusz’s average fastball velocity was 86.7, according to the excellent web site www.fangraphs.com. Matusz’s situation remains a big mystery to me. I’ve probably asked 10 different people either from inside the organization or outside the organization but familiar with Matusz, and gotten 10 different explanations. I’m not sure there is a more impactful issue in the second half for the Orioles than what becomes of Matusz. His progression – or regression - cannot be overstated with where the Orioles are as a franchise.

The frustration over the pitching staff’s struggles is understandable, but I think the calls for Rick Adair’s job are a little unfair. Sure, the staff’s numbers since Mark Connor resigned aren’t pretty, but consider who the Orioles have had to rely on recently, and also who has been on their schedule. In some cases, the Orioles are asking career minor leaguers to neutralize teams like the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox. It isn’t going to happen more times than not. This isn’t a pitching coach issue. This a depth issue and the Orioles simply not having enough pitching to compete regularly with the American League heavyweights.

I applauded the signing of Vladimir Guerrero at the time, and I also felt that Derrek Lee was the Orioles’ best option to fill their first base vacancy of what remained after they struck out on Victor Martinez and Adam Dunn. Well, I’m not breaking any news here but the veterans have really bogged down the middle of the Orioles’ lineup particularly with runners in scoring position. Between the two of them, they are a combined 23-for-129 (.178) with runners in scoring position. They have also combined to hit into 23 double plays, nine more twin killings than they have total homers. They seemed like good additions at the time and Lee has brought a solid glove and a lot of professionalism to a clubhouse badly in need of it. But in terms of helping out the offense, I couldn’t imagine those signings looking much worse right now. And I know some in the game feel differently, but I just have a hard time imagining a trade market for either developing unless something changes dramatically.

This is sort of an incremental update but it is a question we get asked a lot so it’s certainly worth passing along. The Orioles remain in negotiations with shortstop J.J. Hardy about a potential contract extension. They may not be talking on a daily basis, but the two sides are communicating semi-regularly. Hardy is eligible for free agency after the season and if the Orioles don’t think they have a chance to sign him, they likely will explore a trade. Nothing is imminent at this point, but both sides have expressed a willingness to get a deal done. This is totally me talking, not anything I heard from either party, but it’s hard to imagine the deciding factor in this not being whether the Orioles offer him three guaranteed years or not. Keep in mind Hardy’s history. His free agency was delayed by a year because the Milwaukee Brewers sent him down to the minors during the 2009 season, a move that Hardy has called a slap in the face several times. Hardy eventually kept the shortstop position warm for Brewers’ prospect Alcides Escobar. Hardy was then traded from the Twins to the Orioles are just one season in Minnesota. My point in documenting all that is you’d have to think that Hardy wants a little stability. He signs a two-year deal with the Orioles and probably after just one year of it, he’s again firmly on the trade block, especially if Manny Machado forces the Orioles’ hand a little bit.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 7:00 AM | | Comments (51)
        

Comments

I agree with anyone who says signing J.J. Hardy is a difficult question. He is often injured and his pleasant first half surprise will definitely require the O's to over pay him. However, I recommend everyone realize what organization we are dealing with. From 2008 until Hardy joined the team we dealt with the SS juggernaut that was Cesar Izturis, Robert Andino, Brandan Fehey, et. al. 130 games of Hardy going .260/.340/.420 would be preferable to any conceivable replacement the O's could dredge from the "farm system" or the FA discount bin.

As much as I like JJ Hardy if he is smart he'll wait for free agency and get the hell out of Dodge. Anybody in their right mind knows the past, present and future with this ball club. Thirteen years of frustration and I'm 67 years old and I don't see anything looking good any time soon.

Hardy will be wise to not entertain any offer from the Orioles. Same goes for Guthrie. The Yankees may be inclined to look for a shortstop next year. I don't think Derek Jeter will play the remainder of his contract. Guthrie could easily end up in pin stripes as well.

If MacPhail were smart (big if), he should trade Guthrie, Reynolds and Hardy this year.

