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Sun could help make Orioles respectable again

Baltimore OriolesPublic EmployeesManagement ChangePeriodicalsVladimir Guerrero

Sun editors and writers, please become part of the solution to the Orioles' continuing lousiness.

This is a crucial time, with Andy MacPhail possibly stepping down after five seasons. When Mr. MacPhail was hired, I rejoiced, not because he was the best general manager the Orioles could find but because he was the best we could hope Peter Angelos would actually hire, especially given The Sun's editorial stance.

When it comes to hiring his replacement, The Sun will continue to play a large role in influencing Mr. Angelos' decisions. You may say that it's not your responsibility, that you are journalists, not fans. As a former sportswriter, I understand that position.

But The Sun has been and continues to be a large part of the problem. The Sun has one sportswriter who seems to understand modern baseball — beat writer Jeff Zriebec, who does not write opinion columns because that's not the way sports departments work.

The rest of your columnists would have fit right in at the Sun in the 1950s. I have interacted with them via email, and it irritates me that they brag about their lack of regard for statistics. I'm not talking about WAR or WXRL or other modern stats that good baseball writers understand these days; I'm talking about on-base percentage and, for Weaver's sake, earned-run average.

Your paper regularly trumpets buying "proven winners" like Steve Trachsel, and then fails to understand why he can't win 15 games again. Every year your columnists call for "proven run producers" like David Segui. The way you covered the possible signing of Vladimir Guerrero earlier this year, it was like Henry Aaron was coming out of retirement to join the team. And of course the results have been not much better than that, because your staff refuses to understand that players age.

Nobody at The Sun understands that the purpose of minor league teams is to produce major-league players. You run articles on minor-league players all the time with no discussion of their potential. Nobody at The Sun questions or writes intelligently about the Orioles' scouting or development. When Vladimir Guerrero was signed, national analysts suggested the $8 million would have been better spent on signing international free agents. But nobody at The Sun seems to understand baseball team finances. Perhaps the numbers are too big.

Just as the Orioles do, The Sun has to make do with the staff you have. It's too much to expect that you can get a younger, smarter crop of sports columnists, or that you can teach mathematics to the current crop.

This is where an editor's hand is necessary. Understand the limitations of your staff, as Earl Weaver would do. Challenge their positions. Don't simply allow them to continue to pander to others who hate and fear numbers, change and youth.

And most importantly, be very thoughtful in your coverage of Mr. Angelos' decision on a new GM. Please, please don't allow your columnists to celebrate "proven winners."

Theo Epstein of the Red Sox, Brian Cashman of the Yankees, and Andrew Friedman of the Devil Rays were all first-time GMs in their 20s and 30s when they were hired. There's no way any of them could have been hired in Baltimore without The Sun continually mocking the decision.

The continuing failure of the Orioles lays at Mr. Angelos' feet, no question. But he has made steps toward acting smarter. The Sun has not, and you are the newspaper he reads.

You have a decision to make, just as Mr. Angelos does. You can continue to be part of the problem. I hope you will choose the other path.

Blake Gray

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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