As the baseball world gets ready to kick off Spring Training, so do we here at BoSox Injection. And what better way to do so than by previewing the AL East opponents that us Sox fans will watch each team eighteen times this season. Yes, baseball is in the air with the recently departed equipment truck heading for Fort Myers, Florida, better known as truck day. With what should be a relatively quick work week and pitchers and catchers set to report on the 19th, before we know it we’ll be tuning in for Spring Training games.
But first we must continue dissect the opponents. Up first are the Baltimore Orioles. In a new format titled Q&A, we begin a series that will dig into each opponent in the AL East. A big thanks to Dominic at the Orioles’ Fansided site, Birds Watchers for his help answering our questions.
The 2011 version of the Baltimore Orioles had every reason for optimism heading into last season. New manager Buck Showalter had the club playing pretty good ball at the end of the 2010 season, going 34-24 over the final two months of the year. But last year didn’t measure up to the amount of success the organization was expecting. A record of 69-93 and another last place showing in the AL East, the Orioles were left wondering if they were on the right path to being able to compete in the extremely competitive division.
Some big free-agent names were tied to the O’s during the off season with Prince Fielder being the biggest. But to no avail. Dominic takes us through some of the moves that were made by new GM Dan Duquette, how the Oriole’s fan base is holding up and reasons for continued optimism in Baltimore with a young pitching staff.
BSI - Which players have been brought in this off season and who is no longer around from last season? Which of the new players will make the biggest impact, and which ones will be sorely missed?
Birds Watcher – The Orioles traded two minor leaguers to the Dodgers in exchange for southpaw Dana Eveland. This is kind of a win-win because while Eveland’s a journeyman, he does add depth to the pitching staff and the price was relatively cheap. They also traded a minor league pitcher to Texas in exchange for backup catcher Taylor Teagarden, which will put a solid backup behind Matt Wieters. This will allow him to get perhaps a day of rest a week and another day as a DH (or something along those lines).
They traded for outfielder Jai Miller from the Oakland A’s, and signed Endy Chavez & Wilson Betemit. The O’s signed free agent pitchers Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-Yi Chen over the off season as well. Obviously we know about Jeremy Guthrie being dealt to Colorado, so if I had to guess that’s the player the O’s will miss the most.
If I had to pickone that would make the most impact, I’d probably go with Betemit. He’s a decent runner and that’s something that the Orioles sorely missed in 2011. However if Jai Miller plays in the big leagues it could also be him.
BSI - The Orioles were tied to a couple of the big free-agent names, only to fall short in the recruiting. How are Orioles fans taking the lack of activity on a grand scale this winter from the organization?
Birds Watcher – I’m a little disappointed in some Oriole fans. Many people’s attitudes seem to be that any move was a failure unless it was bringing in Prince Fielder. I’ve always known Baltimore fans to be a bit more savy than that. While I understand that 14 years of losing takes it’s toll on people, I think that they’re looking past the fact that Dan Duquette is playing the part of Billy Beane and bringing in players that can address issues that were glaring last season such as OBP. These may not be the sexiest of moves, however they’re just as necessary. Furthermore, the Orioles have added pitching depth which was also necessary.
BSI - What is the expectation with O’s fans about this upcoming year? Is this the year the young talent pulls them out of the AL East basement? Are they staying optimistic throughout these difficult years?
Birds Watcher – Again, I’m a bit disappointed in the fan base. Many of them are becoming apathetic to a degree, although I submit that the love for the Orioles is still there. Last season hinged largely on the success of the Orioles’ young pitchers. They may well have found success had they not all been injured at the same time. This year former Oriole Brady Anderson has worked with the young starters in the off season and they will all report to camp in better shape than ever. This season again hinges on the health of the starting pitching, however I think that most fans expect something to go wrong at some point.
BSI - Recently Jeremy Guthrie was traded away. What is your take on the deal and how will it impact the club?
Birds Watcher – At first glance, it appears that Dan Duquette got a younger innings-eater in Jason Hammel, and a below-average reliever in Matt Lindstrom. I personally think that this is foreshadowing a bigger move, however in terms of talent they probably broke even. But Hammel won’t have the clout and respect that Guthrie did in the clubhouse. Guthrie became a real team leader and that kind of influence in your clubhouse is immeasurable.
BSI - What other drastic changes do you see the organization making throughout the season?
Birds Watcher – As I said above, I think that this trade with Colorado is prefacing some other move. I’d like to see them sign a free agent pitcher of some sort to provide an anchor for the staff as a replacement for Guthrie in terms of leadership.
BSI - Finally, how many games do you predict the Orioles will win this year?
Birds Watcher – That’s a tough one. I’m going to go with between 68-73 wins. One might ask how a team that was already bad is going to do that without their former staff ace. Guthrie had the worst run support in baseball for quite some time. You can certainly look at it from the opposite perspective and say that he had 16 quality starts, however scoring runs hasn’t been the Orioles’ problem (when he wasn’t pitching). If the young starters can stay healthy, that’s my prediction.
So there you have it. It looks as though the Orioles are headed towards another last place finish in the division. One positive for O’s fans is that the organization finally smartened up and got rid of that bad logo with the detailed Oriole on it and went back to the wildly popular cartoon logo (see above). They may not have been able to sign Prince Fielder, Edwin Jackson or Roy Oswalt, but they might just have the best logo in all of baseball.
Up next we’ll take a look at the Tampa Bay Rays, with one of their writers predicting an AL East title from a ball club that could win 100 games.
Topics: AL East, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Colorado Rockies, Dan Duqette, Dana Eveland, Edwin Jackson, Endy Chavez, Jai Miller, Jason Hammel, Jeremy Guthrie, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Wieters, Prince Fielder, Roy Oswalt, Tampa Bay Rays, Taylor Teagarden, Wilson Betemit