Oh, Andy MacPhail, your words melt in our ears like ice cream on a summer sidewalk. You signed on this week to save the Orioles and instantly you cooed: "At the end of the day, the fans are the boss. They have the ultimate power. Something we all have to keep in mind, whether we're players or running baseball operations, they're customers and you have to treat them that way."
You had 'em at hello, Andy.
We all know you're busy scouring the country right now to find the right manager, and the guess here is that Joe Girardi's rejection hurt at least a little. So to make your transition a bit easier and to allow you to focus on your managerial hunt, we took it upon ourselves to get everything else ready for your return to town. Please consider this little to-do list as our welcoming gift to you.
Let's call it Andy's To-Do List:
Restock, reload and rebuild: No reason to wait for the offseason to start fixing this ship. But rather than plug the holes with chewing gum (please see, Orioles 1998-2007), it's time to bust up what was previously thought to be the foundation for the future. Outside of Nick Markakis and Erik Bedard, everyone else goes on the clearance rack. In return, load up the farm, if you have to. Fans' patience is already wearing thin, but if they believe an actual plan is in place, they'll give you some time.
Expand scouting: The Orioles have done a good job beefing up their scouting personnel in recent years, but most of those efforts have been made stateside. Nearly one-third of major league players are foreign-born, a 6 percent increase from just five years ago. The Orioles need to expand their reach in Latin American countries and at least acknowledge the existence of the Pacific Rim.
Walk across the hall: And talk to your colleagues at Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. It's absurd that the televised Orioles games aren't available in high-definition. Your fans pay big bucks to watch the team in person and on TV - and even if quality of play isn't the best, the quality of picture should be. You know which other teams aren't available in hi-def? The Washington Nationals and the Kansas City Royals.
Better calculators: We're not talking about the electronic kind; we're talking about people. Remember when Earl Weaver was one of the first to use numbers to his advantage? Suddenly the Orioles are so far from the cutting edge, they might as well have an abacus in the dugout. Somewhere there's a whiz kid, there's an economist, there's someone who knows the game is more brains than guts. Hire that person.
Staff meeting with the ushers: New rule at the ballpark: Every night, after the top of the fourth inning, every seat becomes general admission. The pop and son in the nosebleeds can wander down for a better view. It's time to ingratiate this team with its fans. Show them what the good view is like so that when the team is really worth paying for, you'll have some fans willing to spend.
Minor league call-up: No, not a Triple-A player, rather a Double-A promotions department. When you're not selling fans on winning, you've got to offer them something. The Bowie Baysox understand this, whether you're talking about a night to honor Bob Barker or Elvis look-alikes (both next week) or you're trying to set the world yo-yo record or paying tribute to the movie Office Space (both last month). Who doesn't already have the July 6 game against the Akron Aeros marked on his calendar? As you know, that's Bad Breath Night, advertised like this: "Come and join us in paying homage to Halitosis! Who will have the worst breath at the ballpark?? We'll find out!"
Get Teixeira: As you build a team for the future, think about Mark Teixeira as a cornerstone. No. 1, he's from Severna Park. No. 2, he's an All-Star who'd provide some much-needed pop in the middle of the lineup. No. 3, if fans have to watch him visit Oriole Park wearing a New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox uniform, they'll start leaping from their office windows.
Food for thought: Two things you shouldn't touch: the ticket prices and the rule that allows fans to bring food into the ballpark.
Make some friends: You don't need to register for match.com or anything; just keep in mind that it makes good business sense to create civic partnerships, not community enemies. Visit with the folks at the Maryland Stadium Authority, the Orioles subcontractors, the surrounding businesses and museums and let them all know that everyone's business interests are tied together, and it's important that everyone works together, too.
Brag a little: For too long, the Orioles have preferred to go about their good deeds like some sort of highly classified government operation. It would earn the club a ton of good favor if it didn't work so hard to hide its work in the community - whether it's charitable donations made by the ballclub or social pet projects pursued by the owner. Just a tip: It's actually a good thing if your community views you in a positive light.
Bring back Brooks: Many around here are troubled that Brooks Robinson and the Orioles have such a distant relationship. This ballclub needs a goodwill ambassador, and the best candidate feels like he has been insulted by the current ownership. In this town, as far as public support goes, Brooks vs. Peter Angelos isn't even a contest. It's a tough proposition, but by inviting him back into the fold, you'd connect this team with its past and patch up a very important relationship.