Sports Outside the Beltway

Oriole Obligations

There’s the five year plan. They never work. In the time it takes to get all the pieces together, something dreadful has happened to a previously dependable component, rendering it useful and in need of repair or replacement.

There is the one year plan. Equally ineffectual. As documented in this space before, one year plans have the slapdash appeal of duct tape, baling wire, bubble gum and an assortment of different adhesives. They typically are junked six month in with the dismissal of the architects of those spruce gooses.

Baltimore’s baseball club has been engaged in a ten year plan to restore the glory of the franchise of Ripken, Palmer and Robinson (both Frank and Brooks). It hasn’t worked out so well. A brief sprint to the head of the AL East in 2005 ended with a fantastic self-immolation where the manager got axed a star player was instructed to leave and never come back.

But the Orioles seem serious to break back into the winning side of the ledger. And they aim to do it in the next three years.

The Orioles are close to a deal to extend Brian Roberts ‘ contract through the 2009 season. Melvin Mora ‘s contract extension, signed last May, also runs through 2009. Aubrey Huff signed a three-year deal in January. Top young pitcher Erik Bedard has three more seasons before he will be eligible for free agency.

So, if it appears that the front office is targeting 2009 as the year when the long-struggling Orioles must reach their full potential, appearances are not deceiving.

Perhaps you noticed that Miguel Tejada was not among the aforementioned class of 2009, but that was no oversight. Tejada’s six-year contract also runs out in 2009, which isn’t a coincidence.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Mike Flanagan confirmed that Tejada is the hub in this wheel of future fortune.

“A lot of the contracts are built around Tejada,” he said yesterday.

Baltimore has secured a solid core around which to progress. Bedard is a ace quality starter. Youngsters Chris Ray and Nick Markakis showed promise last year. Mora and Roberts are regular contributors. If Aubrey Huff can locate the power he had in 2003, he give the Orioles a dependable middle of the order (along with Tejada, Markakis and Mora). If Roberts continues to set the table atop the order and Ramon Hernandez, Jay Payton, Jay Gibbons and Corey Patterson can maintain better than league average production, then they have a respectable lineup.

The question is the rotation. With Jaret Wright and Steve Trachsel currently slated to start a bunch of games, the outlook is bleak. With a good lineup and a solid bullpen, the Orioles could be successful using a rotation of Bedard, Daniel Cabrera, Trachsel, as well as youngsters Adam Loewen and Hayden Penn. Wright, shifted to the bullpen, could find 100 effective innings in his surgically repaired arm.

Given three years to find the right mix, the Orioles might just find their way into contention once or twice. Take heart Oriole fans, this plan, has a chance.

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They should’ve taken the Braves trade offer for Roberts. As long as Angelos owns the team they won’t be successful.

Posted by Jeff | March 8, 2007 | 11:12 am | Permalink

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