I don't know how many of you have ESPN Insider, but esteemed baseball columnist, Buster Olney has a piece on his blog on the Baltimore Orioles and where the organization stands so far. The GM meetings have concluded in Florida, and as many of us know, the team is looking at making wholesale changes in order to become competitive again.
...No executive in the game has a greater challenge than MacPhail, if you consider what he's dealing with:
1. His team plays in the same division as the Red Sox and Yankees. It's as if he's been asked to reopen, reshape and rebuild a Ma-and-Pa hardware store just down the street from a Home Depot and a Lowe's. And this is not a problem defined only by cash resource disparity.
The Yankees and Red Sox have reconstituted farm systems that are already churning out future stars like Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Joba Chamberlain. Both financial giants have developed deeply engrained cultures in which the position players understand the value of running up pitch counts, and the pitchers are accustomed to facing patient hitters. The Red Sox and Yankees are built around players -- David Ortiz, Josh Beckett, Derek Jeter -- who know how to win big games.
And the Rays and Jays are also years ahead of the Orioles in development, and talent.
2. His highest profile player is Miguel Tejada -- a good hitter who is nonetheless perceived by scouts as being much less of a power hitter than he used to be, and inadequate to play shortstop, the position for which he was signed. This will cut into his market value, and no matter what MacPhail gets for him in a trade, there will probably be this reaction, from some part of the O's dwindled fan base, to the deal: Is this all we got for Miguel Tejada?
3. His best player, pitcher Erik Bedard, is not far removed from free agency and, in all likelihood, being signed by a big-market monster.
4. His closer, Chris Ray, is coming off a major arm problem.
5. He doesn't really have a center fielder of the future identified. Or a first baseman. Or a third baseman.
6. His catcher, Ramon Hernandez, is coming off a miserable season in which there was a lot of unhappiness about Hernandez's attention to detail.
7. Third baseman Melvin Mora has made it clear he wouldn't mind being traded, although Mora's chances for being dealt would be improved if he had produced more.
8. Daniel Cabrera has one of the best arms in the game yet is regarded as a mystery wrapped in an enigma lost in a riddle. Maybe new Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz can figure him out. Or maybe not.
MacPhail does have some things going for him, in his mission. The Orioles have a lot of payroll flexibility. Manager Dave Trembley is the kind of worker and has the kind of personality you want as you start to push the proverbial boulder back up the hill. And there is an Orioles fan base just waiting to be inspired, after a decade of failure.
There's nothing more I can really add, as Olney has outlined many of the problems the organization has. At this point, it comes down to the Orioles being patient, standing pat with their plan, and hopefully the fans have patience with the rebuilding process.
It may be painful, as the current left side of the infield could be gone, and Bedard, Huff, Payton and few others as well. Well, at this point, the face of the team has to change, the future and viability of the franchise needs to determined now.
It's time for a new plan...
We may not have too much information from MacPhail, but it will not be business as usual in the next few months.