Remember these dudes? There's one left standing with the Orioles. From left to right, you have Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez, Rafael Palmeiro, Sidney Ponson, and Lee Mazzilli, the big offseason haul from 2003 that was going to re-energize a dormant franchise. Here we were signing one of the best shortstops in the game, a power hitting stud and former MVP, the heir to the Ripken throne. Plus we grabbed a catcher that had just hit 40 homers, we got ageless slugger Rafael Palmeiro back in Baltimore, along with Sidney Ponson (finally, we'd developed another quality starter!), and Mazzilli would be fresh air. Well, OK, nobody really wanted Mazzilli.
What the hell happened? The offseason class of 2003 was a complete bust.
Tejada - 6 years, $72 million
Might as well start with the only one that hasn't let us down. Miguel Tejada has been excellent for the Orioles as a player. In his first season, he drove in 150 runs and hit .311/.360/.534 with 34 homers. He established a new career high in OPS at .894.
2005 saw Tejada's numbers fall, but he actually had his best season by park-adjusted OPS+, despite a second half tailspin that kind of went along with the rest of the team, which we've certainly been over here and are likely to get into again when I reach the Ps in a moment. It seemed like sort of an off year, and that second half was pretty weak, but still. He hit "only" .304 with "only" 26 homers and "only" 98 RBI. He was still pretty good.
The 2005 offseason was where Tejada made his only real gaffe, and once we get into the rest of these jokers, it won't seem like a big deal at all. Tejada reportedly demanded to be traded, then pulled it back, and said he wanted to be here, and so on and so forth. We've been over it. Miguel Tejada is not perfect. He has seemed happy enough this season, and the things he said about our front office were true. Yeah, sometimes he doesn't hustle. Guess what, sometimes Derek Jeter doesn't, sometimes Babe Ruth didn't, and sometimes Brooks Robinson didn't. I can't complain about Tejada, really. He's having another super season (.332/.382/.511 with 22 homers and 92 RBI) and it just isn't worth the time. There's plenty to bitch about regarding the Orioles without dragging our best player into the fold.
Lopez - 3 years, $22.5 million
We just talked about Javy, but suffice to say that despite a great first year, things didn't work out for him in Baltimore. He spent a lot of 2005 on the shelf, and didn't produce in 2006, plus he acted like a prima donna a lot of the time. He got shipped up to Boston, and now he isn't playing anywhere. I wish Javy good things, honestly, but I'm glad he's not on my team anymore. The three years were necessary to get him, and Lord knows we didn't need any more Geronimo Gil or whatever other God awful "defensive specialist" catcher the Orioles dragged up that season, so it's hard to say it was a bad deal, really. Well, it was, but there are X factors at play here. Had to give him three years to get him at all, and he'd just hit 40 homers. We all knew he wouldn't do it again, but he had a great 2004. Past that, nothing good to say.
Palmeiro - 1 year, $4 million (if I recall correctly)
...oh boy. Can of worms and a half around here. We spent a lot of 2005 talking about Rafael Palmeiro, and it sure as hell wasn't his 3,000 hits that was the topic of the bulk of said discussion. Palmeiro's 2004 was a continuation of his trends: His average slipped again (had done so every year since 1999, except for 2002, when it stayed at .273), but he still got on base pretty well. His L/R splits were atrocious, he didn't hit well at Camden Yards, and he was 39 years old. Also, he failed to reach 35 home runs for the first time since 1995, finishing with 23, and that took a September power surge.
But we brought Raffy back on another one-year deal for 2005. I figured, "Well, why not? We're not contending, we have no plan, and he's going to get 3,000 hits this season. Plus, Raffy's been good to me over the years. How can I say no? How can the team not give him another contract? That was a nice September!"
Oh boy. Palmeiro got that 3,000th hit in Seattle, then just weeks later, tested positive for steroids. He'd already been before Congress before the season started for the big steroid hearings, wagged his finger at the government, and denied all usage. After he was caught, he blamed Miguel Tejada and B12 and I believe at some point martians were involved in Palmeiro's cockamamie stories about what really happened to him. He was basically thrown off the team a short while after his suspension was over, and we've barely heard about him since. All I know is that Brian Roberts accidentally called him earlier this year.
Ponson - 3 years, $22.5 million
The world's fattest knight decked a judge in Aruba and then had a bunch of problems with the sauce. He was probably the worst regular starting pitcher in baseball in 2004 and 2005, before the Orioles finally gave up on him and terminated his contract. He wound up this season with the Cardinals and Yankees, and both teams got their fill of him pretty quickly. He seems like he's gotten his personal life back in order, and that's great, but he can't pitch.
The thing about both Ponson and Palmeiro is not even that they were bad signings, but they publicly disgraced the team repeatedly. Tejada had a brief period where he wanted out and Lopez was like a little kid a lot of the time, but neither of their lower points even approached Palmeiro or Ponson. Palmeiro sent the franchise into a complete tailspin, as he got suspended as the team was starting to fail on the field anyway, and then had the sheer gall to call out Miguel Tejada, by name, to the press in an effort to save his own ass. For the record, Miguel Tejada has to this day never tested positive for anything, not even opium from poppy seeds. And Ponson was a relentless pain in the ass both on and off the field. Lopez didn't turn out well, but at least he wasn't these two guys. Palmeiro and Ponson were special.
Mazzilli - The Yankee
Eh. Lee was a nice enough guy, he was just for shit as a manager. He did nothing to turn the team around at any point, made horrible game decisions with great precision, and the only time I remember really liking him was when he got thrown the hell out of a game in 2005 and threw gum all over. He never should've gotten the job to begin with, but he was another piece of the promised puzzle that fizzled in short order.
Five guys, and one remains three seasons later. Lopez short circuited, Mazzilli simply wasn't qualified, and the other two were hurricanes, epic storms of bullshit.
That was a good offseason, huh? And, of course, we still haven't had a winning season.
Who's ready to see these guys spend money AGAIN?