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Chattin' With........Camden Chat

Introduction

One of the many new features that you will see on DRays Bay this season is interviews.....lots more interviews. And not just the "What do you enjoy most about living here?' type of interviews. I mean actual useful interviews that pertain to a useful topic. Memo to the Times...who cares what Joe Maddon's favorite burrito is? Anyways, these interviews will range from former players to front office execs to maybe even some of the current D-Rays roster. But today, we kick off what will be the most common type of interview you will see here at DRB, and that is an interview with another SB Nation blogger. Before the start of every series against a team, you will see an interview like this go up which will feature a Q & A with the team blogger for the team we will be squaring off against in that series. That feature debuts today as we kick off the season, and will be featured on either the day before or the day of the start of the series, except for when we play a team many times in a short span of time (I.E Orioles this week and next, you will not see this feature for next week). So anyways, I hope you enjoy this new feature, and I think it will broaden our perspective on the opposing team every series. I'd like to thank, in advance, all of the SB Nation bloggers for participating and giving us their insight, I've already got interviews for the next few series' with a few bloggers, and here's to them. Anyways, here is the first "Chattin With....", featuring Camden Chat writer SC, with the interview following the jump.

Chattin With....

This week we are joined by Camden Chat writer SC as he gives us some perspective on the Orioles before our season opening series in Baltimore this week. Thanks to SC for being so prompt and insightful in his replies.

DRAYS BAY-The Orioles used to train in St. Pete very briefly, from 1992-1995 after being kicked out of Miami's Bobby Maduro Stadium, and then left St. Pete after the 1995 spring season to get closer to their South Florida fan base by taking over the Yankees' old digs at Ft. Lauderdale Stadium. Now, the O's want some improvements done to the stadium, and could be looking at another spring training site at some point in the future. What can you tell us about this?

Camden Chat-Not a lot. I have probably heard all the same information you have on this -- the facilities aren't up to snuff, apparently, and they want something done about that. If they can't get their current spring home fixed up, they'll probably move.

DRB-The Orioles retained manager Sam Perlozzo after he took over on an interim basis at the end of last season. What is your opinion of Perlozzo, and did Mazzilli deserve to get canned?

CC-I like Perlozzo, he seems to have a genuine passion to restore the Orioles on the field and in public perception, which of course go hand-in-hand in some ways. He was also able to get Leo Mazzone to come in from a situation where he could basically do no wrong into one where people are skeptical and will be watching closely.

As for Lee Mazzilli, I never thought he was the guy for the job, and that's not simply anti-Yankee bias. Mazzilli was very Torre-esque, by which I mean laid back, kind of let things unfold as they were going to, didn't seem to do much thinking. His pitching staff management was absolutely terrible at times. You can be laid back when you've got a $150 million team to work with like Torre does. The Orioles aren't that team. I thought he deserved to be fired not even so much because he was a bad manager (he wasn't, I'd just say he was mediocre for the most part) but because he had lost control of the team. Reportedly there was a players-only meeting last season, shortly before Mazzilli was given his walking papers, where the players said they'd have to win in spite of him. To me, that just doesn't sound like a team that has faith in their manager.

DRB-Further, what brought Leo Mazzone to Baltimore, of all places, and do you really think his addition will help the pitching staff at all?

CC-Perlozzo brought Mazzone to Baltimore, bottom line. They're best friends, have been for ages, and Mazzone's one goal left in baseball was to be Sam's pitching coach if he could. It wasn't money, because if Mazzone wanted money, the Yankees were offering. It wasn't the chance to mentor Cabrera and Bedard and maybe a couple other younger guys in the next couple years. It wasn't taking the challenge of turning the Orioles from an also-ran to a contender. It was just friendship, as cheesy as that sounds. He did all he could do in Atlanta, and now he's moved on.

DRB-The O's acquired Kris Benson from the Mets in the offseason in exchange for Jorge Julio. Do you think Benson will help the pitching staff much and who won the trade?

CC-I don't think there was a real winner in the trade, barring something like Benson finally reaching his potential from way back when or Julio becoming a great setup man for Billy Wagner or John Maine becoming a better pitcher than he appears he will be, none of which I think is likely to happen. Benson, if he can give the Orioles 180 innings or so, will be an upgrade on Sidney Ponson's performances the last two seasons, and that's really how I'm taking that trade. If Benson can just stay league average, I'm happy. I won't miss Julio blowing games.

DRB-Bruce Chen.....fluke, or can he prove to be a solid pitcher for more than just one year?

CC-Chen can pitch, I think he's going to have a nice career from here on out. He carried his short success from 2004 over into a very nice 2005 season. Chen is a curve/change guy, so as long as he's able to keep hitters off balance with his offspeed stuff, he'll survive. There's a decent chance he could have a Jamie Moyer-type surge for the rest of his career, I believe.

DRB-The O's also made a swap of crappy relievers this offseason, sending away Steve Kline and acquiring LaTroy Hawkins. Can Hawkins help the bullpen at all, and who would you rather have?

CC-Selfishly, I'd rather have Kline. He stunk something awful at various points last season, but he was entertaining in a frustrating way. I've always been a fan of Kline, I like dirty cap-type players, players that consider putting umpires in the cobra clutch and compare themselves to the Dukes of Hazzard. I'm not a Hawkins fan, though I think he has a good shot at being the better pitcher. Hawkins has closing experience, so I'm worried that if anything happens with Chris Ray early, they'll get nervous and go to LaTroy, who has no interest in closing. That concerns me, but as far as the actual talent swap goes, it'll probably wind up being a wash. Hawkins can help the bullpen, sure. I don't know that he will.

