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Nothing about this last week of the baseball season for the Orioles is is about this season. It's all about next season -- if, in fact, anything meaningful can be derived from 2007 that be projected into 2008.

If recent games -- such as last night's 11-4 loss to Toronto -- do have any message for next season, it's pretty gloomy. A few days ago, Daniel Cabrera continued his second-half tailspin that has to make everyone connected with the Orioles wonder whether his potential and performance will ever meet on the same street corner. Last night, pitcher Brian Burres -- a guy who was just being praised by manager Dave Trembley as a factor going into next season -- looked awful in surrendering seven runs in 3 1/3 innings.

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In addition, the Orioles revealed that relief pitcher Danys Baez will miss all of next year recovering from ligament transplant surgery. Closer Chris Ray is also already out for '08. Whether it has been long periods (Adam Loewen) or much briefer ones (Erik Bedard), pitchers who are expected to make up the strength of the staff next year have spent time on the disabled list, making you wonder whether they'll hold up over the long run.

Bottom-line, team president Andy MacPhail will be a busy guy in the offseason -- and busy translates to expensive. Orioles fans have come to their judgments about owner Peter Angelos. I won't go there. However, I will say this: This offseason needs to be a watershed for the Baltimore baseball franchise. If this team does not make the right significant moves over the next four or five months that at least get it headed toward contention, the franchise is looking at another half decade of the same.

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