Some people never change. Former Oriole Aubrey Huff is definitely one of them.
I caught up with the unapologetic San Francisco Giant as the defending World Series Champions came to Washington, D.C., to take on the Nationals this weekend.
Huff was candid (as usual) about playing for losing teams. Huff spent 10 seasons with the Rays and then the Orioles before finally winning the World Series with the Giants in 2010.
I asked him what makes a winning culture. It's something the Orioles have been trying to bring back for 13 years and it was clear Huff felt he entered a "whole new world" when he signed with the Giants.
One theory, according to Huff, is that being a team in the American League East is just a lose-lose situation.
"For Baltimore, I mean, it's tough to get free agents to come there with the way it's been the past 15 years I'm sure. Andy MacPhail did a great job of bringing some veteran guys in there this year," Huff said. "Unless you do what Tampa did a few years back and have your young prospects come up and flourish, it's hard to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees every year. It's just one of those divisions where if you don't spend $300 million it's going to be tough."
I asked Huff, "Were you glad to get out of that division?"
"Couldn't wait," he said.
Interesting point. You hear baseball players say they want to come to the AL East to play in the best division in baseball. What about star players who play for the lower tiered teams in the division? It makes sense. Some do count down the days until free agency. Call it disloyal, but realistically what would you do in that situation? Every Major League Baseball player covets a ring more than anything else. Players want to be with a team that has a chance to win.
Throughout our conversation Huff spoke about the importance of team chemistry, top notch facilities (he pointed to the Orioles old spring training facility as a negative), and having a manager and coaches who all played professional baseball.
Whether Huff meant major league baseball, I'm not sure. Whether the comment was a dig at Huff's former Oriole manager Dave Trembley, I'm not sure either.
The O's spent over $30 million to move their spring training facility to Sarasota, Fla., and overhaul Ed Smith Stadium. As we all know, though, it takes more than nice clubhouses and a good spring training facility. Huff said the atmosphere in the clubhouse is crucial and the Giants' clubhouse was much different than the O's and Rays.
"There are no cliques in this clubhouse," Huff said. "This team right here, everybody, all 25 guys can have a blast, and you'd better have thick skin because we're going to get on you pretty good. Everybody rips on each other in good ways. Anybody who doesn't buy into the team chemistry thing better spend time our clubhouse because that's why we won last year."
I wonder - isn't that the old chicken/egg theory? Doesn't winning lead to happy, loose clubhouses? I would think it's pretty hard to find team chemistry when everyone is mad and the team is losing.
You can catch Huff's full interview this Monday, May 2, on the Mid Atlantic Sports Report at 5:30 p.m. on MASN and MASN HD. While some of Huff's comments may seem condescending to Baltimore, I have to admit I think he makes great points. He's a player who saw the difference between losing and winning first hand. It's obvious the Orioles haven't been doing things right over the past decade-plus. It's not a bad idea to pick the brain of a player like Huff, nor is it a bad idea for the O's to immolate organizations that have gotten it right.