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O's pretended to contend long ago

August 07, 2005|By CHRIS STROVEL

When the trading clock struck midnight (figuratively) at 4 p.m. last Sunday, the Orioles were left with nothing to show but the righty-lefty swap of outfielders - Eric Byrnes for Larry Bigbie two days previously. Not an earth-shaker, that one.

The talk-show lines in Baltimore immediately sprang to life, criticizing the team for standing pat in the midst of an actual contending season. True enough, there was one HUGE trade the Orioles didn't make that would have made them instant contenders.

It was a trade that would have been tough to pull off, though, a trade of divisions with any team in the NL West. That's the only trade that could have made a difference.

Granted, there's an added week of hindsight since then to show us why the O's are pretenders instead of contenders.

They have baseball's worst record since May 27 and have posted their third losing streak of at least six games.

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However, there also was plenty of evidence to show the Orioles weren't a team that could trade its way into contention. I think co-GMs Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie knew the club was a pretender even before July 31, having seen the club post a 2-11 record between the All-Star break and the trade deadline.

That stumble cost Lee Mazzilli his job Thursday, and his firing was further evidence that the club was not a legitimate threat to contend in 2005. Teams win because of players, and a manager's firing is usually an admission that the roster didn't measure up to contend.

While the Orioles have a potent offense, it's not good enough to carry the club to the playoffs on its own.

The pitching is just not good enough to contend in 2005, whether or not the Orioles traded for the Marlins' A.J. Burnett. In fact, a telling sign of the Orioles' pitching plight was reflected on the club's Web site before Thursday's game: "The O's call on their ace, Erik Bedard, to end their seven-game slide."

Erik Bedard an ace? He's had a nice 12 starts this year, but if he's your ace, you're not a playoff club.

As an Orioles fan since I can remember (my first Orioles memory is being unhappy that Earl Williams was such a bust), I was ready to believe this could be a repeat of the 1989 "Why Not!" club.

But then reality set in. The pitching tanked and the club entered Thursday's games as close to Tampa Bay as to Boston in the standings.

A trade to rent a .500 pitcher like Burnett for a few months was not worth the price of a prospect like Hayden Penn and absorbing the contract of Mike Lowell.

On to the NL.

As an Orioles fan, I was a bit ambivalent on the arrival of the Nationals. I thought it would be nice to have another club to follow when the O's weren't on, but I did worry that it would take away from the Orioles' buying power. Though I'm not a big fan of Peter "The Great" Angelos, I do think he was right on that count.

But I digress, that's another column.

While I haven't followed the Nats too closely, I do think it was easy to envision their fall from the top of NL East. Maybe not their 3-13 record in their first 16 games after the All-Star Game, but a fall nonetheless.

Washington reached the break 16 games over .500, but was outscored by its opponents. Not to get too Sabermetric, but there's no way a team can continue that over the course of a season.

Something has to equalize, and it's usually a drop in winning percentage.




"A Voice From The Crowd" is a weekly feature in The Herald-Mail which gives sports fans an opportunity to be a sports columnist. This week's guest columnist, Chris Strovel, is a resident of Martinsburg, W.Va. Comments on his column can be sent to sports@herald-mail.com

If you are interested in becoming a contributor to this column, e-mail Sports Editor Mark Keller at keller@herald-mail.com

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