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September 30, 2009

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.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 9:01 AM | | Comments (78)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Comments

DT must go. He seems like a very nice, stand-up guy, but he must go. So must a lot of other people, but DT must go. I agree that DT shouldn't be fired because of the losses. But this team is poor on fundamentals and he hasn't been able to improve that. Baserunning errors, not hitting the cut-off guy, not being able to lay down a bunt, robotic replacement of pitchers, etc. If his job security depends on him being able to develop young talent and teach them baseball, then he has failed and should be fired. It's also plain to see he can't keep the team focused. Why are teams who have no more to play for than the O's kicking our butts? Our talent is not a "12 game lossing streak" worse than Cleveland, Toronto and TB. DT must go. Not because of his record, but because he has had plenty of opportunity to show improvements in fundamentals and he hasn't. You are too close to him to see what must be done.

Your choices for 1B?:
Branyan, Johnson, Delgado?

3B?: Beltre, Glaus, Crede?

Starting pitcher: Lackey, Escobar, Schmidt, Perez, Padilla?

Should PA completely open the checkbook or open it to the 70-80% point?

Trembley record has gotten worst every year and I don't believe that the talent has gotten worst. If that is true then Andy needs to go. The Baltimore media on a whole tends to preach the "We're going to lose for a few more years so let keep Trembley, because he is a nice guy. Seattle went from 100 losses to a over .500 season by basically changing managers! Pinch hitting a .182 hitter for a .290 hitter doesn't make a lot of sense unless the .182 hitter can hit the pitcher which he didn't. This BS about stability in a losing atmosphere doesn't make sense either and is totally illogical.

Twelve straight, now why does that sound familiar to me?

Why do the Redskins fail every year? Why was Bill Bidwell considered a horrible owner? Why are the Clippers cellar dwellers consistently? Corporate success, especially in sports, are based on trickle down philosophies. Peter Angelos has long been the reason why this organization has failed consistently. His Nepoleonic mentality was a detriment to the product, both on and off the field. He's long been too focused on the short term to focus on the long term.

Can he pull a Steinbrenner in his later years and allow Andy McPhail to build that organization? That's the hope, although with his sons taking over and continuing the family tradition eventually I don't see where all this goes positive.

Bobby B- most of those player you mentioned are A/B free agents that cost the O's draft picks.

If Lackey doesn't resign with the Angels, he ends up in Boston/NYY/NYM/PHI. Not going from a playoff team to a 100 loss team. Beltre isn't the same wince the Steroid policy took place. Best shot is Branyan out of that group.

FA pool this year is pretty weak.

There is another reason why the O's finish poorly. the schedule loads September with divisional opponents, at least two of whom are always in the race for playoff spots. Since they are really good teams playing really meaningful games, the difference between the teams becomes more evident than when we play them in April and May.

There is another reason why the O's finish poorly. the schedule loads September with divisional opponents, at least two of whom are always in the race for playoff spots. Since they are really good teams playing really meaningful games, the difference between the teams becomes more evident than when we play them in April and May.

There is another reason why the O's finish poorly. the schedule loads September with divisional opponents, at least two of whom are always in the race for playoff spots. Since they are really good teams playing really meaningful games, the difference between the teams becomes more evident than when we play them in April and May.

Dave Trembley will be let go because you cannot market a team whose manager lost 100 games. Its that simple. Does he deserve to be let go-no. What manager could win with this roster?

I too believe that 2009 is different. In essence the young talent that was brought up earlier in the year should have been the September talent. Hernandez, Tilman, Reimold and Weiters would be been August/September call-ups for most teams. Not here.

McPhail has been very aggressive, as well. He traded the closer, the "big" stick and has shut down any number of starters. Look at the outfield - three of the four have barely played in September. Look at the starters for the first week of the season and now. What other team, outside of Pittsburgh, has had that kind of turnover.

I too believe that 2009 is different. In essence the young talent that was brought up earlier in the year should have been the September talent. Hernandez, Tilman, Reimold and Weiters would be been August/September call-ups for most teams. Not here.

McPhail has been very aggressive, as well. He traded the closer, the "big" stick and has shut down any number of starters. Look at the outfield - three of the four have barely played in September. Look at the starters for the first week of the season and now. What other team, outside of Pittsburgh, has had that kind of turnover.

I think the quick answer is PITCHING! Each of the last few years, we have had TOTALLY inadequate starting pitching. We're lucky to average 5 to 6 innings per start. Then the bull pen is left to pick up the remaining innings. Of course, organizational depth is an issue for all the reasons you mentioned. However, it's pitching depth that really matters the most.

On a related issue, I'm sick to death of hearing commentators and people in baseball talk about getting "6 or seven good innings" out of a starter as if that is a good thing. The worst statistic in baseball is the "quality start." When we only look to get seven innings out of a starter, chances are, you'll be luck y to get 5. Until starters are "bred" to pitch complete games in the minors, we will continually go through bull pens by the end of the year. Only pitchers who never want to come out of games can hope to deliver those quality 7 innings everyone talks about. When they are used to looking toward the dugout in the middle innings, that's all you're every going to get.

One of the big differences in the first and second half of the season was the performance of Adam Jones. If I were the Orioles, I would be putting together DVDs of his first and second half at bats to show him how his batting approach changed and that his second half adjustments did not work. Also I would point out to him that the best Orioles center fielder the second half was Felix Pie and that Jones could learn a lot by taking the same approach Pie did to improve his game.

First, congratulations to the Schmuckster for destroying Cowherd's flimsy, flaky, off-with-his-head argument, which came right out of the 12th century. Second: there's one direct answer to the question about why the O's fall apart like a cheap suit. Because that's what cheap suits do. This organization is playing catchup with a decade of cheap-skate, ham-handed, bone-headed stupidity and gross mismanagement brought to us by the man universally recognized as the worst owner in baseball and possibly in all of professional sports in the U.S.

