Courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles: Free agency, production, and patience

Yesterday’s column questioned whether or not there could be pressure on Buck Showalter to win and win now – as in 2014 – in Baltimore. Could Showalter be on the hot seat if the Baltimore Orioles don’t qualify for the post season in 2014? My personal opinion is that’s totally out of the questions barring a totally destructive type of season, but some would disagree. There are those who would argue that if you can’t win and win now, you’re useless. However my point would be that in a sense then we might as well go back to the “old days” when coaches operated on one-year contracts, allowing owners and GM’s the chance to truly ask what have you done for me latelyBut why suddenly do some fans have this attitude that if you can’t win for me this year it doesn’t matter what happened last year?

Let’s take that and run with it in a sense. First off some people are just brutally honest to the point of being blunt. And while honesty is the best policy in life, we also have to put honesty into context; if we’re going on his latest body of work (as in 2013), Buck Showalter didn’t quali

fy his team for the post season. Is that being brutally honest? Absolutely. But put it into the context of the fact that Showalter had a plan, resurrected the franchise from destruction, and qualified them for the post season for the first time in 15 years (only one year prior), and suddenly that “brutal honesty” sounds overly blunt, and even a bit mean.

However we’re talking semantics in a sense. I would submit that this sudden thirst for production in a sense (from fans) is one final delayed affect of free agency taking over baseball (and other sports). In the hey day of the old Oriole Way, the idea was to raise a core crop of home grown players to come through your farm system and to have them burst onto the major league scene at around the same time. In theory, this would sustain a degree of par for some time while those players were in their prime. Granted you would end up having to endure some “re-tooling” at the tail end of those careers, but that would in theory start the process again.

However something disrupted that concept: free agency. Suddenly free agency became the “new draft,” in baseball along with the other sports. However I’m not sure that the idea of “team building” through free agency was truly refined and at it’s peak until recently. Teams would add free agents here and there, however rebuilding a franchise would still take some time. Now we see it done almost overnight. The 2013 BoSox obviously are a perfect example, as is the sustained success of the Tampa Rays. If you play the free agent game the right way, you’ll be more successful in less time than teams who are building from the ground up.

This is not to say that the Orioles are playing the free agent game wrong. I’m not sure that’s the case; granted they aren’t going after high-ticket items, however they’re looking for better value overall at a better price. But ultimately fans and more importantly owners see that it is in fact possible to go from worst-to-first overnight. So they perhaps legitimately ask themselves why they’re wasting their time paying someone who wants to “build” the franchise as opposed to someone who’d rather come in and win right away.

I would submit that the Orioles are poised for greater long-term success given at how the team has been and is being built, and luckily Dan Duquette and Peter Angelos seem to understand that. I firmly believe that you have to take what you have now and play it forward in your mind a few years to see what you’re on track to become. If in two or three years the O’s are still hovering around the 85-win plateau and can’t get over and into the post season, then perhaps you consider a change in leadership. However the team’s on track at the moment to achieve great things, and the last thing that ownership wants to do is to disrupt that.

So to folks who find themselves in the what have you done for me lately camp, I suppose I’m saying you should cool your britches! This Oriole team may not win overnight like Boston did, but also remember that instant gratification isn’t always the right thing. Also keep in mind that this franchise’s luck with free agency hasn’t always been the greatest. Albert Belle comes to mind, and to a lesser extend Vladimir Guerrero, Kevin Millwood, and a few others. Right now it appears that the team is right on track. But time will tell the tale for sure.

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  • Double_Up

    Well, to be fair Boston wasn’t hugely changed from last year, just more adult, and Tampa and most teams that reload draft well. Draft well and you don’t have to jump around guessing which FA’s will flop or get you some wins. Draft well and build, add FA’s to fill holes as you mention.

    • JD Morrison

      I have to disagree. Boston made some key changes, with some very potent additions and most of all recruited a decent baseball guy as a skipper. If Farrell was a mediocre manager prior to coming to Boston, then replacing Bobby Valentine made Farrell that much better. This was a very significant facelift that Boston underwent in the off-season 2012-13.

      • Domenic Vadala

        The core of the team (Drew, Pedroia, Ortiz, etc) was the same, but they added some pieces as well. His point about the attitude is correct however, which is why I feel that there isn’t the greatest character among some of those players. They mailed it in at the end of 2011, then didn’t even show up in 2012 because they hated Bobby Valentine, and suddenly they get a manager they like so they decide to play for him. You should ALWAYS play hard REGARDLESS of who the manager is.

