There is clearly a lot of excitement and anticipation for the 2011 Orioles season. Some of the national media has given the team some props lately.
But ESPN.com’s Keith Law won’t make that list.
In a phone conversation yesterday afternoon, Law told me he feels certain the O’s have little chance to even be a .500 team this year. He also was very critical of Vlad Guerrero and Mark Reynolds and of many of the moves the club has made this offseason.
“The Orioles are not a club right now that is adding young talent, they have added veteran players to the roster. I don’t get it, they are not winning 85 games this year and even if they did, what is that going to buy them? A couple extra fans in the seats? It won’t put them in the playoffs,” Law said.
“Vlad Guerreo, if he’s not toast, he’s in the toaster. It doesn’t make sense to acquire players like that. I understand (Nolan) Reimold had a bad year last year and Felix Pie is a flawed player. But, they cost you nothing and they have some talent. It’s possible that one of those guys will actually develop into a solid big leaguer. You will never find that out if you send them back to Triple-A.”
While some think the Orioles’ additions have made them a club that can have its first winning season since 1997 this year, Law doesn’t buy that at all.
“No, in that division, no way,” he said. “The only way that happens is if (Brian) Matusz, (Jake) Arrieta, (Chris) Tilllman, (Matt) Wieters, (Adam) Jones and (Nick) Markakis, four of those guys take big steps forward. And they are talented, I believe in all of them. But this is the best division in baseball with three clubs that would probably win 95 if you transplanted them any place else.
“The Orioles are clearly the worst team in a five-team division. The worst team in a five-team division is not going to win 85 games. It’s never happened since baseball went to a three division format,” Law added.
Basically, he is in total disagreement with how the Orioles handled their offseason moves.
“I feel like this is an offseason that may be coming from ownership or marketing, saying ‘we can’t lose 100 games again.’ In that situation the baseball operations department should say ‘do you want to win in the long term? Or do you want to just stink less in the short term?’
“Adding Guerrero, Reynolds and other veterans might add five or six wins, but it’s not going to get them to 90 wins or an inch closer to the playoffs.”
Law was just getting revved up when I asked him if he thought that one reason the O’s might have acquired some of the veteran talent is to help the young hitters in the lineup.
“I have heard that and I think it is complete nonsense,” the ESPN analyst said. “Having worked in a front office and seen some of that dynamic, I think it is ridiculous and outdated.
“Nobody in the front office should be thinking that way. The second thing is, Mark Reynolds strikes out 200 times a year and is a brutal defensive player. Is that really the guy you want teaching Matt Wieters? He shouldn’t be leading anybody by example.
“If they had brought in Albert Pujols or Carl Crawford, I’m not going to argue with that. But we’re not talking about that class of player. Mark Reynolds is not a very good baseball player. Vlad Guerrero was, four years ago.”
Law believes the Orioles could have spent their money more wisely over the past few months and that some of the cash should have been poured into player development.
“Yes, that would certainly be a better use of funds. Spend it in Latin America, where the Orioles have not been major players. Look at their top ten for their (farm) system, I think there is just one international player there, from Curacao.
“Make sure you have $5 million available for your first pick in this draft and another $3 million for the second pick. Because this draft is loaded and there might be somebody there you can overpay for,” he said.
I asked Law what he felt the club should be doing, if he disagreed with this approach. He believes the Orioles should be going all in with a youth movement.
“I think you have to. We are not talking about Wieters, he will catch on, no one is worried about him. But is Nolan Reimold an average regular? You are not going to know if he doesn’t get 400 or 500 at bats.
“Whatever young players you have available you have to make sure their path is clear to play every day in the big leagues when that is what they need to continue to develop. If you run them out there for a full year and say Reimold has two bad years in a row, maybe he’s less than you thought he was and you move on. Guerrero creates an obstacle for young players.”
Law believes Andy MacPhail got away from his previous game plan this winter.
“It’s not the way he has run the club since he took over. It’s a different direction and it took me a little by surprise,” he said.
If MacPhail did deviate from his earlier time with the Orioles, does Law believe that MacPhail being in the final year of his contract had anything to do with that?
“That is possible, I would just be speculating, but it is possible,” Law said.
Now, time for a few plugs: I hope to see some of you this Friday night at “Babe’s Birthday Bash” which will be held from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards. The event will celebrate the 116th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s birth in Baltimore on February 6, 1895.
Tickets range from $45 to $60 and include admission to the Museum’s galleries, unlimited food and beverages, a silent auction and appearances by local athletes and personalities.
O’s president Andy MacPhail, new Maryland football coach Randy Edsall and Olympic figure skater Kimmie Meissner, are scheduled to appear.
There will be Ravens’ forum with a Q and A with fans starting at 7 and an O’s forum from 7:30 to 8 p.m featuring myself and MASN’s Jim Hunter along with former O’s catcher Chris Hoiles and Keith Mills of WBAL Radio. Hope to see you there. For more info or ticket information, call the Museum at 410-727-1539 ex. 3033.
Also, hope to see you this coming Monday night from 6 to 8 p.m. at Hightopps on York Road in Timonium. Jen Royle, Pete Kerzel and yours truly from MASNSports.com will host a night of Orioles’ talk with trivia questions and prizes for O’s fans. Come on out and say hello. For more on this event, click here.
By the way, follow me on Twitter @masnsteve.