Wouldn't make any more sense to fire Trembley than MacPhail -- Dave is only using the players he gets. He keeps his head in the game like Walter Alston even though his heart's not on his sleeve like Tom Lasorda (you mentioned both in today's column). But if new faces are needed, swap Trembley for Ralph Friedgen and put a fresh look on both ailing teams. Wouldn't you love to see the team jersey that would fit the fridge?

This team has not won since our idiot owner fired manager of the year, Davey Johnson. Since then it's been nothing but yes men and hacks. A manager is so very important to the game of baseball; perhaps more so than any other professional sport. All Trembley has proven in three years is that he knows how to lose a winable game. I'd bet you could give him the Yankees and he'd figure out a way to blow it. Yeah, yeah... he's a nice guy. Well... see the problem?

Angelos has still not let go of control. McPhail would have fired this guy long ago if he were able to do so. You know it's true. All of you do. Why not just say it and end the illusion. This team will not recover while Angelos owns it. Period.

There is nothing to be optimistic about a 100 loss season. I want to support the team but with professional franchises the only thing that they pay attention to is ticket sales. So I go to opening day every year(tradition) and that is it. I won't go back to regular season games until it seem management is doing anything to make the team better.

They are an embarrassment. Luckily the Nationals exist or we would be the worst franchise in the league.

All goes back to attitude. Been saying it for months... there is no fight in this team, no leadership, and no fundamentals.
That comes from the top. Period.

Hi Pete,

That was a fair assessment of how Angelos savaged the organization for over a decade through meddling, bullying and clueless micro management.

OK we get that because we lived it. He broke it and he owns it.

I'm not one of the fans who is willing to give him a pass or trust him to do the right things going forward. I'm not ready to do handstands because we have aquired a handful of prospects that may or may not be solid major League ballplayers down the road.

Losing 100 games is not progress and there is no way to spin it otherwise. Winning is all that matters, "not getting ready to get ready".

If this team had been competitive up until a few years ago, and now decided to rebuild, the fans would accept it and be patient.

Angelos and Macphail are going to have to do a whole lot more a whole lot sooner than they have done so far to right this ship, and they don't have 3 to 5 years fan goodwill to burn. If they think they can get away with that approach, this year's late season pitiful attendance at the yard will look like the good old days going forward.

A few posters have pointed out that some of my comments, and those of others represent nothing but negativity.

That reminds me of an old quote by Harry Truman. A reporter asked Truman why he always appeared to be giving Congress "Hell".

Truman responded, "I don't give them hell, I just tell them the truth, and they think it's hell".

Why the fade?
1. Lack of depth throughout the system
2. Sept. loaded with divisional rivals
3. Culture of losing breeds lack of confidence (play not to lose rather than play to win)
4. I give up (and, apparently, so have they!)

Please, please, please everybody stop screaming about this manager and especially this GM! The talent 'shut-down' this summer is all aimed at protecting young players for a run in the next year or two. If you add that to that practice that rich contenders have of buying up spare parts at and after the trade deadline, then you see the 2nd half of any season as rich vs. poor or Major Leagues vs. AA.

Contenders moving in one direction - everyone else moving in another. The real issue is that ticket prices stay the same! MLB's busted right now. It's time to experiment with the system. Here's a thought or two:

1) Go back to a balanced schedule - play all teams in your league the same number of times. That would improve the O's record immediately.
2) Teams the pay the luxury tax should pay it within their own division. If the Yanks and Sox were paying O's, Rays, and Jays, talent might be more evenly distributed.

No starting pitching. Back in the day, the Orioles' superior starting rotation ran away from the league starting in August. Now the opposite is true, leaving an over-used bullpen to flounder.

Wow, really good discussion today. I've seen more genuinely insightful and thought provoking comments in this post than I have for the last half of the season.
To resurrect an old cliche', the Orioles are the wonderful one horse shay, where every piece of it failed all at once.
This year they started out with a patchwork lineup and pitching staff, and had to make way-too-early substitutions from a shallow minor league talent pool. That was coupled with key injuries late, and development decisions to pull the plug on promising players, while also having to play a brutal schedule against top quality teams who had a reason to win.
I'd also add having a manager that made more truly head scratching decisions that any in recent memory.
The roots of many of these problems go back years and lay at the feat of the owner.
Hopefully, the owner has finally woken up to the fact that he isn't the baseball genius he thought he was, and has turned the running of the club over to someone who actually knows what he is doing. So far I think McPhail has made a lot of moves that make sense, and the Orioles have a chance to one day be at least a fun team to watch again, but we'll see.
As for the video face-off, I thought both arguments were poor. Kevin = change for change's sake, vs Pete = stability for stability's sake.
You keep Trembley if you think he did a good job as manager and you fire him if you think he didn't.

I cant believe Cowherd said Manny Acta on that debate video hahaha..... I was with him up until that point after he said that insanity now I wont listen to that dude again. Manny Acta ROFL I hate Dave Trembley but if thats the only name that will come here we might as well just hang on to DT. Then again maybe Cowherd secretly wants to keep DT and is playing games.

Why do the O's fade in September? If there was only one answer, it would be easy to fix. But sadly, there are numerous reasons for poor September play. Lets start with the pitching - the O's ERA is 5.18 - last in the majors and over a half run higher than any of their AL East counterparts. They have given up 209 HR's on the season(most in MLB), no other AL East team has given up is 179. Only 3 shutouts thrown - Last again. The O's WHIP(walks & Hits per innings pitched) is dead last - 1.53 - meaning that the O's are putting at men on base every inning. Opponents slugging % is .476 - dead last. On base % - .354 - dead last. Opponents batting average against the O's - .289 - dead last. Pitches per inning 17.12 - 2nd to last (the Red Sox are actually last in this category - surprising.

