I know, I know…I’m not exactly uncovering Watergate here. But before you give that headline a quick “a-duh!” and move on, give me a moment. I have data to support this assertion, and it’s not just of the looked-at-social-media-and-my-face-melted variety.
First off, we need to acknowledge that Orioles fans are far from alone in being frustrated at our team’s lack of (or negative) movement this offseason. The talk of MLB has been the ridiculously low temperature of the usual “hot stove,” and how free agents are, as a group, languishing in the wild without contracts. According to this Deadspin article, there are still around 150 such players out there, quite a large figure for this point in the offseason.
Is it the culmination of years of inept leadership in MLBPA (as asserted in the above-linked Deadspin article)? Is it collusion? Is it a broken economic system? Is it owners, as a group, simply deciding that they care more about making money than they do about trying to appease their fans with a competitive team?
All of these explanations have been floating around this offseason, but whatever the actual reason(s) is, the fact remains that pretty much nobody is signing, or getting signed.
Of course, the more cynical (and Dan Duquette-weary) fans in Birdland will argue that the Orioles’ offseason plan would be the one we are seeing in action regardless of whether there were 150+ or 15 free agents remaining on the market.
One entertaining way to look at it from our perspective is that ol’ Dan has simply yet again shown himself to be ahead of the curve: much like a shifting defense, waiting until March to sign players used to be an Orioles thing; now everybody is doing it!
Regardless, the Orioles have, to date, done absolutely nothing to address their starting rotation woes. The plan heading into 2018, as we sit here on January 25, seems to be Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, and pray for rain (and sometimes pray for rain when Gausman starts too). After that, who knows? The MASN writers have been spending the last couple months going down the list of O’s bullpen pieces, wondering if this guy or that could come in and take a rotation spot.
Were the team’s plan for several of those guys to jostle and fight for ONE rotation spot? I think Birdland would be relatively at ease. But there are THREE spots still to fill.
The players O’s fans wanted are, for the most part, still available. Tyler Chatwood signed with the Cubs, but Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb remain unsigned. Either would be an immediate upgrade, but when we listen to Buck Showalter speak in recent days, it doesn’t seem like the Birds have any intention of signing anybody of consequence to bolster the starting five.
“In today’s game, you give four- or five-year contracts to pitchers, you’re going to be happy about two of those years, maybe. I want our guys in our organization to feel like the opportunity is going to be there first for them before we start looking elsewhere. Everybody out there has got a hiccup and got a pimple, and if you think that you’re going to take one player and change the whole climate, it doesn’t happen. And I want our guys to think as they go through the offseason that there’s going to be an opportunity. We’re going to out-opportunity people.”
And try to avoid bad contracts, which Showalter preached again last night.
“Where we are in the process and what we’re talking about is a good fit. Just bear with us, OK?” he said. “If you want to jump the gun and give somebody a four- or five-year deal and they’re hurt for three years of that and they don’t pitch well and we’re all going, ‘Why did you sign that guy?’ Then let’s go ahead and jump the gun. If you want to be patient and make good decisions for the organization for the short-term and the long-term, bear with us.”
When I read Buck towing the company line like that, I can’t help but think he is angling for Dan Duquette’s job in 2019. That’s the kind of thing we’ve heard from every O’s GM in the past 20 years, isn’t it?
That’s a story for another day though. I promised you sciencey-stuff on ticked-off O’s fans!
FanGraphs polled readers, asking them how they feel about the folks in charge of their favorite team’s organization. This year’s results are summarized here, by the master himself, Jeff Sullivan.
Only New York Mets fans and Miami Marlins fans are more disgusted with their current ownership than are O’s fans.
Think about that for a moment. You have one team that’s a perennial punching bag for jokes, insults, finger-pointing, and a general poster child for ineptitude, and another whose new ownership group is shipping off the team’s best players for pennies on the dollar.
Then, you have the Orioles. Good company to be in.
In addition to just asking how fans felt though, Sullivan compared how payroll and win totals in 2017 correlated with how fans felt. So, if your team spends money and wins, you should be fairly happy, and vice versa. Those teams whose payroll+wins were least reflected in how the fans felt? Again, the Marlins, Mets, and O’s.
The greatest negative differences, by a large margin, belong to the Marlins, Mets, and Orioles. Each of them got a rating below their expected rating by more than a full point. I’ve already talked about the Marlins, and I’ve already talked about the Mets, but as the Orioles go, I’m going to guess there’s some boiled-over frustration over ownership meddling. There’s also just a general distrust that the management team is capable of making the right baseball decisions. Even last time, the Orioles didn’t score well, and now they seem closer to some kind of reckoning. This isn’t the first time you’ve read that Orioles fans are sort of unhappy.
Sullivan pretty much hits the nail on the head with his short analysis there, I’d say.
We’re sick of the owner meddling. He pays, sure, but not for the right things. We also don’t fully trust Duquette to sign the right guys with the money he IS given to address those areas of need.
Fan Fest is two days away.
Birdland isn’t feeling very festive.