One of McPhail's failures that has become apparent is that he did not sign enough pitchers in the off-season. I don't think the crucial role pitching plays is news to McPhail. Neither are the dual realities that young pitchers are inconsistent and that pitchers break down over the course of the season. So it should not come as a surprise. This is a management issue, a planning issue, and he did not provide sufficient replacement parts when inevitable problems surface. The pitching in Norfolk has not been good, a clear message that the Tides cannot be counted on to fill the major league roster when problems arise. Yet the Orioles have not even picked up one pitcher (or one player) DFA'd by other teams. Andrew Miller, who pitched last night for Boston, was available in the off season. Lots of others too. The problems with the offense pale by comparison : Guerrero has not hit with power, Lee has hit even less (and his fielding seems to be slipping lately), Pie has forgotten how to hit. But poor planning in the pitching department has become painfully evident since the beginning of June.

One of McPhail's failures that has become apparent is that he did not sign enough pitchers in the off-season. I don't think the crucial role pitching plays is news to McPhail. Neither are the dual realities that young pitchers are inconsistent and that pitchers break down over the course of the season. So it should not come as a surprise. This is a management issue, a planning issue, and he did not provide sufficient replacement parts when inevitable problems surface. The pitching in Norfolk has not been good, a clear message that the Tides cannot be counted on to fill the major league roster when problems arise. Yet the Orioles have not even picked up one pitcher (or one player) DFA'd by other teams. Andrew Miller, who pitched last night for Boston, was available in the off season. Lots of others too. The problems with the offense pale by comparison : Guerrero has not hit with power, Lee has hit even less (and his fielding seems to be slipping lately), Pie has forgotten how to hit. But poor planning in the pitching department has become painfully evident since the beginning of June.

SAME OLD..SAME OLD...THE ONLY
WAY TO IMPROVE THE O'S IS TO GET
RID OF PA AND HIS CLAN.
HIT HIM IN THE POCKETBOOK..BOYCOTT THE O'S
DON'T GO TO THE GAMES, DON'T
BUY O'S MERCHANDISE ...

A deal will get done, especially if the O's go to three years. The O's need Hardy, but Hardy needs the O's. He will NOT get three years from any other club and likely will not get as much as he could potentially get from the Orioles, who are desperate for his services.

mark hendrickson is an option for a starter as well. not a great option or even a good option but he does have an arm, he can throw the ball 66 feet and he has a pulse.

" I’m not sure there is a more impactful issue in the second half for the Orioles than what becomes of Matusz. His progression – or regression - cannot be overstated with where the Orioles are as a franchise."

Perfectly stated, Jeff.

Many fans don't really appreciate having adequete pitching. Many certainly don't appreciate the role of relief pitchers the way the game is played in the post Eckersley era.

I have read many comments in the past few yrs willing to trade what little pitching we have for hitters without replacing those pitchers.

It's like they say in golf "You drive for show & putt for dough".

There is no time clock in baseball. You have to be able to get outs. And i'm not talking about individual pitchers. When a team can't get outs, things will get ugly in the 2nd half.

Jeff,

What's going on with the starting pitching? The starting pitching was the bedrock of Buck's success in 2010.

Do you think the change(s) in pitching coaches has had anything to do with the recent starters' woes?


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Jeff Z's reply: I know the numbers, but that's hard to quantify. Fact is that Matusz's first two starts were against two of the worst offensive clubs in baseball - Seattle and Oakland - and he got away with some stuff that he didn't get away with against good clubs. Guthrie, like most pitchers, usually has at least one rough patch per season. Arrieta has been struggling with the elbow. And above all, the Orioles simply don't have enough pitching talent to beat the teams that they are currently playing. A lot of factors that go well beyond pitching coach.

Jeff: I am not a scout, but it seemed to me that Matusz was physically smaller this year -- diminished muscle tone, thinner arms and legs, just overall a much smaller guy than in 2010.


