|Bricks from the Warehouse|
With the Minnesota Twins coming to town, it's a good opportunity to point out the contrast between two teams, two organizations, going in opposite directions. The Baltimore Orioles are a rich, high-revenue team with an owner committed to winning (even if his ego sometimes gets in the way). The Twins are (supposedly) poor, and they're certainly cheap, and they haven't contended for a long time, much longer than the Orioles. But it's the Twins, not the Orioles, who are contenders right now. The Twins have decided to make a clean break with the past, going with an all-young lineup, while the Orioles are still dancing with the players that brung 'em... to fourth place. It's the rebuilding Twins who are in first place, while the refusing-to-rebuild Orioles continue to wallow in misery.
Look what happened the last time the two teams met, in Minnesota back at the end of April. With the exception of backup catcher Tom Prince and utility infielder Denny Hocking, not a single Twin at-bat in the series went to a player over 30. Players 26 and under got 55% of the Twins plate appearances, while players under 30 got 88% of their PAs.
Meanwhile, the Orioles gave playing time to the predictable bunch: Cal Ripken (age 40), Jeff Conine (35), Mike Bordick (35), Delino DeShields (32), Brady Anderson (37), Brook Fordyce (31). And the only reason David Segui (34) didn't play was because he was hurt at the time. Players 25 or under? That's Jerry Hairston and Jay Gibbons, for those of you scoring at home, and they got just 13% of the team's plate appearances. Here, let's do it as a chart:
Guess which team did better? We'll give you three guesses, and the hint: it wasn't the washed up old team whose management insisted that they just couldn't have an all young team because it just wouldn't work. Okay, we'll end the suspense: it was the Twins. Minnesota took two of three from the Orioles, handily outplaying them. The Orioles' pitching wasn't terrible. But the offense? As usual, the old guys couldn't deliver. The team scored just 8 runs in 3 games, 2 in the two games that were lost. And they weren't exactly facing Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens; rookie J.C. Romero, who had an 8.56 ERA coming into the game, pitched six shutout innings. Mark Redman, who had an ERA of 5.75 coming into the game, pitched 7 innings of 2-run ball.
None of this proves anything; after all, it's just a three-game series, and Baltimore's offense has picked up a little since the teams first met. But the team is still offensively inept, and the Orioles still haven't changed their tune; their big lineup decision in recent days has been to bench the 24-year old Jay Gibbons and replace him with the 35-year old career backup catcher Greg Myers as the team's DH. Of course, it's not as if playing Jay Gibbons is going to vault the Orioles past Boston, Toronto and New York into first place next week -- but what about 2002? It's not certain that Gibbons is the answer... but it is certain that Greg Myers is not. But with Syd Thrift in charge, the only thing that's really certain is that the team will never act in its best interests.