Baltimore Oriole Fans: "Teixeira" Isn't Portuguese for "Messiah".

Sean LaveryCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2008

Teixeira is actually a toponymic (don't worry, I had to look up the definition too) Portuguese surname. In other words, it's a name that represents all the places called Teixeira.

O's fans, it's time for a dose of reality. I'm not the first or only one to say this, but many Baltimore fans still seem to have their heads in the clouds. The Orioles are likely better off without Mark Teixeira.

I repeat, the Orioles are better off without Mark Teixeira.

I can see why many fans are so infatuated with him. And the truth is, I am too. I would be giddy to see him in orange and black. But we shouldn't get carried away.

The Orioles are much further than a single player away from contention. Even if that player is a golden-gloved, switch-hitting, batting machine like Teixeira. Baltimore has needs much more pertinent than a first basemen, especially one of his price.

Yes, I have written that the Orioles need a corner infielder, especially a younger one. Yes, Teixeira fits the need perfectly. But he costs too much.

The Orioles have much bigger needs they must fill first, most notably starting pitching. The Orioles could potentially sign two quality starters for less per year than it would cost to land Teixeira.

Since Peter Angelos purchased the Orioles, the philosophy has been to overpay big name players (particularly hitters) in an attempt to compete. While that led to some short-term success in the mid-to-late nineties, it also resulted in a decade of decline and mediocrity.

It's simply not feasible for the Orioles to spend like they did back then either. They rode a wave of fans flocking to see the new Camden Yards and Cal Ripken Jr. to high attendance and incredible revenues. They were the only major franchise in town until 1996, when the Ravens moved in to Baltimore from Cleveland. More recently the Nationals set up camp in nearby DC, stealing many of the Virginia fans.

Even since the implosion of the team after the 1997 season (the last winning season and play-off appearance for the O's), the organization has signed or traded for big name players, almost all of whom have been flops. Albert Belle, Javy Lopez, Sidney Ponson, Ramon Hernandez, Rafael Palmeiro, and Sammy Sosa to name a few. Even the successful Miguel Tejada imploded towards the end, with allegations of steroid use and lower offensive production.

In order for the future O's teams to be successful, they must look to the past.

From 1968 and 1985, Baltimore has 18 consecutive winning seasons, including World Series victories in 1970 and 1983. No team in baseball had more wins during that stretch.

Those Orioles teams were built around Manager Earl Weaver's philosophy of "pitching, defense, and the three-run homer." The strength of the teams was undoubtedly the pitching staff, which won six Cy Young awards during the stretch of winning seasons. The 1971 Orioles are also the last team to have four 20-game winners in the same starting rotation (McNally, Palmer, Dobson, Cuellar).

The Orioles were also based on the production of homegrown talent to keep the roster stocked. Al Bumbry (1971), Eddie Murray (1977), and Cal Ripken Jr. (1982) all won AL Rookie of the Year honors for the Orioles. There's a reason why Ripken Sr. was promoted to his short-lived gig as a Major League manager of the Orioles, because of his tremendous work in the minors.

That's not to say that trading for outside talent had nothing to do with the success of those teams. The 1966 trade of Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson has gone down as one of the legendary fleecings in MLB history. But the O's were always stocked with replacement players from the minors to deal with underperforming starts and stars.

One can also look for a more recent team for an idea of how the Orioles can produce a winner.

The 1997 Orioles went "wire-to-wire," leading the AL East every day of the season. While a great deal of their success was based off of a solid veteran lineup, their starting pitching was also tremendous. All four regular starters had winning records, double-digit wins, and ERAs of 4.01 or better.

For comparison, only one regular 2008 starters had an ERA of less than 5.25 or ten wins (Guthrie). And even Guthrie was lost more games (12) than he won (10).

That '97 team also played outstanding defense. When Cal Ripken Jr. was easily the team's worst fielder (although he had recently switched to 3B), you know that it's a quality defensive unit.

While the 1997 Orioles had a very high payroll, the team did utilize some outstanding home-grown players. Ripken, Mike Mussina, and Armando Benitez were all products of the O's farm system.

What makes the lessons of the past especially important is that the Orioles finally have a large amount of youth talent and prospects.

Matt Weiters, Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Brandon Erbe, Jake Arrieta, and Nolan Reimold all have tremendous potential at the major league level. Britton, Hernandez, Adams, and Patton all have potential to be added depth, but are long shots to be starters (or even guaranteed major leaguers). Brandon Snyder could be a solid DH or even 1B in the future if he improves his glove (which is getting better, but that's not saying much).

Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Jeremy Guthrie, and Lou Montanez all made solid contributions to the major league squad last year, and all are still very young. They need to be locked up long-term and allowed to continue developing and producing.

The Orioles do need help though, especially to the dismal starting rotation. Even with the stable of pitching prospects (Erbe, Arrieta, Tillamn, Matusz, and co.), there is no guarantee that a future ace will develop. At least one of them is likely to be a bust (see Hayden Penn's career so far).

Additionally, the O's do need a corner infielder for the future. No top level prospects exist to replace the aging Mora and Huff (both on their last contract years). But Texeira is too pricey, and will likely cause the Orioles to attempt to "get help" for him (see Tejada in 2005).

The Orioles cannot rush this rebuilding process. If they do so, it will end up in failure, just like it did in 2003. If the Orioles are patient, they will return to contention. Look no further than the Rays for proof.

The Orioles need to be careful where they spend their money, and that includes on Teixeira.