For Orioles fans, silence from the Warehouse is deafening

With anticipation high for a repeat of 2012, team hasn't done much to bolster its roster

January 09, 2013|Kevin Cowherd

Orioles fans, I don't blame you for being upset.

Here we are, the second week of January, and the silence from the Warehouse is deafening.

Let's review what we have so far. No major moves to make this team better in 2013. No progress in the hunt for a big bat in the middle of the order. No signing of a much-needed first baseman. (Adam LaRoche, we hardly knew you.)

Instead, what we get from the Orioles front-office is the sound of crickets.

Here's the team's big off-season move so far: they re-signed Nate McLouth to play left field. But by doing little else, they're blowing a golden opportunity to capitalize on resurgent fan interest from their magical 2012 season.

What on earth are Peter Angelos and Dan Duquette thinking?

Look, this is no rip-job of Duquette. The Orioles vice president of baseball operations did a terrific job re-building the team last season. He molded together a solid nucleus of talented young players with cast-offs, has-beens and never-weres.

Somehow, with all the juggling and the 10,000 roster moves and the Baltimore-Norfolk pipeline gushing seven days a week, the Duke made it work. Brilliantly.

Somehow that team shocked the world and won 93 games, finished second in the American League East and went to the playoffs.

But where's the follow-up to all that?

Where are the significant upgrades to make this team even better in 2013? Where's the splashy free agent signing or two to energize the fan base even more?

What, this team can't afford to make moves? What are they doing with all that MASN money? Helping pay down the national debt?

Sorry, from a PR standpoint, the Orioles are blowing it big-time with their fans.

Think about what we have here. For the first time in nearly 15 years, baseball fans in this town are pumped this off-season. They can't wait for spring training to begin.

FanFest at the Convention Center next week is going to look like Preakness Saturday. Did you see ticket vouchers for the autograph sessions sold out within the first hour? And that it was the first time all the vouchers went on the first day?

That's unbelievable. And then to have the Orioles basically sit on their hands while other teams in their division — notably the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox — make themselves better, well, what kind of message does that send to the fans?

"I understand that argument," Duquette said when I reached him Wednesday. "But I'll tell you right now, our best players are going to come up through the farm system."

Sure, the Orioles have made a few minor moves this off-season. The Duke isn't going to put his feet up on the couch and catch up on "Homeland" episodes all winter — it's not in his DNA.

This is a guy who scans the waiver wire for light reading. A big night out is probably the spinach power salad from Panera Bread and tapping into the Wi-Fi to study the Chunichi Dragons roster. And I mean that in a good way.

So the Orioles got Alexi Casilla off waivers to battle Ryan Flaherty for the second base job in case Brian Roberts doesn't come back this spring — and in case Roberts isn't a better player than he was in his brief comeback from concussion symptoms last summer.

And they got third baseman Danny Valencia from the Red Sox for infield depth and to hit against left-handed pitching.

But that's not going to do it for Orioles fans. That's not going to make anyone's pulse quicken.

Duquette points out that the Orioles have a pretty good team right now.

"The core of our ballclub, which is improved more than any other big league team, is returning," he said. " [Matt] Wieters, [J.J.] Hardy and [Adam] Jones won Gold Gloves. After we brought up [Manny] Machado and McLouth, only one team won more ballgames than the Orioles the rest of the way."

Fine. But it's still no reason to stand pat.

Since the beginning of the off-season, Orioles fans have been teased with a steady drip of rumors about big-name free agents the club was pursuing.

The Orioles were supposedly interested in Lance Berkman, and he signed with the Texas Rangers. They were said to be interested in first baseman Adam LaRoche, but they were apparently reluctant to give up the first-round draft pick it would have cost to sign him, and he just re-signed with the Washington Nationals.

Now they're supposedly going after Mike Morse, the Nationals' first baseman-outfielder, which would be a great move. (Love the guy, but Chris Davis as the starting first baseman scares me.)

But — stop me if you've heard this before — the asking price for Morse is said to be too high.

Look, I understand the desire on the Orioles' part not to give up a Manny Machado or a Dylan Bundy or a Kevin Gausman in a deal.

That's the Orioles' future right there. Every GM in baseball would cut off his right arm to acquire one of those players.

But sometimes you have to give up value to get value. And if the Big Three of Machado-Bundy-Gausman is off-limits, there are other ways to get a deal done.

I'll respectfully disagree with Duquette. If the Orioles stand pat, they're only fooling themselves. And they're not giving themselves the best chance to go to the playoffs again.

What are the odds of this team going 29-9 in one-run games as it did last season? Or winning 16-extra-inning games in a row again? Or having the bullpen have a season for the ages again?

That's why it's time for the Duke to make a few moves.

Way past time, if you ask me.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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