Baltimore is blessed with a bunch of talented sports bloggers who bring their unique perspective to the conversation. I often link up to these local writers in my morning Coffee Companion posts, but instead of just exchanging anti-social links with them, I have decided to be slightly less anti-social by exchanging emails with them in a somewhat regular feature called Blogger on Blogger.
MV: Nearly halfway way through the season, what are we to make of the Orioles and their inconsistencies?
HB: The inconsistencies with the pitching staff are normal and to be expected. For the first time in years, the O's rotation is almost nearly composed of homegrown talent and most of the talent is light on major league experience. These guys will have their growing pains and some will flame out completely. But it's good that they are getting a chance to show what they can (or can't) do.
Bullpens are volatile by nature so I am not overly surprised that those guys have been up and down.
What is shocking is the offensive inconsistencies. There are a lot of established veterans in this lineup, including some brought in on pretty sizable free agent deals.
MV: What has been the biggest surprise so far, whether it's a pleasant surprise or a not-so-pleasant one?
HB: Guerrero's performance is a mild surprise as is
MV: What are your thoughts on how the veteran free agents -- players such as Derrick Lee, Vladimir Guerrero and
HB: When you sign aging veteran hitters, you always run a greater risk that they will get injured or just have their performance fall off of a cliff. So I had no problem with the Orioles signing Derrek Lee or Vladimir Guerrero -- but not both. So my objection to the Vlad signing was that Baltimore had already signed Lee (and Lee could actually play a position still) so signing Guerrero compounded the risk by having two aging hitters on the roster. Vlad would limit lineup flexibility since he is exclusively a [designated hitter] and I still thought Nolan Reimold could hit and Vlad's signing sent him straight to AAA.
Lee has not been completely healthy but there's really no defense for his performance thus far. There's no power, his walk rates are down, his bat looks slow and he's been injured. He has played a very well defensively when healthy and that's the only thing keeping his signing from being a total disaster at this point. As for Guerrero, his .290 batting average masks an incredibly poor season so far. He has morphed into a singles hitter and his power is almost completely gone. Couple the power outage with his normal lack of plate discipline and you have one of the worst cleanup hitters in the league. All the expectations of Vlad providing lineup protection for Nick Markakis or transforming the lineup with his mere “presence" have not come to fruition. People thought we were getting the 2004 version of Guerrero, refusing to see that over the last three seasons, he and
The whole Kevin Gregg thing, you would have thought that Andy MacPhail would have learned with the Mike Gonzalez signing last offseason that signing veteran relievers to multi-year deals is extremely risky. Gregg was not an elite closer and giving him $10 million over two seasons was going to be walking a tightrope given that he is kind of a fly ball pitcher coming to
MV: What are we to make of this rotation, which is the key to their success now and in the future?
HB: To me, it's a small moral victory that this rotation is almost completely homegrown (
Guthrie is Guthrie. He's pitching as well as he ever has (you could make the argument that he is on his way to his best season yet) so the record does not worry me. That record is the responsibility of the inconsistent offense. Guthrie's back injury worries me far more than his record.
The short answer is all the Oriole arms need for success right now is health, MLB innings and instruction. Hopefully, two or three of these guys get those things in 2011.
MV: How critical was the loss of
HB: The loss of Brian Roberts (at least, a player with the abilities of Roberts) was enormous. Roberts is a prototypical leadoff guy with some extra gap power thrown in as a bonus. Fortunately,
Nick Markakis would make an outstanding candidate for that role. He has great on-base skills, has a bit of gap power and can steal a base when you need him to. Management seems reluctant to see him that way but Markakis is not going to develop into the classic No. 3 hitter we thought he would. He should lead off.
MV: Should the Orioles be buyers at the trade deadline if they are within striking distance of .500? And if they decide to be sellers, who do you think are the leading candidates to get shipped out?
HB: Sell, sell, sell. I don't care if they go on a winning streak to reach .500 by the end of June. This team needs to sell. Of course, there's not much to sell. They may be able to unload Guerrero or Lee to a team in need of a bench bat during a playoff push but neither player has much value at this point. Hardy has the most value right now and Baltimore could actually get some decent value back for him. But I am an advocate of signing Hardy as soon as possible to bridge the gap to the Manny Machado era.
MV: What are your thoughts on first-round pick
HB: We don't really know about the injury to Rice third baseman
MV: The young Orioles have shown glimpses of promise this season and have bright prospects such as Bundy and Manny Machado who are at least a couple of years from debuting in the majors. How should management bridge that gap?
HB: Sign J.J. Hardy. Shortstops who can field and hit are in short supply. We need to find a first baseman and while