When your pitching is at the bottom in almost every category -it doesn't matter how good your offense is. You will lose more than you win.

It seems everyone wants to get a guy who hits .300, 30+HRs, 100+ RBIs, doesn't strike out. Do you realize that there are only a handful of those guys in the majors? And why would they want to come here, right now?

I think the problem is the starting pitching. Since a 5 or 6 inning outing is considered a quality performance for Os pitchers, the bullpen takes a beating from the beginning to the end of the season. And at the end, that takes a huge toll

Can someone please tellk BA Ray that fundamentals like base running, hitting the cutoff man, etc. are to be learned while developing in the minor leagues1
The clowns currently wearing the Orioles uniform obviously were not very well schooled before coming up to the big league.
In brief, they are unpolished, marginal major leaguers who are being foisted upon the fans by an equally inept management group.
The Greek Geek needs to step up and formally apologize to the fans and to the entire ciy for his mishandling of this franchise.
After all, a franchise philosophy starts at the top and works its way down to ALL levels.
And the appropriately named Peter who is the owner is little more than a pompous windbag of a lawyer/liar who has been off the mark with this franchise for more than a decade now.
I cannot think of any manager, past or present who could win with the high number of AAA- and AA-level talent on the current roster.

I blame God.

Good points about pitching. When I was a kid back in the 60's, teams used 4 man rotations and complete games were the norm, not the exception. Now we have 5 man rotations, and a guy that throws more than 2 complete games in a season is a freak of nature. With the improvements in medicine and sports training, etc., this is completely illogical. Guys regularly threw 300 innings in a season in the 60's and early 70's. Now they shut them down after 175-200 innings. And other than Sandy Koufax, who had arthritis, most of those guys had long careers with relatively few health problems. Somebody please explain this to me. Gibson, Palmer, Drysdale, Ryan. Those guys all had rotator cuffs too, didn't they?

I have been a strong supporter of DT and have often thought it would be great for him to have a chance to see this thing through like Joe Madden did in Tampa. I like Dave a lot and think he has been the right guy for this team in a lot of ways. I took 3 of my kids to Camden Yards about a month ago and he signed autographs for each one and even took the time to talk to my 6 year old. He is a great guy. That being said, I have been soured by yet another September swoon and I tend to believe the saying that if you keep doing the same thing and expect different results, that you are insane. The fact is we are not the 2008 Tampa Rays and probably will not be next year either. We have to write our own story instead of trying to be somebody elses story. I think that means we need to get someone else to run the team. The O's have been fundamentaly flawed in base running and other areas. He has made several questionable calls to the pen. Each year has ended with the same thud. Granted by September we have traded some of our best contributors and the Yanks and Sox have added and yes we are in the AL East and that puts us at a disadvantage but sooner or later the organization has to stop making excuses and start making changes. McPhail has turned around the farm system and infused talent that wasn't there before he came. The next step would be to get a veteran manager who has won. Not another Mazzilli or Perlozzo. A Tony LaRussa or Jim Leyland type that knows what it takes and the young players can say this is a guy that can take us where we want to go. We have enough talent that we should be able to draw interest from a bonafide manager not some nimwit wannabee like the guys before Trembley. Hopefully Dave gets a job somewhere else and gets a chance to manage a winner and I wish him all the luck. But it is Time for a change and I think that is going to happen in the next week.

Pete
I think you are right on the money. Before the ASB we were flerting with .500. I think at one point in July 2 games under. After the ASB came the nose dive, gradual at first, but then .....oh no. But looking back to the trades and the injuries that depleted our opening day 9 plus bullpen and realize what we have left and what the replacement have been I can only agree with your assesment. In the glory years when Blair or Palmer or Robinson went down we always had a guy that would be brought up and suprise everyone. They would usually fade about the time whomever they had replaced, returned. Look at who is left from the opening day rotation and bull pen. Our starting line-up today up includes only four of our opening day line-up. Look at what happened in NY at the begining of the season when they were depleted by injuries. At that time with 8 consecutive loses to the Sox we were counting them out.Look at the Mets
So I say, even though I have been hot and cold on Dave Trembley, BRING HIM BACK. Besides other then an unknown who are we to replace him with. As stated above he was 2 games under .500 before the trades and injuries with a cobbled together rotation. Give him a Closer, a Bopper and see what he can do. Then if "fans" still wish to cast lots for his garments.........

Dave Tremble needs to be fired. Andy McPhail said it best - even though they are struggling with injuries, key guys long since traded, etc., they're not much worse than the Clevelands and Torontos of the world. Yet they get swept by both (and the Indians were coming off a 10-game losing skid off their own!). It would just be hard to generate any kind of enthusiasm for a team led by a manager who oversaw such a lacklustre ending, that may yet reach triple digit losses. It's not good for business, and I'm sure McPhail realizes this.

Tremble seems like a good enough, decent fellow, but it may be best for all sides to part ways.

I still maintain Johnson is not a closer. The Orioles will need to find another one in the free agent market because they stupidly traded him away to the Dodgers for basically nothing.

There is another reason why the O's finish poorly. the schedule loads September with divisional opponents, at least two of whom are always in the race for playoff spots. Since they are really good teams playing really meaningful games, the difference between the teams becomes more evident than when we play them in April and May.

