At a time when the Orioles minor leagues and player development system is getting criticism from the media and fans, three of the seven Orioles farm clubs have already qualified for the playoffs and a fourth may join the list.
Friday, the O’s teams in the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League clinched playoff berths and Frederick had already clinched the first-half division title in the Carolina League and leads in the second half also. Bowie would have an Eastern League playoff spot if the season ended today.
And while the minor leagues biggest job is to develop players to get to the major leagues, winning is sure nice as well.
Fans, in my opinion, often overrate winning in the minors. I hear some say players learn to win there and it carries over later, but I think just because a player was on a good team in Frederick or Bowie, doesn’t help much when you get to Baltimore and the club is headed for a 14th straight losing season.
Still, they do keep score and standings in the minors, so why not win when you can.
I remember my experience broadcasting Short-Season Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds games in 2004, 05 and 06. The 2005 team had the worst record in the league. But one of the league’s best players that year was a young outfielder named Nolan Reimold. And the pitching staff that season included Radhames Liz, Garrett Olson, Brad Bergesen, David Hernandez, Jim Hoey and Bob McCrory. All those players have logged big leaugue time but that club still lost alot.
A year later, Aberdeen just missed the playoffs at 41-34 with a team that featured just two pitchers that have logged big league time in Pedro Beato and Jason Berken. None of the position player regulars came close to making it.
So many decisions about players in the minors have almost nothing to do with winning the game. A young pitcher may be taken out after five innings while pitching a shutout. A position player may be tried at a new position to see if he can add to his resume and make an error that leads to a loss. A prospect in the bullpen may be on a schedule where he pitches every three or four days and enters a game with his team trailing 6-1 even though he has the best arm on his team. A player may be asked to bunt in a situation that doesn’t call for it because he needs to work on that phase of his game.
It all falls under the umbrella of “player development” which sometimes can be at odds with the concept of winning the game.
But you still feel better about your farm teams when they do win. And no one says you can’t try to develop players and win a few games along the way.
Several O’s minor league clubs are doing some of that this year. The players and coaches should get some credit for that, even as we all remember the bigger picture and job on the farm as well.