Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Shadows of the recent past

Million Dollar Baby won Best Picutre. "Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson was the year's top song on the Billboard Hot 100. Hurricaine Katrina made landfall at New Orleans in August. Pope John Paul II dies, Pope Benedict XVI succeeds him. All of these things, and countless other events mark 2005 but for Orioles fans it is something different. 2005 was a year that will forever live in infamy. The Orioles at their best were 14 games over .500 sitting at 42-28 on the 70th game of the year; the Orioles would go on to win only 32 of their last 90 games. The collapse was so epic, so mind-boggling that it still haunts Orioles fans today.
It was not only just the collapse.

That summer Rafael Palmeiro would test positive for performance enhancing drugs, Lee Mazzilli would deal with reports that he had lost the clubhouse and he would not finish the season as the Orioles' manager. Offseason acquisition Sammy Sosa never lived up to his even lowered expectations and he would limp his way through the Summer. The cobbled together rotation would falter, but the bullpen would be worse.

Everything that could go wrong did and the Orioles' collapse of 05 still hurts the community.

What follows is a brief dissection of 2005 from offseason to epic collapse. What happened? Why? And why the 2012 Orioles are a different creature and should be treated as such.

The Offseason

On January 19 SI.com's Albert Chen rated the Orioles offseason the second-worst in baseball, behind only the Houston Astros. "Baltimore has pursued Carl Pavano, Carlos Delgado and Richie Sexson only halfheartedly.." Chen would go on to criticize the front offices' comments about the new Washington Nationals team having a negative impact on their finances as a "lame excuse" for failing to make "one significant" move. Little did Chen know that the Orioles front office would make a splash in 2005. Just 11 days later the Orioles would complete a transaction bringing Sammy Sosa to Baltimore.

On January 30th the Orioles made the trade that brought the declining, but still thought to be at least viable, slugging rightfielder to Baltimore. The O's sent secondbasemen Jerry Hairston and Mike Fontenot as well as farmhand pitcher David Crouthers to the Cubs. The Orioles' press release calls Sosa a "dynamic" player and is laced with all the frilly cherry-picked prose that marks all press releases for any team. Over at Baseball Think Factory a much more realistic take was posted:

"The Orioles really aren’t getting a lot, but Sosa still has the potential to be a plus contributor in right field, something other Orioles do not.  They’re not going to miss Hairston, Dave Crouthers is nearly worthless, and Mike Fontenot is looking like a poor man’s Brian Roberts.  Sosa helps them in the short-term, but not nearly enough to make the Orioles good and while there’s no positive long-term effect, with the players given up, there’s no negative long-term effect either.  I hate moves made to DO SOMETHING~!, but if you have to DO SOMETHING~, at least do something splashy yet irrelevant."

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