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Jeff Z's reply: He has clearly lost weight, which is interesting considering a lot was made of his offseason workout regiment at API.

I don't think much is going to happen until the break, meaning Vlad will stay at four and Lee will play 1B every night.

But after that, from then until the deadline, if they can't trade Lee and Vlad, I could see them cutting ties with both. They should bring up both Snyder and Bell, who aren't doing horribly at AAA(Bell hit his 14th last night and is hitting 260.) and letting them play the rest of the year. They should DH Reynolds and when he's not he can play either 1B or 3B. His power cannot be taken out of the lineup. Believe it or not, the position players are not that far away.

I'm just glad they didn't sign Dunn or LaRoche. I don't know what's happened to those two.

Jeff/Dan, what's the latest on Duchsherer?


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Jeff Z's reply: He's seeing team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens on Monday. We'll see how it plays out, but he's not been pitching and he's not close to being ready, and it's fair to have major doubts if you'll ever see him pitch in an Orioles uniform.

Hardy would be insane to settle for two years from the O's. Look around baseball at the current crop of shortstops. They're terrible. Plenty of teams need SS, including a number of contenders (St. Louis, Cincinatti, San Francisco). If Hardy has a second half anywhere near his first, his starting point in FA negotiations will be 4 years, $50 million.

Pretty simple concept in economics: you buy low, sell high. The O's already did a nice job buying low on Hardy, a perennially underrated player whose stock took a hit due to injuries and some bad luck. They should also recognize that his value will never be higher than it is now. It's never a good idea to pay a guy coming off a career season. They should trade him off to a contender for a solid prospect or young player. Everyone would be better off in the end.

Jeff--

The only solutions I see are very long-term - i.e., solid drafting and player development. For the past 20 years the Orioles results in creating MLB quality players. Nothing I've read suggests that the Os have changed personnel or done anything to improve the Os ability to draft and develop players.

In the meantime, I would be shocked if any MLB quality player with alternatives (including JJ Hardy) would chain his career to the Orioles.

The Os are heading for a new 5 year plan.

It is clear now that MacPhail took a cellar-dwelling team and, against all odds, actually made it worse. Here is what I would like to see happen:

1) State of Maryland condemns the Orioles like a dilapidated piece of real estate, and seizes the team through eminent domain. This would be most unfortunate for Peter Angelos, but he's made more than enough from the state of Maryland to make it a fair deal in the end. Besides, he might enforce the "minimum sales price" provision he negotiated with MLB to recoup his money from Bud Selig.

2) The state puts the Orioles through an IPO, selling shares to fans through an auction process (like the Green Bay Packers). This raises more than $400M, half of which goes to the state and half of which is put into the Os' coffers (along with Camden Yards).

3) A new Chairman, working for fan-owners, immediately fires everyone drawing a paycheck from the Orioles, starting with Andy MacPhail. Pat Gillick is brought on as a consultant on a three-year contract, and told to trade every player at every level of the Orioles organization for draft picks (I realize this would require an MLB exemption to trade for draft picks).

4) The Orioles forfeit the rest of the 2011 season, as well as 2012 and 2013, as they replenish their organization from the ground up- launching single-A and double-A teams in 2012 and a triple-A squad in 2013.

5) Trading the entire organization yields the Orioles 5-10 first round draft picks over the next four drafts (including the #1 pick that the Orioles would have already had) as well as an array of later round picks. As well, the Os start aggressively bringing on young international talent, because even though Mr. MacPhail seems oblivious to this I hear there are some kids in Latin America who know how to play baseball.

5) Ozzie Newsome joins Gillick as a part-time scouting and draft consultant, immediately resulting in a string of well-received draft picks sure to become all-stars.

6) Finally, in 2013 as the Orioles prepare to relaunch the franchise, they make two blockbuster acquisitions: of a true ace-level pitcher to anchor the rotation, and a true clean-up hitter to anchor the batting lineup, with both providing leadership to all the new young talent.