Their late season problems are the same as their inability to close out series and their dismal Sunday/day game record. They don't have finishers. There is no killer instinct on this team. No one on this team remembers what being on a winning team feels like. When you're losing two of three, what does another loss matter. It's contagious. For this reason and many others, Baltimore is no longer a desirable destination for free agents...players or managers. The Orioles are an extend your career and earn a paycheck franchise in the eyes of Free agents. The culture of losing in this franchise needs to change - but aside from a complete franchise lobotomy (staring with Angelos) nothing will change.

I think the late fades have a lot to do with playing in the AL East. The schedule is tough in September. Moreover, the playoff-bound teams in the division have added talent they're planning to use in postseason, whereas the O's -- and only the O's -- have shed talent. That's the right move, but it does lead to losing streaks.

On the bright side, the No. 2 draft pick seemed impossibly out of reach all season. Now, the O's are 1/2 game better than Pittsburgh. Keep losing!

Pete

I blame myself.

Up until the all-star break, I keep hoping that the team will go on a run but they never do. So, by the end of July, I'm actually tired of watching them lose games because they either can't hit or can't pitch and hearing about the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels buying whatever they need to make up for what the bought earlier that didn't work.

I hate to say it but baseball is dying of its own ownership. Its nothing but a business anymore and the reality is that it isn't entertaining in most towns after the all-star break. Too much big money runs the game...as soon as the Ravens start preseason, my interest in baseball drops because I'm tired of watching the same teams in post season...so what should be the most exciting time of the season is the most boring to me.

They need to replace the commissioner's position with a Czar-like spot that doesn't report to the owners...he reports to the fans.

Hey Peter Its not all Trembley's BUT ALOT IS ! I can't remember NOT one single game I can give him credit for winning with any managerial moves. The guy refuses to use stats in this day and age of computers. I can certainly remember at least a half dozen games that he blew with his ill-timed hit and runs ,ill timed pitching changes LEAVING THEM IN TOO LONG OR TAKING THEM OUT WAY TOO EARLY NOT EVEN 90 PITCHES IN VERY CLOSE GAMES. Also the stench of a 30-3 whipping by the Rangers 2 yrs ago is still is still stuck in my craw with Trembley at the helm. Now he is approaching a new team record for futility ---100 loses ------NO WE NEED TO MKE CHANGES AND THE FIELD MANAGER IS CERTAINLY ONE OF THEM!

WHY NOT DAVEY JOHNSON ? WHY ARE YOU SO CERTAIN HE WON'T COME HERE? OFFER HIM THE JOB FIRST THEN TALK!

A poorly managed franchise. Check.
Poor recognition of talent and development of said - with recent exceptions of some position players. Check
But, Peter, you Schmuck, you forgot pitching, and I'm not just talking about the bullpen (just about everyone's bullpen has shown significant deficiencies this year). The blOriOles have zero, nada, not a one legit (read proven) 1, 2, or 3 starter right now. It's all pie in the sky pheeeeeeenoms.

............................................................................................
Pete's reply: I agree. You've got two guys who could be top-flight starters at some point, but you can't trot five prospects out there next season and think everything is going to be okay.

I like DT. He should stay.

With this said, I long ago lost patience with the "rebuild" program. Why can we not go after good talent in the draft AND FAs? I think we all know the answer...and it is not because nobody of any real talent would agree to play at Camden Yards.....

Agree with the earlier post that this is mostly about money...period. The NFL does indeed have better arrangements to keep competition level.


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Pete's reply: Not sure what you're trying to say. They've drafted well and spent more money signing the last few top choices than any other team, including the Yankees. Now, we have to wait and see what they do in the free agent market.

I like DT. He should stay.

With this said, I long ago lost patience with the "rebuild" program. Why can we not go after good talent in the draft AND FAs? I think we all know the answer...and it is not because nobody of any real talent would agree to play at Camden Yards.....

Agree with the earlier post that this is mostly about money...period. The NFL does indeed have better arrangements to keep competition level.

Pete, your essay and most of the comments that followed are really right on it (except for the one that blames God). All those observations are valid as to why the Orioles are a bad team in general. I think the reason they are so totally defeated right now is just how discouraging and exhausting it must be to play every night at this time of year when there's no competitive reason to play. It doesn't matter that they are professionals doing a job and it doesn't matter who the manager is. Baseball is a game of inches, and it doesn't take much less than 100% effort to be in the L column. I try to have hope for the future, but in this division it is tough.

Actually Type A free agents cost you your top draft picks,. But the club has to offer arbitration for that too happen. Type B gets the team that losses the free agent gets a supplemental pick but does not cost the signing team their pick..

If Lackey can be lured here that would be great. How often do you find a player like that. I imagine that Wagner would also be a type A

Guys like Grabow and Lyon will be type B, and that would help our bullpen issues. Really the Sherrill trade has set the team back, I know everyone says he is not a closer, give me a break, if you can get the quality he has, for the eighth or ninth inning who cares, he was the one the Orioles could rely on.

Pete: Correct me if I am wrong.on the free agency rules.

When will this organization develop a culture that commits to playing a full season, regardless of whether there is anything to play for at the end? I understand the longer-term need to shut down young pitchers to prevent injury, but at the same time, isn't that sending the message from the top down that the end of a non-contending season doesn't matter? I can accept losing because we don't have the talent to compete and are trying to develop it, but these late season collapses speak of something larger. Getting beat up and outplayed by other average to bad teams that also have nothing to play for but pride speaks volumes about the culture that has developed around here. We really don't have anyone who has come up in a culture of winning. Unfortunately, most of our young talent has come up in a culture of a losing parent club that does not play for much in the second half. I think we need a player who can have the type of off-field impact that Frank Robinson did in '66 more than a new manager. These players need a peer who holds them accountable for playing hard and fundamentally sound for 162 games a year. Quiet leaders like Markakis and Roberts are nice and great assets to the team, but I think the Orioles also need an "in your face" type leader in the clubhouse to rally them out of these late season funks where they can't seem to make anything go their way.

