So…how exactly do you build a team or a franchise? This is actually a variation of a question that we ask ourselves in many different forms all the time. Should we be passive or aggressive with the opposite gender? Should we strive to operate on a not to lose mentality, or go for the kill? Here’s how this relates to baseball and to the Baltimore Orioles; should you be aggressive in building a team? The obvious answer is yes, but I’m not necessarily talking about the on-field personnel in the classic sense. I’m referring more to financials.
Again, the obvious answer is yes. But things aren’t always what they seem. There are good signings/acquisitions, and then there are bad ones. One of the worst in Orioles history is probably the trade in 1989 that sent Curt Schilling, Steve Finley, and Pete Harnish to Houston for first baseman Glenn Davis. On the flip side, the best in team history might be the trade that brought Frank Robinson to Baltimore in 1965 (while the Adam Jones/Chris Tillman trade would be up there also). But I digress; we judge all of these moves based on the results. But ultimately, does lady luck smile on daring ones when it comes to acquiring players and building a team?
For years and years the Orioles made what I would term “passive moves.” They brought in players such as Kevin Millar, Kevin Millwood, Jay Payton, and even Miguel Tejada (the second time around) to fill holes. This certainly made it easier for the manager(s) to fill out a lineup card, and for the record all of those guys were solid ball players and good clubhouse guys. However they were guys that came fairly cheap given that they were at the end of their careers (and were largely a part of other teams in the minds of fans). But while guys like Millar were playing first base for the Orioles, teams such as New York were signing Mark Texeira. While Millwood was playing out a string in Baltimore, Boston was looking at John Lackey.
So where am I going with this? If I was a hot shot free agent, I’d be looking to squeeze teams like Boston and New York for all they’re worth. Those franchises have proven that they’re willing to in effect buy a championship. This means overpaying for talent. Again, these teams have no problem doing that. Obviously now contracts such as that of Texeira and especially Alex Rodriguez are hurting New York. And perhaps Boston might see a similar fate one day with the likes of Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. However…would fans rather that the Orioles not nickel and dime their team together, or are they comfortable allowing the team to piece itself together?
I’ll give you my view tomorrow (yes folks, I know that’s a teaser!). However I don’t want people to think that there’s any problem with any of the guys that I mentioned above. I have fond memories of Kevin Millar playing for the Orioles. He was older by then and some of his skills had gone away, but he played a positive role, as did the other aforementioned players. One story about Millar; before I was a writer I attended a game against the Washington Nationals at Camden Yards with seats down the first base line. A player hit a foul ball down the line, and Millar fielded it, pointed at a young kid sitting in the first row, and tossed it towards him. Unfortunately some rather rowdy folks decided to intercept the ball before it could get to the kid. Millar saw that, and when the inning ended he took the ball over to that kid and handed it to him while saying “…I saw what happened before and I wanted to make sure you got a ball. Enjoy the rest of the game!”
Those are the types of things that register with kids at a young age. It also registered with the boy’s father, who looked incredibly appreciative of what Kevin Millar did. THAT right there is what baseball’s about. That’s something that to this day I’ve never forgotten, and as small of a gesture as it was it’s something that kid won’t forget for the rest of his life. Perhaps some of our greedier athletes in America could stand to learn a lesson from guys like Kevin Millar.