For starters, a very happy new year to all of Birdland and beyond. We celebrate the arrival of a new year on an annual basis, yet the fact is that not much has changed from yesterday to today. There is one difference however in that we can now refer to the baseball season that begins in April as “this year.” Yesterday when refering to “this year” we were refering to the completed 2011 season. Now we can use that term and talk about the up and coming 2012 year. Small difference, I know, but a difference none the less!
I read a lot of columns regarding the Orioles, baseball, and sports in general, along with message boards. I see the angst that’s out there within the Oriole fan base regarding the current state of the team. Specifically, a lot of that appears to be directed at the Orioles’ perceived disinterest in pursuing Prince Fielder for the big money that Fielder and his agent (Scott Boras) feel that he’s worth. In the past couple of days it’s come out that Boras and Fielder went on a roadtrip of sorts where they met with several owners. Somehow it was leaked to the press that Peter Angelos was not among those with whom they met. That was followed by the news that the Orioles were not interested in signing Fielder to a deal in excess of $20 million per year over eight seasons.
Again, there’s a lot of angst which is bordering on anger at all of this. However as is generally the case I feel that there might be more than meets the eye. Who, other than Boras (or Angelos) would leak the fact that there was no meeting with the Orioles? (This also on the heels of Boras’ comment to the tune that Fielder could help a team that struggles to sell tickets.) Then out of nowhere, the Orioles “leak” what they aren’t willing to pay. In the world of free agent negotiations, contracts, and quite honestly in the world of Scott Boras in general, you never take anything at face value.
You see where I’m going with this I assume; it’s almost as if Scott Boras wants Prince Fielder to swing his bat at hitter-happy Camden Yards, which has a short right field porch. In turn, the O’s fired back with how much they weren’t willing to spend. Keep in mind folks, this is all just me trying to look past the tip of my nose. It wouldn’t be the first time in my life that I tried to do just that and I would have been better off taking things at face value. Call it a conspiracy theory if you will. The fact is that nobody else has stepped up and given Fielder the contract that him and his agent think he should get, so to assume that the Orioles are not involved based upon what little information is being provided seems a bit premature to me.
More importantly than Prince Fielder, I would ask the Oriole fan base to be patient with Dan Duquette. I don’t say this as an apologist or a homer in any way, however as a matter of fairness. This franchise has endured 14 straight losing seasons; if you listen to some people talk, they’ll be hard pressed to win even one game in 2012. However let’s not judge Duquette based upon the struggles of the past 14 years. Most of Duquette’s moves to this point have been harshly criticized by some fans mainly because the players that were aquired were not Prince Fielder. One player won’t make this off season a success or failure, and as I said at the time I think we should wait for the smoke to clear prior to passing judgement.
To be more specific, I’ve always felt that there was somewhat of a drop off behind the plate when Matt Wieters would sit out a game. The past couple of seasons has seen veteran backup catchers. In Taylor Teagarden they now have a younger guy backing up Wieters, who might be a bit more nimble. Furthermore the addition of Endy Chavez brings depth to the roster, which is something that’s been lacking. Theoretically if Chavez replaces Felix Pie, I see that as an improvement year-over-year. Dana Eveland is certainly a journeyman, however again the O’s have lacked depth in the pitching ranks over a long period of time.
Ironically on some message boards, I saw people saying that these moves were made just for depth’s sake. That’s exactly what the Orioles need! Having said that, keep in mind that this team really put it together in the latter part of last season (2011), and there’s no reason to think that with the current core of players that can’t continue into this season. I think that Prince Fielder would be a great addition to the O’s, however they need to shore up the pitching staff more than anything else. The question would be whether Fielder’s offensive production would be enough to counter the pitching woes. The O’s might end up losing games in 2012 by a margin of 8-7 whereas in 2011 that same game was lost 8-3. I’m not saying that Dana Eveland is the answer to these issues…but I didn’t say that the Orioles were finished yet either.
So bottom line, will the O’s land Prince Fielder? It sure beats the heck out of me! As I said, the fact is that nobody’s bitten on him yet so in that sense the Orioles are as much in it as anyone else. You might look at this and say that I didn’t really answer my own question of will Fielder come to the Orioles. Welcome to Scott Boras’ world.
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala