Idle chat

Thankfully, team's plan opposite of Morgan's advice

On The Orioles

July 09, 2008|By RICK MAESE

Some days you just don't know whether the Windex is best used on your eyeglasses or down your gullet. Yesterday was one of those days, and because I work for a medium that's still printed on dead trees, I feel comfortable blaming the Internet.

Clicked over to ESPN.com yesterday looking for some sports news and insight. I clicked on Joe Morgan's weekly chat instead. As did Brian in College Park.

Brian in College Park wanted Joe's opinion on the Orioles. He noted how the Orioles are stockpiling prospects but also playing above expectations this season. "What do you see the O's doing in the next few years?" Brian in College Park asked.

Here's how Morgan responded (and I'm not making up any of this): "My suggestion would be to use some of those minor leaguers to get big league help. You build your minor league system to help your big league system.

"If you can bring some of them up, fine, but if you can trade them for a major league player who is playing well, do so."

OK, Orioles fan, take a few deep breaths. Leave the Windex in the cupboard. It's times like this that I remind myself: Morgan earned his way into the Hall of Fame playing baseball, not talking about it.

If I can analyze Morgan's analysis for a second, he seems to suggest the Orioles' primary concern right now should be contending for the playoffs this year; that they should take the minor league basket and dump it in the trade market, in the hopes of improving their big league roster for a big September push.

"It's what the Brewers did with CC Sabathia," Morgan said in the chat, concluding his response to Brian in College Park. "I don't care how good your minor league teams are - they are there to make your major league team better."

The Orioles should be like the Brewers? The same Brewers who were nine games above .500 entering last night, four games off the division lead and just a half game behind the wild-card leader? The Orioles, on the other hand, are holding strong at .500 but show no signs of a late push and have as many pitchers on the disabled list as they do in the clubhouse. They are not a veteran or two away from catching the rest of the division.

What's somewhat refreshing about Morgan's comments is that finally this season such lunacy isn't validated by the Orioles front office. In years past, the Orioles did exactly what Morgan prescribed. They fooled themselves into believing they were on the verge of being relevant. Thankfully, for the first time in a decade, Morgan might subscribe to the absurdity, but the Orioles do not.

Despite playing .500 ball through the season's midpoint, the Orioles have slowly drifted back toward reality. Injuries caught up to them. The Tampa Bay Rays seem for real. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees aren't going anywhere. To think the Orioles would contend come September is either fantasy or, I suppose, ESPN-endorsed expertise.

So what should the Orioles be doing? Well, the answer is simple, and it's the exact opposite of what Morgan (who could not be reached for comment) told Brian in College Park. They attempt to prey on the teams who think they're near contention; in a sense, they must take aim at their former selves, similar to the way Orioles president Andy MacPhail fleeced Seattle during the offseason.

At this point in the rebuilding process (which is still near the ground floor, mind you), you don't take your prospects and acquire veterans; you can continue trading away the vets in exchange for prospects.

The successful first half to the season didn't reveal that the Orioles were closer to the World Series than previously thought. In fact, it highlighted how thin the minor league talent might really be.

That means there still aren't a lot of untouchables on the Orioles roster. If you're being realistic, the Orioles' best pieces of trade bait the next several weeks are Jay Payton, Chad Bradford, George Sherrill and Kevin Millar. You also have to at least listen to offers for Brian Roberts and Daniel Cabrera. (And if anyone wants Aubrey Huff's contract, the Orioles should offer to pay for his in-room movies the rest of his career.)

The focus these next few weeks isn't simply on what can you get rid of.

The key is what you can get in return. The Orioles can surely find several takers for Sherrill, but they need a team that recognizes his value. They need a team that wants to part with closer-quality talent, not setup-man talent.

The same applies to Roberts and Cabrera. The Orioles have a luxury in that they're not desperate to ship these two off. They can wait for the right offer to come along. And if the right offer doesn't, then there's a decent chance both are still valued contributors whenever MacPhail's plan reaches its maturation date.

An aging second baseman still has his place and still has some value.

Unless, of course, he's in the broadcast booth.

rick.maese@baltsun.com

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