Now that the Orioles’ season is over and the sting of its untimely end has worn off a bit, it’s finally time to sit back and appreciate the season for what it was. The improbable and unexpected success of the 2012 Orioles is unlike anything we’ve seen in the history of the franchise, and for fans, hopefully something that they’ll never experience again.
While fans have been caught up in the team’s success and are clearly wanting, hoping and expecting more of it in the future, the fourteen years of futility that preceded 2012 and the absolute absence of expectations leading in is what fans must hope is the induplicable part of the experience. It’s also to a very large degree what made 2012 such a special experience in the first place.
Now that the team and its fans have tasted that modest success, the tenor of Orioles baseball and the mood surrounding it has changed completely. So as they look ahead to the off-season and to 2013 and beyond, they do so carrying the burden of expectations with them.
Now too, the organization and its fans are left to contemplate the questions that confounded casual observers and experts alike throughout their 2012 campaign. Were these Orioles anything more than lucky? Were they just a once in a lifetime convergence of circumstances that we’ll always be at a loss to explain? How much of the success that they achieved in 2012 should have been predictable and how much of it can they reasonably continue to count on moving forward? And most importantly, what steps does the team need to take moving forward in order to continue their success and to build on it?
While it seems clear that the Orioles will need to improve themselves to remain competitive in baseball’s most elite division, the inability to pinpoint the sources of their success makes tweaking that formula all the more difficult. It seems that this Orioles team is much more likely, and perhaps best served, to not be too aggressive in remaking themselves and instead might be looking ahead to a season of finding out just how real and duplicable their 2012 successes were, and how predictable they remain.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, and despite a much sunnier outlook on 2013, the Orioles still seem to have more questions at hand than answers.
Here’s what they’ll have to figure out moving forward. Not only regarding themselves, but also regarding the rest of the division and the new landscape of baseball in general.
I’ll come back throughout the next couple of weeks and address them, giving my opinions and seeking yours. But for now let’s just figure out what it is that the front office is trying to assess as they prepare their off-season plan.
#1 – Is Mark Reynolds a good risk moving forward?
#2 – Is the top of the AL East coming back to the pack?
#3 – Are Josh Hamilton and/or Zack Greinke the types of free agents the Orioles should be pursuing?
#4 – Who are the types of (or specific) free agents the Orioles should be pursuing?
#5 – Is giving long-term contracts to free agents over the age of 30 a byproduct of a bygone (steroid induced) era?
#6 – Is there a 2nd baseman on the roster that the Orioles can depend on moving forward or is this the most urgent position to address and therefore easiest position to look to replace?