7) After hitting .500 in their first year and rekindling local interest in the team for the first time in 15+ years, the Os go through a secondary offering to sell additional shares and fund the team's success for years to come.

We can dream, can't we?

Jeff,

The fact that the Orioles ended up with two over the hill duds clogging up the middle of the lineup clearly falls on the Director of Professional Scouting, Lee Macphail IV. Sure, a lot of us thought that Vlad was a good pickup at the time{I was aginst signing Lee} but the people that should know, and are supposed to be paid to have the inside scoop, blew it. What's new. The fact that 31 teams passed on Lee, Vlad, Hardy and Reynolds tells us that their organizations are better risk managers. Sure, the Hardy deal looks good in retrospect, but he already has spent 30 days on the DL and has had a hard time staying on the field since 2008. Look at a few of the rest of the Duds Andy's nephew has assembled in recent years...Dutch, Rapada, Gonzalez, Accardo, Rupe...and these are just some of the most recent flops.

Scouting at all levels is worse than awful with this franchise and player development is an oxymoron.


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Jeff Z's reply: Orioles had a ton of eyes on those two guys along with the rest of the free agent class. Their issues continue to be an orginazational-wide failure, not just confined to one guy. There is and should be plenty of blame to go around.

Jeff,

I agree with you, but who made the personnel decsions to keep or hire these "eyes?" They won't fire themselves. A manager in any pursuit is responsible for getting things done through people. The professional scouting aspect of the organization is not getting done, nor is amateur scouting, or player development. It all rolls up to Andy, and down to the people he brought in(his nephew} and those he kept{Stockstills, Jordan}

There is more than enough blame to go around, but I would not last long in my Financial Services company management position if I tried that one on my boss after a bad year. Of course, my boss is not Peter Angelos, and my company is not just a tax writeoff, ego toy and novelty like PA's is

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Jeff Z's reply: I wouldn't argue with that GIl, but my only point was, blaming this mess on one person isn't fair either. I'm sure there is not one person in the front office who is feeling too great about the job that they are doing right now and if there is, that's a bigger problem in itself.

I can understand the Orioles not wanting to abuse Britton but, lets be honest, their history of handling young pitchers have been a failure. Both in developing them and keeping them healthy. Maybe it is better to let him go, with an occasional extra day off?

What does it say when so many other teams can win, rebuild, win, etc. and the Orioles can't even have one winning season? Got to be pretty humiliating.

Sadly, if Andy can't produce one winning season he should not stick around.

The Nationals, Dbacks and the Pirates are all over .500 (for now anyhow).

"I’ve probably asked 10 different people either from inside the organization or outside the organization but familiar with Matusz, and gotten 10 different explanations."

And those explanations are . . . ?


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Jeff Z's reply: That would be speculation, which I try to avoid but some of them should be obvious: He's injured, he hasn't failed in his whole life and now that he is, he's having trouble dealing with it, loss of confidence, conditioning issues, arm strength, mechanical issues, etc.

Vlad & Lee were free agent leftovers. Let them stay and at the end of the year, don't we get supplemental picks? If so, why trade at mid season with little or no value. Vlad was a huge gamble because the outfied was excellent defensively at the end of last season and getting Vlad forced Scott into left field where he hurts us. So shut down Scott for sugery and start him next season if he's still around, at DH. Then lets have Pie & Riemold prove whether they can play. We don't know because they don't play enough to get in a groove. Finally, Roberts is going to be a chronic injury problem for the remaining 2 years of his contract. Signing Hardy gives us our shortstop now and second base depth even if Machado comes up quick. Can't believe this team will dump one of the very few bright spots from this horrible year.

The rational that andy m follows is the orioles will not sign any pitcher for more then 3 years. He says that no top tier free agent will sign here, jeff that is a bunch of crap if the dollars and the years are there they will sign. I said two years ago that andy put the whole success of the organization on young unproven pitchers. You can now see where that went. This team lacks power bats and power pitchers and until that changes they have no chance at all competing in this division. Case closed.

the ineptitude in our free agent signings points to a lack of talent evaluation. is anything being done about how said the scouting on this team is. one bad free agent signing could pay for a LOT of good scouts.

