This is a weekly column that usually dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. This week, I’m keeping things a bit more focused, as one issue in particular has drawn my ire. – A.S.
I just spent about 10 minutes writing some of my Thursday Thoughts piece for @EutawStReport. 500+ words of anger and confusion and vitriol and had to step away. Gonna have to come back to it and polish. The #Orioles are frustrating as hell, folks.
— Andrew Stetka (@AStetka) February 28, 2018
The Orioles continue to be one of the most dysfunctional organizations in baseball, perhaps in all of sports. This isn’t breaking news to anyone who has paid the least bit of attention. But revelations last week from The Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo Encina continued to paint a picture of ineptitude from within the franchise.
Look – the 2018 season is still four weeks away – I’m certainly not trying to throw dirt on a grave before the casket has been lowered. But the Orioles continue to dance around transparency and it makes fans question the direction of the organization. Encina’s blog reported that the Orioles couldn’t get “club-wide approval” to match a contract offer to retain Ryan Flaherty as the team’s utility infielder. This term “club-wide approval” caused my stomach to churn and my eyes to roll at the same time. It was quite a scene when I first read it. Then I realized it was something I shouldn’t be too surprised to read at all.
GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld
No one really truly knows what “club-wide approval” means. That’s because no one really knows who’s calling the shots inside The Warehouse. There’s a widespread belief that Dan Duquette, the team’s Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, has built this team. There’s also an understanding that he’s done so with great help and input from the manager of the team, Buck Showalter.
Yet, everyone knows that the two don’t see eye to eye. There has always been an unspoken tension between the two, and it’s been widely reported, mostly in the national media. There’s also Brady Anderson, the team’s former outfielder who currently serves as Vice President of Baseball Operations. That’s a title that’s very similar to that of Duquette’s. Many believe Duquette is the team’s “general manager,” and in practical terms, that’s exactly what he is. But the O’s haven’t used that title to describe his position, and I merely point that out to highlight just how similar the title is to Anderson’s.
When Duquette explained earlier this winter the team’s reason for failing to make a presentation to now Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani by saying “because philosophically we don’t participate on the posting part of it,” it gave me a similar feeling as the “club-wide approval” line did. No one really knows what “philosophically we don’t participate” means. That’s because the organization isn’t transparent about its ideas, mindset or direction. It’s as if the team has used the “invisibility cloak” from the “Harry Potter” series to mask exactly what is going on.
At the top of the food chain within The Warehouse, of course, is the team’s owner Peter Angelos. The 88-year-old is coming up on 25 years having been the majority owner of the Orioles, and the public probably knows about as much about him and his mindset now as it did in 1993. Does “club-wide approval” mean Angelos wouldn’t sign-off on giving a utility infielder who had been with the team for six years a new deal to stick around for a couple million bucks? While ownership approval would be expected for a big contract, would it really be necessary in the case of a deal for Flaherty?
Is “philosophically we don’t participate” a mantra that comes from Angelos, or is that a Duquette musing? There’s been no shortage of vitriol hurled at ownership over the past two decades-plus, but no one really knows where the decisions are coming from. There is plenty of speculation to that end, but no clear cut answers.
I’m not sitting here trying to be the lone guy to go to bat for Ryan Flaherty. The Orioles will survive without the services of Flaherty. But wouldn’t you feel more comfortable with Flaherty having to play a few games than any of the guys currently vying for the spot vacated by the utility man?
In this strange triangle of leadership within the Orioles, there are also many other tentacles that have yet to be explained or revealed. There is an analytics department and scouting department that also have a say in which players are signed, retained and traded.
The lack of transparency is perhaps what frustrates the fanbase more than anything. If everyone knew who to point the finger toward, it would be easy. For now, that person has to be Duquette, being that he is at the top of the decision-making food chain.
Flaherty, frankly, is the least of the question marks when it comes to front office decisions. The others are well-publicized. Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Zach Britton are all in walk years. Jonathan Schoop still does not have a long-term deal. The Orioles are piecing together a rotation with silly string and chewing gum.
Not to mention, Duquette and Showalter are also sitting on expiring contracts. Some might say the Orioles have a big season ahead and need to make many decisions before August. Others, like myself, would say and even fear that it’s too late. This mess is already starting to boil over.
It’s ironic that a player as simultaneously minor and polarizing as Ryan Flaherty has been the one to bring these issues – and the emotions from fans that go along with them – to the surface once again.