The Orioles, not a rich franchise, not a poor franchise, have started the new year by taking out baseball's largest loan.
They had to ask around, but apparently they've finally collected enough to move forward.
Yesterday, team officials first went to the players and made their pitch. Then they went to the fans, explaining themselves over and over. And then, as the day was winding down, they finally were able to ask Miguel Tejada, as elusive as he is fickle.
Just give us one year, one year of patience.
That's all it was. It might seem like a little thing, but because of the size of the loan - the time, the energy and the emotions involved - the Orioles had better be prepared to pay this one back.
Tejada is back on board because he just needs to be a little patient, because winning is just around the corner, because you've got to trust us this time (no really, this time it'll be different ... no really, we promise).
"It looks a little shaky right, but trust me, we're going to fix it," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo says.
Tejada has bought in, just one month after saying he needed a change of scenery. And more than 10,000 fans attended yesterday's Orioles FanFest, so they're apparently buying into it, too.
The terms of the loan are public knowledge. Tejada must know this team won't be a playoff contender in 2006. The fans do know it. And the front office should know it.
The Orioles' best chance of improving the ballclub for next year was to send Tejada packing. Now that he's apparently staying, they've got little to offer other teams (at least nothing they're willing to part with). A fourth-place finish seems inevitable.
And if they would have traded Tejada? It's difficult to say because the Orioles' front office never had a proposal it thought approached Tejada's worth. Other general managers acted like greedy pawn shop owners, assuming the Orioles were desperate to part with the disgruntled star.
At best, they would have received a bat, a pitcher and a prospect - and finished in third or fourth place.
One of the main attractions at yesterday's FanFest was the "Fan Forum," in which members of the crowd asked questions of players, coaches and front-office staff. Behind a black curtain, Orioles vice president Jim Duquette met with Melvin Mora. They chatted and scrolled through their cell phones.
A few minutes later, Mora spoke with reporters, curiously smiling when he spoke about his friend Tejada. What he didn't say at the time is that he'd been working on Tejada the past several days, trying to quell the shortstop's angst.
"I knew I was in the middle of this," Mora explained later. "Miggy and I have a good relationship, and Jim and I have a good relationship. I tried to help the organization by talking to Miggy about what direction the team is going [in]."
Mora's words must have been laced with magic, because 10 days ago I looked into Tejada's eyes outside a baseball clubhouse in Santo Domingo and saw a frustrated man who had channeled his disappointment into anger.
Yesterday afternoon, Mora connected Tejada and Duquette via telephone. The conversation must've sounded similar to what fans heard all day at the FanFest.
"We don't just want to be good for one year," Perlozzo had said. "We want to be good for a long time."
In the past, words like that might have seemed empty. But it's actually the most clearly I've heard this team address its vague plan for the future. It prefers subtlety, parading the Plan before fans without having to say it has given up on 2006.
But why else do you invite a bunch of minor league players to FanFest that prompts even serious Orioles fans to wrinkle their brows and say, "Who's that?"
That is the Plan.
There was 22-year-old outfielder Nick Markakis, who I say spends more time next year in Baltimore than the minors. And Chris Ray, the team's 23-year-old closer-by-default, Adam Loewen and Hayden Penn, both 21-year-old pitchers. Daniel Cabrera and Eric DuBose - a pair of young pitchers with big expectations this year - were also around.
As were outfielder Jeff Fiorentino, pitcher John Maine, shortstop Brandon Fahey, pitcher Brian Finch, pitcher James Johnson, and pitcher Ryan Keefer - all under 25, and all names the Orioles think you'll be hearing plenty of real soon.
The Orioles didn't want you to meet the 2006 team yesterday. They were trumpeting their teams of the future.
Go ahead, meet the Plan. Shake its hand. And now wait.
That's what the Orioles want you to do. There's no other way they can justify their inactivity this offseason.
"We're trying to add people that will be good to us for years," is how Perlozzo explained their offseason strategy.
In sports, you can't be competitive and admit that you're looking a season ahead. But we can read between the lines of the loan contract. In fact, the Orioles want you to. They weren't poised to be successful this season with Tejada or without him.