If I were setting odds in Vegas, I’d say the Orioles chances of landing Prince Fielder are about 100:1. But after witnessing the heartbreak that the Ravens just endured in New England, I have to have something to wish before September.
Just as Lloyd Christmas found hope in his one in a million shot of landing Mary Swanson — or Samsonite — I too have to take Prince’s last remaining hours as a free agent and wonder what the next 5-10 years would be like with him in a cartoon bird hat.
More than anything I wish to see the Orioles turn the ship around and put a winning product on the field. I long for meaningful September baseball — and not just the kind where the O’s send the Sox (and their fans from Delaware and Virginia) home disappointed. I don’t see those days in the near future, but some Orioles buzz would be generated if Dan Duquette could bring Prince Fielder to Baltimore.
Rumor has it that the Orioles are at least interested in baseball’s hottest remaining free agent. Duquette didn’t deny his interest in Fielder at Orioles fanfest on Saturday and his cousin, Jim, confirmed that the O’s are “definitely in on” him.
Being an Orioles fan, I’ve trained myself not to get excited about news like this, let us never forget the Orioles interest in Mark Teixeira just three off seasons ago.
But the AFC Championship loss has me feeling more gloomy than the Baltimore weather and I have to wonder what Prince would do for Baltimore.
Orioles optimists (and nothing against you guys, I used to be one) say that the timing is wrong for Prince Fielder. What would he really bring to a team with so many holes? — Wouldn’t the Orioles have to WAY overspend to bring him to Baltimore? — Shouldn’t their focus be on improving the rotation and building depth in the minor leagues?
These are all valid questions, but ones that can easily be answered. Prince would put butts in seats at Camden Yards and improve television ratings for a team whose fan base continues to decline. Let’s not forget that the Orioles share a television network with the Washington Nationals, a team on the rise with young stars and a solid core that could contend for the playoffs if things go their way. Meanwhile the O’s, who own said network, remain in last place without a glimmer of hope in baseball’s toughest division. Fielder may not give the Orioles a wild card berth, but he gives them credibility to their fan base, proof that the team is willing to spend money and will certainly be an enticing piece to woo free agents after this season.
Yes, the Orioles would have to way overspend to bring in Fielder. This is an argument I’ve never understood from a fan’s perspective. I’m not paying Prince, tickets at Camden Yards aren’t outrageous and MASN is doing just fine. Who cares if ownership overspends?
The Nationals were laughed out of the 2011 Winter Meetings for signing Jayson Werth to a 7-year, $126 million deal. It was way too much for a guy that is complimented by lineup protection. But with the booming power of Michael Morse and some solid pitching, Washington won 80 games and now are rumored to be the number one (or two depending on the reporter) contender for Fielder. They added an ace in Gio Gonzalez to pitch in front of one of baseball’s biggest stars, Stephen Strasburg, and their ownership proved to agents, baseball analysts and most importantly their fan base that winning is their number one priority.
Andy MacPhail’s plan in Baltimore hasn’t panned out. That’s evident in the struggles of Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Brad Bergesen and which ever other young pitcher(s) you want to lump in that group. But if some of these guys click in 2012 and the Orioles pick up the slack with some power from the heart of their order, suddenly things don’t look so grim. The Orioles scored more runs (708), hit more home runs (191) and hit for a higher team average (.257) than the Tampa Bay Rays did last season. But the Rays won 22 more games. That’s the power of pitching.
Baltimore’s team ERA (4.89) was last in all of baseball, Tampa Bay’s (3.58) was tied for seventh (with Washington coincidentally enough).
Prince doesn’t help in the ERA category, but he makes free agent pitchers easier to entice during the offseason. He also will help to win more 5-4, 6-5, 7-6 type ball games. That’s worked for the Texas Rangers the past two years hasn’t it?
I’m not saying it’s going to happen. I recognize the odds, I’m lived through the disappointment. I’m merely pointing out that there’s motivation for the Orioles to add one of baseball’s biggest stars to their roster. You want to rebuild? Why not start with Fielder?