I am a long-time fan of the Baltimore Orioles, and I feel the need to comment on the makeup of our current team. I realize that injuries have hurt them and they still don't have promising second baseman Johathon Schoop. It's the last off-season that has me and many Oriole fans frustrated ("Orioles' bullpen is thriving like it's 2014," June 12).
We have major holes in our lineup in both right and left field. We let a gold glove right fielder and team leader walk away because the front office didn't like the fact that Nick Markakis had neck surgery and his production had fallen off offensively. I share those concerns. He got four years from Atlanta, and I'm not sure that that was a good move on their part. I can understand their thinking. However, when it comes to Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller, I think they were just being overly frugal, showing no desire to win now.
First Mr. Cruz. He was a terrific bargain last year, producing on the field and serving as a good teammate and mentor off the field. The Orioles balked at a fourth year for a 34-year-old outfielder and designated hitter. I know I'm spending someone else's money as I type this, but if they wanted to win, they needed to sign him. He's a professional hitter, and I would bet that he'll still be productive at age 38, even if he never plays the field. There seemed to be no real Plan B at the DH spot. The void in the lineup is huge, and he could have played some in the outfield as well, as he is an average outfielder. Sure, this is hindsight, but many of us were saying this at the time that they decided to let him walk away.
Andrew Miller's situation is one that I find even more frustrating because we invested in a young left handed pitcher with a live arm. Mr. Miller was a true shut-down reliever for the O's. In my opinion, he should have been offered "closer money" and given the job of being our closer. I know that Zach Britton is a capable closer, but I think Mr. Miller is even better and he's now pitching for our rival, the New York Yankees. If they didn't want to pay him a closer's salary to be a setup man then make him the closer. I don't know what Mr. Britton earns but I'd guess it's not the closer money that they wanted so badly to avoid paying. Once they made the investment of Edwardo Rodriguez to obtain Mr. Miller, they needed to protect that investment and resign the relief pitcher. Instead, the Red Sox have a young pitcher that the Orioles signed and nurtured through the minor leagues and the Yankees have one of the best relief pitchers in the league. From the look of things, they had no intention of re-signing Mr. Miller.
One has to question the motivation of Dan Duquette at the time that all this went down. As we know, he wanted to accept a job with Toronto and leave his position with the Orioles. Did he do his best to make the Orioles contenders? We'll never know since we don't know what constraints he had on him. It surely doesn't seem like he did all he could. He gave us a team handicapped by the lack of corner outfielders and one with so many players who are out of options that they can't be sent down without risking losing them to other teams. That seems like poor management to me.
I hope that the Orioles can climb back into contention. The team is seriously flawed, however, and doing so will not be easy. One can only wonder how the standings would look with Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller on the team. It's sad that Orioles fans can expect to lose players when their play on the field dictates that they be paid market value to keep them. With many players scheduled to become free agents at the end of this season, it will be interesting to see how the O's front office deals with them. I'm not optimistic.
Tony DiStefano, Towson