Monday, December 15, 2008

Mark Teixeira: Everybody Breathe...

Mark Teixeira has not signed yet and many Oriole fans are freaking out. It's a state of panic really as even completely absurd and unfounded rumors of Teixeira attending the Ravens-Steelers game with Peter Angelos gets serious play in the Baltimore Sun and on MASN.

Easy, people. As I've said before, he's not coming anyway. This will not be some colossal failure on the part of The Warehouse. He has no intention of coming to play for a loser. He's done that already. Even if Baltimore greatly outbids everybody (which would be foolish), he's still not "coming home".(Although, at $20 mil per instead of $25 mil, I'd feel a little better about the deal.)

Secondly, he's hardly worth that kind of money and length of contract. Not for Baltimore. Teixeira is not the kind of guy who is going to rally a team and "show them how to win". He plays hard when he's interested, not so much when he isn't. He'll lose interest pretty fast in Baltimore, believe me. Does anybody think he's Roy Hobbs?

And have we forgotten that one big signing does not mean the team will suddenly start winning? Has everyone forgotten Miguel Tejada already? Can Teixeira pitch? Because last I checked we have one starting pitcher set for next season. One. I don't care if we do a direct swap of lineups with the Red Sox, they'll still finish with a better record next year because of their rotation and bullpen. (More on the pitching later...)

This team is not contending next year, not without a miraculous development from the pitchers in their farm system. There's no sense in throwing a lot of money, over a lot of years at one player. Not yet.

So let's keep this in perspective. If Teixeira does not come to Baltimore, it's not a disaster.

Buster Olney takes it a step further. He says the Orioles should not even be at the table in the Teixeira bidding...and I have to say I agree with him.

But history tells us, over and over and over, that winning -- as in contending -- is what really draws fans to your ballpark, not some shiny bauble. Cal Ripken single-handedly drew fans to Camden Yards at the end of his career. With all due respect to Teixeira, he is not Ripken. He is not Barry Bonds. Few players have that kind of box-office allure...

The Orioles' payroll in 2008 was about $68 million, and if they were to sign Teixeira, that would climb to about $80 million, with the first baseman accounting for a quarter of that. Yet they still would be two or three topflight starting pitchers short of contending with the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees. They still would be two or three top-flight starting pitchers short of contending with the Jays for fourth place.

And I can say the following confidently, having worked as a sportswriter in Baltimore and having some understanding of the multilayered depth of knowledge in the Orioles' fan base: Until the team starts winning again, nobody will show up at Camden Yards. Signing Teixeira would not draw the the O's demonstrably closer to contending because they are so short in starting pitching. In fact, the signing of the first baseman could ultimately hurt them, because in two or three years, as the Orioles' young pitching begins to rise to the big leagues and the team needs pieces to augment the improved rotation, Teixeira's salary would restrict the kinds of moves the Orioles will make.

Yep. Pretty much.

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