Will fans hang in there if it takes a while to rebuild the Orioles?

The blog I wrote about Dan Duquette’s interview on Boston radio over the weekend sparked some debate about how soon Orioles fans should expect Duquette to make their team a winner.

Some fans wrote that Duquette could or should go buy the top free agents to try and make the team a winner next year. Some fans believe that, after 14 losing seasons, Duquette and the club owe the fans that.

But Duquette cannot overcome 14 years of losing and recent seasons where the minor leagues have taken a step backward in a couple of months or with a couple of moves.

Some of the same fans that cheered Duquette for his focus on scouting and player development and apparent intention to improve the Orioles’ international efforts get upset when you point out to them that path is not a rapid one.

It takes quite a while to build through the farm and the international front. Some draft picks take years to make it and some 16-year-old international amateurs finally make the majors, if they ever do at all, when they are 21, 22, 23 or 24.

Fans say that is upsetting to hear because they have been frustrated for so long. But the problems can’t be fixed overnight. Not by Duquette or any executive.

The team could throw a ridiculous contract at pitcher C.J. Wilson and hope he has any interest in signing here, even if it is the top offer. That move alone would likely not push the team into contention, but two or three years from now when the club needs to start paying the likes of Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Zach Britton and some on the farm now like Manny Machado, they would be doling out a large amount still to Wilson.

I’m still in favor of pursuing pitcher Mark Buehrle, even though getting him is a real long shot. He could help a lot now and also set a great example for the young pitchers. Plus, he and Guthrie at the top of the rotation would be more formidable. But that move alone still likely doesn’t make the team good enough to contend in 2012.

So, do the fans have no hope for next year? If their only goal is the playoffs, their hope is not strong for that. If several young pitchers took big steps forward and the offense kept trending up and no one got hurt and Brian Roberts came back, well, maybe they could win 85-90 games. Too many ifs and buts there, though.

Some fans seem to think if the team doesn’t care about the fans if it doesn’t throw every dollar out there to win next year.

The Orioles had an $87 million payroll last year and teams have proven you can win with less than that. Under Duquette, hopefully how those dollars are spent will change for the better and the team will improve to the point where they can seriously pursue top free agents. They will be close enough that a Wilson or Buehrle may truly have Baltimore on their radar.

For now, there is no quick fix and Duquette must be given time to get some of his key people in place, make some moves for the short and long term, and make changes that will have lasting impact.

Making several high-risk moves to win a few more games now in an attempt to excite a few more fans is not the way to go. There are some problems that need to be fixed and Duquette can’t wave a wand or snap his fingers and fix them.

What he will try to build is going to take time. That’s not called disrespecting the fans, it’s called building a baseball team.

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