The Tides begin an eight-game homestand against the Toledo Mud Hens and the Buffalo Bisons tonight. It’s become almost pointless to try to write any sort of preview of a Tides’ series, because it seems that the Orioles are signing new players and assigning them to Norfolk on a daily basis. Bill Hall, Lew Ford, Joel Pineiro, Miguel Tejada, Jamie Moyer, Nate McLouth — all of these are former major-league players who have been signed after opening day and sent to the Tides. The most recent addition is Rich Rundles, who is not quite in the same class of players because his major-league career consists of nine games.
I don’t know for sure whether the Orioles are accumulating these players on the hope that they will help the major-league team as role players or that they will help the Tides be more competitive. Although the primary purposes of a minor-league team are (1) to develop and refine young players’ talents and (2) to stockpile players who can be called up as need be, having a winning team is nice, especially for the owner of the minor-league team. A successful, winning team generates a positive buzz in the community. The local media starts talking about the team. Casual fans and non-fans start thinking about maybe seeing a game. We saw this with the local minor-league hockey team, which won their last 28 games of the regular season and went on the win the league playoff championship. Attendance boomed.
Perhaps the idea behind signing every recently-released major leaguer and sending them to Norfolk, then, is to placate the Tides’ management by sending them better players, with well-known names, to try to spike attendance. I see two problems with that reasoning — first, the constant roster turnover makes it difficult to identify with the players; and second, the fans realize that Miguel Tejada and Jamie Moyer are clearly hanging on, past their prime, and aren’t really interested in seeing these geezers play at their current levels. At least I’m not; I’d much rather see young players who may become the next Bill Hall or Lew Ford than seeing old players who were once Nate McLouth and Joel Pineiro – who were once the Nate McLouth and Joel Pineiro tomorrow’s baseball fans will hear about.