I have to agree with the frustration in some of the earlier posts here. Pitching depth is consistently a problem with the Orioles organization and it seems like nothing is ever done differently from one offseason to the next.

The Orioles have had a great amount of injuries and break downs in their pitching staff, especially with players that came up through the organization from day one.

I can only look at the local team here for me, the Red Sox for comparison. In addition to their big dollar acquisitions, they really loaded up on pitching, particularly relief pitching and it almost seemed like overkill to me at the time: Jenks, Wheeler, Aceves, Albers, etc. It has really come in handy for them because they have suffered a lot of injuries too, but they have the depth to back it up. For instance, Tim Wakefield always is needed for starts around this time of year when everyone thinks he is no longer needed when the season starts.

Every year around this time it seems like the O's get caught with their pants down. The Opening Day roster may look promising but it is the depth that really matters in the end.

Realistically, in hindsight, the 8 mil we spent on Vlad could have got two to three extra veteran pitchers a la my Red Sox example above. Especially when you are dealing with a starting rotation full of young players with little proven track record and limitations on wear and tear.

Jeff,

Last year Markakis had a 1-on-1 lunch with Angelos. Buck Showalter is a winner. He hates losing. It shows every time the camera focuses on him. This team and the ineptitude that surrounds every aspect of it, must be eating him alive. That said, how long do you think before Buck goes to lunch with Angelos and drops an ultimatum on him?

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Jeff Z's reply: Buck and Angelos meet regularly. I can't answer the ultimatum question though.

I have to disagree w/you on Guerrero and Lee to a certain extent. No, they certainly have not met expectations, but I will take them on their last leg for one year than to know all the years we've put into the farm system and this is what we get? Worse than that, these are the guys we are stuck with, possibly for years. Hopefully, some of them can turn it around. I don't think the starting pitching was a fluke that it was good towards the end of last year and that some of these guys are truly going to be good/decent ML pitchers at some point, but it's possible they may not too. And the farm system for position players is absolutely atrocious at best...perhaps until you get to the lower levels. I'll take a one year investment that doesn't turn out instead of a 12-13 year investment in a team that appears to be going nowhere fast.

Hey Jeff .. Any chance Jim Johnson is moved into the rotation???

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Jeff Z's reply: Yes, next year. It would take a while for JJ to make that switch and build up the arm strength and he's already pitched a lot this season so not the time to do it. But I think that idea will certainly explored next year.

" but consider who the Orioles have had to rely on recently, and also who has been on their schedule. In some cases, the Orioles are asking career minor leaguers to neutralize teams like the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox"

Career mijor leaguers? How is this possible? At this point in the McPhial rebuilding project this is just not acceptable. I was a supporter for him going into the year but this is a freaking joke.

I didn think it could get any worse after last year but this year is quickly spiraling out of control. If we trade Hardy I will be at a complete loss of words and will boycott the O's...until next spring

If the Orioles' systematic approach, from rookie league to MLB, to developing pitchers was focused on developing leg strength, teaching pitchers to consistently control the outside corner (a la Atlanta's system), and perhaps teaching every pitcher a sinker so they'd have a weapon to short-circuit potential rallies, we wouldn't consistently have some of the worst pitching in baseball, and we wouldn't have young pitchers losing fastball velocity. O's minor leaguers are pointing towards Camden Yards, a place not friendly to fly ball pitchers, and the development focus should be on inducing grounders.

If our systematic offensive was to focus on plate discipline, using the whole field, and the value of walks and high OBP, we wouldn't consistently rank in the bottom third of the league in runs, and we'd actually be able to hit some sac flies when we don' t manage RISP hits. Both come from smart, disciplined at-bats.