Ed D has a point - and let's take it a step further-

NY and Bosox road games within the division are now home games because of all the Northeastern transplants in MD and DC and Florida. Add interleague play in Washington and you've got a few more home games for the media favorites.

This system is lined up for ESPN and Fox ratings - and if we ever had a year when Yanks and Sox were BOTH out of the post-season, imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth!

Then we'd see 'reform' the way the league likes it.

Pete -

They have no reason to go out and fight for a win. They'll do all the basics DT wants them to, but they have no hunger to win. It's a culture of losing.

This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. We've completely stripped this team down to the 2nd worst in baseball, under the plan that next year we will be better off for it. How? We did not actually build anything this year from 2008. We have this pool of talented arms, but Kranitz is not developing them and we have no solid vetaran pitcher to help teach them. The talent is being wasted, just like Roberts, Markakis, Bedard were wasted.

Many people here have called out Angelos as the problem. He is, not because of some bad intenton, but because he's cheap, greedy or both. Next year, we will continue to waste the talent while we struggle to teach our young pitchers. Unless we get better teachers on the field and in the dugout.

Meanwhile, the Indians have fired Wedge and his staff. They will finish out the season as coach and staff. Seems practical and as classy as possible under the circumstances. What a novel way to run an orgnaization.

Don't forget that, as usual since Crowley has been hitting coach, the Orioles' offense is weak and most hitters are again overaggressive and undisciplined. Heck, our leadoff man, who's had a great season with doubles and homers, had an OBP LOWER than the Yankees' .359 team OBP when I looked last week. Reimold's team best .365 OBP was barely higher. We've ranked around 10th in the AL in OBP and runs much of the season. When we do get decent pitching, we don't win, because we don't score, and we can't win slugfests.

Trembley doesn't have a lot of talent, but he also doesn't maximize his team's chances to win. Latest example - Monday night, when he didn't lift Albers for Castillo to face Aybar, though lefties hit .339 off Albers, who was already struggling. He, and the coaches, have to go.

Roberts is above his average for on base. Wigginton never had a good OBP. Markakis is way down on his. But he has moved in the order. The rest of them are young and learning.

Crow is not the blame either, as you pointed out they do not have a lot of talent.

Roberts has been great this year, and I do not over use that word. He suffered tremendously during the time he had a lung infection..

There are two problems the team could fix with a change in the coaching staff. The team breaks down after the All-Star Break each season. That's a sign of poor conditioning. We need a new strength and conditioning coach. The current one is not getting the job done. Someone needs to revamp the off-season work out program to keep these guys healthy the entire season, not just the first four months.

Second, we need a manager that will not accept half-hearted efforts. We haven't had that since Davey Johnson. Our managers are too quick to accept excuses instead of raising the bar for acceptable performance. Let's stop getting "players coaches" and get someone that yells, screams, and demands results.

My problem with Dave Trembley is that he let his team use the latest fire sale as another excuse to stop trying. A lack of effort is the manager's fault. I like our current staff but they need to go. Clean house.

Futility is a total team effort that starts at the top. Angelos and co. have micr-managed this team into oblivion. It's hard to salvage a toxic waste dump. You're not going to win with your best player in a 13 for 70 something slump, your best pitcher losing 17 games, minor league pitchers that can't get out of the first ining without being four runs down, the SS swinging at every 1st pitch and non-productive corner infielders--not to mention Adam Jones hitting below .200 since his 1st All-Star appearance. It's not just the pitching, it's most of the team. Kudos for Roberts (56 doubles), and Weiters for finishing strong. It's not about the GM or manager. It's an owner thing. Please, sell this team to someone who cares about baseball in Baltimore.

So we are blaming conditioning for Pie, Reimold, Jones, Koji, Montanez. Albers Roberts and Izturis? Come on now. Most of those guys were hurt. Huff was the only one who did not take the off season as serious as you hope. These guys are pretty well conditioned players. Look at Sherrill, he came on stronger in the second half.

It is not the conditioning. It is talent, depth and experience. Injuries happen.

I don't think Andy is going to fire Dave solely on the basis of wins and losses. We need to remember that Andy did a great job building up the Twins and then the Cubs (even if it wasn't enough to overpower the curse), so I trust him in whatever decision he makes. The fact of the matter is that with Dave there has been a lot of problems with the small fundamentals. Not running out ground balls, baserunning blunders, etc. He isn't willing to ever try something new. Often he decides to pinch-hit the wrong person or in the wrong situation. And where are the bunts?? Where are the stolen bases?? There is absolutely no small ball in our gameplan, something that LaRussa and Scoscia have both used to make their teams successful. Dave is a nice guy and all, and I know it would be difficult for anyone to manage this team, but at the same time I think we need someone who is gonna put a lot of fire in these young guys and absolutely DEMAND that they put 110% effort in every play. Those who don't will be benched. Plain and simple. And there won't be any whining about it like Mora did earlier this year. I'm just not sure there are many options like that out there.

This a manager and pitching coach that brought 35+ pitchers to spring training - a fair evaluation of 35+ pitchers at spring training - I don't think so. Not to mention the lack of work prior to the season.

Let's go a step further, the Sherrill trade - not saying it's not good, but the trade doesn't happen without input from Trembley and Kranitz - dah!

The pitching evaluation has been a catastrophe - that's Trembley and Kranitz.

This a manager and pitching coach that brought 35+ pitchers to spring training - a fair evaluation of 35+ pitchers at spring training - I don't think so. Not to mention the lack of work prior to the season.

