Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Know Thy Enemy: The Orioles 

Once upon a time the Baltimore Orioles were pretty good. After moving from St. Louis, where they were the hapless Browns from 1902-1953 (and the original Milwaukee Brewers in 1901), the Orioles returned to Babe Ruth’s hometown and enjoyed tremendous success. From 1964 to 1985, the Orioles had a winning record every season (aside from 1967), and played in six World Series, winning three (1966, 1970, and in 1983 over the Phillies). Since those heady days, the Orioles have mired in mediocrity. The 1988 team got off to a 0-21 start – on their way to a 54-107 record. The Orioles haven’t had a winning season in eight years, since they went 98-64 in 1997. Opening Camden Yards in 1992 was a masterstroke, filling the team’s coffers with cash that they used to build a winner in the mid-1990s: making the playoffs in 1996 and 1997 with players like Mike Mussina, Cal Ripken Jr., Roberto Alomar and Rafael Palmero on the roster. Since ’98, the team has been mismanaged and struggles along, bloated with a massive payroll but no results to justify it*. Since they played in the ALCS in 1997, the Orioles have finished in fourth place seven of the last eight years (managing just a third place finish in 2004).

* in all fairness to the Orioles, their payroll for 2005 is actually fifteenth in the majors at $71 million, which isn't so bad. The Phillies are twelfth at $87 mil.

Another year has rolled around and the Orioles look destined to finish in … well, fourth place again. As I write this the Orioles are twelve games out of first, just two games ahead of the hapless Tampa Bay Devil Rays for dead-last.

What is wrong with the Orioles? Too much deadwood in their lineup. Aside from Miguel Tejada, who are they spending this $71 million on?

Their best pitcher is Kris Benson, the former Pirate who never lived up to his potential in Pittsburgh or New York (and whose publicity-hungry wife ditched him after he was dealt from the Mets to the Orioles). Aside from the Royals, no team has a worse FIP ERA. Aside from the Royals and Twins, no team has a worse Slugging Percentage allowed. There simply isn’t much talent there, and it shows.

Defensively, the Orioles are average at best. Offensively, their biggest offensive threat is Tejada, who might just be one of the ten best players in baseball (.303 GPA, .213 ISO). Aside from Tejada there just isn’t a whole lot there. E.g., the team has Jeff Conine (.233 GPA, .150 ISO) playing first base, a position you’d expect to have someone with power at the plate play. The Orioles are below the AL averages in nearly every category, from OBP (.333 to .342) to Slugging Percentage (.423 to .435) to pitches-per-plate appearance (3.68 to 3.77). Not surprisingly, the Orioles are eighth in terms of runs scored in the AL.

I like to think that the Phillies will match-up well with the Orioles. Camden Yards is a neutral park, so there aren’t any major park factors at work here. Even with their struggles, the Phillies have a much better pitching staff. I’d take Ryan Madson any day over Kris Benson. Offensively, the Phillies are more balanced and potent. The Orioles are basically a one-man show on offense: Tejada, Tejada, Tejada. The Phillies have issues, but they are generally a balanced outfit.

I figured that the Phillies would win their series with the Devil Rays, so I might be utterly off-base here. Plus, the Phillies are coming off a humiliating sweep which runs their record in their last sixteen games to 3-13. However, I figure the Phillies will have some success here: the Orioles are pretty hapless and the Phillies should be able to take advantage of some weak pitching and run up the score a little. Still, it is hard to be optimistic about a team that has virtually collapsed and played its way out of the NL East race.

The Phillies are five and a half games out of the wildcard race, and they are in eighth place. Somewhat dispiriting that we have to start keeping track of that, but let's face it: the Mets lead is probably insurmountable. They would have to collapse mentally or have Carlos Beltran shatter his leg to let the Phillies back into the NL East race.

Congrats to Chris Coste for his best day as a pro yet: three-for-six, a double and an RBI. Well done! The sole ray of sunshine for this team right now.

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The single biggest problem of the Orioles franchise is the owner. Peter Angelos is a meddling meglomanic who has no particular baseball acumen but enough money and ego to think he does.

Under Angelos and to a somewhat lesser extent Edward Bennett Wiliams the Orioles went from being one of the most admired and successful franchises in the game to the mediocrity (or worse) to describe above.
I so wish the Phils had traded Abreu straight up for Tejada in the offseason. But since Tejada won't play 3B and the Phils didn't want to move Rollins (stupid), he stayed with the O's.

I would take Tejada at 85% over 100% of Abreu. Tejada plays hard everyday, is a consistent offensive and defensive player, and is well liked by his teammates. Maybe Abreu is well-liked by his teammates but he certainly is subpar defensively and there is no way he play hard everyday.
So what MG? OBP is more valuable than slugging, and even factoring in their ages, Tejada has been somewhat of a flake with the Orioles in demanding a deal, and then undemanding one.

He's also been recently named in the Grimsley affair, FWIW.
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