James Baker: What is wrong with the Orioles’ system?

The Orioles have a problem and it is a mystery to most. On the Internet and the airwaves, the new clarion call is the Orioles’ need to improve their scouting and player development systems. Well, that is great, but I am willing to be dollars to doughnuts that the callers and posters do not know the first thing they are talking about. That is to say, they feel something needs to change, but I doubt that many out there know what the job of a regional crosschecker is.

Of course, they are reacting to another dismal season where all of the arms the Orioles have attempted to grow have been, once again, choked in the weeds. Chris Tillman seems to have forgotten how to throw a fastball and Brian Matusz’s velocity has wandered off like a lost toddler in a toy store. Toss in Brad Bergesen’s somehow almost X-Men-like ability to attract line drives, Jason Berken’s attempt to recover from shoulder issues and Brandon Erbe’s lost season, and it is a fair question to ask.

Recently, ESPN and Stats Inc. guru Keith Law was asked that question on 105.7 The Fan. Even he was at a loss. He entertained the fact that it could very simply be bad luck, but one can’t operate under that assumption. Furthermore, there are simply too many players with problems to not investigate what is happening. Right?

So let me be the one to post it directly to Andy MacPhail and the Orioles: What are you doing? Are you planning on investigating the organization’s player development system to see if there is something that they should be doing differently or better? Are you currently engaged in reforms to correct past problems that will hopefully insulate prospects in the future?

Despite the season going the way it has as MacPhail approaches the end of his contract, I want him back - yes, I am going on the record with that position. And the major reason for me is consistency.

Changing GMs and GM philosophies every three to four years just leads to a perpetual state of construction. Let a policy be seen through to fruition. Again, look at Dave Dombrowski - he had four straight years of losing, including two 100-plus loss seasons before his policies legitimately began to bear fruit with the Tigers. The Rays have had two GMs in 14 years of existence. Terry Ryan needed seven years with the Twins before he turned them into the perennial contenders they are now.

We sit here and think that these teams just appear overnight; it seems that someone new will just come in, wave a wand and make it work, but things don’t work that way. You can take any business and when there is constant fluctuation in the upper levels of management it will lead to mismanagement and miscommunication throughout.

Right now we have a respected manager that is locked in for three years. For better or worse I would rather have MacPhail at least finish out the next three years with Buck.

Why do we have so many problems with development? What are we doing differently than these other teams? Well here is one thing we are doing. We change the structure of front office management every three or four years over the last 14. No manager has been here more than four years, nd that was Mike Hargrove. We are seeing it now with the pitchers: three pitching coaches in two years is not helping anyone.

I am as frustrated as the next guy - believe me, I am. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

One last thing, some numbers to consider: 91, 87, 88, 96, 93. Those are the number of losses the Tigers, Athletics, Rangers, Rays and Twins had the year before they became competitive (either making the playoffs or being in contention).

If there is one thing that the Orioles truly do differently than other clubs, it is that they do not give their GMs a chance to build anything.

In the last 14 years:

Seven managers (Ray Miller, Hargrove, Lee Mazilli, Sam Perlozzo, Dave Trembley, Juan Samuel, Buck Showalter)

Six GMs (different individuals) in various configurations (Frank Wren, Syd Thrift, Jim Beattie/ Mike Flanagan, Jim Duquette/ Flanagan, MacPhail)

And we are surprised that we have struggled to develop players?

James Baker blogs about the Orioles at Oriole Post. His observations about the O’s appear as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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