Let's go a step further, the Sherrill trade - not saying it's not good, but the trade doesn't happen without input from Trembley and Kranitz - dah!

The pitching evaluation has been a catastrophe - that's Trembley and Kranitz.

Hi Pete,

The hand writing was on the wall when 35+ pitchers were invited to camp (not a clue from uniformed mgt).

So, Sherrill is traded, maybe a good thing (we'll see), but the trade had to have been made with the blessing of Trembley and Kranitz. That tells me, Trembley and Kranitz felt the bull pen was depenable without him - Albers, Baez, Bass, etc. - who are they kidding, they're gasoline!

If Trembley is a keeper, PLEASE get a pitching coach that has a clue!

We also shut down our young starting pitchers early which could not have helped whether they, themselves, would have pitched well or not.

I really don't know where to begin. This is total systemic failure organization-wide, from the owner, scouts, players, all the way down to the coaches in rookie league. Firing DT is simply treating a symptom not the disease that permeates this organization. This is a fundamentally flawed organization anyway you look at it and it's not going to get better anytime soon.

Pete-

Where to start? I was at a meeting last week in Hershey, PA and met a co-worker who has been a rabid Pirates fan for most of his life. He basically told me he has "given up' on the Bucs. I pleaded with him that he musn't do this. Call me insane, but I still pull for the lowly Orioles. I dread to think of living in an area without having a home town team to call my own.
Steve posted that it basically begins and ends with pitching. Nolan Ryan has taken up the cause with his Rangers team that the starters will be mentally and physically conditioned to go beyond the cursory "five and 1/3 innings" each outing. Kudos to Mr. Ryan, for he is attempting to reinstitute the template of what a major league pitcher is and what is expected of him by the Rangers organization.
I believe the role of the starter is without a doubt the biggest change in the major leagues in the last forty years. Back "in the day", there were starters and relievers. Now you have, among other whimsical titles, "situational pitchers", who face one hitter and are whisked away. Let's all keep in mind what the old Baltimore icon, Charlie Eckman used to bloat: "It's a simple ball game".
I feel that Trembley deserves a chance to come back next spring and sort out this debacle of a team. If the organization is seking any kind of semblance of consistency, then bring the man back.
If Trembley is shown the door, what about giving Billy Ripkin a chance to rekindle Oriole Magic?

Why is it said that Angelos fired Davey Johnson?It may be true that Angelos made it impossible for Davey to do anything else,but history will show that Davey signed the resignation letter and hes admitted so many times.
That being said,I got to think davey would rather drink muddy water and sleep in a hollow log than ever work for anybody named Angelos again.Except for maybe the Los Angelos Dodgers.

This team is a complete joke, stop pampering pitchers because of an 'innings limit' seems to be working in Texas. Also we need to get a guy with some testicular fortitude in the dugout next year, every veteran on this team looks like they have shell shock, they need someone to come in here and give these pansies a kick in the a**, any thoughts on Larry Bowa?

The four best Oriole starters
were Guthrie, Bergenson,
Uehara and Matusz. Bergenson and Uehara were injured and
Matusz was shutdown. Two others starters were injured -Hill and Simon. The bullpen eventually collapsed.

It's about heart ... and believing in yourself. The team lacks both, and that comes with leadership from within at the managerial level and leaders on the field. No leadership, no fire.

Pete-

Unfortunately, the "kick in the ***" type of manager that John referred to no longer exists. Today's managers have to juggle many roles, including being a part-time psychiatrist, babysitter and counselor, what with the fragile egos of today's ball players. While it might not be a bad idea to have an "enforcer manager", those days are long gone, having vanished when Billy Martin passed.

In regard to pitchers and their "roles," I have lost all patience for pitchers, pitching coaches and managers who excuse lousy pitching by saying the guy was not being used in his usual role or didn't understand his role. WHAT?! Forgive my ignorance, but I always thought a pitchers' ROLE was to get hitters out. Imagine a pitchers complaining of not having his "role" defined to a manager like John McGraw or Casey Stengle. Their next role would be out the door!

Why all this talk about the manager? Any baseball manager will tell you that the manager gets too much credit for the wins and too much blame for the defeats. This is NOT Dave Trembley's fault. What we need is an OWNER who will hire a GM who knows what he's doing and then STAY OUT OF THE WAY and let him do his job. Until that happens, we will always have losing baseball seasons in Baltimore.

In regard to pitchers and their "roles," I have lost all patience for pitchers, pitching coaches and managers who excuse lousy pitching by saying the guy was not being used in his usual role or didn't understand his role. WHAT?! Forgive my ignorance, but I always thought a pitchers' ROLE was to get hitters out. Imagine a pitchers complaining of not having his "role" defined to a manager like John McGraw or Casey Stengle. Their next role would be out the door!

Posted by: Steve Smith | October 1, 2009 6:39 AM


I couldn't agree more Steve, maybe some people like us could tell these players their 'roles', especially the pitchers, their role is to get people out when they're in the game, doesn't matter who is up or what inning it is

I agree with Steve that today's pitchers have been mentally and physically 'conditioned' to pitch to a 'quality start' that is defined as giving up 3 or less earned runs and picthing 5 or more innings. The thought of Nolan Ryan accepting this watered down standard as a true 'quality start' is laughable as is this New Age theory that young pitchers shouldn't pitch any more than 20% greater innings than their previous year's complement. While it's true that Bergeson came out of nowhere to post a terrific 7-5, 3.43, and some of the other young pitchers show promise, we still need a top of the rotation quality starter to anchor the staff if the O's want to sniff .500 next year. Why not give Jimmy Palmer a shot at being the Pitching Coach? I have nothing against Kranitz but who's going to argue or resist suggestions from an O's Hall of Famer? Bottom line, the young pitching needs to toughen up and the bar needs to be collectively raised.