Jeff: Right on the money my friend...where we are as a team & organization is a complete & systemic failure, top to bottom.
A decade of wasted picks, stupid picks, foolish picks and assinine free agent signings have led us right back where we started far too many years ago.
The organization that is the Baltimore Orioles is led by & sustained by total incompetent individuals in the same jobs making the same mistakes year in & year out.
The definition of a complete fool is someone that keeps making the same mistakes yet expects a different outcome.
Unfortunately, I should be included in that definition as well since I've come back year after year to this team with renewed optimism when I should have known better.
We have a son (12) and a daughter (16) that no longer have ANY interest in going to OPACY because "we always lose".
Trust me, my wife & I have given them the talk about it's not all about winning & every team can't buy the best like the Yankees etc. it's just not working.
My children & thousands just like them have grown up only hearing about this once proud organization yet never once witnessing even one winning season...not one!
These fans are lost & it will have dire consequences for this team in the coming years.
The kids now want to go to Phillie & Nats games & want nothing to do with the team I grew up with.
Where this team has been allowed to fall & with nothing being done to even remotely give it the transfusion it desperately needs can only lead me to one conclusion...those in charge don't really care & they are incompetent on top of that.
When will you be sitting again on the O's dugout Andy giving us the latest updates of how far we've come & how much results now matter?
Somewhere, guys with the names of Mazzelli, Perlazzo & Trembley just have to be smiling...just knowing when they wake up each day during the season they won't have to have their heart & guts ripped out night after night with the task of trying to win baseball games with totally inferrior talent & a barren wasteland of a minor league system not sending any reinforcements.
As for the rest of us, no such luck. We still watch one horrible washed up player after another hit into a DP to end the threat. We peak at young kids totally over-matched trying to fool the best hitters in the game as yet another homerun is deposited 450' & we still marvel at the unbelievable draft picks year after painful year.
Someday, someday pretty soon, perhaps I can discard the Orioles the way my kids have & I can finally be free from the pain of watching & listening to another dreadful outing.
Resign Andy...do the honorable thing. We are worse now than when your tenure began. And, one more thing, before you go, please fire Jordan & the Stockskill boys & every other under-achiever on this expansive payroll in scouting & player development.
A generation of kids that have NEVER seen a winning season let alone the playoffs!
Unacceptable, & unforgivable regardless of excuse.

Jeff,although I agree that there is plenty of blame to go around,the one continuing factor in this whole equation is and remains to be Peter Angelos.The fact that he wants to retain Andy speaks volumes in itself.Like Gil I have been in the financial services arena for 29 years.Not only do I have company guidelines to adhere too,I am also regulated by numerous federal and state guidelines.And finally I have a fiduciary obligation to my clients.Unfortunately PA has none of those regulations,nor does he give a you know what about his customers,us,the fans.The only way I can have any effect is to not give him any more of my hard earned money.However the deal he struck with MLB ensures he will make a tidy profit as long as he owns the team.Sad but true.

Jeff,

As a longtime reader of your articles, you inspired me to start an Oriole Blog from the fan's perspective.

http://orioleshtb.blogspot.com/

Jeff,

Everybody knows the O’s won’t hit .500 this year or even the playoff. Most likely we are competing with the Astro’s for the #1 draft pick in next year draft. That being said, I like Hardy and all (he’s our best SS since Cal). But like you stated, we only have really 2 trade chips that will bring us actually something good in return and Hardy would be my first one I would travel of the two. Specially now since Reyes is back on the DL shelf with a Hammy injury (like he’s always has). So if we trade Hardy, we could move Andino back to his natural position of SS, and recall Adams and give him a real chance to show off his major league bat.

The Pirates starters are castoffs from other teams according to mlb.com commentators.They are all exceeding expectations. Since the O's are really reeking now are we any closer to new people in player development, selection,acquisition. This plan,for want of a better term is not coming together at all.Signing Hardy is just something to talk about not a solution to the real organizational dilemna. What in the world is going on in that organization/

Jeff: there was a study in the WSJ published a few years ago that says teams that win fewer than 75 games per year are actually more profitable than those that are in the 76-85 range, somewhat creating an economic disincentive to improve. Do you think PA and AM adhere to this? Further do you think the significant TV revenues MLB generates (in which all teams share equally)when the large market teams make the post-season creates a further disincentive for smaller market teams like the Orioles to improve? In other words, do you think the harsh economic realities of baseball are destroying the idea of competitive balance and that the tables are being tilted in favor of the large market teams like NY and Boston that are regularly in the post-season hunt? If so, do you think PA has chosen profits over wins and has instructed AM to asct accordingly?

