Time to give Orioles credit for Guerrero signing

Angelos opened up his checkbook, club will be better for it

February 06, 2011|By Kevin Cowherd

I come today not to bury the Orioles, but to praise them. In fact, if I wasn't so worried about getting tossed by security, I'd head over to the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos and give the big guy a hug. Getting Vladimir Guerrero could be that huge.

Give the Orioles credit. After all their offseason wheeling and dealing, they still had a gaping hole in their lineup. They needed a bona-fide clean-up hitter. And now they have one.

Even though this deal has Angelos' fingerprints all over it, give Andy MacPhail credit, too. The Orioles president of baseball operations took major heat for his team's train-wreck of a start in 2010.

Sure, he got props for bringing in Buck Showalter to manage last August. And Showalter made him look like a genius when the Orioles made that great turnaround in the final two-and-half months.

But MacPhail was still under the gun going into this offseason. Attendance figures at Camden Yards were plummeting. The fans were in near-rebellion. MacPhail knew he needed to do something drastic.

He didn't blow up the team. But he damn sure changed it dramatically with trades and free-agent signings. There are so many new faces, they'll need name tags on their uniforms for the first spring-training workouts.

Three-fourths of the infield is new: Derrek Lee at first base. J.J. Hardy at shortstop. Mark Reynolds at third. Kevin Gregg will probably be the new closer. Jeremy Accardo is a new guy in the bullpen. And Justin Duchscherer is a new veteran starter — assuming his arm doesn't fall off first.

But getting Guerrero was easily the Orioles best offseason move.

And they overpaid to get Guerrero, too! A one-year deal for $8 million? For a soon-to-be 36-year-old DH? They definitely overpaid.

Doesn't matter. It was still a good move.

Wasn't everyone and his brother saying the Orioles had to sign a big-name slugger to fire up the fan base? Even if they had to overpay?

That's certainly what I was saying. Oh, yeah, I love telling others how to spend their money. Especially big shots like Angelos who own professional sports teams. It's one of the true pleasures of my job.

In real life, I'm the kind of guy who'll circle the aisle 10 times before buying a quart of orange juice when the price goes up.

But I have no problem saying to Angelos: "C'mon, big guy, what's another $20 or $30 mil on the Orioles payroll? The Steinbrenners, they drop that on the team party every year."

Does that make me a hypocrite? Guilty as charged.

OK, so how much has getting Guerrero improved the Orioles? A whole bunch, if you ask me.

Sure, there are still questions surrounding almost everyone in the lineup. Some are coming off injuries. Some are coming off off-years. And you can put a question mark next to Guerrero's name, too.

He's getting up there in age, for one thing. And he struggled in the second half of last season with the Texas Rangers, hitting just nine homers and driving in 40 runs in 69 games after batting .319 with 20 homers and 75 RBI the first half.

He wasn't exactly Mr. October in the playoffs, either, batting .220 with no homers and six RBI in 15 games while striking out 16 times.

So the Orioles are taking a chance on him, no question.

But if I'm MacPhail, I'd rather take a chance on a guy like Guerrero who's put up solid numbers in the past.

I'd rather take a chance on a nine-time All-Star with 436 homers on his resume. And 1,433 RBI. And a career .320 batting average.

One thing's for sure: Orioles fans are going to love watching this guy at the plate.

Every at-bat is an adventure. The guy hacks at anything. If the pitch is in the same area code, he'll swing at it. And usually he'll make contact.

Luke Scott, who now moves to left field, calls Guerrero the best bad-ball hitter he's ever seen.

(Speaking of Luke, I want to see if he demands to see Guerrero's birth certificate. After all, Vlady wasn't born here. And Luke has a thing about knowing where people are born, right?)

(Sorry, couldn't resist. It was like a hanging curveball.)

The bottom line is this: Vladimir Guerrero is the kind of slugger the Orioles need if they ever hope to actually compete in the AL East.

You can beat on Angelos for a lot of moves he's made with this team over the years.

But not this one.

This time he really came through.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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