The Orioles owe Trembley nothing! They have paid him nicely for three years and his record has gone down hill every year. In 23 years of managing in the minors and majors he only has 7 winning seasons? The Orioles owe the fans a team that knows baseball fundamentals and plays good heads-up baseball win or lose. Trembley and his hand chosen coaches have NOT accomplished that. Being a nice guy doesn't make you a winning baseball manager and only the liberal press would try to bring FAIR into it, as we all know that neither life or professional sports are fair. If baseball was fair there would be a salary cap to keep the Yankees from buying up every all-star free agent they can get their hands on.

Fred. Good post! It raises a good point about the state of the young pitchers these days. I can't beleive how much they are babied. Can you imagine a young 20 something football player being shutdown with a month left in the season? Or an NHL hockey player being told to sit on the bench for the 3rd period or sent home before the playoffs?
What's wrong with these pitchers stamina? By the time they get to MLB they should be ready to go full tilt. I can see the rationale for a rookie like Matusz but not for guys that have pitched in the minors for a few years. Any why pick and chose..the O's kept sending Berken and Hernandez out there all year.
And for my final rant, why are so many O's getting injured to the point where half our team seems to be on the DL by Sept.?

"Why is it said that Angelos fired Davey Johnson?"

Plenty of folks resign that are going to get fired; in all walks of life. Davey didn't just up an resign. He was forced out for not wanting to go to lunch with the owner in Little Italy and be told how to run the team. Those winning seasons in '96 and '97 gave Angelos the impression that he could do it on his own, after tying the GM's hands on trading tired old veterans. When the team made the playoffs in '96 after Angelos refused to allow certain veterans from being traded, he then showed up his own GM in the press; thus dooming that relationship. And that was the beginning of the end and also led to Davey being forced out.

Actually, we have improved, we used to drop like a rock in August.

With the excpetion of Guthrie. Most of our starting pitchers can't make it 4 innings these days. Its pathetic and that puts more physical stress on the bullpen who are coming out every night.

The current mindset is that if you struggle, you quit early and thats got to change. Keep them out there because the bullpen isn't going to save anyone under this scenario.

Great spin Pete! “transitional” season, I like it. It's right up there with "This season doesn't really matter" and "There's a plan in place".
This year, unlike the previous 12 should have been different. All this young talent should have meant a good September and August not the worst one of all. The entire coaching staff should be let go.

The reason for the O's 12th straight losing season is still poor player development. For all the talk of their "improved" farm system, they still have yet to produce an impact position player. Markakis, Roberts, weiters and Reimold are all decent players, but none of them are really all that special. And there's very few quality prospects in the minors, because MacPhail insists on drafting only pitchers. With no power in LF, RF, 1B and 3B, it's no wonder this team can't score runs, and there's no help on the way

Pete, when you trade your players every year you put a late season strain on the club. Trading Sherril cost the team 10 wins alone by the extra work and shifting in the bullpen.

I was an O's fan for many years. All of these explanations have been raised in the past and they still finish as the same "also ran' team. The only thing that hasn't changed is the owner. It's a real shame you can't trade owners like you can players. Angelos has taken a once grand and storied franchise and run it into the grand. If he had dedicated the same amount of time and resources to restoring the O's to a winning franchise that he did in trying to keep the Nationals out of Washington, the O's would have been winning for at least the last 10 years. His arrogance and my way or the hi-way attitude are what need to be gotten rid of. I really feel for the O's, their fans, and the people of Baltimore. It's a great city. You deserve better.

Pete, When a team takes the field at the start of a game the man on the mound is the most important player. The starting pitcher sets the tone for so much of what follows.

If he's consistently good, the team is confident they're going to be in games, but a poor one who get's lit up early puts pressure on the offense to come from behind. There's all the difference in the world for the lineup if the starter can get through six or seven innings and yield no more than three runs and one who can't get through five without giving up four runs or more.

And the usefulness of the bullpen is going to wane in the late part of the season if no one in the rotation can get deep into games. There are only so many quality innings in the relievers' arms and if those innings are depleted in early August, then it's hard for them to get anyone out. This is what we've seen with the Orioles repeatedly in this decade..

Even the defense can suffer if the starter isn't going to the plate quick enough, because the focus decreases. When the pitcher's getting the ball from the catcher and is going into his windup without much of a pause, then the fielders must pay attention or the ball will whiz by them in a heartbeat.

True, this is the case with relievers as well, but, again, it's a matter of setting the tone with the starter. Losing a split second of reaction time can be the difference between an out and a double in the gap or down the third base line. When these hits are falling in it aids the opposing team by allowing it to get extra outs and early leads.

When the O's were good, I mean really good, pitching, especially starting pitching was one of the team's hallmarks. When the team won it's first world title in 1966 it had a solid, if young, rotation, headed up by Jim Palmer and Dave McNally.

When the team became a mini-dynasty in the late '60s and early '70s, to that duo the O's added Mike Cuellar and later, Pat Dobson and the four would all top the 20 win mark in 1971. Now didn't the Orioles have great hitting and fielding to back them up? Yes, and a solid bullpen, as well, but to a large extent that's irrelevant because every one of the quartet was an above average major league pitcher who had a good idea of what he was doing every time he climbed the hill.

Fast forward to the late '70s and early 80's edition of the Birds. Palmer was still around, and now his regular rotation mates included Mike Flanagan, Scott McGregor and Dennis Martinez, and augmented at various times by Steve Stone, Mike Boddicker, Storm Davis and for spot starts, Sammy Stewart. And every one of them had at least some ability.

