Friday, August 7, 2009

Peter Schmuck defends MacPhail, Orioles

The Orioles are 45-63, and they're 5-15 since the all-star break. As usual, many fans are frustrated. But Peter Schmuck is tired of the whining:

Question: Did anyone in any independent local media outlet that publishes preseason predictions pick the Orioles to finish anywhere but last? Did anyone speculate that the Orioles had any chance to be really competitive against the other four teams in the American League East?

I don't expect anybody to be happy about the way the Orioles are playing right now, but acting like some other manager would have dragged them into contention or some other free agent pitcher (including A.J. Burnett) would have prevented them from finishing in the basement is simply absurd.

This is team at a critical point in a rebuilding plan, bringing up young player after young player to prepare for -- perhaps -- a more competitive situation next year and beyond. And I'm reading posts from people who already think Chris Tillman is a bust after 10 1/3 innings at the major league level.

Nobody is enjoying this, and I wouldn't expect anyone to. I'm certainly not, and I've pointed out on many occasions that I think this Orioles team doesn't know how to win and lacks a killer instinct. I've also spent years dissecting the mismanagement of this team from the law office to the manager's office, but I'm not going to join in the ridiculous call to abandon a highly progressive rebuilding program after two years and two months.

Most rebuilding jobs take four or five years, but the Orioles have a chance to be competitive in the third year of Andy MacPhail's accelerated plan. And there's still a surprising percentage of fans who are ready to throw the whole thing out the window and start over again because the team is going to finish this year right where everybody thought it would.

He's exactly right. When was the last time the Orioles had this much promise? Look at all of the potential impact rookies on the roster: Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, and David Hernandez. Sure, some of them are struggling right now, but who cares? Like Schmuck says, the Orioles were never going to contend this year, or possibly next year, anyway.

Andy MacPhail has helped the Orioles reload the farm system with some fantastic trades. Just recently, he traded George Sherrill, basically a throw-in in the Erik Bedard trade, to the Dodgers for two more solid prospects: third-baseman Josh Bell and pitcher Steve Johnson (ranked as the 3rd and 14th best prospects dealt at the trade deadline, respectively, according to FanGraphs' Marc Hulet).

The possible starting rotation next season could look something like this: Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Tillman, and David Hernandez. Koji Uehara could recover nicely in a bullpen role, but he probably won't be in the rotation. And that's not even mentioning some of the other talented pitching prospects still in the O's system. Plus, Jason Berken has struggled, but he could still turn things around at some point, as could Rich Hill.

Anyway, the future looks bright for the Orioles. If you don't think so, just take a look at the O's outfield, at catcher, or at the young pitching talent that will be developing over the next year or two. It's frustrating now, but the goal is to eventually compete for a long time -- not just finish .500 one season so everyone feels a little bit better.

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