Andy MacPhail: 'It's not a suicide pact'

Orioles president tells hitters they'll be sent down if they don't improve

  • Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, center, is greeted at home plate with high-fives from Adam Jones, left, and Nick Markakis after his three-run homer in the fifth inning against Boston.
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, center, is greeted at home plate… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
May 06, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

NEW YORK — — For the first four weeks of the season, Orioles hitters vowed that despite their poor offensive numbers, things would get better soon.

They had better, or those hitters might not be around for much longer.

Fed up with an offense that has scored two or fewer runs in 12 of 28 games, Andy MacPhail put the team's hitters on notice Wednesday in a rare public display of frustration for the Orioles' president of baseball operations.

"While you can give them some allowance for the quality of pitching that we've faced, our patience isn't inexhaustible," MacPhail said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun before the Orioles' 7-5 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday. "There is going to come a time where we're going to be obligated to keep making changes in terms of offensive personnel, and they're going to get the opportunity to head to [Triple-A] Norfolk and hone their swings because they're not doing anything to help us now.

"I would say there isn't a great deal of time left before they have to start doing more than what they're doing now. I'm not staying with them forever. It's not a suicide pact. They either have to start performing or they'll go to Norfolk."

Even in scoring five runs Wednesday, the Orioles have totaled just 97 in 28 games. Only the Cleveland Indians (95) and Seattle Mariners (88 heading into Wednesday night's game) have scored fewer, and both those teams have played one fewer game than the Orioles.

After going 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position Wednesday and 0-for-16 in the three-game series with New York, the Orioles are hitting just .205 in such situations this season. The offense, expected to be one of the team's strengths, has scored three runs or fewer in 18 of 28 games and ruined several quality starts from the rotation.

"The offense has been weak, and I think the numbers will bear that out," MacPhail said. "We have some guys who are just, to put a kind word to it, underperforming, and we've ended up having to push some people toward some roles that they are probably not ready for. Sometimes you have to take into account the other half of the equation, which is the other guy on the mound, but still, we're not producing. If we're going to have to rely on our pitchers to pitch a shutout to win a game, we're in for a long season."

MacPhail didn't blame hitting coach Terry Crowley. He also didn't single out any of the team's struggling hitters, but he didn't have to — one look at a stat sheet could tell you whom he's referring to.

Designated hitter Luke Scott, who led the team with 25 homers last year, is hitting .177 with three homers and eight RBIs, is just 1-for-20 with runners in scoring position and has struck out in 10 of his past 18 at-bats.

Despite bashing a solo homer and drawing a bases-loaded walk Wednesday, outfielder Nolan Reimold, one of the top rookies in the American League last year, is hitting .200 and has just two homers and 10 RBIs.

First baseman Garrett Atkins, signed this offseason to bolster the team's offense, has a .273 average but no home runs, a .338 slugging percentage and a .300 on-base percentage.

Young center fielder Adam Jones, the team's lone All-Star in 2009, has a .225 average, just six RBIs and a .250 on-base percentage.

Cesar Izturis, Julio Lugo, Craig Tatum and Lou Montanez are all also hitting .230 or under and contributing to a bottom of the order that has given the Orioles virtually nothing.

Orioles manager Dave Trembley has juggled the lineup on multiple occasions and has tried hit-and-runs, allowing players to swing on 3-0 counts, and even bunting. But the strategies haven't worked with a lineup void of both speed and power.

"What more would you like me to say? What more can I say? I don't have any magic answers," said Trembley, who has understandably grown tired of addressing the offense's struggles. "I don't have them. I'm not here to make excuses. The facts are the facts. We haven't gotten it done with the opportunities that we've had."

Trembley and MacPhail conceded that there are contributing factors to the offensive struggles that are beyond the hitters' control. Brian Roberts, one of the better leadoff men in the game, played in only four games before heading to the disabled list with a herniated disk in his back. He is at least three weeks away from returning.

Outfielder Felix Pie was the team's hottest hitter and one of its few base-stealing threats when he tore a muscle in his back the second week of the season, an injury that will keep him sidelined until July.

"We lost two key components, but that will only take you so far," MacPhail said. "We just have some guys who are not performing up to their accustomed level."

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