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The O's are so bad.

"How bad are they?!"

Well, I'll tell you. For no real reason, I decided to quickly put together the W-L records for the decade, as we have just completed the first season of the second half of it. Here is the bottom ten:

                  W    L    PCT
DETROIT              386  585   .398
TAMPA BAY            386  583   .398
KANSAS CITY          401  571   .413
MILWAUKEE            413  558   .425
PITTSBURGH           417  553   .430
BALTIMORE            427  544   .440
COLORADO             437  545   .450
CINCINNATI           447  525   .460
WASHINGTON           449  523   .462
SAN DIEGO            454  518   .467

This decade, the O's are better than only the Pirates, Brewers, Royals, Devil Rays and Tigers. They are ten games worse than the Rockies. They are 20 games worse than the Reds. And they are a sorry 22 games under the Expos, which also brings to mind the question, "Why are people worrying about the Nationals becoming better than the O's?" They already are, and they have been for a while.

What do all of the teams listed above, besides maybe San Diego, have in common? Horrible planning for the future. A distinct lack of developing their own talent properly. Bad management. Ownership that doesn't care, or if it does, mostly just complains about how hard life is if you're poor and/or you aren't the Yankees, Red Sox or Mets.

Let's look at the top ten.

                  W    L    PCT
NEW YORK (AL)        582  386   .601
ST. LOUIS            575  397   .592
ATLANTA              571  399   .589
OAKLAND              571  400   .588
SAN FRANCISCO        548  422   .565
BOSTON               548  423   .564
CHICAGO (AL)         527  445   .542
SEATTLE              525  447   .540
LOS ANGELES (AL)     520  452   .535
HOUSTON              517  455   .532

New York and Boston are the big spenders, and that's just how life is. The rest of them are mostly upper middle class. They aren't poor, but they don't spend with the Yanks and Red Sox either. The Mets have the 19th-best winning percentage, and they're generally perceived as baseball's other big spender. Oakland has been covered 100 times, and San Francisco doesn't have a lot of money either.

What do these teams have in common? Management that has a gameplan, no matter what it is. In New York, it's pay for the best players you can find. In Oakland, it's find the best players you can afford. In Boston, it's been a mix of the Yankees spending and Oakland-style philosophies on what a valuable player is. St. Louis has gotten by on smart management. Atlanta does it with great drafting, developing and coaching all through the system. And so on and so forth, but the point is, they all have a vision, except the Giants, whose vision is, "Employ Barry Bonds, one more hitter, and Jason Schmidt. Worry about rest later." Before they imploded the last two years, Seattle was one of the very best organizations in baseball across the board.

The other teams over .500 are Minnesota (.528), the Dodgers (.528), Cleveland (.510), Florida (.506), Philadelphia (.506) and Arizona (.501).

Baltimore has as much money as most of the teams in the top ten. It's just been spent either poorly or not at all.

The O's are also in the minority for the decade in that they haven't reached the playoffs even one time. 18 of MLB's 30 teams have made the playoffs at least once over the last six years. The only ones that haven't, in addition to all of the bottom ten minus San Diego, are the Phillies, Blue Jays (.488) and Rangers (.468).

What this all says to me is that competitive imbalance is not nearly the issue many make it out to be, though I'm hardly the first to recognize that. The majority of the teams in baseball have reached the postseason in the last six years. Sure the Yankees have been there every time, but so have the Braves, and the Cardinals have also been there five times and no one complains about them. Oakland's been four times. Boston has gone three times, which is matched by the Giants, Angels, Astros and Twins.

As far as the entire league goes, things have been perfectly competitive. As far as the Orioles go, they haven't. And the reason why is not because the Yankees and Red Sox are necessarily evil, but because Baltimore management has let the team become one of the very worst franchises in the game. Fans of those five worst teams often bemoan how awful everything is, but they seem to realize, even if their management doesn't, that it's not the fault of the world, it's the fault of the crappy baseball men running the show.

Well guess what, guys? Unfortunately, we feel your pain. We stink, too, every year. Even the Royals finished over .500 once, and the Brewers hit the 81-81 promised land this year.

I'm not saying that playing in the AL East with the Yankees and Red Sox is easy, or that it could be easy. But it doesn't HAVE to be as hard as the Orioles have made it with so many bad decisions.

I bring all of this up because this offseason is enormous for us. We have money, I believe the demand from the fans is starting to rise, and the season we just finished was an embarrassment on almost every level. Can the O's compete next year? Sure, if they want to. And no, it's not about the one-year fix, it's about the consistent, continual fixing of this organization. Year after year, they have to start making the right calls, and there's no better time to start than now. I'm not asking for a team that will win 100 games next year, just one where you can see the future while enjoying the present at the same time. One that even has a chance, a prayer, of seeing the postseason. A team that you don't have to be crazy to say, "You know, these guys could win 90 games."

In short: I don't want to hang out with the Pirates.