Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once
- Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare
In this world in which we exist, madness has become reality. What was once nothing more that the ravings of a drunken lunatic, the dreams of an impossible old fool, and the prophecy of an unblessed prophet has now proven to be within reach. How we have arrived at this place is more mysterious to me than anyone, but atlas, here we are, staring at the impossible, wondering if this is just a cruel joke of fate or the rare gift of providence. Could this be the beginning of the end of suffering? Could magic be at work spinning a weave of a Hollywood narrative? Or perhaps a more unkind future awaits, one of such extreme suffering that few will be able to endure. It is only June, after all.
I have been torn on how to handle the success of the Orioles thus far. I have watched largely in amazed silence as one impossible win after another began to accrue. However, today some said (J(O's)elskIL and PBR me ASAP!) that there are moves we should make to build towards the future (namely trading Jim Johnson). There are those that believe that the playoffs are not within our reach, that we should look to the future and keep rebuilding. But just the other day, another Camden Chatter (Andrew G) believed we should be buying this year, rather than selling. It got me to thinking, when should the mind command the heart? When should one take insurance? When should one walk away from the table, happy with the chips in his hand. Or when should one snarl in the face of probability and just roll the dice?
Baseball is a tricky game. So in this fanpost I will try and understand where we are as a team, and where we could be going. I warn you now, I have been drinking.
The first suggestion is to make turn Jim Johnson into prospects at the trade deadline. Jim Johnson will go to arbitration next year and get a huge raise, he has been the best closer in MLB and is without a doubt, awesome. Any team that would get him would get a rock solid closer or set-up man. He has been dominant in every game he has pitched this year, and the only time he faltered he demanded the ball again to finish out the win. He has not been beaten by anyone. For a team in desperate need of a closer it would make sense he would be the first choice.
Because of the Orioles' bullpen dominance thus far, there is the belief that Strop can take over the closing duties and Lindstrom can become the set-up man. This alone is a frightening position. Lindstrom is currently on the DL and has only pitched in 13 games. Strop is great, don't get me wrong. I would be comfortable knowing that if Johnson was injured or unable to go due to overuse or illness, we still had Strop. I would love to get Lindstrom back and have the trio work 7-8-9 of close games. It is a great feeling to have a reliable bullpen with moveable parts. But with Johnson gone, we will have no replacement for Strop. Every one of our key Bullpen guys has worked at least 27 games, and all but Johnson are over 30 innings. As is, our bullpen is overworked. Buck has done a great job spreading out all these extra innings we have had to pitch, but as we head into the summer, these guys are looking at 76+ innings at least, and that's without injury and with our starters holding up to good numbers. That's a heavy workload. How heavy? Besides Patton in the minors when he was starting, none of our key bullpen guys other than Johnson has ever pitched 76 innings in a year.
So now we have an enormous question. Our bullpen, the shining star of the 2012 Orioles has a serious question mark on it. How deep into this season can these guys go? How long can they remain effective? Maybe they will be fine. Maybe they will all break down, as EME recently suggested on Camden Cast. In that case, trading Jim Johnson may make sense. Sell high, and look to the future.
Andrew G suggested that we should be buyers at the deadline. And I gotta say, I love his spirit. His belief seemed to be that we should go after starting pitching, but that the starting pitching we will get will not be good enough to make a difference. I think right now most of us are comfortable with Chen and Hammel, and we have seen beautiful things from Matusz this year, to the point that the belief is he can be a viable 3rd starter. Arrieta has been Jekyll and Hyding us to death, and unless he really turns it around, I don't think you want him pitching a playoff game. Tommy Hunter has been as advertised, and would be a fine #5 starter for the 2011 Orioles, but is not acceptable for this year's squad as is. Britton and Gonzalez wait in the minors, along with 8 other possibilities, none of which are lighting the world on fire.
I don't disagree with the idea of getting more starting pitching depth, the problem is, what will we have to give up in order to get that depth? Other than the top 3 (hopefully) untouchable prospects we have in the minors, we don't have that much. Certainly if it's just about money and us picking up a brutal contract for the year, then great, it's not my money. But trading anything for the future for this year would be insane. I don't think that was what Andrew was suggesting, because he's like Egon smart, but I just want to be clear when I say, I am not for giving up anything for the future for this year. And there is a very important reason for that.
The reason that I wrote The End of Suffering is because I believe this is the beginning of something special in Baltimore. This is the beginning of a club that will win, not just this year, but for years to come. With the core of Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis, JJ Hardy, Chris Davis, Chen, Hammel, and hopefully Matusz, and with Bundy and others coming up, we can be good for years to come. But our minor league system is not stacked with prospects. We will need to somehow fill in the holes to compete in the AL Beast.
And that is why I believe, we shouldn't be buyers or sellers this year. Keep making the smart, no downside moves, picking guys off waivers and acquiring others for cash. We have to win in order to get free agents to sign here without charging us a premium. That won't be easy, but we have done it so far and I believe we can continue. If we sell Jim Johnson now we would seriously be jeopardizing our season and putting way too much pressure on a bullpen that is already overachieving. If we buy now, we could be sacrificing future strength for something that is far from a guarantee. We are stuck in the middle, possibly the worst case scenario for a first year GM trying to build something for the future, but, fortunately in some ways, our fate.
And that is why I say, run where the brave dare not go. This team is too good to break up. The future is too bright to sacrifice. Do not trade Johnson or any key member of this squad. Will we win the AL east this year? Who knows, maybe not. Will we win 90? I believe we will, and I think some of you think we will as well. The narrative is written, the screenplay before us, we just need to get to act three. This team can do it on its own. They can change their stars, give the finger to fate, and shake the world with their everyday impossibilities. We've seen it happen. It's time to believe.
There was a time when no one would give us a chance. We were ignored by most, shunned by some and pitied by others. Too many of our opponents had dismissed us. Those that chose that path have now come to regret that choice. Now teams dread when we come to town. Something special is happening in Baltimore. The promise of a new day is here. As Stacey once wrote, "when our day arrives, it will be sweeter to us than many sports fans can ever imagine." Well, that day is here. We're looking it right in the face. It is going to be awesome. Because finally, in the end, we will find a new beginning. We can't sell away this team, and we can't mortgage our future. We just have to win now. And we can. It's time to believe. It's time to believe.
It's time to believe.