    • Domenic Vadala

      The free agents that Boston did add were huge to their success (ie-Mike Napoli). However regarding the draft, I don’t think that there’s any question that the O’s have drafted well of late. Wieters, Bundy, Gausman, and Machado are all home grown. If you want to go further back you can add in Markakis and even Nolan Reimold (who’s a decent player – when he’s healthy that is). The Orioles also have the likes of Jonathan Schoop among others waiting in the wings. I fundamentally agree with retooling through the draft, however the reality of sports in general is that the free agents that you acquire are what will generally put you over the top. Thanks for reading!

      • JD Morrison

        What you just mentioned here, your player development, along with international scouting and using these sources with the draft is your long term working of the soil and I’m well aware of that part of it. You’re erring by mistaking me as short sightedness. You still have to win today while you build depth fr tomorrow. So are you going to deny that there have been areas of management of the 2013 team where Buck Showalter fell short or simply didn’t do well with? Do you think he developed and used bench depth this year? Any other areas where another manager may have been imported a fresh perspective?

        • Domenic Vadala

          I don’t disagree that they needed a bit more depth. However we also need to keep in mind the various restraints that the team had. I can tell you on good authority that the Orioles explored several trades in the offseason (one year ago) that would have bolstered their bench. However other teams wanted to squeeze the Orioles, a fact that was well-documented on this site at that time. Teams were still inquiring about trading for the likes of Machado, Bundy, etc. Detroit had all but penciled J.J. Hardy in as their starting shortstop for 2013 at one point. So it wasn’t by choice that Showalter went with the likes of Betemit (who ultimately got hurt), Pearce, etc. The franchise just wasn’t willing to part with talent that could help them down the road, something for which they should be applauded. That’s what I mean when I say that there’s a plan. Years ago the Orioles had managers and GM’s who probably would have made those trades just for the sake of making a trade. If you do that you risk including someone like a Curt Schilling in a trade for someone like a Glenn Davis, who ends up being a total bust. You have to hang onto your prized prospects and young players and allow them to mature through your system. Winning now is great, and quite frankly it’s not as ridiculously out of reach as you or anyone else might think. However robbing yourself of players that could one day help make your franchise into something great is by definition incredibly short-sighted.

        • Domenic Vadala

          They didn’t have the bench depth that they had in 2012. For instance, Wilson Betemit was injured for most of the season. He would have been a decent bench player. Plus while they didn’t get the bullpen support that they had in 2012 the starting pitching wasn’t as clutch. Ultimately I think that many other teams probably adjusted themselves where as the Orioles were unable to do that. Obviously that’s not going to be the case next year.
          To evaluate whether or not you need a new manager every year is short-sighted. It just is, and there’s no way around that. Showalter didn’t simply turn into a good or bad manager year-over-year. Each season shakes down differently, and if you’re going to hold the coach accountable simply for not making the post season then your standards are WAY too high. You yourself said that you started following this team after the 2011 season; so maybe you should trust the experts who have been following this team forever and know that there’s a plan in place. If you don’t think Showalter’s a good manager, fine. As I said you’re entitled to your view. But to say they should boot the guy out the door for the sake of making a change as a reactionary move to them not qualifying for the post season is by definition short-sighted. If that was the way of the world, all but eight managers would retain their jobs each season. It’s fine to have high expectations, but you also have to keep them tempered and rational. Otherwise you set yourself up for a lot of disappointment. And that’s good life advice, not just sports.

  • JD Morrison

    So Farrell had a plan and got it done in one season with the Sox. By my beliefs an incoming manager has 3 or 4 years to get the team to in playoff shape. I assume that a manager is going to come in while the team is at rock bottom and needs resuscitation. Buck’s resuscitated this team. I’ve watched him for two years in Baltimore – these past two seasons. He has no plan. He’s riding out a job. He likes to participate in the game and he has an ego larger than his record of success. With another franchise, perhaps a franchise that wasn’t so unlucky with hiring losers for managerial leaders, he’d be a goner by now. Baltimore is trying to keep a promise alive, but they’re not exactly behaving like a franchise who is aggressively trying to build a winner. Two years I have watched them in the off season giving out invites to guys like Steve Pierce, Russ Canzler, and similar names – - – are we supposed to be getting excited about these pickups? Get serious and get yourself a leader with adequate hitting skills. We need a player or two who won’t allow the rest of the offense look like crap the way they do sometimes over these last two years, every time we get into that epidemic funk where they start swinging at everything after almost immediately swinging at the first pitch, approaching the at-bat this way in hope of a post 7th inning rally to dig the O’s out of whatever pitching management blunder Showalter screws us with. This 2013 team knew how to lose wile Boston knew how to win or else found ways. We found ways to lose. I’m positive that I am not the only person who had this running through their minds at one time or another during last season.

