Saturday, February 12, 2011

O's, MacPhail have busy week

If you've been seeking out Orioles-related content the past week or so, you've had a lot to choose from. There's been a lot of discussion about how effective the O's efforts this offseason have been -- some good, some bad. But the O's were mentioned a lot this week, and not all of it had to do with the team.

O's receive criticism for offseason moves

The Vladimir Guerrero signing was the last major move by Andy MacPhail and the O's front office. It was also the most widely panned. Two of the most vocal critics of the O's moves are two highly regarded baseball analysts: Keith Law and Rob Neyer.

On Thursday, MASN's Steve Melewski posted much of an interview he had with Law, who didn't hold back when it came to his opinion of what the O's were/are doing. Here are a few of his comments from the piece:
"The Orioles are not a club right now that is adding young talent, they have added veteran players to the roster. I don't get it, they are not winning 85 games this year and even if they did, what is that going to buy them? A couple extra fans in the seats? It won't put them in the playoffs," Law said.

"Vlad Guerrero, if he's not toast, he's in the toaster. It doesn't make sense to acquire players like that. I understand (Nolan) Reimold had a bad year last year and Felix Pie is a flawed player. But, they cost you nothing and they have some talent. It's possible that one of those guys will actually develop into a solid big leaguer. You will never find that out if you send them back to Triple-A."
There's much more in the entire interview, including more criticism of the Guerrero and Mark Reynolds moves, his opinion that the O's should invest more money in player development, and Law's belief that the O's should fully commit to a youth movement instead of this season's approach.

As expected, many MASN commenters weren't happy with Law's comments, and some figured that he must have some kind of anti-Orioles bias for not drinking the MacPhail Kool-Aid. Much of that uproar caused Melewski to write another post on the topic, in which he noted that he didn't include every single comment from his interview with Law. Melewski also made a few points of his own at the end of the post about the team's general direction.

Law's comments were harsh, but Neyer has been critical too -- mostly of the Guerrero signing:
And finally, let me address my all-time least favorite argument in favor of moves like this: "Hey, they have to spend the money somewhere, don't they?"

Yes, they do. Or rather, they should. But they don't have to spend it here. Every year, teams don't sign draft picks because they don't want to spend the money. Or don't even draft someone because the asking price will be too high. But that's just the stuff we know about. Do you have any idea how many teen-aged Dominicans and Venezuelans you can sign for $8 million?

I don't know, either. A lot.

If you were making a list of the things that a team like the Orioles should not do, spending $8 million on a player like Vladimir Guerrero is really close to the top.

Hey, I might be wrong. Probably not, though.
Again, Neyer, like Law, brings up many fair points. Neyer also answered a few questions from Camden Chat, which included his take that "reaching .500 is a lot less important than assembling the pieces that might eventually lead to 90 wins (rather than 81)" -- I believe most O's fans would agree with that.

Many fans are upset with the criticism because they believe the team is headed in the right direction for once. It's tough to stomach that two of the most respected baseball writers in the business aren't completely on board with what the O's have have been doing.

Still, they are just two opinions -- well respected or not -- but they're not the only ones who have opinions on the team's moves. Here's what Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk (also a respected name) thinks of what the O's have done:
I would agree with Keith that the incremental improvements the O’s made this winter aren’t the things long-term plans are made of. But that’s only bad if the moves foreclose the possibility of making the sorts of changes that do fit in a sound long term plan. In the meantime, there is some value to making the team into one that fans who watch 100 games a year can better stomach than the version they’ve watched the past few years. Derrek Lee, Vlad Guerrero and Mark Reynolds aren’t going to be a part of the next contending Orioles team, but they are far more easy to stomach than the guys they’ve trotted out recently.

And more importantly, they aren’t preventing that next contending Orioles team from coming together.
I'm not really a big fan of the Guerrero signing, but I still tend to look at the overall picture much like Calcaterra. But everyone is entitled to their opinion; the only thing that matters is what happens on the field.

Guthrie and Scott sign one-year deals

The O's avoided arbitration with their last two arbitration-eligible players, agreeing to deals with Luke Scott and Jeremy Guthrie. Scott signed a one-year, $6.4 million deal, and Guthrie agreed to a one-year, $5.75 million deal. Unlike the Guerrero deal, there's no controversy surrounding these agreements.

MacPhail's take on the A-Rod contract

Speaking to law students at the Baltimore School of Law on Thursday, MacPhail, answering a question, offered his opinion on what he thought was the worst free agent signing in baseball history:
"Alex Rodriguez to Texas was the worst signing in the history of baseball in my view," MacPhail said, according to The Baltimore Sun. "Why? Because he played as well as you can possibly ask the kid to play. He had great years. And the needle didn't move at all. ... The team didn't improve. Attendance didn't go up. But hey, they got the lead story on ESPN. Well, if that's what motivates you, you're going down the wrong path. You want to put 35,000 people in the ballpark, win the games. That's what (fans) are there to see. That's what the Orioles need—to win some games."
MacPhail's comments made the rounds, and most people vehemently disagreed. FanGraphs' Dave Cameron probably wrote the most thorough refutation, in which he argued that Rodriguez's contract was a pretty good deal for the Rangers. Here is his conclusion:
Alex Rodriguez’s first contract was far from the worst deal in baseball history. In fact, given his performance in the years after he signed the deal, Rodriguez was actually worth the money he was paid. Unfortunately, the narrative of the deal lives on, despite all the illogical hula hoops you have to jump through in order to reach the conclusion that MacPhail suggested yesterday. Don’t believe the hype; A-Rod was not the cause of the Rangers failures, and the contract they signed him to was actually a wise investment. The problem is that was the only good investment that franchise made in those three years.
Neyer and Calcaterra also offered their takes, along with plenty of others. Is MacPhail wrong? Probably. But is he entitled to his opinion? Of course. It's pretty funny, though, that his comments about the A-Rod contract are being talked about right now considering that he just signed Guerrero to an $8 million deal.

Ernie Tyler passes away

Ernie Tyler, the Orioles' umpires' assistant for many, many years, passed away on Thursday night. He was 86. I could post a ton of glowing quotes and anecdotes about Tyler, but I'll just go with this awesome feat:
A local legend, Tyler once worked 3,819 consecutive home games at Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards, from Opening Day 1960 to July 27, 2007. His streak, which included 3,769 consecutive regular-season games, 40 post-season games and nine exhibitions, ended when he accepted an invitation from Cal Ripken Jr. to attend Ripken’s Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Simply amazing. For more on Tyler, check out these articles. Rest in peace, Ernie.


Didn't mean to end on a sad note, but that's how it goes sometimes. So yeah, I'd say that's a rather hectic week.

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