Reversing course on disoriented O's

July 15, 2006|By JOHN EISENBERG

For years, I have told the Orioles what to do. For just as many years, they have ignored my suggestions.

It's time for another approach. Instead of telling them what they should do for the rest of what is shaping up as their ninth straight losing season, I'm going to try telling them what they shouldn't do.

Reverse psychology works with kindergartners, right? When you tell them not to touch a hot stove, they usually burn themselves within minutes - but never do it again.

Maybe if I couch my suggestions in terms of what not to do, I can trick the Orioles into doing things my way. Here are eight specific "don'ts" (one for each losing season in the current streak):

1. Don't fire Sam Perlozzo.

Why is this even being discussed? Wait, I know - because owner Peter Angelos is habitually displeased with his managers. Perlozzo is the seventh to work for Angelos.

But the Orioles should be glad they have him. He communicates well; the players respect him and want to play for him. His decision-making is generally solid. He is sincerely and resolutely upbeat, a useful quality given the sad state of affairs around here.

And let's face it, he actually wants a job that a lot of other quality managers wouldn't touch. Give that man a raise, not a hard time.

2. Don't trade any young pitching.

Many deals will be discussed as the July deadline approaches, and the Orioles' young arms are their most valuable commodities, certain to scare up interesting potential return.

But Erik Bedard, Adam Loewen, Hayden Penn and Daniel Cabrera are also the key to the Orioles having any shot at a turnaround in the coming years. Top free-agent pitchers just aren't going to come to a team that has lost for so long. The Orioles have to grow their own aces.

Given that and the fact that you always need more pitching than you think (because some of it doesn't pan out), the Orioles shouldn't succumb to temptation with any of the young arms.

3. Don't be afraid to trade veterans and finish last in 2006.

What do Javy Lopez, LaTroy Hawkins, Rodrigo Lopez, Jeff Conine and Kevin Millar have in common? They'll all be free agents after this season and likely head elsewhere (if anywhere, in a couple of cases). It makes sense to try to get something for them now. What's to lose?

True, unloading veterans would probably consign the Orioles to last place in the American League East in 2006, and I get the feeling they want to avoid that because it might send a signal that they're going backward. They haven't finished last since 1988.

But there's no point in worrying about perceptions now. Many fans are already so turned off they've stopped coming to Camden Yards, and they aren't coming back until the team starts to win again - if then.

The only way veterans on this year's team can hasten that process is by being valuable enough to be dealt for a worthwhile asset.

4. Don't get wishy-washy about Nick Markakis and Jay Gibbons.

Assign them permanent roles in "the plan." Markakis is the everyday right fielder, period. He is coming on strong offensively and much better defensively than Gibbons. But Gibbons still hits well enough to warrant a place in the lineup. He just gets hurt when he plays in the field. So make him the everyday designated hitter and an occasional first baseman, and let him hit away.

5. Don't try to find a center fielder better than Corey Patterson.

He isn't an All-Star, but he is a pleasant surprise offensively, his speed is welcome and his defense is above average. He and Markakis would give the Orioles two-thirds of a strong defensive outfield. (Remember defense?) His contract is up after 2006, but he won't break the bank.

6. Don't patch together platoons at first base and in left field.

That didn't work this year. Those are prime offensive positions. Ante up and find players who can play every day and carry a load offensively, as opposed to cut-rate free agents. (Here's one idea: Tony Clark hit 30 homers as a first baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year. He's 34 and mostly sitting on the bench this year. He'd come cheap.)

7. Don't close the door on trading Miguel Tejada this month.

I'm not saying it's a good or bad idea. I'm just saying he's worth more now than during the offseason.

8. Don't subject fans to the annual late-season "we're going to do everything we can to be competitive next season" speech.

No one wants to hear it. They just want to see it.

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