It seems as though whenever I start praising the Orioles during a hot streak, the wheels fall off the wagon. It happened again this past week...
The Orioles managed to string together a six game win streak, and everything was going swimmingly. The hitters were hitting, the offense was balanced, pitchers were getting wins and throwing strikes, the manager let them pitch, and the team clawed it's way back to .500. Then the hitters stopped hitting, the offense was way unbalanced, the pitchers are getting No Decisions and allowing a lot of hits, the manager is pulling them too early, and we've gone back to our comfort zone of five games below .500. It all sounds too familiar. It has happened before, at least once this season, and probably many more times in the coming years. What I don't understand, however, is why?
Why do we (the fans) have to constantly suffer through the inconsistency of this team? Why can't they just win 2 games, lose 1, win 2, lose 1, and finish with a .667 winning percentage (unrealistic even for a good team, I know)? Why is it that every time we finally look legitimate because we're doing things differently, we revert back to the way we were doing them when we sucked and start losing again?
I know what you're thinking: Kurt, you've said all this before, can't you find something new to write about? The answer is no, I can't find something new, because the team is the same old sorry excuse for a baseball team that it has been for 10 years. Every time we look like we might finally be coming out of it (most recently 2005), spiralling back down we go. We've tried everything, literally everything, to try to stop it, short of actually winning games. We tried loading the roster with veterans, and we lost. We released all the veterans, went with all young blood, and we lost. We tried buying a winning team (highest payroll in baseball in 1998) and we lost. We tried using bargain players (Marty Cordova, David Segui), and we lost. We tried hiring a manager from a winning organization (Lee Mazzilli) and we lost. We promoted a manager from within our crappy organization, and we lost. We've replaced GM's, rosters, staffs, waterboys, and hot dog vendors, and sadly nothing has made us win. And why?
Because the Orioles don't listen. To anybody. Period. The Orioles are a rather delusional bunch, and for some reason do not realize the severity of their awful situation. Case in point, Rick Dempsey. The Demper, when he's not "domestically violating" Jay Gibbons, serves as an analyst for O's Xtra. No matter how bad the loss was, or how heartbreaking, or how demoralizing, Dempsey will undoubtedly sugar coat the loss by spouting off the usual Oriole corporate lines: "It's still early"; "They played hard"; "They were undermanned"; "They were overmatched"; "The coaches made the right calls". News flash Rick: It's not that early (All-Star Game, dead ahead), they don't play hard, they have as much talent as you can ask for, the other teams aren't that much better, and the coaches suck (see previous posts for proof of all of the above).
Dempsey is just the tip of the iceberg, however, because he's not even within the organization. The real meat of the organization, like Mike Flanagan, Jim Duquette, and Peter Angelos, are the ones paying Dempsey to sugar coat everything in an attempt to deceive the fans. News Flash for you three clowns: We're not stupid. We've seen the chaos that has become the Orioles. Furthermore, we've tried to prove to you that we aren't stupid, and that we want the team to be a winner, and that you can't sugar coat things from us forever, but you don't listen. Newspaper columnists, radio hosts, TV sportscasters, even casual bloggers have all seemingly come up with more answers than the team. The team is trying to stay the course, ride it out, let it heal itself, but this isn't something that can heal itself. The Orioles need to start paying attention.
It's not just the local fans that get ignored, either. The Orioles also seem to ignore the trends that go on in Major League Baseball. While other teams are cultivating young talent across the board, or tapping foreign markets for players (Milwaukee, Seattle, Anaheim, Boston), the Orioles sign the recycled cast offs from contending teams (Aubrey Huff, Danys Baez). There is clearly a reason why baseball players become unemployed, and it is that they aren't any good. Baseball has no salary cap, so if a player is worth keeping, you can keep him. Instead, the Orioles trade away the young talent they've invested their time and money in, like John Maine or Gary Matthews, resign free agents that have little talent to begin with, like Jay Gibbons, and make no major plays for the foreign superstars that have become en vogue lately in MLB.
One final trend that the Orioles tend to ignore is the trend that correlates winning and revenue. Peter Angelos is famous for two things: suing Bethlehem Steel for workers getting asbestos, and bitching that the Orioles don't make any money for him. What he doesn't realize is that it is infinitely more expensive to lose than it is to win. Sure, to lose all you need is a low payroll and a washed up coach, while winning requires hiring good scouts, tracking trends, an investing time in players. But the payoff is enormous for winning. Winning puts fans in the stands at an average of $25 a ticket. Twenty-five dollars a ticket times the 48,000 seats the stadium holds comes out to $1.2 milllllllllion dollars in just tickets sales. Think about the hot dogs, popcorn, soda, beer, and Boog's Bar-b-que those 48,000 people will consume, plus the hats, jerseys, pennants, foam fingers, and programs they'll buy, and you can almost pay the entire team with that money for an entire season. But in order to reap those benefits, Peter, you have to put in the time to make the team a winner. Everybody knows the Orioles' favorite series are the ones against New York and Boston, because those series fill the seats, albeit with the wrong people. Peter, imagine getting that every night, with those people wearing orange and black. If you win, we will come.
One day, maybe the team will listen. It's not like the fans haven't tried. Last season, "Nasty" Nestor Aparicio of WNST organized a fan walkout during a game. The players noticed, but knew there was nothing they could do about it. The target of the walkout was Mr. Angelos, who simply scoffed and patronized the fans who participated. He said, "They don't know how hard it is to run a team. They don't know anything". We may not, but it seems like you're in the same boat, Pete. The least you can do is give the fans a bone and maybe start to listen to some of our ideas. Listen to the people who pay to sit in the seats amongst all the Yankee and Red Sox fans, and quietly cheer for a team we wish would return to prominence. My readers, I apologize for sounding like a broken record.
Cool Note: In order to reach a wider audience, the Long Beach Armada minor league baseball team took the Anaheim Angels' approach to naming the team. The new official name of the team is the Long Beach Armada of Los Angeles of California of the United States of North America Including Barrow, Alaska. Read all about it here.