    There is no plan and this is Showalter’s last year of his audition.

    • Domenic Vadala

      You’re entitled to your view, but that’s an incredibly short-sighted vision. My question would be “who would you like to see replace Showalter?” Is there anyone out there who you feel would have a “vision” moreso than him? Because what you’re saying is that the 2012 team was basically just lucky. In fact you’re also saying that the 2013 team was basically just lucky – lucky to have won 85 games and to have been in contention until the last week of the season. If you think the team has such poor leadership then that’s exactly what you’re saying. The facts are that Showalter gave this franchise a pulse upon arrival in 2010 – ’11, and brought them their first post season birth in 15 years. However above that, he’s also made the franchise itself better. Jones, Hardy, and Wieters have had career years under Showalter, and he was also integral in bringing Chris Davis to Baltimore. And let’s not forget Chris Tillman. So if fans are content punting someone like that out the door, I suppose the line between success and failure is higher than I thought. Again, who would you like to see in that dugout if not Buck? Thanks for reading!

      • JD Morrison

        I wouldn’t say that my view is shortsighted. By short sighted, do you mean to imply that I am not looking at the big picture. Big or small, the game is about winning. If i had a choice of winning in 2013 or winning in 2015 of course I’d prefer to be short sighted about it. Let me ask you this: would you want the O’s to win the big one with Chris Davis and some of the others under contract with the O’s or would you rather imagine winning with players who are not yet playing in Orioles uni’s? Duquette was a beginning for me. At this very moment the question isn’t who I’d like to replace Buck Showalter. Just what is Buck Showalter’s vision? Answer that and I will follow it up with another. I didn’t say that 2012 was luck. You did. It was a step forward. 2013 seemed an unstable step diagonally backwards. 2013 was not an improvement. It was an improvement in individual and team stat achievements but as a team we found a way to lose, compared to 2012, when we found ways to win. We had an opportunity to push beyond that level of winning as a team in 2013 but failed to even match it, let alone improve from haven been there. This is where managerial vision comes in – - – no. This is where the fulfillment of managerial vision comes in. We did nothing to hold 2012 success in place and add to it. Nobody recognized what had to be done. The difference between people like yourself and myself – somebody who decided to keep an eye on the Birds since the first few days of October 2011, is that you guys were satisfied with very little while I expected it to be compounded on and improved. If 2014 matches 2013 or has us winning 81 games you guys will be the same. I won’t accept it. I’ll call for mutiny. You either improve or you’re days are thin. I like winning. The name of the game is placing the best team on field that gives you the best chance to win, from your manager to your bullpen catcher. Also, if we’re to evaluate any one baseball person on past years’ achievements then let’s bring in Ken Macha to manage, but this game does come with a short term memory and sadly enough it is about what have you done for me lately. The team is a team with a roster of good baseball players. Pitching is unpredictable year to year, as is chemistry, but this team has a lot to work off of. I can no longer tell you who I’d like to replace Showalter. When I make note of this season’s managerial blunders, even down to the failures of hired personnel like hitting instructors as evidenced by the collective approach to the at bat, I’ll start looking to see who’s available. Somebody fresh – how about that? How would this team respond to the management of Dusty Baker? What could they get away with while playing under Baker? What “physiological changes” would the team undergo under Dusty? At this time let’s say Baker but in all reality, let’s see how this team performs for Buck in 2014. For me, it will be my third year watching them, its Showalter’s last stand. Get. It. Done.

        • Domenic Vadala

          For the record, I started following the Orioles when I was a young child and I’ve been covering them since 2009 (with Birds Watcher since 2011). So I’ve seen a thing or two with this franchise over that span of time. Having said that, I’ll be happy to respond to your question – as soon as you respond to mine. You threw a lot of names out, but you haven’t really touched on why any of those would have a better vision than Showalter. (For the record, I don’t think Dusty Baker is a bad manager in the least, but you committed to him and then all but re-committed to Showalter. Which is it?) But ultimately to expect immediate results is extremely short-sighted. In fact it’s borderline unfair. You have to always be committed to building for the future in sports, because otherwise you’ll end up having no future.

