For all of its history, complexity, and drama, every baseball season can be boiled down to a two word slogan. The Orioles have had their “Why Not?” campaign in 1989. They’ve also had a “Never Quit” year (’95), and a “What Happened?” era (2005). Last year, unfortunately, was the “Why Bother?” season.
But it’s Opening Day 2010. It’s a new season and time for a new slogan. That’s why I’m labeling 2010 the “Well Then?” season. That’s “Well Then” as in, “This club is finally coming together. Well then, let’s see what they’ve got.”
Will the team make the playoffs? Highly unlikely.
Are they much better on paper than they have been in a long time? Absolutely.
Are they in the toughest division in baseball? Definitely.
Will they finally parlay the fruits of Andy MacPhail’s “plan” into a .500 season? It’s hard to say.
Is this entire article going to be a series of self-directed rhetorical questions? Maybe, because this is sports commentary and that’s what sports commentators do.
Anyway, the 2010 season is the year in which MacPhail has stated publicily that the team will be judged by wins and losses. That’s because it’s the first year that all of his pieces are in place.
This is the first full campaign for 2007 1st rounder Matt Wieters and 2008 1st rounder Brian Matusz. It will be a year in which Matusz will be accompanied by fellow youngsters Brad Bergesen, David Hernadez, and sooner or later Chris Tillman. All of these pitchers are legitimate prospects.Compare them to ’09 Opening Day rotation members Alfredo Simon and Adam Eaton. While not all four of the young SPs will win 15 games, they are a clear upgrade in talent and potential.
Meanwhile, the Orioles have a rangy, young outfield that can hit for average. Heck, they even have two or three left fielders worth playing on a regular basis.
They brought in a veteran hitter in Miguel Tejada, who may not be a true number four hitter anymore, but he should be good for close to the 199 hits and 46 doubles he had in ’09. And youngsters Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Nolan Reimold, who accounted for a total of 43 home runs last year should each take a step forward in power production this season.
They have Brian Roberts at the top of the lineup, and they even upgraded their insurance policy in the event that Roberts’ back acts up when they traded a bag of balls for Julio Lugo. If you don’t like Lugo that much, keep in mind that he is an offensive upgrade over Robert Andino, and the Red Sox are paying 17/18 of his salary to play for the Orioles.
Kevin Millwood probably won’t reproduce his 3.67 ERA for a second consecutive year, but he will more than likely pitch 200 innings and provide better stability than last year’s de facto ace, Jeremy Guthrie.
The team faces a brutal first month of the season, playing 18 games against the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays, and 6 more games on the West Coast. Many of their players are young and untested. Key veterans like Roberts, Guthrie, and Garrett Atkins are have question marks.
But it’s April, a time for optimism. Overall, this team has a lot more potential than any Opening Day roster the Orioles have put on the field in quite some time. They have the potential to be the first O’s team to reach .500 since the invention of google. They have the potential to give the big boys in the AL East some trouble. They have the potential to make Baltimore care about baseball again.
Well then, let’s see what they’ve got.