MLB reports say two NL teams have inquired about what it would take to add Lee as their 1B man, and MLB news has 4 teams interested in Guerrero as an upgrade at DH or left fielder even. Huh.


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Jeff Z's reply: I don't think it's impossible that they move both. I do think unless either starts hitting, it will be very difficult to get anything of value in return without having to eat the rest of their contracts. I don't really consider salary dump guys, who you get veryt little if anything in return for, as legit trade chips.

Jeff,

I grew up in Laurel, and The Orioles and Colts were my idols, but I also followed the Senators and the Redskins. I have been following the Nationals on MASN more closely this year, because they are a scrappy, competitive team, and have a farm system with better prospects than the Orioles. The Nationals play every game like it's the 7th game of the World Series. I believe that the organization has a bright future, which is more than I can say about the Orioles.

I can't wait to get a look at Bryce Harper, who was recently promoted to AA Harrisburg and is hitting .357. I have tickets to two games in Mid July on City Island.

I think the Nats are going to continue to cut into the Oriole's fan base in the years to come until this franchise becomes irrelevant. There is no quick fix in sight for the Orioles, and I'm not sure the fans could stomach blowing it up and starting over again. i don't see how the Orioles can become competitive in the short term, yet blowing it up would probably lead to a couple of 100 loss seasons.

Is there any hope that this mess can ever be fixed, and who is qualified to do it?

Like the O's, I got nothing Jeff. I'm all punched out.

Striking-out on Adam Dunn may not have been such a bad thing. I have him in my fantasy league team and he is a black hole stat-wise

While today Vlad and Lee seem to be over the hill, the free agent market is always a very risky business. We would be hearing the same comments had the O's signed Adam Dunn, Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford or Jason Werth. All were more expensive and have not been productive.

It is very difficult to build a team. Few of the prospects that come in the mid year trades pan out, The Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies lineups have holes in them as well.

I haven't a clue as to where Andy Mc P. will find the talent to add to the current team.

Hey Jeff ... Trade idea:
Hardy and Guthrie for Ellsbury and Lachey...Seems like a deal that benefits both: we take on salary, add pitching and fill LF hole (moving Jones to left) while Sawx get SS, dump salary and add much needed SP.. Your thoughts??

Jeff,

I really think now is the time to trade Hardy, when he is most valuable. We're not going anywhere this year and we might as well let Andino warm the spot for Machado. If we don't trade him now for a good 3B prospect and pitching depth, I'm sure he'll come back down to earth next year and have limited value again, just like Huff, Scott, etc. The best deal we ever made was dealing Bedard when he was in demand despite our need of pitching at the time. Why not trade our best chip now when we have nothing to lose?

Re Matusz: If you can throw strikes, change speeds, move the ball around the strike zone, and have a nasty braking ball, you can win with an 89 mph fastball. Scott MacGregor did it. But unless yiou have all those other finesse skills, you can't win in the big leagues without 90+ fastball, more like 94+, and anorther pitch to set it up. Fans and scouts, agreed?

Buck is too set in his ways.He stayed with Lee too long as the number 3 hitter, now he's got Lee in the 6 hole and he is killing the orioles there. If Lee and Andino had knocked in just half runs that they came up with runners in scoring pos, the orioles would have a winning record. Buck will stay with Lee all the way to the unemployment line.They are walking Wieters to get to Lee.Lee has to be moved to 8th or 9th, with Andino taking the other spot.If not for his glove at 1st,this would be one of the orioles worst signings ever.as for Vald, he needs to slide down the batting order with Lee.Buck doesnt see this?

