|Bricks from the Warehouse|
The Orioles have spent a lot of money lately. But if you could identify the signature trait of the Syd Thrift administration over the last few years -- and let's make no mistake about it, Syd has been the one with Peter Angelos' ear, whether the nominal GM was Frank Wren or Pat Gillick -- it would be overspending on mediocre players. Sure, the Orioles spent a lot on Belle and Mussina and Palmeiro -- but many teams do that. What's special about the Orioles has been their tendency to pick some journeyman player off the free agency scrapheap, and hand a big, multiyear deal to that player. Mike Timlin for four years? Jeff Conine for three? Mike Trombley? Greg Myers? Buddy Groom? And this offseason, we've seen large bids on Tom Gordon and David Segui, Jeff Nelson and Mike Bordick and Turk Wendell. Offers the size of which no other team was willing to make.
And the Orioles have been criticized for these sorts of pointless overspending. The media has criticized them for it. We have criticized them for it. Repeatedly and loudly. And, in our opinion, we have been completely justified in so doing. But when the Orioles do something right, we should point that out, too. And it does happen, on occasion.
Here we have the statistics for five pitchers over the last two years. The key columns to focus on are IP and ERA+. ERA+ is a pitcher's ERA, adjusted for the ballpark and league in which he pitched; 100 is defined as average. So what do we have here? A set of veteran pitchers, each of whom has been almost exactly league average over the last two years. All except Pitcher E have averaged between 180-200 innings pitcher per season. Pitcher E has a slightly better record, but he has pitched for better teams than the others. There's not a big difference here, is there?
Now what if we showed you what contract each pitcher received this past winter?
Now what jumps out at you? For some reason, Pitchers C and D got huge, long deals. Pitcher E's contract isn't quite as out-of-line, but he is still being paid more than other pitchers of his caliber -- despite being significantly older. The surprise here? The Orioles weren't the teams overpaying for any of these pitchers. Pitcher C is Kevin Appier, while Pitcher D is Darren Dreifort; their respective benefactors were the Mets and Dodgers. Pitcher E is Rick Reed of the Mets. So who are the bargains here? Pitcher B is Hideo Nomo, inked by Boston. And the mysterious Pitcher A? The Orioles' new "ace," Pat Hentgen.
Yes, you read that correctly; the Orioles got a bargain. For a change, they signed a player to a deal whose length and dollar amount were commensurate with his performance. We wouldn't go so far as to argue that the Hentgen signing was strategically wise, or that he will be an adequate replacement for Mike Mussina. But credit where credit is due: Syd Thrift did not overpay. Now if only Syd and The Peter would learn their lesson from this comparison, realizing that spending top dollar doesn't guarantee anything at all.