Casual baseball fans all over the country all say the same thing about the Orioles, and it was evident earlier this week when Sadler answered questions from the boys over at SoDo Mojo. The Orioles have some great young talent, but they sure do stink. The former is still true, though one does have to begin wondering about some of the players the Orioles have staked their future to, particularly in the field. The hitters are beyond slumps. Slumps don’t- or shouldn’t- last a month and a half, particularly to start the season. For many of these players their bats haven’t been hot since this time last season, which makes you wonder whether it’s a slump or they just aren’t as good as we thought they were. The bullpen I believe just isn’t as talented as we hoped it would be. None of the relievers are pitching all that much worse than one could have anticipated based on last year’s play, but they are certainly on the lower end of their capabilities right now. But this post tackles a concept that has been brewing all over the comments since the season began- how the hell do you fix it?
For one, Corey Patterson will not save this lineup. Neither will Justin Turner or anyone else the Orioles have stashed away in AAA. This lineup, even based on last year’s performance, was not go terrifying that Turner couldn’t have made the team if the coaching staff thought he was ready- based on his short time so far in the bigs, Turner does not look ready. As for Patterson, O’s fans had years to watch him flail away at balls in the dirt- he lacks patience at the plate, which won’t do much help for a lineup whose biggest weakness is the inability to identify and take pitches. Everyone is pushing, from Jones to Izturis. That, however, is an explanation, not an excuse. Truly good hitters work through these slumps, and have the confidence to get themselves straight. It isn’t the fault of the hitting coach that players are too hyped up to make a good decision at the plate, though one can’t say Crowley could have done better. When fans are left to scrape the barrel of mediocre AAA talent it screams of 2003-2006, when the team had lost all direction and fans closed their eyes and willed themselves to believe that Jay Payton would save them all.
A week ago I thought that only a threat of losing their spot on the major league roster would get these players to forget the situation and start playing freely, but that hasn’t worked either. This team is hitting no better since Andy MacPhail threatened their jobs than before. This makes me wonder whether changing the team’s leadership will actually have an effect on their mentality- if the thought of losing their job won’t help them hit, then how would the manager losing his job make any difference? To me it might bring the mentality of this team back to the days when managers circled in and out of Camden Yards like a turnstile and the team still stunk. If the presumption is that Trembley is too easy on them, MacPhail took that away when he said he wouldn’t be shy about sending players to Norfolk. If the presumption is that the players are under too much pressure, then a new manager in the clubhouse will only make things worse. Besides, this team has only gotten worse since I last wrote about managerial candidates- what good manager would want to join this team right now?
In previous years I would have said that change would be foolish just for change’s sake. I would have told fans to be patient, take their lumps, and let this team work things out when Roberts and Pie come back. But this is not 2000, 2003, or 2006. This is 2010, the year when fans were supposed to see a glimmer of hope- heck, even last season was easier to watch than this year, when you could at least take joy in watching Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Felix Pie showing signs of growth. In 2009 the team was moving forward. In 2010 only the rotation is taking a step forward, and the lineup is slinking backwards.
At this point it is time for Andy MacPhail to follow through on his threats and take a chance. This team must see that it is not just about their performance- that winning is all that matters. This team has looked for signs of life, but not wins, for far too long. If Adam Jones isn’t hitting, it isn’t the fault of where he is hitting in the lineup, it is his own fault, and he can work things out in Norfolk. It is time for this team not to be so patient, to treat its players the way winning organizations do- you play well or you play elsewhere. So no, Corey Patterson will not save this lineup, and Justin Turner is not ready for the big leagues. But this team must stop thinking of itself as a team in the cellar hoping to get a win on any given night. It must instead think of itself as a team that must do everything it can to win every single game, regardless of their record.
Jones, Reimold, and others are still great young players, and they will be part of the future. But they are not playing like they are part of today. It is time to stop preaching patience for this season, staring at a 9-24 record and seeing player who have “slumped” since the middle of July of last year. It doesn’t meant the team should deal its prospects or mortgage its future, but there is no harm in using the players in your organization when one- or five- aren’t doing their job. Change might not be pretty, but if Turner, Patterson, or someone else comes up and hits .230, it will still be better than the product out there right now.