Breaking the Law

By on February 10

In a recent interview MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski, Keith Law offered his take on the Orioles offseason.  Suffice to say he wasn’t a big fan. Now, before I offer my response to some of his points with which I take issue, let me make it clear that I don’t think Keith Law is a moron.  And he’s not part of some ESPN conspiracy against the Orioles.  He’s just wrong, in large part I think because he’s not paying enough attention to the context of the moves and in general seems to dislike them because they contradict his idea of successful organizational behavior.

If we could isolate Law’s critique of the O’s offseason to just the Vlad signing,  I could agree with him.  Like Law,  I wonder if we may not have been better off just keeping the money and dedicating the whole season to finding out for sure what we have in Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold.  I still see a lot of raw potential in both players that hasn’t been fully tapped, and as they at least both could be part of our future success, whereas Vlad definitely won’t, there’s a sensible argument there about giving them the chance to develop into those players we need.

But I don’t agree with Law when he says, “Vlad Guerreo, if he’s not toast, he’s in the toaster.” And I really don’t think I’ll be eating my words.  The man may not be able to run or field at all anymore, but I’m still pretty confident he can hit.  .300 with 29 HRs and 115 RBIs seems to back me up.  But in the worst case scenario that he all of the sudden can’t hit anymore, then it’s just a one year deal and we part ways.

To me, what was by far a more boneheaded move was the Gregg signing, given the notorious inconsistency of relievers.  See Todd Williams, Chris Ray, Jamie Walker, Jim Johnson, etc.  You just can’t count on these guys from year to year and its generally preferable to develop your own bullpen as much as possible or at worst make low risk, high upside signings like Accardo.

Law also says this upcoming draft is stacked and we ought to be saving our pennies for overslot signings. For the moment I think we’re all operating on the assumption that they’re going to spend on the draft as they usually would, Vlad or no Vlad.  Joe Jordan has gotten a lot of crap from all directions for the Matt Hobgood fiasco, widely regarded as a budget pick, so I’m thinking they’re not going to be stupid enough to go there again.  If they do, we will all have a right to be tremendously pissed off. I’ll even bring my pitchfork. But until then, it’s just pure speculation.

Where Law really starts to lose me is when he goes off on Mark Reynolds, calling him a ‘brutal’ defensive player, a ‘bad baseball player’, and insinuating he’ll be a poor influence on Matt Wieters.  Reynolds must have beat him up as a child, because this is severe hyperbole.  We can all throw out that he is going to K 200 times, but if you take a second to look at the stat he and most other sabermatricians believe is most valuable, OBP, Reynolds usually does OK.  It’s not desirable to hit .200 but when your OBP is still over .300 you’re still a valuable offensive player, especially with his skill set.  Plus, I would bet he’s not going to hit .200 again.  Ever.

In the larger scope, Law also seems to take issue with us ‘adding veterans’ in general, saying we’re still an the worst team in the division and it gets us nowhere.  Even if that is true, what are we supposed to do? Continue to run out 3 players with a  ~.650 OPS in the infield? I’d love for us to have a stud 3B, 1B, and SS ready in our system, but we DON’T.  So MacPhail traded some of what we do have, pitching, to get what we need.  And he didn’t even give away anything valuable.  Seeing as Reynolds could potentially become our regular 3B for several years and Hardy could do the same at SS (or just keep the seat warm for Manny Machado) and it cost us only one reliever of any significance (David Hernandez) to acquire them, I don’t see how these moves could be classified as anything other than quality, and Law’s criticism of them to me seems like an overextension of his argument.

Overall, and I know many people will disagree with this part, I think Law is one of those people who I’d say subscribes to the ‘Moneyball’ philosophy a bit too much.  Their opinion is unless you’re ready to win the WS, you should be in total rebuild mode.  I realize the A’s have generally been good over the course of the years through this philosophy, but I don’t believe it leads to the WS, at least in that absolute form.  The only way it works, a la Boston, is when you supplement that good drafting and player development by trading/spending to the fill the holes your farm can’t.  Same thing with the Giants.  Now I have no belief whatsoever we’ll contend for a WS this year, but none of these moves Law disdains so greatly were franchise cripplers that’ll prevent us from making moves next year should our pitching develop and our window for contention open.

