It's become a joke of a joke, an abstract concept of an absurdity. The shell of Vladimir Guerrero continues to bat fourth on my favorite baseball team. I can take this no longer.
It has been over 110 games now in the 2011 season and the only two regular hitters on the team having a worse year at the plate than Guerrero are the left field faux-platoon-thingy of Nolan Reimold and Felix Pie. And still we march onward with Vlad batting in the number four spot, traditionally considered the premier offensive position in baseball.
There are three teams that have gotten worse production out of the 4-spot in the lineup than the Orioles. The Rays are a stunner in that department, but they have at least shuffled around (mainly) six different hitters into the spot. The Mariners have one of the all-time worst offenses, and they've shuffled through three different guys trying to find some hot cleanup batter. The Padres are another pretty depressing offensive unit, but they too have mixed and matched with four different cleanup hitters. If nothing else, those teams give the impression that they are trying to figure out something that works.
The Orioles have just Vlad. Matt Wieters is the second most used clean-up hitter. After tonight he is 80 games behind Guerrero.
Listen, I will happily tell anyone who wants to listen that it really does not matter one whit where Vlad Guerrero bats in this lineup, because he'll still get his plate appearances in and he'll still make his outs and the Orioles will still struggle to put runs on the board. From a production point of view I'm nitpicking.
But from the perspective of someone who, as Buck Showalter talked about during the Oriole Fanfest back in the winter, lives and dies with the team even when they play on the West Coast at midnight on a Tuesday, this is not just frustrating. Not just irritating. Not just maddening. It is literally making me wonder about why I even care so much about this baseball team.
The Orioles very much sold me on the hope of the young team and on their rebuilding philosophies and on Buck Showalter. And what I see out there every single night is a team that is unwilling to man up and tell a veteran hitter who is clearly at the end of his career that he needs to not be the main offensive threat in this lineup. Or maybe what I see is a team that doesn't understand that an accomplished former MVP is no longer even remotely a respectable hitter anymore. Or maybe what I see is a team that is on auto-pilot now, not caring enough to pretend to show me that they're paying attention to the non-performance of their most expensive offseason free agent signing.
I can't make heads or tails of them anymore.