Free agency: An exciting or discouraging time?

In the wildest dreams of an Orioles' fan, there will be a day soon when, at a press conference, the O's announce the signing of Cliff Lee to a five-year, $125 million dollar contract.

Lee steps to the mic and says he noticed some of that good young pitching on the O's roster and how the team responded to Buck Showalter and wants to be a part of it. He adds, "Hey, the O's kicked my butt a couple of times, I didn't forget that either."

Of course, in our dreams is probably the only place we'll see that press conference.

Free agency is an exciting time for many fans, who wait to see which players their team will go after and how it might help the club they root for get better.

But often, it can be a discouraging time for a fan of, say, the Orioles. Or Rays or Jays perhaps.

I just don't want to hear someone on ESPN or in the national media call it a "brilliant move" if the Yankees sign Cliff Lee. I'd rather they say, hey, it's checkbook baseball and they have the biggest book.

To me, only the Yankees can make up for a potential $80 million dollar mistake in A.J. Burnett by just signing a player for even more money.

Then there is the case of Carl Crawford.

Drafted in round two out of a Houston high school by Tampa in 1999, he moved quickly through their system and made the Majors in 2003 after just four seasons and 412 minor league games.

Now, at age 29, he is coming into his prime years, and Tampa fans, who have followed him for over ten years, will likely have to watch him play for another team - maybe even one they compete directly against in their division.

Call me crazy, but this is good for Crawford, his agent, his family and the team that gets him, but almost no one else.

I think he is a dynamic player about to explode even more than he already has. I would take him over any player in this free agent class , pitcher or position player, Lee included. And most of you know how I feel about pitching.

There is one sense of disappointment watching the O's come up short in the AL East on the field over the years and another watching these winter press conferences and lovefests in New York when a Teixeira, A-Rod or Sabathia steps to the mic.

I also know the Yankees are playing by the rules of the game and not doing anything that wrong. That doesn't make me feel any better when watching one of those press conferences.

There would be nothing more exciting, I don't think, for an O's fan (short of winning the World Series), than to one day see the O's pass the store-bought Yankees with home-grown talent making a fraction of their salaries.

I guess we can't stop thinking that it is possible for that day to come - what alternative is there for a fan?

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