If you haven't already, go check out Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly's story about the Orioles and their deteriorating spring training situation.
The Sarasota facility is a mini-disaster and the Fort Lauderdale facility looks like it's going to fall down at any moment. Coincidentally, I talked to St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa about it before I left Florida, and this is what he said:
"When I got into managing in 1979, the standard for a winning organization was the Orioles,” said LaRussa, whose team played at Fort Lauderdale Stadium several times this spring. “You watched what the Orioles did, how they ran their drills. They've been one of the organizations you wanted to emulate. It has not fit that reputation to see spring training facilities improve over the years and theirs has not. It doesn't fit the history and the reputation of the franchise."
The Orioles have been trying to straighten out the situation, but they certainly didn't gain the benefit of the doubt on this story when they tried to put a gag order on the players and personnel at Twin Lakes Park. They should have known Zrebiec wouldn't back away from the story.
The thing that always surprises me about this ownership is that they treat every situation like it can be solved by guys with briefcases arguing over leverage. The Twin Lakes Park situation should have been solved -- in the short term -- by the club spending a few hundred thousand bucks fixing the most egregious problems before some multi-million-dollar prospect like Matt Wieters steps in a hole and blows out one of his very valuable knees.
Instead, the Orioles and the people in Sarasota spend months exchanging letters and arguing over lease terms. This situation needs to be rectified now. The overall spring training situation needs to be rectified by next Feb. 15. It's that simple.
The Orioles are supposedly working out a new lease agreement with Twin Lakes Park when they should have been somewhere else years ago. Here's major league reliever Jim Johnson summing up the cramped, inadequate facilities in Sarasota, and you'll notice we even had to tone his language down.
“Triple-A, Double-A, two Single’s A’s, Aberdeen, Bluefield and Gulf Coast. That’s seven teams. You can’t house that many people there,” said Orioles reliever Jim Johnson, who lives in Sarasota and works out at the complex in the offseason. “Plus, you have coaching staffs, you have trainers, strength and conditioning coaches. Honestly, it’s like putting five pounds of [manure] into a three-pound bag. It just doesn’t work.”
Photo courtesy of South Florida Sun-Sentinel