- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Forget the past.

Forget the 10 straight losing seasons.

Forget the late Syd Thrift declaring after a trade of stars for prospects that “somebody was going to look pretty smart” in three years time.

Forget the stories of Peter Angelos meddling in this trade or that deal.

It’s a new day in Baltimore.

The Orioles may have another losing season this year, but this one will be different — because they say so.

The Orioles may have traded several of their stars for prospects yet again, but this time it will be different — because they say so.

The Orioles may have taken an inordinate amount of time to complete a trade this winter that everyone believed was a done deal, but this one was different — because they say so.

Why is it different? Because Andy MacPhail is running the show now — at least they say so.

That is what the Orioles are selling this year: faith.

Faith that Dave Trembley, a manager with no major league experience before he took over during last season and produced a 40-53 record, can manage at the varsity level.

Faith that MacPhail will make the right moves.

Faith that Angelos will let MacPhail make the right moves.

Faith that even making the right moves will be enough for the Orioles to compete in a division that includes the Yankees and Red Sox.

That’s a lot of faith, and the early signs that this faith will be rewarded are mixed.

Yes, MacPhail was able to unload Miguel Tejada to Houston for a package of young players that included outfielder Luke Scott, who likely will start in left field.

MacPhail also was able to get another package of talented prospects from Seattle in return for stud pitcher Erik Bedard, a package that included highly touted prospect Adam Jones, who likely will start in center.

Put them alongside Nick Markakis, and you have an outfield with promise — if you have faith.

The Orioles are better off without Tejada and, yes, even without a pitcher as young and talented as Bedard, a head case who will only become more difficult and more distant from his team as his career continues.

MacPhail, though, was unable to rid the clubhouse of third baseman Melvin Mora and catcher Ramon Hernandez, the remnants of the core of selfish veterans that defined the Orioles.

The worrying sign is how long it took to finalize the Seattle deal, which leads one to wonder whether Angelos held it up — something that was not supposed to happen with MacPhail in charge. There is no evidence Angelos did muck it up, but, based on his record you need to have faith to believe he did not.

Let’s say this faith is rewarded. Let’s say MacPhail does have a free hand in rebuilding the organization. Let’s say Trembley can be a successful manager. And let’s say they hit the jackpot on these prospects.

It won’t be enough. Faith may move mountains, but it won’t move the Yankees and Red Sox.

Teams can win through frugal spending and strong player development — everywhere but the American League East. The Cleveland Indians can do it because they are not competing in a division with the two behemoths. So can the Colorado Rockies.

In a short series, anything can happen — even against the Yankees or Red Sox. But to play one of those teams 18 times over the course of a season — and, in the Orioles’ case with two such teams, 36 times — you need more than smart spending. You need a lot of spending.

The Orioles were right there with the Yankees and Red Sox, competing for the division title a little more than 10 years ago. While the Orioles wallowed in shortsightedness and dysfunction, the Yankees and Red Sox built their empires. They did this, in large part, with money realized from their regional sports networks, YES in New York and NESN in Boston.

The Orioles supposedly will have that same opportunity now with MASN, but it may be too late to catch up.

It shouldn’t have been necessary to catch up.

Ten years ago, it was clear to nearly everyone the Expos were going to leave Montreal eventually. It also was clear to most reasonable people that there really was no place for them to go except Washington.

The idea was floated around the B&O; Warehouse for the Orioles to embrace the move rather than fight it, to create some sort of partnership that would allow them to benefit from it. That’s pretty much the deal Angelos wound up making with baseball to get the television rights for the Nationals and kick off MASN.

But he could have expedited the move to Washington — and with it the creation of his network. The Orioles’ money train would have been off and running rather than belatedly pulling out of the station — way behind their division competitors.

But to do that would have required faith, and the Orioles weren’t selling faith back then — just fear.

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