My fellow Americans,
In case you missed it because you've stopped giving a crap beyond checking the scores and watching the game if there is literally nothing else you could be doing, Jim Johnson is done for the year.
But that's not the real story. Johnson being shut down is meaningless unless he has some horrible injury. Also, on a site note, I've promoted Baltimo and NawlinsOriole to Crimson Guard status, which means they can post GameThreads on the front page proper-like if I'm throwing grills down cliffs, and if Señor Duck is teaching things, and if Stacey is busy meeting Kris Benson, and if Z is reprising his role as Dr. Enloe with The Sopranos: On Broadway!, and if 2632 is busy hyping political candidates. Because we all do those things. Totally.
Anyways... (get my Milch on!)
Kevin Millar wants to stay in Baltimore. He "considers himself an Oriole," according to Dan Connolly's latest Millar PR piece:
"Truthfully speaking, I want to be here," Millar said. "I feel like everything is going in the right direction."
... "We have talked at great length and often about needing players that demonstrate energy, effort and enthusiasm," MacPhail said. "And, clearly, Kevin does all three in a big way and has been a tremendously positive influence."
... "Kevin has been great for us," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "He is somebody who has been important for this team in a lot of different ways. He has produced, for one. And two, his personality is something that I think this organization was lacking for a little while."
... "My job is to finish as strong as I can and hopefully they will want me back," he said. "I don't know their plans. Maybe they don't want me back. Then I would shake their hands, tell them thanks for the opportunity and then move on."
The article also mentions that Millar is the type of guy MacPhail wants on the Orioles. See, I want pretty much the exact opposite. Instead of "fun-loving, trash-talking, gear-grinding veteran" Millar, I would like a first baseman that can hit better than .243/.330/.412 (95 OPS+, 6.8 VORP, .262 EqA, -.030 MLVr).
It's not that I dislike Millar or his shenanigans or personality. On the contrary, I think he's a fabulous rah-rah guy and a wonderful cheerleader. He did some great stuff this year, and is a big reason this team was really fun to watch for a little while.
I'll always remember the 2008 Orioles Magic crew of Millar, Guthrie, Sherrill, Loewen, Jones and Sarfate. That was a fun bunch of guys, and the team genuinely seemed to buy into the whole thing whole-heartedly. When Brian Roberts says his personality was something missing from O's baseball, he's right. It had been too long since the team had a guy that was just pure fun and frenetic energy -- or as frenetic as someone that runs like Millar can be, anyway.
But where Roberts is wrong is in saying Millar has produced. He's been OK, for a stopgap guy that you have for one year until you find something better. Sadly, he's been running out there on the daily for three years now. Everything is down for him this season, and he's 36 years old. This has been his worst season in the majors.
We were lucky to get two mildly passable years out of him as a hitter, given the way he was hitting when he left Boston (more accurately, when Boston let him walk). This year it's not been the same story.
I like Kevin Millar. I'll always like Kevin Millar. The ALCS stunt last year was annoying, but it was easy to forgive him, because he plays his ass off and makes it hard to not like him, so long as he's on your team. But this team can't afford to have Millar out there every day in 2009. The cute competitive nature of the O's this season has died and the club is limping to the finish line the way they always do. We're 15 games under .500, 22 games out of first place, pretty much no different than ever before.
Now, considering how superb the division is and the expectations this club had, that's not so bad. But it's still bad. They're not good enough. And Millar is not going to help the team get better, no matter how many hot-foots and pie-faces he lays on the rookies or how many funny videos he organizes.
But as realistic as I'm trying to be about this, and as blunt as I want to be about the fact that I think bringing Millar back would be a horrible idea, it really does feel sort of like I'm putting down a dog that I love. I know it's time to say goodbye, but it's not the easiest thing in the world, either. It's a little bit sad, but old, declining, ineffective ballplayers are not the guys you rebuild with.