Thinking about Barry Bonds' era in San Francisco ending and how bad they will be next year without him got me to schtinkin' about the Orioles.
I think one of my biggest priorities, maybe my biggest, if I were the GM would be to trade Miguel Tejada this offseason. I don't hate Miguel Tejada. I don't even really dislike Miguel Tejada. If my job was to play baseball and I signed with a team that told me a few years ago about how they were going to turn it around, starting with ME!, and this is the shit I was looking at after four years, I'd probably want out, too. Wouldn't you?
The team isn't bad because of Miguel Tejada. He's given us a lot of good baseball, whether or not he hustles. At 31, though, he's not getting any younger, which is not going to help this team. By the time the Orioles are any good -- realistically, and probably optimistically -- Tejada would be 35 years old. He'll be out of here after the '09 season at the latest. The six-year, $72 million deal he signed was not a waste of money. Far from it, actually. He's produced. He got hurt one time.
But now's the time to trade Tejada. Actually, the time was probably this year's deadline, but he was injured. Maybe the time was last year's deadline, actually. Anyway, it's not going to get any better, and I'm just not that interested in seeing Miguel Tejada waste his age 32 and 33 seasons as an Oriole. Let him go somewhere where he might win something, who cares? Does it make us less likely to win? A two percent chance without him is close enough to the five percent chance with him, as far as I'm concerned.
He should be good enough to carry his contract the next two seasons, so I don't think he'd be THAT hard to sell. You won't get the package for him that you could have before, but some team desperate or dumb enough (calling all Dodgers!) should be willing to part with unproven youth talent in favor of declining veteran fortitude. As far as things have come, the veteran presence stuff will always matter to somebody who runs a team.
I was then thinking, "What if the Orioles basically had a firesale? What would the worst realistically possible in-house Orioles lineup for next year look like?"
If you're squeamish, stop reading.
Let's do a few things really fast:
-- Tejada is traded. Roberts is traded. Both for players who aren't ready for major league jobs, and the Orioles don't rush them up.
--Ramon is traded because he's fat and lazy, or whatever the new tag on him is. Whatever they get isn't good enough to be starting in the majors.
--Huff is traded because his bat picked up enough in the second half and somebody wants to take the chance, and the Orioles actually decide that this might be worthwhile since he isn't much of an active help, and that, "Well, he doesn't hit in the first half, DEAL WITH IT," bit is pretty lame. They get very little in return, predictably, but at least he's off the books. (Note: I know this one would be something a smarter team would do, and not necessarily the Orioles. This is just fantasy.)
--Millar is brought back because the kids need a father figure who actually plays.
--Payton is brought back because there's no way to get rid of him. Same goes for Mora.
--Patterson is allowed to leave, although I suppose they could be just as bad with him, really.
So what we'd be looking at, in this scenario, is the following team:
C: J.R. House and Paul Bako
Best Case Scenario: House hits 20 homers and his defense doesn't give Rick Dempsey a stroke. Bako spells him once a week.
Worst Case Scenario: House hits like what he is (or will be next year): A 28-year old guy with no real track record besides his medical history, that once quit baseball to try to be the quarterback for West Virginia, then quit that when he found out he wasn't good enough. I know some of you really like House, and I think it would've been worth finding out what he could do when Ramon went down earlier this year, but realistic expectations are that he could maybe turn into Sal Fasano.
1B: Scott Moore
Best Case Scenario: Scott Moore could be a real big league hitter. That would help. Moving him from third to first would just be to appease Mora's contract. Plus who the hell else plays first base if Millar DHs? We're assuming no difference-making free agent signings. This is a theoretical purge and rebuild, after all. Moore has power and has shown steady improvement over his pro career.
Worst Case Scenario: He just isn't very good, or he blows out his quad or something. Major league pitching could overmatch him over a full season.
2B: Brandon Fahey
Best Case Scenario: I have no idea.
Worst Case Scenario: Brandon Fahey. In all likelihood, the Orioles would not trade Roberts. He's a fan favorite and one of the only good players on this team, plus he still has good value. He hasn't sucked enough yet to earn his true modern Oriole stripes.
3B: Melvin Mora
Best Case Scenario: Something makes him smile. He stays healthy and hits .290 or so with 20 homers, and gets at least some defensive value back.
Worst Case Scenario: The predictable happens and he just gets worse.
SS: Luis Hernandez
Best Case Scenario: He brings a good glove and slaps enough singles around to not be an offensive zero.
Worst Case Scenario: The glove should be OK, but in all reality, he's just not a good hitter. At all.
LF: Jay Gibbons
Best Case Scenario: Gibbons' current extra curricular difficulties disappear and he shows up and hits 25 homers. Ha ha ha ha!
Worst Case Scenario: Jay Gibbons.
CF: Jay Payton
Best Case Scenario: He gets hurt and allows someone else to play center field, OR he has an OK half and is traded at the deadline.
Worst Case Scenario: He hits like he did this year. Payton was beyond unacceptable in '07, but that doesn't mean the Orioles wouldn't run him out there every day next year.
RF: Nick Markakis
Best Case Scenario: Markakis continues to improve, even if only by bits every year. He's the best player on the team not named Erik Bedard. At 24 next year, he becomes the true star of the team, makes the All-Star game, and works toward 30 homers.
Worst Case Scenario: Something awful happens and ruins him. But, let's not be that down. The worst case (in a best case scenario) is that he doesn't improve much more, and stays at his already-very-good level. It won't make him any type of savior, but he'd still be a good ballplayer. If Nick Markakis had 10 or 12 more seasons like the one he's having, he'd be remembered quite fondly.
DH: Kevin Millar
Best Case Scenario: In Major League, veteran catcher with bad knees Jake Taylor toasts Rick Vaughn and Willie Mays Hayes with the line, "And for me, here's to one more year in the sun." The best you could hope for out of Millar in 2008 is one more year in the sun, drawing walks, popping the occasional homer, and being a good dude to have around.
Worst Case Scenario: Millar plays like a 36-year old guy whose only remaining on-field asset is his ability to work the pitcher. This is far more likely with every year that passes.
That is an awful team. Absolutely awful. But the question I pose to you is this: When you're gonna lose anyway, and everyone knows it, and they've already stopped coming to the park, what's the real difference between 70 wins and 60?