DMA 7-22 Sports

July 29, 2010 6:00 AM

Matusz Rotting in Spotty MacPhail 'Plan'

macfail.jpgEnjoying a reputation as a "son" of baseball, expectations always have been high in the game for Andy MacPhail.

Just the name alone tells you about the pedigree.

Dad was former American League president Lee MacPhail and one-time Orioles and Yankees executive. Granddad was Larry MacPhail, another baseball legend and contemporary of Branch Rickey. (Larry MacPhail and Lee MacPhail are the only father-and-son members of baseball's Hall of Fame.) Uncle was William MacPhail, a former president of CBS Sports and CNN Sports.

Just sitting at the feet of his dad, granddad and uncle, the wunderkind Andy MacPhail probably has absorbed more about baseball and administering the game than anybody else can hope. In fact, many believe that his remarkable orientation will land him someday in the commissioner's chair.

Today, MacPhail, 57, is president of baseball operations for the lowly Baltimore Orioles, and Orioles fans have to be wondering where exactly is the genius they've been promised. In short, where is the turnaround? Heck, where is the hint of the turnaround?

As it stands, Baltimore -- now enduring its 13th straight losing season - simply is a laughingstock.

How do we count the ways: worst record in baseball at 31-70; a 2-11 record since the All-Star break; losers of an astounding 12 consecutive games this season to the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East. OK, we'll leave it there.

Many things boggle the mind about the Orioles under MacPhail. Owner Peter Angelos brought MacPhail in to run the club in June 2007. After a revolving door of general managers, MacPhail was the anointed one. He nearly got the Cubs to the World Series as president and CEO from 1994 through 2006. Before that, he was general manager of the Minnesota Twins during their 1987 and 1991 World Series championships.

Indeed, MacPhail would be the one who finally would right the Orioles ship.

He asked for patience in 2007, but three years in and that patience is running thin.

After the 2009 season and a 64-98 record, MacPhail said the franchise, having stockpiled a bevy of highly regarded prospects, had gotten to the point where it would be judged on wins and losses. But then now-fired manager Dave Trembley comes back to start 2010 and the team goes 1-11 and 2-16 out of the gate. Season over.

Yet give MacPhail some credit. He has a measured, reassuring tone. You believe he knows what he is doing. You want to believe.

But the misery continues to spiral out of control for the Orioles. Can you say Garrett Atkins. What about Mike Gonzalez. Both failed 2010 free-agent signees.

Then we are teased at the All-Star break that big-time skipper Buck Showalter would replace novice interim Juan Samuel by that weekend, but Showalter is still tethered to Bristol not Baltimore - supposedly tedious negotiations. The latest word is that Showalter remains ticketed to Baltimore, but that nothing will happen at least until after the non-waiver trade deadline July 31.

MacPhail is said to be concentrating this week on the trade deadline, but why? Is there really a booming market out there for Ty Wiggington, Miguel Tejada, Will Ohman and Corey Patterson. We'll find out in a couple of days, but fans aren't expecting a blockbuster and want to get Showalter in place.

Brian_Matusz_tall.jpgDespite the sham of a season, perhaps nothing sticks in the craw of Orioles' fans as the handling of the young pitching staff.

And nothing certainly beats the travesty of young hurler Brian Matusz.

Brian Matusz was drafted No. 4 overall by the Orioles in the 2008 Major League draft. He was on the fast track: signed Aug. 15, 2008, made his major league debut Aug. 4, 2009, finished the 2009 season 5-2 with a 4.63 ERA in eight starts. Going into 2010, Matusz was predicted for Rookie of the Year honors.

But with his last loss to the Twins last week, Matusz is 3-11 this year going into his start tonight in Kansas City. The rook has no wins this season at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and has won just once since April 18 covering 17 starts. Before the start of the 2010 season, Baseball America named Matusz the fifth best prospect in all of baseball.

Question for MacPhail, how do you let your prized lefty go 3-11 at this point in the season? Something's wrong with that picture. Why did you not get him back to the minors rather than destroy his career record already? It's a bad team, anyway.

Maybe he'll win 20 in 2011, but what do you do, let the kid finish 5-16 in his first full season? And look also at Matusz stable mates on the staff -- already behind the eight ball for their careers. Chris Tillman already is 3-9 for his career record in two seasons. Brad Bergesen is 10-13. David Hernandez is 8-17. Jason Berken is 8-14.

Maybe MacPhail has a greater plan with the young pitchers and the club's future as a whole and maybe it is with the continued confidence of Mr. Angelos.

But those diehards who love Orioles baseball, Esskay hot dogs, Cal and Eddie and Utz potato chips aren't feeling it.

Sports management and administration these days demand aggression, not passivity. Maybe Showalter would be working magic right now.

The old model of "building from within" doesn't seem to be the successful trend in 2010 baseball and pro sports. Angelos, often called the worst owner in baseball, could be the culprit, but it seems MacPhail is a bit too reserved. If the Miami Heat is competing for a NBA championship next spring, that will confirm it. Bring in LeBron James and Chris Bosh and jettison Michael Beasley and just about everybody else in order to give yourself a chance to win.

MacPhail needs to throw something on the wall and keep throwing it harder until it sticks. With the Orioles, what is there to lose?

  • DMA 7-22 Sports is a blog about sports in the Washington-Baltimore market, covering amateurs, colleges and pros. The title DMA 7-22? Means "Designated Market Area," per use of media rating services, signifying Washington is the 7th largest media market in the United States, and Baltimore is the 22nd. You can reach M.V. Greene at

Photos: Andy MacPhail, Brian Matusz, AP

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