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Seeing the forest for the trees

Posted By Ron Burr On Jul 31 2009 @ 4:36 pm In Baltimore Orioles | 1 Comment

The man has gotten a deservedly bad rap in the past, but Peter Angelos is not the problem, and it is time the fans realized this…

As I sit at my desk at work and sneak bits of text onto a blog while my corporate overlords are cluelessly flittering about, I am reminded of Baltimore's poster child (if you can call a septuagenarian any kind of child) for inept leadership (it would be so easy to mention our indicted mayor, but I shall not trod that path here), Peter Angelos.

I am by no means an Angelos apologist.  He has made some STUPID moves in regards to this baseball team.  But in the grand scheme of things he has made 2 glaring mistakes, and he has paid the price for them and then some.

The first mistake he made was when he overruled the trades of Bobby Bonilla and David Wells.  The fact that the team caught fire and won the Wild Card actually makes it worse.  General Managers are, by nature of the business, prideful people who believe their knowledge of players and the game is their strength.  To have a GM like Pat Gillick, who had just won back-to-back World Series with the Toronto Blue Jays, undermined by a guy who has been in baseball for all of 3 years…as the MAJORITY OWNER…but has no baseball experience…well that doesn't sit well.  And you cannot blame Gillick for his reaction.  In an interview in the New York Times while he was GM of the Seattle Mariners in 2001 when they won 116 games, Gillick was quoted as saying “Mr. Angelos had his way he wanted to run the club.  If he's the owner he can run the club that way.  Maybe I took exception to that.  I could accept the fact that he was going to make those decisions or I could leave.  I chose to leave”.  Running a man as universally respected in the game as Gillick out after back-to-back Championship Series appearances, which is basically what Angelos did, puts a bit if a taint on you for the next guy that looks into the job.  This is probably the biggest thing that has hurt the team, and it led to the other glaring mistake…hiring people who couldn't do the job.  

After Gillick, we had a parade of baseball people who were either not qualified for the job (Mike Flanagan) or who would have been qualified 20 years ago, but who had been passed by the game (Syd Thrift), or somewhere in between.  All of them seemed afraid of being overruled by Angelos (and the one who should have was Thrift during his Camden Yardsale, where we got a whole lot of nothing for a bunch of All Stars.  The fact that Melvin Mora wound up as the crown jewel of his wheeling and dealing tells you just how badly he got screwed over), which left them going after recognizable names that were past their prime (if they ever had a prime.  Paging Jay Payton…) and basically floundering about in 4th place, with occasional jaunts into 3rd, and that magical 1st half of 2005 when Lee Mazilli was the man who could do no wrong (I cannot believe I typed that sentence).  And all of this left a horrible taste in the mouths of the fans.  But then, Angelos went and did what he had been trying to do from the very beginning.  He hired the right guy.

Andy MacPhail came in just about 2 years ago, returning to the team his father had run so well, readyto return his boyhood team to prominence.  And look at the impact he has had…Matt Wieters (yes, he was drafted before the team hired MacPhail, but if you don't think he had a hand in the Orioles drafting a Scott Boras client – something Angelos was DEAD SET AGAINST – you are fooling yourself), Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis re-upping on long term deals, Brian Matusz looking like he might be the next one to knock on the door to the clubhouse, trading 2 players and getting 10 in return, including Adam Jones, who looks like the REAL DEAL, and Sherrill, who was technically an All Star (he has done a great job for us the last year and a half, and he was definitely the most deserving Oriole as far as All Star recognition last year except for MAYBE Aubrey Huff), but he was a situational lefty when he came here, and only became the closer when Chris Ray went down.  And closers are one of the most overrated positions in the game, if you ask me.  I don't think closer by committee works, but I also don't think it is that hard to find a closer.  In fact, name 10 current closers besides Sherrill, Rivera, and Hoffman.  Bet you can't do it.  They are probably the most replaceable “vital cog” in the game.  Now MacPhail has taken a guy who was basically a throw in on a deal where the jewels were Jones and Chris Tillman (a deal that got Bill Bavasi fired in Seattle because of how one sided it was for Baltimore) and turned it into a top 10 prospect from a farm system that has been considered an elite program for years, as well as another quality arm (the fact that this arm part of the Orioles bloodline, for lack of a better term, doesn't hurt).  MacPhail has bolstered the farm system, the international reach and recognition of the team, and the respect for the team by the rest of the league, and all by significant margins.  Personally, I can't wait to see what happens next.

And Angelos has kept himself out of it, to the point of MacPhail having to encourage him to even go to the locker room and talk to the players.  The man has been so scarred by the continuing negative publicity (even as MacPhail says publicly AND privately that Angelos has done nothing but say “make the team good again”) that he is all but a ghost anymore.  Maybe it is time to give the man a break, or maybe even a thank you.

Not a sermon.  Just a thought.

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