March 11, 2008
Team Health Reports
The AL East is no place to be weak. The Blue Jays once said they could compete with a low budget, then shifted back to a big-dollar strategy. The Rays have never had a winning record, but used it to build up an unprecedented group of pre-arbitration talent. The Yankees and Red Sox have used the power of the pocketbook to fill in any holes whenever their best-laid plans went awry. So what defines the Orioles?
Richie Bancells has been one of the few islands of stability for this franchise, and is known as one of the most well-respected trainers in the game. The problem is that the results he's put up over the last decade have been, at best, mediocre. At 24th in Three-Year Rank, the Orioles are competing with $200 million teams with a $23 million handicap. The team's dollars lost might not have been enough to give them a winning record, but it certainly didn't help. While there are certainly questions about the value of some of the contracts that the previous administration saddled the current O's with, the team really wasn't putting it's real payroll anywhere near the field.
The stats for 2007 are somewhat inflated by their taking nearly season-long hits from Kris Benson and Jaret Wright that inflated their overall marks for days and dollars lost. The results that Bancells and his medical staff have put up go beyond one fluky season, however, and there's a clear disconnect between their reputation and their results. In Chicago, Andy MacPhail didn't get good results or have stability in the training room. In Charm City, at least, he has the virtue of stability, but at some point he may need to ask why.
C Ramon Hernandez : Hernandez crossed the 1000-game mark, but it was the early-season oblique injury and a contentious relationship with management that really derailed his production. Without a credible backup, Hernandez is going to be asked to take on a big load this season. The O's hope that Matt Wieters will be more than credible.
1B Kevin Millar : I asked several of my sources how old the Orioles players were, and almost to a man, they guessed younger. They didn't hesitate in calling the O's an older team, so there's an obvious disconnect, like the one you feel when I tell you that Millar is already 36. If it's any consolation, his yellow light isn't so bad, especially if he gets the occasional day at DH.
2B Brian Roberts : Roberts had one of the ugliest injuries of all time, made a cameo appearance in the Mitchell Report, and is nevertheless one of the most coveted second basemen in the game. There's no real worries about the arm any more, and at 30, he's not young. Then again, he's more than just an aging speed player.
3B Melvin Mora : Like Millar, Mora is both overpaid and 36 years old. Unlike Millar, Mora still has some athleticism going for him. He also really got religion on conditioning after some back problems in the second half of 2007. We'll see if that translates into any improvements in his play on the field or gets reflected in his stat line.
SS Luis Hernandez : Hernandez profiles as a generic first-year glove man at short. The unknowns make him risky more than any of the few known facts that there are about him.
LF Luke Scott : By accident, I saw Scott's first professional game. He showed surprising speed, but some of that has been sapped by leg injuries. If he can avoid the minor injuries, the park could make him seem like the quickest return on the Miguel Tejada deal.
CF Adam Jones : Jones is known to have some back issues, and there have been some whispers that his physical in Baltimore showed it was more than a minor issue. The O's nevertheless eventually signed off on the deal, and think that they can keep Jones healthy enough long enough to make the trade look smart.
SP Jeremy Guthrie : Like Erik Bedard, Guthrie had a nice season that was derailed by an oblique strain. He did see an innings jump, has some odd splits (he faced far easier competition in the second half), and is just over a year removed from being freely available talent.
SP Daniel Cabrera : If 'The Big Swing' didn't benefit from having Leo Mazzone around, will he benefit from not having him around? Cabrera's violent motion held up past the injury nexus, and in early spring, the control appears to be better without the small adjustments Mazzone had him make.
SP Adam Loewen : He has a screw in his pitching elbow. If that's not risky, I guess you'd have to be John Lange to get a red light.
SP Garrett Olson : I actually asked someone about him this week and they started talking about this kid; it was awkward for both of us. Olson is facing a big innings increase, even with a tenuous hold on the job.
SP Troy Patton : Just yellow; you'd figure a torn labrum would rate a red, but I didn't know that when we ran the ratings. It's an open question as to whether the Orioles should have known. He's done for 2008, and questionable beyond that. He'll be replaced by Steve Trachsel .
CL Jamie Walker