Can the Orioles solve their "perception problem"?

This just in: The Orioles are getting crushed by the national columnists right now.

ESPN's Buster Olney published a column yesterday that was titled: "Orioles stalled by a perception problem."

Here is part of what he wrote:

"The Orioles have a significant perception problem now, slowing down a team already viewed within the industry as one that is all horse-and-buggy in a wireless world. Think about what we just saw in the last week: The Orioles - a team with a rich history, a landmark baseball park and a fan base starved for success and dying for its next summer of contention - were twice turned down by assistant general managers."

The Orioles have been dogged by the court of public opinion/perception for a long time, so national columnists taking a shot at this team is not new.

I guess the only way this club can fix its "perception problem" is to produce a better current and future reality. Time to find a solid GM and let him do his job. I think a manager hired by any major league club should be allowed to hire all his coaches and a general manager hired by any major league club should be allowed to hire anyone he wants and subtract anyone he wants for his front office.

This job clearly requires someone ready for the challenge of his professional life. Someone that sees Buck Showalter not as someone he'll have to fight for power, but a talented, veteran manager and skilled talent evaluator who will help him look good. Someone that sees Orioles owner Peter Angelos as a man that truly wants to win, a man who has made mistakes but is committed to taking Baltimore back to the top of the baseball world.

The only way the Orioles will look better to the Buster Olneys of the world is to start winning and it's time to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Along those lines, here are three things the next GM could do to quickly show the fans that he means business:

* Sign a quality free agent pitcher like Mark Buerhle. If the organization has concerns about a multi-year deal for a pitcher, they just need to get over it. Not only will that likely be the going rate for Buerhle (maybe at least four years), but because they are the Orioles, they may have to overpay.

Buerhle is the kind of pitcher to take that risk on. He gives up a lot of hits but pitches with excellent control and doesn't just eat up innings, he inhales them with 11 straight years of 200 or more innings.

He has a sub-4.00 ERA in four of the last five years. At 32, he is worth the risk of a long-term deal. Put Buerhle and Jeremy Guthrie at the top of the rotation and let the young pitchers take it from there.

I hope this is the winter where the Orioles are the top bidder for one of the top free agent pitchers to the point that they force the pitcher to have to turn them down. Or maybe they can actually get someone like this left-hander.

* The new GM announces that the club will begin to invest in a much larger way in international scouting and signings. If somewhere around 30 percent of major league clubhouses are filled with international talent, it is time for the Orioles to become legit players in this market.

Make the investment in dollars and people to get better here. To do well internationally, a club must go hard at the job year after year. Results take years and years to see.

You get what you pay for and the Orioles certainly appear to be underfunded here. Enough already. Hire someone with an international pipeline and get to it. That would send a message to the fans even if they don't see instant results.

* Announce that you will increase the team's payroll without increasing the cost of tickets. While I do not expect the Orioles to start spending with the Red Sox and Yankees, why not a payroll increase to the $120 million range?

Then it will be up the new front office chief and his lieutenants to pick the right players to add to the team. The Orioles are not a small market team and it is time to spend more on their prime resource toward winning - the players.

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