When a team has lost for 14 straight seasons, you can probably put at least some of the blame for that on an underperforming minor league organization.
The Orioles’ minor leagues have been a lightning rod for fan criticism this year. Some fans seem to feel the O’s minors are barren and completely devoid of talent. Others see some players reaching the majors, but not nearly enough, or feel that the ones that reach there are not good enough.
Late this past season, I asked two of the Orioles’ most respected minor league managers, Single-A Frederick’s Orlando Gomez and Double-A Bowie’s Gary Kendall, how they felt about the criticism of the O’s farm system.
Here is Kendall’s take:
“From a fans’ point of view, I can understand their disappointment with the organization. I look around the minors and I see what the Yankees have in the minors and other organizations.
“If you look at our big-league roster, you see guys that have been in the minor leagues in this system. The Markakises, the Wieters, the Zach Brittons. The list goes on and on, the Nolan Reimolds. Now all those guys are contributing in different capacities. Some are All-Star caliber and some are extra players. But I do think the farm system is turning out players.
“It is hard to say to a fan, ‘You have to be patient.’ But more players are on the way. But when I look around at different farm systems in the league, I do see that if our major league club was winning - and this is not a knock on our major league club - I really believe our farm system would not take such a beating. When the major league club is not winning, they are looking to point fingers throughout.
“I’ve been here 13 years and you know, I look at it as the Orioles have given me a great opportunity and I’ve done the best I could. But we are all in this together.
“If there is some turnover and I am asked to leave, I understand. I certainly understand the process. We all can’t be comfortable with our positions because we haven’t won. We have to turn this thing around.
“It is the overall picture of developing big league players. We haven’t developed where they are good enough or we haven’t developed enough of them.
“My job is develop a guy like Xavier Avery. He has strengths and weaknesses. My job is to work on those weaknesses and get him to where he could be a more well-rounded player so he could function on the big-league level. Winning is important, certainly, but development is the most important thing.”
Here is Gomez’s take:
“There will always be some criticism. I think the organization has some players here that will do some good things when they reach the majors. The organization is going in the right direction.
“Sometimes you see players that are happy that they put up some numbers, but they forget to do the little things like catching the ball a certain way or moving up runners. Sometimes a guy is hitting .290 or .300 and thinks they deserve to be in the big leagues, but they struggle some in the majors when they forget the other stuff. I try to explain that to our players here”
In just sheer numbers, the Orioles’ minor league clubs produced a winning percentage in 2011 of .487, going a collective 374-394. Four of the seven clubs, counting the Dominican Summer League team, had winning records. Three of the clubs - the Gulf Coast League Orioles, the Dominican Summer League Orioles and the Keys - made the playoffs.
Frederick won the Carolina League championship, giving the Orioles their first title on the farm since Frederick also did it in 2007.
Here are the final records on the farm ranked by win percentage:
.657 - Dominican Summer League O’s (46-24)
.633 - Rookie League Gulf Coast League O’s (38-22)
.576 - Single-A Frederick Keys (80-59)
.532 - Double-A Bowie Baysox (75-66)
.393 - Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds (55-85)
.392 - Triple-A Norfolk Tides (56-87)
.320 - Short-season Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds (24-51)
Feel free to leave your comment on the O’s farm system and/or your reaction to this blog.
Follow Steve Melewski on Twitter: @masnsteve