          I didn’t say 2012 was luck; you passive-aggressively did. If you think that Showalter has no vision and thus is the wrong man for the job, you’re indirectly saying that the team somehow lucked it’s way into a post season spot last year. You can say all you want that you aren’t saying that, but indirectly you are. However that aside you just can’t judge coaches season-by-season in sports. You have to give them a chance to really spread their wings and guide the franchise. That’s what the Orioles are doing. Heck, that’s what they did years ago. Keep in mind that Earl Weaver won the WS in 1970 as the manager of the Orioles, and didn’t win it again for the rest of his career. He retired in 1982 (and came out of retirement from 1985-86); that was 12 years he managed without winning a title. Did he have no vision or no plan? If you’re going squarely on results as you’re saying, then you’d have no choice but to say that he didn’t. Thus he should have been fired, right? You have to look at the big picture with an eye always towards from whence you’ve come and where you’re going. Living only for today in sports is a dangerous thing. Take the Oakland Raiders of the NFL for instance; they rid themselves of John Gruden, and a year or so later Gruden guided the Tampa Bay Bucs to a Super Bowl title – AGAINST the Raiders. You have to look big picture first and foremost. If you only started following the Orioles circa October 2011, I’d recommend reading up on the history of the franchise.

  • JD Morrison

    Start here: What is Showalter’s vision?

    I feel that Showalter should have been
    gone by season’s end. He wasn’t so naturally he is what we have to work with. Once
    he is gone ask me your question. For the sake of giving you an answer I did,
    after considering who is available. It’s much more complicated than your
    questions make it out. The travesty is still our manager.

    Stop making statements for me. You see
    what I am writing. Others can see what I write. Stick to the written word
    otherwise you’re being a liar. According to you I indirectly said this and
    passively-aggressively said that. Your credibility is on the line. Keep your
    debate honest and focused.

    The fact that I expect gradual improvement
    as opposed to digression doesn’t mean that I do not have an eye on the future
    development of the team. I just do not think you understand who I am or how I
    think. That’s your stumbling block. In order to help you understand I can only
    meet you at certain places in your argument, for instance, Buck’s vision. Help

    What is Buck Showalter’s vision for
    this team? I’m still waiting for that answer.

    You said that you cannot judge coaches
    [managers] season by season. Then you start playing song about letting them
    spread their wings etc. You are right. There is much more that I assess in a
    manager or any professional baseball performer who is paid what they are paid
    these days, especially.

    What it comes down to is what I think is best for this
    team. Is Buck on the hot seat? I’ve never been impressed with Buck even when he
    was managing the Rangers, only that now he has a bigger ego. The man was
    defeated. The last 1.5 months of ball he was desperate. It’s simple. I don’t
    want to make any statements and declare that you mark my words because I want
    them to win with or without Buck. It
    would be easier for me to place all of my chips on “if the Orioles are not
    managed to the playoffs in 2014 Buck will be fired”, than on “the Orioles will
    never win with Buck at the helm”.

    So what is Buck’s vision?

    • Domenic Vadala

      “Who you are or how you think…?” REALLY? Who among us truly understands how anyone else thinks? If I need to understand who you are, then tell me…because otherwise I’m going to assume that you’re nobody mixed with nothing just like the rest of us.

      You say that you’ve never been impressed with Showalter, and that’s a perfectly fine opinion to harbor. I think most people would disagree, but it’s your view and you’re entitled to it. But what you’re in effect saying is that they went to the playoffs in 2012 DESPITE Showalter. Translated, that’s luck. So while I’m not putting words in your mouth, I am dissecting what you say. The only other alternative is that Showalter is a bad coach but he ceased being a bad coach in 2012 but then became a bad coach again in 2013 (and presumably onward). And that makes about as much sense as saying that 1+1=3.

      I’ll happily answer your question, but see here’s the thing…you still haven’t answered mine. The question I posed to you earlier in this discussion is if Showalter needs to go, who should replace him? You danced around a few names but then you also suggested that Showalter should return in 2014. So if you definitively tell me who you think should replace Showalter and why, I’ll be happy to tell you what vision I see Showalter having and why I feel it’s best for the franchise. That’s how things work here. If you’d rather I blindly answer your question without you having spoken to mine, report me to the editor. Oh, wait…

      Society is a production-based organization now, but you have to give people some breathing room. I suspect that when Showalter interviewed for the job he laid out his long-term vision for the franchise to both Andy MacPhail (who was the GM at the time) and Peter Angelos. Obviously they bought into that, which is why he’s still here. You indicated that you started following the Orioles after the 2011 season if I understood correctly. I’m not sure why that is, but nevertheless you would do well to accept that time didn’t start at that point. This franchise had been in dire straights for years, and most of the Orioles fans are savy enough to know that. My recommendation would be to take your cues from them, as they’re very much in tuned with the history that’s led the team to this point.