Jeff,

Any chance PA fires MacPhail before the end of the season, and allows a new GM to size up the team before the offseason begins?

I know your comments about Bergesen, Simon, Berken, etc as starters need to be discussed, but boy, they sure seem miniscule in the larger view of our problems. I'd love to see a new GM who trades the over 30 club and really starts rebuilding this franchise.

Turned off the Orioles in the first inning after watching 3 botched plays,2 in succession by Andino and Pie,compounded by another misplay by Andino not even realizing that he hade a play at the plate.When is Buck going to realize that Pie brings absolutely nothing to the table,and Andino playing out of position does not help us at all.Davis puts a good swing on the ball,and other then that 2 run error that cost us a game in his first start,has looked good at second.Would rather see Adams and Davis sharing at bats,and Reimold playing every day in left.Pie has absolutely no baseball instincts,is a terrible failure,and despite having speed to burn,is a horrible baserunner.Reimold hits a fairly routine ground ball to short the other night and beat it out.When is the last time you've seen Pie do that?Never.Then after Pie misjudges the line drive he just lays there.Other teams pick up players other people have to DFA.We can't because we have roster spots taken up by Andino,Pie and Gonzales,just to name a few.We lost Turner because we had to protect Gonzales?Give me a break.I was against the signing when I heard it and remain so.Buck is not the same manager he was the end of the season last year.Then players were playing for their jobs.Now they know no matter what they do,he will still pencil them in,ie.DLee,Vlad,Pie,Gonzales,Andino,etc,etc.There's no incentive to play better if you know wins and losses really don't matter to Buck or Andy.This organization is the laughing stock of not just baseball,but all professional sporets.There's a reason why PA was named the worst owner in sports in a couple of publications.One of the most storied franchises in baseball history has been ruined by the selfishness and ego of one man.PA must go.And take McFailure with you.

"... and if there is, that's a bigger problem in itself." In spades !!

Cursed !!!
The problem is ownership plain and simple

Next is the GM

After that: Scouting - Don't we have the least amount of scouts? WHY!

Jeff,

Do you think the Orioles could get any type of a draft pick for Guerrero, Lee, Hardy or Gonzalez in the offseason if they become FA eligible and dont accept arbitration and file for free agency?


...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Hardy definitely would draw some compensatory picks. The others, a little too early to tell.

Signing Vlad and Lee was a big mistake. The fan base and beat writer clamoring for it helped make it happen. Angelos and the O's would have got killed with the constant bogus Angelos-won't-spend-money charge if the O's hadn't done these ill-conceived deals.

Meanwhile, what are the players who've worked their way up through the minors to think? Take Branden Snyder. He's a first-round draft choice who has patiently paid his dues. He may well not be the answer at first, but he at least deserved an extended shot there. It's just totally demoralizing to young players in the minors when the club passes you over for washed-up, in-steep-decline free-agent vastly overpaid veterans that no one else even wants.

The O's strong finish last year gave them the the delusion that they could be competitive this year, a big mistake that has cost them dearly.

You are correct Jeff, it is not the fault of the pitching coach. The fault lies firmly with Peter Angelos, Andy MacPhail and Joe Jordan. After Angelos allegedly backed off, MacPhail worked to revamp international scouting and Jordan drafted consistently in the top 10, where is the talent and depth? It is a disgrace and the only real issue facing this team. It lacks enough talent to win. They bring in the wrong people and don't develop the players they have properly. They are a joke.

I'm in total agreement with Jack. I watched the team roll in to town on the corner of Howard and Lexington Sts. in 1954. I have been through all the good times, and enjoyed every minute of it. The recent teams are an embarrasment. All of my Boston and New York friends never fail to let me know it either. I go back to my original reasoning, as so many O's fans do. Until PA sells the team the team is destined to failure. We need the Ripken name involved with the ownership. Maybe when that happens, players will again look at Baltimore as a franchise to consider playing for,

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.


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