This morning, ESPN's Buster Olney posted a sobering piece on his blog about both the Baltimore Orioles and Washington National pursuit of free agent Mark Teixeira.
He thinks that both teams with state that their organizations are in have no business in bidding for the slugger. As much as I would like to disagree with his assessment, he's right.
ESPN.com: But what in the heck are the Nationals doing in this poker game? What in the heck are the Orioles doing in this conversation?At yesterday's Raven's game, I was talking to my buddy about this very topic and our sentiments mirrored what Olney said.
They should not be bidding. They should call Scott Boras, the agent for Teixeira, three minutes ago and tell him -- like someone who accidentally raises his hand at an auction -- Look, sorry for the misunderstanding, but we made a mistake. We really didn't mean to make that $160 million offer.
Maybe in three years, when some of Washington's young pitching talent starts to make an impact at the major league level, it would make sense for the Nationals to bid on a player like Teixeira. Maybe in three years, it would make sense for the Orioles to consider such an enormous contract. But not now, not when both teams are miles away from contending, not when they need a whole lot more than Teixeira.
Getting Mark would be nice -- however, I have always stated that the slugger is not what the Orioles need. Do we want him in a Baltimore jersey? Sure. At 20 million plus per year annually for close a decade - no.
Granted, I know the Orioles want to bring him back home because of the hometown connection and obviously his skills; however, the team has so many holes that I don't know if signing Teixeira is feasible.
There are many ways to improve the Baltimore Orioles; therefore, I think the most prudent way would be to stockpile as many draft picks as possible, foster your young talent, and then keep the guys who know who will be a part of the core of the major league team as long as possible.
Now, the latter part of Olney's argument centers around Mark's appeal to fans versus winning.
And I can say the following confidently, having worked as a sportswriter in Baltimore and having some understanding of the multilayered depth of knowledge in the Orioles' fan base: Until the team starts winning again, nobody will show up at Camden Yards. Signing Teixeira would not draw the the O's demonstrably closer to contending because they are so short in starting pitching. In fact, the signing of the first baseman could ultimately hurt them, because in two or three years, as the Orioles' young pitching begins to rise to the big leagues and the team needs pieces to augment the improved rotation, Teixeira's salary would restrict the kinds of moves the Orioles will make.Again, I agree with Buster here. The argument I hear often in bringing Teixiera back as well is, "oh, we have to bring himback -- he'll fill the stands, get us proud of our hometown, and lure free agents in."
The Twins have shown all midmarket and big-market teams that you need to be patient and that you cannot be successful when you have a payroll structure that's top-heavy with a high-salaried big name. The Indians have demonstrated this, too, and so have the Athletics.
No, the table at which the Nationals and Orioles are playing right now is just pricey, and they should excuse themselves and spend their money on young pitching -- whether through the draft or through international signings -- and wait until the time is better. To do anything else is nothing less than lunacy.
Of course people mention, "well, we have to show Boston and New York that we mean business..."
Mark may cause an uptick in attendance; however, the only way to sustain it and keep fans coming back is to create a winning product, and keep the machine running as long as possible.
I know the fan base has plummeted, and he'll get people interested in Baltimore baseball when the season begins (assuming he even signs with Baltimore); however, if the Orioles are 20 games under .500 in September, the love affair will become muddied with the fact that the team is only marginally better with Teixeira on it.
If the team doesn't improve -- what happens in year two, year four (assuming there's not an opt-out clause?)
Another thing to ponder -- look at what happened with the teams who brought hometown faces home -- the Mets with Bobby Bonilla, the Reds with Ken Griffey, the Dodgers with Darryl Strawberry.
Now Strawberry had problems, but the point I'm trying to make is that a beautiful homecoming for a gifted player can be fleeting, unless you have a competitive team around that player. Baltimore and Washington fit that category; however, Boston, New York and Los Angeles don't.
Again, I'd love to see him in a Baltimore uniform, but not at this cost. You have to take risks to build a winning a team, but you have to be careful what you do.