I like Andy MacPhail. I was excited when he signed on with the Orioles. He comes from a great baseball lineage, has been the architect of 2 world series teams with the Twins and helped the Cubs achieve a few pretty successful seasons. I understand that lots of blame is placed on leadership when teams are playing badly, and personally, I think most of that blame is unfair. I have defended Andy MacPhail since he came to Baltimore. But here, close to halfway through the 2011 season I am starting to question myself, and Andy MacPhail.
The Orioles have been terrible for over a decade. I don't drink the orange kool aid and try to keep a rational perspective. it's difficult to bring high level talent to a non-competitive franchise. I get it. Absent a private island and hundreds of billions of dollars, A-level talent will not come to the Orioles. I can't blame them. But we hire Andy MacPhails to work within the given circumstances to acquire the best talent available. With the budget and allure of the Yankees, my dog could be a successful general manager there. Brian Cashman must wake up laughing everyday. The greatest challenge (and opportunity, in my opinion) is with teams like the Orioles; teams with a rich baseball history, with a moderately high payroll, and who have been struggling. We have a dedicated fan-base, beautiful ballpark in a beautiful city, and money to spend. It's a recipe for success for a talented GM. What went wrong?
Andy's self-proclaimed philosophy has been to grow the pitching and buy the bats. The pitching has grown pretty well, but where are the bats? I'm having trouble finding a single successful free-agent hitter that Andy has signed. The best I can think of is Aubrey Huff, who hit 30+ HR and drove in 100+ RBI in 2008. But Andy traded him to the Giants in 2009 for ??? Nobody even knows anymore. It's much easier to list Andy's busts. Garrett Atkins was beyond terrible. Felix Pie has raw talent, but never developed for the Cubs. Andy thought that perhaps he might miraculously mature with the Orioles. It hasn't happened. Derek Lee is a decent glove, but is clearly a washed-up hitter. Mark Reynolds has historically been a high strike-out, high-power hitter. He brought one of those characteristics to the Orioles. JJ Hardy has looked pretty good this year, but he's been injured. It's too early to tell. Vladimir Guerrero has somehow proven to be the best acquisition this year with 6 HR, 26 RBI and a .281 average 3/8 of the way through the season. I understand the challenges that come with being the GM of a ballclub like the Orioles, but Andy's strategy of signing washed-up, injured players has been disastrous. He needs to quit signing cast-offs from the Cubs (Derek Lee, Kevin Gregg, Felix Pie) and start using proven baseball analytics to find and sign productive players. If he's smart enough.