  • JD Morrison

    This is a pointless debate since you’re not arguing with any integrity or honesty. A good debate opponent usually teaches me something. For me what it comes down to is that there are many areas of Buck Showalter’s performance especially in 2013 that led me to believe that the best thing for this franchise of these particular young players to get to the next level in order to achieve championship level production. Buck just doesn’t warrant this from players. He manages sentimentally. He wants to be liked. There is little if any accountability. He will find the silver lining in failure (“he had some good pitches” – “we are playing good pitchers out there, thats why we were blanked …”).

    Take Jim Johnson’s mid to late season failures. Unfortunately, we see these better than the failures of other players sometimes since blown saves are basically wins gone bad. For the fan, they are head screws. Buck usually … I will say ‘usually’ to give him the benefit of the doubt, but usually Buck has something to do with losses that were wins going into the seventh inning with the lead. Ultimately, these fall on the shoulders of management. There is less accountability with Buck as there is with a manager trying to manage the team into the playoffs, instead of trying to drive a circular peg into a square hole (salvaging the players self esteem aka managing with the heart).
    A great example of accountability and its payoff at the expense of a player’s psyche / self esteem is Matheny’s decision to yank the fatigued Mujica. on SEPTEMBER 21!!!! their closer is yanked and replaced after failing to convert three out of his last five saves!
    Slowly this team will become a championship team I believe it can be and if Buck continues to manage as he has without making adjustments or changes necessary to win, he won’t be a part of the party. You have to get rid of the problem. I think we’re well on our way. The verdict is still out on Duquette but I like him and have faith in his vision, if anyone’s. Save your BS about the vision of Buck. He doesn’t have vision. He doesn’t even know how to proper;y handle starting pitching (as was the case in Texas) and he can’t work the bench. Now I don’t want to hear another word from you until you come through on this fantasy vision of Buck’s. It doesn’t exist or by now you’d be talking instead of spinning your wheels and going nowhere. Back it up or shut it down.

    • Domenic Vadala

      First off let’s be clear; this is MY SITE. You don’t come onto MY SITE and give ME the what for. So again, I would invite you to simply STOP POSTING HERE. There are plenty of other places out there for you to get your news about the team you’ve loved so much since October of 2011. Again chief, you don’t like Showalter; fine opinion to have. But why it has to get into something like this, I’m not really sure. I don’t argue with integrity? Really boss? Explain that one to me! Why is that, because I won’t answer your question? Let the record show that all you were asked to do is to provide an alternative to Showalter. I’m very willing to tell you the vision, you just won’t step up and answer the simply question that you were asked. As usual, someone who thinks they have it all figured out but yet wants to make a change for the sake of making a change.

      Let me explain to you how baseball works when it comes to bullpens; when you bring your closer in GENERALLY there’s nobody warming up behind him. So from your perspective where everything is so simple, I’m sure that it’s very easy to just bring someone in if the guy doesn’t work out. But it takes time for a pitcher to get ready. So unless your “vision” is to have a pitcher warming up behind the closer, that doesn’t hold much water. And if that is your vision, you’re going to burn through relievers quick. And keep in mind that we’re dealing with human beings here; these guys aren’t robots. If you’re expecting perfection, well your standards are just too high.

      So I would say that I don’t want to see YOU posting here again until you’ve answered the question you were asked. In fact, I don’t want to see you here at all to be honest. It’s obvious that we as a site don’t measure up to the standards of someone who’s followed the team since October of 2011. So as the Senior Editor of Birds Watcher, I’m respectfully asking that you cease to post here. Either that, or petition the Fansided Network to have me removed as the editor of this site. Either way; put up or shut up.

      • JD Morrison

        you’re an evasive azzhole. now i will leave you to play with yourself.

        • Domenic Vadala

          Pretty big words there for someone who comes across as a person with only an elementary education. Again, my recommendation would be to simply quit reading this column and quit posting here because if you think someone like you is going to get the last word on MY COLUMN on MY SITE you’re crazy. But it seems the point that you’re crazy has already been covered ad hoc here. Again, the last word is ALWAYS mine in these conversations. Good day.