I have been an Orioles fan since 1954 and a season ticket holder for years. I love baseball and our team, and even now, I still espouse loyalty to the O’s franchise. But the team’s leadership has been let off the hook far too easily for the Manny Machado debacle and several others that have characterized the team’s pitiful player procurement decisions over the past five years, resulting in a catastrophically poor season with no end in sight for the weak on-field performance.
As The Sun has noted, the Orioles tried in 2013 to sign Manny Machado to a long-term deal, and they came very close, although they did not get done. Even at that young age, under the tutelage of Alex Rodriquez, Manny knew his ultimate value. The Orioles likely knew also but were not willing to pay it. To the contrary, the Los Angeles Angels saw the value of their young superstar, Mike Trout, and met his price. They now have him long term at what will increasingly be a great value. Had the Orioles given Manny his price in 2013, it would now be considered a bargain and a great deal by the Orioles.
In that same period, right fielder Nick Markakis asked for a four-year contract, but the Orioles would only offer three. The Braves gladly gave the four years and have had a quality tour of service from the 2018 All-Star, batting .323 and leading his league in hits. Nelson Cruz asked for four years, and again the Orioles balked. Also an All-Star, Mr. Cruz has had more home runs during those four years than any other player in baseball.
Where the Orioles did spend their money was on first baseman Chris Davis. Mr. Davis signed a contract in 2016 worth roughly $23 million a year for seven years. At the time, he was barely removed from batting .196 in 2014. Minimal sabermetric analysis made his contract highly questionable. Other teams were not champing at the bit to sign him because of the huge holes in his swing, his susceptibility to the shift and his preponderance of strikeouts. So, the Baltimore organization lets go of Manny Machado, Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz and keeps, at great expense, Chris Davis, now batting .155 with 10 home runs.
Be it Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos; his sons; Brady Anderson, vice president of baseball operations; General Manager Dan Duquette or some combination therein, the leadership of the franchise has shown a penny pincher attitude toward players who could have filled the stands with income while overinvesting in one who would have been released by now from any other team in baseball. In assigning grades to Oriole players in a recent article, Peter Schmuck should have given Oriole management an “F.”
The fan base should be sincerely grateful, nonetheless, for owner Peter Angelos. If the outcome of the team leadership’s questionable decision-making is diminishing fan base, less spending on Orioles gear and less TV revenue, and should the Orioles lose the television rights fee dispute involving the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, the team will be hard pressed to remain financially viable and to compete in the American League East. Mr. Angelos’ dedication and generosity to the city of Baltimore may be the only thing that prevents the team from leaving for any of the cities offering a more profitable location, including more fans and higher ticket prices, plus a huge bump in new team gear and TV sales. Other ownership might certainly chase the dollars.
If team bosses keep making such poor player procurement determinations, the Orioles are not going anywhere in the standings. Let’s hope Mr. Angelos makes sure they are not going anywhere else.
Ron Boone is a retired executive director for Baltimore County Public Schools; his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.