May 18, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Baltimore Orioles teammates Nick Markakis (right), Xavier Avery (13) and Adam Jones (10) celebrate after defeating the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. The Orioles defeated the Nationals 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE

Seats on the Bus to the Promised Land

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The goal of every athletic team playing at a level higher than elementary soccer should be to win the championship of its league and organization. Participation trophies are OK for kid’s soccer and tee-ball, but that is not what the Orioles should be about. The goal is to be a championship outfit … and yes, there are intermediate steps toward that goal that we may view as success stories. But the ultimate aim is to – in biblical terms – cross the Jordan into the Promised Land!

Having studied organizational leadership for a long time, a word picture that is often used to describe building a winning team in any business or organization is to speak of it as a bus – stating that the good leader needs to first determine who should be on the bus, and then secondly, who should be sitting in which seats.

The Orioles organization has to be thinking in terms of whom they are going to keep as riders on the bus to the Promised Land of World Series contention. This past week, the Orioles not only gave Adam Jones a ticket, his seat is in the front row of the bus! Markakis is also a ticketed passenger, as is J.J. Hardy. Matt Wieters and Jim Johnson need to also be near the front of the line as secured riders on this excursion. Others looking like they are up for a long journey to a mystical destination include Strop, Hamel, Chen, and hopefully Davis and Reimold.

Not going on this ride is Tommy Hunter. It pains me to say that; I’m sure it will pain his teammates to ultimately feel his loss. Though I do not see the clubhouse personally, I’ve seen enough of the team at FanFest and through interviews and the reports of those privileged to be close to the team to know that Hunter is very much the life of the party. He is a hilarious character with a great wit. You can tell that Buck loves him. But the sad truth is that he is a career 4.60+ ERA guy who cannot keep the ball down consistently enough. He has a great arm and can throw the occasional gem. And I’m not even saying he doesn’t belong in the big leagues; he is just not a starter for a team on the road to the Promised Land. Tonight’s game (5/28 at Toronto) was sad evidence of this premise. Perhaps he could be a long reliever and find success in that role.

All in all, I see the bus as about half full of long-term riders and half full of placeholders and stowaways. A winning team might be able to get away with a couple or three pretenders, but not much more. A certain fellow now pitching in Frederick is about as much a lock as there is in the minors. It will be interesting to see as the year goes along how Duquette and company make decisions for the future.

It would certainly appear that the Orioles have hit their most difficult stretch of the season so far. It really is marvelous what the Birds have been able to accomplish with their current roster, as apart from a few occasions they have made the most of the talent on hand. But the O’s have now lost six of the last eight games, and in the past four losses they have gone 3 for 32 with runners in scoring position.

Right now there is the need for the main guys in the middle of the lineup to really step up and carry the team. Wieters has to find a way out of this slump, and Nick, Adam and J.J. need to repeat timely hits.  As well, it would be great to get some cavalry support over the horizon with a little R&R – Reimold and Roberts – and the healthy return of Lindstrom and Britton. It really is amazing to have these sorts of names missing from the lineup and yet have a team winning at a rate of 60%… but it is not likely sustainable.

I really do like this team and wish success for every one of them (even Kevin Gregg … I think), and things are clearly going the right way.  We are coming out of the wilderness wanderings of 14 years (it was 40 for the children of Israel, in case you forgot the story), and the crossing of the Jordan is somewhere down the road. I’m just hoping I can get to see it before dementia wipes me out.

Twitter: @OSayOrioles ……….. email [email protected]

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