I think I speak for all long-suffering Orioles fans when I say to Andy MacPhail and the rest of the big decision-makers for the 2009 season ...
Wait. I'm pretty sure I'm not speaking for many of them at all. I might be on an island on this one.
But here goes ...
Bring Daniel Cabrera back.
OK, now here come the long-suffering Orioles fans, all shouting in unison: Sucker!
Fair enough. Cabrera really isn't entitled to any more patience from anybody - in the front office, dugout or stands. Heck, I've referred to him here and elsewhere as the Orioles' answer to Kyle Boller, and I was ready to pull the plug on Boller three years ago. After five seasons in the starting rotation, at age 27, Cabrera has done nothing but tease us.
But a few days removed from the heat of the season, it's too hard to give up on Cabrera totally. Like the Delta president in Animal House after the homecoming parade, I'd like to ask MacPhail whether he can see his way clear to give Cabrera just one more chance.
The first real window for separation has presented itself. Now, instead of pondering whether to trade him and always wondering "What if?" the Orioles can simply not tender him a contract and let him go on his merry way. You know that topic's on the table in their organizational meetings this week.
What would Cabrera be taking with him - a 48-59 lifetime record, a plus-5.00 ERA, a history of control problems and a career trajectory that looks like the past couple of weeks on the stock market? Numbers don't do him justice: Our own eyes have witnessed the good (sometimes great) and the bad (sometimes horrific).
Yet the good (sometimes great) haunts us to this day. Yes, you're tired of hearing about "potential" and "stuff'" and "maturity." You're justified. But you know you'll always think of that game or week or month of every season and curse his inability to sustain it.
So you know what argument is coming. It's hardly new. It simply would be too hard to see the Orioles walk away from nearly a decade of painstakingly (if at times clumsily and ineffectively) trying to develop him, only to have it click for him and see him transformed into a superstar for some other team.
It's easy to say the Orioles have given him more than enough rope, enough to override the counterpoint: that they've also given him a revolving door of management teams, managers, pitching coaches, instruction and philosophy.
Common sense says after five seasons, either you've proved you can pitch consistently and successfully at this level or you haven't.
Cabrera hasn't. Yet I still have faith that he will. And I want the Orioles, these newer, smarter Orioles who are clearly and finally on the right path, to have that faith, too.
This might make it easier to swallow: If Cabrera goes, what do the Orioles have next year? Give him this much credit: He's still around while a tidal wave of arms has washed in and out of here over the years. Jeremy Guthrie is the real deal. Without Cabrera, good luck finding someone else you can count on even as much as you did him. He had 30 starts and 180 innings. Compared with the rest of the rotation, he was practically a cornerstone.
Keep Cabrera in 2009, give him one more chance to be the pitcher he has always been on the verge of being, and next year might be the year we're rewarded.
If he turns into the pitcher he has always been - well, he got one more shot. Crazy as it sounds, and crazy as he has made us, he has earned it.
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