MacPhail happy to wait, watch for now

The Baltimore Sun

The trade deadline is two months away, giving Andy MacPhail plenty of time to plot the next move in the Orioles' rebuilding process. But for now, MacPhail is satisfied to sit and observe a team that has exceeded expectations a third of the way through the season.

"I'm not married to any blueprint that was set up in [organizational meetings] in October," said MacPhail, the Orioles president of baseball operations. "I use the military analogy: You move with the facts on the ground. These guys are playing hard. I don't have any interest in pulling the rug out from underneath them.

"But this isn't rocket science. Things will become self-evident over time. As a front office, it's our job to be prepared ... to have our homework done. Whether you go right or you go left, we have to be prepared for either eventuality."

This offseason, MacPhail traded his best pitcher (Erik Bedard) and his most accomplished hitter (Miguel Tejada) for 10 players, five of whom have prominent roles on the Orioles. He also listened to offers for Brian Roberts, the Orioles' lone returning All-Star. In doing so, MacPhail made it clear that the organization's goal was to build a championship-caliber club for the future, not a .500 club in the present.

That hasn't changed, even as the Orioles have been at the .500 mark or above for all but six days this season. They'll take a 26-26 record into a four-game series with Boston that starts tonight at Camden Yards.

"Look, I was pretty forthright in painting a pretty bleak picture, so I am surprised," MacPhail said. "I would have thought that after the things that I did, that we would struggle more than we have. I think this group is doing it out of tenacity. They're laying it all out on the field and that's all you can ask for. And the things that really matter, the things that they can control, they've really excelled at. I don't really know what's going to happen the next two-thirds [of the season], but the players are the ones that are actually doing it."

The Orioles, who went 69-93 last season, were 27-27 through the first two months of the season. However, they lost 14 of their next 16 games, a stretch that ultimately led to MacPhail's hiring in June and cost manager Sam Perlozzo his job.

This year's team has displayed several important characteristics that have pleased MacPhail. The overhauled bullpen, which had the second-worst ERA in the majors last year, has a 3.19 ERA, No. 4 in the American League.

The team is 12-8 in one-run games after going 13-31 last year. The Orioles have come from behind from two runs or more to win 12 times, a major league high. And they've been particularly good at home with a 16-8 record at Camden Yards, the third-best home record in the AL. That includes a combined 6-2 home record against the New York Yankees and Red Sox.

"That's really important," MacPhail said of the team's home success. "If we're going to have so many people in here rooting for the Yankees and Red Sox, and that's certainly their right ... our job is to keep them quiet."

MacPhail praised manager Dave Trembley and his coaching staff for preparing the team and fostering a sense of togetherness. That has been exhibited in the players flipping up the brims of the caps after games saved by George Sherrill, mimicking the closer. It also showed when players got together to record a music video.

"I went into the clubhouse and [Nick] Markakis has an Adam Jones T-shirt on, Guillermo Quiroz has a Markakis T-shirt on," MacPhail said. "I don't know what's going on exactly with that or the hats or the video. But those are all signs of cohesiveness. Regrettably, it takes more than cohesiveness to win the AL East. But I think the people that have watched us, they have to be satisfied with some of the subtle things we've shown."

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