Sports Outside the Beltway

Loss for words

In Sad Devotion to an Ancient Religion, The Loss Column argues that it’s silly for Orioles fans to criticize Peter Angelos. And it’s sillier yet for them to criticize him for declaring that he nixed a proposed trade of Brian Roberts and Hayden Penn to the Braves for Marcus Giles and Adam LaRoche.

In particular The Loss Column went after Thomas Boswell’s excellent critique of Angelos, “Angelos says Plenty.” Boswell blasted Angelos not just for what he said, but for demonstrating the Orioles fans can expect no change from the owner.

What rival GM wants to spend his time, especially in trading-deadline situations, working on a complex deal with the Orioles when it’s known how often Angelos has erased all the work at the last minute? How will Roberts now feel about Flanagan and Duquette? And how enthusiastic will the Atlanta Braves feel about working up another big deal with Baltimore?

What Orioles star, in his walk year, wants to put his faith in Baltimore’s ability to negotiate a new contract during the season? After all, from Rafael Palmeiro to Mike Mussina, the Orioles’ owner has dawdled for months on big contracts — paralyzing all parties — as his asbestos-wrangling background misinforms him that more time off the clock equals more negotiating leverage.

These are all problems that Dan Connolly pointed out in the Baltimore Sun two years ago. Angelos’s recent talk with the Sun confirmed that we can expect more of the same as long as he owns the team.

And why does the Loss Column think that Angelos is right in this case?

The worst part about this — and this is partially the well from which tonight’s thoughts spring — is that not dealing Roberts was the right move. Marcus Giles ended up getting released while LaRoche was subsequently dealt to the Pirates for closer Mike Gonzalez, on whom the jury is decidedly still out. I get the argument that meddling is bad, and it carries a lot of weight. But he is who he is, and we’re stuck with him. We may as well play fair and admit he was right for a change.

Marcus Giles was released because of payroll – not performance – considerations. He was headed to arbitration and the Braves weren’t willing to spend what it would take to retain him.

This was, frankly, a perfect opportunity for the Orioles to use some leverage. The Braves were conceding that Giles was lost to them and wanted to get some value in return. The Orioles had an opportunity to ask for additional considerations. The Orioles should have told the Braves that if they didn’t want lose Giles for nothing, they’d have to add in a solid AAA or AA pitching prospect. Or offer someone with less perceived value than Hayden Penn.

Instead Angelos nixed the deal.

Giles – though coming off a disappointing season – at his best is likely better than Roberts at his best. Given that Roberts hasn’t played like he did at the beginning of 2005 at any other time in his career, it’s not reasonable to assume he will achieve that level again. Gile is almost certainly a small step up over Roberts. Adam LaRoche may not be as good as Boswell claims, but he’s a step up over the Orioles current first base options. Is upgrading at two positions worth Hayden Penn? Quite possibly.

I’ve been following the Orioles for nearly 40 years now. I’m still going to listen to their games. But my patience is wearing thin. If they’re winning, I might just stick around, but if not, I’m not wasting my time on them.

I’m not wishing for some mythical past. I just want a decent present that I can enjoy. Consider the thoughts of FOX Sports writer, Dayn Perry. On the downside he considers Mike Flanagan one of the GM’s on the hot seat.

Mike Flanagan, Orioles
On the job since: 12/4/2002
Cumulative Winning Percentage: 0.452
Winning Seasons: 0
Playoff Appearances: 0
Last-Place Finishes: 0
For the first two seasons of his tenure, Flanagan shared GM duties with Jim Beattie. Beattie was let go following the 2005 season, but increased autonomy for Flanagan hasn’t improved the state of the organization. The Orioles of late have been so uninteresting, so decidedly vanilla that their best marketing angle might be something like: We”re Not the Devil Rays!” Of course, once the Rays’ exceptional collection of young talent finds its sea legs, they’d have to scrap that slogan. To Flanagan’s credit there are some promising youngsters in the Orioles’ system: Nick Markakis, Adam Loewen, Bradon Erbe, Pedro Beato, to name but a handful. However, there’s just no chance of breaking through any time soon, what with the Yankees and Red Sox in the same division. Flanagan could take the fall if 2007 is anything like, well, the previous nine years.

I feel bad for Flanagan. I really do. I have no idea how good he is as a GM, because he may not be the final word on transactions. But Perry thinks he may be in trouble.

But hey Perry also is looking a the good. He thinks that the Orioles may be one of the surpise teams in the majors this year. Really.

Baltimore Orioles: No way, no how will Baltimore earn a playoff spot in 2007, but they could improve. If the young-ish rotation responds to the tutelage of Leo Mazzone and Nick Markakis continues to exhibit skills growth, then the O’s could finish as high as third place for only the second time since 1997.

In other words this year the Orioles are likely to finish somewhere above the Devil Rays and somewhere below second place. About where they’ve been the past decade. Such a consistent record of failure deserves mocking. Lots of it.

Crossposted at Soccer Dad.

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