In 1996-97, the most recent seasons the O's made it to the playoffs, the staff was anchored by Mike Mussina. '96 was the exception to the usually ironclad rule that a club can't contend without great starting pitching. Although Scott Erickson and David Wells, two decent starters, were in the rotation, neither had a particularly good year. In '97, however, the top four starters all had solid to exceptional seasons: Along with Mussina and Erickson were Jimmy Key and Scott Kamieniecki. All four had double digit wins and the first three mentioned all one 15 games or more.

Since '97, there obviously hasn't been much to write about. In '08 when the O's finished just a little under .500, Mussina and Erickson both pitched well and also in '09, when they were joined in the double digit win column by 22-year-old Sidney Ponson.

In 2004, the only season since '97 that the O's have finished as high as .500 in the standings, three starters made it to 10 or more wins: Ponson, Rodrigo Lopez (probably the team's most consistent starter since 2000, though that's in part by default) and Daniel Cabrera (his only winning season).

The following year (the year everything fell apart after Rafael Palmeiro was suspended for taking PED), when the team actually had a winning record before the All-Star break (47-40) , Lopez, Cabrera and Bruce Chen all had 10 or more wins, while either Ponson or Erik Bedard might have gotten there two if the wheels didn't fall off that season.

This year the Orioles will have only one starter recording double digit victories, and that's Jeremy Guthrie, but he's also lost 17 games. It's probably a safe bet that had Brad Bergesen and Koji Uehara stayed healthy, they would have each won 10+.

Of late we've seen the bullpen get slammed mercilessly by opposing teams and by fans, but as I mentioned earlier, much of the onus for that falls equally on the starters, who have struggled to make it through five innings. No one of late, except Guthrie has had more than one or two quality starts down the stretch and it's to Jeremy's credit that despite his dismal season, he's given the team everything he has every time out.

But if you look at who could be in the rotation next year, there are no sure things. Guthrie likely will be back and the O's will hope that he can just forget this year. How well or poorly he'll pitch, no one knows, not even Jeremy.

Uehara seems to be consigned to the 'pen, so strike his name from consideration. You mention "two guys who could be top-flight starters" without naming them. If you're thinking Matusz and Tillman, fine, but I don't see how Bergesen can be dismissed, given that he pitched better than the other two, in particular, better than Tillman.

Yes, I know he's older, but I also know that he was as strong in some of his second starts against teams he'd already faced (right there, that should tell you something good about him).

Seriously, if there was an award for Most Valuable Oriole Pitcher, it could have to go to Bergy, right? The only other pitcher I'd even consider for such an honor is now pitching for the Dodgers.

Be that as it may, can we say that any of that trio is a sure thing to be good for the O's next season? Well, they all could be, but even if that's the case, growing pains are expected. Let's say that all three will be no worse than fair to middling. Even that would be an upgrade from this year.

Now, I can't see anyone else in the system starting next year, at least not out of the gate: Jason Berken and Dave Hernandez have issues, Rick Hill may not be ready either, while prospects like Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and Brandon Erbe are probably not going to be ready any sooner than the second half of the season. at the earliest.

So if that assessment is correct, the Opening Day rotation would be: Guthrie, Bergesen, Matusz and Tillman. What about the fifth starter?

Much more than the big bat and bullpen help you talk about Pete (and those are needs, definitely), the Orioles desperately need to get a quality starter to even make a modest step forward.

And by quality I'm thinking front of rotation type, if not an absolute ace. Now, we've all heard that Andy MacPhail's philosophy is to stay within the organization for pitching, don't trade or sign free agents. Of course, that's not totally etched in stone; just last offseason alone he went out and got Hill, Koji, Adam Eaton, David Pauley and Mark Hendrickson (I think I'm leaving someone out), and during the season, Sean Henn, Cla Meredith, Chris Lambert and Steve Johnson (again, missing a hurler?).

Well, fine, someone may say, but those are all fairly minor deals, Koji's $10M for two years being the only moderately large contract; MacPhail won't go after any really big names.

However, even that isn't entirely true. In 1991, while CEO of the Twins, Andy signed a free agent starting pitcher who, it turns out, was the key player needed for Minnesota to get to the World Series and win it.

The pitcher? Jack Morris. who had already been an integral member of the 1984 World Champion Detroit Tigers and in 1992 would also sip champagne with the Toronto Blue Jays.

It was with the '91 Twins that Morris had his most memorable Series moment (and one of the top performances of all-time, when in Game 7, he out-dueled Atlanta's John Smoltz, throwing a complete game shutout. as the Twins pushed across the only run in the bottom of the tenth. Morris was named Series MVP.

So it's not totally out of the realm of possibility for him to sign an above average starter (if he can get any to sign with the Orioles). This is an absolute need for the team, far surpassing the other holes to fill, because the O's aren't even going be able to climb out of the AL East's cellar without that starter; however, with that starter we might not need to witness another September where the bullpen looks like it's made up of extras from the movie, Zombieland.

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About Peter Schmuck
Peter Schmuck wants you to know that, contrary to popular belief, he is more than just a bon vivant, raconteur and collector of blousy flowered shirts. He is a semi-respected journalist who has covered virtually every sport -- except luge, of course – and tackled issues that transcend the mere games people play. If that isn’t enough to qualify him to provide witty, wide-ranging commentary on the sports world ... and the rest of the world, for that matter ... he is an avid reader of history, biography and the classics, as well as a charming blowhard who pops off on both sports and politics on WBAL Radio. That means you can expect a little of everything in The Schmuck Stops Here, but the major focus will be keeping you up to the minute on Baltimore’s major sports teams and themes, whether it’s throwing up the Orioles lineup the minute it’s announced or updating you on the latest sprained ankle in Owings Mills. Oh, and by the way, that’s Mr. Schmuck to you.

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