DRB-The Orioles have several young pitchers, some who have proven themselves to be decent, others who have, well, not. Just give the general feeling you have of Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera, Eric DuBose, Adam Loewen, John Parrish, Hayden Penn, and Tampa's own Chris Ray.

CC-Cabrera has the chance to be an absolute dominator. I am aware of the other side of the coin there, that he could just disappoint for a long time, but it's been a long time since the Orioles came up with someone who had his stuff, so I choose to be optimistic about him. Bedard could turn into a very good starter or flame out due to injury, I'm not certain there's a middle ground for him. Hayden Penn has gotten a little overrated in Oriole fan circles. He's not close to ready for the big leagues.

Loewen is like a mixture of Bedard and Cabrera -- he's tall, left-handed, can be overpowering, has an injury history, and has some control issues. I think I like his chances for success in the majors this season or next more than I do Penn's, but he's older than Penn. DuBose may walk into a couple good seasons of relief sometime. Parrish is one of the most frustrating pitchers in the world to watch, picking at the corners and running almost anyone he can to a 3-2 count. And I love Chris Ray, I think he's going to surprise a lot of doubters with a

DRB-And even though he's not young, what is your opinion of Baltimore opening day starter Rodrigo Lopez, who had a brilliant year in '02, tailed off in '03 and '04, and rebounded last year.

CC-Lopez was actually much better in '04 than he was in '05. He really wasn't any good last year, and had some truly brutal outings. He was either kind of good or terrible. I like Rodrigo Lopez, but he gets by on the days when he's out-thinking hitters, because his stuff is below average at best. When he isn't on point, it can get ugly in a hurry.

DRB-With Ramon Hernandez signed to play catcher, what are the Orioles going to do with Javy Lopez, and Jeff Conine, who gets to ride the bench with Kevin Millar taking over at DH. And further, are Lopez and Conine done like B.J Surhoff was when he came back to Baltimore?

CC-Lopez is starting at first base on Opening Day and the team appears ready to just deal with him adjusting to the position. I figure Millar will do a lot of the DHing, plus he'll spell Javy at first base and maybe see a little time in left field. Conine was brought back to be a good influence on the clubhouse, and he should be able to handle that. I don't think he'll be much on the field, but what can you expect? I think Conine may be done, and anyone expecting any more big years out of Javy Lopez may be disappointed, but I don't think he's quite finished.

DRB-The Orioles have an impressive middle to left side of the infield featuring Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada, and Melvin Mora. Mora and Tejada are, of course, provens, but is there any way Roberts comes even close to the production level he was at last year?

CC-I doubt he'll hit 18 homers again, but Roberts hit 45 doubles last season and 50 the year before. He can steal some bases (he would have stolen 35 or more last year if Mazzilli didn't stop running him after about mid-May), he's a fine second baseman, and he's just a tough, likable player. I think he can put up AVG/OBP numbers like he had last year without as many homers, but his power surge was really more of a very surprising thing than an outright shocking thing, I thought.

DRB-The Orioles have a good group of young outfielders including Jay Gibbons, Nick Markakis, Luis Matos, and David Newhan. That being said, Corey Patterson....what the hell?

CC-Newhan is neither young nor good, and I'd rather have Corey Patterson every day of the week than Newhan. Patterson was a low-risk acquisition that likely won't even matter. They gave up next-to-nothing to get him just to see if he could benefit from a change of scenery. Given his spring, it doesn't look like that's going to happen. He may well just be a lost cause. Markakis is the real player to watch in this group, he could be a stud.

DRB-The Orioles had a two-headed GM up until this season of Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan. Now, Flanagan has gone the way of Memorial Stadium, and Beattie has assumed full control of baseball operations, with a little help from his sidekick, Jim Duquette (thanks for Scott Kazmir). Now, it is a little hard to quantify who did what, but when the Orioles performed the separation sugery, did they throw out the right person? Or should they have just canned both of them and gone with a totally different person?

CC-Actually, Flanagan is the "head" of the GM situation...kind of. He was supposed to be, then they got Duquette, and it seems like Duquette does as much if not more than Flanagan does, and Beattie wound up sticking around and still has a little influence. They should have found someone worth hiring, someone with fresh ideas. Flanagan, Beattie and Duquette seem like nice people, but if I were the owner of the Orioles, I wouldn't hire any of them to run my baseball team. If I were forced to pick between Flanagan and Beattie, though, I guess I'd choose Flanagan.

DRB-Peter Angelos has been bitching ever since Washington got a team that the value of his franchise is going down, attendance is down, TV rights are down, yadda yadda yadda. Is this true, and if so, how much impact have the Nationals had on the O's value?

CC-Angelos is quite a lawyer, and is now guaranteed to get a truckload of money if he ever sells the Orioles. When he gets his MASN network up and running, that will make things even more profitable for him. The value of his franchise and the attendance could be going down because he hasn't fielded a worthwhile team since 1997, but Peter Angelos tends to skirt that issue if he can. I don't think the Nationals have had any real impact so far on the Orioles' value. If the Orioles were winning games, this wouldn't be an issue at all.

I think the real problem the Orioles may have in the future, if they don't turn things around, is that young fans now have another close-to-home option to root for. That could be hurtful down the line, but then again the Nationals don't look like they're going to compete any time soon either. I don't think the Expos stole many diehard Orioles fans, but casual fans of baseball in the region might just choose the Nats because they aren't the Orioles, who have been terrible for nearing a decade now.

DRB-Thank you for taking my questions.

Photo Credits:
Perlozzo-TSN
Chen, Lopez-Washington Post
Angelos-Baltimore Sun