We’re still, like any other team, primarily counting on the development of our pitching to take us where want to go.  I think MacPhail just thought surrounding that pitching with at least some replacement level players might not be a bad idea.  And independent of where we finish in the standings, I think the wisdom of that position stands.

6 Responses to “Breaking the Law”

  1. Alex Vahsen says:

    Good Read, Mark. I think a lot of sportswriters are, well, writing us off because of our history of inconsistency. The pitching is young, but very talented. I think Matusz and Guthrie are going to help us win a lot of games alone. We do have some new bats in our lineup to help the other pitchers; some maybe considered washed-up or old but the fact is, the stats are there! They will help us bring up our talent when they are ready instead of rushing them (Josh Bell).

    I disagree about the Gregg signing. I do however think we spent too much but it’s going to be a great competition to watch and whoever wins it will be following 2 great set up guys.

    The only other thing I would comment on is that I think Manny Machado, when he does come up, will probably be in the outfield or in the corners of the diamond. Just a hunch.

    I feel like Law is examining a Dave Trembley team under the microscope when he should be looking through a telescope at a Buck Showalter team. Under his management last year, we had the 3rd best win percentage and split with our division rivals (1 series won, 1 series lost) except for Tampa Bay where we went 2-1 against.

    It was a great off-season. Now we just need an injury free spring camp. Can’t wait for opening day.


  2. Mark
    Mark says:

    Yeah, for sure the national media at times overlooks us given our history. And it may be fair to say that I’m overly optimistic regarding the O’s. But you are absolutely right about the young pitching. If it truly picks up where it left off in ’10, we’re not just talking about a .500 team, we’re talking about a team of 90 wins that would be in wild card contention. That scenario is very unlikely and I won’t be unhappy if the team finishes .500, because that’d be a big step in the right direction. But with Buck at the helm, I really think anything is possible and can’t wait to see just how far he can take this team.

  3. Paul Olsavsky says:

    Incoherent thoughts on baseball commencing in 1…2…3…

    Key points to keep in mind: 1.)Reynolds will never again hit for a batting average that low. 2.) Guerrero had a higher batting average last year than anyone from the 2010 Orioles lineup. 3.) Lee had an off year, and will bounce back. Perhaps he won’t hit 46 homeruns again, but he will make a splash no doubt. 4.) Gregg is an extra arm. Competition will breed success in some fashion.

    We gave away virtually nothing to get a large group of super talented individuals. Andy should be awarded for the most intelligent off-season moves this team has seen since Alomar & Palmeiro were signed.

    AL East or not this team will impress. They can now compete with the big boys assuming no major injuries. I’m not realistically saying the WS is in reach, but if we are still in the mix after the all-star break there’s no reason to count us out. If Showalter feels they can make a run he will get who he wants before the trade deadline and things will get even more magical. Andy will make it happen.

    Side Note:I don’t want to hear “Orioles Magic” played on the speaker system again until we win something. It gives visiting fans something to laugh about before the game even begins.

    Mr. Law, learn a thing or two about budget baseball then feel free to comment on such things.

    You know I agree on all counts Paul. Except Orioles Magic. That song is as much a celebration of our tradition and former pedigree as it is any foregone pronouncement that we are going to win. But even if it was that, I think in the Buck era, he’d be fine with it, hell he’d encourage it. Granted, it’s probably time for this team to find its own identity and start a new tradition of winning, but I’m cool with reveling in our past glory as well.


  4. Paul O. says:

    Okay, I can see where you come from regarding Orioles Magic. It does celebrate all things good about our beloved Orioles. Perhaps that is the only true positive connection with the past and I’m just missing out on it. I will have an open mind.

    I just have bad memories of the re-made video that included the likes of Loewen, Millar, etc.
    That was supposed to pump us up, but the team failed so badly that I have associated that song with total and absolute failure.

  5. Mark
    Mark says:

    Yeah the video is tainted now given so many ex-O’s in it including Loewen the traitor. But the song will always have a special place in my heart.

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