Orioles: Why is this happening?
One of the callers last night on Sportsline (WBAL 1090) asked a fairly simple question that probably does not have a simple answer. He wanted to know why the Orioles have finished so many seasons the way they are finishing this one.
The simple answer is, of course, that they have been a terribly flawed franchise for a long time, but I think my radio buddy was looking for something a little more specific than that, and I tried to provide the best answer I could, though there really isn’t one common theme in all that late-season failure.
I think if you go back to the early part of this decade, you could make the case that the Orioles handicapped their player development system so severely when they were signing all those free agents in the 1990s that there just wasn’t enough organizational depth to weather a 162-game schedule. Once the quality players started getting hurt – as they do on every team – the O’s were stuck replacing them with mediocre minor league talent.
There also were other systemic issues that led to some bad scouting decisions and some wasted draft choices, as well as a number of ill-advised free agent acquisitions that clogged up the roster and further inhibited player development.
But that doesn’t explain what is happening right now. The Orioles really have made great progress in player development, but they again ran way short on talent at the end of this season, and it wasn’t like they were rolling in it to begin with.
That’s why I’ve continually referred to 2009 as a “transitional” season. This O’s team does have some high-quality young players who have come up to the major leagues and delivered on their promise, and there are some more to come, but they are still developing and they’ve been pushed to a high level of on-field responsibility on a team that doesn’t have the veteran framework to support them.
Which brings us back to the simple answer that this is a really bad team right now, though not necessarily for the same reasons that it has been a bad late-season team in the past. I doubt that’s much consolation, but this team does have some upside, especially if Andy MacPhail can fix the bullpen and come up with a quality run-producer for the middle of the lineup.