18 February 2014

The Orioles and the Telephone Game

As many who follow the Orioles can attest, this has been a very peculiar off season and much of it seems to come from miscommunication from the front office.  It has resulted in a significant amount of confusion in the media and fan base and that confusion has led to a significant stoking of anti-Orioles sentiment.

The weirdness began when back channels began reporting that former Athletics' closer Grant Balfour had agreed to terms with the Baltimore Orioles.  Balfour's camp assumed that passing a physical was a formality because he had not had any issues with his arm in years.  As the physical was happening, the team scheduled a press conference before the week was out.  Then everything came a to a halt.

Balfour was so surprised and angry over being told he failed the physical that he called Dan Duquette himself to inform him of the mistake the Orioles were making as well as what he thought of how he was treated.  Balfour had good reason to be upset, the failed physical likely cost him a few million as other teams in need of closers began snapping them up and limiting his list of potential suitors.  Balfour then shared the MRIs of his shoulder with physicians he has worked with in the past and none of them found any issues.  In order to perhaps hold on to as much value as possible, Balfour's group had these physicians go public.  As he was agreeing to terms with the Rays, it was leaked that the Orioles' concern had to do with his wrist and knee.  He did undergo surgery for his knee last February, but the procedure was reported as normal and without issue.  Balfour appears genuinely confused by the assertion that he has a problem with his knee.

What confuses me about this situation is that from what I know, the Orioles must divulged any health risks they uncovered during their physical.  If Balfour's knee is hurt, then I think they have to tell him.  Being a person with rather poor impulse control, I doubt that this whole focus on his shoulder was grand theater designed to keep teams from looking too closely at his knee.  It seems too elaborate and that level of trick of hand might get his agents in hot water.  I still do not know what to make of that situation.

The next peculiar moment occurred in early February during FanFest.  Duquette confirmed to the local press that he had engaged extension talks with Chris Davis' agent, but that little progress had been made.  Upon being asked, Chris Davis expressed surprised, mentioned how he wished to stay in Baltimore, and said he was interested in hearing what the offer was.  Davis' agent is Scott Boras who is often thought of in the public as ignoring player's wishes when negotiating.  However, this view is probably a heel by design.  Boras' number one job is to serve his players by getting them a large contract.  He usually succeeds.

I do find it peculiar that Boras would not inform Chris Davis about any offers.  For Boras to do his job, he needs to know what Davis wants.  Perhaps Davis has already been explicit in his needs and Boras thinks he can operate for a while before bringing him into the process.  Based on what I know, I find that to be somewhat improbable.  Both Davis and Matt Wieters have been highly interested since the off season began to learn what sort of investment the team was willing to put into them.  That has been a pretty steady mantra coming from them, so I would venture a guess that they would be made aware of any action happening on that front.  Again though, I am not involved in those extension talks, so I do not know to what extent things have been discussed or how well Boras is keeping Davis up to date on their progress.

The final weird tale of different realities or missed communication is the A.J. Burnett situation. For a solid two months, it was widely reported local and nationally that the Orioles were "all in" on Burnett.  They were waiting on him to make a decision before moving on to other things.  Everyone agreed though that unofficial word from the warehouse was that Burnett was the team's primary target.  However, amidst a quiet February, news broke that he signed a rather comfortable deal with the Phillies.  Later, Burnett expressed in an interview that the Orioles (as well as the Nationals) were not really involved in the negotiation process and did not put down an offer.  A day later, Burnett corrects himself to say that the Orioles were involved and did put in an offer.

What we have are three seeming miscommunications of rather significant things.  A failed contract, a major investment in a player, and the loss of a player supposedly highly wanted by the team.  We certainly can explain away rational answers for these events.  We can also certainly get crazy and dedicate ourselves to fanciful stories.  However these things went down though, this has to be one of the weirdest off seasons of any team in recent history in terms of information coming out of the front office being contradicted by those directly involved.

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