To Rodriguez, I say good riddance. The well-documented hitting woes from last year would have received a noticeable boost (though no one would confuse the Orioles for playoff contenders either) in the form of Pudge. In an ideal, fantasy world, Matthews, Hairston, Segui, Pudge, Gibbons, and Batista make for a respectable front six. A nice mix of .300 hitting, high OBP guys in the front, and three guys who can smack 30 homers when they aren't striking out 100 times hitting behind them. But this isn't a fantasy world and unfortunately you probably can't count on Segui to stay healthy. And you have to take into account the Florida Marlins to do something stupid too, though when that happens it's the wildest card in the deck getting played. Make no mistake about it; what the Marlins just did is asinine. A team run by the worst owner in baseball not named Bud Selig just offered a guy who can't stay healthy $10 million. To go with it, there is a no trade clause AND the Marlins promised not to offer arbitration next season. So Pudge will come in and play 100 games, expedite the end of his career thanks to the oppressive Florida heat, and then he'll leave the Marlins with nothing to show for it. If that's what it would have taken for the Orioles to ink him to a deal, then I'm glad they passed.
Truthfully we don't really know just where negotiations went and how close the Orioles and Rodriguez were. What we do know is that Pudge's public demands, at least initially as well as late in the process, was as absurd as what he signed for was. Again, Flanagan and Beattie are to be commended for holding the line on this one. The last Oriole signed to a big contract was Albert Belle, and Angelos is STILL paying for that one. Belle was a guy who had played in the most consecutive games of anyone not named Cal Ripken and was coming off some truly monster years back then. To see that happen, and then come in and offer a long term, high paying deal to a guy with a bum back at a demanding position when his career is going in the tank at any moment is too great a risk considering how much further it would set back the rebuilding process.
So what now? The additions of John Valentin and Jeff Reboulet will mean next to nothing for this lineup, with Reboulet's best days long past. It's to the point that he shouldn't even be considered anything more than an extra coach for Ottawa this year if he isn't just outright released. Valentin, while a good pickup that can provide better depth off the bench than this team is used to while playing anywhere in the infield, is not going to be a difference maker. B.J. Surhoff? Oh my, he was washed up when the Orioles traded him back in 2000, and he's only gotten exponentially worse. Surhoff is a good guy, one who makes my all-time list of favorite Orioles, but if he makes the opening day roster than it's a sure sign that the new management regime is both desperate and panicking. Come March 31st, he cannot make this team. It's asinine to even suggest otherwise considering how far he's regressed as a ball player. Not with better players available in a minor league system that's not exactly stocked.
Sadly, with spring training just around the corner anyone worth counting on is gone from the free agent market. Barring any blockbuster deal, Flanagan and Beattie will finish their first off-season below the Mendoza line; not getting it done when it mattered the most. Now the deals Hideki Matsui, Cliff Floyd, and Pudge Rodriguez signed for didn't really make much sense from the Orioles perspective, perhaps Floyd's being the exception. But the bottom line is still that the Orioles failed to land even one hitter when for the second year in a row they've openly expressed a desire for two: a second straight let down for the team and for the fans. Metaphorically, the brain trust has done well not to chase bad pitches, but so far they haven't knocked one out of the park either. And that's what's needed the most. Now they're left with the same offense as last year and that's unacceptable. Mike, Jim, you've done a good job by not signing any stupid deals. Congratulations. Now go out and get some hitters so this team can win some games.